Category Archives: Uncategorized

Smiling Sri Lanka

Mar 25-27, 2023

3 days in Columbo Sri Lanka and I must say I was surprised. 

These are perhaps the friendliest people I have ever met, everyone smiles and waves. They love to engage in conversation. They are kind and beautiful people.

On the first day we did a city tour, turned out to be a great day for there was a huge cricket match going on between rival schools. It was exactly like a big college football game back in the states. Flags waving, music, tailgating, traffic jams, dancing. It was awesome to see. 

We went to a Buddhist temple that was total sensory overload, so many Buddhas, they get Buddhas sent from all over the world. it was another amazing place.

Then we went to Independence square and saw their celebration of freedom from England. We also saw a snake charmer which is a fading thing here and will be gone soon.

Day 1 pics

On day 2 we did a tuk tuk (pronounced took took) tour around the city. Many of the same sights as the previous day but from a very different perspective. 

The ride was thrilling and more than a few close calls, though those don’t faze the drivers at all. 

At a stop I got to know our driver a bit and he was happy to show me the engine of the tuk tuk. Other drivers showed up and wanted to show me all the different engines, 2 stroke, 4 stroke and full injected. They were very happy to be explaining all this to me.

I think I need a tuk tuk in Winter Garden

Day 2 Pics

On day 3 we went out to a tea and rubber plantation and factory. It was nice to see some countryside and more little villages. The plantation itself was up a very narrow almost 1 lane road, we had to back up several times to let traffic pass. It was beautiful.

We were invited to the managers bungalow for tea and cake on the lawn, very civilized in a beautiful environment.

We then saw rubber trees and how they tap them for latex.

We saw ladies harvesting tea and then we had a factory tour. It smelled so good. 

Yet another amazing day.

This is another country I would go back to. So much more to see.

Day 3 pics

Phuket Thailand

Mar 21, 2023

We decided to make this another Thai beach day. Beautiful Patong beach was just at the end of the tender pier, so really easy for us.

We walked down the beach and found a nice spot to rent a couple beach chairs and umbrellas. The very kind Thai people brought us beer and they often walked by with stuff for sale. Not pushy at all, if you say no thanks, they smile and walk away.

The water was perfect and very fun to play in.

Susan got a temporary tattoo on the beach, very fun experience.

We then got a great Thai lunch with a view of the beach. I truly can never have Thai food at home again, spoiled for life.

We walked back along the main road. Very funny little taxies are everywhere. Turns out you can get almost anything in Thailand, except they were very clear that it is illegal to eat dog or cat. 

You can buy weed everywhere anytime and word has it that the beach becomes a very different place after dark where you can get really any adult thing or service you can imagine. We were not there to witness this.

As we sailed away Viking put on a tomahawk steak dinner under the sky by the pool. The meal was good and the opera singers were amazing.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

March 21, 2023

We were looking forward to Georgetown as it had been put forward as a place that might be good for long term stays.

We went on a morning ship excursion which took us to see some very cool street art, then a UNESCO old Chinese fishing jetty and then a tour of the city with a stop at the very impressive botanic gardens. We saw monkeys there.

Once back to the ship we decided to walk to a hawker market the guide recommended for lunch. It was a hike and it was blazing hot, but we saw a lot. I got my Malaysian Laksa soup which was good but not great, but what can you expect for under 2.00.

Walking back through Chinatown, little India and the Islamic areas was fascinating. But, cars do not stop for pedestrians, you have to be on your guard all the time. Also, it was hot hot hot.

I don’t think we want to go back for a long term stay, but we would visit again.

Lankawi Malaysia

Mar 20, 2023

The sail into Langkawi is beautiful and while sailing in we were lucky enough to see humpback dolphins.

We had decided to just take the shuttle into town and wander around a bit, perhaps not the best decision. Langkawi is pretty much tourist driven and Covid hit it very hard. Not much open and what was there was kinda rundown.

We did find a nice local aquarium and had a nice hour or so there. We saw a penguin that reminded us of our lazy cats and we saw a person feeding the fish and having to continually push back a very greedy turtle and a very nice jelly fish display.

We also walked out onto the beach but it was very hot and they had jelly fish warnings out.

So we went back to the ship and called it a day

On the way out we were greeted by the Malaysian squid fishing fleet with the green lights on to attract the squid. Pretty cool to see.

Kuala Lumpur

March 18, 2023

Today we did an excursion into KL as the locals call it. I really knew little about KL. It is a very western and very modern city. Very clean and easy to navigate.

An hour bus ride from the port brought us to the national museum. A very nice museum showcasing Malaysian history.

We then when to see the national mosque, a beautiful building in the middle of the very modern city.

