Day 467 of Traveling the World, Tokyo, Japan. May 24, 2019.

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound he pulls the spitting high-tension wires down! Helpless people on subway trains scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them. He picks up a bus and he throws it back down as he wades through the buildings toward the center of town. OH, NO! They say he’s got to go…Go, go, GODZILLA! OH, NO! There goes Tokyo….Go, go, GODZILLA! ~ Blue Oyster Cult, 1977 ~

It is inevitable…Tokyo HAD to have some sort of tribute to its most famous monster, born in 1954….Godzilla. And we found the site on Google Maps, of all places. Not far from our hotel, there is a place marker on the map that says, “Godzilla Head.” We had to track it down. It is on the 8th floor of the Gracery Hotel, and the first photo is up close and personal, out on the lobby’s terrace, while the second was taken down on the street. If you look at the front left of the third photo, you will see a very serious guard. We said to him, “Is it really your job to guard Godzilla all day long??” He broke into a big grin and nodded vigorously. There was also a mini-museum, with all the Godzilla posters ever and some smaller statues, and, of course, items for sale. What a treasure!

After our photo tribute to Godzilla, you will see some Tokyo street photos, including one of the longest street names we have seen! The three teenagers pictured were quite a treat for us. They wanted to know if they could ask a few questions and interview us. Once we established that they weren’t trying to sell us a timeshare…or anything else….we agreed to talk to them. They inquired whether they could film us, and we agreed. As far as we could ascertain it was a project for school. They smiled the whole time as we told them where we were from (at least, most recently, which drew big gasps and wide eyes), what we thought of Japan, how we liked the people and culture, and did we have any questions. We think they were supposed to be asking us, to practice their English, but they showed us their survey and let us read the questions. The second flurry of excitement on their end came when we offered them our card with our website and then told them we would put them on it! We took a few photos of them with us, as well, and we looked back as they walked away with their “treasure” of our interview. They were hugging each other and patting themselves on the back! It was enormously satisfying because they were so happy to have completed their assignment, and they found the one homeless couple in all of Tokyo for their report!

Following them are a few photos of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a truly peaceful Japanese Garden near a very busy rail and shopping center. It was so green and calm, with lakes and bridges and pretty flowers. There was a Tea House, but we didn’t go in because you had to buy a ticket for green tea in a vending machine before you entered! And when we peeked in, it was just a large empty room with benches. Not what we had in mind, so much.

The last photo is just for fun…Godzilla for sale, but looks who’s whacking him in the nose! But….he could be yours for just $23 US!

Day 465 of Traveling the World, Tokyo, Japan. May 22, 2019.

Senso-ji Temple is the oldest in Tokyo, first founded in 645 AD and rebuilt several times, the last being after it was bombed in World War II. A Buddhist temple, it is the most-visited religious site in the world, with over 30 million visitors per year. People come to visit dressed ceremonially in kimonos and traditional dress, as you can see in the first two photos. It is the only place in the city where we saw kimonos being worn, although we saw many for sale. There was a note on one kimono on the sidewalk that it was polyester, for $28 US, but you needed to go inside to see the real silk kimonos. These lovely people were more than happy to pose for us when we requested a photo.

So, we thought we were at the temple, and took photos of the structure in the third photo. But this is just the Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, offering entrance to the temple. It is adorned with a red lantern and statues of four gods. Next is the Five-Storied Pagoda, the second-highest in Japan, which houses some of Buddha’s ashes on the top floor, which were given to Tokyo by the government of Sri Lanka as a symbol of friendship with Japan.

After that, at last, is the Senso-ji Temple. A large incense burner is at the front, with a vendor selling bundles of incense for people to burn for their own intentions. Following is a photo of the gold interior of the temple, but it was not open today to the public. After that is a photo of the Chozuya, the purification fountain that is found at all Shinto and Buddhist shrines. There are specific instructions for washing your hands, and you can see that the plaque warns not to drink from the ladle. It is proper to pour water into your hand, swish it in your mouth, and spit it onto the rocks (not back into the fountain). Many people were doing this, mostly locals. The foreigners watched.

