SHANGHAI, CHINA, Thursday 15th-Saturday 17th March 2018
As we sailed towards our next port of call Shanghai the weather began to cool and the time on deck was shortened with just a few good hours of warmth in each day.
We woke on the 15th with the ship docking early in the morning around 2:30 am to find ourselves surrounded by incredible skyscrapers of all shapes as we are right in the hub of the city on the Yangtze River.
What an amazing sight and lots of surprised people like ourselves staring at the incredulous skyline around us.
We had booked a Best of Shanghai tour for our first day and it was early starts to clear immigration and get on our tour buses.
We had a great day visiting the Jade Buddha temple, old Shanghai and bazaar, the gardens a nice included lunch and a silk factory.
Pretty tired when we returned to the ship but we were keen to get on top deck to see the surrounding skyscrapers with their night lights on and watch the colourful lit up river cruise boats as they floated up and down past us for their dinner cruises.
It was time for dinner and recap of our day with Paul and Robyn before we all headed to our cabins for a semi early night as we all had tours booked for the next morning.
Our other dinner companions Karen and Stuart had departed for two nights staying onshore to explore on their own so we will look forward to hearing about their adventures when they reboard before our sail away.
Our second day adventure started with a fast elevator up to the 88 th floor of the Jinmao observatory for a fabulous view over Shanghai.
We were disappointed to find that today’s tour actually revisited several of our stops from the day before but we made the most of them by taking a chance to go further scouting around some of the better places by not joining the guide on a couple of repeated walks.
We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Grand Hyatt with our friendly small group of 15 tour members for lunch before finishing off at The people’s park and surrounds before it was time to return to the ship.
For a city with such a large population we have been surprised not to feel surrounded by masses of people and genuinely can’t believe how peaceful lots of places have been.
Our last day in Shanghai and with a 2 pm departure we had a great tour which included a trip on the worlds fastest train ride, the one to the airport which gets up to 430 kms an hour. They go this speed for two periods of time during the day and the rest of the day it travels along at a leisurely 300 kms ph
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience before we headed off to the top of the tower again, ( unfortunately there seemed to be quite a bit of overlapping on the tours provided) after that we stopped for a walk around the circular bridge that hovers over a Main Street intersection and allows for some magnificent views of the tv tower and highest skyscrapers. One thing we have constantly been impressed with here is the gardens and trees planted all through the city.
We have really enjoyed our time here and would definitely not be adverse to coming back.
We also along with a lot of the ship watched with awe the buildings, boat building and other happenings as we sailed out into the mouth of the ocean. The scene went on and on and this was when you really got the scope of how big Shanghai is. What an incredible and surprising place it is.
Next it’s two days at sea before we arrive at Hong Kong and we will say goodbye to a few of the lovely people we have met on board.
We also will look forward to the weather warming up again after getting out our thermals for the last few days.
We enjoyed a champagne toast to celebrate my dad Douglas as he turned 90 today the 17th, St Patrick’s day.
HONG KONG, Tuesday 20th to Wednesday 21st March 2018.
Having spent time here in November 2017 we didn’t have to feel rushed or under pressure to see it all in two days which with myself Jacquie harbouring a cold was just as well. Medicating myself up I was able to keep up with the little schedule we picked for ourselves.
The port provided a shuttle into the city from the cruise terminal which is the old airport and from there we took the underground to admiralty station on Hong Kong island and walked to Hong Kong park where we had visited in November but too late in the day for the aviary to be open so we wanted to tick that off. This is a lovely park and very close to the tram up to The Peak.
We had taken an Uber up and bus down last time so purchased our return tickets on the tram and headed up for the great ride that it is. I’m not sure at what degree the angle is but be sure it keeps you pushed to the back of your seat.
We did the reverse walk around the mountain when we reached the top and enjoyed it every bit as much as last time and wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a traditional walk each time we return to Hong Kong.
When we returned to the Diamond Hill station and shopping complex before grabbing the shuttle back to the ship James managed to pick up a couple of tee shirts at Uniqlo.
We had dinner with Paul and Robyn as Stuart and Karen had again taken the opportunity to hotel it in the city for the night and as it was Paul’s birthday we had a sparkling or two to celebrate and shared the birthday cake the ship provided along with the crew singing happy birthday as well.
As we had another port day to follow we headed to bed after dinner which to be fair doesn’t finish till almost 10 pm as our sitting is 8 pm.
The next morning we once again took the shuttle in and right across from Diamond Hill station is the gorgeous gardens and nunnery.
Truly worth a visit, they came recommended and didn’t disappoint. Get there early for a leisurely stroll with less people.
The nunnery doesn’t allow for photos inside the buildings which is a shame but understandable but the Buddha’s are gorgeous as are the flowering lotus’s in the pools.
We decided to purchase a few accessories for my phone and glad we did this in Hong Kong where English is still spoken, though not as widespread as it once was. The staff were able to walk us through The apps and instructions needed for what I wanted and we went off happy.
Spent our last money on a few treats to take on our future shore excursions and left the city after another pleasant visit.
