Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 12 2007

Okinawa Trip, part 1

I just got back from a trip to Okinawa aboard a cruise ship out of Keelung. Since Internet access on board was ludicrously expensive, I just blogged on my notebook to post later. I’ve got lots of photos and video clips to go through, but in the meantime, here’s the first entry:


This morning I got up, packed some things in a bag, grabbed my camera and headed for the docks of Keelung. My destination was the Super Star Libra, out of Nassau, which would be departing for the Japanese island of Okinawa that afternoon.

The train was bitterly cold, air conditioned with extreme prejudice, and many of the stations on the way were unfamiliar to me after all the construction they’ve been doing down that way (Baifu Station? Where the hell did that come from?). The English announcements were read by a foreign dude, with the actual station names filled in by a Taiwanese woman, making it sound like the dude had decided to leave or fall asleep at an inopportune moment.

I’d just missed the subway, which meant I’d just missed the train, which meant I got to Keelung about half an hour later than I’d planned, but it didn’t matter. The Libra was still there, and the passenger hall was chock full of people, including, I might add, a very cute Japanese bear in a pink shirt. I located my company group, which had gathered together waiting for everyone to show up. They took our passports, filled out forms, returned out passports, and basically said that was it. “You’re all on your own now, have fun,” they told us. Perfect.

Since lunchtime had come and gone, and there weren’t going to be any shipboard meals until that night, I slipped out and had a bite to eat nearby, returning to find the end of the line slipping towards the immigration doors.

“Excuse me,” said one of the crew, a Filipino guy with a notepad. “Are you traveling alone?”

“I’m with my company,” I said, slightly confused. He shook his head.

“No, we were wondering if you, if you…” he trailed off and looked at his co-worker, a middle-aged woman.

“If you were traveling with a special someone,” she finished for him.

I stared.

“We’re looking for some people to invite to the Captain’s Table,” the man explained. I let my silence become slightly uncomfortable before answering.

“Sorry,” I said, and moved on to the doors, where I slipped past the crewmembers dressed as pirates posing with passengers for pictures. Later I also managed to sneak past the man in the penguin suit, also there for photographic purposes. Between guests he would take off the penguin head. He looked better without it.

There was the usual line confusion at immigration, the same hand motions and concerned looks. I’m used to it. I lingered on the gangway, taking pictures of crewmembers spraying the sides of the ship with hoses. Yes, all you Freud disciples out there, have at it.

The Libra is a big ship, at least bigger than the Gemini that we took for the movie shoot last time. It’s also older by a few years, and plays host to at most 3,500 passengers. Once on board, I found my cabin, put my things down, and looked out the porthole at Keelung Harbor. Damn, my own cabin! Verrry nice. One of the perks of not really knowing any of my co-workers, at least not well enough for them to want to sleep with me.

There was a lifeboat drill around 3pm, which I don’t seem to recall from my last two such voyages. Perhaps the fact that we’re actually going somewhere instead of floating around for a couple of days makes a difference.

The big ship cast off and moved slowly into the harbor, accompanied by a tug or two. I went up top, along with a lot of other people, to watch the city, with its docks and military bases and temples and concrete hillsides, slip by. The harbor pilot boat sidled up and showed us out of the harbor mouth, where the “Welcome to Keelung, the Republic of China” sign was covered by two cement boats. I was wondering if it was on purpose when I got a message on my phone.

It was Thumper. “Are u aboard star libra?” he texted. I texted back saying yes, we were just exiting the harbor. I figured he’d checked the website or something to find the name of the ship. But he texted back, saying, “Im here in keelung. Watched ur ship from burger king. Can see it stil from hilltop.”

far ship

Cool! I looked back at the receding grey mass of Keelung, where Thumper was on a hill watching us sail away. I grabbed a deck chair and sat near the less popular and nearly empty stern, watching the retreating coastline, some fishing boats and the jet-pierced clouds of the approaching sunset. For some reason, The Taiwan Song began playing in my head, and I laughed out loud in sheer joy.

Yes, dear readers, I LOL’d. Luckily my only audience was a group of girls playing a game where one stands by the railing and the others rush at her in a manner suggesting that they will push her overboard.

I sat and thought and enjoyed the scene until the sun had disappeared, and then went to the pool area, where the Taiwanese demographic sway had instilled not only Karaoke, but barbecued sausages as well. I got some grub, sat on the deck and counted how many times the staff tried to get me to sit in a chair.

Proper dinner came later, at a restaurant called Four Seasons. I got a table for two in the middle of the place, right next to the buffet, and it was just me and my book (Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman) for the duration of the meal. The food wasn’t bad, and I ate too much. Buffets are actually terrible things for people, like me, who grew up being told not to waste any food and finish your meal even though you were already full.

I took a nighttime stroll around the ship with my camera, looking for photos and finding a few. The wind was very strong near the bow; it was hard to stand up, much less take a steady shot in the dark. A couple of upper-level crewmembers jogged around deck 6. How do I know they were upper-level? For one thing, they were white. For another, they were jogging.

Now I’m back in my gently rocking cabin writing this. It constantly feels like the beginning of a small earthquake, when you’re wondering if it’s really an earthquake and not just your imagination, and you realize that it’s actual motion.

We arrive at Naha tomorrow afternoon, and we leave on Tuesday afternoon. I probably should have done more research on things to do there; I’ll probably just walk around a bit. It’s enough to just be in a new place for a while.

posted by Poagao at 10:06 am  


  1. everyone is wating for Part II! i for one am very interested in seeing your photos from the trip. thanks for a great post!

    Comment by MJ Klein — September 13, 2007 @ 7:20 am

  2. Part 2 is up! I’ll post part 3 soon as well.

    Comment by Poagao — September 13, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  3. Poagao at sea. great stuff.

    Comment by Prince Roy — September 13, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  4. I am surprised you didn’t mention running into Julie, the cruise director, or Gopher.

    Really enjoyed reading about your trip!

    Comment by The Taipei Kid — September 16, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  5. I was holding out for Isaac.

    Comment by Poagao — September 16, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  6. […] saw a big cruise ship sitting in the harbor of Keelung. I wondered if it was the cruise ship that Poagao had written about last year on his trip to Okinawa. I told my wife I read about a guy who had take a cruise from Keelung to Okinawa, and when the […]

    Pingback by A Walk in Hachioji (formerly Sakado) » Taiwan Day Three: Part 1 — March 1, 2008 @ 9:00 am

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