The next photos are of Nakamise Shopping Street, which has existed for centuries as the lead-up to the temple. You can buy anything here, mostly snacks and souvenirs. We loved the brightly colored ice cream cones and their flavors/names! You can also buy masks, ice cream burgers (we assume someone looked up the translation for an ice cream sandwich, and the word burger came up….great idea!), vinegar juice…all sorts of enticing sounding delights! There is the pizza and pasta joint that advertised that it has English speaking staffs, but apparently they aren’t the ones who wrote the sign!

Also, take your trash home! We saw gorgeous pink peonies that looked like fragile paper….so very pretty, we had to photograph them. And, all of you guys who are reading…the last photo gives you your perfect pick-up line…or does it? Wait…..Duh.

Day 463 of Traveling the World, Tokyo, Japan. May 20, 2019.

Japan is the 97th country we have been to….only 131 more to go!….depending on whose list of countries you use, that is. After the sheer calm and quiet of our idyllic beach in Bali, Tokyo is exactly the opposite. It is busy, crowded, expensive, avant garde, contemporary….much like any other metropolitan area. It reminds us a lot of New York City. Tokyo has been the Japanese capital since 1869, and today is the world’s 11th most expensive city. In our experience so far in traveling the world, it seems to be the most expensive city, but we do believe statistics, so we suppose we need to discover the first ten most expensive cities!

The MORI Digital Arts Museum has become one of the premiere destinations in Tokyo. Located toward the edge of the city on Tokyo Bay, in a large warehouse complex, the museum is a series of dark rooms lit up only by projections on the wall, and objects (such as lanterns and giant balloons) lit up by ever-changing colored lights. It may be hard for readers to understand what they are seeing, but look at each photo as if you are standing still, which of course we were. There are lots of mirrors to make the images even more confusing, and many of the floors are reflective, so lights are shining from them, as well. Most of the projections moved across the walls, like a parade. The first three photos are from the installation called the Forest of Resonating Light. We had to wait in a 45-minute line to enter, as only about 25 people at a time were allowed in, unlike the other rooms. Interestingly, as we looked from the outside through a window into the actual room, the lights inside were only, ever, a shade of orange. Once inside and taking pictures, we experienced what you see…many different colors. In the third photo, you can see the two people in the center taking photos, and you can also see their reflection in the floor. The lights are doing the exact same thing…reflecting like crazy.

The next three photos were a “parade” of rabbits and frogs, walking along, following a wheeled cart. When you got close to them, they turned and looked at you, pointing their fingers! After that are two photos of a special carpet…a lizard and a frog, hopping around. If you stepped on any of the animals, they squirmed out from under your shoe and ran away! But then, of course, they reappeared just to tease you again. Then there is the Balloon Room. Balloons were hanging from the ceiling and were tethered to the floor, in a mirrored room of course, so that you could walk through and get lost in the middle of them as they changed colors. All of the rest of the museum photos are in the Flower Garden, a number of interconnected rooms that change patterns and colors. Some areas had irregular ramps to walk up to get closer to the wall and ceiling. Quite challenging for old people in the dark, but the kids loved it. There was even an area where the children could slide down a lighted area, but it was inside a dark room. Overall, a great place to spend an afternoon. The museum was jammed, and at $30 US per adult, they are doing quite a brisk business.

The photos after that are from our day’s shopping trip to the Ginza, Tokyo’s version of Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue. Every designer brand we could think of had not only a store there, but entire buildings. We saw at least four Giorgio Armani stores! There was also a normal street that would normally have traffic, but traffic was prohibited and it became a temporary pedestrian walkway, but we don’t know why. There were even people lying down in the middle of the road, taking pictures in glee that there were no vehicles.

The last three photos are unusual. We each only own one pair of shoes, so we are not shoe addicts, but these were so unusual. First is Miss Petite with the heaviest mega-shoes we have ever seen. Second is a pair of canvas shoes that look like they are made for a Two-Toed Monster. And the last photo defies even us. As you can see, it looks like a tennis shoe that a high-top has plummeted into, creating two heels and a boot. Whaaaat!??


