Visiting Vietnam and Thailand

Highlights of my visit to the exotic and beautiful Thailand and Vietnam

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.

Na Mueang Waterfall


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.

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

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


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.

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

Silk lanterns decorate the landscape in Hoi An
The Japanese Bridge in Hoi An
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.

Halong Bay
The interior of the caves in Halong Bay
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.


Transatlantic Cruising, Oh The Places You’ll Go

What is a Transatlantic cruise really like? Read and find out more

We completed a sixteen day transatlantic cruise on Azamara Quest. A transatlantic cruise is a great way to get from one place to another with less flying. Our cruise began in Barcelona, Spain a city perfect for people who enjoy walking, eating, art and history. Before we left for the cruise we took day trip to Monserrat which was organized by another passenger on the Azamara Quest. Monserrat Spain is a gorgeous mountain monastery. And home to the Black Madonna. We were fortunate enough to enjoy a concert by the Monserrat Boys Choir while we were there.

Morning view of the fog surrounding the Monserrat mountains

We enjoyed a couple of sea days prior to our first stop in Gibraltar. The thing to know about sea days is that you begin to look forward to them. Azamara offers so many activities for passengers. There is a casino with slot machines and table games like three card poker, blackjack and roulette. Blackjack tournaments are usually held on sea days as well as watercolor art lessons, craft classes, needlepoint, bridge, mahjong, lectures, trivia and that’s just the beginning of the activities. If you prefer to enjoy the pool, the library, the gym, spa, and the many other public spaces the options are many. Not to mention all of the dining and drinking options from casual buffet, burgers by the pool or coffee bar to sit down meals with linen tablecloths.

Steak and eggs breakfast on the balcony

The reality of Transatlantic cruising is that the journey is what its all about.  Sea days are something that passengers typically love.  You can be as busy or as lazy as you want.

Poker tournament with my friend Jen

Our first stop was Gibraltar.  When we arrived at the island fortress we were lucky enough to have a beautiful clear morning.  We did a ship’s tour to the top of the island and visited the monkeys, actually they are called Barbary Macaque  and are the only wild monkeys in Europe.  We learned about Gibraltar’s importance during WWII. We visited the Great Siege Tunnels and the light filled caves.

Rock of Gibraltar
The Barbary Macquae, although you can get up close remember they are wild animals
The light filled caves in Gibraltar

We also visited Madeira, a green gorgeous island that’s part of Portugal.  We rode the taboggan down the hilly streets, tasted the sweet delicious Madeira wine and took a Jeep tour to see more of the island.  We stayed late in Madeira and were able to get a real taste of the island.

The iconic toboggan ride in Madeira
The rich fields in the island
The tasting room for the sweet Madeira wine

Our last stop on the cruise was three days in Bermuda. Due to recent hurricanes the itinerary was changed to include Bermuda.  I absolutely loved Bermuda and the people we met.  Our first day we met the a man and his son who offered us a ride to a golf store for some golf balls my husband had been looking for.  He and his son saw that we were searching for a particular store that had closed.  They offered to drive us to the store and gave us a tour of downtown Hamilton and some recommendations for dinner. We joked that we were giving him a five star rating on Uber.  The great part of traveling is meeting wonderful people and hearing about their lives.

Selfie with new friends Chris and his son who so graciously showed us around Hamilton

We took tours of Bermuda on bus, boat and bike.  The island is gorgeous and is definitely a place we will visit again.

Landing for our bike tour in Bermuda
A lone blue umbrella on the beach
Greg the bike rider and GoPro editor

While in Hamilton Azamara hosted the White Night, complete with grilled lobster, music and dancing with new friends on the boat.

White Night with the girls

If you have the time and the desire to meet new people, visit new places and experience different cultures I highly recommend trying a Transatlantic cruise.  Go for the people and enjoy the journey.

Dinner in Prime C with friends

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