香港特別行政區   Cruise Through South East Asia
Aboard The Seabourn Spirit   新加坡共和国

route map

Depart from Hong Kong



Hong Kong Harbor Infinity pool at the Hong Kong Intercontinental Hotel
Steven rises like Godzilla from Hong Kong Harbor
Hong Kong to Singapore
March 28 to April 12 2008

Spring had just begun when we left Baltimore; daffodils and forsythia springing up all over the place. These wouldn’t hold a candle to the flowers that we would see on our trip, but after three months of winter they were a welcome site. Easter had been just the week before, the earliest date possible. The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful, just very long. A layover in Chicago then a 14 hour flight to China. Our luggage cooperated and showed up right on schedule. Steven had arranged for a sedan to pick us up at the airport. They were expecting us on an earlier flight, but no problem, they got us a car right away.
The initial impression of Hong Kong is of apartment buildings, block after block, mile after mile of 30 plus story apartments rising up to the sky. You would have to like apartment living to survive in this city. The Intercontinental Hotel is fabulous, small men in crisp white uniforms open the doors to a large lobby decorated with plush divans and oversized artwork in muted earth tones. We check in, wash up in the room, and then meet the other Steve and Jim in the hotel lounge. The Intercontinental is located across the harbor from the downtown business district and we have a spectacular view of the city over the water as we sip cocktails and nibble delicious little tidbits. After cocktails we wander outside to the waterside walkway. As we leave the cool air-conditioned hotel the warm air hits us like a wall.
Hong Kong puts on an amazing laser light show at night. Lights on the outside of all the buildings downtown flash and dance in a sinuous display choreographed to traditional Chinese folk music. It is a truly amazing display of modern technology melded with the ancient culture of China; Steven was disappointed that there weren’t fireworks. After the show we walked along the water to where our ship was docked. Steve was so excited about going on the cruise; he was practically salivating to find out which cabin they were staying in. On the way to the ship we passed by a very tacky display of Olympic mascot lanterns, China is doing the utmost to promote the games. Afterwards we went for a walk to find an Irish bar, but all restaurants in Hong Kong have smoking and Steve S could not stand to be in a smoky bar. Instead we found a place with outdoor seating, had a drink, and went back to the hotel for some long delayed sleep.
Infinity pool China Olympic Mascots
Freaky Olympic Mascot lanterns
Olympic mascot lanterns Seabourn Spirit At Night
Hong Kong Harbor Light Show

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Downtown Hong Kong Light Show
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Tram Up To The Top Of Mt. Victoria

Mount Victoria Tram
Downtown Hong Kong
Downtown Hong Kong The next day we had the morning free to do some sight-seeing. Steven and I took the Star ferry across the harbor and walked over to a tram station. The railcar goes up Victoria peak which has an observation platform with a wonderful view of the city. Despite detailed instructions for the hotel concierge, a map, and street signs in English, we still managed to get a little lost. By the time we found the station we were both drenched with sweat. We arrived just in time to get on the next tram up the mountain. The observatory building is crammed full with multiple floors of tourist shops, think waving paw cat clocks and happy Buddha paperweights. There is even a Bubba Gump restaurant. After about 10 minutes on the platform looking at the city we were bored and ready to go back to the hotel. Back down the mountain and across the water, we lounged in the hotel until it was time to board the ship.

Getting on the ship was quite easy with only 200 passengers. Of course there was the glass of champagne as we boarded, but also a bottle in our rooms. We each got a picture ID made and our room keys. After seeing the suites, Steve S was so eager to show us all his favorite places on the ship; his favorite hot tub; the tiny pool; where they serve tea in the afternoons; and of course the casino. After the mandatory lifeboat drill, the cruise began. We all gathered on the top deck for a drink as the boat pulled out of Hong Kong. That night we had Surf and Turf at the small restaurant, skipping the more formal dinner below decks.
Our first day on board was at sea. We ate breakfast outside on deck and then lounged for the rest of the morning. Steven brought his computer and kept up on work email through wireless internet. I went to the “beginning bridge” class, but the teacher was a pro used to teaching rich people who really knew how to play, so her ideas of what beginning meant were vastly different from mine. She was trying to teach a bidding convention, but even the people who played were confused. She was practically screaming at us the make a bid, and then totally condescended when the bid wasn’t correct. I left after an hour to attend the “enrichment” lecture, giving up the idea of learning to play bridge. Another passenger, who like me was trying to learn, told us later that the instructor strongly suggested she not come back to future classes.
The lectures were given by a former British ambassador to Vietnam. He was the epitome of an upper-class Brit, think a shadow undersecretary for silly voices from a Monty Python sketch. He regaled us with amusing anecdotes about his time in Her Majesty’s service, dealing with the poor savages in Asia. After the lecture came team trivia at noon. It was Steve S who came up with our team name, Anita Vacation. We did rather well. The rest of the day included lunch; a nap; visit to the tiny gym; shower; cocktails; then dressing for dinner. Days at sea mean formal dress for dinner. This classy boat did not rent tuxedos, so we had to buy and pack tuxes for the trip. After an excellent dinner we had more cocktails, Steven lost money in the casino and then we went off to bed. This was a typical day at sea.


