Wanderlust Home and Pet Care
Bangkok to Istanbul Cruise
Bangkok Embarkation was very smooth but with a maximum of 650 passengers what else would you expect. After a delicious lunch, one of our suitcases still wasn’t at the room. I said it was probably because of the cleaver we carry with us. Yes, we carry a knife, cheese grater, Ziplock/trash bags and up until yesterday we were carrying a Teflon fry pan and plastic spatula. The fry pan had served us well for 3 months (time to say good-bye). Anyway, Gary contacted security. The suitcase was all by itself on the pier, in the sun. The suitcase was scanned and pulled out because of the knife. We can pick up the knife the day before disembarkation. Trust me we won’t need it for the next 35 days - ha ha. Gary was so worried it was lost but I knew better.
At sea 4/16/15. The food is the best I have experienced on a cruise ship for a long time. This is a good and bad thing. What choices we make are delicious but because I am trying to stick to a low carb diet, I am sooooo tempted. I did have a no sugar added strawberry cheesecake - yummmm - so I’m back to Zumba exercise in the stateroom. If the maid walks in she will see a lady in her underwear dancing to a Latin beat.
At sea 4/17/15 I feel soooo pampered and yet it really is the little things that make me feel so good. First, the cloth napkins. I learned quickly in Asia to carry a Baggie filled with baby wipes. Japan gave us a wet towel to clean your hands but we never got a napkin. I wouldn’t let the waiter take that towel. Cambodia and Thailand have a container on the table filled with what seems like squares of toilet paper. We try to keep using the small one we have unless the food is messy but when they are the size and texture of a square of toilet paper, it’s difficult. Second, place settings. Asia doesn’t use a knife. We had to learn to use the chopsticks to separate big bites. There are times when we really need a knife. Restaurants did have ceramic plates otherwise is was melamine. The ship has fine china and we have glass drinking glasses even at the buffet . Celebrity gave us plastic glasses at the buffet. Third, bathroom towels on the ship are so thick and soft. The towels were stained, holey, and thin in Chiang Mai. Forth, wiping our wet hands in public bathrooms. Maybe the restrooms had toilet paper but the general rule is - wipe your hands on your pants and us hand sanitizer. The ship has nice “cloth” towels. I could go on but you get the idea. I can’t change those things and I won’t stop traveling to places that aren’t like home. Trips like this cruise help me remember how spoiled and lucky we are.
4/18/15 Singapore - It was Gary’s job to find a tour in Singapore. He came up with the hop-on hop-off bus. I found the subway directions to the starting point. I was very impressed with the cruise terminal and a subway line starting right at the terminal. We had completed 90% of the green route when the stop for the Raffles hotel was announced. It was my goal to have an original Singapore Sling at the hotel that invented the drink. It was just “OK” for 34 Singapore dollars - ouch! The best so far is the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas. We were disappointed with the orange route. We couldn’t hear the announcements so we caught the nearest subway back to the ship. The cruise terminal had free Internet - I downloaded 65 emails. Four o’clock is tea time and Saturdays are my cheat on the diet day. OMG, the pastries were sinfully delicious. Dinner was spent on the fantail watching the Singapore city lights turn on - beautiful evening.
4/20/15 Phuket, Thailand. We took a tour thru Easy Day Thailand along with two other couples to Phang Nga Bay. Our transportation to the Ao Nang National Park was a long tail boat which made the tour more authentic. The A/C worked just fine - ha ha! The James Bond Island, (The Man with the Golden Gun starring Sean Connery), was the main attraction. The limestone formations were amazing structures rising from the water. We also visited a 200 year old Muslim fishing village that now provides lunch and shopping to the visiting tourists. The original inhabitants were 3 families that sailed from Indonesia to find a better home. Some of the villager’s walkways look very precarious. The homes located in the center of the village do not have access to the gentle breezes off the water - hot and muggy. The villagers have running water via a pipe from the main land for washing, however, all drinking water must be brought to the village in bottles.
On the way back to the pier, we stopped at an old temple built in a cave. Due to the growth of tourism to the cave, the locals have constructed buildings designed specifically for the monks for their housing, ceremonies and meditation.
April 22, 23 & 24 Yangon Myanmar (New Country) - Caucasians still must be a novelty for many of the locals. They would openly stare. We in turn would say, “Mingalarbar” which means Hello. The reactions varied: embarrassment, shock or the most fun - the greeting was returned with a mad rush for pictures. Gary & I now know how movie stars must feel when fans want to have their photos taken with their idols. Everyone in the family got into the act. Phones were swapped to insure everyone had the photo. It really was an awesome experience. Some of the children spoke a little English. Gary conversed with a monk. Then we would say goodbye, “Tat Tah” , and moved on with a warm glow in our hearts. Actually we were warm all over - read on!
