Having tried a few times over the years to get to Myanmar (Burma), efforts that have been foiled by erratic river tides and street violence, we have finally made it to this secretive historic country. We made it to Yangon city, via a ride over roads that we were told were being up-graded (which meant it was ride worthy of a theme park) but it was all worth it to see this city resplendent in its Ying and Yang (as befits its name), with poverty and wealth side by side. The temples and pagodas of Buddha with their golden spires reaching to scratch the sky are amazing. gold leaf abounds alongside bare footed monks begging for food. The city centre boasts a Christian Cathedral along side a mosque and a golden pagoda….all we were told, living in harmony. (Tell that to the Rohingya people being persecuted just up the road!) a country that its previous military dictators have sold out to China (all gas, oil and even the water the river have been contracted to the Chinese, leaving little for the citizens of the country).
The Shwedagon Pagoda, although undergoing a 60 ton gold leaf ‘refit’. complete with a covering of bamboo scaffolding, was an amazing sight, surrounded with hundreds of Buddhas each in his own temple of amazing construction. It was a visit well worth waiting for. The religious significance of everything mostly by-passes me, for Buddha was a simple man seeking a simple life of meditation and peace, yet the temples and shrines set in his honour would, I believe, baffle him were he to re-appear from Nirvana.
We are here in Yangon for a further day and a half….with further adventures planned – particularly in the region of local food!
Sailing into Sidney Harbour is always a joy, and then anchoring opposite the Opera House in full view of the Harbour Bridge adds to the pleasure. A tender ride to the shore to be whisked away from friends Terry and Sue meant foregoing the shoreside ‘special event’ for the World Cruisers, but a few hours of peace and quiet, a private swim, good company and an overnight stay was a real benefit. A morning tour of the hills and bays around Sidney took us to Manly for fish and chips and a ferry ride back to the ship, now docked in Circular Quay. Two ports were missed – Mooloolaba, (where we didn’t meet with friends Rich and Heike) and Thursday Island – but it was a Wednesday! adverse winds and waves were the problem said the Captain. Cairns meant a trip into the rainforest for a ride on an ex-army DUKW through the water and trees of this site designed to show the culture of the aborigines (we both failed the test of throwing a boomerang – mine in probably still in the tree!) The resort Island of Hamilton on the Whitsundays was a pleasant stop – luxurious apartments and money shouted loudly from here, and so to Darwin and a visit to the local hospital for a check up (all clear), and on to Komodo for many (not us) to visit the dragons! An overnight stop in Bali, with a trip to eat their lovely food and watch their dancing. It was hot and steamy – both the food and the weather! After a visit to Makassar in Indonesia where we viewed the crowded market, bought hot chilly peppers and sweated, we crossed the line with a ‘Neptune’ ceremony where again I played the part of Daft Wader daring people to cross to the ‘other side’. 4 days in the Philippines were fun. the last one in Manila with a tour of the old city, and a watching the crews visiting friends and family coming on board to view the working conditions of their loved ones – always a delight to watch and be part of. And so to Hong Kong – to the mist and rain. Julie left for a quick visit to the UK and her father, returning in Singapore in 12 days time. This segment from Sidney has meant a few talks a couple of shows and dying on stage as Daft! A few memories there, and also many good people as we maintain our relationships with the World Cruisers and meet, greet and bid farewell to those who join us for a few weeks….
and so on to Singapore, via Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. A full diary of ‘things to do’….including ‘St. Patrick’s Day’, and i hope I don’t ‘die on stage’ during that one!
Having flown to Los Angeles via Washington, we spent two very pleasant nights in hotels to be involved in the pre World Cruise gala event in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, before transferring to the Regent Navigator to commence this 131 day super cruise around the world. Five days to Hawaii, through fairly choppy seas and changeable weather, and a visit to each of the large islands before heading again for four sea days to Nuka Hiva in French Polynesia. The weather has not been wonderful and the great ocean swells have made for some uncomfortable days at sea. But so far, all is well, with many lectures and a good show…..so we carry onwards. Tomorrow we cross the Equator, and I’ll have a costume duty to perform as Neptune. Hopefully the beaches of Nuka Hiva will allow us a few hours to take to the water and enjoy a bit of sunshine. Papeete in Tahiti brings the first change over of some guests before we tour the lovely Pacific islands and atolls on our way to Australia, and meetings with friends in Brisbane, Sydney and near Cairns.
Despite it being December 5th, it’s pretty warm here in Andalusia…in fact warm enough at 3pm to take a trip indoors to update the blog. It’s been an amazing year, and I know I have recounted a few bits and pieces from around the world on our extensive travels which have seen visits to all the continent (except the very cold ones!)
The final leg of our ocean travels started in Athens on the Regent Voyager, and we cruised to Rome, doing the usual duties of lectures and shows, and two shows with Blue Weaver, before he and his wife Sigi left us in the eternal city. we carried…or would have but for the big storms that were in danger of wrecking Rome,(where enjoyed a great visit to the inside of the Coliseum and our usual pizza and wine at the restaurant overlooking this amazing building) and certainly closed the port of Livorno and later Monte Carlo. revised itineraries left some guests disgruntled, but mother nature usually wins these arguments. We made it to Ajaccio in Corsica to visit the birthplace of Napoleon and enjoy the atmosphere of this tiny but influential island. Julie left the ship in haste in Marseille to fly to her ill father in Cornwall….and I carried for an 8 days cruise finishing in Barcelona and then for a 12 day trip crossing the Atlantic to Miami. But again Mother Nature came into play and with a big storm we diverted from Funchal and Bermuda, south, to the Canaries and across to St. Maarten in the Caribbean…..many sea days and many lectures and shows. But somehow despite the rolling seas, it was fun. Debarkation in Miami was a tardy joke as the US customs computers broke down….but eventually a flight home to Heathrow…and three days in Rochester, before the sanctuary of our mountain retreat here in Canillas.
The sun is shining and the garden has been weeded, the wine is still cheap and the food good. We are back in the UK for Christmas and the New Year before we head for L.A. on the 2nd January to join in the pre cruise gala fun for the Navigator World Cruise commencing on the 4th…I’ve prepared over 50 different lectures and around 12 music shows…and I’m sure the cruise director will find other things to fill my time….the name King Neptune springs to mind!!
The hot summer is over, at least for us, as we have survived the searing heat of southern Spain as we took two months off from cruising to do a couple of important things in and around our home. A quick trip to Bremen and rehearsals with Blue Weaver (Bee Gees) ready for the crop of cruises coming up before the end of the year, and on to Frankfurt to watch (and encourage) son-in-law Jim doing the European Iron Man Championships. What an event! 3,000 people doing the swimming, cycling and marathon run in the July heat of central Germany. Jim was amazing coming in 83rd over all, and 12th in his age group….and in the top 3% of all competitors. We cheers, we waved, we drank beer!
And back to Canillas for our summer concert – Simon Bowman – West End and Broadway star gave us an evening of music to remember, under the stars, with our 50 guests well wined and dined raising over €400 for the local cancer charity. And so to packing and preparation for the next round of cruises – interrupted by the need to complete the necessary arrangements for the first of several ‘cruise ship tours’ to the village. (A project I had been pursuing and promoting for a year or more, but which suddenly came to a climax when I least expected it). We wait for the feedback!
And so to Rochester, and on to Copenhagen and the RSSC Explorer (‘the most luxurious ship afloat’) for a few laps of the Baltic, with several days in St. Petersburg, and visits to the charming towns of the Baltic States, with Blue joining for our new joint venture shows – The Rock n Roll years, and the Bee Gees years……keep you fingers crossed on these.
We will finish this set of cruises by joining Oceania Riviera in Lisbon for a Med cruise to Rome (again with Blue on board – we may have got it right by then!)
And home for a few days before heading off again to cruise the Med and finish with an Atlantic crossing to Miami. Much work to be done, and some preparation for next years epic World Cruise (137 days)