map 1 satellite image of Halong bay
Satellite image of the 2000 plus islands in Halong Bay

Cruising Halong Bay By Junk

Junk Boat Vietnamese Boat People On Monday April 31st we docked at Cai Lon Vietnam. While many people took the long excursion to Hanoi, we decided to stay local and cruise Halong bay by junk boat. The bay is full of approximately 2000 islands, limestone dolomites that rise up out of the sea. The bay is located in the gulf of Tonkin. The junks that we rode were motorized by traditionally have sails. These are large, flat bottomed boats with seats and tables below and a upper deck for viewing. The day was overcast and foggy so the view was not that great. Our tour group was split amongst three boats. Just as we started out, a small boat pulled up along side and several local women aggressively tried to sell us fruits, one even held up her baby to try for the cute factor. After a while they gave up and tried another boat. We rode across the bay to the gates of heaven. There was a rock formation there that looks like a dog guarding the gates. Steven couldn’t see it (lack of imagination). The islands are not inhabited, though a few have light houses. There are whole communities of houseboats linked together. These people spend their whole lives on the water and earn a living by fishing. The locals have named about 989 of the islands based on the shape. The most well known is the fighting (kissing) chickens island. The junk tour lasted 3 hours, which was an hour and a half too long. The woman who ran the boat dragged out trays of cheap trinkets she wanted to unload on us. After the tour we were back on the ship in time for cocktails and dinner.
The next day (April fools) was at sea. The water was rough and I got rather sea-sick.
Fruit Hawkers
You buy fruit, you buy fruit NOW!!!
Junk Boat Tour Guide
Halong Bay Rock Formation Halong Bay Rock Formation
Halong Bay Rock Formation Dog Rock
The Dog Rock At Gate Of Heaven
Halong Bay Floating Village
Floating Fishing Village
Halong Bay Floating Village Halong Bay
Halong Bay Rock Formation Halong Bay
Halong Bay Rock Formation Vietnamese Boat People
Fighting Chicken Rock Formation
The Fighting Chicken Rocks

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Sailing on Halong Bay
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Junk Boats In Halong Bay
picture 026 Rock Formation In Halong Bay


map 2

Ancient Hoi An

We made port at Danang Vietnam on April 2nd. This is the place where China beach is located and where the radio station broadcast made famous in Good Morning Vietnam originated. We saw both the beach and the radio tower on our tour, but stopped at neither. We were driven by bus to the ancient city of Hoi-An which is an ancient Vietnamese city that was untouched by the war, and has been turned into one tourist shop after another. The bridge lady was the ships representative on the tour (to make sure that no one gets lost) so the others in the group got to see how annoying she was. She just about lost it when our guide disappeared for a while without telling her where he was going. We went into an ancient house owned by an ancient man and his even ancestor mother. In this house we saw what ancestor worship is all about; there was a whole shrine set up to deceased family members. We went into a silk store that in the US would have been considered a sweat-shop. Young women sit at a table all day long sewing silk thread into pictures that are incredibly photorealistic. I got to see silkworm caterpillars and how they spin the material from boiled cocoons into silk thread. This is where our tour guide left to take one of the passengers back to the bus to get money and the bridge-lady went apoplectic when she couldn’t find him. The next stop was some sort of museum that seemed to be mostly communist propaganda, so I didn’t really pay attention. After that we had about an hour of free time, ostensibly to purchase trinkets, but we put the time to good use at a bar. I did buy a little lantern to use as an ornament on our Christmas tree, much to Stevens dismay. “What are we going to do with that?” was his cry. “We don’t need more stuff” he proclaimed. We had beers at two bars and then headed back to the bus.
Monkey rides dog Roof Dragon
Sweat Shop Fruit Vendor
House of Quan Thang Sign House of Quan Thang 99 year old Mother
Old Woman Making Lantern Topiary Tree
Temple Entrance Statue
Temple Dog Idol
Silkworms on Mulberry Leaves
Silk Worm caterpillars feeding on mulberry leaves
Spining Silk Thread
Spining silk thread from cocoons in water
Silk Shop

