Going with the flow
Whenever we go on a cruise, we are delighted to be able to sit back and let someone else do the driving. We're happy to be transported to exotic places, to have someone else make all the decisions and to go with the flow.
We are lucky to sail on a ship where we have all those advantages and yet, in many ways, that going with the flow is based on our own little foibles. So when we have breakfast, someone amazingly remembers that I like a few blueberries with my birchermuesli - suddenly, going with the flow is nothing of the sort and is more like being utterly spoiled.
I appreciate that and try hard not to take it for granted. After all, someone has gone to lot of trouble to make that small thoughtful gesture for me.
Today, we arrived in Langkawi just before lunchtime. The Seabourn Sojourn was already anchored in the bay and we watched as the tenders were prepared to take us ashore.
Such a process always takes a while and a modicum of patience is needed. On this occasion, my hero needed more than a mere modicum, because I changed bags this morning and forgot to put my cruise card into my "going on tour" bag. There we were, just about to leave the ship and I was running upstairs to our suite to get it, whilst my hero steamed quietly as he waited. I was no more than five minutes, all's well that ended well and we moved on. Well, what else would we do?!
After such an inauspicious start to the tour, we sat back, relaxed and watched Langkawi pass us by. Our first thought was, in working towards accommodating all of these people who want to come to this green, upspoiled island, the abundance of new development is going to spoil the very reason for needing them. We drove past several similar projects in varying stages of completion and fear for this year-round destination. Can the infrastructure cope?
Our first stop was a rubber plantation. Having had a British primary education during the 1960s, I well remembered the process of "rubber tapping" which was on the curriculum along with other Commonwealth geography topics.
This particularly attractive plantation was owned by a couple who were waiting for us and ready to show us how it worked. The woman was wielding a particularly vicious looking knife as her husband stood back and let her do the work. Clearly, he recognised her as the expert!
No sooner had she finished the spiral cut around the tree than the white latex rubber flowed freely out of the cut and drained down into the pot beneath the tree. I think everyone in the group was amazed to see how easily it flowed - and yet, of course, it was as a result of the expert use of that extraordinarily sharp tool making an even cut of exactly the right depth.
In the ten or fifteen minutes we were there, I'd estimate a couple of tablespoonsful had gathered in the pot. Not bad eh? Except that Dean, our guide, told us that they couple would earn one Euro per kilogram! OK, so they have quite a few trees and some are rather younger than this one and produce the latex more quickly as a result. But even so...it's a slow way to make a fortune, isn't it?
From there, we drove to a Craft Centre, government owned and very extensive. Except, it was almost totally deserted. Not everything was to our taste but, in the spirit of adventure, we looked around every room and I took plenty of photographs to share with my crafty friends in a future post.
For now, let's just say we were soon ready to move on.
Now, our next stop was a peculiar museum, showing the collection of gifts given to a former Prime Minister by a variety of individuals, companies and nations. Either he had an eclectic taste or such a random selection of gifts is the norm for such a national figure, but either way, he was glad to share them with the people of his country by assembling them here. I took a few pictures here, but will just share this one of a portrait of the man himself alongside a carriage given to him by the people of Tonga.
Though there are beautiful collections of silverware from Cambodia and the odd car or two in there (including an F1 car sponsored by Petronas) the most curious gift was that of a ceiling, from Uzbekistan.
After one more short photo stop in the centre of town, we were back at the jetty, where there appeared to be a surprising number of people waiting for the boat back to the ship. It seemed that of the three boats operating the tender service, two had been taken out of service for some reason. At this point, noone knew why, but here was a bunch of tired, hot and somewhat crabby people just wanting to go back to the ship. Meanwhile, the staff were running ragged trying to sort things out.
We were late to this party, which had been going for an hour or more before we even arrived which meant we were in better spirits than many - but a lot further back in the queue!
What's to do in such circumstances? There's really nothing we can do but wait and exercise a little of that patience that seems hard to come by in the late afternoon with temperatures in the 30s C. Thankfully, those professionals who manage these situations did exactly that. If the ship's tenders are not working, then we'll take a couple of those nifty local boats instead. That's exactly what happened as negotiations were completed and half a dozen local boat owners found themselves contracted to an international company for an hour or so. Nice one, Regent!
And so it was that we found ourselves enjoying an exhilarating ride back to the ship, on board a speedboat bouncing over the waves. The journey which had taken us half an hour this morning was over in a mere 4 minutes - and I don't think we were the only ones to feel a little sad that the fun was over so quickly!
The Captain was a little younger than most...
and the Cruise Director was also the First Mate, Chief Security Officer, Engineer and General Manager too. Not bad for someone barely over school age! No matter, these two local chaps got us safely back to the ship with a smile and a wink.
Thankfully, the crew members waiting for us at the foot of the steps on the landing stage were sure footed and offered strong arms to hold on to, making sure we didn't go with an altogether different flow, thank goodness.
Sitting in the bar enjoying a drink before dinner, we could see activity on the boat deck as the engineers worked on one of the tenders which had to be taken out of service. We understood one of the propellers on the other boat had become wrapped in rope which had stopped it working. But this one, somehow, had what looked like a whole tyre stuck around it. Quite how such a thing could find its way to wrapping itself around a propeller that's encased in a protective cage, who knows? But that's what had happened, and we watched as the engineers took an electric saw to the rubber tyre to free the propeller. Only when it was clear, the tender had been tested to ensure it was back to working fully (because these are our lifeboats) could we set sail for Phuket - thankfully not too great a distance to sail.
No lapses in conversation on the ship tonight then and a few more travellers tales to add to the portfolio!