Keelung (Taipei) Taiwan

March 25, 2019

Keelung is a major port city located in the northeastern part of Taiwan.  It forms a metropolitan area with Taipei.  It is nicknamed the “rainy port” and we could immediately see why.  It was raining on our arrival and remained rainy in the morning and cloudy most of the day. Taipei is the capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and its largest city. The population is 23.5 million and 40% live in this area.

We joined our tour shortly after we reached the port.  The port itself is very large and many containers are on land and being loaded onto ships. Here’s the view as we sailed in.

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Our tour was to the Yangmingshan National Park and the mineral hot springs – a full day tour.  Our guide was Jesse.  He lived in the US from 1978 – 1992 and is a USC graduate.

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He told us that they get 3000 earthquakes a MONTH here in Taiwan and most of them are not even able to be felt by people – they are just detected by the equipment.  They did have a very big one in February 2018.

Taiwan is very clean, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post.  Jesse said that we would not find any trash containers on the streets, people have to bring their trash home with them and it is collected twice a day.  Imagine that..They have a 56% recycling rate.

People are quite poor in general. A salary for a typical worker is about $1500 US/ month and rents range about $600 US.  So there isn’t much left for them to spend once their expenses come out of their salaries.  On the other hand, his prescriptions and all doctor’s visits costs him $10 for 3 months.

There are lots of motorbikes here too, on a workday between 8:30 – 9 there are 1.3 million motorbikes on the road. But not too many on weekends.

A Mercedes vehicle costs about $100,000 US here and parking spots cost about that amount too. 

Taiwan is #1 in building yachts, but most of the other industries (such as athletic shoes) have moved to mainland China which is a problem for the Taiwanese. There is still a healthy biotech industry.

It took about an hour to get to the park and on the way, Jesse gave us all yellow ponchos to wear in the rain.  By the way, the bus was equipped with wifi and usb ports too.  I was able to back up my iPhone while we traveled. The buses are quite fancy here, lots of lights and even curtains!

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The drive to and through the park was just stunningly beautiful.  Forests, mountains and hot springs are all part of this park.  Here are some pictures of our walk.  The cherry blossoms were still out but at the end of their blossoming. But the azaleas were beautiful.

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After that part of the park, we went to the area of the bubbling hot springs.  It was pretty overcast still but you can see some of these hot springs in these next shots. There was also a long walkway with lush bamboo on both sides.  How do you like the poncho??

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After the park we went to the Cal La Yong Garden Resort. Here we had a delicious Taiwanese lunch and then had several hours in the mineral hot springs.  There was also a cold pool, high speed hot mineral showers and one pool with jets.  Amazing afternoon.  We were soooo relaxed at the end of the day.  We even had a tea before we got on the bus to go back to the ship.

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Yes, we did need to wear those dumb caps!

Here are some pictures as we traveled back to the port after a wonderful day.

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You can see that this is an area of contrasts in economic levels.

Tonight in the terrace it was a pan Asian dinner and it was, as usual, fabulous. There were plenty of dumplings and noodle dishes too but I didn’t take pictures of those.

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As we sailed away, the Keelung sign lit up the sky.

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Posted in Asia, Excursions, Food, March, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

March 24, 2019

Here is our sail in to this busy commercial port.  They are building a huge new passenger terminal which will probably be finished by our next visit. Very smoggy here too as you can see.

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Today we explored Kaohsiung mostly by foot.  Last time we were here we saw the two main sights, the Fokuangshan
Buddhist monastery and Lotus Pond.  If you plan to visit Taiwan, these are really special.  You can read my 2017 blog post about them here.

So today we set out to explore the city and surroundings.  We met with a local representative before leaving the ship and got information about transportation, sights to see, etc.  We took the shuttle to the Formosa Boulevard MRT station which has unique public art displays.  It was rated second of the most beautiful subway stops in the world.  The glass masterpiece “Dome of Light” is the world’s largest glass masterpiece and features penetrating light through evolving scenes. There is even a grand piano in the lobby of this station.  Pictures really cannot even do it justice.

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And we see 7-Eleven everywhere.

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Here is one of the outside MRT entrances.

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Readers of this blog know that we love to explore markets.  Today was no exception as we walked through the Nanhue night market which did have some of the stalls open.  My first purchase:  Two pairs of shoes, and what a bargain,  in US dollars, they were $12.60/pair.  Here is a photo of one of each.

