Submitted by Lois Eberly
This amazing adventure was taken by a group of 18 from Sebring, including 10 from Tanglewood. Representing Tanglewood were Charlie and Sharon Gilmore, Larry and Lou Ann Weix, Jake and Carolyn Jalbert, Frank and Beverly Cummins, and Bruce and Lois Eberly.
We flew from Ft. Lauderdale on United Arab Emirates to Dubai, had a 90-minute layover, then flew on to Singapore, arriving the following morning after multiple time changes. We were picked up by a bus and toured Singapore until it was time to check in at our Holiday Inn hotel. Several of us went our separate ways to rest or sight see on our own for the remainder of the day. We went with a group to the Hard Rock Café for a meal and souvenir . Singapore is a clean, bustling city with many attractions to enjoy.
The next day we enjoyed breakfast together and then set off in groups to tour the city. There was a red bus system of on and off stops that was economical and user friendly. We went to the National Orchid Gardens and saw amazing beautiful species of orchids! We rode the bus through the city, stopping at various attractions for photos, then stopped in Chinatown to eat and walked back to the hotel. Later that evening, we went to the light show gardens and the “big boat” high rise hotel (featured in the movie “Crazy, Rich Asians”) for a ride to the top.
After breakfast the following morning, a bus arrived to take us to our Royal Caribbean ship, the Explorer. We boarded and enjoyed the food and entertainment, on route to our next stop in Penang, Malaysia. We discovered that we needed visas to visit India, so spent a bit of time working on that issue online from the ship. As a result, some of our group were able to enjoy India, but some were not.
Our stop in Penang, Malaysia was so interesting! Bruce and I went by ourselves on a foot tour of several areas of the city, with a map in hand. So much poverty! We walked through several blocks of an International Food Festival taking place. The food we saw smelled strange to us, and although the natives were enjoying it, we passed on that particular experience! Since it was a Sunday, many shops were closed, so we quickly looked around and returned to the ship for our dinner.
Next stop was Cochin, India. We hired a local driver, Kenny, who took us on a harrowing drive through the busy streets. He was a wonderful driver who took us to visit many local sights, including an open-air laundry (very primitive by our standards), temples, and markets. Our little jitney darted in and out of the traffic, arriving ahead of the buses of tourists! So much poverty, and so many people!
After a couple of days at sea, we arrived in Mumbai, (Bombay) India. A small group of us hired a van to drive us into the city, after negotiating a fair price on the dock. Again, we arrived at the attractions ahead of the buses, and visited Gandhi’s home, a fish market, the famous Gateway Arch, temples, and an open-air market. Mumbai is the second largest city in the world, so the traffic and number of people on the streets was quite a sight! The temperature was so hot and humid, reminded us of Florida in the summer! We were grateful that our guide kept us safe at our stops and when we returned, we emptied our pockets of our leftover, unspent Indian rupees to tip him. He could not believe that we would do that!
A few more days at sea brought us to the port in Dubai, where we docked overnight, and disembarked the following morning. After a two hour wait for our bus tour and hotel transport, we were on our way to see the city. We toured a fort, ate sandwich type wraps on the bus and drove around to see the famous attractions in Dubai. Some things we saw included the beach with the Sail hotel, and the Palm islands, constructed of sand.
We learned that Dubai is rich because it requires foreign investors to front 100% of the startup costs for a business and can only retain a 49% share of the profit, while the local native partner receives 51% controlling interest. What a deal! We saw so much new development and construction throughout the city. The temperatures in Dubai were very pleasant, sunny and breezy. We visited a textile “souk” (market) and took a boat across a river to the spice and gold souk. Visiting the “ladies’ restroom” at the souk was an adventure… no toilet, just a hole in the tiled floor to squat over and use a spray nozzle for clean-up…glad we brought our own toilet paper! No wonder the ladies wear dresses! Other locations had more modern facilities.
Our group enjoyed a trip to the desert in SUVs riding over the sand dunes to arrive at a location where we rode camels and had a traditional (spicy!) dinner with “some sort of chicken” quote, unquote! So much fun! Our hotel was located next to the Mall of the Emirates, so shopping was fabulous! We ate dinner at PF Chang’s restaurant, and enjoyed the Carrefour, which is like their Walmart. Our hotel was upscale, and the hot breakfasts were delightful. We found many American chains there such as Baskin Robbins, Subway, McDonalds, Denny’s, and many familiar stores in the mall. The mall even had a ski slope for entertainment! Incredible! Our final evening in Dubai included a Dhow riverboat dinner cruise before heading to the airport to board our 2:30 AM flight back to Ft Lauderdale.
Our adventure ended the following day after a very long flight home. We arrived in Tanglewood around 3 PM, unloaded our luggage and went home to recoup from our journey! We are grateful we had the opportunity to travel with this wonderful group and experience things we will never see again in this part of the world. We are so blessed to be Americans! If you have an adventurous spirit, and desire to travel, I would encourage you to sign up for the next trip!