Published: October 11th 2010September 5th 2010
Beijing to Kobe - boat journey
The STA travel guy advised us" travel by boat to Japan it a cheap, an experience and you'll met loads of people" Wow what a great way to travel. How wrong were we and the tour guide! We got a train to the main train station and from there getting a taxi was easy just queue up. We even thought ahead and asked the hostel to write down the directions in Chinese. Got in the taxi showed the taxi driver the paper and that where everything started to go wrong. We have not really had any problems with language really only on the food front, but this taxi driver did not have a clue, we made boat noises and hand gestures, used an iPod app, showed him a picture of a boat and a map on where the ferry port was. Nothing. Just a blank expression. We couldn't work put if he did not want to take us (as the taxi drivers at the station seamed to avoid anyone with big bags) or did not know where the port was. After what seemed like hrs we managed to persuade him to move. We
had plenty of time to get there and taxis are so cheap so there was always the option of getting another taxi when we finally made it somewhere near.
On our way we saw loads of port signs so all good, however he kept stopping other taxis to either complain about us or ask for instructions. We started passing areas that looked like a passengers ports and we ended up in what looked like a commercial transport hub. It was also taking longer and costing more than expected. We were in the hands of this taxi driver who we figured out had poor eyesight, slightly worrying for a taxi driver, especially knowing how the Chinese drive with good eye sight. After a lot of panic in the back seat we arrived at a passenger port. We got out and now had to find out if it was the right one. We decided to ask the young Japanese students who would probably speak good English..... No such luck. So we asked a member of staff and we finally got through by showing her the hostels directions. Right we now know we are in the right area. How do we get
tickets? And which boat is going to Japan? All we had was an email confirmation asking us to go to the check in at the port at the china express check in. Not such thing existed. Are we still in the right place? Gods knows. PANIC is starting to set in as we only have an hour before boarding. We had nothing to do but wait around. People started to enter the building, so we decided to enter the building but we were denied access due to no tickets. GREAT.
We were directed to a ticket booth which we had checked out before but it had a completely different company name, finally we found out that the ticket booth was the completely difference name actually worked for the same company that we made a reservation with. How we were supposed to know that god knows. They had our names down in some sort of recognized order. So we finally managed to get on the boat. What a relief. The only point of the day where we felt like we 100% knew that we were in the right place. Bear in mind at the ferry crossing there was no signs
that declared that the boat was leaving for Japan.
For some strange reason the boat leaves at 3am on Monday but we need to check in at 7pm on Sunday, So we actually have three nights on the boat instead of two. We managed to get a cabin to ourselves which was nice and a pick of six beds. The showers temperature gauge was broke so they were ridiculously hot. The food we had on the evening was not good; we managed to pick two non meat options; tofu and mushrooms. Mushrooms were good but the tofu was horrid. I didn't tell James they were mushrooms until we had finished, I think he was just thankful that it wasn't pig intestines. We played cards and drank. We were the only westerns on the boat....which I thought would be a brilliant experience, but it was a struggle to meet anyone due to how old we were compared to the boat full of students and of course the language barrier. The next day we missed breakfast and lunch due to the Japanese boat timing rules. When something is closed by 9am they mean if no-one is here and we think most
of you have had your food then we will close at 8.30am, 8.45am if you’re lucky. So we missed our free breakfast. After sampling the food I don't think we missed much. We suddenly realised that we were not moving for some reason, we were told the second night (after another night of drinking and playing cards) that we were still in China and had not actually moved very far from the Chinese port because of a typhoon in Japan. Lucky for us we asked as all the annoucement were in Japanese or Chinese besides the automatic ones which told us to get up and start this lovely day with a filling breakfast (which consists of a dumplings with meat or a crazy sauce, a baby sausage and a very doughy piece of bread with soup, not brilliant and a awful breakfast to start the day
The next day the weather was awful and I found out that I suffer from seasickness and that pot noodles are no longer a food I enjoy. That day the boat consisted of a lot of young students with hangovers who were also feeling the effects of seasickness. The Japanese legal age to drink is 20, so a lot of them were having one last blow out before going home. Don’t blame them really, wish I had thought of the idea of bring crates abroad the ship. The next night we have another eventful evening playing cards and drinking beer. It was definitely time to get of this boat now.
The next day was another boring day on the boat with rubbish food, seasickness, and annoying students and another night of drinking and playing cards. Seriously there was nothing else to do on this boat. I felt claustrophobic and was dying to go sightseeing and reach land.
Finally the day arrives to get off the boat. Thank fuck!!! So we queued up to leave the boat and then found out we need a medical check which was done on the boat. Another hour on the god dam boat. Great. The medical check consisted of us walking past a doctor and handing a piece of card to another. We then queued up to leave the boat again to find out that all the luggage has priority to leave the boat first. Another hr or two passes and we are still on the boat watching the crew, stock and luggage leave the boat. Finally we leave and we can now deal with immigration control which as the only western on the boat we managed to be the first ones and only ones in the queue so we were the first ones, a bit of luck you think, it just meant we were the first people through to big bored security guys who check your bags for drugs etc...so we have our bags searched big style by Japanese police, not good when I decided to carry the washing powder we used on the boat, in a plain blue bag, thank god I'm not in Dubai. Finally after another hr we had left the port and in Japan ready to have some fun at last!!