Home

I have a batik map of Southeast Asia that my sister found years ago. Bob and I have visited many places on that map, and just as many not necessarily indicated, but regardless, I can point out the location. Who would have known?

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Fascinating places and cultures make home, sweet, home even sweeter. The smaller ship made relationships with fellow passengers more cozy.  Passengers were from all over the world, but most people understood or spoke English. Good heavens, except for the Australian passengers, we all had to understand our Guides’ Aussie English!

We had the unique experience of traveling to places difficult to get to, much less know about. Thankfully, Silversea handled the logistics as well as possible.  Sometimes the excursion experience was not as expected.  That is adventure!  We were thankful for the recommended purchases of quick dry clothing and water shoes for water landings (literally) and water sports.  Also, thankful for no personal leech experience!  The constant smell of something burning while cruising through Borneo was unpleasant. The rainforests are being burned down, along with garbage.  Major ugh!  I have no problem classifying myself as a wimpy adventure traveler with even more respect for those that really tough it out! It’s sweet to be home!

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Taipei, Taiwan

The cruise ends in Taipei, Taiwan.  Here we come, Westin hotel!  The room seems like a palace compared to accommodations on the ship.

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Our one day visit needs to cover a lot.  An absolute must is a visit to the National Palace Museum.  Many of the items were moved from Beijing during various war times.  The permanent collection of ancient Chinese art and artifacts make it the largest in the world.   The museum is huge and crowded.  There are sections for ceramics, painting, jade, carvings, bronze, furniture, special exhibits and so on.  So much to see!  Of course, photography is not allowed.

When museum overload sets in, we head out to find the second tallest building in the world.  The tallest, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, we have been to.  Now, we’ll add the second, Taipei 101.  When built, it was the tallest and largest green building in the world.  Being in Taipei, however, fog shrouds the peak.

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Our urban stroll finds us at the Taipei Stock Exchange.Taipei2

It’s not even lunchtime, so it’s a lackluster Monday for sure!

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After the day’s excursions, where to go for dinner?  Big city, big choices.  The hotel recommends a Chinese restaurant within walking distance.  It’s curious that restaurants and many businesses, do not make an attempt to phonetically name their shop.  Now, we are faced with finding a restaurant based on Chinese characters.  We get the general idea of where it is, so we walk and we match characters to the storefronts.  At the restaurant, no one speaks English, but they have an English menu.  We order what we think we’ll like.  Chinese vegetables, what we commonly call Velvet Chicken, and spicy cuttlefish are what we end up with. Taipei4

When Bob decides he’d like extra soy sauce, it’s impossible to get the idea across.  I try to say “soy sauce” in various languages and inflections, but it is totally unsuccessful.

After dinner, we walk around the town and the small night market.Taipei6  This local market is mostly about food.  Taipei5

I almost wish we hadn’t already eaten dinner!  Bob is happy we’re not doing street food sampling.

Our day in Taipei is ending.  It’s time to repack for the trip home.  An early morning alarm will get us moving before too long.

Hualien, Taiwan

Our visit to Hualien is a cultural excursion.  It’s a big city and big port.

Hualien is mostly about the Japanese influence in this area.  It was governed by Japan until 1945.  So, our first stop is a Shinto temple.Hualien1

It is a miniature version of what we have visited in Japan and  expectedly pleasant.Hualien2

The next stop is a mochi factory.  In short, mochi is a Japanese delight made from short grain rice pounded to a paste and formed into cakes.  In Hualien, they do not use rice, they use millet.  Fascinating how many treats are created using millet.  Sophisticated marketing appeals to our vanity!Hualien3

Samples are everywhere and it is tempting to buy.Hualien4

Getting foodstuffs home is another problem.  Instead, I think I’ll check the Asian markets when I get home.

The Buddhist Tzu Chi University is next.  Hualien is the headquarters for this worldwide Buddhist Foundation.  The grounds and facilities are gorgeous, peaceful.  Founded in 1966, their charitable work is impressive.

