Travel day…Amritsar to Varanasi…Two flights with layover…Excitement at the India-Pakistan border…

The soldier prepared for the big event.

As I write here now, it’s during our original two-hour layover in Delhi. After the first flight on Vistara Airline (owned by Singapore Airlines) was late by 40 minutes, the wait to board was dramatically reduced.

We boarded the flight 35 minutes after check-in at the airport, so my choice was to rush through today’s post or try to finish this tonight after dinner. Since we didn’t arrive at our hotel in Varanasi until around 7:00 pm, I tried to rush through to get this post uploaded so we could have a less hurried evening and leisurely dinner, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

The bleachers were packed with enthusiastic Indians.

With our driver Prince arriving at our hotel in Amritsar at 9:30 am to take us to the airport (our last contact with him), we wanted to have breakfast in the hotel after we’d packed everything and were ready to go.

At 9:40, the van was loaded with our bags, and we were on our way to the Amritsar International Airport. We were arriving two hours before our flight left plenty of time to kill.

Note the headdress o the performers/soldiers.

We met a lovely Indian couple who now live in Australia and visiting family in India. The lively conversation with this particular couple made the time fly while we awaited our flight. Before we knew it, we were boarding the first of the two flights.

I’d preferred to spend more time preparing today’s post about the exciting visit to the India/Pakistan border ceremonies. Still, this schedule is the “nature of the beast,” as we spend two hectic months of travel through India, staying in each new location for two or three days.

Aligned and ready to perform.

Is this pace tiring us? Surprisingly, it’s not. Sightseeing for one or two days with one day of rest in between is working perfectly for us. We’re rested, well-fed, and enthusiastic as we continue.

This is not to say we’d do a tour such as this again. This scenario in India is unique. Most likely, such an extended private tour such as this in any other country would far exceed the cost we paid for these extra 55-days over and above the Maharajas Express seven-day tour through India. 

The crowds roared, particularly from the Indian side.

Below is information regarding the extraordinary experience we had been a part of the electrified festivities. 

The Indian people are dedicated to protecting their borders, evidenced by their loud and enthusiastic participation during the ceremonies, dancing, chanting, and reciting their national expressions of love and patriotism to their country.

The soldier lined up to perform their classic high kicks.

We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces during the almost two hours we sat in the tiered seating in the bright sun in the VIP/foreigner’s seats, only about eight rows up from the performance.

Unfortunately, my photos aren’t as good as I would have liked. The sun was in my eyes, and it was impossible to see the subjects of the photos. I could only point and click.

Military police from either side of the border.

Now, as I write again, we’ve arrived at our hotel in Varanasi close to bedtime. The city is beyond description. We are sharing what we were able to come up with during the ceremonies. We’ll share details in the next few days.

Tomorrow, we have to be in the hotel lobby at 6:00 am tomorrow to head to the dock to board a boat for the Ganges River for the sunrise and more. We had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. It’s not quite the caliber of the hotels we’ve stayed in so far in India, but we’ll make the best of it. 

Military guards protected the perimeter.

Time to wind down for the night. We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Hang tight. Thanks for traveling along with us.

Here’s information on the ceremonies:

“The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance-like maneuvers and raising legs as high as possible, described as “colorful.” It is a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, brotherhood, and cooperation between the two nations. Similar parades are organized at Mahavir/Sadqi border near Fazilka and Hussainiwala/Ganda Singh Wala border near Firozpur.”

Every eye in the stadium was focusing on these professionals.

We’re going to give this ultra-hard bed a try and see how we do. Nighty night to all!

The Mekong River crossing from Cambodia back into Vietnam…Wheelhouse tour…More Phnom Penh photos…

Tom, me, Captain Han and new friend Bob in the wheelhouse.

The remainder of the cruise will take place in Vietnam. Yesterday, as I began to write this post, we were crossing into Vietnam with immigration officers were boarding our ship to stamp our passports.  First the Cambodian immigration officer boarded to stamp our passports and exit visas.

The sign above the wheelhouse entrance. We’d signed up for the wheelhouse tour.

Shortly thereafter the Vietnamese immigration officer boarded to stamp our passports for the second of the multiple entry visas, we obtained in Singapore at the embassy two weeks ago. 

Our ship captain, Bui Huu Han.

