Hanoi was very busy and different from other places. Many. More government buildings, many more stores and many more communist symbols. A real contrast. It seems to be laissez faire communism. We went to the Palace of Learning which was the first university, HoChiMin's Mauseleum, the main government square, the Preidential Palace and the prison where John McCain was held, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton. We are pretty exhausted. Now for the almost four hour ride back to the ship.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
It's almost a four hour trip each way to Hanoi. Hope we don't miss the ship. They drive like Florida here. Need I say more? The standard of living is higher than I thought. They have to pay to go to school. That is sad. The men look like they sit around all day.
This place is beautiful with limestone mountains rising from the water and beautiful caves. We took two boats plus the ship tender to get to the caves where we had to climb to the top of the mountain to get to the magnificent caves. I don't know how but we did it. I will post photos when possible. We then cruised around the bay on our private boat and saw beautiful formations and local floating fishing villages plus a beautiful and very elegant hotel right in the middle of the bay. I am really surprised by all the modern construction and that everyone seems so nice. I expected hostility and bitterness but see nothing but courtesy and politeness and a genuine feeling of wanting to get to know us. Everyone is very helpful. I don't really see any evidence of communism except the further north we go the more hammer and sycle signs and some political posters. They are building lots of luxury western hotels and we have seen pizza places and ice cream places and Italian restaurants. Not American. Just their own version of things.
Tomorrow we are headed for Hanoi, the capital and stronghold of their communist ideals. It should be interesting and different from the rest of the country I would assume. We have been eating and drinking off the ship but we are not dead yet.
We finally docked in DaNang after a roller coaster sail last night. This is in central Vietnam near the former Da Nang American air base and the DMZ. There was heavy bombing here ind the Viet Cong hid in caves here. Most of the construction is new with beautiful and modern western hotels like Hyatt and Hilton. We visited Marble Mountain which is a Buddihst shrine. It was lovely and peaceful. We also visited the famous China Beach on the way to Hoi An, the old city. It had a very strong Chinese influence and quaint and narrow streets. Loads of folks trying to sell you something and loads of tourists. We went into an old Chinese house and an old Chinese temple. It's really funny since they really don't get along with or even like the Chinese. We also went into Da Nang city where we went into the museum where the guys were just thrilled and couldn't wait to leave. Then we had a treat..a rickshaw ride around the city. It was fun. I don't know how those old guys do it. We passed the former CIA HEADQUARTERS which is now a government building. Everyone is very friendly. They are mad at the Chinese over the man made islands they are building offshore near here and not at us. The captain says the waves won't be bad tonight and negligible by ten tonight. We are now on the way to Halong Bay which is supposed to be magnificent. We should arrive by noon tomorrow and will overnight there before proceeding to Hong Kong.
Greetings from the Gulf of Tonkin on a cloudy day. I am sure that some of these names are sounding familiar to some of you who remember the Vietnam War. Later this morning we will be going through Halong Bay, where we will anchor overnight. This is purported to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The seas are a bit calmer so maybe the tendering won't be an issue since I do have that tendency to fall off boats every now and then. We will have our guide waiting for the daily adventure. So far, the guides have been great and the cars very comfortable and with good air conditioning. As we proceed further north it should begin to cool off.
As far as the ship is concerned, I like Journey better as far as staff, entertainment and activities. The food could be better too. They try to jazz it up too much. Half the time I don't know what I am eating. The stewards are great but in general I like Journey better. Americans are a minority as far as passengers. Mostly Aussies, Brits and a mixture of many others. Everyone is nice but we really don't mix much except for the Aussies. Our tours are all private and we are off the ship as soon as it docks and don't return till departure time. We are usually so hot and exhausted that we don't have the energy to socialize.
Tomorrow we will be spending the entire day in Hanoi. We have to meet the guide at seven to get there in time for the full day. This should be interesting since this is where I think the heart of communism is. This is the capital of the country.
Friday, November 27, 2015
We were picked up by our private guide and driver and driven down to the Mekong Delta area, about one and a half hours away from Saigon. We stopped along the way to visit a temple of all religions, mostly Eastern. I was very surprised that they have religion here at all. The country is 97 per cent Buddhist. And I thought they were all communist.
We continued on to the Delta with a running commentary by our guide and constant horn blowing by our driver. There we boarded a small boat which navigated to the opposite side of the river. This river is enormous. We landed on an island where we saw people making canny out of coconuts. We then boarded a smaller boat, a sampan, which rose low in the water and took a ride through the jungle where the Viet Kong hung out. It was creepy. After that we took a donkey cart ride, went to a honey tasting, bees and all, and then listened to a performance by the locals. My ears are still ringing from the atonal Asian screeching they call music. After that it was another boat ride followed by the long car ride back to Saigon in awful traffic. Exhausting.
Day Two was spent in Saigon. We visited the Palace of Reunification, the Musuem of American Atrocities which was upsetting, to say the least. Then it was on to a synagogue of all things, followed by a ride to Chinatown and a fabulous Chinese temple which was filled with worshippers and incense. Our last stop was the central market which totally overwhelmed me. I could hardly breathe it was so crowded with aggressive sellers and hundreds of shoppers. Everyone was touching you and I don't like that. So we returned to the ship feeling that we had our fill of Saigon and learned a lot about it. It is not communist but the guide says they have no freedom of speech. They really do believe that America should not have been there. They are capitalists in Saigon. I don't know about the rest of the country as yet but I sincerely doubt it. The south seems to be more open. I think things will tighten up the farther north we go. We also haven't gotten to the pretty part yet. Just a big smoggy city surrounded by rice paddies with ancestor worship alters everywhere. Very interesting. So far, it is a land of contrasts.
Good Morning from the South China Sea, where the Chinese are building artificial islands and the waves are gigantic. We have been rocking and rolling since last night. Barf bags are placed strategically throughout the vessel and it is impossible to walk a straight line. There are many green faces this morning. Nevertheless, the laundry room is busy. It's those same old biddies that have nothing else to do other than tie up all the machines so no one else can do their laundry. Jerry beat them this time by running past them to get a machine. My hero!
They are having a Black Friday sale but I don't have the patience to go right now. It's too crowded and too expensive. I am saving my pennies for Hong Kong where I will shop for a new camera and the the Stanley Market and the Ladies Market for bargains.
The captain just informed us that the waves are fourteen feet high. I could have told him that by just looking out of my window. The sea looks angry. It is dark grey with lots of whitecaps beside the waves. I am fine. Jerry is wearing his patch. Most others are looking not so hot. A big wave just broke over deck five. We are outside on deck five and I just got all wet! Guess it's time to go in.
We will be in DaNang tomorrow but going on an excursion to Hoi An which is purported to be phenomenal.
5:30 pm. Seas rougher than ever. All activities cancelled! So right. Now the South China Sea is not my favorite place. It is the remnants of a typhoon or so I hear. One of our group has been in bed all day. Even the band is seasick. I wonder what dinner will be like, says the woman with the cast iron stomach.
So after a miserable night of tossing and turning - I mean the ship-and thinking I would be fish food, we finally docked in Da Nang where it is raining. We will be getting off shortly for a trip to Hoi An, one of the highlights of the trip.