When you travel anywhere you bring back a lot of things with you (we do, at any rate). There are the memories, of course, and hopefully they’re good ones. You also bring back photos and possibly videos to augment those memories and help to share them when words alone can’t quite do the job. You might bring back souvenirs for friends and families if it’s not too much hassle and you’re feeling benevolent. And then there are the things you just sort of collect on your trip: the key cards, the city guides, the mementoes handed out on tours, the free pamphlets lying around, those bits you buy just because you can’t get them anywhere else or because they tie directly in with the place you’re visiting, etc. This post covers the little pieces of memorabilia we brought back from our first foreign holiday together not just as a married couple (it was our honeymoon) but as a couple at all: our Diamond Princess cruise in Asia including three days pre-holiday based in Beijing in November, 2008. Let’s start with the itinerary that was faxed (remember that!) to our travel agents nearly 19 months ahead of the cruise.
The first thing to note about that cruise itinerary is that it actually operated differently to planned. Just prior to our cruise there had been a norovirus outbreak on the ship so the Japanese refused to allow the ship to stop at Nagasaki. Thankfully, this announcement was made in plenty of time to allow the itinerary to be altered, skipping out that port and spending an extra day in Hong Kong instead.
Another thing that was sent to us for that cruise were Princess Cruises luggage address tags, seen below attached to the cases we bought especially for this trip. Those tags have stayed on our luggage on every subsequent cruise or flight abroad we’ve taken and they’ll be transferred to the new luggage we’ve had to buy as the easy-to-spot yellow ones have finally started to get dangerously cracked. They’ve served us well.
We were put up for three days in the The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel, Beijing (here are some photos and video we took there: Beijing Hotel) and for some reason I never handed back my hotel room key card.
While we were out on tours and fed during the day in Beijing the evenings were our own to sort out. As this was our first trip abroad and we were less adventurous than our more experienced older selves are we didn’t stray too far from the hotel but this wasn’t a terrible thing as right around the corner was a fabulous and fabulously cheap restaurant that also brewed its own beer on the premises.
One of the first tours we did was of the Olympics area, the 2008 Beijing Olympics having taken place only a few months earlier in the Chinese capital. You can see posts of where we visited here: The Water Cube, The Bird’s Nest Stadium, and the Olympic Stadium Area. At some point during this visit we were obviously handed some bookmarks to commemorate the sporting event although I can’t remember where or when exactly.
Something else we managed to return from China with was a store guide despite not recalling ever visiting one. The location of the store appears to be about halfway between the Olympic village and our hotel so I suppose it’s possible that this was a rest stop for people on our trip on the way back although it clearly didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.
There were a few things we did buy – mass-produced for tourists, sold by street vendors looking to find strangers eager to part with precious dollars – while we out exploring such wonderful sights as Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, etc. The first of these was a set of ancient coins and information about them. I imagine this might have set us back a whole dollar.
The one thing my wife really wanted to buy, though, was a Chinese fur hat. Obviously, it’s not genuine – we would probably have had to wander far away from our tour guide and the tourist attractions to find those – but it’s still something that not a lot of people back home will have. Having worn it a few times we can confirm that real or not, it really keeps your head warm.
We visited a couple of silk factories when we were exploring China over the few days either in Beijing or Shanghai (see: Chinese Silk Factories). At one my wife succumbed to the temptation and picked up a silk top.
Diamond Princess Cruise Ship
With our three days in Beijing complete we boarded the Diamond Princess at Tianjin to start our love affair with cruising. We’ve got better at keeping the various bits of literature that accrue in your staterooms with subsequent cruises. On this occasion I think we binned the Princess Patter daily (the ship’s guide for the following day delivered to your stateroom every evening) which is an immense shame looking back now. It would be great to see just how different or similar the activities on the ship were a decade ago, although I seem to think that they haven’t really changed very much at all. One thing we did keep, though, was our first ever Princess Cruises cruise card. Blue to symbolise Princess virgins.
As already mentioned, the Japanese didn’t want anyone getting off the ship if there was any risk of spreading the virus they feared we were harbouring. Nagasaki was cancelled but they grudgingly allowed us the chance to get off and explore Okinawa so long as we were not showing any signs of a temperature. Fingerprint scanners and thermal cameras were set up and those who had the former and not too much of the latter were given a pass card that allowed them to get off at the port.
