Tag-Archive for » Mekong River «

Elvis…Far From The Mississippi

It’s 1974. You’re Elvis Presley — many wished that for almost two decades. You’re not at the height of your career, but you’re still packing them in wherever you go. Some people actually are “Elvis Presley”…as impersonators are beginning to pop up. Your country is in an awful war (like there are any other kind), in Vietnam.

Fast forward 42 years.

Elvis is long gone. The impersonators are not. In fact, there are more Elvis look-a-likes than ever. Some of them are even pretty good performers, not just in Vegas and assorted venues ranging from small theaters to street corners.

One is doing it in Vietnam.

His real name is Damian Mullin and he’s an Australian…crikey! He’s the best of Australia’s Elvis impElvis impersonators, having won the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and he has the seal of approval from Elvis Presley Enterprises, which means The King’s company has a financial interest in the performances in…Vietnam.

The event will take place over eight days in September, on board La Marguerite, a river cruise ship that sails under the flag of AmaWaterways through its Australian partners, on the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam.

“It’s an opportunity to present something different with a more intimate atmosphere,” said Jodie Quick, director of The Cruise Gallery, the Australian agency that’s selling the tour. “Most music cruises are on larger ships…[this one] gives passengers the chance to travel somewhere more adventurous and exotic with the comfort of Elvis’ crooning!”

The cruise is called Rockin’ the Mekong.

You can only imagine what Elvis would be thinking.

Today at portsandbows.comCelebrity Solstice back to Australia for 2017-18

Carnival Magic
7 nights
January 31, 2016
Galveston (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Friday File: A Market In Vietnam

In a country such as Vietnam, markets are far more than tourist attractions; they are the lifeblood of its people, who depend on catches of the day and main courses that North Americans regard as delicacies for their survival. For locals, every day is market day, sometimes without closures. Fellow cruisers on AmaWaterways’ new river ship AmaDara had an opportunity to visit this Cai De market, not far from Ho Chi Minh City, and to photograph its contents and its people…

1-dozens of rice varieties

Southeast Asia seems to have as many types of rice as it has dialects.

2-a family affair

Markets are family affairs for vendors, and the youngest learn that early.

3-yep...those are rats

To the question “Are those what I think they are?” the answer is “Yes — rats.”

4-winning smile

A friendly wave and winning smile, trademarks of the Vietnamese people.

5-the dollar store of the market

The dollar store of Cai De’s market, on the shores of the Mekong River.

6-Live chickens

Yes, those are chickens and they’re alive only until winding up on a plate.

7-Vietnamese hats

Beneath the conical hat’s perfect cone is a woman happy at work in the market.

8-even games of chance...

This was a surprise but maybe shouldn’t have been — games of chance sold here.

9-If there was an award for best sox..

If Cai De had an award for coolest socks, chances are this would be a winner.

In the news…

• Explorer of the Seas rocked with tornado-like winds off Australian coast
• MSC confirms private island in Bahamas to be Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
• Three norovirus outbreaks in three months on cruise ships in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara unveils itineraries three years early

Holland America Noordam
7 nights
May 1, 2016
Vancouver (return): Inside Passage, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Traffic Chaos Training In Asia

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — A colleague who left this busy little city widely known for Angkor Wat the day before we arrived sent us this message about the traffic:

“I always feel,” said journalist Will McGough, “like I'm a few seconds away from seeing the biggest accident of my life.”

Will is right.

Controlled chaos. This being our first visit to Southeast Asia, to board the AmaDara on the new AmaWaterways ship’s maiden voyage south on the Mekong River, we had no real Streets of Siem Reapreference point. Maybe all Asian cities are like this, with mostly two-wheeled vehicles going every direction, but Siem Reap seems unique.

Or more unique.

There are few cars, for a city of 175,000. There’s a zillion scooters, or so it seems, many of them called tuk-tuks — a scooter or motorbike pulling the carriage in which you ride. Traffic lights are also rare; in fact we don’t remember seeing one, and it’s understandable. Nobody would pay attention to them anyway.

The biggest accident of Will’s life never happened. Not for him. Not for us. In four days here, nary a crash. And then, on to Saigon…

To use a baseball analogy, Siem Reap was like spring training. Perhaps because of the sheer size of the South Vietnam hub that’s also known as Ho Chi Minh City. It has a Saigon-traffic-1population of nine million people…and seven million scooters. No kidding. That was a matter-of-fact statement made by two people we encountered.

