Gotta catch em all

If there’s an aquarium in a city that we are visiting – we are there. I mean, really – what’s better than the cool blue light and fantastic sea life.

This tank is full of all kinds of rays – manta rays, sting rays, big, small all sorts. We were able to sit on the floor and watch them sail by. Most people were very busy taking selfies and not looking at the sea life.


And yes, that frog really is that blue. And very poisonous !
There was a special exhibit at the aquarium – a Pokemon research project. Although we know nothing about the game, admission was included so in we went. And we were there when the big guy himself appeared:


And at the end of the game we answered our questions correctly, or correctly enough and we each received a hat:


Which we proceeded to wear for the rest of the day.



Once again, Sharon and Wilf amusing the locals. (But really, people wanted to know how we got them! Before we got back to the subway we found some random little kids who seemed happy to have them)


Expressions of faith

While Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, it was on Bali, which is mostly Hindu that we saw and felt the connection of the people to their faith. Every morning offerings were layed out for the day. Pretty much every vehicle we saw had an offering tucked up on the dashboard.
Here is a young woman laying an offering on the alter outside her place of business.
Just down the road this woman was adding to what appeared to be the community alter.


The offerings are small trays or baskets woven from palm fronds which contain flowers, fruit, sweet things, little representations of objects. There is usually one at the entrance to a business, so we leaned to watch our step.
And at Tanah Lot this group was preparing to visit the temple with big offering bowls.


Here in Singapore there are small shrines outside many businesses, including the food centres. These are not Hindu shrines, but rather related to Chinese folk religions. Usually incense sticks are burned but other offerings are common such as fruit.



Breakfast in Singapore

It’s always interesting to me to see what the local breakfast is when we are travelling. Singapore has not disappointed! Exploring local breakfast has meant checking out the hawker centres.

Wait! What? Hawker centre? Back in the day itinerant cooks would set up business on the side of the roads, in alleys, wherever, and cook up cheap fast meals. Great if you want something quick, but not always safe and or sanitary. The government here decided that the solution was to build food centres with commercial kitchens. There are three within a five minute walk where we are staying. To you and I they look rather like the food court at the mall, except they are usually free standing. Food stalls around the outside, tables in the centre. Each stall tends to specialize in one thing, and there are stalls that are just for beverages.
On our first day we went to the Tiong Bahru market. The food centre is the second floor – the first floor is a fresh food market and upstairs there are 80 food stalls. The building is a triangle open to a multi story courtyard. But when confronted with so many choices, mostly in Chinese – How to choose? The Coffee guy advertised a breakfast set, so we went for it. A cup of coffee with condensed milk, two soft boiled eggs and two slices of buttered toast for $3.00.


That lady is about to take pity on us and explains how to deal with our eggs. Breakfast arrived in the form of a small pail of very hot water with four eggs in it. After 8 minutes we were to take them out and eat them. She showed us how they are to be cracked into the provided saucer.
 The buttered toast is actually spread with kaya, a type of coconut jam and butter. And the coffee is hot and strong and sweet.
The lady who was so helpful to us with eggs explained to me some of the other things we must try, so back we came. The stall with the biggest line up provided this:


The white are little cakes made of steamed, pounded rice almost like a firm custard. They are topped with a mixture of fried radish and onion. Yummy!  We also had fried carrot cake!


Which is not a cake and contains no carrots. Whatever! Radish, not carrots, and strips of the rice pudding all mixed with sauce and seasoning and fried together with eggs, which makes it stick together, hence the cake.
It was all good, but I think I’ll be ready for my usual fruit and yogurt once we get home.
We didn’t limit our hawker fare adventures to breakfast :


Small plate of beef noodles (and snails, go figure). Food was 3.00 , beer was 5.00,
 It all comes out of a tiny kitchen

And almost across the street from us – duck over rice. And beer.

Nom mom nom

It had to happen, eventually

So there I was, picking out a salad on the Lido deck, when I hear a voice say ‘excuse me’. I turned, and looked at the woman and she looked at me and we went ‘ We know each other, don’t we?’  And sure enough – a gal I know from Sidney (population 13,000). Viv Harding! We laughed over the fact that we hadn’t seen each other around town in years, but meet up on a cruise ship in Indonesia.

Two days later we met up again in Singapore at the Gardens by the Bay
Wilf and I visited the gardens when we were here in 2013 – it was all brand new back then and we were curious to see how things looked a little later on. Short answer? Fantastic!
Super trees are still super.



But everything has grown up and filled in tremendously.

We checked out the interior gardens , too. I love visiting the incredibly huge and ancient olive trees. How did they get them here?


Over in the mountain dome they had a special display. Not only the usual pitcher plants


But pitcher plants made of Legos!


And a giant Lego Venus fly trap!
No one seems to be able to resist the big waterfall!


Of course, being local kids they thought it was cold and immediately began pulling on jackets. Not me!



Usually when cruising the arrival of a ship carrying a thousand passengers or more ripples out through the community, one way or another.

That’s not how it goes on Bali!
A few facts. The island is about 145km by 80km and is home to about 4 million people. So, a lot of people on a small, mountainous island. In 2016 they were expecting another 4 million international tourists and about 7 million domestic tourists (so says Mr Google). 1400 people on a cruise ship – doesn’t even register
What it means is the island is busy busy. I was very happy to see that it didn’t look like Waikiki when we arrived. (By which I mean no rows of condos on the beach)
Wilf had connected with Bali Island Tours on the Internet, and owner/operator Nyoman Ariasa was waiting for us when we docked.


Say hi to Nyoman! Born and raised on Bali he was a terrific guide for our two days on the island. Unlike most of the rest of Indonesia, Bali is a predominantly Hindu island, and Nyoman shared the history, culture and faith of the island with us, along with the sights.
So, what did we see?
Some jewelry making


Some batik production






Hindu temple in town


And the most photographed temple on the island – Tanah Lot


It was high tide so the temple itself was inaccessible. That didn’t stop people from edging out there


We also visited a coffee company that, amongst other things, sells Lewak coffee. Don’t know what that is?  Does it help if I tell you that a Lewak is a civit cat? Cat eats the coffe beans, a little fermentation happens, cat poops out the coffee beans, some lucky person collects and cleans them and then roasting, grinding and preparations take place. And you know what? It tastes exactly like. – coffee! I guess I don’t have a very sophisticated palate ’cause I couldn’t tell. (Or maybe the truly terrible coffee on the Volendam has changed my taste buds. Great ship, great food, lousy coffee) Local joke is that instead of a cappuccino you get a cat poopuccino. . Hahaha. I’ll stop now.
Nyoman took us up to see the town of Ubud, known for its arts and crafts production and its yoga retreats. Only problem was that about 1 million of the tourists on the island were also there! After the movie ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ Ubud got even busier than it once was.
We did get to see the famous rice paddy valley – in the pouring rain!!


Should you decide to go to Bali – look up Nyoman at and he will take great care of you. And book more time than you think you need – it takes a lot of time to move around the island.

Best laid plans, yada yada yada

After two days on Bali our next stop as to be Probolingo. The main event for that port is a long days excursion to see the volcanic Mt Bromo. The mountain has been active, which meant that we weren’t sure just how close we’d get, or what we’d see, but ‘hey – a volcano!’

The weather on this trip has been hot, some rain and lots of wind. Our day on Lambok was littered with fallen trees – we were keeping a close eye as we walked in the jungle. The plan for Bali was that the ship docked at the pier on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning they would move the ship to the outer harbour to accommodate our departure Thursday evening when the tide was low. Everyone was highly motivated to go ashore before they moved the ship and we were shoreside by 8:15.
After a long day exploring Bali we returned to the terminal and took a moment to see if we could catch some wifi. While we were sitting we heard the unmistakable sound of a ship’s horn very close by and looking through the door I could see the familiar looking blue hull of a large ship. We went outside, and sure enough the Volendam was parked right where we left her.
So, it turns out that the big winds are to continue, which would make the the tendering process unsafe (and having participated in a particular ‘exciting’ tendering in the Falklands I believe them) at Probolingo. So, an extra day at sea and we head for Singapore.
A lot of this going on

And this


Our room steward leaves us a towel animal each night. Some are cute



And every so often there is an odd one….


In which I develop new skills

On the island of Lambok we hired a car, driver and guide for the day.

First up – pot making.


Of course a discussion of my hair was in order.


Then, on to weaving. Apparently a woman has to be able to demonstrate ability with weaving before she is considered marriageable. I guess I got it right because next up:


Sharon and Wilf dressed for a wedding.


There are several waterfalls in the high reaches of the island. There is one that all the coach tours go to. So of course we went to the other.


So beautiful. And refreshing in the punishing heat. Waterfall number two required a walk through the jungle.


