Wednesday, 4 May 2016


Before we started this blog, we embarked on a trip of a lifetime, so although we didn’t take it this year, we wanted to share our previous travels with you, and it has also given us the opportunity to look back on what was one absolutely fantastic trip.

Anne C had always wanted to go to the Far East, and also to go on a cruise,  so for her 60th birthday we booked a Silversea cruise leaving from Singapore and ending in Hong Kong.  We had work commitments during the summer of her birthday so booked for the following winter, when the weather was more comfortable for us Brits unused to extreme heat!

Arriving on board the Silver Shadow, we were given a glass of champagne, then shown to our comfortable cabin which had a walk-in wardrobe, twin beds, television, small lounge area and terrace, and where we were introduced to our butler Dennis, a lovely smiley man who throughout our stay was always helpful and accommodating, bringing us breakfast in the room when we had early morning starts, and afternoon tea when we were too exhausted to go up on deck.

Our fridge was regularly stocked with champagne, Grey Goose vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin (our respective favourites), but since all drinks are free of charge on the cruise, we didn’t really need to have our own private stock. Silversea cruises are towards the top end of the market, and although a little more expensive than some lines, they do include all drinks and gratuities, plus you get your own private butler, which means you truly do get some individual attention. We can personally attest that the customer service on board is excellent, the food is fabulous, and the ratio of staff to customers is very high.  If there is a down-side – and we can only think of one – is that the ship we sailed with had a slightly dated decor– although beautiful and comfortable it was a bit like your parents’ home or gentleman's club, and not the shiny marble and glass of some of the new larger cruise ships.


Our first port of call was Koh Samui in Thailand.  We awoke to brilliant sunshine and turquoise waters and a tender took us into the port where we boarded different coaches for our various destinations.  


Silversea gives you a number of different options for your shore excursions, and we chose the introduction to Koh Samui, taking in visits to the Big Buddha and the Plai Leam temples, an elephant exhibition (we had chosen this because we had heard horror stories about elephant rides and not treating elephants with respect – to be honest, we didn’t like this either – the elephants were made to play football – again this is something we think is just plain wrong!) and a demonstration of monkeys picking coconuts, which is the island’s main export.

The Big Buddha was stunning, a beautiful golden statue up a very long flight of steps.  Notices nearby remind visitors that this is a holy site and local rules and dress codes must be observed, while the Wat Plai Laem is a living temple, set on a lake, where devotees come daily to pay homage to Guanyin and the Buddha, who is also depicted in a number of statues and murals around the temple.

Other visits during our stay in Koh Samui included cookery lessons and beach and spa resorts.


The following day we docked in Bangkok for a two day stay.  We chose the Grand Palace and scenic old Bangkok where we marveled at the stunning temples with their beautiful mosaics and intricate jewelled detail.  Full of history and gorgeous artifacts, mini temples and fragrant gardens, it was a lovely place to pass the morning.

Other tours included temples and tuktuk rides, cocktail cruises and river markets.  You could also have a private car to visit wherever you pleased. A friend has recently visited Bangkok and recommended the river markets so it would be fabulous to go back and see these.

We didn’t actually dine out while in Bangkok, so we’re sorry to say we can’t recommend where to eat – the food aboard ship was just amazing and they had a huge “barbecue” and show during our docked  evening, with every kind of food imaginable, from Thai to Indian, American, Chinese, Italian, salads, vegetarian – you name it, followed by desserts of every description!

We decided to go it alone the second day and hired a taxi to take us around – starting with a trip to a tailor to have a silk and cashmere suit made to measure (it wasn’t quite as inexpensive as we expected though, but it  fitted perfectly and  magically appeared on the ship within 24 hours!)

We then went onto the enormous Chatuchak market which sells everything under the sun – from cute puppies to lamps to jewellery to crockery to shoes to fish - and everything else, and it takes all day to get around.  Be warned however that the toilets are Asian – ie a hole in the ground (we didn’t like that either). You can even have a foot massage to ease your weary feet.  The taxi driver then took us on a little tour to buy gifts – leather goods and jewellery (of which we both indulged).


Our next port was Ho Chi Minh City which was known as the Pearl of the Orient by the French, but which the Communists renamed after their most famous leader.  However this former Cambodian – now Vietnamese – port is still called Saigon by almost everyone who lives there. It obviously has a very chequered history and has been fought over many times during the past 2000 years.

We took the Saigon Highlights tour, marveling at the thousands of motorbikes on the roads, the appalling electrical cables dangling everywhere and the general hustle and bustle of the place.  Our tour took in a museum, the Notre Dame cathedral – a copy of its French counter-part - City Hall, Chinatown and the Thien Hau Temple preceded by a hair-raising rickshaw ride to the lacquer factory, where we watched the team there making beautiful painted designs to be used on everything from coasters to full dining room sets.  Unfortunately we thought the rickshaw drivers were incredibly rude – haranguing us for tips after the ride (which we would have given anyway, but they were very pushy).

