Staying Between the Lines

On our World Cruise on the Seven Seas Navigator we spent one day in Singapore. It would have been fun to spend more time there, but Port Klang, where we will dock to go into Kuala Lumpur, awaited. So, away we sailed, looking forward to seeing one of the world’s tallest buildings, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in Malaysia.

Port Klang is the entry port for Malaysia. The cruise center is a handsome white English colonial building sitting alone on the Strait of Malacca. Buses were waiting to take us into Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in Malaysia, begun in 1857. It was ruled by the fourth Sultan, Abdul Samad of Selangor, born in 1804, who reigned for 41 years, from 1851 to 1898. Now, it is the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia.

The official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara, is in KL. Rated an alpha world city, KL is the cultural, financial and economic center of Malaysia due to its position as the capital as well as being a key city. It is one of three federal territories of Malaysia, enclaved within the state of Selangor on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

We stopped to view the classic Blue Dome Mosque and then proceeded to visit the National Museum. It is a gem. It was filled with beautiful furniture and art from the glory days when KL was one of the most important trading centers in this part of the world. It began in the mid-19th century with rubber plantations and the mining of tin.

We were taken for lunch to a lovely hotel that had an incredible buffet. The Thai food was delicious. We tried almost everything. Then our bus arrived and took us to the local shopping center/souvenir stand. It was two levels of about 150 stands, a few ceiling fans and no AC but a restaurant that had a run on cokes with lots of ice! We were happy to get back on our chariot and snooze for the hour back “home” at the dock.

The next day, we were at Penang, a very old city of European Victorian-style mansions. Having been there before, we opted for an artistic experience! We spent three hours at a Batik factory outside of town. The drive was amazing. The hilly waterfront was wall-to-wall with glamorous hotels, town houses and condos. Then we arrived at the seedy factory, not really prepared for what came next.

We were taken to the large open air shed filled with horizontal frames with thin white linen tacked to them. Various outlined designs were drawn on the linen in clear wax. We chose the one we liked. There was a table full of pots of paint to choose from.

I felt like a lost ball in high weeds! Fortunately, a young man took pity on me and came over with a small jar of purple paint and a curved brush. He showed me how to paint between the lines. It was backbreaking work because the fabric is stapled to a horizontal wooden frame. Not being artistic, I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!

Brad was working at a stand across the room. It was hot in the shed. Slowly, I learned to use the curved, pointed brush, working against the clock. My teacher came over to help as my back was breaking. He quickly painted in the wide blue border and voila! My scarf was lovely.

The fabric had to dry. We returned to the ship exhausted but pleased. When the paint was dry, the scarves were boiled in hot water to remove the wax and then the color was “set” with vinegar. Next, they were ironed and delivered to the ship. They are beautiful.

The next few days, we were in the province of Phuket in Thailand. It is the largest island of 33 that lie off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. We were not scheduled for that port but the tides were going to be too high for us to dock safely in Rangoon, Burma, now called Myanmar.

On to the Chong Temple complex. The Borgld Temple in Bangor is 103 years old. There was much ringing of gongs and exploding of firecrackers to ask for good wishes from the Buddah.

At an elephant camp that rehabilitates sick elephants and raises abandoned baby elephants, we were entertained by some of the elephants. We learned that Indian elephants are smaller than African elephants and that their trunks get pinker the older they get. They can live to be 60 or 70 years old!

In Phuket, there is the Two Heroines Monument commemorating two sisters who helped protect the province from Burmese invasion during the Nine Armies Wars in 1785. Burmese troops were preparing to attack Phuket, whose military governor had just died. The Burmese thought the island could be easily seized. But, Khun Jan, the widow of the recently deceased governor and her sister Khun Mook, ordered the women of the island to dress as soldiers and take positions on the Thalang city walls. The Burmese called off the attack due to the perceived strength of the defenses. Short of food, they retreated. The two sisters became local heroines and received honorary titles from King Rama I.

To honor their parents, men become monks for a month, six months or whatever floated their boat!

We stopped at a cashew nut factory where they process and package cashews with lots of different flavors applied. We tried wasabi, barbecue, sesame, hot pepper and lots of others. Didn’t feel the need to bring any home, but we did learn a lot about the cultivation of cashews. The trees produce a yellowish fruit the shape of a green pepper. The nut we eat hangs below the fruit.

Finally there was the obligatory, gigantic jewelry store. We wandered in, looked at the jeweled encrusted figurines, jewelry and handbags and wandered out. The prices are astronomical and we have yet to see anyone buy anything in those stores.

Back on the floating “Ponderosa,” all was well. Our next two days at sea, headed toward Colombo, Sri Lanka, were spent reading, watching movies, putting the laundry away (that someone else has done!) and lunching and dining with friends. One evening, we were invited to a cocktail party around the pool deck to watch the evening sky change color as the sun was setting over the Bay of Bengal. It was absolutely breathtaking. VT

Photos Courtesy of Carla Sue Broecker.