Sunday, October 12, 2014

The hottest day of my life - Chan May, Vietnam

I was very much looking forward to Vietnam - I've only heard good things from those who had been there. And so it was with eager anticipation that we awoke to this:

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And we weren't the only ones up and about to see our new port:

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It was already a humid 28C, and my camera steamed up as I went from air-conditioned comfort to step outside and take pics. The ship had docked in Chan May, a container terminal port, and judging by the scenery, as pretty as it was, there wasn't too much around, except the odd resort.

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As is our wont, though, we hadn't booked a tour. There was a shuttle bus that took us to a nearby resort, Lang Co, so we hopped on that. The resort was a bit run-down, if I'm going to be honest. We were warned that the taxis at the wharf were illegal and that you could possibly end up being taken up into the hills and never being heard of again. There were taxis at the resort, but to get to Da Nang (the nearest city) was going to take 1.5 hours and it was already 11am.

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Did I mention it was hot? It was soooooo hot. 34C, blazing hot sun and over 90% humidity. So hot. And that kind of made us all a bit cranky with each other. So after some cranky discussion, we decided NOT to catch a dodgy cab, and to make the best of the resort. Except they wanted US$5 per person to sit by the pool and we didn't have US$5 per person on us. Why? Because someone (um, me!) got hassled down the beach.

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IMG_7604Now I am going to admit straight up that I am the worlds worst haggler. We wandered down to the beach and were immediately greeted by Vietnamese ladies selling all sorts of pretties. I had not really acclimatised to that yet and started having a chat with them. They were wearing long-sleeved shirts, socks, hats and face masks. I asked them if they were hot, and they said no, but the reason they covered up was because fair skin is highly valued in Vietnam. Anyways, a bit of a haggle back and forth and I got my silver elephant bracelet for roughly $15 Aussie dollars and I was happy with that. But Wombat Girl had also picked out a bracelet, so I paid for that too. And that pretty much left us with about $10. Enough for a couple of beers. Or to be able to sit by the pool (because the beach was too freaking hot). But no. They insisted on $5 EACH and so, the pool was out of the question, because I had spent nearly all our Vietnamese money.

[caption id="attachment_2048" align="aligncenter" width="800"]IMG_7602 Hey look, I'm tall![/caption]

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So Hubby and Wombat Girl decided to get changed and go for a swim in the South China Sea. I contemplated it, but to be honest, getting my fat ass out of my sweaty clothes and trying to wiggle it into a swimming costume made me feel exhausted and Video Boy doesn't much like the beach, so we sat and watched from the best vantage point - the set of stairs leading down to the beach, in the shade, with the odd breeze to cool us off.

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IMG_7618OODid you notice how red my face was? Kids kept asking me if I was OK. Yes! I'm OK - just ridiculously hot! The cool of the ship beckoned and we decided to head back.

I just Googled Lang Co to put the link in this post and apparently, there are Elephant Springs just 15km away. With shade shelters and cool, clear water and ice-cold beers for sale. I'm a tad cranky at myself now. Always Google before you travel, people! Far out, brussel sprout:



Let's pretend I never saw that, shall we? If I ever find myself back in Chan May, though, I know where to head. Either that or actually take the damn tour.

We headed back to the ship. It was a sight for sore eyes and sweaty bodies:

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I nearly had to perform first aid on a very unwell looking elderly man who was in the queue in front of us. He looked DREADFUL, people! All sweaty and gray and yuck. Got him a chair. Personally, I would have been calling the docs, but his wife just took him back to their room, along with her HUGE haul of purchases from the little stalls in front of the ship. Poor man is nearly dying because she shopped til he dropped! Hope they enjoy their tea-towels. (PS: I know he was OK, because I spotted him later on during the cruise).

A quiet lunch at the buffet and a swim was in order.

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And onto the next port, because I can pretty much say that one was a bust. Except I have a really lovely silver elephant bracelet that I wear at work now :-)

And for those of you who enjoyed the Ingi-sweat-o-meter so much in Port Douglas last year (scroll right down to the bottom), I think Chan May, Vietnam was right up there with reasons to show off my girls. You're welcome!

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

All Aboard!

