This one will cover a 14 day Singapore - Hong Kong cruise with Holland America Line aboard the MS Volendam, yes another Dam ship. The Volendam entered service October 24, 1999 and is 777.56 feet in length. She has a crew of 625 and carries 1225 guests and is captained by Jetoen Baijens. .
Even though our cruise started on Tuesday , November 22 this story starts a week earlier on Tuesday, November 15th. My Lovely Teena and I wanted to spend a little time in Hong Kong and we elected to do so before our cruise instead of at the end. So our trip began at the Calgary Airport . We flew on to Vancouver and overnighted. Then on Wednesday the 16th we boarded a Boeing 777 for the 13.5 hour flight to Hong Kong.
Wow, our first time in Hong Kong, there sure is a lot of up in that city. And a lot of people. We spent 5 days in the city and obviously we didn't do or see everything, but we took in what we could. We based ourselves at a hotel in Kowloon as we thought that would be the best area in which to stay. From there we set out each day via a hop on hop off double decker bus to see Hong Kong. We took in the Sky View 100 Observation Tower ( 100 floors in 60 seconds ), we saw Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, The Garden of Stars, Kowloon Park, The Clock Tower, the Ladies Market, the Temple St Market, Hong Kong Coliseum, and The Peninsula Hotel. WE took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour and saw the Peoples Liberation Army Headquarters Building, often called " the inverted gin bottle" due to its shape. We visited Repulse Bay, Stanley Bay and Aberdeen, where we took a ride on a Chinese sampan. We also took a tour of Victoria Harbour, it's the best way to see Hong Kong's skyline. We also took the Victoria Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak. The views from here are over whelming.
Such was our whirlwind tour of Hong Kong. We certainly took in what we could in a short time. Like I said, we saw lots but left lots for the next time.
Oh yes postcards, what would a trip or cruise be without postcards?
I knew about this cruise months in advance, so had time to order stamps for all the ports. This saved time and provided nicer stamps to use, most times in the post offices there is little choice, so this time I chose. I posted a bunch of Hong Kong cards at the airport post office. The staff there were quite helpful in fact.
I have a number of HKG cards to show , and I am starting with one actually showing something we didn't see --- Giant Pandas. I believe these two are Ying Ying and Le Le.
The Giant Panda stamps are from a 2008 set of four, showing Ying Ying and Le Le. Nice airport style cancel.
Next is a card showing a group of very young apparent employees of The Peninsula Hotel. I thought 12 years old was too young to work in Alberta, but I guess younger the better is the rule in Hong Kong. I guess that's why the service at The Peninsula is tops, they trained from such an early age.
I used stamps from 2002 on this card. They are 2 of 4 in a Cyber Industry set.
My next card is the Peak Tram as it makes its way up Victoria Peak. As you can see, it provides a magnificent view of Hong Kong.
A stamp from a 2012 set of 6 was used this time. They marked 150 Years of Stamp Issuance in Hong Kong.
From Hong Kong we then flew to Singapore to meet up with our cruise. I brought Singapore stamps with me, intending to mail a few cards from here. Such was not the case. We ran into time constraints and there was simply no time for postcards. Maybe next time , at least I'll have the stamps.
We boarded the Volendam around 2pm on Tuesday , November 22 and sailed out of Singapore Harbour at 4 pm. Then Wednesday the 23rd was a sea day . Our first port of call was Nathon, Thailand and we dropped anchor at 7:13 am on the 24th of November. We tendered ashore and took an excursion to Koh Samui to see the Big Buddha.
Wat Phra Yai , or as it's known in English, Big Buddha Temple , is a golden, 12 metre seated Buddha. Built in 1972 it depicts Buddha in a state of calm, purity and resolve. Here's the postcard of Big Buddha.
A number of Princesses adorn this card. On the far left is a 2012 Princess Rajrakitiyabha stamp. Next is a 2016 commemorative marking the 84th Anniversary of the Teacher's Training School. The it's Princess Sirindhorn from a 2005 issue. Lastly we have Princess Chulabhorn from 2012.
