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Published: December 3rd 2008
Rahnee and Mamu on a cruising holiday......
Rahnee's in town from Sydney.....working on some project, but with time enough to join a 5 night cruise with me around Vietnam, Sanya (in china) and Hongkong
. We took an early flight to Singapore where we were met by our travel agent who then took us to the pier to board our boat. MV Virgo
is a huge cruise liner, the biggest in the fleet run by the same group who owns the Genting Resorts. I have long been curious about this cruise liner which offers 2 night to week long cruises around Asia. There was one I particularly liked which sails to Phuket, Langkawi Island, etc. But instead, we are joining this cruise which sails out of Singapore and calls on Ho Chi Minh, Sanya and Hongkong. The package we got allows for another night's stay in Hongkong, before flying back home to Manila. This is swell, as Rahnee has not been to HK Disneyland and a little bit of shopping and dining in Hongkong is not exactly a bad idea.
Just Landed, Ready to Board Again
As we went through the embarkation procedures in Singapore
, Rahnee and I must have stretched taut our patience as
we were made to queue several times to have our passports and visas checked, our baggage checked in, and finally to embark on the boat. I remember how smoothly it was only a year ago when I joined another cruise (Alaskan cruise) with my pals. This one could have been better. Worse, we went up and down the escalators to join the queues! It was nearly midnight when we finally got on board. By this time, Rahnee and I were famished. Even before the boat sailed out of Singapore, we found ourselves lining up (again! but this time, we were first in line....) for our buffet dinner. As we found out, there was a special spread for vegetarians as there were a number of Muslim (non-pork eaters) and Buddhists (mostly strict vegetarians). I wasn't impressed with the buffet, but I am not complaining. My new rule about cruising and buffet dining is: leave the fatty stuff there, enjoy the coffee and stop resisting the desserts
! Not a bad personal policy, ei! So there.............
We slept well the first night. We must be tired, after all that queuing up. We woke up to enjoy a hearty breakfast and
Fine Dining 101
Rahnee felt clammy, and missed her Beef Wellington Dinner...........
enjoyed our first day at sea. MV Virgo has a good library (yeah, this is my thing), a huge theater, an impressive deck and swimming pool area, and yes, an awesome atrium. Rahnee being a first time cruiser enjoyed snapping away! Early on today, we also decided on the offshore excursions we would be joining. Topping our list is the Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), and a half day city tour of Sanya.
We also decided that once we get to Hongkong, we will sprint towards Disneyland straight away and do the night market. Ok, so we now have a solid plan. Let's see how things go from here..........
Entertainment At Sea
On our second night, Rahnee and I tried the fine dining area. Again, the experience pales in comparison with my Alaskan cruise, but still not really a major issue. We still enjoyed our seafood and steak dinner. After dinner, we watched the show. We immediately found a Pinoy among the entertainment crew. Hendrix. He sings, he dances, he even emcees! The rest of the entertainment crew are either Chinese Chinese, Singapore Chinese, Thai Chinese, Hongkong Chinese or Malaysian
Chinese. But dear Hendrix is most certainly 100%!b(MISSING)orn, bred, raised Pinoy! LOL. Between Rahnee and myself, we thoroughly enjoyed that part in the show where Chinese Chinese did an acrobatic show. What talent!
This second night, we were sorry we watched the show on its first schedule. There were 2 showtimes such that the second one was still going by the time Rahnee and I were ready for bed. Lying on our beds, we replayed in our minds the entire show while literally listening to it. It was just our luck that our cabin was right above the theater. OMG! Good thing I brought my survival kit, so I popped a pill straight away but not without listening to the first half of the show. I must have dreamed of Hendrix and the acrobats.
Ho Chi Minh (Formerly Saigon)
We finally found land!!!! Ho Chi Minh beckons. Rahns and I were on deck to watch the boat maneuver into the pier in HCM. When we finally docked, bedlam broke loose. There was complete disorder about disembarkation and getting on the appropriate shuttle buses for the various tour bookings. We walked through the
Above the CuChi Tunnel
This is where the Americans held camp! And the Congs were just right below them..........
whole line of shuttle buses parked just off the disembarkation area, watching out for the bus that will take us to the Cu Chi Tunnel. I saw a couple of British passengers who must be well into their 70s walking back and forth looking for the tour bus that will take them around the city. Dear me. I almost thought they'd give up and climb back to the boat.
As for Rahnee and myself, we found our bus alright. Just took a few seconds to decide whether to turn left or right soon after disemarkation, and our first decision proved right. Thank God. Our tour bus literally snaked out of the pier area into the city center where motorbikes were shooting out from either left or right. These bikes were everywhere! I was only too happy to be on a bus, than crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh. I'd have to say also that our very own Pier must look a wee bit better than what we saw here. Traffic was hellish, and every motorist seemed to be honking too! While surviving the traffic, we turned one corner and found a branch of Jollibee right here
in HCM. It felt good to see our local company do good here. Their success was evidenced by the number of motorbikes parked in front of the burger joint. Too bad there was no chance to explore the place and check out if there were any Vietnamese-inspired snacks offered in this branch. We breezed through the center of the city, through the Palace, through the many shopping areas, the Cathedral, etc. and after a couple of hours, we found ourselves in our destination for the day.
