Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Dubai to Singapore Cruise

I made a 20 night cruise from Dubai to Singapore in December of 2016.  Below are a few notes and photos from that cruise.  The cruise ship was the MS Seven Seas Voyager, 677 feet in length and was launched in 2001.

Tallest structure in the world!

Nov. 29th: This is the view from my room in the Jumeirah Emirates Hotel in Dubai.  The tall skinny structure in the far background of the photo is the tallest structure in the world, it’s called The Burj Khalifa and is 2,722 feet tall. 
Above:  View from my room in the Jumeirah Emirates Hotel in Dubai

The flights from New York to Dubai were long but Qatar Airlines is very nice.  I will be in Dubai for 2 days, today was rest and recover.  I'm too tired to think of much else to write now, but will later.

Below is a map that shows what my upcoming cruise looks like, it's a 20 day cruise on the MS Seven Seas Voyager.
Above:  Map showing cruise path and ports

Also below is a list of the ports that I will be stopping at, assuming all these attachments come through of course.
Above:  List of the ports and dates

The following is a photo of the MS Seven Seas Voyager that I will be cruising on, I downloaded this photo from the internet.
Above:  MS Seven Seas Voyager (internet photo)

More views of and from the tallest sturcture in the world,
and off to Abu Dubai

Dec. 1st: Today I'm still in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  I took the following 3 photos in Dubai (one of the seven emirates (emirates are similar to our states) of the UAE, these photos are of the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa which is 2,722 feet tall as I mentioned in my earlier email.  The first photo is of the Burj Khalifa taken from the ground level; the second two following photos are taken from within the Burj Khalifa and from above.  The Burj Khalifa is also the building with the most floors and opened in 2010.   
Above:  Burj Khalifa in UAE, view from the ground level

Above:  View from the Burj Khalifa

Above:  View from the Burj Khalifa

Dec. 1st: The following photo was taken on our way from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (another one of the seven emirates of the UAE).   The drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is about 95 miles and the 4th photo was taken on the way, about 3/4 of the way, it is a photo of a desert mosque.
Above:  Desert mosque between Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Trees are a sign of wealth in the UAE   Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest emirates; it has the most trees of all the emirates.  All the trees are irrigated with reclaimed sewage gray water to the tune of over a million dollars a month.  The drinking water in the main cities of Abu Dhabi is supplied entirely from desalinated seawater.

Note:  Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also cities within the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, a little confusing, sort of like New York City and the state of New York or Florida City and the state of Florida. 

Interesting Information about the UAE

Dec. 2nd: There is a difference that you can't see between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  Abu Dhabi gets most of its revenue from oil and gas, I think at least 85%.   Dubai only gets about 5% from oil and gas; and about 25% from tourism and 29% from trade and I can't remember how much from Education.  Universities from all over have branches in a free zone and students from the region come to Dubai because it is cheaper to get an education there than to England or America, etc.  

Both emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have a local population of only about 15% and the rest are foreigners, who have no benefits.  For benefits the locals get government jobs, high pay, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, health benefits, pensions, housing, the foreigners get nada.  If the foreigners don't have a job, they can't stay in the country and when they turn 60 years of age they have to leave because they are considered too old to work.  "No workee, no live in the UAE”

The sheiks owns the emirates and both of them are generous to the locals and to their emirates because they know it is up to them.  So they plan and build what is good for the emirates. There is so much construction you can hardly take a photo without a construction crane in it.  For example, in Abu Dhabi they are building a branch of the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Bolshoi is coming to a new performance art space. The emirates rulers are planning ahead for tourism, for when the oil runs out.  

Another interesting thing is that the foreign professionals are paid by what country they are from.  Two engineers doing the same job are paid differently.  The one from the USA gets more pay than the one from India.  The logic being that both are paid considerably more than they would get paid in their home country.  

We went to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.  It is of course, the biggest in the world with 89 domes, huge chandeliers. Well, the photos will show you all, I’ll send some photos later from my iPhone.

