February 29th
Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand

I looked out about 7:30 to find us parallel parked next to the terminal in Laem Chabang.  And almost directly out in the front of the building were 2 huge elephants, draped in red & yellow.  Their handlers were feeding them; & then proceeded to slowly lead them right next to the gangway.  They were obviously the Thai version of the “Welcome Wagon”.   According to the bridge camera info, it was already 86*; & the camera lens fogged up the minute I stepped out on the verandah.  Shortly, Thai music started to reverberate off the side of the building; & there were 2 lovely Thai women dressed in native costume dancing for us.

Since I had an early tour, Liz brought my breakfast about 7:45; scrambled eggs, bacon, grape juice.  I quickly checked emails; & found one from my T.A.  Bad news….I will have to eat a $550 penalty for canceling my Hong Kong to San Francisco flight.  Ca-ching!  Even though my mind was pretty well made up to stay on till the end of the world cruise, I was keeping tabs on the losses as they are figure into the total cost of the trip.  It’s all kinda scary.

The Capt. made an announcement that the ship had been cleared by the local authorities.  His thought for the day (an oldie but goodie)….”Blessed is he who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed”.

My tour today (LAE-FW) was titled “A Day in Bangkok” (as in how much of Bangkok can you cram into a 10 hour day, when at least 4 of it will be spent getting to & from).  I was assigned bus #10; & had a very good guide whose name was Parr.  The 2+ hour ride into Bangkok provided Parr with plenty of time to cover a lot of historical facts & give an insight into day to day life of the Thai people.

As is the case in a lot of Asian cultures, they protect their skin from the sun as a sign of status.  If you are tan, it means you are poor; a laborer.  No matter how hot, they are wearing long sleeves or leather jackets & sometimes gloves.  The vast majority of those who are riding scooters or bicycles also wear a face mask; partially to protect them from the pollution that is prevalent in the air.  Some masks are plain; but some seem to be fashion coordinated with the clothes they are wearing.

Although times have changed somewhat, Thais were not allowed to practice birth control until such time as they produced 2 sons.  The ideal situation would be to have your son(s) spend their early morning hours learning from the monks before school classes.  Those chosen few would have a greater foundation toward higher education; giving the family a higher status.  There‘s no such thing as a pension.  The elderly continue to work as long as they can, usually helping others tend their gardens.  Most of the gas stations in Bangkok have a KFC & McDonald’s attached to it.  The Thai people equate a night out at KFC & McD’s as special as you might, going to the country club for dinner.

Between Parr’s commentary & the interesting scenery passing by the bus windows, the ride didn’t seem so long.  He explained that the many ‘boxy’ shaped houses with tin roofs that we were seeing were ‘1st generation’ houses…….those built by the grandparents, which now house multi generations of the same family.  We passed many areas where the boxy houses were so close together that their roofs practically touched each other.  From the perspective of this Westerner, this type of living is unfathomable.

Within a blink of an eye, all you could see were tall, modern skyscrapers for 180*.  Bangkok is certainly a city of contrasts with the mighty Chao Phraya River flowing through the center of it.  Certain sections, such as Chinatown have gone to great lengths to preserve their native feel.  Magnificent temples mixed in amongst contemporary structures.  Half the population seems to be caught in a time warp while the rest of them have moved into the 21st century.  There is no rhyme or reason to the traffic flow.  If traffic isn’t moving fast enough to suit you, just drive your scooter up on the sidewalk & go around everybody (including pedestrians).  I don’t know which fascinated me more….watching the traffic movement or the street venders.  They are such enterprising people.  You have a favorite family recipe?  Pile everything you need to set up a mobile kitchen on your scooter; & pick a sidewalk!  And dare I mentioned power lines?  The same person who strung the power lines in the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, must have done the work in Bangkok too.  A tangled mass of wires hangs heavily from pole to pole.  I just wonder how reliable it could be?

