CRUISE  REPORT

 
  EXMOUTH
Exmouth is on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. The town is located 1,270 kilometres north of Perth and 3,366 kilometres southwest of Darwin.At places where there is no suitable pier to tie up to, passengers are taken ashore to on tenders. This was the case at Exmouth.  Where else in the world can you snorkel with the majestic giant of the deep - the whale shark - We had booked a snorkeling trip on Ningaloo reef, a 40 minute bus ride out of town. After a briefing our beginners group was taken down the beach to drift over the reef with the current. This reef does not have the colourful coral of the Barrier Reef but the fish are plentiful. Parrot fish, small reef sharks and fish of many colours were plentiful, in the warm water, but the whale sharks had gone missing..   A salad roll lunch was provided before returning to the ship.  On the return trip we stopped off at a bottle shop to buy some booze at regular prices. (It is very expensive on the ship) 

 

SINGAPORE

If there is one word that best captures Singapore, it is “unique”. A dynamic city rich in contrast and colour, you'll find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture here. Brimming with unbridled energy, this little dynamo in Southeast Asia embodies the finest of both East and West.

The Chinatown walk and river cruise tour we had booked seems to have been the best choice. While the smells of the meat stalls in Chinatown that I remember have been replaced with shops and market stalls of all kinds, from souvenirs to computers.  The buildings and atmosphere have been preserved. From the river cruise the mix of old and new is can be appreciated with the colonial buildings on one side and skyscrapers on the other.

 

PORT KLANG

Port Klang, the largest port in the country, is the main sea gateway to Malaysia. It started operations in 1901 and has since become the country's largest seaport with excellent harbourage. Though not a particularly attractive place, it is renowned for its excellent seafood at the Muara Seafood.

 The port is an hours drive from Kuala Lumpur so we chose to visit the nearby Port Klang shopping centre. I had been concerned that visiting an air conditioned 4 story shopping complex was not experiencing Malaysia but I realized that this is contemporary Malaysia.

Muslim girls in decorated head scarves, jeans, T shirts and fancy thongs, queuing up  at Mc Donalds and texting on mobiles is not the mind picture most of us have of a Muslim country.

 

PENANG

A fascinating fusion of the East and West, Penang embraces modernity while retaining its traditions and old world charm. These are reflected in its harmonious multiracial populace and well-preserved heritage colonial ere buildings.

Kaye expresses concern that development has diminished the aura of Penang as we experienced it 35 years ago. My view is quite different, while unemployment remains at 1% due to tourism and building projects the population is benefiting from a much higher standard of living.

With 6 tour buses doing the round island tour in opposite directions they had to meet somewhere, this was at the narrowest section of the road up the hill in pouring rain. The passengers on the outside had some anxious moments as they squeezed past with inches to spare.

The Snake Temple used to be located in a swamp with snakes hanging from the rafters. Now it is surrounded by industries and sanitised for tourists with only a few snakes in glass cabinets.,

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the site of the British Military Hospital where our sons Bernie and Tony were born.

 

PHUKET

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, approximately the size of Singapore. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by a bridge. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea.This is Thailand as I remember it from my time in Ubon. Very friendly people, chaotic traffic, tangles of wires along the streets, mangy dogs and whole families on the same motor bike

At the shopping centre we were taken to I fell for the spiel of a lady who would take us on a tour of Phuket and  back to  the ship berthed at a pier 10 km out of town in a tuk tuk, for AU $20 !!! The ladies husband was the tuk tuk driver, we went to the top of the hill, bypassed some temples and visited a gem “factory”, where we saw every other passenger on the ship. Whatever form of transport you took you ended up at this enormous shop.

We both bought a ring, experienced travelers tell us this place is dinky die and a valuation in Australia will show we have received good value.

