Christmas past. . . .1962

Ellenga

BI vessel S.S Ellenga

As a first trip cadet – I’d been at sea for about three months – it was Christmas at sea – we left Mina el Ahamadi in Kuwait at 3.00 am on Friday 21st December – it would be Christmas at sea for the five day voyage to Little Aden in what is now Yemen.

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We were not all that sorry to leave, because I doubt that an oil refinery in Kuwait would be on many people’s ‘bucket list’, particularly at Christmas time.

Even though it was Christmas at sea the watching keeping officers and crew still had to work on Christmas Day.

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Christmas breakfast menu,  on board the Ellenga in 1962.

The one thing we didn’t worry about was being hungry – couldn’t fault the British India Steam Nav. Co for the standard of food.

Certain cruise ship today think that they invented breakfast menus  . . .

For those of us who didn’t have to work on Christmas Day,
after a beer or two we all had lunch.

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A quiet afternoon for the cadets and at 7.00 pm it was time to eat again . . .

It was Christmas dinner!

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Cover of the Christmas dinner menu – signed by the officers.

All the time were ‘eating’ we were steaming down the Persian Gulf towards the Straits of Hormuz

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Coast of Little Aden, Yemen shot from Al Burayqah

The view of our destination – Little Aden- of course we were not allowed ashore. If for some reason we had to visit Aden, it was about a 45 minute road trip, and HOT!
The above is from the internet and thanks to Taff Davies in the UK.

Aden and Little Aden were still Aden colony in 1962 – the British having captured the area  in 1839 to secure the route to India, control the entrance to the Red Sea.and to dissuade pirates.
Until 1937 Aden was governed from India, but in 1937 it became a Crown Colony.
Its location is equidistant from Bombay (now Mumbai), Zanzibar & the Suez Canal, so it was a very important strategic location.

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We now jump forward four years to 1966, when I experienced another Christmas at sea.

I’d passed my 2nd Mates ticket and had been appointed 3rd Officer in the Bankura.

Bankura

BI ship M.S Bankura 6,793 gt, launched in 1959.

We sailed from Chalna in East Pakistan (the name changed after liberation to Bangladesh in 1971), after loading in the Rupsha River from floating warehouse type barges – the photograph below will give you and idea. We used our own derricks / cranes to load the cargo, After we completed loading we sailed for Colombo in Ceylon.

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I was once again at sea for Christmas, but only have the dinner menu as a souvenir.
This time I was third mate in a cargo ship running between Calcutta to the Australian & New Zealand coast. The round trip would take us about three months, unless we were lucky and became strike bound in Australia . . . . for the dockers in Australia this was their main hobby in the 60’s.

Although I was ‘at sea’, we were not sailing the oceans at Christmas, but anchored in Colombo harbour in Ceylon, (now called Sri Lanka). We arrived on the 20th December and worked cargo until Christmas Day, which was a holiday, not just for us, but Colombo as well. While we at the buoys another of the  Company’s vessels arrived and moored at a buoy close to us. She was the Carpentaria.
I think we were left at buoys because it would have been cheaper than going alongside due to the downtime, because of Christmas.

Carpentaria

 Carpentaria 7268 gt Launched 1949

We had company and a change of faces, and the ability to swap books. The Carpentaria carried eleven passengers so their Christmas was going to be ‘posher’ than ours, not that we had any complaints. The menu for our Christmas dinner is below

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Front cover of the menu – once again signed by the officers.

I have a letter that I sent to Maureen detailing the high jinks that took place between the Bankura & the Carpentaria officers – but that is another story.

 

 

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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Enjoy the journey – with a credit card

Asia has a number of major hubs to Europe – Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and recently with the growth of the Chinese airlines, various Chinese cities such as Shanghai & Guangzhou (old name being Canton).

When checking which transit hub to use to buy your business class ticket consider the economy of the country where the hub is located.

Singapore – an advanced economy, which means airline tickets are expensive.
Bangkok – a very good hub, because of the competition due to the large number airlines using Bangkok airport.
Hong Kong – again an advance economy and expensive to Europe, and the economy tickets from Australia to Hong Kong are more expensive than economy tickets to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.

Over the years I have bought airline tickets over the internet to fly with Thai Airways in Baht, Malaysian Airlines in Ringgits, Qatar Airlines in Sri Lankan rupees, Air Asia in Singapore dollars, Laos Air in USD, KLM & Iberia in Euros and they were all cheaper than travel agents or the Australian office of the airline that I wanted to use. To purchase the tickets I used a Visa card and they charge a 3% currency conversion fee, but the overall cost has always been cheaper.

A number of times we used Kuala Lumpur as a ‘hub’ to another Asian port i.e Colombo, in Sri Lanka. After doing dummy bookings from various origins such as Seam Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Rangoon, Manila etc I found Colombo to be the cheapest place to purchase business class tickets to Europe, using a quality airline.

Flying from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur to Colombo can be completed in one go, but it would be tiring and take about twelve to thirteen hours. We normally stop over for one night in a hotel near KL airport. The following day, after breakfast, we fly late morning, arriving in Colombo in time for lunch (you fly back in time from KL to Colombo). All very civilised.
Place that my wife and I have stayed during transit stops.

http://www.rumahputih.com/ -a bed and breakfast, run and owned by a Brit married to a Malaysian lady.

http://www.samasamahotels.com/ – right on the airport.
This hotel has two entrances, one is from the transit lounge, you do not enter Malaysia, and the other entrance after you have cleared customs & immigration.

http://www.theyouniqhotel.com/ – free transport to / from airport about ten minutes drive. Not to the same level as the other hotels, but clean and convenient.

http://pullmankualalumpur.com/ – we arrived in KL around 2.00 pm so had time to go in to town via the Express train system ($12 one way). Airline schedule from Sydney has changed and the arrival time is now 8.30 pm, too late to make it worth while to sleep in the city for an overnight transit stop.

We stayed a single night in Colombo after clearing customs and immigration – no visa fee to worry about because we were still in transit, and staying less than 36 hours.
http://www.paradisebeachsrilanka.com/ – about twenty minutes from the airport – hotel will arrange transport. Stayed here twice.
http://www.camelot.lk/ – not far from the Paradise Beach, same arrangements for airport transport.

Our favourite hotel in Sri Lanka is the Mount Lavinia Hotel
http://www.mountlaviniahotel.com/ but this hotel is too far for a single overnight, but a great place to stay for a few nights. The main picture at the top of this blog shows the hotel’s beach at Mount Lavinia.

The following day we leave the hotel at 6.30 am for a light breakfast in the business class lounge. Our flight departs at 9.15 am to the sound of corks popping for our Champagne breakfast.

The cost from Sydney to Europe can be anything from $5000 (via Manila) to $8000 with Qantas (via Dubai or Singapore) – for a combi ticket from Sydney, it would cost around $4000 to $4500 via an Asian port, and you do not get a break at the transit stop, but just keep on flying and this sector is usually a night flight, which means you sleep most of the way and miss out on the business class experience.

DIY – including all airfares and hotel costs, just under $3000 for a combi ticket. We do not like flying at night so we build our trips around daylight flights, and sleep in hotels, all prices are Australian dollars.

For my wife and I, the journey is part of the holiday, so flying business class part of the way is a holiday.