Reviews??? – Palermo, May 2018

I wasn’t really planning to write about this trip at all, but certain events accrued and I feel that I need to put everything to the paper to give it a rest.
I will start from the beginning:

As we were back from our traveling in Asia, my husband got invitation to a conference in Malta in the beginning of March. Too soon for me to travel, as I just took almost a month vacation, but the atmosphere at the office become more and more unbearable for me and I had the thought that the time has come for me to quite and may be take a break, stay home, do some sawing and look for a new job.
As a general rule I don’t stay in one company more that 5 years and here I am finishing 7 years of working at the same place. Overall this was a nice ride: small, family operated IT company, just as I like it: when we get to know each other and become as a family. But our circumstances has change and also my bosses. He got married, had children and the new wife came from extremely wealthy family with lots of pressure to get rich, fast and no matter who is around.

This is not what I want around me. I don’t need this stress and pressure. I am at the time of my life when I can relax. I don’t need to work hard and I can enjoy traveling and spend time with my family. I notified my boss that this is my last month at work and decided to join my husband on his trip.

At that point I couldn’t find a convenient way to get to Malta, so we look what there around and decided to go to Palermo, Sicily. We never been there and the island look like exotic enough place with all the right ingredients we so much learn to appreciate on our travels: history, people and local food!

The plan was simple: my husband goes to his conference and when he is done, he will join me in Palermo. I will flight the day early and meet him at the hotel. We will spend about a week there; back home on Sunday and everyone goes back at work on Monday (including me, if I even have a job).

We checked local hotels and didn’t find anything interesting, but we saw a lot of B&B and those caught our attention. We booked one, after a day we found something more attractive and re-booked it and later we found another place that got 10 on his reviews. It was a little more expensive that all the others, but we decided – why not! We can afford it, so we re-booked again and took the most expensive B&B with total score of 10 even with just few reviews. It’s very unusual to get such a high score and we were impressed.

Now I will get to the point of this whole post;

Reviews!

How reliable are those reviews on Booking.com, Trip advisor, YELP, etc.,???

Do you rely on those?

I do!

I read the good and the bad reviews about the place. Some times I read bad review and it’s don’t diminish my opinion of the place because it’s not relevant to me. But I rely on those reviews! I want to trust they are honest and based on person experiences. One can have bad experience and its OK – its his/her experience and I respect it. One will enjoy a place tremendously and give it a 10 – that OK too.

The owners responsibility is to see why someone wrote bad review and sometimes it’s not very objective or it was a minor incident, that most people will overlook. Just acknowledgment from the owner makes travelers feel better.
The place do care! We all know you can’t please everyone all the time, but you can do you best and please most people most of the time and this is just perfect!

In today’s age of on-line reviews and on-line everything – if you are the owner of a business and you (because to be on any of those sites – THE OWNER has to open an account and register) decided to attract people using all those web site – you have to understand that you are opening yourself to good and bad reviews alike! Take it and try to improve or respond to someone who is not happy with comments of your own. Don’t dismiss and don’t be negative – this will not help any one!

I do rely on the reviews, especially when I am traveling to new places overseas. I also write reviews myself and I am trying to be as honest as I can – this is MY experience. It’s very rarely I will write negative review. Actually, I only did it’s once on yelp for the new sushi restaurant in our area. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one to write such a bad review and the place is still open – go figure… But as I said before: everyone initiated to their opinions and I can’t dismiss how others feel.

So here is my in-take of the events conspired me to write this post:

We booked this very expensive B&B in Palermo that got a perfect score of 10 on the web site. You already know we travel a lot. You already know we stayed in 5 starts hotels and 3 starts hotels and hostels and Air-B&B and houses – it’s all good: some better that others. We are not particularity picky and we can handle a little dirt, or little bad service. BUT don’t expect us to write you an excellent review!

If the place fixed the problem – I will write about that. If the place ignore it – I will write about that too. It don’t mean I will not stay at that hotel again, or you shouldn’t stay there or go to that restaurant I wrote that something was wrong – that not the point of those reviews! I just want you to know if you made a chose to stay here because the price was right or location was perfect or you just feel like eating that food – have some knowledge from MY experience; and you – my fellow traveler make your own mind according to your needs!

FEAR???

That what I do! I am not always choose the perfect score place to visit or 5 star restaurant. I will choose what will be GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!

BUT!

If you have a perfect score on your web site and you are not really perfect… well this is the whole new ball game!!!

I got to B&B late afternoon. I was greeted by the owners daughter, because the owner left on a little vacations and left the girl (in her late twenties or early thirties) in charge. Wonderful person, nice and attentive, ready to please. All good so far.

The bed

Our room

The bathroom

She showed me to my room, which was specious, nice decorated with huge bathroom. She offered me a cup of really good coffee, explained how to open the special door at the house and what time is breakfast and left me be. So far – all good. I was tired, so I unpacked, took a shower and went to sleep.

Breakfast area

Glass floor

Living room

Living room view from entrance

At the morning I meet the girl and another guest of B&B at the breakfast table. I learned that the owner is a famous chef and she prepared all kind of goodies for guests. We had a wonderful conversation and I got a tour of the 1st floor of the house, that was built on top of ancient church from Roman times. In some places the floors was glass and you could see the ruins and the roman streets below. The house was built around, incorporating some ruins into the stricture. Very beautiful. I was really amazed by the house and the location was perfect. We walked everywhere in the city.

Later that day I meet my husband and we visit some of the local attractions: Palermo Cathedral (which is very impressive outside, but really very plain inside).

Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena, is a Baroque square. The piazza is octagonal, four sides being the streets; the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings, the near-identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons, the four Spanish kings of Sicily, and of the patronesses of Palermo, (Christina, Ninfa, Olivia and Agata). The facades onto the interchange are curved, and rise to four floors; the fountains rise to the height of the second floor, the third and fourth floors contain the statues in niches. At the time the piazza was built, it was one of the first major examples of town planning in Europe.

We walked the streets, ate the food, enjoyed the people for all 4 days. I visited Marionette Museum, which considered as one of the world’s greatest museums dedicated to puppets, Museo internazionale delle marionette Antonio Pasqualino features an extensive collection of puppets from all over the world. Some as small hand puppets and some huge, human size.

Palazzo Reale (Palazzo dei Normanni)

And we visit the Palazzo dei Normanni, (Palace of the Normans) or Royal Palace of Palermo. It was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the

Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. Seat of the Sicilian Parliament, today it is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat with Frederick II and Conrad IV.

We visited the amazing Cappella-palatino, all made with gold mosaic.

~~ The Palatine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Palatina), is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily situated on the first floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale. Also referred to as a Palace church or Palace chapel, it was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1132 to be built upon an older chapel (now the crypt) constructed around 1080. It took eight years to build, receiving a royal charter the same year, with the mosaics being only partially finished by 1143. The sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Peter, is reminiscent of a domed basilica. It has three apses, as is usual in Byzantine architecture, with six pointed arches (three on each side of the central nave) resting on recycled classical columns.

We passed beautiful Fontana Pretoria square during the day and late at night. Piazza Pretoria, also known as square of Shame, is at the limits of the district of Kalsa, near the corner of Cassaro with Via Maqueda, just a few meters from the Quattro Canti, the exact center of the historic city of Palermo .  In 1573 the Senate of Palermo bought a fountain initially intended for the Palace of San San Clemente in Florence, with the intention of placing it in the square. The large central fountain is the focal point for sixteen nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids and satyrs. Since eighteenth century in 1860, the fountain was considered the representation of corrupt municipalities, and Palermo nicknamed the square with the nudity of the statues, the Square of Shame (Piazza della vergogna.) This may have also been reflecting the prevailing influence of the Spanish Inquisition during that time.

And we took a tour of The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele – an opera house and opera company located on the Piazza Verdi in Palermo, Sicily. It was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II and is the 3rd biggest opera house in Europe (the third after the Opéra National de Paris and the K. K. Hof-Opernhaus in Vienna). Here we also attended a rehearsal for the next opera and were able to see how they set up the stage and visit the Royal balcony.

We walked and walked and walked – so many small streets, so many beautiful building and amazing restaurants.

We took a day trip to visit some of the most beautiful parts of Western Sicily: Erice, Segesta, Nubia and the Trapani Salt Pans. We visit an archaeological excavation at Segesta. Took in the excellent views from the hilltop town of Erice and learned how sea salt is still collected off the Sicilian coast at the Salt Pans of Trapani.

Beautiful island, beautiful people and excellent food!

So this is my trip in a nut shell, because I wanted to write about ‘reviews’.

When I came back and recovered a little, I started getting emails from all the web site I booked my trip, asking me to write a review and I did. Some places I liked more, some less. My whole blog is one big review (if I have time I will write about our amazing visit to Palazzo Conte Federico, which was one of the best highlights of our visit in Palermo – but this is for another day!)

Here I am finally coming to why I am writing this long post! I was bullied to change my review! Can you believe it??? After writing my review for the B&B and give them 8.5 with very good recommendations, saying that I will not hesitate to stay there again and how wonderful the staff and the food was with some minor discomforts. They didn’t like it! They wanted me to give them a 10!
I am sorry guys, but this was not a 10 score establishment!
Yes, it was very interesting decor. Yes, you were amazing people, BUT: the floors were never cleaned during our stay; they didn’t provide any toiletries (lucky I had some of mine). The bed, as comfortable and as big as it was; it was so low that it was very hard to get up. Some one with knees problems will really have a hard time! They closed the heater, so it was a little cold at nights and the TV didn’t work properly with very dirty remote (which I point to the owner and I did tried to clean).
There was some residue in the bathroom sink I had to clean myself and I had to remind them to put extra toilet paper.

All those were really extremely minor items and I didn’t really mind or complained, BUT this is not 10! When I am writing my review I have to be honest to who ever comes after me. What if this person have some knees issue? What if they don’t have shampoo with them? What is they get cold at night? Don’t you want to know before booking? I still would go and stay there, because I am not that picky, but someone else may be not. Travelers need to know about those details so they can make education decision.

The end!

 

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After Trip – Afterthought – January 28th, 2018

I just finished to upload all our adventures on this amazing, exotic trip. We never had 3 weeks vacation before and it was pretty long. Good to be home and put everything we saw and experience to a memory. We defiantly have a taste for more!

Looking at all the pictures and thinking of all the experiences: the hot and humid weather, miles and miles walking distant and thousands steps we climb, I am asking my self again: why are we so attracted to those countries? The mystery? The culture? The dirt?
Do we learn how to appreciate what we have at home after the trip? Do we admire – how those somewhat underdeveloped countries have more advance technology or Eco system then us? Do we learn from them?

I don’t know. I do know that we are fascinated with the culture, we can’t understand, with the language, we can’t learn and with the views, we have to see and the food we have to try! I am sure we will be back at that part of the world again!

Before I retire this blog and until our next adventure – here are some more pictures that captivated my sight:

Food:

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Local street food – Penang

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Eating with the locals in Penang

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Local joint in Kota Kinabalu are so ridiculously low!

