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THAILAND | Thursday, 28 March 2013 | Views [314]

I should have noted at the beginning of my blog that none of this should be taken too seriously.  I am just thinking out loud with unformed thoughts and I am just as likely to change my thoughts when I get more information.

My thoughts are also based on limited information.  The cruise is great in that everything is done for us, but it also means we don't have much contact with the local people.

I am sitting in the cruise terminal at Laem Shabang and due to ddepart at 5pm.  It is 37degrees outside.  Yesterday we bussed(?) to Bangkok, and visited the Grand Palace and some other equally amazing buildings. But I am getting ahead of myself...  

 

In retrosepct, this blog is getting very verbose, and needs an exeecutive summary:  "Having a great time cruising past Vietnam and Thailand. Wish you were here;)"

Read the rest at your own risk.

Vietnam has come and gone. (Or at least our visit to Vietnam has)
The cruise itself is a great holiday. This mornings brunch had to be seen to be believed. Ice statues, 4 different types of smoked salmon, a huge chocolate fountain. A weeks calorie intake 

just in looking at the food!

Anyway what are my impressions of Vietnam (Viet peoples of the south)..

Motor scooters - 45 million scooters and 90 million people. We regularly saw up to 4 people on a bike and occasionally up to 5! (In Thailand there is a much lower percentage of motorbikes.  Thailand looks much more affluent generally - perhaps due to the stability provided by the 300 year old monarchy?)

Slow drives - took us 4 hours to get to Hanoi (approx 120km). I often had to close my eyes - and I think the driver did also!
We passed many house/shops/villages on our drives - multi storey narrow houses with shops on the ground. Those that don't have shops have an open ground floor room, big screen tv at the back, curtains open to the road.  The cafe seats often faced the road - either for the entertainment it provides or so that the customer can jump out of the way should a scooter decide to shortcut past the tables!

Religious centres seem very confused. There are a mixture of ideas in the temples and pagodas.
The pagodas are for buddhists, but they have a variety of buddhas including a Lady Buddha.
And the temples are more strange. We went to a temple for whales - the idea being that whales protect fishermen. I saw very few vietnamese at these places though, so perhaps they are mainly for tourists? Or else the Vietnamese are mostly at work. We did see quite a few people around, but it was nowhere near as crowded as I expected. Perhaps they were all at work? (In retrospect, we don't see many people in churches in Australia either except on Sunday mornings, so quite possibly I was just in the right place at the wrong time. (I know the saying is the wrong place at the wrong time, but in this case only one of the parameters needed to be wrong for me to draw the wrong conclusion.))

There were a number of christian churches and a large statue of "Jesa Chri" (Vietnamese tour guides seem to drop the last syllables) on top of a hill. The cathedral in Hanoi was filled to overflowing on Sunday.  So maybe I was in the right place at the right time on that occasion.

Sorry I don't actually know more about Vietnam. Internet on board is prohibitively expensive, and the tourguides can be hard to understand. I think there may be an educational opportunity for more in depth learning on board - but it would have to be good to compete with other activities. Nevertheless, the University might see it as a great interactive way to engage students. An opportunity for a degree in cruising?

The Vietnam flag is a five pointed star on a red background. The points represent the groups that make up Vietnam - Leaders, Farmers, Workers, intellectuals and young people.  No star there for shopkeepers but thats who we saw most. We were harrassed a little by hawkers, but not much. They were easy to discourage.

Smog. The whole of SE Asia seems to be in smog. Our days at sea sometimes break free. Hong Kong  was the worst so far, but we rarely saw the sun on land. One fellow traveller flew to Cambodia for a night or two and escaped the smog. Apart from that, the towns were relatively clean. Some places smelled a bit, and some rivers looked polluted, and some areas had rubbish, and many places looked messy, but generally it was clean-ish.  Thailand is much cleaner - at least the parts I have seem.

Shopping: The same things seemed to be for sale everywhere. One street was just for second hand toilet cisterns! Another one for chinese lanterns. On the way to Ho Chi Minh City we saw lots of "rest centres" - cafe's with hammocks. Unfortunately we only got to see them as we drove past. A disadvantage of being on an organised tour. We haven't been buying much as we have a lot of travelling to do yet and don't want to carry more stuff.

We got to learn the geography of the country. Unfortunately sites of significance to the Australian involvement in the war did not appear in the program. Our guide near Hanoi gave us the party line, and spoke about Ho Chi Min with reverence (which is what we expected). Sue did a tour
by herself (I was sick) and the guide that day was much more outspoken - to the extent that Sue was surprised by his openness.

I finished the tour of Vietnam having learned a lot, but with many questions left unanswered. (The language barrier and our time frames made it difficult to ask.) Nevertheless, we would now feel very comfortable returning to Vietnam sometime in the future - and perhaps we will?

Time has run out - lunch is calling.

Talk again soon.

 

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