Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some of the lovely yummy food we enjoyed in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The food in Vietnam far exceeded our expectations, it was light and fresh with a lot of salads and soupy noodles for starters but the main courses were beautifully artisticly

decorated and tasted as good as they looked, lots of Prawns and fish were served but no steak at any time, small amounts of beef that we had were probably buffalo but who cares it tasted good.
Ofcause there were many more great dishes but I forgot to photograph them!

Each night on the Amalotus ship the food was set out for us to decide what we would like to chose for meal, a great idea.

Another perfect day on Halong Bay

Next morning we were up early, so I could have another go at Tai Chi with the Dragon Master, it is a nice start for the day specially in such beautiful surroundings. Then it was time for another leisurely breakfast on board ship before we got ready for the excursion of the morning to a floating village where ladies will row us around one of the mountains.

 But Dorothy is really not well, Winnifred told us she had coughed all night and was very breathless, eventually Dorothy staggered down to sit in the sun but couldn't eat. Our guides were most concerned about her. They said there were no Doctors any where near so they must take her back to Hanoi, a long way to have to go to be looked at. Winnifred said she would go with her freind and so had to rush and pack up for both of them, all gear had to go with them.

All the rest of us had to pile into the two tenders and go off to the floating village, leaving our 2 freinds behind, they looked very dejected and sad and Dorothy looked very ill.
Quang took them both back as far as he could in the ships tender.It is hoped they may catch up with us when we go to Saigon, if Dorothy is fit to travel.

Our morning being rowed around by an elderly lady was very nice we went with Christine and her Mother Pauline two very nice ladies. It was so beautiful and we just soaked up the serenity as we slowly went under a big mountain that had eroded away and around another jutting mountain and back to the Floating village again, lovely in the morning sun, though in fact it was very hot and humid and we all had to borrow big straw conical hats to keep the sun off us.

Back to the ship for lunch and how sad it felt to not have our 2 mates with us, I am going to miss them a lot.

The afternoon entertainment of sorts is not something we intend to attempt, it is to enter a secret cave and climb up 700 steps to the top and them come down a different  set of 700 steps! There are lovely stalagmites and stalactites all in various pretty colours and nice coolness. Doesn't sound like us at all.

So we passed the time reading up on the deck with a cool drink at hand, just relaxing and enjoying this lovely cruise, til the hot and bothered step climbers all returned exhausted and ready for a swim in the deep ocean around the ship.

I don't think I have ever swam off the side of a ship (actually the tender tied to the ship) in deep water before, I knew I could because of my natural buoyancy it is almost imposable for me to sink, I just float to the surface and virtually lie on top of the water. It is a talent I have always had, very useful it is too.

 Everybody else donned a life jacket in case they had any difficulties but I did not and was completely at ease in the water for a long time swimming and chatting to everyone as they all tried to float like I can, not many people can, they needed their life jackets.

After diiner on board ship we waited for the sunset and took a photo before we retired

to bed early and started packing as we leave this ship in the morning.
Going to be hard to leave as I have really loved this cruise, except for losing the 2 freinds we had made. I could easily spend the entire time just drifting around this lovely place

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beautiful Ha Long Bay Cruising.

As the adverts say; awake surrounded by the beauty of the Ha Long Bay - and we certainly did, it was so surreal so peaceful and serene and beautiful.

There is a Dragon Master  lady Tai Chi up on the top deck taking classes, I had never seen Tai Chi before so I was not very good at it, but I enjoyed the stretching and movement so early in the morning at about &am! before I went down and joined Erle for an extended breakfast. 

Today we are to go visit a fishing village, we are meant to mountain bike to it, the guides say I don't think so to us, so we just roamed around on shore then took the tender boat back to the ship when we were ready, a little Vietnamese girl had been assigned to us to keep us safe! She was sweet and anxious to improve her English so she chatted to us all the way. She took our photo, in fact many of them! We were able to relax for an hour or so! before lunch.

