Day 63 of 111. Sea Day for Paul en route to Singapore.
While Ron is traveling in Cambodia, Paul had a hands-on cooking class with Hong Kong chef, Jowett Yu. He has an Asian Fusion restaurant in Hong Kong, but his culinary background includes French techniques in culinary school, cooking in Australia, and home cooking with his family. The starter dish was Wagu Beef Tartare. Wagu beef is special because the cows are fed chocolate for the last four months to fatten up the cows and make the beef darker and richer. The main course was delicious steamed barramundi. My team worked on dessert. A Kit Kat brownie (green tea flavored Kit Kat) topped with caramel, green tea ice cream, popcorn and marshmallows. Everything except the marshmallows were from scratch. Delicious.
Ron was in Cambodia. They had a tour of the Beng Mealea Temple. After lunch, they drove to Angkor Wat where they were blessed by a monk. These pictures are all from Angkor Wat. The temple complex is a major tourist attraction, but also an active Hindu temple. Vishnu is shown above. The bottom pictures are a “small” temple that was only discovered in the past few years. Angkor Wat has been the movie background for famous movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as Laura Croft: Tomb Raider.
Day 62 of 111. Phu My, Vietnam
Ron left the ship for a three-day overland excursion to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The first day, however, was spent in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Ron visited the Independence Hall (formerly the Presidential Palace). The tanks were the first to enter its grounds in April 1975 effectively ending the Vietnamese War. Tank 843 is a Russian tank; Tank 390 is Chinese. There was also a visit to the History Museum.
Day 61 of 111. Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang is a town with many beautiful beaches. We saw visitors from everywhere in their beach attire heading to the sun and water. We first visited an embroidery shop. On many of these excursions, we get dropped off at a jade factory or jewelry mart, but the embroidery in this shop was exquisite. We saw embroidered pictures in China as well. This shop has ladies working on pieces and you are given a quick introduction to the craft. People were picking up nice smaller pictures for between $100-$150. Of course Ron’s favorite picture cost over $1800!
Next, we went to the Long Son Pagoda, a Buddhist temple with mosaic dragons decorating the entry and roof. Ron climbed the 152 steps to visit the huge white Buddah sitting in a lotus flower. I stayed below and poked around the temple (take your shoes off) and saw the beautiful statues. In 1963, two Buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War. There are shrines to them as well as information about them on the bottom of the white Buddah.
The third stop was the Po Nagar Cham Towers. The ancient Cham people built these towers between the 7th and 12th centuries. This is a Hindu temple. Ron saw some dancers behind the towers.
Our last stop was very exciting for me, the Dam Market which is a giant two-story market complex that can accommodate 6,000 shoppers. We wandered through the small stalls and bought a couple of t-shirts, a belt, and a thumb drive. We
Day 60 of 111. En route to Nha Trang, Vietnam
We have passed the halfway mark on this trip. This is the second of two Sea Days and I’ve completed another watercolor project, a Chinese Junk, I believe. Ron is gearing up for another overland trip to visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia. He is very excited, but we haven’t quite recovered from our four day trip around China. We are moving closer to the equator and the weather has changed from cold and snow to hot and humid. We get to break out the Hawaiian shirts again!
Day 58 of 111. Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong, China
Lantau Island has been developing. It has the new Hong Kong International Airport that is built completely on reclaimed land, that is, where there was once water, a man made island is the base of the airport. Hong Kong Disneyland is also located on Lantau Island, but we did not see it. This Buddhist monastery was established by three Chinese monks who came to Hong Kong looking for the perfect place for meditation. The Fen Shui of this site was perfect because of the mountains on three sides and the water below. This monastery and temple is actually newly built and beautiful to see. There is a Buddha on the hill that is the largest sitting bronze Buddha in Asia. There are 268 steps to climb to get to the Buddha. We had to rest from time to time on the way up, but we made it. Oddly enough, cows are allowed to roam freely on Lantau Island. They were once used for farming, but no longer, so they are wild and considered “retired”. There is, of course, a shopping area near the monastery. We didn’t find anything to buy, but there were several nice photo opportunities, such as the large lucky cat!
For over 150 years, Hong Kong belonged to the British. In 1997, it was given back to China. China has said that Hong Kong will not be changed by China for 50 years. People in Hong Kong have many more freedoms than people in Mainland China (Facebook is available, for example). The Hong Kong citizens are speculating what will happen at the end of the fifty years. The official flower of Hong Kong is the Bauhinia, a five pedaled bright pink flower (also pale pink and white varieties are found) and shows up as decorations and also on the Hong Kong flag.
