Thursday, November 25, 2010


“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our harnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”- Mark Twain

November 19, 2010
We got in to Kobe bright an early and spent about 5 hours going through customs. I did a home stay through Semester at Sea so I was one of the first off of the ship to meet up with the university students who were taking us around for the day. In the beginning it was a bit awkward but after a while we started to get to know our student tour guides. We had to struggle to find an international ATM but soon enough we were on our way to Osaka our first stop for the trip. We go off the train and went to the largest electronics/mall in Osaka where we would be eating lunch. Since there were so many of us we separated into 3 different groups based off of what we wanted to eat for lunch. I went with 4 other Japanese students to this place that was sort of like a melting pot. We sat down, ordered the type of meat we wanted and went and grabbed vegetables that we would be cooking with our meat. It was all cooked in a pot right on our table. After eating way too much it was time for a bit of sight seeing around Osaka. We met up with the rest of our group and we set off for Osaka Castle, which was beautiful. The Emperor who built it actually never used it but it was a protection for the dynasty for many years. A few hours later we were heading to Osaka University because we would be meeting up with our host families as well as having a party. Well we showed up about 45 minutes late but as soon as we arrived there were a few speeches and we were eating sushi and hanging out with our families and the students. Once everyone had finished eating we had the opportunity to dress up in Kimonos---or at least the summer version of them, even the boys in our group did it. After a photo shoot we spent some time socializing with the university students and before I knew it this women was taking me in her car to drop be off at my host family’s house. When I got there I had to wait a bit before my family got to the door but when they did it was a sweet little lady and her son. The husband was gone away—he is in Iraq and is a war photographer. But things were a bit strange at first, the son spoke no English and the Mom spoke only a little. I brought lots of pictures though in anticipation that my family wouldn’t speak English. After a couple of hours and a lot of green tea later, my host Mom gave me a tour of her house before I went to bed. She showed me her three kitchens; her family room, dining, room, her two bedrooms, and then she showed me the formal room. All of it was traditional Japanese with the white and brown trim and the sliding doors. All doors must be closed after entering or exiting a room it was really cool. She showed me to my room where I had the best night sleep I had, had throughout the entire voyage.

November 20, 2010
The next morning my Host Mom came knocking at my door at 6 am, I was helping her make breakfast for the family. We made miso soup, rice, salmon, eggs, and had fruits. It was a gourmet breakfast and it was one way to break through the language barrier. We ate breakfast and we exchanged gifts with each other and before I knew it I was being picked up and heading back to the Osaka University. The students we were with the day before had an entire day planned for us. We were dropped off at the university and then the day began. A small group of us started for the Tenryuuji Temple in Kyoto. When we got of the train, the first thing we saw was Kyoto changing colors. All the leaves were either red or yellow and the city was beautiful. We walked through the crowded streets, it was a holiday so everything was packed and right next to me were two geishas all dressed in their attire as well as full makeup. I took 15 pictures-quickly and was so excited to actually see real GEISHAS. After all the excitement of the Geishas we made our way to the temple. The best part was the bamboo forest, it was amazing and for about a kilometer it was all bamboo trees. We spent some time exploring around the lake and then it was time for lunch. We ate ramen and something similar to croquettes and then green tea ice cream for dessert. After lunch it was one to the next temple, the group of us jumped on a small train and we found ourselves at “the Taj Mahal of Japan” It was the Kinkaku-ji Temple which was gorgeous. It was a temple that was completely gold. We spent some time taking pictures in front of it and the Japanese students taught us how to say “ will you take a picture with us” in Japanese. We got some great pictures with young Japanese boys and girls who were there on a field trip. On the way out of the temple we go to have our fortunes read, and then we had to tie them on this special branch in order for them to come true. After that it was time to head back to Kobe in order to make it to the ship on time. Saying goodbye to our new friends so sad, we had spent two whole day with them, but everyone promised to find us on facebook.

November 22, 2010
We arrived in Yokohama bright and early and Loryn and I made an early start towards Tokyo to meet up with everyone. After a while we finally found our way to the Ninja Hostel-where we would spend the night in capsules. We met up with Kevin and the three of us set off to explore Tokyo for the day. We went to the part of town called Shibuya where there is the largest and most crowded intersection of the world. When we got up from the metro station, it was exactly the typical Tokyo that I had expected. We walked around Shibuya for a while before grabbing lunch…everything appeared to be extremely Americanized. After a couple of hours we made our way back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of our group to figure out what we would do for the last night in an international port. After a bit of deliberation we decided we would do dinner, karaoke, and go out to a club. A few of us went out to explore the area where our hostel was before all of us go dinner. Dinner came and went and we all go ready for the big night out. Karaoke was hilarious and we had a private room for about 12 of us. We sang everything from GAGA to sweet Caroline. Next thing we knew it was POURING RAIN and we found ourselves in the middle of a SAS festival. The club we went to was filled with people from Semester at Sea. We danced until 5 am…,which is when the metro reopened, and we went back to our hostel EXHAUSTED.

