Choosing a destination for our 25th Wedding Anniversary,
on Valentine's Day 2018...
We decided on a cruise not far from home...South East Asia. And, whilst we're at it, how about renewing our vows with the Captain on board, whilst in International Waters?
Sounds like a plan to me!
Bring it on.
Guests planned? - None.
Loving couple? - One
Rings? - Two.
New friends met onboard to witness and celebrate with? - Six.
A trip full of surprises, this one.
From a ship that was kind of old, and seemingly ready to be decommissioned, to meeting great folks and not giving a damn about those details, made this cruise even better.
Firstly arriving in Singapore, our anniversary gift to ourselves was a pre-cruise overnight stay in the incomparable, Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
For this hotel, I need a better word for 'wow'.
Foolishly, or perhaps dreamily, we had been watching a series on cable, called
'World's Greatest Hotels', or something along those lines...
Hey...new goals? LOL.
Well, why not?
We are here but once, and 25 years of marriage is definitely worth celebrating.
The hotel was in the Top Ten.
The main reason?
The pool. If you haven't heard of the pool there...enjoy my pics (and video on the other page), and read the link. It has the world's MOST AMAZING infinity pool, straddling, like a giant surfboard, the three buildings that make up this incredible architectural feat... To swim, looking down on a city, day or night, from an infinity edge, for us - is worth every penny. Even though the water was teeth chattering freezing cold, at the end of summer...what's with that? It was worth the pain...The things we endure. Hehe.
Welcome to, selfie central!
Jaw dropping, astounding and beautiful...but freezing!
We'd love to come back.
We certainly enjoyed a hot humid morning wandering around this incredible hotel complex, and knowing that we had a couple of days here in Singapore on our return from the cruise...
we didn't push it. Actually, we were kind of keen to get onboard ... we usually are - its always exciting exploring a different ship, this holiday we are sailing on the Celebrity Constellation.
Boarding was even more special this time, as I had an appointment straight up with the Events Coordinator to discuss our vow ceremony plans,
as well as a run through with the hairdresser. How nice!
From the moment we arrived, we were certainly made to feel special... Champagne, wine and chocolate covered strawberries with a congratulatory card,
were waiting for us in our stateroom,
and were often topped up throughout the cruise. So sweet.
First stop: Ho Chi Min City, VIETNAM.
Welcome to chaos!
Really. To be honest, it's crowded, not so clean..we just wanted to get out of the city. I see why tourists die every week whilst riding scooters...you have to know what you're doing.
Don't get me wrong, it's just that we aren't that fussed with crowded cities. We love the great outdoors, and so with that in mind...we headed for the Vietnam jungles...not for the serenity...but for the historical walk through what was an horrendous time in history.
Every war is just that.
I won't get into politics.
So, we got to experience a little, a very little, of what life was like in the jungle at the time. The North Vietnamese had built an absolute underground labyrinth...where they literally lived in for years.
Impossible to fight against.
We saw the traps, and the tunnels, where they cooked, the air holes...and all the key elements for survival in those conditions. Just extraordinary, really.
The sounds of gunfire was echoing through the jungle...we had no idea there was a rifle range in there. Anyone could hire anything, for the right money! Trev, as a sporting target shooter, gave the M60 machine gun a little tickle. For the bargain price of 2,750000 Vietnamese Dong! (About AUD$150). Not something you have ready access to back home in Oz! (Thankfully).
The whole tour was leading up to walking through one of the tunnels....the entrance had been widened and 'westernised', but even then, with my fear of tight spaces, there was a snowball's chance in Hades that I would go down one. I was hopeful though...always a little optimistic it might be ok...
Trev went first, and I asked him to call back to let me know if he think I could.
Within 20 seconds he called out; "You don't want to come down here..." "No problem" I said, "I'll see you at the other end"...about 40 metres away.
So I headed for the exit, along with quite a few others that didn't want to go in....and as I was peering down the darkened hole, waiting, watching...Trev's head appeared over my shoulder from behind, and scared the living daylights out of me.
