China/Japan Cruise

We just spent 11-days sailing the high seas, exploring the coast of China and Japan. Now that I have Wi-Fi again, I will be posting the details of our trip. I will post about China today; I will post about Japan when we get back to the US – apparently there is no such thing as a 3-prong outlet in our hotel in Japan, so I don’t have enough juice to post about the Japanese ports. Bummer!

Embarkation Day

Xiamen, China

Shanghai, China

Tianjin, China

Back to Hong Kong

We were in Hong Kong just over a year ago so have recently seen the “tourist spots” in town.

This time around we just took it easy, wandering around neighborhoods and soaking up the atmosphere. I took some time off of writing about our adventures and took only a few pictures. I will just share my general impressions rather than my usual detailed post: Hong Kong 2018

If you are interested in a more detailed view of Hong Kong, along with plenty of pictures, here are my posts from last year’s trip:

Land Ho! 

HO HO!

To Market! To Market!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day in Hong Kong

Locked Up Abroad?

Have you ever watched “Locked Up Abroad” on Nat Geo channel? Think of Midnight Express only world-wide. The show focuses on those that are stupid enough to try to smuggle drugs out of various countries in various ways. Invariably they are caught and have that “Oh, my God” moment when they are stopped at customs. From there, they are led to a special room to be interrogated and eventually arrested. Why do I bring this up? Read on.

We decided to fly to Hong Kong from Hanoi. Good decision, by the way. The train trip from Saigon to Hanoi was enough train travel to sate me for a few months, at least.

Our hotel arranged a shuttle to the airport bright and early in the morning. It was a pleasant drive since we were heading out of town, so not as much traffic. We passed by a large flower market. Do you know that the flower markets in Vietnam are open all night long and close in the morning?

We were dropped off at the international departures area at Noi Bai Airport. Check-in was easy enough. Our bags were weighed; we were given our boarding passes (JetStar Airlines did not allow web check-in for this particular flight). Did you know that some Asian airlines also weigh your carry-on bag? No more than 7 kg allowed for your carry-ons. Anyhow, we were pointed to a checkpoint on the way to immigration.

Clayton’s boarding pass and passport were scanned; he was passed through to immigration. I expected the same for me because, why not? The uniformed officer scanned my boarding pass and instead of waving me through, gestured me to stop, grabbed his walkie-talkie and started talking. Of course, he spoke not a word of English. Let’s just say he sounded very, very serious. I had no idea what the problem could be. At least my conscience was clear because I definitely wasn’t carrying any contraband. However, this is a communist country and just because I was innocent didn’t mean that things would go smoothly for me. I assumed he was calling for a female guard to escort me somewhere private for a full body cavity search.

I was getting pretty nervous by now. And I was innocent! Imagine how nerve-wracking it would be if you were doing something naughty? Eventually, the guard finished talking over the walkie-talkie and said, “go back counter”. I asked if my husband could come with me; he said yes. We went back to the ticket counter and explained what had happened. No one seemed to understand why I had been sent back. Finally, one of the agents figured out that I should have been sent to the room where luggage was being examined. She walked us over there and I handed over my documents to the man working there. I saw my suitcase had been set aside so assumed that they had seen something inside that concerned them when it was scanned.

I was asked if I had e-cigarettes in my suitcase. I answered, “absolutely not!” (I am not a smoker). I was asked to open my suitcase. I had all of my belongings (other than clothing) organized into ziplock bags which was helpful. I held up each ziplock for them to inspect. They still insisted that I had an e-cigarette in my luggage so sent it through the scanner again. He looked at the x-ray and then brought the suitcase over again for one more go-through. The offending item turned out to be a sonicare toothbrush! That would be one BIG e-cig! My boarding pass was stamped to indicate that my bag had now passed inspection and we were able to continue our journey. Whew! No body cavity search necessary!

The rest of the immigration/customs experience was fine. The flight was fine. We made it to Hong Kong and found our hotel just fine. I feel especially fine since I am not locked in a prison cell in a communist country!

 

 

Dodging Motorcycles in Hanoi

We had read all kinds of information about how crazy it is to cross the road in Hanoi; motorcycles and cars just don’t stop for you. We were curious because we had found that to be true in Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Saigon was particularly bad. Could Hanoi be any worse? Read about our time in this lovely city by clicking here: Two Days in Hanoi

The road from hell, er, I mean the road to Ho Chi Minh City

When we planned this trip, we wanted adventure; to experience the culture of the places we were visiting rather than flying from city to city. To get from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) we opted to take the Giant Ibis bus. Would we do it again? Read on:

Giant Ibis Bus: the l o n g ride to Saigon

We Made It! First Impressions of Saigon

Two Days in Saigon

Top Tips for Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

 

From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: The ultimate game of chicken

You really haven’t experienced true terror until you’ve experienced driving in Asia. Everyone passes everyone; rules of the road don’t seem to apply, at least not the same as they do in the USA! We spent 6 hours driving through the Cambodian countryside today.

I think I have figured out the rules of the road for passing slow vehicles here:

  • If you are in a tuk-tuk or motorbike, just save yourself time and drive on the shoulder. Everyone will be passing you all of the time.
  • If you are in a car and want to pass slower traffic, feel free to pull into oncoming traffic if there are cars or motorcycles in that lane. They will get out of your way. If it is a van or truck, don’t pass
  • If you are in a van or small pickup truck, pass whenever you want (unless there is a larger truck headed your way)
  • If you are in a truck, pass whenever. You are bigger than everyone else and they will get out of your way
  • The pretty yellow lines (whether dashed or solid) down the center of the road are purely decorative. They mean nothing
  • Speed limit? What speed limit?
  • Traffic signals don’t exist until you get to Phnom Penh, so if there is an intersection, be bold. Drive right through and hope like heck that others stop for you. And when you get to Phnom Penh, feel free to ignore red lights. They are as meaningless as those silly stripes that are supposed to separate traffic

If you would like to read about our adventure and see some pictures I took along the way, click on the link here: From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh via Cambodia Post VIP Van: Playing Chicken on the Road

Temple Bound!

We originally had planned an adventurous trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap via train and tuk-tuk to the Cambodian border, crossing the border on foot, and then finding a bus, van, or cab to take us to Siem Reap. It sounded like fun until we found out that the train portion was 3rd class with no air conditioning. The entire trip? Around 9 hours. Instead, we opted for a one-hour flight from DMK airport in Bangkok to Siem Reap. It ended up being a much better plan.

From Bangkok to Siem Reap

Siem Reap

The Temples of Angkor Wat

Top tips for Angkor Wat