Bora Bora, French Polynesia

January 21, 2015 & January 26th & 27, 2015

Today we flew to LAX and waited for our connecting flight to Papeete and while we were waiting there was an issue with the plane so we couldn’t fly until the next morning so Delta put us up in a hotel.

Finally the next morning we flew to Papeete and caught a connecting flight to Bora Bora and our Four Seasons Hotel boat was there to pick us up and take us to the hotel.  Once there we checked in, and we were driven to our hut above the water by a golf cart.  We had one of the best huts it was all the way at the end so when we had complete privacy. We loved everything about this hotel except the prices the alcohol no matter what you ordered other than beer it was $21 and up. I always thought that Hawaii was paradise until we visited this island.  Bora Bora is simply breathtaking the water is an amazing blue color, which is crystal clear and the people on the island are nice. We jumped into the water right from our deck, and John also had a chance to go Jet Skiing with one of the locals named Hiro who worked at the hotel while he was jet skiing they stopped where there were stingrays and black tipped sharks and John swam with them.  He said it was the best experience Jet skiing he ever had.  Hiro also made me a little purse made out of palm leaves.

John
Maria

Maria
John

Maria
Maria
Maria

John
Maria

Videos of Bora Bora

January 26, 2015 

Today we didn’t have any tours set up we decided to go to Bloody Mary’s and have lunch and a few drinks. Bloody Mary’s is a famous restaurant where a lot of celebrities have visited.

January 27, 2015

Today’s tour was an exciting one it was an Aqua Safari; we took a short transfer from the pier to the dive site, where we got briefed by a certified diving instructor about what we were going to do.  This unique underwater experience allows us to descend to a depth of 10 feet and walk along the ocean floor with a heavy metal dive helmet.  Once underneath we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful tropical fish and colorful coral and huge stingrays.  I am not a fan of doing things underwater but this was such a great experience I had to do it, and I was glad I did.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Apia, Samoa.

Maria
John
John

Bangkok, Thailand – Canals & Royal Barges

March 30th & 31st, 2014

Today is our second to last day on the ship we have arrived in Bangkok which is an amazing city full of waterways which give this city character. From the pier, we boarded a river boat which took us along the Chao Phya River through the canals (Klongs). Along the way, we saw floating grocery stores, water taxis, teakwood houses on stilts and some temples. Our first stop on this water tour was at the Royal Barge Museum which houses the ornately decorated longboats once used for royal functions. In the pictures below you will see a picture of the Suphanahonge, gold encrusted swan-shaped barge used solely by the king.

Our next stop on the water tour was Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. After walking up the steep stairs, we had fresh coconut milk which was delicious.

The next day we had a private tour set up where we took a James Bond style boat around different parts of Bangkok which were very cool. From our James Bond long boat, we got a chance to see The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keaw Then in a car we drove to Wat Pho which is known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The measurements are 45 meters long and 15 meters high. It’s so big it has to be viewed in sections. From there we went to see, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya where the Buddha’s head is embedded in a tree trunk. To end our day we had a chance to ride an elephant which was decorated with a red canopy.

Bracelet made out of Tuberose & Orchids
Rose all day by the pool
Chandelier made out of real flowers
Mandarin Oriental Pool
Maria
Made out of flowers

Mandarin Oriental water taxi

One of the Royal Barges

A handmade purse made out of laquer

Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria & John
Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria and John – with our good friends Bill & Deepen

Maria & John

A club we went to in Bangkok

Saigon, (Ho chi Minh City), Vietnam – Mekong River Cruise

March 27, 2014 – Saigon – Mekong River Cruise
Today we had a river cruise scheduled which was once again something I learned about in school. Our tour bus drove us to the delta port of My Tho where the Mekong River begins. The river starts in the Tibetan Plateau and is 2,795 miles to the Mekong Delta and the South China Sea. The river has what they call Nine Dragons that fan out covered with green rice paddies and orchards of coconuts, mangos, pineapples, and bananas.

From here we boarded a motorized boat to get to our paddle boat. We paddled through the jungle which was thick with vegetation you could barely see the sky. We then stopped on a small island and saw some handmade things being sold by locals. It was quite an experience. After a short ride through the Delta, we then boarded a motorized boat once again and went back to our tour bus to the pier.

March 28, 2014 – Saigon – Private Tour
We schedule a private tour today so that we can see more things without having to deal with 40 other people. Saigon began as a small fishing village; then it was rebuilt by the French in the mid 19th century. Modern day Saigon has a population of more than seven million people and is the largest economic center of Vietnam. We visited the Huyen Khong Monastery inside a cave which was cool. After that, we just drove by the beach and visited some stores that sold marble stone statues.