Cu Chi Tunnel At High Noon!
Cu Chi Tunnel is right in the middle of a not too dense forest. Before the tunnel, we were made to sit in this structure with thatched roofing, where a guide presented diagrams and other illustrations, along with a video, to show how the Viet Cong managed to outwit the better-armed, better-trained American soldiers. It was amazing to hear how these Congs managed to live within these tiny tunnels built all around the area and right below where the Americans actually set up camp! The tunnels had their own kitchens, meeting areas, and mini-hospitals. Don't ask me how, but they managed to live in
One Size Fits All
Through the Cu Chi Tunnel in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
those tiny holes and passageways without being detected by the mighty Americans!!!! More than that, one's gotta be impressed over how they set up "fake" holes and passageways and set up traps. Sheer ingenuity and a knack for cruelty resulted in these nightmarish traps. One look , a grimace, and a pained expression was on every tourist's face. No second looks. A single peek is enough to give one the creeps. Somehow the mind goes into a spin and imagines how those blades cut through flesh ........ I'd stop here now.
And so, Rahnee went first. I almost didn't follow, thinking it was not a good idea to go through a tunnel with a crowd like we had , on a summer day like we had. But who am I to resist this adventure? The guide promised it would only take a few minutes. And so, I went down, following this yound lad and followed by this Australian guy who looked athletic enough. I figured that if for some reason, I lose the nerve or my sanity, any one of these 2 guys can kick me out of the hole or drag me out, or both. No
chance for that. I managed to get out on my own without fainting. I have got to admit though that I thought a few more minutes and I'd be out of oxygen. The heat was unbearable.
Out of the Cu Chi tunnel, Rahnee and I found a faucet with running water. I got my facecloth under the running water , real wet, and put it right over my face, dripping, to get my senses back. That, plus a bottle of water, and we were fine. Fine enough to prep ourselves for the next stop which happened to be a shopping break. The other tourists in our group raved about the market but Rahnee and I were not impressed. We found that most of the stuff for sale in that market can be found back in Manila where we would probably even enjoy haggling for better prices. We probably circled the market twice, and found nothing interesting enough to buy.
From the market, we had an authentic Vietnamese dinner. We sat ourselves with a group of Australians who did not seem to enjoy the meal. I ordered a beer (very nice, on a hot day) and
relished every morsel of Vietnamese food. The rolls came first, two types, as appetizers. There was salad too. There was even a flaming dish in a coconut shell, which looked great, except that the taste didn't meet with raised expectations after that dramatic presentation. I savored the seafood dishes while the OZs enjoyed their beef. Off one corner , there was this duo entertaining us with their stringed instruments. Not too many noticed them, and if they ever did, it seemed like they completely ignored them. Perhaps the heat did not make for amiable tourists, or maybe we were simply too tired after that adventure through the tunnels and the harrowing negotiations with the Viet vendors at the market. With dinner over, we got out and waited in front of the restaurant for our tourist bus . Some of us spent their money buying from street vendors --------from sunglasses to fans, to snack foods, to bottled water.
We were all relieved when we finally got back to our boat, and to our respective cabins. Rahnee and I did not waste time hitting the showers.
For tonight, we watched another performance at the Theater. More of Hendrix
singing as the Phantom of the Opera, joining the back up singers, doing a mean dance number. I told you, this guy has got talent! From Broadway hits to more acrobatic shows, we are amazed how the ship's entertainment crew were able to blend these two performances into a single show. Very very off........but since Rahnee and I are both fans of the acrobats, we welcome the diversity of the theater performances.
Who Has Ever Heard of Sanya?
Next day, the boat docked in Sanya, China. We only booked ourselves for the city tour + shopping here. My thinking was shopping should be a good deal here since it is part of China. Was I wrong! But I am getting ahead of my story. When we docked, we observed how this place is being geared up as a destination for cruise liners. The Chinese surely laid out a welcome mat for MV Virgo , which is docking here for the very first time. The immigration area was laid out perfectly and we went through the procedures quite efficiently. Once out, we got on the buses which circled the island which was the venue for a recent
Getting ready to disembark........
Miss Universe Pageant. There wasn't much to see. The bay area had a few Chinese lads flying their kites by the shore. Just off these bay area were numerous condominium buildings under construction. Very progressive. I made a mental note to check out this place ten years from now. The same tourist bus also took us to this outlet where they sold coconut products. We went through in a line, and snaked our way around the huge store which sold nothing but........coconut products. Coconut candies, coconut coffee, coconut tea, coconut vinegar, etc. Then we were taken to a more modern mall where again, Rahnee and i found nothing interesting to buy. We couldn't even find a decent place where we can enjoy a nice bowl of Chinese noodles. Or dimsum, if available this late in the day. No luck. Back to the boat for our nutrition.