The day dawned, bright and hot. So hot! But it was the day our cruise started! We wandered around town for a bit (see Not Shopping post). And unanimously decided it was time to board the ship, because they give you cold face washers as you get on board and because we were hot.

We wandered out from our hotel and secured a cab to take us from the hotel to the port. Those bags we lugged on trains from the airport to the hotel? They needed to fit into a cab! No problem!!!

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Um, well, I suppose that will work! Video Boy spent the whole trip watching out the back window, in case we lost a couple of bags! Meanwhile, only in Hong Kong, could you get in-cab entertainment!

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Kai Tak Cruise Terminal was not functional when we were there last year. It is built on the old airport runway, which supposedly was one of the scariest landings in the world. Nowadays, it is luxury for cruisers, who no longer have to schelp to their cruise ships in tenders or park at container terminals.

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You know why I love cruising? Lots of reasons, but one of them is ease of boarding. Hand over your bags to the friendly porters, get in the queue of about 2 people, and BAM! Holiday started! I'm sure at some ports and some times there are queues. But not this trip:

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Now, one of the reasons I love Princess Cruises, is because they reward you for being a repeat customer with perks. Now we were already Ruby members of the Captain's Circle, which meant we got great perks like 10% off the Reflections DVD (which we NEVER purchase). Meh. If you are on your 6th cruise or 51st to 150th cruise days, we would become Platinum members - which meant FREE INTERNET! We were on our 49th cruise day and unfortunately, we had to wait until AFTER this cruise to become the coveted Platinum members and enjoy priority embarkation (and beat those non-existent queues) and FREE INTERNET.

But as travel agent, you can do online training with Princess, to become an expert, and as you move up through the reward levels, you move up the member levels. Well, it took me a good few hours of intensive quizzing, but before we departed I became a Commodore on Princess online training, which entitled me to ELITE status, baby!!!!! Normally after your 15th cruise or 151th cruise day, you are entitled to Elite perks! Yes - FREE INTERNET! Which meant I could update my family and friends on FB with free abandon! But wait...there's more! Free mini-bar setup with a load of wine and free little bottles of spirits! Thank you! Deluxe canapes selection on formal nights! Thank you! Upgraded bathroom amenities! Thank you! 10% of everything at the boutique, including the sales! Thank you! Complimentary laundry service (towards the end of the cruise, I handed in two bags worth - they would have charged me $148 for all that - instead complimentary for Elite guests)! Thank YOU! Special queue at the purser's desk for Elite passengers! Thank you! Some other stuff too, which we didn't use, but the joy of wearing my black ELITE card around my neck for the entire cruise, with many experienced cruisers wondering "how the hell has she cruised so much?" - THANK YOU!!!

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Kids had an interior cabin, as we have had in all previous cruises, but the deals were THAT GOOD, that we were able to afford a balcony cabin! Thank you!

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Is a balcony cabin worth it? I have to say, on a warm cruise, like this one, it was nice being able to walk out and enjoy some quiet time, away from all the other guests. Except the occasion where I was enjoying the view and watching Manta Rays (yes!) in the ocean, which of course, the guy on the balcony next to ours, decided was a perfect time to clip his toenails. Sea breeze, warm air, clip. Clip. Clip. Clip. OMG! Really????? It had to have been a guy. Just sayin'... It was also lovely to wake up in the morning and know whether it was morning or night, because there was SUNLIGHT coming in around the edges of the curtains, which you don't get in an interior cabin. Oh, and the extra stateroom space is kinda nice too.

Anyhoo, we phaffed about a bit sorting out soda packages for the kids, getting our cards punched so we didn't lose them like last time (anyone? Wombat Girl?), removing our "pre-paid" gratuities which you don't get charged on Aussie cruises. And then it was beer o'clock!

We actually joined this cruise midway through it's voyage from Shanghai to Singapore. A lot of people disembarked in Hong Kong, and so that's why we must have got such a great deal on the second half of the cruise. So, there was no big sailaway party, but instead, we found a great spot at the aft of the Sapphire Princess, overlooking my favourite pools, and watched the sun set over Hong Kong. Which is where I'll leave you until next post, when we head off to Vietnam!

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