Wherever you go, go with all your heart ♥Confucius
We decided to take a 12 day cruise around South East Asia to relax, unwind and celebrate our new life status – unemployed and of no fixed abode!! Technically the chap is now retired and I am on a year’s sabbatical. The no fixed abode bit is true though…sold up and after the cruise are heading to Europe to purchase our yacht (more about that later). The cruise started in Singapore, so after a few days there we boarded our home for the next 12 days. I was pleasantly surprised by our accommodation, it even came with a balcony. Nice and roomy with plenty of space for us, our 4 large suitcases, backpacks and having the extra balcony space was blissful.
First stop Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur or KL is located on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula approximately 39kms from the Strait of Malacca. We decided to take one of the shore excursions on offer to the region of Putrajaya which is a planned city and the home of the federal administration centre in the capital. We were able to have a wander around the main areas by the river which was scorching hot but very enjoyable. The pink mosque looked majestic in the heart of this area. We helped cool ourselves down by having a Durian Ice-Block!! Delicious for us, not so much for others hehe. For those of you who haven’t heard of Durian it is a fruit that according to some smells horrendous but to us tastes pretty good. It is actually banned in hotels, on public transport and built up areas such as shopping malls because of the offensive smell. I really like it and thankfully so does the chap ♥ After a lovely buffet lunch in a local hotel we went and took some photos of the architectural wonder called the Petronas Twin Towers. Standing over 427 metres (1400 feet) they are the world’s tallest twin towers. A sky bridge approx 169 metres (557 feet) above street level joins the two towers at the 41st and 42nd floors. Quite spectacular. Well worth a visit.
After a night sailing we arrived in Penang, on Malaysia’s northwest peninsula in the Strait of Malacca. Penang is famous as an important trade route for Europe, the Middle East, China and India. Our first stop on our half day tour was at the old George Town Protestant Cemetery which may sound macabre but it was fascinating, haunting and strangely quiet given it was in the centre of the township. Legend has it that in some lights the ghosts of a young married couple can be seen walking along the path through the graves. Next we went out to Suffolk House which is located on the banks of the Black Water River (more like a stale old stream) and was once the residence of Francis Light the founder of the first British Settlement located in Penang. It is currently a tourist stop along with a tea shop and restaurant, which sadly wasn’t open the day we visited. Beautiful building and an interesting history. By this time the tour guide had managed to irritate my dear chap beyond repair so we ditched the tour group and headed off on our own adventure about George Town. We had a fabulous traditional lunch and then wandered towards the colonial buildings along the coastline. They are so well maintained and looked almost luminous in the bright sunshine. I thoroughly loved the mix of old and new heritage buildings, the noise and hustle of this vibrant town. My only regret is not having a few days more to explore.
Thailand is a place I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember and we were finally here. Phuket, an island and a southern province of Thailand was our first port of call where we were transported from our cruise ship to shore by tender. The seas were a bit rough and we were jammed into these tenders like not so little sardines…not all of our fellow passengers enjoyed this 20min trip. I spent the trip talking to a Canadian lady who went ghostly white as soon as we set foot on the tender. I gave her a few tips I have learnt over the years to help with motion sickness. She was so grateful, not sure she realised that it was of mutual benefit that she didn’t succumb to her gurgly tummy! Once we were ashore we had a 2+ hour bus trip up through the island of Phuket. We were headed to James Bond Island!! This is actually called Phang Nga Bay National Park and boasts the most incredibly idyllic limestone cliffs rising up over the sea. It also has an unusually shaped rock emerging from the ocean that was the setting for the final scene of the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. We got off the bus and jumped onto long boats which are open aired, brightly painted and are about the length of an average bus. They are powered by massive truck engines and steered with tillers. Apart from the noise it was an exhilarating trip out to the islands. Once we cruised around the island and took numerous photos we headed to a quaint little fishing village that hosted a restaurant and markets for us shop starved tourists! We had a ball bartering with the locals and came away with some delightful tea cups and saucers with little spoons all hand made out of coconut shell.
We sailed back to Singapore for a day, this was for some passengers to disembark as their shorter cruise came to an end and for new passengers to embark for the remainder of the journey. I was so excited to be back in Singapore even if it was for a day. We had arranged for a tour to Mt Faber, the National Orchid Gardens and Chinatown. Mt Faber is a great place to take in the panoramic vista across Singapore’s Central Business District. It was a lovely day and we got some great photos. The National Orchid Gardens were a short trip away and a really nice way to relax and enjoy the stunning flowers. Chinatown was my highlight of the day, the colours were magnificent and even more so because we were there right in the middle of the Chinese New Year. Such a great vibe, lots of street food vendors and temples to visit. Read more about our time Soaking up Singapore here.
