Earlier this week I had to get from China to Japan. Since flying is a crap way of travelling, I took a ship from Shanghai to Osaka. Two days it takes, across the East China Sea.

The ship was the Suzhou Hao:

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Simple and with none of the silly additions, like shops and multiple restaurants. We had one dining hall, where everyone ate the same food:

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My cabin was exceedingly simple:


We made our way out the the busiest port in the world, at the mouth of the Chang Jiang (Yangze):



Only to join a flotilla of ships leaving and entering the port:


Meanwhile, I made sure not to take the slipper on deck and keep my fingers attached to my body:

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Night at sea is one of my favourite experiences, so I make sure I am on deck when everyone has gone to bed:

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Or perhaps sunrise at sea is the best:

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Later that morning I became entranced by the passing water:

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Although I took to heart the warning not to become too entranced:


Especially in light of a curious pair of shoes on deck:

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Or did he have the same strange desire to take a ride in one of these?

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Then we had our first sighting of Japan – always a thrill in a new place:

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The Japanese even sent out a fleet of welcoming vessels … or were they a warning, especially since Chinese people are not allowed to travel in Japan on their own?


Up between the southern islands we went, with another day of sailing:

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Then it was all hands for the arrival in Osaka:

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Arriving in a new land by sea is like a wary kiss – after a patient approach – and then a slow embrace:



Quirky signs with unwitting senses – part of the pleasure of travel in distant places.


This is the name of a well endowed cafe at Leipzig railway station. Not to be outdone, the ship from Riga to Stockholm sports a somewhat different culinary experience:


But my favourite is this one, on the old train from Minsk to Riga:


It took me a moment to realise that there is no red line through the lit cigarette, for in the vestibule at the end of each carriage you can indeed smoke. How civilised!

Comfortably voyaging on the Dunai River (ht sk).

From my semi-nomadic existence: ‘Six Places to Visit in Red Petrograd’ is over at Aussie Travel Advice , while ‘The Hansa Run’ is on Voyages on the Left.


Warms your heart … of course, you can see this only if you depart Leningrad by ship:

Some shameless self-promotion, but two new and somewhat different publications:

1. A piece on Norman Gottwald, a pioneering Marxist biblical scholar, in that great lefty journal, Monthly Review.

2. And something on harbour pilots, cigarette cartons and container ships – called ‘Greasing Palms’ – at Aussie Travel Advice.

After much delay and some editing, my travel blog, Voyages on the Left,  is well under way. For now, a ship’s log is the focus – with a pic or two of me acting like a complete tool (and cp) singing karaoke with a Filipino crew in the middle of the Pacific.

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