October 22nd to November 6th, 2017 – 3 Ports in China but only 1 in Viet Nam!

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November 14th 2017
Published: November 14th 2017
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After a couple of seas days we arrived in Tianjin (Beijing)for 2 days. Beijing was hours from the port so we decided to explore Tianjin, a city of 12 million where we had not been before. We took the subway to the old city which is very modern and expansive. This was an hours’ journey (bus then train then taxi) but so worth the effort. We arrived at the City Gate and were soon busted by the police who saw me taking a photo of them (see below). So many unique shops (clothing, musical instruments, souvenirs and food stalls) statues and temples. It went on for several city blocks. Lots of scooters with specially designed quilts to keep their drivers warm!

At Sea as we travelled to Shanghai, the Amsterdam hosted a Chinese Gala with the ship gaily decorated with red lanterns.

We had 2 days to enjoy Shanghai on October 28/29th, where the ship was able to dock on the river right across from the famous Bund promenade! This is one of the perks of a small ship as we saw the larger cruise ships docked where our river spilled into the Yangtze River over an hour’s drive away from downtown Shanghai!!! Speaking of red which is the common color for brides, we saw about 15 wedding parties getting their wedding pictures taken along the bund… Photos on the busy streets, in front of the bridges, with the Pearl tower in the background, etc. The highlight for us was walking the bund in the evening with all the towering buildings all light with video and changing colors – quite the light show!

On our second day, we took the hop off hop on bus to explore more of Shanghai. We met an art professor who taught once in Montreal so he took us to his gallery and created two calligraphy scrolls with our names and wishes for happiness on them (see below). We walked back along Nanking road, a busy shopping street where we saw the familiar KFC signs (Starbucks is throughout Asia as well).

We left later the next day, held up by Chinese rules as the Voterdam (another HAL ship) was delayed in leaving and they would only allow one cruise ship on the busy river. Lots of activity along the river; barges weighed down, ships being loaded and repaired and 12 battleships, 3 abreast, a small indication of the growing military that the new communist leader has promised to build.

We celebrated Halloween on board – a fun and creative evening (see below). My favorite was the mummy who didn’t bring a costume but cleaned out the toilet paper from 3 cabins (a Canadian of course)! The butcher was a close second. We donned our witches’ outfits from the 100 yen stores in Tokyo (nice try).

Once again, when we arrived to Hong Kong we docked for 2 days (November 1st and 2nd) thus ending our 3 ports visit to China. Hong Kong has changed so much in the 30+ years since we were last here. We rode water taxi (decrepit old boats) from Kowloon to Victoria Island but now a very modern subway takes you everywhere underground including Hong Kong Disneyland. The Star ferry is still there and takes you across during the day for less than 50 cents! We did another hop on hop off bus trip. I marveled at the bamboo construction scaffolding – simply tied together by the workers (see below). We loved the Star Ferry harbor tour (nice to have a monopoly) but ran out of time the next day. The tram up Victoria Mountain consumed our whole day (line ups were wicked).

As we departed Hong Kong, the captain announced that we were avoiding a typhoon that was headed directly to Nha Trang which was our first scheduled stop in Vietnam. Therefore we would not be stopping there but taking a large berth away from Viet Nam to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My port) on November 5th. We were extremely disappointed as Viet Nam was the biggest draw for us on this itinerary and it would have been our first beach stop (and most of you know how Darold and I love our sunny beaches). It was a good call as the sea was very rough as we swung out in the distant ocean. We later learned the typhoon had caused 49 deaths and lots of flooding and damage!

Ho Chi Mingh City (Saigon) was exciting, disturbing and vibrant! Scooters everywhere! We drove along a supposed Highway. I asked why there were so many restaurants with hammocks and the guide said they were for the truckers to have a rest when they get tired! I got a great photo of a tiny lady in the typical cone hat chewing on red beetle juice. I gave her a chocolate for the lovely picture. The war museum was very shocking – totally from the perspective of Viet Nam about the “American War”. Great food presentation and more… I’ll let the photos tell their own stories. Ask me if you are curious about any one.

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