Follow us on our journey the next and last destination on this trip is Bangkok, Thailand.

Maria

Maria & John – with Captain Igor Bencina & F&B Director Adam Martindale onboard Oceania Cruises

Hue/Da Nang (Chan May), Vietnam – Da Nang & China Beach

March 25, 2014 

Today we had a half day tour scheduled for the city. Da Nang is a beautiful city considering all the conflict that happened years ago. It was a major US Marine base during the Vietnam conflict, Da Nang was a strategic air and seaport, and most of the brutal fighting of the war happened there.  We visited Cham Museum it housed the most extensive collection of Cham art in the world, dating back to the fifth through the 16th century. After a visit to the museum, we stop at the Han Market for a little retail therapy.  The last stop was driving to Marble Mountain.  This mountain was made up of five hills, each representing one of the five elements of the universe: water, wood, fire, metal, and earth.  Our tour guide said that both Vietnamese and the Cham used these mountains to build shrines, so it’s picturesque with numerous grottoes, caves, and pagodas. The caves were also used by the Vietcong to hide during the war.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.

Maria & John

Hanoi (Ha Long Bay), Vietnam – Junk Boat Cruise

March 24, 2014

Today we arrived in Vietnam and began our day with a short drive from the ship to the junk pier in Ha Long city. Once there we boarded the junk boat called Phuong Hoang, this was one of the wildest boat rides we’ve ever been on. To get out of the pier, all the boats were bumping into each other hence their name Junk boats. We began our cruise in the bay which is located in the Gulf of Tonkin; Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s outstanding natural wonders. This densely concentrated zone of Karst Islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We weren’t lucky with the weather it was raining and foggy, but it was still pretty.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Hue/Da Nang (Chan May), Vietnam.

Our friends Bill & Deepen

Hong Kong, China

March 21, 2014 – Hong Kong, China – Open Top Bus & Temple Street Night Tour

Tonight we boarded an open top double decker bus for our night tour. We drove through the heart and soul of Kowloon. We drove past the Peninsula Hotel and modern Hong Kong Space Museum. We then drove to the animated Golden Mile of Nathan Road, the longest street in Hong Kong. On Nathan Road we were dazzled by all the bright neon lit up buildings. We also had the chance to go shopping at the Temple Street Night Market. This was a long street filled with vendors selling clothing, knock-off watches, posters all sorts of souvenirs.

Maria & John with elementary school kids

Our friends Albert & Beverly
Our friends Marilyn & Willy

March 22, 2014 – Hong Kong, China – Lantau Island & Po Lin Monastery

Lantau Island is the largest of the 235 islands. The full day tour began with a drive to Tsing Yi Lookout where we had a panoramic view of the Tsing Ma Bridge. After a brief photo stop, we drove to Tung Chung Terminal to change bus’ to drive on Lantau Island. We drove along the winding roads to Tai O Village which is known as “Hong Kong’s Venice” because of its many crisscrossing waterways.

Upon arrival on Lantau Island, we began our walking tour of Tai O and the Po Lin Monastery. The monastery is located at an altitude of 1,700 feet on the Ngong Ping Plateau. We then walked to see the main attraction which is the 250 ton, 102 foot high Bronze Buddha statue called Tian Tan Buddha. This is largest seated Buddha statue in Asia. The pedestal of the statue is a three-story exhibition hall embellished with Buddhist figures and scriptures.

After taking a bunch of photos, we walked to have a vegetarian lunch prepared by the resident monks which was delicious.

The last stop on this tour was a cable ride by Ngong Ping Skyrail. This is a spectacular 5.7km (3.54 miles) cable car journey, traveling between Tung Chung Town Centre and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island the floor of the cable car was glass which was scary at first but after a few minutes we got used to it and were able to enjoy the panoramic views. We went to the South China Sea and the North Lantau Country Park. We saw the best views of Hong Kong on this complete glass Skyrail.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Hanoi (Ha Long Bay), Vietnam.

Maria & John – with our friends Mark & Dennis from Miami

Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan – Hot Springs

March 19, 2014 – Taipei, Taiwan

Our tour today began walking through Yangmingshan National Park which was nice.  After walking through the park and taking in the beauty, we went and had a traditional Taiwanese lunch which was fabulous.

