Archive | March, 2011

March 31 – Cochin, India

31 Mar

Incredible India!

That’s what the Chamber of Commerce advertises!  And India certainly lives up to its billing!  JJ and I had thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Cochin, so we knew that the second visit would be pleasurable.

Our arrival in Cochin was quiet and not without fanfare.  Coming into the port, the ship passes by the “famous Chinese fishing nets”.  Fishermen were out working their nets, or standing about and watching us go by!!  The Commodore advised that the weather for our stop would be in the mid 90’s with perhaps a rain shower in the late afternoon.  We were ready for a hot day!

A cast of dancers that looked very much like a Bollywood cast of characters and a band of drummers greeted us as we disembarked the ship.  All very colorful and displaying very native Indian culture!!  Did you know that Bollywood is a famous movie studio located in Mumbai.  You could compare it to Hollywood in the US.

The tour that we had scheduled didn’t begin until 10:45 am, so we had a leisurely morning watching the arrival and enjoying the scenery.  Our tour was entitled Alappuzha Backwater Cruise.  This would include a drive out of Cochin to Alappuzha – about 1-1/2 hours; then a 2 hour cruise in the Backwaters; and then the 1-1/2 hour drive back to the ship.

On the way to Alappuzha, we learned:

  • The ship was docked on a reclaimed piece of land – established by the British in the 1930’s – and called Wellington Island.  Many of the street names on this island have British names.
  • The area of Cochin is made up of 26 islands – many joined by bridges.
  • The name Cochin is from the Chinese influence.  The city was renamed Kochi in 1996; however, many people still refer to the city as Cochin.
  • Most of the people of Cochin speak English.  The literacy rate is almost 100%.
  • About 35% of the people follow the Catholic Church.  When driving around, you see numerous Catholic churches.  About 47% of the people practice Hinduism.
  • Cochin is located in the Kerala area, known for coconuts, bananas and rice.  Every part of the coconut is used and the outer part is coir – the fiber used for making ropes and mats – probably like the welcome mat at the front door at your house.
  • Many native people from Cochin now work outside of the city and some work overseas.  We were told that the nicest homes that we would see usually belong to those people who work outside of the city.
  • We were told that anyone who drives a car or bus in India is so experienced that they can drive anywhere in the world!  These drivers in India need three good things:  a good horn (which they use constantly); a good set of brakes (which they don’t use as much as we would have liked); and good luck (we had that because we made the round trip safely!!).

The bus ride took us over the valley and through the woods!  At times we were riding on narrow streets filled with tuk-tuks.  (You remember the tuk-tuk – that three-wheeled vehicle that dominated the streets in Bangkok!!)  The tuk-tuks in Cochin are all painted black with gold trim.  There must be a uniform for tuk-tuk drivers – because they all had on a gold tone shirt  —  pretty snazzy!!

At other times along the way, we were on a “highway”.  Not exactly what is called a highway in the US, but in Cochin – it is a highway.  And remember the first thing that a “good” driver in India needs – a good horn?  Horns are very much a part of driving in India.  And our bus had the coolest horn that you’ve ever heard! (The horn played a little tune, really!!)  And trust us, we heard it a lot!!

We traveled through a multitude of neighborhoods where small shops selling all sorts of items were located.  And on every corner were tuk-tuks – poised and ready to take passengers to any destination.  Schools, churches, small businesses, small manufacturing facilities, hotels, mosques, Hindi temples, homes  —  all part of the fiber of the community.  We saw it all!

After a bathroom stop at a hotel along the way, we reached Alapuzzha and boarded our scenic tour boat.  The Backwaters are an extensive network of rivers, lakes, canals and lagoons – some natural and some man-made – that tie together the coast and the interior of Cochin.  The area is also home to huge rice plantations, a very unique houseboat community, and of course, the people who live and work in and around these waters.

At first, you think that the backwaters are small, narrow canals  – then the canals flow into lagoons and then we were in some very large lakes.  There are homes of all shapes, sizes and colors whose front doors open to the backwaters and the back doors open to the rice plantations.  This series of waterways goes on for miles and miles – and from what we could see, homes lined all of these waterways.  We didn’t see very many dogs or cats.  We did see some goats and a few cows.  Surrounding the homes were lush green tropical vegetation and tall palm trees.  Colorful flowering trees and plants were plentiful. Sometimes this green vegetation was seen growing in the water – and overall the water had a beautiful green color.

