In the wake of Zheng He

Updated: 2015-03-09 07:55

By Lin Qi(China Daily)

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In the wake of Zheng He

Tourists learn Vietnamese group dancing on board the Beibu Gulf Star during its maiden voyage last month. [Photo/China Daily]

The voyages of China's early navigators have become an inspiration for today's travelers. Lin Qi sets sail to rediscover the adventure.

Editor's note: The Silk Road's land and sea routes are being reincarnated not only as critical trade links but also as travel itineraries. China Daily is exploring the ancient destinations' new lives as the China National Tourism Administration declares 2015 the "Year of Silk Road Tourism".

One week after we disembarked from the Beibu Gulf Star, Meng Yanfang, a Nanning-based website editor with whom I shared the six-bed cabin aboard, says: "I went through an ordeal of waves and currents on the sea that I would never ever want again. Other than that, I miss quite a lot the enjoyment of we six women living together and gossiping about other passengers. It reminds me of the experience of living in a university dormitory."

I couldn't agree more. On a cloudy day last month, I boarded the cruise-container ship on its maiden voyage from Beihai, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. For eight days, the liner carried some 304 passengers across the South China Sea, tracing the route of the great Ming Dynasty navigator Zheng He (1371-1433) and his expeditionary fleet.

I was surprised when I entered Cabin 308. The room had three bunk beds, one desk and six lockers. It has no window because-unlike some other rooms-it doesn't face the sea. The major difference from my university dorm room: We had an in-room sink on board.

The nine-floor-high ship measures 135 meters long and 20.6 meters wide, and sails at a speed of 18 knots, according to Wang Jun, general manager of Guangxi Beibu Gulf Cruise Terminal Co, which owns and operates the ship.

The inaugural trip featured stops at three Maritime Silk Road ports-Vietnam's Da Nang, which is famous for the beautiful My Khe Beach; Malaysia's Kuantan, which boasts a peaceful community of Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus; and finally Vietnam's Nha Trang, from which a boat trip to the neighboring four islands is a must-do-before returning to Beihai.

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