You’ve heard the saying, “Great minds……..”?Well, the Captain beat me to publishing info regarding piracy and cruise lines.And since he is much more knowledgeable than I, please click on to “Captain, Who’s Driving” at captainjonathan.com to view his blog.Jonathan Mercer is the captain of the MS Amsterdam.He has steered her through many World Voyages.If you are viewing this blog as a web page, you’ll find a link at the top of the page.If you receive this blog via an email, then you’ll probably have to log on to captainjonathan.com where you can sign up for email notifications from his blog also.You’ll find it interesting.
Ships transiting between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea convoy through the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Military war ships are never far away!
Our guide was eager to show us the new Sultan Qaboos Mosque.It is the 2nd largest in the world and is, most unusually, open to non-Muslims.It is BIG!Oman, like every other country in the area, is on a major construction binge.Something “new” opens frequently.We saw the newly completed Grand Opera House.Then, went to see the newly completed National Museum.
The funding source for all this “new” is the oil discovered in Oman.It is not a large oil field, but it is sufficient.Not only are large edifices going up, but Sultan Qaboos has purchased a new yacht.We thought another cruise ship was in port when we spotted her—she’s almost the size of the MS Amsterdam!
After viewing the 200 year-old Al Alam Royal Palace, we stopped at the Mirani Fort and harbor to take photos.The palace is surrounded by the Mirani and Jalali Forts, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
We ended the tour at the Mutrah Souq.It’s a pleasant place where the shops are “up” several steps to withstand the monsoon flooding that drains through the Souq.Obviously, the Souq is not the place to go if you’re trying to escape the deluge!
All-in-all, we had a lovely day.This was our second Muscat visit and yet we’ve never seen Muscat wine; only Italian Moscato.We will try to find out why at 1:00pm this afternoon when the World Wine Guys treat us to a tasting!
The wine tasting was a huge success.We sampled 3 still wines and 3 sparkling.All Moscato wines are sweet—some heavier than others—but every single one of them makes a good aperitif (perhaps with foie gras) or an excellent dessert wine (when you visit Florida, Key Lime Pie and Moscato pair well.)Of the six different wines we sampled, here are our favorites: 1.) Fontanafredda Moncucco Moscato D’Asti DOCG, a still wine, great for dessert.2.) Cinzano Sparkling Asti, great for an aperitif.
And take note:wine is not produced in Oman. (Do any Muslim countries produce spirits, anymore?They once did because archeological evidence proves that is so.)Don’t know when the vines were removed.However, they made their way to Italy, Greece and some others.But Italy is most known for Moscato wines. It is traditionally an inexpensive wine.
Mumbai was a surprise!We were braced for crowds, traffic, poverty and filth.We certainly did find the traffic—not so much the crowds, poverty or filth.Although all do exist.The Mumbai population is around 23 million—that’s one huge city!The traffic is mind-boggling, but I wonder how many people own their own cars.So much of the traffic seems to be taxis!
We began our Indian adventure with a stop at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.It was built in 1903 by Jamsetji Tata after he was refused entry to the grand Watson Hotel.Watson was restricted to whites only; dark skinned Indians were not allowed.Our tour was arranged by the concierge at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, so I suppose it was natural the guide would show us the current state of the Watson Hotel.Time was not kind to that grand old hotel.She is now an apartment building.
In November 2008, the Taj Mahal Palace was attacked by the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group.There were a series of attacks in Mumbai.167 people were killed.31 of them at the Taj over a 3-day period.Mostly Indian citizens, but Westerners with foreign passports were also singled out.Indian Commandos ended the 3-day siege at the hotel when they killed the gunmen barricaded in the hotel.
One of the iconic sites in Mumbai is the Gateway of India on Wellington Pier with the Mumbai Harbour as its backdrop.Built in 1911 for the visit of King George V.It also witnessed the departure of the last British Regiment in 1947 when independence was declared.
Today, Mumbai is the business capital of India, as well as the entertainment hub.The city is home to India’ film industry, known as Bollywood.
The architecture in Mumbai is head-turning.The British Colonial buildings are impressive.And the Art Deco buildings surprising.I was amazed to learn Mumbai is second to Miami Beach in the sheer number of Art Deco buildings.Viewing Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach from Malabar Hill across the Back Bay is evocative of Miami’s South Beach.
We saw so much in Mumbai:Ghandi’s House, the old Railroad Station, the first Hospital, the Laundries.But to me, the most exciting site was the outdoor book market located in the Fort District, not too far from Mumbai University.We even saw the most expensive single family house in the world!
I am so glad we returned to Colombo.Our last visit was downright scary!We discovered that tuk-tuk drivers are resourceful at augmenting their income.They will kidnap you and return you to your starting point for a tidy sum!So, this time, we hired a taxi at the port for the full day.It was wonderful.We saw temples and monuments and memorials.We viewed lakes and parks and then had lunch at the historic Galle Face Hotel before returning to the ship.A much better experience!
In Hong Kong, 2 authors from Wine Enthusiast Magazine came aboard.Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen are wine and travel writers as well as regional cookbook authors.After leaving Singapore, they held a mixology class in the Culinary Arts Center devoted to the famous cocktail invented by the bartender in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, the Singapore Sling!After mixing several different iterations for tasting, they finished up with what is considered to be the original recipe.It is very good.And the recipe follows.
Here we are in Port Klang on the Strait of Malacca.In days gone by, this area was a haven for pirates who plundered the ships of the Dutch East Indies Company.And piracy still occurs.In 2014, there were 48 cases of piracy or robbery.In 2015, a whopping 104!Today it is oil tankers that are attacked and their cargo siphoned.Almost half the world’s trade passes through the Strait of Malacca; so, the good news is that with the assistance of Navy patrols from India—2016 saw only 1 case of piracy.
So, let me tell you about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.We took a Holland America excursion into the city.It’s a long drive from Port Klang and heavy traffic makes it even longer—took us about 1 ½ hours.But once in the city, we had a marvelous experience.As in all of Asia, we marveled at the architecture.This is where the Petronas Twin Towers are located.They are really, really tall and may still be the tallest in the world—but with all the construction going on here, it’s possible that record was broken!The following photos will tell the rest of the story:
While in Singapore, I picked up some magazines at the Kinokuniya Bookstore.In the process of perusing the pages, I came across an ad for the Singapore Jazz Festival later this month at the Marina Bay Sands.This ad was so eye-catching because just last night, we were entertained by a trio from Poland:Wojciechowsky, who play classical music with a jazz/swing twist.We are not big jazz fans, but we could certainly appreciate the talent and creativity of this group.Filip Wojciechowsky on the piano; Pawel Panta on the bass guitar; and Cezary Konrad on the drums.They are Grammy winners.Understandably so!