Let me try to sort my thoughts in a legible way this time, after taking naps, Advils, and needing to work through the stress-related migraine that’s been visiting me since I got the news of my sudden change of plans. Forced-upon-me changes. Changing plans can be good, but not so much when I’m not the one deciding on those changes. And not on such short notice when things were almost all confirmed and ready to go.
After a hard 24 hours waiting on news from the agency, I learned that there is no earlier vessel I can board from Vancouver. My imaginary new itinerary was just that. Imaginary, to help me try and salvage my itinerary. And now it is no longer (R.I.P.).
What are my options?
I can stick with the plan of boarding on November 10th, and arrive in Japan no earlier than December 1st. That would be if the weather works with us, the workers load and unload their cargo in a timely fashion, and we depart Vancouver early or on time. Leaving late for example, I would reach Japan on December 5th-6th. This includes the 24-hour ferry and a possible 1-night hotel stay in Shanghai.
I’ve been offered a new option through the States. I knew about this route when I first contacted the German company, but at the time it seemed harder due to dealing with customs, being stuck at the border for an hour (which is the average I’ve experienced on my slow-travel Greyhound jaunts between Canada and the US), needing yet another money currency on me (I’ll already have 4), and the arrival in a country I don’t know or want to meet just yet in my life, when I’m trying to focus on Japan.
Now considering that both my possible routes port in China, should I really be splitting hairs over needing to pass through my transit country? I cannot get to Japan if I don’t stop first in China. Does it matter that much if the boat disembarks me in Shanghai or Fuqing? Fuqing, for those of you who don’t know, is located just southwest of the Shanghai coast I would have been porting in with my original scenario. So it’s the next city over. So it’s probably another 5 hours between the cities, but a-ha! I see a direct sea route between Fuqing and many, many ports in Japan! If I choose this route, will I even need to bother with Shanghai?
And yet, Google comes up with nada when I look for potential ferry routes. I’ve asked my German correspondent if he knows anything about that. I realize my only way might be to travel on land between Fuqing and Shanghai. But perhaps it will be worth it if it still saves me time. As it stands, the new route would be:
Greyhound to Oakland, California in just a few more hours than it will take me to travel to Vancouver – including the waste of time at the US border. Embark a French vessel instead of my nearly-beloved Hanjin Geneva or Copenhagen on November 5th. The route to Fuqing is shorter, lasting only 18 days instead of the 22 now required to get from Vancouver to Shanghai. If I can get to Japan in say, 3 days by ferry whichever way that can happen, I’ll arrive in Japan on November 25th. That is earlier than I ever thought possible, even with the original route. That would give me back my time in Sapporo.
If I can indeed use ferry between Fuqing and Japan, one of the ways to do that is via Ishigaki Island on Okinawa. This is one of THE places I really wanted to visit, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out there by zigzagging across the country and trying to see everything with limited time. I would now be able to start my Japanese adventure right in Okinawa before traveling up north.
So why am I hesitating to switch to the Oakland –> Fuqing route? I need to know if I can really GET to Japan easily from there. That is my only reason now, holding me back from forfeiting my hotel and Greyhound bookings for Vancouver. I luckily have free cancellations for all my hotels so far except for my Osakan airbnb. In the US, Greyhound allows you to refund tickets up to 80%, but their Canadian counterpart does things a little differently. I learned that I cannot refund any ticket unless I purchased refundable tickets (duh!). However, I can exchange a ticket for a 20$ CDN fee. If this is what I choose to do, I won’t lose much when I pay for my new, possibly later itinerary home from Shanghai in January-February.
Here is the other thing I must iron out. If I switch to the Oakland-Fuqing route, I can leave everything pretty much as it is, and keep my return date of January 12th from Shanghai. If I must settle for that same but now longer Vancouver-Shanghai trip, I’ll need to extend my stay in Japan to make up for the lost days traveling from Shanghai instead of the intended Korea. That would mean catching a ship home in Shanghai on January 26h. After asking people’s advice, I think I’ll probably just extend my stay either way. More time in Japan can’t hurt (except my wallet).
So now, all I can do is wait to hear back from my agent to decide if Fuqing is a viable solution. I’m hoping it is, because it would make me really happy! The cost will also be less since the freight trip is 4 days shorter. Ferry will cost roughly the same whether I’m taking it in Shanghai or Fuqing. The impact on the Japanese portion of my trip will be very positive, and I won’t need to rush as much as I would have in my new imaginary scenario I talked about yesterday. I now just need that doctor to cooperate with me, and hopefully bump up my appointment again, to see me this Friday. If she can’t budge, I’ll still keep my October 30th appointment, but then be very rushed to hand in the form, and hope she doesn’t decide I’m not fit to travel. Though she shouldn’t.