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The last stop is at the Pine Garden.  This park overlooks the harbor. Hualien7

Kamikaze pilots used to live here with the pine trees hiding the facilities.  Now, the pine trees are no longer dense enough to hide.  The air raid shelter used to hold 40 people.Hualien8

Cramped, of course.

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The living quarters have been turned into a museum and office space.

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It’s interesting to note there are aboriginal people in Hualien area.  They do face tattoos that remind me of some South Pacific Islanders.  This area is full of diversity with the Japanese, aborigines, and the Chinese from the mainland.

 

Aparri, Luzon, Philippines

Our ship anchors offshore, then it is a 20-30 minute Zodiac boat ride to Aparri’s small pier.  Bob and I decide to explore the town, instead of the excursions.  The passenger load is limited on the Zodiacs, so we leave after the others get going on their excursions.  By the time we get to town, the biggest hoopla has subsided.  The town is celebrating our visit and hospitality abounds.  Apparently, we are the first cruise ship to visit this city.  It’s a big enough city, where the coordination of parade, town officials, gifts and greetings can be expressed.  We are treated like rock stars.Aparri1

Except for Bali, shopping for souvenirs or anything has been next to impossible.  Most of us do not have local currency and credit cards are not accepted.  In Aparri, we can use US dollars!  The local vendors are prepared for us, and, I suspect, everyone buys stuff.  Yes to bargain shopping!  Even the foodstuffs are enticing!Aparri2

Bob casts a doubtful look at my purchase of flowers handmade of local twigs and dried leaves.  Will they survive suitcase packing?  Yes, they did!Aparri9

It’s a pleasant walk around the town.Aparri3Aparri5

The people are very friendly.  Everyone must know about our arrival.  We are amused by the area surrounding the Catholic church. Next to the church is a park area with a lonely cement snowman. Aparri6

Around the corner is the jail.Aparri10

Back at the pier area, we have a few sips of San Miguel beer before a group of us decide that we’d better get back to the ship before the storm breaks.   One Zodiac boat is ready to go.  It is an extremely bumpy and wet ride back to the ship.  Fortunately, our shopping treasures are safely stashed in my Expedition backpack.  Our adventurous ride culminates with the Zodiac stalling within shouting distance of the ship.  With skill and persistence, our boat handler revives the Zodiac, named Endurance, and we return to the ship, safely.

Coron Island, Palawan Island, Philippines

The Northern part of Palawan contains more amazing treats.  Bob decides to explore Coron town.  I go off to do the entire water experience.

Our ship is able to dock at Coron pier.  Then, a walk to other side of the pier gets us to local outrigger boats. Kayangan1

First stop is Kayangan Lake.  A steep hike up to a cave,Kayangan5 then steep hike down gets you to the Lake, which is fresh and salty water.Kayangan3

It’s a challenging hike on a combination of cement steps and rocks.  It’s more challenging when wet as we find out after swimming in the lake, since everything gets slippery.  There are fish in the lake, but not much else to see.  Kayangan4

I swim to a rock, then inspect and terrorize the lake snails.

From the lake, it’s another 1/2 hour outrigger ride to Banol Beach. Banul1

The white sand beach and super clear water is exquisite.  The place is ultra clean and there are no facilities at this beach. Banul2

However, the local tour group has arranged lunch on the beach.  This, of course, has been brought in and set up.  Local tuna, crab, roast pork, steamed veggies and rice are plentiful.Banul3

The waters are very shallow,Banul4 so, after lunch, people are wandering around in the water with a can of beer in hand, enjoying the water, and exploring some of the rock formations jutting out of the sand.Banul5

From Banol Beach, it’s back to the local wharf, then a 20 minute van ride to the Maquinit Hot Springs.Maquinit2

Hot Springs in a tropical climate is more than toasty.  These Springs evolve from the the local volcanic activity.  It’s a brief dip in the hottest, beginning section of the Springs.  Then, as the Springs flow towards the Philippine Sea, the water mixes with the sea water and it’s pleasant to feel all the water contrasts. Maquinit1 Then, one of our Expedition Guides decides to talk about crocodiles.  So much for pleasant moments.  Crazy Aussie!

