La Possesion, Reunion Island

2018 HAL World Cruise

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

This tiny speck of an island, originally known as Bourbon, lies in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar.  It belongs to France and is referred to as a “department.”  I read in the newsletter, Traveller.com, that flying from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport to Reunion is an 11-hour non-stop flight.  That makes it the longest domestic flight ever!

Originally discovered by the Portuguese in 1513.  This formerly uninhabited island grew with French immigration from the 17th to 19th centuries, supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malagasy, and Malabar Indians.  It became an important stopover on the East Indies trade route.  This importance lasted until 1869 when the Suez Canal opened and changed shipping patterns.  Reunion remained a colony of France until 1946 when its status changed to “department of the French Republic.”  However, just as the Seychelles have a rich culture melded of many different ethnic groups, so too does Reunion share that creole architecture, cuisine, music and art.  It’s an interesting place.

Docked in La Possesion, Reunion Island.
Docked in La Possesion, Reunion Island.
The topagraphy reminds us of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.
The topagraphy reminds us of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.
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MS Amsterdam as seen from the shuttle as we heaad into the capital city of Saint-Denis.
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A new 6-lane highway rises out of the sea! This is because the steep cliffs along the current highway, between the port in La Posssion and the capital city of Saint-Denis, produce rock falls and landslides that close the road up to 40 times a year.
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These columns, embedded in the ocean bed, are built to withstand hurricane winds and heavy seas.
This project is budgeted at 2.43 billion dollars!
This project is budgeted at 2.43 billion dollars!
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The anticipated completion date is 2019. But there seems to be a lot more to do–maybe LATE 2019!
Street view in Saint Denis, Reunion
Street view in Saint-Denis, Reunion
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After arriving in Saint-Denis, we found this inviting promenade along the seafront.
So we promanaded to an old defense embankment.
So we promanaded to an old defense embankment.
I wonder how many times these cannons were used?
I wonder how many times these cannons were used?
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This is a statue of Roland Garros, a local hero born in Reunion in 1888, who was an ace pilot during WWI. He died October 5, 1918.
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Named for the local hero, the Le Roland Garros Restaurant is where we stopped for lunch.
Enjoying our traditional afternoon libation!
Enjoying our traditional afternoon libation!
Waterfall seen from the shuttle as we return to ship.
Waterfall seen from the shuttle as we return to ship.

 

Now we are on the way to Maputo, Mozambique where we look forward to an exciting African Safari adventure!

Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles

2018 HAL World Cruise

Saturday, March 24, 2018

 

For years, I’ve read articles about the Seychelles in travel magazines.  So, it was a joy to finally go there!  The Seychelles are composed of 115 islands.  We docked at Victoria on the island of Mahe.  This is the capital of the Seychelles and is the one of the smallest capitals in the world.  The city is charming.  First colonized by France in the 1700s and later controlled by Britain, the Seychelles gained independence in 1976.  But the French charm and the colonial architecture remind one of the former history.  The current population is descended from the Africans, Indians, and Chinese who were brought in to work the spice, sugar and cotton plantations.  Their language, music and food reflect these global influences.  They are called Creole, and their culture is very similar to that witnessed in New Orleans or the Caribbean!

From the dock, we could see this would be a charming port.
From the dock, we could see this would be a charming port.
A craft market was set up on the dock.
A craft market was set up on the dock.
Independence Ave is the main street through town.
Independence Ave is the main street through town.
The buildings are lovely.
The buildings are lovely.
A small Hindu Temple seen on a side street in town.
A small Hindu Temple seen on a side street in town.
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Kaz Zanana is the gallery of George Camille, a noted Seychelles artist. It is an old and restored Creole Cottage.
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The cafe seems to be permanently closed, but the artwork is lovely and very similar to the tropical art seen in the Caribbean.
Interior of the Kaz Zanana (obviously where the cafe once served.)
Interior of the Kaz Zanana (obviously where the cafe once served.)
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A vibrant and colorful work by George Camille. Very similar to the type of artwork found throughout the Caribbean.
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Enjoying a cup of tea prepared by the very nice lady manning the art gallery. The tea is grown locally. It is strong, served with milk and sugar. Quite nice!
The MS Amsterdam as seen from Victoria.
The MS Amsterdam as seen from Victoria.

