It was day six of the 2017 Far East journey Lottie Boggan and I began in Hong Kong. Our ship was docked in the port of Keelung on the island of Taiwan. We were looking forward to a second day of exploring this famous land, formerly known as Formosa. When we opened the stateroom curtains and stepped out onto the veranda, we were greeted by gray, overcast skies with limited visibility.
A light rain was falling, and a persistent chill was in the air. Staying aboard amid the warmth and comforts of the ship was appealing, but we both knew what we had to do. We did not make this trip to be comfortable. We wanted to see, experience, and learn. So we donned our warm clothes and raincoats; and, with umbrellas in hand, we began our scheduled tour for the day.
Our first stop was a fish market in Keelung, a busy international seaport, where we walked among stalls with some familiar looking fish and a large array of strange, exotic, unrecognizable sea life. Our tour then took us to Yehliu Park, famous for spectacular rock formations. We walked on a long path bordering the shore to land`s end. All along the way, we were surrounded by large and small boulders, carved into different shapes by the hands of the sea with defining names like Fairy Shoe and Candlestick.
On this misty, windy day, the ocean was unsettled and turbulent with strong crashing waves. The weather reminded me of a few unforgettable days aboard our boat, the SUNSHINE II, when my husband Jimmy and I encountered similar patterns. In those long ago days, we had no doubt about the power of the sea and our helplessness when confronted with its strength and fury.
On this day, I was viewing that strength again but in a different way. I was on land, a bystander at water`s edge, walking in an outdoor art gallery created by the rhythm and might of the sea.
When the day ended, both Lottie and I were grateful we had chosen the path of exploration even with its weather-related discomforts. We would have missed so much if we had opted for a warm, comfortable, dry day aboard ship.
I wanted to experience all of this land across the sea, but there wasn`t enough time and never would be. Then I remembered a lesson from our SUNSHINE II boating days: When exploring new places, you cannot do everything, not in one lifetime; be grateful for the moments and the experiences you have.
When we left Taiwan, our next stop was the Japanese island of Okinawa, where we chose to learn about the history of the Ryukyu people who were the early inhabitants. We went to a living history museum village where we saw artists painting, toured typical houses, watched a traditional dance, and marveled at weavers creating pieces of cloth with intricate designs. Later, we went to a rebuilt version of Shurijo Castle, which served as the center of activity for the Ryukyu people in days gone by.
The original castle was destroyed in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. It was an interesting tour, but Lottie and I both agreed that the Battle of Okinawa tour would be on our agenda if we ever returned to the island. Friends who opted for that excursion told us with tear-filled eyes that it was an experience they would never forget. I remembered another lesson from days gone by. Nothing can take the place of seeing, touching, breathing the air—where an event occurred. Movies, books, and lectures can replicate and teach, but they lack the authenticity of standing in the actual place.
Shanghai, on mainland China, was our next port of call. There we saw priceless pieces of antiquity and continued learning about oriental culture and history at the Shanghai Museum. At another stop, the Jade Buddha Temple, we marveled at a six foot white jade reclining Buddha and another equally large sitting Buddha.
We walked in Yuyuan Garden—a peaceful paradise of buildings, gardens, and a lake—dating back 400 years and situated like an oasis amid sprawling Shanghai. We shopped at the adjacent, yet worlds apart, Yuyuan Bazaar, a complex of multiple buildings and countless stores filled with locals and tourists searching for something to buy. These two places—the Garden and the Bazaar—connecting seamlessly to each other, depicted the old and the new…
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