Strange way to have your drink or coffee to go…

Very unusual food presentation in Singapore Up On the Tree restaurant

Fancy and expensive restaurant in Singapore (we did try those as well)

Locals opening coconut for us – port Phu My, Vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streets:

Phone wires are everywhere – when one brakes, no one fixing it – they just add a new one!

Wiring job in Cambodia – Port Sihanoukville

“Free Hotel” – hammocks are everywhere in Vietnam and one can just rest there – no payment needed.

Best salesman!
Mom is close by – to teach and encourage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Local market – try to lift those baskets! Cambodia – Port Sihanoukville

Cambodia – Port Sihanoukville

‘HAPPY COW”??? Too skinny!

Shrines everywhere on the streets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathrooms:

Hong Kong public bathroom – washroom

Hong Kong public bathroom

Lets talk about bathrooms – I am absolutely fascinated with that issue. traveling all over the world – you find some strange traditions. I do take pictures of restrooms and washroom and bathrooms and showers – if I find them interesting.

 

 

 

Singapore Airport

Singapore Airport – from Slipping lounge

First I will talk about Singapore – everyone know how clean this country is, but until you see it – its hard to believe. Public bathrooms are SPOTLESS. Airport is the most amazing I have ever saw – design is gorgeous, chairs are comfortable and in all kinda shapes and colors (who said airport chars had to be black, uncomfortable leather, you barely can sit for 5 minutes.

Public bathroom – Singapore

What is your plane is late or there is a snow storm and you have to stay hours in this uncomfortable chairs when you can’t even lift the metal handles to make somewhat more room). Sleeping lounges – not only for 1st class passengers – for EVERYONE with beautiful, comfortable, beds!

 

Public Mather and baby room with breastfeeding room – Singapore

Public Mather and baby room – Singapore

Rooms for ‘Mother and baby” – what an idea! We do have ‘family rooms’ in some places, especially expensive area malls, but in Singapore – they are everywhere. Not simple plastic changing table you pull from the wall in public restroom and you need your own pad to place on it because most of the times – they are so disgusting, it’s better to change your baby on the ground!

Mother and baby room with clean drinking water – Singapore

Mother and baby room with Breastfeeding lounge – Singapore

Not in Singapore! They have beautiful pads, water to drink, place to clean your baby and if you are breastfeed – separate small room with ether a small couch or comfy chair. It’s not a story – I took so many pictures of those rooms – see some here! I picked in everyone I saw on my way – THEY DO EXIST!!! Don’t our mother deserve the same? Do you know that Starbucks took ALL baby changing tables out – when will you change a baby???

Squatting bathroom – Malaysia

Squatting Bathroom – Big Buddha Temple, Thailand
(taken with the flash)

Squatting Bathroom – Big Buddha Temple, Thailand (actual natural light – pretty dark)

Don’t want to make someone uncomfortable – but that what I observed on the trip. Yes, we saw some very bizarre bathrooms as well. Squatting ones – some don’t have flushing water, but the bucket with water and you need to rich inside with a plastic bowl to flush! Lots of bathroom in Chinatown or some other old parts of town, have centralized place to pick up toilet paper and we saw some bathroom where there is no place to wash your hands as well. Some are dirty and smell bad – well its a bathroom after all – but those mostly in temples – which are ancient places and most don’t have pluming. Every new place is build with so much comfort and with everyone in mind – it’s just mind-blowing! What about us??? Why not???

Are people here don’t deserve the same luxury? Can we educate people to clean after our self in public bathrooms? Is this so hard to do???

I had to put this out there and may be who ever read this – will stop and think for a moment! Some little things we all can do and EVERYONE will benefit!

Until next time – keep traveling! respect people yo meet on your way and keep our bathrooms clean!

 

 

 

Posted in Afterthought, Anniversary Trip, Family, friends, Philosophical entry, singapore, Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

End of our Anniversary Cruise – January 24th, 2018

Back at Singapore – January 24th, 2018

All good things come to the end.

7 a.m. we were already back at Marina Bay and at 8 we were in the taxi on the way to Changi area of Singapore. Our hotel (Park Plaza Changi) for 1 last night only is located by Convention Center and it’s very close to Changi Airport. When I booked it, I saw many restaurants in the area, shopping mall and metro line. Perfect location for short stay. The room wasn’t ready and we didn’t have breakfast, so we left our luggage at the hotel and went to explore the area. We had coffee and buns at the small coffee shop inside small food court with huge supermarket, where I got my last tray of Jackfruit and ice cream. After light breakfast we explored the area, went inside Metro to learn how to operate it and how to get tickets (actually bell boy from the hotel went with us all the way to the station to show and tell). Walking around all those food shops we were thinking what we will have for lunch, when we learn the room was ready.

View from the room into Convention center

Lobby and restaurant – outside hotel

A little, charming Boutique hotel – it’s so clean, so sparkling, like a little bonboniera. All dark glass and dark marble. No lobby inside, but a huge overhead in-front of the lobby with nice sitting areas and huge flower pots. Breakfast restaurant and the bar also kind of outside. We never saw this interesting design before, but Singapore is amazing with its architectural designs.

Word narrowest pool

Word narrowest pool

Of course so early in the morning the rooms are not ready(not like at Marina-Bay, that we got a room at 8 a.m. – which is very unusual for any hotel!), but we were fine to explore the area, so we left our luggage and went to find a cup of coffee – just across small square from the hotel. We had coffee and some interesting local bun/sandwich. I don’t know what this was, but the bread so fluffy, its melting in your mouth.