Meanwhile, Bob is on a tricycle trip through Coron town. Coron6

Crowded, it is not.Coron2Coron4

In the hills, there is a view of our ship at the tiny harbor.  The ship must be the maximum size for their wharf.Coron7

Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Island, Philippines

Now in the Philippine Sea, our next stop is Palawan Island.  Puerto Princesa is a popular resort, but we do not spend time here because our mission is to visit the subterranean river.

Puerto Princesa claims to be the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines.   One of their major modes of transportation is what they call a tricycle.  It’s an ingenious attachment of a covered sidecar to a motorbike.  Apparently, certain colors operate on specific days.  We see tricycles throughout our other visits in the Philippines.PPrinc5

Outside of the city, the limestone mountains are spectacular.  At some point, the subterranean river flows beneath these mountains.  This is a protected park area. ???????????????????????????????

Our hour long road trip takes us to a small resort area where we board local outrigger boats to travel the West Philippine Sea to the park entrance where the caves are the most easily accessed.???????????????????????????????

From outrigger, a short walk along the beach???????????????????????????????

and through the trees takes us to canoes paddled by a guide.???????????????????????????????

Everyone is given a plastic helmet, which proves quite sensible since the inside of the cave is dripping or raining mineral water or bat pee.PPrinc1PPrinc11

The cave is noisy with the sounds of the bats and swallows.  The swallows are the sort that produce the nests used for bird’s nest soup.  These nests are safe, however, because this is a protected area.  Hmmmmm.  When was the last time I had bird’s nest soup?  But I digress….

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The stalagtites and stalagmites are awesome and amusing.  Our guide points out identities for these formations, including a Farmer’s Market section where the formations look like various vegetables.  The turn around area is one of the largest cave rooms in the world.  Although, the river is considerably longer, it’s a very special tour to go through that, including diving part of it.

Before the drive back to the port, we lunch at a lovely resort where we began with the outriggers.  In the middle of nowhere, this place is beautiful.  They also grow rice and produce used in the restaurant.

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On the way back, our minivan agrees to stop at a produce stand so we can inspect the goods. PPrinc4 We hope the ship’s chef has been able to get out to shop for produce while we’ve been sightseeing.

 

Kabili-Sepilok Forest, Sandakan, Malaysia

The next day in Sandakan, we venture into the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.  The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre rescues injured and orphaned orangutans, then rehabilitates them to return to the forest.

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We have the opportunity to witness the feeding, if the orangutans and macaque monkeys choose to stop by for food.

Shortly after the attendant spreads out an array of fruits and greens, orangutans appear from no where.  Where were they while we were milling about for the past 30 minutes?! ???????????????????????????????

The macaques appear a little later, but there is no squabbling over the food.  For an hour, everyone is fascinated watching the monkeys.???????????????????????????????

One orangutan eats standing on 2 legs like a human. ???????????????????????????????

Another grabs some greens by mouth and both feet, then swings off to a private spot to enjoy the salad.???????????????????????????????

A third causes alarm by swinging along ropes and branches and pee-ing at the same time.  It’s certainly an excellent reason to be wearing a hat.

The macaque monkeys prove to be equally interesting.???????????????????????????????  As one family swings through the trees, a youngster misses the mark and falls to the ground.  Like concerned parents, the adults scurry to the edge of the feeding platform and spend several minutes staring down at the ground.  After awhile, there is movement below and the parents go back to picking out interesting food bits.  No more monkeying around.???????????????????????????????

This evening, on the pool deck, the sunset is particularly spectacular from all sides.  We all get extremely excited when a vertical rainbow appears.  The report filters down to some of our Expedition Guides, who quickly appear with their camera gear.  It’s a new phenomenon even for these seasoned types.  Unfortunately, Bob and I are camera-less and do not want to miss the magically changing skies.  Our photos would probably not do justice.

