More new Phuket photos…Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam…

Tuk tuks come in all shapes, sizes and colors in Thailand and are commonly used by tourists and locals as opposed to a more expensive car or van taxis.

Some vacation homes don’t have items we may need for preparing meals. We fully understand this when most tourists stay less than a week seldom preparing meals other than a light breakfast or a sandwich and a bag of chips for lunch.

Colorful water toys with a variety of beach equipment and gear at a shop near the beach.

Today, I wrote to the owner asking if a staff member could deliver a can opener, making it possible for us to make homemade ketchup to use with tonight’s dinner of lettuce wrapped bacon cheeseburgers, salad and veggies. We just received a reply and a can opener will be delivered soon.

We have all the ingredients, but needed the opener for a can of tomato sauce used in making the ketchup. (Store bought brands of ketchup are loaded with sugar and our recipe is not). 

Pillars at entrance to the pier.

If it was affordable to eat out every day it wouldn’t be much fun in this heat and humidity to be getting dressed to head out for dinner each evening. At this point, we shower in the morning, put on our swimsuits which we wear all day through dinner, rinsing them out at night before going to bed. 

Many types of boats are moored in Chalong Bay.

This way, we have almost no laundry other than the sweaty tee shirts, shorts and underwear we’ve worn when heading out. The thought of getting changed into street clothes to go to dinner isn’t particularly appealing right now. 

High speed and luxury boats anchored at the shoreline.

Once a week, using a washer we found in an outdoor closet, we do a small load hanging it indoors to dry on the rack with most items taking a few days to dry in the humidity. The house cleaners replace all the bath towels, hand towels and bedding twice a week, so there’s no need for us to wash anything more than our few personal items.

View of Chalong Bay in Phuket.

Overall, living in this house in Rawai, Phuket is relatively easy. Surely, if I was fully recovered, it would be considerably easier. Not feeling 100% makes the hot and humid weather more noticeable and the simplest of household tasks more challenging. Also it’s had a huge impact on my desire to get out sightseeing. Hopefully, soon, this will change as I continue to recover.

Back view of the popular lighthouse from Chalong Beach in Phuket.

We’re now at a point where we’ve almost completed posting the photos and stories of the tours we attended during the cruise/tour to Cambodia and Vietnam from July 8, 2016, to July 22, 2016. 

The Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tomorrow, we’ll include some remaining photos not necessarily related to one another, but worthy of sharing with our readers who’d like one final peek at the amazing cruise/tour that included a total of seven nights in three luxury hotels and seven nights aboard the Viking Mekong. (In addition to the three nights we’d booked on our own in Hanoi before the cruise/tour began).

Meeting room in the palace.

Today, we’ve included photos of one of the final tours we attended in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (either name is acceptable to use). On July 21st we boarded the bus for the tour of the former Presidential Palace, now known and the Reunification Palace. 

View from upper level of palace toward the congested street.

Had I been looking for sites to visit in Saigon, this venue may not have been on my radar. But once inside the huge building, we were both fascinated. Tom, of course, as a history buff, always seems to enjoy visiting historical buildings where my interest may lie in the opportunity to take photos when possible.

The ambassador’s/dignitary’s room (pre 1975).

The Reunification Palace provided such an opportunity and thus, we couldn’t resist posting this last round of photos from this historic site. From this site, we gleaned the following information where those of you interested can find more details:

Tourists gathered at each of the room’s entryways.

“The iconic Reunification Palace made its name in global history when in 1975 a tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate – thus signifying the end of the Vietnam War.

View through second story decorative stone pillars to the gardens below.

The palace is like a time capsule frozen in 1975 with two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. Originally the site of the Nordom Palace also known as the Governor’s Palace its first role was as a home and workplace for the then French Governor of Cochinchina.

The Reunification Palace is a landmark not to be missed by any tourist visiting Ho Chi Minh City.Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the palace hides secret rooms, antique furniture and a command bunker within its eerie corridors. The Reunification Palace is still in use to host occasions including APEC summits and national events of significant importance.

Reunification Palace Highlights                

Desks in the lowest level bunker.

The Reunification Palace is a five-story building with the basement housing a warren of tunnels, a war room and telecommunications centre.The war command room still has maps on its walls and period telecommunications equipment on display, whilst adjoining basement rooms feature war propaganda materials.

 Other areas of interest are the third floor featuring a card playing room, a fourth floor which once had a casino and was used for entertaining guests and a rooftop terrace with a heliport.