Myanmar is the land of Pagodas and Temples. Buddhism is the prevalent religion and is combined with the belief in the spirit gods. We saw emerald, rattan, marble and bronze Buddha's, reclining Buddha’s and Buddha’s meditating. There are Buddha’s for every day of the week! Bare feet are required at all Temples and Pagodas - can’t even use socks. “Ouch”, “Hot”, “OMG”, “Yikes” erupted from my mouth. Not the kind of words you would expect at a place of meditation. I was seen walking/hopping very quickly from the shade of one building to another holding my purple umbrella for protection from the sun, (104 degrees). I learned quickly to avoid the dark colored tile on which you could fry an egg, white marble tiles were manageable and the white and blue ceramic titles were actually cool feeling. It reminded me of a trip to Hawaii’s beach where I had to throw a towel forward and jump to the towel and then throw another towel forward to get from point A to point B. Remember Mom, Dad & Marci?
We stopped at a farmer’s home built with mud and bamboo. The farmer’s home had a shrine for the spirit lady of bounty and protection. The seeds for the rice fields are transported in the cart by the cows to the fields. Water is hauled from a creek one hour away. This home has no electricity and the outhouse is at the side of the house. How lucky we are to have the basic and modern conveniences.
We visited a Nunnery funded by the Japanese. The nuns take care of 900 children that are orphans or from families unable to afford the cost of school. They sang for us. I recognized twinkle twinkle little star. Their possessions are kept next to or under their beds. The youngest was 5 years old and can range all the way to high school. The children were so well behaved - a trait typically missing from our schools.
The local’s market contained many more unusual items: betel nut and the leaves for chewing, cinnamon bark, salt rocks, branches which are chewed and have a sweet taste and the list goes on. With our guide’s help we were able to find baby powder, air freshener & moth balls - have to keep everything smelling fresh in this hot muggy weather.
Myanmar pulled at my heart strings in many ways and we only scratched the surface. There are many other cities/places to visit. The people are gentle and caring. They continue to wear the traditional clothing - a long cloth skirt is worn and knotted at the waist. I will always remember saying hello to a little old lady and she gave my arm a happy squeeze along with a warm smile with missing teeth.
4/26/15 Pirate drill today. Keep the drapes closed and lights off when not in the state room at night. If contact is reported, move to the hallways and keep low to the ground. All sound information. A passenger informed us that a pirate situation actually happened to the ship we are cruising on. The ship outran the pirates.
Tea Time is every day at 4PM but today was the chocolate extravaganza. The chef suggested the 7 layer cake - Oh My Gosh it melted in my mouth!
4/27/15 There she blows! Whale sighting and I actually saw a tail come out of the water. Also saw dolphins chasing dinner.
4/28/15 My tour of the backwaters of Kerala in Cochin, India. Our tour from daytoursincochin.com was a wonderful experience in a two bedroom houseboat complete with A/C in the bedrooms. The canals were full of daily life activities. The temperature on the canals were perfect. It was warmer on the lake and the lack of activity made me sleepy - great way to relax. It was the end of the tourist season with the monsoons starting the end of May, however, the canals were still full of houseboats. I would like to come back and see more of the area.
4/30/15 Mumbai India Gary & I obtained all the necessary information to walk to the Gate of India. Along the way, we are able to get to an ATM for cash to purchase our ferry ride to Elephanta Cave, a UNESCO site. Total cost doing it ourselves, $15 for both of us verses $47 per person with a tour. Not a bad savings! There were over 300 steps to get up to the cave in 90+ degree weather. I think I was so exhausted by the time I reached the top, I was too tired to really appreciate the lovely stone carvings. Now that I can view Gary’s pictures, it really was a lovely place.
We ruined our goal of not using the elevator to get around the ship. We were so tired, hot, sweaty and thirsty we took the elevator from the 4th floor to the 9th floor to grab a very late lunch. Hopefully that will be the only blemish on our record.
5/1/15 Laundry? Yes we saw Dhobi Ghat, a huge outdoor laundry facility built by the British and then taken over by the Indian government. Twisted rope is used instead of clothes pins. The pieces of clothing, sheets or towels from hotels and hospitals were slapped against black rocks that are rented from the government. I guess the slapping is suppose to knock out the dirt. I can’t imagine that clothes will last a long time. Next it was a walk through Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia. Dharavi's industries have an annual revenue of approximately US$ 665 million: recycling plastic, pottery-making, embroidery, bakery, leather tanning, poppadom-making and many more. It was amazing to see 1 million people in a very small area making a living. So far this was the highlight of the cruise. 80% of the tour profits are returned to the community. What a great idea!
We stopped to take a quick look at a 2 billion dollar home. The bottom 7 floors were for 100+ employees, swimming pool and skating rink. Wonder what’s on the rest of the floors? We were then driven to the Hanging Gardens for a hill top view of Mumbai and on the way back to the ship we drove through the “red-light” district. Families in the countryside are told their daughters will be placed in a good job. Not True!. The girls are forced into prostitution and we saw them standing on the curb waiting for customers. Mumbai would definitely been an interesting city to live in.