Back On Board
Tonight, Rahnee missed her dinner. We went together to the fine dining restaurant, placed our orders, but Rahnee couldn't wait for her Beef Wellington dinner as she started feeling clammy. Sailing from Sanya to Hongkong, we must be treading open seas. I survived the "shakes" and enjoyed
Our Star Cruise Cabin
Hey, look at that handpainted fake window!
my meal with this couple of Malaysian Chinese, who told me how they enjoyed shopping in Vietnam. Huh??? I thought then and there, there must be something odd with me and Rahnee. Either that, or those 2 Malaysian ladies must be odd.
We have another day at sea. Time enough to enjoy the deck, the moviehouse, checking out the photos in the gallery, and simply roaming around. With books on hand, Rahnee and I sat it out on the boardwalk and enjoyed the breeze. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud on the horizon. The temp was just right, and the crowd.........there was no crowd! The others must be sleeping in this morning. We took this chance to have more photos taken..........by the atrium, the boardwalk, the deck, even in our cabin! Once more, I took a long look at our stateroom. A far cry from the cabin with a balcony which I enjoyed when I did the Alaskan cruise. This time around, I had to content myself with a painting which passed for a fake window in my cabin. Good thing neither Rahnee nor I was claustrophobic. It's a good size though. I mean, it is
not big, but there is room enough to move around. Having done our 'pictorials' for the day, we trooped to the dining salon for our buffet lunch. Rahnee and I had a sugar overdose as we enjoyed our desserts especially the ice cream.
For our last night on the boat, they served buffet dinner on the deck. We had barbecued meats of all sorts. I know i saw some crabs too, but they were wiped out as soon as they were served on the buffet tables. I wasn't so fortunate...........but by this time, I was quite happy to find boiled peanuts and corn cobs to munch on. The lady who joined us in our table on the deck expressed surprise that the peanuts were wet! I had to explain that they were boiled peanuts, which was undoubtedly not the way she is used to. Then there was this Chinese Chinese couple who managed to pry a couple of fat crab claws, and promptly went about hitting, cracking the claws while we all watched. Boy, they were too busy to notice that some "shrapnels" were hitting us.
By the time we reached our
last destination, Hongkong, we were ready with our bags. Packed good, and raring to disembark, we almost lost our patience as we were made to wait for more than an hour before getting off the boat. Hendrix almost lost his mind running out of entertainment numbers to keep his audience amused. Tempers flaring, we can only whisper to Hendrix what a good job he was doing. The poor guy was left on his own to face up to impatient passengers raring to get off. His bosses were nowhere around, and no announcement over the public address systerm was ever made to reassure us that it wouldn't be long and we would be allowed off the boat. It was chaotic!
When Rahnee and I got off the boat, there was a long line which we skipped. We did ask, and was informed that the line was for those who were picking up their big bags on the way out. Since Rahnee and I just dragged our roller bags, we skipped the line and asked for directions out of the whole mess. We got out alright, way out I'd say, till we found ourselves right in the middle of Ocean
Docking in Hongkong
Our Final Destination...........
Terminal. At this point, we somehow knew that we lost the travel agent who was supposed to welcome us and bring us to our hotel in Hongkong. It took a while, but we finally hailed a cab whose driver did not seem to know where our hotel is. Somehow, he knew where it is, and drove like a hell driver towards our hotel. And when I say hell driver, believe me . He drove us crazy.
We reached our New Kowloon hotel, which had a big room for the 2 of us. A good location too as it was only a few blocks from the nearest metro. As soon as we deposited our bags in our room, Rahnee and I walked to the station and took the metro for Disneyland
. By the time we reached Disneyland, we were starving. And so it was that the first order of the day in this theme park was to order a hefty meal in this restaurant in Adventureland. After lunch, we watched the Lion King, walked around, watched the parade, watched Golden Mickey, Philharmagic, and walked some more. No rides this time. Watching Rahnee, I knew for sure that Disneyland is
good for all ages! And while this must be my 10th Disneyland visit, I also enjoyed it as much if not just a little less than Rahnee did. Judging by the pictures, we made good time in HK Disneyland. The park is not too big , yet I remember the last visit with the little ones where we actually failed to cover the entire ground because the kids had repeats of their favorite rides. The park closed early, and that left time for Rahnee and I to do some shopping tonight. This time, Rahnee found a few items interesting enough to buy.
The next morning, I was too lazy to step out of the hotel to have breakfast. Rahnee did. And she came back with my breakfast. It was a lazy morning for me. At the appointed time, we went down to the lobby to wait for our airport transfer. It was so delayed that we thought we might miss our flight. But no, we got to the airport just in time to check in our bags, and settle comfortably in the departure lounge. The flight back to Manila was uneventful. Safe and in one piece, we're home.
Tot: 3.495s; Tpl: 0.027s; cc: 37; qc: 200; dbt: 0.081s; 3; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.9mb