After a quick turn around in Singapore we set off for the east coast of Thailand, Ko Samui. Unfortunately by the time we arrived in Ko Samui my poor chap had become quite unwell so we decided to relax on board the ship for the day. Pizza and movies with a spot of reading thrown in was the perfect way to rest up and recuperate. Sadly it was like this for the remainder of our time in Thailand and we missed out on our trip to Bangkok as well. Our thinking was let’s just get the chap better so we can thoroughly enjoy Vietnam which was where our last port of call was and one that the chap had been looking forward to the most. And it worked!!
Ho Chi Min City, formerly known as Saigon is exceptional. We arrived in dock about 50minutes away in Phu My and jumped on a small coach for our full on day tour of this equally quaint and exotic city. Honking horns, street hawkers, mopeds carrying families of four plus the dog, old meets new, French colonial villas amongst food markets and vibrant colours and smells everywhere. It was a cacophony of culture. With a population of over 8 million people it’s not surprising! We were treated to a traditional Water Puppet show inside the National Museum of Vietnamese History and the Minh Phuong Lacquer Factory. Notre Dame Cathedral, a 19th-century red brick construction of Roman-Gothic ilk was under repair when we visited but majestic non the less. The old Central Post Office was the hub of the city and still fully functioning. Dong Khoi Street and the Ben Thanh Market are amazing shopping venues, however true to form we wandered off and looked for a few treasures in some of the more out of the way streets. It paid off as we found an exquisite tea set that we couldn’t pass up – even if it did cause a few ‘hold my breath’ moments when re-packing! Vietnam was well worth the wait and we are already planning our return for a longer trip.
So all and all 12 days on the cruise ship, a total of 5828 kilometers traveled across the Malaysian Peninsula, Thailand and Vietnam. While I’m not completely sold on the cruise ship way of traveling, it did give us a break from airports and suitcases, was a nice friendly environment and a great way to get a taste of some incredible countries. I think the chap and I prefer the freedom of going where we want and when we want rather than adhering to schedules set by others, probably why we are buying a yacht and going adventuring…watch this space!
While we were flying to Singapore and then onboard the cruise ship we took the opportunity to watch a few movies. Anyone that knows me well knows I am hopeless at sitting still long enough to watch an entire movie, but when you are on a long flight or on a sea day there aren’t many other options. We comprised this list with a brief synopsis/opinion of each – no spoilers!!
- The Upside – a paralysed billionaire forms an unlikely friendship with his ex-convict caretaker. Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston & Nicole Kidman star in this brilliantly funny, heartwarming, heart breaking film. Based on a true story. Comedy/Drama.
- Tolkien – explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels. Very interesting.
- The Aftermath – Drama. Postwar Germany 1946, a woman arrives in Hamburg to be reunited with her husband a British colonel who is charged with rebuilding the war-torn city. Enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal, an immature and predictable story line but an easy watch. Kiera Knightley and Ned Wills
- Shaft (2019) Action/Comedy as good if not better as the original. Starring Samuel L Jackson, Jessie T Usher and Regina Hall. Great action movie with witty one liners, and good story-line. An FBI analyst enlists the help of his streetwise and very absent father to investigate his best friend’s death.
- All is True – Drama set in 1613, Shakespeare’s renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground and Shakespeare returns to his home and dysfunctional family in Stratford. Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen star in this well executed, enlightening and soulful movie.
- Yesterday (2019) Himesh Patel and Lily James starred in this quirky low level film. Not particularly funny or believable but a good time waster.
- Downton Abbey – Drama. Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan and Allen Leech star in this movie length episode of the very popular series. The Crawley family return to our screens as they prepare for an official Royal visit to their house. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting all of the familiar faces and the ensuing drama that accompanied it. I loved the series and would definitely recommend this film to watch and re-watch.
- Angel has Fallen – Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman star in this Action/Drama. A secret service agent is accused of being complicit in an assassination attempt on the President. Anything with these two actors has my vote!
- Fast and the Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw – Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba great lineup of talented eye candy in this action adventure about combating a genetically altered cyber villain who is hell bent on endangering innocent lives across the globe. Easy watch which was pleasantly entertaining with lots of energy, light hearted humour and very little swearing which made a surprising change. Once again if Jason Statham is in it, I am front and centre!
- The Peanut Butter Falcon starring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and Zack Gottsagen Comedy/Drama about a young man with down syndrome who runs away from a residential home to follow his dream of attending a professional wrestling school. Beautiful storyline with the expected romance, thuggery, dreams and life reflections. A good watch.
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