Posts Tagged With: Norwegian Jewel

Finding Balance in Bali

Prior to our visit, I pictured Bali as a serene South Pacific paradise with stunning beaches, volcanic mountains, lush jungles, fragrant tropical flowers, historic rice terraces, and Hindu temples. Honestly, I pictured something like Hawaii on steroids at a fraction of the cost. Admittedly, my expectations were influenced by the movie Eat, Pray, Love in which Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, rode her bicycle along peaceful roads bordered by verdant, palm-covered landscapes, swam in inviting turquoise waters, and generally enjoyed life in a tranquil Shangri-la. As it turned out, some of my preconceived notions were confirmed but by the end of our brief 2-day visit, we were better educated.

Bali is actually in the Indian Ocean rather than the South Pacific. It is one of 6000 inhabited islands in the nation of Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world comprised of a total of 17,508 islands. In terms of population, Indonesia is ranked number 4 in the world with 267 million people dispersed throughout the islands and 4.2 million of them reside in the province of Bali. The island of Bali is the 11th largest in Indonesia measuring 230 miles (370 km) in circumference or 95 miles (153 km) from east to west by 69 miles (112 km) from north to south. It is roughly half the size of the Big Island of Hawaii. Of the 147 volcanoes sprinkled throughout Indonesia, 76 are active and 2 of those are located on Bali.

As our tender boat delivered us from the Norwegian Jewel to the cruise port in Benoa, Bali, we were immediately confronted with massive pollution in the bay.

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I was disappointed to discover Bali was not the pristine paradise I imagined. Seeing the debris reminded me of the television commercial for 4ocean, an organization started by two young surfers who saw the extensive plastic washed up on the shores in Bali and decided to do something about it. Although the organization has recovered 8,693,079 lbs worldwide since 2017, there’s plenty more where that came from. Go to their website and help if you can.

Fortunately, our poor first impression was countered by the traditional Balinese dancers who welcomed us to Bali. Following their performance, we were excited to experience more of this exotic culture on our bus tour to the Bali Terraces and Ulun Danu Temple.

Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world. In Bali, however, 83% of the population is Balinese Hindu, which is a blend of Indian Hinduism, Buddhism, and pre-existing local beliefs including animism, the belief that everything has a soul or spirit. Throughout our tour, we observed how religion permeates all aspects of Balinese life and culture.

As we departed from the port and entered the city, we observed exotic architecture obscured by electrical wires; lots of signs, many of which had to do with the upcoming election; more debris; statues of Hindu gods; offerings to the deities; and congested traffic accompanied by roaring motors and blaring horns. Bali was, from beginning to end, an island full of contrasts.

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Balinese architecture

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Signs, traffic, and the ubiquitous KFC

The Titi Banda Statue on the outskirts of Denpasar was only one of the magnificent statues we admired. Rising 10m (33 ft) above the junction of several main roads, this massive monument depicts the mythical epic Ramayana in which Prince Rama rescues his wife, Sita, held captive by Ravana in Lanka.  Rama, aided by his monkey troops built the Titi Banda (stone bridge) to Lanka to mount the rescue attack. The photo below taken by my friend, Lori, from the bus is only a portion of this enormous monument.

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Titi Banda Statue along the road on the outskirts of Denpasar

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More statues along the roadway

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Debris along the roadside

From the windows of the bus, we saw Balinese offerings everywhere. Expressions of gratitude to the gods, these offerings vary in size from a grain of rice on a banana leaf to ornate towers of fruit, flowers, and sweets. The small daily offering called canang sari and banten are placed on small shrines or even on the ground. The shrine in the photo below held offerings to both the higher and lower spirits to ensure harmony and balance.  IMG_7559

Tall decorated poles, called penjor, also contained offerings. When I spotted an assortment of plain bamboo poles, I knew they must be the undecorated version waiting for ornamentation. The poles are decorated with coconut leaves, fruit, grain, and flowers for festivals or religious holidays and placed outside homes and businesses. Partway up the pole is a basket or platform where an offering is placed.

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Bamboo poles

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Penjor

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Penjor and offering

We noticed black and white buffalo checked fabric called Saput Poleng on umbrellas, wrapped around trees, and draped on shrines. The Balinese philosophy of Rwa Bhineda or balance is similar to Yin and Yang. It holds that in order to maintain harmony all things must be in balance. So white balances black, good balances bad, right balances wrong. The black and white of Saput Poleng embodies the essence of Rwa Bhineda.

