Thursday 12 May 2022

One Last Hurrah

We travel often, at least two to three times per year. In 2019, we went on two big trips to Asia: China in June and Japan in October. So it wasn't unusual for us to plan a trip in early 2020. In early 2020, we found a great deal to fly down to Los Angeles, so we  booked the trip for the end of February into early March. It was a Disneyland trip. We were excited to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. 

Little did we know this would be our trip for the next year and a half. 

Here's our COVID travel story. 

Our Disneyland trips are a whirlwind. We jump in head first, and we leave before we can get comfortable. We flew down to Los Angeles on Thursday night, and on Friday morning, we were at Disneyland's front door. Luckily, when we do Disney, we go hard. We start off running like the hare (like the classic telling of the Tortoise and the Hare), eating all the food we can, going on all the rides we can - and buying all the things we can. We slow down after a couple of days, but by Saturday night, I was not feeling well. I had a sore throat and I didn't know why. Nobody I knew was sick. I thought I just was worn out from work, and tired from not taking a breath before jumping onto the plane midweek. That evening, I even requested soup noodle for dinner (outside of the park). On Sunday, I had shortness of breath and I definitely was in no shape to be spending 12-hour days at the park. My body was aching. My husband teased me that my age was finally catching up and I was no longer a young spry. We left the park multiple times during the day so I could rest, and by the time the fireworks were on, I was in bed. I struggled through the next two days. Truthfully, I couldn't wait to go home. We were worried I would actually get turned away on our flight, because I had a terrible cough and I had lost my voice. I had no idea if I had a fever, but I was definitely very sick. To be safe, I masked up during the flight. We returned home late on a Tuesday night. 

The next day, I went to my walk-in doctor, who immediately said I probably had coronavirus (what it was known at the time). He did a swab test on me (excruciatingly painful, I might add) and sent it to the CDC for testing. Unfortunately, at the time, in Canada, the belief was that you would only be at risk if you travelled to/from Iran or China. The United States wasn't on the list. The CDC threw out my test, and I was never diagnosed. As a precaution, I stayed home for the next two weeks, and for the next eight days, I had the worst body fatigue, cough, hot sweats, and cold chills of my life. I had no appetite and I was in bed the entire time. I have never been so sick. My husband became ill a week after me. By the time I felt better, and was ready to return to work - it was March 16, 2020. The entire world had shut down. 

For context, I had been in close contact with international clients at work a week prior to my first symptoms. It's possible that I caught something from work or I could have caught something from someone on the flight to Los Angeles, or I just had a bad case of the flu. Regardless, I will never know if I had COVID-19 in March 2020. Between you and I, I think I did.

Here's a few pictures from our trip to commemorate the last trip we took before the world shut down.

Shanghai Stories: Venice of the East

Disclaimer: There is a currently a travel advisory issued against all non-essential and all cruise ship travel outside of Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic as advised by the Government of Canada.

Wow! Has it really been over twelve months since I last blogged? It has been so long that the pandemic is now officially "over." It is now safe to travel if you are vaccinated. It has been an extremely busy year in our personal lives and our entire world has changed! In April 2021, we welcomed a new family member, and she has kept us busy. Meet our pandemic puppy, Dashi the Dobermann. You can follow her adventures on Instagram

Back to our regular programming... The last time I blogged, we were coming back to China from Japan. 

We disembarked in Shanghai mid-morning on Friday. As I mentioned in our embarkation post, the port of Baoshan was about an hour and fifteen minutes away the centre of Shanghai. There weren't many taxis at the port, as most passengers had family there to pick them up. We managed to secure one which took us straight from the port to our hotel, and we were luckily able to check in early. By the time we reached the hotel, we were starving, so we dropped off our luggage and headed back out to find some lunch. 

