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Asia Cruise 2008
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Judy Chen's Asian Cruise

Today is the sixth day of our cruise in Asia with Judy and Larry Chen. I have not had time to write before today due to a full schedule of dance classes (6 each day and open dance at night!) learning as much as I can about our new friends, enjoying this time with those we already know, and our shore trips. We've met the most amazing people from all over the world, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Canada, UK and USA. There are only 70 Americans on board and the vast majority is Asian. Judy has worked very hard to make this cruise special for everyone, and has succeeded!

The Asian people with us are gracious, polite, and extremely courteous. Their lovely, gentle personalities create a very calm and pleasant atmosphere. I've loved hearing them speak in their own languages and there are many different dialects! I've learned a few words and hope I can say them right when we return! The dancers are all excellent (and beautiful) and there are MANY instructors on this trip! The average dance level is Intermediate (+) and I've enjoyed every moment dancing with them! I've learned much from them and only wish I could look as beautiful and they do with their graceful arms and body sways. They even make a funky dance look sexy!

The instructors are Rachael (accompanied by her man Tony, and her parents), Scott Blevins, Simon Ward, Lina Choi from Hong Kong, Judy Chen, Jill Babinec, (our DJ and NIGHTMARE at the dinner table!) and LUCKY ME!!!

We've been to Kobe (the cleanest city I have ever seen) and Fukuoka Japan. We enjoyed Japan very much, and the people are lovely there. We spent today in Busan, South Korea and had a fabulous Korean lunch in a local restaurant with 2 other couples we just met! No one spoke English, we picked out the food from pictures and I have no idea what most of it was, but it sure was good and we left stuffed!! I took pictures of the food and table! Dance party again tonight, Country Dance Show in the theater and a little time in the casino should complete this wonderful day! Tomorrow is Jeju Island then back to Shanghai for a few extra days with Judy.

Simon had a bit of the usual drama that sometimes follows him in his travels, but it was not a happy ending today. He did not arrive from Australia with the required double entry visa for China and was sent straight home from Korea today. It is a national holiday here and the Chen's efforts to help him secure the return visa to China from Korea were not possible. Simon is truly a unique individual and Ray and I have enjoyed the time we spent with him. He taught some great dances that I'll write about when we return. We all wish him safe travel back to Australia and already miss him.

This trip is the highlight of our 20-year dance experience and I only wish I could tell you every dancer's name and something about each of them. We even met another family court lawyer from Hong Kong and talked legal stuff while we sat having a coffee at Starbuck's in Japan! How cool is that! Each day has it's own special moments, many of them. We have LOTS of pictures to post to our website and I promise to update it with much new information. I'll write more from Shanghai and then complete this report when we return home. In the meantime, thanks to all who have covered classes my classes. We'll see you soon!


I've danced more this week than I do in Ocala! We've learned many dances and open dance has been great fun. The weather has been good for this cruise in spite of a rainy start, so everyone is feeling great as we complete this journey. We've had a wonderful time, received invitations to come to Malaysia and Hong Kong in the future and hope we are able to do just that. We hate saying goodbye to all the wonderful people we've met this week!

Our evening dinner table includes Polly, Ann, Margaret, Alice, Zita, Kathy, Jill, my handsome Ray (especially in his Tuxedo!) and me. They are all lovely, gracious women and mealtime has been special. Jill doesn't drink, doesn't eat vegetables, doesn't like Asian food, or any of the other 17 options at dinner! BUT, she discovered CURRY chicken last night, which takes your breath away and numbs your lips and mouth, and guess what? She LIKED it!! Sure hope they have it again tonight. The Fettuccini Alfredo and French dressing they tried to special prepare for her was a disaster! It's been a REAL dining experience having her beside me for a whole week! "Special" has taken on new meaning!

Dances taught are as follows:
Rachael - What Love Is, Big Moments, Jazz it Up, Walk of Life, Love Trick, Working for a Living, Lost in You
Scott - Have Fun Go Mad, I Scream, No Diggity, Phenomenon, Feed the Fetish
Simon - Titanic, The Smell of Your Sweet Perfume, Sweet Temptation, Chemistry, Looking For You
Lina - The Way I Love You, Take it Slow, Steam
Jill - Bring It, I Got the Blues
Judy - Peaches and Cream, Sea Salt Sally, Beauty & the Beat, Kings & Vagabonds
Marilyn - L'appuntamente, She Danced, Wonderful, Black & Gold, Don't,Amore De Hielo, Dance Like You're the Only One.

There was very little down time! Tonight will be the last dance night and then back to Shanghai in the morning to spend a few days with Judy and go shopping!! We'll finalize this report on the long plane ride home. Love to all for the many well wishes and especially to our Ocala dancers!!


