SRI LANKA and INDIA. 6th- 10th April 2018

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, Friday 6th April.

Having been to Colombo last year and doing the highlights tour where we still laugh about the lack of, we decided to book a ships tour that would take us out of the city and chose to go to Kandy and the temple of the tooth.

This ended up being a very long day 13 hours with too many hours spent driving and not enough stops. But what we did do we thoroughly enjoyed.

The Kandy botanical gardens were superb. Including a stunning display of orchids.

as was the lunch at the Hotel Suisse, a beautiful old colonial style hotel where we also looked through a suite of rooms. The buffet lunch was jaw dropping in the amount of variety and quantity, everyone enjoyed this sumptuous luncheon stop.

We also went to the temple of the tooth, apparently the tooth of Buddha. Elaborate and interesting story told in art works around the walls and of course the gold altar as is usual in these temples.

Our last stop was the pre requisite shopping stop for herbs and spices with a quick demonstration on the properties of each cream, oil or medicine. All some kind of miracle cure for all of life’s ailments as sworn by at each of these stops in every country you visit.

The drive although far too long for the amount of visiting time was an interesting look at villages and the countryside. We saw elephants walking down the Main Street of one village. Shanty shacks, more elaborate mansion estates, people shopping, working in fields, and generally going about their everyday lives just what you hope to see.

We were also fortunate that the bus wasn’t full so when you wanted to have a snooze you could fully recline your seat and have a little nap, and these seats really did recline a fair way.

They held the buffet dinner over for the tours that came in late, ours was an hour over the scheduled time and we managed to sit out on open deck for sail away and the deck music party.

These deck parties have been well attended and been a huge success for everyone as the entertainment has been good and lots up dancing going on and the weather has been perfect for such events.

A day to relax before we finally get to India which was the country most reasonable for shortening our cruise due to visa hassles.

COCHIN, INDIA, Sunday 8th April 2018.

We finally made it to India!

We had arranged to go off the ship with Karen and Stuart and had a plan of action to grab a ferry to Cochin Fort area, but like all plans open for change.

And as we walked towards the ferry terminal we were offered a U.S $2 tuk tuk ride to Cochin fort so we decided that each couple would take a tuk tuk there. On the way we stopped at an ATM machine and the negotiation began for a whole day package. we ended up agreeing to pay US $10 a day for each tuk tuk and they would take us to an area where we could get a backwater boat trip as well as sightseeing elsewhere.

Of course we ended up having our boat ride with someone they get a payment from but we had an interesting one and a half hours touring the water ways leading into the city.

Absolutely disgusting what’s going into the water and unbelievable that people were swimming and fishing in this polluted waterway.

The rubbish is beyond belief. But we saw a side of life we wouldn’t any other way and birds and wildlife that meant the water was still viable, though not sure how.

From there we said we wanted to go to the fort Cochin area and have a coffee. This is when it got interesting and annoying. They took us to a hotel with a cafe, no doubt another someone they knew and there wasn’t an espresso machine to be seen. They wanted to serve Nescafé instant coffee, umm no thanks.

Stuart and Karen have an overseas roaming package and he quickly searched on line and showed them somewhere where it looked we could get a real coffee.

On the way they stopped at this shopping bazaar, we’re saying no we want coffee, ( here first then coffee) this became the theme for the day, they get a payment for bringing customers even if we don’t buy. By the third time we were all over it. Told them we weren’t happy, we’re not doing what we want, but what you want us to do. Let’s say in the end we over rode them when they had suggested places and gave them the opportunity to be paid off early, which they declined.

We ended up having a great day but we learnt what to do with the tuk tuk drivers when we arrive in Mumbai so it was a great learning curve.

Over the day we stopped at a Buddhist temple to watch a wedding gathering and another wedding at the large Catholic Church also. The saris were magnificent.

We saw the Chinese fishing nets and the old colonial style town surrounding Cochin Fort, enjoyed a lovely lunch at the East India hotel and cafe.

And had a few beers in a beautiful hotel garden in Cochin, which weren’t cheap but the serenity was worth it.

We visited the Dutch museum and strolled down streets looking at the stores and market stalls.

Back at the ship by 4:30 for a shower and swim poolside before dinner and very entertaining show by an English comedienne and singer.

One Sea day to relax before we tackle Mumbai.

MUMBAI, INDIA. Tuesday 10th April 2018.

We so expected this to be crazy, mad and chockablock full of people and in some ways it was, but not to the extent we thought it would be. It was vibrant, quirky, full of contradictions and I absolutely loved it.

We walked off the ship about 20 past 8 in the morning and walked back on at 8 pm.

We again arranged to tackle Mumbai with Karen and Stuart and they have proved to be great company and Stuart is awesome at map reading, as an occasional Uber driver he has the map thing sussed out.

We caught a cab to the gates of India which in fairness we could have walked but didn’t realise it was that close.

Of course we had to go through the typical up sell spiel from the taxi driver, but we stuck to our game plan learnt from our experience in Cochin.

He even tried to rush off to buy our launch tickets to Elephante island which he told us were 1000 rupees, again he was quickly told no. Turns out the tickets were 200 rupees for the return trip. You have to be on guard all the time which is another reason having two couples took the stress out of the day.

We took photos of the impressive waterfront before boarding our ferry to Elephante island.

We had a great couple of hours here, walking up the many steps to the caves with little stores lining the steps.

The first cave is by far the most impressive and alone made the trip over worth it.

There are lots of monkeys living on the island and they’re always a great time waster watching them playing and grabbing water bottles and opening them for a drink and of course the little babies clinging on are adorable.

We climbed cannon supposedly for the view but the smog is just like a gauzy curtain over the distant city.

We have been surprised to see dolphins both here and in Cochin considering the water quality.

The ferry ride back was a nice relax from the heat and the vista coming back into the Gateway of India is impressive with the profuse amount of bright coloured local boats in the foreground and the stunning fascade of The Taj Mahal Mumbai palace hotel in the background.

It was to the hotel we planned our next stop and after walking through and deciding we were too hungry to wait for afternoon tea settled for a magnificent lunch in the air conditioning and lovely interior of one of the hotels restaurants.

We paid more than we expected to but we all have a great memory and it was another pleasant oasis from the heat.

From there we walked around the streets for a bit looking at what the shops held and Karen spied a shop selling saris for 170 rupees ( about $3.40Aus) so I managed to get one for the Bollywood deck sail away party.

We decided we would use Uber for the rest of our car rides and took one out to see the large outdoor laundries where only the men work and a large population lives there in quite substandard conditions.

From there we ubered to the train station which is a magnificent building and like a lot of the older architecture here is beautiful and we wanted to take some photos of the buildings that we had past by in the car on the way to the laundries.

As the train station was only a couple of kilometres from the port we decided to walk back having some great photo opportunities and enjoying the everyday scenes of life in Mumbai.

We stopped at a great cafe/ restaurant/ bar for happy hour beers, snacks and free wifi.

It was dark as we walked back to the ship which gave the city a different feel and once back it was a quick shower to get to the restaurant for dinner before going back to our cabin so I could try and remember the lesson the woman gave me at the shop on how to wear it.

I didn’t do too bad but when we got on deck I asked Rose one of the lovely guests on board if she could show me the next day again. She instantly offered to help me then and there and she told me they look better with a skirt underneath whereas I only had a petticoat, anyway she rewrapped it and made it all look easy but I think there’s a bit of practice for me before I feel confident.

The ship put on a huge Indian buffet late supper on deck but we were too full from dinner which even then we didn’t eat that much. In the heat it’s liquid that you most crave.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of India and I look forward to coming again for a more in-depth time.

We have three days at sea before Dubai where we will unfortunately have to sadly say goodbye to our table mates and friends Karen, Stuart, Robyn and Paul as well as quite a few other new friends we’ve made on board.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed their company and have had lots of laughs. The wonderful thing about these longer voyages is that you have time to bond with people as no ones is rushing off except to the activities they choose to.

The ship sails from Dubai with a full capacity so lots of new friends to be made for our last three weeks.

We are now entering the area at risk from Somalian pirates. Last year we were on pirate watch and as part of the measures put in place for keeping everyone safe we were on shut down from dusk to dawn with the Window coverings up, and not allowed on open decks at night. We also did a pirate drill.

This year on a different cruise line we’ve been told about the low risk and what to do should we be alerted of any trouble and have been told we have a security team on board for this time we’re in these waters. The captain announced they were doing a practise drill exercise this morning. All quite low key for us passengers and we’ve not been discouraged from being out on deck at night.

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