Well, my grand plans to get up early this morning and visit the Singapore Flyer pretty much disintegrated into my sleeping in late (time caught up with me) so by the time I had my coffee, got dressed, etc it was past 9:30. The horror.
I still needed to do a little shopping to find a couple of lightweight wrap style skirts or something similar for the cruise. It is very hot and muggy in this part of the world and I just don't have much in my wardrobe that fits the bill. To my surprise, I went out and found that most stores don't open until 11:00! Seriously? On a Monday in one of the biggest shopping cities? Oy.
So I wandered around for a little bit and then had a bite to eat - another great brunch of Asian food, and then found what I needed, and by the time I got back to my hotel it was noon and time to check out. I would like to mention here that the Fairmont Hotel is divine. They bend over backwards to provide outstanding and personal service and I really appreciated that. My room was lovely and the view fantastic. I give it 5 SPs. (sherita points - scale is 5 for best, 1 for total yuck). They hailed a taxi for me and an hour later I was on board the Volendam and settling in. Check-in was really easy and fast.
My stateroom is smaller than I am used to, but when traveling as a solo cruiser it costs twice as much than if you share, so my normal balcony suite accommodations were off limits for me price-wise. At any rate, my room is very comfortable, with a large double window, a nice and comfy king size bed and plenty of storage. A small couch and coffee table rounds out the room. My bathroom has a tub and shower and is plenty big for me. There's a nice flat screen tv and DVD player above a small desk.
My luggage had not yet been delivered to my room, so I headed out to explore the ship. The Volendam is one of Holland America's older ships, but she is still in good shape and hey, like my Daddy always said - if the captain wants to sail/fly/drive her, I'm in for the ride. Let's go!
Sea day #1 - Tuesday
I love sea days. So many choices. Get up early or sleep late. Daily two mile walk or not. Read book in between napping or update blog. A host of activities on board from which to choose. I tend towards getting up early and doing my two-miler on the promenade deck, which then makes me feel good about myself, and then plopping down on the Lido deck and having an extra large breakfast buffet. Sure sir, hand me one extra of those little hash brown thingies! I will dip it in my plain yogurt to convince myself that it really is healthy. Right.
Today was not much different. I did get up early. I did walk my two miles. And, I might add, I walked those two miles under tropical storm/depression conditions. During the night we had sailed into the boundary of a tropical storm and as a result, the ship rocked and rolled all night long (and I'm not talking about Supertramp or the Rolling Stones here....). The brave few of us out on deck battled strong gusty winds and a tilting deck as we made our way around. All the more justification for an extra hash brown thingie.
The Lido deck was quiet, actually. I think a lot of people were a bit seasick from the sea conditions. However, as morning turned into noontime, the sky cleared and the sea became calm again. Disaster averted.
After lunch, there was a meet and greet for our cruise critic group up in the Crow's Nest, a cocktail lounge on the top deck of the ship that has awesome views looking out over the bow. We were a big crowd this cruise - over 50 of us, and it was nice to put names with faces! Some of us huddled to finalize some last minute tour planning but we soon dispersed and I went back to my room for a short rest before afternoon high tea in the dining room, where I met up with the folks I had dinner with last night. They are American expats living in Macau and I very much enjoyed getting to know them.
The rest of the day just seemed to float by. I didn't accomplish anything which is exactly the point of a sea day. After dinner, I attended the early entertainment show, which was actually pretty nice. Sometimes they're a bit cheesy, but not so this night.
Tomorrow, we visit Koh Samui. It is one of the larger island of Thailand.
Koh Samui - Wednesday
Koh Samui is Thailand's third largest island. Its palm-lined sugary white shores in this Gulf of Thailand make it a popular destination. There are quite a few coconut plantations on the island, and products such as coconut milk and oil make up a large percentage of its revenue through the export of these items.
We had a scheduled tour thru my cruise critic roll call for this (and all of my upcoming tours) which included a visit to a small temple with a mummified monk; a waterfall; sculpture garden; a demonstration of how island monkeys are used to father coconuts from the tall palms; an off road trek thru the jungle in a 4-wheel open bed vehicle (oh my poor back!) and the highlight of the day - an elephant ride.
The tour also included a lovely lunch of some delicious Thai dishes, including a spicy soup which I was enjoying immensely until I ate one of the peppers in it. My mouth began to burn, starting with my entire tongue, moved up along my cheeks and into my sinuses, then straight out my eyes. It took nearly half a beer, and a bottle of water just to get the pain down to something slightly less than tolerable. I was in some serious hurt for a good 15 minutes. I will tell you this - if you want me to shut up just shove a pepper in my mouth. I was rendered speechless which might have pleased my travel companions. Not really, actually I was quite well behaved.
The mummified monk was really fascinating, but I tend to like things like that. He was a very well respected monk (are there any that are not, I wonder?) He died while sitting in the middle of his daily meditation. He was a successful non-monk until he was 50 years old at which point he decided to devote the remainder of his life to the monkhood. He became famous for his meditation practices and developed quite a following of disciples. His wish was that his remains be displayed to encourage others to continue their meditation and be saved.
Now, for the elephant ride - it was a small little place that had just three elephants, a mom and her son and another adult. Since I was a solo rider, they put me up onto the son, a ten-year old named Hero. Hero and I had a quick eye to trunk conversation and I told him that I was honored to have him carry my sorry ass thru the jungle for the next half hour. He actually dipped his head and snorted while wiggling his ears. I sure hope that was a good response.
These elephants appeared to be well cared for, so I hope that is true. In any regard, I really wanted to have this experience, and I was not disappointed. It is hard work to manage to stay atop an elephant. Halfway through the ride, the guide boy had me slide down off the chair and onto Hero's neck. Then it really became difficult to hold on. But I felt a bit more connected to him that way, and he was very gentle. All in all, it was a great experience and I was appreciative of the opportunity.
The off road ride was both painful and exhilarating at the same time - kind of like biting into that pepper - and I was glad when he hit the main road that circles the island, on pavement once again.
A fifteen minute tender ride back to the ship from the pier and my visit to Koh Samui was now a pleasant memory.
Once back on board I swallowed a few aspirin, iced my back for a few and then headed up to the Lido for the drink of the day and to watch Koh Samui fade into the distance as the Volendam sailed away, bound for Bangkok.