Day 58 of 111. Tai O Fishing Village, Lantau Island, Hong Kong, China
Lantau Island is the largest island of Hong Kong. It used to consist of a lot of farms and fishing villages, but many move to the cities and fish and produce are imported in a larger percentage than before. This is a village that stays with the old ways. The houses are up on stilts. This village is also called the Asian Venice. There is a lot of fish caught that are dried. I took a picture of dried shark fins used for shark fin soup. Our guide says that dried fish can last up to 10 years! Even this small village has a temple (the Kwan Tai Temple). Ron went inside and there was no Buddha, so it was probably a Taoist Temple. We watched one of the fishing boats that came in… the prawns were very large. Besides the dried fish, there were buckets with live fish where air was blown into the tubs like an aquarium. You could choose the fish and take it to the restaurant next door and have it prepared for you. Really fresh fish!
Day 57 of 111. The Li River, China
We were up early to pack our bags, have breakfast, and board the bus for our trip down a portion of the beautiful Li River. This region of China is somewhat rural and known for its natural beauty. The rock formations are limestone and have tall, craggy mounds covered with green. On the banks, we saw bamboo and evergreen trees. We also saw cows and water buffaloes used to work the land. The boat had several sitting rooms. Our tour took up one of the rooms. We had tables and benches where we could sip tea, but most of us spent our time on the back or top deck looking at the scenery. The weather was very pleasant ranging from cool to comfortably warm.
On the front of all of the Chinese paper money is an image of Chairman Mao. On the backside, however, are various images from around China. The back of the 20 Yuen note has a view from the Li River. It is called the “20 Yuen View”. Our guide had her wedding photos taken with that view in the background. We shared the boat with many Chinese tourists and we were all vying for spots to take pictures of the scenery and selfies with our friends. Fun.
The layers of hills was my favorite part of the scenery, but the views along the shore were also spectacular from time to time.
We got off the boat just after the 20 Yuen view and boarded a ferry to a small coastal town for a little shopping time and then a bus ride to the airport. We got back on the ship in Hong Kong.
In our Guilin hotel (the Shangri La Hotel) there is a mini-zoo with pigs, swans, peacocks, rabbits, roosters and ostriches. They had a lot of cute items for kids… I especially liked the bananas made into Minions. At night, the surrounding hills were lighted. One was lit with colored lights and another couple had white lights. They were pretty.
On one of our flights, I looked closely at the characters. From all three messages, I saw one character repeated. I guess that character must mean “seat”. A similar character might mean cushion.
Again, in the restrooms, there are two kinds of toilets. The way they were labeled vary from place to place. I thought it was pretty interesting.
Day 56 of 111. Guilin, China
We boarded an early flight in Xi’an and flew to Guilin in the southern portion of China. As soon as we left the terminal we could feel the warmer, more humid air. It was a nice change. Guilin is known for its natural beauty. The area is surrounded by limestone hills and mountains since this area used to be under the sea. Guilin is known for its small flowers that bloom in October. They are pretty, but also used for wine and tea. This area is good for growing rice and two of its local specialties are it rice noodles (with hot chilis) and the rice liquor. Some of the liquor is infused with snake (see the photo above) and has health benefits (no personal experience here). There are also varieties using spiders and scorpions. Yikes.
Ron posed on a bamboo raft with two cormorant birds that were used for fishing by the local population. In the background is Elephant Trunk Rock. Most of the mountains have caves that are used as cellars by the city.
On the way to lunch, we saw two beautiful pagodas in the lake. One is the sun pagoda and the other is the moon pagoda and are lit up at night. Next to the lunch restaurant was an artist’s studio with some stunning watercolors. Later we visited another park with Camel Rock. President Clinton made a speech in front of Camel Rock on his visit to China.
From our room window, we could see a beautiful sunset over the limestone hills.
Day 55 of 111. Tang Palace Dance Show, Xi’an, China
At the end of our day of amazing touring, we went to a dinner and show that recreated some of the opera of the Tang Dynasty (the peak of art and culture). The show had a variety of music and dance and was very entertaining. There were some instruments that I had never seen before. Our guide told us that Japan learned a lot from its contact with China whose cultural traditions were so advanced at such an early time. We were certainly ready for bed by the end of the evening.