Sunday, January 28, 2018

Journey to Southeast Asia

If you are considering a cruise to Southeast Asia, but are apprehensive about the flights, our experience should help ease your mind.  Don't let your fears prevent you from experiencing an amazing destination.

When we booked this cruise, during our Crown Princess South American cruise a year ago, we were so excited about seeing one of the trending travel destinations, that we hadn't even considered the travel times involved.  Once we started looking at flight schedules, the trip seemed daunting.   We had never flown that many hours (15) before on a single flight.


Flights for our 15 night Southeast Asia cruise were booked via Princess EZair.

There are several advantages to using the cruise line air, especially for a destination so far from home. 


Advantages we saw to this option:
  • Options presented will work with the itinerary (no hassle planning)
  • Didn't have to pay for flights until final cruise payment
  • Prices were locked in; could go down, but not up
  • Cruise line is aware of schedule and can assist if something goes wrong
  • Easily adjust schedule for pre/post cruise stay

Our journey to Southeast Asia began in Chicago with stopover / plane changes in Los Angeles and Hong Kong before we arrived in Singapore.  Here are some highlights from our flights and each of the airports along our path.



Los Angeles

This was about a four hour flight which landed about 10 or 15 minutes early.  We were scheduled to arrive in Terminal 4 but arrived in Terminal 5 instead, perhaps since we were a little early.

Connecting passengers don't need to go through security, despite changing terminals. We followed signs to Terminal 4 which led us to an underground passageway.   We had  a couple hours between flights, so we could take our time getting to the gate.  Arriving at the gate, we found a couple seats that had charging stations.  Finally they started boarding by groups and we were onboard waiting for our 15 hour flight to begin.

Hong Kong

The flight to Hong Kong was long, but wasn't as bad as expected.  We watched movies, got some sleep, and had 3 meals during the flight.  We got up every so often to help with circulation.

Tip: Perhaps the best things we purchased for our trip were compression socks and a comfortable wrap around neck pillow.

When we arrived in Hong Kong, around 8 am, there was no need to fill out landing cards, since we were transiting passengers. We stopped at the rest rooms and then followed the signs for transferring passengers.  No water or other drinks are allowed through the checkpoint, so we finished our water before proceeding. After showing our boarding passes, we went thru security with our hand luggage.

Connecting passengers can check the monitors to find out their gate assignment, but since it was too early for our gate to be posted, we stooped at an information desk to have them look up our next gate. Currently our gate assignment was listed as gate 64, but they suggested we check around 10 AM to see if there were any changes.


We found some seats near the monitors. There was a museum exhibit of tea vessels nearby, so we checked that out while we waited for our flight to be posted on the monitors.  The gate had not changed, so off we headed to gate 64.

There were several shops along the way to our gate. We sampled some cookies and stopped at the Disney Store.   We made a couple purchases and then proceeded to our gate.

Nearby our gate was a charging station.  Since the airport had free wi-fi we decided to make a call back home while we waited for our flight.  It was a good connection over wi-fi.

Singapore

The final leg of our journey was a four hour flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on Cathay Pacific Airlines.  This was our first experience on them and we were quite pleased with the service.

We had an aisle and window seat on the left side of the plane, so we had a great view as we arrived in Singapore.  One of the nice features of their in seat entertainment screen was the ability to switch the flight view to outside cameras.  We were able to capture the landing in an image.

Singapore is an award winning airport and it didn't take long for us to understand why.  Check out the floral arrangements in the accompanying pictures. There are luggage carts which you can use free of charge.

Flight attendants had passed out landing cards, which needed to be completed by each passenger staying in Singapore.  We followed the signs to immigration, where we turned in our landing cards. Make sure to retain the stub - you will need that when you depart for home.  Please note that you will also be finger printed upon entry.  Next stop was baggage claim.  Once again there were larger baggage carts there for use. Finally we exited through customs to the terminal.

