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Holland America Volendam
Singapore to Vancouver cruise
April 14 - May 18, 2011

Click here to see the cruise itinerary
The Ang Thon Marine Park in Thailand is made up of 42 mostly uninhabited islands.
A group of us hired a boat and went snorkeling and cruising through the maze of islands and fishing boats.
Despite the high heat and humidity,
many vendors wore long sleeves and cloth masks
to cover their skin from the strong sun.
  At the Tiger Temple, we got up close and personal
with the animals.
But a real highlight for both of us was
the half hour elephant ride we took with a Mahout
through the Thai jungle.
  Then, we bathed the giant creatures in the River Kwai. (And they bathed us, too!)
That evening we walked across the Bridge over the River Kwai and ate dinner at a Floating Restaurant next to it.   In Bangkok, the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha
were dazzling with porcelain and real jewels
used in the architecture.
The market in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
was a working market, not a tourist market.
  We saw fruits and vegetables that we couldn't identify
and wouldn't know what to do with them.
Most of the vendors couldn't speak English,
like this woman who was baking small muffins
in a clay oven the size of a large flower pot.
  Outside, in the street, a huge clay pot held water. A woman used a dipper to get water, then wash squid in a reed basket before cooking them for her food stand.
Nha Trang, Vietnam had a beautiful harbor
full of fishing boats.
  Because they were having a festival,
the people were throwing paper clothes and money
into the Cai River to make an offering to the river god
to keep them safe for another year.
We saw women weaving traditional mats.
They do this all day, every day.
Mats are still important to use
to sleep, sit and wrap corpses before burial.
  Vicki was invited to learn the technique
(by women who did not speak English).
It was easy to see how quickly sitting cross-legged and
stooped over would become back-breaking work.
After a half hour boat ride on the Cai River, we arrived at a village where we had riverside lunch.   The meal was very nice with at least 8 different Vietnamese dishes served family style.
As we were leaving; we saw the area where the women
were sitting on the floor, washing dishes in pans.
As adventurous as we are about trying new foods and
drinks; we were not tempted to drink any of the local
"Snake Wine" made with snakes, frogs, hard boiled
goose eggs, seahorses, plus secret herbs and spices!
  The girls sewing at the Embroidery Factory sat at
tables and did amazingly intricate work with silk thread,
but were not allowed to talk while they worked.
Hong Kong was a shopper's paradise. We went from the
Bird Market, to the Flower Market, Ladies' Market, Jade
& Pearl Market and finally ended at the Night Market!
  The day was topped off by a Laser and Light Show in the harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
On Easter Day we traveled to the island of Lantau to see
the 10 story statue of the Big Buddha. It was the first time
we were in a country without large Easter celebrations.
  The cable car ride back to Hong Kong was
a great way to see the harbor.
The skyline in Shanghai, China was as modern as it gets. The soft colors looked like jewels
above the Huangpu River.
  We got adventurous and decided to use public
transportation to get to Suzhou, a canal town 60 miles
from Shanghai. Our first problem was learning to read
Chinese on all the signs! Thankfully, the automatic ticket
machines at the metro were also in English.
From the metro we hopped on the high speed bullet train, which smoothly cruised at 200 miles per hour.
In Suzhou, we visited the Humble Adminitrator's Garden. The views all over the 22 acre landscape are serene.
Don't ask what it is, we have no idea. We just pointed to what others were eating and this is what they served us for a great sit down lunch - all for under $3 for two people.   Down the street, we saw a friendly lady
making something like what we had eaten.
At the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park in
, Japan a black pillar stands to show where
the devastating bomb hit that destroyed the city in 1945.
In front is a pillar from the salvaged
from the remains of a Catholic Cathedral.
  The Sofukuji Temple was a gift to Japan from China
in 1629. It's position behind a hill miraculously allowed it to survive the bombing.
After seeing how sake was traditionally made at the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum in Kobe, Japan; we had a chance to do some tastings and really liked the fortified sake with plum flavoring.
In Busan, South Korea we had just as much fun
looking at the Gukje Street Market
and the vendors selling their foods...
  as we did in the high-end Lotte Grocery store, where the workers outnumbered the customers 5:1. Nearly everyone in this picture is a worker.
Vladivostok, Russia is not a typical tourist town.
Yul Brenner's birth place is one of the highlights.
  There's nothing like shopping for radishes in
grey, cold and damp weather
at the Farmer's Market in Revolution Square.
The rusty welcome center in Petropavlovsk
pretty much described the rest of
the cold, damp, slushy, in need of repair Siberian town;
which is Russia's nuclear submarine base.
  But a wonderful highlight was finding the St. Alexander
Neovsky Christian church. There were no pews,
but while we were there several local people came inside
to pray and light candles in the well-built log structure.
When we arrived at Kodiak Island, Alaska;
we were greeted with hilltops covered with snow
and high temperatures in the mid 40s.
  The trees in the Fort Abercrombie State Park
were dotted with white. As we looked closer,
we saw that they were filled with eagles.
The small town of Sitka is nestled in a pretty harbor
surrounded by mountains - and even a volcano.
  The views from town were classic Alaska -
wild, unpopulated, rugged and filled with wildlife.
We saw sea otters in the harbor and a pod of whales
and dolphins followed our ship when we sailed away.