On the Xin Jian Zhen from Shanghai to Osaka
I have always had a fear of boats. Not boats exactly, but the vastness of the open seas and in particular the idea of being surrounded by water with no land in sight, has up until now kept me from long rides on water.
Sitting here on the ferry from China, right next to a window overlooking the swells of the dark gray sea outside and slowly passing the first islands of Japan dotting the horizon, I am so glad that thriftiness pushed me beyond that fear.
The Xin Jian Zhen is one of the ferry boats operating between China and Japan. The other one goes from Shangain on Tuesday, and this one on Saturday. This came in quite handy because our visas expire right on Saturday, the 20th of August. Yet again we are cutting it short.
The boat offers few different classes – Japanese style tatami mat room that you share with 16 people, I think. A 4 bunk cabin, a 2 bunk cabin and then some more luxurious options. We chose the 4 bunk cabin and were told that they will try to have only our family in there when we bought the tickets. They cost us 1,300 yuan (~195 AUD) for adults, two kids half price and the 2 year old free. In all, only one third of the cost of flying.
Everything goes smoothly. Arriving at the port of Shanghai we get checked in and pay a few dollars of surcharge per ticket. Very organize move through customs and the Chinese immigration sees us on a bus, which will take us to the boat.
The Xin Jian Zhen surprised me. I expected a simple cargo ship with some basic amenities, instead it turned out to be quite a comfortable mode of transport. It had enough space, many areas where one can sit and let the time pass by, cafeteria, ping-pong table, free laundry facilities and hot water for drinks or two minute noodles. Not luxury by any stretch of the imagination, but comfortable and clean.
And not before long, we were on our way out of China.
The ride along the mouth of the Yangtze river really showed how bustling the Shanghai trade is, with boats, ships, tankers and every imaginable floating vessel on display. We spent a couple of hours on deck, just staring into the distance.
We spent the first night chatting with a young man from Canada and sleeping like babies.
And we are back to now, second day on the boat with cloudy skies and slightly choppy waters. I am sitting next to my window and trying to write while watching the views and the first sighting of Japanese lands on the horizon.
I can feel all the power of the sea, whose slow, but immensely powerful waves are playing with the 15 tons of passenger and cargo ship that we call home for two days. The clouds hide all the colors of the views outside and with them all the romantic clear days on top of blue shiny waters. Instead outside its all gun metal coloured Power, and reminder of how insignificant we are riding at the mercy of our unpredictable and mighty host.
(yet another tiny rock of an island moves along in the distance)
Earlier, I braved the outside and walked all the way to the front of the viewing platform of the ship. The wind tossed me around and I grasped the railing to keep my balance, then stood upright, faced the very tip of the ???????? and took the whole feeling in. The big ship charging forward, the sea reaching to each end of the horizon and carrying us on its swells and I felt as one. The strong gush of wind, whipping my hair around was forcing me to hold on tight to the railing – I could sense the vibrations of the ship beneath me and through it the water lulling us around. By standing there I could feel everything around me, the air, the sea and the ship. Simple, but so powerful.
I am still fearful and well aware of the vast waters around me. As I write, I see fog has covered the direction we are going and the idea of a possible impending storm makes my stomach turn. But this is an amazingly different way to travel and I am so glad I got to experience it.
A school of flying fish is playing with the waves and the waters we crush through reveal the blue color that is missing in the landscape.
The first bridge crossing comes later in the second day and then we are well inside the archipelago.
The second night is even better, as the inland sea is calm and the flickering of lights that remind me of where we are. Japan!
I cannot believe I am saying this, but this mode of travel has moved quite ahead of others. Even Miss Fab, whom we had to bribe to make it to the boat (3 two minute noodles, 1 chocolate and 1 ice cream) is asking if we will catch a boat to South Korea with a sparkle in her eyes.
For now we are looking forward to exploring Japan.
Welcome to the port of Osaka!