November 23, 2010
The next morning Loryn, Kevin, and I were up and out of the hostel before any of the others were even awake. We made our way towards Yokohama to explore for the day before having to board the ship. We grabbed lunch, showed Kevin our ship, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to our ship to start getting through customs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

November 11, 2010
Hong Kong- We arrived into port bright and early and go off the ship as soon as we could. My friend Heidi needed a rail pass for Japan so that was one of the first things we did after finding an ATM. Once we got her rail pass we spent a good amount of time wandering around Harbor City where we shopped a bit and grabbed lunch. Once we finally ate something we went to the old part of Hong Kong, which looks completely different. We took a taxi to the old part where we would catch the old tram through the entire city. The point of the tram was so that you could see the transition that the city has made-from old to new. The tram ride took about an hour but it was really great to see how Hong Kong has changed so much. After the ride we got off and grabbed a bubble tea and went to a market that was right behind the MRT. The market had some of the most random things in it. Including a watch repairman who fixed my favorite watch for the grand total of one dollar. Shannon, Loryn, and I picked up several things that we would need for our adventure to Beijing where it would be below freezing. The sunset really early and by 5 pm it was pitch black we made our way back to the port via the MRT because we had to see the light show that would start at 8. We got back to the ship, got ready in a hurry and made our way to the clock tower, which was the best location to watch the light show. The light show is basically when they play music and the entire Hong Kong skyline lights up with the music. It was pretty cool and we were interviewed by some students learning English, who told us to go out in soho. We took the star ferry across the harbor towards central Hong Kong where we got lost and were confronted by college student who said he would take us to Soho. Well long story short we had to ditch him and he didn’t get the picture for a long time. But Loryn and I ended up eating dinner and this cute Mexican place called Taco Loco and we got burritos and Margaritas. After a couple hours in Soho we made our way back to the port and caught the last ferry across the harbor. We were leaving for Beijing in less than 12 hours and had a lot of things to do to prepare.

November 12, 2010
The morning came and went quickly and the adventure to the Great Wall began. It was Amber, Loryn, and I going to Beijing so the group was small and it was perfect for traveling. We took the MRT to the train station where we would cross the border into mainland China-Guangzhou was our first destination and it would take a couple of hours to get there. Once we made it to the mainland…we had to go through about an hour of security before we made our way to the airport. At the airport our flight was delayed but we ate Chinese food and shopped around the airport before boarding. Once we finally made it to Beijing it was task to get a taxi driver to drive into the center of the city at 1030 pm but finally one agreed and we were on our way to the center. Our hostel was right next to the forbidden city and it was crazy being able to recognize a city after doing all this traveling for months, this was only place I had been to before semester at sea. We checked in to our hostel which was a bit sketchy ( at night ) but really cool anyways. I was exhausted so basically went to bed right away considering we had to be up and out of the hostel but 730 for our trip to the Great Wall.

