Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ships’s log- shoreside date 130208

In Kemaman (Malaysia) I was supposed to be escorting a tour on a river cruise through mangrove swamps to a fishing village and a batik centre. Again the promise of good wildlife viewing came to nought, as the tour was cancelled due to one of the river-boats having an accident and being unusable. I therefore spent the morning perusing the wares and buying a few gifts from the stall traders on the jetty alongside the ship. In the afternoon I went for a wander – investigating the patch of scrubland on the land behind the jetty. Found a lovely little lizard that didn’t run away, so I got plenty of video, photo’s and sketches done. Also saw butterflies, dragonflies, crabs, water snails and inadvertently disturbed a bird sat on a nest under a tree. Back on the ship I wrote and posted the last of the postcards I had promised to send to family and friends and then spent the evening having a Guinness sundowner out on deck – the first time I had managed to get to do that this trip!

Vietnam – As I woke very early I was able to get out on the deck just after 6am to see our arrival into Phu My. I missed most of our passage along the Mekong River but the bit that I saw leading up to our berth had industrial land and buildings off the ship’s starboard side and thick endless mangrove swamps stretching to the horizon in all both directions off the port side. Large and small egrets lined the tidal zone in amongst the exposed roots and mud. Our berth was a rather non-descript jetty in amongst an industrial background… pretty uninspiring, especially with the slightly unpleasant whiffy aroma of the water!
Once crew shore leave was granted, I got off ship and bundled myself onto one of the shuttle busses provided for taking passengers and crew to the Vung Tau – a coastal town about 40 mins from the ship.
Mopeds are obviously the favoured transport here… they swarm over the road like clusters of bees buzzing along with one, two, three, four and even five passengers per moped! Whole families sit astride their one moped, kids and babies crammed between the adults, as they pootle along, unhurriedly moving out of the way of horn blasting car and bus drivers.
In Vung Tau the drop-off point was at a hotel complex from where I decided to walk back towards the beach as that seemed as good a destination as any. Any hassle I got from locals trying to persuade me to hire their taxi, cyclo or moped lessened the further away from the hotel complex I got; in the end I could walk unimpeded. Saw two gentlemen from the ship heading in the same direction and we walked together to the beach, where we did the very quintessential British thing and went for a paddle!
The beach is about 10km long and looked full of people as far as the eye could see in both directions. Despite the heat, at least half of them were fully clothed…even when they went in the water! There were colourful kites being flown, big tyre inner tubes for hire and at the water’s edge also saw dead jellyfish and hundreds of long pointy shells, tiny hermit and other crabs rapidly burying themselves in the sand as you neared them.
Sailaway was interesting and showed the impressive ‘driving’ skills of the Officers on the Bridge and the manoeuvrability of such a big ship (69,000 tonnes) in such a small space and in the dark! The ship was basically swung around on a sixpence right up against the jetty. Suffice to say the manoeuvre was carried out very slowly and carefully and took about half an hour to complete. At one point, those of us at the looking out over the front, held our breaths as the bow was swung round, seemingly narrowly missing the corner of the jetty.

The following day, as we sailed up the South China Sea towards Hong Kong, we were in a Force 8 that increased to Force 9 for a while. The top and Promenade decks were closed off and walking around the ship was fun again, although it has to be said for some this kind of weather is not fun.

Our arrival in Hong Kong was early in the evening just about dusk. It was very misty and foggy on our approach and somewhat mysterious as little islands and then skyscrapers came out of the shroud of white like ghostly shadows. At about 8pm the office skyscrapers along the front started their light show - this was a lovely unexpected ‘extra’.
Later that evening I went ashore with some friends who were going to the Night Markets off Nathan Road. What an experience that was! Hundreds of stalls lining roads selling all sorts of goodies like fake brand names for bags, clothing, sunglasses and watches. Electronic gadgets, toys, jewellery, souveniers… and people thronged there in a mad hustle and bustle. We wandered around all this for 3 hours and still didn’t get to the end of it all.

The following day I was disembarking and had lost my voice!! My throat had been a little croaky the previous night but now I had no voice at all. I was so glad I got this ‘bug’ at the end of the cruise and not whilst I was still doing classes. I finished packing and was out of my cabin by noon, to then wait til 5pm to leave the ship and be taken to the airport along with about 9 other members of crew. My flight to Paris CDG airport was at 23.35 and took about 12 hours. I had hoped to sleep on the plane but only snatched 10 mins here and there. Arrived at Paris airport in good time and after a quick freshen up and change of clothes I sat and waited for the flight to Bristol - England. This was due to leave at 09.35 but in the end we didn’t take off until 11.25 as first our plane had to be repaired, apparently, and then the French air traffic controller strike slowed things down. The flight to Bristol was just 1½ hours and landed at 11.33 UK time. Mum and Dad were there to meet me at the airport and drove me to their house for some lunch and chat. Luckily my voice had rallied around a bit by then and I could just about manage to make some speech-like noises that could be understood! Managed to stay awake all day and went to bed about 9pm, by which time I had been awake for almost 48 hours! I don’t even recall my head hitting the pillow.

I woke at 7am the next day. Something was wrong! The ship’s engines had stopped! There was no sound; it was eerily silent and disconcerting with no vibrations or slight juddering from the engines. I opened my eyes and thought it strange that I could see objects…. It should be pitch black in my cabin… what was going on! Then I heard a car go by and the images filtering into my brain suddenly made sense as sleep left my mind… I was at home in Bristol in my own bedroom! That was a very disappointing realisation.

So that’s it for my ‘leg’ of Oriana’s 2008 World Cruise. I had a fantastic time and shall miss being on that beautiful ship. I hope those that attended my classes enjoyed them and learnt something of use for their future drawing and painting. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all and hope our paths will cross again some day.

Signing off on last Ship’s log for 2008
Su Lees - Guest Ent - Art Lecturer

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