Trip to Asia. March April 2015.

21 March. A different kind of birthday for Ross. We had a shared Ross/Isla birthday party, then flew to Sydney to begin our trip around Asia. We got a Thrifty rental car then checked in at the excellent Quality Hotel, right by the airport.

22 March. Sydney. We went for a wander around the local Tempe area, then drove to Bondi Beach. There were lots of people out enjoying the pleasant autumn day, many of them surfing. We then explored the lovely beaches to the south: Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra. Again the beaches were full of people. This sure would be a nice place to live!

23 March. Sydney to Langkawi. We walked to the airport and flew Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur. (8 hours). After a short stop at the magnificent airport - a shopping mall - we flew Air Asia on to Langkawi. (1 hour). Unfortunately one of our bags was missing but Air Asia quickly set in motion their process of getting it back to us. We were picked up by a shuttle and taken to the Tropical Resort, on Pantai Tengah Beach.


24 March. Langkawi. In the morning we had an excellent breakfast then wandered around Pantai Tengah. The beach is very beautiful, the weather hot (over 30), and the pace of life slow compared to the main tourist beach next door. Our bag turned up and after a swim in the afternoon we explored the busy beach and town of Pantai Cenang. Food is very cheap. Just $9 for meals and drinks at a local restaurant.

25 March. Island tour of Langkawi. We had a private tour going right around the island with a guide. We started by driving west to the Seven Wells waterfall. To see the falls we climbed up a long steep hill through the jungle, then up another long set of steps - all in 35 degrees heat! We were pretty chuffed to survive, and the waterfalls were just OK as there has been little rain.   

Then it was on to Langkawi's premier tourist attraction - the Oriental Village and cable car. The cable car is very high and is the longest single strand cable car in the world. At the top we paid extra to see the newly developed skybridge. This entailed another extensive walk and climb in the heat! Again we made it and the magnificent views at the top made the tough climb worth while. We could see all the way to Thailand and to mainland Malaysia.



By this time we were exhausted but still enjoyed the rest of the tour visiting a fishing village, Black Sand Beach, Kuah - the biggest town in Langkawi - and Eagle Square. The tour was excellent and gave us a very good introduction to Langkawi. We really enjoyed our swim in the pool afterwards, though!


26 March. Geopark and mangrove tour. We went on a tour to the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. It is part of the wider Langkawi Geopark and is 100 square kilometers of geological formations like limestone rocks, caves, lagoons and beaches. We were picked up in the morning and taken to the Kilim River then got on a motor boat that started from the Kilim Jetty. The boat ride was brilliant. It took us through dense mangroves and gigantic limestone rocks, with stops to go through a bat cave; a fish farm; a crocodile cave; a swim on a lovely beach, and lunch at a floating restaurant. Along the way we saw monkeys and eagles feeding and lots of interesting geological formations rising up from among the mangroves. 7 hours later we were back at the hotel after a most excellent day.




27 March. Island Hopping Tour The Langkawi Island Hopping Tour took us out from the main island so we could explore three other smaller islands. First we stopped at Pulau Dayang Bunting after seeing the silhouette of its famous pregnant maiden. We walked across the island to the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden – the biggest fresh water lake in Langkawi where quite a few people were swimming. Our very bumpy speedboat then took us on to ‘Pulau Singa Besar’ – Big Lion Island where we saw eagles feeding on chicken bits that the boat driver had thrown into the water. The day ended with a visit to ‘Beras Basah Island’ – or Wet Rice Island – a pristine beach where we had a refreshing swim. Back on the main island we were returned to our hotel in the worst van imaginable. We had to hold our seats in place as they had broken free from the floor! Still, yet another great day in Langkawi. Our three tours were organised by Envomarine Tours and gave us an excellent overview of the main sights of Langkawi.



28 March. Our final day was a bit more relaxed. We wandered down to Pantai Cenang, walked on the beach, had our AGM and watched a movie. Typical holiday stuff!


