Sailing out of Victoria Harbour while Hong Kong flaunts its neon charms.
Tai Chi breathing and exercises are offered at 8am on most days as well as digital lessons and photography tips with the onboard ‘techspert’. We agree that we are not quite ready for the tote bag decorating nor the tissue paper flowers classes, but that’s a highly individual choice, of course.
Our first stop in Vietnam is Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site which boasts more than 3000 limestone islands. The shore excursion is a four-hour cruise, with a visit to Thien Cung Cave on one of the many cool and cloudy days common in the region, so it is disappointing to not see the ancient limestone formations as clearly as we had hoped. The walk to the cave, however, is a highlight.
In our next port of Da Nang we decide to act independently and grab a cab to Hoi An. As well as the most picturesque town in Vietnam, Hoi An is also the easiest for those who enjoy self-directed touring. We start our day in Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, at the Cargo Café where we enjoy excellent coffee, French pastries and catch up on domestic matters courtesy of the free wifi. A short stroll away, the ancient Japanese covered bridge leads to traditional community houses and chapels as well as some fun shopping. Doubling back, we find ourselves on the river again, enjoying traditional yellow colonial houses and chats with local vendors. A 120,000 Vietnamese Dong (approx. $AUD64) ticket which allows entry to up to five ancient monuments is great value.
Next on the list in Vietnam is Nha Trang and here we enjoy a cooking lesson with our guide Hoa. First stop is an extremely busy and crowded local food market where we are shown local fruits including durian, milk fruit, and dragon fruit as well as dried shellfish. We then head to the restaurant on an island in the middle of a local river, where the resident chef demonstrates three different dishes before we try our hand at creating them ourselves. It’s great fun and the meal, washed down with the local beer, is delicoust. Afterwards we head to the very cool Sailing Club slap bang in the middle of Nha Trang’s seven-kilometre beachfront, to enjoy coffee and free wifi before heading back to the Volendam.
Next stop is our last Vietnamese port, Phu My, which serves modern Ho Chi Minh City, or, as the locals still prefer to call it, Saigon. Our transfer allows us six hours in HCMC and this is plenty of time to hit the big five ‘must sees’ of Saigon. An easy walk allows us to cover them comfortably even though the temperature is a steamy 30-degrees. We start in the centre of town at the historic Rex Hotel where, in the 60s US army briefings on the war (somewhat ironically termed the Five O’clock Follies) were held. Fortified by coffee, we head out to admire the stunning French colonial architecture of the Continental Hotel in nearby Dong Khoi Street, before heading north to the similarly impressive Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
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