If the biggest accident of Will’s life was imminent in Siem Reap, the biggest accident in history was imminent in Saigon. Pictures, even videos, don’t really do it justice. There are more traffic lights in Saigon and people actually stop at them. Sort of. There are even crosswalks for pedestrians, but they’re mostly for decorative purposes.

Saigon-traffic-3And there are always people willing to tell you how to cross the street and live to talk about it:

“Walk at the same pace. Don’t run. Don’t stop, even if you think somebody’s going to hit you. Make eye contact with the driver of any vehicle(s) you think might be of danger. You will get to the other side if you follow these instructions.”

If you watch locals do this, it’s clear that it works. The confident, calm look on their faces tells you they’re not worried. Why should you be?

So we weren’t. One fine day in Saigon, during rush hour (aka, even more chaotic), we walked across a main thoroughfare three times. One of us even felt comfortable doing it, despite the fingernail marks dug into his hand.

And yes, we lived to talk — or write — about it.

In the news…

• Three Celebrity ships drop Istanbul for balance of season over security concerns
• Engine-room fire delays Carnival Liberty's departure from St. Thomas

Today at portsandbows.com: Sunwing connecting Canadian cruisers with Cuba

Carnival Liberty
7 nights
December 13, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Inside: $419
Cost per day: $59

Memories Of Child Of Vietnam War

VIETNAM — He is from Hanoi. A child of the Vietnam War, in which his father fought for the North Vietnamese Army. Yes, the Viet Cong, although that degrading terminology was used only by the enemy. His father was shot by an American soldier. He’d like to meet that American soldier.

To say thanks.

“When my father was injured, they sent him home to Hanoi,” says Trieu Son. “Because he came home, I was born.”

Today, Son is a cruise director. Since 2011, he has worked for AmaWaterways, professionally and politely accompanying river cruisers up and down the Mekong River on Sonthe AmaDara, to and from Siem Reap, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. If his ability to do his job and his engaging personality are the criteria, it’s a job Son will have as long as he wants it.

The owners of the cruise line, principally Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, met him for the first time last month. What followed was an ongoing and entertaining dialogue between “Son” and his “Dad” and “Mom.” By the end of the cruise, all parents who qualified were ready to adopt him as their Son.

During his tenure as a cruise director, he met an American soldier. The man, who’d been a pilot during the war and whose name was Jim, wanted to meet a North Vietnamese soldier. Although Son didn’t initially think of his father.

“Then my Dad phoned, just to talk to his son,” he recalls. “He fought four and a half years. In North Vietnam, it would bring shame on a family not to enlist.”

The two old soldiers met in a tea room at a Hanoi hotel. Accompanied by his wife Connie and daughter Amanda, Jim paced the floor in the minutes leading up to meeting Son’s father, Quoc Tuan. When they met, it was emotional. There were tears.

“I’m so sorry,” he said to his North Vietnamese equal, “for every shot I fired. I was only 17. All I was supposed to do was press the button.”

Quoc Tuan was sympathetic.

“It was war time,” he told Jim. “No one wanted to be there. It must have been hard…you guys all had to come to a strange country.”

They parted as friends. So did their children. Amanda returns to Vietnam every couple of years.

“Two fathers fought,” says Son. “Now their two kids have fun together.”

The youngest of three children, all born after the Vietnam War, Son now has an unlikely occupation. His older brother urged him to learn English and, when he was young, Son listened to English on an overseas BBC station “for years” without learning a word of English. One morning he heard a broadcaster say “trigger” and he was so intrigued by the word that he was motivated to learn more.

That wasn’t easy.

“Most of us suffered from malnutrition,” Son recalls, with a smile. “We had no meat…no toys…and for the first eight years no electricity. We studied by oil lamp.”

By age 16, he was able to study English at school. Now in his 30s, he speaks it fluently, learning it so well that he can be funny in a way that only works with knowledge of the nuances.

“Language is about understanding,” he says.

His most amazing characteristic to strangers — whether they are passengers or his new “Dad” and “Mom” — is an uncanny ability to know and remember every passenger’s name by heart within minutes of meeting them. He says it is a gift.

One that was the result of an American shooting a North Vietnamese soldier.

In the news…

• Survey shows Cuba early bookings fewer than 3% of Americans
• MSC Lirica to home-port in Shanghai for year-round cruises
• fathom ship to focus on Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise views and news you can use

Emerald Princess
4 nights
November 21, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Nassau, Princess Cays
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $74

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