Beautiful Brazil

I fell for Brazil.  I loved the architecture, the scenery, the music, the people and the foods of Brazil.

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Christ the Redeemer watches over Rio de Janeiro

Along the way we took a Tours By Locals for approximately $65 each of Rio.  Our tour guide had lived in the US previously and spoke perfect English.  He suggested we leave early on our city tour (7:30am) to beat some of the cruise crowds that would be arriving later in the day.  Great idea! We visited Christ The Redeemer on the very first tram.  The sight is spectacular and the view expansive. We avoided the crowds that were arriving just as we were leaving.

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The spectacular coastline in Rio.
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The Selaron Steps took nearly eight years to construct

Although Rio has the reputation for crime we were encouraged to not dress overtly fancy and be aware of our surrounding.   Greg and I ate in street cafes, drank caipharinas and Brahma beer and fresh empanadas.  We took Uber everywhere very inexpensively.  The architecture is spectacular and the graffiti covers most buildings along with beautiful street art.

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Some of the beautiful street murals in Rio

We also visited Sao Bento Monestary, the famous Selaron Steps and Ipenema  Beach. With all of it’s riches Rio and Brazil as a country is a dichotomy, the very rich and the brutally poor.

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The ornate church of Sao Bento Monastery.  The exterior is plain and the ornate interior is a delightful surprise.

Once we boarded our ship the Azamara Pursuit we journeyed up the coast of Brazil to a beautiful village of Salvador.  We took an art walk and I also took a photo excursion shooting the colorful city.

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Colorful Salvador

 

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Our last stop in Brazil was Recife.  The city is old, tired and not my favorite. The hilight might have been our visit to the Cachaca factory which included tasting of the National drink of Brazil a capharina made with lime, crystal sugar and the very potent cachaca.

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A local man selling jewelry along the sidewalk in Salvador

 

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One of the lovely African Queens who dress up in traditional Arifcan costumes to celebrate their Afro-Brazilian hearitage.
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The fishing village of Salvador
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Downtown Recife

 

 

Visiting Vietnam and Thailand

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.

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Na Mueang Waterfall

 

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I loved riding an elephant, but next time I would visit an elephant sanctuary

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

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The store comes to you on the canals in Bangkok
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Our cooking class enjoying our delicious meal at Amita Thai Cooking School

Bangkok is amazing for shopping, Thai Massages and beautiful pagodas and Buddhas.

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On the Azamazing Evening we took part in the Loy Krathong ceremony where you place lit flowers in the water to allow past negativity in your life float away.

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.

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The beautiful interior of the Saigon Central Post Office, notice the portrait of Ho Chi Minh in the rear.
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Even in heavy traffic, the people are friendly and engaging.
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Shopping on the street for fresh produce.
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A friendly family in Saigon enjoying an outdoor concert on their scooter.

Our next stop was a tour to Hoi An, a gorgeous artistic town teeming with history and beauty.

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Silk lanterns decorate the landscape in Hoi An
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The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An
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One of the large Buddhas on Marble Mountain

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.

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Halong Bay
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The interior of the caves in Halong Bay
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I fell in love with the colorful boats in Vietnam.

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.