This little breakfast area was attached to a huge supermarket (which we explore later that day) and when I say – huge, I mean HUGE! Two floors supermarket when you have FLAT escalator to a second floor. First floor is all produce, diary, meats and second – cleaning supplies, house goods, cosmetics, candy and some clothes as well. This super so bid (not as COSTCO, but pretty nice size), they have nice sitting areas to rest while shopping (to collect your thought and to check your shopping list).

Walking around, we made mental list where we would like to have lunch today – so many interesting chooses… Surprisingly, our room was ready around 11, and we went up to the room: we needed to unwind and to check our emails and to upload photos from our cell phones (on the ship there is very limited and weak internet, so most of our photos could be uploaded and backed up. This created a little problem, as we take a lot of pictures (isn’t everyone, with today digital age?), but our smart phones couldn’t sustain so much and we run out of space. Luckily, I always carry my regular CANON camera to take mostly architecture photos, but some photos from the cell did got lost. Ny well – the most important thing is our experiences and what we took out of this trip. Photos to remember are nice, but lets face it – after a while, no one looking at them – but we always remember what we felt and how we felt!)

Door opener???

All in one bathroom

I have to take a moment to write about this room, because in all our traveling, we never stayed in fully automated room before. So we get to the door and there is no knob – the door is completely flat. It’s took us a moment to figure when to tap with the plastic key – the door automatically swing open. Israel went inside with suitcases and I stayed outside to see what kind of door this is – it’s started to close on me

The door – no knobs

! I barely made it inside. Now we are in the room with the close door and no door knob. There are few buttons on the wall – so we started to press all of them – nothing! we entered plastic key into the special slot (you know, the one they make now in a lot of hotels to safe electricity – only when in the room with the key in the slot – you will have light and air) – good, we know that! We now have light. Still no door opener.

Door bell rings (yes, they had door bell). Its our luggage with bell boy, but we don’t know how to open the door! We started to shout to him, that we don’t know how to open the door and he said – there is a button – far on the wall. OK, we are looking for another button (not the once clustered by the entrance and the door) – nothing – except the one says – break in case of emergency (see the photo)! Would you press this – if you were us??? Well this was the button to open the door! Mystery solved!

The room is pretty spacious, with little fridge and coffee table and very huge – all in one bathroom. It’s extremely comfortable and have all kind of electronic gadgets, but it’s a little overwhelming, because some of them we didn’t know how to operate (like a cell phone they had by the bed, which was asking me every so often – when do I want to check out)…

Hot dish with meet, mushrooms avocado and ???

Revolving sushi

Any way – we checked emails, uploaded photos and it was time to get some lunch – late lunch! We went out to those little restaurants we saw around and to our surprised most were closing for a break… it was after 2 p.m. so I guess this is the normal action in the East – now I understand why most sushi and some oriental restaurants in US are closed between 2 and 5 p.m. But we were hungry now! So we spotted a shopping mall, just behind convention center and there – of course we found huge food court. We decided to have sushi, just to see if its different from what we have in US. It was NOT – same sushi and sashimi, but they also served interesting cooked dishes in some sort of hot tray – we had to try it! Delicious! (Don’t ask me what was inside – some mushrooms, some kind of veggies, fish).

After late lunch we explored this supermarket I already told you about (I had to have another tray of Jackfruit for desert! Probably, my last on this trip) and spend couple of hours with emails again. It’s start raining and we almost didn’t want to go out. vacation is over – tomorrow we flight home and day after tomorrow – WORK!

Well, I don’t want to spend last day in Singapore watching TV in the hotel! There is so many things to explore and we wanted to try their METRO experience, so we ‘collected’ our-self and went to the METRO station (MRT – they call it here “Mass Rapid Transit”). This afternoon when we explore the area, hotel bell boy went with us all the way to the METRO station to explain how the ticket machine works. This really helped a lot, because the touch screen here is like cell phone – you choose the station by magnifying the map – very advanced! All system is very advanced and SPOTLESS clean. When you are on the train, not only you can follow the map, but there is a light indicator on the wall in what direction the train is going and the next station will change the light. Very easy to navigate, but then we learn that METRO system in every place we visited is extremely easy to navigate. Los Angeles is so behind!!!

Huge umbrellas

We took the train to Clarke Quay, place we didn’t have time to visit before and it was on our list to explore.

Clarke Quay is a historical riverside quay in Singapore, located within the Singapore River Planning Area. The quay is situated upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River and Boat Quay. Clarke Quay has an unusual design which covered by a huge umbrellas which protect all the restaurants and bars from the rain and it is also air-conditioned. This will work perfect, as the rain was on and off all the time.

Of course after walking around, checking different clubs, listening to life music, checking the restaurants and an amazing design of the whole complex, we had to have something to eat!

What an experience – to sit under those huge umbrellas, on the river bend, watching colorful boats passing by and eating such a flavorful local food (this area known for their sea food, and we LOVE sea food. this time we also had green papaya salad – spice and delicious!)

Cheers!

Posted in Anniversary Trip, Family, friends, PRINCESS Cruise, singapore, Trip | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Kuala Lumpur – January 23rd, 2018

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. Its modern skyline is dominated by the 451m-tall Petronas Twin Towers, a pair of glass-and-steel-clad skyscrapers with Islamic motifs. The towers also offer a public skybridge and observation deck. The city is also home to British colonial-era landmarks such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Kuala Lumpur officially the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, or commonly KL, is the national capital of Malaysia as well as its largest city. The only global city in Malaysia, it covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 1.73 million as of 2016.

