Monthly Archives: February 2013

Indonesian Farewell

Probolingo
Located in East Java, the port was filled with colorful wooden fishing boats. Taking a tender from the ship, David, Sandy, Helen, and I took a shuttle into the center of town. We visited the local market where two of the local women offered to buy my dangling earrings. Taking pedi-cabs, we visited the Red Church, the GPIB Immanuel Church which was built 150 years ago from materials imported from Holland. Riding in a pedi-cab, holding an umbrella while the rain is pouring down, is a new experience. Joined by Robert, we walked through the rain to a hotel lobby which provided us with the two necessities of travelers, toilets and wifi.

I have noticed that throughout Indonesia the tails of cats are docked. Apparently this is so they are unable to jump.

Boarding the ship from the tender, in the rain of course, I mentioned to an officer that this voyage should be renamed the Climate Challenged Voyage. He agreed.

Surabaya
Surabaya is the capital of East Java and the second largest city in Indonesia. It is also the main seaport and commercial center of East Java. East Indies Companies took over the city in 1743. Locally the name is believed to be derived from the words “sura” shark and “baya” crocodile. In local myth, the two creatures fought each other to gain the title of the strongest and most powerful animal. The two animals are used as the city’s logo.

There were singers and dancers in the terminal as well as local vendors. A shopping frenzy erupted as passengers sought to spend the last of their Indonesian rupiahs. I purchased a teak bowl in the shape of a bird or duck, fresh water pearls, and various local crafts.

As we slowly motor out of the ship and boat choked channel, we bid goodby to our Indonesia experience and set sail for Singapore.

Shipboard Life
Each department on board is distinguished by its own stripe pattern on shoulder boards. The Deck/Navigation department, including the Captain, have gold bars, one of which is looped. I have found several officers to check this. The Hotel Department is recognized by straight gold bars separated by white stripes. I went to the Pinnacle to check the officer in charge… correct! The Engineering department is distinguished by straight gold stripes. The Information Technology Department has straight gold bars accented with green stripes. The Medical team has straight gold bars with red (perhaps for blood) in between. I haven’t checked the officers of the last three departments, but it is on my to do list.

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Dining with friends

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Surabaya Terminal

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In Probbolingo, taking a break from the rain.

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More Indonesia

Lombok
Lombok shares the crystalline waters with others in the chain of islands known as Nusa Tengara, the islands with green hills and white sand beaches. It is 80-90% Muslim, depending on your source, and is billed as the Bali of 20 years ago. I wasn’t in Bali 20 years ago, but Lombok is no Bali. Bali is Hindu; Lombok is Muslim. There is an entirely different feel to the two islands. However, the Gili Islands off the northeast coast of the island host thousands of Australian vacationers every year.

The Dutch first visited the island in the late 1600’s but settled mostly in the eastern half, leaving the western half to be ruled by the dynastic Hindus from Bali. Cultural and religious tensions simmered until a revolt which occurred between 1891 and 1894 leaving to the annexation of the entire island to the Netherland (Dutch) East Indies.

4 of us hired a car (a new Toyota small suv), a driver, and a guide for $20 USD pp. We ventured to a pottery shop (overpriced) and a pearl shop (overpriced) on the way through the capital city of Mataram on the way to Lingsar Temple built in 1714. It is the unified temple for prosperity, recognized by Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims. I thought it definitely was Hindu. We then drove to Karcis Masuk, a water temple. (I was told that i have the name of the temple wrong. Apparently karcis masuk means entrance ticket. Thank you for correcting my error.)This temple was a pale comparison with the ones we saw yesterday in Bali. My suggestion: skip Lombok, stay in Bali. The excursion cost $30 USD pp for car, driver, guide, entrance fees, and tip.

Wallace’s Line, named for the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, passes between Lombok and Bail. It denotes the vast difference in flora and fauna. East of the line the species are Australasian; west of the line, they’re all Asian.

Komodo Island
Aside from its most famous residents, the Komodo dragons, the inhabitants of this island are mostly descendants of former convicts, exiled to the island and who have mixed with the indigenous Bugis from Sulawesi.