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Saput Poleng

To break up the drive to the rice terraces and Ulun Danu Temple, we stopped for an unexpected tour of a traditional Balinese home compound where we learned about Balinese family life from our guide, Murya. Extended families live together and when sons marry, their wives move into the husband’s home. (My daughter-in-law can be grateful we’re not Balinese!) In such a warm climate, most living occurs outside so there are few walls but roofs keep out the frequent rain showers.

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Our guide, Murya, telling us about the family compound (notice the penjor behind)

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Balinese home

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Murya and family shrine

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Family members with drying rice in foreground

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Ceremonial pavilion

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I was looking forward to seeing the Bali rice terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop for photos and I was disappointed that all my photos were through the windows of the bus. The entire sustainable system of irrigation called the Subak System has UNESCO designation so all the rice terraces in Bali are included. A cooperative water management system of irrigation dating from the 9th century, Subak is based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karan, which is to create harmony between man and god, man and neighbor, and man and nature.

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Rice Terraces

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Rice Terraces

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Rice Terraces

Nestled in the mountains surrounding Lake Bratan, Ulun Danu Temple is regarded as one of the most beautiful of the 20,000 temples in Bali. Erected in 1663 to honor Dewi Danu, the goddess of water, the temple consists of two small pagodas seeming to float on Lake Bratan. The mist rising over the pagodas added to the mystical quality of the experience.

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Entrance to Ulun Danu Temple

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Grounds at Ulun Danu

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Grounds at Ulun Danu

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Larger pagoda at Ulun Danu

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Two pagodas at Ulun Danu

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Lake Bratan

Following our visit to Ulun Danu, we stopped at Secret Garden Village for a typical sweet Balinese snack with tea.

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Balinese treats

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View from Secret Garden Village

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Trompe l’oeil at Secret Garden Village 

Most of us were quiet and sleepy during our return to the ship. I did take a brief video of the drive, however.

I admit I suffered from a bit of culture shock in Bali. Metaphorically, I expected a serene yoga retreat and got that plus a lively Zumba class.  In the end, the philosophy of Rwa Bhineda summarizes my experience. Finding your balance between rain and sunshine, noisy streets and contemplative temples, clear aqua waters and plastic pollution, will result in a harmonious visit. And above all, express gratitude.IMG_7943

For so much more in Bali including Balinese dance and a personal day tour with Wayan, check back here.

Based on events from February 2019.

Categories: cruise, Indonesia, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hooroo Down Under at Darwin

It would be an understatement to say Darwin is off the beaten path. Driving time from Sydney or Perth is over 40 hours and from our last stop in Cairns, it takes 25 hours to drive the nearly 1500 miles. By ship, it was supposed to take 2 days but because we turned back to Cairns due to a medical emergency, we ended up arriving late on the third day. Fortunately, we still had the evening and the next day to explore this tropical capital city of the Northern Territory.

The area was inhabited by the Larrakia Aboriginal people for more than 65,000 years before Europeans arrived on the scene in 1839. John Stokes, a surveyor aboard the HMS Beagle, named the harbor Darwin Bay after Charles Darwin but the town, founded in 1869, was called Palmerston until it was renamed Darwin in 1911. The discovery of gold in 1871 ensured rapid growth in the area.

A relatively young city of 140,000, Darwin has been rebuilt several times due to man-made and natural calamity. If you saw the epic movie Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, you may recall the movie depiction of the bombing destruction of Darwin by the Japanese in 1942. Following WWII, the city was rebuilt only to be almost completely destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. As a result, today Darwin is one of the most modern cities in Australia.

When we arrived late in the day on February 23, 2019, we knew it would soon be dark, thus preventing us from seeing much of the city. We contented ourselves with a quick look around the Darwin Waterfront area followed by a cocktail at an Irish pub, Fiddler’s Green, so we could connect with their WiFi.

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Artificial beach keeps swimmers safe from crocodiles

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Darwin Waterfront District

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Norwegian Jewel at sunset from the Darwin Waterfront District

The following morning, we decided a Big Bus tour would be “The perfect way to discover and explore the tropical city.” (Big Bus brochure) Conveniently, the hop-on-hop-off bus stopped close to the cruise terminal at Fort Hill Wharf, so we boarded there. We climbed to the open-air upper level of the double-decker bus which felt exceedingly hot and sticky but it included a roof to protect us from the scorching hot sun.

