A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: balhannahrise

Departing from Singapore

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We were in Singapore a few days early as we were doing a cruise on the "Super-Star Gemini," calling in at ports along the Straits of Malacca. This gave us some time to see the sights of Singapore.

Singapore is hot and humid, in places were water misting sprays that helped to keep you cool
One of the most pleasant sites we visited, was the Jurong Bird Park, set in tropical surroundings where I found lots of birds I had never seen before. The Bird show is not to be missed as the birds are clever and great fun to watch. The park was clean and well run, one of the best I have been to, in-fact, I have returned on another visit to Singapore. By going here, I was able to see the birds found in Singapore and surrounds, including many different species of Hornbills.

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Fort Canning Park is a large, green area, where Fort Canning is located, established in 1859 as an Arms store, Barracks and Hospital. it's situated high on a hill overlooking the city.

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At the entrance are Gothic Gates from 1846, walking through these lead me into the cemetery area. This pleasant area was once a burial ground which was used until the end of 1822. Instead of see tombstones, they have all been moved and embedded in the wall. 1821 is the oldest Tombstone [ John C. Collingwood of the ship 'Susan], other prominent people are buried here alongside early pioneers including Chinese Christians. The gravestones and memorials were imported from Calcutta, India.
This historical cemetery took me back in time, and made me realize that many people died young in early Singapore because of disease. Now, Singapore is nearly sterile, it is so clean!

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As I climbed the many, many steps to Raffles terrace, there were more walls of carvings. I don't know their history, I wish I did, they were lovely and looked to tell a story.
I walked beside the river and saw some lovely bronze sculptures named the "People of the River sculptures, ' which tell the history of the people & the lifestyles of early inhabitants along the river.

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A fun sculpture is located near the Cavenagh Bridge, showing five boys happily jumping into the river, a common scene in the old days.

Nearby is another which looks like merchants negotiating a deal and the coolies busy loading goods onto a bullock cart. There is signage with information about each sculpture.

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We saw Bum Boats and did a cruise on one of them along the Singapore river, not very comfortable but nice to see sights from the water.

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From the water, we were able to get a close up view of the Merlion, the symbol of Singapore, a half lion, half fish statue - strong and lithe. Its lion head relates to a fabled beast that once roamed the ancient island state, and its fish body symbolizes Singapore's origin as a prosperous seaport.

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Well, the day had come and it was time to head to the Cruise Terminal.

We had cruised before, only this time, it was a much smaller ship than on previous cruise ships. Our experience began by standing in a very long queue just to book in, then it was another half hour for luggage, and another half hour to get onto the ship. As our first experience with a small ship, we were not impressed!

It was night when we sailed out of Singapore, a toot of the horn and we were on our way to the sounds of "Sail Away" being played by the band. This was an experience not to be missed. There were hundreds of ships in the harbour, oil rigs and good views of Singapore, islands and to top it off, a lovely sunset. What a romantic way to start our cruise!

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Posted by balhannahrise 03:28 Archived in Singapore Comments (6)

Kuala Lumpur

First port of call

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Actually, Kuala Lumpur hasn't a port, it is Port Klang where the ship docked. I had done some research so we could make the best of our time, that meant catching a taxi to Port Klang train station, and then a train into Kuala Lumpur. We enjoyed the train trip in, then made the decision to catch a taxi to Batu Caves which I had read about.

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Batu Caves are limestone caves thought to be 400 million years old. They were discovered in 1892 and are 400 metres long, and 100 metres high, the first religious caves I had been too.

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There are three of them altogether. The biggest cave is called Cathedral cave, and its here where you find a Hindu Temple. This a very sacred place for the Malay Hindus and is their focal point for the Thaipusam Festival, which attracts 1.5million people.

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What you need to know is there are 272 steps to climb, so you need a reasonable amount of fitness, I sat down and had a rest several times on my way to the top. There are lots of monkeys, do not feed them and make sure you have a good grip on your camera, handbag and anything else, as they are good thieves and can become quite aggressive.
I enjoyed the caves which are located 13km north of Kuala Lumpur.

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The rest of the day was spent on a Hop On Off Bus tour. We sat in a modern Double Decker Coach from which we had good views and wonderful look around the city. We stayed on the bus for the whole loop as we didn't have enough time to get off and have a look around, but we will be back as what we saw, we liked.
It was back on the train and to the port for dinner, show and a good sleep ready for the next day.

Posted by balhannahrise 02:46 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Penang

Second port of call

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Penang we viewed from the sea, and what we saw we liked. We couldn't pull into port, so the ship anchored at sea and we were taken in by tender ( a lifeboat).

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Once on land we were immediately set upon by taxi drivers - all wanting our business. We did choose one, but not one of the aggressive men, instead one that was standing at the back. Most of them have map which shows the route and sites where you will be taken, I think they are nearly all identical. We had the driver and taxi for the day, he waited for us to see the sites and then took us onto the next one - A perfect arrangement.

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Our first stop was at Wat Chayamangkalaram (Reclining Buddha), at the time the 14th largest reclining Buddha in the world. Gold, gold, gold - I had never seen so much gold in my life! As I entered, I noticed the two guards with mythical dragon-headed serpents at their feet. Inside was the 33metre long gold-plated reclining Buddha, lying there on his right side with his head resting in the palm of his right hand and smiling at all those who looked. The reclining Buddha represents the historical Buddha at his death. It is said that the Buddha knew death was approaching, and asked his disciples to prepare a couch for him in a grove! I walked behind the Buddha and found lots of niches containing the ashes of devotees.

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After visiting here, it was a walk across the road to see the Dhammikarama (Burmese Temple) - Standing Buddha. This Temple shouldn't be missed either as it's on the Penang Heritage list and is another beautiful Temple.
Here, the Buddha [which is coated with a mix of gold & copper] is not reclining, but is standing 8.2metres high. Behind the Buddha are 16 standing Buddha's which are donations from 16 different Buddhist countries including Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan.

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Looking upwards there were beautiful woodcarvings on the ceilings and surrounds and to the right of the hall is a small Buddha statue which is said to be more than 200 years old. A pair of elephants guard the entrance to this Burmese temple. Within the pagoda grounds is a Boddhi tree and a wishing pond with a small shrine and a Buddha statue.
IF you visit during the month of April, you will witness the water festival.

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Penang was full of Temples! Our next stop was the Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple where some religious event was happening, but I am afraid I can't remember what it was called. Musicians were playing and the Priest was doing a sequence, even though we didn't know was happening it still was interesting to watch.
This Temple was founded around 1854 and is one of the most important Hindu Temples in Penang, also the central focus of the annual Thaipusam festival in Penang when male chettiar carry a peacock feather yoke accompanying a silver chariot.
An estimated 100,000 people attend the Thaipusam festival at the temple, making it the largest festival and human gathering in Penang.

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A nice change from the Temples was a visit to the Penang Botanical gardens. The gardens were fairly large and a great escape from the heat. Lots of lawn and plenty of established shade trees, a pretty creek and flower beds, I was quite impressed with them and the new variety of trees I hadn't seen before.

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Penang Hill is a MUST VISIT.
To get there, you can either walk to the top, or ride the Swiss made Funicular up the steep hill, this is what we did. Halfway up the hill, you get out and change trains. The line was built in 1923, and takes about a half hour to reach the top, its quite a slow journey, but at least you have time to take photos on the way up, especially the views over Kek Lok Si Temple.

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At the top, there is a Kiosk, Restaurant, Souvenir Stalls, Bellevue Hotel, a Mosque, Hindu Temple, Bird Parkand a Canopy walk and lots of wonderful view points - The views are magnificent overlooking Georgetown, the mainland and Penang Bridge.

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Back down the funicular to our waiting taxi who takes us to Kek Lok Si Temple we had viewed from the funicular.

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Kek Lok Si Temple I think is another MUST SEE in Penang, as it's said to be been one of the finest Buddhist temples in South East Asia, this could well be true! The Temple took quite a few years to build, being completed in 1905, with The “Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas” taking more than 20 years to build and was only completed in 1930.