Our first stop of the day was a (very HOT) 1½ hr. walk around the Grand Palace grounds.  This is a photographer’s paradise with the ornate mosaic columns, pagodas & gilded spires.  It would take at least a full day to actually take in all this beauty.  The grounds were quite crowded; & you could easily get lost from your group.  I did several times while I was distracted taking photos.  I shot over 500 today; & as spectacular as they are, they really don’t do it justice.  I’ve since poured over the layout; & still can’t identify each of the buildings & their purpose.  But the photos will speak for themselves.  Even with the crowds of people, there was a sort of reverent quiet.  Not sure why; but I was constantly aware of the sound of wind chimes that hung around the perimeter of a few of the temples.



The most revered spot would be the Emerald Buddha in the Royal Monastery.  This Buddha is actually carved from jade; & had been inadvertently ‘lost’ until 1434 when an abbot ‘found’ it covered with plaster.  Part of the plaster had peeled off the nose; & that’s how it was ‘discovered’.  The Emerald Buddha is enshrined on a traditional Thai-style golden throne; & the image is clad in a ‘costume’ that changes 3 times a year.  I saw him in his ‘winter’ attire.  You are not allowed to photograph him from inside; but I was able to get some good shots through the front door.


Most of us were sweating profusely, fanning as hard as we could.  Unfortunately, a gentleman in our group went ‘down’ with the loudest thud, his head barely missing the corner of some concrete steps.  One of the guests was a really nice doctor (Arnold) from Murfreesboro, TN; & he stayed with him until the Palace medical team came to assist.  They were giving him fluids; & every time he’d try to sit up, he’d faint again.  It was scary for his wife; & they ended up having to push him back to the bus on a ‘sit-up’ stretcher.

I almost became casualty #2 on the trek back to the bus.  I had to sit; & the guide brought me a soft drink in which she poured some salt.  Nasty stuff; but it kept me vertical at least.  It was at that moment I knew I needed to reassess the tours I’d booked during the rest of the ‘hot weather’ portion of the trip.  Since we were hours away from the ship, that gentleman had to spend the rest of the day lying on the back seat of the bus.

This put us about an hour behind schedule; & we had to speed through our lunch break.  We were taken the beautiful Shangri La Hotel, where we were treated to a fabulous buffet of Thai specialties.  The other bus groups were just finishing their lunch when we arrived.  I sat at a huge table for 12 along with the Doc Arnold & his wife.  He was telling us that he had a hard time clearing his schedule for such a long cruise.  In fact, they flew 36 hrs. & came straight to the ship from the airport.  He must be a gambler cause that’s cutting it close.  I couldn’t identify half of what I was eating; but it was outstanding.  A few dishes were really spicy, the ‘make your nose run’ kinda spicy.

Once back on the bus, our next stop was at the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Trimitr) to view the 5½ ton (18ktg).  This massive 700 yr. old Buddha is 12½’ wide & 15¾’ tall.  Just like the Emerald Buddha, this one was also encased in plaster to conceal it from enemy invaders centuries ago.

The last stop of the day was for shopping (what else) at a complex that housed gems & silks.  I decided to stay on the bus with the Doc, his wife & the patient.  The majority of my bus mates all came back with shopping bags.  On the drive back, I got another perspective of life for the ‘have nots’.  I observed some folks washing their clothes & their dishes out in the yard.  Yet here we were, a busload of spoiled overfed tourists with shopping bags full of ‘stuff’.  It’s kind of disgusting no matter which way you look at it.

We returned to the ship at 6:40 pm.  I stopped by the Concierge desk to see if there was any news on the Chinese visa (none).  And I did see the Shore Excursion office about cancelling my tour in Cambodia.  Yes, I desperately wanted to see Phnom Penh; but a 12 hr. walking tour in 100* heat is not my idea of fun anymore.  And I didn’t want to take a chance on seeing what the inside of a Cambodian hospital might be like.