We asked about how a resident got their mail.  We were told that one of the best postal systems in the world is in India!!  There are post offices in each village and of course, the mailman knows where everybody lives!!

At most homes, the lady of the house was doing the laundry – or washing dishes  —  all done in the backwaters.  It looked like each home had steps into the water and there was a large stone by the steps on which clothes could be soaped down.  The clothes were then rinsed in the backwater.  Dishes, pots and pans were also washed in the backwater.  Oh, and let’s not forget that we also saw some people bathing in these same waters  —  the same waters in which our boat was navigating!!

Although there were some very small stores, most residents of the backwaters take the water taxi into town.  You see water taxi stops located throughout the area.  A quick trip into town to buy fruits, vegetables and then a quick trip back home!

The rice (we saw brown rice growing) on some of the plantations was being harvested – mostly by hand labor – and most of the hand labor was women.  Other rice plantations were still “yellow” and wouldn’t be ready for harvest for at least 2 more weeks when the rice plants would turn “brown”.

All of the elements of a normal community were found in the backwaters  —  churchs, schools, farming, industry, taxi service, mail, cable TV, satellite TV dishes, internet service, telephone service, cell phone towers  —  minus cars and trucks!!  Very, very interesting!!  We passed by one school that had an ice cream store right next door!  How convenient!!!!

The houseboats we saw were very unique.  They are actually quite large and are exclusively for tourists.  These boats have a sitting room, bedrooms, kitchen and a dining area.  Even though you could live on these houseboats, mostly these boats are hired for the day – or maybe a few days – and roam around in the backwaters.  These boats are generally associated with a resort and are strictly “for hire”.  We would wave to the people on the houseboats and they would wave back at us!!

We hated to leave the serene enclave of the backwaters, but you know me and JJ . . . it is always onward to new sights and new adventures!  Thank you India for being Incredible, exciting, and most of all colorful!

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We have three days in the Arabian Sea as we set our course for the next port – Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  And do you know who we’ll see in Dubai?  None other than The Most Famous Ocean Liner in the World  —  The Marvelous QE2!!  We are so excited!!  You know what?  The QE2 is the ship on which JJ and I took our first two World Cruises!!  That’s why we’re so excited to see her again . . .

March 30 – Cochin, India

30 Mar

Cochin, India

 


 

 

 

Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan

Flag:

Population: 1,173,108,018 (July 2010 est.)

Capital: New Delhi

Language: Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%.   Note: English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication

Currency: Rupee (Rs)

Industries: textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, software, pharmaceuticals

Area Comparative: slightly more than one-third the size of the US

Geographic Notes: dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes; Kanchenjunga, third tallest mountain in the world, lies on the border with Nepal

Did you know that India is the second most populated country in the world?  Do you remember which country is the most populated?

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Click Here for Time and Weather in India

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March 29 – Nationalities

29 Mar

Friends – let’s play a little game today, okay?

A list of the Nationalities of our fellow passengers that are now traveling aboard the Queen Mary 2 has been published in the Daily Program.  JJ and I have typed it up for you so that you can see that as we go around the world, we have people from around the world going with us!  Take a look at the list, you’ll see that there are lots of countries and lots of different languages that are spoken.

Here’s the game:  as you read the list countries, do you know what language is spoken in that country?  See how many you get right, okay?  And then look at your map or globe and see if you can find all of these countries!  JJ and I have out our world map and are looking at it too!!

The first country on the list is easy – in Australia, they speak English!  And because we’ve just been in Australia, we know that it is a very large island located in both the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere!!

Have fun!

Nationalities of Guests Traveling on the QM2
No. of
Country People Language Spoken
Australia 189
Austria 17
Bangladesh 2
Canada 132
China 21
Croatia 2
Denmark 1
Equador 1
Egypt 1
France 20
Germany 84
Hong Kong 41
Indonesia 1
Ireland 18
Itlay 4
Japan 11
Korea 2
Malaysia 22
Mexico 3
Netherlands 12
New Zealand 24
Norway 1
Russian Federation 12
Singapore 147
South Africa 3
Spain 11
Sweden 1
Switzerland 39
Taiwan 2
United Kingdom 1147
United States 420
Total 2391



March 28 – Phuket, Thailand

28 Mar

Our day in Phuket was fabulous.  JJ and I spent the day at the beach!  That’s it.  End of tour!!

