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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Busan, South Korea (Celebrity Millennium)

Today we arrived in a wintry, near-freezing Busan, South Korea, at noon and after clearing immigration headed out on an excursion to several historic sites around the city. 

Our first stop was the beautiful 14th century Haedong Yongkung Temple, a sprawling Buddhist worship complex situated on a rocky coastline, where we saw preparations for celebration of the lunar new year, called Seollal by Koreans (at bottom is a larger-than-life golden idol of the Buddha). 

We then went on to the APEC House, a site used for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and other events, and then the colorful Busan international and fish markets (a display from the latter appears at right). 

We had a traditional Korean meal, one of the best of the trip, at a restaurant at the huge Aqua Mall and then spent time browsing local consumer goods before returning to the ship and sailing out around 10:30 p.m. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Keelung and Taipei, Taiwan (Celebrity Millennium)

Today we arrived at the port of Keelung in Taiwan and boarded a bus for the capital city of Taipei, located about half an hour away. 

There we visited several key sites, including the fantastic National Palace Museum, home to more than 600,000 artifacts; the Martyr’s Shrine war memorial, where we saw a changing-of-the-guards (a detail of which appears below); and the memorial hall dedicated to Chiang Kai-Shek, who ruled the nationalist Republic of China from 1928 to 1975 (an entrance to which can be seen at right). 

We had an excellent lunch at the Grand Hotel, built during the 1960s largely to accommodate American troops on R&R from duty in Vietnam. 

Throughout the city we saw people readying themselves for the Chinese New Year, a key holiday in Taiwan, and I purchased a small, hand-carved wooden rooster as a memento of my trip. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Manila, Philippines (Celebrity Millennium)

Second day in the Philippines we drove through the sprawl of Metro Manila and then a few hours out into the countryside to Hidden Valley Springs, a rain forest preserve at the base of a dormant volcano from which flow several mineral springs. 

We hiked out to the waterfall there (which appears at right), bathed in the warmest of the pools, and had a Filipino lunch before riding back to the port and departing that evening. 

A glimpse of Metro Manila, about half of which consists of slums, can be seen here. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Manila, Philippines (Celebrity Millennium)

Today, ahead of a midday arrival in Manila, I gave my third presentation, on “A Maritime History of the Philippines.”

Our first day in Manila we visited the walled city of Intramuros, to include Spanish colonial-era Fort Santiago (a glimpse of which appears here); St. Agustin Church, one of only seven churches in the historic district to survive World War II; and then finally the underwhelming Mall of Asia, where we killed time and waited to go back to the ship. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chan May and Hue, Vietnam (Celebrity Millennium)

Today we arrived at the little Vietnamese industrial port of Chan May, the country’s main export point for sandlewood chips. 

In that it was pretty isolated and uninteresting, we were glad that we had signed up for an excursion, to the old imperial city of Huế, nearly a two-hour drive away (during which we got some great views of the Vietnamese countryside, including the rice paddy that appears below). 

There we visited the mausoleum of Emperor Tự Đức, who ruled from 1847-1883; the Heavenly Lady Pagoda and monastery, home of monk Thích Quảng Đức, who famously set himself on fire during the Vietnam War; and the Imperial Citadel, which was a battleground for U.S. and North Vietnamese forces in 1968 during the brutal Tết Offensive (one of the gateways within the citadel can be seen at right). 

Tết, in fact, is the name for the New Year in Vietnam, and we saw more public preparations for the holiday here than anywhere else during our trip.