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Big Bus Darwin

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The upper level of the Big Bus

After a drive through the CBD (Central Business District), we passed through the inner suburb of Larrakeyah, then near Mindil Beach before a stop at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT). Admission was free at this cultural masterpiece but we elected to continue our ride to make sure we saw the entire route.

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Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Darwin was full of parks, green spaces, and coastlines with incredible views everywhere we looked.

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The Gardens, Darwin

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East Point Road on Fannie Bay

East Point Reserve is a popular area for both locals and tourists to enjoy the outdoors with coastlines, trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, a lake, exercise equipment, and over 200 wallabies roaming freely.

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East Point Reserve

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East Point Reserve

The Reserve is also home to the Darwin Military Museum where the Defence of Darwin Experience, an interactive multimedia exhibit of the bombing of Darwin, is shown once daily.

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Darwin Military Museum

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Restored anti-aircraft gun emplacements at East Point Reserve

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Can you spot the wallabies?

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Lake Alexander in East Point Recreation Reserve

The largest single attack against Australia occurred on February 19, 1942, and to this day the bombing of Darwin is central to Darwin’s history. After 7 of 11 oil storage tanks were destroyed in the bombing, the construction of underground tunnels to store oil was initiated. Although the tunnels weren’t completed before the end of the war, today the tunnels are a popular tourist attraction.

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Darwin Oil Storage Tunnels

A fine example of tropical architecture, the Parliament House which opened in 1994 offers free guided public tours.

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Parliament House

We explored the CBD a bit where the canopy over the pedestrian walkway provided a welcome respite.

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Darwin Smith Street

The Palmerston Town Hall opened in 1883 and was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974. The ruins have been preserved as a memorial.

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Old Town Hall, Darwin

The Yolngu people believe we all have spirits which they call mokuy. When someone dies   “the spirit must be sung through to the reservoir of souls from which it came, so it can return once more.” (Plaque near sculpture) Mokuy or spirits are depicted in the sculpture below. It is said if you’re nearby, they can be heard conducting their rituals at night.

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Mokuy sculpture by Nawurapu Wunungmurra

After enjoying the entire Big Bus route and some exploration on foot, we were ready to return to the Darwin Waterfront by way of the Sky Bridge.

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Entrance to the Sky Bridge

We decided to stop at Fiddler’s Green once more to spend the last of our Aussie dollars before saying hooroo (goodbye) to the land down under. While there, I noticed a superb dish of prawns delivered to the couple sitting across from us and I couldn’t help asking whether I could take a photo. They kindly agreed because Aussies are a congenial lot and we struck up a conversation. We especially enjoyed hearing about their daughter who plays semi-pro women’s Australian football. Coincidentally, Jim had enjoyed watching the women play just the night before on television.

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Prawns at Fiddler’s Green

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Laura, Lori, Toni, Bradley, and Jim

Toni and Bradley were in Darwin to see their daughter play football but they also mentioned that Darwin is a frequent departure point for Australians to visit Bali. When we said Bali was a port of call on our cruise, Toni gave us the contact information for Wayan, a self-employed tour guide. Look for more about our tour with Wayan in Bali in a future post.

Inevitably during the wet season, storms began to roll in as we chatted. By the time we returned to the ship we were soaked to the skin despite our ponchos.

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We chose this cruise mainly because it had more ports of call in Australia than other cruises. We arrived in Sydney on February 9 and departed from Darwin on February 24. While two weeks were not nearly enough time to explore all of this entrancing country,  we enjoyed a good sampling of the delights offered by the land down under.

We headed next to Komodo Island to see the dragons so don’t miss it!

 

Based on events from February 2019.

 

 

 

Categories: Australia, cruise, History, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At Home on the Norwegian Jewel

I could live on a cruise ship except for the fact my son would hound me continually about my environmental footprint. And I agree, in theory, but ship life is so pleasant it’s easy to be selfish and forget about social responsibility for a few weeks each year. I also rationalize my behavior by telling myself NCL isn’t as bad as many of the other cruise lines. You can see the ratings here. So, we continue to cruise but we try to be environmentally responsible in other areas of our life.

