Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kuala Lumpur, “Confluence of two muddy rivers”

Kuala Lumpur, or KL as everybody seems to call it, was our first organized Princess tour. It was not an auspicious start! Patrick, our guide, has to rank down there with the bottom 10% of all tour guides we have had. His most egregious act—among many!—was having 35 of us stand outside, in the sun, before entering the museum (have I mentioned that it is at least 90°F [33°C]?) to wait for three women who went to the toilets, rather than bring us all inside the (air conditioned) museum to wait for them. Oh well, if that’s the worst that happens on this trip, all will be great!

Nevertheless, we did learn quite a bit from Patrick. For instance, the tolls to go to Singapore from KL are more than the “petrol” because the petrol is subsidized by the government. Probably needs to be since the average worker only earns about $400/month (1200 Malaysian Ringgits. Motorcycles pay no tolls and have their own lanes on the expressways (can’t call them freeways as they are definitely NOT free). The Malaysians do have a (figurehead) King but he only serves for five years and then has to give it up to another of the ruling heads of the nine states. How they decide who will be king next I have no idea but the current King is starting his second term (at about 93 years of age). Having seen the King’s palace, I don’t know how he can give all that up!

Flat Stanley didn’t make it to KL, he sort of slept in. He has had a lot of travel lately so he was probably pretty tired. But we’ll make sure he gets to Penang, our next port.

Singapore was a thoroughly modern city; KL is a mix of some very modern highrises and a few old colonial (from when the British ruled) buildings. We went to the Blue Mosque (not the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, of course, but the Malaysians are very proud of their Blue Mosque. We couldn’t go inside. I don’t think that was because we are not Muslim, probably just because we didn’t have time. We didn’t have time for a lot of places! But that’s the price you pay for only spending a day in each port.

And we saw the outside of the King’s Palace with it’s mounted guards. I feel for the horses as they aren’t ridden around, they are just stood in one place (albeit on a rubber mat like you might use is the kitchen to soften standing all day—of course, you probably aren’t standing in your own pee all day, either) looking elegant. And HOT!

And we got to see the National Museum. That was exciting. Did I mention it was hot? Flat Stanley made a good decision staying home!

But by far the most interesting was our visit to a mosque in downtown KL. Very strict, we—yes, WE, Randy and I—had to remove our shoes and put on a hijab (or something that was a complete coverup). Well, Randy had to put on the “gown” because he was wearing shorts and I had to put on the gown AND headdress (worn by who knows how many before we put them on). The most interesting, however, was not that we had to wear the clothing in order to enter the mosque, but that a man helped ME dress and a woman helped Randy dress! How weird is that!

All in all, an enjoyable day if hot and humid! I’d better get used to it!

Randy at the mosque

The mosque where we had to dress up

Just because you wear a burqa doesn't mean you can't use the modern conveniences!

the Malaysian's war memorial

Malaysia's Blue Mosque

The King's palace; too bad he only gets it for five years!

the King's horseback guard

Malay dances in the lobby of the KL Tower. Might have been better if they didn't block the exits from the tower!

Pam in the KL Tower with the Petronas Twin Towers in the background

Detail of the exquisite glass work in the lobby ceiling of the KL Tower

KL Tower that we were able to go up

The Petronas Twin Towers that we were NOT able to go up. The left tower was built by the Japanese and is fully rented. The right tower was built by the South Koreans and is only half rented.

Tiger beer is local

Our lunch restaurant. I had heartburn for hours!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Singapour it's not, thank goodness!

Our second port and the second day we did it on our own. Randy has been acclimating himself to the hotter weather by sitting on the deck a lot and by walking Deck 7 (3 times around is a mile) at 4 in the afternoon. I think he’s nuts. On the other hand, he IS seeming to not even notice the weather. But he never seems to notice the weather in Tucson, either. By the way, Tucsonans, if you think we are getting away from the heat, think once more: it may be hotter in Tucson (or not, today’s what-passes-for-a-newspaper, the four, 8 ½ x 11 sheets of USA Times, says the high in Phoenix of all places, was 87 [31]!) but in Singapore it is 90+ and 90% humidity. I’ll take the very dry oven of Tucson ANY day!

Doing the city by ourselves (no guided tour) has its benefits, but I think we will mostly do tours in the future. We did go on the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel—but they just call it a wheel; copyrights, I presume—that takes about 30 minutes to make a revolution. The capsules are about 20 feet long and about 10 feet in diameter. They are mostly glass (without, thank goodness, a glass floor) and the capsule rotates as the giant wheel rotates so you are always vertical. Great views of a city with some pretty spectacular architecture. The science museum looks like a giant lotus blossom and the Marina Bay Sands hotel has three towers connected on the top by an enormous slab—no, much, MUCH bigger than a slab, it looks like a enormous anchovy perched on top of the hotel—that supports a garden and a negative edge pool. Try to imagine swimming in a negative-edge pool about 50 stories above the ground; it gives me palpitations just thinking about it!