Kinabatangan River, Sandakan, Malaysia

A long day awaits us when we stop in Sandakan, Malaysia to start an excursion on the Kinabatangan River.  This area is rich in biodiversity.

But before the river, we stop at the War Memorial Park. memorial2 During WWII, Australian

and British soldiers were imprisoned by the Japanese. memorial1 It’s a beautiful park with relics and informational history.memorial3

The boat ride on the river is long and scenic.  We’re divided into small groups for the local motor boats. ??????????????????????????????? The river is an interesting mix of blue/green and brown muddy waters mixing together at the mouth of the river.  The river itself is muddy and we see very

little civilization. ???????????????????????????????

We see proboscis monkeys (need zoom, but they’re in the middle),???????????????????????????????

white breasted sea eagles,??????????????????????????????? and other birds.

The blooming trees are wild mango.Kriver1 They don’t bloom anything like mango trees I’ve seen.  They are all along the river and at our destination.  Talk about a bumper crop!

Our lunch destination is Abai Village. ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

It is the crossroads for two of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries along the river.  The residents have prepared a local feast of two types of fish, shrimp (which are really crayfish), steamed banana flowers, ferns stewed in coconut milk, rice and bananas!Kriver2

They entertain us with dance and music.  An enterprising musician drums a huge plastic container.  The dancers are totally out of sync, but it’s cute and they want us to join them.  Later, we join in a tree planting. Kriver3

This community works on reforestation projects and eco-tourism, among other ambitions.

From the village, we will return to the ship.  Others will go on an adventurous overnight excursion, but we don’t, as it costs extra, and quite a bit of money.

The return boat ride takes longer as they take a different route in hopes we’ll have other creature sightings.???????????????????????????????

Unfortunately, our boat does not see the herd of pygmy elephants.  We see our shipmates’ great shots later!

Lahad Datu, Malaysia

In Malaysia, we are visiting the East side of Borneo, known as the Sabah area, which is different from our 2007 visit to the West side or the Sarawak area.  At Lahad Datu, Bob decides to stay on board and chill out.  I go to explore the Taliwas Forest and participate in tree planting to support the FACE Foundation.

It’s a bumpy ride from the port due to the dirt and gravel road that takes up after the paved roads disappear.  Along the drive, we come across piles of fresh elephant dung.  The Asian pygmy elephant lives in this region.  Once we start to walk in the forest, we cautiously avoid the dung heaps.  My goodness, gracious, these are just pygmy elephants!  We see trees that the elephants like to use to scratch their bodies.  Orangutan nests, but no orangutans.  Bird nest ferns that are naturally attached to trees and really are used by birds for nesting. LDatu1

The 300 year old tree provides a photo op.  LDatu2

Another photo op is the unusual leeches.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were caterpillars.LDatu4

Our tree planting and visiting of the nursery is part of the FACE Foundation.  Based in the Netherlands, it is a project trying to

rehabilitate rainforests.LDatu3

Super big problem in Borneo is the deforestation of the rainforest to make way for the planting of palm trees used in the production of palm oil, which is used in literally everything.  That’s another story not meant for this blog.

Kakaban Island, Indonesia

Again, we board Zodiac boats from the ship, to get to Kakaban Island.

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We’ve checked out the snorkeling gear in advance. snorkelcrop Let the adventure begin!

Kakaban Island is home to an amazing inland lake.  Kakaban2It is believed to have been created during some volcanic activity trapping sea water.  The creatures have also adapted and it is famous for it’s non-stinging jellyfish. We are fortunate to swim and play with these jellyfish and the other fishes.

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On the sea side of the island, we swim in the coral reefs and see amazing sealife.  Unfortunately, we do not own underwater cameras.

South Sulawesi Island, Indonesia

We dock at Palopo harbor for the beginning of a trek through the South part of Sulawesi Island.  We will be staying overnight, then continue to the opposite side of the island to meet the ship, which will have sailed around to meet us.