29 March. After breakfast we were picked up and taken to the airport. We flew Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur airport, then caught the Skybus for the 65km into the city. It was a short walk from Sentral to our hotel, The Sentral. After a big thunderstorm we went back to the Sentral Shopping Centre for dinner at an Indonesian restaurant.

30 March. We took a half day tour of Kuala Lumpur, again just us and a guide. We were given a comprehensive and leisurely tour visiting the Royal Palace, National Memorial, National Mosque, Independence Square and a view of the Petronas Towers. The tour ended with the obligatory visit to a batik and pewter factory and a coffee and chocolate outlet. Afterwards we had a look around Sentral Mall and then caught the bus to the airport, then a shuttle to the nearby Concorde Hotel. We had dinner at a local restaurant and were very obviously the only white people there. The food was great, though, and cost $8 for main, drink and icecream.

31 March. To the Philippines. We flew Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu (4 hours). There we met Debbie, Fraser and the children and took a taxi to the port. Cebu is the second biggest city in the Philippines and we weren't expecting how different it would be. The sheer number of people, the busyness, and the poor quality of housing were unlike anything we have ever seen. We purchased our ferry tickets (what a rigmarole!) then had to wait a couple of hours among the crowds before getting on the fast ferry for a 2 hour trip to Tagrilaran. We were then picked up and taken to 'Your dream beach house' on Panglao Island, Bohol.


1 April. Our dream beach house is right on the beach. We had a swim, went for a walk, had lunch at a local beach restaurant and generally got to know our surroundings. The beach is gorgeous but we are quite isolated from the main road. In the evening our cook made a lovely fish meal using fish caught off the beach. Very nice!


2 April. We got up early and went on a boat ride. First we found and chased a pod of dolphins, then we stopped at a tiny island and did some snorkelling. The fish life was just amazing and the water crystal clear. We even saw some turtles swimming under water, which was a first. On the way back home we stopped at another lovely little island. The Philippines has the most islands of any nation - and it seems most of them have gorgeous tropical beaches. A feature of every place we have stopped at is how people immediately come up to you and try to sell you things - from fish, to shells to pearls to drinks. In the afternoon Kathy babysat while Debbie, Fraser and Ross went into town for grocery shopping. Coming back on the motorbike taxi was a real experience.


3 April. We had a quiet day at our beach house. A highlight was making a sand castle with the words Bohol and Panglao on its sides. When it was finished lots of people came by and photographed the sand castle!    


Debbie and Fraser with Dan, Luke, Heidi and JJ

4 April. We took a jeepney to Alona Beach, the main tourist town on Panglao Island. It has a lovely beach and is much busier than our beach. There are many more shops and restaurants and more people trying to sell you Rayban sunglasses, jewellery, tours or massages. We had a lovely lunch right on the beach and then wandered around the township. Very nice, but very hot. In the evening we babysat while Fraser and Debbie went out to dinner.


5 April. We went on an 8 hour exploration of the island of Bohol. It was pretty demanding with the heat, the rough roads and the distances, but we got to see the main sights of the island. First stop was at the chocolate hills. These were formed by extra coral growths before the whole of Bohol was pushed up from the sea. There was a major earthquake here in 2013, followed by hurricane Hayan which caused major destruction and loss of life. There was evidence of this everywhere, especially in damaged churches, but, by and large, life is now back to normal. Next we visited a tarsier reserve. Tarsiers are small nocturnal primates with big eyes. Their future is at risk and the population was severely affected by the earthquake and hurricane. Next stop was a butterfly house, and then we had lunch at a floating restaurant. After lunch we had a short cruise and stopped to see a jungle tribe perform. Then it was on to a small zoo where we touched an enormous python. Last stop was a souvenir shop, then back home, all pretty exhausted. In the evening we were all invited to dinner celebrating the birthday of Mia, daughter of one of our hosts.



6 April. We had a quiet final day with the family, enjoying the lovely beach and environment. In the evening we watched old family videos.

7 April. We got up early and got a taxi to Tagbilaran, the ferry to Cebu, a taxi to the airport and then flew to Hong Kong. (2.5 hours). We then caught a bus to our hotel, the Rae Lei on Nathan Road in Mongkok. The hotel has tiny rooms but it is clean and comfortable and right in the centre of the action in the city. After dinner we wandered through the night markets, along with hordes of others.

8 April. We wandered around the busy streets of Hong Kong and then met up with our friend Diana Wong for lunch. In the evening we went back to the night market and bought a selfie stick - all the rage among young people! Once again the market was packed with people.

9 April. We took a taxi to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and boarded the Celebrity Millennium. The ship will be our home for the next 17 days, along with about 2000 other passengers. This is now our 7th cruise, and the first with Celebrity. Our oceanview cabin is very light, spacious and comfortable and we settled in very smoothly. The food for lunch and dinner was outstanding and the entertainment in the first evening show excellent . This should be a great cruise!

10 April. At sea. After breakfast we attended seminars on shore excursions, and Apple computer systems, then Ross entered a golf putting competition. Next we did a ballroom dance workshop and learnt some new waltz moves. After lunch Kathy joined the choir and we went on a comedy improvisation workshop. After a session at the gym it was on to another excellent dinner and the wonderful 'Simply ballroom' show. A pretty full day at sea!

11 April. Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Kaohsiung is the second biggest city in Taiwan with a population of 2.77 million people. It was originally a fishing village but became a major manufacturing city and is now the main port for Taiwan. With the transfer of manufacturing to China many of the old warehouses are now empty or are being turned into art production centres. Our excellent city tour first took us to the 2009 World Games Stadium, and then on to Lotus Lake. Here we saw magnificent pagodas, complete with dragon and tiger protection, and some very ornate Buddhist/Taoist temples. Then it was back to the old city and a short ferry ride over to Chijin where we strolled among the crowds in the markets. On the tour it was interesting to learn how Taiwan was part of China up till 1949. After the Qing Dynasty China (including Taiwan) was ruled by Japan but this ended in 1945. Chiang Kai Shek was banished from China in 1949, and took much gold and art with him. He set up The Republic of China, formerly known as Formosa, but now known as Taiwan. The Republic of China still isn't accepted by The People's Republic of China (China), but relationships between the two countries are now not too bad. We departed from the massive Kaohsiung port late in the afternoon. Our evening entertainment was a magnificent acrobatic/aerial show by Yulia and Alan Reva.


12 April. Taipeh. We arrived in Keelung early in the morning and took a whole day tour to Taipei after breakfast. Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and its biggest city with a population of 7 million people. It is about 1/2 an hour away from the port of Keelung. Our tour took us to the city centre where we saw the Presidential Palace; Peace Park (where 20,000 died in 1947 leading up to the separation of Taiwan from China); the Kiang Kai-Shek memorial (where we learnt about the life of the great general who established Taiwan in 1949); had a Mongolian BBQ; visited a Confucius Temple (a place of learning); another temple, and the Lin An-Tai homestead. Our final stop was at Taipei 101 - at one time the tallest building in the world at 101 stories tall. The lower stories are a mall of luxury shops with the crowds in the mall showing how materialistic many Taiwanese have become. The tour was quite tiring and it was raining, but it was still great to see the modern, clean, orderly city of Taipei, and to learn more of the history of Taiwan from Dutch, Japanese, Chinese and post-separation from China times.



13 April. Keelung. We had a quiet day, needed because Kathy had a bad cold. We wandered around Keelung for a while, did some laundry, had a swim and went to the gym. The ship departed for Nagasaki, Japan, late in the afternoon, and will be at sea for two days.

14 April. At sea. On a sea day there is plenty to do. Between us we went to a computer class, the golf competition, choir practice, a cha cha class (too hard for us), a presentation about the life of Marilyn Monroe, an improvising comedy class, then after dinner a piano recital! A full day!

15 April. At sea. We had a lovely morning sunbathing and reading, then in the afternoon went to part 2 of Marilyn Monroe's life, then to our regular choir practice and comedy improvisation classes. After a gym and a swim we were ready for our lovely dinner at the Rendezvous Restaurant. We share our table each night with six Chinese Americans and enjoy discussing our different cultures as we partake of the beautiful food.

