Singapore: 2016 Mar. 1, 15, 16
A small island city-state in SE Asia, a World War II battleground, a global economic superstar, and a crossroads of the world. One of world's most prosperous countries and busiest ports with contrasting cultures that mix the traditional and colonial with the futuristic (see photo).
City cultural life reflects past colonial administration and a diverse population. Singapore's art, architecture and fine arts illustrate Chinese, Malay, Indian, and British influences. Examples include the Parliament House, City Hall and the Raffles Hotel representing British colonial architecture while Shuang Lin Temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Sultan Mosque represent Chinese, Hindu, and Islamic influences respectively.
The city is highly urbanized and little of the original vegetation remains. Tall, modern skyscrapers dominate the city's skyline. Dining and shopping are major attractions. Visit Singapore's National Museum complex devoted to the contemporary art of Southeast Asia, Asian cultures and the history of Singapore. Relax in a Chinese teahouse, purchase a colorful sari in Little India, visit the gold-domed Sultan Mosque. [ ON Mar. 15]
Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, Indonesia: 2016 Mar. 3
Tanjung Priok is the port and gateway to Jakarta, Indonesia's largest city and exotic capital, centrally located on the northwest coast of Java Island at the mouth of the Liwung River.
Memorable sights include Jakarta History Museum, the National Museum of Indonesia, Istiqlal Mosque (see photo), largest mosque in Southeast Asia, the presidential palace and the Medan Merdeka Park with its Monas (Monumen Nasional or National Monument), a pinnacle towering nearly 460 ft. (140 m).
The Ragunan Zoo is located south of Jakarta's center and Kebun Raya, a world-renowned botanical garden is in Bogor, about fifty miles south. Taman Mini Indonesia, southeast of city central, is a large cultural theme park depicting arts, customs, and lifestyle of Indonesia's 27 provinces and districts. A variety of open-air markets are located throughout the city. [ VX ]
Semarang, Java, Indonesia : 2016 Mar. 4
On the island of Java bordering the Java Sea at the mouth of the Semarang River is Semarang, capital and largest city of Central Java Province. This city is both a commercial center for central Java and a major seaport with an excellent harbor for southern Indonesia.
The city contains shipyards, railroad workshops, and industries that manufacture machinery, electrical equipment, textiles, shoes and glass. Principal exports are coffee, sugar, tobacco, copra and rubber.
The colonial days of the Dutch East India Company had a presence here where you can still see old Semerang or travel to the unique and magnificent Borobudur Temple (see photo) 60 miles south, where ten massive stone terraces representing different stages of enlightenment are topped by the Great Stupa. [ VX ]
Probolinggo, Java, Indonesia: 2016 Mar. 6
Probolinggo, a city in central Indonesia on the northern coast and eastern end of the island of Java in East Java Province, is an important transportation center. This East Java Province port city has a harbor heavily used by fishing vessels and beautiful coastal beaches. The city is also an important transportation center with a major east-west road and railway. Goods produced include basic chemicals, clothing, textiles and food products.
Probolinggo has a strong sense of tradition and centuries-old customs. Like most of northern East Java, this city has a large Madurese population plus many ethnically Javanese people.
Bordered by Mount Semeru, Mount Bromo, and Mount Argopuro, Probolinggo is also a departure point to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park where sits a spectacular crater within a crater that emerged from the caldera of the ancient Tengger volcano. Here is the only conservation area in Indonesia with a "sand sea." (a dune sea or erg a broad, flat desert covered with wind-swept sand with little vegetation).
Enjoy strolling quiet streets, visiting view points and cultural highlights, including Madakaripura Waterfall, Gili Ketapang Island, Bentar Beach, Jabung Temple (see photo) and Rengganis Peak. The city is also famous for locally grown mangos called mangga manalagi.
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Makassar (Ujung Padang), Indonesia: 2016 Mar. 8
Makassar (sometimes spelled Macassar), an historic port for spices and sailing ships, is provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and largest city on Sulawesi Island. (From 1971 to 1999, the city was named Ujung Pandang, after a precolonial city fort the two names are often used interchangeably.) Makassar, on the southwest coast of the island, is the largest city and chief port of Sulawesi, and a commercial center and shipment port for products going to and from the eastern Indonesian islands. Major manufactured goods include textiles, processed foods, paper products, and building materials. A major industries is the trepang (sea cucumber).
The city is also home to Hasanuddin University, one of the biggest stated-owned universities in Indonesia,(established 1956), a museum of handicrafts. Paotere Harbor in the north of Makassar has traditional Buginese sailing boats (pinisi see photo) where workers run precariously across narrow wooden planks carrying incredibly huge, awkward loads on their heads. Pasar Terong is the local market, where local people sell and buy colorful fresh fruits, vegetables and spices.
The Jalan Somba Opu shopping strip has great selections of shops selling jewelry, "antique" and souvenirs. Fort buffs may want to visit Fort Rotterdam (originally known as Ujung Pandan after the screwpine pandanus pal a palm-like trees used for making mats). The fort was once a thriving Dutch East India Company trading post and is now a well preserved historical site with several modest museum exhibits. (The Japanese used this fort during World War II as prisoner of war camp.) In late afternoon and evenings young people sometimes play music or rehearse for theater performances.
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Komodo Island, Indonesia: 2016 Mar. 11
Komodo Island, volcanic in origin, is one of more than 17,500 islands composing the Republic of Indonesia, and known for the habitat of the Komodo dragon, largest lizard on Earth. This fierce and rare reptile species, possibly resembling some dinosaurs, is not related to either a dinosaur or a dragon. Largest measure more than 10 ft (3 m) in length, can weigh up to 300 lb. (135 kg) and can live 100 years. They have numerous sharp teeth, are carnivores, hunt in packs, and can be dangerous even to humans. (Saliva also contains numerous septic pathogens.)
Here is Komodo National Park, occupying most of the island, and a protected area for these rare monitor lizards. This World Heritage site is a popular attraction for its beauty and evolutionary singularity of its resident lizards (about 1,700). These giant lizards are remnants of a once widespread ancient order of monitor lizards surviving today on only a handful of the Wallacea islands.
Komodo Island is filled with dramatic landscapes of 2,000-foot craggy mountains, canyons, deep arroyos, savannahs and monsoon rain forests though fresh water is scarce. Human habitation is limited to one settlement.
Access from the ship is limited to shore excursions accompanied by park rangers and guides. The Island Trek requires walking about a mile to possibly see the dragons though guests with less walking ability can walk partway or remain at the ranger station where the Komodos are sometimes seen. Tours end with free time for souvenir shopping in the local market.
Tours may also be available to Kampung Komodo Village, a 30-minute boat ride to a small, remote village on the other side of the island. Here, ethnic Bugis fisherman have managed to eke out an existence in this friendly stilted village of several hundred people also filled with children, goats and chickens. Infrastructure is limited. (Tour is part of a community effort to support the local people.) Tour concludes with boat ride to beautiful Pink Beach in Komodo National Park.
Note: Wildlife sightings are likely but not guaranteed. The Komodo dragon is wild and not artificially fed by local authorities. Park rangers decide which route treks will follow. Weather conditions can be extremely hot with limited shade; dress accordingly, wear sunscreen and a hat, and bring bottled water.
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Lembar, Lombok, Indonesia : 2016 Mar. 12
One of Indonesia's "off the beaten path" destinations, Lembar is located on the island of Lombok in southern Indonesia. This is one of the islands located east of Bali across the Lombok Strait in the Lesser Sunda Island Chain. With its slow pace, beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, jungles, hot springs and volcanic mountains, Lombok offers quiet days amidst spectacular beauty.
Mount Rinjani (see photo), Indonesia's second highest volcano (12,224 ft or 3,726 m), is topped by a caldera with hot springs and a lake partially filled with blue colored water 660 ft (200 m) deep. (Rinjani is an active volcano having last erupted three times in May 2010.) The island's indigenous plants and animals are more closely related to Australian forms than to Balinese and Southeast Asian forms.
Discover Tanjung Aan near the Kuta Beach, where the sand looks like pepper; shop for local handicrafts and weavings in the islands small villages; and drink from the fountain of youth at Narmada Park. Visit Mataram, on the western coast and the island's chief settlement, formed from villages that have grown together, and the nearby port of Ampenam, home to Mataram State University (founded 1963), Mayura Garden with its water palace, or tour Sasak Native Village & Kuta Beach.
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Benoa (Denpasar), Bali, Indonesia : 2016 Mar. 13
Bali, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lies between the islands of Java to the west, separated by Bali Strait, and Lombok to the east, separated by Lombok Strait. Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, a roughly triangular area of the tropical marine waters, an area with an exceptional biodiversity of marine species with over 500 reef building coral species, about 7 times as many as in the entire Caribbean. (Although a wide range of high quality dive sites exist, strong currents and swell, require a knowledgeable guide.)
Denpasar, the capital, lies near the southern coast while the port city of Singaraj is principal city of the north coast. Mount Agung (10,308 ft or 3,142 m), a volcano that erupted in March 1963, is the island's highest point. The northern mountainous highlands descend to the south forming alluvial plains, wet from shallow rivers, drying in dry seasons, but then overflowing during periods of heavy rainfall.
Bali is Indonesia's largest tourist destination and known for its highly developed arts, music, traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, and metalworking. The small village of Benoa is located on the southeastern coast of Bali, and while the town has developed over the past 20 years into a popular cruise destination for visitors, it retains its charming identity as a local fishing village. The calm waters and the beautiful white sandy beaches making Benoa one of Bali's most appealing water-sport destinations.
The island is home to most of Indonesia's Hindu minority (incorporating Polynesian religious rites) and both economically and culturally is one of the most important islands of Indonesia. The women of Bali are noted for their traditional dancing and for their skills in weaving cloth of gold and silver threads.
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