November 13, 2010
The three of us were up, eating breakfast and out the door all before 730. We took a tour to the Great Walll because the easiest part of the wall to get to was the touristy part, which we didn’t want to go to. It took about 2.5 hours to get there but when I saw the Wall from a distance I was so excited I couldn’t even stop smiling. We got to Mutianyu and the guide told us to meet her back in 3 hours at a restaurant where we would eat after hiking. There were two options, you could climb the stairs up the mountain or you could take a chair lift…we took the chairlift so that would have more time on the wall. Once we made it to the top it was breathtaking and SO EXCITING. We went to the left, which meant that it would be about 4 miles of hiking up and down stairs and there would be about 15 watchtowers. Well, we hiked the entire thing and the whole time I never felt like it was 4 miles, it was too exciting to be worried about distance at all. I took about 200 pictures and after 2.5 hours we made our way to the bottom of the mountain. The way down was awesome, you got to toboggan our way down which was hilarious and the three of us didn’t listen to any of the rules regarding speed or distance between carts…Loryn kept slamming our her breaks to “keep me on my toes” which was a riot. At the bottom of the mountain we walked through the markets which sold fruits and panda hats (which I bought two of ) but we were laughing our heads of because we had to bargain for our fruit, it was ridiculous I couldn’t even believe it… I had to bargain for a banana. With our panda hats we walked down the rest of the mountain to meet our group for lunch before heading back to Beijing.
When we made it back to Beijing we quickly recuperated and made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Since it was getting late and the sun was setting we could actually go into the Forbidden City but we took a ton of pictures of it all lit up at night-which was beautiful. Everyone wanted to take pictures with us because we looked ridiculous all bundled up and wearing panda hats. After a few dozen pictures I took the opportunity to take the girls around Beijing…my fabulous memory led us to this famous square that is near the Forbidden city which resembles most of the China towns in the United States. Little red lanterns everywhere-AND A STARBUCKS we walked around the little area before we made our way to the night market where we bargained for little gifts for our families. When the cold began to get to all of us we started to head back to our hostel and when we passed through Tiananmen square right before we got home we got to see the fountain show that was going on at the forbidden city. Music accompanied 15 fountains that lined the dark red walls of the Forbidden City. We finally got back to our hostel AND we had a new roommate, who was an American living in South Korea visiting Beijing for the weekend. The four of us had dinner together at the hostels little restaurant and we convinced him to take the same trip to the great wall that we had done. Loryn and I spent most of the night talking to him and he gave us some great advice and information on South Korea.

November 14, 2010
It was our last day in Beijing before we would head to Shanghai to meet up with the boat so we were up early to do some major sightseeing. We had a quick breakfast and were off to see Beijing. The first stop was the Forbidden City and we spent a good couple of hours walking in-between all of the courtyards and behind the big red walls along the pond. We left and began to find our way to the Olympic Stadium from 2008. We saw the birds nest and the pond or whatever they call the thing for Michael Phelps won like 50 gold medals. Once again everyone wanted to take a picture with us and after a while we were ready to leave. This part of the city looks NOTHING like the rest of the city. It looks so modern and built up which I am sure was all done for the Olympics. From the Olympic stadium we went over to the Summer palace which was way different from the Winter palace (Forbidden City) at the summer palace there were ponds and trees everywhere which was basically the opposite of the Forbidden City. After a couple of hours of walking around we had to meet up with one of Amber’s friends who is living in Beijing teaching English who had bought our train tickets to shanghai. We met up with him at the silk market, which was seven floors of everything you can imagine. After a few hours at the silk market and getting the tickets from Trey, we went back to the night market behind the Forbidden City to spend the last couple of hours in Beijing. Before we we knew it we were at the train station getting some snacks to bring on the night train…we were leaving Beijing and heading to Shanghai.
When we got on the night train…it was a nightmare there were Chinese people everywhere ( naturally- we were in china) but THEY WERE IN OUR SEATS and thought they could just steal them from us, RUDE, after quick of bit of awkward standing over these people they finally gave up and gave us our seats back. We sat across from 3 boys and before the first hour of the train was over we were all sleeping and loryn was on the ground underneath our chairs.

November 15, 2010
Fourteen hours seemed to take forever and I was so excited to finally reach Shanghai. We got off the train, asked a police officer for help and found ourselves in a predicament…not only were we tired and grouchy but Semester at Sea put a nonexistent address on the Green sheet ( the sheet we use to find our way back to the ship) so not only were we in a foreign country but we were without an address. After a lot of debate we found a taxi driver who would take us to the bund where hopefully we would find the MV explorer. WE DID WE DID WE DID and I was so happy to see it it took a while to go through security and then we were stuck on the ship for 4 hours waiting for customs to clear us…even though we had been in China for 3 days. By the time we got off the ship the sun was setting and the bund (waterfront) was lighting up. We got into a taxi and made our way to Yuyuan a small district with lots of restaurants where we would spend the night eating and walking around before going back to the ship..

November 16, 2010
It was our final day in China and we had the day to explore around Shanghai, we got the name of an area and we set out there before all the other SASers would invade. We spent some time walking around before we found a market( naturally) and spent the last of our money on gifts for everyone. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and the day was almost over. We ate a quick lunch, walked around a bit more and then went to the bund to take some pictures of Shanghai’s skyline. We walked the entire way back to the ship which was located right on the bund and we took dozens of pictures with each other- and with tourists who thought we looked weird. Because of immigration we weren’t allowed to leave straight away but when we did the bund was lit up and beautiful, it was a great way to say goodbye to China.
China was the only country on the itinerary that I had been to before, and I was extremely nervous to go back. But It was worth it, although many of my reason for not liking China the first time around were reaffirmed I am glad I got to go to the great wall of China. The thing about China is that the country is filled with such a rich history that is hard for me not to love it BUT the people with all the people that I have met along the way, the Chinese have been by far the rudest people in the world (the world that I have seen ) But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy my time and the experience that I had while I visited. Seeing the Great Wall of China was something I had dreamed of my entire life, and let me tell you GO SEE IT!!!! It was one of the most breathtaking and surreal moments of my life. ☺

