By Dr.Ken Beattie
My recent journey aboard Oceania Cruises’ Insignia was a spectacular exploration of Asia. Cherry blossom season held on just long enough for us to enjoy the fluffy pink clouds and rosy carpets at our feet. As ancient as many parts of this region are, the cities are remarkably modern and sophisticated. Shanghai towers with beautiful new architectural wonders, yet is also punctuated with colonial and regional designs. Our stay straddled a weekend and public holiday so locals were out and about in the many green spaces in the city.
Island of the Gods
The island of Jeju sparkled and danced in the sea as we approached a truly magical place.
Many Koreans come to Jeju for vacations and to celebrate special events so it has a festive mood. Abrupt volcanic mountains rise from the sea sporting verdant foliage. This
limestone and volcanic island supports a very prosperous tangerine and citrus industry, with tourism most likely running a close second for GNP. Lava tunnels and volcanic craters invite the more adventuresome guests, but an array of excursions are very accessible.
Visiting the Great Wall of China while in Beijing was extra special for me. Hangyaguan, or the yellow wall, is the oldest remaining piece of the Great Wall. Had I actually climbed to the visible summit of this behemoth structure, I could have gazed on Mongolia. Alas I made it to the second watch tower realizing that the climb down might be as challenging as the climb up. The coach ride to and from the pier offered an excellent glimpse into the everyday lives of the residents of this region.
An Ancient Seoul
Incheon and Seoul offered something for everyone. Culture abounds in South Korea as well as local markets brimming with fish and sea creatures. For the history buffs, the Korean War memorials and museums are exceptionally well done.
This leg of the itinerary was full of paradoxes – beautiful architecture from dynasties past to ultra-modern buildings shining with metal and glass. The island of Miyajima Guchi ,
near Hiroshima, was a special delight indeed. The iconic Tori Gate stood proudly in the bay at low tide as if welcoming us to this spiritual place, and the Shinto temple afforded us a glimpse at this ancient religion or belief system complete with wafting incense, candles and many Shinto priests offering blessings. Traditional villages, cultural displays, music and dance, and unique dishes only enhance the wonderful excursions ashore in Kyoto and Okinawa, Japan. Learning how to bow properly, rehearsing common words in Japanese, and of course, appreciating raw fish and various seaweeds contributed special memories during our wonderful journey.
Definitely not to be missed, this region of the world is truly a treasure chest of history art, culture and philosophy. You are likely to return a different person after seeing and experiencing this remarkable region of the world.