Suez the Mediterranean and Home.

Suez next

After leaving Aqaba, our ship made its way to the Suez Canal. I have been through here many times but never seen it entering from this direction; this is what it looks like at just after 5am.

Suez at 5am.

It took 12 hours to pass all the way through, we entered the Mediterranean Sea at 5pm, then we turned right and the next morning we were in the port of Ashdod, Israel. Here we went into town, nothing touristy about it. It appears to be a working town and an access port for tours to other places and things that we have done before. We only looked in the shops, got a coffee and supplies and headed back to the ship.

Next our ship called at Malta, a place Florie and I never tire of visiting. It was Sunday and Valletta was crowded to overflowing in the bright morning sun.

There was a parade of the Scouts and Guides. I was a lovely event seeing the pride they all have in the organisation and seeing the young tiny ones walking behind the senior members.

Parade in Valletta.

This is the garden at the top of the lift (elevator) from the port to the town.

Garden at top of lift in Valletta.

It was Florie and my wedding anniversary today so we decided to have lunch out, and very nice it was too.

Our next port of call was Gibraltar, ships usually only stop for a few short hours and today was no exception, so we just stretched our legs walking up the main street and back because our ship left port at 1pm.

Gibraltar.

The Cocktail Party.

As our ship sailed away from Gibraltar into the Atlantic we started to get ready for our final cocktail party of the cruise. Most ships have a ‘Farewell Party’ and ours was at 5pm in the upper deck front lounge, Champagne and Canopies. We collected our drinks on the way in and selected our seats, away from the noisy popular crowds already laughing and joking in groups of 6 or 8 near the door. There’s always one who is the life and soul of the group and expects everyone to laugh at their jokes, just like the Captain will do when he arrive in a while. Florie and I have chosen a seat near the back with a good view of the whole room, and with a clear view of the waiters as they come to refill your glasses.

Regrettably, no matter how much I scowl at people, they still joined us as the place filled up to overflowing; Florie immediately started a jovial conversation, smiling and looking interested. The first to join us were a couple from Kent, a retired couple who did nothing but attend medical services of one kind or another, all the time, that was their retirement!

The other couple were from the Netherlands. She was a good English speaker, who was still fully in love with her husband. He was fighting a deteriorating body, but seemed to be winning for now.

There was another woman who was dressed all in white, an unfortunate colour, given her size. She attached herself to the end of our group unbidden. She was eventually enticed away to another table by a bunch of noisy women of similar build and she settled right in there adding to the amount of noise from that table.

“Good!” I thought as the waiter came round with the fresh canopies and the sweet fizzy clear liquid that loosens tongues. The canopies were warm and tasty and the fizzy was nice and cold, he was a nice waiter filling my glass three times in all. Have you noticed how it goes straight into the blood stream? It was making me loose my scowl, and I started talking. A big mistake! In silence I can give off the air of intelligence, but regrettably, when I speak that illusion fades like smoke in a gale. But tonight at least I didn’t get one of those looks from Florie that indicates that I have said something unforgivable, which speaks volumes for the years of effort she has put into my social education.

There was very little price to pay for our food and drink. The Captain only stood for 60 seconds saying “Thanks for travelling with us and please come back again.” And everybody clapped like mad.

Our group of 6 carried on talking well after most of the people in the room had gone to dinner to stock up on food until the late buffet before bedtime. We stayed and swapped stories of woe and then bragged about our last fantastic trip, until desperate hunger overtook us all and we rushed out heading for our favourite sty.

In our case, it’s the anytime dining experience, where delicious delicacies await our choice. While we chopped through our platefuls of grub. The chap on the next table was regaling his table companions who hadn’t been to the do, with an account of the same cocktail party we had just been to. I was astounded, it didn’t sound like the same do at all! Apparently all the great and the good were there. All the senior officers were there calling him by his first name. We only saw three and apart from the Captain and they were pretty low down in the pecking order. And one of those was a complete plonker, how he got the job I don’t know? Florie and I had to get up and go as the tales from the man were getting ever more fantastic.

In the theatre the show was one of those singers who doubles as cruise director. He has an inflated opinion of his abilities and very little stage presence; he clumps about the stage like a country yokel just off the farm. He was doing Frank Sinatra’s numbers trying to look relaxed. Yeah, like a hare trapped in the headlights!