The department stores were something out of Grace Brothers – and seemed very old fashioned compared with our stores.  We also took in the Rex Hotel, made famous during the Vietnam War as a hang-out for the war correspondents and the daily conference hosted by the American military command, which was derisively named the Five O'Clock Follies by journalists.
Other tours included an artist’s community and the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of connecting underground tunnels and the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam war and where the Viet Cong soldiers hid during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches, and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.  We were told they were very touristy, and also quite tiny, so probably not for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia!


Staying in Vietnam, Nha Trang was the next stop and as we sailed into the harbour on a fairly murky morning, we were greeted by the longest cable car over the water that we had ever seen.  (When I told my daughter later, she told me she had been on the cable car and it was the scariest thing she had ever done – I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time!)

This is a lovely coastal resort with beautiful beaches and wonderful scenery.  Our excursion included a backstreet tour of some of the poorest areas, followed by a river cruise to a local village where we saw the cock-fighting pit – fortunately not taking place – and a family making beautiful terracotta cooking pots, which they sold for just a few pence in the markets. 

The Vietnamese families live from day to day, catching fish and selling what they do not need, then buying their other food with what they have earned.  And then they do exactly the same the next day – a very humbling experience. We also visited an ancient village house which has been turned into a museum – where the beds looked to be very uncomfortable and the wardrobe houses minimal serviceable clothing, unlike our substantial wardrobes of today. However, they always have food on display which they lay out for the Buddha also on display.


Then it was onto Chan May and Hue, bisected by the Perfume River, inland from the South China Sea and the seat of 13 Nguyen-dynasty emperors. We chose to take the excursion to Hoi An, a world Heritage UNESCO site, which my daughter had previously visited and which she said we would love.  We did. However, to get there the road snaked through the Hai Van tunnel underneath the Annamite mountain range – a 4 mile long tunnel which is a little scary if you don’t like being underground.

We saw centuries old relics at the Hoi An Museum, visited the Phuoc Kien Temple and walked over the ancient 12th century covered bridge.  This picturesque little town is criss-crossed by canals with wonderfully decorated boats, in homage to its heritage as an ancient trading port. The pretty shops were amazing too, and we also visited a store with live silk worms creating their beautiful threads and of course we had to buy lovely silk scarves as souvenirs.  We also visited one of the oldest homes in the village which often suffered flooding , and we were taken to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant, again with a wonderful array of exotic foods. 

On the way back to the ship, we visited the Cham Museum with its centuries-old relics, and drove across the amazing US architect-designed Dragon Bridge, which is 666m long, 37.5m wide and has six lanes for traffic. 

This modern bridge crosses the Han River at the Le Dinh Duong/Bach Dang traffic circle and breathes fire each Saturday and Sunday night at 9PM, though sadly we didn’t manage to see that!

A trip to Marble Mountain and nearby shop selling beautiful jewellery and amazing statues completed this visit, while other excursions included cookery demonstrations, museums, markets and intricate embroidery workshops.

Life aboard ship was just fabulous! From gala dinners to enrichment lectures from guest speakers, to musical shows, wine-themed itineraries, quizzes or just relaxing in the pool, strolling on the deck, workouts in the gym or – more our style – pampering in the beauty spa.  There was also a cinema or you could watch films from the comfort of your own cabin. 
Food was available all day long, so it would have been very easy to over-indulge.  Hot or cold drinks were freely available all day, but we loved the afternoon tea, which was beautifully served, with fabulous views as we sailed up the Mekong Delta.

We would have been as happy to have a couple more days at sea, so relaxing was the actual journey – particularly since we had made sure we had plenty of sea-sickness remedies with us in case the sailing part of the journey was rough.

For us, visiting the places we had only ever read about, and knowing the history of the troubles during the Vietnam War, it was very sobering.  But the people were very friendly, even though the locals thought we were American.

Choosing photographs from this trip has been really hard - we have somewhere in the region of 800 photos between us, so we have had to be quite selective.  Also there are none with us on together since we both take the pictures of each other!

We would certainly go back in a heartbeat – and then perhaps we could take some of the other excursions we missed!


  1. A fab trip. Beautiful photos. I did eat in Bangkok and there is a huge huge fish restaurant there. It's the size of a market. I'm sure hotel concierge could point readers to it but I don't know it's name.

    1. Thank you Anna - if we ever go back to Bangkok we will try and find out what it's called!


© Sensational Baby Boomers

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig