Colombo

DSC05617rArrived in Colombo to be greeted, just below our cabin balcony, by an elephant.

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Not sure that I was happy with the use of the elephant as a photo prop.
The elephant, in my opinion, seemed to be stressed as he or she shook its head to make a large bell that was tied around its neck to ring as it shuffled its feet.
The animal’s left rear leg was chained to a bollard – the same one being used by our cruise ship – see the blue rope.

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Small stalls along the wharf.

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Our neighbour above, who is just aft of us, and the Sri Lanka navy across from us.

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We walked part of the way in to town – very quiet, because it was a public religious holiday – full moon day (12 times a year) when it is forbidden to sell alcohol. . . . .

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A private ‘boat’- Vava, across from us, I wonder if it will be in Cochin (now called Kochi).
It was flying a defaced British red ensign. I couldn’t quite make out the defaced symbol, so I don’t know where it was registered.
Later we were told that it belonged to an Italian pharmaceutical billionaire, who lived in Switzerland.
What his vessel was doing in Colombo I have no idea . . but it looked deserted.
Swimming pool covered, heliport locked, and the water toys for rich boys, stowed away.

Maureen and I had a quiet lime juice at the Galle face Hotel – very oldie worldie – it was  refurbished last year, but sadly the old and distinguished doorman died last year who was well in to his 90’s.

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Inside Azamara Quest

 

Checked out of the hotel and a taxi to the mariner are to join Azamara Quest – taxi cost was $12 cheaper than our arrival taxi, due to not being in the rush hour.

Check-in went smoothly and we were aboard the ship around 11.40 am even though boarding was not supposed to be until Noon.

Our cabins would not be available until 1.30 pm, so we were invited to have lunch. On boarding we were given a glass of champagne, which was cold and very acceptable.

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The self serve dining room, which is called Windows, but to make sure that a high degree of hygiene is maintained all we did was point to the food that we wanted and it was served to us by the staff. Other waiters came round with wine of the day, water, beer and soft drinks.

Views from our table through the glass window.

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View just outside the dining room.

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First stop after lunch was the library. They have a very good selection of books.

With a very peaceful ambiance.

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DSC05547rOne of the dining rooms being prepared for the evening meal.

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Another dinning area with bar.

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and another I don’t think we will starve to death . . .

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or we could just relax.

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Small bar area just before the main dining area.

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The main dinning area for our evening meal.

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Pool area taken from the Pool Bar.

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 Very easy to walk down from deck to deck because the Azamara Quest is about a quarter of the size of the Diamond Princess.

Shops and more shops

Couldn’t leave Singapore without Maureen having her time looking around the shops.

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Once inside we wandered around until we’d lost all sense of direction and had to ask how to get out of the place! Not a very good start for someone who used be a navigator at sea!!

Once outside we had a choice –   DSC05530r.jpg

Robinsons across the road or H & M on our side of the road – we did both, which gave me time to read a couple of chapters.

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Few shops have seats for husbands to sit and wait (or read) – fortunately H & M had a very good seat in ladies skirts, and a Robinsons’ staff member waved me to a comfortable seat near her cash till . . . that’s what I call service.

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Shops – they get bigger . . .

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Colour prejudice is not a problem in Singapore.

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There is always a silver lining when shopping.

Pint of Tiger SGD 9.90 ++

China Town is cheaper. . . .

Visit to refresh the memory, and something new.

On our first day it had to be China Town. Still the same feeling as our visit in 2012, but the prices are higher.

In 2012, AUD $0.80 bought one Singapore dollar, today AUD $1.03 buys one Singapore dollar, a huge difference in buying power.

We found the same corner bar that we used last time and I parked myself with a book and a 650 ml bottle of Tiger (SGD $7.95, + 10% service charge, + VAT). A few cents short of AUD$10.00, but for me it was worth it, because Maureen loves shops and I hate them, so we are both happy.
Lunch in a local Chinese restaurant, which was full of Chinese customer -we were the only westerners, so we figured  if the locals filled the place the food must be OK.

Next day it was the new Gardens by the Bay – a must for any visitor. It wasn’t open during our last visit – SGD $25 each, but the visit can be all day, or what ever you wish – we stayed just short of three hours.

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Is that our cruise ship?

The main hotel at the mariner – all on reclaimed land.

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Mariner Bay Sands Hotel ahead with our cruise ship on the top!

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Two domes – the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. The mushroom ‘things’ are man made structures for plants to climb.

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Just walking around the gardens is free – the $25 is to enter the two domes.

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Dragon flies.

DSC05451rotrWaterfalls inside the Cloud Forest.

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Skywalk inside the dome – use the lifts . . .

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Not until I got close did I realise that some of the ‘plants’ were made of Lego.

DSC05462rThese two were a bit more obvious.

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All the plants, not just the flowering plants held our attention.

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Carnivorous plants.

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Just because I liked it  . . .