Lots up. Lots of down.


A ‘bridge’.


Coffee trees.


More stairs!
At the end there were pools below the waterfall.


And the waterfall itself.


A little advice!


And, of course, the stairs to get back out. I was getting a little worried ’cause I just wasn’t sure that I could manage the trip back to where the car was. And it started to rain, too..


But when we got to the top of those stairs – hooray! Guys on bikes offering a taxi service. Man, I hopped aboard so fast!  I must admit that I kept thinking as we roared along this rolling muddy track that I might just be an item on the back page of the newspaper ‘Local woman comes to a bad end in the jungle of Indonesia ‘.


But no, we were all delivered safe and sound – wet and breathless and exhilarated.


As they say – Woohoo!

The destination and the journey

Shore excursions on a cruise can be a challenge. They can be expensive and rather chaotic. But sometimes they are the way to go. On the island of Java there is an enormous temple called Borobodur – to me that sounds like the name of a place on a Tolkien story. It is one of the must see sights, but it is a long drive from the nearest port of Semarang. We decided to take the ship excursion – the traffic in the area is legendary, in a bad way, and we figured that if we were with a ship tour they wouldn’t leave us behind. To break up the long journey (2.5 hours) we decided to take the excursion that included a train ride.

It turned out that we would take a 30 minute ride on this beautiful steam train:
We ran along the edge of a shallow swampy lake, which meant we had a great view of local activity.
Lots of rice being planted and managed.
Once we left the lake area we climbed up into the mountains. The traffic was challenging – our convoy of buses had a police escort – not for safety reasons but to move us through the traffic. Eventually we got to the temple.
It is one impressive structure. The lower levels are covered with carvings that tell the stories of the life of the Buddha. As we worked our way up the walls become simpler and simpler until we reached the top level, which is covered with bell shaped structures called stupas. Each one contains a statue of the Buddha.
Of course, to achieve nirvana, one must climb the 150 steps of the temple –


Not everyone was impressed by the sights.


But we were



It turned out that the traffic on the return trip was intense and we were very delayed. All aboard was supposed to be 6:30, but the first bus didn’t arrive back until after 7:00. 18 coaches arrived and unloaded – about 800 of the 1400 passengers were off the ship that day. The company that managed the excursions did a great job of managing it all – things were staged so that it never felt like we were all in the same place at the same time. It helped that this is the off season. During peak season the temple can see 50,000 visitors in a day.









There be dragons!

We paid a short visit to the national park on Komodo Island to see th famous residents. No, not the 1000 humans who live on the island. We were looking for one of the 1300 plus Komodo monitors, or Komodo dragons, that live there.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the jungle with a guide and a park ranger. As jungles go it was relatively dry and fairly open. But we still were very alert, since the dragons blend in well and move fast.
And there one was, basking on the rocks.
Further along, at a water hole, we found a group.
We’re looking at them, they’re mostly ignoring us.
Everyone paid attention when this guy stood up and looked back!




Sweaty selfie with dragon in the background




Apparently I have a beautiful nose.

One of our tour guides told us that we could be expect that people would want to take our pictures, and that they would be very interested in our noses. Apparently we have large noses, which are considered beautiful by Indonesians. My first thought about that was pfftttt.

So we find ourselves in Surabaya and we have a guide named Erica. As we were driving along we saw carts laden with durian fruits – they are in season now. When we said we wanted to try them – Well! A moment later she had parked the car and was negotiating with the nearest cart owner.


You know durian, right? Spikey fruit – smells bad, supposed to taste good. You’re not allowed to take them on the subway in Singapore? When we see these in North America they are usually quite large, but these are much smaller.



I had always assumed (I don’t know why) that the inside was more like a papaya with a flesh that you would scoop out with a spoon. Nope. There are large seeds – almost the size of a walnut – with a soft flash that we nibbled off. Creamy custardy texture as promised. I don’t know how to describe the taste – there was a definite funky odour, but the fruit itself was – okay.


As we were working our way though the fruit the stand owner and friends were keeping up a steady commentary. Erica reported that they were discussing my nose and declaring it to be beautiful. Usually it’s the hair that gets talked about, but here we were – all about the nose.
After we left the durian stand we visited a group of fisher men. Their women were processing the catch – scallops and sea cucumbers.


As soon as this lady saw me she started pointing at her nose and indicating the wanted to switch with me! No, she’s not threatening to take my nose! She was teasing Wilf as he was taking her picture.