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HONG KONG , CHINA – DAY 1

EVENING ARRIVAL

sunny 60 °F
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We had blue skies to sail into the amazing harbor of Hong Kong! Awesome! We docked in Kowloon, connected to mainland China by a buffer zone known as the New Territories. We docked on the Kowloon side near the Ocean Terminal .

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Over the next few days we used the classic Star Ferry several times to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back.

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The evening skyline is enchanting. Guinness World Records rates the 8pm laser and light show on the skyscrapers as the “ World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show”.

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We spent a few hours on shore enjoying the lights before returning to the Serenity for supper and a good night’s sleep.

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This is a map of the islands that comprise all of Hong Kong.

Posted by Swenigale 17:01 Archived in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, CHINA – DAY 2: DISNEYLAND (PART 1)

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“Hong Kong is a unique destination that has absorbed people and cultural influences from places as diverse as Vietnam and Vancouver and proudly proclaims itself to be Asia’s world city.” (Crystal publication)
So, naturally, there is Hong Kong Disneyland! Taking subways and trains we easily made our way to the Disney train at the “Sunny Bay” station on Lantau Island. (see map from Hong Kong – Day 1)

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Here is our ticket to the “Happiest Place on Earth”. We had a wonderful day which we will share in two postings. It was neat to see how the people of today’s China enjoy the universal appeal of Walt Disney’s dream.

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Come on in!

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The park is built near mountains – a great location!

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Mystic Manor, Hong Kong’s version of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion

Posted by Swenigale 21:41 Archived in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, CHINA – DAY 2: DISNEYLAND (PART 2)

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We are ready to fall in Toy Story Land

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Yes, we rode the “RC Racer”, too!

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Hey, is that the same hippo we saw in Florida?

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Small World has a fun and fancy exterior.

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Inside Space Mountain – the ride seemed longer and faster than Disney World’s. ( Maybe it’s just us getting slower?)

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The Disney Parade -“Flights of Fantasy”

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The excellent Lion King show – performed in English with two monkey characters written in to add Chinese translations – tricky!

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We enjoyed a “Magical Afternoon Tea”.

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Evening descends as we wait for the fireworks display over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It was fantastic!

Posted by Swenigale 22:41 Archived in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, CHINA – DAY 3– 3rd Segment

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The 3rd segment of World Cruise 2014 begins in Hong Kong.

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Our extended stay in Hong Kong gave us the confidence and time to travel far afield on their excellent transportation system.
We took the double decker bus thrill ride around and through the mountains on Hong Kong Island to Stanley Market for some shopping and bargaining.

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Later we had fish and chips and suds at the oldest English Pub in Stanley – Smuggler’s Inn.

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Looks like some smugglers tied up their junk alongside!

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Our next goal was to ride on one of the longest cable car systems in the world – located at the end of a subway line in the town of Ngong Ping. (The cherry blossoms are fake, but cheery and long-lasting!”

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The cable cars are strung about 3 miles over the mountains to the “Big Buddha” and the Po Lin Monastery.

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Cows and water buffalo roam the streets of what some refer to as “Buddha World”.

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With the cold wind whistling through our cable car and the shy smiles of the other passengers we descended through the darkening skies, secure in the knowledge that the Serenity remains docked one more night in Victoria Harbor!

Posted by Swenigale 00:36 Archived in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, CHINA – DAY 4

sunny 60 °F

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Ah, a bright blue sky on a sunny Sunday morning! Time to explore some more!
On Sundays in port our worship service is held late afternoon, so with an eye on the clock, we headed out.
On our way up – on Hong Kong Island there is what is described as the longest outdoor escalator in the world. Why would we not go there?

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So – here’s a look down to the street from the Central and Mid-level escalator.

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To bring commuters to work the escalator runs in a downward direction until 10am and then the rest of the day, up. Therefore, there are also stairs the entire way (since they always go up and down )

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We’re up! Now let’s walk to the zoo!

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Quick look at you, little guy, and we rushed to see the 2 ½ year old orangutan twins before their naps.