His girlfriend was doing an excellent job in some numbers, tap dancing.

Anyway folks, that was our evening, me tanked up on free food and drink and Florie trying to add an air of decorum to the events. When we got back to our cabin we had a note to say that the clocks go forward at 2am. Hurrah! That means that I may sleep past 4am with any luck.

Our final port of call was Lisbon, a beautiful city laid out on hills. The main part of the city is served by trams old and new and they have a good train service to nearby towns that are equally picturesque, Florie likes to visit here as she usually buys shoes and handbags. This time it was only shoes; but I weakened and got nice pair dark blue moccasin type shoes that are soooo comfortable.

Lisbon.

Then it was up the Channel and back to our home port in the UK.

Disembarkation Day.

5.30am location:- Our cabin.

Woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. There were story lines tumbling about my head, two and three at a time, I’m just glad they weren’t on audio.

The first grey light of dawn was showing, revealing a dark grey cloud against the sky. The ships engines are giving off low rhythmical rumbles, so we can’t be going fast. I can feel this through the bed, I can hear my wife’s quiet breathing, as if in tune with the ship.

More thoughts tumble into my head, ‘no not now! I have no light pen or paper, now go away,’ I thought.

I pull the covers back and do slow isometric exercises silently. My mind moves to the ships hold, ‘did I lock that orange case? Well I can’t do anything about it now.’ I concentrate harder on the exercises, 20 minutes and I’m sweating, I lay still until the ships air conditioning has cooled me down.

4am Florie get up and goes to the bathroom, quietly, like a gazelle running through the undergrowth. She creeps back in bed and is asleep in moments. 4.40am I’m still laying awake I hear, “are you awake?” she whispered next to me.

So here I am, dawn has broken. I have got us both coffees from the anytime bistro on the next floor up. Florie is sat up in bed sipping the coffee and reading a book. I am sat near the window writing to you of the trip we have had as the sun comes up.

The 5th January the trip started, we were excited about leaving the winter weather and brexit behind, it will be all over when we return. We went anticlockwise round the world, you know, across the Atlantic, the Azores, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, a quick stop in Acapulco then across the Pacific, where all internet stops! Around here it feels like an oven, all the outside decks are covered in near naked people trying to look like they have been working outside for a few months. Their skin shiny with sweat or sun cream; as they lay doing nothing all day in the suns baking heat.

I spend my time writing in the air conditioning. I’m dashing the words down as fast as they tumble into my head, my open writing book looks like and army of spiders have crawled across a tray of black ink then walked drunkenly across my page.

Our ship reaches New Zealand then Australia; here we have to re-schedule our itinerary to avoid a large tropical depression that is covering a major part of the east coast of the continent. We miss most of the storm, but on our second day in Yorkey’s Knob it catches up with us and everyone who goes ashore gets drenched big time.

The ship continue to the Japan’s then across to China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Malaysia, India, Arabia, then through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean and up along the Portuguese and Spanish coasts passing France on our right hand side then back to the UK.

We are presently travelling the last 30 miles as I write this and we will soon have to vacate our cabin so they can get the room ready for the next passengers. We will go and wait in our allotted waiting areas until we can get off, but first we are off the get our breakfast upstairs.

I hope you have enjoyed the diaries and I hope you will join me when I post things on future trips. In the mean time I have just finished writing my third novel, so now I must spend many months editing them. If you are curious about the novels I will post details of when they are due to be published and no, they are not about travelling although we all travel this life of ours don’t we.

Keep safe and treasure every moment of your life.

Nib

Don Graham

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Salalah, Oman and Aqaba, Jordan.

Tuesday 16th April 2019

Our ship docked in Salalah, a place we have visited before. It has the Dhofar Mountain Range behind it, the sea in front of it and white buildings as the middle of the sandwich. Today it is hot 34°C of blistering dry heat; I can feel my edges drying up within minutes of going out on decks. Unusually we decided to stay on board today whilst 1200 of the 1400 people got off.

With the ship to ourselves, we got our bits and pieces together. We took them up to a sheltered area on the sun deck that had a lovely breeze. We could not believe how lovely it was in the shade. I got on with writing my story which flowed like a knocked over jug of milk. Florie read a book finding it wonderful in the slight breeze.