Day 456 of Traveling the World, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. May 13, 2019.

Over the weekend, we had one of the most special days in all of our travels so far. Our wonderful driver, Agus, who took us to Ubud and all the places we noted yesterday, invited us to his newborn baby’s Tutug Kambuhan ceremony. This Bali Hindu tradition occurs when the baby is 42 days old, and is a purification ceremony for both mother and child.

We arrived at the family “compound” just before 5:00 pm. Many generations ago, families built a wall around their living area with an entrance that looks like a temple. Inside is a large courtyard with several homes, usually the parents’ home surrounded by homes given to their married children. One small structure is a communal kitchen and eating area. In the middle is a type of hut that is used for drying rice. Agus told us that if Indonesians don’t have rice every day, they feel that something is off, just not right.

Agus’ wife’s name is Miles (MEE-liss). She is a beautiful 26-year-old woman, and most of the time she was cuddling the baby, Kirana, looking at her lovingly, and taking care of her every need. She let us hold her, and Kirana was one happy baby, very contented. There were about 20-30 people there, including both sets of grandparents, extended family members, and bunches of excited children, running around and playing like children everywhere. We had bought some toys for the couple’s two older children so that they didn’t feel left out, but we didn’t know there would be so many kids there. Luckily, we bought a beach bucket filled with shovels and molds to make animals and castles out of sand, so everybody had something to play with. We thought everything would be scattered around the courtyard, but were astounded about an hour later to see the bucket filled with each and every item! Agus told us the next day that he took the older boys, Rakrian and Tirta, to the beach to play with the beach toys.

On to the ceremony! As you can see in the photos, the Hindu pemangku, whom Agus and Miles called their “pastor” so that we would understand his role, was dressed in white. He chanted all of the prayers in Sanskrit, and everyone present admitted that they did not understand his words, but they understood that he was praying for them and Kirana. It was so interesting to watch. Like a Christian Baptism, he sprinkled her with water, but did so about 50 times, usually with a plumeria flower but also with a hard-boiled egg, woven bamboo fronds, or leaves. Many times, he broke off a piece of white or red string, and these were tied around her wrist, around her toes, or gently placed on her head. The parents got some of everything the baby did, as well! At one point, uncooked rice was thrown on all of their heads. Several times, incense was burned and everyone fanned the smoke toward Kirana to bless her. To her credit, Kirana never cried or fussed, but calmly accepted 45 minutes of all of this attention, things placed on her, and water sprinkled. During most of it, the pastor rang a bell for long periods of time. This didn’t affect her, either. She was great.

When Agus acted as our driver, he wore a t-shirt and jeans, but for this Hindu ceremony, he dressed in festive ceremonial garb. His head covering, which resembles a turban, is called an udeng. The sarong around his waist is called a kamen. The women all wore bright sashes around their waists called a selendang. Everyone was either barefoot or wearing flip-flops…..except us! We weren’t up on our Balinese ceremonial dress. Neither did we wear sarongs or sashes or head coverings…but everyone was very gracious and eager to welcome us and smile at us….huge smiles!

For the second half of the ceremony, we moved to an altar area with the bale agung… baskets of fruit, flowers, coconut leaves, woven fronds. More chanting in Sanskrit. More sprinkling. More bell ringing. But for this part, the father disappeared…maybe because it was the mother/daughter purification part? We are unclear on the meaning. We did film a little of this part. Note the bell and the roosters crowing!

After the ceremony and all of that praying, chanting, sprinkling, ringing, and purifying, it was time to eat! The last photo is of Agus’ brother-in-law, who did the grilling. We were treated to a feast of fish, chicken, rice, curried eggs, sautéed greens, watermelon, and a salsa-type condiment called sambal matah, which Mike has every morning for breakfast. It is a dish of mostly finely-diced hot chilies…way too spicy for Jan, but perfect for Mike with his fish and chicken. After dinner we talked a bit (Miles works in food service at the Ritz-Carlton, and her English is excellent), we played with the older children, chased them around the courtyard, and enjoyed being part of a family for a few hours. We thanked them profusely for being kind enough to invite us to witness this unique Hindu ceremony. It was certainly a highlight of our travels up until now.