Komodo National Park comprises more than 25 islands and is the only known habitat of the Komodo dragon, a super-sized monitor lizard which can grown up to ten feet and weigh up to 300 pounds and run about 12 miles per hour. Their saliva hosts a toxic bacterium that quickly infects and disables prey. They rarely attack humans, however, they could gobble down an adult in a matter of minutes. Twenty years ago, a tourist vanished, never to be seen again.

Only those passengers on an organized tour are allowed to tender from the ship to the island. Since I was here in 2010, I chose to stay on the ship. I threw chocolates sealed in plastic bags to the children paddling dug out canoes along the side of the ship. The photograph on the masthead of this blog was taken in Slawi Bay, Komodo, Indonesia in 2010.

Ujang Padang
The official name of the city is now Makassar, a name from its past. Fort Rotterdam was a Dutch fort built during the 1670’s which was originally known as Ujang Padang. It was integrated into the united Dutch East Indies colony in 1900. Fort Rotterdam was used as a Japanese prisoner of war camp in World War II.

Bulusarang National Park is comprised the the Bantimurung Waterfall and the Butterfly Conservation Captivity. The waterfall falls 50 ft. from a rocky cliff. Because thousands of butterflies thrive in the habitat, 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace documented the site as Kingdom of the Butterflies. I purchased a $10 box of 12 individually mounted butterflies.

This was the last tour I personally organized. 24 persons all agreed it was one of the best shore excursions of the voyage. Dodo and team were organized, personable, and knowledgeable. http://dodopenman.blogspot.com I give him the highest marks for the tour which lasted all day and included a delicious lunch for $60 USD pp.

While sitting on the bus waiting for it to load after lunch, I spied a Chinese dragon head (barongsai in Indonesia) in the store across the street. I yelled, “I want that!” At which point, Byron hopped off the bus, ran across the street, purchased the head, returned to the bus, and presented it to me. My only problem now is how on earth am I going to get it home.

Ship Life
“Frank in Person” was a Dutch singer doing a tribute to Frank Sinatra. He had Sinatra’s hand motions down perfectly, and his voice was more than adequate. Do not miss an opportunity to hear Jeri Sager, a woman who has played Broadway in Cats, Le Mis, and Evita. She can belt out a song!

Our new captain, Hans Mateboer, is much more accessible than our last captain. He is often seen eating in the Lido. He joined Holland America in 1980 and was promoted to captain in 1993. He met his wife on a Baltic cruise. They live in Charlotte, N.C.

Hope to send photos soon.

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ms Rotterdam through Indonesia

Indonesia
The exact number of islands in the Indonesian archipelago is 17,508, according to the country’s tourism office, along with 400 volcanos, some of which are still active. Scattered around the equator, the island chain reaches over 3,000 miles east to west.

Each of the country’s roughly 300 ethnic groups has its own languages, customs, and cuisine. Though Islam is the dominant religion in the country, Bali is Hindu. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Java
On the island of Java, our first stop is Tanjung Priok, the port city for Jakarta, a city of 9.6 million.

Taking a free shuttle to the Artha Gading Mall, I was met by a young woman in native dress. She escorted five of us to the rear of the mall, up 5 floors in a freight elevator along with shipments of fruits and vegetables, to a darkened parking lot. I had thoughts of being kidnapped for the sex trade, but a friend from Cyprus said that if it happened, they would quickly throw us back. We crossed to the rear door of a department store, Pendopo, which had not opened for business. We were welcomed by the staff, treated to coffee and tea, entertained by native dancers, and learned how to make batik. A young salesman, Danny, escorted me through the store, converting Indonesian rupees to US dollars. We were followed by another sales person who carried my selections. When I finished shopping and paid the bill, I was escorted to an office where I chose a cup as a gift. Danny then escorted me, carrying all of my packages, down through the mall and out to the shuttle bus. The service at this store was impeccable. The merchandise of the best quality. I would have loved to have some pieces of furniture shipped home but the shipping costs are astronomical.

