A Travel Diary by Larry Wheeler. He and his wife Kathy are clients of ours and recently enjoyed a Viking cruise in the South Pacific. Here are some of his journal entries:
Travel Day 1
We left Houston on time on Emirates Airline ( Viking did the booking). I went upstairs on the Airbus to the bar and found that my tickets were in the economy section and did not include the bar. “Drats”! Anyway Emirates is nice, plenty leg room and the seats recline more than 2 clicks. A two hour layover in Dubai and then six hours to Bangkok. Finally we are in our room and unpacked (2 hour bus ride from the airport to the ship).
Long day! First tour is at 6:15 in the AM. Good night!
Nathan (Koh Samui),Thailand
Yesterday we visited the Thai island Koh Samui, a paradise of long sandy beaches, mountainous jungles, coral reefs and coconut trees. The waters are so shallow the ship had to anchor 2 miles from land. We did a 4 x 4 trip into the mountains to a red terracotta temple Sila Ngu, then to the granite formation of Grandparent Rocks. Then a short jungle hike to Secret Buddha gardens sculpted by a 77 year old man with a dream and lastly to a family coconut house to see how they produce the coconut products.
There were no roads on the island until 1970, it was a fishing village and had an abundance of coconuts that provided them with a means to survive until they transplanted the coconut tree to the mainland and started processing the coconuts with machines. It was a fun hot day.
AS THE CROW FLIES
When a ship was lost in coastal waters, the captain released a caged crow, knowing it would fly towards land. An appointed sailor watched the process from the tallest spot on the ship, which became know as the crow’s nest.
Well, now you know!
We had a great day in Singapore. Singapore is a small island, 263 sq miles, ranks 2nd in GDP, it got its independence from Great Britain in 1965 and is its own country, recognized and a member of the UN. Previously a very poor nation, it has become the number two financial district in the world and the 2nd busiest port in the world. Their buildings are spectacular, their public transportation stellar, their city clean and people friendly. They have some unusual laws like, no chewing gum allowed in Singapore, 2 yr mandatory conscript in the military, if you want to buy a car you first have to purchase a certificate from the government for the privilege to own a car for $100,000.00 US dollars then you can pay for the car and it is only good for 10 years.
Our tour took us on a whirlwind sightseeing marathon using all the different modes of transportation. First by a Viking bus to downtown and the hawker center (food court) and a walk thru the fabulous smells of all the food, then a trishaw trip thru India town (trishaw: a bicycle with a sidecar that holds 2 people), then on a public bus to a boat tour down the Singapore River front, then the MRT (mass transportation subway), that was so clean and organized anyone could use it to get around the city, to Chinatown and all the sites, sounds and smells that make you want to stay longer. And finally to the harbor front by boat to see all of the magnificent buildings. Our guide had quite a day, first we lost two people on the trishaw ride because the bicycle broke down and they were the last bike in the group and no one knew it. Then half the group got on the wrong escalator going down to the subway (we waved at them as they passed by), he had his hands full with a bunch of old people.
Port Klang, Malaysia
Yesterday we stopped at Port Klang, Malaysia. (Singapore sits at the very tip of the Malaysian peninsula.) We took a bus to Port Klang, the home of twin spectator skyscrapers. On the bus we saw much poverty in the countryside and in the city a conversion to tall apartment buildings right next to very poor areas they are clearing. All of this area was really affected by the Japanese occupation during WWll, and their fight for independence from British rule. I got a little upper respiratory infection yesterday that slowed me down a little (we did not do the tour of George Town, Malaysia today to recoup a little). There is a lot of smog in the area and I think that’s what got me.
About 65% of the 32 million population are Sunni Islam. We were told that there are somethings we should not do to show respect. Such as: Muslims do not shake hands with their left hand, you should not eat meat in front of a muslim while he is fasting, and no ham. I’m good!
(Singapore side note: there is no graffiti in Singapore, it is considered vandalism, the punishment for it is a fine, jail time and 6 lashes with a cane pole. While Bill Clinton was president an American was caught doing graffiti, he was sentenced to a fine and 6 lashes with a cane pole, the president ask for leniency, the government conceded and gave him only four lashes. There is no graffiti in Singapore.)
