Napier, the Art Deco Capital of the world.

dsc07794rApproaching Napier.

NAPIER – So named after Sir Charles Napier 1782 to 1853.

The Hawks Bay earthquake of 1931 flattened Napier, and killed 161 people and injured thousands. The local newspaper at the time wrote that the town had been wiped off the map.

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I took a photograph and this photograph, which was on a large poster showing what used to be at this location. I believe it used to be a church.

dsc07860rThis is what is there today – still a church, and a garden of remembrance.

The landscape changed for ever. Near Napier there had been a large lagoon called Ahuriri Lagoon. The land around Napier rose two metres and the bottom of the lagoon rose 2.7 mtrs, which cause the lagoon to drain away and became dry land. Today this land is home to an airport, industrial areas and farmland.

beforeBefore the earthquake – picture from NZ Encyclopedia.

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After the earthquake – picture from NZ Encyclopedia.

One of the first jobs was to clear the dead fish from the lagoon as the water receded – the stench must have been terrible.

During the quake fires broke out and the water lines burst, so the fire brigades were limited in their fight against the fires, and many buildings were destroyed.
Fortunately, a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Veronica, was moored off shore so she sent crew members to help the town and acted as the communication centre by contacting the authorities in the Wellington (the capital) and letting the world know of the disaster. The crews of two merchant ships also gave help to the town.
Later two additional Royal Navy ships sailed from Auckland with emergency supplies of food, tents, medicines etc.
The history of the rebuilding of Napier has the feel of a novel. The authorities appointed two men to oversee the clearing away of the damaged structures and to start rebuilding quickly. They realised that the population was falling as people moved away to find shelter or jobs etc and the only way to stop the population decline was to start rebuilding quickly.

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The rubble from the town was pushed out to sea to create this shore side garden and recreational area. Skating areas, put-put golf, music and some beautiful gardens. A great memorial to those who perished.

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dsc07817rThe town was rebuilt in the art deco design and fortunately has not been allowed to change. There were moves to pull down certain buildings and to build ‘new’ 1960’s style, but the local historical (Art Deco0) society managed to block most of these moves.

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My memory of Napier of the mid 60’s was that every building was painted white, but when I saw the town recently, I thought my memory had played tricks because all of the buildings were painted in pastel colours of the 1930’s. Note the street sign, which is in the characters of the 1930’s.

Maureen and I had decided to do a guided walk offered by the art deco society of Napier and during the short intro chat, the guide mentioned that the buildings used to be all painted white in the 60’s, which pleased me that my memory was not at fault.

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Main shopping street – photo taken late afternoon as everybody started to drift off home.

dsc07811rcBertie Wooster would have felt quite at home.

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The locals take being in the part very seriously, which added to the enjoyment of our visit.

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The boy was real when this statue was made – he is waving at his mother.

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The model for this was not a ‘model’ as such, but a local lady of some standing in the community. Our guide pointed her out to us and mentioned that a year or so earlier he had completed a few small jobs for this lady’s home. She still lives in Napier and is now in her late eighties.

dsc07824rMany of the shops are dated from the 1930’s – our guide explained about the lead lining in the glass, the type of wood and even the ‘in go’. Double frontage windows i.e windows on both side of the entrance door.

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The ‘in go’ for the shop above – i.e the area between the pavement and the actual shop door. When I was a child most shops had an ‘in go’, but I didn’t know what it was called then, but it was an area where you could stand and look in, before deciding to go in, and speak to a staff member.

dsc07842rTheater built in 1938 and later expanded to the right, but I was more interested in the original frontage. Our guide had the key so in we went,

dsc07843rRemember this type of lighting in the foyers of cinemas in the 40’s & 50’s? This was well before multiscreens had been ‘invented’.

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A better view of the ceiling in the foyer of the theater.

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Some years ago the management realised that the carpet had reached the end of its life, so they decided to replace it, but they wished to keep the art deco theme. They found a clean piece of the original carpet and sent it to Australia where a carpet manufacturer copied the design of the 1930’s and now they have a new carpeted foyer à la 1933.

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 An unusual art deco building – the two flags are New Zealand and Germany and the owner of the building, Mr Hildebrandt, being an immigrant, wanted to show the friendship between his old home and new home and that he arrived in Napier by sea.

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Mr Hildebrandt’s building in on a corner, and the design is carried all around.

For the old Conway readers I found something that I just had to photograph,

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The art deco building above had been designed with a nod to a ship, such ‘naval’ designs being common in the 1930’s.

With the zoom on I took the next picture.

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New Zealand Shipping Company, a company in which many old Conway’s sailed . . .

To quote from Napier City Council Art Deco web page –

Art Deco expressed all the vigor and optimism of the roaring twenties, and the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties.

Its decorative themes are:

Sunbursts and fountains – representing the dawn of a new modern age.
The Skyscraper shape – symbolic of the 20th century.
Symbols of speed, power and flight – the exiting new developments in transport and communications.
Geometric shapes – representing the machine and technology which it was thought would solve all our problems.
The new woman – revelling in her recently won social freedoms.
Breaking the rules – cacophonous jazz, short skirts and hair, shocking dances.
Ancient cultures – for oddly enough, there was a fascination with the civilizations of Egypt and central America.
All of these themes are represented on the buildings of Napier, most of which are still standing today and are lovingly cared for by their owners.

Maureen & I walked the main street before taking the Art Deco walk, and we must have had our eyes closed, because we didn’t see anything until the guide pointed out the various styles and shapes. His talk was fascinating and he had the ability to bring all that jazz to life.

If you ever manage to get to NZ, make sure Napier is on your bucket list.

I managed to get some picture of the inside of a few buildings (point and click through windows etc), but I don’t want to bore readers.

Madrid

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 Madrid Station – was spotlessly clean, and very impressive.

Our four nights in Barcelona just flew past, and on the final morning we were once again making our way to the railway station for the rail trip to Madrid. Once more we paid a little more for the extra room, but this time we were unable to book the four seats around a table, even though I had booked several months in advance. The trip, at three hours and twenty minutes, was smooth and comfortable. We reached speeds of 300 km per hour on some of the stretches, but one never had the feeling of rushing past the scenery in a blur.
On exiting the station area, we were met by our driver. I’d booked a chauffeur driven car to meet us in Madrid, and at the end of our stay, take us from our apartment to Madrid airport. I did this because I wanted reliability on our departure day. The trip to our apartment was about thirty minutes.

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When I saw these doors, I had thoughts of Paris all over again.

At the beginning of the holiday we tossed a coin to see who had first choice of the rooms – we won in Paris, so our friends had their choice in Barcelona, and we had Madrid, and they would have Lisbon.
The apartment was on the second floor and the building had a ‘cage’ type continental lift that worked well.

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DSC02895r.jpgThe entrance area of our apartment. The main door on the right of the picture had coded locks.

On our departure we would be flying this time, rather than travelling by train. Although the chauffeur driven car was more expensive it accommodated four passengers and our entire luggage with ease. The trip to the airport would be during the morning rush hour, and we might have required two taxis, due to our luggage, and the thirty-minute trip could have been stressful and uncomfortable. I booked the transport through Spain Select, (www.spain-select.com/en) the company that handled the renting of the Madrid apartment. They were very efficient and easy to deal with over the Internet. Our greeter, Alex, met us at the apartment and explained everything in detail. A very nice touch was the welcome gift of individual small packets of tea, coffee, milk, savoury biscuits etc. To top it all, the apartment had a big ‘Wow’ factor particularly after seeing the old wooden door that led from the apartment block to the street.

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 Then we walked in to our apartment – it was beautiful!

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I took the picture from the laundry door past the kitchen bench to the dining area.

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The above picture was taken from the agent’s web site.

The kitchen had everything you could possibly want, from a microwave, specialty oven, to a sink disposal units for waste food. Everywhere was spotlessly clean and all of the appliances were hidden in the walls – a gentle touch and a hidden cupboard door would open. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

DSC02885r.jpgHallway from the kitchen area to our bedroom. The first door on the right was the third bedroom.

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Further along the hall you san see an indent that is our friend’s bedroom.

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Our friend’s en-suit bedroom.

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His and hers sinks in our friend’s bathroom.

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Our bedroom

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We had his & hers storage areas.

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As well as his & hers sinks in our en-suit. The chair that can be seen is in our bedroom.

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 Fancy a bath – the shower is a stand alone shower on the left.

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Taken from our small balcony.

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Our Madrid location was about five or six minute walk to the Royal Palace.

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Happy hour – local wines, pâté, cheeses, and bread or crackers along with good company, what more could we want?
In our opinion the city of Madrid is less vibrant, but with a more historical culture than Barcelona. The free tapas with a beer or wine were noticeable, because in Barcelona all the tapas that we had with our drinks, were charged to the final bill.

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Madrid tapas were a good size.

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Every time we ordered a drink we had tapas. We sat outside under a sun shade and watched the world pass us by.

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Inside the La Mi Venia

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Bar across the road from our accommodation – just right for a night cap.

Just one small disappointment while in Madrid, and a warning to my ‘older readers’.
We booked a hop on hop off bus trip through a local travel agent, which was located not far from the apartment. It cost us Eu 25.00 each, about $39 AUD.
On boarding the bus, we were given route maps, which included various pieces of information. Reading the information I noticed that for those of us over 65 were entitled to a discounted rate of Eu 13! ($18.50) I asked at the information centre when we left the bus if I had understood the information correctly and was told that we should go back to the travel agent and ask them for a Eu 12.00 refund.
Of course, when we did return to the agent they were closed for siesta and due to our other commitments we never did have the time to challenge the travel agent. There is no way that I would be considered under 65 (my age at the time was 70), so I would expect a competent travel agent to offer the discount without being asked. The youngest of my group was sixty-seven, so the agent failed in her job and her customers felt cheated.
I wrote about this on Trip Advisor and the travel agent responded blaming us for not asking for the discount, as if we, as foreigners should have known. Fortunately, this experience did not spoil our enjoyment of our few days in Madrid.

On our departure day we opened the street door a couple of minutes before our departure time, to find our transport waiting for us. The ride to the airport, during rush hour, took us thirty five minutes, even though the driver diverted a few times to avoid traffic jams. I do love efficiency, and reliability.
Check-in education started as we entered the airport building. We checked the departure board for our Iberia flight (the national airline of Spain) for our check-in counter and made our way to the correct area. On arrival we found it all to be self-service.

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I placed my passport in a reader and it pulled up our booking. On completion of the check-in the computer required the number of bags that we were lodging. I input four, and the machine started to print our boarding cards followed by four self-sticky luggage labels. The machine then started a short video on how to strip the backing from the labels and to attach them to the bags, along with instructions to remove the sticky receipt label.
We then dragged our bags to a lodgment counter where a ‘real’ person accepted our boarding passes; asked us to load the bags on to a conveyor belt, and then pushed a button to activate the belt.
The whole episode made me wonder how far the self-service aspect of flying would be taken – perhaps the next step is to use a flight simulator before boarding, and the person with the best score gets to fly the aircraft. Those who just fail the flight test might become cabin crew to explain the safety procedure to the rest of us who are too thick to get involved.

The aircraft was an AB320 (not sure of the version)

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The seats had been packed too tight. I am over six feet in height, so my knees were jammed in to the back of the seat in front. Every time the passenger in front moved I had to stick my legs out in to the aisle so as not to have my kneecaps damaged.
The flight was just over the hour, but it seemed much longer. Our destination was Lisbon, a city famous for its sardines, which are exported worldwide packed in tins. Of course after our flight, we re-christened Iberia to Air ‘Sardinia’.

We had planned to take a night train from Madrid to Lisbon to experience the rail en-suit sleeper service. After I’d investigated the train I realised that the train would arrive in Lisbon station at 7.00 am, and we would not be able to check in to our accommodation until 2.00 pm.
What would we do with all our luggage for seven hours – I suppose we could have found a left luggage office, but as the station is not in the centre of the city we would have to find places of interest in a town that didn’t open until mid to late morning. It all seemed too hard so we decided to fly and have a leisurely breakfast in the Madrid accommodation and leave at a civilised hour of 8.30 am for the airport.

The additional benefit was that the airfare was cheaper than the rail fare!!

A touch of colonial class

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A beautiful piece of history in Penang, which was created by four Armenian brothers in 1884. Originally named the Eastern Hotel, which soon became known as ‘The Premier Hotel East of Suez.’
Hotel de l’Europe, also in Penang, was run by one of the brothers who changed the name to The Oriental Hotel in 1885, and in 1889 the Oriental Hotel was sold and the Eastern Hotel was renamed The Eastern and Oriental.
The brothers also created Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and The Strand in Rangoon, Burma.
Over the years the Eastern and Oriental became the place to stay for the ‘rich and famous’. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin, Lee Kuan Yew, Sultan of Brunei and Hermann Hesse (German author). Many have their photograph displayed in a special glass case in the foyer of the hotel.
Eight of us (four couples), first visited the E & O in 2005 just for a beer in the Farquhar Bar.

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Entrance to the hotel is behind the car on the right.

As we approached the hotel we were met by a pith-helmeted doorman who greeted us and opened the main door. A real touch of yesteryear as we stepped in to the main foyer of the hotel.

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Reception is in the foyer.
But on this day we were looking for a cold drink.

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The bar had a ‘Colonial’ feel – which is very un pc to say so, but for me it was a touch of   ‘yesterday’.

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English cold draft beer – what more could I want?

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My new best friends  . . .service was very good, they were friendly and helpful, so we stayed and had lunch.

The following year we booked in to the hotel as guests. All the mod cons that you could want – each bedroom had a sitting room attached and very large bathroom with his & her sinks. Total area is 52 to 54 sq mtrs, with sea views.

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The same sitting room.

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A choice of shower or bath.

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Swimming pool below our window

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Sunset from our bedroom.

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Drinks around the pool?

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A year or so later a friend of ours from the UK came out to Australia to stay with us. We had arranged our holiday in Malaysia to coincide with our friend’s return to the UK so that we could have a few days with her in the E & O.
Instead of booking two rooms I found it cheaper to book a suite with two full bedrooms, (both en-suite), lounge, kitchen and sitting room etc.

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This is our bedroom as part of the suite. We also had a walk-in dressing room attached with his and her wardrobes.

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Sitting room and dining area can just be seen – TV in each bedroom and in the living room.

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Part of the kitchen. Of course, we were not in to home cooking, and breakfast was always downstairs in the main dining room.

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 Or we’d eat outside if the temperature was not too hot.

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A few years later we planned a transit stop through Penang and of course wanted to stay at the E & O. This time when I checked the rates I found that their new ‘extension’ had been refurbished and was now part of the hotel.
The extension had been bought some years ago, but during our previous visit the hotel had not completed the refurbishment to compliment the colonial feel of the original area of the hotel. They had now.
We booked in the ‘new’ part which is called the Victory Annex and the original area is now called the Heritage Wing.
The Victory Annex rate included access to The Planter Lounge (in other hotels it would be known as the club floor). You could have breakfast in this lounge as well as taking part in the cocktail hour in the evening. Overall we always preferred the main dining room for breakfast because the choice of food was huge and you could have any fruit or vegetable or any mixture of both that you fancied turned in to a smoothy.

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Lounge area, which had a small library & quiet reading area.

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The Planters Lounge has its own balcony and to sit outside with a glass of wine and a few nibbles was very pleasant.

Our room in the Victory Annex was slightly smaller than our room in the Heritage area – we didn’t have a sitting room, but we did have a small balcony that overlooked the sea.

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View from the balcony, which felt as if we were on a cruise ship.

Once again the bathroom had his & hers sink & wardrobes, as well as the separate bath & shower.

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On the same level as the balcony of the Planter’s Lounge is the horizon pool. It is ‘L’ shaped so that those who wish can swim for exercise can do so, and those who just wish to play can also do so, without interfering with each other.

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The smaller enclosed pool is for children.

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An evening meal outside while watching the ships leave port or perhaps just coffee and a final glass of wine before bed. At the right time of the year the weather in Penang can be magic.

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At the rear of the hotel you have a choice of lawn or just sitting on the sea wall.
Is it any wonder that we return as often as our cash flow allows us?

 

Not all of the above photographs are mine, some are from the friends with whom we travel.

