The Journey Begins

Darlings,

We are missing you all desperately but consoling ourselves by having a fabulous time.

The ship has a steam room AND a sauna, non stop beautifully played cheesy but delectable music, a lovely crew, delicious food and a good time which is being had by all.

We are skimming through the Coral Sea, watching the waves speed by our window. Paused at Bris-Vegas yesty and saw a lovely exhibition of TI and PNG art at GOMA with our beautiful niece Briony and gorgeous Great Niece Lexi.

Airlie Beach tomorrow for some laundering and email and to dabble our tootsies in the tropical sea. We can see why some wealthy widows choose to spend their lives on cruise ships. It is delightful. The art for sale on board really is something. Not as classy as crying clowns or dogs playing poker, more the sort of lurid stuff that used to be mass produced and sold door to door by gypsies. But the other punters are lapping it up and who’s to say they’re wrong ? Not we.

Must slip into our cummerbund and cocktail dress for the formal night in the Sapphire Room tonight then onto the Star Bar for a drink and some very entertaining cabaret. Ohh, forgot to mention the Ice Spectacular this afternoon. A dozen young skaters in brilliant costumes and sets speeding around a rink the size of a tennis court…on a ship….in the middle of the Coral Sea !!! It’s all kind of surreal, and very pleasantly so.

Love to you all

Kristen & Bill

Xxxxx

Update: we are at Airlie Beach, the landscape is beautiful, little Islands sticking up out of the Coral Sea, misty mountains, rainbows, friendly people. All is well and we hope you all are too.
We met an interesting coot on the boat, Clive, a gent of a certain age who had been involved in the Malaya Emergency in the 50s and Vietnam in the early 60s. We got the full story, his Grandpa was at Gallipolli with his mate Albert Jacka, with whom he’d run a eucalyptus oil pressing business before the war. Clive had been a copper on the wharves in Melbourne and said he’d taken part in investigating 29 murders involving the painters and dockers. He also said that yes, to his certain knowledge, Blamey had left his baton behind in a brothel (wouldn’t Tommy have loved to hear that Chris) ? Clive is hoping to march in Darwin next week and we will watch the parade and give him a cheer.

 

Hi All dear ones,

Here we are in Darwin where we’ve just watched an impressive Anzac Day Parade with chopper and jet fly pasts. A tremendous multicultural Dawn Service on board as the sun rose and Darwin appeared, with a Mexican MC, a Spanish priest and a Ukrainian bugler from the ships band who gave the Last Post a tiny touch of Tijuana Brass. It may have been the earlyness of the hour but as some other little Aussie chap was winding up proceedings and thanking everyone he thanked the Captain and just at that exact moment the ships horn let out a long blast. “Pardon me !” Said the little fellow to general hilarity.

We’re not sure if they put something in the prodigious amounts of food they feed you but we have never met a happier or more contented group of people than our fellow travellers.

Cairns was lovely with crabs, mudflats and Pelicans. The Cairns Gallery which is in a beautiful old building had an extraordinary exhibition of Fred Williams’ Weipa Series.

The Sea has changed from the Coral to the Arafura and is changing colour every hour or so from Quink to turquoise and everything in between, 1000 shades of blue and green.

We took on a pilot at Brisbane to steer us through the reef and he provided a tremendous commentary, pointing out Lizard Island where, evidently, Cook stood in 1770 looking for a passage out after the Endeavour had run aground. Just a little further north was Restoration Island where Bligh and his fellow survivors from the Bounty came ashore in 1791.

There are some wonderful musicians on board and several terrific dancers among our fellow passengers. One old fellow looks like Keith Richard with a bandana around his head and his wife, with whom he dances rock n roll style and who must be 80 if she’s a day, dresses in a sort of Minnie Mouse outfit. Just last night we watched her spin around and around for over a minute to the sounds of the Ukrainian and polish jazz band. Alongside them are elderly Chinese couples in red satin cummerbunds and flamenco dresses high stepping, pirouetting and cutting a very fine rug. All in all its most entertaining.

We must dash off to the laundromat to refresh our outfits before we get to Singapore in 5 days time. We hope you are all as well as we, miss you all and, as they say in the classics, wish you were here.

All our love

Kristen & Bill

xxxxxxxxx

 

Dear one and all,

Hope you are all flourishing and scattering sunshine all around as are your wonts. We are panting and pausing for breath in Jonkers Street in Malacca to briefly regroup and send you this the latest update in our wondrous wide eyed wander.

We popped off the ship in Darwin just in time for the fly over and march past. Very impressive group of heavily bemedalled women and men with chinooks and Jets zooming above. The pubs were chockas as expected but we squeezed in, drank some beer, bit a crocodile (strangely delicious) and remounted our watery steed.

The very next day we were loitering on the Starboard bow ( aargh me hearties & etc) when a rather huge turtle ( smaller than a Volkswagen but bigger than a bread board) finned (or flippered) past. No turtle soup that night, unless it was restricted to the Captains table.

Later that same day we were trying to walk off some of the 3 course breakfasts, luncheons & dinners with a waddle around the ship when we discovered the aft was roped off due to a funeral service. Speculation was rife. It seems there is a morgue ( and a gaol) below decks. Quite a good option when we thought about it, no chance of being dug up and evicted.

