I spent the past few days in Malaysia, a country I wouldn't have been able to
point out on a map before this trip. Turns out it's pretty huge. First we were
in Penang, a smaller city with lots of temples, churches, mosques, etc. I guess
there's a little something for everyone there. It had tons of shopping and a lot
of American establishments as well. So far I've been able to find a Starbucks in pretty much every big Asian city. The ship was docked a bit far from the center of town so we took a trishaw back to the port. It was basically a bicycle with a scoop in the front for two people to sit. I have to admit I was a little frustrated that it was moving so slowly. I'd been used to riding around in tuk tuks and those things really fly. But they are also motorized and this guy was pedaling the two of us around, so I guess I should've been pretty impressed. Anyway it was a nice way to see the city.
The next day, Jonathan and I took a trip into Kuala Lumpur. I wasn't sure what to expect but the city was massive. It's also home to the "twin towers" which were the tallest buildings in the world before Dubai went up. The cab driver took us to the open market and we had some awesome food. We were feeling
brave and decided to try stingray. I'm glad we got it on the side because it was really not my favorite and I didn't want to go hungry. It had tons of little
bones in it and the sauce it was covered in was basically liquid fire, which is also not my fav. I'm glad I tried it though. Then we found our way over to Chinatown. I think it's funny that they have a Chinatown in Malaysia. To me it seems a little redundant but I'm sure for them it all makes sense. They were selling the same crap they sell in Chinatown in NYC only honestly, everything was cheaper at home. Everyone here is trying to rip you off. The only thing you can buy dirt cheap in Asia is FOOD. If I have five dollars, I can seriously get a feast. Some of my most recent bills for lunch have been, $3.89, $1.40, and $6.00. I don't eat light either. We are talking appetizers, bottled water, and a huge entree involving some kind of rice or noodle with veggies or shrimp. I will be eating like a king here.
We have been in Sri Lanka for the last two days and it's awesome! We are in
Colombo, the capitol city. I had to work on the first day but when I was free at 5pm I hopped in a cab and had a private tour of two of the big Buddhist temples in the city. They were so amazing. There were people playing drums and music while the locals were praying. You had to take your shoes off before you went inside. The second temple had a sacred elephant hanging out in the front. I gave the guy a dollar and he let me go up and play with it for a minute. It was pretty awesome. I don't think I've ever been that close to an elephant before! I also watched some kind of ceremony while I was in the temple. Everyone was touching these covered plates as they went by and then they put them on this alter type thing. I'm not really sure what was going on but it was cool to be a part of it.
Today I went for a run along the beach. It was so hot but it was really beautiful. There's no swimming allowed on this beach because the undertoe is very strong and there are lots of rocks around. The people in Colombo are also very nice. Today I was walking back to the port and some gentlemen said,
"Hello." I said,
"Hello." He said,
"I love you." I just burst into laughter and said,
"Thank you," and walked away. Another guy yelled to me,
"Hey! Hey, Irish! Irish!" This is not the first time this has happened to me in a foreign country.
In Galle we only had a little time so we decided to go get some traditional Sri Lankan food. Everything here is SO spicy! We asked them to bring us some local dishes and they ended up bringing out like a million plates! I had some spicy shrimp thing that had sundried tomatoes and also dried chiles. I didn't know which ones were which so I got a big surprise while I was eating.
In Trincomallee we hopped in a tuk tuk and found another local beach! It was at a resort and they let us use all the facilities and everything. They boys bought a bucket of beer (or two) and we just laid in the sun and went swimming. After my sunburn in the Maldives I think I applied my sunblock about 27 times. It was a success! No red suit this time! Then we got back to the main city and we were starving so we grabbed some weird food that ended up being delicious. I guess it's their version of fast food because they served it to us in a newspaper. I really didn't care because it was amazing and by some miracle I didn't get sick!
I spent the last two days in India! The first day we were in Mangalore and I
was on a mission. I needed to find a new power adapter for my laptop, which in the US would not be a big problem at all. However in India on a Sunday, it
didn't work out so well. I ended up going to the mall but had no luck there.
Instead I got lunch and asked the guy to give me some traditional Indian food. The thing I like about India is that a lot of people are vegetarians so there are even whole restaurants with only "veg" foods. I can't remember what it was called but he gave me this giant crepe-like thing filled with cheese and potato and vegetables with curry and lots of spices. It was SO good. It was also humongous and I absolutely ate the whole thing. On the way to the mall in the shuttle bus we noticed a big festival on the side of the road so after we were done shopping we decided to take a tuk tuk back there to see what it was all about. Turns out it was a food festival. There were people selling all kinds of foods and then other section that was more like a craft fair. The problem was that I was so completely full I couldn't even think about eating anything else. We decided to just walk through and look at everything anyway. It was a little strange to be the only European-looking girl there. I could feel people looking at me. I felt like saying, "Ya, and this is tan for me!"
