Singapore, Singapore

May 17 and 18, 2023

We LOVE Singapore. We have been here many times and for these two days, we bought a 2 day MRT ticket so we could use the subway system as often as we wanted to.

We arrived at 1 PM. Here are some pictures of our arrival.

Reflections Keppel Bay condo building

The MRT system is fabulous here. The only issue is that to get a 2 day pass, they don’t take credit cards or US money. Fortunately, our friend Ellen was right next to us in the line and she had Singapore currency so she bought all three tickets. She is always prepared! It saved us from having to leave the line to exchange currency, which we did later.

Our plan was to go to Chinatown to see Ray who was visiting for the two days our ship was in port. We had a quick visit at a restaurant, then went on to find the Laderach chocolate that we bought in Dubai (and is gone now!)

We found the chocolate shop inside the food court on Orchard Road. This is a very high end shopping area with every luxury brand you can imagine in the shops here. We found out that they are connected in the underground tunnels for the MRT. In the heat, we hardly had to walk outdoors.

We did some browsing, then returned to the ship to shower and get ready for dinner. The food court area was quite amazing.

A huge tea shop in the mall

A few other signs and sights we spotted on our way.

We were meeting Erin and Mui at a tapas restaurant. When we got there, they had checked out that restaurant and didn’t really like the looks of it, so they had another one in mind – a Chinese restaurant called Crystal Jade. We were the only non Asian people in there (which is always a great sign!) There were so many selections on the menu, it was difficult to decide. We settled on four entrees when the waiter told us they were large enough to share. Here are our selections.

Deep fried Prawn with Crispy Rice and Minced Garlic in Bi Fen Tang Style
Chinese Spinach and Scallops with asparagus
Fried rice
Organic Threadfin in Soy Sauce

Our desserts:

Chilled Mango and Pumpkin Puree topped with Coconut Ice Cream
Steamed Green Tea Lava Custard Bun

And our wine:

We were pretty tired after a long day of shopping, walking and eating. We got back to the ship around 9 PM and it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep!

Today we again set out on the MRT to Chinatown where wanted to buy some mangoes. We were early so many stands were not open but I did manage to get some mangoes after we had a walk through most of Chinatown. I was spoiled by the low prices in other ports though. And last night I saw sunflowers that I wanted to buy and they were $7
Singapore dollars apiece. 1 Singapore dollar is 1.34 US. So I passed those up and am enjoying the flowers I got in Panang.

After Chinatown, we headed to the Marina Bay Sands hotel which is the iconic three towers that are connected on the top by a swimming pool and several restauurants. We had a reservation for lunch at LAVO, an Italian restaurant on the 57th rooftop floor of tower 1. First we walked all through the high end stores in the attached mall. There is even a waterway with boats.

And the most beautiful and large Apple store we have ever seen. It is two stories high and has ceiling to floor glass to maximize the view from the second floor.

View of the Esplanade. It is a concert hall designed to look like the durian, the smelly fruit that you can’t fring on the MRT or almost anywhere else!

The views from Lavo are just as amazing.

This one from the Apple store
Oh yes, we had salads and wood fired delicious pizza
Outdoor area at Lavo
The building that looks like a flower is the ArtScience museum
Gardens by the Bay

The mall had this lovely arrangement of fresh roses.

Another wonderful day in Singapore. We enjoyed the shopping, the food and the ambiance here. Of course, we didn’t have any security issues either. They are very strict here and actually hung two people recently for possessing drugs. No smoking is allowed anywhere, or vaping either. You cannot chew gum or spit. And look at the fines on the MRT. I don’t know what the fine is for durian, but we didn’t have any so we were safe. You don’t see police around, I guess because the fines are so high, people are mostly obedient. And the trains are spotless as is the rest of the country.

Tonight we will have another anniversary dinner in Toscana – they forgot the cake at the first one!

And tomorrow we go to a new port for us – Bintan Island, Indonesia which is a tender port so we will be anchored. We turn the clocks BACK again tonight.

Posted in Asia, Food, May, World Cruise #4 | 4 Comments

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

May 16, 2023

It is our 41st anniversary today and we didn’t plan a trip into Kuala Lumpur from our port in Port Klang. It is expected to be very hot and humid again and the city is 90 minutes away by bus. We have been to Kuala Lumpur before so we opted not to go today. We will celebrate later in the Italian specialty restaurant, Toscana.

We did get off the ship to see what was nearby and the answer was…nothing. There were 4 food trucks in a building near the port building. I wanted to try to buy mangoes but there were no markets nearby and only one shop in the terminal building that had mostly snacks.

So, instead, we stayed on what was almost like a private yacht today as most people were off on tours. Delightful.

There was a Southeast Asian dinner in the terrace last night and all of the selections we tried were delicious. Here are just a few of the ones we sampled.

Tomorrow around 1 PM we will arrive in Singapore for 2 days. We have dinner reservations with friends tomorrow night and lunch reservations on Thursday. We have been to Singapore many times and enjoy it every time. This segment of the cruise ends on Thursday so some passengers will depart and others arrive for the next segment which is 15 days to Bangkok.

Posted in Asia, Food, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Penang, Malaysia

May 15, 2023

It is our third time in Penang and we have seen most of the historical sights and temples. Here are some pictures of our arrival.

This time, I had a quest. Quite a few years ago, I purchased an inexpensive pair of rubber sandals and they have been my go to sandals, even used as slippers, and they were great when I had plantar fasciatis. I can walk for miles in them without any discomfort. So I knew they were made in Malaysia and I wanted to find another pair since the soles of this pair are wearing down.

We had the intention of taking the free CAT bus to the bazaar area but didn’t see it anywhere and the cab drivers were eager to take us. So we opted for a taxi for $5. Good thing because later when we thought we would take the bus around town and back to the pier, we saw the sign on the bus that said they have a requirement that passengers wear masks and I didn’t have one with me. The driver made no exceptions!

Penang has two parts; Penang Island where the capital city, Georgetown, is located and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. They are connected by Malaysia’s two longest bridges. Penang has a hetrogeneous population that is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and religion. The three main races, as we heard in Langkawi, are Malay, Chinese and Indians. Penang is also home to significant Eurasian, Siamese and expatriate communities. People are quite friendly and helpful and we felt safe here.

Many people are wearing masks here but as in so many southeast Asian countries, it is often for pollution or sun protection. We haven’t heard of a lot of covid here, but the mask requirement on the CAT bus did make me wonder.

We arrived at the bazaar area and Campbell street market around 9:30 and many of the shops were not yet open. We wandered through the area and found a shoe seller that had the sandals! They are slightly different from my original ones, but I bought 2 pairs for $14 US. This vendor did take US money but most in the local markets do not.

It was hard to believe that the main thing I wanted to accomplish was so easy! We walked around the market area for a while and stopped into a store that sold all kinds of noodles, nuts, dried fruits, beans, etc. We bought some nuts, mixed nuts and fruit and dried tangerines which I have never seen before. It was amazing that they seem to have a dried soup mix for every ailment. Here are just a few. We didn’t buy any of those.

It was again a very hot, steamy day, so we decided to go back to the ship in time for lunch. This is when we discovered that the CAT bus had a mask requirement, so we grabbed a taxi, again for $5. I spotted a flower market on the way back to the ship and asked the taxi driver to stop. It is the day after Mother’s Day and the day before our 41st anniversary, so flowers were definitely required! I picked out a lovely bouquet for US $8.

It is fun to be in some cities that we have explored before and to just go out with only a vague idea of where we would go and what we would do. I love to watch the people, speak to those that I can, and learn every day. No formal tour is needed in many of these places.

Here are a couple of pictures from the town.

The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock tower, presented in 1902 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
This is the port entrance

A large pod of dolphins entertained us while we were eating lunch. I couldn’t get any pictures but we watched themwhile they played just off the port side of the ship.

Tomorrow we are still in Malaysia, at Port Klang which is a 90 minute drive from Kuala Lumpur. We visited there in 2019 and decided not to take the long trip so I made a hair apppointment for 2 PM. We will go out in the local area in the morning.

Posted in Asia, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Phuket, Thailand – Day 2

May 14, 2023. (Day 120!)

And it is Mother’s Day. We had no prearranged tour today so we decided to go to a resort that our friends went to yesterday. Negotiating with the taxi drivers is very interesting here. They have total control of transportation (no Uber or Uber like service) and they can charge whatever they want. At the port itself (which is never a good idea) the taxi driver quoted $130 US to take us to the resort. It was hot but not too far to walk to the port entrance where that driver said he would take us for $30 US. Quite a difference. We took him up on it without negotiating because yesterday people told us they paid $20/person to Phuket town which is closer than the resort.

It took about 35 minutes to get to the Centara Grand Beach Resort where we hoped to have massages but unfortunately they were booked up until 1 PM which would have been too late as we needed to be back on the ship by 4. So instead we paid 1000 Thai baht (about $30) to use the services of the resort and it included food and drink.

It is a lovely place right on the beach and it had several beautiful pools and a lazy river tube attraction. A bonus was that the wifi was fast and we updated our devices and downloaded the latest upgrades while enjoying the resort.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that it is election day here today and there is no alcohol served in Thailand from 6 PM last night all through today. We were told that by the receptionist (we already knew as it was announced on the ship and printed in the daily newsletter). There are also signs posted in all of the bars here. That was not a problem for us and, in fact, we think the Thai system is a good one. Hold elections on a Sunday and restrict drinking for 24 hours before and during the election.

The waves were pretty rough and we were warned not to go in. It was too hot to walk the beach anyway.

After the wonderful lazy river float, we went to the restaurant for lunch. We had already gotten 2 large bottles of water, and for lunch, Norm had another one, I had a Coke light and we both had excellent shrimp pad thai. After all of that we still had about $2 US left of our 1000 baht resort fee!

The driver that took us to the resort said he would be back by 1:45 but if he wasn’t back by 2, he probably had another customer. He tried to give me a code to reach him on Whatsapp but it wouldnt go through. We waited until just after 2 but when he didn’t show up, we hired a taxi from the hotel for the same $30 (1000 baht). We stopped at a money exchange so we could pay him in baht.

It was a nice relaxing day with Norm and the only thing that would have made it a nicer Mother’s Day is if our sons were with us.

Remember the bunch of bananas we bought in Sabang? We are down to only 4 bananas! He said they are the best bananas he ever tasted. I guess we will have to go banana and mango shopping tomorrow. I am also looking for a new pair of Malaysian sandals that I bought on a previous trip – they are my go to sandals – the most comfortable I have ever had.

Phuket is really nice and it does attract lots of tourists. One of our friends told us that the regional airlines charge as little as $16 to fly here from nearby cities so people often fly in just for the day! Cheaper than taxis for sure.

Tomorrow we are back in Malaysia so our clocks go forward an hour tonight.

Posted in Asia, Food, May, World Cruise #4 | 3 Comments

Phuket, Thailand

May 13, 2023

This is our third country in three days!  Indonesia, Malaysia and now Thailand.  And it will be that way for a while now as we sail around southeast Asia. 

Last night we were invited to dinner with Dottie, our cruise director, her husband Tom (who will be performing his comedy after we start the next segment of the cruise in Singapore), Bengt Washburn, a guest entertainer who did his comedy – we really enjoyed him – and Dennis and Cle, friends who have been on every world cruise with us.  We had a great time, and of course, I forgot to take pictures because we were chatting so much.

Here are some of the pictures as we sailed in to port.


Today our excursion was snorkeling at Koh Khai.  Our guide was Hadi (actually his name is much longer and more complicated in Thai, so he told us to call him Hadi!)


The drive to the Phuket boat harbor was about 40 minutes and Hadi gave us lots of information about Phuket. We have been here three times before so we knew some of the information, but we always learn something new. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and has a population of about 500,000. It is located in the Andaman Seal and is part of a group of 32 smaller islands. The island is mostly mountainous. 80% of the population is Buddhist. There are 6 international schools on the island which points to how many people are not from here. Before Covid, Hadi said they got 36,000 tourists a day. Tourism is the main economic driver here.  It hasn’t yet gotten back up to that level.

An interesting fact that we heard from Dottie on board and from Hadi – tomorrow is election day in Thailand and we will be here overnight. They do not allow any drinking of alcohol from 6 PM today and all through tomorrow, election day.  Maybe we should recommend that for the US!

The boat lagoon has a lot of nice boats and this attractive lighthouse.  It also has some fishing shacks.

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We boarded a boat for the group of 18 and went to the first of the two snorkeling spots. Here are some pictures of the group and of the small islands near the snorkeling spot.


Again, I tried to use the underwater camera but without much luck. The visibility was not good and the fish were much too quick.  I got some of the coral and a few fish but seeing the pictures was really nothing like the view underwater.  But I am sharing a few anyway.  One interesting thing here is that there are several metal grids in the area and coral is beginning to grow on them. We were happy to see that.


After an hour of snorkeling, we moved to a nearby beach where we got off the boat and onto a lovely fine white sandy beach.  Here we had umbrellas and beach chairs.  The place is the Koh Yao Sea Farm.  We could purchase drinks and food here, so I had a margarita but we didn’t get any food.  We could swim or snorkel here so I took the opportunity to snorkel.  It was pretty rocky until I got out quite far.  The coral was not as nice but there were quite a few fish.



It was 91 degrees here today and very humid as well.  The beach was pretty nice but when we left to go back to the ship, I don’t think anyone wanted to stay out any longer.

On the way back, Hadi and the crew served us cold fresh watermelon and pineapple and it was delicious!  They also kept us hydrated with cold water and Cokes all day long. Here are some of our fellow snorkelers enjoying the watermelon.


Just before getting back to the dock, we passed a mangrove area with many monkeys that were jumping and playing.  Hadi threw some of the watermelon rind out to them – perhaps that was what they were waiting for!


On the way back to the ship, I took some pictures of the guardian spirit houses that most Buddhists build outside their homes and businesses .  They believe that protector spirits live in these houses.  We passed by pretty quickly so the photos aren’t that good but I wanted to show some examples.  They can be pretty elaborate or simple and people put offerings of food, flowers, water or other items out every day.


There are many motorcycles here and Hadi said that most people have one.  80% of their cars are Japanese.  They are quite costly here because there is a 200% tax on both cars and motorcycles.

We haven’t decided what we will do tomorrow and Hadi gave us lots of directions to town, shopping areas, restaurants, beaches, shows, etc.  I guess we will decide on it tomorrow, or maybe just have a restful day on the ship?

Posted in Asia, Excursions, May, World Cruise #4 | 2 Comments

Langkawi, Malaysia

May 12, 2023

We have moved from Indonesia to Malaysia in one day! For Sabang Indonesia they required that all passengers and crew have our temperatures taken the day before arrival. Malaysia had no such requirement. Oceania set up the face recognition/temperature device at the entrances to all of the dining venues so they just scanned everyone as we went for a meal. Sometimes they did it at another meal too (just to be sure, I guess). People have asked about the health of those on the ship. As far as we know, there are no pasxengers with Covid and therefore no restrictions. Some people have lingering colds and they are usually pretty good about taking care not to cough on anyone. Some wear masks. Overall, the cruise is pretty normal.

We were scheduled to dock, but that was changed to anchor with tender service to the pier. Arrival was scheduled for 10 AM but we anchored early. By the time the officials “cleared” the ship for people to get off, we were ready to go for our tour at 10:45.

The sail in pictures were quite beautiful. The islands are very green and lush.

The lifeboat used as a tender is ready to go

Langkawi is a duty free island and an archipelago of 99 islands but only 3 are inhabited. There are also five small islands visible only at low tide in the strait of Malacca. Langkawi is the second largest island and has a population of 220,000. The people are Malay, Chinese and Indian and the Muslim religion is the most prominant. The chief sources of income are rice, rubber and fishing.

Our guide today was Jerry. He mentioned that the dry season is usually January – March but this year it is lasting through May which does impact the rice farms.

Our first stop was a rice farm and museum, the Laman Padi Langkawi Museum. It was really interesting to see the museum (and thankfully it was air conditioned – another steamy hot day here). There were exhibits that showed the entire process of growing rice and preparing it for use.

This guide showed us through the museum
The plows they used to use and in some places they still do
Baskets for collecting rice. Wouldn’t mind having several of these!
Sifting and pounding the rice
Baskets for catching fish in the rice fields

After visiting the indoor museum we were guided around the actual rice fields and had explanations from various staff members.

Manual grinding of the rice
Scarecrows are used in the rice fields
Transplanting rice. Transplantation takes place after the first month

The original method of growing rice takes 4 1/2 months and the newer method in which the seeding and harvesting are mechanized takes 3/1/2 months. The mechanization is more frequent because the younger generation doesn’t want to do the manual work. Two crops are grown each year.

We also saw how they open coconuts, the difference between the male and female coconuts (male is more elongated) and got to taste some shaved coconuts.

Coconut juice is used on the skin and for making oil. One of our group got to try it first hand!
Water buffalos and cows are often found in the watery rice fields. And people fish in the rice fields too.

After our trip to the rice farm, we headed to the cable car. The cable car goes to a mountain that is 708 meters (about 2300 feet) high. Each car holds 6 people.

There was a dancing fountain and many other attractions at the sky cab park. These kids loved the fountain.

The views were outstanding!
The famous sky bridge

There are two stops for the cable car – we were told to go to the top stop where there are two 360 degree viewpoint observation towers. The mountains are called Machinchang and are made of sandstone layers that are the oldest in Southeast Asia, 550-500 million years old. The prolonged erosion processs produced the sharp peaks and valleys.

More beautiful views.

There’s our ship – the Oceania Insignia

I wanted to walk to the sky bridge – it is many steps through a nature walk in the Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park. Norm chose to skip that part due to the many steps. I had a hot walk and did walk across the sky bridge and back. You can also take a “glide” but we didn’t know what that was exactly until we saw it, it was a kind of hut on a track that let you avoid the steps that led to the bridge.

On the bridge
We saw monkeys on the ride here but none while I was in the forest
This is the middle station
At the middle station

Back at the bottom, I wanted to have an ice cream but we had no Malaysian Ringgit. I asked the server if they would take a credit card and she said yes, but when she handed me the cone she said they didn’t take credit cards – she must not have heard or perhaps not understood what I asked. After a discussion about what to do, the manager just said the cone was free!

It was a hot but very interesting day. We heard from Jerry that Langkawi is an up and coming tourist resort area due to the proximity to Thailand where things are much more expensive. We saw many resorts and “homestay” accommodations as we traveled around the island.

These time changes we have as we travel can be confusing. We finally moved clocks ahead the extra 30 minutes when we left India. Then we moved an hour ahead last night, we will go back an hour tonight (before Thailand) and when we leave Phuket, Thailand on Sunday, we will move forward again when we re-enter Malaysia.

Posted in Asia, Excursions, Food, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Sabang, Indonesia

May 11, 2023

Dodging the cyclone.. we left Port Blair early to avoid the storm. The captain did a great job of sailing north then turning to the east before heading back south. It was a bit of a bumpy ride (didn’t affect us at all) but we felt very little effect of the storm which remains a threat to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This is our first port in Indonesia on this trip and a first for us to this location. Sabang is a city in Aceh province, Indonesia which consists of Weh Island and several smaller islands off the northern tip of Sumatra. It was added to our itinerary when Myanmar was removed. It has the smallest population of any city in Indonesia.

We saw that most of the ship sponsored tours were walking tours so we knew that we could also walk from the port. But it was close to 90 degrees and very humid, so when we got off the ship we spoke to a woman who would take us around for a reasonable price. I admit, I was partial to doing business with a woman. Her name was Rose, and her husband Yoko was our driver. She is a government worker who apparently took the day off to be a guide. Her English was pretty good.

Our ship was originally scheduled to stay here until 7 PM but that got changed to 4 PM. So one of the things we thought we could see was the Zero Km monument which is the starting point for Indonesia. Kind of like the Key West of Indonesia. Here is a photo of it. We didn’t go because it would have taken too long.

This is a beautiful, clean island with very friendly people. Everywhere we went, people smiled and waved. We stopped to see many beautiful landscapes and beaches.

We stopped at a resort that Rose said is very popular with tourists. We saw several people from our cruise there! The deluxe beach front accomodation is 475,000 Indonesian Rupiah which is about $32/day US.

Mui, Erin, Younga and Dave on the beach at the resort

The main religion here is Islam and Rose and Yoko are Muslims. There are also Buddhists and Christians here and the people live in harmony and have respect for all religions. We saw a lot of mosques but did not visit any.

Sabang is also famous by the nickname of the island of a thousand fortresses with many assets and historical relics in the Japanese and Colonial times that are still left. The Japanese occupied the island in 1942 and installed many bunkers, fortifications and gun emplacements. On April 19, 1944, the Japanese facilities were attacked by a combined Allied naval force. Sabang became a free port under Indonesia in 1963 and gained city status in 1965. It was declared a free trade zone in 2000 and saw a rapid growth in shipping and trade.

We stopped for Indonesian coffee and Yoko bought us a kind of rice cake called pulut which was delicious dipped in the strong coffee.

The view from here was also stunning.

The large lake is beautiful but Rose said that no one swims there because it is very deep! The town’s water all comes from this lake.

I think this duck boat has seen better days!

We saw many cows, goats and a few monkeys during our drive around the island. They are often right in the road.

We mentioned to Rose that we wanted to buy bananas. She stopped at one market and we got out, but she didn’t like the bananas there so we went to another market. There, this vendor wanted to sell me all of the bunches of bananas for $5. We settled on just one bunch. Norm said they are different from our bananas at home but very good.

These are the tuk tuks here. We were glad we didn’t take one because the hills here are pretty steep and these vehicles have trouble with them sometimes.
Clearly it didn’t deter Bill and Bob.

We were intrigued by the living fences here. Rose didn’t quite understand that I was asking for the name of the tree. These living fences were seen throughout our drive. I am not sure if they are planted as young trees of if they are somehow harvested and replanted to form the fences. Either way it is interesting and not something I have seen before.

We saw lots of students who seemed to be on a lunch break
Back to our beautiful ship!
A birdhouse we saw in our travels
This group was taking pictures of the ship and wanted one with me too

I got Rose’s contact information in case we come back here or if any of our friends do. We had a great day with Rose and Yoko exploring Sabang.

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Port Blair, India

May 9, 2023

On our sea day yesterday, the boutiques had a fashion show that showcased some of our fellow travelers wearing both the clothing and the jewelry available in the ships. Here is a picture of all of the models.

When Myanmar was taken off of our ATW itinerary, three ports were added along with a second day in Phuket, Thailand. Port Blair was the first of the three. We had never been to Port Blair, in fact, we never even heard of it before. When we saw the map, we realized how far from the rest of India it is. It is a 2 -3 hour flight from mainland India.

The captain told us yesterday that instead of staying in port until 7 PM as scheduled, we would leave at 5 to get ahead of the monsoon weather system headed this way. We will see if we do stay ahead of it!

Our plan today was to find a tuk tuk and have a tour around town and to see the bazaar and the Cellular Jail which seems to be a highlight here.

Port Blair is the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. There are 572 islands in total but only 38 are permanently inhabited.

We took the shuttle bus to the center of town since we thought the tuk tuks there would be less expensive than the ones waiting at the port. We were the only cruise ship to dock here all year so we assumed they would be waiting for tourists. at the port.

The immigration procedure here was less tedious than in the rest of India. We received copies of our passport page, India visa, a customs form where we were asked to list video equipment and how much money in US dollars and other currency we were bringing and a landing card which they stamped and then checked at entry and which we gave back to them at exit.

We weere greeted by some beautiful women, showered with flower blossoms and had a bindi put on our forehead.

The Gandhi statue is a highlight in the town center.

We visited the Aberdeen Bazaar which wasn’t too much different from all of the markets we have seen in India, but there were very few tourists there. We did see this cow!

Apparently they love their garlic here!
We thought these cabs looked vintage! We didn’t actually see any like this driving around

We hired a tuk tuk and went to the Cellular Jail. It is quite hot here even so early in the morning but there was a nice breeze in the tuk tuk. The driver was not allowed to park, so he gave us his phone number and asked us to call when we were finished touring.

The design of the jail was based on separate confinement, which ensured that the prisoners had no form of contact with others except the officers. Originally the jail had 7 wings which got damaged by the earthquake in 1941 and now there are only 3 wings.

The Cellular Jail was created over 10 years, from 1896 to 1906 and is said to be the most formidable colonial prison that ever existed in India. Once built and used by the British to exile political prisoners, it is now an important tourist destination for many as it serves as a historical reminder for one of the darkest chapters in the Indian freedom struggle.

The sole idea behind its construction was to use it as a place of exclusion and isolation where prisoners would be subjected to harsh treatments in a single cell prison room.

Since it was located in one of the most secluded and inaccessible parts of the country, escaping from this jail was nearly impossible. Hence, the name “Kala Paani” was given to it, which roughly translates to “death water”.

Two places with eternal flames are in the courtyard
A model of the original design, a three story structure with 7 wings
One of the cells
Bridge from one ward to another
The gallows

In spite of how grim the history of this place is, the surroundings are quite beautiful.

One of the officials called our tuk tuk driver for us, and when he arrived we asked him to take us to a place for Norm to get a haircut.

By now we were pretty hot and tired, so we asked the driver to take us back to the ship.

Tuk tuk, man and cow competition

Tomorrow we. have another sea day on our way to Sabang, Indonesia, another one of the new ports and also new for us.

Posted in Asia, Excursions, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Colombo, Sri Lanka

May 5 and 6, 2023

I have a post from May 4 in Cochin, India but for some reason it is frozen on my iPad and will not load.  I am in contact with the “happiness engineers” at Word Press so I hope to save it but if not, I will have to compose it again.  So I am doing this one on the laptop and Cochin will have to come later.

We were in Sri Lanka in 2015 but not since then.  We are scheduled to be here for two days and decided to stay in Colombo because a lot of the attractions are a 2 hour drive to get to and we didn’t want to do that after so many full days of touring.

As we pulled into port, we could see that it was a very busy commercial port. And although our  material on the ship said you could not walk in the port, there was one entrance/exit that we could walk to.


We were advised before we boarded that we would need an immigration form that we could fill in online ($50 fee). So we did that and printed it out but NO ONE asked for it at all.  I wonder if all guests even did it.  The ship reimbursed us for the fee.

We found a taxi at the port and went to the One Galle Face Mall.  Our driver was Silva and he was eager to give me his phone number and encouraged us to call him the next day to have him take us on tour.

So today our mission was to shop for an Indian outfit – the type I have admired when others wear them.

We found a shop and I tried on many of the cotton tunics with pants.  None looked right, Norm thought they all looked like pajamas.  So we went to another store where I found a more formal outfit. 


We then went to another shop that caught Norm’s eye and it was a great experience. The two women had me as the only customer most of the time and quickly determined what I would like and would not like.  I could have bought half of the dresses in the store but I settled for 5! All were very reasonable in price.  As I wear them, I will post some pictures.

Of course, they are known for cashews here so we bought some of the sugar coated ones.  Yum!

We took a tuk tuk back to the ship and relaxed the rest of the day. At night, there was a deck party for Cinco de Mayo.  Norm opted out but I went, had a margarita and danced all night long.

On Saturday, we decided to just hire a tuk tuk for the day instead of calling Silva (although he had a nice air conditioned Toyota!)

We hired a driver named Chandrasivi but he said to call him Chandra.  The tuk tuk is a unique vehicle with one tire in the front and two in the back.  The driver sits in the front and the seat for passengers holds two comfortably and perhaps three in a squeeze.


We settled on a price for a one hour tour but we ended up going for more than 3 hours.  We visited two Buddhist temples and in our travels around town we saw all of the decorations for the Buddhist celebration taking place yesterday and today – the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day and day after Full Moon Poya Day. These are local holidays here and we weren’t sure what might be open. The mall yesterday was no problem.  Most stores were open and it was a very large and modern mall.  One of our fellow passengers tried to go to the jewelry exchange in the World Trade Center building, but that was closed.

Here are some pictures from the two temples.  The Gangaramaya temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo and is an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture.  It is a huge  complex with many statues of Buddha.  There is a relic that is said to be hair of the Buddha.  The attached museum has so many artifacts that you couldn’t even take it all in. 

IMG_7758~photoIMG_7756~photoIMG_7752~photoIMG_7748~photoIMG_7742~photoIMG_7738~photoIMG_7736~photoIMG_7728~photoIMG_7726~photoIMG_7712~photoIMG_7707~photoIMG_7734~photoThis one is said to be the footprint of the Buddha.

The other temple was constructed over the water and was quite simple and beautiful.


We visited the Independence Hall.  Norm stayed in the vehicle and was entertained by the monkey and the man with the cobras. In another spot a young woman and her father who approached him so she could practice her English.



We went to a gem gallery which had very beautiful stones and jewelry. We didn’t buy any but it was nice to look.  They mine sapphires, rubies and emeralds here but not diamonds.

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is well known for tea and spices.  We went to a tea factory retail outlet where we tried several types of Sri Lankan tea that you can only buy here and we bought two kinds. The young man serving us and explaining all about the tea was both informative and handsome!


We stopped at a Hindu temple but we had already seen so many in India, we didn’t go inside.


This is the Lotus Tower.


We wanted to get back to the ship for the afternoon tea (which we usually never go to) but today it was a special Coronation tea with the big screen airing the Coronation.  We did make it back but not before the tuk tuk broke down and Chandra had to call a friend to bring another one so he could take us back to the ship.

Coronation tea pictures.


We had two very different but very nice days in Sri Lanka.  It was hot weather but there was a nice breeze in many places. We now have two days at sea and it will be a nice rest!

Posted in Asia, Excursions, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Cochin, India

May 4, 2023

Before I write about Cochin, I remembered a story we heard from our guide in Mumbai. Hindus believe in reincarnation and also in the prophesies that they are given when they have their “fortunes” told. It can be good news or bad news and in her example, if a woman is told that she will have two marriages, no one wants to marry her because they know it will end in separation or death for them because there will be a second husband. So, what they do is they perform a marriage to a dog or to a monkey, and then she is free to take a “second” husband!

We have been to Cochin 3 times before (again, search it on the blog site if you want to read previous posts). Some of what we did today was a repeat but always something new to learn.

Here are some shots of our sail in.

The Chinese fishing net

Our guide was Gopah and we were on a tour arranged by Erin and Mui. Today it was just the 4 of us in a very comfortable and thankfully air conditioned van. As I mentioned it is getting close to monsoon season here and it is very hot and humid. Gopah said there is only one more cruise ship that will come here before the 6 month monsoon season when no ships come.


We drove to Fort Kochi (Kochi was the official name until 1996) and many still refer to it that way. It is in the state of Karala. There is not a fort here anymore but the entire area is still known as Fort Kochi. Literacy here is almost 100% and most people speak English but there are many local languages as well. Children learn English in school. Gopah told us that there is a labor shortage here and that people come from other parts of India to work and that wages are higher here. People from here don’t want to do the hard labor jobs and move to where they can do other work.

36 million people live in the state of Kerala. Although India is 80% Hindu, here there are 50% Hindu, 30% Muslim and 20% Christian. There is religious harmony.

Kochi was called the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” and was an important spice trading center on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward and it maintained a trade network with Arab merchants. Spices are still a very important product. Later the Portuguese, Dutch and British had a large influence here and the architecture shows those styles.

As we drove over the bridge, we saw a huge amount of traffic heading the other way. This was the best picture of the bedlam that I could get.

When we arrived in Fort Kochi, we started a walking tour and headed to St. Francis Church, where we had visited before. The previous tomb of Vasco da Gama is here. His body was moved to Lisbon but they preserve the former site here, where he died. The church was the first European church in India.

These white things are fans that were previously operated by ropes pulled by people outside the windows. They are now operated by electricity

As we walked through the area, we saw some beautiful flowering trees, including the interesting cannonball tree that we saw in Soans Farm.

We visited the area of the Chinese fishing nets. Tourists are often invited to pull the nets, but we have done that in the past and declined this time. It is quite an operation and goes on all day. These stones are used as counterweights to lift the nets.

Many people sell the fish and other seafood here.

Talk about a giant prawn!
Too hot even for the dogs

Here are some of the other sights we saw in our walk through this area.

They do have bike rentals here, the fee is about 75 cents per hour.
Lots of beautiful murals
The former home of Vasco da Gama. Now a homestay

We thought we would not be able to visit the Basilica but it was going to open at 10:30 so we waited the 10 minutes and went in for a visit.

This is a small shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima

All kinds of homeopathic and regular medicines are easily available here.

We walked to the Dhobi Khana, the local laundry which the Dutch brought to the area to wash the army’s uniforms. Each family has its own area. This woman is 87 and has been ironing here for 70 years.

She let Norm do some ironing.
The irons use charcoal to heat and are very heavy

They work very hard in the laundry.

Our next stop was at the Mattancherry Dutch Palace. Despite the name, it was built by the Portuguese Empire as a gift to the Kingdom of Kochi. There are beautiful handpainted murals but we were not allowed to take pictures. The ceilings are made of teak wood and we could take photos of those.

The windows are situated in a way that provides a nice breeze
Women didn’t wear saris back then, this was the typical dress back in early centuries

We visited the Paradesi Synagogue. The area where the synagogue is located is called “Jew Town” but only two Jewish people live there now. We visited this area before and in 2019 we were told there were 6 Jewish people. One that we saw who was 97 at the time, was Sarah Cohen, who owned and operated an embroidery store. She has sinse passed away. Thanks to our friend Tom for this photo from our tour in 2019.

We were tired and hot and Gopah gave us a choice of a restaurant outside by the river or one with air conditioning. Guess which we chose? It was still by the river but inside.

There was a special exhibit of elephants in the lobby. Each was so interesting!

And they had those fans!

On the way back to the port we stopped to see the brightly painted and themed trucks. You can tell the owner’s religion of interests from the decorations.

An interesting day and it let us see how much things had changed – or not- from our previous visits. Tomorrow we head to Sri Lanka for two days.

Posted in Asia, Excursions, Food, May, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment