Posts Tagged ‘Perth’

Singapore

My final, and lengthy(!), post of our Wedding Cruise.

Writing this last post about our Wedding Cruise so long after the event is actually quite difficult as time very quickly plays tricks on your mind and things that you think you remembered are brought into question when actually trying to reflect on them. But, the very act of writing allows me to relive what was a holiday of a lifetime, until the next one that is; savour once more those long lazy sunny hours looking at the sea, drinking wine at 5: or was that wine at 4; or even 3; possibly 2. Most definitely however, wine at 6 and most of all savour the whole event one more time. And that is the main reason I write these posts. Not for others to read, although I’m happy that so many do, and so many seem to enjoy, but primarily so that I can relive them and subsequently remember them as time goes by: and, as time does go by, so surely did our holiday as we rapidly approached its conclusion. >>>

Having successfully crossed the equator thus bringing us back into the Northern Hemisphere and therefore being the right way up once more, our journey continued to Singapore, which was to signify our ‘Journeys End’ and what a journey it had been. Setting off from London some three weeks prior, we stopped en-route to Auckland at HongKong (just for 2-hours to swap planes). From Auckland we joined P&Os Arcadia and sailed to Sydney, then Melbourne, then Adelaide, then Perth (getting married on the way), then Bali and finally Singapore. Prior to our arrival (actually it was couple of days prior to our arrival), we received the dreaded paperwork detailing our disembarkation arrangements. It’s funny you know, we all go on these holidays / adventures, we all love these holidays / adventures, we know they have an end date yet the arrival of this documentation always fills us with sadness. This one however filled me with a feeling of foreboding. It contained an extra piece of information. This piece of information warned us about the strict controls in place in Singapore:

  • Chewing of gum in Singapore was banned
  • Bringing chewing gum into Singapore was banned
  • Open activities of close affection in Singapore was banned
  • All controlled substances in Singapore are banned
    • But they didn’t say what was controlled 😦
  • Prescribed drugs were to be accompanied by a medical physicians prescription
  • Drug trafficking in Singapore is punishable by [Death].

Now, for those that know me, they won’t be surprised to hear me say that I’m a bit of a pill head. If I think it’ll do me good, I’ll take it: And of late, I’ve been trying various products to help combat the effects of COPD. So, before I left, I filled up 5-weeks worth of pill organisers. Of these, the morning and evening pills included 4 prescribed pills plus others that I [knew] I should take: along with a whole load of others (most of which I couldn’t remember the purpose, or name, of) that were ‘essential’ in maintaining my health & keeping me alive :-).

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Drugs, Drugs and more Drugs

Now, with the excitement of the holiday, while I would remember, most of the time, to take the morning and bedtime drugs, it wasn’t unusual to forget many of the others. The result of this was that as I approached Singapore I had 20+ pill organisers randomly filled with all sorts of tablets, most of which I couldn’t answer as to what they were. On top of this, I also take Codeine (occasionally) and I knew that was banned in Thailand and Dubai so; was it banned in Singapore as well? I knew not, so what was I to do? Would they ‘sniff’ out these drugs? What would they do? Would they lock me up and quiz me for days? Would they subject me to special searches (the type with rubber gloves)? Would I ever see my loved ones again? Would I be put to death? I started to worry. In fact, my worry was so great that I needed to go to the bar to think about my next course of action.

As I sat by the bar with a (very large) glass of Rioja I pondered. I pondered: what should I do?; what are my options? what will they do? what are controlled substances? My mind was racing, racing with all sorts of plausible and implausible actions and consequences. Eventually, I narrowed the number of plausible options to just five:

  1. Pack them all in my suitcase and play dumb: I might just get through ok;
  2. Pack them all in Mrs Me’s suitcase;
  3. Leave them all behind;
  4. Just take the prescribed drugs;
  5. Take one complete pack and argue my case.
  • Option 1 brought with it too much risk. If I got caught, what would happen? Worse case – I could get machine gunned for drug trafficking, and I would die.
  • Option 2 was a safer option on a personal level but if Mrs Me was caught, who would iron my shirts? Who would remind me to take my tablets without which, I might die.
  • Option 3 was quite clearly an over reaction (why?, they’re only vitamins for goodness sake) and it would leave me without my prescribed mediation for 3+ days and I might die.
  • Option 4 seemed ok, but would they ask questions as to why I have so many pill organisers for just a few pills. They might be suspicious, lock me up and ask me all sorts of questions, and still perform those special searches. And then machine gun me anyway, and then I’d die.
  • Option 5 seemed the better one, I could argue the case for the prescribed drugs and, hopefully, convince them of my rationale for the others, even though I myself had forgotten what that was. There was also the chance I might not die.