While looking for a place to have lunch we got lost—yes, LOST—in a shopping center. It is a completely subterranean shopping center so we had no outdoor light to help orient us. At least that’s the excuse. We did see a lot of Exit signs but when we tried to exit, the door had a sign that said “This door is alarmed” (I wanted to say, What scared it?) and having heard horror stories about how little it takes to put one in jail in Singapore (chewing gum comes to mind), we elected not to try the alarmed doors. After walking and walking and stopping for sustenance in a Chinese restaurant, we finally found the way out.

Emerging into the sunlight we were so unable to determine where we were that we attracted the attention of two police officers (uh-oh! Just what we were trying to avoid!) who also didn’t know where we were. Saved by a passing elderly man who was able to tell the police where to go, we headed off to buy the stuff on our shopping list: a new battery for Randy’s camera, a lens cap for mine, and a new hard drive. Just what one wants to do in an exotic city. But Ryan (yes, Ryan) from the Chinese restaurant had told us about electronic nirvana so we found everything in one place.

On our way back to the ship (by the way, our ship, the Sun Princess, was only the second ship to use the new terminal) we stopped to watch a cricket game. Cricket was described to us as baseball on valium.

Singapore ferry

Some of the way-cool architecture in Singapore

The capsule on the Singapore Flyer

Flat Stanley and Randy at the entrance to the Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay Sands (L) and Science Museum (the lotus-shaped building on R)

A wedding photo-shoot we happened upon

Flat Stanley enjoying a Singapore beer

Pam and a Singapore beer

St Andrew's Cathedral in downtown Singapore. Nothing special, I just like the building

Flat Stanley about to go for a ride on the Singapore Flyer

Flat Stanley looking at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All hail, King Neptune!

Tomorrow will be another long day as we get up early to see the sail-in to Singapore, one of the most modern cities in the world. We have nothing definite planned, we’re just going to take the shuttle and a map and kind of wander. There are a few things we want to buy, luckily, not a new Kindle as somebody turned in Randy’s Kindle that he left in the dining room after bridge.

We Shellbacks watched some polywogs be initiated into the group of thos who have crossed the Equator. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. It wasn’t as glorious as the Holland America ceremony where they actually had to empty the pool after the ceremony, but it was fun to watch the Captain being thrown into the pool!

I uploaded the pictures in the wrong order, so look at them from the bottom of the page to the top. It's too hard to try to upload them again!

Some of the clean-up

Capt. Froude is a really good sport. He is soaking wet here and still willing to pose for pictures!

Neptune and his Queen, Cruise Director Tim on the right

These two are the "surgeons" who will remove Cruise Director Tim's funny bone (the one on the left IS the ship's doc

Cruise Director Tim being hosed off after the ceremonies

Removing Tim's funny bone

The Captain is "guilty" of smuggling and will be thrown in the pool

I have no idea what noxious substance this is!

That's spaghetti being tossed about

The punishment

Some of the crew pollywogs

One of the passenger Pollywogs

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chocolate martinis???

Java Sea, 12 noon, May 25
5 08 S,112 10 E, Sort of near Borneo
Tonight we are having a small party in our cabin before the formal dinner. We have carried some really smelly (but presumably very good!) cheese from Sydney to here (see the GPS coordiates above) and bought some crackers in Darwin to go with said cheeses. We’ve asked everybody to BYOB plus a glass or two but if we do this again, we may have enough booze to supply our guests as our room steward, Carmelo, resupplied our soft drinks AND liquor (8 mini-bottles) and says we get resupplied every week. We shall see!

Life on board is very casual interspersed with an occasional formal night (tonight). But except for no shorts in the dining room at night, pretty much anything goes in the way of clothing. I had heard that the Aussies were much more casual than Americans, at least on cruise ships, but they certainly get dressed up for the formal nights!

Steve and Donna in their Cool Cruiser t-shirts
Yesterday was the first lunch I have organized for the “Cool Cruisers” and it went very well. The dining room staff was a bit hesitant at first but they came around to having us line up at 11:45 and letting us in just a bit before the general hordes of people who are afraid they will starve to death before the next meal arrives. Not, of course, that Randy and I ever miss a meal on board! We had over 90 people for lunch and we were able to all have a corner of the dining room to ourselves and got to visit with some that we hadn’t had a chance to talk to before. Quite fun!

In two days time (Saturday) we cross the Equator (Singapore is about a degree north of the Equator) and there will be a Ceremony for all the Polywogs (who haven’t yet crossed the Equator) who need to be initiated by the Shellbacks (who have crossed the Equator).

When we haven't anything else to do we can learn how to shake a chocolate martini. Yes, sacrilege, I know, but these two women are actually shaking (tsk, tsk) a martini that will be poured into a glass with chocolate.