16 April. Nagasaki, Japan. Our half day tour began with a visit to a Shinto temple then a ride on a cable car to the top of Mt Inasa, overlooking Nagasaki. We then visited Peace Park, the Atomic Bomb Museum and the hypocentre for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki by the Americans at 11.02am on August 9th, 1945. Hundreds of years earlier Nagasaki was a fishing village but was colonised by the Portuguese and became a centre within Japan for Christianity (till the church became so influential it was banned by the Emperor). The bomb was dropped 3 days after a smaller one destroyed Hiroshima. The bomb was destined for somewhere else but a last minute decision was made to drop it on Nagasaki because it was a ship-building centre. The bomb exploded 500ft above ground and caused great destruction of the city. Nearly 70,000 people died immediately (including many Christians) and about 160,000 were ultimately killed out of the population of 200,000. The radiation dispersed quite quickly as Nagasaki has high rainfall, enabling the city to be rebuilt. It now has a population of 400,000 and is radiation-safe. The museums and memorials are very well done, graphically showing the results of nuclear war, and highlighting the need for ongoing peace. We were farewelled from Nagasaki by a youth brass band and had a great evening show with Jamaican singer Monique Dehaney.



17 April. Busan, South Korea. Busan is the second largest city in Korea with a population of 3.6 million. It is the 5th largest port in the world reflecting Korea's increasing importance as a manufacturing nation. (Kia, Hyundai, and Samsung are Korean brands). On our city tour we visited Yongdusan Park and went to the top of the Busan Tower. The views over the city are really spectacular. Next we went to the busy international market and then to the Jagalchi fish market. Wow! So many live fish for sale and so many varieties - many of which we've never seen before. We were farewelled from Busan by traditional dancers, and enjoyed a show by tenor Josh Piterman in the evening.


18 April. Jeju, South Korea. Jeju is a large volcanic island, and is the main tourist destination for Korea. It has a population of 600,000 but many millions of tourists visit each year, manly from nearby China. Our tour took us to the Seongeup village where the houses are the same as they have been for 500 years: volcanic rock/mud walls, and thatched rooves. Next we visited the Sangumburi crater. This is just one of 360 craters on the island. It was raining but apparently wind, rain and typhoons are common here. Jeju is well known for its women divers who dive for seafood. They can stay under for 2.5 minutes and keep working till their nineties. We were pretty tired after a rough night with Kathy having a bad chest cold and cough, so got an early night after the formal dinner. We had a great night's sleep and felt so much better for it.


19 April. Seoul, Korea. We berthed at the port of Incheon (population 2.7 million) and took a day tour to nearby Seoul (population 20 million). These Asian cities sure do have lots of people! Unfortunately it was raining but we arrived in Seoul after a 1.5 hour bus trip, and visited the West Gate markets. We then had lunch at a Korean BBQ restaurant (cook your own meat at the table) and then wandered down Insadong Street - the main shopping area in the city, Next we visited the Gyeongbok Palace and learnt about Korean history. The palace was built for the King in the 1390s and is very extensive with many courtyards, buildings and gardens, (A bit like the Forbidden City in Beijing). It was destroyed by the Japanese but has been rebuilt. Japan controlled Korea from the 1880s till 1945 when it was split into North (controlled by Russia), and South (controlled by USA) which led to the Korean War in the 1950s. Today South Korea is a very progressive industrialised democratic nation. It has few natural resources so education is all important, Young people have to study at least 12 hours per day. As a result Korea us now a major economic force in the world with construction, electronics and car manufacture being the major industries. Visiting 3 ports in Korea has enabled us to have a good introduction to this vibrant modern, growing country. Next stop, China.


20 April. At sea. We had a quiet day with a tour of the ship's galley, golf putting, choir practice, some computer work, and improvisation training being the main activities. In the evening there was a Broadway show.

