Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Southeast Asia…..cont.

 

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:

Port Klang Cruise Terminal
Port Klang Cruise Terminal
Sail Boats on a lake in the city of Kuala Lumper
Sail Boats on a lake in the city of Kuala Lumper
The new Presidential Palace, built in 2011
The new Presidential Palace, built in 2011
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Entrance to National Monument, 1966. Memorializing WWI, WWII, and the Malaysian “Troubled” times 1948-1960.
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Largest Free Standing Bronze in the World, Modeled After Iwo Jima Memorial (both by Felix de Weldon)
National Mosque (Malaysia is Moslem Country by Law)
National Mosque (Malaysia is Moslem Country by Law)
View of the old railroad station dating from the British Colonial era.
View of the old railroad station dating from the British Colonial era.
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Nice building across from the old RR station that functioned as the Kuala Lumpur Railroad Headquarters.
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Independence Square (called Merdeka Square on the map) where old British Colonial buildings are located. This is the former cricket field of the exclusive Selangor Club.
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The Selangor Clubhouse is still in use but only for the elite Muslims of Kuala Lumpur. There is a fine restaurant inside.
The Selangor Club.
The Selangor Club.
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This former cricket field (Padang) is where Malaysian independence was declared in 1957. The flagpole is reputed to be the largest in the world. The domed bldg on the right was once the British Admn. printing facility. Today, it is the National Gallery
Sultan Abdul Samad Building across from Independence Square.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building across from Independence Square.
St. Mary's Cathedral, synod of West Malaysia.
St. Mary’s Cathedral, synod of West Malaysia.
National Textile Museum
National Textile Museum
Former High Court Building.
Former High Court Building.
MUD, the city theater.
MUD, the city theater.
This appears to be a lovely mosque reached by that interesting bridge.
This appears to be a lovely mosque reached by that interesting bridge.
Those little boys are so cute in their traditional dress.
Those little boys are so cute in their traditional dress.
Interesting juxtaposition of old and new architecture.
Interesting juxtaposition of old and new architecture.
Interesting high rise building growing greenery on its side!
Interesting high rise building growing greenery on its side!
The gardens outside the Petronas Twin Towers
The gardens outside the Petronas Twin Towers
View of the Petronas Twin Towers from the Gardens.
View of the Petronas Twin Towers from the Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Sea

 

Southeast Asia

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!

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Singapore

Southeast Asia…..cont. 

How could you not like Singapore?!?  This is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city:  fine museums, lovely parks and gardens, awesome shopping.  We’re fortunate to have a sibling living here.  My brother always knows where to find a good meal or refreshing libation.  Yesterday, he took us to Ngee An Mall on Orchard Road for the grand re-opening of Kinokuniya Books.  This bookstore is HUGE!  And it was just remodeled and enlarged.  Total ecstasy!  After wearing out the credit card, we took a cab over to Clarke Quay on the Singapore River.  A pleasant lunch at Ricciotti’s Italian Restaurant was followed with a 40-minute riverboat ride touring Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, Robertson Quay and Marina Bay (25 Singapore dollars per person.)  Later, we returned to the ship for dinner in the Pinnacle Grill—steaks done “Pittsburgh style” and a nice selection of wines.  The day closed with a concert under the stars by Debby Bacon.  The lights of Singapore at night made a lovely backdrop.  Good food, good company, fabulous entertainment, and a terrific environment—it don’t get no better than this!

But then again, day 2 found us reveling in high-speed broadband internet.  We did some computer upgrades, monitored some sites, and then went out for lunch at the Old Armoury.  Vatos is an interesting Mexican/Korean fusion restaurant.  The chips and salsa were typical, but the burrito, tacos and quesadilla each had a subtle but unique twist in flavor.  Very nice.  Our Singapore days came to an end way too soon.  Now we are “at sea” on our way to Colombo, Sri Lanka.  More later!

 

Marina Bay Cruise Terminal Northwest
Marina Bay Cruise Terminal Northwest

 

 

 

Marina Bay Cruise Terminal Northeast
Marina Bay Cruise Terminal Northeast
Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Ngee An Mall.
Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Ngee An Mall.
This is only part of the magazine section of Kinokuniya Books!
This is only part of the magazine section of Kinokuniya Books!
This is a very large bookstore!
This is a very large bookstore!
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On Friday, March 9th, Kinokuniya reopened following major expansion and renovation. The principles were on hand for the media. I managed to get their photo also! The tall geltleman on the left rear had already spent a few moment with me earlier.
Ahh, ready to board!
Ahh, ready to board!
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crossed under the Cavenagh Bridge in Boat Quay. Note the playful sculpture on the wall!
Cool view of the Marina Bay Sands!
Cool view of the Marina Bay Sands!
Waterside view of the Art Science Museum.
Waterside view of the Art Science Museum.
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View of the Flower Dome/Cloud Forest. (This actually looks like a sinking boat!)
Raffles Place--the original landing site.
Raffles Place–the original landing site.
Raffles Back Entrance
Raffles Back Entrance
Back into Clarke Quay
Back into Clarke Quay

 

Debby Bacon playing under the stars and before the night lights of Singapore!
Debby Bacon playing under the stars and before the night lights of Singapore!
Night view of Singapore.
Night view of Singapore.
Night view of Singapore.
Night view of Singapore.
The Armoury
The Armoury
Happy Hour in Vatos where they do Mexican/Korean Fusion!
Happy Hour in Vatos where they do Mexican/Korean Fusion!

 

 

Phu My, Vietnam

Southeast Asia Travel…..cont.

 

Phu My has a huge dock area on a channel off the Song Cai Mep River.  We came up the river from the South China Sea. The MS Amsterdam is docked here amidst all the cargo ships and containers.  This is the port for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) which is 2 hours away.  About 45 minutes away is the village of Vung Tau with beaches and a Buddhist Temple of note.

Now, if you’ve been following me on this blog, you know what I’ll say next.  “Since we’ve been here several times before, we’ll stay on board this time!”  But I do have a bunch of photos of both Saigon and Vung Tau taken in 2010, 2014 and 2016!

On the dock in Phu My, Vietnam

On the dock in Phu My, VietnamOn the dock in Phu My, Vietnam.  Such a pathetic little market!

On the dock in Phu My, Vietnam. Such a pathetic little market!Some of us simply chose to remain on the dock in Phu My, Vietnam

Some of us simply chose to remain on the dock in Phu My, VietnamView from the dock in Phu My, Vietnam Vietnam

View from the dock in Phu My, Vietnam

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The Old Post Office in Saigon, Vietnam. Designed and constructed by Gustav Eiffel.

Old Post Office ceiling

Old Post Office ceiling7 (1024x574)

Reunification Hall, Saigon, Vietnam. The former presidential palace. This is where the Vietnam war ended when tanks crashed thru the encircling gate.Reunification Palace reception hall

Reunification Palace reception hallA tank on the grounds of Reunification Hall in Saigon, Vietnam

A tank on the grounds of Reunification Hall in Saigon, Vietnam10 (1024x576)

War Remnants Museum in Saigon, Vietnam. One block north of the Reunification Palace on Le Quy Don and Vo Van Tan.

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Water Puppet Show in Saigon, Vietnam. Water puppets first performed in the rice fields of the Red River Delta. This diversion was create by the farmers to entertain themselves in the rice paddy.
Cool building in downtown Saigon with a helipad on the side!
Cool building in downtown Saigon with a helipad on the side!
Rog having fun, Cyclo riding in Saigon, Vietnam.
Rog having fun, Cyclo riding in Saigon, Vietnam.
Willy-nilly traffic in Saigon is normal!
Willy-nilly traffic in Saigon is normal!
Dinner waiting to go home with someone!
Dinner waiting to go home with someone!
Laundry out to dry in downtown Saigon, Vietnam.
Laundry out to dry in downtown Saigon, Vietnam.
Statue of Jesus in Vung Tau, Vietnam
Statue of Jesus in Vung Tau, Vietnam
The Buddhist Temple in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
The Buddhist Temple in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
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Former summer residence of South Viet Nam president (the “White House”) in Vung Tau, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Southeast Asia Travel

 

What a pleasant port-of-call!  Nha Trang is a city with a village feel.  We awoke to watch the final docking.  From our window, we could see the VinPearl Amusement Park on the Island to our left.  The cable cars from the mainland to the park paused and lifted the cables so the MS Amsterdam could pass under.  Operations had resumed by the final docking but the cable cars passed overhead all day until our departure.  We had been told to expect a small vendors market on the dock right next to the ship—and there was—but, in addition, there were more vendor stalls outside the port gate.  Shoppers’ heaven!

We took the shuttle to Nha Trang Center Mall, a multi-storied emporium across from a lovely beach.  Both the beach and the food court at the mall were crowded with tourists—mostly Russians—who are so prevalent in Vietnam that signs and menus are provided in Russian Cyrillic!  We had to have a local snack—potato skewers with beer!  And that’s how we discovered food court etiquette in Vietnam.  You buy a debit card in a pre-set amount and then “charge” your purchases throughout the court.  Any balance left is cheerfully refunded.  We shopped, roamed the beach and took the shuttle back to the ship.  The vendors were still there waiting for us!

The Mall at Nha Trang Center
The Mall at Nha Trang Center
Nha Trang Center Mall
Nha Trang Center Mall
I don't think this would be considered a well balanced lunch!
I don’t think this would be considered a well balanced lunch!
View of the beach from the Nha Trang Center
View of the beach from the Nha Trang Center
The beach in Nha Trang Center
The beach in Nha Trang Center
View from the shuttle reurning to the ship
View from the shuttle returning to the ship
On the dock/shopping the market
On the dock/shopping the market

Hong Kong, China

Asia Travel…..cont. 

Docking at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal was a new experience for us.  Usually, the Holland America Line ships dock at the Ocean Terminal which is right in town and very close to the Star Ferry Terminal.  So, on day 1, with a spirit of adventure, we disembarked and explored the new cruise terminal created from the old airport.  It was a disappointment.  The building is large and mostly empty.  Banners advertise restaurants and shops—but they are no longer in business!  We did find a coffee shop adjacent to a huge catering hall.  The hall was being used as a conference facility with a small business lunch served in a side room.  The coffee shop, itself, was quiet, but at least, open!  We ordered a pot of lemongrass tea and planned the rest of the day.  Before boarding the shuttle to Ocean Terminal, we noticed “The Old Hangar,” an attractive looking bar with glass walls overlooking the dock, and made a mental note to sop by later for a drink.

Kai Tac Terminal North (Still digging up north end of the runway)

Once at Ocean Terminal, we wanted to visit the Page One Bookstore in the Harbour City Mall.  How terribly disappointing to find it no longer existed!  Page One had once been a large chain in Hong Kong.  Now, in only about a year, all those stores are gone!  Interestingly, there is another bookstore chain, Causeway Bay Books, that has also shut down.  Between Oct-Dec 2015, five Causeway Bay employees disappeared!  It is now known they were kidnapped and detained in China.  One escaped and has returned.  Several others are known to be in Chinese custody, charged with selling “sensitive” political books.  One (with a Swedish passport) is still missing.  Page One began closing several of its Hong Kong stores in mid-2015.  The Harbour City branch went into receivership in November, 2016.  All its doors closed.  The problem at Page One seems to be financial rather than “sensitive” content, but the up-shot is—TWO large booksellers in Hong Kong have been forced to close.  What a pity.

Page One Hong Kong

When we returned to Kai Tak Terminal later that afternoon, we discovered “The Old Hanger” was no longer open.  No “Happy Hour” in China!  We boarded the ship.  Around 10:30pm that evening, the MS Amsterdam left Kai Tak and cruised over to Ocean Terminal, arriving on the dock at 11:30pm.  It was a lovely crossing, very much akin to an evening sightseeing harbor cruise.

We awoke to the hustle and bustle of a big mall right outside our stateroom.  Who could ignore the siren call of the mall?  Not me!  We went shopping!  We ate lunch at a great place called BLT Burger.  We stopped at the CitySpace Grocery Market on the 3rd floor.  And we headed back to the ship for an emergency lifeboat drill scheduled for 4:15pm.  Passing by a Marks & Spencer Gourmet Shop, I spotted this bag of potato rings.  It looks very much like the Funny-frisch Ringli Paprika treats from Germany.  I developed an addiction to these when we lived in Germany.  I cannot describe my excitement upon finding this!!!!!!!  The paprika flavor may be missing, but the crispy and satisfying crunch is there.  Life is so good!

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Shanghai, China

 

Asia Travel…..cont.

Shanghai is a city of many looks.  The old, as exemplified by the Bund and its Colonial Era buildings; the new as in Pudong where modern architecture dominates the skyline; or the really, old as in Yu Yuan Gardens where the traditional buildings, gardens, and pools provide a feeling of calm and tradition in the middle of a bustling city.  In the morning, we chose to explore Fuzhou Street and its many craft stores, bookshops and cafes.  The hands-down favorite was “The Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore” (390 Fuzhou St.)  It is a 6-floor building across the street from another multi-storied crafts center.  The ground-floor coffee shop is handy for a quick break from shopping!  Following the morning’s shopping spree, we lugged our new books down Nanjing Street to the historic Fairmont Peace Hotel for High Tea.

On Day 2, we made our way to the French Concession where we shopped the tiny boutiques in the warehouse area and ended the day with pizza and beer at the SML Mall.  The smog in Shanghai (all over China, for that matter) is always bad but seems to be even worse right now.  Perhaps it’s the time of year.

We’ll be spending a few days at sea as we head over to Hong Kong.  Later in this voyage blog, I’ll give a run-down of all those things available to passengers on board the MS Amsterdam to keep us entertained.  But, before I close-out Shanghai, I want to tell you about a story told to me at dinner the other night.  A table-mate related her visit to Pearl Harbor.  She was born December 7, 1938 and vividly remembered her 3rd birthday and the fear and trauma of that day.  She has been deeply affected by the shock and terror of that time and carried that angst with her all her life.  Upon visiting the USS Arizona Memorial on this cruise, she found a peace and sense of closure.  Even more amazing,  later in Nagasaki, she met a man who survived the bombing of his childhood city.  The two of them talked; they shared the trauma.  Perhaps, he too, found a sense of closure.  Travel can be so amazing!