Mike and Renée cruise
on HAL Volendam
to Australia and Indonesia
March 2011

This cruise had been Renée's dream for many years. HAL Volendam is a ship we know and love and we were happy to be booked on her again. The itinerary around Northern Australia and up through Indonesia is different and unusual.

PAGE ONE is Australia: Pre-cruise Sydney, Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Cairns, cruising Great Barrier Reef, and Darwin.

THIS PAGE covers Indonesia: Komodo, Bali, Java, Jakarta, and disembarkation in Singapore.

PAGE THREE covers our post cruise stay in Angkor Wat, Cambodia



DAY 11

AT SEA

As the ship turned North toward Indonesia, the excitement of the next sea day was in the Great Cook Off! Party Planner Jan was an excellent hostess and planned many interesting events during the cruise. For the Cook Off, many guests submitted recipes, and two of them were selected to demonstrate in the Culinary Center. One was none other than my own Dear Wife Renée ! . Her recipe was Italian Sausage and Vegetable Soup, reflecting her proud heritage as well as her cooking style.
Soon she was happily demonstrating chopping, sauteeing, boiling ... And of course, checking the seasoning!
A distinguished panel of judges chosen from the audience promptly declared them BOTH winners! And the event ended happily for all with the guest chefs serving their creations.


DAY 12

Komodo Island

Next morning we arrived at Komodo Island. We got there just after sunrise and had some stunning views. This is a truly gorgeous tropical island, very lightly inhabited and mostly unspoiled, due to the largest part of it being a National Park.

Of course, the reason for the National Park and the main attraction of the island is the famous Komodo Dragon, the world's largest monitor lizard and a living fossil. In fact, no one was allowed ashore unless they were on an organized tour, either ship's or independent, licensed by the Park Rangers.

Renée elected to make the long trek in high heat and humidity to see the dragons in their natural habitat. She prepared herself carefully to go ashore on the ship's tenders, with good shoes, sweatband, lots of water and her camera.

Arriving at the National Park, they were met by the Park Rangers, armed with long forked sticks. They then set off over a rather rough and sometimes uphill path. The heat and humidity were oppressive, and there was no place to sit down anyplace, although there were frequent patches of shade.

The long trek was rewarded by numerous dragon sightings. The guides allowed people to approach fairly close, but kept them back at what they judged to be a safe distance, and stood by with their sticks.

The dragons were normally sluggish, although one or two did make some passes toward the tour group and were herded off with the sticks.

Renée was delighted with this trek and the opportunity to observe the dragons on their home ground. Several dragons appeared before the half way mark, but she persevered to the end of the trail for many more sightings. At one point she even saw a baby dragon.

She appeared back in the cabin drenched and bedraggled but thrilled! Although it was a long hot trek she would not have missed it. After several glasses of water and a sandwich she collapsed for the rest of the afternoon.

Meanwhile Connie was on the ship's excursion to the village on the Island, skipping the long hot trek into the Park. The huts are all up on stilts, not to avoid floods but to avoid the dragons! But even in the village, the tour group encountered this one, resting comfortably under the steps of one of the houses!
Returning to our cabin after dinner, we were delighted to see that our room steward had commemorated the day in towel art!


DAY 13


PADANG BAI, BALI

And then ... the beautiful island of Bali! What an exciting and romantic place! We were met by our outstanding driver and guide, Ma-de Warta madewarta@yahoo.com with a nice air conditioned van. Off we went in the heat and humidity, down narrow roads lined with banana and coconut trees and rice paddies. Vans, trucks and buses and thousands of motor scooters kept up a lively flow of traffic but Ma-de negotiated it with expertise. He gave us many interesting facts about the island as we drove. Bali is a densely populated island, whose principal economic activities are tourism and agriculture. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, it has a predominantly Hindu population.
We stopped at the Goa Lowah Temple, known as the bat cave temple. As a token of respect we were all required to make a small donation to obtain a sarong to wear as we toured the temple with a special temple guide. This temple is one of the nine most important temples on the island, marking one of the directional points.

This is a spot of much natural beauty, enhanced by the wonderful wood and stone carvings of the temple. As we walked around many local people were making offerings of flowers, food and other items at various spots in the temple.