After lunch we are to go to a beach for an afternoons swimming. Nearly everyone came along, several heavy drinking Auzzie men took a chilly bin full of beer cans and they threw them around while they were swam. Never seen that done before, they had great fun though., so did we but without the refreshment.
After dinner on board Au Co we were able to just laze and enjoy a couple of the free drinks as we watched the evening slowly close and night slowly arrived, we spent a good while chatting with our new pals, Dorothy was not feeling at all well and stayed in her cabin for the evening. 
There was Squid fishing for the men when it was dark enough, not that much squid was caught, in fact I think only about 2 landed on the deck.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We head for our sea cruise on Ha Long bay

Today we are leaving for Ha Long  Bay right after breakfast. We are told our big cases must be out by 7am and worse, we are to have packed into our small hand luggage all we will need for the days on the sea cruise of Ha Long Bay, the rest goes into storage for a few days. Its a bit of a rush getting everything sorted and packed then breakfast and back out on to the bus for a quite long bus trip of about 4 hours. But ofcause we are all ready .
It was a pleasant trip in the bus, Quang our tour leader told us a little of his life story and it was very interesting. He also gave us lessons on how to cross streets in Vietnam and Cambodia, one must first catch the eye of a scooter driver so he knows that your about to cross the road, then one steps boldly out into the traffic and walks at a measured pace right across the road, never stopping and more importantly, never running. The drivers of all the vehicles cars, buses and scooters will automatic work out your pace and carefully drive just in front or just behind you. It works every time, they are very considerate there are no accidents or at least none we saw.. Takes courage to do it, but we did.
He also started teaching us some Vietnamese Language, we all took to this  and were soon saying a number of things.
We drove through masses of paddy fields, rice is the major crop although there is some corn growing too. The land is flat and wet with sort of moats around the paddy fields full of water, some places had thick plastic around the patches of rice, this was to keep the rats from eating the grain!
There were many small towns along the way, and eventually we came to a regular stopover place where disabled people make and sell paintings embroidery sweets and clothing as well as big statues of Buddha and other things. We all raced in and many bought the high quality goods, we just bought some sweets to bring home for all our friends and neighbours.

When we got to the ship we had a lovely cold welcome drink and nibbles and speeches before going on board our home for the next 3 days. The ship is impressive and there was a band to drum  us on to it, very noisy but nice.

The cabins are very nice, small and compact not a lot of spare room but we all have ensuite rooms. We are soon in for a lovely lunch as we pull away  from dock and out on to the bay with all the wonderful little and some huge  mountains jutting from the ocean, most beautiful, kind of very Oriental looking in a misty sort of way. This is a World Heritage listed site and I can see why, it is so beautiful, peaceful and serene just drifting slowly around the mountains in tranquillity.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hanoi another day.

We had to be up breakfasted and ready to go by 8.30 am and we all were! Today we go to the mausoleum, it is set in a huge open area with all the roads blocked off so everyone has to walk in and around. The Mausoleum is set up quite high with lots of steps each one seems to be guarded by an armed policeman. Up we went and into an ice chamber, it really was like walking into a deep freeze, on and on we walked passing armed guards all the way until we came to the big chamber in the middle and there to our amazement was Ho Chi Minh lying in state in his open coffin! We were not to talk or stop but there were gasps and I did stop only to be moved right along by the guard. Who would have though we would be seeing a long dead body lying in all its majesty. Then I thought I am sure Ho Chi Minh was cremated but maybe I am wrong. Seems not as when we got outside in the hot sunshine our Guide Quang told us Uncle Ho's lifestory in infinite detail and finally said he had been cremated and the 'body' was a wax work dummy.

We were then taken along a lovely garden path beside a stream to the little house on stilts that Ho Chi Minh lived towards the last and in fact he died there in the simple little house like he had grown up in, it is still in exactly the same state as when he left it.

