Port of Call Brunei

The Sultanate of Brunei

Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo. It’s known for the opulent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, adorned with chandeliers, stained glass and Italian marble, and surrounded by a lagoon. Nearby, the Royal Regalia Building showcases a gold carriage and lavish gifts presented to the sultan. To the northwest is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, with 29 golden domes.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

The country is modern, clean and the people friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Where Your Ship Docks

The port

The Brunei seaport is Muara located 20 miles away from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, Most visiting cruise ships will provide shuttle busses to the capital.

 

 

 

New water-village

Transportation

Bandar Seri Begawan is a very walkable city and water taxis are easy to locate for trips and tours. While there is a good bus system, Brunei now boasts their own ride share service called Dart Brunei with apps available on on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Reports are that the system is safe and easy to use and fairly priced.

Downtown shopping mall

Currency

Brunei has its own dollar with an exchange rate of one Brunei Dollar equal to US 75¢. Major credit cards are widely accepted.

Brunei In General

The Sultan’s Palace on the hill
Bandar Seri Begawan

There has been some controversy recently involving the Sultan and “his” nations strict interpretation of Islam and Sharia Law. In Hollywood there was a call to boycott the Salton’s five luxury hotels that included The Beverly Hills Hotel. If anything this sheds a light on just how wealthy Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is (his full name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam).

The countries wealth is based on oil. There are huge offshore deposits controlled by the Sultan and his companies. While the Sultan controls every facet of the economy and government he is a very benevolent ruler. Currently the average income in the country is US$40,000 and most everyone that wants to work has a job. He provides free college education and government subsidized housing.

The modern outdoor market
Bandar Seri Begawan

This area of the world is famous for what are called water-villages and Brunei is home to some large water communities. A serious issue with these villages is sanitation where waste is simply flushed into the sea. To fix this problem the Sultan has been building new, modern water-villages with proper plumbing and has systematically been relocating his people into these new facilities. Generally, the people love and support their Sultan and he invests heavily to provide for his people.

 

A conversation overheard on a bus in Brunei:

  • Canadian tourist – What form of government do you have here in Brunei?
  • Local young man – We have the Sultan and the Legislative Council.
  • Canadian tourist – So the Sultan is the head of government?
  • Local young man – Yes, he takes the role of Prime Minister
  • Canadian – How often do you have elections and are there a number of political parties?
  • Local young man – Oh, we don’t have parties or elections. The Sultan appoints each member of the council.
  • Canadian tourist– Does that much power concern you? Don’t you fear corruption?
  • Local young man – No. The Sultan would remove anyone that was corrupt.
  • Canadian tourist – But don’t the people want a say in what the country does?
  • Local young man – Why? We have the Sultan. He takes very good care of us…

 

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Port of Call Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnams Resort City

Nha Trang is a major Vietnamese resort area famous for beautiful beaches and a growing entertainment venue. It is Vietnam’s most popular coastal town that has benefitted from its proximity to a number of beautiful beaches. Directly across the water from downtown is Tre Island that boasts an amusement park and some additional nice beaches. The area’s beaches attract people from all over the world and seems particularly popular with Russian tourists.

Where Your Ship Docks

Nha Trang is a tender port with a landing location south of the city at the port area. The pier does have public facilities nearby and when ships are visiting a market is set-up in the port selling t-shirts, crafts and souvenirs. Hint – when buying t-shirts it’s a good idea to buy a couple of sizes larger than your used to.

 

Cruise ship at anchor off Nha Trang

Transportation

Vendors at the port

In the city of Nha Trang there is one of the worlds largest cablecar systems connecting to Tre island across three miles of water to Vinpearl Amusement Park. The most convenient way to get around is by taxi where most drivers speak English. The trip from the port into the tourist center of town is about five miles and should cost about five US Dollars. The city of Nha Trang is a good walking town as a number tourist attractions, popular restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and shopping are within walking distances in the center of town.

