Phu My, Viet Nam

Thursday 28th March

I’ve got to make this a short diary as I am running out of pads to write it on. Our eleven hour ships tour, started with a three and a half hour coach journey through Ho Chi Minh City (population 6.6 million). As we drove through it on our way to The Mekong Delta. I thought it looked like most of them were out on their small motor bikes. The leather coach seats were hard and drew my bum. And although we had a comfort stop on the way; we were all extremely pleased when we got to our destination.

The temperature outside the coach was 37°C and when I got out I started to curl up at the edges even before I got on the launch. This took us to Unicorn Island in the centre of the Mekong River. This busy river has its source high in the Himalayan Mountains. Our launch unfortunately, had wooden benches for our 15 minute crossing of this enormous river that in places is 30kms wide.

Busy, wide Mekong River.

On the island we were taken to a family home, where the family members offered refreshments. They along with local people sang 5 Vietnamese songs, accompanied on weird looking musical instruments. The food and songs were really unusual and I enjoyed them. Vietnamese women are very beautiful, if a little slim, even they think so. Because when we looked in some shops we saw women’s knickers with built in buttock enhancers!

Beautiful women, good food and song.

Next we walked in the sweltering heat to along a path to another family business. They showed how they break into the coconuts and then after grating the white meat inside they press this and get a liquid.

Cocanut shelling.

This they cook until it congeals and turns into a delicious toffee, which we could buy from them. We went past quite a number of family shops at the end of people’s gardens selling souvenirs etc. Until we got to an access point for the waterways that runs through the island. Here we boarded a narrow boat that was paddled by a beautiful woman at the front and her partner at the back; this took about half an hour. The winding waterway was crowded by the canoes that took just four passengers; ours was buffeted all along the waterway.

Waterways on Unicorn Island

We were deposited directly onto our larger boat with the garden seats.

Garden seats in large water Taxi on Mekong River.

This took us back to our coach at the dock and then taken a Buddhist temple, to complete the cooking of my body in the intense heat of the blazing sun.

Beautiful Buddist Temple.

A little late, due to our first coach driver being taken ill and the second driver finding a fault with the coach. When we arrived at the hotel we had a typical Vietnamese meal which was very unusual and extremely tasty. After which we made the return three hour journey back to the ship berthed in Phu My.

Unfortunately I don’t have the room to tell you about a lady member of our group, who fell over, or another one who got lost. Or the third one who moaned about every single aspect of the trip!

So as I finish this at 9.30pm the same day, I wish you a good night.

Nib from the Mekong Delta

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Halong Bay, Vietnam visit

Monday 25th March

At 6am today I was high up at the very back of the ship in the cold light of dawn. I was taking pictures of our ship’s progress approach to Halong Bay through the scenic ocean karst topography. This area is known to be listed as one of the natural wonders of the world. Its 1,553km2 area is dotted with nearly 2,000 isles of various sizes. A lot of them stand out of the water in the shape of an enormous bath loofer stood on its end, covered, in flora and fauna.

Entering Halong Bay, early morning.

The ships progress was slow and almost silent, making the early morning journey eerie. The surface of the water mirror like at the sides of the ship before its low bow wave rippled out, breaking the reflections on the water. A young lady waiter was taking photos nearby; I offered to take one of her in the foreground. She stood at the handrail a young delicate beauty in front of the ancient backdrop making it a good picture.

When we got off the ship Florie and I came out of the port and walking right along where the tourists don’t normally go. We went around tight corners and up a steep hill until we ended up at the very top, in someone’s back-garden by mistake. We smiled and made our apologies to the owner who then guided us the way to go, smiling all the way. We got a lovely view of the bay that our ship was berthed in. We walked down and along about half a mile founding a coffee shop with two nice coffees for US $5.

Went back to the ship and left our coats there as it was quite warm and humid. We stocked up with US dollars then left the ship again at noon. This time we took a $10 taxi ride to the city’s market about half an hour’s journey. The market was in a large two storey structure with a central stair case up to the next level. There were about 200 stalls selling everything from silly little plastic fridge magnets to very large tools and spanners. The whole place was a treasure trove of goodies. Florie’s only regret as we left was a fantastic pair of red shoes that were alas, not in her size!

I got ten cans of beer, 3 tubs of their look alike Pringles, a pack of dried mango, a pack of 20 sesame seed bars and two kilos of almonds, all for $20 US. On the way out Florie saw a genuine Burberry hand bag so she got it before it fell off the stall. Loaded down with a heavy back pack I felt it was getting to be a long day, so we caught another cab back to the port for the same fare. Its driver dripping in gold, a thick anchor chain gold necklace, two gold bangles, two thick gold rings and enormous watch, he was your in-your-face-personality.

Back in the port area we got two lovely ice creams. I sat quietly on a low wall with the bag and watched a central water fountain routine while Florie checked out the local stalls selling food and jewellery.

Water fountain routine

Then two beautiful young school girls came up and asked me if they could practice their English on me.

“Ok,” I said, and we sat talking for about 20 minutes, about England and how we pronounced words and letters, then Florie returned, much to the joy of the two girls.

Florie and the girls.

Florie had managed to purchase three gold bangles for $10 US and the thickest of them appears to have a hallmark. We got the shuttle back to the ship at 3.30pm.

Since getting back I have been sat in the cabin writing this. I would like you to know, there has been very little opportunity for me to send my diaries on this cruise, so at the moment I do not know when this will come out to you.

VIET Nib

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An Afternoon in Hong Kong

Saturday 23rd March

Our Ship berthed an hour late as usual, at 12 noon and of course, it wasn’t their fault. There were queues of angry cheesed off people aboard, trying to find out what was happening.

If you are a regular reader of my diaries over the years you will know, Florie and I have been here a few times. So, today is to be a relaxed visit, no queuing no waiting in line to board a coach. We left the ship just after 1pm and joined a throng of people so large; it seemed that all China had come to visit Hong Kong this weekend. Many of the young Chinese were in beautiful clothes. Every third person seemed to be pulling a suitcase.

We made our way across three streets. Walking against a tide of tiny people, filling the pavements to overflowing; on our way to Nathan Road. This is an expensive tourist area. The Hong Kong Authorities have added two more even more expensive roads. These are Canton Road and a covered two story walkway, all under cover, in Harbour City. These come complete with Dolce & Cabana, Gucci and many jewellers and watch shops. And get this ALL WITH QUEUES OUTSIDE with 20-30 people waiting patiently to be allowed in to buy their over priced goods! I’m not kidding you.

We crossed Nathan Road into Humphrey’s Avenue. Here we found a bureau de change where we changed our New Zealand, Japanese and Aussie money to Hong Kong dollars. We found a supermarket and bought 3 bottles of wine, 6 cans of lager, 2 packs of Pringles, a large tub of cheesy things, a bottle opener and deodorant for £32. This is good value as the cheapest wine onboard ship is £15 per bottle. Then we went for a walk in the beautiful Kowloon Park. We stopped in there to readjust the purchases to fit in my back pack. Then made our way back to the ship through the picturesque gardens.

Kowloon Park

Back on the ship, we dropped our things into the cabin and put our computers in my, now empty, back pack and went down to cruise terminal to use their free Wi-Fi. We chose to go in to ‘Mellow Brown’ an upmarket cafe/coffee shop, very pricey but we got a good seat. We ordered latte coffees and mixed berry fruit pancakes with soft ice cream.

“20 minutes,” the waiter told us.

Fine, we thought, that suited us. We got our computers out, a most unsatisfying experience, as the Wi-Fi kept dropping out. We only had a 30 minute free slot so, in the end, nothing got done. I got my laptop out with windows 7 on it. And that wouldn’t even accept the certificates saying “they were not what they seemed,” and it would not log on!! Well, of course, they are not what they seem, we are in China! Where all emails are intercepted and stored. When we went ashore past security, we saw face recognition cameras, heat sensors and grim guards.

Our coffees and pancakes arrived, large and looking good, each one the size of a side plate. The pancakes were fresh warm and melted in the mouth with a buttery flavour. The fruit compote was zingy and the large helping of soft ice cream was just delicious, it made our mouths tingle. I indulged myself and had two caramel coffees. My meal was a whole day’s calories on a plate and the two coffees were tomorrow’s calories. It was as expensive as it was calorific but worth every Hong Kong dollar!

