Sydney-Tianjin-Bangkok-Turkey-Greek Islands-Norway by cruiseship, flights and ferries.

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woodyren

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Day 31- Day 48 Arrived in Tianjin around 0600 on Ovation. All passengers had been warned of potential delays with disembarkation and in particular Chinese immigration. There had been a LOT of confusion with individuals and also the cruise line as to whether the new 144 hour free visa exemption would apply. As there were approximately 700 people on board without visas who were using the 144 hour waiver there was also potential delays in the processing of those passengers.

Royal advised us regularly that it may take 3-4 hours to disembark. We already had our visas as Mrs woodyren is originally from Nth China and we were heading there for a few weeks before our next departure for the rest of this holiday. We will also return there for 5-6 weeks later before we return home in July.

Despite the warnings disembarkation was very quick and simple for us. Reports from others including those with the visa waiver was similar. We walked to the far end of the taxi line as those there have just arrived and haven't invested time in queuing for an hour or two and negotiated an 80 RMB trip to the nearest bullet train station for us which was Binhai. Ones at the front wouldn't budge on 200 RMB. None would use their meter and fare I guess is probably about 50 RMB.

Arrived at the station about 8.40 and no available tickets on the next 4 or 5 trains so we booked 1st class on the 12.49 service to Shenyang. 348 RMB for the almost 700 klm trip that takes a little over 4 hours. No second class available. Trains are still quite good but I must say the interior of this one was starting to look a little tired.

Binhai station. IMG_1292.JPG


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First class carriage.
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Business class section of carriage. The wall behind the driver used to be clear glass when I first rode these trains in around 2010 but sadly has been opaque since shortly afterwards.

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First class offers a snack pack lol. Very underwhelming.

TBC
 

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woodyren

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First of all I would like to have kept the pictures a little smaller to make the content easier to read/see but I have no idea how to do this.

The last few weeks have been spent in Shenyang which is in North China approximately 600 klms north of Beijing. It has a total population of around 8,000,000.

Shenyang - Wikipedia

We have an apartment there and most of the last two weeks have been spent relaxing while we prepare for the next part of our trip. We usually do a few side trips to other regions in China or neighbouring countries and will probably do so when we return in mid June.

I find the food here to be a highlight and the variety, taste and presentation continues to amaze me despite spending many months in total in the city.

Just a few of the various meals/dishes eaten in the last few weeks.

Local dumplings. The dish in the foreground consists of silkworm larvae crisply fried in a Sichuan style with lots of dried chili. While I am quite an adventurous eater I mostly draw the line at bug type things but I must admit these cooked in this style are really tasty. They are now one of my favourite local dishes.
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On the local May Day holiday we were invited to a country resort about an hour outside the city. They use most of their own produce. Our hosts ordered a whole barbequed lamb and a lot of complimentary vegetable dishes. Plenty of drinking and eating as per local customs. I speak very little Mandarin and most conversation is translated by Mrs woodyren.
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Fish stew cooked at the table.


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One of the top local seafood restaurants. King crab legs.
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Sashimi at the same restaurant.
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These had prawns inside in a sweetish sauce.
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Whole fish in a light soy sauce.
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More sashimi from another night.
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Although we are very fortunate to enjoy fine dining and great wine it's also true that you can have a great meal with cold beers for vey little $$$ at the multitude of small hole in the wall places that line almost every inner city street.
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We fly to Bangkok in the morning. TBC
 

woodyren

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While there wasn't a lot of exploring or travel in the few weeks we have been China I thought I might take the opportunity to post about a 3 day road trip we took from Shenyang to Dandong when we visited last year. Dandong is situated on the Yalu River which forms part of the border between China and Nth Korea.

We were invited to visit by a friend of Mrs woodyren who arranged all accommodation and sightseeing. Turned out to be a very interesting experience with some reasonably close viewing of Nth Korea along with some historical aspects (obviously from a local perspective) of the Korean war.

Our hotel which was almost on the Yalu River waterfront. Friend of friend was apparently the owner. We were provided with an executive suite.