Two novice monks are the focus of this next card from Thailand. We saw many monks while we were at Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is a city about 80 km north of Bangkok. It was at one time the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. It was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. The old ruins are now an archaeological site containing palaces, Buddhist Temples, monasteries and statues. The historic city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list in 1991. It was wonderful to visit this UNESCO WHS but very sad to see the destruction caused by the Burmese , especially all the statutes with their heads lobbed off.
I used a nice set of 4 War Ships on this card. The set was issued in 2014.
I posted these 2 cards in Ayutthaya and they received a Bang Pa-in cancel. Bang Pa-in is 1 of 16 districts of Ayutthaya Province in central Thailand.
This next card is of an image I will always remember from our trip. It is a Buddha Head in tree roots at Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya. This iconic image of a Buddha Head entwined within the roots of a tree is one of the most recognizable images from Thailand.
My Lovely Teena prepared this card for me and used a lovely set of 4 Thai Dancers celebrating the 2011 Thaipex Philatelic Expo.
The final card from Thailand is a beautiful view of Ayutthaya.
The 3 stamps on this card commemorate Vesak Day 2015. They show the Emerald Buddha , left to right , in Summer attire, in Winter attire and in Rainy Season attire.
Those 2 cards are postmarked/cancelled in Suan Phlu Post Office, one of Bangkok's Post offices.
After leaving Nathon we sailed on to Laem Chabang, Thailand, arriving early in the morning of Friday, November 25th. Then it was on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia arriving on Sunday , November 27th. Here we visited Pattaya City and later the Sanctuary of Truth. This temple is an all wood building, 103 meters high and filled with sculptures based on Buddhist and Hindu motifs. Construction started in 1981 and completion is scheduled anywhere between 2030 and 2050. One reason for this uncertainty is the wood construction , always seems this piece or that piece needing replacement.
We also visited Kampot, a city of about 40,000 located in southern Cambodia around 5 km from the Gulf of Thailand. Kampot is known for it's high quality pepper and durian. Of course we purchased some pepper. I picked up a few postcards here but by the time I got to mail them , we were back in Sihanoukville, hence the postmark.
This first card shows some of the images of Cambodia - salt workers, boat races and the famous durian roundabout.
On this one I used 2 stamps from 2004 issued for the 50th Anniversary of the Cambodian Red Cross.
My next card shows a member of the Jarai, an ethnic group living in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia.
The stamps are 2 from 1997, issued on the occasion of the Death of Princess Diana.
The next 2 cards are Angkor Wat cards. We weren't lucky enough to visit Angkor , but I found the cards in Kampot and bought them.
This first one shows a portion of Angkor Wat itself, the largest religious monument in the world.
Once again it's Diana stamps, 5 this time along with one more of the Red Cross stamps.
Here's the last Cambodia card. On it we see Bayon Temple, the last temple to be built at Angkor.
I used a bit of a mixed bag of stamps on this one. There are 2 more of the Red Cross stamps, along with a stamp from 1996, issued to celebrate the Atlanta Olympic Games. The on the right is a 1996 Souvenir Sheet issued for Capex 1996, a World Philatelic Exposition held in Canada.
Now I know that this is a long update, and I really hope you're still reading. Just so you know, it's not over yet. I still have a number of ports in Viet Nam to address. I didn't want to break this cruise update up into 2 parts so I'm going to continue on , hoping you stay.
Tuesday November 28 was a sea day. Nothing to do but enjoy the ship and all it had to offer. Then, we would have a lot to cover in Viet Nam , 4 ports and Ha long Bay.
We arrived at our first port of Phu My, the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City, on the morning of Tuesday, November 29th. From Phy My we set out to tour Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still called, by almost everyone living there.
There was lots of interest in Saigon - Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Ben Tranh Market, the Rex Hotel and the Central Post Office. We also visited the Bitexco Financial Tower, saw the Opera House , and lots of evidence of Saigon's French colonial influence. And last but not least, the site of the last American helicopter leaving Saigon at the end of the war.
Let's start with a postcard of my favourite place - the Central Post Office. It was busy, bustling even loaded with stamps , postcards and souvenirs. I could have stayed there all day. The best post office I have visited so far in my travels.
My Lovely Teena picked out this card and used a small 4 stamp mini sheet from 2005. It was a WWF issue.