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The hardest thing for Americans to realize is that they are not better than other people
-Jimmy carter
November 3, 2010
GOODMORNING VIET NAM. What a morning! we woke up at 5:00 AM to watch our ship sail through the Mekong delta, I have never experienced something so beautiful in my life. After two hours of navigating through the Mekong we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City. A few tricky hours with customs later we were off the ship and in the downtown area. It took us a few minutes to orient ourselves before we figured out how to get the famous Vietnamese coffee, a few coffees later we grabbed a taxi and headed towards the tailor. My group of girl friends-Loryn, Heidi, and Shannon all planned to get dresses made while in Vietnam for our Ambassadors ball in December. At the Tailor’s shop we spent two hours getting measured, picking designs, and battling the language barrier BUT when we left we were happy and so were they. The next stop was the Ben Thahn market which was a short walk from the tailor. The market was an absolute maze everywhere were you turned these tiny Vietnamese women asked “what are you looking for?” and grabbed your arm. It was hectic and crazy BUT AMAZING. Everything from t-shirts to chopsticks, food, bags, watches, sunglasses. Ben Thahn was an absolute maze and you could spend hours there, and we did. After a couple of hours of shopping I figured it was time to try some local Vietnamese food. Pho(pronounced faa) is the traditional meal AND IT WAS TERRIBLE. Or to say the very least not my cup of noodles…but it was a good experience and to coat the terrible flavor I ordered a fresh pineapple smoothie. The traffic around the area was out of control, at first we would wait to cross with the locals to avoid getting run over but after a few streets we figured it was time to take a few chances and cross the roads solo. The four of us spent the remainder of the daylight wandering around the city’s little streets with millions of shops. As the sun started to set we returned to the busy square with all the traffic and they dynamic had changed completely, the square was filled with locals playing with a sort of shuttlecock. I am not sure exactly what the game is call but it is more or less hacky sack with a shuttlecock. My next move was to buy one of these contraptions and make friend with some Vietnamese locals. It turns out that all you need to do is buy the shuttlecock and everyone jumps at the sight of a white person. I spent about 30 minutes shamefully trying to master the game but failed greatly. After playing the game I retired to watching the locals and eventually university students who wanted to practice their English surrounded Heidi and me. The next 3 hours were spent chatting with students who asked me every single question they possibly could and we enjoyed it. Before we knew it, it was time to head to dinner and to say goodbye to all of our new friends. After our dinner we walked around the night market entertaining ourselves before our adventure back to our ship. On our walk back to the ship we picked up a few of the traditional triangle/cone hats that a lot of women wear in South East Asia. The hats were hilarious and every single Vietnamese person we passed on our way home laughed at us. What a great first day in Vietnam, it reminded me of Thailand, which I love!

November 4, 2010
Another extremely early morning, we were up and off the ship by 6 am to head to Cu Chi, Vietnam…the place where the Cu Chi tunnels were built in the 1950-1970s. The entire area of the tunnels is a bout 250 kilometers and they are insane. When we finally go to Cu chi-about an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh, we watched a short documentary about the tunnels. It was weird and eye opening to watch a documentary in which the enemy is Americans and how they gave out awards for who was the most creative in killing Americans. After the short documentary our guide brought us to part of the forest and told us to find the entrance to the tunnel, there were 25 of us and after 10 minutes not one of us could find the entrance. Finally she showed us the tiny entrance that was about the size of the shoebox, it was the entrance that the Americans discovered in 1966. Some people took turns trying to fit into the entrance, which was the typical size used during the Vietnam War. We spent about an hour going through the “museum” which consisted of the different traps and killing techniques the Viet Cong used. FINALLY we got to actually go into the tunnels, they gave us a short briefing before we made our way down into the tunnels…they also gave us the option to exit the tunnel at 20-40 or 120 meters into the tunnels. We made our way to the 1st level…it was insane, I couldn’t see a thing in front of me and after about 40 feet I felt like I couldn’t breath anymore, I almost ducked out but figured that I needed to go the entire way. I couldn’t believe I felt so claustrophobic even after the tunnels had been made 3x bigger than they were in the 60s—the ceiling was still touching my shoulders when I was on my hands and knees. I had the opportunity to go through several other parts of the tunnels including the bomb shelter area which was the only place the Viet Cong could actually stand up in. We left Cu Chi, Vietnam after a couple of hours, but it was one of the most insane experiences of my life. The tour bus go back to the ship right around lunch and a group of us went out to explore more of the city. We ended up at Saigon Market, which was basically like the other market we had been in the previous day. After a couple of hours we decided to take a rest, we hoped on some motorcycles ( with helmets) and they took us right back to the ship, it was awesome BUT SCARY weaving in and out of the traffic on a motorcycle. Later on we were back at the night market where we had been before and WE NEEDED these shirts that said “same same but different”…probably the quote of the trip. Almost every lady we came across in any market would explain her price by saying this and eventually we would say it back to them-and they loved it.