After a refreshing shower, Liz brought dinner about 8.  I had a great appetizer, chilled crabmeat tower with papaya & hearts of palm.

I followed that with a chopped salad with blue cheese dressing.  My entrée was rib eye steak with mushroom-truffled butter, stuffed baked potato, roasted peppers & mushrooms.


An hour & a half later, I was down for the count; too tired to care if acid reflux got me or not.  Yet, I couldn’t get those women washing clothes in a bucket in a dirt covered yard out of my mind.


February 28th
Cruising the Gulf of Thailand

I awoke about 6:30; & went right to work on the Java photos.  I’ve given up hope of editing ALL the photos I’ve taken.  For now, I’ll be happy if I can just edit the ones I intend to use in the blog or upload to Facebook.  Watched the morning show; & answered a movie trivia question.  I’ve mentioned Mama Lee a few times; the woman who has been ‘living’ on the Serenity for the past several years.  I had never seen her until this voyage; so I thought I’d post her photo so you can put a face with the name.  After all, she is quite a legend around here.  She was shown in the video highlights on this morning’s show.

Capt. Glenn’s 9 am report from the bridge informed us that we are sailing equal distance between Cambodia (starboard side) & Thailand (port side) at 13 knots on 2 engines.  It’s a balmy 86* with a slight wind.  His thought for the day….”Most of us know how to say nothing; but most of us don’t know when”.

Celeste & Bill joined me for breakfast.  I had staked out a table next to an electrical outlet (FYI, there’s one in each of the 4 corners); & as soon as the crowd thinned out, she & I moved.  We both got to work on our respective computers while Bill went to a golf lesson.  Betty, Pat & Che all came by; sat down & chatted.  At the stroke of 10, Adrian strolled over with 2 Portuguese tarts & the tent card that labels them.  He pranced back & forth pretending like he was looking for someone; teasing me.  These guys are like elephants….they never forget ANYTHING!

Celeste & I went up to the Asian themed buffet at the Lido about 1 pm.  I had all my usual favorites; BBQ’d pork belly, the spicy marinated stir fried eggplant, & the Vietnamese pork & shrimp noodle salad.  It was another excellent meal; & we chatted for a long time.

I went down to see Melanie about the pricing for the next 2 segments of the world cruise.  The bad news, there are no Cat “C” cabins available; & I will have to pay for a Cat “B”.  If I had been in my right mind a year ago when I started this booking, I should have taken advantage of the numbers they quoted then.  These are higher than I’m comfortable with.  But worth considering.  I asked her to request a visa application from the Clearance Officer. 

Then I went down to the Medical Center to consult Dr. Cornelius about replenishing my prescription meds.  He has some of them; found a few substitutes; & will have to contact a doctor in Hong Kong about getting one more.  My last stop before going ‘home’ was the library to pick up my trivia prize.  Once back in my cabin, it hit me what I was about to do.  I’m determined to stay on now; & damn anyone who throws a roadblock in my way!

I spent the next 3 hours online trying to contact all the appropriate people back home who could help me change travel plans, change appointments on my calendar, & handle my personal business another 6 weeks.  I hate to have to call in favors!  During this, I also watched the rerun of the lecture Ken Walsh gave this afternoon on the Presidency of Mr. Obama.

Pat & Ray were kind enough to invite me to join them at Silk Road tonight for dinner.  I found Ray as delightful & as entertaining as Pat.  They are an adorable couple.  We shared a platter of sushi & tempura shrimp & veggies. Ray also had an interesting looking bowl of mushroom soup that’s served in a Japanese tea kettle.

For my main course I had the Nobu style lobster stir fry with snap peas, garlic, asparagus & Shitake mushrooms with his famous Yuzu sauce.

The chef came out to tell us that he made a special dessert for tonight.  It was a kind of crepe with red bean paste.  We all tried it; but were not really impressed.  So, I had to finish off with lychee sorbet.