Our tuk tuk tour included cold soft drinks and 2 cans of Singha lager which I drank while waiting for Kaye at the gem shop. Having expressed a wish to buy some saris we were taken to a local shop near where we started from. Kaye had great fun with the sales ladies and our guide choosing all sorts of stuff at “special discount” prices because we were buying so much.As it was peak hour our trip back to the pier was an adventure in itself. Cars, trucks, dogs, tuk tuks and motor bikes all mixed in, with little regard for traffic lights, made it an exhilarating experience.  

Future travelers take note.

 You guessed it   Everything we had bought at “special discount” prices was cheaper at he stalls on the pier, where we spent our remaining Thai Baht.

That's part of the special charm of Thailand.

If we ever go missing, start looking in Phuket.

 

Cochin (India)

The church where Vasco De Gama was buried, a Portuguese museum, and another church were visited on our tour, together with the fascinating Chinese fishing nets that feature on nearly every photo of Cochin that you see. We watched them for a while, they put in a lot of effort for very small catches. The hordes of postcard and trinket sellers who are very persistent are part of the flavor of India that one becomes accustomed to.

In the Jewish quarter shops Kaye went hunting for a punjab, the traditional Indian ladies outfit with top and pants, big enough to fit her. Every shopkeeper will promise to have them just to get you into their shop and then try to sell you something else. As a result we incurred the wrath all the other coach passengers by being 15 minutes late -even though we had not been told a specific time!

One of the many highlights of the cruise was sitting on the aft (rear) top deck as we departed Cochin in the fading twilight. The local water cruise operators must have sold a special “watch the Sun Princess leave” trip as 12 of them followed us down the narrow channel towards the open sea. With sun setting in the typical Indian haze as a backdrop the lights of the docks and city slowly started to appear as if being turned on one by one.

Those words do not come close to capturing the ambiance of the scene that we will stay in our memories for a very long time.

We topped the evening off with a swim and spa in a pool which we had to ourselves (the other 1788 passengers were either at or preparing for dinner), followed by a delicious late dinner of pasta at the Pizzeria.

 

 

Mumbai  (Bombay)

Fifteen million people live in Mumbai - industrialists, film-stars, artists, workers, teachers and clerks - all living cheek-by-jowl in soaring skyscrapers and sprawling slums. They come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and speak over a dozen tongues, adding colour, flavour and texture to the Great Mumbai Melting Pot.

For safety reasons we had went on the ships “city sights” tour. Unusually this included an hours shopping time. “shopping “ in Mumbai means avoiding all the beggers and hawkers in the street stalls .We escaped the mayhem in a reasonable looking restaurant, we  just had to sample some curry  and did not catch “delhi belly” that we had been warned about.

Best not to say much else as I want to be positive about India.

 

 




 


GOA

The main attractions of Goa are the beaches but just as much of an attraction is its intriguing fusion of colonial Portugal and modern India. There is almost nowhere else in India where the influence of the former colonial overlords remains as strong as it does in Goa.

We had canceled our coach tour of Goa and I had arranged to go ashore with Ron and Joan (friends from smokers corner) as Kaye was not feeling well enough to go ashore. We took a  kamikaze walk through the trucks loaded with iron ore being loaded at the pier we had tied up at, to the port gate.

Among the throng of taxi drivers waiting there Ron negotiated a three hour tour to a cathedral and a beach resort, for 1000 rupees ($AU 24).

One of the reasons we had canceled our coach tour was that they were going shopping in a town 35 km away from the ship. Well, we ended up there anyway!  The driver of our small Suzuki van taxi must get double points for taking us there and to two other shops we did not ask to see via some very narrow back streets.  We eventually got to the SE Cathedral, an imposing building , well worth seeing.

Ron asked to stop to buy some cigarettes, this was an unexpected bonus for me as we stopped right outside the GOA Vasco De Gama railway station which is the western terminus of the vast Indian railway system.  The consist on Platform 1 was the longest passenger  train I have ever seen, I jumped in and took a photo of a non conditioned sleeper carriage but unfortunately could not wait 15 minutes to see it depart.

By this time we were very hot and tired and asked to bypass the beach resort and return direct to the ship. The irony of that is that the postcards I had bought are mostly pictures of the famous GOA beaches, which we did not see. !

