Posted by: Gary Guertin | April 5, 2017

32 World Cruise–Piraeus (Athens), Greece–Apr. 3&4, 2017

Hi All, (Written Apr. 4, 2017)

Athens is a city the Guertin’s know well.  When Gigi was young we stayed in Athens for over a week, and apart from seeing all the ruins, spent New Years Eve in a Greek Tavern, breaking dishes with the locals at midnight.

Most of you know Athens, but I’ll just say it is the capital of Greece, and one oldest cities in the world, dating back 7000 years.  It’s also commonly known as the birthplace of democracy.

Susy and I spent both days riding the Hop-on, Hop-off Tour buses.  I’ll just go through a few of the sites beginning with a church named after one of our family, St. Nicholas Church:

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This one we all know, the Acropolis, (under restoration) with many buildings dating back to the fourth century B.C.:

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Susy waiting for the Hop-On Bus:

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Now this is a bunch of photos as we went along.  I won’t name them all (because I’m not sure of the names), but this will give you a good idea of this beautiful, historic city: (Gigi, we think this first photo of ruins is were we got the souvenir)

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The changing of the guards at this government building:

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The original Olympic Stadium, completely restored, and the only stadium in the world made entirely of white marble:

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Many, many, sidewalk cafes:

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More ruins atop a hill:

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Returning to the ship we pass along the beautiful shore line with these small bays:

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That’s Athens, so now it’s back to the Greek Islands, the first Nafplion, Greece, tomorrow, Wednesday, Apr. 5, 2017. Until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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Posted by: Gary Guertin | April 4, 2017

31 World Cruise–Rhodes, Greece–Apr. 2, 2017

I’M POSTING THREE POSTS TODAY, SO PLEASE START READING AT 29-2 PETRA BELOW.

Hi All, (Written Apr. 2, 2017)

As I said in the last post we’re in the Mediterranean and this week is Greek week, with Rhodes today, Athens the next two days, and one Greek island after the other in the following days.  All I can say is we started with one of the most beautiful islands in the Greek nation.  Rhodes is one of the largest of the Greek islands and often considered the most beautiful.  Most of the island’s character is owed to the 213 years (starting about 1291 AD) when it was occupied by the Knights of the Order of St. John, who were responsible for its nearly impregnable walls and gates, along with its hospitals and churches. Rhodes is a World Heritage City.

From the ship let’s look at the walled city:DSC04062

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One of the many marinas:

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Susy and I welcome you to take a walk inside the City walls:

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We go through the city gate:

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And were do we find Susy?

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You got it, outside the first shop inside the gate.  When you pass into the city you see one of the most beautiful streets of historic ruins mixed in with the finest outdoor restaurants and shops.  I’m just going to let a few photos give you an idea of this main thoroughfare (I took 130 photos):

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Restaurants everywhere, at and above the main street:

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Susy at one of the many fountains along the way:

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and I was there:

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One last look at a street of shops:

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Finally we returned to the ship only because we were out of time.  We could stroll through these streets for days and would love to come back some time and do just that.

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I haven’t showed you the Amsterdam in a long time, so here it is ready to take us on to the next port, Piraeus (Athens), Greece, Monday and Tuesday, Apr. 3 & 4, 2017:

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Until then, Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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Posted by: Gary Guertin | April 4, 2017

30 World Cruise–Suez Canal–Mar. 31, 2017

I’M POSTING THREE POSTS TODAY, SO PLEASE START READING AT 29-2 PETRA BELOW.

Hi All, (Written Apr. 1, 2017)

Yesterday we navigated the Suez Canal and it’s great to be sailing in the Mediterranean again.

