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Published: February 21st 2013
We like to zip around Singapore on the Metro. The subway is the most efficient way to explore what is sometimes called the world's largest shopping mall. Since it was Chinese New Year, the mall was mostly closed. Singapore changes by the minute in its race to modernize. We went to Chinatown and Little India and then headed back to the ship for an early evening departure.
As we cruised into the Gulf of Thailand we saw thousands of bright green lights reaching to the horizon. It almost looks like a city on the shore but it is hundreds of fishing boats. I am always amazed that there are any fish left in the seas.
There was a big change over of passengers and crew in Singapore...so lots of new faces on board. We were happy to see Franck, the General Manager, Ray, the talented Cruise Director and Katja, the excellent Tour Director. We welcomed our new guests.
Our first stop in Thailand was in Ko Samui, an island in the southern Gulf. We took a drive along the coast to Chaweng Beach. Ko Samui is one of the most visited spots in Thailand and the shores are
lined with resorts for locals and tourists alike. The resort served up an excellent Thai buffet by the sea.
In Laem Chabang we decided not to take the two hour drive into Bangkok, but instead to hop on the shuttle into the seaside resort of Pattaya. All of the big cities in Asia are jammed packed with travelers for the long New Year’s celebration. Even Pattaya was bursting at the seams with holidaymakers. The hotels were at 98% occupancy. But we found one of the original resort hotels which was built in the 1950s. They had a nice quiet room available which overlooked the expansive garden and pool. So we decided to spend the night at the Nautical Inn.
Kevin needed a haircut so we found a small salon that also gives manicures and pedicures. We were surprised when we realized that the woman giving Kevin a haircut was actually a man in the process of becoming a woman. Pattaya is filled with all sorts of people spanning the gender spectrum.
That night we strolled along the beach promenade down to Walking Street. This lively place is a great respite from the bus and motorcycle traffic and
SUSAN, KEVIN, KEN
Delicious Thai lunch on the beach
is filled with restaurants, nightclubs and shops. Since it was Valentine's Day we wanted a nice place for dinner. One of the tourist police recommended the King's Seafood Restaurant. They had outdoor dining at the water’s edge and there was a very talented Filipino crooner who sang romantic ballads from the 50s and 60s; a lovely place to celebrate Cupid's Day.
We entered the Saigon River at sunrise and spent the next four hours cruising up the bustling waterway to Ho Chi Minh City. We really like HCMC but the biggest drawback has always been the overwhelming traffic. Boy, were we in for a surprise. To begin with, the shuttle into the city can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. This day it took 15 minutes. When we got into town we could actually walk across the wide boulevards without fearing for our lives. Vietnam is also celebrating the lunar New Year which is called Tet and apparently everyone in the city goes back to their villages to spend the holiday with family. Saigon was so quiet and serene we hardly recognized it. Plus the streets were decorated and swept clean. We went immediately to one of our favorite soup
restaurants and had big bowls of Pho Ba, the beef noodle soup that is the national dish of Vietnam.
Since our camera had recently given up the ghost we went shopping in the tax free store and bought a Canon IXUS at a very reasonable price. We always like to go to the roof top bar at the famous Rex Hotel for a panoramic overview of the city. The American War Museum was packed with Westerners as was the Reunification Palace. It is still hard to imagine that 40 years ago these streets were lined with sandbags and barbed wire--a city under siege. Now Saigon is a thriving metropolis and a very enjoyable place to visit. Continuing on with Tet New Year greetings: “Chuc Mung Nam Moi.”
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