The day after opening our final show, we had an overnight in St. Petersburg. I’d never been to Russia, so I was brimming with excitement. I got off the ship with two musicians and my dance captain, ready to explore. … Continue reading
For our overnight in Thailand, the ship ported near a city called Pattaya, about 2 hours from Bangkok.
I joined a few of the girls from my cast on a guest tour to Pattaya Elephant Village. My roommate and I rode a feisty young elephant named Mina through the rain. Our elephant tamer, Lun, entertained us with fun facts about Mina’s sister, working at the village, and life in Pattaya. After our ride, we watched the elephants perform tricks in a show, and were able to feed them bananas. One of the elephants was able to count! A member of the audience would tell him how many bananas to eat out of the 5 set in front of him. 3 times in a row, he nailed it!
The tour ended with a short lecture in a silk factory. We learned about silkworms, and were able to watch a woman working on a beautiful pink piece of silk. The patience required was incredible. She could produce just one meter of silk in two weeks, but the resulting product was perfect.
The tour bus took us back to the ship, where we were able to rinse off, regroup, and then hopped in cabs to go to downtown Pattaya. Even on a Monday night, the nightlife was crazy! We saw an incredibly disturbing show at a bar, tried Thai whiskey (40 proof), and then went searching for pad Thai. We found a tacky little restaurant on the water that had surprisingly tasty food!
When we went back out on Walking Street, we found some more friends sitting outside at a bar. There was a band playing, so we stopped to join them. The male singer was fantastic, but the girl’s version of “Someone Like You” left much to be desired.
Our new big group migrated to a club down the street. We had fun dancing, chatting, and drinking some slushy shots. A few other staff members, officers included, were at the same club. It was great to see them off the ship, having fun!
The taxi ride home was quite an experience. The cab was a remodeled truck with benches along the sides of the truck bed, and nothing but a railing across the back. 5 of us sat on the benches, gripping handrails in the center for dear life. We made it safely back to the ship in half the time it took to get to Pattaya. My hair was so horribly windblown; I was surprised ship security didn’t laugh.
All in all, Thailand was terrific!
Last week, I was finally able to go to Seoul! We frequently port in Incheon, but taking the train from there to Seoul takes more time than I usually have available. Since we had an overnight in Incheon last cruise, I decided to make the trek.
I set out with a large group of friends, unsure of what exactly we wanted to do. We got directions at a tourist information booth in Incheon, then hopped on the train. Compared to Bart in San Francisco and the subway in New York, the trains in Korea are impeccable!
We got off the train downtown and quickly found a palace. We weren’t able to go inside, but the exterior of the building and the ceiling of the bridge it sat on were beautiful. Next, we wandered through a market before stopping at a café to refuel.
When we hit the street again, we came across a lovely fountain. We then set out to find another palace. On the way, we had to go underground to cross the street. We had an unfortunate encounter with a screaming Korean woman. I am still not sure why, but the woman was shouting, at no one in particular at first, then she started directing her anger towards us. She came dangerously close to slapping me, but luckily my dance captain came to my rescue. We quickly went upstairs, and luckily were not followed. My heart was beating so fast!
We saw a very tranquil looking area nearby, and decided that would be a great place to calm our nerves. The area was actually a palace built in the Joseon Dynasty called Deoksugong. The grounds have temples and beautiful gardens, as well as Western style building that is now an art museum. The sun was setting while we were walking around, and the soft light and gentle breeze were wonderfully refreshing!
Upon leaving, we heard music. Following the sound, we came across an outdoor children’s concert. We watched a little boy play the harmonica and heard a group sing a folk song before we moved on.
Our final stop was dinner! We found a delicious Italian restaurant near a shopping mall. I’ve been surprised how good Italian food is in Korea! I was grateful for the walk back to the train station, after stuffing my face with pasta and bread. The train ride home seemed extra long, but wasn’t too difficult. We got a shuttle back to the ship when we got to Incheon, and were “home” shortly after midnight.
I don’t know if I will have another opportunity to go to Seoul this contract, but I enjoyed my day there, and would love to see more!
Occasionally the ship ports in the same place for 2 days, giving us the option to stay on land overnight. My first “overnight” experience was last week in Busan.
I hadn’t been to Busan since joining the ship in early July. It felt strange being there again. I feel like so much has happened in the past month and a half, but being back at the port, I felt like no time had passed. My perception of time is very skewed!
I got off the ship mid-afternoon on the first day in Busan. My roommate and I shared a cab with some members of the sports staff and had an amusing conversation with the driver. In broken English, he asked if I was from Singapore. As a fair-skinned ginger, I was quite surprised by this question! When we got downtown, I took advantage of free, fast internet at a cafe. On port days, everyone uploads photos on Facebook, so I was flooded with notifications all afternoon!
We returned to the ship for dinner and a short rest, and then took cabs out to Hayundae Beach. A few of my cast mates, some ice skaters, stage staff members, musicians, and a few officers all met up at a bar called Thursday Party. Our cab driver wasn’t sure where we needed to go, so he dropped us off in the neighborhood, and I ended up asking the concierge at a hotel and a few people on the street for directions. Luckily, my nonverbal communication skills are pretty good these days, and we found the spot without too much trouble.
We split into smaller groups, wandered into a hookah bar, and ended the night (or, more accurately, the morning) at Burger King. Upon returning to the ship, I climbed straight into bed. A few hours later, we went out again for coffee, internet, and shopping! I have to say, cinnamon mochas are incredible!
While I didn’t really have a cultural experience in Busan, I feel like I was able to see a different side of the city than I would with normal sightseeing. All in all, I had a great first overnight!
We’ll be returning to Busan next month, and I intend to go to the aquarium, some temples, and a famous tower. I hope the next stop there is just as fun!