First, I’d like to give you a short background of the Canal.  It’s known as "The Highway to India".  It is an artificial sea-level waterway in eastern Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea.  Since the Mediterranean and Red Seas are the same level there is no need for locks to raise and lower the ships. Construction started in 1859 and was completed and opened in November 1869.  It started as a canal of 102 miles long and 26 ft. deep, with a capacity of 50 ships being able to pass per day.  Today it has been enlarged to 120.11 miles long, 79 ft. deep, and 673 ft. wide (as of 2010), with a capacity of 100 ships per day.  The difference in size/capacity in 2010 allowed the passage of two way traffic instead of the previous one way traffic.  The flow of traffic is a system were by each night a line (convoy) of up to 50 ships is anchored at each end of the canal.  Priorities in the convoy are established by war ships first, followed by passenger cruisers, such as ourselves second, etc., etc..  The convoy then starts at day break with about a mile interval between ships.  The Canal allows ships to cut a 12,000 mile trip to India from Europe around Africa to a 7,200 mile trip through the Suez or about a 5000 mile savings.  The Canal was controlled by the British until 1956 when it was taken over by the Egyptians under an International treaty.

Again, trying to keep this short (Susy says it is impossible for me) here are a few pictures of the Canal (it’s all the same from one end to the other):

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In sum places you can see the two way traffic.  If you look carefully at the next photo you can see the containers of a Container ship passing by on the other side of the sand dunes separating the lanes:

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and just to insure you that I was out and about as we passed through the Canal (no comment on Susy’s activities):

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a couple of views off to the side:

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Most housing or business buildings have a wall around them for security:

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or some kind of fencing:

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The Canal’s northern terminus  is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfik.  Here’s a look at a town along the way with a Mosque and a Christian Church:

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We entered the Canal about 5:30 AM and exited into the Mediterranean about 3:15 PM, which was very fast as we were told before hand that it  usually takes about 10 to 15 hours to make the passage.

We’re on our way to Rhodes, Greece, our next port on Sunday, Apr. 2, 2017.  Until then,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

Hi All, (Written Mar. 31, 2017)

PETRA, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world (only 15% completed). One of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2007).  One of Smithsonian Magazine’s "28 Places to see before you die". A World Heritage Site (1985).  And most importantly number one on Susy’s bucket list.

I’ll start with what l hope will be a short orientation of what Petra is.  Located 75 miles north of Aqaba, it is a hidden city in the Shara Mountains, dating back to about 4th B.C. (history records).  It was started by the Nabatean desert tribes as a part of a major trading route connecting Mesopotamia and Egypt. The traded goods were mostly frankincense, myrrh, and spices.  Its golden era was believed to be between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D..  It was controlled by the Nabateans until 106 A.D. when the Roman Empire took over.  It was Roman until 330 A.D. when Constantine I (Christian) took over.  In 600 A.D. the Muslim Arabs (Islamic) regained control and have had it ever since.  A earthquake in 363 A.D. destroyed most of the city and is why only 15 % has been excavated.  The earthquake and a change in the major trading routes led to the city being abandoned, deserted, and lost by the middle of the 7th century.  It wasn’t until it was made a World Heritage Site in 1985 that it really became a major tourist attraction and its beauty was discovered by the world.

O.K., now comes the hard part, I have to try and describe our tour to see Petra. Just to give you a perspective, our little tour took 12 hours; 4 hours coming and going by bus, and 8 hours walking, climbing, and resting from time to time, over an eleven mile mountainous route with one women’s pedometer showing 24,000 steps.

Here’s a few shots of the bus ride:

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We arrived at Petra:

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Now there were two routes to see the major sites in Petra.  One was to go in the front and walk all the way to the back (the Monastery) and back.  This included walking up and down 924 steps in one part to reach the Monastery.  The second, and the one we took (only 3 per cent of the tourist took) was taking a back route to the Monastery (eliminated going up 924 steps, but included a very strenuous hike).  Some of our group (6) took the front route while the rest of us (22) decided to take the back route. After dropping off the front route people at the entrance we bused to a point in the back where we transferred to pickup vehicles to go to the start of the back trail because of the rough terrain.