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Very shy

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Families and tourists enjoyed a beautiful day in the Botanical Garden.

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Walking farther down the hills we came to St. John’s Anglican Cathedral. We were here in 2009 and saw their Palm Sunday procession.

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Sidewalk Sunday picnics

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The sun is ready to set behind the distant mountains as we sail through beautiful Hong Kong harbor toward Vietnam.

Posted by Swenigale 16:51 Archived in Hong Kong

HON GAI / HA LONG BAY, VIETNAM

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Ha Long Bay is in northern Vietnam, 105 miles east of Hanoi and near the Gulf of Tonkin. We arrived on a foggy, drizzly morning and the ship anchored out in the bay.

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We walked along the shore looking for signs of life.

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The main reason to come here is to take a boat or junk (there are more than 1000 of them) out into the bay to see the over 3000 karst formations, caves and grottos- something we were fortunate to do on a clear day in 2009.

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Life on the water and on the sidewalks

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Back on the Serenity – is this a beautiful appetizer, or what?!

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Accomplished traditional Vietnamese musicians and dancers came on the ship this evening. They gave a stunning performance!

Posted by Swenigale 01:01 Archived in Vietnam

HON GAI / HA LONG BAY, VIETNAM -DAY 2

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All aboard – an early morning cruise on Ha Long Bay on a Vietnamese Junk! Itinerary: Ships tender to shore, taxi to Junk, Junk to a different Junk, passing through someone else’s Junk to get to the one that would take us into the bay!

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All commerce takes place on the water.

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Farther out in the bay we left our boat and climbed up into the amazing Dau Go Cave (or is it the Dong Thien Cung Cave?)

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The whole of Ha Long Bay was declared a UNESCO “natural heritage of worldwide importance” in 1994.

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The following pictures are snapshots of life on the water…

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…and life on our ship! World Cruise party in the Captains Quarters tonight – foods and fun from around the world!

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Posted by Swenigale 00:36 Archived in Vietnam

CHAN MAY, (HUE), VIETNAM

sunny 90 °F

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Our ship was docked in the port city of Chan May. We traveled for two hours through rice paddies and villages to visit Hue (pronounced “way”), the Imperial City of the Nguyen Dynasty

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This is where the ship was docked for the day, just a gateway to Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An.

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Vietnam is a long, narrow country, with mountains and plains, crowded cities, and small villages and farms – a remarkable blend of people from many different countries.

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Our visit to Hue - the following pictures show the gates, the Royal Citadel, the Imperial Palace, and the Imperial Enclosure where the most recent restoration is underway.

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Lunch in Hotel Saigon Morin in Hue with Royal Music and dancers

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These three pictures are from the “Heavenly Lady” Pagoda – founded in 1601 – it is the symbol of the city and is one of the holiest pagodas in Vietnam.

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We toured the extensive grounds of the tomb of King Tu Doc. It features a theater, mausoleum, work place and poem pavilion – completed in 1864.
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The king’s guards

Posted by Swenigale 03:06 Archived in Vietnam

SAIGON (Ho Chi Minh City), VIETNAM- Day 1

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Our long cruise up the curvy Saigon River brought us to our berth in Ho Chi Minh City (also still known as Saigon). We arrived before noon on Saturday and stayed for 3 nights, with a 3pm departure on March 4th.
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Our bus shuttle ride to the city center could take ½ hour or a lot longer, depending on traffic – but we were much more comfortable than these folks!

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….or these!

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There are many beautiful buildings and boulevards left from the French colonization in the late eighteen hundreds when Saigon was known as “The Pearl of the Orient”.

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Once again – we find the highest point and ascend! This picture of a picture shows the Saigon Skydeck – not the Heliport, but the bit below.
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The view from the top

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A zoomed in shot of busy Ben Thanh Market

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Shopping in Ben Thanh

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Walking in the city is a challenge – Ed had two guys vying with each other to repair his sneakers and to shine them!