We couldn’t believe our luck at lunch time, we had steak and kidney pie. Our favourite, and came complete with a large cold beer for me.

Afterwards we continued our rest in the shade until people started returning to the ship at about 1.30pm. It began to get noisy and the breeze we had was now was being spoilt with the arrival of the smokers. So, it was back to the cabin for a rest before the rigours of the afternoon and evening entertainment.

Plum tuckered out NIB

Aqaba, Jordan.

Monday 22nd April 2019

I’m sitting out here on deck 12 under a veranda in the shade, it’s about 26C with a slight breeze. As I look up from this diary, there are mountains round the ship. The ship is berthed at the end of the Gulf of Aqaba; and for me this is a most wonderful sight in the bright morning sunlight. It is picking out the different coloured sediments that formed the mountains and I can see the lines of erosion that run down from each peak.

This picture from our ship across the dock.

Aqaba across the dock.

The town lies at sea level in a small plateau nestled in a flat area of the surrounding mountains. Aqaba is famous to us older Brit’s for its portrayal in ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ In the film, he and the Arab tribes attacked the town from the dessert side and conquered it. There was picture of him on a camel at the edge of the sea where we are now.

Florie and I went into the town today not knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to get off the ship and into town very quickly on the free shuttle bus. It was 9.35am when we got off the coach and the town had a lovely relaxed feel to it. Apart from the aggressive taxi drivers looking for fares, they had compunction about standing right in your face and asking you if you would like to taxi ride out to Waddie Rum cheep. This was also featured in the film

Having left behind the tenacious taxi touts, we had a leisurely and very pleasant walk round the town. As we walked, I was reminded of Kirkenbosch in Cape Town, a lovely memory of a beautiful place. Also because we had a most spectacular view of the Gulf of Aqaba and that reminded us of our visit to the Canadian, ‘Bay of Islands’ in Cornerbrook. Another place bathed in brilliant sunshine just like today.

After walking for a while, we stumbled across a Tax Free Shop where we thought to buy some beer and chocolate, ‘man cannot live on beer alone!’ At the checkout, there was also an official in uniform who didn’t want to accept our copy passports the ship had instructed us to take ashore. We stood for a long, long time while this official spoke on the phone. I was fed up waiting that long for just a few items, so I went up took my papers and told them to stick their goods. All of a sudden everything was fine, they accepted our ID and took our money, putting us in front of some locals who were buying thousands of cigarettes for just a few dollars.

We continued along the road adjacent to the shore, and came upon the remains of Ayla the original port town that was built in 605 AD. The stone remains were there excavated with the help an American university grant.

Notice about Original Town.

We walked round the site at leisure for about twenty minutes then just as we left, four coaches of tourists turned up and filled the site with people and noise. We hastily walked away and crossed the road to some local shops where Florie perused the Arab jewellery, none of which would go with any of her outfits, so we left away empty handed.

It was getting towards lunchtime by now, we were lucky when we came across The Royal Yacht Club menu in a fancy notice board on the road. It was a long walk on the boardwalk to the club, but worth it. We sat looking out at the Gulf in a shaded area with a slight breeze. I could see the mountains rising up at each side, I was in heaven. Florie was using the free Wi-Fi to catch up on her emails.

The view from our lunch table.

Royal Yacht Club and the mountains.

Then it was time for lunch; our waiter brought hot freshly made bread and cold white wine and water while we chose our meals. I chose shrimps and when they came they were the size of baguettes. Florie had chicken escallops, which she assured me were delicious. My shrimps were scrumptious; washed down with a second glass of wine. I was sat with the woman I love, eating a delicious meal with stunning vistas, what more could I ask of life?

Afterwards we slowly walked back to our coach pickup point, where luckily, there was one waiting. The whole area was quiet now; all the taxi drivers had gone.

Back aboard the ship, I filled the fridge with beer and chocolate ready for later.

Then went up to have a coffee in the buffet area before coming out here and sitting in the sun looking at these beautiful mountains each time I look up from my writing pad. Isn’t life wonderful sometimes?

Nib aba.

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A trip in Mumbai.

Friday 12th April 2019

Its 2pm and I am sat in my air conditioned cabin drinking a cold beer and thinking that I haven’t done a diary for a few days so I’m sorry you missed out on a couple of ports.