We were staying at the Crowne Plaza located across from Terminal 2.  Since we landed in Terminal 1 we asked for directions at one of the airport information desks.  They suggested we follow the signs for shuttle bus to Terminal 2 / MRT station.  Once we arrived there, we took the elevator to the bridge between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 / hotel. At the hotel we learned that we could also have taken the skytrain from Terminal 1 which would have been easier.

Singapore airport and Cathay Pacific are very efficient.  We landed at 3:45 PM and by 4:16 PM we had already collected our baggage.  We had just missed a shuttle bus, so we had to wait a bit. By 5 PM we were checked in at our hotel.



Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts about this trip.

Related Album:

Chicago & LA Flights
Hong Kong Airport
HGK to SIN Flight
Changi Airport Singapore



Additional photos can be found on our Southeast Asia Shutterfly page

View Our Other Shutterfly Share Pages


Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Gateway to Ho Chi Minh


Phu My 


Sapphire Princess arrived in Phu My, Vietnam around 6 am.  The port of Phu My (pronounced "Foo Me") is the gateway to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the seaside resort of Vung Tau. 

click images to enlarge
Over three decades have passed since the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon. Today, the name of this bustling metropolis on the Mekong River is Ho Chi Minh City. Yet, the essence of the city, a major trading center since the 18th century, remains unchanged. The air is filled with the cries of street hawkers and honking horns. Bicycles, motorbikes and automobiles fly down the boulevards at dizzying speeds. We only saw one accident, which amazed us.  Everywhere there were friendly faces and warm greetings.  

We met in the Wheelhouse Lounge at 6:50 am for our Cu Chi Tunnels shore excursion. After a short wait we were led to the gangway where our landing cards were stamped. We proceeded ashore and to our awaiting motor-coach.   Our guide, Thang, explained that our drive to the tunnels would take us thru Ho Chi Minh city and take about three hours.

Saigon is a mix of old and new.  There are construction sites all over including skyscrapers which will tower as much as 80 stories.  Amongst the new are the last cal family run businesses which are seen along the side of the road.    Motorcycles dart in and out of traffic.  Most cyclists have helmets and face masks.  Two people are the legal limit but you often saw whole families on one motorcycle.   You could see motorcycles loaded with bags and boxes of all sizes.  

About halfway to our destination we stopped "to sing a song" (restroom stop) at a lacquer shop.  We purchased a small souvenir there.   If we only had  the wall space and didn't have to transport them home, we could have purchased multiple section murals which were beautiful.

Our next stop was at Rice Paper Village where we saw a woman making rice paper.   Outside there were many racks drying in the sun.  After about two hours the rice paper is dry and ready for use.  Each circle yields two spring rolls.   She makes about a thousand rice paper circles a day.   She let one of the passengers try it.

We arrived at Cu Chi, made another restroom break while our guide retrieved our entrance receipts.   Entrance to the sight is via a long steep ramp.   There is a lot of walking on uneven ground during this tour so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be able to walk a distance.

First stop was at a one of the tunnel entrances.  It is basically a hole in the ground which is just wide enough for a slender person to enter.  It has a cover which would be pulled over the soldier.  Covered with leaves you wouldn't even know it was there as you walked past it.  I attempted to get in but it was too narrow.  Several other passengers had their photos taken inside  he entrance.

Our guide also pointed out termite hills which were really a camouflage for air ducts which were a source of fresh air for the troops living underground.   They e en cooked underground.  We saw how they vented the smoke so that you wouldn't be able to detect it.

Other sites included training facility, troops in the different uniforms, booby trap demonstrations, bummed out tank, various guns and ammunition, and exhibit showed Ng how tunnels were dug.  The main attraction was a tunnel which had its entrance enlarged so that it could be entered and explored.   
You need to go down several steps an bend / crawl through the tunnel for 20 to 40m.  I didn't go in but my husband went down to take a photo of the entrance, but turned around at that point.  About 20 out of 30 in our group did go into the tunnel.   

After leaving Cu Chi we had a lunch stop which we will describe in another post.


Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts about this trip.