Anyhoo the aft rails were littered with suspicious looking ashes for a couple of days so we very reverently refrained from leaning on them.

There were Sea snakes and Silvery flying fish skipping over the waves and the Timor and Arafura seas continued to be the perfect seas from central casting, endless sheets of exquisite blue and green silk shot through with undulations and gentle ripples.

Rather gorgeous creatures on board too, our dining mates and new friends Paul and Marie Arnett from Melton. We took a shine to them straight away, loved their company and had a ball wandering around Singapore with them.

On the 2nd last night we sailed in between Bali and Lombok, many of the crew hanging over the railing looking longingly at their home islands. A long, long, long (seriously it went for many miles) line of lights appeared which looked like an enormous runway or highway but were, evidently, squid boats. It seems the bright lights attract the squid.

The Rock and roll dancing Keith Richards look alike mentioned in an earlier mail turned out to be wearing a hair hat, a shock of grey hair stitched onto a headband. Is anything as it appears to be we wondered ? He and his octogenarian Minnie Mouse inspired dancing partner were shaking their elderly but very spry booties
to a pianist playing the hits, among which was Smokies ” Living next door to Alice”. I’ve lived a very sheltered life and wasn’t aware of the crowd response in that tune. “Alice ? Who the fuck is Alice?”

Sad to leave the boat. Everybody was so damned friendly and happy. All emotions and feelings were reduced to only the two, sleepy and/or hungry. Brilliant entertainment, great food, do please go on a cruise, we think you’d love it too.

So to Singapore. Absolutely mind blowing. It looks as if the Government has given an open cheque to a string of brilliant architects and designers and then just let them run wild. Incredible, almost sci-fi inspired Ultra futuristic structures towering over beautiful and grand colonial buildings amid miles of elegant and gorgeous 19th century shophouses in a glorious tropical setting.

We rested our weary heads in a tiny room with no windows in Trennuggu St in Chinatown, the Opera House Hotel, a former Chinese opera house. Chinatown is wonderful, as is Little India and the Arab Quarter. The Bhudda’s Tooth Temple was extraordinary, huge statues surrounded by tons of gilt and thousands of tiny Bhuddas. Offerings of fruit, chanting monks, incense, meditation platforms, all in all a very special and holy place. A wonderful garden on the roof with huge boisterous plum red frangipanis that smelt of roses & extraordinarily beautiful orchids, an enormous prayer wheel we all took a turn on. And yes, a fragment of one of the Bhudda’s choppers right there.

Chilli cuttlefish and nonya chicken at the Maxwell Hawkers stalls, yum ! The Gardens by the Bay are seriously one of the great sights of the world. Jaw droppingly amazing landscaping, giant misty rainforests in a glass dome with towering walkways and waterfalls, HUGE “Super” trees covered in lights that danced and throbbed and pulsed and flickered and throbbed to classical music. I’ve always ( and will always) love the Bot Gdns in Adelaide, but this is up another level or two, then, perhaps, a third level after that. It seems a billion well spent on about a mile of reclaimed land.

Had a grand time with our lovely new friends Paul and Maree and our dear old friends Judy and Greg and Chris and Caitlin, drinking frozen daiquiris and admiring the view at Boat and Clarke’s Quays. You could easily spend a week in Singapore but we squeezed it into 3 very exciting days.

Greg pointed out an incredible Gotham City style skyscraper in the Arab Quarter. It seems a Hong Kong mobster had been able to buy the land dirt cheap as it had been hopelessly compromised by two badly placed adjacent buildings that had evidently cast shockingly crook feng shui over the acreage so very badly that no one would buy the land. The mobster got around it by building an overtly aggressive masculine building that, according to the pundits, negated the negative vibes.

Bid a fond farewell to the Merlion City and bussed over the causeway to Malaysia, positively zipped through customs and drove for hours through seemingly endless plantations of palm oil dates. Malacca looked more like the real Asia after the bizarre and beautiful bubble that is Singapore. Deep, deep gutters, potholed footpaths, and quite a bit of dilapidation. But the historical Jonkers Street area is a revelation. The whole area is a Unesco listed heritage zone and really is quite marvellous. We shared a nonya chicken curry at Jonkers 88 ( Melacca is the home of Nonya) with noodles for lunch that was simply the best either of us have ever had. Walls covered in photos of Chairman Mao, packed to the gills with locals. To top that off we wandered around the corner to Calanthe Cafe 13 States of Coffee, a shop which showcases the coffee types from the different parts of Malaysia and each had what was quite possibly the best coffee we’ve ever tasted, creamy and delightfully complex and flavoursome, like Kristen but in a cup. All this was accompanied by a blind woman sawing out melodies on a stringed instrument.

Even the weather is sensational. It’s at some stage of the wet season, so sticky heat interspersed with heavy rain that buckets down for ten minutes then disappears, leaving the world fragrant and fresh and clean.

I know, I know. It’s all a bit more than over the top. We are obviously on a travel high and what must seem very much like drivelling hyperbole is our constant companion.

Love to you all and apologies for the length of these emails but if they’re too much do please just block em.

Bill & Kristen

xxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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