Day 455 of Traveling the World, Kemenuh, Tegalalang, and Rural Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. May 12, 2019.

So many ways to make money in tourist spots! The first four photos are from the Tegenungan waterfall in Kemenuh, Bali. Notice the cute frames on two of the photos? They are meant for someone to sit in them, and then deposit 10,000 rupiahs into a small locked box for doing so (about 70 cents). There are many frames and signs like this around the most popular attractions. Some people actually hiked all the way to the bottom to walk in the pool and climb aside the waterfall, but it was too long a trek for us, as we had several other places we wanted to see.

The following three photos are of the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Once again, you can climb all the way down the mountain and walk among them, but guess what? The only way back is to climb back UP the mountain, and just like with the waterfall, we had other places to go! If you look at the sign that says, I ♥️ Bali, there is a yellow collection box on the left side of the platform, requesting 5,000 rupiahs….only 35 cents to take a photo! It is all on an honor system, of course, but each box was filled with donations.

After that….here comes the Elephant Cave! Known as Goa Gajah, the cave complex was built in the 11th century and contains Hindu and Buddhist imagery, but it was only rediscovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923. The fountains and bathing pool weren’t unearthed until 1954, and contain statues of seven women holding water jugs with water flowing from them (one was destroyed in an earthquake), which depict the seven holy rivers of India. We both had to don sarongs around our waists to enter, down a long series of steps. As you can see, of the two figures on either side of the actual entrance to the cave, only one survived more or less intact from the 11th century. Inside were some small altars, like the one shown. There was a whole class of children touring the site, and once I asked if I could take their picture, they became quite animated, broke into smiles, and waved at the camera.

The last photo is….special. We wonder how many times per year it is actually used! It was adjacent to restrooms that advertised, “Toilet….2,000 rupiah” (14 cents). BUT then we saw signs that said, “GOOD Toilet…20,000 rupiah,” or $1.40 US. We did not check them out to compare the differences. But, quite pricey, for what it is! Tourism certainly commands hefty tariffs on those essential services….

Day 454 of Traveling the World, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. May 11, 2019.

If you have ever seen the Julia Roberts’ movie, Eat, Pray, Love, you have seen Ubud! It is probably the best-known town on the island of Bali. Promoted as a tourism hub and arts center, its 74,000 residents see 3 million foreign visitors annually. We hired a driver to take us there yesterday (the only way on the island to travel any distance), and it cost $50 US for 10 hours of sightseeing. It was certainly busy and certainly beautiful.

The first three photos are from the vegetarian restaurant where we had a late lunch, Zest. It is perched up on a cliff above the main street, has many unusual items, and everything was delicious. The most expensive item on the menu was about $6! The shades on the groovy guy in the first photo have a sticker on that says, “Ma mu”….”your mama!” (BTW…Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all the great moms reading this!) As you can see from the second and third photos, it was, as usual, an open-air restaurant with fountains and lots of greenery…felt like a temple!

After that are several photos of the Royal Palace, which had quite a few pavilions, hundreds of statues with ferocious faces protecting the grounds, and a large courtyard where events are held. It is the only tourist attraction we entered in all of Indonesia for which there was no admission fee. As you can see, all of the statues are “dressed” – decorated with fabric and headwraps. We were told that the fabric always has to be two colors or designs to represent the yin and yang of life.

In the middle of the photos, or so, is the Ubud Art Market…many items for sale, most made locally in this artists’ colony. Following that are some cute items we saw for sale. Then, it was on to Saraswati Temple. Aren’t the lotus flowers and leave so pretty in front of the temple? And yes, both men and women must wear a sarong around their waist to enter Balinese temples. It is always provided free of cost. It was the second place in one day that we saw, “Menstruating women are prohibited.” There is no way they can tell, of course. I imagine locals comply, but probably not every visitor. (Mike did want me to make clear that HE was not menstruating!)

