(Vietnam Flag)


(Vietnam Map)


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2009:

All of the images below are thumbnails and can be clicked on for a larger image.

On Friday morning we sailed into the harbour of Nha Trang, Vietnam and dropped anchor.
Nha Trang Bay is widely considered as amongst the world's most beautiful bays.
Weather wasn't too bad. We had a few drops of rain during the day but for the most part it was nice.
The harbour of Nha Trang, Vietnam The harbour of Nha Trang, Vietnam The harbour of Nha Trang, Vietnam

Eleven minute video of the Diamond Princess sailing in the harbour outside Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Nha Trang has about 300,000 inhabitants. Nha Trang was the site of the Miss Universe 2008 Pageant.
Nha Trang is known for its pristine beaches and excellent scuba diving
and is becoming a popular destination for international tourists.
Nha Trang, Vietnam Nha Trang, Vietnam Nha Trang, Vietnam

The Cham towers of Po Nagar were built between the 7th and 12th centuries.
The site was used for Hindu worship as early as the 2nd century AD.
Today, both ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists come to Po Nagar to pray and make offerings.
Cham Towers

Seven minute video of my visit to Nha Trang, Vietnam.

I took a several hour cruise on the Cai River.
We made three stops along the river and were able to see the way of life of the Vietnamese people.
Cai River Cai River Vietnamese children

Eleven minute video of my boat trip on the Cai River in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Late Friday afternoon we sailed away from Nha Trang after a very interesting day.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON OCTOBER 16, 2009
Hello everyone,

We sailed into the harbor of Nha Trang, Vietnam this morning at 8:00.

The harbour of Nha Trang, Vietnam

This was a tender port and they didn't seem to be very efficient with them. There were long waits to get on and off the ship. It is very hot and humid here. I'm not sure why we even stopped here. We'll be in Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow and there wasn't much to see here. But it was an interesting stop to see how the people live here. It is a very poor country. Almost nobody drives cars, you see very few of them on the road. Motorbikes are the most common mode of transportation. Below is a picture of beautiful downtown Nha Trang. A City of about 80,000 people.

Nha Trang, Vietnam

The tour here in Nha Trang was conducted by college students. Our guide was nice and tried hard but had a very limited knowledge of the English language. Our first stop was at the great Cham Tower which is pictured below. I know this is a sacred temple to the Vietnamese people but wasn't able to understand much more from the guide.

Cham Towers

We spent most of the rest of the day on a small boat cruising down the Cai River.

Cai River

During our cruise down the river was passed a fishing village and saw fishermen on their rickety boats.

Cai River

We stopped at three different villages along the way where we were fed fresh fruit and coconut milk.

Vietnamese children

Weather today was cloudy with a little very light rain. Considering a typhoon hit not too far from here less than 48 hours ago that wasn't too bad. I am still fighting that cold but haven't let it stop me. Will write more tomorrow.

Tim
Click on email photos for the large full-size photograph.



SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2009:

On Saturday we docked in Phu My, Vietnam at around 7:00 in the morning.
It was a couple hour drive into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Phu My.
Our first stop was at a musuem in the center of the city.
Museum in Ho Chi Minh City Museum in Ho Chi Minh City Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

The Reunification Palace was designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu as the home
and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the site
of the official handover of power during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
Reunification Palace Reunification Palace Reunification Palace

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica was established by French colonists,
the cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880.
It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 190 feet. The cathedral is next to the main post office.
Thien Hau Pagoda was built by the Cantonese in the early 19th century.
Notre Dame de Saigon Main Post Office Thien Hau Pagoda

We had a very nice lunch at a local restaurant
where we were entertained during our meal.
Dancers entertaining during our lunch

The nine minute video begins with singers that entertained us during our lunch at a Ho Chi Minh City hotel.
The video then shifts to the Diamond Princess back in Phu My as we prepare to depart.

The Rex Hotel was made famous and popular by American troops during the Vietnam War
when its conference room hosted a daily press conference, by the MACV,
derisively named The Five O'Clock Follies by cynical journalists.
Its rooftop bar was a well known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.
Next to the Rex Hotel is City Hall and the Statue of Ho Chi Minh.
Rex Hotel City Hall Ho Chi Minh Statue

Eleven minute video of my tour of Ho Chi Minh City which includes the
Reunification Palace, Post Office, Rex Hotel, U.S. Embassy, City Hall, Museum, water puppet show.

During my visit to Ho Chi Minh City I was mesmerized by the traffic.
Millions of motor scooters weaving in and out of traffic.
You would see entire families riding on one small bike.
We saw one man hauling a washing machine that he had strapped to the back of his scooter.
Ho Chi Minh City traffic Ho Chi Minh City traffic

This eleven minute video was shot from the bus window as we traveled from place to place in Ho Chi Minh City.

