Wednesday, 8 May 2013

My Cruise stop & Travels in Vietnam -- Guest blog by Linda Hardy

I'd like to introduce you to Linda. She is my Husbands Cousin, somewhere along the line in our family tree. We found each other a few years ago whilst doing our family history research. We haven't met yet because I live in the UK and she lives the other side of the world in Tasmania. We both have a love of travel and Linda's passion is cruising. Here she is sharing a destination she fell in love with, Vietnam. I'm sure it will fascinate you.

Welcome Linda.

Costa Classica Cruise Ship
In May 2011 I ventured on a 14 day cruise around parts of Asia, it was the first time I had been on a Costa Cruise – the ship was Costa Classica, but not the first time I had been on a cruise, in fact I love cruising!

I flew from Melbourne, Australia to Singapore where I stayed in a hotel and spent a few days prior to the cruise, doing a spot of sightseeing and shopping! I tend to be an independent traveller preferring to go exploring by myself and finding my way around. Though the ship does offer shore excursions, these can be expensive, whereas if you leave the ship you will often find other tours a lot cheaper.

The first port of call was to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, formerly known as Saigon. This was my
Linda in Ho Chi Minh City
first trip to Vietnam. The ship provided a shuttle bus to the city from the port which was not far. My first impression of Ho Chi Minh City is one of being a very pleasant city, easy to get around if you're walking and it's quite flat so if you have any difficulties with walking it shouldn’t be a problem.

There's lots of traffic everywhere, especially motorbikes. The city is quite charming in places with some old buildings, I was quite surprised how elegant some of the buildings are.

So many motorbikes!
                                                                             The only thing I found annoying is some of the people, some of the locals approached me speaking in English wanted to sell their wares ie: sunglasses, watches or cigarettes, and would follow you down the street, to get away I would walk into a shop, while other locals stood outside some of their own shops asking you to come in.

On one occasion one of the locals grabbed my arm wanting me to go with him to his shop, however I did not feel threatened in any way and kept politely saying No thank you, eventually if you ignore them completely and pretend you do not know English they will leave you alone, saying that though if your appearing a bit lost and looking at your tourist map the people are also very helpful to point you in the right direction going along with you to make sure you know where you are going.

The tourist industry is quite new in Vietnam and is yet to fully boom in this country and the people I think see us Westerners as quite a novelty and they are just trying to be friendly and helpful, to the point of being too friendly and too helpful, but don’t let this put you off.

Hoi Ann Temples.
Next stop on the cruise was Da Nang in Vietnam. There's  not a great deal to see here sightseeing wise, but I took a taxi ride and about 20 minutes later I was in the old village of Hoi Ann; a fascinating place that feels very olde worlde. At one stage I was in one of the temple’s in Hoi Ann and some Korean tourists wanted to have their picture taken with me so I obliged. I would suggest spending more time in Hoi Ann, well worth the taxi ride, which is not expensive at all and the taxi drivers do speak some English.


Ha Long Bay floating village.
                                                                                          The final stop on the cruise in Vietnam was the UNESCO World Heritage site - Ha Long Bay.The Bay seems very mysterious especially when it is cloudy and misty. Most visitors to this area opt to do cruises around the Bay. The town itself is very small and not much to see here though the market is worth a visit. I opted for a small boat tour around the Bay which included visiting the floating fishing villages. What a sight! Whole families live on these including pet dogs.

Overall I enjoyed my visit to Vietnam, it was not your typical commercial tourist spot, in fact commercialism has not arrived yet in Vietnam .I did notice several resorts being built so I’m sure the country will change as more tourists visit.

Da Nang & it's many sculptures.
 To visit the Vietnam Tourist Office click here

To visit Linda's home of Tasmania, click the tourist office link click here


Books based in Vietnam
Title - Cracker
Author - Cynthia Kadohata
Ages - 10 and up.
From Amazon - Click here
Blurb from Amazon
a German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell. She's a Big Deal, and she likes it that way. Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed. That was nice, too. Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant -- and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out for war -- wrong. But sometimes Rick can't help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right. Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad's hardware store. When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't so sure about this new owner. He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him. They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive. Told in part through the uncanny point of view of a German

Title - The Coroners Lunch

Author - Colin Cotterill
From Amazon - Click here

Blurb from Wikipedia
Despite a total lack of training, an utter dearth of experience and a complete absence of inclination, Dr. Siri Paiboun has just been appointed state coroner for the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It's 1976, the royal family has been deposed, the professional classes have fled and the communists have taken over. And 72-year-old Siri - a communist for convenience and a wry old reprobate by nature - has got the coroner's job because he's the only doctor left in Laos.
But when the wife of a Party leader is wheeled into the morgue and the bodies of tortured Vietnamese soldiers start bobbing to the surface of a Laotian lake, all eyes turn to the new coroner. Faced with official cover-ups and an emerging international crisis, Siri will be forced to enlist old friends, tribal shamans, forensic deduction, spiritual acumen and some good old-fashioned sleuthing before he can discover quite what's going on...
For other books set in Vietnam, click here. Sadly a lot of them are military books and war books, which is a shame when it seems such a beautiful and fascinating country. There must be an opening for an author there!
Thanks for joining me today and welcoming Linda. And thanks Linda for sharing your experiences.