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There was a lot to see in the market, one of the cleanest we have ever been in.  Yes, lots of motorbikes driving right through the narrow alleys, and some people but not the crowds we expected.  Of course we were out and about by 8:30 AM and it is Sunday.

They do love their seafood here and we saw almost everything you could imagine.  They grill squid on sticks everywhere.  There are all kinds of clams, snails, fish, and shrimp, both fresh and dried.

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There were all kinds of meats too, and chicken.  Did you ever see a black chicken?  It was a first for us.

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We passed a woman making dumplings and bought a bag of them for a snack.  It was $1.62 for 10 dumplings.  Delicious.

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Here are some other market scenes.  The vegetables also looked fresh and delicious.

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Yes, that is a heart hanging up in the picture above.  We saw legs, livers, hearts and lungs all in the meat markets.

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We saw a lot of animals on scooters, both while they were parked and also with people who were driving around with them.

There is a place near the ferry station called Warehouse 2 which had lots of food places and shops, even a craft brewery. 

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Next we decided to take the shuttle back to the Banana pier and take the ferry to Cijin (Qijin) District.  This is where the city was first developed and shows traditional Taiwanese architecture and sculpture.  It is a barrier island.  The ferry cost 30 Taiwan dollars or about $1 US.  When we bought the return fare, the ticket agent gave us the senior rate which was 15 Taiwan dollars!  Don’t know why the first agent didn’t recognize our age.  Smile

We really enjoyed walking around the streets of this district.  There were lots of food stalls and many families out for a Sunday morning/afternoon. Here are some of those sights. I couldn’t get enough of the little kids – adorable.

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We climbed up a hill to see the Kaohsuing (Qihou) lighthouse which was built in 1918 and is still functioning. The views from here are beautiful but yes, smoggy.

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More sights from our walk…

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We took the ferry back and had lunch in a place with only a Chinese name so I can’t tell you what it was. But the food was great. They had plenty of Coke and very large Taiwanese beers.

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Last, we went to the Pier 2 Art Center which is not far from the ferry pier.  This is an open art space on the seaside that was once the second connecting pier of the harbor and was then wasted space.  Now it houses a puppet museum, the Takao Railway Museum and a vintage train remade in a ratio of 1.84 that runs on a five inch wide track.

Lots of families and their children were here, and in an adjoining park.  There were lots of kites and bubbles.

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A great day.  Here is our sail away with a nice view of the lighthouse up on the cliff.  Yes, it was a steep walk up there.

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Posted in Asia, Food, March, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Manila, Philippines

March 22, 2019

We were disappointed to miss Boracay Island, and we did hear that it is not uncommon to miss it due to unpredictable winds and seas. Even if it is not terrible when we arrive, in a tender port, it is equally important to be able to get people out of the port in the tenders safely.  So we enjoyed our sea day on Thursday.  We had dinner in Polo.  Before dinner, there was the most beautiful sky after sunset.  These shots are from our balcony.

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Then, at dinner, we had a table at the very back of the restaurant where the moon was in a perfect position.  Unfortunately I had my eyes closed when our friend took this picture and he took only one.  Oh well..I didn’t see it till after dinner.

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On Friday, we went to Manila.  The port is a busy shipping port, so not much to see as we came in. This was our third visit to Manila so this time we went outside the city having toured it and Corregidor in the past.

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Our tour today was to Tagaytay Ridge which was a 2 1/2 hour bus ride south of Manila.  But first we had to get out of Manila in the Friday traffic.  We did have a police escort for the 3 buses, but honestly it didn’t seem to help too much, the traffic in the city was very bad.  Our guide was Melanie, and she was VERY good.  She told us that to try to cut down on traffic they use a number coding system (we remember this from China), where on Monday, no cars with license plates that end in 1 or 2 are allowed on the roads, 3 and 4 on Tuesday, 5 and 6 on Wednesday, 7 and 8 on Thursday and 9 and 0 on Friday.  That didn’t seem to help much either!

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Melanie told us that there are 7641 islands in the Philippines.  Now that we have been to two, we have 7639 reasons to come back!