At Sea

Dec. 5th: No photos today because I don't have cell phone access in the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean.   I'll be in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India tomorrow the 6th and will be on land and can send more.   With that said, I have something sort of fun to tell you about.

It seems that every night just as the sun goes down and the lights in the ship go on, the staff rush around and close all of the curtains.  I protested, as I wanted to see out.  But it was not negotiable.  It seems this goes back to the old black out days, only it isn't the German's bombing us, it is the pirates on the high seas. The steward said it is unlikely that pirates would try to board a cruise ship. However, they are taking those precautions.   

Then...  this man sitting next to me leaned over to tell me that some friends were on an Oceana cruise and the pirates did threaten them.  The ship's staff had everyone go into the hallways.  Then they asked for volunteers to man the fire hoses and the staff ran barbed wire around the perimeter of the ship. That thwarted the pirates.   I've been looking out for Long John Silver or Captain Hook everyday since.  Then yesterday I realized a far greater danger than Somalian pirates attacking our ship was if the Sommelier abandoned ship, taking the wine with him or her.  That would be a true tragedy.  

The food and wine are great on this cruise.  The Internet access is iffy, so I hope this comes through.  

Gateway of India in Mumbai and Elephanta Island

Dec. 7th: The following photo is the Gateway of India in Mumbai (old Bombay), India; one of the most visited places in Mumbai; the monument was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai in 1911.  The site is always super busy with tourists, not just foreign tourists but many Indian tourists as well.  The photo was taken from a ferryboat in the Mumbai Harbor of the Arabian Sea.  
Above:  Gateway of India in Mumbai 

We took the slow ferry ride (about an hour) to Elephanta Island from Mumbai to see the 6th century carvings of Shiva at Elephanta Caves on the island.  The literature says “Elephanta Caves, giant chambers hewn in solid cliff and adorned with some of the most magnificent stone carvings known to be made by ancient man. Nobody knows for sure when and by whom these amazing monuments have been created.”  The following photo is from my iPhone of a sign at the Elephanta Caves, I took most of my Elephanta Island photos with my camera instead of my iPhone; so I'll have to send those photos later when I'm on a computer.
Sign at the Elephanta Caves

In the afternoon I met my friend Navaz who lives in Mumbai.  No photos of our shopping adventures. I’ll write more later when I'm on a computer.

Pirates? In Goa?

Dec. 8th: It’s early Thursday morning and some pirate boats are surrounding our cruise ship.  In the second photo you will notice that the pirates cannot even spell the word “Pirate” on their ship.  But I can fix that in Photoshop.

Just kidding, we will be landing shortly in Goa, India; so we are safe.  Plus the Indian Navy is protecting us. 
Above:  Pirate boat surrounding our cruise ship    :o)
Pirates cannot even spell the word “Pirate” on their ship    :o)

After leaving Goa and docking in Mangalor, India

Dec. 9th: The Internet is very slow here in India.   It is by satellite and when everyone is using it, it can't seem to keep up. 

Yesterday was the least exciting day of the trip so far.  In Goa, I had three naps on the 8-hour bus tour to two churches, one temple and a spice farm.  The farm was our lunch stop; we ate banana leaves.  Then we had a tour through the woods, sort of.  The guide showed us several species of plants and told us the medicinal properties. When she showed us a cashew fruit, I asked her to point out the tree.  She said "we don't have any trees here."   That was pretty funny to me. I wondered what else didn't grow there.  

The new news about cows…, first let me review last time I was here in India, I had photos of cows, some in Calcutta waiting to cross the highway at the walk-don't walk sign, then more cows in Agra.  I think I wrote about them with the point being that when the cows stopped giving milk, the owners didn't want them and they turned the cows loose on the streets to fend for themselves.   So the cows were all over, blocking traffic and creating some walking hazards.   Well, in Mumbai, the cows are tethered to trees and are not in the streets.  It seems they are an industry.  The cow owners loans his cow to a middleman, who rents the same cow to a caretaker.  The caretaker buys cow food and then sells the cow food to the people who want to feed the cow because it is good fortune to feed a cow.  Then at night the cow returns to the owner who gets the milk.  So three people make money from the same cow everyday.  The cows look well cared for and seem to be pleased to be eating the green stalks that are provided for them. 

