Satsuma Iōjima

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This volcanic island is 5.5 km long by 4.0 km wide, elevation is 704 mtrs (2309 ft). The crater is about 400 mtrs across.
The volcano discharges about 1300 tons a day of sulphur dioxide, and over a year it is  474,500 tons, and global warming is supposed to be our fault.

From Hong Kong to Osaka we passed close to this island, which is about 50 km from the mainland of Japan – Kagoshima Province.
The island has a ferry service from the mainland, which runs twice a week and takes about three hours. The island doesn’t have an airport.
Population in 2006 was 121, I couldn’t find any updates – but allowing for inflation, when everything doubles in ten years, I’d say the population today is around 250.

DSC00953rczAs you see it was a beautiful day.

DSC00957rczThe small white boat can be seen on the full picture – had to shrink so as to post.

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We passed the island and fortunately it didn’t erupt. The volcano is considered to be ‘restless’, which was noticed by satellites in 2013, when white plumes rose from the crater to about 400 mtrs above the island.

DSC00959rA farewell picture – it was lunchtime.

This island is named Satsuma Iwo Jima, and is part of the Satsunan Shotō group of islands.

These islands don’t have anything to do with the Iwo Jima island of WW2 fame, which is 1000 km directly south of Tokyo, and is part of the Ogasawara Islands Group.

There is another Iōjima, which is near Nagasaki.

The above blog is due to friends in the UK who commented that I’d missed off passing the volcanic island, when I blogged of the Diamond Princess’ passage from Hong Kong to Osaka – they were also on the Diamond Princess at the time – I can’t get away with anything  :- o)

Halong Bay

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During our visit to Hanoi we’d booked to visit Halong Bay for an overnight sail. The drive was about three and a half hours. It was an interesting trip, particularly watching the motorbike drivers taking live pigs to market on the back of their bikes. The pigs didn’t seem distressed, perhaps they were used to days out on the back of a bike!

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We would only be away from Hanoi for one night and the standard practice for hotel guests to Halong Bay is for the hotel to lock the guest’s suitcases in a secure area. We only carried an overnight bag. On our return, the hotel allocated the same room as we had at the beginning of our Hanoi visit.

On arrival in Halong Bay we looked for our ‘Junk’, but which on was ours. . . . there seemed to be dozens all clamouring for jetty space. The picture below doesn’t give the full ‘picture’ if you will excuse the pun. We were told that there are 500 junks operating in the bay. . .

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Eventually we found ‘Halong Green’ which was our junk – the above picture.
The junk had six en-suit cabins, but as we were a party of four couples, the whole junk had been allocated to us. The cabin size was OK for the one night. The cabin was air-conditioned, had a double bed, plus they also had small fans. We found the temperature to be cool enough not to require the air-conditioning, but warm enough to sleep with just the fans. The en-suite consisted of a toilet, shower and washbasin. Towels etc were supplied.
As soon as we boarded, we sailed. Because of the number of junks involved it was like a small armada when a number sailed around the same time. I wondered if we would be in a race, but all the junks just sailed slowly through the still waters of the Bay.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater our junk rigged the sail, but at the beginning we used the engine.

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On the top deck they had sun lounges, which was a little optimistic considering the weather, but we still used them as we sailed past the islands of the bay – we were well wrapped up.

Next deck down from the viewing area was the ‘public’ area – which consisted of a small bar, dining room and lounge area.

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All meals were included in the rate and an honour system allowed one to help ones self from the fridge for soft drinks and beer. Wine was also available, and it was chilled correctly!
As soon as we boarded and dropped our overnight bags in our cabins, lunch was served. Three course lunch while we floated past beautiful scenery, with small islands everywhere. In the afternoon we reached an island of grottos called Hang Sung Sot. We disembarked and climbed the stairs to enter the grotto, along with a number of other people from other junks.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how large the caves are as the visitors walk along the man made paths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can just see the fence posts to designate the path way.

Later we stopped at Tip Top Beach on Tip Top island, which gave a panoramic view of Halong Bay as long as you didn’t mind climbing the 500 steps to the top.

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Taken from half way up – puff – puff – pant . . . .

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Back on board to watch the sunset from the top deck as we cruised in to a secluded bay where we met other junks, all lit up for the night. I had a feeling that they ‘circle the wagons’ just in case anything goes wrong during the night – pirates perhaps?

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Then it was dinnertime.

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veg

The birds and flowers were carved in the afternoon from vegetables, while we were sightseeing. The chef used cucumbers, large white radish, carrots and melon. The swans were made from the radish plant – note the rose carved in to the melon.

After breakfast we climbed in to a sampan to be rowed in to an old volcano. The entrance was through a hole in the side of the volcano – and for some reason as soon as you passed in to the flooded volcano everyone, without exception, only spoke in whispers.

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Once inside the volcano we where not asked to lower our voices, but it was just something about the place that demanded silence. It was a beautiful feeling of absolute quiet except for the occasional bird call. We just floated, even the oarsman at the stern stopped rowing so as to experience such tranquility.

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As we started our return others where still arriving – I don’t think the junk in the background is ours.
As we left the volcano area a sea mist drifted in and began to gather all around.
Many of the island now appeared as shadows. Some of the islands had special names due to their shape – Indian Chief – the island on the left.

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We were served an early lunch as we were now on our way back to the wharf and civilisation.

homeFollowed by a three and a half hour drive back to Hanoi.