Our last stop was the Cal La Young Garden Resort to enjoy the therapeutic hot springs.  We had a great time soaking in the mineral rich waters. The view while at the hot springs was amazing. After an hour of relaxing at the hot springs, we boarded our bus to drive back to the ship.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Hong Kong, China.

Nagasaki, Japan

March 17, 2014

After cruising the East China Sea, we arrive at our next port Nagasaki. We began our tour visiting Nagasaki Peace Park, commemorating the city’s destruction by the plutonium bomb dropped on August 9, 1945. Fat Man was the second bomb dropped on Japan, missed its target by over a mile and a half, it leveled nearly half the city.

The park’s main attraction is this massive Peace Memorial Statue depicting a man with his right arm pointing to the sky to indicate the continued threat of nuclear destruction. The next stop was the Atomic Bomb Museum which had over 900 artifacts showing the city’s devastation.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan.

Part of the Nagasaki Peace Park
Peace Memorial Statue

This guy was a young kid when the bomb was dropped and he is one of the few survivors still alive.
Fat Man
Maria & John – with our friends Willy & Marilyn from Miami

Shanghai, China – Day & Night Tours

March 14th & 15th, 2014 – Shanghai by Day

Our tour began with seeing the Shanghai Museum located in People’s Square. This museum was huge it had 110,000 historical objects and 430,000 reference pieces. It had bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, painting, sculptures, jade, furniture, coins and artwork.

After the museum, we visited the Yu Garden. This garden was built between 1559-1577 A.D by the Pan family from the Ming Dynasty. I loved the garden the buildings, the bridges, and ponds were so lovely.

Maria & John
Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria & John

Maria & John
Maria & John
Scaffolding made from bamboo

March 14, 2014 – Shanghai, China – Shanghai by Night

This was the first time we were taking a tour at night which was different and kind of cool. As we started our drive around Shanghai, the buildings were very pretty and brightly lit up. Unfortunately, there was a bug traveling through the cruise ship, and I was unlucky and was one of the passengers who got sick. The bad part was that it started while I was 15 minutes into this tour. I ended up getting sick at our first stop which was the Jinmao Building, the 2nd tallest building in China and among the top 10 in the world.

At this point, I had to make the best of it since we had two hours to go. We went up to the Observation Lounge on the 88th floor. From this vantage point, we saw the skyline of Shanghai all lit up on both sides of the river. After about an hour at this hotel, we then drove to our last stop which was People’s Square where we had some free time on our own which I didn’t even get off the bus. I thought I was going to die at this point of the evening.

March 15, 2014 – Private Day Tour

We are still in Shanghai and unfortunately, I stayed on the cruise ship because I was still sick.  John had a private tour set up for the city.  He did some sightseeing and some shopping.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Nagasaki, Japan.

John and the tour guide Shen

Seoul (Incheon), South Korea – DMZ Third Tunnel – Demilitarized Zone

Seoul (Incheon), South Korea – DMZ Third Tunnel – Demilitarized Zone

March 12, 2014

Today’s tour was going to be a great one.  We had to bring our passports with us because we had to show it to the military before entering the DMZ. I’ve learned about the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in school, and I have always wanted to see it.  We began our scenic drive to Seoul from the pier along Unification Road, which is the main highway connecting Seoul and Panmunjom.  Along the way, we saw Freedom Bridge which is the only bridge that crosses the Injin River connecting North and South Korea.  For thousands of North Koreans, this narrow wooden bridge was the path to freedom at the conclusion of the Korean War.  Upon arrival at the DMZ, we saw that it was heavily guarded by the American and South Korean military.

Created by the Korean Armistice Agreements signed in July 1953, the DMZ is a 155 mile long, 2.5-mile wide military demarcation line (MDL) with a 1.2-mile wide demilitarized zone on each side of it.  After the military had briefed us, we took a guided tour of the museum.  After the museum, we continued to the third tunnel.  This 5,364-foot long tunnel is located about 240 feet underground and is over six feet high and wide.

This tunnel was designed for a surprise attack on Seoul, the tunnel crosses the demarcation line into South Korea, and is capable of moving 30,000 battle equipped foot soldiers per hour.  The tunnel was quite impressive.  They had painted black spots on the walls so they could say they were digging for coal.

The last stop on tour was the Dora Observatory for a panoramic cross-border view of North Korea propaganda village.  We were told not to take any pictures of North Korea beyond this yellow line that waspainted on the ground.  If you did they would grab your camera away.  It was a pretty serious thing.

Follow us on our journey the next destination is Shanghai, China.

John

A view of North Korea