I’ll start from yesterday, Thursday, a day at sea, my day like most on this cruise ship was spent in our cabin writing, but Florie, my wife, met up early with two Indian ladies who are wives of officers on the ship and they spent most of the day doing exercises or walking around the top deck, or talking. Florie grabbed me out of the cabin for lunch where I met the two ladies; they are about 40 years of age, judging by what they said about children and getting married. Anyway one is a lovely lady with a bob cut and a bubbly personality that borders on a volcano erupting, her personality hides her intellect, she teaches 15 and 16 year olds maths and science, that takes some doing! She is a really happy lady with a ready smile and giggles a lot. She and Florie really hit it off when they met a few days ago. The other lady was from a different part of India and did not speak the same language, so she appears to be quieter.  This lady is taller than the first and has a mass of long black hair, she is slower to smile, I think partly because she cannot speak English. She does not understand the quick conversation that happens when there are four of us at the lunch table. She has dark brown eyes that smoulder and a warm smile that pulls your heart right out of your chest. She was the quietest of the four of us. Considering she did not get much in the way of translation that wasn’t surprising. She was quiet but picked up on odd things and then she would smile a wide bright smile. In the evening we met again at dinner and things got a little easier for the four of us. Though I was the odd one out and got the worst of it. Both the ladies asked about my writing, which isn’t exciting at all. The lady with the long hair turned out to be a poet in her own language. I felt she would like to have talked more about that but our lack of communication and time prevented it.

I wake up at 5am because the clocks keep being put back an hour or the last two half an hour, so we wake up earlier. When I looked out of the cabin window our ship was slowly approaching the port of Mumbai. I could see about a dozen disused oil rigs in the early morning light. A while later our ship was worried by two tugs that pushed us into our berth. Opposite our window we could see about 60 odd oil rig support vessels all laid at anchor, they stayed there all day, either this is a resource, or their oil industry expansion has collapsed.

Outside the temperature was climbing towards 36°C. After a light breakfast we donned the lightest clothes we owned and silly looking hats that covered our necks as well and we went and looked for a taxi to take us from the port to The Gateway of India a beautiful edifice that draws thousands of tourists from all over India as well as Europe indeed worldwide tourists alike.

The Gateway of India.

A Taxi ride in India is unlike anywhere else in the world, it is both exciting and horrific at the same time. The little old man who approached us as we passed through the port gates looked over 80, thin as a rake, “Taxi” he offered, $5 US to the Gateway of India, the old battered black and yellow cab was clean with the usual open window air conditioning. When he started the cab it sounded like someone shaking a box of old nuts and bolts and the gears crunched until he finally forced them into submission.

“Where are you from?” He asked, turning to us in the back seat, as he turned the cab right into a line of traffic all blaring their horns at him. My heart-bypass being tested to the limits. “England.” We shouted back as he blew his horn at the motorist who had just dared to push in front of him.

“Too many cars, not enough roads,” he said forcing the delicate black and yellow cab into a higher gear, where it obviously didn’t want to go. Florie and I are in the back saying The Lord’s Prayer in unison, as a moment or two later he veers out into a main road full of four lanes of traffic on a two lane road. The six or seven cars and buses behind; all have their horns blaring, from the little horns of the taxis to the deeper blaring of the lorries and trucks all using this main road next to the port. We are now taking in toxic traffic fumes from the air conditioning.

“Too many cars, you should have come out later,” the old man says, looking back at us again, and slamming the little cab into gear and moving off into a space I would not have taken on a push bike. “About 2pm the roads have the right amount of traffic,” he said, eventually turning round to look at where he is going. I ask Florie to look to see if he has an extra eye on that side of his head. By the way the old man drives I assume he has led a full and happy life and has nothing left to live for.

Fifteen minutes later in an unexpected surprise we arrive, hearts pounding, at The Gateway of India, with my hands still shaking I give the old man the $5 and $1 to put into the collection box next time he goes to pray to whichever God is protecting him. I stagger to a recently vacated seat to recover and take deep breaths.

I realise Florie and I have chosen the most popular sight in India after the Taj Mahal. Coaches from two ships are discharging 50 people a time one after the other in quick succession in a line of coaches, the London rush hour doesn’t come near to this congestion. As we sit there enjoying the diesel fumes from the coaches moving at a snail’s pace past us, trying to encourage the two coaches at the front; still discharging their loads. The horns of the coaches sounding like a herd of elephants along with the taxis horns squeaking like a herd of gazelles.

