AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Qingdao, China to Shimonoseki, Japan

We had picked a hotel in Qingdao which was ideally situated between the train station and the passenger port. This is a little bit away from the tourist area and the nice, German parts of Qingdao but only 15 minute walk from the train with our bags and only a 15 minute walk to the port. The hotel was OK, a little tired looking but clean and comfortable.

We arrived mid afternoon on a Sunday and the ferry ticket office was closed. So we wandered into town for a few hours.

The next morning we had to buy tickets for the ferry to Japan. It departs every Monday and Thursday from Qingdao. The ticket office was 5 miles away on the other side of Qingdao, but on the day of departure tickets can be bought from the port. The ferry terminal was easy to find and buying the tickets was also pretty simple. Because we bought the tickets at the port rather than from the ticket office there was no commission added, so we bought first class tickets for the same price as we expected to pay for second class. First class would get us a cabin to ourselves, whereas second class would have meant sharing with up to 6 other people. Also in the port was a currency exchange booth to buy Japanese Yen. This was excellent because online we’d read that the banks wouldn’t exchange Chinese money into Japanese money. Only Japanese Yen is accepted on board the ship so we were very relieved.

That afternoon we arrived at the port at 3pm to find it full and a line of police standing guard at the door. We went to change our remaining Chinese money but the desk only hands out ¥10,000 notes, about £58. We had enough to buy one note, but not two. The majority of the people were getting on the South Korean ferry. Once they had left the police disappeared to. I guess the dodgy people go to South Korea! Feeling relieved that Japan must be very safe I could now relax and wait for our ferry. There were only 30 people waiting to board the ferry to Japan.

We started to board at 4pm and we were immediately shown to our first class cabin. We had 4 beds, a washbasin, lockers and a seating area near the window with a table, teapot, cups and a TV. A Japanese couple had a cabin down the corridor and apart from them the rest of first class, which was the entire floor, was empty! Cool. We pretty much had an entire floor to ourselves.

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We went exploring and found a small gym and a couple of ping-pong tables.

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A couple of restaurants and lounges were dotted around the ship. Then we found the washing facilities. They were Japanese style. A small stool in front of a tap and a shower in a communal wash area and a large communal bath for bathing afterwards. No clothes or towels allowed! Luckily we were almost alone!

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We stood around on deck watching the ship load with cargo. The cargo must be where they make the money to keep the ferry operating, there’s no way it can make money with only 30 people on board. And from what we’ve read it’s always as empty as this. The ship had docked at 4pm the previous day and here we were an hour from the expected departure time it they were only just starting to load the ship. The loading went on until it turned 10pm and a few people were also wandering down the dock slowly and boarding. We finally left port at 12:30am.

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The sea was incredibly calm and the ship rolled very gently from side to side. Almost perfect conditions, apart from the thick heavy mist which reduced visibility to a few kilometres. We wandered on deck a few times to get some fresh air. It was really clammy outside. We had bought noodles in China because of the fear of not having Japanese money to buy food and drink on board, but these stink so we ate them outside.

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We did eat one meal in the restaurant. I paid ¥1,000 (£6) for a full meal of rice, breaded meat, salad and watermelon. Annemarie had egg fried rice and a sweet and sour pork for ¥900 (£5). The food was very nice. The restaurant had 5 staff standing silently, patiently waiting for more people to come and eat. In the time we were there only one other table was occupied.

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We lazed around and did very little on the ship. Sailing was a very comfortable and relaxing mode of transport. Yes, a plane could have achieved this journey in a mere 3-4 hours and it would take us 32 hours. But this is such a better pace of life. No stress, or hassle, or cramped seats. No noise and air pressure differences. Just peace and quiet and a gentle roll on the waves.

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We arrived in Japan at around 8am and a doctor boarded to take our temperatures. We got the all clear and were allowed to leave the ship and go through immigration and customs. Immigration was simple, as it always is and customs was little more than emptying my bag and putting it all back in.

It was a 5 minute walk to the train station. Time for a coffee, then an ATM for cash and we then we boarded the Shinkansen (bullet) train to the south of Japan. All very easy. This certainly is the way to travel.

Posted from Qingdao, Shandong, China.

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