We also saw the empty Presidential Palace within the same complex, it is only used for visiting dignitaries now. A big impressive building.
We then were taken to an ancient Temple of literature, a sort of university of the old times where rich and special people were trained and enlightened..This a statue of the great teacher.

 There were lovely gardens all around it and a bride was having her photos taken there.

By now it was lunchtime so we were hurried back to the Hotel for a very nice lunch.  Next thing we are called out to go for a lovely Rickshaw ride around the narrow streets of old Hanoi. This was just lovely, having a little man bike pedal you around felt pretty good even if he was darn dangerous the way he  took very little notice of traffic just biked where he wanted to go, others went around us, once a large bus very nearly took us out, but he somehow manoeuvred around.safely.
We were taken past a big lake and also past many monuments, I was intrigued by the power lines all bunched up, a real dangerous mess.

The rickshaws took all 46 of us in style to a special Water Puppet show. Something I had never seen or heard of, the puppeteers all work from behind a curtain with their puppets on long poles, with these they told many stories while a noisy drummer and other musicians and a screaming type singer took the tale .... Vietnamese of cause so it was kind of lost on us, even though we are all trying to learn a few words of the language so as to talk a bit with locals.

After the puppet show it was back the Hotel to dress for dinner, We all went out to a big flash restaurant for a wonderful meal again with Dorothy and Winnifred, pictured is one of the  lovely 5 courses, Fish wrapped in banana leaves, really lovely., 

after which we all wandered back to Hotel for well deserved snooze.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The longest day slowly comes to an end.

The end of the longest first day.
The day was not as yet finished, after the bus dropped us off at the Sofitel Hotel we had over an hour before gong out to dinner. Erle and I decided we just had t have a quick swim in the huge pool as we were so very hot and sweaty and just worn out as it had been an extremely long day with fancy welcome dinner still to come. We all chose to go to the local Cooking School for dinner, where young chefs and waiters all learn their trades. The food was just lovely all beautifully decorated and served perfectly, we dined with Dorothy and Winnifred the 2 nice Kiwi ladies and very much

 enjoyed our evening out. The most unusual of the food served was Crispy Rice coated Chicken, it was lovely and the Coconut and prawn soup served in a coconut shell was also divine. We were supposed to be getting to know our fellow travellers but really all we got to know were each other!
After dinner we all walked back to our Hotel braving the busy streets full of traffic, and collapsed into our beds for a good nights sleep.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Good Morning Vietnam!

Good morning Vietnam  (in the words of the late great Robin Williams.
We have arrived in Hanoi and are quickly whisked off to our very nice Hotel where we have about half an hour to unpack, freshen up, have a bite to eat and get back down ready to go bike riding or any of the other 5 options for the afternoon. Not a lot of spare time to adjust to the heat and humidity, the very thought of heading off for an hours bike ride in the country had very little appeal but we were ready! However the very nice tour guide Quang took one look at us and suggested we didn't bike but instead went on a lovely visit to a Pottery factory. Good suggestion Quang, we were only mildly disappointed. 
While we waited for the bus to take us to the pottery place Erle and I dashed out along the street to have a look around, we discovered the Hanoi Opera House, a very impressive building across the road and all the masses of scooters on the road, even spotted a rickshaw!

The foot paths were littered with hundreds of scooters, apparently the footpath is the scooter park!

The Bus took us to the Pottery factory some distance away where we found a squirrel in a cage running madly all around his house, so fast I couldn't catch a good photo of him, then in we went to the factory where there was no air conditioning just a couple of fans moving the stifling heat around. The workers mainly sat on the ground or on tiny wee 6 inch high seats, wearing masks against the clay dust, all doing delicate hand work, there was hardly any machinery but the pottery was very well made.

 The people had to make hundreds of the same item over and over again. Teapots, cups, plates vases and religious icons etc There was a big market nearby selling all of these items.

A nice Guava selling lady  gave Erle a green guava to try, we took it home and peeled it to taste it but were not very keen on the flavour.