Kuala Lumpur means “muddy confluence”; kuala is the point where two rivers join together or an estuary, and lumpur means “mud”. One suggestion is that it was named after Sungai Lumpur (“muddy river”); it was recorded in the 1820s that Sungei Lumpoor was the most important tin-producing settlement up the Klang River. Doubts however have been raised on such a derivation as Kuala Lumpur lies at the confluence of Gombak River and Klang River, therefore should rightly be named Kuala Gombak as the point where one river joins another or the sea is its kuala.[21] It has been argued by some that Sungai Lumpur is in fact Gombak River (therefore the point where it joined the Klang River would be Kuala Lumpur), although Sungai Lumpur is said to be another river joining the Klang River a mile upstream from the Gombak confluence, or perhaps located to the north of the Batu Caves area.

It has also been proposed that Kuala Lumpur was originally named Pengkalan Lumpur (“muddy landing place”) in the same way that Klang was once called Pengkalan Batu (“stone landing place”), but became corrupted into Kuala Lumpur. Another suggestion is that it was initially a Cantonese word lam-pa meaning ‘flooded jungle’ or ‘decayed jungle’. There is however no firm contemporary evidence for these suggestions other than anecdotes. It is also possible that the name is a corrupted form of an earlier but now unidentifiable forgotten name.

The Petronas Towers, also known as the Petronas Twin Towers are twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)’s official definition and ranking, they were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world. The buildings are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, along with nearby Kuala Lumpur Tower.

The towers were designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli. They chose a distinctive postmodern style to create a 21st-century icon for Kuala Lumpur.

The 88-floor towers are constructed largely of reinforced concrete, with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion.  Another Islamic influence on the design is that the cross section of the towers is based on a Rub el Hizb, albeit with circular sectors added to meet office space requirements.

When it was built in 1998, the 88-storey Petronas Towers held the top record for the tallest building in the world at a staggering height of 1,483 feet!

Thean Hou Temple – Chinese Temple is a 6-tiered temple to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is located on 1.67 acres of land atop Robson Heights on Lorong Bellamy, overlooking Jalan Syed Putra. Thean Hou Temple is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia.

This syncretic temple with elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism is a grandiose structure and represents a successful combination of modern architectural techniques and authentic traditional design featuring imposing pillars, spectacular roofs, ornate carvings and intricate embellishments. Its grand architecture has made it a popular tourist destination.

The front entrance of the temple features a multi-arched gateway with red pillars, the colour symbolic of prosperity and good fortune. Souvenir stalls and a canteen are found on the first level. The second level houses the multi-purpose hall while offices are located on the third level. The fourth level has three tiers and the prayer hall is located here.

The prayer hall houses three altars, each with a sculpture of one deity or goddess. As one enters the prayer hall, the altar on the right is dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Tian Hou is in the centre while Shui Wei Sheng Niang (the Goddess of the Waterfront) is at the left. In the middle of the hall and between the altars are two pairs of Kau Cim oracles that can be used by visitors.

Celling at the temple

Mashmaker statue at the garden

The Thean Hou Temple is one of the largest Chinese temple in South East Asia and was officially opened on 3rd September 1989.

 

 

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Founded in 1873, it is situated at edge of Chinatown in Jalan Bandar. Its looks almost exactly as the one we visit in Singapore.

Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu, which flows past the hill. It is the tenth limestone hill from Ampang.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.

Batu Caves in short also referred as 10th Caves or Hill for Lord Muruga as there are six important holy shrines in India and four more in Malaysia.

The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people (a tribe of Orang Asli).

As early as 1860, Chinese settlers began excavating guano for fertilising their vegetable patches. However, they became famous only after the limestone hills were recorded by colonial authorities including Daly and Syers as well as American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.

Batu Caves was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader. In 1890, Pillai, who also founded the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur, installed the murti (consecrated statue) of Sri Murugan Swami in what is today known as the Temple Cave. Since 1892, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (which falls in late January/early February) has been celebrated there.

Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave were built in 1920 and have since been replaced by 272 concrete steps. Of the various cave temples that comprise the site, the largest and best known is the Temple Cave, so named because it houses several Hindu shrines beneath its high vaulted ceiling.

Inside the cave

Raising almost 100 m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

The Ramayana Cave depicts the story of Rama in a chronicle manner along the irregular walls of the cave.

A 42.7-metre (140 ft) high statue of Lord Murugan was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct. It is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world.

Macaque at Batu Caves

There are various undeveloped caves which contain a diverse range of cave fauna, including some unique species, such as Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris and fruit bats. The site is also well known for its numerous macaques, which visitors feed — sometimes involuntarily. These monkeys may also pose a biting hazard to tourists (especially small children) as they can be quite territorial.

Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, with rock formations and a number of animals found nowhere else. It is a two-kilometer network of relatively untouched caverns. Stalactites jutting from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor form intricate formations such as cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops which took thousands of years to form.

Independence Square – Merdeka Square is a square located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is situated in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.  Literally Independence Square, it was formerly known as the Selangor Club field or simply the “Padang” and was used as the cricket green of the Selangor Club (now Royal Selangor Club). It was here the Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time at midnight (time: 12:00 AM) on 31 August 1957. Since then, Merdeka Square has been the usual venue for the annual Merdeka Parade (National Day Parade).

In the early days of Kuala Lumpur, the Chinese and Malay communities settled along the east bank of the Klang River. To the west of river was land originally owned by Yap Ah Loy and was used to plant vegetables. In 1880, the state capital of Selangor was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur by the colonial administration. The then British Resident William Bloomfield Douglas decided that the government buildings and staff living quarters should be located to the west of the river to keep away from what he considered the unsanitary condition of the town .