 

MALE  (Maldives)

The Maldives or Maldive Islands, officially the Republic of Maldives, is an island country consisting of a group of atolls 1200 kilometres stretching south of India and about seven hundred kilometres south-west of Sri Lanka. The twenty-six atolls of Maldives encompass a territory featuring 1,192 islets, of which two hundred islands are inhabited.

Male' would certainly count as one of the smallest capitals in the world in terms of its physical size. A third of the country's population, about 75,000 live in Male.

Our ship was anchored between the main island, Male, and the fascinating airport island.

 What a surprise!  Acting on advice from friends, we had canceled our tour in favor of walking around this small island. Forget palm trees and beaches, Male are all multi story buildings with narrow streets, thousands of motor bikes competing for space with cars and small trucks.

The tender trips ashore were canceled for a while when a wind squall went through. Even when they resumed it was rough enough to make Kaye very squirmy

 Fishing boats are berthed along the esplanade and the catch, mostly large tuna are dragged across the street to the market where they are auctioned, which involves much shouting and hand waving.

Many of the islands have hotel resorts on them and the whole place seems prosperous with none of the poverty we had seen in India. The port is very busy with fishing boats and ferries going back and forth between the islands and airport

There are no currency restrictions so banking is one of the major industries. How many scam emails have you received promising millions of dollars profit if you just provide someone in the Maldives your bank account details ?

We will put the Maldives on our pleasant places to visit list.

 

Mahae (Seychelles)

The group of idylic tropical islands that make up the Seychelles is a favorite holiday destination for South Africans, and it is easy to see why. The capital, Mahae  is a small, clean cosmopolitan ,relatively safe town of only 38,000 residents situated on the mountainous main island, Victoria. It has some picture perfect beaches ,as well as  those on the surrounding islands. Three languages are spoken here, English, French and Creole but all the street signs are in English.

Again we chose a taxi tour over the expensive ship tours, our driver took us to all the tourist sights so we arrived back in town before the tour coaches. I was surprised to find that tea is grown on the higher hills but there were 3 coaches at the tea sampling cafe so we did not stop there.

While there not so many cruise ships calling here because of the piracy, French, Indian and American navy ships on anti pirate patrols make up for the loss of tourists. Interestingly, the security measures were not very strict here compared to what we had been through in previous Indian ports.

 

Thee days at sea before South Africa were a very welcome break, allowing us to catch up on some extreme relaxation- and not miss the 3.30 pm waffles and ice cream call.

 

 

Richards Bay (South Africa )

Most cities have a harbor but Richards Bay is a large harbor with a small town attached.The Richards Bay Coal Terminal is the largest coal export facility in the world

We were lucky to have a booking on a Thule Thule private game reserve safari as these were booked out when we left Australia .

Safari. The trip to the game park was a 60 minute adventure in itself. We passed through a developed town and some outlying African villages that consisted of round huts with thatched roofs. I was amazed to find out from our guide that the acres and acres of sugar cane are all still cut by hand.

We had looked forward to the safari as one of the highlights of our trip, we were left a little let down.  The Thule Thule game park is a private one that has a limited number of big game. Having said that, we did have a 2 hour safari experience,  complete with a rough but exciting ride on an open 10 seater Landrover, we saw zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, a rhino and elephants. An up close and personal encounter with an elephant that had a baby in the bushes nearby was the best part.

 

 

CapeTown
Despite our late arrival we were met by a brass band that was part of an African performing troupe that came aboard and put on a terricic performance. They provided us with samples of african music and dance of various types. We were all issued with a piece of plastic pipe of different lengths and a drum stick, with some coaching the audience was performing african rythms with great gusto.

We stayed on board overnight and disembarked next morning after some emotional goodbyes to the friends we had made during our 28 day journey.

So ended one adventure but another was just starting as we stayed in Cape Town for a week then caught the Premier Classe train to Johannesburg.