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Author: OrmontUS Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 463314  
Subject: OT: Jeff takes a trip 6 Date: 11/5/2011 5:27 AM
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A final note on Hong Kong’s MRT (but also stairs in general):
One major difference from other systems is that the default staircase side to walk up/down on is the left. As an inveterate staircase climber, I frequently found myself going “up the down staircase”. I suspect this has something to do with what side of the road cars drive on (Hong Kong, like the UK drives on the opposite side from the US and the rest of Asia).
October 29, 2011 – Singapore:
Before we get started, a bit of a story: I generally print a matrix of currency conversions before I go on a trip (in both directions in units of 1, 100, 1000) as well as conversions of gold weights in troy ounces, grams, grains and teals (Chinese weight) (Thai baht weight not being required on this trip). Anyway, the ship has helpfully provided a pocket card with helpful translated phrases and currency conversions (somewhat biased to allow the ship to make a commission on exchange, but still look OK). In Singapore’s version I noticed that they inverted all the figures (instead of $1US being $1.24SD, they got the whole matrix backwards as $1US being equal to $.80SD). I happened to notice the error (go figure - why would anyone pay attention to currency valuations after all? ?) and they reprinted the cards in time to redistribute them.

The idiots who scheduled the itinerary have left far too little time to see Singapore (and for that matter the future stops in Indonesia. Cruises do not allow you the time to do more than scratch the minimal veneer of a place. There is a comment heard that they give you a taste and if you like a place you can return for a longer stay at a later date. In reality, few ever do and the world seems separated into land travelers and cruisers with each group having little to do with the other (though we seem to be the relatively rare exception).

The original population of this geographic area which stretched down much of Indochina, what is now Malaysia, through Indonesia and into the Philippines was Malay. Indochina also had older populations of Khmers in Cambodia and southern Vietnam, etc. A ubiquitous Indio/Hindu culture spread from India across Indochina, Thailand and into Indonesia for over a millennium. This culture (still seen today in the dancing, puppet construction and architectural styles throughout a broad swath of Asia and the Pacific region left temples (such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Barabador on Java). The Arab traders who came in a quest for spices in the 1300’s, and before, brought Islam which was adopted by most Malays in what is now Malaysia, Indonesia and into the Philippines. There are a number of other smaller groups as well. The area has a substantial overlay of ethnic Chinese (Han) as well as “true” Indians and Arabs who are descended from traders/colonizers during the time that they controlled the spice trade. Singapore island split from the Malay Republic (now Malaysia) shortly after independence and has created its own separate destiny ever since. It is largely administered by representatives of the Chinese portion of its population. Its wealth has grown over the last few decades as its low cost of manufacturing brought in business. This has been so successful that the average standard of living is the highest in Asia (excepting maybe Japan) and is equivalent to that found in many parts of Europe or the US. This has caused them to lose their manufacturing advantage and the government is assisting in creating new ways that companies in Singapore can continue to grow by adding intellectual value (frequently in the information technology field) and accumulating valuable data. It has historically been the site of fortresses guarding this entry to whichever empire controlled it (most recently, the British) and evidence of these forts can still be seen. The harbor is the site of a massive oil refinery and huge farms of petroleum product storage tanks.

Pulling into the harbor at Singapore was a revelation. Starting miles offshore we passed row upon row of anchored tankers (and a smattering of cargo ships). This apparently is the cantango fleet that has been talked about where speculators store oil and commodities and reminded me of the pictures of the D-Day invasion fleet (except this one may be larger). For those who follow this sort of thing, virtually all of the ships were riding high and empty. (Note: We entered Singapore early in the morning so I didn’t know the extent of this observation. I am writing this note on the way out of the harbor and we have been passing through this fleet of empty ships for over 5 hours at 17 knots speed, so I’m not sticking my neck out too far when I say it is huge).

The architecture one is presented with upon entering the harbor proper is modernistic and fantastic. There is a miles long aerial gondola run to Sentosa Island – a resort area offshore from Singapore.