One common method of transportation is the jeepney.  These are small buses that originally made from US jeeps that were left over from WWII.  The word jeepney could be from combining jeep with jitney, but Melanie said that the explanation that most people believe is the combination of jeep and knee because the vehicles are so tightly cramped. They are very colorful but often not well maintained or safe.  They are also a source of traffic congestion because passengers get in and out from a rear door, and seem to do it almost anywhere, even in heavy traffic. The government is trying to do away with the old jeepneys and introduce new generation ones with air conditioning, padded seats and more room, but the owners of these older ones do not want to give up their livelihood and also do not have the money to purchase the new ones so the effort is not taking off. New ones cost 1.8 million Philippine pesos ($34,190 US).

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They also have the motorbikes, tuk-tuks, pedicabs and horse drawn carriages – those are mostly near the Rizal park.

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On the trip to Tagaytay, Melanie told us a lot about the history and customs of the Philippines.  We learned that there are 1800 employees at the US Embassy which we passed on our trip. This is our largest embassy.The Philippines has 105 million people and 12 million live in Manila. 

There are some beautiful homes and enormous casinos but a lot of the city is slum like.  We heard that the government tries to relocate people but they keep coming back, even the homeless population does not go down. There is also a problem of squatters who get chased out but always return.  Now they want to be called “informal settlers”!

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This is a real challenge in the country where the average wage is $150 US a week.  Melanie said that many workers make 595 pesos/day which is about $11.30 US.  She works as a cook in addition to being a travel guide to make ends meet.

One of the casinos we passed was the City of Dreams with a casino and 3 hotels.  There is something called DreamPlay for children which allows the adults to drop their children off there while they gamble or do other hotel activities.

Our first stop was at La Pinas, St. Joseph Parish Church which houses the world’s only bamboo organ which was built in 1824 and has become a national cultural treasure. It took Fr. Diego Cera 8 years to finish the organ. We visited the church with its very thick stone walls and even had the pleasure to hear the organist play several songs.  Then we went to the adjoining museum where we saw and heard about the construction of the organ.  Very interesting. The stations of the cross are all around the outside of the church and are bamboo crosses.

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There is a school next door and we saw these girls outside.

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Another interesting thing Melanie told us is that most young people live together for even up to 5 or 10 years before getting married because there is no divorce in the Philippines.  You can get an annulment but it is very expensive and can also take many years to obtain.

We heard about past political leaders and that Imelda Marcos still is a congresswoman in a Philippine district at age 89.  Her 3300 pairs of shoes were confiscated and 800 of them are in a shoe museum.  The ones with the diamonds in them are in the central bank!

Our destination in Tagaytay was the Taal Vista Hotel which overlooks the volcano district and smallest active volcano in the world. It is 2000 feet above sea level and we thought it would be much cooler, but it still felt pretty warm. The views of the volcanoes, the mountains and lakes were beautiful but the air was very smoggy and it would have been nicer if it was clear.  Many people come here from Manila in the summer – it is actually called the summer capital of the south.

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We had a wonderful buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant and had time to relax in the beautiful surroundings. We even had musicians to entertain us during lunch.

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We also stopped at a wonderful fruit and flower market where we saw huge jackfruit (look at the one the man has on the motorbike), durian, bananas, mangoes, etc., as well as lots of sardines – Melanie said the lake here is the only source of fresh water sardines in the world. Melanie bought a bunch of small “monkey” bananas and gave us each two. Very sweet and delicious.

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And I bought flowers to take back to the ship.

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When we returned to Manila, we had a tour around the city, including the Intramuros, the city’s oldest district which is enclosed within a thick wall that the Spanish build for defense in the 1500s. We also had a photo stop at Rizal Park which is dedicated to the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal who was shot to death here by the Spaniards and led to the Philippine revolution against Spain.  This is also his burial place and one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It serves as the point from which all distances in Manila are measured and it is said if you don’t have a picture taken here, you haven’t visited Manila!

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We also passed by the Manila Hotel which was used by General Douglas MacArthur as his command post during much of World War II.  His suite of rooms can be a place to stay if you have $8000 for a night!

Here are a couple of other sights from the city. Markets, traffic and yes, you can have your gallstones removed.

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It was really touching to see so many of our crew members with their families and so hard to see their goodbyes.

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After a long day, we had dinner in the terrace.  Here is the sunset and sight of the city from our balcony as we leave Manila. And my flowers.

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On to Taiwan after a sea day.

Posted in Asia, Excursions, March, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Boracay Island??

March 21, 2019

Is this Boracay Island?  We cannot be sure.