Vinpearl Amusement Park
Approaching the port of Nha Trang

If you’re more adventures Nha Trang also has a bus system with six routes. This is another good way to get around with fares being no more than 5000 Dong. The buses are air-conditioned and comfortable. Through the tourist area of Nha Trang are two popular routes, the No. 2 and No. 4 that cross near the center of town.

 

Currency

Excursion poster

The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong that runs between 20,000 and 25,000 to 1 US$. Also the U.S. Dollar is welcome, actually almost preferred almost, everywhere at good exchange rates as are most major credit cards

Attractions

The major attraction are the beaches. The largest resort beach area is along the coast ten miles south of the port toward the town of Biển Đông, but there are good beaches north of town and over on Tre Island.

 

Po Nagar temple

Nha Trang also has a number of cultural sites including the Long Sơn Pagoda a Buddhist temple in the city. It is regarded as one of the main attractions in the city, along with the Hai Duc Temple. There is also Po Nagar, a Cham temple tower built sometime before 781 AD and located in the medieval principality of Kauthara, near Nha Trang. It is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, who came to be identified with the Hindu goddess Bhagavati.

The area also has a number of highly rated skin diving and scuba sights. As an interesting note the waters around Nha Trang support a thriving seahorse collection industry much to the objection of the UN and wildlife protection groups.

 

Port of Bangkok, Laem Chabang

Laem Chabang Cruise Gateway to Bangkok, Thailand

Cruising in the South China Sea is becoming increasingly popular which normally includes one or two ports of call in Thailand.

Thailand is one of the most advanced and open nations in Southeast Asia, and was once known as Siam. It is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) to the north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia on the south along Thailand’s isthmus. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and tourists are welcomed with open arms by these friendly people.

 

Where The Ship Docks

Most cruise ships dock at the port of Laem Chabang on the Gulf of Thailand, a full two hours south of Bangkok, the nation’s capital.

Often smaller ships dock at Klong Toey on the Chao Phraya River, right on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Terminal facilities at Laem Chabang

This port is located along the southeast coast and serves primarily as a working industrial port. While there are supposed to be facilities being developed to include a terminal currently there is not much there for cruise passengers.

Inside the Grand Palace Complex
Transportation

Getting into Bangkok by taxi is estimated to cost about $40 each way with bus service costing about $7.50. We ran into some people that tried the buses and eventually gave up trying to catch the right bus and hired a taxi.

The roads and highways in Thailand are very well maintained and if you want to go it alone and see some of the countryside there are good car rental services. We’ve always been amazed with Thailands highway rest stops usually lined with a half dozen or more American franchises. One rental company near Laem Chabang that comes highly recommended is:

Take it Easy Bike & Car Rental

Address: 329/48, Soi Pattaya New Plaza, 50m off 2nd Road, Opposite Soi 7 – Soi 8, Central Pattaya, Pattaya 20150 .                      Phone: 089 007 7804    Rental cars can be arranged ahead of arrival for pick up at the port through their web site.

On our last visit we were on a cruise that spent two days in Laem Chabang. After some research we pre-booked a private tour through Travel Hub. They picked us up at the port and took us straight to Bangkok where we spent a busy day with that night in a hotel. Early the next morning we headed out into the country and ended up at the port with plenty of time to spare.

Currency

Thailand uses the Baht at an exchange rate to the U.S. Dollar of one Baht equals about 3¢. While most credit cards are welcome if you are going to spend a day or two in Bangkok it is recommended that you exchange for local Baht.

The Reclining Buddha
Attractions

The capital city of Bangkok is the big attraction, with the best place to start being the Grand Palace. This is the central sightseeing attraction in the city, and it’s overwhelming in its historical significance and stunning architecture. The grounds are packed full with royal palaces, temples, and history, the highlight is Wat Phra Kaeo, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. A relic within this temple is said to be a piece of bone from the Buddha himself. While there also visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn and it measures 135 feet long. Allow a number of hours to do the Grand Palace grounds but also try and visit the famous Wat Po and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn rising above the Chao Phraya River. We would also recommend taking a water trip through canals and along the river.