Singapore is the first place that we have visited that REALLY takes immigration protocol seriously (lines going through customs, passport control, etc. rather than a quick peek by officials more interested in getting a free lunch in the ship’s dining room than busting the chops of passengers or the ship). This would have slowed our departure (except in true Jeff fashion, rather than waiting on a long line, an elevator was used to jump to the front of the cue and) we were among the first handful off the ship. We were fortunate to have been contacted by a chap who had been reading my ranting on Metar and he and his lovely wife took us to Sentosa Island to a fine Indian restaurant at Planet Hollywood. We were the only guests as the restaurant was being prepared for the evening’s festivities with long tables, each apparently hosted by a different Indian movie star (the phrase Planet Baliwood was unavoidably drawn to mind). The food was delicious, the company enjoyable and the experience unique. Though we had never met before, it seemed as if we were old friends. The discussion did not involve economics, but did drift a bit in that direction and it seems that mortgages are indexed and interest rates are currently so low that banks are telling their customers not to expect negative interest rates (money refunded) and currently stand at about .5%. Do I hear “real estate bubble” anyone? It would be my pleasure to welcome Nikhil to officially join in discussions on the Metar board should that be his wish.

Anyway, after lunch we split company and took a cab to meet some friends from the ship at Raffles Hotel. This old and fancy establishment (we’ve previously stayed at their joints in Cambodia and they were pretty ritzy) houses the “Long Bar” where the Singapore Sling drink was invented. For those who MUST have one they cost $26SD +10% service + 7%VAT (or totaling about $25US). Another peer pressure thing costing me one to share with my wife. Tasted like Kool-Aid (which I must have been drinking to be convinced to partake in the ritual). They put bowls of small peanuts in the shell on the table and this is the only place that it is OK to litter in Singapore – peanut shells only though. While we sipped, it poured outside but was finished by the time we left. As a side note – in general, I don’t allow rain on my vacation days, but on occasion as long as I’m indoors, it’s OK ?. For those who care, the rack rate for rooms at this rug joint start at over $1,000 per night and range above $5,000 per night.

People may joke about the laws of Singapore, but they are deadly serious. No chewing gum, no duty free cigarettes (and if you smoke then you had better carry an ash tray when you walk for your ashes), no jay walking, no littering, etc. It is the most expensive place in the world to own a car (because of high taxes encouraging mass transit).

From Raffles, we walked to Arab Street – a long strip near the gold onion domed Sultan Mosque(on Muscat Street) specializing in silk, rugs and other similar goods. After a bit of persuasion to keep the female portion of our contingent from spending time in every store, we visited the mosque. Continuing along Arab Street we passed Our Lady of Lourdes Church as the bells in the steeple rang 6 PM. Continuing onwards we passed along the edge of the “Thieves’ Market” near Madres Street (and saw long bus ticket purchasing lines of nearly a block long). We turned right on Sarangoon Road and reached the Sri Veerama Kaliamman Hindu temple on the left (about 20 minutes before services there). This fantastic building covered in brightly colored symbols is something not to be missed (Google it for more details). In looking at both the food in the restaurants, the names of the stores and the dress of the locals, it seems that Singapore dodged the strife between Hindus and Muslims which engulfed India in 1948. Further up the road on the right is the Mustafa Centre – an emporium of all things Indian. The 24K gold shop is huge and the workmanship very varied, but since the Singapore government applies a 7% VAT tax, I left well enough alone and stuck with the bangle from Hong Kong which I think represented the best place to buy on this itinerary.

The people we were traveling around with got antsy about staying around in the neighborhood at night and didn’t like the look of the area’s restaurants (which looked perfectly fine in some cases to me). In Singapore, Chinese restaurants may prepare some Malay dishes, Indian restaurants may prepare vegetarian versions of Chinese dishes and so on. “Fusion” is a Western term which defines some of the cross cultural cooking found here (but doesn’t do it justice). While some restaurants were not something I would contemplate visiting, many were (and at least the water in Singapore is safe to drink). Anyhow, they beat a hasty retreat into the MRT (towing u with them) with no set plans other than to abandon the area I had brought them to. The said they wanted to go to the center of the city - “downtown” and it didn’t help to tell them that that’s where they were. Anyhow they finally made a directional decision and then were debating which of two stations to get off. (Indecision makes me crazy. While a decision may not be optimal, at least something is attempted – might work, might not – but nothing ventured, nothing gained). Anyhow, at that point, I lost patience and we split off and headed back to the ship.

The MRT subway system is clean, modern and efficient (as expected in Asia), but the bus system seemed plagued by long lines at the ticket booths and cryptic routing. The electronic subway card can be “topped-up” like a phone SIM and is retained from trip to trip. When you buy it from a vending machine there is an automatic deposit ($1 for a single trip card, $8 for a “smart-card” daily pass) which is returned when you feed the card back into the machine at the end of your usage.