So, after two or three glasses of Rioja my mind was a lot clearer(!). I would elect for Option 5. This was all the more better knowing that I had no codeine left as I had eaten the last lot over 72 hours ago. Assured by such knowledge I was confident that I had made the right decision.  But first, Mrs Me had to be divested of all traces of Chewing Gum (she was a prolific chewer of gum). I did consider a ‘Special Search’ just to be sure but thought better of it. I then went through all my pill organisers and thew away all untaken drugs leaving just one complete pack. This was wrapped in a serviette that ‘may’ have been borrowed from the restaurant and surrounded with our stash of P&O Chocolates, which were placed on our pillows every night. All was then packed into the middle of my larger suitcase. Well, I think it was mine. With that, all cases were placed outside our cabin so that they might miraculously disappear overnight and subsequently taken ashore for when we disembark.

The next morning, we breakfasted at leisure as our disembarkation time was not until 13:00 – This gave us even more time to leisurely ponder our future. As the minutes and hours ticked by, there were numerous calls over the PA System for Mr / Mrs So and So to contact reception. Had they been found to have suspicious items I wondered, or had they simply not paid their on-board account? Naturally, my fear was of the former. Eventually, the allotted hour was upon us and still, we hadn’t been called. I was feeling confident.

 As we made our way ashore, I scanned the area looking for guards with machine guns, sniffer dogs, anything that might indicate trouble ahead. All I could see however was a long queue of disembarking passengers collecting their luggage, as we had to, then waiting to be waved into the next available immigration control point, complete with full luggage x-ray machines. This was it, I just knew we’d be found out. How was everybody else getting through ok? I asked myself. Surely, I’m not the only one who takes drugs, oops, I mean tablets.  One other problem though. Despite there being two ships in today, both disgorging passengers (the other was a Crystal Cruises ship), there was only one immigration point open. This could, I thought to myself, work in our favour.

As time ticked by, people were becoming more and more frustrated: there were at least a dozen immigration points yet there was only one operating. It was almost like trying to get back into the UK via Heathrow :-). Eventually, the authorities relented and opened a second desk so as to clear us as quickly as possible. Within no time at all, it was our turn. How should I play this. Should I look normal? What does ‘normal’ look like? Whatever I did, I had to be sure not to look nervous: they can spot nervous people and might single them out for closer inspection, I thought to myself. Then, it was our turn. A young lad, in uniform came up to help place our suitcases on the belt that would take them through the x-ay machine. Br careful I said, they’re full of fragile ornaments that Mrs Me has bought I said. He turned and smiled as if to say, Don’t worry, I’m used to this and in no time at all, they were loaded and on their way. I stood and watched, oblivious to the fact I was being called for to walk through the sensor and then onto have my passport checked. It was it this point that it became evident to me that I had no cause for worry. The immigration officer couldn’t have been more friendly. Welcome to Singapore he said. How was your cruise? he asked. It was great he I said, we got married, I said, pointing to Mrs Me who was waiting in the queue. Be careful, I said, she’s very bossy. Ah he said. That’s what happens when they get married, he said. You are now a ruled man, he said and with that, a look of sympathy, he waved me through. And with, we were through to join our coach that was to take is to Swiss Hotel, Merchant Court.

Conveniently, the hotel was located right by the river and handy for bars and restaurants. Perfect for those short exploratory walks out and about as we check out the surroundings and get a feel for what it’s like to be in Singapore. So, once in our room, and checked all suitcases were intact, complete with medication, our next task was to check out the bars and decide where we could have a late lunch. Our first port of call was the Octapas bar on the directly opposite side of the river. Sitting by the river, we were able to enjoy a welcoming cool beer (it was very, very hot & humid in Singapore) while watching the boats go by on the river and the rather fetching waitresses going about their business.