We have 3 sailing days crossing The Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. They have been sailing these waters for 7000 years from Mesopotamia to India. The Indian Ocean is much calmer than the Atlantic or Pacific. We have been spending our days eating, visiting, walking, eating, going to lectures, eating, drinking wine and going to The Star Theater for entertainment. (Did I mention eating? Here you do not eat because you are hungry, you eat where you will not get hungry.) Tomorrow we go to Sri Lanka, that is going to be interesting with all the turmoil they have faced. I should have lots to talk about.
You may have heard the term, “you better toe the line”. Well that is a nautical term. When you are called to toe the line it refers to when you are called to line-up at attention, the ships crew would form up with their toes touching a seam in the deck planking. Now you know what to do!
Port Colombo, Sri Lanka Day 2
My 2nd impression of Colombo was totality different from that from the 1st day. Today’s tour was a walking tour thru the streets of old town beginning with the food, spice and textiles markets. There were rows and rows of fruits and vegetables of everything you could imagine because of the climate here. The spices and dried fish were set up in small shops along a narrow street bustling with push wagons, scooters, trucks, and regular trucks trying to move all their wears. You can have a suit made with in 2 hours. We could have stayed all day.
When the Dutch were there they built a fort with thick brick walls and a canal, then the British took over and expanded the fort after tearing down the walls and laid out a city that became the envy of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila. First class hotels that required your credentials prior to making reservations, banking centers made of brick brought from England used as ballast from the ships from England, YMCA’s, hospitals, department stores, building of marble, sandstone and brick trimmed with glass frames in polished wood. Then they got their independence and a civil war of 2009 ensued that tore the country apart and left these magnificent buildings to rot and decay with windows broken and vegetation growing up thru the walls. They were in the process of restoring many of them before Covid and the overthrow of the government. They have borrowed a lot of money from China and China in return has requested their own port. Because of its location it will return as a power house for trade and commerce.
Goa (Goa is a state in India) was a colony of Portugal for 450 years. Goa got its independence from Portugal in 1961. This was our first exposure to India, while in Sri Lanka everyone said “good morning” and smiled and genuinely seemed glad you were there. Our experience today was not as friendly. The area we are in exhibits poverty. Unlike in the US they checked our passports and visas 4 times before we could enter their country. India has a ban on bringing into their country any plastic bottle, straw, wrappers, toothpicks, etc. I am not surprised they seem to have plenty laying around already. We visited churches built in the 1600’s and got to explore the market center of one of the city’s in Goa. Plenty of vendors trying to sell you India made shawls and small shops up and down the street. Hoping tomorrow will be a little better.
Much better experience in Bombay, Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1999, but many locals still call it Bombay. Bombay was colonized by Portugal and given to Britain as a wedding gift to the King. It was made up of 7 islands that Britain joined together with landfill and attached it to the mainland.
The population of Bombay is 22 million including 2 million in the slums ( we were told that from the slums many leather work and textiles are produced there.) and the population of India is 1.4 billion now ahead of China. The British laid out the city within a fort with excellent streets and beautiful buildings. Britain gave up Bombay in 1948. There is a train every 45 seconds and they carry 7 million people each day. There are 60,000 taxis. To drive here here you need to be a good driver, have good brakes and good luck. Stop lights are just a suggestion and honking is a requirement on all streets. Men and women are separated on trains. Literacy rate is 76% , 75 % Hindu, 15% Muslim. Fortunes were made here thru exports including the Opium trade with China carried out by the British East Indian Trading Company.
Our tour included the central market that was filled with fruits (mangoes were in season), vegetables, spices, imports of every kind imaginable (Kellogg Corn Flakes, Snickers bars, Pringles, etc. When you shop here a man with a basket on his head follows you around and you put your items in the basket, he will follow you to your car and load it for you for a couple of dollars. We really enjoyed the market and people were friendly. Next to the financial district, a lot of the old colonial builds are being refurbished in lieu of the skyscrapers in the old part of Bombay. Parking is almost impossible and many of the city workers who commute pay $20 a month to have a meal lunch delivered by bicycle everyday from their home, others eat on the street where food is prepared, served on a tray with compartments and eaten with your fingers. A bowl of water is provided to wash your hands. Another delicacy is a Bombay sandwich toasted on a flat plate toasted over a bucket of coals. We went thru the 5 star hotel next to the bay called the Taj Mughal Hotel it was exceptional. We had a great experience in Bombay but it took a couple of hours before the honking went away. We leave tomorrow and have to be on the bus by 1:00 am for a flight at 6:30, hope you had a good nights sleep.
This is the last one, we are home.