Okay, there was a little more to it than that, of course.  The ship was anchored off Phuket.  Phuket is one of the islands of Thailand with Phuket City as the primary business district and Patong Beach as the primary resort area.  The ship’s tenders took us to a floating dock in Patong Beach where those on tour found their coaches, and those not on tour could make a left turn and be either downtown Patong Beach or actually ON the beach.

Just a reminder that Patong Beach is one of the areas that was devastated by the tsunami that occurred in late 2004.

We decided to spend some valuable time at the beach.  We were going to pack a picnic lunch, so we scouted out Kings Court for rolls, breads, cheeses and meats for our sandwiches  —  we found lots of choices.  We had asked about some potato chips (can’t go to the beach without potato chips) and our trusty Assistant Maitre d’  – Dominic – in the Britannia Restaurant.  Dominic made a call to room service who promptly delivered a medium size bag of potato chips to our cabin!  What great service!!  Then we gathered some cheese slices and apples for dessert.  And for the sweet part of dessert, we added a large bag of M&M Peanut candies!!  A couple of bottles of water completed the meal!!  We stuffed all of these goodies into a tote bag (hand printed by Window of the Eye) along with two Cunard beach towels and we were ready!!

The weather forecast was for scattered showers.  It had rain just after breakfast so we decided to wait a while before going ashore.  The rain seemed to be over and since we were all packed and raring to go – we thought – why not, let’s go!

The tender ride was very short and after surveying the available beach chair options, we were met by a very nice young man who said that 2 beach chairs with cushions, a table, and an umbrella would be 200 Bhats (that’s about $6.50) for all day! Such a deal  —  and to think that we cart all of that stuff to the beach when we go in HHI.  And that’s not all  . . . if the sun gets a little too much, no problem you get as many additional umbrellas as you need/want – all included! Get sand on your cushion?  No problem, your “attendant” comes by with a broom and sweeps the sand off – all included!  Need a cold drink?  No problem, your “attendant” comes by, takes the order and delivers your drinks.  Drinks were an additional charge – Coca-Colas were $1.00 – that’s right – a real Coca-Cola!!  Again, that’s what we call great service!!

No need to go shopping, shopping came to you on the beach!  That’s right  —  vendors were passing by constantly trying to sell you all kinds of stuff including:  sunglasses; Speedos – for men of course; watches; fans; tickets to the Thai kickboxing matches; sarongs; tablecloths; wood carvings; hand-made arts and crafts of all kinds; fruits; and last but not least – lunch – shrimp on a stick and other seafood. It was most entertaining!

Kids were building sand castles and some kids even had boogie boards and were riding the waves.  We went swimming and just to let you know – the water was very salty – much more salty than when we go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean!!  By the way, do you know in what Ocean we were swimming?  Did you guess the Indian Ocean?  If you did, you’d be correct!

The sand on the beach was a tan color and had a rough texture.  There was a rocky area in the sand just where the waves were coming ashore.

You could rent a jet ski.  Riding the jet ski is very popular.  Sometimes you could see about 12 jet skis in the bay!  Everybody was driving the jet ski very fast and we were hoping that they wouldn’t crash!!

And just behind us is the typical beach town of Padong Beach – lots of souvenir and t-shirt shops and plenty of restaurants.  The nicer resort hotels are situated a little away from this very popular and very busy beach area.

Just as another rain shower was making its way toward the beach, we decided that we should “call it a day”.  Good timing on our part!

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What fun to do “something” but really to do “nothing”!  We’ll have to try this more often – we could get used to it!

Now we’ll have a couple of restful sea days until we reach Cochin, India.

March 27 – Questions and Answers

27 Mar

What did Woody eat at the celebration dinner?

The food at the World Cruise dinner was absolutely delicious!  For an appetizer (that’s food that you eat before you eat the main course), I had salmon terrine.  That was made of salmon fish that had been previously cooked and cooled and combined with some other ingredients.  I didn’t ask exactly what was in the terrine, but it was served cold and it was very good.  Next I had a steak, potatoes and some asparagus for the main course.  Then for dessert, it ALL chocolate  —  milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate!!!!  Wow!  Everything was especially good!  And you got to see the beautiful table decorations that we had – they were awesome!!