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It has been named one of the best island beaches in the world and has been closed to the public while they did clean up – we were so looking forward to seeing the beaches and doing some snorkeling here. The beaches are made up of pure white sand, they say.

As I have mentioned before, when the captain comes on the speaker and it isn’t noon, it is never good news.

We found out that due to heavy winds and sea conditions (which, on a large ship don’t seem so bad), the tender operations could not be used to get us to Boracay Island so we have an unexpected sea day.

Tomorrow we will be in Manila and are traveling to Tagaytay Ridge.

Posted in Asia, At Sea, March, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment

Boracay Island??

March 21, 2019

Is this Boracay Island?  We cannot be sure.

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It has been named one of the best island beaches in the world and has been closed to the public while they did clean up – we were so looking forward to seeing the beaches and doing some snorkeling here. The beaches are made up of pure white sand, they say.

As I have mentioned before, when the captain comes on the speaker and it isn’t noon, it is never good news.

We found out that due to heavy winds and sea conditions (which, on a large ship don’t seem so bad), the tender operations could not be used to get us to Boracay Island so we have an unexpected sea day.

Tomorrow we will be in Manila and are traveling to Tagaytay Ridge.

Posted in Asia, At Sea, March, World Cruise 3 | 2 Comments

Puerto Princesa, Philippines

March 20, 2019

Well, before we arrived here, we crossed the equator again, this time heading north of it.  One of the friends we met on the cruise was telling us that he talked to his grandchildren about it and they wanted to know if he saw the red line!  So of course they had the crossing ceremony again.  I was doing walk around the deck at the time, so I did get a couple of pictures.

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We also had the returning guest cocktail party.  I probably mentioned in the past that as diamond members, we get invited to both parties – they have two because there are too many returning guests for just one. One of our favorite things is when they award pins to crew members for their length of service.

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Mario got some fresh red snapper and tuna in Bali and grilled it outside on the deck – simply delicious. 

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We also got an additional guest lecturer on the ship, Brian Unger. Always a lot to learn about the places we are so fortunate to visit.

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I didn’t mention in my Bali post about the motorbike drivers.  Nyoman mentioned a man from France that had contracted with him for tours.  The second day, before they were scheduled to meet, he got a call that he needed to transport them to the airport, the man had rented a motorbike and got in a crash – had a broken leg and wanted to go home for the repair.  I wouldn’t rent one of them on a bet, especially here as they whiz all around you and come out from seemingly nowhere.  We saw one with a woman and 3 children on it, she was both driving the bike and holding an entire flat of eggs in one hand. Too bad I couldn’t get a picture.

We were slightly behind schedule for our arrival in Puerto Princesa, and we saw the pilot boat from our balcony.  This is by far the funkiest pilot boat we have ever seen!  As I mentioned before, a specially trained pilot boards the ship before every port.  The captain is always in charge, but the pilot provides crucial information about conditions specific to the port to assist the captain in his decisions.

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Here are some other shots of our arrival.  A band was playing on the pier and there were dancers and costumed characters to greet us.  We were each presented with these shell necklaces.

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This city  has a population of about 216,000 people. It is the capital of Palawan, Philippines and is located 301 nautical miles southwest of Manila.  It is said that the city was named after a mythical young woman but history says that it was named after Princess Asuncion who was born in 1864 to Queen Isabela II and her consort, Francisco de Cadiz after the Spaniards came in to the country. When the Princess suffered an untimely death, the Queen had the city named Puerto de la Princesa, later changed to its current name. And the area certainly is beautiful, lots of green mountains and of course, surrounded by water and beaches. We have never been here, and we heard it is the first for our ship, so the captain takes part in a special welcome ceremony.

Our plan for the day was to have lunch with Graham and Shuna.  Graham is the artist in residence on the ship right now and Shuna is his wife.  We became good friends on a previous cruise and have a treasured Denison original that we purchased then.  Graham had the name of a restaurant and we decided to walk there.  Of course we were constantly approached by the tricycle drivers wanting to take us to our destination.  They must have thought we were crazy to want to walk because it was very hot.  These vehicles are built on a motorcycle and have a side sort of cab attached.

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On the way to the restaurant we stopped at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The original church on this site was built in 1872 and in 1961 the small church was renovated and turned into a cathedral. Most of the original architectural design has been preserved.  Most of the people in the Philippines practice Catholicism.