Seems he got stuck down there...no one moving in front, a person up his backside...both shoulders touching the sides, pitch black aside from a dodgy phone torch up ahead of him, (yikes, freaks me out just typing it...), and as they were told specifically not to take any turns as you can get lost down there...Trev saw a light, so he took a turn, (of course he did...)
Luckily, eventuating into an emergency exit.
SOOOOO glad I stayed put! I walked down a few stairs to have a look...
Yeah, nah, that ain't happening!
Leaving Vietnam, we had a day at sea ahead before our
Vow Renewal Ceremony.
We needed it.
We still hadn't written our vows! We always leave things till the 11th hour...not always a good thing, but it's how we roll.
Time to prep.
In the last couple of days, we had met 2 couples, and instantly hit it off with them, so much so, that we asked them if they'd like to come along to our ceremony the following day.
It was to be held at 3 pm in one of their fine dining areas, The Blue Room, actually, a very pretty spot.
They moved all the tables back so I had an aisle, and they brought in some
lovely pillars with flowers.
An afternoon of penning our vows, sitting on opposite sides of an empty sports bar -
often looking over towards each other and smirking a little...
Trev came over at one stage and said, "Gawd, are you still writing?"
He had to go back and write some more. You can tell I like to write a lot!
Anyway, one more evening, and one more couple we met, this time the very cheeky Hans and Yvonne, from Holland. So now we'll have 6 new guests; Aussies Anne and David, English folk Alison and Jim, and now our Dutchies, Hans and Yvonne. We had invited them, but we have no idea whether any of them turn up or not! They probably thought we were a couple of nutters! Maybe we are, lol! :)
Valentines Day, 2018 Our 25th Wedding Anniversary.
It was an easy sea-day morning. You can only have these ceremonies with the Captain on sea day, in international waters, to be legal.
Not that being legal mattered to us, as were were already married!
My hair was booked for 1pm, and as I'm a trained makeup artist, that part was an easy task for me to do myself.
I suggested Trev to scram for a bit whilst I put on my face, then I took my dress and shoes up to the salon, where I'd finished getting ready after my hair was done. I grabbed the bottle of champagne that had been given to us, and enjoyed a glass (or maaaaaybe two) whilst getting spoilt. I left the rest of the bottle for the salon staff - they were great.
I was to meet Trev at the venue once the Captain had turned up, and my Event's Manager was kind enough to nab a handsome young uniformed officer to 'walk me down the aisle' to the sounds of Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross singing 'Endless Love'. OK, I've now probably lost my male readers now...or even earlier...that's ok, this is just as much a personal journey keepsake as well as a travel blog...
I was happy to see our six new friends, all dressed very nicely too I might add,
and I even spotted a few tears in some eyes!
The ceremony was short and sweet,
and we have saved our vows for our 50th, lol!
Lots of photos, Celebrity actually videoed it for us, which was a lovely touch.
We had a specially made sugar free raspberry and white chocolate cake, champagne, and a few laughs with our new found friends, who we left to get to know each other whilst we went off around the ship to get some pro-photos taken. A lovely and unique way to spend a special anniversary, that's for sure.
We organised to meet up with our 'six' for dinner in the evening, and continued our celebrations into the night.
Next stop: HONG KONG
Whilst in Vietnam, I picked up a nagging little cough, which turned into a husky voice during our ceremony, and now in Hong Kong,
I had lost my voice altogether. Lucky Trev!
That's alright, at least I lasted through the vows...
We were overnighting here, and seeing that it is Lunar New Year, the festivities were on, and the traffic was minimal. Our lucky day!
As we cruised around a city tour and up to the scenic Victoria Peak lookout, as well as little local boat ride on the historical and busy fishing harbour of Aberdeen, all I could do was nod, or give the thumbs up or down. It was only at this time I realised how much I truly talk. ALOT!
Maybe something to think about...haha. Like that's going to change! ;)
I love the old and the new, living side by side in this incredibly busy and densely populated harbour city. We had set aside some money for shopping at the famous,
or 'was once famous' Stanley Street Markets, only to be actually really disappointed.
Our second day in Hong Kong was supposed to be us enjoying a spectacularly scenic cable car ride over the harbour to Lantau Island, to climb the stairs to the Big Budda....but alas, for my first time ever I think on holidays, I was too sick to do anything and spent
the whole day in bed.
I tried to encourage Trev to go out and see it himself, but true to form, he stayed onboard, and took care of me. I had a temperature, and felt like utter crap.
The evening presented a beautiful sunset departure, so determined not to miss a sail away, we spent some time out on the deck, watching the ball of fire set below the mammoth buildings of HongKong, for one last time.
We have a sea day ahead, so time for me to rest up before we hit The Philippines.
We have to have a face to face immigration meeting, and they heat scan you for a temperature.
I had to get well or I wasn't leaving the ship! Oh dear...
Next stop: Manilla, PHILIPPINES
A rest day at sea did the world of good for me, as well as having an ice cream just before the heat scan, as I was good to go, apparently!!
I was so paranoid I wouldn't get through. So, it's off to Manilla for us both today. Yeay!
Once again, a major South East Asian city that is super crowded, polluted, and I'm afraid, just smelly - we again, decided to 'head bush', as they say in Australia.
Sometimes I feel awkward about the human element and the impact it has on our beautiful planet...once we got out of the city, and up into the hills and towards ancient volcanoes, the forests were lush, and unspoilt.
That's where we like to be.
Although getting there presented some very unsavoury sights on the side of the road.
Some things you can't 'un-see'...I won't say what, as it still disturbs me. Let's just say it's something that we don't eat in our country, and it was grotesquely on display. This totally shook me for quite some time, to tears actually. I had to suck it in, accept our differences, and move on.
That's travelling. We're all unique.
Soooo, shaking it off, we arrived at 'Hidden Valley Springs' at Laguna. We found ourselves in a prehistoric rainforest, with multiple natural swimming holes, all varying in temperature, and mineral qualities. Naturally heated by thermal activity, they were an utter delight to bask in after a lovely buffet lunch, and lengthy walk to the cascading waterfall.
We spent a few hours, bobbing around like corks, luxuriating in the warm, mineral filled water, and enjoying the beautiful terracing and waterfalls.
It was a glorious escape from the metropolis. A highly recommendable day trip.
Upon arriving back to the harbour, we were informed that this location provides, often they say, the world's best sunsets...
Big call, we thought.
They were bang on.
As we left, we were sailing due west, and with an island volcano offshore, where inevitably there is a cloud formation over it, therefore, the recipe for a decent sunset was all in the making. Clouds - sun - sea...check.
We sailed away, grabbed a couch on the top deck, a couple of drinks, put our feet up and let nature present herself, in all her glory. No Trev, that doesn't mean you taking your shirt off... ;) I felt sorry for the people below deck who were simply unaware of the beauty that was unfolding. Be like eating dinner and missing the Northern Lights.
Not us, Baby.
I think we were nearly the last to come in. It was spectacular, silent and yes, probably the best sunset we have ever seen.
Next stop: Boracay, PHILLIPPINES.
Boracay Beach, has risen in ranks lately as one of the world's most beautiful beaches. Gorgeous white sand, aqua water, palm trees, and.... 10,000 people! The word has gotten out.
We used the life boats to tender ashore on this stop, and it was nice to have zero plans...just head over there, catch some local 3 wheeled transport, and hang out for the day.
I had watched a YouTube video about Boracay before we left home, and saw you could buy a cheap lobster fresh from the market, take it to a little restaurant and they'd
cook it for you for $5. That sounded like a brilliant idea for lunch, so with that in mind, off we chooffed. A bit like Bali I imagined, (funny, with all the places we've been, we haven't been to Bali )... hectic, touristy, and a little mad on the roads. We crammed into a tiny vehicle, Trev hanging on in the back for dear life, and had quite the bumpy ride towards the beach.
This is the human element I bang on about....with this eyesore, it's hard to believe that only 50 metres to the left is a pristine white beach. (I popped the footage of this ride over on the video page.) And then boom... you get dropped off, walk through some alleyways, and there she is....Boracay Beach.
I managed to get some photos without too many people, but that was a challenge. It was absolutely beautiful, just ignore the crowds. :)
Hotels/resorts/restaurants/bars/and shops line the sandy path...deckchairs were guarded by hotel security - to use those you had to be a paying guest. So we strolled and dodged people and hawkers, who constantly tried to sell us a hat and sunglasses, even though we were wearing a hat and sunglasses...haha. After about half the length of the beach, (it must be at least a mile or even more), we took a turn into the shops/plaza area to try to find a fish store to buy our lobster for lunch. Alas, we failed. However, when one door closes, another opens... We found this restaurant, located in a perfect position to sit up at a bar and people watch, so we entered 'The Hobbit Tavern'.
Now, you could google this place (or click on the above link), and find it is owned and run by hard working Little People.
I don't want to be politically incorrect or offensive in anyway, but that's the theme of the restaurant. Hobbits. Great wait and bar staff, I tell ya, we had a ball!
As we ordered our drinks, I was a little dubious about the wine, consequently the bartender saw the look of doubt on my face, so he immediately poured me a taste of the local brew... Then he saw a real look on my face, "Ah, I'll have a Gin and Tonic thanks!" I said. I'm just fussy.
The Gin was great, and I was really appreciative of the service.
The bar menu looked delicious, and with an open kitchen facing the street we decided to order a snack to share, as you are really never very hungry coming off a cruise ship. :) This turned out to be a treat - we ordered giant tiger prawns, wrapped in bacon and served with a honey mustard dressing.
OMG, we still talk about it, they were fresh, juicy and almost crunchy.
You bit into them like an apple.
AMAZING!!!! We hung out there for ages, as perhaps, I think, may have ordered an extra plate and more drinks. If you go to Boracay, the Hobbit Tavern is a must.
With the crowds a little overwhelming, we toyed with the idea of getting a little local vehicle and driver, and head for a private ride around the island, to perhaps get deserted beach photos, etc. After how uncomfortable a ride the first one was, we decided against it, and WOW, we dodged a bullet ...(for the want of a better expression), as when we got back to the boat, some passengers informed/suggested to us that they may be an ISIL base on the other side of the island!
O M G! Are you kidding? Nope. Truth or not, we didn't really want to find out...
I think perhaps, that information possibly should have been shared with us prior to heading to the island. Kidnapping is still a risk in some remote areas, and boy, like I said - we may have dodged a bullet there.
Now, all the armed security/police and army on the little jetty made sense!
That said, I guess nowhere is completely removed from it these days. Just practise common sense and use caution, is what I reckon.
Back onboard and we sat on our balcony and watched no less than 32 parasailers, all probably a little too close to each other. They were a fair way in the distance, so I didn't get a photo.
Up to the top deck to sail off into the sunset...again.
With the cruise coming to an end shortly, we don't want to miss a minute.
Bye bye Boracay.
NB: Boracay was closed after our visit, from April - October 2018, by orders of the Government. It had a huge clean up, hawkers removed, space between hotels and beach more accessible, and some water sports banned. They are trying to bring it back to it's natural beauty, and regulate tourism. Bravo!
Next stop: KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA.
This stop for us, was going to be all about the Orangutans. We can't quite get to the jungles of Borneo on a day trip, sadly...that is worth it's own adventure one day - to see them in the wild... Today, we have to settle for a wildlife park, that actually, was set up in a beautifully natural forest environment, well, as much as they could do. Definitely not a caged zoo, thankfully.
But first, we had a tour around the local sights including a native village reconstruction and a pretty cool museum.
At the village, Trev got to have a go at the blow darts. There was no way I was going to subject myself to blowing a long rod...I know my friends...and their minds...so I let Trev take one for the team here. His target was a balloon. Not the easiest of things, as unless you get a direct hit, they just bounced off. The brief footage is on the video page.