“Come on Florie let’s get out of here!” I utter and because I’m big and ugly I push my way through half the population of India to get close enough to The Gateway of India to take a picture of it and after pushing some people out of the way I get a shot of the Taj Mahal Hotel next to it

Taj Mahal Hotel.

The next bit was more difficult as we tried walking past the shops around there. As we approached, the owners appeared asleep in their chairs outside. Woke up one by one and invited us into their emporium, some in quite an aggressive manner. We ran out of shops to look in and changed direction and ending up on the Collabra Causeway; a main road with a large market down one side. About a mile long this market starts about 10am and is quite something to walk in. Rivalled only by the Arab Souks, it is noisy with the traffic honking on the road and the stall holders all vying for your business. You have to walk up a narrow passageway, that, back home, would be wide enough for one, but here, two and three people walk up and down. As we walked the smells were amazing, we passed shops selling handbags, some selling spices, we also past an open sewer, somewhere we passed a leather shop, a perfume shop, some of the stalls sold material and these gave off a delicate smell I can’t describe. This was all mixed with the constant smell of diesel and petrol fumes. By far the greatest numbers of customers were Indians, yes there were westerners from the two ships in the port, but we only saw a few people there.

We did find a great restaurant/cafe/bar, in an old colonial building with high ceilings and fans going at full belt, it is called The Leopold Cafe and they served us ice cold beer and mango drink and two delicious blueberry cheesecakes which were light as a feather to eat and tasted gorgeous. I just wish we hadn’t eaten a cooked breakfast as the main course dishes looked really good on other people’s tables, the place was very busy, it opened in 1871 and with the look of things it should be good for many years to come.

Leopold Cafe/Restaurant/Bar.

After going up and down the market we were tired in the heat and as if by magic when I happened to say to Florie “do you want to go back now?” a little wizened old man appeared from nowhere and cried “Taxi!” He asked, “To the port?” To me he looked suspiciously like the older brother of the chap that brought us. No sooner had I shut my door then he blew on the horn and pulled out into the busy main road. “Where are you from?” he asked us as he took a 90° left turn missing two people and a motor bike by inches.

“England,” we answered together holding each other’s hands for comfort, I am sure they only ask that so they know what country to return the bodies to.

He wove his way in and out of the traffic as if he hadn’t got long to live, so it didn’t matter. Every single car on the road I saw had scrapes and bangs all around them, I wonder if they do this in the showroom, when they deliver the car so that they can fit four cars across the two lane roads! At one point I thought the old man was going to get out of the car and push someone off the road, as he shouted out of the air conditioning at someone who wasn’t moving fast enough. At this point there was a motorbike trying to get in my door, the man looked down at me with a scowl as if it was my fault we were in his way. I gave him a weak smile and pointed to the driver and raised my shoulders, then there was a slight movement in the traffic then he shot in front much to the consternation of our driver who leaned on the horn.

By this time I had worked out how The Highway Code works in Mumbai, ‘He who is in front is king.’

I noticed a large white car appear in the right hand window overtaking us, then our little old driver turned in front of him, Florie and I were deafened by the horn that the angry driver kept honking under the bonnet of his shiny new car, our driver I suspect, is deaf to all of this, due to all the honking he has endured, I think he would make a good chariot driver and could have given Ben Hur a run for his money.

We are in the right had lane ready to turn right at the junction to the port, the shiny white car still honking behind us, the lights changed against us and I braced myself for stopping, but NO! Our little old man, white beard flapping in the wind, accelerated as four lanes of traffic started to cross the junction towards our little taxi, all honking their horns in unison. I closed my eyes picturing the Mumbai fire and rescue men standing round our battered little taxi, three dead bodies inside, each of the rescuers holding an old can opener that had a spike that you punched through the metalwork and opened it up in a rocking action peeling back what’s left of the roof and trying to sort out where one body ended and another one starts.