In Goa, the cows are again by the sides of the streets untethered, fewer than in Agra however.  It seems there is a law in Goa that forbids cows from being slaughtered. So even if a cow gets sick or dies, they have to send it to the neighboring state to be disposed of or slaughtered.  It is so curious, isn't it.  Not sure what it will be like in Mangalore, but I'll report if there is something different. 

I have no cow photos to send with this email, unless I can go back to my archives and find one from Agra.  But you can Google Elsie the Cow, remember her from the Borden Dairy Company?  

I should see more Temples today, maybe one will be outstanding and there will be some interesting news about that. 

Yesterday in Goa at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, I learned that most saints have body parts all over including the Vatican.  There, it is commonly their hand.  UGH...  Gives new meaning to hands around the world, eh?

Mangalore and Cocin, India

Dec. 10th: Yesterday was another bus-nap-day, I earned it. The tour for the day was to a white clad Jain Temple near Mangalore (pronounced Man ga lu ru), called The Thousand Pillars Temple, built in 1430 AD.

Then off to see a 42 ft. statue of a sky clad Jain leader. You know what sky clad means (no clothes).  The statue was on top of a 425 ft. hill with 220 steps to reach the top.  It was only 90+ degrees at 11:11 am so it wasn't so bad. Right-t-t-t!

Then off to visit the best thing, a farm.  They gave us fresh pineapple juice, yum.  The farm  was built by missionaries many years ago, they had a mini tour for visitors that included at least 100 fruits and spices on trees and bushes.  I had never heard of some of the fruits, like egg custard fruit, peanut butter fruit, ylang ylang, etc.  The serious part of the farm was hundreds of acres of the crops that truly grow well in the climate and soil. namely pineapples, cashews, pepper coconuts and the betel. The Mangalore port is a key port for export of coffee, which is grown in the mountains.   

I was planning to watch for some good cow photos, the nap interrupted that and the bus went by the good cow photo-ops too fast.  So no cow photos today, sorry.  

We are going ashore in Cochin, Kerala, India today, our last stop in India on this 20-night cruise.  We are taking a tranquil backwaters tour, so maybe I'll get a water buffalo shot. 

Later tonight we will leave on the cruise to Columbo, Shri Lanka.

Latest report from the subcontinent of India....
and off to Sri Lanka

Dec. 11th: Greetings from somewhere in the India Ocean

The guide in Mangalore, India was interesting and the sites were nice.  The guide in Cochin was very funny, he told us several stories that I will try to repeat.  The first was about the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English coming to India for Black Gold and that the wars that followed were about the black gold and religion.  The black gold being pepper, who knew it was that important, we take it for granted.  Then he added that the war for black gold and religion has moved to the Middle East where the black gold is now oil.  That wasn’t so funny, just a curious point of view. 

When we were eating lunch and the food was just a little spicy, the man sitting next to me ate some ice cream and made the comment that in his family they would say the day after the meal, “Come on ice cream.”  That was a joke in my family as well.  Well, you can imagine what is coming next. It seems that in the fisherman villages they have Toddy houses, where they sell fermented coconut juice and a very, very spicy fish rice curry.   The business plan being, the more curry the men eat, the more they drink.  He added that the next day the “tissues" get set on fire.   Cracked me up.