A 95-metre flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, is located at the southern end of the square. A flat, round black marble plaque marks the location where the Malayan flag was raised for the first time.

The National Monument is a sculpture that commemorates those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for freedom, principally against the Japanese occupation during World War II and the Malayan Emergency, which lasted from 1948 until 1960. It is located in the Federal capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Royal Selangor pewter:

 

1885 — The humble beginnings of a young pewtersmith from China 

Royal Selangor’s story started in 1885 by a young pewtersmith named Yong Koon from Shantou, China, who, along with thousands of other Chinese, came to Kuala Lumpur following the discovery of tin. At the time, Yong Koon enjoyed

Everyone who works 5 years at the factory, gets hands imprints in pewter

small but brisk business by making simple household items made of tin from a shop at No 23 Cross Street.

His experimental nature led him to start producing home ware made of pewter – a tin compound hardened with copper and antimony – making him one of the first pewtersmiths in Kuala Lumpur.

Business took a blow in the 1930’s, due to approaching war and economic downfall. Yong Koon turned his business’s focus to the British and other expatriates instead, beginning a new phase for his business.

He started making European-style products like teapots and candelabras, which quickly made him enough money to move into his own shoplot at No 219 Pudu Road, where the business’s name was changed to Malayan Pewter Works.

Today it’s  a very nice factory tour and museum about tin in Malaysia and the pewter industry that resulted. Private guided tours are well done, ours given in English (native language) but it seemed other tour guides were available for other languages. Very nice overview of pewter manufacture and fabrication. The tour ends in the pewter showroom. NO pressure to buy any items, though staff is around to help you if you show interest in an object. Most items are museum quality, so it’s worth some time to walk around and admire them.

We visit all the above monuments with wonderful Chinese descend Malaysian guided A.K., who came to the port to pick us and gave us so much history and information about his country – our head exploded! It was very busy day full of ‘wow’ moments, especially architecture of the city and of course one favorite – visit to place where locals eat and have lunch with the locals (don’t ask me what we ate, but it included fish, chicken, veggies – very spicy and very unusual malaya rice, that we never had before.

Back at the ship – our usual routine: dinner, show, dancing!!!

 

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Langkawi – January 22nd, 2018

First view from our balcony

Langkawi means reddish brown eagle in Bahasa Malay.

 

(Langkawi, officially known as Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, is a district and an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia)

Langkawi, as the rest of Malay Peninsula was ruled by Sultan of Kedah since 12th century. It’s actually another small archipelago – contain 99 smaller islands in the Andaman Sea just south of Malaysia’s border with Thailand. In a low tide, there are actually 104 small islands.

The island is very little developed and known by its mysterious haunted caves tropical forest and has been recognized as a UNESCO GEOPARK due to landscape, caves, sea-arches and fossils. After Sultan rule ended, Portuguese invaded, but the island end up in Great Britain hands.

We took a kayak tour through Kilim Marine Park, a delicate ecosystem of tidal mangroves, lagoons and isolated islands, inside Gue Kelawar – The Bat Cave, home to stalactite and stalagmites. Brown eagles, tree crabs, iguanas, macaque monkeys and bats may be on our way of this tour and well as native lunch on one of the islands.

We were a group of 30 kayaking people, and were split to 3 groups of 10 – 5 double kayaking. It’s took us about 40 minutes to get to the river. We drive through villages with simple stores, very few hotels and some homestay houses. The island is very undeveloped and untouched by progress.

We entered Kilim Marine Park and met our 3 guides. Ours was Malayan born Karin. He spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable. We enjoyed his stories about nature, about TZUNAMI – tidal wave, that hit Asia few years ago and damaged so much in Thailand, but not on Langkawi and why no one was hurt on that island. We learn about different fish in the water and actually saw it – sting-ray, some small very colorful fish, some yellow with square head and some very huge ones; some hybrid fish, part sea bass, part don’t really know what.

We learn about mangroves and all kind of snakes, birds and monkey live in the jungle.

After short lesson we boarded our kayaks and started rowing up the stream on the river, passing beautiful hills, mangroves, lots of Islands. Our 1st stop was just after first river bend – to see eagles: brown eagles, white belly eagles and regular eagles. There were everyway: above us, close to the water. I never saw eagles so close. Unfortunately it was hard to raw and take pictures, also my camera was covered with plastic case and the pictures didn’t came out clear.

We continue to raw up the river, admiring the nature around us. In some places it was so quiet and peaceful. We entered very narrow passages inside the trees, when only one of us could operate the kayak. We had to be very careful and stay away from the trees, because snakes were resting on lower branches – very poison snakes – wipers! We saw a couple – pretty scary… If we do something stupid or touch a tree, they can jump. We saw a huge beautiful lizard with huge tell. Someone though it’s a small alligator, but our guide told us it’s just a lizard.
Also we sow small monkey on the trees and some strange yellow birds – not very big, but with big nose.
After exiting those small passages we end up in the big river again and stop in floating man made island where we could rest a little and have lunch – some local soup and rice with chicken and shrimp (or prawns, as they called in Malaysia).

After lunch we visit some caves where we saw tons of small bats (they called bat cave), monkeys and small crab with HUGE claw.

Kelawar Cave

Kelawar Cave or Bats’ Cave is located in the heart of Kilim mangrove swamps within the Kisap Forest Reserve. The cave is about 60 m long and was named as such because it supports hundreds of bats. It consists of two caves. The western cave has a floor area of about 270 m sq with a low roof (1-3m) trending northeast. The second cave is bigger, having a floor area of about 750m sq, with roof reaching 10m high and trending north-northwest.

