Our last port of call in China was Dalian. I had never heard of it before we booked the trip but it has a population of over 6m.
Whereas with other cities there had been no shortage of obvious must-see sights, for Dalian we were less sure about how to make the most of our visit so decided to play it safe with an organised shore excursion.
This followed a Mariner’s Club cocktail party in the ship’s show lounge (the Van Gogh Lounge). It is just a promotional event for HAL’s loyalty scheme, rewarding elderly and wealthy people who have spent 10 years of their lives on board HAL ships with gold medallions and suchlike. The captain also announced there would be soon be a new ship to join the Statendam, Nordam, Oosterdam, Rotterdam, Ryndam, etc., etc., in the HAL fleet. It would be twice the size of any of the others, have 10 show lounges, 6 swimming pools and hit new heights of luxury. The woman next to us quipped “I guess they’ll call it the Expensivedam”.
Ha, ha. They won’t of course call it that but it will no doubt be “damn expensive”.
Dalian’s city centre is modern and clean.
Part of the tour involved a visit to a local resident’s house, with an interpreter on hand so we could ask questions. It was a retired lady who appeared to live on her own. I guess her husband had died and the one son had gone to work in a different city. Naomi was sure the whole thing was staged for PR purposes but HAL claimed it was their idea, not the PRC’s. It may well have been genuine enough – the block of flats was not exactly luxurious.
The woman had a small vestibule, one sitting room cum bedroom with a TV in it, a kitchen and a bathroom. It was all spotless and tidy. There was mains electricity and piped water, but no piped gas. The tiny kitchen seemed to rely on a calor-gas powered wok.
Around ten of us from the ship sat in the living room and were offered tea and fortune cookies. The discussion was hesitant – no-one seemed to know what to ask. I asked if things had improved in the last 10 years to which the answer via the interpreter was an enlightening “yes”. When I asked in what ways I did not get an answer at all. Maybe the flat is bugged and the woman was scared to say the wrong thing. Who knows? I bid the woman “Xie Xie” for her hospitality and departed with the others.
Note: the video below and all other videos in this post are high bitrate. Depending on your Internet connection speed, data transfer may not keep up with playback so the video may keep stopping and starting. If so, just pause playback until the data download has built up a big “head start” then start playback again.
We went to the local market next.
The ice for the fish market:
We were taken to lunch at a new and up-market city centre hotel. There was some entertainment by a troupe of Chinese children thrown in, and hosted by our tour guide who asked us to call him Joe. In the video clip below Joe apologises for the fact that our lunch does not include as many courses as the Chinese Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi once enjoyed at a single meal. At the time, I didn’t know what he was going on about. It is only with the benefit of having recorded him, and the opportunity to do some Googling, that I now know who he was referring to.
High bitrate video, 1:52. Introduction and first item of children’s show:
High bitrate video , 3:09. Second item of children’s show:
Next up – the Dalian Women’s Mounted Police School.
They were supposed to put on a display but there was a foul-up and our tour guide, Joe, called us out of the grandstand with the bad news. We were later refunded.
Kite sellers in the city centre.
I really am running behind with the Far East part of my blog. I notice that when I was actually in Dalian I was blogging about Hong Kong, and even then conscious I was not keeping up. We’ve been back two months from our Asian cruise and in the meantime I’ve been to Berlin (via Holland) and to Venice (returning via Treviso, Marco Polo, Gatwick and Stansted, thanks to Ryanair cancelling the flight home).