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The restaurant was one of the most wonderful experiences we have had anywhere in the world.  From the art, the design of the building, the food and the wonderful staff, we had a simply spectacular lunch. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is traveling here.It is called Kalui.

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The next pictures were taken either by Graham or by me, impossible to sort that out since he air dropped his to me and they are all together on the iPhone! But I know they will give you a snapshot of this great day.

When you arrive, you need to take your shoes off and leave them in a numbered basket.

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The art inside and outside of the place is wonderful.IMG_3567IMG_3571IMG_3572IMG_3574IMG_3576IMG_3577IMG_3581IMG_3596IMG_3598IMG_3599IMG_3600IMG_3602IMG_3603IMG_3604IMG_3605IMG_3606IMG_3607IMG_3608IMG_3609IMG_3610IMG_3611IMG_3612IMG_3613IMG_3615IMG_3616IMG_3617IMG_3618IMG_3619IMG_3621IMG_3622IMG_3623IMG_3628IMG_3631IMG_3632IMG_3635IMG_3637IMG_3638IMG_3640IMG_3641IMG_3643

Even the bathrooms are stunning.

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Clearly, that last one was taken by Graham.  I did not go into the men’s bathroom!

And now, the food. The pictures will not do it justice.  We had so much different food and it was all delicious. We started with a lemon and ginger broth soup and a side dish of seaweed (I know, sounds like, what?? seaweed?)  But it was quite good. The middle plate below is a grilled tuna.

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At the end of the meal, the waiter brought us each a coconut filled with fresh fruit, and then, compliments of the owner, another half coconut with a piece of delicious flan in it.

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We all enjoyed it so much and were completely stunned when the bill for each couple came to $19.  That waiter got nice tips from us for sure.

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To get back to the ship, we decided not to walk in the heat of the day, so each couple got into one of the tricycles.  Do you think Norm liked it??

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Our driver Rodrigo took us on a tour around the city and past markets and the bay walk. The Bong & Rose was our vehicle.

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We bought only a magnet that looks like one of the masks in the restaurant.  We will never forget this fabulous day.



Posted in Asia, Food, March, World Cruise 3 | 3 Comments

Bali, Indonesia

March 16 and 17, 2019

I have so much to post about Bali!  It is our second visit here and two years ago, we hired a local guide to take us around. We had a fabulous time and became Facebook friends, so this time, I contacted him and he was available for both days.  So, thank you again, Nyoman Terep, for the amazing repeat visit to Bali. 

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When we first met Nyoman (pronounced like Norman!), he told us about how Indonesians name their children.  He is the third child.

A birth order name is chosen from a few typical names according to the position of the child in the birth order of siblings. The people of Bali use the birth order name to refer to one another.

The first born are named Wayan. Wayan is a Balinese name meaning “eldest”.

Second born children are named Made, Kadek, or Nengah. Made and Nengah mean madya or “middle”. Kadek means “little brother” or “little sister”.

The third born is given the name Nyoman or Komang. These names may be shortened to “Man” and “Mang” respectively.

Fourth born children are named Ketut. Ketut is often shortened to “Tut”.

If there is a fifth child in the family, she is often called Wayan Balik. And for additional children, the same names are then repeated in order!

The prefix “I” is for boys and “Ni” is for girls.  So he is I Nyoman.

Here was our sail in on Saturday.  The harbor is a very busy place with lots of boats, parasailing and other water sports. The Mountain “Mother” Gunung Agung is seen in the first picture.

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Our Balinese welcome!

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We told Nyoman that our priorities for the day were the Ulun Danu Temple in Bedugul and the Tanah Lot Temple.

We accomplished that and much more. Since we had an overnight stay, we didn’t worry about timing and it was a good thing since the traffic was horrible.  It took more than 2 hours to reach our first destination.

We saw  bamboo poles decorated with young coconut leaf decorations lining the streets all over Bali.  These intricately decorated poles, naturally curved at the top, comprise harvest items such as rice, fruits, coconuts and coconut leaves. The men of the households erect their ‘artwork’ at each household gate on the eve, resulting in an impressive view throughout all village roads.

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The other thing we noticed as we traveled along were the very large posters encouraging people to vote for candidates for next month’s elections. They seemed to be everywhere.