At 8pm I was on the top deck of the ship in the centre of Hong Kong harbour awaiting the celebrated night time light show. And I am sorry to say that it was a disappointment, there seemed only few buildings participating, and some only had laser lights flashing.

Hong Kong Harbour at night March 2019

From its heydays when the whole of each side used to light up, it’s quite a sad show now, only lasting about ten minutes. Back in the cabin, I rested my weary feet and read some more of James Patterson’s “Along came a Spider.” Good Night.

Nib in Hong Kong

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Leaving Shanghai

The last thing I did before going back to our cabin was to go up onto the top deck. I wanted to see all of those beautiful tall buildings surrounding our ship. We were at berth on The Huangpu River opposite the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai.

At night all the buildings around and alongside the river are illuminated. There are also lights at the water line. Each building is lit up in a different way. Tonight the Pearl Tower is mainly purple but its three balls change colour and have lots of fairy lights around it changing both colour and patterns. The building to its right is a riot of changing colours and shapes. To the left of the tower there is a building almost three quarters of its height. It’s a round structure in a tall thick needle construction. A winding diagonal gap in its face has a message running up it making it look surreal; it reads “Welcome to Shanghai.” Yet another building further along, appeared all black an enormous rectangular void, then sparkly lights appear in it like stars sparkling in the night sky, most effective. There are enormous globe buildings that change colours and patterns. And buildings with big coloured stripes around them. The whole vista is a cacophony of colours and shapes, a most beautiful sight in the balmy evening air.

My wife and I get ready for bed and put out the light. I open the curtains and we lie in bed looking out of the window. I am a fortunate man having a view of the top of the Pearl Tower and the other buildings. As I look around the cabin, the light from the buildings is reflecting onto the walls around our bed. All this I can see from my pillow as Morpheus robs me of my conscientiousness.

I open my eyes and see blackness, then I am aware of red flashing lights, to my left I look at the clock 2.15am. As I look out of the window, the buildings that were so gaily painted in light are now dark except for the small red warning lights on top for low flying aircraft. There are eight sets of two up the tower, flashing on and off together. Next to it the top of the next building has a ring of red lights round its top flashing at different times. The buildings are black shadows against a black sky.

I realise what has woken me, the ship’s vibrations have altered. They have changed from a light vibration to a heavier pulsation. I can imagine the enormous twin propellers starting to turn in the water starting to drive the ship forward. 2.15am was our departure time.

Very slowly, I see through the window, the red lights start to move from left to right. The building on the right of the Pearl Tower starts to move out of view. Then the tower moves across the window. Other tall dark shapes come into view their red lights flashing together at the top, the vibrations of the ship settle down as we move down river.

The next buildings shadow has bright white strobe warning lights on its top. This takes me by surprise and almost hurts my eyes, half asleep, and they light the cabin as we pass by. Then the buildings get shorter, away from the centre of the city and I see the red lights are only in the lower half of the window. Their ghostly shadows passing by, different sizes then a large gherkin type building passes. It looks the same as the one in London England.

Then it became weird to my half asleep eyes, the reflections were wrong in the cabin. The lights were on the floor! Then an enormous dark shadow passed over the top of the ship, we were passing under the Yang Pu Bridge. This, earlier in the day had looked a mile or two away. As we passed under the other the bridge I could see the street lights on it, very bright, the light hurting my eyes, then it was gone.

The buildings we passed got smaller and the red lights stopped. The window was just dark grey with an occasional light from the shore hitting the wall at the foot of my bed. Then slowly creeping round the wall to my right then behind the bed, then vanish. The cabin was in darkness again, but the damage was done. There are images in my head and words forming, to describe them, going round and round.

Red and blue lights appeared on the ceiling near the window. They are the familiar lights of the police launches we had seen all day as they buzzed shipping, then they were gone.