We marvel that our tour bus is in better shape than the Chinese buses we experienced in 2012.  Aren’t we in the jungle???????????????????????????????? Yes, we are, and it’s the beginning of another amazing scenic and cultural adventure.

The first order of business is whether to attend a Toraja funeral.  The area we are going to explore is home to the Torajan people. ??????????????????????????????? Their culture is extremely foreign. We have been educated on what to expect.  It is fascinating and disturbing.  A funeral is a really big deal, involving family, villagers, and visitors.  A special building is constructed for the event.???????????????????????????????   In fact, the more people that attend ensures a higher ascent for the spirit.  It also involves a major sacrifice of buffaloes???????????????????????????????

and pigs.???????????????????????????????

We decline the opportunity to potentially hear and see such slaughter.  Depending on arrival, a visit may or may not coincide with what we consider a gruesome event.  No, thank you.

Our drive will take us to a hotel in the middle of  nowhere to spend the night.  Along the way, the scenery is spectacular.  We see waterfalls, ferns, and bamboo.  ???????????????????????????????Banana, coffee, spice and cocoa plants are everywhere. cocoa

Rice paddies ricefield1

are endless.ricefield2

The scenic drive is interspersed with visits to villages.???????????????????????????????

The traditional houses are built a certain way and for specific purposes.???????????????????????????????  Nowadays, a modest home is where the family lives, but at least one traditional house is on the premises??????????????????????????????? and used for storage above??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

and gazebo below.???????????????????????????????

One of the villages is famous for traditional Ikat weaving.??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????  Unfortunately, we do not have enough local currency to purchase anything.  😦

Bori Village is famous for the stone monoliths.???????????????????????????????  These 200-300 year old stones are a funeral site indicating the ascent of the spirit.  Max, one of our child passengers, plays with the local children.  Bori1

Life revolves around death.

The Hotel Heritage is a lunch stop and check in. We are impressed with the hotel and grounds.  There are 4 rooms per Toraja style bungalow.

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After lunch, we visit more villages and graves.  Toraja graves are built everywhere.  There are mausoleum types with photos of the deceased displayed at the roof.

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There are graves built in wood.stonegrave

Graves in caves.  ???????????????????????????????

Effigies of the deceased in the caves.

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Babies are holy if they have not developed teeth.  These graves are in the trunks of dead trees.  They carve an opening for the deceased and cover the opening with palm tree trimmings. ???????????????????????????????

The baby’s soul is supposed to rise up out of the tree.

Later, dinner at the hotel is a sumptuous feast.

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Afterwards, we return to our room with no air conditioning or ceiling fan, but we are assured that nothing will fly in if we leave the windows open, which have no screens.  We bravely oblige.Torajahotel2  It’s amazing we aren’t mosquito bitten and the evening is comfortable.  Sleep is good!

The next morning, we visit a Super market.  It is unlike anything.  The Toraja culture is very serious about their water buffalo.  They can spend lots of money on water buffalo.  It’s not related to income, because families can pool resources to buy the best.  $45,000 – $50,000 for the best, anyone?  Water buffalo lead a pampered life. They are not used for work like in other countries.  It’s a daily spa treatment for these creatures.  ???????????????????????????????

However, they are tied up by their noses.  ???????????????????????????????

In the end, they meet their maker at the celebratory funeral, which involves many water buffalo and pigs.  Lots of people to feed.

Anyway, the market is teeming with water buffalo and pigs.  ???????????????????????????????There is every manner of transporting your purchase.  Tmarket10

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Animals have no rights.  It is horrifying.

Then, there are the roosters.  Guys are serious about their cocks.  In the villages and the markets, we see them carrying their prize fighters around like we carry around pet dogs.  Tmarket11A fascinating point is that disputes between people or villages are handled by a cockfight.  May the best cock win!  End of conflict.

The market also sells the usual assortment of rice, ???????????????????????????????

produce, ???????????????????????????????

and fish.???????????????????????????????  I wish we could spend more time exploring.  But, it’s time to move on to see more graves!  Oh, goodie!