Then I was thrown forward and hit my head on the back of the front seat, “we’re here” Florie said, “Heavens be praised” we were at the dock gates. I got out of the tiny yellow and black vehicle, my legs hardly able to support me after my ordeal. When I realised there is a little girl maybe eight or nine years old holding her baby sister in her arms pushing the child at my crutch, I am trapped between her and my cab behind me, the cab races away taking a layer of clothing and skin from my buttocks with him. I nearly fell backwards without the cab there, “stop messing about” Florie shouts, “get those landing cards out, we need them to get into the port!” These landing cards are actually an A4 sheet of paper with our personal details on and are not to be creased!

Meanwhile, this little girl is still trying to put the baby in my pocket with one hand and holding her other hand out for money; her big sorrowful eyes have tears in them. A guard at the gate says something in Hindi to the little girl and child and she scurries away. “I need the form to get in now!” Florie bellows at me. The security guard is scowling at me, I’m, trying to unzip my backpack. Florie moves off and the scowling guard is now towering over me with his hand out for my and Flories papers. The day is not going well in all this heat. I feel like a pig about to be slaughtered in this tiny pillbox.

“I think he needs this,” Florie says to the guard, he gives her a beaming smile and takes the papers, and then turns to me with a scowl and points for me to go. I can tell you I was never so relieved to be in the cool of the air conditioned ship and after a bite to eat and a shower picked up my pen to tell you all about it.

Nibbai

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Patong (Phuket), Thailand.

Saturday 6th April 2019

Today is the fourth and final day of tours organised by the ship. We used the boats from the Port to transport us to the shore. From the landing dock we walked across a beautiful beach, which looked miles long in each direction. We walked into a crush of people on the pavement (sidewalk); being tall I could see a NUMBER 1 about 30 yards away, our tour number. I guided Florie pushing her through the crush of people in front of me.

The heat was oven like, at 30°C plus with over 60% humidity like yesterday (a bit warm for a Brit like me). We walked over a mile along the promenade and up a road, through a restaurant into a car park. We heaved our bodies bathed in sweat up into the coach and dropped into the first available seat under the cold air from the vents. I was feeling bad because the walk was so difficult with people pushing past; and you needed to keep looking down to make sure of your footing. So we did not take in the surrounding scenery.

On the way we heard the crackle of jet skis starting up on the beach; only a few feet to our left. Then there were noisy motor scooters driving past only a few feet to the right. As we turned onto another road leading away from the beach we got the high pitched staccato sounds of Thai women enticing us into their particular shops or restaurants. The time was 9am and the whole town was beginning to wake up for business.

Our ship’s escort was an attractive blonde young woman with “Get lost again in paradise” on her T shirt across her bosom.

Ship’s escourt.

The local guide was a tiny Thai woman in her 50’s looking about 30. She knew English, but had to slowly retrieve each word from deep within her memory. Then when she put the sentence together; she repeated it over three or four times.

Our first stop was a Buddhist temple where there was an enormous amount of activity. This was due to the fact there was a collection of holy water being taken to the Capital Bangkok ready for the king’s coronation on the 5th May. The place was frenetic with official vehicles; the temple itself was awash with officers, men and women in white official uniforms. And hundreds of people all in yellow T-shirts with pale blue baseball caps. All lined up to be part of the ceremony, which unfortunately, we did not see. The temple itself was resplendent in reds blues greens but mainly shimmering gold, and spectacularly beautiful in the morning sun.

Buddist Temple.

We only went a couple of miles to this viewpoint which was quite beautiful, there was another temple to visit here but we had seen enough temples, so for now we just enjoyed the view.

I liked this view.

Our coach went a short distance to a Cashew Nut Factory; here there was a tree outside with cashews growing on it. They grow underneath what looks like a small apple in a shell; the nuts are broken off the fruit and then boiled gently and crushed in order to get the outer shell off the nut. This factory then processes them further; coating the nuts in flavours which we were offered to taste. Of course, we walked out with a carrier bag full of goodies for our snack cupboard back on the ship.

Our next stop was to a very big well organised jewellery shop; calling it a shop did not do it justice. It was an enormous complex, coping with fifteen coaches easily; lots of well dressed staff welcomed you directly. The outside of the building was black and futuristic looking; very expensive. After going through hallways with fabulous large jewels headdresses and orbs behind thick glass, we went through a display of priceless rocks. Finally we got into the long inner sanctum where about fifty glass counters were manned by attractive Thai women in tight grey worsted suits with short skirts. These lovely ladies were all beautifully made up, and their counters would specialise in rings of so many carats or bangles of another quality or green or white jade. We walked through this quite quickly as nothing was under 25,000 baht. This included a small room full of handbags and shoes made from crocodile skin. The only people buying anything in there were the Chinese and Koreans. We had to walk through the souvenir shop, with almost affordable things in it. I believe it has taken me longer to write this than it did to walk through that shop.