The temple is amazing both to the eye and to the touch. The carvings in local volcanic stone are fascinating. Athough Hinduism has three major dieties, there are many lesser gods and many local gods. Throughout the temple are great works of art in wood and stone.
The temple gets its name from the bat cave located at the back of the temple. It is inhabited by hundreds of fruit bats, or lesser flying foxes. In the daytime only a few are flying as most are sleeping in masses near the ceiling (top left) but at sunset they wake up and flock out of the cave to search for fruit. They are revered by the local people.
Through Bali we were besieged with vendors selling handicrafts of all sorts. Although aggressive, they are not obnoxious and can usually be turned away with a sharp "NO." Much of the merchandise is very beautiful and it would not be hard to come home with a suitcase full of souvenirs. Here our great guide Ma-de shows off my wife's acquisition, a carved dragon.
We drove through both the city, the villages, and the countryside. We saw many houses with personal temples, many local temples, and a few of the great ceremonial temples. We saw carefully crafted stone and wood carvings, paintings, batik cloth, sarongs, painted eggs, bamboo baskets and many other local crafts offered.

Then we stopped for lunch at a delightful restaurant, with a beautiful courtyard on one side, and on the other a rice paddy with women threshing and ducks gleaning. We had noodles, rice, satay on a charcoal grill, and I had this wonderful whole fried fish. Pineapple coolers and local beer made good accompaniments, and fried bananas finished off the meal.


Then Ma-de offered us a special opportunity, the chance to try Kopi Luwak. Kopi means coffee, and this is translated as "Wild Coffee." Luwak is the local name for the civet, a weasel like creature that inhabits the forests. These beasts love to eat the red coffee berries. It seems that the bean inside the berry is very tough, and travels through the animal's digestive system, thereby acquiring a distinctive strong and musky flavor. After the bean exits the animal in the customary fashion it is gathered, roasted, ground and boiled as normal coffee beans are. We all sampled this special coffee and found it delectable!
Then we went to the Kecak and Fire Dance show. This was a beautiful performance on an open air stage. The low lighting and the devotional flames were very effective for the performance but unfortunately made photography very difficult. The Kecak dance represented part of the Ramayana cycle. A large chorus of male singers encircle the stage, and in the center is enacted the story of Prince Rama and his love, pursued by the evil king and rescued by the white monkey Hanuman.

Bali is a magnificent island and in spite of the high heat and humidity we had a memorable tour here. We returned to the ship, grabbed a bite to eat and fell into bed.



DAY 14

AT SEA


DAY 15

SEMARANG, JAVA

This itinerary features a good number of relaxing sea days. A special occasion is the Indonesian tea. The crew decorates the dining room in grand style for the tea event. Another formal night gave us the opportunity for a portrait with more of the ship's collection of art works.
Our next port was Semerang, Java. We were met by our guide and driver from Borobudur Holiday and began a drive through large congested cities, small villages with many little shops, and beautiful countryside with rice paddies, banana trees, and coffee and rubber plantations.

Our destination was the huge ancient Buddhist Temple of Borobudur. Getting off as soon as the ship was cleared, our driver rushed us through secret "shortcuts" to the Temple, getting there in two hours and fifteen minutes, well ahead of the many buses from the ship.

Borobudur is built on the top of a mountain and represents the climb to enlightment of the Buddha. Constructed in the 10th century, after being used for some centuries it fell into disuse and was eventually covered with the jungle trees and vines. Rediscovered in the 19th century and excavated and restored, it is now a World Heritage Site and well worth the long trip to visit it.

Being with a private guide, we had special permission to stop at a local luxury hotel to be fitted for the sarongs we wore to the temple as a sign of respect, and then drove into the passenger zone very close to the base of the temple. This saved me a long walk up the hill with my cane and was a great convenience. Our guide and driver were outstanding and took wonderful care of us at every step.

Borobodur consists of ten levels. Ancient pilgrims would ascend level by level, making the circuit of the temple each time, until reaching the huge stupa at the top, the most holy place. We, of course, were not able to quite manage that.

Pam stayed at the bottom. I climbed to the first level, and had a chance to examine the many wonderful wall carvings of subjects like Buddha with a lotus leaf. Renée managed one level higher, climbing very carefully over the high and uneven steps. Connie was intrepid and made it to the main level, the fourth, which contains many of the venerated stupas. But whichever level was reached, the temple is truly an awe inspiring place to visit.
We stopped for a great lunch at a luxurious restaurant nearby. Among the delightful decor and atmosphere were these two gilded puppets which fascinated me. We had a great meal of several oriental dishes and finished off with local coconut milk and rice candy.