Was there any rain at the Doldrums?

We didn’t have any rain in the doldrums.  We’re not sure if there is rain or not – maybe you can Google that and find out if it does rain there!  The temperatures were very warm and there was hardly any breeze.  The ocean water was eerie calm.  When you find out if it rains in the doldrums, please let me know!!


Could you feel how fast you were going on the bullet trains in Japan and China?

In the bullet trains, both Japan and China, the ride is very smooth.  You really don’t realize how fast you’re going unless you turn your head and look directly out the window, then you can tell you are going very fast.  Turning your head and looking directly out the window will almost make you dizzy.  It is best to look out the window just ahead of where you’re actually going – then you don’t get dizzy.  There is a speedometer inside the train to let you know how fast you’re going.

Do the cars drive on the opposite side of the road in Hong Kong?

Yes, cars drive on the opposite side of the road in Hong Kong than we do in the US.  We drive on the right side, the people in Hong Kong drive on the left side.

Thank you for these great questions!

 

March 26 – Singapore

26 Mar

Welcome to the wonderful City-State of Singapore!  You did learn that Singapore is both a city and a country, didn’t you?

Remember that our side thruster door had a problem when we were leaving Laem Chabang?  Well, due to that door problem, we didn’t arrive in Singapore until about 9:30 am.  Today was a busy day for the ship in that we were exchanging about 150 crewmembers and letting about 850 passengers off and taking on about 700 passengers.  That makes a net loss of about 150 passengers.  We know that we’re loosing quite a few Australians but don’t know who will be coming aboard.

Singapore is one of the busiest commercial ports in the world.  Although passenger ships come to Singapore on a regular basis, the QM2 is too big (too deep a draft, too this, too that, etc.) to go to the passenger ship terminal.  So, we docked at a container port.  The ship provided complimentary shuttle service to the Harbour Front Centre.  This is a large shopping building that is connected directly to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Station.  The MRT is Singapore’s subway system.

Did you know that this is my third visit to Singapore?  That’s right – my third visit!!  Since I’ve seen Singapore from a couple of different angles on previous trips, JJ and I decided that we like to would try the “Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus (Hippo).  That sounds like a good plan, don’t you think?  So, once we arrive at the Harbour Front Centre, we inquired as to where one would go to get the Hippo.  Oh, no problem we’re told . . . just take the MRT to the Outram Park Station, then change to the green line and go to the City Hall Station . . . then a 15 minute walk to Suntec City and you’re there!

So, off to the MRT station and up to the ticket machine we go.  All of the instructions were written in English and we found the machine very easy to use.  We put our money into the machine and out came a green ticket!  We were ready to go.  When we got to the bottom of the escalator, the train was their waiting on us.

At the Outram Park stop, we exited the train and quickly and easily found the Green Line to take us to the City Hall station.  We exited the City Hall station and we were ready to begin our 15 minute walk to Suntec City to find the Hippo Bus.  We were a little apprehensive about which way to walk to find Suntec City.  As luck would have it, as soon as we exited the MRT Station, we saw signs directing us to Suntec City  —  little did we know that Suntec City is a group of 5 highrise buildings located right at the Fountain of Wealth – kind of hard to miss!!  It ended up that the 15 minute walk was in an enclosed shopping mall – air conditioned, beautiful stores, great bathrooms and very, very pleasant!  We always like new experiences and this one was tons of fun!

JJ and I saw the BIGGEST chocolate store that we have ever seen!  It was called Hershey’s Chocolate World!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!!  Chocolate everywhere.  And then just beyond the chocolate store was an ice cream store!  Each ice cream flavor had some yummy sauce all over it . . . we wanted to stop and have some, but we had to move on!!

After making another inquiry, we found the Hop-On, Hop Off Bus, purchased our tickets and within minutes, we were off.  The Hippo offers 3 separate tours as well as a River Cruise.  We started on the Yellow City Route and then took the Red Heritage Tour.

Although we had the ability to stop anywhere along the route, we were having so much fun riding along, we decided to just stay aboard the bus.  The weather was cooperating nicely – beautiful sunshine, blue skies and warm temperatures (but not too warm!).   The bus that we were on has two levels and the top is open – like a convertible car.  JJ and I rode on the top level – it was so much fun!!