 

 

Our next port is La Possession on the island of Reunion.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

2018 HAL World Cruise

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

 

We have visited Colombo several times and always find something new and interesting to do.  The one constant is a stop at the Galle Face Hotel for a Pimms before heading back to the ship!  The following photos will chronical the day:

As is often customary, our ship is welcomed by local performers.
As is often customary, our ship is welcomed by local performers.
Musicians, dancers, and even a few acrobatics!
Musicians, dancers, and even a few acrobatics!
Sri Lankan dancers upon our arrival.
Sri Lankan dancers upon our arrival.
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We hired Kuman and his van right on the dock. He agreed to take us around Colombo for US$150.00 total/all day. There were six of us.
There preferred local mode of transportation is the Tuk Tuk.
The preferred local mode of transportation is the Tuk Tuk.
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We began the day with a drive through the Fort area–the old town district near the port. This doorway caught my attention. It seemed so very picturesque!
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There is a huge market in the Fort area. This is just a small glimpse of Pettah Market.
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Jami-aul-Alfar Mosque, built in 1909 with red and white bricks, is the oldest mosque in Colombo.
St. Lucia Church is Roman Catholic.
St. Lucia Church is Roman Catholic.
Siva Subramaniya Hindu Temple is one of the largest Hindu temples in Colombo.
Siva Subramaniya Hindu Temple is one of the largest Hindu temples in Colombo.
Snake Charmer outside the Hindu Temple
Snake Charmer outside the Hindu Temple
Oh yeah, it's a real cobra!
Oh yeah, it’s a real cobra!
The "Wanna-Be" snake charmer!
The “Wanna-Be” snake charmer!
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Sri Lanka is religiously pluralistic. 70.2% Buddhist; 12.6% Hindu; 9.7% Muslim, and 7.4% Christian. Gangaramaya Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Colombo.
Inside the Gangaramaya Temple grounds.
Inside the Gangaramaya Temple grounds.
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The Seema Malaka Temple in Beira Lake. The lake was once used to transport goods within the city. This meditation center was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s best known architect.
Sema Malaka Temple
Sema Malaka Temple
Part of Beira Lake
Part of Beira Lake
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This building was under consruction last year. It does not appear to be finished yet. But what an odd concept. This architect definitely has a sense of humor!
Wheelchair-bound tennis players spied as we drove thru the city.
Wheelchair-bound tennis players spied as we drove thru the city.
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There are lovely old buildings in Cinnamon Gardens, a charming community of fine homes, restaurants, and embassies.
Love that fan-shaped palm!
Love that fan-shaped palm!
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We stopped at the The Cricket Club for libations! Our driver is a player and a member of the league.
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Lion beer is the local preference. Tiger and Carlsberg are bottled locally. All else is imported.
The Cricket Club has a nice atmosphere.
The Cricket Club has a nice atmosphere.
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Colombo has a population over 1.5 million. They all seem to be on the road at the same time!
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Lobby of the Galle Face Hotel. Built in 1864, it is one of the oldest hotels east of Suez. It is the first Sri Lanka hotel featured on a postage stamp. Arthur C. Clarke wrote the final chapters of “2001: The Final Odyssey” here.
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Galle Face Hotel lobby with an amazing wall that appears to be carved wood tiles.
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Driving through modern Colombo on Galle Road as we head back to the ship. The end of another day.

 

Our next port is Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles

Phuket, Thailand

2018 HAL World Cruise

Saturday, March 17, 2018

We first came to Thailand about 45 years ago.  And to this day, I remember the thrill of visiting this exotic land! It never ceases to capture my happiest emotions.  I felt it again as I went out onto the back deck to take the standard “on the dock” photos.  This country is a very pleasant place to visit.

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On the dock in Phuket. That’s a pop-up market for the cruise passengers. The merchants will be here all day with their souvenirs. They’ll also serve a pretty good lunch that thrills the crew no end!
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Rushed by Taxi drivers looking for a fare. We negotiated 3 hours for $35.00/wound up with 4 hours and paid $50 including tip.
Wat Chalong's main temple.
Wat Chalong’s main temple.
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At Wat Chalong, fireworks are set off inside the kiln. We were told it is for good luck.
Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong
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Can you believe these electrical wires!!! The entire Island is wired like this! Does anyone even know what all these wires are for???
A street trying to make sense of its electrical wires!
A street trying to make sense of its electrical wires!
Old Town Phuket with its charming Portugese buildings.
Old Town Phuket with its charming Portugese buildings.
Old Phuket Town (Thalang Road)
Old Phuket Town (Thalang Road)
I love these eye-catching murals!
I love these eye-catching murals!
Golden Buddha
Golden Buddha
The Phuket City View Point for a marvelous vista.
The Phuket City View Point for a marvelous vista.
The city of Phuket is bigger than one first imagines!
The city of Phuket is bigger than one first imagines!
No car seats required here!
No car seats required here!
Our final stop was the Pullman Hotel.  Nice view!!
Our final stop was the Pullman Hotel. Nice view!!
MS Amsterdam as seen from the Pullman Hotel.
MS Amsterdam as seen from the Pullman Hotel.
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Enjoying our “end of the day libation” at the Pullman Hotel. before returning to the ship.
Singha is the local brew.
Singha is the local brew.

Our next port is Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

2018 HAL World Cruise

Wednesday & Thursday, March 14 & 15, 2018

 

To quote the HAL brochure, “Singapore is an island city-state, a WWII battleground, a global economic superstar, and a crossroads of the world.  British colonial administrator Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived in what was then a tiny fishing village in 1819.  In 1824 the Sultan of Johor deeded the site to the East India Company, and a major British trading post in Southeast Asia was created.  In 1867 Singapore was put under direct control of the British crown and consolidated into one administrative unit.  Though Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, it was restored to British rule after the war.  Internal self-government began in 1959, and in 1963 Singapore became a semi-autonomous state within the Federation of Malaysia.  On August 9, 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.  Today Singapore has grown to an affluent and vibrant city that attracts visitors from all over the world.”  I wrote about Singapore and posted lots of photos last year while on the 2017 HAL World Cruise.   So today, I’ll simply show you photos from our day in Clarke and Boat Quays:

On the dock in Singapore
On the dock in Singapore
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On the dock in Singapore. That road on the bottom left leads into town. It’s about a 15-minute ride with many wonderful sights along the way.
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The MS Amsterdam, docked n Singapore, as seen from the cab on our way into town.
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This parkland around the South Marina dock area will soon be under consruction for more condos and apartments.
The construction has already begun in parts of the area.
The construction has already begun in parts of the area.
This was all reclaimed land.  I guess they'll have to reclaim more!
This was all reclaimed land. I guess they’ll have to reclaim more!
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The real trees with the sculpted trees behind. Those “metalic” trees, called “Supertree Grove”, are located in the Gardens by the Bay.
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Clarke Quay along the Singapore River. Not too busy in the daytime; many of the restaurants don’t open til late in the afternoon. The river boat tours leave from here (45 minutes for S$25.00)
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Clarke Quay is a bustling place in the evening. During the day it is pleasant to leisurely stroll about. (The downtown lunch crowd frequents Boat Quay on the south bank of the Singapore River.)
One of the old Clarke Quay warehouses.
One of the old Clarke Quay warehouses.
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Looking across the Singapore River from Ord Bridge to Clarke Quay and the Riverside Point Complex. Those are the cute river boats tied to the dock awaiting the next departure.
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We had lunch at the Brewerkz in Boat Quay. They provide lessons and tastings in the room behind that large sign. There is a lot of A/V equipment set up in there along with seats for at least 20 students of brewology!
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Lunch at the Brewerkz in Boat Quay was exceptional. The hamburger plate was the best we’d seen in ages. The only disappointment was the pickle. It was a dill, but not a kosher dill!
Views from the Singapore River.
Views from the Singapore River.
View of Clarke Quay from the Singapore River.
View of Clarke Quay from the Singapore River.
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I’m such a sucker for murals as well as greenery. I took this photo simply because I liked the mural and colors! Hope you do , too!
Street view of Singapore as we head back to the ship.
Street view of Singapore as we head back to the ship.

 

Next we go to Phuket,  Thailand.

Phu My, Vietnam

2018 HAL World Cruise

Monday, March 12, 2018

 

Cruising into Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by everybody including the Vietnamese) is not a joyous arrival.  First off, the port is not in Saigon—it’s in Phu My.  Getting to Saigon is a long and arduous process involving a 2-hour bus ride.  Once in the city, it is hot (96 degrees) and dusty.  We have done this trek many times; but this time, we opted to visit the resort town of Vung Tau instead.  Only a 45-minute drive from the port.  Along the way, we passed through Tan Hoa and Ba Ria stopping to view Buddhist Temples and take some pictures.  We had a great day and returned to the dock, shopping the tiny market shipside before boarding.

On the dock in Phu My.  That's a tiny market set up between the buses!
On the dock in Phu My. That’s a tiny market set up between the buses!
Chua Phat Linh Temple in Tan Hoa on the way to Vung Tau.
Chua Phat Linh Temple in Tan Hoa on the way to Vung Tau.
Chua Phat Linh Temple
Chua Phat Linh Temple
Chua Phat Linh Buddhist Temple
Chua Phat Linh Buddhist Temple
Along the highway to Vung Tau.
Along the highway to Vung Tau.
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This is like an interstate highway to Vung Tau–but note the scooter lane on the right!
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In Ba Ria, we came across a memorial, inside a rounabout, dedicated to those who died in the war.
Chua Linh Son Temple in Vung Tau
Chua Linh Son Temple in Vung Tau
Chua Linh Son Temple in Vung Tau
Chua Linh Son Temple in Vung Tau
Incense, in graduated sizes, for sale!
Incense, in graduated sizes, for sale!
Waterfall at Chua Linh Son Temple.
Waterfall at Chua Linh Son Temple.
At the So Vang Restaurant, on the beach, in Vung Tau.
At the So Vang Restaurant, on the beach, in Vung Tau.
The Vung Tau version of Christ the Redeemer!
The Vung Tau version of Christ the Redeemer!
Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer
Lovely flowers
Lovely flowers
bamboo on the move
bamboo on the move
That's a little pig in the cage.
That’s a little pig in the cage.
A tiny temple tucked away amongst other shops and offices.
A tiny temple tucked away amongst other shops and offices.

 

Next, we visit Singapore!

Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China

2018 HAL World Cruise

Thursday & Friday, March 8 & 9, 2018

We will, I am sure, always think of Hong Kong as a beautiful, vibrant, cosmopolitan city.  But it’s changing before our very eyes.

We noticed the first changes last year when we tried to find my favorite bookstore haunts only to discover many of them had been forced to close when both the owners and employees started to go missing.  We read later that a few folks were reported to be in mainland China.  And earlier this year, we read in the NY Times that one bookstore owner had escaped and returned to Hong Kong only to be found dead shortly afterwards.  It’s a scary thing to contemplate.  The biggest and best bookstore was Page One in the huge shopping complex attached to the Cruise Terminal.  I had shopped there in 2016.  Last year, it was no longer evident a bookstore had existed there.  Today, a different sort of store takes its place.

Next, when we went to visit Optical 88 in The One shopping plaza, we encountered another difference.  Two years ago, they had created a new pair of designer glasses for me using my own doctor’s prescription.  They did it overnight and charged me about ½ of what it would cost in the U.S.  Today, there is no overnight service.  It will take, at least, three days or more.  We never got around to discussing price but I wouldn’t be surprised if the price is higher now, too.

Of course, the biggest change visible to a cruise passenger is the dock we are assigned to use.  Before, we would dock at Ocean Terminal.  Last year, we docked at the new cruise terminal located on the site of the old Hong Kong Airport and then moved during the night to awaken at the Ocean Terminal.  Ocean Terminal is right next to the Star Ferry Terminal; attached to one of the biggest malls in Hong Kong; near the Metro station; and within walking distance of shopping and attractions and taxis.  A perfect location!  Unfortunately, it is no longer available to us.  We are now stuck at Kai Tak with an interminable walk from the ship into the terminal; another interminable walk out to the shuttles, buses or taxis; and an even more interminable drive into the city.  No Metro.  No ferries.  No attractions.  No shopping in the terminal.  Only one well-hidden restaurant/bar.  Dismal and disturbing.

So, we walked the miles for a taxi and after a 20 minute drive arrived in Kowloon.  Our plan was to visit Kowloon Park; walk over to the mall and do some shopping; visit a pleasant café and then head back to the ship.  We did it all, but not the café.  The lovely little bistro style café I remembered was no longer there!

On day 2, we wisely decided to simply stay put!!!  We did spend a couple of hours in the Kai Tak Terminal.  Strolling across the roof garden, we worked our way over to the one and only restaurant/bar for snacks and a beer.  Then we retreated to the ship and awaited the sail-away.  I don’t know when we’ll next return and I wonder what we’ll find when we do?

On the dock in Hong Kong at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.
On the dock in Hong Kong at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.
Walking the streets of Hong Kong.
Walking the streets of Hong Kong.
Street view of Hong Kong.
Street view of Hong Kong.
These dolls mark the way up to the Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park.
These dolls mark the way up to the Avenue of Comic Stars in Kowloon Park.
My favorite doll is at the top!
My favorite doll is at the top!
The Avenue of Comic Stars.
The Avenue of Comic Stars.
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Ding Ding Penguin follows a family to Hong Kong and turns anywhere it goes into a playground. Its motto is “the world is a big playground!” We can appreciate the sentiment!
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Two pandas are used as a sarcastic parable regarding the Hong Kong handover back to China. They will not listen to what they don’t want to hear. They mock those who are different, they ridicule the current culture and politics. Cultural re-education!
The Maze in Kowloon Park.
The Maze in Kowloon Park.
One of many fountains
One of many fountains
Pink Flamingos!
Pink Flamingos!
Entering the bridge over the roadway to the Harbor Center Mall complex.
Entering the bridge over the roadway to the Harbor Center Mall complex.
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Star Cruise’s ship, Pisces, docked at Ocean Terminal–this is where we docked in the past!
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Roof Deck
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Roof Deck
Old runway 31 markings.
Old runway 31 markings.
View of Victoria Peak.
View of Victoria Peak.
Looking at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal with roof garden and city view behind.
Looking at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal with roof garden and city view behind.
The Hanger Bar, one floor below the  Roof Garden, on the Northwest End.
The Hanger Bar, one floor below the Roof Garden, on the Northwest End.

Now, we are on our way to Vietnam.