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Jellifer

Myanmar Mysteries - first time on Azamara

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Flew from London on Monday morning and arrived in Singapore 7am Tuesday local time. Arrived at our hotel - the Grand Copthorne Waterfront - at 9am and were lucky enough to be able to check into our room straight away. After freshening up we spent the afternoon exploring the city. We went to Orchard Road and had lunch at a food court, marvelling at some of the exotic foods on display. Next up was Raffles for the obligatory Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. We then went back to the hotel and walked down by the river to Clarke Quay. Plenty of bars and restaurants to explore, we chose a lovely Italian place called Rosso Vino - highly recommend. 

 

After a good night’s sleep we decided to get on the ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour. We stayed in for one loop and then got off at the Singapore Flyer (which is a large wheel, like the London Eye). We bought tickets and there was no queue to get on. Really great views of the city and of ‘Gardens by the bay’ plus of course the iconic hotel ‘Marina Bay Sands’ There was a fantastic gift shop at the flyer and we bought some great things to remind us of our Singapore visit. 

 

We got back on the bus and this time got off at the Marina Bay hotel and followed the signs to Gardens by the bay. It’s a beautiful attraction in the day time but comes alive at night. We had an evening excursion planned here so got the bus back to the hotel to refresh and rewind. 

 

Our excursion took us back to the Gardens and we went into the ‘Cloud Forest’ dome. It’s really special there with the worlds tallest man made waterfall and lots of different plants. There is also a flower dome but we didn’t have time for that one. At 7:45 and 8:45 there is a spectacular light show at the Supertree Grove - absolutely stunning. 

 

After that it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our next adventure - boarding Azamara Quest!

 

 

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Hi Jellifer, and welcome to your first AZ cruise! We love Singapore...your photos make me want to return. 

Our favorite dish there is the black-pepper crab. We usually find it in the outdoor food courts. Enjoy!

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Cloud Dome is amazing! Definitely a must do in Singapore and as I was reading your post I was hoping you made it there!  Flower Dome is nice but not as spectacular as the Cloud Dome!!!!  Hope to make it to Raffles for a Singapore Sling when we are next there in April off the Journey!! So much to see and do in Singapore!  Enjoy your cruise and looking forward to your blog!

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After a hearty breakfast at the hotel (which involved a robot making me an omelette!) our driver picked us up at 11:30 to take us to the ship. When we arrived it wasn’t busy at all. We gave our luggage to the porters and then filled out a quick medical form. No queue at check in and so we soon had our ship cards and were ready for boarding. A short walk took us along the walkway next to a CroisieMer ship. I’ve seen their river boats before but not seen an ocean ship of theirs before. Our cards were scanned and we were welcomed aboard, entering on deck 5. We left our carry on luggage with the team, which would be delivered straight to our cabin and set off to explore the Quest. 

 

First impressions were that it was very stylish and not overcrowded- both big ticks in my book. We sat and enjoyed a drink in the Den while we waited for the announcement that cabins were ready. I signed up to the unlimited WiFi package which was easy to do. Rooms were ready at approx 1:30pm. We have a verandah cabin on deck 7 aft, our friends have an aft CC just a few doors down. Our cabin is on the small side but I’d been warned about this. The bathroom is better than I was expecting, with quite a bit of storage. 

 

We spent the afternoon exploring all of the decks and trying to remember where everything was. We didn’t receive a map of the ship which I’ve always had on other lines - perhaps you can request one. Muster was at 4pm and our station was the main dining room. Everything was very well organised and it was relatively painless. Next we went up to deck 11 to grab a nice spot to watch sailaway from, with a nice welcome message from Captain Magnus. After that it was back to the room to unpack. We had a quick dinner in the Windows buffet and were impressed by the attentiveness of the staff - really quick to offer drinks and also to clear away plates. We caught the main show in the lounge and then went up to The Living Room for drinks and dancing. Ok well I didn’t dance but other people did! All in all very pleased with our first day on board an Azamara ship. 

 

 

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1st November - relaxing at sea 

 

Had a good nights sleep being rocked gently by the ship. Our group had agreed to meet for brekkie at 9am but the others all slept in so I was on my own. I went to the main Discoveries restaurant and had an enjoyable solo meal and then met the others when they elected to return to the land of the living. I did some laundry, pleased that the self-service laundry was free to use. It’s so humid here that it’s good to have plenty of things to change into. Soaked up the sun on deck 11 for a while. The loungers are so comfy and waiters come around regularly to offer drinks. A lovely slothy day - just what we needed after a busy time in Singapore. Lunch was at the patio grill and dinner was in Discoveries.

 

There was a belated Halloween party in the Living Room. Everyone really got into the ‘spirit’ of it and happily wore the provided silly hats and glasses & the music was spookily themed. There was an impressive buffet on offer too. 

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Following along as we head to Journey 

You are doing a great itinerary and you’ve got a great Captain

Enjoy!

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2nd November - Phuket 

 

We docked shortly after 7am at the deep sea port in Phuket. Very much enjoyed the room service breakfast which arrived on time and hot. Met in the cabaret lounge at 8:15 for our Phang Nga Bay excursion. Our number was called and we were soon exiting the ship, it was a very short walk to the tour busses. Our guide, Pui was there to welcome us on board and gave us a small coloured fish attached to a ribbon to wear. This would let her know we were now part of her tour family for the day. 

 

Traffic was bad and it took a good 90mins to get to our first stop, Suwan Kahuha, a cave temple dating back a couple of hundred years. Those wearing shorts were given a scarf to tie around the waist before entering the temple. Inside the temple was interesting with lots of buddhas to see. There was also a monk giving blessings though I did see him on a smart phone in between times. There were lots of monkeys to watch outside the temple, along with some food stalls and a small market. 

 

Next stop was to the jetty where Pui gave out plastic ponchos before we got off the bus. She obviously knew something we didn’t as the heavens opened as we boarded the small boat and as it was open sided a few people were grateful for the ponchos. Though it was a little grey and misty, we sailed past some beautiful sights but the highlight was seeing Khao Ping Kan, made famous by the James Bond film ‘the man with the golden gun’. 

 

On the way back we stopped at the floating village of Ko Panyi for lunch at a place called Panyee Muteara Seafood. The buffet was nice with rice and vegetable dishes along with some chicken and seafood. After lunch we followed Pui across the boardwalks to visit a local school. It was Saturday but there were still lots of kids there doing their best to make some money for the school by selling trinkets. We were supposed to be visiting a cashew nut factory on the way back but traffic was bad again so we all agreed to go straight back to the ship to prepare for the Azamazing evening. We reached the ship at 5pm so had 2 hours to refresh and get ready. 

 

The Azamazing evening was being held at Siam Niramit. This is a centre of cultural performance about 30 minutes from the ship. It was very well organised, we disembarked floor by floor to get onto the waiting buses. On arrival it was an assault on the senses with local dancers, musicians and performers all clamouring to welcome us. There were stalls for us to try local foods and drinks, a Thai boxing demonstration and various people showcasing local crafts. We then went into the theatre and were welcomed by our cruise director Ernest and new Captain Filipos. Magnus has been called back to Miami urgently so Filipos will be the designated driver for the rest of the cruise. He will then fly home back to his holiday and Magnus will be back in charge for the next cruise. The Siam Niramit show really was azamazing with colourful dancing and great music. There was time to check out the stalls again before getting the bus back to the ship. We arrived back at 10:30 to heavy rain. Even with the ship’s umbrellas we still got soaked in the queue to get back on board but we had a giggle too. 

 

 

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Thank you so much for posting your experiences here. The photos are stunning. I'm enjoying following along with you on this wonderful journey.

Lynne😀

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Yes! I am loving your review and all the gorgeous pix!   I can't wait til you get to Yangon.  That is number one on my bucket list of cities to visit.  I love the colonial buildings.. what a collection!  A real time capsule.

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7 hours ago, Sleep7 said:

Yes! I am loving your review and all the gorgeous pix!   I can't wait til you get to Yangon.  That is number one on my bucket list of cities to visit.  I love the colonial buildings.. what a collection!  A real time capsule.

this time last year we were heading to Yangon on the Quest. A  dream come true.  I too will be eagerly following along with your adventures and appreciate the change to relive them here.

