In 2012, I had the opportunity to be part of an international youth program that aims to foster friendship, mutual understanding, and cooperation between and among the youths of Japan and the ten-member ASEAN bloc. It is called the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program. One of the many perks of the program is the cruise experience; participants get to board a ship, and experience discussion group programs, solidarity group team-building activities, club activities, and various others. As in most cruises, the ship Fuji Maru (the previous programs had used Nippon Maru, then Fuji Maru, and a new Nippon Maru for this year) docked in various cities in Southeast Asia where participants get to learn about and explore the seemingly similar but interestingly diverse cultures of Southeast Asian countries.
Hello! This is part 2 of my Rock the Boat series. For the first installment, the application process, check this out. Ok, let’s begin with part 2, 53 Days.
The ship Fuji Maru (which means Fuji Ship) pulled off the anchor in Yokohama,Japan; sailed to Saigon in Vietnam, on to Bangkok in Thailand, southeastward to Singapore, further southeastward to Jakarta (Indonesia), up north to Brunei, and back to Tokyo in Japan.
In this essay, I’d like to share with you the fun, excitement, even the occasional sad moments I experienced as one of the over 300 participants of the program. This is my MEMORABLE BIG BOAT ESSAY STORY OF 2012. It’s just now that I have gotten sufficient time to write about this wonderful trip. Now, are you ready to fly to Japan and sail around the South China Sea? Here we go!
Quezon City, Philippines. October 23. 4am. The Philippine Delegation’s bus drove to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. At 9am, we flew to Japan. It took us roughly four (4) hours. It was my first international trip so I was very excited. Unlike my first airplane trip to Mindanao, I was able to convince the person next to me to switch seats with me so I can get a better view from the plane window. Unfortunately, I can’t share pictures primarily because almost all my photos were saved in my laptop which was stolen (for that story, check this out, (it wasn’t bad at all, I learned these very important things in life).
Yokoso, Japan! We arrived in Tokyo (Narita) past noontime. But it should be a four-hour flight. Unlike in the Philippines, the weather in Japan on that day was kinda cool, not much breeze, but cool (smile). In relative comparison, it was like the weather in Baguio and you can actually smell the freshness of the noontime air. In absolute and quantitative terms, it was close to 12-20 degrees celsius (cute laugh); Ok, 18 or even lower. Anyway, we boarded the bus after helping the very courteous Japanese attendants. We were welcomed by the representatives of the Cabinet Office or IYEO, not sure. Anyway, they were nice and again, very courteous.
It took us an hour before reaching the place where we would be staying for around a couple of days, Hotel New Otani. Guess what? The older folks said that this is one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Japan. No surprise, when we entered the hall, it looked classy and grand indeed. The attendants were very, again, courteous. By now, you can affirm your supposition that the Japanese people are yeah, courteous people. Pardon the redundancy.
(insert in fast forward mode: first night in a cozy bed, in an elegant room, and posh hotel, good sleep, first encounter with the bubbly Thai people, fresh buffet breakfast, and some chitchat; and some reminders)
It was around 12nn but the weather was ideal for a walk around the area. It was fantastic that while we were not served lunch at the hotel, we were given 1000 yen fto eat lunch wherever we want. Isn’t it awesome? I actually thought the money was too big for lunch; but it cost me around 500 yen for lunch for a decent meal.
Just before we looked for a nice food place, Aya a fellow PPY (Philippine PPY; JPY is Japanese PY, Thai is TOY and so on) asked me to take a photo of her. Suddenly, everybody gathered and asked me to take a photo of them too. I was holding cameras, and unfortunately, one camera slipped off my hand. You’re right, it died the camera way. It haunted me. Was it my fault? I believe not. If it were my cam and asked anyone to take a photo of me and he accidentally lost grip of it, I would’t ask for damage. I asked for the favor. Anyway, that’s a different story. (sigh).
(Smile again, let’s go.) Going back to eating, lemme share the funny part: we ate at a Korean restaurant in Japan. What did we know, anyway? It was good meal, thank God. Yeah, we had enough time to stroll around.
TO BE CONTINUED