ISSUE 5, April 2003
Editorial
Henry Sadler: The First Grand Librarian
Travel: Full of Eastern Promise
Masons and Medical Research: The Royal College of Surgeons
Quarterly Communication: Report of the Board of General Purposes
Masonic News: Capital Event, Brazil's Grand Chapter
Masonic Charities: The Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and The New Masonic Samaritan Fund
Masonic Education: A Feast of Learning
Library & Museum: Trench Art exhibition
Letters
Gardening
Book Reviews

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Hong Kong
I joined the cruise in Hong Kong, and during two weeks sailed along the coasts of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. On this particular trip, the days at sea gave everyone the chance to recover from a particularly arduous itinerary. However, you are not obliged to go on everything that is offered, but I wasn't planning to miss out on a thing.
     I had been warned that the weather could be cold in Hong Kong in February, but stupidly didn't take heed, and like many of my fellow passengers, had to run to the wonderful shopping centre adjacent to where we were berthed in the Kowloon Peninsula to stock up on warm clothing.
     Although we were only in Hong Kong for a day, we were taken on a guided tour of the island to visit the Aberdeen fishing village where people live on houseboats; to Stanley Market, a haven for buying souvenirs; and Victoria Peak, one of the highest points of the island.
     From there, we returned to ground level in a matter of moments on the peak tram which descends at a 60 degree angle. Fortunately, the seats are placed backwards or the descent would have been very frightening - or exhilarating - depending on your state of mind!
     Although the island is filled with ultramodern skyscrapers, each one bigger than the next, it was surprising to see the stark contrast of the poverty of some of the living accommodation.
     One of the plus points of being on a cruise is that the days all blend into each other. If it wasn't for the daily bulletin giving you details of your next day's programme, it is very easy to forget what day it is.
     Friends had suggested that I take dressy clothes for the evening, but Minerva is very laid back, although there were a couple of black tie dinners where one could put on one's finery.
North Vietnam
Our next stop was North Vietnam, where we visited the capital, Hanoi. Here, for the first time, you experience a totally different culture. The first thing that strikes you is the amount of bicycles, with the only cars in sight being taxis.
     Everyone travels by motor or pedal bike, with often the whole family - mother, father and child - squeezed in the middle, on one bike. This is not surprising when you are told that there are 2.5 million motorbikes out of a total population of 3.5 million.
Ho Chi Minh
Our visit included seeing the mausoleum of former leader Ho Chi Minh, founder of the country's Communist Party, and a visit to the Temple of Literature, where people come to pay their respects to one of their many Buddhas.
     One of the perks of being on an organised tour is going to places where you might not otherwise be allowed. This happened with a 'water-puppet' show, a spectacle that originated in the rice fields, one of the main industries of the country.
Hanoi
Hanoi is still undeveloped, and so we were surprised to lunch in a modern high rise hotel where we ate some excellent Vietnamese food. I had hoped for some oriental cooking on board the Minerva, but unfortunately the chef's repertoire didn't go beyond sweet and sour pork.
     Before leaving the area, we enjoyed a leisurely boat trip around Halong Bay, where limestone mountains soar out of the water to provide the most spectacular scenery.
     As well as being able to buy local souvenirs on the boat, we were also approached by small passing craft who tried to sell us the local fruit.
     Our next stop was further down the South China Sea with the climate getting increasingly warmer. The city of Hue is 16 km from the coast, through which the famous Perfume River runs.

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