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So finally we started the hike:DSC03700

The scenery was out of this world:

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Susy and I were there:

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Even on these back trails the women had a chance to shop:

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One last look at the scenery before getting to the Monastery:

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Finally we reached the Monastery:

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and our first rest stop:

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Now you understand we are at the back of the city.  To make our way back to the front we have to first descend 924 steps to the city main center.  Here’s a few shots of the way down:

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some of the steps:

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the mountain goats:

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we encountered several locals along the way:

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We arrived at the main center of the city and walked along a main street paved by the Romans. First was one of several theatres:

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This theatre is the only free standing building left:

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another theatre:

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This theatre seats about 4000 spectators.  Petra had about 40,000 residents at the height of its era.

And at the front, the wall of tombs:

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A temple excavated by Brown University:

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Now at the front of the city is the famous Treasury building featured in a "Indiana Jones movie":

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When you come in from the front (the Visitors Center and city Dam) you have to walk along a narrow cannon that opens up to the city entrance and this Treasury Building.  The site is spectacular:

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A walk to the entrance (and the bus to take us back to the ship):

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I want to end by saying I have attempted to give you a feel of Petra through about 30 photos.  I took 340 photos that day, so you all have an open invitation to see the rest of the photos whenever you see me at home.  As I’m writing this we have just passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.  Next post, the Suez Canal.  Until then,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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Hi All, (Written Mar. 30, 2017)

Our first day in Aqaba, Susy and I decided to just take a look around the port itself, resting up for the Petra visit in Day 2.

Aqaba is Jordon’s only sea access.  It dates back to 610 A.D. when it became an important trading post between India and the Mediterranean.  It was damaged by earthquakes and attacks by the Crusaders over the years until it became a quiet fishing village.  Then during WWI it was restored to prominence by T.E. Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) when local forces he commanded took it back from the Ottomans.

Apart from a quick tour of the port Susy and I got all our internet taken care of (you got five posts in one day from me, so I got caught up).  Here is a look at the port:

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and looking out across the Gulf of Aqaba:

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Here’s a street view from the shuttle bus that took us into the center of town:

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In case you want to go back to smoking, this is the place to do it.  This is a photo of a typical tobacco shop and if you could blow up the photo you would see it’s advertising mint, grape, and strawberry tobacco among many others:

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The Souk (street market) in Aqaba was none existent, but they called these stores their Souk:

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This is the Grand Mosque built in 1975, first from the window of the bus and then up close:

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and finally, before we return to the ship, Susy with one of the local warriors on horse back:

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Next Day 2, Mar. 29,2017, our visit to Petra.  Get ready for probably my longest post.  What a day!!!!

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ship’s Port Sign:

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Posted by: Gary Guertin | March 28, 2017

28. World Cruise–Muscat, Oman–Mar. 22, 2017

I’m posting several in the same day, so start with Singapore 2 – 2nd Day below.

Hi All, (Written Mar. 23, 2017)

A new port for Susy and me, since Muscat was the capital of Oman and was laid out on the port in front of the ship, we decided to just take the shuttle into the center of the city (on the Arabian Sea) and walk around for the day.

First a short history of Oman.  The country and its major city/port, Muscat, being near the Straits of Hormuz on the Arabian Sea, has made it a pivotal trading and military strategic point going back thousands of years. Persians invaded long before the area became Islamic in the seventh century.  The Portuguese took control for over a century until the Al Bu Said dynasty prevailed over them in the eighteenth century and have ruled ever since.  The Sultan Qaboos bin Said has ruled since 1970 and has encouraged tourism in addition to its petroleum wealth.  Oman has a population of 3.4 million people and is 119,499 sq. miles in size.  Muscat is a modern Arab sultanate in an Islamic nation.

On to our day in Muscat.  First the Port, apply named "Port Sultan Qaboos":

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As you leave the gates you will not be short of taxi’s:

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A part of the cities’ promenade around the port:

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and one of many sidewalk Café’s:

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When we talk about shopping, we have everything from what is known as the upscale mall to the street market.  Many Arab states such as Qatar and Dubai have gone to the upscale mall and Muscat is no exception.  However, if you want to enjoy your shopping and want to haggle for everything you purchase there is nothing like the street market.  Here in Muscat, they have one of the largest street markets Susy and I have ever visited (and one of the cleanest).  It reminded us of Istanbul’s Grand Bazar.  In Muscat the market is referred to as the souq. Officially it’s called the "Muttrah Souq".  Here are a few photos to give you a feel for this market:

The entrance from the port:

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Susy in front of one of the wall murals:

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It seemed that this market went on for miles.  Here’s some of the stalls, side streets, and big intersections were the market goes off in many directions:

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I took over 120 photos today and over half where in this market.  I could go on with many more, but I’ll just leave it here and tell you Susy was like in a candy store.  She had a ball and it was hard for me to get her out of there.  You would be interested to know that one of the reasons Susy enjoyed it was that the vendors were courteous and it was a pleasure to bargain with them, as opposed to many markets in other countries where the vendors would follow you down the street, beg you to buy, etc..  We did finally leave, and here’s a picture or two out on the port:

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No that is not a cruise ship in the harbor, but the Sultan of Said’s main yacht, with a little smaller one off to the side as his backup.

Finally let’s look at the port and some of the forts from our ship:

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Muscat is a beautiful port and we were sorry we didn’t have more time to explore it.

So it’s on to five days at sea and our next port, Aqaba (Petra), Jordon, Tue. and Wed., Mar. 28th & 29th. 

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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Posted by: Gary Guertin | March 28, 2017

27. World Cruise–Mumbai (Bombay), India–Mar. 18-19, 2017

I’m posting several in the same day, so start with Singapore 2 – 2nd Day below.

Hi All, (Written Mar. 20, 2017)

Several of you have heard of our view of Mumbai, since we spent five days there in March of 2010 after a cruise from Buenos Aires, around Africa and ending in Mumbai, flying home from there after our stay.  I will only say it was/is not our favorite port in the world and in no way where we going to get off the ship and visit it again.  But knowing that some of you would be interested anyway in seeing/hearing a little bit about one of the largest cities in the world, I dug out some of my comments and photos from our 2010 visit.

Here’s a few of the photos from today, taken from the ship:

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To top thinks off, even though we has a shuttle bus to the main gate, look where they docked the ship:

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As in 2010, my photos are not hazy, it’s the smog that covers the city although it does not appear as bad as it was years ago.

Now here is my opening to my blog in 2010:

" Let’s start out by understanding the history and geography of Mumbai (Bombay). First India is only about 1/3 the size of Europe, yet its more than one billion people represent fully 1/6 of the world’s population. Mumbai is the most populous Indian city with about 17 million people, making it the sixth largest metropolitan area in the world (today my port history says it’s the world’s fourth most populous with nearly 12 million people???). Its history stems from Hindu/Muslim rulers until the 16th century when the Portuguese sailors established trading centers along the coast. Of course later it came under centuries of British colonial rule, until its independence. Mumbai got its colonial name" Bombay" from the Portuguese "Bom Bahia", meaning Good Bay. The Portuguese later changed it to Bombaim, but the British anglicized it to Bombay when they gained possession. The name was officially changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1995. The name Mumbai is a mixture of Hindu words. Hinduism is the main faith, but you can find almost every other among its people. Mumbai was built upon 7 islands, which today form the cities seven districts. An extended land reclamation program has linked the seven islands together to form a peninsula. It has the largest port in Western India and is 14 miles long by about 5 miles wide."