Hotel or Museum

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A few years ago, my wife & I, and a friend of ours, stayed in Penang, and during our time there we decided to visit the Cheong Fatt Tze museum, which was a short walk from our hotel.

imgp4373rWe had to book a time to be allowed in to the museum, and waited outside, with a few other people, until the allocated time.

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The whole building was coloured blue – hence the name – The Blue Mansion.

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We thought the place was a museum, until half way through the tour.

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Hotel rooms on the left of the above picture. The odd thing is that we were not allowed to take photographs during our visit, why I don’t know, because the above is from their web site. Perhaps they have changed the rules.
We walked around a corner only to find a lady sunbathing in her swim suite while reading a book. Quite surprising considering that we all thought we were in a museum!

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The one above is from the museum’s web site.

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As is this one.

 Cheong Fatt Tze (check the link for more details) is a real rag to riches story – born in China in 1840, left home at sixteen and moved to Indonesia and worked as a water carrier, and later as a shop keeper. Some would say that he married well, because he married his employer’s daughter, and with the help of his father-in-law he started a trading company.
He worked hard and expanded from Jakarta to Medan. He traded mainly in agricultural products until he bought a bank. This purchase made him wealthy.
In 1886 he expanded in to Penang, where he became the Chinese consul.

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His Blue Mansion of thirty-four rooms, was built between 1897 to 1904 to house his third, sixth & seventh wife (he had eight wives spread around Asia), eight sons and six daughters.
When he died in 1916 he was held in such high regard by both the Dutch & British that their flags were flown at half-mast.

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If you are ever in Georgetown, Penang, The Blue Mansion is a ‘must see’ for those interested in unusual places. Click on this link Mansion Hotel and it will take you to the hotel details of the mansion.

 

 

Stay in Melaka & catch the Trade Winds

A ninety-minute drive south of Kuala Lumpur international airport is Melaka (Malacca).

We first visited Melaka for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur – it was a long day, but we liked the look of the place and a few years later, we returned and stayed in a small Chinese hotel. Along the Melaka River bank we saw a hotel called Casa del Rio, being built.

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A year later we had the opportunity of returning to Malacca, and the Casa del Rio was open and had ‘opening offers’, so of course we stayed and loved the hotel, the staff and the service.

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The finished product.

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You’ve guessed it – we have stayed at this hotel more than once. They never seem to get my name the correct way around for a Westerner, but who cares, it is the thought that counts. The cut on my chin was due to me shaving on the aircraft when we hit an air pocket – I bled most of the day – had to replace the lost liquid via the bar.

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The picture above is of the view behind where I was sitting in the foyer. We had cold drinks and cold hand towels while the staff filled in the forms – all we did was sign our names. The pool is not for swimming, but ornamental and is lit up at night. See below.

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Our room was on the third floor of the building facing.
We sat in the corner on the far left, under the awning,  for our arrival drinks etc.

Our room from a couple of angles.

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Photograph taken from inside the bathroom, through the bedroom to the balcony doors.

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View from our balcony – which contained table and chairs and could be lit at night, if we wished to sit out.

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The horizon pool on the roof of the hotel, with bar of course.

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Our hotel is the one with the blue roof, which is the swimming pool. I took this picture from a viewing tower. The building to the left of the hotel contains private apartments, which the hotel manages.

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Corner of Casa del Rio, near the road bridge that crosses the river.

The picture below is the other end of the hotel along the river bank. We preferred this end of the hotel, which was more private.

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Our preferred bar, where we could sit on the veranda and enjoy the evening breeze.

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Even the rain was warm.

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Breakfast area that stretched on to the balcony overlooking the river. Inside was air-conditioned – sometimes we liked outside and other times inside.

Each year the hotel industry has a boat race – waiters, maids etc are all involved and during breakfast one day I saw one of the hotel boats out on the river practicing. For what I saw I don’t think Oxford or Cambridge would have anything to worry about.

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An evening meal with our friends at the River Grill, just what the doctor ordered after a day of sight seeing.

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What more could we want on a warm tropical evening, good food & wine accompanied by the tinkling sound of a piano player in the background. The pianist offered to play  requests, so of course I asked for As time goes by ; don’t we all when the ambiance and the time and place fits?  :- o)