5/4/15 Salalah, Oman (New Country) It is refreshing (no pun intended) to see a country that is so clean - no garbage lying about, however it is still hot as hell. I have set up this tour for only Gary and me. (Gary here: It is so nice to ask the driver to stop so I can photograph a camel, landscape, or market. Try that on a bus with 60 of your fellow cruisers). We visited: the Taqah Castle where the “major” of the region lived and conducted government business; Sumhuram Ruins - an ancient port city(3-5 century B.C.) with special accommodations for the Queen of Sheba , Bin Ali’s Tomb who was a famous prophet , and the uninhabited city of Mirbat. Mirbat’s claim to fame was the African Slave market. I need to do some internet research for more details, our guide wasn’t the best at sharing information. He was, however, full of questions for us about the USA.
5/7/15 County fair at sea. Many of the ship’s departments organized games for the passengers to play and win prizes. I had a perfect score at ring toss. However, my ability to put lipstick on Gary while being blindfolded was sorely lacking. Later in the day was the boat building contest. The day ended with a BBQ by the pool and under the stars. It was all very fun! The only thing missing were fireworks.
May 9 & 10 Safaga, Egypt. The first day we took the shuttle bus to a resort in Safaga as Safaga isn’t an interesting city. Most of the passengers went to Luxor and the Valley of Kings. A 6 hour round trip drive wasn’t my cup of tea. We purchased Internet at the resort and had a leisurely day.
Our tour of the port town of Hurghada was all about the tourist; many hotels, white sand beaches and scuba diving centers, restaurants of all types and a mall. The most interesting stop of the tour was Sand City. Talented people have re-created famous figures or events out of sand. The art has been created out in the open - hope it doesn’t rain or a big wind storm doesn’t come along and destroy everything.
5/11/15 Aqaba, Jordan We were here in Jordan 3 years ago so we opted for a nice walk along the water. Met a nice man that runs a glass bottom boat. We had a quick lunch at the Kempinski hotel with a nice view of the beach. Our pictures of Jordan from 2012 are accessed below.
May 14 & 15 Drama with the Egypt authorities for the Suez canal. We left Aqaba earlier than scheduled and hightailed it to the mouth of the Suez to get our “Northbound” convoy #. Well…. after waiting around for two hours, we were informed that the Southbound ships still needed to complete their voyage before the Northbound ships could begin their transit. Bottom line - our ship entered the canal at 9:30 pm (12 hours wasted) and we arrived in Haifa, Israel at 5:30 pm instead of 8:00 am. I immediately canceled the tour I had organized. What a shame but that’s the way the cookie crumbles!
5/16/15 Haifa, Israel The first tour stop was Zippora, an ancient Roman city in existence before Jesus Christ. Nazareth is only a couple of miles away so it is very likely Jesus walked the very same streets we were walking - how weird! An elaborate villa was located on a small knoll of the town. The top of this knoll later saw the construction of a crusader fort due to it’s prime location in the valley. The roman amphitheater still exists and is used today for concerts. The E/W and N/S roads are visible with the graffiti of the children that played there over 2,000 years ago - amazing.
Our second stop was the walled city of Acco and it crusader fortifications. This tour was underground as future generations had filled in the fortifications with dirt to build a city on top. Due to some plumbing repairs on an old woman’s house, secret tunnels of the Knights of Templar were discovered and recently opened to the public just a year ago. The most spectacular room was the dining hall with it’s huge columns. Archeologist think the crusader forts were the beginnings of the gothic designed churches in Europe.
Finally, we drove to the Lebanon boarder to visit naturally made caves and then tunnels made by the Israelis and British for a military train to be used during WWII. It was never used for it’s intended purpose. The bridge connecting the two tunnels was blown up to prevent seizure by the enemy.
5/17/15 Alanya, Turkey What a beautiful port of call. I need to put this city on the “stay” list. I would hope I could find an apartment near the fortress wall facing the port. We would have the afternoon shade on the patio for cocktails and would have a magnificent of the city lights at night. It was quite a coincidence being in town on the celebration of Norway’s Independence. I spoke with a lady who works at the Norway Embassy. Alanya receives 400,000 Norwegian visitors during a season. Maybe I could learn Norwegian in Turkey - how odd would that be?
5/18/15 Rhodes, Greece Our half day tour focused on the major sights of the island: the Temple of Apollo, the wall of the Knights of St John’s fortress which surrounds the old city of Rhodes, a scenic view of the Aegean Beach, the ancient acropolis of Lindos dating back to 1300 B.C. And finally the Mediterranean Beach. We could definitely spend a month here after September 20 when the majority of tourists are gone and the water is still warm. November would be good too to help with the making of olive oil! We would definitely need to rent a car to visit the 44 villages on the island.
After a late lunch we walked through the “old city”. Many of the tourist had left so it was very pleasant not having to fight for a spot for pictures.
5/19/15 Our last day aboard Nautica. I am looking forward to going home and seeing family and friends. I am also looking forward to some piece and quiet - announcements made 3 times a day (we can read the daily schedule!), conversations are going on everywhere and every meal time we have people to interact with. I have to go to the state room for silence. The 35 days did go very quickly and we did have a wonderful time but I’m looking forward to spending all day in my pj’s if I want.