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Published: February 12th 2013
We had beautiful weather as we cruised up the Timor Sea to Indonesia. I had forgotten the idyllic setting that is the home of the Komodo Dragons. A calm bay dotted with islands and surrounded by steep verdant mountains. The Voyager was going to be at anchor off Komodo Island for just three hours. The tour staff did a terrific job of getting 400+ passengers tendered ashore, toured around the island to see the dragons and back to the ship on schedule. A real smooth operation! It was hot as an Indian curry on shore and we hiked for about a mile through a tamarind forest to get to the dragons. There were four of these giant lizards hanging around a water hole. Usually during mid-day they are quite lethargic but this time they seemed very antsy--maybe because of us interlopers. Two of the males even got into a wrestling match—not the passengers, the dragons! When one headed our way it looked pretty menacing with its split tongue darting in and out. The guides stood at the ready with their pronged sticks. On the trail back to the shore, we crossed paths with a small viper and the guides started yelling
This is the Chinese Year of the Snake
"Get away...very dangerous!" I followed their orders promptly. A big market was set up by some locals from Flores Island and they were stocked with pearls, wood carvings and of course, t-shirts.
The ship's staff held a very moving memorial service for Jackie. There was much reminiscing and several poems read in her honor and many tears shed. Led by Captain Sanguineti, the officers and entertainment team went out to the bow of the ship and dropped 24 yellow roses into the sea, one for each year of Jackie's life. It was quite a coincidence that right then several whales surfaced, followed shortly thereafter by a whole pod of dolphins. It must have been in tribute to a wonderful woman.
We docked at a new port in Bali called Benoa—new for us. It is located down by the capitol city of Denpasar. It is the most industrial part of Bali and not the most scenic entry into this fabled island. We took a bus up north to our old stomping grounds. The area around Padang Bai is very rural and filled with temples and ancient villages and lovely seaside resorts. There are over 13,000 Hindu temples on this
small island. The Goa Lawah—the Bat Cave Pura---is one of the most important and one of the oldest temples having been built in 1007AD. The walls of the caves are alive with thousands of bats and the statuary is very interesting. This temple protects Bali from evil spirits.
We stopped at the Candidasa Resort for lunch and an ocean swim. Our call in Bali was shortened to one day, so soon it was time to head back to the mother ship for a deck bbq and dancing under the stars. A local dance group came aboard and performed their exotic music during dinner.
After a nice day of cruising we arrived in Semarang, Indonesia. This is the port for Borobudur, one of the most significant and best preserved Buddhist shrines in the world. We have visited this rediscovered temple located in the lush Javanese countryside so we opted for a tour of the city of Semarang. It turned out to be a religious tour. We went to the Grand Mosque, a Dutch church, a Buddhist monastery and a Chinese temple. It was interesting at the mosque since it was “ladies day.” The place was filled with women shrouded
in white from head to toe and herding tons of kids with them. Even the mosque call to prayer was done by a female…a first for us. We also went to the dance hall where the infamous WWI spy, Mata Hari, wooed her unknowing victims.
It is a long drive to Borobudur and all of the ship’s tour buses have police escorts just to get through the unbelievable traffic chaos. This was especially important on our day in port since the ship was sailing at 4pm. Four passengers hired a private car and went to Borobudur on their own. They didn’t make it back to the port prior to our departure. Their passports were left with the port agent and these poor souls would have had to make arrangements to get to Singapore in order to catch up with the ship. It would be a major pain…I would hate to miss a ship’s movement.
The day before our arrival in Singapore we had a Cruise Specialists farewell party for our departing guests. The party was in Pam and Richard’s master suite and we toasted our friends, Chinese New Year and Kevin’s birthday. It was a very festive evening
and Captain Sanguineti and his lovely wife Mariana joined us for the occasion.
It is fun to travel in Asia this time of year. All of the cities are festooned with Chinese decorations and there are fireworks and parades during the two week party. “Gung Hai Fat Choi” as they say in welcoming the Lunar New Year in this part of the world.
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