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Views of Nth Korea from the waterfront just across the road outside of our hotel. Taken the day we arrived. Everyone else remained in the hotel but I wanted to check out the local area and took a quick walk along the river.
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The blue guard towers were stationed about every 500 mts from what I observed.
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We then headed for the usual banquet type meal. Of course accompanied by some of the local brew. I normally just stick to beer or wine as the local Baijiu is a little (well a lot) strong for my tastes. mmexport1498716371988.jpg

Local beer from dinner on day 2
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TBC
 

woodyren

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Eating over and we were picked up in a small minivan. Our destination turned out to be a local section of the Great Wall. In my spare time in China I read quite a lot about local history/events/customs etc and I happened to have read a few articles about the original Great Wall and a few sections that have been reconstructed but have dubious origins. This section was certainly only recently built and I have my doubts that a wall ever existed there at any time before this construction. Never the less it was reasonably interesting but more so because of what lay on the other side of the wall.

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TBC
 

woodyren

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After an hour or so walking up to the top section of the wall we were instructed to follow our guide through an archway in the wall, past a few local vendors then about 100mts through some fields of crops. It led to a fence and what I was told was the closest points between China and Nth Korea in the area. This part of Nth Korea looked extremely fertile. The Yalu River itself is certainly the cleanest river I have seen in China.


The border fences. China in the foreground. A smallish creek not the actual river forms the border at this point. I asked the guide "who owns the land between the two fences?" He said "both". I stuck my finger through and touched the ground so officially I have visited Nth Korea.
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Nth Korean farms. Fences had many gaps.
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Of course the ubiquitous guard towers were never out of sight.
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A few photos of the signage at the border. It is obvious that this region is some sort of local tourist destination in which you get to look at the neighbours.

I made sure all my photos were of the "background" of the North Korea and not the foreground.
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I had no intention of "dabbling"
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woodyren

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Next day again picked up in the mini van. I as usual had little idea of where we were headed. Drove north along the Yalu through an area of predominately peach orchards with the border across the river not out of sight for long. As I alluded to earlier this is one of the least polluted regions I have visited in China and the River also featured many fish ponds.

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After driving for an hour or so we pulled into a local military police building. A quick phone call from one of our companions and a few minutes later out walked a soldier who jumped into the front seat. Off we went and drove another 10 minutes or so to a small dock and a few restaurants on the river. Mrs woodyren then translated and we hopped out and boarded a small boat with the army guy.

The bridge in the background is one that was bombed during the Korean war and has been left as a memorial. More about that later.
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Army guide on left.


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We spent a good hour cruising along close to the North Korean side. There were a few other boats doing the same.

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TBC with photos next.
 

woodyren

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The broken bridge. I had read a few stories about the broken bridge. In fact there are two of them as I discovered later. Both were bombed and partially destroyed during the war. They have been left as they were as memorials to what the Chinese call "The war to assist Korea against the USA". At this stage I thought this was the only broken bridge but in fact this is the less visited one..

The destroyed section of the bridge

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One of the war era pillboxes constructed to defend the bridge.

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A sign depicting the local aspect of the war.

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woodyren

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Later that evening we arrived back into the centre of Dandong. I then became aware of a second broken bridge. This bridge is next to the current bridge that provides road access between the two countries. We only had a short stop as we were again invited to dinner but I was interested to find out more about this location and its history. The bridge was reasonably busy and also well guarded this night. Our driver had difficulty parking and the local police had sort of blocked off the area around the bridge so I only got a couple of photos that night.

The second broken bridge in the centre of Dandong city.

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I awoke early the next morning and while my friends ate breakfast I decided I could probably walk what I guessed was a few kilometres along the riverfront to where I thought the bridges were. The local area has a wide promenade along the river and it was alive with people swimming, exercising and walking.

Riverside promenade.

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Not sure if this was a local swimmer or an escape from the other side

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The current bridge connecting the two countries along side the broken bridge.

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What appeared the night before to be a reasonably trafficked road was very quiet when I returned early morning.

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A view of the town on the Nth Korean side.

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TBC
 

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woodyren

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Day 47 Flight on China Southern Shenyang-Guangzhou-Bangkok. In my initial plans for this trip our intention was to use our Velocity points bank to fly from China to Istanbul and then travel to Fethiye. Once I began to search it was not possible as according to Velocity/Krisflyer rules this would be back tracking. Initial thought was to fly from Singapore and catch a cheap Y fare from Shenyang to Singapore but further checks of the Krisflyer award chart showed that it was the same amount of points to fly Bangkok-Singapore- Istanbul as what it was to fly Singapore Istanbul direct. Revenue Y fare was also cheaper from Shenyang to Bangkok than to Singapore. Our flight in Y was made a lot more comfortable due to Mrs woodyren's nephew working at Taoxian airport in the VIP area. Access to VIP parking, first class lounge, VIP check in and security line and VIP bus to the plane. Mrs woodyren also managed to get a whole row to herself for the 4hrs flight to Guangzhou. IMG_1327.JPG


Mrs woodyren's nephew. Always organises our arrivals/departures in Shenyang.
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First class lounge food Taoxian airport Shenyang.
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VIP bus to flight.