The cliff graves of Lemo Village are displayed in the rock walls.???????????????????????????????  These effigies have been redressed, which is a celebratory decision by the family.  Definitely hard work climbing a bamboo ladder to spruce up the family!???????????????????????????????

On the drive to Pare Pare harbor, we see cocoa and coffee beans drying the old fashioned way.  We even see rice threshing by hand.???????????????????????????????

Toraja Land comes to an end.???????????????????????????????

Now, the Muslim community sets in.  It’s completely different.   Suddenly, roads and homes are modern.  The terrain is drier, but still scenic.Sulawesidrive8

In one section of Sulawesi Island, we have seen dramatic differences!

Our ship awaits us at Pare Pare harbor, having repositioned from the opposite side of South Sulawesi.???????????????????????????????

It’s time to reflect and review the last two days!

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Sea day

A day at sea is welcomed.  We are on information and scenic overload.  It’s nice to reflect and relax, but the day zips by surprisingly quick.  It’s information overload, when we attend the lectures.  So much for brain rest.

A cinnamon bittern lands on the ship and everyone goes crazy with cameras and video.

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It’s  not unusual for birds to use passing ships as a respite from a long flight.

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Meanwhile, we pass some of the 17,400 islands that make up Indonesia.  We see flying fish and dolphins, but the sightings are occasional compared to what we saw in the Arabian Sea in 2011.  Any other ships or boats are a rare sight.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo Island is home to the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth.  The Western world discovered these creatures in the early 1900’s.  There is thought that  Asian countries knew about their existence long before.  One theory is that the idea of the Chinese dragon originated from the Komodo dragon.

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To get to Komodo Island, we must board the Zodiac boats from the ship, which is anchored offshore.  It’s a rainy day.  Fortunately, it’s not a downpour, but a constant drizzle. ??????????????????????????????? The rain ponchos are christened.

A female dragon is spotted and we respectfully keep our distance.  She is probably over 6 feet long and close to 300 lbs.  Males are bigger.  Hati-hati (caution) as they say here.  ???????????????????????????????

All around her are wild pigs and deer.  Later, we see a limping deer.  Komodo dragons bite their prey, then the bacteria and venom from their bite eventually kills their prey.  A dragon may stalk till death, but many dragons will appear for the feast.  The poor limping deer has 2-3 days left to live.

Throughout our hike, we see wild orchids, medicinal herbs, and bright yellow snails. DSCN1324

We are fortunate to have visited this island, because on May 31st, a volcano erupts on a nearby island, closing down entrance to Komodo Island as well as Bali airport and parts of Australia.

Our ship

Thanks to Silversea, we begin our voyage in Bali.  Accompanying us will be 79 other passengers and 98 crew.Baliwelcome

The Silver Discoverer, is a 26 year old Japanese ship, refurbished to Silversea standards.  The ship is much smaller than what we have experienced in the past.  For instance, the lounge or bar doubles as a lecture room.  Lectures will be major entertainment.

ship

Our expedition team are mostly Australian.  These guides are passionate about their specialties in natural history.  The lectures are engaging and many of their photos are  personal experience in this area of the world that we will be exploring.  Their stories are informative and entertaining.  The excitement rubs off on the passengers as we embark on the different excursions.

 

Bali, Indonesia

 

We arrive in Bali late afternoon.Baliairport1Baliairport3a  A very long procedure to clear Customs takes up more time than we expected.Baliairport2a

Our late arrival does not allow us time to explore.  It is best to stay put and explore our resort, the Intercontinental.

Intercon7We plop ourselves into a beach cabana for cocktails.  The wine, vintaged in Bali, is quite good and nicely chilled.  We enjoy the fruit bats flying all around and fireworks in the distance.  Later, we find out the fireworks are part of the Hindu holiday celebration.  A dinner of perfectly grilled fish, salad and vegetables satisfies.  Then, a walk through the  resort is fabulous at night. Inrercon6

We look forward to exploring the resort in daylight.

In the morning, a breakfast buffet awaits.  As with any buffet, it’s an overwhelming choice of food.  The coffee is terrific, of course.  We’re in coffee country!  Unexpectedly, the wait staff brings us a plateful of mangosteen. Intercon8If you’re not in the know, the fruit is white and similar to a litchi, but they are in segments like a tangerine, with one segment containing a large pit.

The resort is fabulous!Intercon1

There are special touches, such as hibiscus flowers behind the ears of the statuesIntercon2 and skirts adorning other statues.Intercon5

We arrange for a day driver to take us around to see the sights.  Agung, our driver, is excellent and speaks very good English.  We are immersed in an amazing cultural experience.

Bali has the greatest concentration of Hindi people in Indonesia.  The days we are there, they are celebrating the end of the Galungen holiday, which celebrates the gods.  The Hindu calendar is a 35 day month with only 7 months in a year.  Confusing to us how they can manage to schedule and coordinate Hindu and Christian (or whatever) calendars!

First stop is a batik factory.batik  Women are  batiking free hand, no frames.  We buy!

At an art gallery, the artists are working with inkart1 ???????????????????????????????or acrylic and oil.

It’s another overwhelming experience to see the selections for sale.  We buy, again!

The art gallery has a typical family temple.art3

With features such as the skirted statues???????????????????????????????

and caution signage.???????????????????????????????

We stop at a temple with the typical adorned statues.???????????????????????????????  These checkered skirts are called poleng and people wear them, too.???????????????????????????????  Poleng have a spiritual significance, but it’s all part of the Hindu celebration.

At the temple, we are on time to watch the pig dance performance. pigdance1 It’s part of the holiday festivities and it is performed by young boys.  Think a pared down version of a Chinese lion dance, except it’s a stylized pig head.pigdance2

At the temple, we see offerings,  just as we’ve seen everyplace else. The decorations and colors used are symbolic.  All this disappears at the end of the Galungen holiday.  We are here at a lovely time to see the displays.temple4

Continuing with the cultural overload, we stop at a wood carving studio.  Three master carvers are working on pieces, sitting on the ground and manipulating the wood with their feet.wood1  The one woman is unique, because female wood carvers are rare.wood2

The gallery has a huge variety of carvings using different woods. We buy “waru” wood and Balinese mahogany pieces.

We are grateful that Agung takes us to legitimate, and good quality factories, because the choices without a guide are staggering.  Given more time, you really could shop till you drop and we haven’t even arrived at Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali.

Our lunch stop is a place featuring all things pork.  The coconut drinks hit the spot.  The pork sampler platter has shredded pork, fried pork, pork skin (cracklin’ or chicharon), pork sausage, pork soup with vegetables, rice and root vegetables.  It is more than enough.Balilunch

We continue on to see the famous rice terraces.Balirice2  It is beautiful.  ???????????????????????????????

It is a preview of rice grown everywhere.

A coffee stop is next.  It’s a garden spot and vista point for tasty drinks.  Cocoa, coffee and spice plants landscape this pleasant place.coffeebeans2  They grow, roast and grind coffee, as well as a make a special coffee.coffeebeans  The special coffee comes from coffee beans that have been pooped out of a Luwak or civet cat.  These animals eat the ripe coffee berries, but are unable to digest the bean part, which is pooped.  The beans are collected for coffee processing.  Expensive coffee.  We taste everything, but buy nothing.

coffeeteatasting2

Now, on to the Sacred Monkey Forest.  Forget the hats and glasses, we are warned, so Bob blindly walks around happily snapping photos at whatever seems right. ??????????????????????????????? Do the monkeys have a collection of hats and glasses somewhere?  It is a bit tricky dodging monkeys, but for the most part they are more interested in their sweet potatoes and bananas.