Interesting features and structures in these caves include stalactites, stalagmites, and fallen rock blocks. The most interesting and important features is the occurence of old shells encrusting on the cave wall and roof. Radiocarbon dating indicated that the shells are about 5000 years old. The altitude of the shells clusters shows that the sea-level at that time was 2 m higher than the present level.

This was by far one of the most adventurous dys on our trip. We were soaking wet, tired but very excited when we got back to the ship. If we ever going to end up at this part of the world, we want to stay on this island and explore more islands around with their beautiful beaches.

As always – cold clean wet towels waiting at the entrance, with cold water. This is the best – come to this beautiful ship when everyone so helpful and meeting you as you are their best friend!

Rest of the evening as always – nice diner in Santa Fe restaurant that become our favorite and Larry, the meterdee knows us by name. Show and dancing until midnight with our new dancing friends!

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Penang – January 21st, 2018

Georgetown streets

Colonial BUILDINGS

Pinang Pulau – The Isle of Betel Nut

In 1786 Francis Light persuaded the Sultan of Kadah to sale this island to English crown and the island was renamed Prince of Wales Island with the capital – Georgetown – after King George the 3rd. Penang quickly becomes a major trading port for spices, tea and silk. European, Malayan, Hindu, Arabs and Chinese cultures and unique heritage melts together in exotic bend of cultures, with temples, mosques and Chinese clan houses, listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Many streets still have colonial style buildings and pre-war houses. Clan houses full of Chinese craftsmanship. There is also a temple of Reclining Buddha, very different from the one we say in Bangkok, but  also huge 100 meter (300 ft) long ad around is a temple of ten thousand Buddha’s, smaller once, but very impressive.

BUDDHA NAILS FROM mOTHER OF PEARLS

Reclining BUddha

 

 

 

 

Local cuisine, (which we are very much interested in).

Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia with exotic flavors of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern: IKan kemburg, mackerel deep-fried, Bak kut ten, which literary translates as: ‘meat bone tea’ and is actually a soup of meaty pork rib in broth of herbs and spices. Local beer are Tiger and Anchor – which we like very much.

Our tour today is going to be to sample local cuisine. We will visit Penang Cocoa Boutique to try over 300 varieties of chocolate where different rooms have different theme – “fruits”, “panned chocolate” Malaysian chocolate” (after the taste I will write more what I think about it, as everyone who knows me, knows how much I love chocolate.
Next stop will be Coffee Tree, home to Penang White coffee and Tea and we will be able to try local ‘cup of tea’. After we will go to Penang foodie corner – a place just for us!

Around 4 p.m. we boarded the bus and drove into Georgetown, while tour guide explained about the island, life on it, history of Malaysia and how all the religions live here in harmony. Official religion is Islam, but no one pressure anyone to observe it. Mix marriages very common and there is no judgment. Because of so many religions – there are festivities every few month and preparations for Chinese New Year are on the way – streets are decorated with lanterns and stores have special sales and open late. They have many Christian churches, so Christmas is very much celebrated. After Chinese New Year in February, comes Ramadan and after Indian celebrations – so according to city advertising – festivals are year around!

We saw some of those famous buildings I posted pictures before and very expensive hotels and mansions on ‘Milliners Road’, as well as those Georgian and Colonial homes. 1st and oldest church and oldest Chinese temple.

Our 1st stop was chocolate factory and kind-of museum. Mostly we were showed different cocoa they grow on the island and we tasted a lot of deferent chocolates – with fruits, with nuts, just dark plain one – I can’t say is was a WOW, but it was interesting to taste. There was a shop attached to the museum and many bought the product, but we had better chocolate – so, we just continue to taste… Next stop was all kind of local spices and candy. Most made from sesame. We love sesame, so after some tasting, we did get 2 packs of sesame candy – one with Cashew Nuts and one with pumpkin seeds.

Next stop was batik place we were show how they print and paint on the fabric. Unfortunately in all those places, explanation was very limited and short, they were more pushing people to buy their products. They did had some nice clothes, but prices were around $30.00 and we bought similar 2 days before for $10.00 – so, sorry, no deal!

Next 2 stops were – coffee and tea factory, where we tried so many different coffee and teas, I am all ‘tea-coffee’ out – don’t ask me to drink anymore! We also try local honey – but they sale it for $60/jar – I say it’s over prices big time!

The coffee they have is very interesting – they call it ‘white coffee’, but its readymade pouch with light ground instant coffee, milk powder and sugar – they add some flavor as well – coconut, fruits, hazelnut – but it’s not a real coffee…

Last stop was food market – very similar to Singapore: street vendors sale food they cook in front of you. Marker was in 2 sections – Arabic – no alcohol and Chinese. We were walking thought and testing, buying different food which was overall delicious, but I can’t say it was something we never saw before. Across from this very basic street market stand 7 story very modern mall with very expensive stores, like Prada, Gucci, Swarovski, etc., All with marble floors, modern toilets (you know how I like to check all kind of toilets), modern food court with Starbucks, Chili’s, Coffee Bean and McDonalds – say the least. We were looking for internet, so the only one we could connect fast and no password was McDonald, so we sat there a little to check emails, before we headed back to the bus… Small rain started to drizzle but the time we got back to the port and the time was around 8 p.m., but we wanted to walk around a little more, because just around the corner started ‘Little India’ and I wanted to check if I can get some Sari fabric. Stores were still open, but the prices were almost as in the US, so after checking several stores, I decided not to buy anything and we went back to the ship. By the time we unpacked and took a shower it was after 10 p.m. and tomorrow we have very adventurous day – kayaking on another Malaysian island – Langkawi.