November 5, 2010
The next morning was early as well…the day started with no plans really and then soon enough we had plans to go volunteer at a shelter for young women who have been exposed or subject to human trafficking. Before we left for the shelter we went to the market to look for little gifts and trinkets to give to the girls when we got there. Around 1 pm a group of 12 young women from the ship left for the shelter. When we got their we were informed that the children would be at school till five (they go to school in shifts) but 3 of them were home from the morning shift and they wanted to hang out with us, after about 45 minutes we all left to run a few errands before returning again that evening to have a girls night with them all. The group of 12 of us pulled enough money together to buy a LaserJet printer for the business side of the shelter…and they were grateful. We went to a different part of town were we found ourselves in a coffee shop for 3 hours (VIETNAM HAS AMAZING COFFEE) making friends with the owners and their children. This is when the rain started, and didn’t stop for about four hours…but it gave us an excuse to drink more coffee. A little at 5pm we started making our way back to the shelter to spend the evening with the girls. When we got there, it was a bit strange at first, we were starring at them and they were starring at us. The ice was quickly broken and since a majority of the girls were about 12 years old we decided to play some games. Most of the games resembled something we play in the states but they were called strange names. The games lasted for a couple of hours and we were running around and laughing the entire time. When it got closer to their bedtime we settled down by making friendship bracelets and painting each others nails, it felt like one huge slumber party with all the of us girls together in a huge room spread across the floor. The night basically ended there, it was amazing to see a shelter specifically for young girls/women like this. I wish the women in charge had been more comfortable explaining some of the girl’s stories but it was understandable and amazing just to be part of it.

November 6, 2010
This day was basically a relaxing day. Loryn, Shannon, and I woke up early (again) to go to the War Remnants Museum. The entire outside of the museum is filled with old air force and army equipment from the Vietnam/American War. There are 3 floors that explain the details from what essentially caused the war to what actually happened during the war. The most moving part of the exhibition was the Agent Orange part, it explained how many chemicals the Americans had used and how we basically destroyed the Vietnamese soil/water etc. As bad as it seemed, we sounded like terrorists to Vietnam. After the museum we found a coffee shop and spent some time talking about how the museum made us feel and if it is weird for our grandparents and parents to see us here exploring the country and loving the people they grew up hating. About mid afternoon we went back to the tailor to check on our clothes and we reached that part of Ho Chi Minh just before the rain started for the day. After our fitting at the tailor we went BACK to the coffee shop we had been at the day before and the woman was so excited to see us! We ended the day relatively early and headed back to the ship around 5,

November 7, 2010
The last day in Vietnam =(. The morning started early again, we went straight to the tailor to pick up our dresses and to start our day being productive. We finished quickly and decided to go back to our new friends coffee shop. The owner of the coffee shop had her little daughter with her, and she was adorable. The littler girl and I had basically matching outfits on and we took some fabulous pictures together. She was so cute and thought that the henna on my hands would make her hands dirty. We spent a good 45 minutes playing with her before walking through ho chi minh one last time. The remainder of the day was spent popping in and out of shops and eating some good food before the next few days on the ship before china. We got back to the ship around 2 and said goodbye to Vietnam.
What an amazing country! I am sure it sounds like I say that after every port, but Vietnam was truly amazing…I really appreciated every minute of it and the people were so friendly and welcoming it made the experience that much better. I felt myself wondering the entire time if in 40 years my kids will be traveling to Afghanistan?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


“To feel at home, stay at home. A foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It’s designed to make its own people comfortable”
-Clifton Fadiman