21 April. Tianjin Port, China. We docked at the port for Tianjin, China's third largest city with 15 million people. The port is 40km from the city and is 180km from Beijing. The immigration officials were very slow causing much frustration on board. We finally got through immigration early in the afternoon and then tried to access the port wifi for an hour or so. Even more frustrating! In the evening we watched the movie 'And so it goes', the high point of a rough day. Kathy being so sick since day 2 hasn't helped our enjoyment of this cruise, but like the many other 'coughers' on board, we have just got on with it and made the best of the situation.

22 April. Tianjin Port. We had a pleasant and easy day, helped by feeling a lot better. We wandered around the port, sunbathed, watched a movie, swam, went to the gym and, after dinner, enjoyed a Chinese acrobatic show.

23 April. Tianjin. We took a full day tour in to Tianjin. We were not at all prepared for what we saw on the 1.5 hour ride into the city. The whole landscape is a construction zone with destruction of anything old, trucks everywhere, massive apartment complexes, and new buildings and factories going up everywhere. It seems incredible that so much construction could be going on using so much concrete, so many people and spending such great amounts of money. Fortunately the Chinese are also planting billions of trees to partially offset the effects of all the construction on the environment. If this level of construction is going on across all of China (and it may well be) it doesn't bode well for planet earth. On the tour we stopped to see a housing complex/village that has been retained to show how wealthy people lived before the cultural revolution, had a Chinese lunch in downtown, wandered around a "cultural street" beside the river, and visited a Confucius temple. A very interesting day.




24 April. At sea. We had a lovely day, with Kathy continuing to get better. We sunbathed, went to our regular golf, choir and improvisation classes, and Ross went to the gym and a back care seminar. After the formal dinner (scallops, lobster and baked Alaska!) we went to the great show 'Boogie wonderland'.

25 April. At sea. We had a busy final day on the Celebrity Millennium. After a talk by the captain Ross had his final golf game (and won the whole competition!) and had a practice for his part in the improvisation comedy show. In the afternoon Kathy sung in the choir and Ross did his comedy show. We then packed our bags, had a lovely final dinner, and went to the last of the shows - again excellent. The Celebrity Millennium has proved to be a great ship with large, comfortable cabins, excellent food and quality entertainment. The off-shore excursions, while expensive, have been interesting and have given us a good insight into life in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China. The only negatives were Kathy being so sick for much of the cruise, and the difficulty we had in finding internet. Still we overcame these obstacles and certainly had a pretty wonderful 17 night cruise on the Celebrity Millennium.



26 April. Shanghai. Disembarking from the ship was easy, but we then discovered that the guide for our day tour of Shanghai was delayed by a few hours. Darren finally arrived and took us into Shanghai for a lovely lunch. We visited Shanghai's main tourist attractions: the Jade Buddha temple, People's Square, the Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Road, and the Bund, overlooking the amazing Huangpo River. After dinner by the Bund we went to a great acrobatic show and were then dropped at the Maglev Station for a fast train (300km/hr) to the airport.



27 April. Kuala Lumpur. We flew overnight to Kuala Lumpur arriving early in the morning. We then went to the Concorde Hotel where we stayed on the way over, so we could have a rest. After a shower, a sleep and a swim we were feeling much refreshed and enjoyed our overnight flight to Sydney, arriving early in the morning.

28 April. Sydney Airport.We went for a walk, had a shower, watched a movie and then went back to the airport for our night flight to Wellington. The flight was canceled because the plane had a problem with its air conditioning! We spent the night at the Stamford Plaza. Needless to say we were extremely tired.

29 April. Home! We got up early to get back to the airport for our flight to NZ (at last)! We drove home (carefully as we were tired), to finish yet another wonderful overseas holiday. We visited Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and China. This was such a fitting way to celebrate Kathy's 60th birthday.

Check out the videos we made during this trip here: 

Langkawi   Kuala Lumpur   Panglao   Asia Cruise on the "Celebrity Millennium"

                                                                  Home      Recent travels


Make a free website with Yola