Thailand is also famous for floating markets where goods are sold from boats. Originally developed when rivers and canals played an important role in daily life, most floating markets operating today serve primarily as tourist attractions.

Maeklong Railway Market

One unique market is the Famous Maeklong Railway Market. It is located in a congested town and sits right on an active train track. As trains approach vendors pull back their awnings and displays with only minutes to spare and are right back in business as soon as the trains pass. A unique experience as you stand there with train only only inches away.

While there are tons of cultural and historic attractions to see in Bangkok and the people are remarkably polite and friendly be aware of con artists; who frequently prey on tourists. Though the cruise port is a good distance from the city, venturing into the city to see the sights is something that shouldn’t be missed.

A New Travel Map

Earth Glow At Night From Space

It started as a one-off for our own use and morphed into gifts for family and friends. Now our travel push pin maps have advanced to the level of a hobby. A local gift shop has added a display and personalized order form and we have just started selling on Etsy.

Our travel maps are printed 13″x19″ on heavy weight matte stock with personalization included.

Always trying to improve the look, I have now married a satellite composite image of the earth at night with my world map design. It is now available on the Etsy page.

 

Take a look HERE.

Travel Maps For Christmas

Put a Pin In It

We’ve Created Beautiful Pin Maps To Record Your Travels available through our Etsy store. VISIT NOW

A few years ago we printed, mounted and framed a world map and added pins to designate the places we had visited. As we continued to travel, we added more pins. Over time, we have had a number of friends and family members admire our map and ask for maps of their own, which we were glad to give as gifts. With much encouragement over the past couple of months, we have designed our own original maps and hope to make them available for sale.

Our Etsy store is now open. VISIT NOW

After you place your order we customize and print each map and ship in about five working days via the USPS. The map is printed on heavy cover stock and is ready for framing. Detailed instructions are included for installing in ready-made, inexpensive frames or you can have it custom mounted and framed.

The World Map

Proudly display and pin your world travels while keeping track of your adventures and future plans. Our gorgeous personalized maps are a beautiful addition to your home and are a great conversation piece.

World Map #W1 in Grays and Blues

This 13″ x 19″ exclusive original design  map is available in two color schemes and is printed on premium cover stock. Included are a number of custom options (see ordering information).

World Map #W2 in Earth Tones and Blues

Pick Your Map and Select Customizations Below

  • Select a banner .                           
  • Add a custom printed name .     
Put a pin in it and record all your travels

Ships promptly in a mailing tube and comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing with do-it-yourself instructions. Make use of included colored pins to indicate visits to Countries, Cities and National Parks. The design shows over 200 cities along with major national parks, seas and oceans.

Available soon, framed and ready to hang.

Example of map detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The United States Map

Great to get your children interested in geography and tracking their adventures or remembering family vacation trips. Makes a beautiful personalized gift and is designed with children in mind as a fun, in-home, learning tool.

This 13″ x 19″original design map is printed on heavy premium cover stock and includes a number of customization options.

Select Customizations Below

  • Choose a banner                              
  • Add a custom printed name       
Put a pin in it to display your travels

Comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing along with do-it-yourself instructions. Select pin colors to indicate visits to National Parks, States and Cities.V

This map is designed over a topographic image with all 50 states outlined and their names in bright red. Printed with over 200 U.S. cities along with major National Parks.

 

Also available soon framed and ready to hang.

Visit Our Etsy Store NOW.

Still time for Cristmas – order maps and select customization options only at our Etsy store.

 

 

A Wet Day In Hoi An Vietnam

Hoi An Vietnam

This quant town is one of the more popular destinations for travelers to Vietnam with its nearness to the city of Da Nang and some new beach resort properties nearby. Hoi An was recognized as a  World Heritage Site in December 1999 because of its architecture and history as an ancient trading port.

 

Hoi An includes a number of dress shops
An artist works on a embroidery “painting”

The town is famous for its hand-made craft shops featuring lanterns, Vietnamese embroidery “paintings” and incredible clothing values.