He also talked about the men in skirts. You remember Gandhi wearing a dhoti, I’m sure.  They are called a dhoti if they are white and a lungī if they are colorful.  They are just long pieces of fabric the men tie around their waists.  The Hindus and Christians tie them from the right, the Muslims from the left.  There are two ways to wear them.  We would call them mini and mid-calf.  First, they tie them long (mid-calf) and that is the formal way as well.  And if it is hot which it usually is or the amount of fabric troublesome for their jobs, the men fold them up, so they are half as long (mini). Observing this, I noted that the minis turn to mid-calf every few minutes and seem to always be at some place in between.  The guide, Clyde, said that it is said that Indian men spend 85% of their time adjusting their lungīs; but not to worry, they wear boxers under them.  I noted that some had colorful Calvin Klein briefs as well.  I have some photos, not of the Calvin Klein briefs but of the short and long versions of the lungīs, but can’t sent them at this time. 

Cochin is in the state of Kerala, which has a communist government, and with that they have over 90% literacy, the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant mortality in India.  The school children get education, uniforms, books and lunch at the government expense.  And today we learned that only 40% of the country has dependable electricity if they have any.  It was suggested more dependable electrical power, along with the education, would significantly impact the birth rate without further government interference...  duh.

It is early Sunday morning here and we are again at sea cruising to Colombo, Sri Lanka.  I’m excited to see Sri Lanka and go to a tea plantation and maybe even meet "Earl Grey."  I am writing on my computer now so this note can be longer and will be posted when I can get the shared Internet that isn’t coming my way right now. We will arrive in Sri Lanka Monday morning (Sri Lanka time), which will be Sunday night (8:30 PM) New York and Florida time as Sri Lanka is 10.5 hours ahead.

Men in skirts

Dec. 11th: Following are three photos I took in India. The first photos show the long and short versions of the men's lungī.  The second photo shows just the short version.  The third photos is my camera's fish-eye view of the famous Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, India.
Above:  The long and short versions of the men's lungī

Above:  The short version of the men's lungī

Above:  Fish-eye view of the famous Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, India.

Sri Lanka, and now cruising to Myanmar

Dec. 14th: Hi from somewhere on the Indian Ocean

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, it was exciting to go to a tea garden, they are not really called plantations anymore.  I did not meet "Earl Grey."  Tea bushes are bushes because they keep trimming them to harvest the tea, if they didn’t they would grow to be very big trees.  Women handpick the top two leaves and the bud from each plant. The tea processing is done with machinery that appears to be close to 100 years old.  It was amazing to see how the leaves came in and what the tea looks like when it is packaged to be shipped from the processing place maybe a day or less later.  I won’t go into the details of the multi step process.  Suffice it to say, it is plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing and packaging. It is all very labor intensive. The workers are not slaves, they are paid very little but have housing, rudimentary health care, and I think food and uniforms as well. Most of them are women who know tea plucking and processing as a legacy for lack of a better way to describe it.  It appeared to me that the younger women learned by working along side the older women, all very interesting.

Today we had a lecture about the impact of tea on economies and social structure.  The title was “Tea, Sugar and Slavery.”  Again not too many details but the summary is that tea is the second most consumed liquid by humans next to water. And as tea consumption grew over the 18th and 19th centuries, the need for sugar also grew.  Sugar was grown and harvested in the Americas and Caribbean Islands by the slaves brought from Africa. 

Afternoon tea was instituted by the privileged as a bridge between lunch and dinner and had nothing to do with depleted energy, like I always thought.   The other interesting bit is that real tea is made from the leaves of a single plant, the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Other things that are called tea, like Chamomile tea, are not real teas; they are herbal infusions. Herbal infusions can use the leaves, flowers, stems from plants other than the Camellia sinensis. 

No funny stories to pass on in this email, not that the last few days have been all sober, just the jokes haven’t been stories.  Life aboard our cruise ship (MS Seven Seas Voyager) is elegant; tonight is formal night and to our delight the lecturer from the Smithsonian Institute invited four of us to join him for dinner.  He is a little pompous, but with wine he may be more fun.  His family was in the tea business in India until 1967, which is why he is so knowledgeable about this part of the world and tea.