October 31, 2010
Welcome to Singapore! It was Halloween and we were most definitely scared. The ship spent the past few days scaring us into believing that 90 percent of us would get arrested in Singapore. We docked around 8 and were off the ship and through customs by 9, it was the fastest and most efficient country yet. As soon as we got through the cruise center we found the MRT (metro) and figured out how to get into the center of Singapore. 15 minutes later we were walking in front of Clark Quay, which is a place where there are dozens of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Loryn, Heidi, Shannon, and I spent some time exploring there were we met some Marines who at ( 10 am) were already starting to drank. I took the liberty to get to know that map of Singapore and we started exploring around this tiny Island. On our walk from Clark Quay to Little India we passed dozens of malls. Singapore is basically a shopper’s paradise. AND everything was so clean; it was pretty refreshing after India. We found ourselves at this outdoor market called Bugis Bazaar. This little bazaar was filled with absolutely everything you could imagine. It reminded me of the night markets in Taiwan. Every little stand was filled with everything from bubble tea to watches, clothes, and food. Once we left the insanity of Bugis Street we head out to find little India (we just couldn’t get enough of India) On the way we ran into a 7-story electronics store that is famous in Singapore. So we popped in for a few hours to look at everything. You could buy an IPOD shuffle for 10 dollars, its amazing how cheap electronics are in Asia. But soon enough we were in Little India and it was actually like we were in India the bazaar was selling everything exactly as we had seen it not even a week before in Chennai. We walked around for about an hour and figured that we would go check out the Raffles Hotel which is apparently famous, I had never heard of it before, but the invented the Singapore sling. On the way back to Clark Quay from the Raffles Hotel we passed many malls but one thing that caught all of our attention was this place called BreadTalk. It was a bakery that reminded me so much of Taiwan (again) but It was amazing. I got a loaf of garlic bread and an orange juice and before I knew it we were heading towards Clark Quay. Our intentions for going to Clark Quay were to find out if Ministry of Sound (a club) was open for Halloween. Two steps into the downtown area we were stopped by about 50 marines. (not a good idea) But before we knew it we were running through the MRT to get back to the ship and back out to the Quay to meet up with all of our new friends. The night was interesting we ended up meeting up with the marines and a ton of students from our ship and dancing all night It ended up being a great Halloween night.

November 1, 2010
After a crazy night out waking up early was not easy at all, but by 930 we were on the MRT and heading towards Clark Quay to start the day. After a fabulous iced coffee later we were heading towards Bugis Street again to check out the markets and collect a few things that we didn’t get the day before. We asked around and figured out that the best place to go shopping was Orchard Road so that’s where we went. In the metro station there was a mall, SINGAPORE IS CRAZY. But we finally went to another mall, this all sounds so ridiculous but I wish I was exaggerating. In this mall we found a much-needed grocery store for some snacks and toiletries for the boat. Before we knew it, it was getting close to 2 and our on ship time was an hour earlier so we had to get back to the Cruise Centre. 30 minutes later we got to the Harbor and through the intense customs.

Singapore is pretty much a Disneyland for Shoppers. Everything was extremely clean and the people were very friendly. Even though we had only two days there, I thought it was plenty seeing as the entire country is filled with malls. The craziest things I found were the laws, a country that doesn’t allow street begging, jay walking, chewing gum, or littering all of these things are great, but it is insane to see a nation that actually abides by all laws.


“Kindness to strangers creates a benevolent world. Be especially considerate of those less fortunate.” -Marvel Harrison