I was ‘home’ at 8:45; & began to pack my day bag for another lonnggggg, hot day of touring.  Not even going to turn the computer back on; I’d never get to bed.


February 27th
Cruising the South China Sea

Great night’s sleep; woke up at 7:45 (that internal alarm clock is still working) in plenty of time to watch the Morning Show.  I was in the Bistro at 8:50 waiting for them to open.  Celeste & Bill joined me for a little breakfast.  Just before 10, Adrian (with a sheepish grin on his face), comes to the table with a Portuguese tart on a plate just for me.  I wouldn’t have; but how can you so no that face?

Capt. Glenn reports that we are sailing in the South China Seas, which are only 160-180’ deep at the moment.  We’re chugging along on 2 engines at 13 knots; & it’s a comfy 84* partly cloudy outside.  His thought for the day….”The best & most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched; but are felt in the heart.”

I got to meet Christie (KaraokeQueen) for the first time, here with Pat (SnoBirdcruiser)

Crystal held a morning party for the members of Cruise Critic up in Palm Court.  There were appetizers & drinks offered.  I think I counted about 20 people, a little short of the number that had signed up for the ‘meet & mingle’ on the message boards.  I suppose those who didn’t, got involved in the many lectures & other events that were going on at the time.  Crystal goes out of their way to throw these parties for us; & several officers and/or the Cruise Director always show up.  I sometimes feel bad when there is a poor showing.

Amongst the bar service waiters that were serving us, were Raymond & Ross (who had just rejoined the ship yesterday after vacation).

Celeste ate lunch with me up in the Lido, where they were serving German specialties.  More new faces up there….Bruno, Nat & Clarke all returning from vacation.  Everything I had for lunch was great; most dishes we had not been served during this sailing.  I got little spoonsful of lots of goodies:  prosciutto, smoked sausage with sauerkraut, Vienna veal goulash, boiled beef with an apple horseradish & chive sauce, keasespaetzle with fried onions (like regular spaetzle dumplings but with lots more taste), caramelized red cabbage, mushroom ragout served over a dumpling roll & warm white cabbage salad with bacon bits.

I couldn’t seem to put the idea of staying on for the full world cruise out of my head.  Even though it would be painful money wise; I knew I just couldn’t NOT do it.  So, I went back to see Melanie; & asked her if she could get me a quote from the L.A. office.  Because we’re a half a day ahead of L.A., I was going to have to wait until they opened Monday morning.  I also asked her to look into the procedure for procuring that Chinese visa.  I needed to sit down & make a list of all the plans that had to be undone & redone.  And I needed to make some quick decisions about the ambitious tours I had coming up before the cancellation deadline passed.

I sat on a sofa in the lobby; & then noticed there was nobody at the Cove Bar.  Hmmmmmm, if ever I need something to drink it was now!  I spread all the tour info out on the bar; & ordered a bellini-tini (part bellini/part martini).  Shortly, I was less stressed; & able to think everything through.

Back in the cabin I did some work on the photos & watched reruns of several of today’s lectures.  One was by Dr. John McMichan entitled “The Healthy Traveler” (tips on how to stay well in 3rd world countries).  The next one was on Thailand & Cambodia by British world correspondent, Ken Rees (a frequent lecturer onboard Crystal).  The last one was the history of Buddhism & how his philosophy has taken over the eastern world as told by Professor (of ancient civilizations & cultures) Adrian Kerr.

About 4 it got very dark outside & soon started to pour down rain.  The rain & the bellini-tini sent me right into naptime mode, that lasted a little too long (like 3 hrs).  Liz brought dinner about 8:30.  Tonight’s dinner was a little unorthodox.  I had a smoked sausage & a little bowl of pasta arrabiatta.  I asked for it nice & spicy; & it was perfect.

For dessert I had some cheesecake on a bed of marinated strawberries.  Smooth & creamy.  Excellent!

