Hong Kong
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Hong Kong Hong Kong

 As I set off for Hong Kong for Atlantis’ first Asia cruise, the only thing I was not looking forward to was the 16 hour flight from New York.  However, once I saw our trajectory I got excited – we flew directly over the North Pole, Russia, Mongolia and China..

As I set off for Hong Kong for Atlantis’ first Asia cruise, the only thing I was not looking forward to was the 16 hour flight from New York.  However, once I saw our trajectory I got excited – we flew directly over the North Pole, Russia, Mongolia and China..

Hong Kong is a big city.  If you are into shopping, watches or having a suit made in for you in two hours, Hong Kong in the place for you. It has some great sites like the largest Buddha in the world and the views of Victoria Harbor which, well, we couldn’t see unfortunately due to the weather. Though we could see the “For Sale” sign on the AIG building. That was funny.

We set sail from Hong Kong on the intimate, 700-passenger Azamara Quest.  Unlike some of our other cruises, this cruise was all about the exotic ports of call.  Our ports in Vietnam were Danang, Nah Trang and Ho Chi Minh City (although everyone, even the Vietnamese, still call it Saigon). Vietnam is a beautiful yet simple country.  The most popular excursion was the bike tour. Bike tours are a great way to see a region and feel like you actually live in the country. And yes there was a Rik Shaw tour as well.  Locals were very enthusiastic when we stopped off the buses (very paparazzi-like actually), offering anything you wanted from postcards to massages. When we asked for a male massage that stopped them in their tracks. But only for a minute. Then it was like, I have a cousin……

One of the highlights from Ho Chi Minh City was the Tunnel Tour. The guides took guests to the actual tunnels used during the war by the Viet Cong and Northern Vietnamese. Some of the tunnels were quite tight and you explored at your own risk. Needles to say, there would never be a tunnel tour in the US without having to sign a ten-page liability release.

Visiting Vietnam was an emotional experience for some Atlantis guests. Several of our guests on this cruise were Vietnam veterans. This was, for most of them, their first time back to the country since the war in the 70’s.  We had a get-together for them to talk and share their experiences and feelings.

The night before we got to Vietnam we had to instruct guests on the art of crossing a street in Vietnam. This was a life-saving instruction for anyone who toured Ho Chi Minh City. You see, while they may have traffic signals, no one pays attention to them. So every intersection and cross walk is organized chaos. When crossing the street, start walking and don’t stop, keep a steady pace and keep moving. Reason being is that all the scooters and cars will assume you will keep moving and go around you. If you stop, don’t plan on making that massage appointment. What most guest did was find a little old lady crossing the street and walk next to her.  

Ho Chi Minh City is where I did my new favorite gangway skit. My friend Sean DeFretias made me a costume where I looked like a bush. I stood by the gangway surrounded by plants where I blended in completely. No one noticed I was there because they were all so excited to get off, so when I would grab their bags off their arms, they would be like, “My bag’s caught on the tree, and I can’t get it off”. Then I would say “Hi” and they would jump across the room. It was such a hit, even the captain came to see me. But he didn’t see me until I tapped him on the shoulder. Yes, he jumped.

The Quest’s Cruise Director was a man named John from Virginia, who immediately described himself as the gayest straight man you’ll ever meet. Well, that was an understatement. As a judge for Project Runway, he began each critique with, “As straight man.” This caused me to ask why he felt the need to keep stating that. He had no answer. However, he also wore pleats, so maybe he was straight.
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, was the crown jewel of our cruise. We docked at 10 am on Friday and stayed until 4 pm Saturday afternoon. This gave everyone the chance to fully explore the city and to really experience the nightlife.  Bangkok is one large city and like any large city, interesting neighborhoods abound.  From the restaurants to the shopping, to the boat tours to the glass high rises and hotels, Bangkok has it all. The daytime highlight is the Palace. It is a massive site containing not only the Royal residence but a collection of large of temples. Each one was more stunning then the one before.

Now the nighttime highlight was of course the famed sex shows. The gay area is situated between two main roads down very busy alleys, where everyone is trying to sell you something, mainly massages and sex shows. There are several fun bars, including Telephone and G.O.D (Guys on Display, where we had a cruise party). They are generally pretty crowded and very smoky.

There is another area where all the sex show bars are.  You turn a corner and every sign is “MEN,” “MEN,” and “MEN.” So in the interest of journalism I went to one. The same reason of course, I can tell you the best bathhouses to go to in any major city, but that’s another story for Hotspots After Dark. Yes at the shows they do EVERYTHING for your viewing pleasure, and I mean everything. One show had a donkey, yes a donkey. Ping pong balls (think Priscilla) are out of style.  Now it’s darts hitting the dartboard.  And let me tell you, there are no shortcomings. That myth was seriously busted.
Also, I will never criticize a dancer at Boardwalk again for looking bored. Even on their worst night they look more interested in you than these guys ever will.

Rita Moreno was our guest star for the cruise. She was onboard for the entire cruise.  Rita’s show was actually a talk about her life and that of the movie and theater business. While it was not your typical gay cruise show, she got a standing ovation walking on stage and at the end everyone said they thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the Q&A.  It was an interesting side note that she played Princess Tuptim in The King and I, which for gays under 20 was a movie about the King of Siam (Thailand). The movie is banned in Thailand because the King felt it was an unflattering portrayal of the monarch.
Singapore, our destination port, is one clean place.  The fact that chewing gum is illegal may be part of the reason. It is a stunning beautiful city state. It’s kind of like the Asian version of Monaco.
As I’m back in Ft. Lauderdale recovering from jet lag, let me tell you a little bit about next year’s exciting cruises. We have two ten-day cruises back-to-back. The first starts in Shanghai, with stops in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, with a second repeating this year’s itinerary. Ok, campers, talk to you soon.

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