Hmm, I say, I think I’ll take a couple of photos of the girls (just for the boys of course). It was just at that point that I felt that now familiar stinging to my left ear. Why, oh why, does she always go for the already cauliflowered ear?  As we sat and drank, we looked at the map to work out what we were going to do over the next couple of days. We (I) worked out that the best strategy would be to take a boat to Marina Bay from where we could explore the Gardens by the Bay and then explore Marina Bay Sands Hotel and nearby Shopping Arcade (the last bit was the clincher). On the following day, we would be able walk to Raffles Hotel to enjoy a Singapore Sling as it should be enjoyed: in Singapore. And with that we went to explore the remaining bars while looking for somewhere appropriate to eat. Not long after leaving Octapas, we came across Hooters, this was another where I was to receive another thick ear. But wait, who did we espy but Adrian the ships photographer who took our wedding photo’s. I could do nothing. Mrs Me made a bee line for the poor man. Ooh Adrian, exclaims Mrs Me, what are you doing here? What Adrian said next brought me out into a cold sweat.

But I, rather meanly, laughed as well.

It would appear that as he (Adrian) was leaving the ship, he along with another crew member – the ships butcher (both of whom were contracted for the whole world cruise, and beyond) apparently triggered one of the sensors that picked up traces of a mysterious compound; a compound normally associated with explosives. With this, both the passenger and the photographer were bundled into an interview room where they were to cross examined for 3-hours as the authorities tried to establish why there trying to come into Singapore. Him being a ships photographer and ‘armed’ with nought but ships photographic equipment (that’s a camera to us mere mortals) seemed too little to convince them. But try as they might, they could ‘prove’ nothing. By the end the session, all that could be gleaned was they been detected as having traces of some black powder about them and all they could work out was that it had something to do with chemicals used in the photographic labs. With that, they let them go, leaving them with just half a day to explore before returning to the ship before she sailed for Kuala Lumpur.  So naturally, they went to Hooters for a couple of drinks. That was when I got another thick ear for laughing at Adrian’s misfortune. Hmm, methinks Mrs Me has a soft spot for Adrian.

After this, we felt the need to eat but couldn’t decide what we wanted. We walked up and down the riverside and up and down the side streets to  see if there was anything that took our fancy. There was, of course Spanish, at Octapas, but there was just about every other nationality including local varieties. We were so overcome by it all, we settled for McNuggets & Fries :-). Our evening meals, we had decided, would be taken at the Blue Potato Restaurant by the hotel pool on the 2nd floor. It was a good decision. The food was exceptional without being expensive and the service second to none: a recurring theme throughout Singapore.

Gardens by the Bay

The next morning, as planned, we caught a river boat to Marina Bay. During the trip, as a dutiful tourist I took many photos as did our friends, possibly from China, who were also visiting Singapore. As they moved around the boat taking various photos with each other we desperately tried to move out of their way until, in the end, I decided to join in and get in as many of their photo’s as I could. They seemed ok about it and we are still happy and smiley when we disembarked. Mrs Me and I now had to catch another boat to take us across the bay to the Gardens by the Bay. As our new Chinese friends they all moved together for a group photo of themselves with the bay and the hotel in the background. Beckoning me, I thought they wanted me to take their picture for them but oh no, they wanted me to be in their photo. So, back home, I’m probably described as ‘ooh look, here he is again in this picture – the old fat english man – he was everywhere’.

Anyway, we reached the gardens and having bought tickets, we joined a tour which took us for a quick 20 minute exploration of the gardens while listening to how they were constructed. I won’t go into the detail, they can describe that better than I on the website here. But I have to says, it was something else: a place to visit over and over again. I was even more amazed to find it was only completed in 2011.

Through these gardens it was possible to explore different regions of the world. You could even explore them from high above the canopies though Mrs Me did stay close to the point from where you joined this amazing walk across the sky.  Having scampered here there and everywhere we then moved inside where it was amazingly cool so that plants not liking such warmer climates could also be nurtured. Again, these could be seen from ground level and canopy level, and all levels between.

Raffles Hotel

The following day was checkout day (boooo) though our flight wasn’t until 11:00 in the evening so we still the whole day to play. So, bags packed, we checked out of the hotel and left our luggage with the porter and off we went to find the Raffles Hotel. It was in fact only a 20-minute walk so in no time at all we found it, just in time for a lunchtime drink. Having checked out around the hotel we found the stairs that took us to the famous Long Bar , birthplace of the Singapore Sling.