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Man made ‘mushrooms’ to allow the plants to grow up and around. Perhaps the future of city farming  . . .

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Waterfalls of green plants

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 Drift wood with carved fish using the drift wood.

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From the Cloud Forrest we moved on to the Flower Dome, which consists of plants from various areas of the world such as Mediterranean, South America, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia etc but during our visit there was a huge display of tulips. The mass of colour was just begging for a camera.

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The above is a view as we entered the Dome.

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 Closer view of the tulips.

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Black tulips

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More close up of tulips.

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and I couldn’t go past a beautiful rose.

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Farming in the future ??

Singapore, 53 years after my first trip

We left the ship in Singapore on the 11th April – my 72nd birthday, and moved to the Concorde Hotel on Orchard Road. We’d stayed at the Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur so we were aware of the standard.

Having visited Singapore on and off since 1963, every new visit is a new learning curve. Our last visit was 2012 and things have changed again.

The hotel was as we expected

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Taken from the ninth floor (top floor) with three or four levels below ground for shops and car parking areas.

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Our room

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View from the room

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The younger generation might have their focus on back packing, camping, caravanning etc but as one grows older, and you can afford a few luxuries, comfort rise to the top of our travel plans along with good food.

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Club lounge, which is usually on the top floor of many hotels, but in this hotel the Club Lounge is on the ground floor. Happy Hour with drinks and snacks from 6 to 8 pm.

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Around the corner from the hotel, just off Orchard Road, one can still find pieces of yesterday.

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At the bottom of the above picture is Orchard Road, but this road has a feel of a quiet enclave, with the roar of traffic at the bottom.

The haves and the have nots. . .

We sailed from Thailand for Vietnam’s southern main port of Ho Cha Minh (used to be called Saigon), and once again we couldn’t get too close to Ho Cha Minh city because of our size. We berthed at Phu My, which is a 90 minute drive from Ho Cha Minh city via the fleet of buses waiting for us.

This time I took more care of dashing from the cabin to the balcony and the sudden change of humidity. Phu My is a ‘working’ port and it brought back memories of my time at sea in the ’60s.

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Just before sunrise as we approached our berth.

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The start of a new day.

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The ‘giraffes’ have woken up, and are watching us arrive.

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The port is waking.

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A local barge waiting to go alongside.

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As we swing around in the middle of the river to face seaward for our departure I notice that the opposite bank is undeveloped. Using the ship’s thrusters we are able to turn on a sixpence (five cents for the younger readers) without the help of tugs that stood by just in case.

DSC05369rWhile we turned in the river I watched a ship coming down stream and getting closer and closer (I took a set off pictures just in case), as she rounded the bend in the river she gave a long blast on her whistle and altered course to starboard to pass down our starboard side as we had completed our turn. The one long blast is the international signal that a ship is altering course to starboard so that everyone in the area is aware of that vessel’s movements.

Because my wife and I had been to Ho Cha Minh during a previous holiday we did not return to that city on this trip. The local council offered a free shuttle service from the ship to the local town.

After we left Phu My on our way to Singapore I noticed the high number of local fishing boats, which brought the title of this blog home to me.

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DSC05332rcThe sea was calm, the Diamond Princess had 2900 privileged passengers who dressed for dinner, while those fishermen that we past hung their washing on a long rod attached to the stern of their homes.

I wondered what they would do if the weather changed for the worse – I doubt that we would feel the change. Our twenty seven foot stabilisers would help keep our 115,000 gt vessel steady, so as not to upset the fortunate passengers.

The following day we arrived in Singapore, just before dawn.

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A foggy day in Thailand

Arriving at Laem Chabang, which is the port for Bangkok, around 6.00 am, I rushed out with my trusty point and click camera.

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As I clicked the shutter my glasses fogged, as did the camera lens – I hadn’t allowed for the huge change in humidity from our air conditioned cabin to Thailand’s humidity even at 6.00 am.

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Taken a few minutes later as we edged towards our berth.

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When I first saw the buses as we approached our berth I thought they were new and waiting for export, until it dawned on me that all 64 were for the Diamond Princess to take passengers on various excursions – plus a shuttle service (USD $8 / person / way) to Pattaya which was about a 40 minute drive. Bangkok city was close to two hours due to traffic.

Because of the size of the Diamond Princess we could only get as far as Laem Chabang, which is the closest port to Bangkok city.

Maureen & I took advantage of the shuttle because we’d visited Bangkok a number of times, but we hadn’t been to Pattaya, which is the ‘seaside’ town for the citizens of Bangkok on long weekends.

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Traffic as we entered Pattaya.

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Overhead electrical cables for the locals in Thailand.

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The beach looked OK, but all along the beach front one had to contend with hawkers & stalls.
I am glad that we visited Pattaya, because I’d heard so much about the place, but I doubt that I’d return. Perhaps it is all due to age . . . .