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While most of Indonesia is Muslim, in Bali, 95% of the population practices Hinduism, but it is a much more relaxed and moderate approach than you see in India.   The population of Indonesia is 260 million and 4 million live in Bali.

We witnessed a long line of people along the road on our first day travels.  Nyoman told us that the people were returning from a cremation ceremony.

Cremation in Bali is usually one of the most expensive rituals to perform. In Bali, before the cremation, people go through a burial ritual where they bury the dead for some time. Usually, this burial ritual is being conducted near a temple called Pura Prajapati. This burial ritual acts as an interim state. Due the funds needed for cremations is quite high, they will go through this interim state until they are financially ready. Once the family members are financially ready, they will select a day to perform the cremation ceremony. And, Nyoman told us that many people from a town or specific area are often removed from the burial sites together and cremated together – so that explained the long lines of people we saw in that village. I thought it was disrespectful to take their picture.

We passed several places that were getting prepared for weddings, which did add to the traffic for sure. Since most people have their own temples within their homes, some weddings take place in homes.

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There are impressive statues everywhere!  This is just along the road.

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Since the ship didn’t get in until 11 and the traffic was so bad, Nyoman stopped for lunch at a restaurant overlooking a beautiful valley and rice fields. We had a delicious Indonesian lunch with rice pudding made from the black rice for dessert.

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Our first temple visit was to the Ulun Danu Temple in Bedugul which is at an altitude of 4900 feet.  This is a major water temple which serves the entire area. It is on a lake that is so beautiful with the green mountains in the background.

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Clever sign, right??

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We went on to the Taman Ayun Temple which is also known as the Royal Temple.  It was built in the 17th century.  It includes a wide moat, exquisite wooden shrines and beautifully carved gates. We could only walk around the outside of this temple.  There was one woman inside leaving an offering.  Offerings are seen everywhere, not just in the temples and can be almost anything, from fruit to flowers.  Nyoman had an offering on the dashboard of the car. Outside of homes and businesses are small temple replicas where offerings can be seen.

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The next picture is a statue of the goddess of rice.IMG_3247-copy

These characters represent good and evil and are used in performances

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The Balinese dancers are just beautiful to watch.  Nyoman says that girls start learning the dance at about 6 or 8 years old.

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You may wonder about our long pants on a hot Indonesian day.  It is expected that shoulders and legs are covered when entering temples.  Most do have a kind of sarong that they lend you, but we chose to dress as expected when doing our visits. Indonesians do not wear shorts except for field workers and becak (a kind of bike taxi) drivers and they look down on people who do.

The last temple we visited was the Tanah Lot Temple.  It is also referred to as the Sunset Temple.  The black lava towers of this 16th century temple are situated on a rocky outcrop just off shore, and we were hoping for low tide so we could actually cross to the temple.  Unfortunately it was not low tide so we had to settle for the beautiful grounds and take pictures of the temple.

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So we had accomplished our list of things to see today and Nyoman was going to take us to a romantic restaurant for dinner (and wait for us there!!)  These Indonesians are so polite and wonderful.  But as we got closer to the restaurant, the clouds thickened and it started to rain.  This restaurant was outdoors with a view and he said it is not as impressive if you have to be indoors, so we chose to go back to the ship and have dinner on the covered terrace. 

We agreed that he would pick us up by 7:30 on Sunday as we leave at 3 and had other places to see.  We hoped that the traffic would not be as bad.

We had a room service breakfast (for the first time) so we could leave the ship early.

Sunrise was beautiful.

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Our agenda today started with the Uluwatu Temple which you might say is the most spectacular of all of them (but each is equally impressive). It is an ancient temple perched on awesome seaside cliffs.  Nyoman warned us about monkeys that will definitely steal your glasses, so we left everything except cameras in his car!

Here is what was left of one pair the monkeys got to.

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We walked all around from one end of the cliffs to another.  Here we needed to wear a cloth sash around our waists to visit the temple.  There were a lot of people bringing offerings and small children learning to play the traditional instruments.  Magnificent.

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We visited GWK Cultural Park.  We got there before 10 and wanted to go up into the recently completed GWK statue which opened at 10.  Unfortunately when we got in we found that it is too new to be opened to go into, so we settled for pictures of it and other beautiful structures around the entire park.

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We weren’t there for the dance performance but did get some pictures with the performers.