We decide to forgo the Ubud shopping experience, as it is getting late.  Spending the day with Agung has made us realize a common interest is the arts.  Agung comes from a family of artists, so he invites us to his home for a music experience.  Two brothers and two nephews greet us when we arrive.  The younger nephew is a champion musician.  They entertain us on the gamelan and drums.  Then next thing you know, other instruments appearBalicymbals and it is an Indonesian jam session.Balidrum Balijam We sound even better after a couple of Bintang beer!

The home we are visiting actually belongs to Agung’s brother, Bob. The central area includes the music school and a temple.  Then, there is a very basic kitchen and Asian style bathroom.  The other side of the house is totally modern.  It’s a mix of tradition and modern life which really describes Bali.

Hong Kong

Staying perky for a 1:30 am departure from New York to Hong Kong is challenging.  Cathay Pacific Airlines efficiency is very impressive and the attendants are perky and busy throughout the 16 hour flight.airplane  We land in Hong Kong about 1 hour earlier than scheduled.  Customs is prepared to handle the sudden onslaught and we breeze through.

The Crowne Plaza is not quite ready for our early morning arrival, but they suggest breakfast at Fung Shing Chinese restaurant. FungShing The congee or jook or rice porridge (depending on your food knowledge) rivals Mom’s!  We also have wonderful BBQ pork buns and Shanghai pork dumplings.  Amazingly, the hotel room is ready for us after breakfast.  It feels great to clean up and get ready to explore.

In 2008, we visited Hong Kong for the first time.  Those were the pre-blog days, so this blog section will have some 2008 photos to compare.  This visit, we decided to stay in the Hong Kong Island Wan Chai area.  The horse racing track and other sports venues are close by.

HKracetrack

The day’s explorations start with a visit to a Taoist temple.  The incense is thick and it is challenging  to escape the extremely chatty docent.

HKincense

HKtemple

The Botanical Park and Zoo provide lovely gardens,HKkids lots of school children,

and surprising animals.  The zoo has Hungarian orangutans!  Well,  they were zoo born in Hungary.  It’s a preview of orangutans we hope to see in Malaysia.armchairtravelers

A ferry ride to the Kowloon side brings us back to the area that we visited in 2008.   Here is the Silver Whisper docked in 2008.HKswhisper

Here’s the dock without a ship in 2014!HKferry3

How about junk?!  Chinese ships, you know!  Foggy 2008 junk!HK2008junk

And now, 2014 junk!HK2014junk

Meanwhile, we enjoy a cool down at a Hong Kong gelato shop.  Yum to Hong Kong milk tea gelato!

The next day we return to Kowloon and other previous haunts.  In 2008, we were there just after Chinese New Year.HK2008aHK2008b

Same place, different year!HK2014aHK2014b

A new area has opened, called Heritage 1881.  It features historic Hong Kong maritime memorabilia and history.HKmaritime1HKmaritime2

A small museum section features the French influence, including a French docent.  Being in the mood, we end up having French pizza at a café.  Correction!  Hong Kong French pizza.   Apparently, marinara pizza has become marine-ara pizza, because it is a seafood pizza.  Unexpected, but tasty.

We continue exploringHKmuseum until our appointment at the historic Peninsula Hotel.  Bob has set up an introductory visit with their Public Relations.  An impressive tour of the hotel and facilities is presented exquisitely.  It is totally understandable why this hotel is top notch.  Guys can even enjoy the view using the elegant granite  urinals.HKurinal

The hotel treats us to dinner in their famed Spring Moon restaurant.  I am in heaven with the mixed vegetables because of the fresh water chestnuts and lotus root.

We end the evening with a visit to the InterContinental Hotel.  We stayed there on our first visit.HK2008ave

There are changes nearby and on the waterfront walkway.HK2014ave

I resist the urge to try the shredded squid strips from the snack stands along the way.  Healthy drinks are coming up!

The InterContinental’s famed Nine Dragons cocktail is an expensive, but yummy, cocktail.  In 6 years, this drink has totally changed.  It may be loaded with antioxidants, but it is lacking in the Dragon’s touch, if you know what I mean.HK9dragons

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