On the Seven Seas Navigator we continued our World Cruise that started on January 4 in Miami. After leaving our last stop in Australia, Darwin, we started a full day on the water across the Timor Sea toward Komodo Island, our first stop in Indonesia.
I have a love/hate relationship with Komodo Island. It is one of 17,508 islands that compose the Republic of Indonesia. We have been here before and I have yet to set foot on the island. Very few people live on Komodo Island. It is mostly populated by wild boar, some fairly tiny deer and the nasty, repugnant, ugly Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth. Ugh! They drool and are hideous! I will not go on that island. But husband Brad is up for most anything and there is one redeeming fact about Komodo: The natives sell black, blue, pink, yellow, gold and white loose pearls at unbelievable prices. Because we were anchored off shore, he went over with friends, took the tour that is required to get on the island, and brought back beautiful pearls in beautiful colors.
All of this took the better part of a day and then we sailed overnight to fascinating Bali, two miles east of Java. It is 95 miles wide and 69 long. We love it but it is HOT! We were docked there for two delightful days. We have been to Bali several times and decided not to do the exploratory ship excursions to see the gloriously green hills, terraced rice paddies and all of the rest of the wonderful flora that cover the island and add to its tourist destination mystique.
Instead we decided to set shopping as a first priority. There is a huge market surrounding the Benoa dock and they sell everything you never knew you needed, including a 3-foot tall carving of a bearded man’s face, sculpted from a balsa wood tree! When you are exhausted, you can go to the dock terminal and get a 30-minute foot and leg massage for $10. Throw in your neck and head and it will cost you $20. Such a deal.
It all was very relaxed because we were docked overnight and had time to visit our favorite shops in Ubud, the handicrafts center of the island, about 20 miles from the dock. Ubud is especially famous for its woven placemats, handbags and beautiful carvings. After we negotiated a reasonable price for a cab with an overly solicitous taxi driver, we took off on our retail therapy expedition with our friend Mili Lopez, a Little Rock native by way of Venezuela, Danville, where her son operates a restaurant, and Columbus, Ohio where a daughter and two grandchildren live. She is a professional photographer and has some wild Photoshopped pictures of Brad.
We spent the next two days sailing the Java Sea and the Indian Ocean before arriving at Singapore on the Straits of Johor. The ship terminal is one of the largest in the world and has more shops and services than many U.S. cities! Singapore is a city, state and country all in one. As a city, it is the second most densely populated in the world after Monaco. Virtually all of the living quarters are vertical, towering, mostly attractive, buildings. Don’t let a grimy image of New York come to mind. All of the buildings are scrubbed once a year and painted every five years by the government, just in time for the once every five years elections.
Surprisingly, water is a big problem. They recycle 1.5 million gallons a day and import most of their water from their neighbors from the North! They also produce high-tech medical equipment, and Rolls Royce has built the largest jet engine factory in Singapore.
Our visit started with a tour of the Tiong wet market (ugh! dead fish), then a visit to the Buddhist Bright Hill Temple where daily services were being held. A drive in the country took us to the private, elegant, white marble Orchid Country Club for lunch. From there, we visited the Kranji War Cemetery and Memorial, which was dedicated in 1946 in memory of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought valiantly against the Japanese invading forces during WWII.
The site was originally an army munitions depot before it became a POW camp and the burial ground for the Woodlands Military Hospital during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942-1945). After the war, the decision was made to exhume the bodies and move the cemeteries from Changi, Buona Vista and the other Singapore POW camps to Kranji, which was turned into a military cemetery. Almost 200,000 soldiers are buried there.
Dedicated in 1946 and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Karnji site comprises the State Cemetery of Singapore, the War Cemetery, Singapore Memorial and the Commonwealth Cemetery.
The central architectural structure of the Singapore Memorial was designed by Colin St. Clair Oakes in homage to the combined forces that defended Singapore. The 13 columns represent the Army; the roof, in the shape of the wing of an airplane, represents the Air Force, and the structure that sits atop the roof, resembling the conning tower of a submarine, the Navy.
It would have been fun to spend more time in Singapore, but Port Klang, where we will dock to go into Kuala Lampur the next day, awaited. So away we sailed, looking forward to seeing one of the world’s tallest buildings, the Petronas Towers. VT
Photos Courtesy of Carla Sue Broecker.