Just some more photo’s.

I’m bored now, so, now we’re off now to book our next adventure.

Byeeeee.

Perth was our next advertised port of call. Our visit to Perth wasn’t actually so. The port is Freemantle from where one can get to Perth. Perth is a place we never went to, so I suppose, Perth wasn’t really our next port of call after all: it was Freemantle. But Perth was advertised, so Perth we’ll call it – but really, it was Freemantle.

We had elected to take an excursion, not to Perth but to Caversham Wildlife Park followed by a visit to Sandalford Winery vineyard for some always welcomed wine tasting. The best bit was that the excursion didn’t start until after lunch so we could have a relaxing morning starting with a lazy breakfast in a [relatively] empty restaurant while everybody else was out exploring. After this, we went ashore just to get a picture of us in port. And then ‘view’ the Queen Mary 2 that had parked behind us, back-to-back, or stern-to-stern for those with a nautical bent J.

She may regret parking behind us later!

Having had such a late, and rather hearty, breakfast we opted to skip lunch though I did promise myself I would need to hunt down some food on my return, scheduled for 16:30. Anyway, with that decision made, we made our way shore side to join our tour bus and tour guide. As we boarded, we were told that we were the last excursion to leave and would most likely be the last to return which would be just in time for the ship’s allotted departure time so, when we returned, we would be asked to re-board the ship as quickly as possible. No pressure there then! On our last coach excursion, in Adelaide, we had a great tour guide, a ringer for Steve Erwin, but this tour guide was definitely not Australian, or English. She sounded Italian so Italian she shall be. Her grasp of the language was good but not good enough and seemed to have trouble when trying to explain some aspects of the local area: This wasn’t helped by a PA system that worked only half way up the coach with intermittent feedback and even, on occasions, cutting out. For the first hour, we made our way through the city traffic and the myriad of traffic lights, which always seemed against us. Eventually however, we reached the outskirts and, at last left the city behind. Not before however, we caught a brief glimpse of Perth’s skyline, so at least we can we say we’ve seen Perth even if we never actually went there. The one thing we did notice was how dry everything was. This area is known to be hot but this season had been a particularly hot one with no rain for 4-months. (As I’m writing this and looking at the news from Perth –re: the lost Air Malaysian flight MH370 – I get the feeling that the dry spell is most definitely over). The ground was so dry and the grass looked like straw: a far cry from the floods we had left back home in England. How ironic that we in the UK are seeing the most rainfall since I don’t know when yet here on the other side of the world, they’re experiencing heat waves and extended periods (4-months) without rain.

Eventually however, we reached the wildlife park and were told we would have 50 minutes here before we would have to move on to the winery.

As we got off the coach, the wall of heat hit us; it was chuffing hot. 50 minutes I decided would be more than enough. And anyway, we had already seen a group of wild Kangaroos on the way to the park so we’d already got our money’s worth :-). As we made our way through the park, it quickly became obvious that once more, Mrs Me (now official) would be happy as there was an abundance of wallabies / kangaroo’s (even white ones) and Koala’s for her to play with.

IMG_3663 IMG_3603 Mrs Me was truly, once more in heaven and if Mrs Me is happy, then so am I and even better, we still had the wine tasting to come. At this centre there was an abundance of Koala’s and Mrs Me got to fiddle with, not all of them, but enough to sate her appetite for Koala acquainting. After that, it was a quick dash to the Wallaby / Kangaroo section, where once more, we were able to feed them, if they had any appetite of course. And an appetite they did not have. We put this down to the fact that there was a great big bin from which anybody could grab as much food as they wanted for feeding purposes. Clearly, they had had more than enough for one day, though there was one that had some interest. IMG_3643 But, before we left, we espied an area with numerous birds, including a Kookaburra.   IMG_3630and, a Wombat called Neil who we simply couldn’t resist having our photo taken with. I’m note sure it was the most flattering of photos, at least from Neil’s perspective: I’m sorry Neil, but Mrs Me did insist on me being in the picture. IMG_3638

Time for the Winery.