We returned to Phu My late Saturday afternoon and then sailed away early in the evening.
I enjoyed my brief two-day visit to Vietnam very much.
Me on the Diamond Princess in Phu My, Vietnam The Diamond Princess departing Phu My, Vietnam The Diamond Princess departing Phu My, Vietnam

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON OCTOBER 17, 2009
Hello,

We docked in Phu My, Vietnam before sunrise this morning. By shortly after 7:00 I was off the ship and on my way to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is called today. Saigon is 50 miles from the port city of Phu My. It takes over two hours to get there on Vietnam's "unique" road system. As was the case yesterday, motorbikes are everywhere. But here add cars, trucks and buses into the mix. The most entertaining part of the day was just watching the traffic. It is something you would have to see to believe. Millions of scooters weaving in and out of traffic. When passing other vehicles there is about an eye lash's width between the two. Whole families ride on one small scooter with tiny babies perched in between. And they carry everything on these small bikes. We saw one man with a washing machine strapped to the back of the bike driving it down the road. All but the busiest intersections have no traffic lights or signs of any kind. And we were traveling on Vietnam's National Road. A bumpy decrepit road with every type of vehicle from a large modern bus to and ox cart on it. Cattle grazing on the side of the road. And every ten miles or so you had to stop and pay a toll for the privilege of traveling on this deluxe thoroughfare. I would have included a photo of the traffic, I took a lot of video of it but I didn't realize I didn't get any stills.

Our first stop was the National History Museum. While there we saw a water puppet show. Next it was off to Reunification Palace which was formerly the Presidential Palace of the Republic of South Vietnam. The building is still used for state visits. See pictures below.

Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

Next we stopped at the Notre Dame Cathedral. 9% of the Vietnamese people are Catholic.

Notre Dame de Saigon

Today's shopping stop was at the Tay Son Lacquer Factory which was followed by a very nice lunch at a local hotel. During the meal we were entertained by singers, dancers and musicians.

Dancers entertaining during our lunch

After lunch our first stop was at Chinatown's Sea Goddess Temple.

Thien Hau Pagoda

Below is a statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of City Hall.

Ho Chi Minh Statue

Below is a picture of the Rex Hotel. This is where all the journalists stayed and filed their reports during the Vietnam war.

Rex Hotel

Next it was a two hour drive back to the ship where we were once again mesmerized by the traffic. There are no McDonalds or Starbucks here. In fact the only western chain I saw was KFC. Our tour guide said they were going to get some McDonalds soon. They don't eat much meat here. Our tour guide was an interesting guy. Full of off-color jokes and had no problem with telling us very intimate details of his life.

Ho Chi Minh City traffic

At 6:00 this evening we sailed away. That's me below on the deck of the Diamond Princess just shortly before we sailed away.

Me on the Diamond Princess in Phu My, Vietnam

It was a very fun day. Vietnam definitely was not a place of scenic beauty. Very hot and humid. But very interesting just to observe their culture. Tomorrow is a sea day as we make our way to Singapore.

Lots more to come, so stay tuned.

Tim
Click on email photos for the large full-size photograph.

Saturday evening I attened the crew talent show in the Princess Theater.
You can watch the performance in the video below.

43 minute video of the International Crew Show on the Diamond Princess.



SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2009:

On Sunday we were sailing south in the South China Sea toward Singapore.
I was one of the six people selected to take the ultimate ship's tour on Sunday.
It was a very interesting tour covering almost all areas of the ship normally offlimits the the passengers.
Our first stop on the tour was the bridge where we talked with Captain Bob Oliver.
Me on the bridge of the Diamond Princess with Captain Bob Oliver



MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON OCTOBER 18, 2009
Howdy,

Today was a sea day as we make our way to Singapore. I had a nice surprise last evening. At the beginning of the cruise you can sign up for a tour of the ship. Then they draw the names out of a hat for those that signed up. Then those select few get to take the tour. Well guess who got chosen? Yep, little ole me.

There were only six of us on the tour. The tour lasted close to three hours. Our first stop was the bridge. There we were introduced to the Captain. The captain talked to us for quite a while and showed us all the instruments and how the bridge is run. The ship's wheel is actually about one third the size of your car steering wheel.

Me and fellow passengers on the bridge of the Diamond Princess with Captain Bob Oliver

Next the Staff Captain, who is second in command, took us into the rafters of the ship where we saw the ventilation system and other mechanical systems of the ship.

Me and fellow passengers in the ship's Funnel with the staff captain

Basically we covered almost all areas of the ship. The head of each department conducted the tour for that aspect of the ship. The chief engineer showed us the engine room. That was also very interesting. The ship burns about one million dollars of fuel every 8 or 9 days on average. He probably has the hardest job on the ship. He seems to be responsible for just about everything. Producing the electricity, making fresh water from the sea water, repairing and maintaining absolutely everything on the ship and much more.

Me and fellow passengers in the ship's engine room with the chief engineer

We went back stage at the Princess Theater, home to Princess’ sparkling stage productions. We meet the cast and production staff, who will showed us what goes into making sure the show goes on night after night, including costumes and dressing areas, scenery and technical operations such as lighting and sound.

Me and fellow passengers back stage of the Princess Theater with two cast members of the production shows

The tour continued through the galley where we saw them preparing all the food. The laundry where they do several tons of laundry each day. The print shop where they print the ship's daily newspaper. The photo lab where they print about 25,000 pictures every seven days. It was a very interesting tour.

We were not allowed to take pictures on the tour. But the ships photographer took pictures of us in several departments. Those are the pictures I posted above. We were also given some gifts. One was a very nice terry cloth robe. But it weighs a ton. My luggage is already over weight. The airline will probably charge me a fortune assuming I can even fit in my luggage.

After the tour my VIP status was over and I had to return to the real world and do my laundry.

The picture below is of the ship as we sailed away from Vietnam last night.

Diamond Princess

Will send a report from Singapore tomorrow.

Tim
Click on email photos for the large full-size photograph.


Click on the arrow above to continue to my next adventure, SINGAPORE.

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