The "Gateway to India" was built to commemorate the visit of King George to India in 1911. This waterfront monument sits on a large plaza in front one of the most famous hotels in the world, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. This is the hotel we stayed in on our 2010 visit:

11. Taj Mahal Palace Hotel & Gateway to India

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The contrast between beautiful buildings:

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and the slums:

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The cities central laundry:

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Susy shopping in 2010:

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and Susy with our Hostess at the hotel:

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Some people love India, but Susy and I only have experienced Mumbai and for us once was enough.

From India we sail for our next port, Muscat, Oman, Mar. 22, 2017.  Until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ship’s Port Signs:

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Posted by: Gary Guertin | March 28, 2017

26. World Cruise–Colombo, Ski Lanka–Mar. 15, 2017

I’m posting several in the same day, so start with Singapore 2 – 2nd Day below.

Hi All, (Written Mar. 17, 2017)

Ski Lanka is a large island (about 42,000 sq. miles) located at the southern tip of India.  It’s history starts with the island being inhabited by people called Sinhalese in about the 6th century B.C.. It flourished as various empires until 1505 when the Portuguese, then the Dutch, controlled the island for about 150 years, each.  Finally the British took control in 1815.  They too ruled for about 150 years, until the country established its independence in 1948.  The island has a diverse culture due to it’s history, with the majority of the people being Sinhalese (74.5%) who are Buddhists, with Tamils (16.5%), who are Hindus, Moors (0.3%), who are Islam, Burghers (0.2%), who are descendants of the Portuguese and Dutch, and are Christians, and Christians among the Sinhalese and Tamils, being the minorities.  The population is nearly 24 million (a 2011 figure) and growing.   Colombo was the main port and capital of Ski Lanka, with little or nothing to see outside the city except a huge reserve with wild elephants.

Now Susy and I decided to go down to the pier and visit the Information Office to plan our day.  We found out that the only way to get around was by Taxi.  They were not only regular taxi’s but they were tour guides.  You could pay them for so many hours and they would be yours to tour for that time.  There were no buses for hop-on, hop-off or tours.  The Taxi  (which the Information Office employees could arrange for you) situation, we quickly found out from some returning cruisers, was a Mafia of dishonest transporters, quoting you one price and then finding all different ways of getting more money.  With this information and the fact that we knew from our talks with previous visitors that Colombo and Ski Lanka for that matter were really an extension of India it take much more for us to make a decision.  We didn’t want to spend the day bargaining with some Taxi driver, so we decided to just visit the market stalls on the pier and call it a day.

Here’s a look at Colombo from the ship and pier:

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Above the terminal area, below a close up of the terminal:

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Sweeping view around the ship:

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Some close up views:

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Ever seen a building(s) like that?  A temple:

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Trying to be like every other big city, a needle being built:

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Our trip down to the pier:

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That’s it from Ski Lanka.  Next port is Mumbai (Bombay), India, Saturday and Sunday, Mar. 18th and 19th, 2017.  Until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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I’m posting several in the same day, so start with Singapore 2 – 2nd Day below.

Hi All, (Written Mar.13, 2017)

Kuala Lumpur (known as KL), is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities.  Since KL is a 30 to 60 minute ride (depending on traffic) from Port Klang where our ship was docked, Susy and I decided to take a ship tour of the city.  The tour included 2 photo stops and 1 long one at the KL Tower to see the city from one of its highest point. KL has a little over 1 million residents, but as I said is very fast growing.

As you can see from this look at the Port Klang terminal, the ship is docked miles from the city:

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As we drove into KL here’s a look at the economic housing:

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As we entered the city our first stop was the twin towers, which today are the tallest in the world.  Our guide, however pointed out that Dubai has under construction a much taller twin towers, having already the tallest building in the world.