I could see weird shapes pass the window. It took me a second to realise we must be near the docks, it was the gantries of the big cranes, a single red light on the top of each. Black shapes like dragons heads from Harry Potter. There are lights behind the cranes and they paint surreal reflections onto our walls. Then there is a light so intense, it is brighter than our cabin lights when they are on. I get up and look, it is a bank of lights like we have a football matches, but facing out to sea, just to light up passing ships? I could not figure it out, I kept thinking of their electric meter whizzing round like a car wheel doing 60mph.

I looked at the clock 3.40am, my head is writing this and I cannot stop it. Still the lights of the docks shed their freak reflections creeping round on our walls, it goes on for miles, I remember I had heard that Shanghai’s docks are amongst the largest in the world.

Eventually the reflections stop and I am left looking at a plain dark grey window with my insomnia. 4.25am I feel I would have been just as well getting it straight onto the sheet of my writing pad. But of course, I couldn’t, I would have woken my sleeping wife. I know by experience that she does not always appreciate the time I chose to put things on paper. The first light of dawn was changing the grey in the window at 5am.

Then it was 6.05am and my love was reading sat up in bed, I sat up and looked outside. The grey window had progressed to look like a dirty piece of paper. It was foggy, I could only just make out the outline of the Pilot’s launch close to the ship. Its lights flashing on its roof as it made its way to collect its precious cargo from our ship. Without Pilots no shipping could get in or out of ports safely.

Another night in the head of a writer.

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Visit to Shanghai

3.30pm Wednesday 20th March.

I can hardly wait to tell you how bad I feel just now. When we arrived this morning in Shanghai the weather was grey and dismal.


This was what it looked like through our window.

Now, I’m sat in our cabin on the River that runs through the very centre of Shanghai. We are berthed next to a cruise terminal that the Chinese are ripping to pieces. We are forced to walk along the open dock against old bits of metal and rubble to get out onto the street in the rain this morning at 10am.

We stumbled across a Metro station about a mile away, one that wasn’t shown anywhere on the map we were given. Down in the dark of the station we pointed on our map to where we want to go.

The English speaking Chinese attendant pointed to a wall, 30 yards away lined with ticket machines. They were all written in Chinese, the place was almost deserted. The attendant wouldn’t leave her post. Twenty five minutes later we were rescued by an angel who showed us what to do. We were on the Green-line so we got two green tickets and had to change to a purple line. And for some reason, we ended up with a blue one! When we got to our destination station our tickets would not let us out, “HELP!”

We went along to an attractive young lady assistant behind a screen and I explained we couldn’t get out. She took all the tickets off us, and put the in her machine. She gave us two tickets back and handful of money in coins. We got out of the station and worked out how much the trip had cost, about 50p.

We set off walking then though a large department store and out the other side. We turned right then right again, and after about one and a half miles, my ankle was killing me. It was past noon when we came upon a KFC. By pointing at pictures we got chicken nuggets and hot orange juice; it all tasted wonderful. We set off for our destination, which we found to our dismay, was marked wrongly on our map. So we ended up turning right four times! I know, how can I do that? Well, in great pain and in my own special way! But it was worth it, we found Walmart. I loaded up our shopping trolley with beer, wine, snackies, pens, deodorant and two writing pads etc.

Happy, we pushed the trolley to the check-out, we checked it through and they declined my credit card. Then they declined Florie’s credit card, so we had to leave empty handed!!

There isn’t a word you can say to someone who doesn’t speak a word of English. And, why I want to know, is the walk back always longer and more painful in failure?

Eventually, we found a Metro Station and purchased tickets, the correct colour and price that got us to within a mile of the ship. I hobbled back, feeling my left ankle was being stabbed by rusty knives. I was ill tempered as I came back on the ship and threw my empty back pack onto the security scanning machine. The officer looked at me, ‘go on say something,’ I thought, but he didn’t.

I made my way to a mid-ships bar where a Serbian waitress, who has a lovely smile and has always been very nice to me took my order for a pint of lager. Then having denied myself a second pint, I went up on the top deck and took a slightly better picture of where we are.


Sorry about the sun bleaching out the right-hand side of it.

Then I came back to the cabin to cool off, from my frustrating trip off the ship in exciting Shanghai and began to put it down on paper for you.

