Incredible journey: Southeastern Asian cruise was fun & educational

The Great Wall in China was one of the stops during a 12-day cruise Teens & 20s writer Abby Chester took with her family. / Mike Chester, Special to the Times-News

By Abby Chester
Times-News correspondent

   Last week, my family and I returned from an incredible vacation. Leaving on June 9, we went on a 12-day cruise through Southeastern Asia. Most people are not lucky enough to be able to say that, so I am glad that I can. It was an amazing experience that will never be forgotten. As for the places we went, they were all culturally diverse in their own beautiful way, and it was wonderful to see such a rich culture. Stopping at Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, South Korea and China, this trip gave me an inside look at the lifestyle of these incredibly foreign countries that I had only heard about.
We arrived in Singapore on June 10 after flying a long 25 hours. After arriving, and having an extra day to spare, we went to many different places that all showed Singapore’s rich history and culture. Although people may not realize it, there are many things to do in Singapore that are exciting and fun. You can go to Sentosa Island, a resort which features beautiful beaches, zip lining, indoor skydiving, and its own Universal Studios. We only went to the beach for a couple hours so we could make it to our next attraction – the Singapore Zoo Night Safari. The night safari featured animals that were nocturnal, so you got to see many night creatures moving around and in view, such as hyenas, bats and clouded leopards. We traveled on a tram through part of the zoo, and we got to see many different animals we had never seen before. The next morning, before boarding the ship, we went to the Gardens By the Bay, which is a botanical garden that is filled with many indoor and outdoor gardens, including the Cloud Forest, which features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
Next stop on the cruise was the famed Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, of Vietnam. Participating on a grueling 10-hour tour, we got to see a zoo, a history museum, and an active Buddhist temple. We toured the South Vietnam palace that was taken over by North Vietnam that signaled the end of the Vietnam War. This moment ended America’s involvement in the war and a unified, communist Vietnam. After Vietnam, we went to Hong Kong. The view coming into Victoria Harbor was incredible, with its many high-rises packed tightly together and beautiful mountains in the background. We took an old British tram to the Peak, which was an area on one of the mountains that let you have an amazing view of the city. It was breathtaking, especially because we got to go up a second time to see the city at night, which was even more amazing than the city in daylight, with all of Hong Kong’s high rise buildings lit up and the clouds literally in your face. In Xiamen, China, the next stop on the cruise, we were treated to a delicious Chinese buffet and a trip to two important temples, one dedicated to Confucius and the other to Buddha, both still important in Asian culture today.
In South Korea, we ported in Incheon. After the 90-minute ride into Seoul, the city’s capital, we were able to see Gyeongbok palace, a 14th century palace where the Korean king lived, and two markets, one of them the famous Insadong market, where we could buy Korean food and souvenirs. Lastly, we arrived in Tianjin, China, where we disembarked and headed to Beijing and the famous Great Wall of China, built in the Chin and Ming dynasties. This was easily my favorite part of the trip, because of the beautiful scenery and view from the top of the wall. It was incredible getting to see the place I had heard so much about, and it was just as great as I expected it to be. Finally, after reaching the Beijing airport on June 24, we were heading home.
I loved every minute of this trip, even when we had to wait in long lines or it was incredibly hot outside. It was both a fun and great learning experience, and I hope to go back to all of these countries and explore them further, perhaps with a family of my own. But even if I do not get to go back, this trip will always be in my heart and I will remember it forever.

Abby Chester is a rising freshman at Western Alamance High School and a Teens & 20s writer.

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