There’s nothing we had to do other than relax and enjoy the view while the ship was anchored in the Mekong River. Yesterday, was a full day “at sea” so to speak, without any excursions.

Today we decided to avoid going on the day’s excursions based on my condition and the strenuous nature of the tours. I was hoping to attend, but after seeing the boats, called sampan, we both agreed boarding would be difficult as well as riding on the tilted backs of the low to the floor seats.  No good for me at this point.

Ship’s control panel on the bridge.

There’s no doubt the less I do, the better I feel. As much as this concept of “taking it easy” drives me nuts, I’ve seen over and over these past six weeks that rest is my friend.

We’re still having a great time, loving the interaction with the other passengers and staff. Getting to know 54 passengers and their names is a daunting task as we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the process. 

Buddhist shrine in the wheelhouse.

Obviously, we knew there would be favorites and we’ve had no trouble narrowing it down to a handful of guests. As for the remainder, there was not one person on board, that we haven’t enjoyed one way or another.

Border monument between Cambodia and Vietnam as we crossed back into Vietnam yesterday afternoon.

Mostly, the ship’s manifest consists of Americans and British passengers with everyone speaking English. Then there’s the very special staff, from Kong and Lee, to our two guides, Enrico, the cruise director and manager, to the wait staff in the dining room to the support staff in boarding and disembarking. They all clearly, exhibit joy in working for this company.

Part of the Silver Temple.

When asked how they feel about working for Viking Cruises, their eyes light up. They exhibit pride and appreciation to be working for this company which we don’t always see on some of the larger cruise ships.

The city had numerous shrines and temples mixed among modern buildings.

Sure, the cabins are small but over these past five nights, we’ve become used to the tiny space easily able to maneuver around the cabin to accomplish everything we’ve needed to do during the short periods we stay in the cabin.

Traffic was busy in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, but no as busy as in Vietnam.

Yesterday afternoon, we attended a tour of the ship’s wheelhouse which on such a small ship is compact and efficient. After the tour we settled into the cool cabin for a short rest and to prepare for yet another fine dinner and evening with all of our new friends and hopefully soon, to be many new readers. 

Bridge over a park area.  Note the cobra statues on either end of the bridge.

We’re so grateful for the warm reception we’ve received from other passengers when inquiring about our lives. We freely share our story with them as we relish every moment in hearing about their adventures as well.

Stairway to a temple in Wat, Phnom Penh.

Have a beautiful day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2015:

 Location or Ship  Days  Address or Ship  Dates
 Sydney Hotel   1   9/7/2015 – 9/8/2015
 Fiji Rental  88    9/8/2015 – 12/6/2015 
 Fiji Rental #2  29    12/6/2015 – 1/4/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    1/4/2016 – 1/5/2016 
 Sydney to Auckland – Cruise  14  Celebrity Solstice   1/5/2016 – 1/19/2016 
 New Zealand Farm  87    1/19/2016 – 4/15/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    4/15/2016 – 4/16/2016 
 Sydney to Singapore – Cruise  14  RC Voyager of Seas   4/16/2016 – 4/30/2016 
 Bali House  59    4/30/2016 – 6/28/2016 
 Hanoi Hotel – to be booked  10    6/28/2016 – 7/8/2016 
 Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City – Cruise  15  Viking Mekong    7/8/2016 – 7/22/2016 
 Phuket House  41    7/22/2016 – 9/1/2016 
 Bali House  59    9/1/2016 – 10/30/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    10/30/2016 – 10/31/2016 
 Sydney to Perth – Cruise  16  RC Radiance of the Seas   10/31/2016 – 11/16/2016 
 Perth to Sydney – Cruise  17  RC Radiance of the Seas   11/16/2016 – 12/3/2016 
 GAP 12/3/2016 – 3/1/2017  88    12/3/2016 – 3/1/2017 
 Sydney to Sydney – Cruise  12  Celebrity Solstice   3/1/2017 – 3/13/2017 
 GAP 3/13/2017 – 4/22/1017  40    3/13/2017 – 4/22/2017 
 Sydney to Seattle – Cruise  24  RC Explorer of the Seas   4/22/2017 – 5/15/2017 
Total number of days 617

One year ago today, we posted our itinerary which has since changed with more bookings. For photos from this past date, please click here.