Monday January 20
Another 5:30 am wake-up call! They have had to start early since the ship is leaving at 3:00 rather than 5:00 like it used to do. The international breakfast buffet certainly catered to every continent. Teriyaki chicken for breakfast?! We met the group who had some concerns with the damp ground, but I had my trusty umbrella. It turned out that rain wasn’t an issue, although it was more overcast than the day before.
We trooped off to catch our boat for the morning. Bangkok is divided by a huge river and many canals, and boat transportation is a major method of traveling. There are bridges, but plenty of land in between them that makes boat travel important. The docks are at every hotel and major building and several in between. Our boat had its challenges for getting in and out (climb down on the seat and then to the floor). Our first stop was at a temple and I decided to skip the climb out of the boat (this time a climb to the bow and then off the side to the dock). I ended up getting a cruise along the river with the driver until he picked up the group. Lots of interesting boat traffic and scenery while we waited. The river has lots of motion from the wakes of all the boats.l
Once folks were boarded, we sailed on along the river and canals to see the waterfront living. There was a wide range of prosperous housing and rustic, modern and old. Most places had stairs going down to water level, and many had boats pulled up in front. There were frequent ornate temples along the way, and one place where little boat shops were sailing up to the dock for folks to shop for household/food items. The driver found one porch with a small alligator snoozing away (about 5 feet long). At one point they gave us some bread to feed the fish who rushed to the surface to nab it. The canal was smoother riding than on the river.
We made our next stop at the Royal Barge dock. I climbed out the forward for this, and it wasn’t too bad! A modern building (with good secure docks) housed several large ornate boats used by the royal family in processions on the river. The barges are rowed by a large crew of footmen and there is a gilded throne in the center for the king. Many of the ships have a cannon opening in the front in remembrance of the time they were used for battle. The processions include a large fleet of decorated escort ships, and the photos were impressive.
Back on the boat, we sailed back along the river to a dock where we climbed out and made our way to the more ordinary transport of the bus. We drove around the city some more to see various sights in the royal area. They have built their own version of the Champs Elysee with wide boulevards and a central roundabout. The road has numerous statues and decorative arches, including portraits of the royal family in formal wear, uniforms, and even working military uniforms (the king is a pilot, and has three planes including a helicopter and small jet within the palace compound).
After our sightseeing, we went to a restaurant where we had a nice buffet for lunch before heading back to the ship. Today was nice in that it seemed cooler on the water, and less walking than yesterday. My only problem with the tour was not getting the best shopping opportunities. The general consensus was that the jewelry stop was not a great opportunity!
We made it back to the ship in good time, and set sail at 3:00. It was good to back to my nest, unpack and change into fresh clothing before heading up for dinner. I enjoyed the early show of Latin dance before heading in for the night. Those two mornings of waking up at 5:00 (before the alarm!), hot weather, and the long bus rides definitely caught up with me!
Tuesday January 21
I fell asleep early and slept in until after 7:00—nothing like 10 hours of sleep to refresh a person! I enjoyed a lazy morning with room service breakfast. Today we stop in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. None of the excursions tempted me. We are docked at the industrial port with container shipping, and views of warehouses, and apartment buildings overlooking the bay. There was a bus tour, but it sounded like it would be like driving through observing the locals like they were in a zoo. I decided to stay on board and relax.
I wandered out to find a good chair with a sea view to read for a while, then made my way to lunch before more reading and relaxing. I exchanged a Saigon excursion for one in the countryside—not ready for a long drive to the city so soon. I watched the TV coverage of some upcoming stops and saw some things I want to check out, so will get more info on those tomorrow.
Tonight I used my gift voucher in the fine dining restaurant. The food was great—I went classic with a steak and it was perfect. The appetizer was a fun surprise ‘clothesline bacon’. This was a rack holding three slices of bacon, baked crisp with a brown sugar and pepper crust. My nieces in Canada introduced me to this variety of ‘meat candy’ and it was delicious—imagine finding what I knew as a brunch treat as a gourmet dinner appetizer! I always wondered why someone would pay extra to eat in the restaurant when the food is excellent in the dining room. I must say the atmosphere and the menu is very pleasant and delicious, and a relaxing change from the busy dining room. My thanks to the travel agent!
Tomorrow is a day at sea, so more relaxing, but a full schedule of activities if I decide to go that direction.
Wednesday, January 22
It was a lovely day at sea, mostly relaxing and reading. I worked the line to buy Vietnamese money—it didn’t take much to become a millionaire! I juggled some excursion plans and got advice on my Hong Kong to Macau transfer after the cruise, and I joined in on a Bingo game. Not too stressful! I didn’t feel like dressing up for dinner, so I just visited the buffet, and enjoyed a movie.