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Last stop for the day was in the Nusa Dua area which is a high end beachfront area with luxury hotels and a golf course.  There is a water spout area that is impressive when the waves are high, but that wasn’t the case today.  The rocks are immense.

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You know I always like to take pictures of children, with parent permission of course.  Here are a few from Bali.

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When we returned to the ship, we found lots of St. Patrick’s day decorations and goodies..  yes, they do honor all of the holidays here on board! By the time I took the picture, the top clover leaf had already been eaten!

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The day finished with a cabaret by Stephanie and Nieks of the entertainment team, and a celebration dinner for Marilyn’s birthday.

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Goodbye for now, Bali and Nyoman, see you next time!





Posted in Asia, Excursions, March, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Komodo, Indonesia

March 15, 2019

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup”.

Well, we have left Australia and are now in our first port in Indonesia – Komodo.

Here are some pictures as we sailed in.  We anchor off the island – it is a tender port that docks at a small pier, shown in one of the pictures below. The island is very green.  We had storms all night but no rain this morning. The local people approach the ship in their small boats hoping for guests to throw money to them. We are strictly warned against that.

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First of all, about Indonesia.  It is made up of  17, 508 and has the highest Islam population in the world. There are 127 natural volcanoes here.  Adam Tanner did a talk about Indonesia yesterday (again, standing room only) and had a lot to say about the corrupt government in the past as well as the economic success here.

Komodo is one of three major islands making up Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The park was established in 1980 with the sole purpose of protecting the habitat of the Komodo dragon. The dragon was first discovered by a zoologist named Peter Ouwens just over 100 years ago even though it dates back 40 million years in one form or another. Komodo is the only natural habitat of the Komodo Dragon.  The island of Komodo includes about 60 square miles of craggy mountains, deep canyons, savannas and monsoon rainforests.

We were here in March of 2017 and once you have seen the Dragons, in our opinion, you don’t need to see them again.  To read more about them and this area, you can look at the post from that visit,  Komodo 2017

There are fewer than 300 Komodo Dragons left and their existence is in jeopardy. 

Here is one picture of us with a dragon in March 2017.

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So, my plan for the day on board was a spa day.  I started with my hour long walk on deck after breakfast, then headed to the steam room and a series of treatments including a full body massage, a pressure point foot massage, a scalp massage, revitalizing hand and arm massage and collagen eye treatment followed by another steam.  So relaxing!

Tonight we are eating dinner in Polo following a cocktail reception with Graham Denison, the artist in residence.

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Tomorrow and Sunday we will be in Bali.  My massage therapist today lives there and will be allowed to leave the ship overnight to be with her family!  I assume there will be other crew who will do the same.  Our spa manager, Laura, departs tomorrow for a well earned vacation.  Have a great time, Laura!

Posted in Asia, March, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment

Darwin, Australia

March 13, 2019

Yesterday, we were invited to a party at 11:15 AM for the ATW guests in the Insignia lounge.  It was an Asian theme and wow, did they do it up right.  Many types of Asian delicacies, including sushi, tuna, ceviche, egg rolls, chicken wings, rice balls, dumplings and many more. Then there was a whole array of sweet items too.  Amazing.  We started off with a Bejing bellini, which was champagne and lichee juice and it was delicious.  There was a video of some of the highlights of the trip so far. Damien, the general manager, welcomed us and the new entertainment team did some Broadway songs from the show that they will perform tonight.  Lovely event and no need for lunch to be sure!

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Today we reached the last port in Australia, Darwin. We have a pilot on board as it is tricky to navigate the Great Barrier Reef, and he has made several announcements as we passed Wednesday Island and other islands on our route to Darwin.  He also gave a lecture which was standing room only, as have the lectures by our newly arrived guest enrichment lecturer, Adam Tanner.

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Yesterday it was about the British Empire, Convict Transports and the Colonization of Australia.  I had to stand, there wasn’t an empty seat in the theater!  He is that good.  Luckily they re-broadcast them on the TV in our room. This was very interesting – he told the history of what Britain decided to do with their convicts – everything from putting them on ships, considering sending them to the Caribbean and Africa, which were rejected for many reasons, finally leading them to Australia.  Most of them got a sentence of 7 – 14 years for relatively minor offenses.  When they served their sentences, many stayed in Australia.  So now a lot of people have convict ancestors – they populated a lot of Australia.

