Sailing out of Victoria Harbour while Hong Kong flaunts its neon charms.
From here we visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum, housed in the former French governor’s residence, before travelling on to the Reunification Palace, scene of the taking of power by the Viet Cong in 1975. A couple more blocks deliver us to the most moving of experience of all, the War Remnants Museum. Outside is an impressive display of helicopters, planes and large-scale weapons employed in the American War. Inside, the museum is divided into different themes including international reaction to the war, the suffering of the Vietnamese people and the effects of Agent Orange. The photographic evidence of the suffering and destruction forced on the local people is as difficult to absorb, as it is important to acknowledge. How the local people are able to move on from such a catastrophe is testament to their fortitude and forgiveness.
We still have some time left, so we decide to enjoy some local dishes in the Ngon restaurant in Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Road before heading back to the centre of town to catch our transfer back to the Volendam
Our shore excursion in Cambodia is similarly moving and educational, encompassing a visit to a local fishing village, a monastery, a school and a pepper plantation. Our guide is a former prisoner of the infamous Pol Pot regime and he shares his family history in a simple summary which leaves us and our fellow travellers stunned into silence. Again, the sunny natures and welcoming attitudes of the local people make a deep impression.
In Thailand we decide not to visit Bangkok because of the distance from the port, instead sampling the sights of Pattaya which is a short 20-minute cab ride away. This, a fairly seedy beach town with too many shops and little natural beauty, is probably the one destination we could have easily foregone.
Koh Samui more than makes up for Pattaya. We dock on the western side of this small island and enjoy a 30-minute cab ride through the hills and along the coast to the more populated main beach at Chaweng. Here we spend a lazy day, enjoying the delights of brunch at the Library Hotel and reclining on beach lounges which overlook the deep turquoise Gulf of Thailand.
All too soon our leisurely exploration of some of the highlights of Asia is over. We dock in Singapore at 7am and by 9am we are speeding to our hotel. We’re sad to farewell our floating home, new friends we’ve made on board, and in particular, the Holland America staff who have made our voyage so special. But as our taxi picks up speed and we spy the delights of Orchard Road –and yes, more neon signs - we realise a good day is a shopping day, and we’re on our way to the epitome of shopping heaven.
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