Marble Mountains

Marble Statues To and from Hoi-An we saw rice fields and a farmer who was actually riding a water buffalo. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a place where they carve marble. Shop after shop crammed full of tacky statuary that no sane person would dream of displaying, but which must be popular in some places. I don’t know if they expected us to pay to have a heavy chuck of marble shipped overseas, but they gave us plenty of time to shop in one of these stores. Steven wanted to buy a small stone monkey but the price was too high. Jim B determined that he could get a better deal at a shop down the street and headed off to look. Unfortunately he didn’t tell us or the bridge-lady where he was going and she had a major hissy when we couldn’t find him. Steven ended up buying a monkey (so much for his protestation that we didn’t need more stuff) and Jim B got him another at the other shop. We went back to the ship and set sail that night.
The next day was at sea: room service breakfast; enrichment lecture; team trivia; lunch; nap; gym; cocktails; formal dinner; casino; bed.
Marble Statues Cutting Marble Budah
Outside Seabourn Spirit Our Cabin on the Seabourn Spirit
Towel Dog
Our Towel Dog, Thank You Andrea


map 3 Mekong Delta

Cruising Up The Mekong Delta

House and Church On Mekong Delta The next morning (April 4th) we sailed up the Mekong delta to reach Saigon. The river was surrounded on both sides by thick jungle as it snakes its way through multiple channels. There were quite a few men in their 60s up on deck taking pictures. It seems that many of the passengers on this trip had served in the army during the Vietnam War, and the fact that they were coming back up this river had special meaning to them. We docked at Saigon / Ho Chi Min city around 9:00.
Boat On Mekong Delta Pool Of Seabourn Spirit
Walking laps in the Dixie Cup
Seabourn Spirit Spiral Staircase
The ship's double helical stairway
Boats on the Mekong River
Workmen at Siagon Dock
Always with the squating, these people
Mekong River Delta

Shopping With The Chef At Local Market

Saigon Market With Chef From Seabourn Spirit Fruits at Saigon Market We had booked a cooking class but found out that it had been canceled. Instead we went with a group headed by the ship’s head-chef to a local produce market. The bus trip to the market gave us our first view of Saigon traffic. Most people ride motor scooters. Our tour guide told us there are about 4 million in the city. The ship’s daily newsletter had this warning about traffic.

Westerners often have a difficult time dealing with traffic in Saigon. Red lights are considered more of a suggestion and drivers may or may not stop. People may drive down the wrong side of the street and often park on the sidewalk. Pedestrians should not wait for a break in the traffic to cross the street because the scooters will not stop. Just step out into the street and traffic will flow around you, but do not make eye contact with the drivers. Your best choice is to wait for a local citizen to cross the street and make the crossing with them. Good luck.

The produce market was quite a sight, every sort of food imaginable including all the major organs from multiple species. The chef showed us various Asian fruits, but the conditions were less than hygienic and we passed on eating the ones that he cut into. We couldn’t hear a word he said, but it was fascinating none-the-less. As we waited for the bus to go back we were besieged by hordes of people trying to sell us post cards. We got back to the boat; grabbed a quick lunch; then got right back on the bus for the Saigon city tour.
Saigon Market Scene Chopsticks Girls
Rice at Saigon Market Cut Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit. Very Pretty. Tastes Like Kiwi
Intestine for Sale at Saigon Market
Who wants some entrails?
Fish For Sale At Saigon Market
Seafood At Saigon Market Seabourn Spirit Chef Holding Prawn
Produce Vendor At Saigon Market Produce at Saigon Market
Snails At Saigon Market Crabs At Saigon Market
These crabs are alive, and boy are they angry