Anyhow, we had dinner on the ship. Our friends apparently went to the roof of a new hotel and saw a wonderful nighttime view of Singapore. While it should have cost $20 each, they were given coupons and got up for nothing. Then they went to a restaurant which turned out to be a clip joint (go figure) and they were not only overcharged for food, but for the peanuts on the table, the towelettes to wipe their hands and so on. I’m not sorry at my choice. I spent the late evening on the Internet at a Starbucks Islamic about ½ mile from the ship (including sending last week’s posting of this story).

The next morning, in order to allow enough time for the tough Singapore red tape, we were supposed to be back on board by 10AM. We left the ship at about 9AM and took a round trip on the aerial gondola which runs between a mountain (at a height of about 200 meters) and Sentosa Island, going through a couple of buildings along the way. The route took us directly over the ship with the opportunity of a “helicopter shot” as well as incredible panoramic views of the city (and beyond). It went somewhat towards justifying the $26SD ($20.50US) price tag (well at least I used up some of my Singapore dollars). We got back to the ship about 8 minutes late, but such is life.

A note: In the absence of unusual circumstances (such as an untraded currency like the Yuan) it is beneficial to trade directly to the currency of the next country rather than into US dollars and then using those to buy the next currency. Jeff’s rule is to drive out multiple middleman commissions whenever possible.

The trip out of port involved spinning the ship on a dime and chugging away past the lines of ships I mentioned earlier (as well as a couple of dolphins providing entertainment).

October 31, 2011 – Day at Sea:
Clock back an hour again (it’s like the hokie pokie – clock going back and forth nearly every day). Today is a repeat of meringue dance lessons (‘nuf said). Taking some lessons in speaking Indonesian (and some of the crew has their family aboard for the next few days – more will be meeting as the ship docks in various ports). . Trip is now officially half over. Tonight is Halloween. Today we cross the equator. As I am already a shellback, it remains to be seen how King Neptune treats pollywogs on this ship (I suspect passengers and crew members may be treated differently.

Indonesia was Hindu until (as in the case of many other Malay areas) the local Hindu kingdom was defeated by a Sultanate and most of the area (excluding Bali, which remained Hindu) converted to Islam. The Portuguese had trading posts there in the 1500’s until the Dutch East India Company took Indonesia over as a colony. The Indonesian independence movement grew stronger between the two world wars of the 20th century and Indonesia sided with Japan in World War II in an effort (successful) in getting rid of Dutch rule.

Country and place names tell a lot about the historical context of an area. So we all know about the “stans” (Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Waziristan etc.) which are central Asian Islamic regions. The prefix “Indo” (as in Indochina and Indonesia) obviously refers to India. The suffix “pore” (as in Jaipore, Kuala Lampore, Singapore) refers to a city of Indo/Hindu origin. The suffix “isia”(such as Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Indonesia) is a grouping of Pacific islands. Using these prefix’s and suffix’s can help tell a story about the history of a place.

Indonesia should be interesting. Apparently Jakarta traffic is something which has to be seen to be believed (always willing to be surprised when it comes to traffic). Most of Indonesia is Moslem (it is the world’s most populous Islamic country), but Bali is mainly Hindu. Most of the very old temple sites , predate Islam and are also Hindu or Buddhist in origin. As Indochina refers to the Southeast Asian version of Indian culture, Indonesia refers to that culture as it originally spread across the island archipelago.

Our assistant maitre d’ has his family aboard and many of the Indonesian crew members will be greeted by theirs as we hit the three stops in Indonesia (Jakarta, Semarang and Bali) and I suspect there will be a lot of kids (and maybe some tears) flying around.

Today is Halloween and the entire ship is draped, hung and filled with fantastic decorations. The Pilipino carvers have crafted dozens of jack-o-lanterns in bizarre and unusual forms. All the waiters, entertainers, etc. (and those passengers who take this sort of thing seriously) are wearing costumes and makeup. The crossing the equator thing has therefore been delayed until we re-cross it after Australia (as they want to make a big deal out of it, I guess). Previously, there have been similar decoration efforts (for Canadian Thanksgiving and a couple of theme formal nights) and I expect that the future holds something in store for our Thanksgiving.

November 1, 2011: Jakarta, Indonesia:
Selamat Pagi
Indonesia is one of those places where US dollars are widely accepted. That said, you will get better prices by paying in Rupiah’s.