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Our afternoon visit to reacquaint ourselves with Saigon drew to a close – and we returned to the welcome air conditioning of the Serenity, safely docked in the Phu Huu Port (really!).

Posted by Swenigale 21:51 Archived in Vietnam

SAIGON (Ho Chi Minh City), VIETNAM –DAY 2

90 °F
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Today we both escorted tours entitled, “Journey to the Mekong Delta”, a vast area home to 25 million Vietnamese. We traveled 2 ½ hours through lush countryside in small vans to the “long boats” waiting for us in the Mekong River.

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We boarded our boats in the town of Cai Be.

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The river originates in Tibet, and flows through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Who needs roads? We had a look at the floating market place.

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Mmm – fresh coconut drink for everyone.

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Cheers!

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We made several stops along the waterway, some with tricky stairs to maneuver.

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Making coconut toffee

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Not too close!

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Making rice paper…

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…and “pop rice”

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A man and his rooster

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This 1938 home of a wealthy farmer is now an Inn with beautiful gardens and fruit trees.

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Cute, yes?

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Not sure of the story here – one motor boat is pulling everyone along
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All of the parts of the water hyacinth floating in the river are used by the people.

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Back out on the open river we headed to the Mekong Delta Restaurant for lunch.

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There really is water there, honest!

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Traditional foods were prepared for us.

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You don’t see this every day! The Elephant Ear fish – not just a table decoration! Our skilled waitress used the flesh as an ingredient rolled in rice paper. Guests in the know pretty much ate the whole fish! After the long drive back to ship we made it just in time to lead the Sunday worship service at 5:15. Whew!

Posted by Swenigale 18:01 Archived in Vietnam

SAIGON (Ho Chi Minh City), VIETNAM –DAYS 3 & 4

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Vietnam is now one of the world’s fastest-growing retail markets and tourist destinations.
With more than 2/3 of the population born after 1975 those young people reportedly express little knowledge or interest in Vietnam’s history. The pain of their parents and grandparents and of American warriors and families has become part of the past. Today, their country is at relative peace.
The pictures in this posting are from our 3rd and 4th days in Saigon.
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We’ve almost caught the blog up to real time, so again, since we keep leaving the ship, I won’t write a lot – where much could be written.
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What a mixture of images!

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Bargaining is expected

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The Central Post Office – still beautiful

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Letters to home

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Low tech mail box

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Beauty, poverty, it’s all here.

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When you build something big, you can see it from all over – I guess that’s the idea.

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Street scenes

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Our final bus ride back to port – for a 3pm departure. Good-bye, Vietnam. Thanks, Crystal, for this amazing opportunity! Next stop, Cambodia!

Posted by Swenigale 19:41 Archived in Vietnam

SIHANOUKVILLE, CAMBODIA

sunny 90 °F
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Special interest and destination speakers have been presenting lectures about the history of all the countries we visit. Hearing a recounting of the dark chapters in Cambodia’s history were chilling. I guess it’s a good sign that travelers now feel safe to visit. In fact, Sihanoukville is expected to experience rapid acceleration of their tourism infrastructure.

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Signs of poverty, however, are everywhere. We chose this young man whose name is Sokhom, to take us on a tour for two hours.

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Competition for tourists’ money is intense – there must have been 50 tuk tuk drivers competing for ship guests to go on a tour with them – uncomfortably surrounding each person .until a decision is made. We chose our guide because we could understand his English.

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Not sure what’s on these skewers – so we didn’t place an order.

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Some wealthy Russians bought or leased an island and built a bridge to get there!

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Cremation ashes are interred in stupa.

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According to our guide, there is little healthcare in this area, and some children are raised in a self-perpetuating life style of begging. Sokhom has worked hard to educate himself and learn English to break out of what he called this “circle”.

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“Wat” means temple or monastery. This is “Wat Krom”.

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Golden statues abound in this Buddhist country.

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The high monastery, “Wat Leu”

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Great monkey photo taken on the steps of the Wat, yes?

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According to our guide this tree is found only at a Wat. A traditional medicine is the tea made from the flower of the tree and given to pregnant women to secure safe childbirth.