I can almost feel what you are thinking, “I could do better things than shop in Shanghai!”

Well you might not know, but over the years we have done wonderful tours on previous visits. But, I’m still angry because they wouldn’t take our cards. The cards have both been used for months with no problems.

Anyway, Tat Ta for now.

Frustrated Nib.

P.S. We found out later, many people had the same trouble buying things there too.

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China Visit

I usually send my personal friends a regular diary when I go on a cruise and sign them ‘NIB’, but the internet connection I have encountered on this trip has been terrible. Now I have a stable internet source I have decided to share these with you. They were not written to be politically correct, but they are what happened and grabbed my attention at the time. Where I can I will include pictures, I have already posted a couple of things on the way to and including Australia, I hope you enjoy these

Sunday 17th March 2019.

5am our ship slowly sailed into the harbour of Tianjin, China. It berthed at to an oversized dock that looked like it could take 10 ships. The cruise terminal was on the overlarge scale too, tall and wide, built for one thing – to impress. I went out on the top deck at 6.30am to see the misty sunrise into a clear sky, it was cool but pleasant.

ChiTerm

At 7.15 my wife and I were sat in the mid-ships bar, waiting for the tours people to arrive and tell us what to do. A surly looking woman came and sat next to my Florie, and it emerged she had not got a copy passport. These are required to have in order to go on the tour. The surly woman did not seem bothered, she just shrugged her shoulders. Florie told her she would not be allowed on the trip; then she began to look worried. The tours people arrived and the woman asked them if she needed this copy! They told her to go and get a copy or lose the tour, so off she toddled.

In front of us appeared a loud American woman, a member of crew. Barking out instructions to everyone, but she had competition. A loud American fella was boasting to two fellow Americans about his big boat and big house; and his very, very successful daughter. He was bellowing enthusiastically, wearing a cream baseball cap with a pair of sunglasses on the top of this hat ready for action, his Yankee drawl and rolled R’s resounding over all other conversations.

At 7.40 we were on the coach waiting for the last few people to arrive. When a lone traveller, a chap with a feminine walk came up to the only two seats left with a coat on them. He spoke to the couple sat in front of his coat, “I left my coat on these seats and it has been moved.” The lady said, “Oh we were told these things were left from the last tour, so we put them there,” and she glared at him. He flounced off and flopped on the seat behind in a huff, and then a prim lady took the seat next to him and he visibly seethed. I looked around to see everyone grinning who had heard the encounter and felt it had worked out right.

7.55 The coach is travelling up Yah Zoue Road away from the port passing miles of newly planted verges. The local tour guide was doing his best to find his way around the English language. He was just getting in his stride about being in the business for twenty nine years. Then a very loud bang and clatter occurred in the centre of the coach, a little way in front of us. I could not see what it was, but three chaps got up and went down into the stairwell to the side door half way along the coach. The tour guide made no reference to this and carried on talking as if nothing had happened. However, the whole coach were not listening to him, they were all craning in their seats to see what had happened.

8.45 We got off the coach and walked over a very large paved area. It lead to an enormous shiny metal and glass structure that looked like top quarter of a big ball sticking out of the ground. As we walked past a large green garden decoration with silver things on its surface, I noticed a large menacing police truck on the right with blacked out windows; its roof bristling with cameras. Its engine ticking over, it looked like a hungry lioness about to pounce.

When we walked into the glass and metal structure, we had to immediately pass through tight security. Bags through a machine and us through a gate that everyone set off the alarms as they passed through it. Then we were made to stand on a wide stool, arms outstretched, to be checked over with a wand that had red lights and bleeping sounds coming out of it all the time; then we were allowed to continue.

We all gathered as we got through, and took pictures of the striking view we had on the inside.

Inside

Then walked downstairs, and had to go through exactly the same security again. After showing passports and train tickets, we sat waiting in the enormous area for one and a quarter hours. A Chinese woman, her husband and her father came and sat close. They sat talking for a while, and then she got a call on her mobile from someone far, far away. (How do I know that?) Well, she started shouting at the top of her voice, so the other person could hear her from that distance.

On the way in the hi-speed train that travelled at over 340Km per hour.