Seven of our 19 days aboard the Norwegian Jewel were at sea which suited us just fine. We enjoy many of the activities offered on board but when we’re in port we feel obligated to explore onshore. On this cruise, we looked forward to having plenty of both.

My friend, Lori, and I began our first sea day by attending the Morning Stretch class at 7 AM followed by Fab Abs at 7:30 in the Aerobic Studio. We liked both so much, we began every day with the two classes unless we had an early excursion preventing us from being there. Jim often joined us for the stretching class, then went off to do his own thing while we developed our fab abs. Rick had his own fitness regimen which began much earlier than ours.

 

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Aerobic Studio in the Fitness Center

We fell into a routine pretty quickly. Following our workout each morning, our group met for breakfast in the area of the aft called the Great Outdoors, located outside the Garden Cafe. After a leisurely breakfast, we’d return to our stateroom to brush our teeth and change into swimsuits, then go in search of a deck chair in the shade. That was easier said than done with an aging cruise population, many of whom have also learned to prefer shade. At any rate, once we found a spot we settled in to read, people-watch, and doze. Often we could hear the musicians around the pool on Deck 12 from our lounge chairs.

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The Great Outdoors

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Lazing in the shade

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I’m not sure why we donned swimsuits to sit in the shade

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The pool area on the Norwegian Jewel

At lunchtime, we would join others in the buffet line at the Garden Cafe and find a table again at the Great Outdoors.

Some days we attended lectures regarding ports of call, excursions, or historical topics. A few of our favorites were the Great Barrier Reef, Darwin and Pearl Harbor, comments from the reef pilot, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, and Indonesian History and Culture. Lori and Rick also participated in some trivia contests and Jim went on the Behind the Scenes Tour of the ship where he was especially impressed with the machine that folded the beach towels.

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The reef pilot said the locals were friendly

Later in the afternoon, we would shower and dress for dinner, then rejoin one another to play bridge before we searched out our favorite table with a view at Azura for dinner.

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There was a lovely view even though it doesn’t show in the photo

The food was always well-presented and it tasted every bit as good as it looks.

Following dinner, if we had time before the theater show, we sometimes stopped by the casino to throw away a few pennies. I was surprised to learn very few slot machines allow a penny bet anymore. I had a $20 budget for the entire cruise so I didn’t bet more than one line in spite of common wisdom which claims you have to bet more to win.

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I had a hard time finding a slot machine which would accept a penny bet

If time didn’t allow, we headed directly to the show, which we enjoyed almost every evening. Generally, photos aren’t allowed during the show but I captured the few exceptions.

After the show, it was generally, back to our staterooms for bedtime where we usually found a towel animal waiting to bid us goodnight. Then, the following morning, we would begin our routine over again.

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A few exceptions to our routine inevitably occurred. Jim and I explored the bridge on this cruise, something we haven’t done before.

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Good to know someone is steering the ship

We never miss an opportunity to enjoy free drinks and appetizers at the Latitudes cocktail party.

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Not all of those cocktail toothpicks were mine

Early on the morning of February 21, I encountered a woman on the elevator up to the 12th deck for my stretching class who asked me why the ship had turned around. I had no idea and inquired what made her think we’d turned around. She explained she’d seen it on the television channel which shows our route and progress. Sure enough, in the night we headed back to Cairns due to a medical emergency. IMG_7083.jpeg

We watched from the window of our stretching class as the patient was lifted aboard a hovering helicopter. Later, we learned the announcements we’d heard the prior evening requesting the reef pilot report to the captain were so he could safely guide us back through the Great Barrier Reef.

Then the following day, the starboard side of deck 7 was closed off. We found out a small fire had been extinguished in one of the lifeboats. Yikes! I suspected a flicked cigarette may have been to blame.

On the 25th, we celebrated Lori’s birthday with dinner in a specialty restaurant and birthday cake.

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Without a doubt, however, nothing was more romantic and captivating aboard the Norwegian Jewel than sunrise, sunset, and a full moon over the water.

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Sunrise on the Jewel

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Sunset from the Jewel

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One more sunset

 

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Full moon

 

Come back and read about the port of Brisbane next time.

 

Based on events from February 2019.

 

Categories: Australia, cruise, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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