In no time at all, we were back on the coach and heading over to the winery where we would have the opportunity to listen to them tell us all about the grapes, the history of the vines, how the wine is stored in barrels for who knows how long, the bottling process, and finally how to taste the wine.  Now, there’s a couple of things you need to know at this point: my parents used to run a pub where we sampled and sold lots of wine and beer, we handled barrels of all sizes (Kilderkins, Firkins & Polypins / Pins). We were also keen gardeners so we know how things grow and I briefly worked in a brewery so I also knew about bottling so if anybody thought I was going to stand around and listen to all that, they were so very, very much mistaken. While everybody else stood around waiting for their ‘lecturer’ to turn up and talk, Mrs Me and I went straight into the shop where a rather attractive (ouch, my ear hurts again) young assistant who was more than happy to let us taste all sorts of wine before we bought some bottles, just for the journey and of course to support the local industries. Having bought what we wanted we went over to the lecture area, which was now finished while the rest crowded into the store. We now had easy access to all the remaining wine plus cheese plus biscuits. We were well sorted. At the allotted time, we made our way back to the coach then had to wait until everybody else had made their choices / purchases before we could leave, now 30 minutes late and 30 minutes before the time we had to be back on the ship with a 45 minute drive ahead of us.

We were going to be late.

Now, I’m sure you can work this out. We had to be back by 16:30, we were 30 minutes from last boarding time so it was therefore 16:00. We had a 45 minute drive back to the ship through the city of Freemantle, just when people are starting to finish work for the day and head for home, or the beach or the bar, etc., etc. The 45-minute drive was going to take longer than 45 minutes. It took 75 minutes. And what an interesting 75 minutes it was to be. Naturally, the traffic took its toll on us as did the numerous traffic lights but at least it enabled me to view the sights of Freemantle. I now know that if I ever want to buy heavy duty diggers, giant earth movers, tankers – of any variety, cement mixers, 18-wheeler rigs or even a WWII tank, the outskirts of Feemantle was the place to go. They also seemed to like their ‘adult shops’ though Mrs Me wouldn’t let me jot down the website address’s. Bulk Billing for various medical services was another frequent observation as well: What that was all about, I really don’t know but as every other one was of a dental nature I took little notice. At last, we reached the ship, late. But as it happened we weren’t the last but the sail away party was set to start in 15 minutes so it was a mad dash back to out cabin to deposit our purchases (fridge magnets, cuddly toys, post cards, etc. the usual stuff) before heading up the terrace bar.

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I think we need a bigger fridge.

The deck was packed with fellow travellers all waving either UK or Australia flags, either way, the Union Jack was flying, to a mix of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Australian songs all of which got louder and more involving as the sailing time approached. The volume and general boisterousness of our singing, cheering and dancing was in response to the passengers on the opposite deck on the QM2 who just stood there and looked at us in bemusement. Clearly those on Cunard do not know how to have a good time although eventually, they did stoke up a 4-piece jazz band but they had no chance against all the Arcadia passengers in full voice backed up by the Arcadia PA System including LOUD recordings of the ships horn. The songs came and went; the minutes ticked by; the QM2 looked on – in silence; and still, we didn’t move. Then came the dreaded announcement (happens at virtually every port). The ships announcement is made, could Mr so and so from cabin so and so please contact reception. This means that somebody has been ashore but they either haven’t yet returned or they haven’t been registered as returned (it’s normally the latter of course). At this point the vote takes place, all in favour of waiting for them to return shout ‘aye’ (nothing): all those in favour of leaving them behind shout ‘aye’ – without exception, all shouted ‘AYE’. Then we shouted across at the QM2 to ask if Mr so and so was on their ship. They looked back, blankly and said nothing, though a couple had managed to find a flag to wave (obviously previous P&O passengers). The ships announcement was repeated a couple more times before eventually Mr so and so had been tracked down. But still we didn’t move.

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And why didn’t we move? We didn’t move because we were waiting for the QM2 to go first as she was in our way. But at last, about an hour and half later, she untied her strings and pushed away from the the side and she was away with us on the Arcadia waving her farewell. And, with that, we also cut loose our strings, pushed away then we had to do a complete turn to face the right way and then we too were off.

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And, as the sun sett on yet another beautiful day, we set course up the west coast of Australia across the Indian Ocean towards Bali, a journey that would take us 3-days.

That was the end of Australia and so for us, Perth truly was our final frontier: for Australia anyway. But fear not Australia, we loved you all. It was probably the best country we’ve visited to date and yes, we’ll be back, with P&O of course.

I never did get any lunch that day 😦