Our second stop will be at Semarang, the port for the 3 hour trip to Borobudur, an UNESCO World Site. Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, was buried beneath volcanic ash and overgrown jungle until 1815 when it was discovered by Stamford Raffles. The Buddhist kingdom that ruled for centuries built Borobudur, a 113 foot high pyramid. For one of the world’s greatest monuments, little is known about it. The Buddhist Cailendra dynasty, which ruled Java in the eighth and ninth centuries, commissioned it, but the reason is lost in time. It consists of hundreds of massive stone Buddhas. It is the largest single monument in the Southern Hemisphere.

16 of us in 2 vans ventured the 3 hours through the countryside to Borobudur. The trip in itself was an experience in viewing another culture. The island is quite mountainous with volcanos covered in clouds on the horizon. As we were preparing to leave, vendors surrounded the vans. I purchased 6 puppets.

After 6 plus hours in a van and the heat and physical exertion of the shore excursion, Sandy, Susan, and I only made it to the Sports Bar before we dropped all our packages and ordered drinks. After a round, our bartender informed us that there was Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar. We picked up our packages and moved to the Ocean Bar. After several more drinks, we were only able to make it to our cabins before completely collapsing.

Java has always been a romantic fantasy….. it is now a real memory!

Bali
“When in Bali, you will understand its nicknames such as Island of Gods and Island of Love.” Bali is exotic, beautiful, warm, and today was WET! It rained all day; rivers flowed down the roads. Six of us (John, Sandy, Linda, Susan, Mike, and me) set off in a van to see the island. We visited Ubud, a charming town of shops and restaurants; we didn’t stop because of the rain. When we did stop at a restaurant, we were issued umbrellas for the walk to the lavatories. We visited the Tegalalang rice terraces, but only for a few minutes because it was POURING. We traveled to the top of the volcano for the view, but missed it because of the fog and RAIN. We did walk through the RAIN at the Spring Water Temple, a unique Hindu temple of incredible beauty.

The second day in Bali, 9 of us piled into the same van with the same driver as yesterday. The skies were producing the same moisture…. and we drove… and drove. We arrived at Kerta Gosha, the traditional justice palace of the Klungkung kingdom built in 1622 and located in the center of Semarapura city. This looked like a water palace to me. Back in the van, more rain, more driving. We arrive at the Tirga gangga water palace. Only this one is incredible. After viewing the statues and ponds and flora, we had lunch at the Tirga Hotel overlooking the beautiful scene. All agreed this was definitely someplace to which we’d love to return. Back in the van, driving narrow, winding mountain roads to the Tenganan traditional Balinese village…. a walled mountain village retaining the pre-Hindu culture. Back in the van, driving through the rain to the port when STOP was heard echoing in the van. A quick u-turn brought us to a shop selling colorful Hindu umbrellas and traditional Balinese decorations. All in all, 9 of us laughed our way through Bali and would come again.

Shipboard Life
I have changed my goal as per Sharon Penman’s Lionheart. I believe I will save it and try to finish off Richard on the World Voyage 2013. He’s making his way to Jaffa…. next year will be the third year I will spend plowing through this book. Thank goodness for Kindle… I don’t have to lug around the large book.

Barry from Boston is the new piano bar entertainer. Bright red hair, marvelous pianist, interesting character.

Our fixed seating table (Margaret and Peter, Hans and Marian, Sandy and me) continues to be the charming, interesting, hilarious one that began over 6 weeks ago. Sometimes the chemistry of the guests just meld.

The Interdenominational Services (Protestant) continue to be well-attended.

The Singles and Solos met for a luncheon in the Pinnacle Restaurant.

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Singapore

Singapore
The tiny country consists of the large island of Singapore and 63 smaller islands at the tip of the slender Malay Peninsula. Just 90 miles north of the equator, the climate is tropical. More than 3 million people live on the big island. There are 14 major nationalities, but most are Chinese ethnic groups. Singapore City is 38 sq. miles. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in the Sumatran trading center and claimed it for Britain. The harbor, strategic position, and free port status both assured and fueled rapid growth. It is the busiest port in the world.