Dinner was a great catch up hearing each other’s stories of their time spent and we watched the late show guest comedienne as we had a Sea day the next day.
We lost quite a few passengers at Hong Kong and welcomed on a new batch of friends to share our cruise with and we said hello to our new neighbours Jennifer and Paul from Queensland and chatted to another new couple in the gym Vicky and Mark also from Queensland and we were able to introduce them to our dinner companions when they walked past later that evening.
There’s only one Sea day till we arrive in Chan May, Vietnam for the first of our two stops there.
CHAN MAY, VIETNAM Friday 23rd March 2018.
This is our first visit ever to Vietnam and we have been looking forward to it immensely as it’s been on our “ want to go to “ list for some time. In the past when it’s come up our dollar had been quite strong so we had decided to keep returning to Europe and the last couple of years we had other things booked including our first world cruise so knowing this cruise had several stops in Vietnam was one of the reasons we had persevered with the booking and visa hassles.
We had a ships tour booked to Hoi An along with Karen and Stuart so we met beforehand to get on the same bus.
It’s always good when the tour means driving through the countryside and several towns as you get a feel for the place.
We drove past Marble beach a.k.a China beach from the war that the Vietnamese call the American war.
Hoi An is a gem and apart from hawkers every few steps wanting to sell wares it’s an incredibly easy town to be in. After our tour with the guide we spent our free time walking the markets including the local fresh food and seafood before finding a lovely cafe that made an excellent flat white and sat watching the world pass us by.
Lunch was quite a ride away but an extensive buffet was offered in a lovely river front setting.
It was a late lunch and afterwards it was just the drive back to the ship with a stop at the beach for a few photos as we had an early sail away at 6pm and in fact we slipped off about ten minutes early.
PHU MY, VIETNAM. Sunday 25th March 2018.
What an awesome day we had here and big thanks to Karen and Stuart whom had booked a private tour which had room for several others so when they offered, we jumped at it.
Xuan and his driver met us at the port entrance and after quick introductions we boarded the very spacious and comfortable van for our incredible day.
Xuan is a delightful young man of 27 who has taught him self English online and by utube. We could understand most of what he said except when he got excited and talked quickly.
He had a great itinerary planned with room for changes so we were able to forgo going to a temple and do a walk around Saigon ( Ho Chi Min) in the afternoon.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We headed off to see the Cu Chi tunnels which was a long drive as our ship was docked a fair way from the city but, Xuan filled the time with lots of information and pointed out lots of interesting facts about local life which we were grateful to find out about.
We drove through the middle of Saigon and though Xuan said it was quieter as it being a Sunday the colossal amount of motor scooters we witnessed and the hair raising driving at the intersections was entertainment enough till we got to the tunnels.
Xuan with his knowledge made sure that we really experienced as much as possible at this site.
What can you say about this piece of history that all those of our era and older have heard about, except it was mind blowing, the incredible spirit to survive and the cunning needed to ensure this was shown to us over and over as we witnessed the magnitude of the tunnels used to not only get around in, but the forced need to live underground with the surface area wiped out by agent orange and napalm. The building of wells, traps for their enemy, hospitals underground where women had to also give birth and raise children. After crawling around only 20 metres through one tunnel we emerged hot, sweaty and puffing as though we’d been in a race.
How anyone existed for the years they were forced to do this for is totally a study of mans resilience and survival instinct.
After an ice cream break we headed into the city and Xuan took us to an incredible restaurant for lunch. Nothing beats having a local help you order and teach you how to eat the delightful array of dishes we had. By far I think our favourite was the seafood hot pot with its delicious soup that Karen and I would have happily bottled and bought back to the ship to finish later.
No one left hungry and we all had a couple of beers so at just over $20 a head we left smiling and ready to explore more.
Our next stop was the war museum.
All I’m going to say about this stop was that it was compelling but the most heart wrenching story told by photos that I’ve ever witnessed, in easy comparison to images of concentration camp survivors but somehow worse were the photos of the deformities caused by agent orange on children born of survivors both Vietnamese and opposing soldiers.
There was no way I could take any photos it was just too emotional and almost disrespectful to do so. It will stay with us all for a long time.
There are a couple of famous photos that most will remember from the Vietnam war with America. One is the photo of the Napalm girl and the other is the shot of the last helicopter leaving Saigon from the top of the CIA building.
Xuan knew a guy who was able to allow us access to the rooftop and we got great shots of ourselves at this historic site.
Apparently the building is scheduled for demolition and this piece of history will be lost.
We had a walk through the city seeing the post office and Catholic Church and then enjoyed a delicious coffee before it was time to take the 90 minute trip back to port.
We had almost 11 hours of touring and we were surprised how we were all still awake enough to head for our 8 pm dinner but we did, although I was well ready for bed afterwards, still harbouring the last of a cold I’ve picked up.
Vietnam was everything we hoped and we will definitely have it on our return visit list.
We have one day at sea before we anchor at one of our favourite places Koh Samui, Thailand.