Finally, in the tropical heat and humidity, we left the village and museum, and found our way through the traffic to the Lok Kawi Wildlife park...I was 'hangin to see my namesakes'...as a redhead in Australia, I am referred to as a 'ranga'...so are my chestnut horses... Just one of those colloquial nicknames that has stuck. Anyway...my hair colour is pretty darn close. Or at least it used to be...;)
They are so adorable. As were the pygmy elephants and sun bears they had there. So nice to also see the sun bears out of a cage and enjoying stimulating surrounds
So that finishes off our short Malaysia visit, and sadly, almost the end of the cruise. We're now heading back to Singapore, where we have a overnight stay onboard, which will be fabulous, as Singapore is full on into the Lunar New Year festivities so we're looking forward to parades and fireworks, alongside more sightseeing.
There is so much to do and see in Singapore, we are eager for the free time before we head home after another awesome holiday.
Last stop: SINGAPORE.
This is going to be great! We love overnight stays off ship, as there's no pressure to return to the ship for departure.
We were looking forward to spending the day around the Gardens by the Bay - the Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome and the Super Tree Grove. If you get here, DON'T MISS THESE attractions. They are simply divine.
Almost impossible to describe the beauty of the world they have created inside these giant domes, both uniquely different. The Cloud Forest is just that.
Lush walls of rainforest plants, the highest indoor waterfall in the world at 35 metres, high walkways and a fairyland below. Take your time, and see it all.
The misty environment is a beautiful place to get out of the tropical sun that's outside.
Then you wander next door to the Flower Dome, where it seems every demographic of garden is represented, as well as every country with the native plants and garden skills.
From the Baoabs of Madagascar and the Bottle trees of Australia, to the most incredible display of succulents and cacti, tulips, bonsais, statues of wild animals, dragons and giant mushrooms made of driftwood, crazy shaped lemons, abundant flowers of every variety you can possibly poke a stick at, (but don't - you'll get in strife)...it's here. You can't stop taking photos everywhere you look. It's a paradise.
By the time we had finished in here, we wanted to walk the Skyway amongst the Super Tree Grove, but unfortunately, it had been raining, and for safety reasons,
they close it when it's wet. So there's a tip...do that before it rains, then go into the domes!
From here, we grabbed a cab and headed towards Chinatown, to check out the street decorations for the Lunar New Year, and to cruise around and decide on where we want to go for dinner.
Walking distance from Chinatown is the European quarter. It is here where, as it's a Friday night, the place was preparing to close the streets so all the restaurants could bring more tables and couches out for the invasion of ex-pats who were about to hit the place for happy hour!
I thought it was high time for me to sample my very first Singapore Sling. Where better than in a French Wine Bar, in the European Quarter of Chinatown, in Singapore on Lunar New Year!
Phew, did you get all that? LOL
After the 'Sling in the wine bar', we wandered just a couple doors down to find somewhere for dinner, as it was still fairly early. There were quite a few roof-top bars, so we picked a corner one, and got the last table that wasn't reserved. I guess we chose wisely! Nearly 360 deg views, of this fabulous city as she came to life for the evening. It was a sensational place to eat, drink, and watch!
If you think this was it....no way - the night's but young! Back down through Chinatown, and we headed towards the Gardens By The Bay again, so we could watch the Laser Light Show over The Marina Bay Sands, and then the street parade and fireworks for the New Year. Thank goodness this is an overnight stay. It's going to be epic!
It was nice to experience the massive hotel from the other side of the harbour. With a kaleidoscope of LED colours lighting her up, as well as laser spotlights and the dancing water fountains below...what better place would you rather be?
This happens every night at 8 and 9.30pm, and on Friday nights, you get another one at 11pm. Can't complain about that!
Something for everyone, and every age. For better images, as I just have my phone, check out Marina Bay Sands light show images.
They are sensational.
Just some happy phone snaps here.
Down by the side of The Marina Bay Sands, they had a grandstand set up, and after a concert, a Lunar New Year Parade started, along with the tropical rain, as soon as we got there. But not before some wonderful fireworks. It was so hot and muggy, we just accepted that we were going to get drenched,
so we went with it. What an amazing evening, and wow, talk about ending the holiday with a bang!!!
Catching a cab back to the boat, was our last challenge.