We really loved walking down the street in the next-to-last photo. It even felt as refreshing as it looked! And the last photo….well, let’s just say….the faces on the artwork look grim. The name of the shop doesn’t match. We laughed out loud as we took the photo.

Day 447 of Traveling the World, Bali, Indonesia. May 4, 2019.

We love, love, love the first three photos….wild statues of mythical Balinese creatures. The first looks like a model for the Abominable Snowman, while the second just looks insane. The third looks either terrified, or trying to terrify us. All in all…great artwork!

So we are just blogging from Bali with miscellaneous musings and photos, not really from one place, because people have been asking, why the long hiatus from writing blogs? The answer can be found in our previous post…check out the property we are on! We have been relaxing by the pool, on the beach, in the lounge. With our blissful view, all we really want to do is read, listen to music, plan future destinations, and do nothing. It is too hot to do much! The two photos after the monsters are of paragliders being sent into the air and gliding along the coast of Bali, out in the Indian Ocean. We both noted that the owners are sure to crisscross in front of the pool many times over…perhaps to give other people the idea of how much fun it is? We did this in Catalina, and it is one of the best, fun experiences we have had. In the photo after those are some cute cabanas available along the beach, with glass doors if it gets too windy, but made for two people to relax in. There are all sorts of cabanas with “outside beds” to lounge around. So, we do!

Mike bought a package of five diving days…three down and two to go…and goes all day, driving up the coast and to the neighboring island. The farthest was a three-hour drive to Tulamben, on the northeast coast, to dive at the wreck of the US Army Transport ship, Liberty, which was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942 at the neighboring island of Lombok. It was transported to Bali for salvage and situated on the shore. But the 1963 eruption of Mt. Agung pushed the ship offshore about 70 feet, and it created an underwater reef that is rich in sea life. Mt. Agung is still erupting, even while we have been here. All the rest of the photos are from his dive days, including a shot of the crazy small roads and traffic here in Bali. Tulamben is only about 60 miles north of where we are, but on these unpredictable and busy roads, it takes 3 hours to get there! The traffic weaves more than anything, but drivers are patient and gracious with each other. At the dive spot, you can see how many boats are waiting to go out, as Bali is one of the premier diving destinations on the planet. The restaurant area there, as usual, is open-air, as are most restaurants, bars, and businesses here. No reason for walls!

So, Bali is a great place to relax and do nothing. The views are spectacular, the prices are inexpensive, and the people are amazing…always smiling, always kind, always gracious. What’s not to like? We are already trying to figure out ways to return in the next year or so, but for two or three months. No wonder it has so many visitors! The island gently calls your name, saying, “C’mon, come back to me.”

Day 435 of Traveling the World, Bali, Indonesia. April 22, 2019.

The stuff dreams are made of. Paradise. Any superlative you can think of….this is it!

We were here in Bali for a day last month while on a cruise, and went on an excursion to the Palace of Justice and some other temples. It was a trip to explore Bali’s heritage, and we saw many old beautiful buildings, shrines, and temples. This is a totally different Bali. We are on the southern tip of the island, in an area called Nusa Dua, developed with resorts to appreciate Bali’s coastal beauty. And it is a WOW place.

Hilton took over the Grand Nikko Resort at the end of 2016 and has been upgrading the hotel and grounds ever since. It is set on 28 acres and is just stunning. Rooms are above the beach on a cliff, so every room has a view of the Indian Ocean. It is very much a maze, with walkways, elevators, and staircases everywhere, leading off in so many directions. Just as in Hawaii, the lobby is open-air, no walls, which means it can be either fairly warm or nice and breezy. We have been here over four days, and today is the first day off the property, as Mike went on an all-day diving trip, this time in the ocean. Everything we need or want is here on site, at a cost of just over US $100 per night. Bali’s prices are amazingly low for just about everything.