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Jellifer, your pictures are lovely and I am really enjoying following along on your adventures in SE Asia.  It is one of our favorite places to visit.  I can't believe how much Singapore has changed since the last time we were there.  What I do remember is how much we enjoyed the showers because it was so hot and humid.

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3rd November - Phuket 

 

Getting the hang of ordering room service breakfast now... it’s really lovely to be able to have it out on the balcony before an early tour. Today’s trip was ‘Phuket Highlights’. We had the same guide as yesterday, Pui, and she even looked pleased to see us. This was a short trip around the island and the first stop was Promthep Cape, Phuket’s most southern hill, where we stopped to enjoy the views. We also saw a display of model elephants but never really got to the bottom of why they were there. Next was a visit to the Phuket Seashell museum which didn’t thrill me to be honest but I had a lovely time chatting to one of the ship’s photographers, Alejandro who is from Peru. Fascinating to hear tales of where he has travelled and we compared notes on our Antarctica experiences. 

 

Wat Chalong, the island’s most sacred temple was up next. Stunning architecture and we enjoyed watching local people set off fire crackers in memory of loved ones or to give thanks to the gods that have helped them. There were some nice stalls near to the temple with very reasonable prices. 

 

The itinerary then promised ‘some free time shopping at the gift shop’. The gift shop turned out to be a huge posh shop where you were accosted by sales assistants who followed you round the shop. First was the jewellery section ($$$) then gifts and beauty. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and we were glad to get back onto the bus. Pui dropped us back at the ship at 12:30 where we went up to eat at the patio grill. We set sail shortly after 2pm and the afternoon was spent lazing on deck 11, with the odd game of shuffleboard thrown in. Also did some laundry and had dinner in the main dining room.

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4th November - Sea Day 

A nice relaxing day. Sun in the morning and then the rain came. We were on up deck 11 sunbathing and thought it would be a short sharp shower so stayed out there. Turns out we were very wrong! It absolutely bucketed down but we were determined to sit it out. We started singing songs about rain and had a wonderful time up there on our own. I’m sure if anyone had seen us belting out ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’ they would think we’d gone mad but we had a great time. Eventually we accepted that the storm wasn’t going to pass and squelched our way back indoors, much to the amusement of fellow passengers. 

 

Dinner was in Discoveries with our favourite server Marinella and then we stayed for the show in the cabaret lounge.

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5th November - Yangon

 

Up early and out onto the balcony to watch the sail in to Yangon. Well I say Yangon but the port is actually in Thilawa, which is about 14 miles from the centre of the city. Lots of fishermen in small boats waving and shouting to us as we passed by. A lot of people are leaving the ship to stay on land as we are here for 2 nights but we will be doing excursions and coming back to the ship each night. 

 

We were welcomed into port by music and dancers and then set off for our ‘Highlights of Yangon’ tour with guide Daniel. The traffic here is so bad and the roads really aren’t able to cope yet. We were a convoy of 5 buses and even with a traffic police escort it took 105 minutes to travel into the city. The scenery was fabulous with rice fields, farms and small dwellings to watch as we passed by.  Daniel was very informative and funny too and told us a lot about life in Myanmar now and in days gone by. Prior to 2014 he said a SIM card for a mobile phone could cost $2,000 so completely unobtainable for the average person. In 2014 the prices were reduced to just $2 so now almost everyone has access to calls and of course the internet. A lot of houses here (48%) do not have electricity, the people lead a very traditional agricultural life still. Daniel also explained their traditional dress to us, demonstrating how to tie the cloth longhi that most people still wear here. Religion is a big part of everyday life with the majority being Buddhists - the people are very welcoming and peaceful. 

 

We visited the Shewedagon Pagoda which is the most visited tourist attraction in Yangon. We took off our shoes and if knees or shoulders were on show, people were given a longhi to wear. The pagoda is absolutely stunning - bright gold shining in the sunshine - 60 tonnes of it were used to build it apparently. A lot of local people were praying at the pagoda. They worship the god of the day of the week on which they were born. There are 8 gods as Wednesday is split into morning and afternoon for some reason. We had free time here to take photos and I really enjoyed people watching, though it was extremely hot and humid. Everyone was wearing their Sunday best clothes and there were some gorgeous children in the cutest of outfits. It was a really peaceful place considering the huge crowds. 

