Over the past holidays, I traveled to Southeast Asia for a taste of the East. Let me preface this by saying that I know most people don’t like travel pictures. I remember sitting with my parents’ friends as a kid, being bored to death by the thousands of pictures, etc.
I decided I would try to incorporate Outlander/Sam Heughan references to make this more entertaining for Church members.
Preparing for this trip was difficult because of the luggage restrictions in steerage. I was supposed to check one bag, bring one carry-on and a “Personal Item” all with specific measurements for the size and weight of each object. Hell, I need a piece of luggage just for my turbans! Check-in was rough. I had to re-pack my bags right in the middle of the boarding area. Underwear was flying along with every curse word I know. (I had to dump the flowers because they exceeded the liquid restrictions for the airline). In the end, I was sweating like a pole dancer in a strip club with no air conditioning and my hat was askew!
I flew from Tampa to Newark (3 hours) and then the grueling flight from Newark to Hong Kong (16 hours). Unfortunately, CoH does not pay me enough for a first class seat complete with bed and free booze. I was back in steerage, sharing one toilet for 500 (it seemed like), paying $10 for a tiny cocktail and sitting in a 3’x 3′ space that has even a shorty like me feeling the squeeze. In addition, there is less air and more smells in steerage. I likened it to Claire riding with Murtaugh, the first time they met. Now if I were squeezed between two Sam’s, well I might not complain as much.
Upon Arrival in Hong Kong, I checked into a hotel for a couple of days to acclimate myself to the 13 hour time difference. In all honesty, I can’t remember where I stayed. I blanked out for a while. This is what I recall….
The next day, I awoke refreshed and ready for a tour of Hong Kong! We spent lot of time looking up (like the Backstreet Boys under Madonna’s skirt.) The buildings were so tall, I had to lay on the sidewalk to see the top! After two motorbikes ran over me, I was forced to get up, (there is no pedestrian right of way here!) We took an incline railway tram to the highest point in Hong Kong, suitably named the Peak or Victoria Peak. When we reached the top, we were surrounded by clouds and those tall buildings looked small from above.
I rode a sampan in Hong Kong Harbour, It amazed me how the sampans were stored at the foot of those colossal buildings! I ate lunch at the largest floating restaurant in the world, appropriately named Jumbo Kingdom! I ate Jumbo Shrimp, Jumbo Popcorn Chicken, Jumbo Fried Rice and Jumbo Muffin Tops! I was Jumbo Stuffed!!
Then of course I saw Hong Kong by night. It was Christmas, remember, and all of the buildings dressed up for it! It was beautiful!
My favorite building of all was the clock tower. It was so long and hard and it reminded me of something I’ve seen (but not for a long time) before. Every time midnight struck, I was fascinated. I felt drained when the evening ended.
The next day, I boarded the cruise ship I would be taking for the next step of my journey! They welcomed me with open arms and people were asking for my autograph!
We set sail for Hue, Vietnam. When I traveled with Bob Hope during the Vietnam War, Hue was the place where soldiers went and could buy anything or anyone. When they came out of various establishments they said, “Hoooey!” while wiping their brow. Hence the name “Hue”. Today it looks more like Clearwater Beach but with more tattoo and massage parlors!
There was a lot to take in, but the most unusual storefront I saw was this one…..
When it comes to the weather on this trip, Adrienne Cronauer described it best in the movie, Good Morning, Vietnam.
The next day we headed to Ho Chi Minh City (Formerly Saigon). It occurred to me how funny it would have been to have the Broadway Hit “Miss Saigon” call “Miss Ho Chi Minh .”
Ho Chi Minh City is nothing but hundreds of thousands of motor bikes! It is hot, humid, loud, big, and a mixture of many cultures. People who live here can handle all of this with seemingly good grace. The city is exciting but a bit frantic, as evidenced by these pictures:
After several days at sea , we arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. Sadly, their King, Norodom Sihanouk had recently died and they will be mourning him for a year. We were asked to be respectful by wearing black and white. This is what flashed through my mind (before I got serious).
Throughout the city of Bangkok, the government buildings were draped in black and white bunting. Many pictures of their King were placed in strategic locations. I imagined Beetlejuice jumping out everywhere!
One of the more interesting sites in Bangkok, was the Wood Pavilion, the Sanctuary of Truth. Construction of the Sanctuary of Truth began in 1981 and is not expected to be finished until the year 2025. The reason is that each piece of the construction is hand carved.
Thousands of wooden sculptures adorn the interior walls of the Sanctuary of Truth. These sculptures are said to represent the seven creators, Heaven, Earth, Moon, Father, Mother, Sun and Stars. I did notice one thing about the female sculptures. They all had very perky round bewbs….every one! I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld when she went to the restaurant with the well-endowed waitresses!
I almost headed to the ACLU when I came across this fella.
Our last city to visit was Singapore, one of the safest, cleanest cities in the world. (They give you $50 fines (US) for spitting or littering on the sidewalk)! I tried to control myself since I was down to my last $25. A very modern city, it prides itself on how green they are! No concrete jungles here, just concrete with jungles! This example is the Marina Bay Casino, Convention Center and Resort. The SkyPark on top of the building (1120 ft. long) has infinity pools, lush parks, and other amenities.
One of our stops was the breathtaking National Orchid Garden. I felt like I was going to the prom!
Unbelievably, Singapore has a China Town and it was time for Chinese New Year!
I came across a friend of mine trying to decide what was for dinner!
I bid a fond farewell to Singapore and their Merlion spewed their delight over my departure!!
Then I discovered what hell is like. My return to the US was grueling! I got up at 5 a.m. so I could leave the ship and tour Singapore. I got to the airport at 5 p.m. but didn’t fly out until 11:30 pm. I must say that if one has to sit in an airport for 6 1/2 hours, it should be in Singapore.
Next I flew 13 hours to Frankfurt, Germany. If you ever have to spend 15 minutes in an airport, this is not the place. I had to stay 5 hours. Typically German, the airport is utilitarian and efficient to say the least. (One could easily hose this down every night).
Five hours later I flew from Frankfurt to Tampa which took 11 hours. By my calculation I was awake 47 hours. I had two things to declare when I returned to the U.S.
Yes, I was really that tired!