I toured the Jurong Bird Park with Linda and Byron. The taxi was 15 Singapore dollars each way. 0.86 exchange rate with USD. The Bird Park (entrance and tram 25 Singapore dollars) is amazing and not to be missed. It was the last major attraction for me; I’ve now seen them all in Singapore.

Shipboard Life
We have a new Captain, Johannes Mateboer, who will take us the rest of the way to Southampton.

When we returned to the ship, 400 new passengers were boarding. The issuing chaos was disappointing to say the least. Our 4 star priority boarding status has not been recognized on this trip. We are constantly told, “It may be a long voyage, but it is NOT a GRAND voyage.” The differences are readily evident on this voyage.

One new passenger is Rob, a dance host from 2012 Grand South American voyage. It is great to see him again.

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I love Malaysia!

Malaysia
Trade of natural resources, including minerals, is the backbone of Malaysian economic development. Peninsular Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of tin and the second largest producer of rubber.

Tin has been mined for export to China since the earliest recorded time, and the Sultan of Malacca used tin ingots for currency. By the first century B.C., Malaysia was a fulcrum of trade between Southeast Asia and the world. In 1511, Portugal took over Malacca, establishing it as a center of European power in the region. The Dutch took over in 1641, then the British who granted independence to the country in 1957. The country’s name was changed to Malaysia in 1963.

My favorite country to visit so far! Beautiful!

Porto Malai, Langkawi
Using the Jungle Walla Natural History Tours (www.junglewalla.com), I reserved 2 boats for 16 persons at 600 Malaysian ringitts each. We explored the mangrove forests and the ancient limestone outcrops, looking for exotic plants and animal species. Our guide was Daia, a personable young woman with a degree in marine biology. We saw walking fish, kites, eagles, and monkeys. We traveled through a cave by boat, stopped at a marine fishery, and landed to venture into a bat cave. By the time we had finished the bat cave tour, the tide had risen, and we waded bent over because of the low ceilings through the water in the cave. All participants agreed that this was a superb tour at a great value (approximately $25 USD pp).

Port Kelang
Kuala Lumpur is an hour away from the port. We had a tour, 175 Malaysia ringitts plus tip pp. We saw the War Memorial, the King’s Palace, National Mosque, Twin Towers, and the Orchid Gardens. We visited the Buddhist Temple where Chinese New Year of the Snake was being celebrated. I lighted joss sticks for prayer; received my horoscope which was not as good as I had hoped; and received a “gold” ingot for my contribution to the God of Prosperity.

Shipboard Life
Watched the movie Argo in the Wajang Theater. Excellent. I can see why this feel-good movie is winning awards.

Malay Cultural Show featured Malaysian dancers in native costumes performing the traditional dances of Porto Malai.

Listened to the Grace Trio perform again which was slightly better than the first performance.

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Andaman Islands

Port Blair, India
No one really knows when the first tribal groups reached the Andaman Islands. The eastern half of South Andaman Island is a reservation for the Jarawa tribe, but some of the indigenous tribes continue to have little or no contact with outside world.

Port Blair was established in 1790 as a penal colony after increased rebellion in the Bengal region of Indian created a need. The jailers were cruel, and most of the felons were Indian national political captives. Those who were disruptive were further deported to Viper Island.

The sail in between the islands was beautiful. Took a tuk tuk with Sandy to the Aberdeen market ($5 pp). Walked up the street looking in shops… crowded, hot, typically Indian! Took a tuk tuk back to ship ($3 pp). Lane told me he witnessed his first accident in India. A white truck-like van carrying several people tipped over. Immediately about fifty men appeared, lifted the truck back on its wheels, and the truck drove off. Apparently they have a dearth of lawyers.. the opportunities for lawsuits seem to good to waste!!

Ship Board Life
The traditional Black and White Ball, where attendees wear black and/or white and dance with the ship’s officers, was held in the showroom at sea. Captain Sybe de Boer and his red clad companion (some had other words for her) opened the ball. She was at least 30 years younger than the captain. This affair brings to mind the Costa Concordia. I have my LED light on my lanyard around my neck, per my daughter’s orders.