October 22, 2010
Pulling into Chennai was a completely different experience than any other port so far. You could smell India a mile before we even entered the harbor, it was overpowering and we were definitely in India. Another first was the massive trouble getting everyone through customs. Everyone was required for “face to face” inspection with the customs officers and every student was required to carry their passports around the entire stay in India. This hadn’t happened before and I was worried about having to carry my passport around India for a week. 5 hours after we went through customs we were actually allowed to disembark. Damien, Shannon, and I put our game faces on and prepared to haggle our way to the city center. 1.5 hours later we were successfully in the center and eating at one fabulous Indian Restaurant. SPICY SPICY SPICY food later we were heading to the Pondy Bazaar, which was really amazing. The streets were filled with little stands that had everything from puma tracksuits to shower curtains; it was a riot and provided us with entertainment for hours. After a few hours at the Pondy Bazaar we went to another market but didn’t spend much time there before we were all bartered out. The group of us, which now turned to six decided to wander around a bit, and we found ourselves in the middle of 200 schoolboys. We made the mistake of pulling out our cameras, which resulted in riot number 1 of the day. The boys were literally throwing each other in front of buses and rickshaws to take pictures with us. 20 minutes later after 100 pictures and a lot of new friends later it was time to head out. Not even 20 meters down the road…we encounter riot number 2 which was another school but this time with smaller kids, after a few close calls with children being thrown into buses we figured it was time to go on an adventure. After we found a rickshaw driver that agreed to take 6 of us in one ( a little 3 wheeled car meant for 3) we were off to a temple on the beach. When we arrived, it did not look at all like the picture in the guidebook but that didn’t discourage us from going in an exploring. We went through the entire temple with the locals, which was an experience. One of the boys I was with for the day really wanted prayer flags so we took a rickshaw to a temple that was near to the beach. But 5 short minutes later there were no prayer flags and the mosquitoes were beginning to attack as seeing as the sun had just set. We found a rickshaw that would take 6 of us and we began on a 30 minute adventure to the port. The traffic was insane and there were many times that we almost ran into a bus. The driver dropped us off at the wrong port gate so we had to walk for about 10 minutes to enter our gate and we walked through what was basically an outdoors best buy. There were thousands of DVDs, electronics, and flat screen TVs . Ten minutes later we were back in familiar territory and boarding the ship for the night. The heat had taken so much out of us for the day it was only 730 and everyone was ready to fall asleep.

October 23, 2010
The next morning we got a bit of a late start but we were heading out of Chennai and to a smaller town south of the big city. After haggling for a taxi to the town called Mamallaprum we were on our way for two hectic hours in Indian traffic. When we arrived we figured out where the Butter Ball is and made our way there. Along the way we saw dozens of cows. Our first little pit stop before reaching the Butter Ball was a little pond that had a Buddhist shrine in the center with thousands of lily pads and was filled with holy water. There we met a young man who showed us around this little town. The first stop on our little tour was a group of carvings in a rock that had elephants, women, children, and snakes. This spot used to be a place where the people would pray for the Ganges or the rain to come. Directly to the right of these carvings was the Butter Ball which, is a huge boulder that is titled slightly without any human intervention it stays put. It is amazing and is another location that is used for prayer. Inside the gates of the park where the Butter Ball is located are temples and in most of these temples is karma sutra, it is a riot and apparently after a couple is newly married they go to these temples for inspiration on their first night as a married couple. After walking around the park for an hour or so we figured it was time to find our taxi driver. Along the way we encountered dozens of people who wanted to shake our hands. We picked up a few souvenirs prayer beads, post cards, new friends. Soon enough we were in the taxi heading back to Chennai. Once we got back into Chennai we passed the non-touristy part of the beach and it was filled with shacks. This time the shacks were way worse than anything I saw in Ghana or Cape Town these shacks were just a tarp or sometimes only a sheet held up by sticks, it was terrible and there were hundreds of them. Only minutes later we were pulling into our gate and away from all the poverty that was right next to our perfect little home on the water.

October 24, 2010
The next day a small group of us went out to explore a different part of Chennai we started out at Spencer plaza which was interesting, sort of a mall but with markets inside of it. It was interesting and we spent a few hours weaving in and out of the stores and stalls. Everyone kept asking if we were from the MV Explorer and some shops even had signs that’s said special discount for the MV. After a few hours at the plaza we jumped into a rickshaw to go see a real Indian Department store. When we arrived at Pothys, it was intimidating. 7 floors, thousands of people, it was nearly impossible to even move. BUT it was beautiful thousands of saris lined the walls in every color imaginable. We pushed our way down to the shawl section to do some shopping. 2 hours later…we make our way up to other floors just to be part of the madness. The stairs were so full that you had to just shuffle with the crowd: there was no other way. Somewhere around the sixth floor a group of children started shaking our hands and taking our pictures and asking our names. It was amazing and they were so friendly. To actual pay at Pothys was an adventure. You would take your things to one guy who would put a sticker with the price tag on your items then to another who would write you up a receipt, THEN to another who would take your money and give you change THENNNN to another who would package your items ( into 3 different bags ) and give you your purchases. It was defiantly a process and MOST defiantly a way they employ people Eventually we had, had enough of the madness and figured it was almost time to head back to the ship. We stopped along the way to get henna done. I had both of my hands done completely so that they were fully designed with flowers. It was a task to get back in a crowded city with wet hands that took an hour to dry. But I managed and one hour later my hands had safely dried into a beautiful pattern. Since the heat in India is so hot, we figured we would take a few hours rest before returning out of a night out on the town. Around 9 pm a big group of people decided to go out for the opening night of The Robot (PLEASE WATCH THE TRAILER ON YOUTUBE) which was tollywood not bollywood. It cost us roughly 2 dollars for the expensive seats in the theatre; the cheap seats were about 15 cents a ticket. (The movie which lasted well over 3 hours was hilarious we spent 90 percent of the time cracking up because the actors would randomly break out in song but it was pretty amazing and defiantly an experience worth living. After what seemed like an amazing night at the theatre we left for a little journey to the pier half way back I got angry and it wasn’t at anyone at in particular it was that there was THOUSANDS of people sleeping on the concrete some had little rugs others just their bare bodies. It was horrible and I couldn’t believe that I was seeing that with my own eyes. The worst part about semester at sea ( I cant believe I am saying that ) is that you see poverty on so many levels and you feel so helpless. Yeah, I saw those people, I knew that it was a problem, but what can I do about it? Nothing, at least not right now but I hope in the future.