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It is built in tiers, and sits amongst lovely landscaped gardens, a Turtle pond which also has large Carp, shrines and lovely sculptures. Each tier is built in a different design with the 1st tier, a Chinese octagonal base, middle tiers are of Thai architecture and the top is a Burmese crown.

At the start, you may pass few some beggars, we did, then began the climb up many steps to the top. A really lovely Temple to visit!

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We spent the rest of our time visiting a few more temples, walking the streets, looking at some mosques

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Our final stop was at Pinang Peranakan Mansion Penang

IF YOU LIKE ANTIQUES, THEN YOU WILL LIKE THIS MANSION

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The Peranakans, also known as the Babas and Nyonyas, were a prominent community of the Straits Chinese, who adopted selected ways of the local Malays, and later, the colonial British. This created a unique lifestyle and customs which had not only left behind a rich legacy of antiques, but cultural influences like cuisine and language that are still evident in Penang today.

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The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a typical home of a rich Baba of a century ago. It has been recreated to offer a glimpse of their opulent lifestyle and of their many customs and traditions. With over 1,000 pieces of antiques and collectibles of the era on display, this Baba-Nyonya museum is also housed in one of Penang’s heritage mansions with stylish architecture. The Mansion has now been restored, it and the furniture inside is beautiful!

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We enjoyed Penang but know there is a lot more to see and do here, once again it goes on the list to return to.

Posted by balhannahrise 14:09 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Phuket

Third/fourth Port of call

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Phuket wasn't really our third port of call, it was our 4th, but a man had a heart attack on the ship and had to be taken to the nearest hospital, that was at Phuket, so we missed stopping at Krabi and had 2 days at Phuket.

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The ship pulled into port and the sick passenger was off-loaded and taken by ambulance to hospital. It was 10am when we were allowed off the ship and into a sea of taxi and van drivers who descended upon us, all wanting our business. Prices were extremely expensive, so a few of us decided to walk, then we found out if we walked along the road, we would come to a gate and fence which stopped entry into the Port area.
Here we found dozens of taxi drivers, probably 6 people thick waiting at the gate, you can just imagine what happened when they saw some people coming! Yelling began and then when we nearly reached them, instead of us doing the bartering, they were bartering amongst themselves. That was good for us! We chose a nice driver at a good price and as he was so nice, we booked him for the following day.
He told us a ballot was held and each taxi received a number, so if you were between 1 - 20, then that taxi was allowed into the port area, as one taxi left, then the next number came in, 21 and so on.

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We walked Phuket enjoying looking at all the different handicrafts, I probably paid too much at the start, but it still was cheap for me. Ladies on motorbikes came into town and set up business on the streets cooking lunch meals. This was something we hadn't seen before and were fascinated with it.
The heavens opened up, and when they do, the rain falls by the bucket load. We found shelter in one of the stalls.

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That evening we went to see the http://www.phuket-fantasea.com/index.php which I can highly recommend, it was fabulous!

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The next day our taxi driver picked us up at the port and took us on a tour. Our first stop was for an Elephant ride, one I wish I never did as the Elephants looked in poor condition and were being hit because they were going too slow. Poor animals, what a terrible life for them!

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Our driver took us to Patong Beach where the 2004 tsunami hit, we were quite surprised that it had recovered so well.

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Next was to Siam Niramit Phuket, a Thai cultural show which covered everything Thai. This was another fabulous show, one where beautifully dressed performers danced their way through many traditional Thai dancers from early days to modern day Thai dance.

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Our last stop was at Rang Hill look-out for some wonderful views. Here we saw an aggressive monkey after food a tourist had.

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Well, we had a good time in Phuket and managed to fill in our extra day. I thought it quite a good place to buy quality souvenirs.

Posted by balhannahrise 23:09 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Pulau Langkawi

5th Port of Call

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We had breakfast then went onto the deck to watch the ship dock at Langkawi. Our first impressions of the scenery were good! Once again, as we walked of the ship and onto the dock there were many taxi drivers with maps in hand wanting us to choose them to do a tour of the island, we didn't, instead we asked prices then walked onto a Resort where a taxi driver was waiting for business. We asked if he did tours and he did, what was better the price was cheaper so we didn't bother to barter.