Saigon City Tour

Thien Hau Temple

Idol At Thien Hau Temple
Temple Dog It was excessively hot that day, but almost nobody in the city wore shorts and many people had on jackets. Our first stop was the Thien Hau Temple. The building was stuck in the middle of a city block, next door we could hear the sounds of children playing at a school. This temple was dedicated to the goddess of the sea. I had a stick on incense thrust into my hands by the tour guide and he showed us how to pray to the prosperity idol. Steven didn’t like this at all, but I think that it’s rude not to follow other people’s customs. We then went to the History museum where we saw the water puppet show, a bizarre folk in which people behind a screen splash puppets on rods around in the water. The museum had a number of artifacts ranging from the stone age to modern times, with plenty of vases and even a mummy. In the courtyard the pedicabs waited for us. These are bicycles with rickshaw seats in the front. Our tour guide told us that a dollar tip would be enough, but my driver insisted on two, and Stevens driver told him that “this is where you give me money.” The ride was fun, being propelled headlong into a sea of scooters. At one point we were going down the wrong side of the street with oncoming traffic bearing down on us. The pedicabs let us off at the main post office. This building and the Catholic church across the street were clear architectural reminders that this country was once colonized by the French. We went into the church for a while, where we saw the neon Virgin Mary. Next we headed for the cultural museum, which is basically just an old government building dedicated to showing relics from the Vietnam War. We were led through basement bunkers with old radio equipment and one air conditioned room full of pictures showing smiling politicians signing something or the other. The highlighted exhibit was the former rulers Mercedes. The next stop on the tour was a lacquer shop where they had a small exhibit on making lacquer art and a very large store were we were trapped for about 30 minutes. We were scheduled to go back to the market that we had been to that morning, but fortunately it was closed by that time and we got to go back to the boat.
Idol At Thien Hau Temple Prayers At Thien Hau Temple
Thien Hau Temple Figures Thien Hau Temple Old Man Figure
Guard at Thien Hau Temple Thien Hau Temple Figure

History Museum and Water Puppets

Saigon History Museum Water Puppets
Saigon History Museum Water Puppets
Really! Puppets, in water. Bizarre folk art tradition

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Water Puppet Performance
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Idol At Saigon History Museum
Idol At Saigon History Museum Pedicabs in Saigon
Pedicabs. This is where you give me money

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Riding In Pedicab
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Virgin Mary In Neon
The Neon Virgin

Cultural Evening

Dancers at Saigon Cultural Evening Dancers at Saigon Cultural Evening After a very quick shower we were back on the bus for a Cultural Evening in Saigon. They took us to a house that used to belong to Henry Cabot Lodge during the war. It was a private residence owned by a young couple with two small sons whom they dressed up in the fancy silk pajamas and little round hat that you used to see Asian children wearing in old photos. The evening started with a group of women dancing to traditional music. There were 3 costume changes and it was all very graceful. After the dancing in the courtyard we moved inside for a traditional meal, mostly rice and vegetables with a very little meat, while a group of musicians played Vietnamese music. The host couple invited us to roam the house, which we did. The rooms were tastefully decorated in an Asian sort of way. One wonders how often these people must host these dinners. On the way back to the ship, the other Steve and Jim got off the bus to have a drink at the roof bar of the Rex hotel. They wanted us to come along, but we were both too tired. We were pleasantly surprised when we got back to the cabin and found that the chef and staff had made up a plate with all the odd Asian fruits that we had seen at the market, along with a card naming each type.
Dancers at Saigon Cultural Evening Dancers at Saigon Cultural Evening

Second Day In Saigon

Saigon Opera House
Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar
Beer At The Roof Bar Of The Rex Hotel
We had scheduled no excursions on our second day in Saigon, so we decided to walk around downtown. It was hot, like blast furnace hot, but the natives were still fully covered. We were told on our tour that this to prevent getting any sort of tan. Dark skin is considered a sign of being lower class in these societies, so people avoid being exposed to the sun at all costs. We walked to the Diamond department store, which is very upscale. By the time we walked the 6 blocks I was soaked in sweat. The store was very Western, everything was written in English, but none of the workers spoke our language. Prices were outrageous; one shirt I looked at had a price tag with six figures. We went to the top floor food court KFC and found a bowling alley / video game room. We wanted to bowl but the staff was telling us something that we couldn’t understand. We had a couple of Pepsis at the bar and then tried for the bowling again. Luckily at that time a Vietnamese speaking English woman came with her two children. After speaking with the staff she told us that Honda was having an event there so that only people with a pass could play the games. This explained the girls in cheerleader outfits on the bowling lanes, and the women in skin-tight leather jumpsuits seductively stroking the Honda motor scooter prominently displayed in the middle of the room. We hightailed it out of there, clearly we didn’t belong. Back out in the hot sun, we walked over to the cities main Post Office to write and mail some cards. Next we tried to find a casino that was shown on the map, but to no avail. Either it was closed or hidden. We then walked back to the Rex hotel and had a few beers on the elaborate rooftop bar. The other Steve and Jim met up with us for a few more beers and then we all headed back to the ship.
Scooter Traffic In Saigon