We then went to the national war monument, amazing how far reaching the Japanese were in WWII.

Finally we got to see the Petrous Towers, apparently the tallest twin towers in the world, very impressive. They like the tall buildings here, a new one is almost finished which will be the second tallest in the world after the one in Dubai.

We were surprised how much we liked it here. Malaysia can stay on the list of possible places to relocate to.

Singapore

March 15, 16 and 17 2023

What a fascinating city.

We sailed in through more cargo ships than you can imagine, I would not want to be the captain navigating between these huge ships. Eventually we could see the city skyline, very impressive.

Once docked we went on a tour of some icons of Singapore. We got an electric boat ride down the very short (3.5 km) Singapore river and passed the famous Merlion, the symbol of the city. We then got to go into the Marina Sands Mall (crazy big) and the hotel (even bigger). Up to the top floor observation deck that looks like a surf board spanning the three towers. Then down to the Flower dome at the Gardens at the bay park. A really impressive indoor garden that was celebrating Sakura, Japanese spring, by bringing in hundreds of blooming cherry trees. I could spend days in this garden.

We got back to the ship and decided to go over to the mall by the port for dinner. We found a Chinese soup dumpling place and had some fantastic dumplings.

The next day we went on another excursion in the morning that included some stops at historical buildings and another stop by the Merlion. Once we got to China town we decided to go it alone and left the tour.

We had lunch at a hawker market. We had the national dish chicken rice. really good and only 4 Singapore dollars, about 3.50US.

We then walked through China town and some other interesting roads. We saw both Hindu and Buddhist temples, monks praying, a couple getting married, fantastic buildings with plants growing all over and so much great architecture.

We eventually got to Raffles Hotel. Here we had a great experience at the Macallan Scotch experience. Rocky, the host there took great care of us. It was absolute top notch service. We bought a bottle of scotch and moved on the to Long Bar to have the iconic Singapore sling. It was way better here than I have had before. A great experience.

We then walked around Marina bay and ended up one floor higher on the observation deck in the hotel at the Ce la Vie bar. We had a couple drinks with friends and enjoyed the view.

Back to the ship and a rest, we walked a lot of miles.

Last day we decided to go to Sensoa Island, this is where universal Singapore is and some very nice hotels. But it is also home to an abandoned zoo we think and wandering though it was surreal. Felt like Jurassic park and I thought a Raptor was going to jump out at any moment.

We walked across the island to a really nice beach where we did see a creature, a 8 foot long Malaysia Water Monitor Lizard. Just walking on the beach. Very cool to see.

We then took the cable car back across the island to a view point and had a nice walk there again. Then finally back to the ship.

Singapore was amazing, so much to see and do, we need to go back.

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Koh Samui

March 13th, 2023

Today we were on the small island of Koh Samui off the east coast of Thailand.

We had decided to make this a beach day, after all Thailand beaches are supposed to be very nice.

The drive to the beach was much more relaxed than driving in Vietnam and the island itself is very pretty with lots to see along the way.

The beach was very nice, though the waves were rough and the red flags were out so not much swimming.

We had an excellent Thai lunch that may make us never have Thai again back home and then back to the ship. Next a sea day and then Singapore.

Fantastic Vietnam

March 8 to 11, 2023

We spent almost 4 days docked about 20 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon. It was amazing.

We booked 2 of the nights in the Caravelle Hotel right in the center of the city. A beautiful historic hotel where the reporters sent out daily updates during the war. Service was stellar. Such a great experience.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravelle_Hotel

The rivers are a huge part of this area and I tried to capture a few pictures of the life on the river. I was fascinated by the cargo barges that people live on that have gardens on the roof.

The city itself is a sensory overload, so much to see and smell and hear. And the traffic, we had heard it was bad, but it is actually epic! So many motorcycles, pictures cannot capture it. 

Around the city there are flowers and pagodas, old buildings and new and somehow the city actually smells good, it must be all the plumeria trees that are everywhere.

We went to a wood lacquer art gallery and saw them making beautiful items. They used duck egg shells to make the designs.