The day didn’t start auspiciously as the pilot apparently didn’t set his alarm clock and the ship was left waiting in the middle of the harbor’s entrance for more than an hour. Of course leaving was not changed so the day was curtailed. Traffic was as expected on the 10 mile shuttle bus ride to a shopping mall in town. More exactly that means the Asiatic right of way based on vehicle size thing. Traffic lights are for suggestion only and though they have countdown clocks to red, cars continue to pass through red lights for a good ten seconds after the light has changed vying for space with the oncoming storm of motor cycles and cars following the instructions of their own green light. On entering the mall after the bus drive, I was approached by a guy who wanted to sell us his services as taxi/tour guide on a per/person basis. After laughing a bit with him at this attempt at extortion, we did a bit of dickering as our party of six walked into the mall. After a bit of walking around, using the ATM (only got about $35 worth of the local stuff as I don’t want to be stuck with it at the end) and making a pit stop, I was appointed the official negotiator and settled on a reasonable amount for a three hour tour ($50 – great for him, but decent for the six of us as otherwise w would have needed two cabs). The rupiah currency is a bit daunting as there are about 8,818 of the buggers to a US buck. We drove aggressively through traffic carefully observing the local traffic rules (giving way for trucks and terrorizing motorcycles and tuk-tuk’s-actually Indian versions which seem smaller than the ones in Thailand). We took the bus lanes to end run traffic, only leaving them when our intrepid driver deemed the risk of police interception (and the fines accompanying that type of event) too high at various points of our route. We took a tour passing the presidential offices and residence, some mosques, embassies and so on. We then passed a variety of military bases and hospitals. We ended up at the National Monument. After figuring out that we had to go to the basement, we ended up in the Indonesian history museum. After an elevator ride, we found ourselves at the top of a tower a couple of hundred meters tall with a 360 degree panoramic view of the city documented by photographs indicating which building is which.

When we left the tower, a group of police vehicles worth of a small war (armored bus, paddy wagon, a couple or three assorted police cars) descended on our corner of the parking lot. The crowd of souvenir vendors near the tower grabbed their wares and scattered leaving one of their number behind holding a 55 gallon garbage bag filled (presumably) with goods. Two policemen slowly walked over from the land armada and literally turned their backs as the “culprits” made their get away. Then they scolded the guy holding the bag, confiscated it (presumably for the public welfare) and sent him on his way.

Most of the cars are Japanese (with driver on the right hand size) and most are surprisingly new. This is a motorcycle heavy city. School is paid for by the State through Junior High School, but high school must be paid for by the parents. While Indonesia pumps lots of oil, it is generally refined elsewhere and the re-imported. Gasoline is state subsidized ant costs about $.50US a liter. The same goes for coffee whose beans are exported. Apparently, the best coffee is created locally by “passing” the whole beans through a cat’s intestine, collecting them from the feces and then grinding them. Chinese cell phones cost about $30, Blackberry’s about $130 and Marlborough cigarettes about $1.30 (with local brands a bit less). Middle class houses (or 2 bedroom modern condos) cost about $20-25K US and high end villas cost $100K and up. A month of cell phone connection with data service is about $3.00 (correct decimal point). A middle class worker (teacher, street cop, etc.) would expect to make about $350 a month. The working poor make minimum wage at $200 a month and a “lower” professional about $550 a month. Next to that, the $800-1500 a month (plus tips) that a Holland America Cruise line employee makes (for six month contracts of seven hour days, 14 hours a day) allows them to buy homes, cars and collect enough capital to open a restaurant if they want to. It is interesting that Balinese (who make up a small part of the country’s population – Bali being a small island compared to Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Papua, etc.) make up 30% of the Indonesians employed by Holland America. Almost all of the rest come from Java where their school the “MS. New Jakarta” is located (which contains full sized mockups of the ship’s dining rooms and kitchens). Balinese are unique in that they are generally Hindu while 85% of Indonesians are Muslim. The Balinese are known to be a very peaceful and artistic bunch (and much of Java is a pretty rough and tumble place). As Holland America only accepts as student waiters guys with previous experience in 5 star hotels and I guess their density in Bali helps explain at least part of the demographics.

After walking through a market, we had our driver take us back to the mall where the shuttle bus connected to the ship. While the wife bought some minor handicrafts, I had a typical meal in the food court (cost about $2 US for some chicken fried rice with chilies sort of thing). Went back to the ship.

Jakarta is a typical large Asian city. Typical in the format of Bangkok, Pham Phen, Nanking rather than like the cities we have been visiting. It’s rather dangerous, has chaotic traffic, has the odd open sewer, etc. The roads have been structured to be primarily one way with lots of limited access streets. Taking the rules of engagement for traffic outlined above means that intersections are a no-man’s land.

We left Jakarta with the feeling that it was the first port since the initial Siberian one we touched that offered few reasons to return.

November 2, 2011, Semarang, Java:
Before we begin, let me preface this by saying that in the 30 +/- cruisers we have taken, we have only taken one cruise offered excursion (because of an unusually short window in which to see Herculaneum near Pompeii). Usually we find the offered excursions expensive, time consuming and so on. That said, there is a rather unique site a couple of hundred kilometers from Semarang by the name of Borobudur Temple. This is a huge Buddhist temple built in the 8th century and then buried in volcanic ash and jungle a couple of hundred years later (and re-discovered in the second half of the 20th century). The trip was down a series of frequently crowded minor roads and at least if we took the ship’s tour (relatively expensive, but you only go around once) they would wait if we were late. There were two tours offered – one by bus and one that was partially by train (stipulated as not air conditioned, but with no further explanation). Our traveling companions had booked the train one (about $25 a person more than the bus one, but what the heck), so we did as well.

So we get on the bus and a red cops car with flashing light and siren pulls in front of us. This guy got his jollies by driving in the opposing lane of traffic, driving oncoming traffic onto the shoulder with our bus in close pursuit. On occasion the oncoming traffic kept coming (say semi’s who ignored his waves out the window) and our bus would dive for cover into the midst of traffic. This duplication of the chase scene from the movie Bullet was pretty cool. Icing on the cake was when the guy in the front seat got nauseous and offered me the first car in the roller coaster. Then we pulled into the train station and got into one of the three old wooden carriages attached to an antique steam locomotive. Even better, since there were no flight attendants to ask, I just walked up to be back of the locomotive and stood jut behind the guy feeding logs into the fire box. No sissy OSHA regulations for those guys. The engineer was like Horatio Hornblower and tooting the whistle at about a million decibels whenever he saw people. This was pretty often as the train tracks ran within about 15 feet from the backs of people’s houses. Apparently the train coming through is either pretty rare or as close as these guys get to entertainment. Everyone old and young waved and kids ran alongside trying to race with the train. Black smoke poured from the belly of the beast and, when the wind shifted and the train was going slowly, filled the carriages with wood smoke. We got off after a while at a station which had about a dozen assorted other engines as well as a turntable to get them onto the tracks. After a pit stop (I won’t bore you with the descriptions I got of the lady’s toilet) we traveled by train about ½ hour further where we met our bus (and the same souvenir vendors who had besieged us until we boarded the train). Prices of about 10% the original asking price was achievable (as long as a low enough starting price was chosen and then upwards increments kept small. I think handicrafts may be nicer in Bali, but did pick up a handful of trinkets (stick puppet, horn spoon, wooden mask, refrigerator magnet – total price somewhat under $10. I passed on the poison dart blow gun as I already have one from a previous trip to Papua New Guinea).

Well the bus got us to Borobudur. This mountain sized temple is built in the style of the much larger Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s worth seeing if you are in the area (especially coupled with the cool train ride and police chase thing), but all things being equal, given the choice, go to Angkor Wat. While climbing on this thing (maybe walking in reverse and unraveling my karma?) I was video taping and tripped over a stone garbage can (about 15 inches high). Well, I went a$$ over tea kettle and wrapped up my knees (I was wearing short so they also got abraded). My first concern was that I didn’t have a broken kneecap. My second was that the various bleeding abrasions on my knees, shins and one hand wouldn’t get infected. My third was for my embarrassment at being such a klutz as some of the ship’s people doused me first in alcohol (smarts a “bit”) then smeared me in Bactericene and Neosporin (ice packs had to wait until I got back to the ship. It seems today (next day) that no permanent damage has been done (except to my pride). After wandering all over the temple (in my sarong – yes everyone had to wear these – can always blame that for my clumsiness), we went to eat at the adjacent resort hotel restaurant. The buffet was authentic Indonesian food with every semblance of spice removed (like authentic painting with all the pigment gone). On the bus ride back, we stopped at a coffee shop for a bit of local premium Java (actually very good). This made us really late in the middle of rush hour (and another 40 miles to go) and our pet cop’s car went absolutely bug-$hit crazy in an effort to get us through traffic (regardless of the devastation he caused along the way). These islands have such a dense population and such lousy roads that heavy traffic (including lots of trucks and buses) extends into the middle of nowhere. It was the most fun I had since driving a cab in Manhattan when I was going to school. Good news was the ship waited (we were the first of 14 buses to show up late.