 

Our next stop was the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha temple. It houses a 66m long reclining Buddha which is beautiful. Our bus had a slight issue gaining access but this was remedied by one of the security guards cutting one of the telephone cables that was blocking our way! Everywhere that we went the traffic police ensured that we were given priority. There were some stalls nearby selling keepsakes and they took payment in USD. We weren’t sure whether haggling was expected here but prices seemed reasonable. Our final stop was for a lookout point to see the Royal Barge. It wasn’t easy to get a good picture here though. 

 

This was meant to be a 5 hour excursion but the terrible traffic meant we weren’t back on the ship until 3:45pm so in realty it took 7hr 15mins. There were times we didn’t move for up to 10mins at a time, we were surrounded by tankers.

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Thank you for sharing your  journey and photos, it all looks wonderful, one of my must see places one day!

Love the fact you have also included menus on your 'blog' is the food good? 

Enjoy the rest of your travels and thanks again.x

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Thanks from me as well.  We spent 2.5 weeks in Myanmar in January, including four nights in Yangon and we loved the place.  What is interesting about your pictures though is that you can see the stupa of the pagoda and reclining Buddha clearly.  When we were there both were covered for refurbishment (if that is the correct word), though we could see bits of the reclining Buddha through the coverings.  They were still worth seeing though and the Pagoda looked very impressive at sunset and beyond from a roof terrace of our hotel on our first night as it was lit up.  We visited the Shewedagon Pagoda at sunset the following day, which is when it gets very busy with locals.  We also got quite used to making offerings of water at the appropriate shrines for days we were born, at a number of temples around the country and in some temples they also have a bell which you ring afterwards to announce your good deed which was fun.

 

It was a really good holiday, which we arranged independently with hotels and internal flights, though we arranged guides from hotels for a few days when we wanted transport/extra info about places.  Otherwise it is a very tourist friendly country with lovely people both in hotels and other tourist places as well as just out and about.  Hence it was very easy to just go it alone.  We really enjoyed eating in China Town in Yangon which we walked through on another evening after visiting the Sule Pagoda.  The food was very good and not spicy as the spices are supplied in separate small dishes and can be added if you wish. 

 

The one thing I was happy to find when we moved on to Chiang Mai in Thailand was western toilets, but it was a very big culture shock compared to Myanmar as there were tourist crowds everywhere, compared to relatively quiet tourist sites in Myanmar, but lots of locals around as you mention.

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6th November - Yangon

 

Enjoyed a lazy day around the ship. Weather wasn’t great due to a tropical storm over the Andaman Islands. We are not bringing any water on in Myanmar as it is not potable, therefore water is being saved as much as possible and the guest laundry has been temporarily closed. Shame they can’t use rain water! 

 

We had an excursion at 4pm - Shewedagon by night. Traffic was slightly better and we arrived into the city by 5:15pm. Sunset is around half 5 so there was a really lovely dusk light when we got there. The temple at night is a totally different atmosphere compared to during the day. A lot more chilled out and cool - still lots of local people but a lot less tourists. Everything was beautifully lit, though some of the buddhas were lit up with disco lighting which seemed a bit strange. We were given a candle on a long stick and given plenty of time to pay our respects to the area of the temple dedicated to the day we were born. Traditionally you thank the god by pouring water from a small metal cup over the statue - you do this once for each year of your age and then once for luck. For some people, that was a lot of water! A few people didn’t know which day they were born on so google came in handy for that. Next we lit the candles and used them to light others, leaving our lights burning as we left. There were lots of families in attendance and also a lot of monks in their traditional robes and nuns in pink robes. We spent some time in the small gift shop before making our way back to the ship.

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Made it back to the ship just in time to squeeze in for dinner in Discoveries. Sorry don’t seem to have the menus for this night. 

 

The food is very good, lots of choices and very well executed. Buffet hours seem a bit short sometimes but other than that, no complaints. 

 

I embarked as a passenger, might need to leave as cargo!

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