Following the Spices Around the world in 115 days still travelling

29th March 2017

Day 87

It's been a while since I've been able to put pen to paper again (or should I say finger to iPad ) in order to recount our on going exploits on this cruise. The reason for the delay has been due to our visits to a number of ports in fairly quick succession, such is the itinerary we're following. This also has meant lots of early mornings and a totally ridiculous amount of footslogging, peppered with only a few breaks in coffee shops. So at present I'm only able to sit on our balcony and try to stay awake, whilst awaiting an anti pirate drill to begin, as we head towards Colombo.

With visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia duly completed it's only fair to say although hectic as ever in this part of the world there are many fascinating things to see and experiences to endure.

Vietnam again

A mixture of ways of life in Nha Trang

For the second time in our lives we were in Nha Trang a coastal resort that was once a favoured watering hole for GI's during the Vietnam war. Behind the seafront though is a different world and we headed to the local market whilst being pursued by Pedicab operators offering tours around town in these distinctly risky modes of transport. Fortunately ,previously experience had taught us how to give them the slip and with the market only a short distance from the front we arrived without incident.

It was hot, it was humid...in fact it seems to me this "Clammy" weather is now just routine, so life now has become a choice of either profuse perspiration or freezing our butts in air conditioning, there's no happy medium.

The market was interesting if hazardous

Nha Trang market is a maze of small stalls selling all sorts of local produce and is a tad ( well truthfully, more than a tad) scruffy. Perusing the stalls and stepping over the odd dead rat whilst avoiding the motorbikes that also use the walkways we eventually found our way out of the maze. Unfortunately my normally excellent sense of global positioning had let me down and after thirty or so minutes wandering in completely the wrong direction a minuscule local policeman redirected us. Passepartou at this point gleefully told me that she had originally advised me (in no uncertain fashion) that my chosen direction was wrong.

Life as the Viet Cong saw it

A day later we found ourselves at the Cu Chi tunnels. This is a site on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon), from where the Vietnam Cong launched attacks on American forces and which since has been preserved as a tourist attraction ( using the word attraction in its broad sense). Following a guide through the jungle past all manner of examples of guerrilla warfare our visit culminated in the opportunity to have a first hand tunnel visit. Here I should point out that Vietnamese are not really tall people, so the tunnels when constructed were the width of one person with a height of 80cm. Clearly that tunnel size would not have allowed the US military to pursue the VC, nor would it be practical for western visitors.

I definitely would not fit down there

Making the acquaintance of the VC

AND this for me was not an excursion I needed

We had been told however that for tourists one tunnel had been enlarged to allow us " larger framed" people to make an easy twenty metre traverse in comfort and emerge elated with fond memories of a great experience.

It sounded plausible, so we stood in line awaiting our turn to descend down to the first level. When we arrived at that first descent Passepartou announced " I'm not going down there!"

Not daunted and feeling apprehensive although very brave I descended closely following the lady in front of me. At the next flight of steps down the lady in front abandoned her attempt squeezing past me to return to the surface.

The man in front of me was now some way ahead letting me see clearly the route ahead. Yes that tunnel had been made with more headroom, in fact it was a whole 120cm and I could see the man descending a couple of more steps to a left turn. I went down one step to watch as that slightly smaller man than me squeezing himself into that tunnel, to begin his journey. This was now decision time for me. Claustrophobia was nagging at me. 120cm is not terribly high. Would I get stuck? Are you a man or a mouse?

If I was a mouse it would not have been a problem...but I'm not ?

Twenty metres is not far, so retracing my journey back to ground level I rejoined Passepartou at the tunnel exit, to witness the really brave/daft few emerge, covered in dirt and looking very relieved, having had to crawl on hands and knees the last few metres....rather mouse like really.

One day in Bangkok

Without any specific plan, after two days more watching ocean slip by we were in Bangkok a city we'd been to in 2012. After a two hours on a coach from the port we were deposited in the city centre at the Asia hotel that enabled us easy access to cheap public transport. We decided on visiting first the temple of the dawn, then taking the ferry across the river to see the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho before returning to catch the coach back to our ship.

Around Wat Aron

Sometimes one makes assumptions about things or people you see only to be forced to make a reality check, I'm not talking here about the sites visited but about the short ferry ride across the river.

Long tail boats

Sitting on the ferry briefly chatting with Passepartou who was telling me to keep my rucksack close so the people on the bench opposite could get sat down and looking down at my bag, I noticed the lady opposite had rather nice legs ( not something I would normally take notice of you understand!). When I looked up I thought this tall slim lady was actually rather pretty , beautifully manicured hands, well made up and curvaceous, but she was draped across a smiling but much older man as she stroked his hair. As they say though " it takes all sorts".