347Km

We passed over a hundred miles of tree growing nurseries and landscaping close to the line. Further away, they were building blocks of high rise high density living accommodation. It looked to be about 30-40 floors high, 8-15 blocks built at the same time. I saw this many times, alongside the hundreds of block of flats already completed with people living in them.

Once in Beijing we were taken to a hotel for lunch, Chinese style, forks were provided so Florie got to eat some as well. It was a good mix of soup and food etc, plus beer. Later we were dropped off at the South Gate of the Forbidden City and were taken through its majesty by our guide.

BigSuare

Exiting over an hour later by the north entrance. Have a look at the film, “The Last Emperor,” that will give you an excellent view of what it looks like inside, all red and gold and very full of people.

Then we went on a Rickshaw Ride to a Hutong district, (Hutong means ‘find water,’).

Rickshaw

Each single storey house built in a quadrangle usually 4 or 5 rooms round a small courtyard. It’s a very old traditional building style in brick, not used any more.

A woman in our group asked “How do they get from one room to another in winter?” It took four people to walk this woman from one room with a single door, across the courtyard, to the other room with a single door. And I still don’t know if she worked it out.

Houtong

On the way to the bus for the journey back, we uncovered a pair of closet idiots in our group. Instead of staying put at the other end, as they were told, when they took the return journey in the rickshaw. They wandered off; it was only when we were all about to go back on the final journey that we found they were missing. They were walking up a main road, complaining they could not find anyone! Then we had to wait whilst they went to the loo!!

The three hour drive back to the ship felt like four and a sting in the tail of the long tiring day!

Once back at the cruise terminal we waited half an hour in long queues, as Chinese security searched each piece of luggage and frisked everyone. I had half a small bottle of water in my bag; they made me drink some of it before I could go through.

I climbed up onto the ship spiting feathers, only to find the bloody ships security wanted to do it all again. Florie was holding onto my arm and saying, “calm down love, they are only doing their job,” forever the diplomat.

My new Chinese name, “One pissed off Nib.”

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Arrival in Sydney

It was 6am Sunday 24th February, as our cruise ship passed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After which we went to the buffet breakfast area, into the melee of eager people all pushing and shoving to get their plates filled ready for the early start in Sydney, Florie and I were hard pressed to pick out a few meagre crumbs to sustain our dwindling bodies.

All this activity so early in the morning was because we are to loose 250 Australian passengers today, and they had to be out of their cabins early, and they were all pleased to be going back home and ‘off this dammed ship’ as many of them have often said, as we made the tortuous journey from the UK. None of the Aussies we have met have been happy with any aspect of this ship or its services.

Late last night there was an announcement over the PA in our cabin by the captain, about another tropical storm that would prevent us from landing in Hamilton Island in a few days time, so he has made the decision to stay in Sydney an extra night (HURRAH!) then the message was repeated in German and Dutch then it was given in English so we could all understand it.

The breakfast eating area was packed to bursting point (that is well past the aggravating point) with people wearing what we normally wear onboard, shorts loud shirts and sandals, all of these many people are growing out of, but now there are people in going home gear, many with large boots and backpacks or suit cases which only add to the growing tense atmosphere of polite hostility as the direct Aussies battle tooth and nail with the pissed off Brits Germans and Dutch, to get their fair share of the food, after all, all they did was complain about everything. On days like this, those in the know go in pairs, one to get the seat and stay there while the other gets some food and drink then the other gets it, Florie does it with a smile and talks people into going away, I do with a scowl, its quicker they just curl up at the edges and scurry away.

While we were noshing breakfast, a bunch of Aussies came to see us and started hugging kissing us and saying goodbye, all bringing tears to the eyes, two of them live only 20 minutes away, and another couple will be stopping in Sydney for four nights in Circular Quay before flying home to Brisbane and are happy to be getting off this accursed ship, I don’t think they enjoyed their cruise as they shed tears of joy as they skipped like children off the ship.

Early morning, it is 20°C with a 50% chance of rain, so we are only taking one umbrella with us. Well folks its coming up to 8am now, and we are ready to leave the cabin and wait in a public area, to be called to Australian Immigration, so God only knows when we will get away.