Singapore is a beautiful city – the architecture is stunning; many major roads are lined with trees; flowers are abundant and clean, clean, clean!  The beautiful architecture of the new skyscrapers combines nicely with the older traditional colonial style buildings – a very pleasant mix of the old heritage and the new growth. There are the ethnic neighborhoods that are vibrant with shopping and eating establishments galore – these neighborhoods include China Town, Little India and Arab Street.  Many major hotels have a presence in the city and of course, the Raffles Hotel is very famous.

Shopping is EVERYWHERE . . . and just what is it that you would like to buy?  Don’t worry, you can find it in Singapore.  Want top quality, up-market merchandise?  Don’t worry, you can find it.  Want cost effective, souvenirs?  Don’t worry, you can find it.  Want cameras, computers, cell phones, iPad, iPhone, iPod, an Apple Computer or any of those lesser quality computers?  Don’t worry, you can find it.

Want to shop in an upscale, upmarket shopping mall?  No problem, Singapore has that (lots and lots and lots of them)!  Want to shop on a classy tree lined street and walk from shop to shop?  Singapore has that!  Want to shop in a festive flea market atmosphere?  Singapore has that!  Want to bargain and have a little chaos in your shopping experience?  Singapore has that too!

Much of the waterfront property of the city is reclaimed land.  We marveled to think of how much smaller Singapore would be without the addition of the reclaimed areas.  Much of the city appears to be new  —  even the cars on the road.  We learned that it is cheaper to buy a new car than it is to own an older car – so you see mostly new upscale automobiles on the roads.  We also learned that Singapore is the second largest exporter of used cars in the world.

And speaking of claims to fame . . . Singapore was one of the first cities in the world to institute a toll on roads based upon the amount of cars on the road.  The toll can change based on the number of number of cars on the road during any given time in the day.  There are signs along the road that tell you the amount of the toll that you will have to pay.  The largest fountain in the world is in Singapore.  The largest mosque in southeastern Asia is in Singapore.

Singapore has recently built an absolutely fabulous looking building – the Marina Bay Sands.  This three building structure is joined on the top by what looks like an airplane without the wings.  This is a hotel and a casino.  Singaporeans must PAY to enter the casino while foreigners are allowed to enter free of charge!  This facility is very close to the Singapore Flyer – a VERY big ferris wheel  —  similar to the London Eye!

And Singapore is known around the world as a Fine City.  The word “fine” usually points to the fact that there are very strict rules in the city.  Break any of the rules and you are fined.  No ifs, ands or buts . . . there are fines for each and every offense, to name a few:  jaywalking, littering, chewing gum – and the fines are quite high – in the hundreds of dollars!!   For some offences there are more severe consequences.  Printed right on your landing card are the words:  Warning!  Death for Drug Traffickers Under Singapore Law.  That should get your attention!

After all of this fun, it was time to get back to the ship – remember that we have a 15-minute walk, a subway ride and a bus ride to get back to the QM2  —  all done in reverse order, of course.  We would easily recommend using the MRT – overall, we found it to be user friendly, efficient, well lit, and very, very clean.

After carefully reading our MRT ticket, we discovered that we would get a refund by turning in the ticket.  Sure enough, back to the trusty ticket machine, turn-in the ticket and get 1 Singapore dollar back!  And because we had 2 tickets each, JJ and I were almost rich!  What a bargain riding the MRT turned out to be!

Once back on the QM2, JJ and I enjoyed the warm weather with a cold glass of lemonade on the deck in a comfy deck chair . . . it is hard work being a tourist!

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Singapore is an absolutely fabulous city!  We would highly recommend this city as a wonderful vacation spot  —  something for everyone!!

We waved good-bye to Singapore . . . we’ve got places to go and people to see . . . only 30 days left on this awesome journey ahead of us!!  Next stop, Phuket, Thailand.

March 25 – Singapore

25 Mar

Singapore

 


 

Location: Southeastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia

Flag:

Population: 4,701,069 (July 2010 est.)

Capital: Singapore

Language: Mandarin 35%, English 23%, Malay 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese 5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9%

Currency: Singapore dollars (SGD)

Industries: electronics, chemicals, financial services, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, rubber processing and rubber products, processed food and beverages, ship repair, offshore platform construction, life sciences, entrepot trade

Area Comparative: slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Geographic Notes: focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes

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Click Here for Time & Weather in Singapore

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