Slow boat to chinaBy LOTTIE BOGGAN,
“It’s been a long day, but we covered what we wanted to see in Taipei, Taiwan,” said Edrie Royals, my roommate for the cruise as she and I climbed aboard Tour Bus 23. I sat back and buckled my seat belt as the bus growled, shifted gears, and pulled out into traffic.
It had been a good day.
The bottom line is; a vacation can enhance a friendship or break it. Even before Edrie and I had walked up the gangplank of our cruise ship, Celebrity Millennium, I knew it would be a great trip.
“Pack in haste, regret and repent at leisure.” Starting off our journey, although I was in tourist class and over my weight limit Edrie had graciously swapped suitcases (in first class her luggage could be plumpier); and in spite of sinning, I didn’t have to repent.
I had packed, not just the usual coordinated outfits to wear, but I had brought my computer and printer (neither used so far), reams of paper, my own coffee pot and decaff coffee, and sneaked aboard a few diet drinks. Also my sleep machine, and several books by my writing friends, Darden North, Janet Taylor Perry, John Floyd, Judy Tucker and Charline McCord, Philip Levin, and grandson Mark Cole. So far I’d not had a chance to turn a page.
Once on board our ship, the Celebrity Millennium, Edrie and I very amiably staked out claims. She got first choice of closets, and I got first choice of beds; I picked the twin closest to the bathroom and that was a good thing. I get up a lot and flush a lot.
Our first night, by mistake I left my ear buds in and in short order woke myself up with a few snorts. So I moved to the foot of my bed, giving my roommate more distance between the ups and downs, hills and valleys of my dreams.
After we left Hong Kong and were settled in for a sea day, Edrie and I had put our heads together to make our personal travel plans. In the past, when husband Willard and I traveled, I often read travel guides slavishly, but I didn’t this time. My dog, June Cleaver was sick and she was all I had on my mind when I left home for this vacation. (As of today, my lady is not well, but still with me)
We each gave our thoughts for what we wanted to see and do. I would come up with a list of sights to see, Edrie would figure out our money and itinerary. When it comes to directions and money, my brain is about the size of an English pea and my daddy always said, “Girls don’t have to do arithmetic or read a map. Sometimes your mama can’t find her way out of our house.” I believed him about the arithmetic, and when it comes to directions and maps, I inherited my mama’s genes - I even hiked my skirt in a men’s room once.
Our first stop on our tour of Taipei had been one of the nation’s famous landmarks; the giant statue of Buddha sitting on a lotus throne.
We went from the grounds of the welcoming Big Buddha and visited the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, named for Chiang Kai-shek who is noted for being the founder of today’s modern Taiwan.
The memorial is set in a beautiful park with miniature hills, ponds, an ornamental bridge and waterfalls, and is enriched with the beauty of tradtitional Chinese gardens.
The exhibition hall on the ground floor tells Chiang Kai-shek’s life story and that brought something back to mind from way back in the past.
During World War II, I remembered seeing newsreels of Chiang Kai Shek and his wife, Madam Chiang Kai-shek at the old Pix Theater. As I recall, he was respected as a hero back then - not sure how history has named him and from what little I’ve read and heard, that may now be a mixed bag.
Before our group left the memorial we watched the famous honor guard changing ceremony that takes place every hour. “I don’t think they’re real,” I said. Until they move, these soldiers stand as expressionless as wax statues.
Our next stop was to tour the National Palace Museum which boasts one of the world’s most important collections of Chinese art and culture. By then it was time to head back to port and re-board the ship.
“I have to confess, now that we’ve seen it, and done it, can’t remember much of it,” I moaned, holding onto the seat as Bus 23 made a sharp turn and Celebrity Millennium came into view. “It’s just been six days since we landed in Beijing, and we’ve covered a lot of territory. We’re not exactly on a slow boat to China.”
“It wasn’t Beijing,” Edrie corrected. “You mean Hong Kong. And it’s been four days. We had a sea day and we just left the city of Taipei.”
“Well, in spite of me being somewhat forgetful,” I admitted as the bus braked to a stop. “You did a good job with our tour planning. I enjoyed Taiwan.”
All in all, so far on our excursions and sightseeing, Edrie Royals and I rode like we were on a tandem bike - steering in the same direction and braking together.