Later – Believe it or not we were called off the ship at 8.01 through immigration and on the town shuttle by 8.25 then dumped on the boardwalk of the waters of Darling Harbour before 9am. We were in an area called Barangaroo and we walked left down into Cockle Bay towards the heart of Darling Harbour on our way to China Town. As we walked, we were harassed by young runners, different colours and creeds, all in their lycra running gear, they appeared upset at having dozens of old codgers in their way, some were alone some ran in gangs all talking as they went, how do they do that? I have trouble talking while I’m driving. I had the distinct impression that they didn’t like interlopers on their Sunday morning jaunt.

Florie and I slowly walked about a mile to the ICC Theatre Building near Darling Harbour Gardens when it started to rain, when we found we had latched onto good free Wi-Fi as we sheltered for a few minutes. We dodged into a lovely cafe just near there and had hot fresh ricotta cake with fresh berries and two coffees (delicious) I can’t find the receipt to give you the name but if you are near the ICC building, it’s about 50 paces down from there, it’s well worth a visit, and they are so friendly.

We continued on to China town about another 7 minutes walk away to visit Paddy’s Market for just to look round, and left $170Au there, filling two large carrier bags just looking! By this time the town had woken up and was filling with people and traffic, well, filled with stationary traffic, would be a more accurate description, each one had ill tempered drivers in, angry at the major civil works for the new tram lines being laid in the city.

All too soon it was noon and we found a convenient Hotel, well we were stood outside it really, and it had a an advert for a meal deal with a drink for $16 so in we went, the young lady behind the bar was about 5’ 10” long black hair past her shoulders, beautiful smiling eyes, lovely full lips, her stunning figure was encased in a grey smock and tasteful black flats she had long fingers and had her nails painted, she was possibly in her thirties, she came from Germany on holiday and never went back, her smile would melt ice, I think, I can’t remember, I only saw her for a second, and the food was OK in there.

All too soon we had to leave and we found a city centre supermarket, where we got a bottle of lemon juice $1, to make Honey and lemon to ward off the ships cough, 2 large bars of Cadburys chocolate $2 each, and other odds and sods for our comfort. Next door we picked up 2ltr of red wine for $10, which is better than the £18 a bottle aboard the ship. Ladened down with all these goods we trudged back (what seemed like 10 miles) to the coach pick up point, where a nice air conditioned coach awaited us, we weren’t on the coach more than two minutes when it started raining and a few old people up the road started running towards us, soaked to the skin by the time they scrambled aboard our coach, revealing more than we wanted to see, I closed my eyes and thought of the German bar maid.

We had been out for over 6 hours, walking in the main, and we were both tired I don’t mind admitting, it had been a nice morning with variety, beauty and commerce, mixing with the young population, most of them we saw were between 20 and 30 walking round near naked some of them, with just a light scattering of old farts dressed in long trousers and checked shirts with new big Australian hats on and wives alongside carrying big handbags, like a parody of Les Dawson.

We spent a very quiet afternoon, waking up getting ready slowly for a light bite at dinner time. The ship feels very different now the Aussies have gone; it’s filled with 250 new people walking around looking at signs that tell you where you are on the ship, a lot of them still in their UK clothes and big walking boots, their cases haven’t caught up with them yet. At the buffet, missing are the faces we used to see often and said hello as they passed by their plates full up with veggie’s, now we have these new faces wandering round with plates in their hands half full of food not knowing where to go.

Opera

Final note, 10pm now and the ship is moving berths, from White Dock to Circular Quay so tomorrow we can walk directly into town from the ship, as the ship moves slowly round the harbour the whole city is lit up like a Christmas tree, where we walked in Darling Harbour the lights are so bright my camera won’t resolve it, going under the bridge at night is a new and lovely experience, but I see it from the cabin, not up on deck, my days of running up to the top deck anytime day or night to capture a killer shot are gone, no one see’s the photos anyway, so I look through the grubby windows and enjoy the moving lights until 11pm when we settle into our new berth in Circular Quay, then I pull the curtain on the day, Good night, sorry to keep you up so late.

Good night

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