Finally we were taken to a beauty spot on the island where the locals go to see the sunset. Here we were left for half an hour to bake in the heat. Just standing in a little bit of shade, I just poured with sweat while Florie checked out the inevitable stalls.

The nice coach driver, God bless him, gave each of us a small sealed cloth out of an ice box, as we got back on the coach, and I have to tell you that was the most refreshing part of the day, as that cold cloth moved slowly across my brow and reaching my neck, oh what bliss that was!

On the walk back to our tender boat Florie took a tumble and has hurt her hand, but nothing seems to be broken, she does worry me sometimes! This is a view of the beach from the boat back to the ship.

View of beach as we left.

Back aboard the ship I showered and drank cold beer. Florie took paracetamol and rested up.

Nib in the cool.

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Port Klang, Malaysia.

Thursday 4th April 2019

The ship docked late, somebody else’s fault as usual! Eventually we got out into the tropical heat and humidity and sat on a coach bathed in sweat, the cool of the air conditioning a blessing to be in.

An hour and a half’s journey each way to Kuala Lumpur and two hours looking at the buildings was preferable to being stuck on the ship all day long. The tour guide was very good and a mine of information about the place and its people.

Our first call in Kuala Lumpur itself was the kings Palace.

Kings Palace.

This was guarded by men on foot and mounted on a horse; they needed the cover as the unrelenting sun was blistering hot, I took this complete with a tourist.

Guard and tourist.

It was a short journey to our next stop at the peace garden. A beautiful area with monuments to the brave fallen of the wars. Acknowledging the parts played by the men from the different countries.

Peace Garden.

Next we were taken into the old centre of the city to the large grassed area surrounded by old colonial buildings backed by new taller buildings.

Old City centre.

Finally on our way home we saw the Twin Petronas Towers, very impressive. I managed to get this photo, just seconds before it started to rain, I say rain, but it was really an enormous bucket of water that someone just poured over the city, I think all the water droplets had been joined up.

Twin Petronas Towers.

If you recall in my last diary I was a happy chappy, not so this evening, but this sorry tale started a long time ago and I don’t want any smirking from you when you get to the end.

As you know, when you get a cruise you are allocated an early or late sitting for dinner, and Florie had asked for a table for two on early sitting. When we came aboard we ended up on early sitting on a table for four, the bloke has a special Gluten Free menu, but seemed an amenable bloke at first, his wife is a clothes horse and a control freak woman, sits uptight didn’t moan, thin as a rake, and when she speaks to you her eyes flutter and she ends up closing her eyes while she speaks, but they seem harmless enough.

For her meal she only had a salad main course and maybe a dessert, he orders five courses, so three of us sit killing thirty five minutes every time we ate their while he chomps his way through three courses. Then the mains arrive, usually wrong, but that’s another story.

A month later we have eaten with them a few times and we are still waiting thirty five minutes for our main course, I asked him about having that each time and he told me he has to eat this as he is trying to put weight on!

We stick this for three bloody months, I got fed up and didn’t want to go any more but Florie didn’t want to upset them.

A few days ago I finally got fed up and couldn’t put up with it any longer, the head waiter asked what was wrong, he said he’ll get us a table for two in another part of the restaurant. Yesterday we got a note to say we are now on Table 157, so we went to dinner and were on our own and the service was quick, great! I was happy.

Tonight we went down, and there were two strangers at our table, in our chairs! He a big fat Aussie called Bruce and she is a skinny vegan called Sheila, an anorexic looking woman eating special bread and a dish of water. He looks like one of those large over stuffed black plastic bags with a tie round the middle and an opening to shovel it in at one end. The table is cramped, with people pushing past, Bruce orders five courses and she orders three and we order our mains, the waiter is trying to push past the back of my chair to serve other people, but there is no room, we wait forty five minutes for our main course and the whole sorry experience takes an hour and forty five minutes with the jolly fat Aussie going on and on. We walked out feeling, ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire!’