The next day I went back on the search for my adaptor but this time I was in
Cochin. The day before I was able to get an address for an electronics store. We hopped in a tuk tuk and gave him the name of the street we needed to go to. Miraculously he was able to find this hole in the wall place and even more miraculous, they had my adaptor! I'm not so sure this store was on the up and up but I was feeling a little desperate and they were giving me a good price. The only problem was that this adaptor was only for an Indian plug. Luckily the part that was broken on mine was not the plug part so I just switched it out and now here I am, typing away! They didn't have the adapter right there and then so they told us to come back in an hour. We asked our tuk tuk driver to take us to get some traditional Indian food and he said, "no problem." He drove us around and dropped us in front of a Chinese restaurant. At this point we were too hungry to care so we had Chinese food in India.
Now we are off to Sri Lanka!
I'm back in Male, Maldives. We have been here two days but yesteday it was raining the whole time. That wasn't so bad because I had to work. When I work that means I stay on board and play golf putting, shuffleboard and ping pong with any guests who don't go ashore. Then I usually take a 2 or 3 hour nap. Then I go to afternoon tea and each sandwiches and scones covered in clotted cream and jelly. That's pretty much a typical day at the office. Not too shabby.
Today the weather is nicer but it's a Friday and that is a holy day in Muslim countries I guess so nothing is open. So free internet it is! I figured I would blog while I had the chance but now I realize I haven't done anything since last time. Anyway, I'm sipping my frozen mocha looking out over the Indian Ocean watching the ships go by. Not bad for a lazy afternoon.
We have spent the last three days island hopping in the Seychelles. This
place is an absolute paradise. It's warm but not hot and the water is cool and
clear. On the first day we were in Mahe and I took a crew tour. They organized a catamaran to pick us up and take us to a reef to go snorkeling. Then we were jumping off the cat into the water and swimming around. We were off the coast of this tiny, privately owned island that had a small beach. They got permission to have us there and they took us over a few at a time in a dingy. The beach was soft, white sand and had a mysterious stone staircase leading into the trees. I walked up and at the top of the stairs were tons of giant tortoises. I've never seen anything like them. They told us there were more than a hundred on the island. We swam there for a while and then they took us back to the cat for a ride around the island and back to the ship.
Yesterday we were in La Digue. It's one of the smaller islands in the
Seychelles. When we got off the tender boat there was a place right there to rent bikes. I was nervous because it's been about 15 or so years since I've ridden one and I wasn't so sure it really was, "just like riding a bike." Anyway, he let me test one out before I paid for it so I would know if I could do it or not. I was a little wobbly but I figured I would get used to it. We took the bikes all around the island and followed the signs for Grand Anse, a beach on the opposite side. We rode for about 20 minutes and were starting to really sweat. Then we came across a man selling fruit and juice at a stand outside his house. I didn't really recognize anything he put in the blender but it was definitely the best juice I've ever had. After we got refreshed we kept riding until we hit the end of the road. All that was left was a muddy trail or to turn around, so we followed the muddy trail. At the end of the mud was a pretty restaurant and about 100 bicycles just sitting around. We dropped ours and walked up the path to the other side of the place and that's when we saw it. It was the most amazingly beautiful beach I have ever seen. The sand was ite,
the water was bright blue, there were huge, smooth boulders that jutted out to
the sea. The waves were completely massive and the whole beach was obably a quarter of a mile long. When I saw it I honestly just burst into laughter because I didn't know how else to react. Thinking I was just going to be riding a bike around for a few hours, I hadn't put on a swim suit (again) but was NOT going to miss this opportunity. I jumped in my underwear again which made for a very wet and sandy bike ride back, but it was so worth it.
I went back to the ship to rinse off and change and then turned around and
went right back to the island. I was looking for Margaret but she wasn't where we said to meet, so I grabbed my bike and went off to find some lunch. I decided to go the opposite way from that morning. I was only riding about 5 minutes when I came across this beautiful resort. It's like one you would see in a movie. I was starving so I parked my bike and went up to see if they were still serving lunch. Just as I entered the dining room I saw Margaret sitting alone at a table. I couldn't believe I found her when she could've been anywhere on the whole island. She had just ordered so we had some lunch and it was delicious. Then we asked if it would be alright for us to hop in their pool and swim up to the bar. I think they wanted our money because they didn't seem to mind. We had tropical drinks while lounging in the pool overlooking the ocean.
That night we all went out again and had dinner together on the island. All
aboard wasn't until 11:30pm and I was definitely going to take advantage of
every minute I had there. Then we went to the beach in the moonlight and hung out in the water. The moon was full and so bright that it almost looked like daylight. I'd say La Digue was absolutely one the best days I have had on this contract so far.
