A Travellerspoint blog


With just on four weeks to go.

all seasons in one day 14 °C

So many firsts, so late in life.

This is my first attempt at writing a blog. I've no idea if it will be maintained or how often entries will be made.
This is also my introduction to TravellersPoint.

Planning started back in February and many hours have been spent reading comments and reviews of destinations, hotels and cruise ships.

The world tour starts in mid-September and we fly to Hawaii for 3 days, then on to Seattle for 3 days and a 7-day cruise up the Inside Passage returning to Vancouver.

We spend a week there then travel across Canada on a train with some side trips and arrive in Toronto after 11 days. We have been offered accommodation near Ottawa for a week or so then fly to Frankfurt for another 2 days.

Frankfurt to Amsterdam (3 days) to Paris (3 days) and London (3 days) by train.

Fly from London to Barcelona (2 days) and onto a cruise ship around the Mediterranean for a total of 28 days touching on Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Malta, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Portugal and Granada before returning to Barcelona (2 days).

Then we fly to Singapore for 3 days and on to Sydney and back home. We should be home for Christmas and will need a break to get over it all.

Posted by greynomadm 16:51 Archived in Australia Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Finally HOME !!

Day 95 Sunday 19 December - “Finally HOME !!”

The buffet breakfast menu at the Metro reflects the Asian connection, the dishes on offer were almost identical to those in Singapore – I guess the menu could be described as International more correctly.

Checked out from the hotel and walked up to our bus stop where the bus and driver were waiting. We left at the scheduled time and started our long trek to Moruya. With a number of pick-up points along the way, a 45 minute change-over in Nowra and another 45 minute break in Batemans Bay it took us 7 hours to get to Moruya. The seats on the coach were more comfortable than those on the JetStar aircraft and because we were in the front of the bus we listened to the driver chatting to one of his 'regulars'. A most entertaining time.

In Moruya, Michael was there to ferry us home, a sight for sore eyes. A mountain of mail awaits us and there are two computers that haven't been updated for three months. Jenny starts washing the content of our suitcases while I try to sort the urgent from the important and the also-ran mail. It will take some days to get through all of this.

Great Trip, Great to be Home.

Posted by greynomadm 10:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Darwin to Sydney

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Day 94 Saturday 18 December - “Darwin to Sydney”

It is pointless comparing the airport of our arrival with that of our departure so I won't, except to comment that it is NOT a spectacular entry to Australia. Overseas visitors would be forgiven for thinking they'd travelled back in time some 20 years. The immigration check was friendly, the young lady was from Eden and appreciated the distance we still had to travel and made us feel welcome.

The dreaded Customs and Quarantine counter loomed. In the past we've been less than comfortable confronting this check, they've inevitably found something we should have declared and we've been lectured and threatened for failing to comply. This time I'm pretty sure we'll be OK to say we have nothing to declare. There's a two way split in the queue, those who have something to declare and those who claim they don't. We're in the second queue where those ahead of us have their luggage scanned and in some instances have their bags opened and searched. For some inexplicable reason we're told to “Just go straight ahead” - no scan, no search !!

Just a little point of poetic justice. We've observed that some of our fellow travellers are not the sort of people we'd invite into our home. They are generally overweight – more so than we are, they wear singlets, shorts and thongs, are pushy and rude and talk very loudly about how many drinks they consumed last night. There was a couple, him and her, on our flight to Darwin, their carry-on luggage was more than we had in total and they picked up their check-through as well. They had claimed nothing to declare, had been scanned and were being searched. The Customs Officer holding up what appeared to be some muffins and asking them why that wasn't declared as food. Couldn't have happened to more deserving people.

Breakfast options at the airport were limited and we 'dined' on a chicken wrap, fries and a bottle of coke. At the appointed time we are asked to board our flight to Sydney, the walk to the aircraft had us thinking we were walking back there.

This JetStar plane must have been fitted out for small people, seats were narrow and leg room just barely adequate for Jenny and we all know she's somewhat vertically challenged. The seats don't recline and due to the overwhelming service provided, my tray-table was used solely as an arm rest. Not even a drink of water, fortunately we had bought two bottles of water in Darwin. Again the flight was not all that long and we stepped off in Sydney vowing to NEVER fly JetStar again.

