World Cruise 2013 - Part 4

This is part 4 of the World Cruise 2013 report, picking up in Bali and continuing through Hong Kong and around to Thailand. Here's the overall route for the cruise.
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Heading north from Australia, the Amsterdam reached Indonesia, and its famous island Bali. (Many of our ship's crew are from this area, and hundreds of family members were hosted onboard the Amsterdam during our stop.) Mike and Sandy headed off for an all-day countryside tour. They donned Temple Sashes to visit a village Hindu Temple, went to the top of a dormant volcano to admire the lake formed in its caldera, and toured some coffee plantations and rice paddies. Bali, unlike the rest of mainly-Muslim Indonesia, has long been predominately Hindu culture and religion.

The second Indonesian port, on a different island, was a city of almost 2 million population called Ujung Padang. Sandy and Mike took in a nearby national park with a roaring waterfall, visited a quaint fishing harbor, and toured a 14th century fort built by the Dutch. On a more modern note, their car got briefly caught up in a traffic jam caused by a fire built in the middle of a main road by anti-government-corruption demonstrators.

On to the Philippines, again with two stops: Puerto Princessa, a newly opened "eco-tourism" island, and then very big and always crowded Manila. Sandy and Mike relaxed a bit at the first, and in Manila, took a tour concentrating on the history of the Philippines. The first stop was the quite moving American Military Cemetery (even larger than the one in Hawaii), and then they saw the prison cell and monument to the 1896 execution of Dr. Jose Rizal (more or less the "George Washington of the Philippines" -- he lead the move for independence from Spain). They dodged the ever-present and lavishly decorated jeepneys, passed by Malacanag Palace (the "White House of the Philippines"), and visited homes furnished exactly as well-to-do families would have lived in the early 1900's. (Mike enjoyed seeing one room filled with the original owner's old amateur radio equipment.) Our ship left the dock, but hovered out in Manila Bay, providing an excellent view of an international competition of fireworks teams along the waterfront.

Hong Kong, perhaps Asia's most scenic city, is always fun to visit, being very Chinese and yet very British at the same time. This visit, Sandy and Mike spent a day on Lantau Island, seeing the giant Buddha statue on the peak, some temples, and a fishing village (with houses on stilts). A cable car brought them back down the mountain, with some amazing views of the new Hong Kong airport below. The nightly "Symphony of Lights and Lasers" show over the harbor was dazzling. (Yes, Sandy did somehow find time to visit some of HK's famous street markets!)

But the unexpected was Mike being sent off the ship for an ultrasound -- his left calf, ankle, and foot turned bright red and were swollen quite a bit. It apparently was some sort of nasty insect bite (perhaps back in Bali, where Mike and Sandy toured a coffee plantation), but it sure produced several days of concern.

Leaving Hong Kong, Mike & Sandy have traveled over 21,000 miles since leaving Florida, and the trip continues -- next stop Vietnam. Sandy and Mike have spent several weeks there before, but hadn't been to our next port, the beach resort of Nha Trang, said to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world. (If you read mysteries, Nha Trang may sound familiar -- it was prominently featured several years ago in the best-selling novel "Up Country" by writer Nelson DeMille.) There's actually several beautiful beaches, some on the mainland and some on islands out in the bay, but everywhere there's signs of growth (we saw Marriott, Intercontinental, and Four Seasons resorts under construction during our visit).

Singapore, another favorite port, was next, and as usual, didn't disappoint. Sandy was a bit under the weather, but Mike went to the top of the oddly-shaped Sands Casino building, which he hadn't done before, looked down on the Singapore Flyer (even taller than the London Eye), and paid a visit to the Merlion, Singapore's mascot.

Just up the coast from Singapore is Lankawi, Malaysia's resort island. (KL, Malaysia's capital, which Sandy and Mike have visited before, isn't right on the coast.) The next port was Thailand's competing resort island, Phuket, known to many people around the world from the You Tube videos of the huge Tsunami coming ashore in 2004 after a big earthquake in nearby Indonesia. Little damage remains unrepaired, and tourism continues in full swing.