The drive back was even longer than the drive out there, due to the traffic. As we returned to the ship we saw the great arrangements the ship had made in this port for many of the Indonesian crew members to have a chance to host their friends and relatives on a tour of the crew quarters aboard. All of the Indonesian crew were very excited about this opportunity and it was a great morale booster. Their smiles were even bigger than usual!



DAY 16


JAKARTA, INDONESIA

We arrived in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and were met by Linda, a delightful young college student from Tours By Locals. Along with her driver Auguste, she gave us a wonderful day in Jakarta. We felt more as if she was showing her friends around her home city than on a guided tour. Traffic congestion in Jakarta is absolutely amazing, and it took a long time negotiating traffic to get anyplace at all. The skill and patience of our driver was amazing!
Our first stop was the harbor for the sailing schooners, which carry cargo of all kinds throughout the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia. Row upon row of these venerable boats were taking on goods of every description, all moved slowly one item at a time by human power. It was a return to a bygone way of life at sea, still operating in this country.
We drove to the Central Compound of Jakarta where the major museums are located. These cannons were left over from the Portugeuse occupation of the country, and these Indonesian boys do as boys in all ages and countries have done with cannons!
The main museum we wanted to see here was the Wayang Puppet Museum. We were fortunate to have the son of the puppet master himself offer to guide us around. His pride in the creations here was plain to see.

This case includes some of the most favored puppet characters, skillfully worked from below by sticks.

And here is a large statue of Hanuman the white monkey, favorite character in the Ramayana, which is often performed by the puppets.

Our guide then took us to "his father's workshop", which interestingly enough looked very much like a gift shop. They had many wonderful puppets available for sale, ranging from reasonably priced souvenirs to outstanding, and expensive, masterpieces.

All of us, but especially my dear wife Renée , like to visit local markets. We drove through a series of increasingly narrow streets lined with small stalls of all varieties. It is something of a miracle how our driver managed to find his way. We observed people at all economic levels from comfortable to extremely poverty-stricken. Yet they all seemed reasonably happy and satisfied, and were all friendly and welcoming to us whenever we interacted.
Eventually, traffic successfully negotiated, we arrived at this local market, featuring food items, clothing and all sorts of other stuff. Outdoors were a variety of small stalls. Two levels of covered stalls contained many other items. Renée and Connie, guided by Linda, descended into the underground level and wandered through it happily, and eventually returned with a jar of Sambal, the local HOT sauce!
Then we had an amazing contrast as Linda took us to the local five story mall. Our previous impressions of Indonesia were either of special areas designed for tourists, or of the extreme poverty and crowded living conditions of the people we saw through the van windows. The mall was a different experience. Here we were entirely in the middle class of Jakarta and it seemed much like any mall anyplace, except for the occasional booth serving sticks of sugar cane.

We bypassed McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts to sample the local version of fast food. We had fried rice, satay with peanut sauce, a good seafood and vegetable dish, and two kinds of sambal hot sauce to try on them. This was a very interesting change from what we had seen of Indonesia so far!



DAY 17

AT SEA


DAY 18

DOCKED IN SINGAPORE AND DISEMBARKATION

Our last day at sea featured the crossing of the equator. As we reached 0 ° 0' 0" who should appear but good old King Neptune himself (or some character who at least superficially resembled him). The age old ceremony applied to sailors "Crossing the Line" for the first time was carried out with great decorum and dignity.
A couple of the pollywogs who kissed the fish and turned into bonafide shellbacks bore a resemblance to some people I might know, but I am really not sure I want to identify them ...
The buffet on the ship was always very good. On this day, lunch featured a large display of tropical fruits. We sampled dragonfruit (big red one), sour mango (yellow one), kumquat (little one) and a couple of others which we weren't sure of!
On our final morning, we awoke to find ourselves in the Singapore shipping lanes, some of the busiest in the world. We slowly picked our way through literally hundreds of ships, large and small.

As the ship was overnighting in Singapore we had time for some excursions here. Renée , Pam and Connie chose iconic Singapore which gave them a nice tour of the city including a cruise on a bumboat.

They saw the famous sights of Singapore such as beautiful temples.

Of course no tour of Singapore would be complete without a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel!

Meantime Mike chose the Night Safari which gave some marvelous views of nocturnal animals, but no good opportunities to take pictures. This is from their webpage.


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CONTINUE With our post cruise tour to Cambodia.

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