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Traffic In Saigon
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Asian Fruits
Selection of Asian fruits from the market
European Fruits
We have an abundance of fruit in our cabin I tell you
Saigon Sunset The next day was at sea. The enrichment lecture was quite interesting; about how important the Mekong River is to all of Southeast Asia. The Chinese are building dams and diverting water, which will be devastating for countries like Cambodia. We also heard about how these countries blame China for all their problems, and that there is a great deal of prejudice against ethnic Chinese living in these other countries. Our Trivia time, Anita Vacation, continued to do well and pick up members.


map 4 Ko Kood Beach April 7th found us pulling into the bay of the island of Ko Kood in the South of Thailand. This stop was a big deal to the people on board who cruse frequently. The boat staff goes over first to set everything up. Seabourn maintains a private beach on this island so there were already chairs and umbrellas, bathrooms and such. We went over in tenders that are stowed in a big garage below decks on the ship. Steven really wanted a Thai massage on the beach (Lord knows why). The scuttlebutt around the ship was that the available slots fill up fast, so he made sure that we went over in the first group so that he could sign up. We got off the tender and were greeted on the wooden dock by a smiling native holding a fresh coconut sliced off at the top and with a straw stuck inside to sip the liquid. I have always wanted to try fresh coconut, but it wasn’t very good. Tasted like vegetable water. The beach was spectacular; everything you could want from a tropical island with palm trees and sparkling white sand. You wouldn’t believe how warm the water was. The tide was low so you could wade out quite far before the water got too deep. After splashing about for a bit we retired to our lounge chairs and were served a tasty rum punch. At around 11:45 the bar staff, dressed in their white uniforms, entered the water with a raft holding champagne. Next a small motor boat with siren blaring came from the ship bearing caviar. The normally reserved passengers rushed into the ocean to feed. You would think that these people hadn’t been gorging on gourmet food for the last week. Lunch on the beach was buffet style. The boat staff had set up the tables with linens and silverware. The lamb and ribs were excellent. Steven and Jim B went for massages. Steven said it as like being in a 1950s wrestling match, with moves like the Boston crab and the Fist of Fury. The experience would have been extremely traumatic if he hadn’t been paying for it. We all wanted to ride the Banana Boat, a long yellow tube pulled by a power boat. The group before us fell off and too forever to get back on. We went out slowly but then picked up speed. The spray from the ocean splashed in our eyes so that we could barely see. They dragged us back and forth across the lagoon, as we gripped the handles for dear life. The ride finally ended when the rope broke and we drifted to a stop. Jim B wanted to go again, but the rest of us wanted drinks. After downing a Pina Colada I waded out in the bay until the water was at my chin. I could have just floated there for hours it was so peaceful. The sounds of water lapping about my ears and gulls crying from the blue sky. The Steves came out to join me, followed by Jim B when he had finished a second banana boat ride. After this marvelous day on the beach, we took the tenders back to the ship. That night we ate outside at the casual restaurant and had a rather loud conversation about politics which I fear bothered some of our fellow passengers. When we got back to the room we found that our cabin stewardess had left us a small glass jar filled with sand and a single seashell. She had written a very nice note saying that she thought we would like this souvenir of the day at the beach. We really appreciated the extra effort he made during our stay (did I mention the towel dog?).
Sand Crab At Ko Kood Beach Seabourn Spirit Anchored Off Ko Kood Beach
Seabourn Spirit Champagine And Caviar Served In The Ocean
Taking out the Champagne
Seabourn Spirit Champagine And Caviar Served In The Ocean
The bar staff looks worried
Seabourn Spirit Champagine And Caviar Served In The Ocean
Like sharks sensing blood in the water,
the cruisers make their move
Seabourn Spirit Champagine And Caviar Served In The Ocean
The feeding frenzy in full swing
Thai Massage On Ko Kood Beach
Seashell On Ko Kood Beach Ko Kood Beach
Coconut On Ko Kood Beach Banana Boat and Seabourn Spirit
Coconuts on Ko Kood Beach Steven With Seabourn Spirit In Background