Bali is well-known for its indigenous monkeys, and even has a forest sanctuary for them with “monkey temples” that look like something out of Indiana Jones. We are happy to report that monkeys also hang out at all of the resorts. In the last two photos, you can see them on the resort walls and on our balcony! The mom in the upper middle of our balcony is holding the tiniest monkey we have ever seen…it surely was born in the last two weeks. They hung out for a while, looking for food, no doubt. Upon check-in, we were told not to leave food out on the balcony, as it would cause a lot of visitors to descend upon our peaceful haven. So we didn’t!…but they came, anyway. We are in Bali for a month, and could easily stay here in Heaven much longer.

Day 430 of Traveling the World, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malaysia. April 17, 2019.

Our last few days in KL were both wild and peaceful. The WILD was Mike scuba diving in the KLCC Aquaria with about 20 fiercesome-looking sharks, sea turtles, mantas, and 200 other species of fish. But all we need to talk about are the sharks. Check them out! They were always just a few inches away from Mike and the dive master, sometimes coming around the bend behind them, catching them unawares, and sometimes head on. It was truly a great experience to see these magnificent beasts up close and personal, and Mike would do it again in a heartbeat. He thought at first it might be a cheesy experience, as he has only gone scuba diving in the ocean before, but it was memorable. After all, both humans and creatures are captive in the same area. So you have to interact. The sharks are well fed and the most fiercesome-looking were Sand Tigers, which are prized by aquaria for their tough look and gentle demeanor, so there is really no danger, but it still feels a little exciting, much like the Jungle Cruise Ride at Disneyland, but with live animals rather than animatronic ones. And, you get to get wet. Mike was in the tank for about an hour, and Jan “only” took 267 photos of Mike diving, along with about 15 videos. As most divers would also say, Mike had never seen footage of himself diving before, and has never gotten such clear photos of what he was seeing, as it is difficult underwater without highly sophisticated equipment. When he has tried to do photography underwater, the results have been weak and murky, with the vibrant colors of the fish grayed out. But since Jan was outside the tank, everything was crystal clear. A great experience!

Last week, we did a post on the Petronas Towers, which are the heart of KL. Most everything in the city takes place inside and around the towers. We went to a youth symphony concert, as Philharmonic Hall is inside the towers. The last two photos are the pipe organ and the gorgeous ceiling lighting. The musicians were excellent…we heard some Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Bizet, and a very unusual piece by the contemporary Welsh composer, Gareth Wood. It was Four Pieces for Four Trombones, and was very interesting, as all four trombones took the lead at various times to produce some interesting trombone sounds and passages. It was the peaceful part of our last days in KL. Malaysia was great. We would love to return for more of the Malay culture in the future.

Day 435 of Traveling the World, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malaysia. April 12, 2019.

Petronas Twin Towers….at 88 stories, the tallest twin towers in the world! They opened 20 years ago and still look like they first opened this morning. In September 2009, French urban climber Alain “Spider-Man” Robert scaled all 88 stories in two hours using only his bare hands and feet with no safety devices. Two previous attempts ended with his arrest on the 60th floor. Downtown KL is really lovely and modern, with many fountains and interesting skyscrapers. The bottom levels of the towers house a mall (Suria KLCC) and the permanent home of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Also in the photos below is one of the mall, and best of all…a class of schoolgirls in matching pink “uniforms”….when they saw us taking a photo of them, we got big smiles and waves! We also liked the three Buddhist monks outside at the fountains, with one photographing the other two with his iPad! We enjoy seeing people and sights that are so different from what we are used to…different cultures, different religious buildings, different foods, different dress, different languages….and we realize that to them, we are the different ones! The last photo was a lunch dish that we watched being made. On high heat with flames, the chef started with the pyramid of rice. Then he threw on a ladle of sauce with meat, added some red chili flakes, cracked an egg on top, and added some more sauce and raw veggies….it all bubbled up, hissed, and was done, served to the woman who ordered it. We have no idea what it was, or what was in it, but it looked wonderful and fresh!

Day 433 of Traveling the World, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malaysia. April 10, 2019.