Related Album:

Ho Chi Minh
Cu Chi Tunnels
Saigon Lunch



Additional photos can be found on our Southeast Asia Shutterfly page

View Our Other Shutterfly Share Pages


Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Diary of Southeast Asia Voyage

Journey to Southeast Asia (R/T Singapore)

Having cruised for 30+ years, our cruise selections are driven primarily by destination and secondly by cruise ship. We love exploring new destinations from our bucket list as well as revisiting some of our favorites. Exploring new ships, including older ships we've never sailed on before, is also quite enjoyable. Of course, we love to share with our readers so that they can discover the world that awaits them.

Escape from Winter

As we update this article with our pre-booked shore excursions, it is-3°F here and 80°F in Singapore. January is prime time for snowbirds in the states to escape to warmer climates. For most people, the first choices for winter getaways are Florida and the Caribbean. We suggest broadening your horizon and exploring more of the world. It's quite warm in Southeast Asia and you'll be immersed in sights, sounds, food, and culture of this Asian destination. If you are intrigued, follow us on our journey.

Click Image for Southeast Asia Shutterfly Photo Album Page

Come along with us as we provide a day by day diary of our voyage to Southeast Asia.

15 Day Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam


Port Blog Posts Photo Albums
Mon
Jan 8
Travel
Pre-Cruise - Singapore
Journey to Southeast Asia
Singapore Pre Cruise
Chicago & LA Flights
Hong Kong Airport
HGK to SIN Flight
Changi Airport Singapore
Crowne Plaza
Tue
Jan 9
Singapore 
View general port information 
Check In 12:00pm-3:00pm
Singapore Embarkation
Welcome Dinner
Cabin B227
Welcome Dinner
Wed
Jan 10
At Sea Books at Sea
Chocolate Journeys on Princess Cruises
Chocolate Journeys
Thu
Jan 11
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 
12:00pm – 8:00pm
City Drive & Sabah Museum
Kota Kinabalu
Elevate Your Cruise Dining Experience
Kota Kinabalu
Sabah Museum
Sterling Steakhouse
Fri
Jan 12
At Sea
Kota Kinabalu (Revised)

Don't Come Knockin' If Ship a Rockin'
Sat
Jan 13
Nha Trang, Vietnam 
Tender Required
7:00am – 4:00pm
Ponagar Cham Tower, Long Son Pagoda & Embroidery

At Sea (Revised)
Fall in Love With Nha Trang
Sun
Jan 14
Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam 
7:00am – 6:00pm
Cu Chi Tunnels & Countryside
Gateway to Ho Chi Minh
Taste of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh
Cu Chi Tunnels
Saigon Lunch
Mon
Jan 15
At Sea

Tue
Jan 16
Sihanoukville, Cambodia 
Tender Required
7:00am – 4:00pm
Wat Krom, Villages & Market
Sihanoukville a Secret Gem
Wed
Jan 17
Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand 
7:00am – 7:00pm
Nong Nooch Gardens & Cultural Performance

Welcome to Laem Chabang Thailand
Thailand Beauty and Culture
Nong Nooch Pottery
Nong Nooch Theatre
Thailand Culture
Elephant Show
Nong Nooch Gardens
Thu
Jan 18
Ko Samui, Thailand 
Tender Required
8:00am – 5:00pm
Temple of the Big Buddha & Monkey Demonstration
Big Buddha and Monkeys
Fri
Jan 19

At Sea
Book Your Next Cruise Onboard
Sat
Jan 20
Singapore 
7:00am – 4:00pm
Battlefields of Singapore
Port Call to Singapore
Battlefields of Singapore
Sun
Jan 21
Penang, Malaysia 
Tender Required
3:00pm – 11:59pm
Taste of Penang
Best Pizza at Sea
Discover Food of Malaysia
Mon
Jan 22
Langkawi, Malaysia 
8:00am – 5:00pm
Rice Museum, Cable Car, Craft & Cultural Complex
Tue
Jan 23
8:00am – 6:00pm
Kuala Lumpur Highlights
Wed
Jan 24
Singapore 
7:00am
Thu
Jan 25
Singapore 
5:00am
Travel to Chicago



Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat