Naha, Okinawa, Japan

March 27,2019

First, here are a few pictures from Norm’s camera from yesterday’s adventures.

IMG_4256IMG_4258IMG_4259IMG_4261IMG_4264IMG_4266

And yes, I guess they have to have instructions on using western style toilets here?

IMG_4267

A work of art at the pan Asian dinner last night. And one of the waiters with the dumplings.

IMG_4268IMG_4270IMG_4272

Our first view of Okinawa and breakfast on the terrace.

IMG_4273IMG_4274

IMG_4376IMG_4377

Today we chose to go with Becky (our book club leader and Japanese culture expert) to do a project using coral to dye fabric.

Twelve of us gathered in the terminal and decided to take a taxi to the workshop.  One group took a large van and the other took a regular taxi.  Becky’s husband is blind – both are fluent in Japanese so he went with the smaller group and she went with most of us in the van.  It was about a 20 minute ride.  We made sure to get the paper with the cruise terminal info written in Japanese in case we needed it to get back.  Most people here are not fluent in English.  The small taxi took short cuts through very narrow streets and the van had a bit of trouble navigating the corners but we all made it!

IMG_4381

What a fascinating place and process. 

IMG_4275IMG_4277IMG_4278IMG_4279

Our instructions were in Japanese and Becky translated for us.  Basically you used paint (4 colors which could be mixed) and rubbed it over the fabric after stretching it over various pieces of coral, fish and Okinawa symbols. 

Shuri Ryusen has 43 years of history and plays a big part of Okinawan dyeing culture. Coral dyeing uses the natural shapes of coral to create your own pattern. Corals are believed to bring happiness and had meaning of “prosperity of descendants” and “longevity”.

Nine of the group chose to do this while Becky’s husband David and two other men stayed downstairs for coffee. 

IMG_4292

Norm joined the working group as you can see.  This workshop also taught the bingata fabric dying process but we chose not to stay on for that as they only took 6 and there were other people there.  We had to be back on board at 2:30 so it was a short day here.

Here we are doing the work and showing our finished products.

IMG_4282IMG_4284IMG_4285IMG_4286IMG_4287IMG_4288IMG_4289

Here is my creation, front and back.

IMG_4379IMG_4380

And here are a few more pictures of the beautiful place.

IMG_4280IMG_4281IMG_4283IMG_4293IMG_4294IMG_4295IMG_4296IMG_4297IMG_4298IMG_4299

Here they had the fancy Japanese Toto toilets that have heated seats, bidet capabilities, etc.  And we still need instructions!

IMG_4290IMG_4291

If you plan to visit Shuri Ryusen dying studio (and we would highly recommend it) here is the address:

1-54, Shuriyamagawacho, Naha, Japan.

After we finished our projects (and paid about $30 US), Norm and I walked to the Shuri Castle. This was the administrative center and residence of the Ryukyu royal family for over 450 years until Okinawa became a Japanese prefecture in 1879.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It rests on a hill providing outstanding views of Naha and the sea.  It is surrounded by tall curved walls and the castle is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese architectural styles.  The simplicity is striking when you compare it to ornate palaces we have seen in many other countries. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed walking through the castle and the surrounding gardens.

And, by the way, there is free wi-fi all throughout the city.

IMG_4300IMG_4301IMG_4302IMG_4304IMG_4305IMG_4306IMG_4309IMG_4310IMG_4312IMG_4313IMG_4315IMG_4317IMG_4318IMG_4319IMG_4321IMG_4324IMG_4325IMG_4330IMG_4334IMG_4337IMG_4339IMG_4342

This is the crown of the Japanese emperor.

IMG_4328

This is the Shurei gate which serves as a symbol of Okinawa

IMG_4303

After our castle visit, we walked to the monorail so we could take it back to the shopping area where the shuttle bus stop was.  We wanted to find a noodle shop to have lunch before heading back to the ship.

IMG_4349IMG_4350IMG_4352

It was a fast and easy trip.

We found a noodle shop where you paid on entrance by choosing the picture of what you wanted to eat and were given tickets to present to the waiter.  That makes it easy when you can’t read Japanese.  Google translate works but this was even easier!

IMG_4366IMG_4362

This place had a lot of displays of pottery, etc.  We enjoyed our noodle lunch and beer as you can see!

IMG_4358IMG_4360IMG_4361

IMG_4354IMG_4364IMG_4365IMG_4357IMG_4378

So glad we didn’t choose Charlie’s Tacos.  And was Charlie’s place open or closed??

IMG_4367IMG_4368

After lunch, we just had time to catch the last shuttle bus back to the port.  When we got to the stop, there were already 45 people waiting so we had the choice of a taxi or walking back.  We love to walk, so we headed back and our friend Joe joined us.  Here are a couple of the sights on the way back.  Are these dogs praying??

IMG_4369

We passed some pretty gardens and the directions were good.  Turn right at the dragon!

IMG_4371IMG_4372IMG_4373IMG_4374IMG_4375

On the schedule for tonight – an early show with pianist and singer Bradley McCaw and the main attraction – the International Battle of the Chefs with our executive chef, Mario and Farid, who was the chef on our other ATW cruises and is now here on a few days vacation with his partner Jennifer who is our Oceania Ambassador after Carol went on vacation.  We know them both quite well and it is fun of Farid to “work” while on this week long vacation on the ship.  If you read the blog from 2017, Farid is the chef that made our cake for our vow renewal ceremony.

Now a sea day before getting to Kobe where we will take a tour to Kyoto.  Really looking forward to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Miyako-Jima, Japan

March 26, 2019

Miyako-Jima is our first port in Japan. Here is the view as we were docking.  The water is so blue and crystal clear and is known to be the most beautiful in Japan. This island is the fourth largest in Okinawa and is known for its beautiful clear ocean and untouched nature.  It is not too common for tourists to visit here. We had some thoughts of snorkeling but it is still a bit too cold for that and we didn’t pack our wetsuits.

IMG_4168-copyIMG_4169-copy

The bridge is the Irabu Ohashi Bridge which was constructed in 2015 and is Japan’s longest toll free bridge at 11,614 feet.  It has several unusual dips as it stretches across the sea. It is said to be “Bridge of Dream” because it has been 40 years from the planning stage, cost 39.5 billion yen (359 million US dollars) and took 9 years to complete.

Before we could disembark the ship, we had to go up to Horizons lounge for Japanese immigration.  We were instructed to wait until our deck was called, which for deck 8 should have been at 11.  Being the obedient passengers we are, we waited and there were no announcements made except for the people who were on organized tours.  So, at about 11:45, we decided to go to Horizons only to find that people from all decks had been going up for hours.  We had to wind through a long line, our temperatures were scanned and we had to report to an immigration officer who scanned our passports, took our fingerprints and pictures, collected our immigration forms and only then could we get off the ship!

We took the shuttle bus to town with the intention of having lunch there and then doing some shopping.  Well, there are only 60,000 people on the island and hardly anything was open. Even the public market was closed.  And, really everything was in Japanese.  We did get a map with some translations on it and I used Google translate, but it isn’t as easy as some places that at least have street signs in both English and local language.

We finally found a restaurant that was open, Nomura, where we had a lunch with both American and Japanese foods, and beer. We paid $19.49 for both lunches.

IMG_4170-copyIMG_4172-copy

The next place we visited was a shop that has the special salt called “Yukishio”, “snow salt” that can only be found here.  I bought 4 kinds.

After lunch and the shopping stop we hailed a cab and showed him the Google translated name for the Miyakojima Kaichukoen Underwater Park.  If we weren’t going to snorkel, we wanted to visit this park.  The cab driver took us there and said he would wait for us.  We only hoped that we understood him correctly!

In the park, the cashier told us (in pretty acceptable English) that we wouldn’t see any big fish because it was too windy.  But we would see the smaller ones.  She wanted to know if we still wanted to go inside, and we did.

It was a pretty beautiful sight.  You go down many steps to a chamber with 24 installed windows and you can observe many types of tropical fish. They have pictures of them on the walls to help with identification. I got some pictures but in many cases the fish were just too quick (or shy??) A nice way to spend the afternoon.

IMG_4182-copyIMG_4190IMG_4191IMG_4208IMG_4210IMG_4220IMG_4221IMG_4223IMG_4231IMG_4233IMG_4235IMG_4236IMG_4237

The area surrounding the park is also beautiful. And the weather was great.  Long sleeves and jeans were a welcome wardrobe change after the hot weather we have had.  All of Japan should be about this same temperature and China might even be chillier! And, yes, the cab driver waited for us.

IMG_4173-copyIMG_4247IMG_4248IMG_4251IMG_4252IMG_4253

Tomorrow we will be in Okinawa (Naha) Japan and will be doing an excursion with Becky and other passengers from the book club. She is fluent in Japanese so that will be very helpful.

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

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.

IMG_4060IMG_4061IMG_4062

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.

IMG_4134

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!

IMG_4066IMG_4067IMG_4068

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.

IMG_4073IMG_4076IMG_4079IMG_4080IMG_4081IMG_4084IMG_4086IMG_4089IMG_4091IMG_4092IMG_4095IMG_4096IMG_4097

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??

IMG_4099IMG_4101IMG_4106IMG_4110IMG_4113IMG_4114IMG_4116

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.

IMG_4120IMG_4121IMG_4122IMG_4123IMG_4124IMG_4125IMG_4127IMG_4128IMG_4129IMG_4130IMG_4131IMG_4133IMG_4135IMG_4137IMG_4138IMG_4140IMG_4142IMG_4143IMG_4145DSCF0467DSCF0469DSCF0472DSCF0478

Yes, we did need to wear those dumb caps!

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

IMG_4148IMG_4150IMG_4151IMG_4152IMG_4153

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.

IMG_4160IMG_4161IMG_4162IMG_4163IMG_4164

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

IMG_4159

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

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.

IMG_3881IMG_3882IMG_4054

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.

IMG_3885IMG_3887IMG_3888IMG_3889IMG_3891IMG_3892IMG_3894

And we see 7-Eleven everywhere.

IMG_3893

Here is one of the outside MRT entrances.

IMG_3924

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.

IMG_3896IMG_4058

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.

IMG_3915IMG_3897IMG_3907IMG_3908IMG_3906

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

IMG_3921

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

IMG_3905IMG_3923

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

IMG_3900IMG_3901IMG_3903IMG_3911IMG_3912IMG_3913

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

IMG_3914IMG_3916IMG_3918IMG_3919

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. 

IMG_3925IMG_3927IMG_3932IMG_3933IMG_3934IMG_3935IMG_3937

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.

IMG_3930IMG_3940IMG_3943IMG_3945IMG_3946IMG_3949IMG_3951IMG_3954IMG_3955IMG_3958IMG_3959IMG_3960IMG_3962

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.

IMG_3964IMG_3966IMG_3971IMG_3972IMG_3974IMG_3975IMG_3991IMG_3994IMG_3995

More sights from our walk…

IMG_3977IMG_3978IMG_3980IMG_3987IMG_3988IMG_3989IMG_3997IMG_3998IMG_4002

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.

IMG_4009IMG_4010IMG_4011IMG_4012

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.

IMG_4013IMG_4014IMG_4016IMG_4018IMG_4019IMG_4024IMG_4025IMG_4026IMG_4027IMG_4033IMG_4039IMG_4043

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.

IMG_4049IMG_4051IMG_4052IMG_4053IMG_4055IMG_4056


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.

IMG_3671IMG_3672IMG_3673

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.

IMG_3676IMG_3677

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.

IMG_3678

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!

IMG_3764

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).

IMG_3729IMG_3733IMG_3742IMG_3830IMG_3832IMG_3834IMG_3860

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

IMG_3726IMG_3727IMG_3731IMG_3810IMG_3873

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”!

IMG_3682IMG_3736IMG_3821IMG_3827

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.

IMG_3704 IMG_3693IMG_3694IMG_3697IMG_3701IMG_3702IMG_3703IMG_3705IMG_3709IMG_3712IMG_3717IMG_3719IMG_3812IMG_3813

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

IMG_3734

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.

IMG_3767IMG_3769IMG_3775IMG_3776IMG_3783IMG_3803

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.

IMG_3780IMG_3781IMG_3782IMG_3793IMG_3794IMG_3796IMG_3798IMG_3799

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.

 IMG_3744IMG_3746IMG_3747IMG_3753IMG_3756IMG_3758IMG_3760

And I bought flowers to take back to the ship.

IMG_3749IMG_3750IMG_3752

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!

IMG_3836IMG_3837IMG_3839IMG_3840

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.

IMG_3741IMG_3829IMG_3843IMG_3851IMG_3854IMG_3855IMG_3857IMG_3858

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

IMG_3861

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.

IMG_3863IMG_3865IMG_3866IMG_3862

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.

IMG_3667IMG_3668

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.

IMG_3667IMG_3668

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.

IMG_3534-copyIMG_3535IMG_3533

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.

IMG_3537

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

IMG_3538IMG_3539

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.

IMG_3536

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.

IMG_3541IMG_3543

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.

IMG_3545IMG_3546IMG_3549IMG_3550IMG_3552IMG_3553IMG_3557IMG_3558IMG_3559IMG_3560IMG_3660IMG_3661

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.

IMG_3561

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.

IMG_3562IMG_3563IMG_3564IMG_3566

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.

IMG_3601

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.

IMG_3644IMG_3597

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.

IMG_3578IMG_3579IMG_3580IMG_3620

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.

IMG_3582IMG_3584IMG_3585IMG_3586IMG_3625IMG_3626IMG_3633

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.

IMG_3587IMG_3588

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.

IMG_3594

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??

IMG_3646

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

IMG_3651IMG_3652IMG_3653IMG_3654IMG_3656IMG_3657IMG_3658IMG_3659

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. 

IMG_3107-copy

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.

IMG_3050-copyIMG_3054-copyIMG_3055-copyIMG_3057-copyIMG_3058-copy

Our Balinese welcome!

IMG_3061-copyIMG_3062-copyIMG_3063-copy

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.

IMG_3071-copy

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.

IMG_3441-copy

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.

IMG_3075-copyIMG_3076-copy

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

IMG_3078-copyIMG_3081-copy

IMG_3082-copy

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.

IMG_3085-copyIMG_3086-copyIMG_3090-copyIMG_3091-copyIMG_3092-copy

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.

IMG_3100-copyIMG_3102-copyIMG_3104-copyIMG_3118-copyIMG_3127-copyIMG_3254-copyIMG_3255-copyIMG_3258-copy

Clever sign, right??

IMG_3131-copy

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.

IMG_3147-copyIMG_3152-copyIMG_3161-copyIMG_3249-copy

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

IMG_3174-copy

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

IMG_3179-copy

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.

IMG_3237-copyIMG_3194-copyIMG_3195-copyIMG_3204-copyIMG_3205-copyIMG_3217-copyIMG_3218-copyIMG_3226-copy

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.

IMG_3267-copy

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.

IMG_3289-copy

IMG_3273-copyIMG_3334-copyIMG_3286-copyIMG_3287-copyIMG_3300-copyIMG_3285-copyIMG_3315-copyIMG_3322-copyIMG_3324-copyIMG_3504-copyIMG_3505-copyIMG_3326-copyIMG_3336-copyIMG_3497-copyIMG_3498-copyIMG_3502-copy

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.

IMG_3305-copyIMG_3306-copyIMG_3330-copyIMG_3332-copyIMG_3501-copy

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.

IMG_3344-copyIMG_3348-copyIMG_3357-copyIMG_3358-copyIMG_3360-copyIMG_3365-copyIMG_3366-copyIMG_3376-copyIMG_3378-copyIMG_3393-copyIMG_3394-copyIMG_3402-copy

IMG_3419-copyIMG_3422-copyIMG_3427-copyIMG_3429-copyIMG_3437-copyIMG_3482-copyIMG_3483-copyIMG_3484-copyIMG_3485-copyIMG_3486-copyIMG_3487-copy

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

IMG_3409-copyIMG_3411-copyIMG_3414-copyIMG_3416-copy

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.

IMG_3443-copyIMG_3445-copyIMG_3447-copyIMG_3448-copyIMG_3452-copyIMG_3454-copy

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

IMG_3128-copyIMG_3234-copyIMG_3333-copyIMG_3351-copy

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!

IMG_3460-copyIMG_3461-copyIMG_3462-copyIMG_3463-copyIMG_3464-copy

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

IMG_3514-copyIMG_3520-copyIMG_3524-copyIMG_3525-copyIMG_3526-copyIMG_3531-copy

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.

IMG_3037IMG_3038IMG_3039IMG_3040IMG_3041IMG_3044

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.

5BA5915E-F818-4152-A6BC-625E7E855482

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.

IMG_3045

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