I was beginning to tire of editing all those photos from Singapore; so I turned the computer off about 10:15.  We get to turn the clocks back one hour tonight; & I was looking forward to some relaxing reading in bed.


February 26th
Singapore take 2……..

I didn’t get to sleep until after 3 am.  I think I was just TOO tired.  Yes, and the long nap didn't help either.  But it felt really good to be able to lounge around in the bed until I was actually ready to put one foot in front of the other again.  I went to the Bistro about 9:30.  You can tell that new food provisions came onboard yesterday.  The fruit looks different.  The strawberries are huge & not quite as sweet as those we got in Sydney.  The watermelon looks ‘young’.

It’s so depressing watching those who are disembarking pulling their carryon bags with a look of dread on their faces.  Why would anyone want to leave THIS; & sit on a plane for 24-36 hours to go ANYWHERE?  I’m grateful that it’s not me; but my turn is coming…..

Celeste & Bill came & sat with me; & shortly Che joined us.  I told them how much I was dreading getting off after this segment; & Celeste said (with her little devilish grin), “you should just stay”.  I can easily be influenced; but undoing my travel plans would be a nightmare.  Besides, that I don’t have a Chinese Visa.  She said I should check into it.  (Uh, oh…..)  Celeste asked if I wanted to go out & about with them; they had no set agenda.  But I declined; so much to do today.  Dirty laundry has reached a critical level; & I’m way behind on the blog.

Well, as I said I can be easily influenced.  I made a beeline down to see Paula Jean (the onboard booking consultant).  She told me that she can only help with FUTURE cruises; & that I should talk to the Concierge.  Poor Melanie; she’s probably regretting that Becky has learned the value of having a concierge to troubleshoot for you.  I explained my dilemma to her; & she consulted the Clearance Officer.  They said it was possible to make application once we reach Hong Kong.  But that’s the day I’m supposed to fly home.  Oh dear, what if I cancel my flight; & then CAN’T get a visa?  Why did I open this can of worms???

The laundry room on deck 8 was pretty quiet.  I did 3 loads; & a little touch up ironing.  About 3pm, I went up to the Trident & had a burger & onion rings.  I saw several new, but familiar deck steward faces who must have signed on yesterday.  It had started raining; & I could hear some thunder.  (I’m now thankful that I did cancel this afternoon’s tour.  There would no view from atop the Singapore Flyer; & I don’t think a trishaw ride in the rain would have made me very happy either.)  That was all it took to put me into ‘nap mode’.  Next thing I hear is the Capt.’s voice booming over the PA system, it’s time for lifeboat drill.  Now I did skip it in Sydney; but I was told that EVERYBODY is now supposed to go at the start of EVERY segment.  I did so; but sat there yawning through the whole thing.  I just couldn’t wake up.

I went out on deck 8 aft to watch sailaway.  It had turned very grey; & we left maybe 40 minutes late.  While I was standing there, I noticed a group of 7 Security Officers huddled together in a meeting on deck 7 aft.  I learned later that extra security people have been brought on for precautionary measures.  And it has become evident that several of them are on lookout & walking the perimeter of deck 7, 24/7.  Comforting to know.

I came in & got a little work done.  Liz delivered dinner about 9.  I asked for an appetizer portion of the salad entrée, which was pine nut crusted sea scallops with shaved fennel & sun dried tomatoes on a bed of arugula & Italian parsley.  The scallops were a little on the undercooked side; but it was excellent!

My entrée was tandoori spiced baked game hen with spiced tomato-curry sauce.  It came with sautéed snow peas & Birayani (rice) with diced veggies.  I’d never tried game hen before; & this was delicious.

I decided to take the rest of the night off from the computer; & go to bed with the shore excursion book instead.  I know I’ve overextended myself with tour bookings for this segment.  It’s going to be unmercifully hot; & the tours are lonnggggg.  I need to make some decisions very soon.

A very interesting place to live in Singapore Harbor.
As we leave the harbor, lots of boats waiting their turn to get in.