Monday, March 13, was a day at sea. We had breakfast in bed, and then attended three lectures. The first one was by speaker and “local resident” (he used to live in Singapore and now lives in Hong Kong) Tim Wade on “Ho Chi Minh City” (very brief History of Vietnam). The second one, and much more interesting and in depth, by Bob Donaldson (former US State Department Advisor, former President of Tulsa University and Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Political Science and Foreign Relations Professor and Administrator at Vanderbilt University and City University of New York) titled “Global Threats in the Twenty-first Century – Part I: How Did We Get to This Place in History, and Why Does It Seem So Dangerous Here?
Sunday, March 12, we arrived in Sihanoukville (Cambodia). We were greeted by our driver, “Mr. Temple” and our guide, “Mr. Lucky”. Mr. Lucky was a sweet guy who told us a great deal about Cambodia’s history, present, and his life. The kind of guide you always hope to get, but seldom do. Mr. Lucky was the youngest of 4 brothers. His other 3 brothers died during the Khmer Rouge regime. Fortunately he survived (hence his nickname).
Saturday, March 11, we docked in Laem Chabang Port, where we met our driver and our guide, who took us (my wife, me and two other couples) to Bangkok in a very “modded” luxury van, with so many buttons, levers, lights and switches that it was fun to imagine what each of them could be for: smoke screen? projectiles? disco ball? retractable wings? 😛 There are many visual elements that spring to mind when one thinks of Bangkok: Tuk Tuks, bubble gum pink taxis, crowded streets, trucks with all kinds of colored lights decorating inside and out… and we saw them all, all over.
Friday, March 10, we arrived in Ko Samui, Thailand. After taking a tender ashore, my wife and I we were picked and driven to the Belmond Napasai resort. We had an absolute blast inspecting that property, and having a lot of fun on that most wonderful beach: kayak, snorkeling, paddle board, swimming, amazing local cuisine… Back onboard, we attended a lecture by Denise Heywood on Cambodia’s history, traditional dance, and Angkor Wat.
Day at sea (Thursday, March 9): The Crystal Symphony is a 781 feet (238 m) long by 100 feet (30 meter) wide cruise ship that weights over 51,000 tons, cruises at 20 knots, and has a guest capacity of 922, with a per guest staff ratio of 0.59 (crew of 545, from 45 different countries). On this particular cruise, there were passengers from 49 different nationalities, but the large majority of them (over 600) were from the USA.
On Wednesday, March 8, after having breakfast onboard the ship, we ventured into Singapore for one last afternoon. We had two things in our list: Singapore Botanic Gardens(SGB) Established in 1859, SGB is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the leading botanic gardens in the world (with over 4 million visitors every year). We only had time to throughly visit the National Orchid Garden (with 1000 species and 2000 hybrids, the largest display of orchids in the world), which is the only part of the SBG that charges a small cover charge fee, but the Botanic Gardens have many interesting areas to enjoy, like the Rain Forest, Swan and Symphony and Eco lakes, Herbs & Spices, Bougainvilleas & Bamboo Collection, Healing Garden, Fragrant Garden, Evolution Garden, Foliage Garden, etc.
Tuesday, March 7 in the morning, after breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. But before we boarded the cruise ship, we left the luggage with the hotel’s concierge, and went across the bridge to visit the National Gallery Singapore, which is the only main museum in Singapore I had not yet visited, since it opened in 2015. It has an interesting Asian art collection, with artist from the late XIX Century like Raden Saleh, to the XX Century like Liu Kang, Nguyen Gia Tri, and contemporaries like Tang Da Wu or Montien Boonma (whose “The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating” was being restored, and it looked better in the glass temporary encaging than when originally created in 1993, and reconstructed in 2015).