My partner and I just returned from a trip to Asia that was, essentially, The Amazing Race without the shirtless Chippendales and prize money.

The idea for this trip started a year ago with my dad-in-law, who wanted to return to Vietnam where he’d served during the Vietnam war. Now, that sounds, in theory, like a very personal, almost mystical journey, one likely to bring a deep and profound sense of closure to a difficult chapter of his life.

But the rest of us – my partner, my mother-in-law and I – didn’t have much interest in reliving the Tet Offensive if there weren’t four-course meals and sparkly dancers involved. So instead of him taking a solo pilgrimage to Nah Trang, the four of us settled on a two-week cruise that began in Singapore, wound through Thailand and Vietnam, and ended up in Hong Kong.  And we added on a side trip to Kuala Lumpur, mostly because no one knows where it is and it sounds terribly exotic, as if we were visiting indigenous tribes that have never seen a Mr. Microphone or toilet paper.

We chose a cruise because, much like a Vegas hooker, we really like waking up someplace new every day. And we chose this particular cruise because we would be in each city on the itinerary for two days, instead of the usual 8-hour port stop you get on a ship that stops in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday. In as much was feasible in 48 hours, we wanted to soak up the culture, the local customs, and to begin to understand what it’s like to be Malaysian.  Or Singaporean. Or Thai. Or Vietnamese. Or Chinese.

None of this fazed us, of course. Seven cities across five countries in 18 days? Psssh. A no-brainer. We’ve done this kind of mad dash across Europe, Central America, Australia.

It’s all in a day’s vacation.

Unless you get the stomach flu. And lose your wallet.