We lined up at the taxi stand outside the Marina Bay Sands, probably for close to two hours, along with a kazillion others, and even when it came to our turn, when we told the driver we wanted to go to the cruise ship terminal, they just yelled expletives and drove off! Like, what the? Seems it's a waste of money this time of night for them as they won't get a return fare...all of about 8 minutes - sheesh! Well, one lady driver stopped and we jumped straight in this time before telling her our destination...Whoa, didn't she just burst a gasket and complain all the way to the ship. We thanked her in the end and gave her double the fare for her trouble...oh, didn't the sun come out then?
TIP: Tell them of the tip before you get in....then you'll have honey instead of vinegar!
What a sensational day.
Tomorrow we have a late flight home, so we are booking a tour off the ship that takes us all over the city, to the famous Botanical and Orchid Gardens, passing the 'under renovation still' Raffles Hotel, Chinatown (again), free time shopping then an airport drop off. I think, I hope, we'll sleep on the plane. We know how to squeeze out every drop, that's for sure.
Always a little melancholy leaving a cruise ship, but it's time to head home to our regular lives....just for a while...:)
This is the first time we've ever done a 'last day tour' off the ship that includes an airport drop off - quite often we have our own plans for a little extension, but not this time, so this works out really well. Got to get to the airport somehow anyway, and it's a late flight, so it's nice not to worry about our luggage, as it's stowed under the coach the whole day whilst we get entertained. What's not to like? :)
First stop, probably before the tropical rains hit,
is the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Yes, we saw a lot of flora yesterday, but this one is a lot older, and very well established. It is also the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Singapore.
Every visiting Head of State or Dignitary comes to these historical gardens, and gets their own orchid named in their honour. Mandela, Obama, The Royal Family... you name it, 200 in fact, have a namesake flower. It's a stunning place, and as it's early morning, there are plenty of walkers, joggers and dogs out for a play in these splendid landscaped gardens.
If I was getting married in Singapore, this is where I'd be having the photos. So beautiful.
They have a walk, dedicated just to the orchid. 60,000 of them in fact. These flowers can be the bane of gardeners' existence, worldwide.
I think you can either grow them, or you can't. There's no in between.
I took so many more photos, but I do want to keep your interest!
Time march-eth on for this busload of cruise weary old farts, oops, I mean travellers, so we drove past the famous Raffles Hotel, still under reconstruction, and due to reopen early 2019. I'd love to visit here next time.
We think Singapore is fabulous, and as Aussies, it's a common stopover when flying to Europe, so I hope to call in again one day - maybe for another Singapore Sling... in Raffles!
We visited a Museum, The Art precinct which were former Parliament buildings and then dropped into Chinatown for some street food for lunch. Here, we ran into our new friends, (who came to our Vow Ceremony), Hans and Yvonne, who, when they saw us eating the street food, patted us on the back and said,
"Good luck with that on the plane...." Oh dear...whoops, didn't think of that! (It was super delicious, by the way!)
Saying goodbye, or more like it - 'we'll see you again' to our gorgeous Dutch friends, we then entered the Buddha Tooth Temple...yup, a Tooth Temple. Apparently they recovered the left canine tooth of Buddha from his funeral pyre in India, and it's here in the temple. We wandered in to the entrancing sounds of monks chanting, singing, and bowing...it was actually a privileged encounter. The offers of food along the wall was the neatest party food I have ever seen! :)
Driving towards our next stop, the canal boats...(do we ever NOT get to go on one of these puppies? I love it) ... We passed some of the major hotel chains, and wow, check out the efforts that are made to be carbon neutral and environmentally friendly by the Park Royal. Singapore is truly leading the way in water use and waste recycling. The world should listen to them.
They have it sorted.
Here comes our ride...
What fun we had here. One of the staff grabbed my phone and posed us in all the usually weird stances to get the funny shots. Fine by us! He earned his tip. Good man. We were appreciative.
Yes, my hair has have succumbed to the mad humidity...;)
Okay, a little shopping....or more like window shopping...
...and it's time to head to the airport. Certainly a brilliant way to get there!
We've had another really memorable trip...hard to believe we had our Vow Ceremony on board just week and a half ago! So much has happened since.
I'll sign off, until we meet again, stay happy. :)