Passengers hushed at Vietnam airfield

IN her latest weekly report, globetrotting pensioner and Evening Star reader Mavis Bensley finds Vietnam thought provoking, spends a cheerful day in the doldrums, and marvels at dancers in Thailand.

IN her latest weekly report, globetrotting pensioner and Evening Star reader Mavis Bensley finds Vietnam thought provoking, spends a cheerful day in the doldrums, and marvels at dancers in Thailand.

March 15. We arrived in Chan May - Vietnam. Tours were delayed one hour because of delayed immigration procedures. However, we eventually got on our way to Da Nang past paddi fields and through a six kilometre tunnel to a museum showing the history of French Indo China with many archaeological artefacts of Hindu origin including a frieze showing polo being played dating back to the eighth century. From there we went to Marble Mountain where so much marble had been hewn out that it was almost like a shell with pagodas and shrines inside.

A whole township had based itself on sculpting marble statues, trinkets pots, boxes etc. I swear the ship sits six feet lower in the water now. One woman bought a fat Buddha that two of the crew had to carry on board - how will she get it home I wonder?

Da Nang was the landing place for US troops in the Vietnam war. There is still a huge army base with barracks, airfield and fuel tanks, now derelict but kept as a relic to remind and teach the young about the war with America. The coach was hushed as we drove past.

When I got back there was another bottle of champagne sitting in my ice bucket - lucky me!

Carol Thatcher is on board at the moment and she gave a lecture entitled “From Margaret Thatcher to Hilary Clinton” about women in politics. She told the story about a woman accosting her father Dennis at a cocktail party. “I hear you've got a drink problem.” Dennis waved his empty glass and said: “I certainly have - can't get one anywhere.”

Most Read

March 17. We are in the Doldrums 10 degrees N - 10 degrees S, there is very little movement of air or water so the sea is calm.

It is St Patrick's Day and there was a gala ball tonight. The Queen's Room was awash with green balloons, streamers and shamrock. The host, Thomas, dressed as a leprechaun and there were toadstools and mini leprechauns all over the place.

March 18. Here we are in Thailand. Many passengers have gone to Bangkok either for the day or an overnight stay. I have been before and seen the palaces, shrines, Buddhas, floating markets etc so I opted to go by shuttle bus to Pattaya. The weather was hot and humid - 38 degrees expected, thank goodness for air conditioning.

The beach was narrow and mainly taken up with chairs and umbrellas. Pattaya became popular in the 80's and soon got a reputation as sinful as Bangkok. Today, it has matured somewhat with lavish resort hotels, country club and fine restaurants.

At night a group of Thai musicians and dancers came on and gave a performance. The girls were so beautiful (the boys too.). They were very graceful and told a story with their expressive hands. It must take years of practice to be able to bend their hands and fingers to such angles.

March 19. Again I took the shuttle bus to Pattaya and then did a tour of a gem factory. It included a fascinating tour by underground railway of how the gems came into being.

As we were coming aboard an ambulance drew up and a man was carried onto the ship looking in a pretty bad way. The nurse had a heart resuss pack. I hope he's ok. This reminded another passenger of a situation in Da Nang where a lady had a “turn” in the great heat and was helicoptered to hospital and will be flown home to US with her husband as soon as she is able to travel, this trigged another story (the grapevine is working overtime on this ship) of a guy who died on board - not this trip. The captain contacted the son to ask what should be done with the body, to which the son replied: “He's paid for his trip, you keep him until the ship reaches NYC!”

I had a nightcap tonight with two friends from Florida. My cabin steward has turned down my sheets, laid out my nightdress nicely, put a chocolate on my pillow and re-filled my ice bucket. I am now going to turn my thoughts to Singapore.

Cheers - must try to get some more wine or beer in Singapore to keep me ticking over.