Not a happy Nib

P. S. The ship left the port late again.

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Visit Singapore.

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

I had slept badly waking at midnight 1, 2, 4 & 5pm then I dropped off into a deep sleep and then Florie was shaking me awake at 7.30am to go to breakfast. I hate being late up, I all felt behind all morning. The ship had slipped into its berth at 5.30am in the heavy morning rain when I wasn’t looking.

A wet entry into Singapore.

When I went to breakfast there were dark grey clouds that lasted until nearly lunchtime. Florie and I got off the ship and into the cruise terminal updating computers and sending emails as the port had good internet. We trawled the shops afterwards and Florie picked out a few nice clothes that will go with things she already has back home.

After an early light lunch we were on a coach in an afternoon of improving weather. First we visited the ‘Gardens by the Bay’ a fantastic experience of laid out tropical gardens outside.

We went into two glass domes that contain a fabulous collection of exotic plants and flowers in an unusual setting one with dry desert type plants.

Dry Bio Sphere.

The other in humid wet conditions in the other is a spectacular setting of the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a truly breath taking experience.

Tallest Indoor Waterfall.

We were taken up to the Sky Walk which had us walking on a suspended walkway under the super trees.

Sky Walk.

(You see theese on the UK TV advert on ITV3 in the evenings,)

Super Trees.

These are very tall man-made cylindrical structures that open up like a funnel at the top; and are coated in plants and flowers and tall vines covering right to the tops. These particular ones encircle vents from reclamation and generating plant, very effectively, one of the tallest of them housed a restaurant at the top.

Sky Walkway.

Then we were taken to the enormous three building, Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

The Mariana Bay Sands Hotel.

We had a drink on The Sands Sky Park Observation Deck with breath taking views, from the top.

View of gardens from top of Hotel.

Finally we had a short trip on The Singapore River.

On boat on Singapore River.

This was really wonderful in the warm afternoon sun. It brought back happy memories for Florie and me as we got off the river boat at the very spot where we enjoyed a romantic meal some years ago. So all in all we had a most wonderful time and I would recommend that if any of you reading this are flying to Singapore, have a stopover so you can go around and visit these places, it will be a truly wonderful experience.

Happy Nib ��H$�]�&#

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Laem Chabang, Thailand.

Sunday 31st March 2019.

The weather was 37°C and humid. We heard that, from our ship there was a Mall nearby the port. It was about two miles away, but we had no way of getting there, we could not walk through the port. We found the taxis wanted US$30 to go there or US$13 each to go by coach to Pattaya beach. There would be unlimited shops and restaurants and three shopping malls, all air conditioned so we took that option. We ran from one cool mall to the other and just looked at the beautiful long beach through the windows. For Florie and me a beach is a beach, seen one, seen them all.

In the first mall, we could buy designer tops, hats, men’s underwear, trainers, presents, and they had free Wi-Fi so I could update my computers. But my email provider had other ideas and came up with a problem so my email to you all did not go!

The second cool mall was more upmarket and had most of the things we needed. Here my back pack got loaded up for the return journey at 4pm. In the meantime I people watched a fascinating place to do it. Every race and creed mixes here, making a weird combinations of people sometimes, and sad at others, and once or twice heartbreaking to see.

The whole place reminded me of Clacton or Blackpool. But this was very, very much bigger and horrendously busy, roads, pavements, shops all packed with people. When the coach arrived to pick up its load of hot sweaty short tempered people there were ugly scenes. People from 3 coaches all tried to get on the first one to arrive, because they had had enough of the blistering heat under the unrelenting sun.

I was OK I was on a floor above, looking down on it with a cold beer, in my hand. The Thai locals just walked past the foray as if they had seen it before. Eventually the coach left full to the brim and Florie and I went down ready for the next coach to arrive. We got on this with no trouble, thank goodness, but the seat back was broken and I ended up in the lap of fella behind. Then I had to sit up straight all the way back to the port, but that was no real bother.

Back aboard we emptied our bags in our fridge and it is once again full of beer. Above it our snack cupboard is full of tubes of look-alike Pringles, in four flavours all very interesting tastes, we have two tins of mixed nuts and some very different types of snacks, so we are in for interesting evenings trying them out.

I’ll say good night from a very hot part of the world.

Nib in the air conditioning.

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