Just outside the arrival area I was approached by a young woman who asked me where the JetStar lounge was. Being a little less than fully alert I vaguely pointed across to where we'd just arrived. She said “Thanks Dad” and it dawned on me that she was my daughter Melissa from Scone. What the hell was she doing here, how did she find us?? Kisses, hugs and lots of questions as we head off to find a place that sells coffee and a cup of hot water for Jenny.

Their story was almost as involved as ours was. They'd been in Canberra for her company's Christmas Party and decided to detour via the Sydney International Terminal because that's where we were initially meant to arrive. During the 3 months away, the flight number and destination had been changed and we hadn't been aware or had we known would not have bothered to inform anyone.

Coffee and chats completed they set off to drive home and we found the shuttle to take us to our transit hotel just down from Central Station. The Metro Sydney Central is not a flash hotel. It caters to the many Asian tour groups who need a base in Sydney. It suited us and the beds are clean and we crashed in our room. I slept after Jenny sorted out the air-conditioning. The room had been like a freezer and I couldn't stop shivering violently. Not sure it was just the temperature. Anyway, that was the last I remember of our first day back.

Posted by greynomadm 10:29 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Singapore to Darwin

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Day 93 Friday 17 December - “Singapore to Darwin”

After breakfast we pick up our bags and check out leaving our luggage at the 'bell' desk and hop on the shuttle to Orchard Rd. We travel the Metro to Raffles – that famous hotel. It is a magnificent complex and we wander around for some hours.

We made our way back to the Metro and the shuttle back to the hotel where we lounged for some hours. Jenny indulged in some serious 'people watching' and determined that the hotel was a popular place for Indian Honeymooners. She claims that the newly-wed girls were identifiable by the large number of bangles they wore on their arms.

Well before we are due at the airport we jump in a taxi and head out there anyway. JetStar very kindly let us check in the baggage even though it was almost five hours before boarding time. A quick security scan and through Immigration and we were in what could be mistaken for the biggest shopping complex. It was difficult to remember that we were actually at an airport terminal.

We processed our documentation for the Tax refund on all purchases over Sing$ 100. The special desk is there to confirm that you qualify – you must be a genuine tourist, the criteria is quite generous. You must have your boarding pass and you need to show that you have the items as described on the invoices. The claim forms are then stamped with the official rubber stamp and are then handed in to one or another of two refund agents who take a slice of your refund and credit the remainder to your credit card. You can also receive the 'refund' in Sin$ so that you can spend them at the shops.

The terminal building is enormous and throughout there are Christmas decorations and of course there are thousands of people. School is out in Singapore and there are groups of school-aged kids heading off to distant destinations. We spend the last of our Sing$ cash and donate the left-over change to the Red Cross. The flight departures board is of a scale that befits the place, there are at least 20 departures listed for the next hour and this is only one of 4 passenger terminals servicing over 50 airlines.

About an hour before boarding time our Departure Gate is open and we pass through a more thorough security scan. I had wondered why the first one was so easy!! At about the scheduled time we board the aircraft where we discover that our seats are at one of the emergency exits. This is a good thing as it provides lots of leg-room another feature is that there is no window, not sure if Jenny is completely happy with this.

The flight to Darwin is mercifully relatively short, only just short of 4:30 hours. During that time we were served one glass of water and bought an $8 blanket. The seats were uncomfortable and the service non-existent. Flying JetStar International is truly travelling cattle-class. With the time change we arrived in Darwin around 4:30 am.

Posted by greynomadm 10:24 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Chinatown

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Day 92 Thursday 16 December - “Singapore Chinatown”

Started the day with an 'interesting' breakfast from the buffet. Cereals, salads, fruit, soup, fried rice and toast and jam. There were some other dishes I couldn't identify but obviously familiar to some of the guests.

We were picked up in a shuttle bus and taken to the start of the Hop On – Hop Off (HoHo) terminal where my voucher was converted to real tickets. We raced around a fair piece of Singapore and I managed to capture some interesting blurs. We returned to the terminal and we set off again to stop 5 – Chinatown. This is where the fun for today really started.

There are literally hundreds of stalls selling everything from junk souvenirs to high end jewellery, fashion goods and photographic and electronic gear. Jenny is on the look-out for a gold ring to add to her collection. We look in one or two stores and are 'picked up' by a guy who claimed to be a real estate salesman – he just happened to be picking up some jewellery from the Myers Manufacturing Stall. So we tag along.