“Muddy Confluence.” Aren’t place names funny? That is what Kuala Lumpur means, as it is located at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombok Rivers. The capital city of Malaysia (locally called KL) is the country’s largest and has a population of about 2 million people. Last year, KL was the 10th most-visited city in the world. Like any large city today, it is very cosmopolitan, has many dozens of skyscrapers (including the famous Petronas Twin Towers), three of the 10 largest malls in the world, and very busy traffic during morning and evening rush hours. The outlying areas (we came by bus from Melaka) are covered with extensive, deep palm tree forests. There would be the usual trees, forests, and fields, and the highway would look just like an American interstate, when suddenly there would just be thousands upon thousands of palm trees, stretching as far as the eye could see. The tropics!

Our journey today was to the Batu Caves, about 30 minutes north via subway (just $1.25 US, round trip). The complex is a series of caves and Hindu Tamil temples. There are 272 steps up to the main cave, called Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave, and yep….we climbed them! It was exercise enough for a week! The huge gold statue in the first photo seems to guard over the cave system. He is the Hindu deity Murugan, and the statue (with the 272 steps just to the left of him) is 140 feet high and covered with about 80 gallons of gold paint. It cost about $400,000 and was installed in 2006. So, what is at the top after you have climbed 272 steps??? MORE STEPS! There were about another 100 to climb after we entered the cave at the top!

Look through the pictures of this fabulous temple. Does the word excess come to mind? Well, yeah, us too! But think of the Vatican or any of the great churches and palaces around the world…excess is a symbol of devotion and love. The shrines in Cathedral Cave are depictions of chapters of the life of Lord Murugan.

As you will notice in some of the photos, there is a troop of macaque monkeys that have the run of the place. They scamper up and down the staircase, eat discarded food, occasionally steal sunglasses and caps, and just live their lives on the temple grounds. The macaque in the photo third from the bottom cracked us up and held our fascination for a good 20 minutes. He leaped onto the handrail in front of us with a full unopened bag of nacho chips, easily ripped it open (from past experience, we are sure), secured it with his feet, and proceeded to eat his chips just like a human….slowly, one at a time, and savoring each one. After 10 or so, he began to rub each chip vigorously between his palms before eating, as we would if a chip were too salty. He calmly watched us watching him eat. Of course, he stole the bag from either a vendor or a tourist, then ran to his perch to enjoy his snack. He would occasionally drop one, and the baby macaques who were staring at each bite would run to pick up the chip, look at him warily, and scamper away to eat their prize. It was hysterical to watch.

The last two photos? The interesting subway! When the train arrived, heading to the Batu Caves, everyone got on, only to be told it was the wrong train and to go to the other platform. We got on and sat down. When we looked down into the other cars, they looked very crowded, even though our car had lots of open seats. Curious. Until, that is, a security guard came through and told us we were sitting in a “Ladies Only” coach, and Mike would have to leave! We hadn’t noticed the pink signs all over the inside and outside of the car saying it was only for women, because it never entered our minds that there were such things. So we moved! And as you can see in the photo of prohibitions on the subway, the only one we succeeded at was Berkelakuan Sumbang….Indecent Behavior. I mean, after seeing we couldn’t kiss while on the subway, we HAD to kiss, right?? But….only five times!

Day 430 of Traveling the World, Strait of Malacca. April 7, 2019.

One quarter of the world’s traded goods flow through the long, narrow Strait of Malacca, as well as one quarter of all of the world’s oil that is shipped by sea! That is amazing. Check out the photos…it looks so calm, so serene. Yet it is the busiest strait in the world, with close to 100,000 vessels navigating through annually. It connects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is the shortest route from China and the Pacific to India and the Middle East. Piracy has been a problem in recent times, and there are shipwrecks in the strait. The maximum size of a vessel that can pass through is referred to as Malaccamax; for the world’s largest ships, mostly oil tankers, the strait is not deep enough, at only 82 feet. These vessels must detour several thousand nautical miles as a result.

The last two photos still show the strait, but with a little swag: trees on the deck of the observation tower, and a great shot from our hotel’s infinity pool, where you can see the strait to the left of, and in between, the two towers of an adjacent hotel!

