FEBRUARY 2020 OFF AGAIN!

After spending the time from November 5th 2019 till early February 2020 doing the house keeping that a travellers lifestyle still requires, well ours does anyway!

We ended up painting the inside of two properties and the outside of two others, organised a series of other maintenance requirements for most of our rentals and ran the usual gauntlet of professional visits whilst still trying to enjoy our summer at the beach.

We managed to catch up with quite a few of our family and friends and had a lovely two week visit to NZ to see my dad who is 92 in March.

Before we knew it the time came to pick up Andrew, JungWon and Jett from the airport and drive on down to Canberra for the wedding of the new decade.

Allison and her James were married on the lakefront on a beautiful afternoon and it was the most perfect day.

The four nights with the family were precious and it was sad dropping them off in Sydney as we made our way back to the Central Coast for a quick turn around before flying to Perth the next day.

We were very blessed to be able to rent from friends Christine and Jim their one bed apartment under their house in between our month house sitting for Jacqui and Eric looking after Sasha and Willie their two beautiful Burmese cats and our visit to NZ.

Cathryn our dear friend puts us up on our last night and we sadly hug her goodbye after sharing many evening dinners together but excited that she is planning to join us for a month road tripping east Europe later this year.

An uber from Perth to Fremantle to our accommodation for the night and the opportunity to catch up with Terry and Sue whom we’d met on The Columbus in 2018 the next morning ( thanks for the lift to the ship with all our luggage-including a clothes airer for drying our clothes in our cabin) soon had us boarding The Vasco Da Gama and joining most of our group The crazy cruisers who will be sharing our first 71 night adventure as we cruise to London.

We’ve managed to score the big round table in the dining room which seats 12.

Along with us for the ride all the way to London are Lyndell, Stephen, Mark, Mandy, Andrea, Thomas, Isobel and Tony. Melissa and Stephen Bishop are joining us for the first twelve days and mates Belinda and Patrick from our Columbus trip are on board for the first 26 nights. Belinda and Patrick have introduced us to their friends Michelle and Rob who are also doing the full 71 nights.

Leaving us at Singapore after 12 nights will be Anti and Nela a wonderful Croatian couple that we met in the lineup boarding and have been sharing coffee dates with ever since. They spend half the year in Croatia and the other half in Perth. We will look forward to catching up with them in Croatia later this year.

Our cabin is comfortable particularly our bed and so far the food and entertainment has been spot on.

Our first stop after sailing was the next day to GERALDTON where Thomas and Andrea were able to lead a walk to the block of land they have bought with the intention of building their Australian dream home complete with amazing sea views.

It wasn’t a long stop in Geraldton but it gave us the opportunity to pick up a few extra toiletries and enjoy a coffee on the waterfront as well as a glimpse of this pretty town. No doubt we will visit again in our caravan and enjoy the sea views from Andrea and Thomas’s new deck when it’s built.

Two days at sea before an overnight stop in BROOME where we hired cars for the first day and managed to see all that the hire car company would allow us to with their strict no unsealed roads conditions.

The first evening included Cable beach sunset and cocktails so was pretty special.

Broome has a lovely shopping precinct and beautiful beaches.

The local indigenous people enjoyed gathering together in the local parks under the trees and who can blame them, otherwise you’d be inside in air conditioning most of your life.

We visited the cemetery where the graves of the Japanese pearl divers have been fenced off to prevent vandalism and the local museum had some great videos of their lives as pearl divers along with the local indigenous divers who were treated despicably, another sad insight into our countries past relations between the European settlers and the indigenous people.

Leaving Broome was also our last sunset in Australia for close to ten months.

Another day at sea before landing in BALI

We had decided to get a scooter but James had come down with a cold and we decided on a gojek ride instead.

We took Andrea with us as she also suffering the beginnings of a cold and as it was her birthday a day to Sanur for a massage, facial and manicure was more appealing than driving around all day in a van full of people.

Our original plans of coffee at The Owl cafe and spa day at The Sanctuary were thrawted due to a Hindu celebration making it a public holiday. Luckily we were able to enjoy our treatments at a spa run by Muslim and Catholics not on holiday. We also had coffee at another coffee shop on the beachfront that we also frequent when staying in Sanur. A new sarong and Kaftan purchased and we made our way back to the ship and relaxed before we all got together for dinner to celebrate Andreas birthday. Mandy had hers a few days before and shouted a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red for the table and Andrea did the same with two bottles of champagne to share.

Along with birthday cakes from the ship it makes a nice touch for celebrating as a group.

The wonderful friendships shared with each other is one of the joys of cruising. All our group have embraced each other and the new friends we’ve met and it ensures our village grows in strength.

Following on from Bali we head to LOMBOK. The last time we were in Lombok James and I left feeling we wouldn’t probably return. We’d had a few experiences that didn’t endear us to Lombok. This time we left the ship and hired a scooter and headed to Mataram. A larger town/city where we were able to purchase some more meds for our colds that we both now had and a decent coffee with a very delicious donut light as air that we shared.

The ride was picturesque with rice paddies and lush green vegetation with numerous mosques dotted along the way.

We had friendly encounters with the locals and were pleased to change our reservations about returning.

We got caught in a heavy downpour on the way back and I navigated using the phone while James kept us safe.

Sea days become relaxing by the pool as we try to shake off our colds. Unfortunately James didn’t recover as well as he hoped and in fact his eyes became infected and he opted out of our trip to BORABADUR from SEMARANG JAVA.

We had organised a private tour for most of our group with the trippers changing in names and numbers as a few fell to the colds on board but 11 of us had a fabulous day driving through the magnificent countryside of clean lush surrounds with beautiful mountains in the background.

The temple was stunning and I’m thrilled I got to get there. It stands magnificently surrounded by manicured gardens and majestic views of the mountains beyond. The incredible carving of 1200 years ago is breathtaking.

Will have to return when James is better and take our time exploring more of the island by motorbike.

See another place added to the list!

The last couple of nights after dinner while waiting for the show we’ve played Pictionary with groups of 3 or 4. Lots of laughs and only a few near divorces lol.

Before we could blink an eye it comes to the last night for those getting off on the first stop at Singapore. Addresses exchanged and arrangements for drinks after dinner to say goodbye and salute new friendships.

SINGAPORE.

Last year we visited Singapore four times and we will visit at least three times this year.

Our first two stops are on this cruise. The ship didn’t arrive till 1 pm so we managed coffee with Ante and Nela before they left the ship.

Allison and James C were working from home so we made our way there and used their internet before we headed out for coffee with Allison.

So Singapore has been caught up in the Coronavirus pandemic and although they haven’t been closed to tourists they are certainly putting in measures to keep people safe.

At Allison’s apartment building we had our temperature taken and recorded and hand sanitisers were in place all around. We also had our temperature taken before entering the shopping centre precinct.

Penny their little dog was excited to have new people to spoil her and she had a good walk with us and James C before dinner and another one after dinner with us all although she did get carried a lot more on the second walk.

She’s very cute.

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon/ evening and look forward to seeing them both in two weeks. Allison’s belly is just starting to not be completely flat.

Apparently we had 140 no shows for passengers supposed to board in Singapore so we’re 698 guests for next two weeks.

Our next stop was after two days at sea at Kota Kinabalu and we had booked a ships tour called Borneo it’s people and wildlife. First stop was at the museum and a typical village that people lived in originally.

Though somewhat interesting it was disappointing to see that had we come independently it would have only been a few dollars admission and our next stop the wildlife park would have been about $5. The wildlife park had quite a good animal show but the park itself was a huge disappointment. Terribly run down and dirty and most of the enclosures were just dreadful.

Probably one of the worst shore excursions we’ve done.

When returned to the port we took the free shuttle into town for some wifi and a coffee before calling it a day.

Another two days at sea had us arrive at the port of Phu My, Vietnam. We had little expectations for this stop as we had been here two years ago and didn’t fancy the long trip to Saigon. We instead grabbed a van with Andrea, Thomas, Isobel and Tony and headed to Vung Tau a beachside area about an hours drive away.

This turned out to be a great choice and the trip there was really quite pleasant. The middle of the roads were planted with flowering Bougainvilleas and other pretty flowering trees lined the sidewalks.

We stopped at a Cathedral on the way, a market and had a look at the Big Jesus statue on the hill before all heading off to spend our time finding some where pleasant to spend the day.

We ended up at the Grand Imperial hotel by the pool along with Isobel and Tony, while Andrea and Thomas spent their time legitimately at the beach club that the hotel offered across the road beach side.

We bought coffees, beers and club sandwiches over the few hours we sat poolside and made use of their wifi to catch up with the world.

We’re all keeping an eye on the Coronavirus situation and wondering if it will affect our stops anywhere on our way to London.

There has been plenty of temperature taking at ports and hotel lobbies with no problems so far.

This stop is an overnight one so we decided to book the ships tour to the Mekong river for our second day.

What an incredible day and while our last shore excursion from the ship counted as one of the worst, this one was one of the best.

It started by having the tour divided into small groups of five or six in each van. So along with Stephen, Lyndell and Mandy, James and I felt like we had a fantastic private tour for the whole day.

With stops for coffee, Buddhist temple and a small boat ride to an island for local markets and tasting of local honey and tropical fruit products, we were sung too and had a small canoe ride up an estuary as well. A large lunch was also provided but not really necessary after all our tastings along the way.

Although the trip each way was long (3 hours each way) the comfortable vans with plenty of room and good company made it go fast.

One more sea day and it was time for Koh Samui Thailand. We love this island and decided to do what we did last time we came in by ship and hire a scooter and head to Lamai. Belinda and Pat joined us and once we tendered off the ship we were quickly on our way and enjoyed a coffee, small beach walk and JAMES and I indulged in a fantastic massage before we headed back to port area for lunch and quick walk around before it was time to grab a tender back to our home on the ship.

Certainly made me want to return to Koh Samui for a longer holiday again some time in the future.

I had been so looking forward to finally getting a glimpse of Cambodia and as the ship docked at Sihanoukville it all looked quite lovely, a modern skyline on one side and a very quaint row of little houses along the break wall all made it look quite appealing.

What a shock as we drove from the port to the shuttle drop off in the town.

Total chaos of roads ripped up, buildings started and not finished and abandoned looking.

But the dirt, poverty and huge amount of rubbish every where was so sad.

Quite a few people decided not to even get off the bus but return straight back to the ship.

We started with a large group of fifteen trying to negotiate a tour for the day and finally broke off and eight of us piled into two cars for a tour of the day.

Well it all started going pear shaped right from the start. The guy we had been negotiating with spoke English but the two drivers we ended up with didn’t and so the comedy of errors began.

We wanted to visit the Ream National Park, and to be fair we did get there but we didn’t think it was as there was large tracts of land burnt, cleared and with buildings started but abandoned. Again rubbish was everywhere. There was nothing to say look at this beautiful forest, bush or countryside.

We managed to get to a beach and have a swim. This beach could have been sensational if not for the rubbish littering the beautiful white sand.

Oh well that’s travelling isn’t it.

Our next day was spent back in Thailand and we grabbed a driver with Stephen, Lyndell, Mark and Mandy and headed to Pattaya.

We were pleasantly surprised after our last visit there two years ago left us feeling we wouldn’t care to return.

This time the place was cleaned up and lots of fresh new sand trucked onto the beach.

We had a few hours at a fantastic shopping centre, complete with replica Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, leaning tower of Pisa. It was called terminal 21 and although as expensive as any shops in Australia was very nice to visit.

Lunch followed then we separated and James and I had a massage and James got a hair trim.

Mark stayed behind and Tony and Isobel joined us for the trip home and invited us along with Mandy, Lyndell and Stephen to bring our dinner to their suite which they had decided to upgrade themselves too. It was a great night. The decision to pay for the upgrade was mainly due to the concern of being quarantined in an inside cabin should it happen. Anyway it’s lovely and lovely that they’re happy to share it with us all.

Two sea days till we land back in Singapore and loose Pat and Belinda and gain Jennifer who will join the gang till Tilbury.

One of our sea days saw the build a pirate ship competition which was hotly contested and had two of our friends on board taking part.

Judged on aesthetics, float abilities and if it could withstand a pirate attack ( golf balls being thrown at it).

Tony was victorious and was a very happy recipient of the calico bag with a bottle of sparkling and other bits and pieces.

One of the highlights on board are the shows each night. The last night before Singapore we had Wayne Rogers a drag queen act who entertained us all and had Mark up on stage with him. Mark was fantastic really played along and was a hit.

Before we knew it we were docked alongside Singapore and with teary hugs and kisses we farewelled our darling friends Pat and Belinda who had become the darlings of all our friends. It just won’t be the same without our crazy rainbow bikini wearing Belinda spreading her sparkling personality everywhere.

This also ended the second cruise of the three back to backs heading to Tilbury. With the last one the longest with 45 nights.