map 5

River Kwai and Elephant Ride

Jeath War Museum Rooster The morning of April 8th found us pulling into Bangkok Thailand. The city is unbelievably huge. The group going to Angkor Wat got right off the boat and headed for the airport. We took the River Kwai tour because Steven really wanted to ride an elephant. Traffic in Bangkok is terrible; it took an hour just to get out of the city. The first stop on the tour was a recreation of a Japanese POW camp, where war atrocities were illustrated in graphic detail throughout the length of a long wooden hut. We were then herded into small boats and taken downriver to the Bridge Over The River Kwai. Japan forced POWs to build a railroad system through Southeast Asia and this bridge was part of that effort. We walked over the bridge and back, then went into a flea -market with vendors selling designer knock-offs and tourist trinkets. Steven bought a pair of Oakley sunglasses for 3 dollars US. Somewhere along the line they took our pictures because as we were leaving people approached us to sell commemorative ashtrays with our photos glued in the bottom. We got back onto the bus and it was onto the Death Railway Museum. Here once again the atrocities of WWII and the abuses of POWs were shown in very graphic terms including a life-sized statue of two malaria victims supporting a man with cholera. There was also an exhibit of a prisoner’s leg being amputated. After the museum we went outside and walked about the POW graveyard across the street until it was time to leave. What a depressing morning.
Next the tour moved onto the lovely River Kwai Resort and Conference Center for a traditional lunch: a salad with light Asian dressing; chicken and leek soup; spring rolls; and a number of dishes that featured chicken, beef, pork, fried fish, and copious amounts of rice. Dessert was just fresh fruit.
Long Boats on Kwai River Bridge Over The River Kwai
The Storied Bridge Over The River Kwai
How I Learned To Love The Bomb
How I learned to love the bomb
Death Railway Museum POW Graves At Death Railway Museum
River Kwai Resort And Conference Center
Lunch at the lovely River Kwai Resort and Conference Center
Elephant Camp
And onto the Elephants
After lunch and another hour bus ride we reached the elephant camp. After arriving we immediately lined up to get on the animals. They had attached a wooden bench for 2 to the back of each elephant. The handler rode on the neck of beast. We rode single file along a well-trod path. After a while the handler turned around and made a camera motion. I give him our camera and he jump down to start taking pictures. He must have taken at least 20 pictures of us over the next 30 min, though only 1 or 2 were any good. He really did try though, taking pictures through azalea bushes and from all angles. After the tour we tipped our elephant handler generously for his picture taking enthusiasm. Next we purchased bananas to feed the elephants. They took our picture holding the tusks of a very old bull elephant; they said he was over 90 years. The elephants grabbed the fruit from our hands with their noses and crammed it into their mouths. Feeding the elephants was great fun but their noses are quite slimy and we really had to scrub our hands to get the elephant mucus off. Thank goodness they had a wash station with plenty of soap and paper towels. We had a three hour bus ride back to the ship, and once there we really didn’t feel like going back out again. We really wanted to hit the Bangkok bars that night, but after a hard day of riding in a bus and visiting museums we were just too tired. Instead we got a DVD from the ships library, ordered room service for dinner, and called it a night. We are truly pathetic old men.
Riding Elephants Riding Elephants
Photo Op With Elephant

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Riding An Elephant
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Feeding The Elephants
Downtown Bangkok
Orchads In Seabourn Spirit Stateroom
A beautiful selection of orchads in our suite that night
Spirit House
Spirit House With Offerings of Soda and Fruit