We're greeted like family, sit down, how can we help, what would madam like for Christmas. Jenny's a bit reluctant but after about half an hour she's starting to wilt. The lady of the establishment has forced a beer on me and chats about any topic while Jenny indicates there are one or two she likes. Wait, we have some more at our other stall. So off he goes with Jenny in tow, I'm happy to drink my beer and chat. Jenny comes back and insists that I go with her.

Down an alley or two and we're at another stall that looks like the first. Jenny and the salesman pore over some more rings. The lady of this establishment produces another beer – this is looking good. After a while we troop back to where we started with three rings to be examined. Jenny decides on one but it isn't the right size – no worries we'll make one for you and have it ready this afternoon.

The price is negotiated – easier said than done but we get a reasonable deal – I think. We're set to wander off and but are lured off to a photography stall where their slick salesman, 'Lawson', latches onto my camera and proceeds to demonstrate how a Super HD Wide-angle Adaptor will improve many aspects of my photographic range. I'll need a UV Filter to protect this new piece of glass and I really should have a screen protector for the camera. Would sir like a beer ?? In truth, sir would like a pee. No worries there's a WC along the way and up the stairs to the Yum Cha restaurant.

Back to the shop and a Tiger Premium in hand we toss some prices back and forth and it is determined that I need a polarising filter to reduce the impact of glare and reflections. How about a spare battery? I'm fine I have a total of three. What about the one for the 'compact' ? Yes one of those is getting dodgy. Throw it in for a good price. I'm starting to realise how Jenny has felt during the ring negotiations.

The deal is done and we head off to lunch, the Yum Cha place is recommended. Jenny begs off and we find a more basic outfit about 10 or so stalls along. We sit down to study the menu when suddenly, Lawson pops in, he's forgotten to record one item or another on the receipt. No idea how he found us, his explanation 'You were going to eat and you weren't at the Yum Cha'.

He attracts the attention of the 'Boss Lady' and ensures that we're given appropriate attention. We order a meal each, two spring rolls (they're the size of Chicko Rolls) and a bottle of Coke each. Excellent meal, very tasty and lots of locals which is always a good sign.

It is now only about two hours to the pick-up time for Jenny's ring so we fill in some time visiting the markets, the temple and some more retail stalls. We turn up at the Myers stall a bit early and 'How about a beer??' Why not. 'Would madam like a soft-drink ?'. Might as well. The ring will be ready soon and notices that madam wears some charms on a chain. How about a gold Buddha ?? we have a solid one or a much cheaper hollow one. No says Jenny as the master craftsman appears with her new ring, perfect fit and madam is very happy.
The salesman now turns to me, wouldn't I like to purchase a Buddha charm for madam ?? He already knows that Jenny likes the solid one, but the price is a bit steep. We haggle a bit and the 'very special' price is revealed. I'm not totally convinced so he brings in the 'owner' who knocks another 20% off – Christmas Special. What the hell, it is only money !!

We do all the paperwork, sign the credit card slips and beat it out of there to avoid a threatening downpour. We head for the Metro Station. While working out how to operate the ticket machine a smiling friendly face offers to help. Greatly appreciated although we were heading in the right direction. He explains that he's from the Myers Jewellery store. Three beers, over two hours of negotiations and at least 5 staff involved, quite an investment for a sale.

Like just about everything else in Singapore, the Metro is clean, efficient and on time. The platform is closed off with a number of sliding doors, the train pulls in and the train's doors line up with the platform doors. Both sets of doors open and the disembarking passengers step off and we step on. No shoving, polite smiles, offers of seats and good natured laughter when I decline to sit in a seat designated for pregnant women.

Second stop out we change lines and travel another two stops to get off at Orchard Rd Station. We scan the tickets to exit and take them over to the ticket machine to receive the S$ 1 refund of the deposit charged at the time of purchase. How neat is all that?

We've missed the hotel shuttle and need to fill in the best part of two hours. I wander around a bit while Jenny rests her weary feet in the foyer of a classy hotel near our pick-up point. She must have been tired, she'd normally have a real moral dilemma doing something so naughty. The shuttle gets us back to the hotel and we prepare for tomorrow's departure.

Quite a day.

Posted by greynomadm 06:10 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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