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At the base of the towers your two travelers:

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Gigi, we didn’t know you had interests in Malaysia:

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Second stop was the KL Tower, again one of the tallest buildings in KL, made up of a observation floor at the top, and like the Seattle Needle, a rotating restaurant/bar at the very top. Bad photo,but that’s it through the trees:

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Here’s a few of the views from up above:

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and the view with the twin towers left of center:

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How about Susy and I above the tower:

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Finally, just a few buildings at street level:

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Our last stop was at what is called Independence plaza, which is where a large number of Malaysians celebrated their independence from England.  The grounds of the plaza is now an English Cricket Club looking like a typical cricket field, but the building along the side is impressive:

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Now its three sea days to are next port, Colombo, Ski Lanka, Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2017. Until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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PLEASE BE SURE TO READ SINGAPORE 24-1, DAY 1, FIRST

Hi All, (Written Mar. 12, 2017)

Day 2 will include only 2 stops, but what a day.  After a a short taxi ride, we arrived at the "Gardens by the Bay".  The Gardens consist of 250 acres of plants and gardens created since we visited in 2008 by refilling the Bay.  Singapore has filled in huge amounts of land fill around its original island, including not only the gardens we will be visiting today, but the beautiful hotel "Marina Bay Sands Hotel" (which we will visit after the Gardens) and many new skyscrapers that are located behind the gardens.  Our ship is docked at a new terminal/port extending in front of the gardens, all on land refill. Because of the Bay Gardens and another large Botanic Gardens we went by yesterday on our Hop-on/Hop Off tour Singapore is now known as the "Garden City".

OK, I should explain that our visit to the Gardens will be in three parts.  First, we got on a trolley which took us on a guided tour of the outdoor portion.  When we finished that we visited the two giant enclosures, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.  Let’s get started at the Visitors Center with Susy welcoming us and looking at a plan of the entire site:

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We hopped on the trolley and here is a look at one of the many gardens we passed:

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There was every kind of palm tree you can imagine, from tall ones to silver ones, etc. etc.:

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There were statues of animals everywhere and even a baby:

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Here’s a view of the outside towers, which they say at night are lighted up to form a beautiful spectacular.  Also notice the sky walk among those towers.  Behind is a view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel which we will visit later:

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Needless to say, I have almost 200 photos of this tour and the 2 domes.  Any time you visit us I’ll be happy to bore you to death with the other 180 I haven’t shown here.  Let’s go next to the first and largest dome, the Flower Dome:

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Susy invites you to the South American area:

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There were a lot of trees:

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You can’t believe the beautiful views from up above and in the gardens:

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As we walked out of the Flower Dome we thought we had seen it all, but then we walked into the Cloud Forest Dome this is what hits you:

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That’s right, a water falls, and notice the bride and groom on the left.  They say it brings you good luck to get a bridal couple in your picture.  This dome also had the most beautiful flower I had seen (Susy, not the flower behind her):

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You can go up to the top of the water falls, but here’s a photo of the platforms up high:

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and finally some of the flower up the side of the falls:

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I can’t express how beautiful the gardens and domes are.  You could spend days wandering the grounds, but Susy and I only had a few hours so we headed for our last stop of the day, the Marine Bay Sands Hotel:

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By the way, on the right of the hotel, the Ferris wheel (officially called an observation wheel) is the largest in the world.  That’s today, because it seems that China, and Asia in general (especially Dubai) cities, are racing to build the largest, tallest, structure in the world as a show of their strength/leadership.  We immediately went to those gardens on the roof which includes a restaurant, huge swimming pool, and of course, many observation platforms.  Here’s Susy in the restaurant as we stopped for a snack/drink:

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Now a look at the city from the observation platforms:

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The swimming pool is an infinity pool as you can see(scary!!):

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and finally a look back at the Gardens we had visited earlier and the Bay/Port beyond:

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Again, what is amazing is this hotel, and the gardens are all constructed on land refill.

That’s it for Singapore, since 2008, when we last visited our opinion of the city with this new look, is outstanding.  Next port is Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia, Saturday, Mar. 11, 2017.  Until then,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

P.S. Ships Port Sign:

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