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Our driver was lovely, he spoke good English and his favourite saying was "no worries Langkawi" . He was most obliging, making many photo stops for me, and took us everywhere we wanted to go. We finished early, seen all we wanted, and gave him a tip for his excellent service.

Well, Langkawi was beautiful and laid back, at that time you didn't even have to lock your car door, it was quite safe then.

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Some of the places he took us to were the Rice Museum. Rice is grown in Australia, so we went into the Museum and found the story on rice to be very interesting. The museum showcases the paddy cultivation process in Malaysia and displays all kinds of tools and equipment which have been used in the trade over the years. Sixty North Korean artists have painted murals covering the history of paddy cultivation in Malaysia.

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The Museum shows the history, culture and significance of paddy farming in Kedah and is dedicated to the hardworking paddy farmers. Other attractions include an herbal garden, souvenirs and handicrafts, rice-based food demonstrations, festivals and exhibitions.
After visiting inside the museum, we made our way outside to see the paddy farmers working and harvesting rice in the fields. Visitors can participate in padi planting.

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The Oriental Village is a must see, as its here that the Langkawi Cable Car operates from. The cable car takes you up 709 metres, a 2.2km climb @ an incline of 42 degrees. If it is fine, you can walk on the sky bridge which is located 700metres above sea level, spanning 125metres across a chasm, evidently, there are great views from here (we didn't get to see as it was closed)
When we were there, it was fine & sunny, by the time we reached the middle, torrential rain had begun to fall. The gondola to the top had stopped operating for safety reasons, and the sky deck was closed for the same reason. By the time we reached the bottom, they had stopped people from going up. The weather changes very quickly here. Even though we didn't get to see the beautiful views, the trip here was scenic.

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Our next stop was a tour our taxi driver recommended and one we were grateful he did.
The tour was by boat through the tranquil water where the mangroves grew, here we stopped briefly at a the "Hole in the wall fish farm."

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We visited the fish farm as part of a long tour, but you can come here on your own accord, either to view the farm, or to dine in the Restaurant.
The Hole in the Wall is the only floating restaurant on Langkawi Island and is located inside the fish farm at the Kilim estuary on the northern part of the Island. It was in a pretty spot with striking limestone cliffs, quiet waters and Mangroves.
The specialty of this restaurant is that they serve the freshest seafood cooked in authentic Malay style in Langkawi.
I was allowed to pat and feed a Stingray and large Bat fish, plus other sea creatures.

Heading on, we went by boat through a low cave with quite a few bats

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We stopped a little further on for the captain to throw chicken meat into the water, dozens of eagles appeared from no-where, picking up the meat in their claws and flying away to eat it. From here, he took us to the open sea and around an island, then back down the river, and onto another cave where we stopped. Off the boat for a guided walk through the cave, then back into the Boat to return to port. There were heaps of monkeys waiting, one cheeky fella hopped onto the Boat.

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We enjoyed this tour very much.

Finally we made it to Eagle Square in Kuah Town. As you most probably guessed, Eagle square is named after the giant
12 metre high red coloured Eagle statue, that looks like he is in mid flight.
The island is named after this magnificent bird, "Lang" meaning bird and "Batu Kawi" meaning brown stone. This area was rather nice and was surrounding by some green parks.

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Kuah town is located on the South East of the Island and is the main shopping centre, and has duty free shops.
Next door is "Legends of Langkawi" a 50 acre scenic park with beautifully landscaped gardens. It has 17 monuments depicting local legend and artificial lake.

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Unless it has changed since I was here, remember to bring Toilet paper from your accommodation with you. Here, you could buy it for .20c as the sign says, but quite often you can't.

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It was back to the ship after a very enjoyable days outing. This was our last port of call, from here we went to Port Klang where some passengers were dropped of and then we made our way back to Singapore for embarkation.

The stops were good, but we didn't enjoy the Superstar Gemini at all - Wouldn't recommend sailing on that ship unless it is your first cruise.

Posted by balhannahrise 16:19 Comments (0)

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