This next card is a look at Reunification Palace, once the home of South Vietnam's president, which was the centerpiece of the dramatic seizure of Saigon , unconditionally , by the National Liberation Front in 1975. They did this by driving a tank through the front gate.
On this one we find a definitive from 2007, 1 of 3 in a set featuring Ho Chi Minh himself. Along with the definitive are 3 of 4 Lighthouse stamps from 2013.
Now here's a card featuring the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City. I don't know if it comes with a phantom or not though.
A nice set of 4 stamps on this one. They were issued in 2012 and are highlighting Local Costumes.
Now it's a card showing a portion of the business section of Saigon, with the Bitexco Financial Tower, mid center, near the back of the card. We visited the 49th floor observation platform . Quite the view from up there. We were told the platform was built as a helicopter landing pad, but no one can ever remember a chopper landing there.
I used another of the Ho Chi Minh definitives here along with a beautiful Ha long Bay stamp from 2008. It is 1 of 2 in the set.
The Ben Tranh Market is featured on my next day. This market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon. And looking at the ladies out front, it must have been a lovely day for a stroll on the square.
I used a 3rd Ho Chi Minh definitive along with 2 of 3 stamps in a Music Groups set.
Getting back to our cruise, we arrived in Nha Trang on 30 November and Da Nang on December 2nd. We weren't very impressed with Nha Trang so no postcards from there.
On to Da Nang - much nicer, but raining when we were there. Not that it stopped us from enjoying the day. We saw some of the remnants of the USAF presence in Da Nang, old air force hangars . We also saw and walked on My Khe Beach, which was known by American soldiers as China Beach. This is a 20 mile long white sand beach and is considered one of the most beautiful in Asia.
Here we are ( My Lovely Teena and I ) on China Beach.
From Da Nang we next went to the ancient town of Hoi An - World Cultural Heritage Site. Here you can see some of Vietnam's best preserved buildings, dating back over 1000 years in this former spice trade capital. Hoi An was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1999. Here is my Hoi An card.
This is another card from My Lovely Teena and she used a wonderful single stamp Monkey souvenir sheet. It was issued in 2014.
On the 2nd of December we sailed out of Da Nang and after a day and a half, we arrived at Ha Long Bay around 6:30 am on December 4th. And Beautiful doesn't even describe it. Ha Long Bay was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and again in 1999. It was also named one of the world's new seven wonders in 2012. Ha Long Bay is the best of Vietnam in one place. We toured around many of the islands in a junk, a wonderful tour indeed. If film was still in vogue, I would have been disappointed early, as surely I would have run out of film. I took dozens of pictures , so would never have had enough film.
I have 2 beautiful postcards to show here but the real thing is even more beautiful. Here's the first one.
I used a mix of stamps on this one. 2 of the Lighthouses set and 1 of the Local Costumes set.
Here's a morning view of Ha Long Bay on this card from My Lovely Teena.
On this one Teena used a couple of definitives from 2016 and 1 of the Lighthouse set.
Ha Long Bay is certainly a beautiful place , a special place in my opinion. You can feel it when you're there. Before I visited Ha Long Bay, my special place was Moraine Lake, in The Valley of the Ten Peaks , here in Alberta. When I'm there , it's a place that relaxes me, I don't want to leave, it's that special. Here's a card to give you a look at Moraine Lake.
So now I've been to two special places. I'm sure there are others out there and maybe some day you'll read about my visit to them too, here on the blog.
From Ha Long Bay we sailed on to Hong Kong and arrived there at 7 am on Dec 6th. From there it was a taxi to the airport and the long flight back home.
A final postcard for this update is one from My Lovely Teena which she purchased in HK Airport and dropped in the mail to me. It's a great early evening view of Hong Kong.
Teena used 1 of 12 definitives issued in 2014.
So there it is , Cruising Thru Postcards # 8 is done. The cruise was great, Hong Kong was wonderful, Viet Nam was wonderful, Cambodia and Thailand were good and I only wish that I had more time in Singapore..
Thank you Teena for the cards you sent , and with me going off and looking for postcards must take a toll on you, but you never complains about it. Big thanks to you.
If you're still reading, I am sorry for the length of this update but I felt it was best to issue it in one go. Hope you enjoyed it and I'm sure there'll be a # 9 sometime. Take care.