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woodyren

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Flights to Bangkok both on time.

A few of the big boys on the tarmac.
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Transfer to Bangkok Marquis Marriott on Queens Park arrived 30 minutes late.
We had originally booked a budget type hotel for our three nights in BKK but when a Luxury Escapes package grabbed my attention at the Marriott I cancelled our original booking and took the L.E deal.

Great decision as it turned out. Our travels are more constrained by $$$ than available time we sort of try to keep things in the $100 per person per day range. Because China is very low cost for our time there we have some disposable $$$ for a little more up market (and we do enjoy a little luxury). L.E deal was $649 for 3 nights including breakfast, executive lounge access and one way transfer.

Marriott Queens Park is a stunning hotel and the lounge and breakfast buffet are up there with the best we have stayed.

First night just arrived in time for a Sangria, beers in the last hour of lounge happy hours.

Missed the food as it finished just before we arrived.

Food from 5.30 pm till 7.30 pm. Drinks from 5.30 till 8.30.

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A few shots of hotel and room.


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TBC
 
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woodyren

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Breakfast buffet was fantastic. Huge area with so much variety. Absolutely no need to eat much else between breakfast and dinner snacks in the lounge.

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Great fruit selection. IMG_1419.JPG

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TBC
 

woodyren

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Yesterday spent most of the day exploring Bangkok. Used public transport (metro, river ferry) and walked everywhere we went.

Hotel was located only a sort walk through Queens Park from the metro.


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Orange flag river ferry. 15 THB per trip. IMG_1447.JPG

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Royal palace. Spectacular but it was just so incredibly packed. We have just spent a while in China and are quite used to crowds in tourist attractions there. I swear it seamed like there were more Chinese tourists in the Royal Palace that there were in any of the big Chinese tourist attractions. Huge economic boon for the Thais but so over crowded.

The photos without crowds were hard to come by.
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Reclining Buddha was a little less crowded.
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TBC
 

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woodyren

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Flight from Bangkok to Singapore in Singapore Airlines J. Had about 3 hours in the Silverkris lounge prior to the flight. Decent food and an excellent bar with bar service. Had some great variety of coughtails available and the staff were great. Although the lounge is much smaller we enjoyed our time there a lot more than the Silverkris in Singapore. IMG_1637.JPG

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woodyren

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J seats on the short flight to Singapore were 2-2-2. Served a glass of Charley Heidsieck prior to take off.

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Menu

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I had pork loin for my meal. Was fine without being anything special. For some reason Mrs woodyren was trying to steal my wine?
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Mrs woodyren had the fried snapper and prawns.

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An unusual neighbour at the airport. IMG_1675.JPG
 
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woodyren

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Flight from Singapore to Istanbul scheduled for 1.45 am was delayed by over an hour and so we had an even longer layover at Changi.

We were a little tired but were able to catch a few hours sleep on the lounges at the rear of the Silverkris lounge.

Despite still being tired managed to consume another glass or two of bubbly and consume my book the cook steak which was quite good. For some reason I didn't take any photos off dinner.

Had an excellent nights sleep and felt as good as new when we arrived at Istanbul at around 8.30 am local time the next day.

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This couple on the stairs gave staff hell. Firstly at the meal service when they appeared to be rude and making numerous requests. They ere in the first row of the J cabin and so delayed the service by quite a bit on the isle they were seated in. Prior to landing the guy refused for quite a while to get up and have his bed returned to a seat. The flight attendants were telling him that the plane cannot land unless he conforms. Staff were very patient and eventually he rudely relented.

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RooFlyer

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Was the army guy just to stop you dashing across into North Korea? Did he mind you taking the photographs?
 

woodyren

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Was the army guy just to stop you dashing across into North Korea? Did he mind you taking the photographs?

The army guy was our guide. He was from a small military police depot which I guess had some sort of border control function. One of Mrs woodyren's Chinese friends has family connections and arranged the guy to accompany us. He was pointing things out and they were translated back to me. Very fortunate to have this experience. He also took us to dinner in a local place near the Army station. I have some photos of him but dont think I should post them so I only use the one from the back showing him in the front of the boat.
 
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