Afterwards, we decided to check out to the "fake market." The "fake market" is a plaza with little shop that sell knock-off versions of luxe brand items from electronics to purses. After buying a few things, we went back to hotel to drop off our fake treasures and change. We went back out to the Bund, to People's Park (pictured below). It was a beautiful day. We had Din Tai Fung for dinner. It was delicious! 

That night, we went to the Bund, and took a night river cruise. Although it was windy, it was a great experience. We paid a little extra to ensure we got a seat towards the front, because we didn't want to wrestle anybody for a spot by the side of the boat. You can see how packed the boat is before we even boarded below. We got a snack and drink along with the seat. The Bund was lit up, and it was gorgeous. 


The next day, we had a trip to the country side planned. We really wanted to take a day trip to the Chinese country side. Early on, we were deciding between Hangzhou or Suzhou. A colleague had told me that Hangzhou was not very pleasant in June. It was hot and rainy, which meant there were a lot of mosquitoes and bugs at the the lake. It would not have been an enjoyable experience, so with that in mind, we chose to visit Suzhou. 

Suzhou is a romantic water town also known as the "Venice of the East." The town is known for its beautiful Chinese gardens and its historical architecture.  

We booked a tour with Grayline Tours, and we met with our tour guide at another hotel as a meeting point early in morning. It was a one and a half hour drive to town. It was a rather cloudy day but it was muggy and humid. 

Our first stop was the Master of the Nets Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a classical Chinese garden with delicate gardens and beautiful ponds surrounded by traditional pavilions. 

After the visit, we stopped at a silk worm factory then at Panmen Gate, a part of the ancient city wall that surrounded and protected Suzhou. At some point in history, it was the only point in and out of Suzhou. The gate involves a complex of both land and water gates, so for the reason, it is often known as the Land and Water gate. 

The tour arranged for our lunch at a Suzhou Chinese restaurant. 

Afterwards, we were given free time to explore the marketplace area along the canals. We also took a canal boat ride down the waterways. As per the olden days, it was traditional for the operator to perform onboard. Our singer was not great, and she was shy but she was encouraged by our tour guide, and had to sing for us... which also meant we had to tip her for her song. 

I can't say enough great things about our tour guide. Our tour guide was fantastic, she spoke great English, and explained all of the sites in detail. She was happy to take pictures for us, and gave us plenty of time to shop. One of the best tour guides I've had on any tour!

That evening, we were dropped off by the Bund again. We ventured out to a well-known xiao long bao restaurant for a light dinner, and stopped by a few more food stands to try some different foods. We also went back to Nanjing Road for shopping, and ended up staying much later than expected... because I ordered a bubble tea from a popular Chinese bubble tea shop that had an hour and forty minute wait. I blame the language barrier, because I had no idea the wait was that long when I ordered it! Don't get me wrong, Shanghai felt very safe late at night. Nanjing road was still bustling and we never felt unsafe or at risk. However, we were cutting it close to the last train back to our hotel.  

I wasn't about to leave Shanghai without one last bubble tea! There are bubble tea shops everywhere in China - and they all have long lines. After I got my bubble tea fix, we headed back to our hotel, settled in and got ready to fly out the next morning.

Shanghai was a beautiful city and I enjoyed exploring the city so much. There was so much to do, see and eat! We spent around 10 days there in total, Disneyland included, and it was just about the right amount of time for us. Without a doubt, we want to go back and visit other cities in China, and we can't wait to go back once it is safe to travel to China again. 

This entry concludes our trip to China in May 2019... but come back soon. I'll be continuing my blogging with our following trips soon: 

  • Japan in October 2019
  • Los Angeles in March 2020
  • Hawaii in November 2021

Saturday 30 January 2021

Seas the Day

Disclaimer: There is a currently a travel advisory issued against all non-essential and all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19 pandemic as advised by the Government of Canada and the State Department. In addition, all major cruise lines have suspended operations around the world until the end of April 2021. I am not promoting any travel during this time. I am just sharing my past travels and continuing to work on my blog while we are all staying at home, practicing social distancing. If you are reading this, stay safe and healthy out there. Take care of yourself and each other. 