Just before the lecture, I won the blackjack tournament.  And I am learning to play Texas hold ‘em too.  In the last tournament, I was third to last to be eliminated, the top two get money.  The only other time I played in that tournament (on the last cruise), I went out after the first hand as I had a king high flush – pretty darn good hand – and someone else had an ace high flush.  #$@W^%^&  So guess what happened this time?  I had a KING QUEEN high flush, went all in and one of the other two remaining players had an ace high flush. What are the chances!!! But this time I played almost to the end.  We will see if I continue with that one.

Here’s our sunrise arrival into Darwin.

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We spent a couple of days in Darwin two years ago, so we opted to take a tour of two places that we hadn’t seen before – Crocodylus Park and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Chris was our guide and she gave us many facts about Darwin en route to the first stop, Crocodylus Park.

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Darwin is Australia’s only tropical capital city and yes, it was tropical today, 91 degrees and very humid. This is the rainy season here but Chris said they have only had less than 1/3 of the amount of rain they usually get and if it doesn’t get better before May when the rainy season ends, this will be the driest rainy season on record, very bad for the farmers.  A big crop here is mangoes and they are quite worried about that crop.

Darwin has a big military past, too. Last visit we learned about the Japanese bombing just 6 days after Pearl Harbor which sunk 12 ships.  There were a total of 64 raids conducted on Darwin over a two year period and over 300 people were killed.

The Crocodylus Park was a fascinating place.  It is a crocodile research facility operated by wildlife research consultants and also a park that has a number of other animals in it. 

We were greeted by a guide who took us for the first part of the adventure, crocodile feeding.  Basically, you held a large pole with a piece of chicken on the end of it and the crocodile would jump up to get the food.  I had the chance to feed Mildred.  Norm took a video which, again, I can’t post on the ship. Maybe one day I will try to post all of the videos from shore! 

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We saw a lot of the crocodiles, all ages,  some in breeding pens and others in small enclosures. There is also a lagoon which has many in and around it.

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Then we had the chance to see and hold a baby crocodile.  Of course we both had to do it.

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Here are some of the other animals they have there.

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We did learn to back away from the lion as he was spraying to mark his territory.

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We do love our creatures – maybe not the snakes and crocs, though.

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They had a very nice gift shop and many of the purses cost thousands of dollars.  Chris said that the crocodile leather costs $80 per square centimeter so that is why they are so expensive.

We asked about croc attacks and she said there have been only 24 deaths since 1971.

They were selling crocodile meat (which by the way, we had at dinner the other night in the Terrace Cafe – it DOES taste like chicken).  I picked up the recipes which I dare say I could use for CHICKEN.

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Then we went on to the museum.  One of the highlights in this museum is the story of Cyclone Tracy which hit and devastated Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974.  There were many stories and pictures and you could go into a booth to hear the actual sounds from the cyclone.  Creepy.  More than two thirds of the population were air lifted out.  Now they have much more secure building codes and early warning systems but they haven’t had one as bad since.

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The museum has many displays of birds, insects, shells, etc.  Their butterfly and moth exhibit is beautiful.  There was also a student art exhibit and I was really impressed with the work.

There was an exhibit of some of the boats, and also Sweetheart, one of the sort of friendly crocodiles, which suddenly died.  I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in one picture!

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There was a spider exhibit which we didn’t go to but we took pictures next to the metal web and spider photo!  I guess they wear sunglasses in Darwin.

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There is usually an aboriginal art exhibit but the student exhibit is there now.  This is one of the pieces of the art that is done on the walls of the hills and in caves.

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Very nice day.  On our way back to the ship, we did a small tour of the town and we remembered visiting many of the places we passed.  We decided to get back into the air conditioned ship and not do any shopping here! 

Tomorrow we have a sea day before getting to Komodo Island.  You cannot visit there without being on an organized tour.  We did the combination of the island and snorkeling last time so it will be a relaxing day on the ship for us.

 

 

Posted in Australia, Excursions, March, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Great Barrier Reef video (sorry, didn’t load) and a couple of other items!

Well, the video did not load, apologies and will do it from  shore if I can.

On the trip, we also learned from the marine biologist why the sea cucumber is so valued- they call it the “vacuum cleaner” of the sea as it collects soiled sand and poops out the clean and spits out the water.

We are living the dream and loving all of our adventures. We have shared it before, but here it is again. Our motto.

Posted in Australia, March, World Cruise 3 | 3 Comments