Old computer systems in bunker.

The Reunification Palace entered the world history books in 1975 when a Vietnamese Air Force pilot (who was also a communist spy) flew an aircraft over the palace with an attempt to bomb it. Although no real damage was caused this was a significant step towards the fall of Saigon and the ending of the Vietnamese War.

Communication equipment in bunker.

On 30th April in 1975 at 10:45 a North Vietnamese Army Tank rammed the main gates and entered the palace grounds before hanging its flag on the balcony to declare victory for the communist party and thus ending the Vietnam War. 

More radio equipment in bunker.

Meanwhile staff escaped from the rooftop minutes before the palace was overrun, known as Operation Frequent Wind this was part of history’s biggest ever helicopter evacuation and included the departure of General Thieu.”

We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Please stop by! Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2015:

In Port Douglas, we visited the Four Mile Beach. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Versailles…A view inside another era…Today the interior…Tomorrow…The romantic dinner cruise on the River Seine…

The famous Hall of Mirrors. This project was carried out by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and painter Charles Le Brun between 1678 and 1686.

After last night’s wonderful River Seine dinner cruise, a visit to the light show at 11 pm at the Eiffel Tower, we returned to our hotel by almost midnight thinking we had to get up and go to the Louvre early in the morning.  Silly me, I had the wrong date in mind and jumped out of bed to check our tickets.  The Louvre is schedule for Saturday morning, not Friday!  We were thrilled to be able to sleep in. (More on the dinner cruise with nighttime photos of the City of Light will be posted tomorrow.

The first stairway near the entrance to the residential chambers.

Today, we’ll finish this length, photo laden post and then head to the self serve laundry to do a few loads of wash. We’ll haul our clothes in the wheeling duffel bag, return to the hotel to later head out for dinner. 

The use of flash is prohibited in the palace. Wednesday was a dark rainy day, causing some of our photos to be darker than we’d prefer.
The stunning artwork is found on almost on every wall in the palace.

Most nights, we find ourselves winging it for dinner. We’ve walked the neighborhood to find dozens of restaurants, some very good and others mediocre. So far, none have been awful.

The doorways to each room are elaborately decorated with marble and gold.
Of course, we wish we’d had time and space to identify all of the art throughout the Palace. It was difficult to hear the tour guide with the crowds in each room as she identified various works of art.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I started working on today’s post, knowing it would take several hours with the number of photos of the interior of Versailles. 

View of the chapel, which was blocked off to tourists preventing us from a full shot.
This is a statue of Marie Antoinette.

As much as we would have liked to have been able to identify every piece of art, after considerable research online, we were unable to find the information for many of the items. The remainder we recalled from tidbits we were able to glean from the tour when the background noise was so loud we couldn’t hear even with the earbuds. In many of the areas, the reception for the receiver was poor and we weren’t able to hear a word.

Ceilings, glass archways, walls…all of it was stunning.
It was hard to resist looking out the windows imagining how the occupants of the palace may have contemplated the view, hundreds of years ago.

As we’ve mentioned we’ve done a tremendous amount of walking. Based on google maps assisted calculations so far, we’ve walked approximately 25 miles, the most Tom and I have ever walked together.

It appeared the sun had come out when light began filtering through the darkened room.
In the 40 years, it took to build Versailles, thousands of workers were employed to participate in the process.

With a few blisters on my feet, I’m happy to have had a bit of a reprieve on Friday during the day to let them heal enabling me to continue on our lengthier walks again in the next few days. Although, the Louvre itself requires an enormous amount of walking which I’ll somehow manage, blisters and all.

This portrait may have been Louis XIV.
Another view of one of the exquisite ceilings.
It was challenging to aim the camera toward the ceilings when there wasn’t enough elbow room for properly aiming the camera.

We have additional booked tours remaining, another top-rated restaurant reservation next week, and other outings whereby once again we’ll take the metro which appears to be the quickest means of transportation in the city and coincidentally the most economic.

We believe this portrait is of Louis XIV when he was young.
This is referred to as a commode with no relationship to a toilet.

The “hop-on, hop-off” one-day bus pass runs approximately US $40, EU $30 per person depending on the bus line chosen, for a 2½ hour ride to many areas we’ve already visited. We can’t seem to justify spending US $80, EU $60 for choosing this option. 