Having left Sri Lanka, we are again at sea on the India Ocean on our way to Myanmar (formerly Burma), about a 4-day cruise.  We won’t reach Myanmar until Friday 5 pm Myanmar time.   No photos, no cell service on the high seas.  And as some of you may recall from my January 2016 river cruise in Myanmar aboard the AmaPura ship, the WiFi or cell phone service was almost non-existent. That’s all for now.

Greetings form Yangon and Bago, Myanmar (old Burma)

Dec. 17th: After a 4-day cruise from Colombo, Sri Lanka, our cruise ship arrived in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday night (Myanmar time).

Attached are a few photos made Saturday, from Yangon we made a short side trip to Bago (about 65 miles NE of Yangon).

The amusing things of the day to me were the traveling refreshment vendor on motorcycle gassing up at a gas station.  There were multiple guys like this all over the place.
Above:  Traveling refreshment vendor on motorcycle

We stopped at a gas station for the folks on the bus to use the "Happy Stop."  Have you ever heard the expression "Happy Stop" for a restroom break? 

The other amusing bit was the "donkey nodding." This was referring to what I've always called pony pumps used to pump oil from people's front yards. Donkey nodding is a better description for sure.
Above:  Donkey nodding (an oil pump)

The next two photos are of monks eating lunch and their shoes outside, note I added my Tevas sandals to their shoe parade.
Above:  Monks eating lunch

Above:  Monks shoes outside (along with my Tevas sandals)

The next two photos are of the Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the tallest pagoda (at 374 feet) in Myanmar and is located in Bago, one of 5 or 7 ancient capitals of what is now Myanmar. The stupa rather than a temple is solid and contains a relic of the buddha like a hair or tooth or toenail shaving.  I wonder who followed him around collecting this stuff?  

Anyway the Shwemawdaw Pagoda is about 49 feet taller than the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.  Some of you may recall that I emailed a photo of the Yangon Shwedagon Pagoda when I made the River Cruise in Myanmar earlier this year in January.  The Bago Shwemawdaw Pagoda (Shwemawdaw translates to "Great Golden God") was initially built in the 10th century by a Mon King.  But over the centuries, the pagoda has been rebuilt and enlarged several times, as a result of destruction caused by earthquakes.
Above:  Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago - Photo #1 (iPhone 6 camera)

Above:  Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago - Photo #2 (Panasonic ZS50 camera)

Sunday night (Myanmar time), we will leave Yangon and continue our cruise to Phutek, Thailand, which will take about two days, we will arrive sometime Tuesday night.

Headed home....

Dec. 22nd: I’m in the Singapore Airport waiting for my flight to China then back home to JFK.

We just had several days at sea with nothing special to report; but when we were on land in Thailand we did a scenic tour with some relatively typical sights and shops.  The trip to the Elephant Camp was totally "hokey" but so much fun.  The elephants were well trained and did tricks with hoola hoops and darts and balls etc.  Then they came over to the fence where the people could buy bananas.  That was hysterical; the elephants were smarter than the tourists and stole the baskets with the bananas right out of the tourists' hands.  Then they let us pet the baby elephant, two years old and male.  Well, he liked me and gave me a nice big kiss as you can see in the first two photos.   I can tell you it was WET!   I laughed and laughed and said I was never going to wash my face again because I knew it would erase all of my lines.
Above:  Trip to the Elephant Camp in Thailand 
Above:  Baby elephant gave me a nice big kiss...and it was WET!

The 20-nights on this cruise ship were very interesting and luxurious, but I am happy to be going back to the USA.  I’ll be going to Florida to spend some time with my mom over the holidays.  In the next photo, that's the gangplank I'm walking, but not to Davy Jone's locker like the pirates did.   NO pirates at all on this cruise!

Above:  Leaving the ship in Singapore

Thanks to Lowell for forwarding these messages as my Wi-Fi was abysmal and cell phone service sketchy.  And thanks to my friends who wrote back they enjoyed reading my missives.   And thanks to my traveling companions; Bob and Carolyn, Mary, Carol and Scott.   

 Will be in touch on the next adventure.     xo Diane

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