We are back from a fourteen day cruise to Vietnam and Thailand and ending in Hong Kong. To put it simply, this trip was a dream.
Vietnam may hold some very unpleasant and painful memories for those who served in the Vietnam War. On our very first day aboard the Azamara Journey we met another couple from Arizona who told us the most interesting story when we asked, why Vietnam? She told me her husband had served as a fighter pilot in the war and had been shot down. He subsequently spent a year recovering in a hospital in Japan. When they watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War her husband heard a familiar voice, it was the soldier who was across the room from him in the hospital in Japan. Immediately he said to his wife, “I would know that voice anywhere, I’ve been looking for this guy for fifty years!’ The two were able to get in touch with one another and the soldier told our cruise mate “Go to Vietnam, you will be glad you did.” After he hung up the phone they made reservation for the trip to Vietnam.
Our first stop was the island of Ko Samui, off the coast of Thailand. The people were polite, quiet, gracious and very peaceful. We toured the small island and visited waterfalls, a giant gold Buddha, the beach and rode an elephant all in one day! Another cruiser made the arrangement for the tour and it was jam-packed and perfect.
Next stop was Bangkok, Thailand. It’s a huge, crowded, city known as “Venice of the East”. I don’t see the similarities except for canals. We booked a cooking class in town. We were taken by boat on a tour around Bangkok. When we arrived at the family compound on the water our host Tam showed us around the beautiful garden and told us about the different traditional herbs and fruits they used, in cooking and healing. The entire experience was hands on and delightful. We thought we were taking a cooking class, however, it turned out to be a peaceful, quiet, secret garden with a phenomenal teacher and a fabulous menu. After finishing a four course meal we left with recipes and a better understanding and appreciation of the Thai culture, food and people. Www.amitathaicooking.com
Bangkok is amazing for shopping, Thai Massages and beautiful pagodas and Buddhas.
Our next stop was Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. We visited the Saigon Central Post Office designed by Eiffel, saw Notre Dame Cathedral, shopped at the central market and enjoyed an outdoor concert on the steps of the Saigon Opera House with many locals. Saigon is a bustling, beautiful city with lots of French influenced architecture. The one piece of advice I would give anyone visiting Vietnam would be when you cross the street, cross with the locals and never hesitate. The scooters are likely to avoid you as long as you keep moving. In Vietnam there appears to be no road rules whatsoever. Traffic lights are merely suggestions, lane lines are ignored and most scooters are occupied by entire families.
Our next stop was a tour to Hoi An, a gorgeous artistic town teeming with history and beauty.
One of our final stops was Halong Bay. This gorgeous bay contains spectacular landscapes and many caves used by the North Vietnamese for weapon storage during the war.
Visiting Vietnam and Thailand was a special time for us. Meeting the amazing warm and kind people was a gift. The best thing about taking a cruise is that it gives you a small taste of a region or country that you may want to see more of in the future. That is how I feel about Vietnam and Thailand. I want to see more elephants, cook with more people and get to see more of the countryside and get to know more about the amazing Thai and Vietnamese people. I know I will return and I look forward to getting to learning more about Vietnam and Thailand. I am already richer for having visited and for that I am thankful.