Imperial Treasures of Bangkok

Bangkok Temples The next morning we embarked on the Imperial Treasures of Bangkok excursion. They took us to the Imperial Palace and Shrine. The complex is incredibly ornate; every surface is covered with some sort of decoration. There are a series of temples each decorated in a different style. There is also a scale model of Angkor Wat. Tourguide told us that when the ruins were discovered, the King of Siam ordered 200 men to bring the whole of Angkor Wat back to Bangkok. They went, saw that it would be impossible to move, then came right back. At that point the King had this model made as the next best thing. We went to the temple of the Jade Buddha, long pants and no shoes were required. The Buddha sits atop a large shrine, the ceiling is painted in the Asian style, and there are pictures hung about the room, probably of the royal family. Every bit of the large room was decorated either with painting or tile. After sitting on the floor for 10 min we continued on. We were shown to the building inhabited by the royal family, and saw the King’s throne. One thing that was very interesting is how the King an his family are practically worshiped as Gods. There are pictures of the King everywhere; small pictures like the one in the front of our bus, and large billboard size pictures on the side of the road. The sister of the king had recently died of cancer and I think that our tour guide was talking about an 18 month long funeral. We saw the field where she was to be cremated. Another interesting aspect of Thai religion is the spirits. There are spirits for everything and every place, and people build elaborate spirit houses to tempt the right spirits into staying. Every house, business and hotel has a spirit house prominently displayed. Devout people make daily offerings of flowers and food at the spirit houses to make the spirits happy. Flowers play an important part of Thai life. There are flowering trees and bushes everywhere. We passed an area in downtown where for block after block they do nothing but arrange flowers into wreaths and baskets. All of this makes Thailand a very pretty place.
Monks At Bangkok Temple Gods At Bangkok Temple
Decorative Tile Bangkok Temple
Bangkok Temple Pottery Flowers
Steven with Idol Bells At Bangkok Temple
Idol At Bangkok Temple Detail of Temple Decoration
Bangkok Temple Complex Angkor Wat Replica In Bangkok Temple Complex
Replica of Angkor Wat made after the King of Siam
was told he couldn't move the temple to Bangkok
Temple Dog Temple Painting
Decorative Detail Of Bangkok Temple Temple Of The Jade Buddah
Temple of the Jade Buddah
Topiary Tree In Bangkok Solders At Bangkok Temple Complex After our tour of the palace we returned to the ship. Because it was so hot I changed into shorts, but Steven kept on long pants (remember that very few locals wear shorts). We took the shuttle bus back downtown (about 40 min ride) then asked the guide how to get to the State Tower, which we had been told by a crewman was the highest building in Bangkok with a great view and nice bar. We took a cab to the tower (another 30 min of sitting in traffic) and then up to the top floor. We were met by a woman dressed in traditional attire who told us that shorts and open toed shoes were not appropriate attire for the venue, and suggested that we go down to the restaurant on the 4th floor. She did allow us to go to the window to look out, but accompanied us to make sure we didn’t try to make a break for it. Steven was so angry with me for having worn shorts and sandals, he wouldn’t speak to me for ten minutes (in my own defense, remember that it was excessively hot). We did go to the restaurant without a view and each had Pad Thai, our favorite Thai dish. After lunch we hired a cab to take us right back to the ship rather than sitting in traffic to get back to the shuttle stop. The driver took us on the elevated expressway which made the trip much faster.
Picture of Thailand President View From State Tower Bangkok

Final Days At Sea

Team Trivia On Seabourn Spirit
Team Trivia Was Intense
Bangkok Sunset That evening we all gathered on the top deck to watch the ship depart. It was a lovely evening, clouds piled up on the horizon, with the city highlighted against the setting sun. The bar staff circulated with champagne and trays of canapés. And so we began the last leg of our trip.
We had two days at sea as we sailed to Singapore. Our trivia team won the competition and we were rewarded with coffee travel-mugs. On the second day our cabin stewardess pulled our luggage out and left it sitting on the beds, reminding us that it was time to pack and get out. I guess that for elderly travelers this was a good thing but for us it seemed a bit of a slap in the face. We had to be out of the cabin by 8:00 the next morning and off the ship by 9:00. Vacation over, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The ship’s captain was at the exit and shook everyone’s hand as we left.
Moon Over Thailand Seabourn Spirit Hot-tub
map 6

Gally Lunch

Galley Lunch On Seabourn Spirit
Oliver Welcomes Us With Vodka Shots
Galley Lunch On Seabourn Spirit
Shrimp Cocktail At Galley Lunch Wait Staff On Seabourn Spirit
The Very Charming Wait Staff
Lunch On Seabourn Spirit
Desert Table At Galley Lunch Desert Table On Seabourn Spirit