When new got back, there was a tent set up (like in Jakarta) for the Indonesian members of the ship’s crew to meet with their families (and offload their RC helicopters, bicycles and other stuff they had purchased for their kids in China.

November 3, 2011 - Day at sea (Foxtrot today):
I woke up this morning to a pirate ship heading directly towards my stateroom (looking across my veranda). This was a brightly color patterned vessel with a pair of eyes on either side of the bow and a huge turquoise colored sail. I expected to see Captain Jack Sparrow peering at me through a spyglass, but we passed the thing like it was standing still. During the day we passed more of these brightly colored fishing boats (as well as oil rigs and through at least one huge oil slick). Dinner was in the Pinnacle (the ship’s fancy extra cost restaurant) as our two pairs of traveling companions (who live close to each other in a resort community in Desert Springs, Ca.). They had invited the ship’s IT/communications officer (he had supplied the wine at a formal dinner about a week ago and is also the guy trying to set up the scuba trip I’m hoping to go on in Australia). Anyway, they spent the night trying to impress the guy with the fine wines they had brought aboard as well as bragging about their “golf every day” lifestyle. This was a bit tedious to me (who figures that wines fall into two groups – wines I like and those I don’t, and three sub groups – reds, whites, others – all the rest of the information on a label is just marketing. Even though I have played maybe a dozen games of golf over the years, I don’t consider myself a golfer and the thought of playing golf every day seems like having too much time on one’s hands.

November 4, 2011 – Bali:
This is a bit of a frustration as it is a tendering port and the last tender to the ship leaves the island at 2:30PM. Our traveling companions took a tour starting at 6AM in the morning, but after a late night it seemed like too much work to me and traveling with these guys is a high maintenance activity anyway and exhausts the heck out of me – between the bragging on one side and the continual indecision on the other, things take longer to do and are a bit more “forced” than we prefer. We have traveled with others from the ship on occasion, but these guys invited us to their table and we are sort of joined at the hip.

Anyhow, since we were on our own, we ate breakfast at a reasonable time and then took the tender ashore. We walked about ½ mile to an internet café where the speed was fast and the service cost about $1.25 per hour (instead of the ships stone slow and flakey connection at $.45 or more per minute – depending on size of contract purchased). After about 15 minutes of email reading (and a peek at my stock portfolio) we went outside with another couple from the ship who had been sitting next to us and I negotiated a price of $25US for a taxi for 3 hours. We took the cab towards Ubud, a town known for Bali’s famous wood carving, batik, bamboo furniture and other handicrafts. The trip went slowly as there was a ceremony (apparently held every four years) at one of the dozens of temples we passed. Traffic was held up, but this gave us a chance to watch processions of traditionally garbed Balinese bearing offerings. When we were finally able to make our way through the revelers, we were able to wander through a few stores (the only purchase I made was of a couple of very intricately carved pieces of bone at about $10 each). I’ve heard of Westerners hiring local skilled wood carvers for a couple of hundred bucks a month to produce extraordinary carved furniture and then shipping the items home in a container. In our discussions with the driver (good English as he had paid to go to a special school, mint condition Toyota SUV – but it was owned by his “boss”), people make less money in Bali than Java, but construction workers are brought in from Java as Balinese “don’t like hard work”. On the way back to the dock where the tender would pick us up, our way was blocked by a funeral where the body was being cremated (according to Hindu law). Apparently there is also a Holland America school on Bali. Got to the tender a bit early, but went directly to the ship. I would return to Bali in the future, but would not be in a rush to return to Java.


I’m left with about 120,000 Rupiah (say $11US) which I will use as part of a tip to one of the ship’s Indonesians at the end of the cruise.

Shortly after leaving Bali, the ship was swarmed by a pot of at least 50 porpoises jumping for joy. We are still trying to confirm with dive shop in Exeter, Australia. While this is not the season for whale sharks, huge manta rays are common on the reef there. My knee joint is not very sore any more from the fall and the swelling has gone down, but the area is still very abraded and I’m wondering if I will be Great White bait. If the connection with the dive school doesn’t get made, though this town is very small (population about 2,500, 2 taxi’s), I understand that it has a Sunday market (that should make the wife happy). We’ll see. We’re off to see the Wizard…

Jeff
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