Day 429 of Traveling the World, Melaka, Malaysia. April 6, 2019.

You can be the judge, but looking at the photos, we believe that seeing Melaka at night is the only way to go! Also known as Malacca (you may have heard of the Strait of Malacca), the government standardized its spelling to the original Malay as Melaka. It lies off the southwest coast of Malaysia, roughly midway between Singapore and the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and across the strait from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical importance as a major trade route stop between China and India. Like so many places in this part of the world, the country was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, and Japanese (during WW II) before gaining its independence in 1963. After only a week in Malaysia, we have become very fond of the Malay people. They are gentle, soft-spoken, sweet natured, and smiling, smiling, smiling…all the time. It is very pleasant and calm here. As one of our drivers told us….Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian: we all get along and live in harmony. It feels very safe here, and of course, the prices continue to be exceedingly low for everything. We can get a lunch of chicken and rice with salad for 5 ringgits ($1.25 US). We saw the new movie Pet Sematary on opening day for 8 ringgits ($2 US). Soda AND popcorn cost a total of 10 ringgits ($2.50 US).

So, the photos. They are pretty much divided into two halves, with the first images from Jonker Walk, a night market in Chinatown that is the heart of the city in the evening. It takes between one and two hours to stroll along, try some street food, have coffee, and luxuriate in the sights, smells, chatter, and busyness. We had coffee and a fantastic sugar-free smoothie, along with Portuguese Pastel de Nata, a fabulous egg custard tart that we first tasted in Kauai and also enjoyed in Portugal. Served still warm, here it cost 60 cents US. The most unusual food we encountered was fried squid, but nothing like the squirming scorpions on sticks we saw in Beijing, waiting to be thrust into hot oil for feasting! It was sort of amazing to us that we never saw any pizza, burgers, fries, or soda for sale; at a US fair, there will be American dishes, but also Chinese, Thai, sushi, Indian, and many other foreign cuisines. Yes, we know we are in Asia, but food dishes that were offered many, many times over were fish and meats on sticks, all things durian (ice cream, shakes, fruit slices), smoothies, rice dishes, sausages, pastries made of yams, and various shellfish delicacies still in the shell. And as you can see, there were dried flowers and fruit for sale (used in soup and salad), charcoal ice cream and milk tea (apparently a trend, but it doesn’t bring much in terms of nutrition), squid on a stick (calamari, anyone?), dirty puffs (?? – we don’t know and did not try), and a fun refund/re-do policy for smoothies: feel not tasty, please ask for re-do or fully refund; feel unworthy, please ask for re-do or fully refund. Also at night: here come the trishaws! Unusual during the day, the bicycle rickshaws are decorated with Miss Kitty and Pokémon characters. But it all comes alive at night, with flashing lights and bouncing music from Bollywood and Chinese folk music. They reminded us of Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade. We will try one tomorrow night, when we return to this fun area of town. A 30-minute trishaw ride costs $6 US.

The second half of the photos are from the Night River Cruise, which is the only time to do it. The river route is lit up like Christmas for people to enjoy the serpentine river through the heart of the city. We boarded and eagerly headed to the front so that we could take photos for this blog entry. We were very smugly happy with our seats….UNTIL, as you can see in the second of the cruise photos, the water started splashing into the boat and soaking everyone in the front, just like a log flume ride. It creeped us out a little, as it was getting in our eyes and mouth, and signs along the river requested, “help keep our river clean!” We are still feeling okay, though, so maybe we were worrying needlessly as we – and everyone else – scooted back as far as we all could from the front and the splashing! As you look at the night cruise photos, though, do take a minute to look at the water itself and how the lights shimmer doubly in its reflection. It was so beautiful…45 minutes of many oohs and aahs from the passengers…that is, except for the shrieks when getting hit by splashing water! The last photo is of St. Francis Xavier Church, which kind of rises eerily behind one of the many bridges as you come around a river bend. It was built in 1849 on the site of an old Portuguese church and is based on a cathedral in Southern France.