Louis XIV had this statue made of himself dressed as a Roman Emperor to enhance his image. He was of short stature and wore tall wigs in order to enhance the appearance of his height. Others in his court were forbidden to wear a wig as tall as his.
A variety of artists were commissioned for works of art.

Our roundtrip train fare was a paltry US $18.45, EU $13.80 for both of us. What a great way to get around if one can avoid the pickpockets. 

Gold used in creating designs was prevalent.
The various artists maintained a certain style befitting the palace.

It is this reason that prompted me to no longer carry a handbag, large or small, except on travel days. It’s odd not to carry a purse but, the freedom of my hands being free to take photos is more appealing than carrying stuff.

This scene was created on fabric. 
One can imagine gazing out of the window to the palatial gardens without tourists wandering about.

Tom carries my lipstick and phone in a front pocket which has my restricted food list translated into the language of the country we’re in at the time. I show this list to the servers and chefs wherever we dine to ensure my meal is safe to eat. Having this list has worked out well in all of our travels avoiding the necessity of lengthy explanations at the table.

A bust of Louis XIV.
The artwork in the ceilings is as detailed as the walls.

Now, back to our visit to Versailles. Once we were inside the palace, able to remove our soaked jackets, shake the water off our heads and faces, we felt more at ease until we encountered the massive crowds, everywhere we walked.

King’s chamber and bed in the King’s apartment.
King’s bedroom.

There were more crowds than we’d ever seen at any venue. Apparently, the time of day of arrival is totally irrelevant when crowds are already body-to-body packed like sardines in each of the rooms in the palace.

There were many photo-taking tourists in the Hall of Mirrors.

When I didn’t want the heads of tourists in our photos, I pointed the camera, still wet from the rain, above the heads for most of the shots. When an item was located at a lower level requiring lowering the camera, we had no choice but to push our way through the crowd to gain a better vantage point.

As the rain continued few tourists explored the gardens.
Artist’s name is unknown.

Tom’s good at pushing through a mass of people and he led the way for me to follow, setting up the best possible spot for the photos. Oddly, many of the interesting aspects of the rooms were above eye levels such as painted ceilings and portraits. I did my best. It was challenging and also frustrating at times.

The bedroom in the queen’s apartment consisting of four rooms.
Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, showing the top of the bed canopy.

We spent no less than four hours inside the Palace, more due to the crowds than the number of points of interest. How wonderful it would have been to see Versailles without the crowds. 

Fireplace in the council room.
Again, a nude statue.

It would be impossible to find a time with less of a crowd. As a result, we did our best using our imagination as to what life may have been living in this extraordinary, extravagant castle of several centuries long ago.

Queen’s bed.
Bust of Marie Antoinette.

Most assuredly, much of the palace has been restored when aging would have destroyed portions of the artwork, fabrics on the walls, beds, and furnishings. We perceived that they were replaced and repaired with the best possible replicas available to maintain its authenticity and integrity. 

The fabric on the wall of the queen’s bedroom.
Queen’s bed and gold-trimmed headboard.

As we walked through the palace, it wasn’t difficult to let our imagination wander to what it would be like living with such excess and opulence with the gold and crystal fixtures and finials and the finest of art and fabrics.  Apparently, the royalty felt they deserved this type of lifestyle, not unlike rulers all over the world today.

The elaborate canopy over the queen’s bed.
View of garden from the bedroom.

Putting aside our political opinions, the discomfort generated by the crowd, our wet clothing, and often standing still for lengthy periods, it was a glorious experience to see that which we’d only seen in movies and books.

Salon of Le Grand Couvert is a part of the Queen’s grand apartment where the king and queen dined, recently renovated.
Ceiling and wall in a room referred to as a salon.

A first visit to Paris would be incomplete without a trip to Versailles, rain or shine, while elbow to elbow with hundreds of other onlookers, as eager as ever to get a peek at a lifestyle one can only imagine.

Our view as we were sitting on the train on the return ride to the Champ de Mars area near the Eiffel Tower where we exited the station for the three-minute walk to our hotel. We remained on alert for pickpockets when one of the members of our tour group had his wallet taken upon entry in the station.

Photo from one year ago today, August 8, 2013:

The only photo we posted one year ago, was this logo from the Minnesota Viking football team. As the season was set to begin, Tom was hoping to be able to watch the games from Italy and Kenya. But the Wifi signal in both locations wasn’t strong enough to download the games after he’d paid several hundred dollars for the service. He was only able to view a few games, much to his disappointment as an avid Vikings fan.

For details from that date’s post, please click here.