Singapore China Town Singapore China Town We got a cab from the dock to the Intercontinental Hotel and the driver gave us a running commentary about the city. Interestingly, the neighborhood where our hotel sat used to be where the transvestites plied their trade. We went to the lounge for a second breakfast and lounged for a bit. We were ready to start exploring Singapore by about 11:30, just when the monsoon rainstorm started. We walked around the hotel-adjacent shopping mall for a bit and had a round of Tiger beers while we waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t (stop), so we decided to take the subway to Chinatown. Why Singapore, a Chinese country, needs a Chinatown is a mystery to me. The subway was clean and easy to navigate. Everything was in English and it was all very high-tech. It was still raining when we got to the Chinatown station, so we wandered about another shopping mall for a while. Singapore has a lot of malls. The rain stopped and we went outside to visit the street vendors. The hotel concierge had recommended visiting these local stalls to get lunch, assuring us that they were safe for Westerners. His exact words were that everything in Singapore is clean. We found a small shop to have more beer and try a few local dishes. One was fried shrimp, but the heads and shells were still on so that it was difficult to eat. We then wandered about the stalls for a while before taking a cab to the Singapore Flyer, a gigantic Ferris wheel with great views of the city. One revolution takes about 40 minutes, which was a little long but we did get to see the city in all its glory. Probably one of the most interesting things we saw there was in the shopping mall below the wheel. Fish massage; people put their bare feet and legs into tanks of water and hordes of little black fish nibble at the dead skin cells. It is truly freaky and quite frankly looks like a good way to transmit disease. After the wheel, for some unknown reason, Steven decided he needed to have Popeye’s fried chicken so we stopped and had more food.
Singapore Chinatown Singapore Flyer Ferris Wheel
Singapore Flyer observation wheel, just opened
30 m higher than the London Eye
Singapore Flyer Car View From Singapore Flyer
Photo Op On Singapore Flyer View From Singapore Flyer
Raffles Hotel Singapore Slings At Long Bar Of Raffles Hotel
Singapore Slings at the Long Bar of Raffles Hotel

Spicy Crab At Newton's Circus Hawkers Market

Booth At Newton's Circus Next we walked to Raffles Hotel to have Singapore Slings at the Long Bar. This is where the drink originated and it is one of the things you need to do just once to say you’ve done it. The slings tasted a bit like Hawaiian Punch with a little bit of rum, and they were quite expensive. As we sat in the bar, Steve S reminisced about shopping with his mother in Philadelphia and then having Singapore Slings in an Italian restaurant.
We returned to our hotel to wash up and prepare to go out for dinner. Steve S had read that spicy crab was the must have dish when visiting Singapore. One of our fellow passengers knew just the place and arranged to meet us there that night. When the government of Singapore decided to clean the city up (remember there are canings for even slight infractions) they forced the street vendors to get off the street. Newton Circus is the place where they made them go so that everything is neat and tidy. Now there are health inspections of the food stalls and it is all highly regulated. The shops surround a large area full of plastic picnic tables and the place was packed. We found a good spot towards the back and placed our order. The shop proprietress told us her name was Whinny, like Whinny the Pooh. The food was certainly fresh, we watched her pull the live crabs out of a tank. The dish was very tasty, the sauce just a little spicy. The only way to eat this was with both hands. Whinny came around and pinned paper napkins to each of us, but by the end of the meal we were all covered in sauce. Don’t wear nice cloths to eat spicy crab. We said our final goodbyes to our fellow passengers and took a cab back to the hotel.
Whinny and Crab At Newton's Circus Market
Our proprietress Whinny, and the guest of honor
Table At Newton's Circle
Spicy Crab At Newton's Circus Hawker's Market
Spicy Crab, THE dish to have in Singapore
Eating At Newton's Circle Market
Eating At Newton's Circus Market Spicy Crab At Newton's Circus Market
Spicy Crab At Newton's Circle Market
Joseph gets down and dirty
Meal At Newton's Circus
Photo Op At Newton's Circle Market View of Newton's Circus Food Court Steve S really wanted to go to McDonalds and convinced us all to come with him. There were quite a lot of young people there (11:00 on a Saturday night) many with school books doing homework. This McDonalds was much more high-tech than the American version. There were computer kiosks for ordering, and a flat-screen TV scrolling text messages that the customers send in via their mobile phones. There is nothing like grease soaked French fries and a milk -product-like McFlurry to end a vacation.
We said goodbye to the other Steve and Jim and went to bed. Our flight was at 7:00 the next morning, so we had to get up at 4:00. Everything went smoothly on the trip home. Singapore to Hong Kong, then onto Chicago O’Hare and finally 24 hours later we were back home in Baltimore. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and were back at work the next day. It seemed like we were gone for much longer than 2 weeks, but on the other hand the time just flew. It was nice having people wait on us hand and foot during our cruise, but as Dorothy Gale says…
Singapore McDonalds Restaurant
Our last meal is at a traditional
Singapore eating establishment