Malaysia is basically archipelago: Malay Peninsula and contains many islands. There is 2 bridges connected Penang with main land – one is 8 miles long (on water) and another is 17 miles long – they look very scary to drive across the ocean…

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January 19th and January 20th – Sea day and back at Singapore!

January 19th – Sea day

Finally I slept until 11 a.m. This whole cruise and especially the last 2 days were so full of activities, I needed a rest! Today we will take it easy – only one major activity planned, well may be two…

12:30 I meet our pop-choir director Stephanie and the rest of the group for the final rehearsal. O, boy we do sound awful on some of those songs and pretty OK on others…

After rehearsal, I meet Israel for Ballroom dance review class: we learn Meringue, Box Waltz and Cha-cha. This was a lot of fun, even though this instructor – Elza, not very good ‘caller’. We had a little time left and we ask her to teach us swing – both of us having a little trouble with that step, but overall we learned some moves and used it during dancing this cruise.

When we done with the class it was 2:30 p.m. and I was hungry… We decided to go to the small pizza restaurant, but I realized I don’t have the time – I have to go up to the room (most activates on deck 5,6 and 7 and our room on deck 14 – long way up!) and I needed to get ready for our Choir Performance, make up, black and white clothes, nice shoes…

Meet the choir group on deck 5 at 3:15 when we had final structure and here we go! I always wanted to try singing in choir. I never dared, but here I had the opportunity to work with someone who understand music and learn some of the instructions and try to understand how conductor works as well. I think that we sounds awful, but we got great ovations from the audience, people cheered us and sing a long and overall it was such a nice, uplifting experience. Israel took some videos, but it’s so hard to post them with this slow internet, I am afraid my choir debut never will see the light! We asked people we know how was it? -Most said that it wasn’t that bad – overall… Well, what can you expect when group of people from all over the world, with so many dialects and accents come together to sing – Waterloo by ABBA or We are The Champions by QUEEN? Songs more melodic – we did much better – like Isn’t She Lovely by STEEVE WONDER (reading the worlds of the song was the 1st time I realized the song is about his baby daughter – was just born (‘less than an hour old… isn’t she pretty, isn’t she wonderful…made out of love’ – what a beautiful worlds)! I always thought it was about a woman!)

After our performance we had a little party at the wine bar and complements from the ship – Champaign! It was very uplifting! Finally made it to Pizza restaurant and that a little rest before dinner, watching movie – Concussion – with Will Smith – very good!

We had very pleasant dinner sharing a table with 2 couples from Australia. One couple, Jenny and Chris, we already knew – o, boy, the woman is talking no stop! Her husband, Chis (2nd marriage) was a Plummer (they both retired) and what a character! Or how they say in Australia – “SMOOTH”!

It’s interesting to hear all kind of different dialects and the words different countries use for same things or emotions… In England, for example – ‘looking smart’ doesn’t mean you are smart, but well-dressed nice, or elegant. ‘Smooth” in Australia mean ‘sweet taker’ and English and Australian don’t say pretty – they say ‘lovely”.

We continue our evening at Crooners Bar saying again Farewell to Maurizio Chigumi and his wonderful musical repertoire, we all love. That was traditional Farewell Dance party at the Piazza with balloon drop and we ended the evening after midnight, dancing with honey and saying good bye to our new friends who done their cruise and will leave tomorrow.

This cruise actually contain 3 cruses back to back. Some people had 21 days – starting in Singapore all the way to Bally and back and we are going on to Malaysia and Koala Lampoor. About 5 years ago those cruses were changed the way you can book back to back cruses or get out in the middle and catch a ship on another port – very interesting combinations.

January 20th – back in Singapore!

We are back at the beautiful Marina and we can see our amazing Marina Sands Hotel from the ship! We are not planning to go to the city – we need a day to unwind, to relax to check other pools we didn’t had the time – like the Sun pools at the end of the ship, we only saw from Disco club and we will try to find Sanctuary Pool – which is a tricky one, because the entrance is in the spa.

POOL DAY!!!

Spend the whole morning pool hooping and reading. While on this trip, I finished couple of books – “American Heiress” – very good reading about late 19th century when American become very rich, but many ‘Titled Europeans become more and more poor, as those huge estate they use to run on land become more and more independent and there was no more rent to collect from villages who supported estates, so there was time when rich Americans wanted the titles and were going to Europe for marriage. There even was a book at that time helping Americas to find Ducks and Duchess and Barons or Marques.

My next books, I pick up at the ship library, but very simple by Nora Roberts – all fast romantic reading – perfect for vacation: ‘All I want for Christmas’ – about twins whose mother abandon them and they made a Christmas wish to get a new mom (I even cried at the end, when all they wanted came true) and This Magic Moment – about magician, who doe very daring dangerous escapes, until he falls in love with his new producer. Very light, enjoyable reading!

Our dinner this time was ‘almost’ alone, we had a table for 2 and we talked to our neighbors, from Pennsylvania’s (rare Americans on board), very nice couple, came for their 45th anniversary. They also take a cruise very 5 years on their anniversary. In Singapore we picked up new crowd, mostly Chinese and a big group from Japan. What a difference from mostly Australian on board before!

After dinner all we did is bar hopping for dancing until midnight, when they all stop playing, unless you are in Disco club, which we went at 10 p.m. for ‘happy hour’ and 2 dance sequels – ABBA and line dancing.

I will ordered room service for tomorrow morning, as we will get to our destination around 3 p.m. and will stay there until midnight, so we will take breakfast on the balcony, watching al those beautiful tropical island we are passing on the way and will finish the movie we started – Avengers.

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