God Bless America! We've returned home after 26 hours of travel time after a truly amazing trip! Judy and Larry Chen are gracious, generous hosts, and made sure every moment of our time in China was an adventure! The first two reports were about the cruise that ended Wednesday morning. This report is about the Chens, the city of Shanghai and the memories we'll have forever.

Shanghai is a city of about 20 million people. It is nothing less than suicide to drive in Shanghai. Cars, buses, trucks, motor scooters, bicycles and pedestrians are all on the road at the same time, going in all different directions at the same time, no stopping. There are no rules. Three lanes are enough room for five lanes of cars. Several lanes merge into one. Everyone just goes - and somehow, they survive!

We ate only Asian food this whole week, always served family style on a big lazy-susan in the middle of the table. We used chopsticks and had something different at every meal. Judy ordered for everyone. We asked what we were eating, took pictures of several dishes and it was fresh, delicious and so much of it! We enjoyed it all. Jill (our cruise DJ) had Taco Bell withdrawals, but recovered in the Atlanta airport on her way home!

Judy planned each day to the fullest with both new and old friends. The following is a mere glimpse of our travels.

Wednesday after the cruise: Dropped off our luggage at our apartment overlooking the city. We all immediately went shopping in a district known as Old Town to buy pearls and silks scarves. It was a great experience. That evening, compliments of the Chens, we had dinner at a 6 STAR restaurant on the 54th floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the highest hotel in the world. Rachael's parents, Gillian and Ian joined us. The hotel is located in "The Bund," the center of Shanghai's financial and business district. The dinner, the view, and the company were exquisite. Ray and I went up to the Cloud 9 bar on the 87th floor just to look out over the city. Afterwards, we walked along the Huangpu River, filled with evening boat traffic, many of them beautifully lit in colored lights and designs. Our first evening in Shanghai was just perfect!

Thursday: Good thing we missed breakfast because Scott ate all the dumplings! Off shopping again and met ShowMing & Tom, Linda, Judy's sister, Eddie and other friends for a wonderful brunch. Said goodbye to Scott and Jill who headed home. Rachael and I got facials and massages, Ray got a foot massage and Tony got a back massage! Off to more shopping (Judy is amazing!) and a quick change for dinner for 10 at a famous popular local spot called the Nawling Restaurant. Incredible amount of food - didn't recognize a thing but sampled ALL of it - WITH chopsticks! On to a nightspot called The ARK, good band, expensive drinks, contemporary young crowd.

Friday: Went back to Old Town (a collection of small shops located in very old buildings, a famous tea house, and Temple of the Town God) shopping AGAIN and then a great lunch with Larry. He gave us a complete tour of his very interesting factory, ChemTech, which manufactures a wide variety of wall finishes that are not paint, stucco, or plaster. These wall coverings replace all three and they are flexible and durable. Then off to the tailor where I ordered a blouse and vest, Rachael ordered 3 dresses, Tony a suit and Jill had two jackets made earlier before she left. All our clothing was made that afternoon and delivered later the same night. We shared another terrific evening meal and then to bed before midnight - we leave for "sight seeing" at 6:45 AM!

Saturday: Visited the capital city of Hangzhou and the famous Ling Yin Temple, a Buddhist temple founded about 400 AD, and after Judy's version of a "light lunch" spent a wonderful day on West Lake, known for fresh water pearls, silk factory, a special kind of tea and stories. Fong Gua Ping guided our canopied wooden boat and 9 of us enjoyed a lovely day together. Larry took us ALL to the famous Kamii Japanese restaurant for world class sushi and other special dishes. The presentation of food was wonderful! Only our pictures and our memories of tonight can begin to describe it!

Sunday - Mother's Day. Goodbye to Rachael and Tony who left at 7AM. Off to Zhu Jia Jiao, the "Venice of Shanghai," an ancient fishing village on manmade canals and 36 stone bridges that connect nine streets. The city's history dates back 5000 years, but the existing town is 700 years old. The most famous bridge is the Fang Sheng Qiao, the "Setting Free Bridge" where fish are released. Shopped, ate green tea ice cream, another "light lunch" at Bao Choo Hu Tong and we were stuffed. Bought dancing shoes and barely saved 30 minutes to get ready for Mother's Day Dinner for 12 at a local restaurant. We felt very honored to be included at this special table of their close friends.

The Chens are the ultimate hosts, especially Judy - a great tour guide, bargainer, and exceptional driver! They made this trip an incredible adventure for us and as a result, the world became smaller. We cannot watch coverage of the earthquake and simply dismiss it. Our hearts and prayers go out to those families.

THANK YOU Judy and Larry! We appreciate your kind and generous hospitality and your friendship. There will be pictures on our website soon and stories we'll share with everyone, but our best memories cannot be expressed in words or pictures. Only WE can truly appreciate how special this week in China has been. AND TO THINK IT ALL BEGAN WITH LINE DANCING!

Marilyn McNeal,

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