October 25, 2010
The next morning was an extremely early start after getting back in the early morning for the movie. We were heading to Pondicherry, which in the times of colonization was the only place the French had occupied in India. It was quite the adventure to get there. We started out walking in hopes of getting a taxi but after 30 minutes we figured we would try our luck at the public transportation of India. We got to the bus station that would take us to the main bus station the CMBT (Chennai mass bus transport?) Once we got to CMBT it was easy. I asked the police officer which bus would take us to Pondicherry and he asked if we wanted air condition. A stop at the snack stand and 2 whole dollars later we were on a very spacious air-conditioned bus to Pondicherry. It took us about 4 hours to do what would have taken us 2 hours in a taxi but it was cheap and comfortable. When we arrived to Pondicherry it appeared to be just as hectic and crazy and Chennai but after a short rickshaw drive to our hotel we realized it was much different. It was such a peaceful little town on the sea and immediately it was very relaxing. After getting acquainted with our new home for a few days we figured we would go to Hotel Sagura, which actually isn’t a Hotel but a restaurant for dinner. We sat down, ordered whatever we recognized and waited. A girl behind us asked us a question that we couldn’t answer but before we knew it we were sharing a table and we had met our new Indian friend. Her name is Nupur and she is from a state near Goa, she was in Pondicherry on vacation for a week and knew the town very well. One thing I learned is Indians are very hospitable and before we knew it we had plans to meet up with her for coffee later tonight and again tomorrow so she would show us around the ashram area. Nupur also showed us what to order on the menu, because she though we were crazy for just eating garlic naan. After dinner we dropped Shannon off at the hotel and Loryn and I went to Le Café to meet up with Nupur. Over coffee and Ice cream we learned some fabulous things about her, she is fashion photographer and only 23!! But our time at Le Café was cut short, and abruptly because a tsunami and hit Indonesia so they cleared out the waterfront of Pondicherry. We parted ways from Nupur but would be meeting up with her tomorrow for breakfast and for her to show us around Pondicherry.

October 26, 2010
It was our last full day in India and we were up really early to begin. We met up with Nuper for breakfast at Hotel Sagura. After some very interesting and spicy traditional things, I did not love Indian food as much as I wanted to. We quickly began to explore this little town. The entire area is part of the Ashram and most of the shops are sponsored by it to employ the people of Pondicherry. We began navigating our way around the little streets, which resembled some of the quieter neighborhoods in Paris. It was so relaxing and amazing to be with someone who knew where they were going. We did a bit of shopping and lots of photographing before we had to say goodbye to Nupur who was leaving to go back home later that day. We made our way to the Ashram paper factory but stopped many times along the way. First at this little store that sold postcards, which were a must, and then at this little roadside market where I got a little traveling Buddha which will hopefully give me luck for the rest of my life as a traveler. But when we finally arrived at the paper factory it was closed for a lunch break. We decided to walk back towards the center along the water and grab a quick lunch and le café. After lunch we stopped at a bookstore, which was the most random collection of books, we moved on to the paper factory that had finally opened. When we finally arrived it was amazing dozens of rooms filled with hand made paper. After many purchases later we continued on with our walk around the ashram area and finally the heat just claimed us and we went back to our hotel. We were completely exhausted and called it an early night in our quite little town of Pondicherry.

What an amazingly beautiful crazy country. The heat, the people, the traffic all of it was INTENSE but there wasn’t one minute that I didn’t soak up the amazing country. The poverty though, that was something I have never experienced to that level before and it just made me sad, and mad that I couldn’t do anything to help. I cant wait to return though, I only saw the south of this complex country and can’t wait to see the north which I heard is just as crazy and just as beautiful.