Category Archives: Cruising South Asia

December 2019 – January 2020

Day 22 – Monday – Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Hong at 4:30am, intending to catch the train to HK Island where our accommodation was. Turns out the train is more expensive than a taxi, so we bundled into a maxi-cab and were at the hotel by 6:30am. Expecting to drop bags and come back later in the day we were amazed when they allowed us to check in immediately, so we headed for our rooms and slept for the next few hours.

We then wandered the back streets of the area we were staying, among dried fish and sea slugs, then antiques all manor of things. We caught the star ferry across to Nathan Road, had a look around for a while, then back to the hotel. We only spotted minor evidence of the recent riots in HK – some repairs being done to a Metro station and lots of graffiti on the road and on signposts. One of the silly highlights was a section of a shopping mall with dozens of kids clothing shops. Gucci Kids, Young Versace, etc. Some people clearly have too much money.

For dinner we walked up to Hollywood street, a really interesting area with lots of restaurants, and had New York style pizza – but we didn’t get the big 24″ one.

Day 20 – Saturday – Abu Dhabi

Early start, out of the room by 6:30 because we needed to be at the other end of Dubai by 8am to catch a bus to Abu Dhabi for the day. The trip was 4-8 lanes each way for the whole distance, with not much gap between where Dubai finishes and Abu Dhabi begins. After a quick wake up coffee in Abu Dhabi we headed for the Grand Mosque. Works fail. Just Wow.

While we were here doing this at home was a day of chaos as the NSW fires approached our home area. Dad was there before he was evacuated to Bomaderry for the night. As far as I know the fires didn’t reach Cambewarra.

We then did a loop on the big bus through the city and beaches and harbour area. Beautiful city.

Day 19 – Friday – Dubai

Today was our Old City Day. We mostly avoided the new parts of the city (which is most of it) and concentrated on the creek area around the hotel. First stop was a creek cruise among the old dhows that are still operating as cargo vessels up and down the gulf coast, delivering tyres, fridges, food, you name it!

After the cruise we wandered the spice souk and gold souk areas, which are now far too touristy for their own good then crossed the creek on a local ferry (massive cost of 1 dirham or about 40 cents each) to the Al Fahidi historical area where we wandered again, but didn’t really have enough time to fully explore.

After wandering there for a while we had jumped on the big bus to get to WAFI Mall, where our desert sunset tour was leaving from.

The desert tour was amazing. We drove for about half an hour, which put us in the desert – still some civilisation around, but clearly in the desert.

Dinner was in WAFI Mall, then back to the room to try to catch up some blogging and an earlier night.

Day 18 – Thursday – Dubai

We left the ship early today and headed for our hotel, The Carlton Towers, on Dubai Creek. Once we had dropped bags we jumped on the Big Bus and headed south again, to Big bus to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a new-made-to-look-old village near Burj Al Arab. We finally got to do some souvenir and gift shopping.

We stayed in the city and saw the Burj Khalifa water show and did a Metro to night tour, then crazy-busy Metro back to the hotel. Big Day.

Day 17 – Wednesday – Dubai

Happy New Year

Today we headed out to begin exploring Dubai. We took the Big bus to Palm Jeremiah, Burj Al Arab and the Marina district to the far south of the city. Dubai is like walking into the future, so it was appropriate we did it on the first day of a new decade. To me it felt like I was on set in the Jetsons. The kids described it as being like in ‘The Capital’ in the Hunger Games. The area we were in today didn’t exist just 20 years ago. It was empty desert. Everything is big and fast and busy and rich and and new shiny.

Lach is loving the cars. He’s seen more of every type of sports car today than in his whole life so far.

We did a marina dhow boat cruise and explored the Atlantis Aquarium at the Atlantis Hotel on the end of the ‘palm’. All amazing.

Day 16 – Tuesday – Dubai

We arrived in duubai arround 4pm, through a haze that obscured the view of the city just enough to make it mysterious. The first sight of the city is quite amazing, with the Burj Khalifa towering way above everything elese. It makes all the other buildings look small, but we were soon to find out that is far from the situation.

We left the ship for a few hours, taking the ships shuttle bus to Burjaman Mall. This is a seriously big, spread out city.

Back on board it was party time – New Years Eve.

Day 13 – Saturday – Mumbai

Prepare to have your senses assaulted. Today we hit Mumbai alone to explore the back streets and markets on foot. We caught the ship’s shuttle bus to the gate of the port, a trip of a few kilometres (it’s a very big port area) and walked toward the town centre. We quickly decided to buy a local sim card, as we had been having very little luck picking up Wi-Fi. On the rare occasion that we saw Wi-Fi advertised on a café or restaurant you needed an Indian phone number to register to get the Wi-Fi. So $14 dollars and passport and visa checks, and photos of me and the seller later we had 30 days of Indian data available (and we were leaving India in 6 hours!) We now had maps and the kids could chat to Logan and Le. The people we encountered were all so helpful.

We next headed for Victoria Terminus, a huge train station. From the outside it’s majestic and from the inside simply massive. We watched a few trains come and go – much busier than yesterday when we were on a train – and then headed for Crawford market, which was a local market and one of the biggest in Mumbai. No entrance was evident, just narrow alleyways leading into darker alleyways. A spice seller could see we were having trouble and directed us how to get in – and how to get to his spice shop. We wandered past fruit and vegies, laundry supplies, birds and animals in cages and lots of spices and lollies. The scale of the place was incredible. I’m sure we saw only 5% of the place before moving on.

We then attempted to head to Chor Market or the Thieves Market, about 2km away. It doesn’t sound far, but the streets were difficult to move through quickly. Our route took us through some totally amazing neighbourhoods and shopping districts, including hardware districts, steel pipe and steel sheet areas as well as all manner of food and catering supplies. The streets were jammed with motor bikes and taxis and people delivering goods on their head and on long trolleys. Some streets were almost impossible to walk, they were so crowded. Because we had escaped the tourist route there were no hawkers, touts or beggars. We were left in piece and sometimes helped with directions when locals saw us contemplating the phone for the next turn. When Mr Google said we had arrived at Chor Market there was nothing marketlike to be found. Some locals gave us directions, but we never found the market. We did however stumble into the metal working centre of Mumbai. Tiny workshops, open to the street (maybe street is exaggerating – maybe narrow broken paved lanes is a better description) with huge lathes, and furnaces heating metal to be pounded into shape and welding and cutting. All of this performed by men in thongs and no protective gear at all. Quite incredible to see, and something I’m sure few tourists would ever see.

As we emerged from that area we entered ceramic tile land…. Endless shops selling tiles. Then bathroom fixture land. Still the streets were narrow, often blocked by someone manoeuvring a trolley full of goods, and once or twice a cow. The major roads were almost impossible to cross, with a local stopping traffic for Carol at one stage when she hesitated as the rest of us dodged trucks and taxis. There were also goats on the street and even a rat sitting in the gutter at one point. I think we saw the real Mumbai.

Emerging from the city centre we were eventually back at Victoria Terminus, just a shortish walk from the port entry where the shuttle would be. Throughout all this time there was never a place to stop and sit and rest, and nothing that we would call a café where we could sit and relax for a while, so we were hot and tired by the time we returned to the ship at around 3 o’clock, but with memories (and hopefully photos) that will last a lifetime. We didn’t even get to do any souvenir shopping, such was the nature of the areas we were in.

Back on board we had a drink as the ship set sail around 4pm. Next stop Dubai in about 60 hours. The show tonight was some musical wanna-be who had a lot less talent than the ship’s band who were supporting him.