We also went to the Ben Thanh market, it is huge and has everything.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%E1%BA%BFn_Th%C3%A0nh_Market

We walked a night market (Nguyen Hue pedestrian street) that had a carnival atmosphere, families out for the evening having a great time, balloons and toy vendors and musicians and these little food kiosks on wheels. Turns out selling food here is not allowed and when ever the call came out that the police were coming the little food stands disappeared very fast and then a few minutes later they were back cooking again. No one batted an eye, part of life here. It’s was awesome to watch.

https://daytripvietnam.com/guide/nguyen-hue-walking-street-saigon

On day 2 in the city Susan and a friend booked a market tour and cooking class and then an evening trip to the opera.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipal_Theatre,_Ho_Chi_Minh_City

https://www.luneproduction.com/ao-show

Also on day 2 myself and 3 other friends did a long day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%E1%BB%A7_Chi_tunnels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mekong_Delta

I even went into the tunnel, very very small (I had to crawl) and a bit claustrophobic. I will not be doing that 30 meter trip again. Along with working versions of the many traps that were set in the forest, there was a demonstration of how to make shoes out of old tires, I thought the guy was  going to cut his foot off. They dug air holes through termite mounds to hide them from the Americans and they dispersed smoke though a series of small tunnels to hide the kitchens. There were trap doors that are really invisible and our friend Deb actually went in and it was amazing how good it worked. The place it self really showed the ingenuity of the Vietnamese people and the horrors of war.

The Delta was again a set of new experiences that included holding the frame from a bee hive with zero protection, getting personal with a 10 foot python and riding in a very tippy sanpan (canoe like boat). We also saw personal fish farms where floating houses are built directly over a fish cage and they care for and harvest the fish from holes in the bottoms of the houses.

Everywhere we went the people were so friendly, the flowers are everywhere, the sights are amazing and I would go back to and extended vacation for sure.

Semarang Bus Adventures

March 5th

Woke up this morning to perhaps the least beautiful port I have ever seen.

The welcome ship seems to have had some sort of issue 😉

Looking around the port from the ship we saw colorful boats and some sort of fish or shrimp farm right in the port waters, I will think twice before I buy Indonesian fish or shrimp again.

We decided to not take another long bus excursion and instead decided to take the shuttle into the city center and walk around a bit, who knew this would turn into quite an adventure. The shuttle busses had seen better days to say the least, one of them had a dashboard with most of the controls missing and as near as I could tell none of the remaining instruments were functioning. Though I do wish he had turned on the DVD player and let us see what he had. Each bus had 2 “helpers”. We were not sure what they would be doing, but it turns out there are a lot of times when they have to get out and divert traffic or make sure we will fit through or under a passage. The bus does slow down a bit before they jump out. They also help with navigation.

First bit of excitement came when we came up to a bridge and realized our bus would not fit under the bridge. It took the driver 3-4 minutes to get the bus into reverse and back us out of that jam. But now where? Well turns out going up the down ramp against traffic with one of the bus “helpers” running ahead and chasing cars out of the way was the solution to that problem. Then a short run on the wrong side of the road, with head on traffic trying to get out of our way, before we could get over to actually go with the flow once again. But now we were lost and there was a lot of  waving and pointing and consulting google maps required before we finally got to the drop off point at the mall.

We did some wandering around the fairly modern mall and Susan made a new friend. He requested that we go to his stall in the mall and meet his team. They insisted we sample the Cassava treats and ginger tea. Actually both quite good. 

Then, they wanted us to hold their products and pose for pictures, marketing I guess. And then, yes there is more, all the other stalls around thought this was a great idea and they all brought of their products and had us pose with them. Crazy stuff. I am sure we are already all over Indonesian Facebook. We forgot to get them to take a picture with our phone, so we have no images of this event. We actually did buy the ginger tea and they gave us some sort of Cassava snack (no idea what it is).

After a bit more wandering around we went into the local grocery store to poke around and buy some treats to share and for the crew. Sad all the produce is wrapped in so much plastic.

We then decided to head back and guess what the adventure continues. This was an even worse bus that I was not sure was going to get us back, but we piled on anyhow. 

There was much pointing and waving again and they actually stopped in the middle of the road and one of the “helpers” got out and asked for directions back to the port. We did eventually make it back and were happy to be back on the ship.

No idea what this is, but it was a huge pile of something.

Semarang was an adventure for sure. I am pretty sure it is off the list of places to retire.

The Java Sea

March 4th

A bit of a depressing sea day today.

I tend to spend most sea days up at the front of the ship with the onboard naturalist Robin, where I love to spot and photograph all the creatures found in and over the oceans.

Well today we saw a total of one sad little Tern sitting on a block of styrofoam. 

Robin told me he was very concerned as the last time he was through the Java Sea there was a lot of life, but now there has been un-regulated fishing and the garbage in the ocean has gotten much worse. Much of the plastic comes from the USA, Canada and Europe, they ship it down here as part of a recycling program but there is nothing here able to process it, so it ends up in the sea. There is plastic floating by the ship all the time. It is horrible. And now little to no birds or other sea life to be seen.

I hope you all can find a way to reduce plastic use, I know we will now that I have seen the affects with my own eyes.