Chinese New Year was celebrated by Sari Night. The after dinner drink ($6.04) was the Chow-li Temple, a mixture of banana and cherry liqueurs which tasted suspiciously like the cough medicine given (sold) to me by the infirmary.

The aft deck on 8 now has a large outdoor movie screen. I attended my first outdoor movie, Beyonce at Wembley. The movie stunk but the weather was gorgeous.

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India!!

Marmagoa
Mormugao (three different spellings) is the port city to the state of Goa. The Portuguese colonized this part of Goa in the sixteenth century. Lisbon residents wanted the commodities of silk, ginger, nutmeg, and saffron, commodities that had previously been extremely rare or unknown outside of the Orient.

Private all day tour including lunch, 2000 rupees plus 200 rupee tip (approx $40 USD plus $4). We (13 of us) traveled away from the city, through small towns and villages, about an hour and a half to a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Goddess Durga. After this visit, we continued on to a spice plantation. We took a guided walk through the trees to learn about the spices for which India is known… vanilla, cinnamon, clove, cardamon, allspice (yes, it is one spice), and others. We had lunch here…. I had a Kingfisher beer and croissants filled with cream cheese brought from the ship. I did try the padam crisps which were delicious; spiced lentil deep fried similar to potato chips. On the return trip we visited a beach hotel and learned why Goa is known for its beaches: palm trees swaying in the breeze, white sand, gorgeous.

Mangalore
Mangalore is the chief port city of the state of Karnataka and handles the bulk of the nation’s cashew exports. The climate is tropical, and the area is subject to the infamous Indian monsoons. European influence can be traced to 1498 when Vasco de Gma landed near Mangalore.

Shared a tuk tuk (3 wheeled vehicle) to the city center mall for $10 US each. I thought that I would become Indian roadkill more than once. Strolled through the four story mall and purchased a pair of shoes, $48 USD. After shopping, a friend and I shared a taxi for a tour of the city and return to port, $15 USD each. At the port terminal I purchased a tea cozy in the shape of an elephant, $20 USD.

Cochin
Cochin (Kochi) was the center of the Indian spice trade for many centuries and was known to the Greeks as well as Romans, Jews, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. After Vasco da Gama visited the city in 1502, the Portuguese established a settlement. St. Francis Xavier opened a Christian mission in 1530. The Dutch overthrew the Portuguese in 1663 and eventually ceded Cochin to the British in either 1795 or 1814 (I found both years mentioned.)

Kerala’s network of navigable backwaters stretches to cover a thousand kilometers. These serene waterways are fringed by palm groves and paddy fields and offer a striking spectacle of life. Alleppey is 40 miles south of Kochi. The coastal community is often called Indian Venice because of the canals that were built to divert seawater and reclaim the land.

There were 13 of us on a private tour given by Cochin Magic tour company, 3000 rupees per person. We visited Alleppey and traveled the canals and lake in a small boat. Saw rope made from coconuts as it has been for hundreds of years. Visited old Fort Kochi, the Dutch cemetery, Jewtown and a synagogue, the laundry where it is done by hand for 20 rupees per piece, and the Chinese fishing nets. All in all it was a good tour.

India Insights
India is the seventh largest country in the world. It is progressing at a rapid rate but lacks the infrastructure to become a modern country. Its population growth (as well as ever present governmental corruption) remains the primary reason that the country has not progressed. Litter is ever present… garbage, trash, plastic bottles, refuse line every road and field.

Comments
Carole: Duct tape is used to repair everything!! I wish I had brought a roll to secure the stopper on the bottle of eucalyptus I purchased in Egypt.

Jeroen: I don’t know anyone who has participated in the Taste of Librije in the Pinnacle. I do enjoy special dinners but have done the Le Cirque many times previously and have not taken advantage of either the special Dutch or the lobster dinners on this voyage.

Sharon: Thanks for your nice comment. It is gratifying to know that people are enjoying my voyage vicariously!

Ship Board Life
The entertainment continues to be of excellent quality: Scottish singer and violinist Simone Welsh, class love song voice of Paul Emmanuel, and the musical artistry of Kenny Martyn. However, the performance by the Grace trio was not to my taste; 60’s folk songs do not really stand the test of time.

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