 

 

 

To get a feel for this town take a moment and view our YouTube slideshow below.

 

 

Port of Call Manila

Welcome to Manila

The Port of Manila Philippines

The Port of Manila

Manila is the capital of the Philippines, an island country in Southeast Asia and a major city with a population of 1.7 million. It has been the country’s largest city for about 400 years. It sits on Manila Bay, on the island of Luzon. The Pasig River runs through the middle of the city.

Where You Dock

Cruise ships usually dock at the industrial piers and this can be at a number of locations. Most of the docks are along a half-mile stretch of waterfront only four to eight blocks away from Rizal Park, which is in the center of old Manila. Usually you will be allowed to walk out but be sure and carry an official photo ID.

Jeepneys in traffic
Jeepneys
Transportation

Taxis are readily available and fares are reasonable but you need to be very clear about where you are going and that the driver knows where it is and negotiate a fare before starting out. We had a full address for a restaurant in Pasay, which was less than two miles from where we started and the driver could not locate it.

Arriving in Manila

The Manila Metro Rail Transit System also known as the MRT is a rapid transit system of Metro Manila. Running on just 2 lines and serving 31 stations in total, the 33.4 km long network uses a single destination system (averaging 12 pesos per trip) or a loaded card. The main line runs in a circular north to south route following the alignment of the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). During rush hours the system is usually very full.

Manila is also famous for there unique vehicles. Jeepneys, sometimes called simply jeeps are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. The vehicles were originally created from abandoned WW II Army Jeeps but are now manufactured new in the Philipines. They are known for their crowded seating and fantastic decorations, which have become a symbol of Philippine culture and art. We have never figured out any route system regarding the Jeepneys however, so our recommendation is to use taxis.

Currency

The Philippine peso is the local money with ten pesos equal to about 1 US Dollar. Non-Philippine currency is not usually accepted. We would highly recommend carrying some pesos when you go ashore. There are a large number of exchange operations in Manila and the rate and fees vary widely. Most restaurants and stores will accept most major credit cards.

One time we were short on pesos and our taxi would not accept a credit card so he had to take us to an exchange to convert dollars for his fare.

A Cautionary Note

While we have no firsthand information about crime or how safe this city is, there were a number of indicators that made us question if we should have been walking were we did. Like a large number of security people with shotguns protecting businesses both large and small was one significant sign.

Attractions
Inside Rizal Park
Rizal Park

Rizal Park (Filipino: Liwasang Rizal, Spanish: Parque Rizal), also known as Luneta Park or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in the Philippines. Located along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros, it is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It has been a favorite leisure spot, and a botanical garden and orchid garden.

Popular Fast Food Outlet

Fort Santiago (Spanish: Fuerte de Santiago; Filipino: Moóg ng Santiago) is a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines. The defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros. The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila.

Manila Ocean Park is the country’s first world-class marine theme park and a premiere educational facility. An integrated urban resort with marine life attractions and aqua-themed hotel, the park is geared towards an all-year, all-weather destination for locals and tourists.

inside the Mall of Asia
Mall of Asia

SM Mall of Asia, also abbreviated as SM MoA or MoA, is a shopping mall in Bay City, Pasay, Philippines, near the SM Central Business Park, the Manila Bay, and the southern end of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. The mall has a gross floor area of over 3.5 million square feet and if you are into shopping you need to allocate several hours here. A taxi ride back to the cruise pier will cost about twenty dollars but watch the time as Manila traffic can take almost forty five minutes at busy periods.

Finding food in Manila isn’t hard. There are a number of upscale hotels with good restaurants. McDonalds takes a back seat behind a Philippine fast food chain called Jollibee which features burgers, chicken, shakes and the usual fare and a good choice for a quick meal (it is now opening shops in the U.S.). Our favorite restaurant is Singing Cooks and Waiters with a review HERE.

Links to Additional Information

Things To Do

Mall of Asia