We went back to Nosy Be, Madagascar on this cruise and I got a chance to go into the main town. I learned that Nosy means island and Be is big so it just means Big Island. I think that might be confusing if it were the only
description you had for where you needed to go. Especially in that area, there are lots of big islands. Anyway, I went into the town and saw there was a market filled with fresh fruit and tons of other food. I picked up some vanilla extract because Madagascar is famous for vanilla. It doesn't smell as sweet as the one we get at home but maybe it's not supposed to be sweet. Either that or I bought something else. We'll find out when we bake the cookies I guess. The rest of the city that I saw was very poor but still friendly. All the little kids playing out on the sidewalk always said, "Good morning!" or "Hello, girl!" Back at the ship they were tendering, which means we don't dock we stay at anchor and send little boats back and forth to the ship. All of the locals got in their canoes and came out to the ship hoping people would trade with them. They bring lots of fruit and wood carvings and hope that people will give them clothes and hats. They don't seem to be wanting money so much as stuff. I saw them floating around with all our empty fuel jugs tied to their canoes. I don't know what they want that stuff for but it's trash to the ship so if it's going to get them a bag full of mangoes or a fish or something they might as well toss it off.
Yesterday we were in Port Louis, Mauritius, again. This time the weather was a bit nicer so we were all going to try to go to the beach. The trouble with some of these ports is that we never know where the beach is, how we will get there, or how we will get back. The cabs that sit and wait for the guests always charge at least twice what it is worth to take us somewhere so we always try to avoid that. They wanted 2,000 rupees which was about $70 for each cab to the beach, each way, and there were 6 of us so we would have had to take two. This was not going to happen so we decided to take the shuttle into the city and see if we could negotiate with the other cabbies. When we got there we figured out that there was a city bus that takes you to the beach, called Flic en Flac. It was a little scary but it only cost about two dollars and we got a nice tour of the countryside. We had a nice lunch at a hotel on the beach and they went swimming for a couple hours. When it was time to leave we found two cabs to take us back for 800 rupees which was less than $30 and it was about a half an hour cab ride. The only bad part was on the way back in the cab we had all the windows down and a sneaky bee flew in while we weren't paying attention. My friend, George, all of a sudden felt something on his arm but it was too late. This was no ordinary bee, either. This was the biggest bee I've ever seen. Must be some island breed. The welt swelled up to the size of a half dollar and we had to make sure he made it through the night without his arm falling off or turning black. He lived.
It's New Year's Eve! Well actually now it's New Year's Day. We spent the
evening singing and dancing for the guests and then I went down to the crew bar to check out the action. I think close to all 400 crew members were down in that room smaller than a small NYC apartment. There were people, beer and cigarettes on every surface in there. After saying my "Happy New Year"s to everyone, being stepped on and spilled on, I decided to call it a night. Now I realize I'm way behind on my blog and have so much to add!
Cape Town was absolutely amazing. It was like any big city you might see only it was beautifully positioned at the bottom of a mountain and beside the ocean. When you approach it from the water you get a great view of Table Mountain. I didn't make it all the way to the top of Table Mountain because the cable car only runs if the weather is perfect. Otherwise it's too windy and you get tossed around too much. I did take a sightseeing bus tour of the city which took us halfway up the mountain and then around the other side where there is a beautiful beach! I only wish we could've stayed another three days, at least.
We didn't get to go to East London because of some engine trouble we were
having so we spent Christmas at sea. Margaret, Jonathan, George and I got
together on Christmas morning and exchanged gifts. Then we all went to the staff mess and had breakfast together. From there I had a pretty full day of work so it all went by kind of fast.
After stopping in a couple cities we were in last cruise we made it to
Maputo, Mozambique. It's always fun to try and figure out which language people are going to speak and which currency to use. It Maputo they speak Portuguese and they have their own money called the Mozambique New Medico, I think. There wasn't too much to see in the city but it was better than staying on the ship doing nothing.
Today we were in Mayotte, part of the Comoros. Here they speak French and use the Euro. I only had about an hour off because of all the decorating and
rehearsing for NYE so Jonathan and I decided to hike up to the top of this nearby cliff that overlooked the ocean. This was kind of an unexpected, last minute decision and flip flops don't make the best hiking footwear. By the time we got to the top the space between my toes was on fire. I ended up taking some giant leaves and wrapping them around the middle of my flip flop and it really did make it better.
Now it's January 2012 and I'm starting to doze off. I hope everyone has a
happy and prosperous New Year. May all your dreams (and hopefully mine) come true!
Sassy ginger from NH off traveling the world.