Most of December was spent on the other side of the world. My days of December were not spent shopping for presents, preparing Christmas treats, or decorating the house in the traditional way. My husband and I joined his family to celebrate the retirement of my brother-in-law by cruising in Asia. It was an incredible journey! We began in Singapore and fourteen days later ended in Hong Kong. We also visited Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Hanoi. What an interesting world we live in!
This trip makes me appreciate the life we have in the United States. Singapore and Hong Kong are very affluent cities, but the poverty in the other cities was disturbing. It was a three to four hour bus ride to reach the cities in Thailand and Viet Nam. The roads bounced and jostled us as we made our way inland. Traffic was horrendous! Lane markers must have been just a suggestion, as drivers created their own lanes. Sometimes they decided to go the opposite direction but it was too difficult to cross to the other side, so they would be going against traffic. I always though Italian drivers were the craziest, now I’ve changed my mind as Thailand and Viet Nam made me close my eyes.
The family transportation in Viet Nam is a small motorcycle. It was not uncommon to see two parents and two children on one motorcycle. It was amazing to see how much could be carried on these motorcycles. I saw one man transporting a refrigerator (in the box)! When it rains, ponchos come out or they put their jackets on backwards. Surgical masks are worn by most of the people in Viet Nam.
If you lived in the city, you could make $350 a month. If you lived in the country and farmed, your monthly income would be $30. The people work very hard to make a living in Viet Nam. Students go to school either in the morning or the afternoon. When they are not in school, they are to work for the family. Education is not free in Viet Nam, but everyone sends their child to school. It is a family priority. Teachers will have at least forty students in each part of the day. Then in the evening they need to tutor to make a little more money. I asked the guide who gave me this information, when do they have a life beyond school? He looked at me confused, this is their life he responded. I can’t imagine that the education is much beyond rote memorization.
Throughout this trip I’ve tasted some amazing food. If you ever go to Bangkok, you must find sticky mango rice. All I can say is yum! Check out the pictures of some of the foods, I can’t remember what they were called, but I know that I enjoyed every morsel.
Several of the tours included lunch, which usually consisted of about eight courses. We didn’t get a lot at each course, but each course provided unique taste experiences. I ate entire meals with chopsticks, that is something I’ve never done before.
Hong Kong was a great city to conclude our journey. Forty years ago, my husband graduated from the Hong Kong International School. This trip allowed him to travel down memory lane with his brother and father as we visited their previous home and school. On our last day we visited the Po Lin Monastery and saw the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Then we took the underground back into Hong Kong where we rode the tram to Victoria Peak for a view of the city.
All in all, this was an incredible journey that took me out of my comfort zone of travel. I am so happy that we were able to be with family as we saw amazing sights.