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30 Mar 2018

Bangkok, Thailand 2018

 

Even though our wonderful 2018 winter cruise has ended, the fun goes on. We popped over to Bangkok for two exciting days. It is sensory overload at its best.

We stayed in the fabulous Mandarin Oriental which is the flagship hotel of the chain. It is also the first hotel built in Thailand (1876) and never have I had such amazing service.

Why go out to breakfast when I can just view the Chao Phraya River from the suite.

 

Lunch was on the street allowing us to take it all in before having three great massages.

 

We ate at the hotel's deluxe Thai restaurant right on the water, a five minute shuttle crossing to the other side. The beautiful setting, evening, and food was only topped by the company.

 

Speaking of beautiful, the Skybar, a block away, is the highest in Thailand (with matching prices).

 

We had heard of a famous jazz bar, The Bamboo Bar, and it ended up being in our hotel. We had nightcaps there both evenings. Very relaxing.

 

We love taking a leisurely long tail boat ride to view the river and local khlongs (canals).

The number of wats (Buddhist Temples) in Thailand is staggering and they range from simple to staggeringly ornate. In fact there are about 40,000 of them with 30,000 actually being used. They are the center of almost all family activity in Thailand.

I was interested to learn that every young Thai Buddhist who reaches age of 20 must go to Temple to become a monk for at least 15 days before they are allowed to get married. Some stay much longer.

What Pho is quite famous for its huge reclining Buddha.

Not all is beautiful though. However, many do so much when they have so little to work with.

 

 









23 Mar 2018

Da Nang to Hoi An Bike Ride 2018

 

Guest blog by Allyn Shulman - One of the great days of my life was spent with my daughter Jess bike riding from Da Nang to the beautiful quaint UNESCO designated city of Hoi An. It is such a treat being able to spend significant travel time unemcumbered with an adult child.

We began our excitement leaving the pier in Hon Gai by motor coach  which drove us to Da Nang.  On the way, our expert guide explained honestly about the Vietnamese regime and about how a revolution will come.  Young people are now more educated and understand that a one -party government can never work.  Corruption is rampant and the new generation cannot accept it.  Change WILL come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We reached Da Nang, got bikes and helmets and 22 of us began our 17 mile journey to Hoi An. The country side was lush with rice fields, water buffalo and even a cow blocking our path!!  Thanks to our sweet, very  athletic friend, Howard Slechinger, he biked way past us and then stopped and took pictures of us on our way.

 

 

We passed Vegetable Village were beautiful vegetation grew in every garden.  Then we stopped at a chilling site.  Their cemetery was full with many interesting tombstones, none the same, but among them was an area  designated for all the little tiny babies who clung to life but died before their lives really began. 

 

 

After 17 miles, we were starving and stopped for a delicious Vietnamese meal, before entering the magical city of Hoi An, with it’s signature colorful lanterns.  In the 15th Century Hoi An was the country’s largest, most important trading center where merchant ships from the world over would come to buy silk, pottery, tea and other goods.  The moss covered walls are reminiscent of days gone by.  The shops are filled to the brim with clothes, jewelry, coffees, teas and anything else you may want.

We were hesitant to get coffee as their famous Kopi Luwak coffee is made from cat feces.  Its not really as bad as it sounds, although sadly, at the time, I opted not to try it.  There is a tree that produces coffee cherries which the Asian palm civet cat eats but they cannot digest the seeds so they defecate and the farmers rush to pick up the feces, which are cleaned, processed and made into famous coffee.  As a matter of fact Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil.









20 Mar 2018

Halong Bay, Vietnam 2018

The major city in North Vietnam is Hanoi and it is definitely worth a visit for one day, once. It is three hours inland. Staying at Halong Bay makes for a much more relaxing and exjoyable day.
We have now visited Halong Bay four times and it is still a great day and gorgeous. However it is getting so run over with tourists that it is just not the same. In fact it is reported that they are in jeopardy of losing their UNESCO World Heritage Site designation because of careless disregard for the ecological needs.
It was a madhouse when we were there yesterday.with an estimated 30,000 tourists bumping along together on the boats that seem to occupy the entire water. At the port there was way too much pushing, showing, delays and other aggravating travelers issues that you just don't expect in this part of the world.
Official Vietnamese (entire country) tourism numbers have shown annual visitors up from just over 500,000 people 15 years ago to over 15,000,000 this year. About two thirds are from China.
 There still were many peaceful sights.
 
 
 Besides the natural water beauty and their 2,000 islands, it is fun and interesting to visit the wonderful caves.
 This picture that Allyn took just four years ago shows the peaceful, beautiful Halong Bay that I fondly remember.








17 Mar 2018

Hong Kong 2018

 

Hello from Hong Kong. We are so excited that for the first time on one of our major cruises daughter, Jessica, has joined us here until we return home in a couple weeks.

 

Hong Kong is still our favorite city and Hutong is still our favorite restaurant here - great Chinese food, ambiance, service and view.

I think they worked up an appetite yesterday going shopping in mainland China. They had to buy a suitcase to bring it all back.









13 Mar 2018

Manilla, Philippines 2018, Day 2

 

 

Many people went to this museum or that park or some shopping center  today. I just wanted to blend in and travel around like an inconspicuous local.

Maybe my transportation wasn't quite as unassuming as I thought.

 

Anyway it was fun seeing real people living real lives here.