Wat Pho

A bit later through the short ride I did find myself looking down at the floor again and began to notice the girls sparkling shoes, but it puzzled me that she had large feet. Then I saw the Adam's apple and heard her speak....a rather deep tone...a bit like our plumbers voice at home. This lead to my reality check of that day.

Slinging around in Singapore

Singapore Gardens by the bay

We like Singapore so to spend two days in this nice clean well run city was a pleasant interlude for us, even if we did just revisit old haunts. The Merlion, the Botanical gardens and Chinatown.

Pretty flowers in the Botanical Gardens

I had a text message to call our bank due to a suspicious transaction, so rather than pay £5 per minute using my mobile on board ship, I opted to find a quiet bench while in Singapore's lovely botanical gardens. If you've ever called a banks fraud line you'll also have experienced the long time it takes while listening to some inane music, this was how it went for me too. Not wanting to glue my phone to my ear, I put it on speaker phone. It was then I discovered how bad that music was, because out from the reeds in front of us came what appeared to be a pretty upset water fowl, some type of moorhen I think. He or she did not like the music so stood there squawking until the music stopped and I spoke to someone......a very bizarre experience.

That's me with an orchid called Margaret Thatcher

Malaysia

We're in Hindu Land

Often when on this type of trip one ends up signing up to a visit to a place you've never heard of and activities you've not fully understood.

Under the title of, "The Batu Caves and School of Hard Knocks" we embarked on a coach from Port Kelang to the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. I had not done my homework as the Batu caves is a Hindu site comprising of a large limestone cave in which sits a number of shrines. This place is popular and it was a weekend. There are around 270 steps up to and inside the cave system and not to miss out on anything my trusty assistant set off showing no impedance from her bionic hip.

Lots of steps and whole heap of sand

Of course it was a hot day, 30+C and humid into the bargain, so turning down the opportunity to carry a bucket of sand with me, reluctantly I followed.

(At the bottom of the steps you are offered a bucket of builders sand to carry with you. It's some kind of devotional offering and it's helping in the building of new shrines at the top)

A person like me carrying the extra kilo or two of midriff is in no need of a bucket of sand.

The steps are steep and there were crowds going up and down, I thought it was a little hazardous, not made any easier by the monkeys who inhabit the area. These long tailed Macaques may seem amusing and although visitors are told not to offer them food they do which results in them charging around the steps showing absolutely no regard for pensioners safety. On my descent a rather large monkey came from behind and nearly knocked me flying as I was gingerly trying to get down while also avoiding various others taking selfies on the steps. (No it was the visitors taking selfies, not the monkeys).

Climbing up in this heat and humidity at our age!

Don't feed the monkeys

OMG....MORE STEPS!

Monkeys perched on high ready to pounce

He wouldn't stay still for this photo

Now here they are a hazard

What is a School of Hard Knocks one might ask?

I hated metal work when at school and this place is a Pewter factory that has a visitor centre that invites you to make your own souvenir pewter dish. We entered the classroom all neatly laid out with individual workspaces comprising a pewter disk some hammers and letter punches. However, I had spotted across the way a nice cafeteria that appeared to have a coffee machine plus an extensive cake offering and I knew we would not have time for metal work and cake.

Purportedly the largest Pewter tankard in the world

The enormous piece of carrot cake and cappuccinos were great, but did lead to a bit of a snooze on the return journey to the port.

A day at the seaside

Finally after time cruising the Malacca strait we woke up again in Thailand at Phuket. With absolutely no ambition to visit any more temples, see any more Buddhas it was just a day at the seaside for us. This meant a 100 meter walk to get sunbeds and Parasols on Patong beach.

The beach wasn't too bad

Patong is not pretty, it's not ones idea of beautiful Thailand and there are other better beaches, but that would have meant negotiations with taxi or tuktuk drivers. This was the lazy option.

Not the prettiest of coastal resort

Did we enjoy ? Yes. Apart from.....my sunburn (forgot to embalm with factor 30)..,,The torrential downpour in the middle of the afternoon.

Day 88

The anti piracy drill went well yesterday and the ship is ready for anything Johnny Depp can throw at us.

Having completed now 28500 nautical miles since leaving Southampton,our ship broke down this morning....only one propeller working.

Ok now I think they called the AA.

TO BE Continued

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