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We weren’t able to travel inland to Angkor Wat, the famous 12th century temple complex. Maybe some time in the future.

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The Upper Market, the largest market in Sihanoukville.

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For a few more dollars our driver brought us to the port entrance as far as he was allowed to go. Some ports are more attractive than others – maybe it’s the barbed wire?

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Our final view of the city – we never did get the story about that airplane!
Right on schedule we set sail in a southeasterly direction for Thailand.

Posted by Swenigale 06:16 Archived in Cambodia

KOH SAMUI, THAILAND

sunny 90 °F

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Koh Sami is a small island (just 13 miles long and 9 miles wide) but it is certainly on the world’s map of a great place for a beach vacation. We arrived at 10am, anchoring quite far out in the shallow water. We tendered to shore to see what we could see.

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Helpful signage

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The road that circles the island can be traveled by taxi, motor bike, or small open trucks called songthaews. We took a truck to the other side of the island, to beautiful Chewang beach.

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No, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

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Here’s a passenger truck…

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…and a look out of the back of ours.

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This wasn’t the beach we thought we were going to – we had hoped to snorkel.

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Not here. But look at me in the waters of the Gulf of Thailand!

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Fun stuff

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Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island, and is 20 miles from the mainland.

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On our way back to the tender pier we stopped at the Phra Yai Temple, the Big Buddha Temple on Bang Ruk Bay.

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The sun was a red rubber ball that night.

Posted by Swenigale 04:41 Archived in Thailand

SINGAPORE – DAY 1 (PART 1)

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View Serenity 5- WC 2014 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Singapore, the “Lion City”, is an island city state of 5 million people located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, just 88 miles north of the Equator. We arrived at their new Marina Bay Terminal early Sunday morning.

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Since our service time is 5:15pm on Sundays in port, we hit the ground running. This is a new area on landfill that wasn’t here several years ago. The three towers you see are the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. You can’t miss it – I think it is destined to be the most recognizable feature of the Singapore skyline. The Ferris wheel is the Singapore Flyer, and that is where we decided to start our day.

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By bus, subway and foot power we made it in record time.

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Looking down at the fantastic Gardens By The Bay

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Can’t get away from that boat in the sky!

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At the top of the highest Ferris wheel in the world (and that’s a fact, not just a feeling)

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Going down

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Singapore is one of the great commercial cities of the world. What you see are just a few of the many ships at anchor.

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Your captain

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The Singapore River flows through the city and a water taxi was our next means of transport.

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The Museum of Science is designed to resemble a lotus flower.

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The original “Bum boats” now serve as tour boats and water taxis.

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Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles oversaw the acquisition of Singapore for the British East India Company. He first landed here in 1819. This year marks the 50th year of independence for Singapore.

Posted by Swenigale 01:41 Archived in Singapore

SINGAPORE – DAY 1 (PART 2)

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View Serenity 5- WC 2014 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Walking in the city center we passed a Sunday Cricket match with the ever-present Sands Hotel in the distance. Makes me think of those evil airships in the film, “Independence Day”!

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This is St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, where many active Anglican Christian communities gather. The present site was chosen by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1823.

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There are 14 different worship services on Sunday. Besides English, they include services conducted in Mandarin, Pilipino, Bahasa Indonesian, Hokkien Service, and Little Myanmar Service.

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Scout Sunday?

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Ah, the famous Raffles Hotel…

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…home of the Long Bar and the invention of the Singapore Sling.

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We’re on a water taxi again with our aim to eventually get to the top of the Sands.

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Singapore River bridges, hotels, etc.

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And a bit of whimsy

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The symbol of Singapore, the Merlion. There is a story, if you want to look it up!

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Getting closer

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Yes, that is an ice skating rink in the mall, 90 miles from the Equator! Singapore is experiencing a drought and even they think it is too hot!

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We’re up! And we made it back to the Serenity in plenty of time to conduct the worship service. Amen!

Posted by Swenigale 18:51 Archived in Singapore

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