The Straits & Gulf of Thailand

06.02.2019 London, England.

I just had a few weeks of medical check-ups in Berlin. Time to hit the road again.
First, I had a quick dash to London, via easyJet and Southern Rail, to pick up an International Driving Permit (1949). This archaic-looking document is apparently essential for upcoming motoring in parts of the Far East.
Also, the trip was to visit with my 2-week old grandson, Alasdair. He seems like a fine young fellow and I predict he will go far. Technically, the lad is a Cockney being born within the original ear-shot of Bow Bells. Being a Pearly King could be a career option.

07.02.2019 Berlin, Germany.

Back to Berlin to pack a bag for hotter countries.

08.02.2019 Flight Berlin to Singapore.

A cheap seat on SCOOT airline.

09.02.2019 Marina Bay, Singapore.

Singapore Immigration has a system to take both left and right thumb-prints on entering the country. Always being subversive, I mess up their system by having one of my thumbprints pickled in a jar in a Berlin hospital. I usually get in with a warning to bring the correct digits next time.
My jet-lag seems to have become stuck on being awake. Over the past few months we’ve lost over 30 hours (plus one whole day lost crossing the IDL) by crossing time-zones travelling west and gained 13 hours by crossing time-zones travelling east. These biorhythms are completely confused.
H collected me from Changi Airport, and I was soon installed back on AIDAbella and we had a quick trip into Chinatown for lunch.

10.02.2019 Malacca Strait, Malaysia.

Back to sea overnight and daytime today was spent heading north through the crowded seaways of Malacca Strait to Penang.

11.02.2019 Penanang, Malaysia.

From the port we headed towards Little India for H to do some shopping for useless stuff. Little India in Penang is much more Indian than most places in actual India with Hindu stuff for sale in every other shop and Bollywood music blaring out on every corner. It seems to always be the way that expatriates amplify the culture of the home country.

The Chinese parts of Georgetown are still decked out for Chinese New Year, which was a few days ago, with firework stalls and a smell of burning paper everywhere. Then off to the Eastern & Oriental Hotel for lunch at our usual table overlooking the ships heading up and down the Indian Ocean side of the Malay Peninsula. We’ve been here four or five times in recent years. The Memsahib and I had gin and tonics and nasi goreng and reminisced about a colonial past that never really was. And still nobody admits to remembering my old Dad during his British Army days in Penang but it was almost 70 years ago.

12.02.2019 Port Klang, Malaysia.

We took a taxi from North Port to Port Klang and got on a small ferry to Pulau Ketam. This is a strange place that I first visited a few years ago on a similar cruise. Pulau Ketam is a semi-submerged offshore mangrove island a few miles from Klang. On the island there is a large Chinese fishing village on stilts connected by raised walkways. There are some guest houses and restaurants selling mostly crab.

We walked through the village and poked about in the shops but we didn’t want to risk the dodgy-looking restaurants.

13.-14.02.2019 At Sea, Gulf of Thailand.

Across the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam

15.02.2019 Phu My, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Phu My is the main port for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) but unfortunately it sits about 80 km south of the city on the edge of the Mekong Delta surrounded by swamp and industrial stuff. As we did the sights in Saigon and the nearby coast town of Vung Tau back in 2016, we decided to stay on board this time. Anyway, we will be back here next month and we might explore more then.

16.02.2019 At Sea, Gulf of Thailand.

sailing towards Laem Chabang, Thailand

17.02.2019 Laem Chabang and Bangkok.

I got a bus from Laem Chabang port into Pattaya to rent a car. Drove back to the ship and collected the Memsahib and we drove into Bangkok. It all looks close on the map but in reality it’s a long way and we were not there until after dark. Driving through the mean streets of Bangkok at night is an experience not to be missed. We stayed at the Montien Riverside which must have the best views in the city up and down the Chao Phraya River.

18.02.2019 River Kwai, Kanchanaburi.

Another long drive to the west of Bangkok took us to Kanchanaburi to see the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. The Colonel Bogey March seemed to be playing more or less continuously in the car but I was driving and not in charge of the sound system. The bridge is not much like you would expect from seeing the 1957 film. It is actually made of concrete and steel and, these days, not particularly isolated in the jungle.

We had lunch on a floating restaurant near the bridge, had a look around a dusty fly-blown museum in the town and headed on back to Bangkok stopping briefly at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

19.02.2019 Bangkok to Laem Chabang and Pattaya.

Drove back through Bangkok towards Laem Chabang Port. At one stage we found ourselves on Rama IX Road heading towards Din Daeng which was the inevitable cue for the song “Rama Lama Ding Dong” by the Edsels, which we played and sang along to until we were sick of it.

Oh, oh, oh, oh
I’ve got a girl named Rama Lama
Lama Lama Ding Dong
She’s everything to me
Rama Lama Lama Lama Ding Dong

Dropped H off at the ship and I took the car back to Pattaya. Next stop is the island of Koh Samui.

20.02.2019 Koh Samui, Thailand.

Took the tender boat ashore and haggled for a taxi to take us to the Anantara Resort at Bophut on the north coast of the island. We had a nice lunch by the pool and then back to the ship.

21.-22.02.2019 At Sea.

Around the Malay Peninsular back to Port Kelang.

23.02.2019 Port Klang, Malaysia.

Back to Port Klang. We did give some thought to lunching at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club. I was there 10 years ago and it’s not as swanky as it sounds. As we’ve also schlepped around KL and Port Klang in more recent days, and as it was a hot and steamy day, we decided lunch on board and a nap was more appealing. Getting old and jaded.

24.02.2019 Langkawi, Malaysia.

Langkawi has a very nice cruise terminal surrounded by jungle-covered islands. We took a taxi to Cenang Beach. I was anchored off this same beach one night during late December 2008. Then, I took the crew ashore in the dinghy and went to a restaurant on the beach and ate huge grilled shrimps for dinner. This time it was lunchtime and we went to The Cliffs restaurant overlooking the beach. I had a whole deep fried fish cooked to make a sort of basket holding more fish covered in a spicy mango chutney. All washed down with a glass or two of white wine.

The beach looked nice apart from the clusters of grilled passengers huddling in the shade on their yellow-and-white striped ship towels. There were also many unused towels staking out the best spots where the shade could be predicted to move to. A cliche but true.

25.02.2019 Penang, Malaysia

Back to Georgetown, Penang. It’s still hot and steamy. H stayed aboard as a VIP was arriving from HQ. I wandered down the waterfront and had a look at the Chinese Clan Jetties and then to the Clanhouse of Khoo Kongsi. A very elaborate old club house for old Chinese. I’ve been here before but it’s always worth another look. This one was used as a set in the 1999 movie Anna and the King as the Thais wouldn’t allow filming in Thailand. There are a few of these Kongsi in the central part of Georgetown but this one is the best. I danced my way back to the ship through the Bollywood-like streets of Little India. I was very sweaty.

26.02.2019 Sea Day

Heading south through the Malacca Strait back to Singapore.

27.02.2019 Singapore

Singapore again. More shopping in Chinatown then a look at Bugis Street Market for more useless stuff. A stroll to Little Arabia where we got a Grab taxi to the venerable Fullerton hotel. This was a mistake as we really wanted the Fullerton Bay Hotel and the Lantern rooftop bar at but it wasn’t far and we could walk there. There was a private event being held in the bar for a women’s world golf championship but we managed to get in anyway. Great views over Marina Bay without the crowds at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel over the water. I had a Singapore Sling and we shared a plate of Chinese nibbles. Back to the ship for a dinner in the sushi bar.