Wednesday, April 15, 2009

March 2, 2009: Indonesia to Manila

Today we are sailing in the China Sea en route to Shanghai from Manila, which we left yesterday. The last week has been filled with 5 days at sea, 2 days in Bali and a quick day visit to Manila. The sea days are comprised of visits to the gym, ping pong games, pool time, water volleyball, lectures on a variety of subjects relative to our trip, jigsaw puzzles and reading. 

Bali is one of over 13,000 islands in Indonesia. We anchored off the southeast side of Bali (the rocky side) in Padang Bai on the 25th. All three of us (yes, even my dad!) went on a Village Cycling trip! 

It was quite an adventure cycling around the area visiting several temples, seeing the rice paddies and being welcomed into the home of one of the local villagers to see their family compound. The weather was overcast but very humid so we were all getting a good schvitz as we rode around the hilly area. Bali is absolutely beautiful – so lush and green. There are temples everywhere as Bali is the most Hindu of the predominantly Muslim Indonesian Islands

The following day was my mom’s birthday so we had a car and driver and guide take us around part of the island. It takes quite a bit of time on the small windy roads to get anywhere so although we were driving about for 8 hours, we only saw a small fraction of the sights. We headed directly to the John Hardy Factory (thanks Marina!). There were no road markings or anything to indicate we’d arrived but somehow our guide got us there. We had a tour of the factory and watched how these intricate pieces of jewelry are made. Each piece is made from a singular cast and then put together one by one. It was quite fascinating and the resulting pieces are very impressive. Beyond just the jewelry, the factory was self-sustaining and very eco friendly. They had their own rice paddies, animals, sustainable construction, fish ponds, etc. and had a very family oriented atmosphere for their employees. After the factory, we visited many rice paddies and temples including one that was built in front of a bat cave. We knew we’d arrived once the odor of the bats welcomed us. It was quite a sight – the inner temple area (there are 3 parts to a Hindu temple) backed up to a swarm of bats and you could see that they came out at night and flew around the temple area. 

For lunch we went to the boutique Amandari hotel, a boutique hotel in the rain forest overlooking the river. It was one of the most breathtaking sites I’ve seen and the location was absolutely amazing. The hotel and the food were excellent as well as we ate overlooking an infinity pool that continued the vista towards the lush rain forest surroundings. At this hotel we found some unique Javanese marriage sculptures which my mom purchased for her home. 

The next 3 days were at sea….just one day too long for me but that’s part of the process to get from one place to the next. While at Sea, there are organized cocktail hours in staff areas of the ship – we visited the bridge, the galley, the staff quarters and mess areas and the laundry. It is really interesting to see all that goes on to keep the ship moving along. 

In Manila, I went with 8 other people to the Pangsajan Falls, which was a 2 hour drive from Manila. Unfortunately we only had one day so my visit to the actual city was relegated to the bus ride to and from the city. The Pangsajan Falls visit was amazing. We put on our life preservers and got in hand dug-out canoes (2 of us per canoe) with 2 Filipino men paddling us up the river. Yes…UP the river. We sat one in front of the other on the floor of the very shallow canoe and felt we were going to tip out any second! To get through areas where there were rapids, the men would jump out of the canoe (typically dousing us with water over the side of the boat) and propel us forward by jumping from one shallow rock to the next at some points being up to their chests in water. Molly, the girl in my canoe with me, and I were amazed at the strength and the agility of these men. You’ll have

 to see the video to really appreciate it. Along our route were water buffalo, huge walls of rock and forest, water falls, turtles, spiders and we chose to think no water snakes. Ugh! They promised we’d be wet by the end and we certainly were. At the top there was a beautiful water fall with a cave behind it. We watched as several groups of Japanese tourists would be paddled out on a raft and shot under the falls to get wet. We watched and enjoyed the humor of it. The ride back was much more fun and less stressful (my stomach was in knots watching the men get us up there) and the return allowed us to ride the rapids to the end where we had lunch and returned to the ship. 

A side note to this Manila visit is that almost three fourths of the crew on this ship is Filipino. 1,500 family members of the crew visited the ship yesterday and for most of them this was the one day in the entire year that they would see them. Many of the staff are married with children and they had 8 hours to visit with their families. The ship was great in welcoming the families and had cookies and ice cream for the children and their families toured them around the ship. Departing Manila last night was very emotional for everyone on the ship as we watched the children crying on the dock and the families waving, saying goodbye until next year when they return. Just recalling the site brings tears to my eyes. My stewardess Maria saw her husband yesterday but her 6 year old son was unable to make it so she’ll have to go another year without seeing him. 

On Thursday, we arrive mid-day into Shanghai and will be going to a Chinese Acrobatic show at the Ritz Carlton. My parents saw it last time they were here and said it was spectacular. We depart the ship the following day and will be on our own in Shanghai for 2 days and then fly to Beijing for 3 days before returning home. I can’t believe I’ve been gone so long. It has been an incredible experience and I am so grateful to get to spend this time with my parents and see all of these amazing places. 

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