Happy New Year! 2021 is finally here, but so is the pandemic. Sadly, not much as changed, but with the vaccine's arrival, we can only pray it will bring hope that we can travel later this year - if not, one day... 

As we left Japan for China, we had two sea days to relax. The sea was a lot calmer on the way home. The weather also cleared up, allowing for some sun to peek through, so we spent some time on the deck during the day, and ate a lot throughout the day.

We booked tickets to watch Starwater, a Royal Caribbean production. It was a complimentary show but since the show was in the Two70 theatre, it had limited space. It was a confusing but captivating show. The show incorporated the lights and tech (monitors and screens) in the theatre along with the live performance of the dancers and singers. The plot didn't make sense, but it was good entertainment for the evening. 

We enjoyed our last sea day from our cove balcony. We enjoyed our own afternoon snacks - mine was from Japan and my husband's was from the Lido deck. 

We were invited to Chops Grille for a complimentary dinner, so the two of us fancied up for the night. The entrees (filet mignon and steak) were nothing to write home about, but the appetizers, the sides and the dessert were delicious. 

As we sailed back to Shanghai, we knew we wanted to come back to Japan. This cruise was just a taster, and we couldn't wait to explore more of Japan. I was excited to return home to start planning for our trip to Japan exclusively, but before that we still had a couple more exciting days in Shanghai. Stay tuned for our day trip to Suzhou!  

Sunday 30 August 2020

Japan Journeys: Yokohama

Disclaimer: There is a currently a travel advisory issued against all non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Government of Canada and the State Department have advised all Canadians and Americans to avoid all non-essential travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, all major cruise lines have suspended operations around the world until the end of October. I am not promoting any travel during this time. I am just sharing my past travels and continuing to work on my blog while we are all staying at home, practicing social distancing. If you are reading this, stay safe and healthy out there. Take care of yourself and each other. 

Yokohama was our last port. While we knew that Tokyo was just a short bullet train ride away, we decided against going into the city for a number of reasons. First, we just wanted a slow, relaxing day. Secondly, it is always a risk to take the train into the city on your own so we decided to play it safe. Lastly, it was also my birthday and I just wanted to eat food I love and go to a cat cafe!

We awoke to a cloudy day in Yokohama. Our plan was to visit the Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum first. It wasn't too far from the port, but sadly, we arrived to find it closed! We should have checked online before going there because it turns out it's closed on Thursdays. It started to sprinkle, so we headed to a nearby mall complex for some cover. I did some light shopping and decided to have lunch at a sushi restaurant in the mall. It had exceptional reviews and we were very pleased with the sushi (some pictured below!). It was also early so we were the only customers in the restaurant. I also treated myself to a mango soft serve.

Afterwards, we walked to the Chinatown area in search of the cat cafe I had found online. It started raining again, so we ducked in and out of the stores along the main strip. The cat cafe was just a 5 minute walk outside of the Chinatown area, tucked away on above a Familymart of an unassuming residential area. We were there for an hour petting kitties (and missing our own who was back at home).

Since we had lunch early, we were hungry again. We found a chain yakitori restaurant, Torikizoku, for happy hour. This restaurant was the first smoking restaurant we came upon in Japan. The food was great, but the experience wasn't so pleasant.

When we left the restaurant, it was dark, but we wanted to do a little more shopping. We shopped at a local grocery store, and at Donquijote a little further away from the area. There was also a few restaurants at the strip mall, so I decided to get myself a little fluffy pancake dessert as a birthday cake to celebrate.

It was time to leave and it was starting to sprinkle again so we took the taxi back to the port as it was getting late and rainy. What a day!

Sadly, our journey to Japan was over. Little did we know this taste of Japan would bring us back a few months later... but let's stay in the moment! Our cruise was not over yet, we still had two more sea days before we returned to Shanghai. Stay tuned!