Naha City, Okinawa was the only port on our cruise where we didn’t take an organised excursion as nothing interesting really seemed to jump out at us. We therefore chose to take advantage of the Princess Cruises shuttle bus into the city and explored at our leisure (see: Naha City, Okinawa, Japan). On the bus we were handed free city maps and guides as well as a printout explaining exactly where the shuttle bus would be when we wanted to return to the ship.
In Taiwan we took a fantastic excursion up into the hills to visit a temple and explore the old mining town of Jiufen (historically written Chiufen; for details of our trip see: Taiwan Coast, Fushan Temple, Jiufen) where we stopped in a tea house.
This trip was so good that when we return to Taiwan later this year, again on the Diamond Princess to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, we’ve already booked to undertake pretty much exactly the same trip again. We were given a map of the town:
And our visit to the tea house where we enjoyed some fantastic tea and views over the misty hills towards the Taiwan coastline allowed us to take a card of the location too.
Hong Kong is another place where our cruise memorabilia barely extends beyond a map of the city. We had actually taken a tour of the impressive city’s highlights on the first day in port (see: Hong Kong, Victoria Peak, Aberdeen) but following an overnight adventure where we thought we might have no way back to the cruise ship and ran through the streets (recounted at the start of this post: Hong Kong) we did our own thing on our unexpected second day there with the help of a handy guide and map that we’d been given by the friendly Dutch family.
We had two stops in Vietnam (when we visit Vietnam later this year on Diamond Princess we’ll have two stops again but both in different ports). At the first of those stops we mostly picked up things for other people, acutely aware that we were running out of stops to buy souvenirs. One exception for me, though, was this fake Rolex watch for a few dollars. I absolutely love this thing and wear it on formal nights on cruises to this day.
On our second stop we took a trip to visit the Cu Chi tunnels, historically used in the Vietnam War. I think we lost about half our bodyweight through sweat on this trip into the jungle and our shuffling underground in the pitch black (those of us who actually did that, that is; see: Cu Chi Tunnels And Ben Nay Restaurant) but we gained… another guide to the area.
The main thing we wanted to do in Singapore was visit Raffles Hotel and drink a Singapore Sling and there was only one cruise-organised excursion doing that so we chose it (see: Singapore, Raffles Hotel, Chinatown). In addition to the aforementioned Singapore Sling (no, we didn’t bring any home as a memento) we also ate plenty of peanuts and were given coasters and boxes of matches to take away as well as a recipe card explaining how to make the famous cocktail and one other (which we’ve bizarrely never tried; must remedy that).
There was a second part of the excursion that took us to the Royal Selangor pewter store. We’d assumed this was just one of those shopping opportunities that are tacked onto every trip you take when you’re on a cruise but this wasn’t the case at all. Instead, we got to take part in something called the Royal Selangor School Of Hard Knocks which saw us all getting a company history lesson then fashioning our own pewter bowls. At the end we got to keep the bowls, an apron, a pewter coin, and received a certificate too, making this particular day in Asia one of our most favourite memories. We’d looked at doing an anniversary cruise that would stop at Singapore again just to see if we could do this same excursion but the dates were wrong for the cruise and it appears that the pewter bowl-making is no longer done. We’re so glad that we got to do this and that we have all the memorabilia to remind us just how good this cruise excursion was.
The last country we visited on our Diamond Princess cruise was Thailand where we took an excursion that included a river boat ride (see: Chao Phraya River Ride) and also a visit to Wat Ratchanatdaram and Wat Phra Kaew (see: Bangkok Temples). As we had free time to explore the latter of those temple complexes we were handed guides with maps so that we’d all make it safely back to the coach on time.
Log Of The Cruise
The final piece of Diamond Princess cruise memorabilia I’d like to share here is the log of the cruise delivered to our stateroom on the last night aboard the ship. For fans of statistics and historical weather and sea conditions these are always fascinating reading and a nice, final memento to take back home with you.
In a few months we’ll be back aboard the Diamond Princess in Asia again. We’re revisiting Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Taiwan and in the lattermost stop we’re trying to recreate our original excursion as much as possible. For the other two we’ll be doing our own things but trying to pick up as many physical, future memory-aids of the trips as possible nevertheless. We’ll also be visiting Kagoshima in Japan, Xiamen in China, and a couple of different locations in Vietnam so our next pile of Diamond Princess cruise memorabilia should be a nice mix of the familiar and the brand new to us.