Kuala Lumpur (KL) highlights

Just a little while back we took a trip from our home In Hua Hin, on Thailand’s Royal Coast, to peninsula Malaysia. It was exceptionally easy to do. We travelled by train stopping off at the following Malaysian point of interest (to us): Penang Island, Taiping, Ipoh and finally Kuala Lumpur (KL). Since our trip, Air Asia has started direct flights from KL to Hua Hin and return. Flights are four times a week bringing KL, and peninsula Malaysia more broadly, so much closer for us Hua Hin residents. So if you’re planning travel to KL, here are some Kuala Lumpur highlights we would like to share with you.

Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur boasts gleaming skyscrapers, colonial architecture and history, a myriad of natural attractions, and a multicultural community with Malay, Indian, and Chinese residents, and their delectable and varied cuisines.

KL’s Golden Triangle

KL’s main hub is called the Golden Triangle which comprises the districts of Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Chinatown. During our five days in KL, we did not venture out of the Golden Triangle as there is just so much to see and do within this action-packed area – day or night.

Bukit Bintang Street is famous for shopping and entertainment. Malls like Pavilion KL and Starhill Gallery have high-end brands while Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang Plaza, Fahrenheit 88, and Berjaya Times Square are perfect for budget fashion and the latest gadgets.  Suria KLCC shopping mall – 6 enormous levels of shopping heaven – can be found in the northeast of the Golden Triangle, which is also home to the Petronas Twin Towers (the world’s tallest twin skyscrapers). Fortunately, for us, our KL visit coincided with the lead up to Chinese New Year, with all the shops having sales of up to 50% off. So glad we had some extra space in our bags!

If you want great tasting, inexpensive food in the Bukit Bintang area check out these Street Market and Hawker Stall style options:

  • Lot 10 Hutong Food Court – Located on the lower ground floor of Lot 10 shopping mall, Hutong Food Court is designed to look like an old Beijing village with narrow ‘alleyways’ linking stalls. Instead of a central seating area, tables and chairs are around these stands. Prices are a little expensive by food hall standards (between RM10-Rm18 for a meal) but very worthwhile.
  • Jalan Alor – Image a whole road turned over to food and just 5 minutes walk from the Bukit Bintang MRT or monorail stations.  Little plastic stools and tables occupy the streets while an exhaustive choice of Cafes and Food stalls dish out your order. Think Malay, Chinese, Thai and other specialities at great prices and open from 10:00 am till 3:00 am except for Sundays where the street closes at midnight.

Kuala Lumpur’s City Centre (KLCC)

Kuala Lumpur’s City Centre (KLCC) is the cities, traditional heart. The former colonial administrative district sits just west of the confluence of the Klang and Gombak River, where Kuala Lumpur was founded. At the heart of the colonial district is Merdeka Square, where Malaysia’s independence was declared. Surrounding the square are many other colonial-era buildings. To the west of the square lies the pretty Lake Gardens while to the south you’ll find the National Mosque, the Moorish-style Kuala Lumpur railway station, and several museums including the Islamic Arts Museum and the National Museum. To the east of the Klang river lies the old commercial district of Kuala Lumpur. You will find the iconic Central Markets and the narrow streets of Chinatown, with traditional Chinese shops, markets, eateries.

Chinatown offers great tasting, inexpensive food in both Street Market or Hawker Stalls with lots of atmosphere. Don’t go past:

  • Petaling Street Market – you can find all your cheap counterfeit goods from bags and purses to shoes and perfume along Petaling Street. However, the area also houses some of the oldest street food stalls in Malaysia. Among them are Sze Ngan Chye Salted Roast Duck, Madam Tang Mua Chi Stall, Hon Kee Porridge and Koon Kee Wantan Mee. 10:00 am to midnight seven days a week.

Free Walking Tours

A great way to learn about KLCC’s diversity and history is on one of VisitKL’s Walking Tours provided FREE by Kuala Lumpur City Hall. Typically 2.5 hours long and lead by an experienced, professional and exceptionally informative English speaking guide – we highly recommend these tours. And they’re FREE! We chose the ‘Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail’ tour where we not only got to see many of the historic buildings in the vicinity of Merdeka Square but also were able to go inside these building and learn first hand of the history as well as the context of these as they relate to modern-day independent Malaysia.

Here are several of the ‘must see’ buildings found in KLCC:

  • the Sultan Abdul Samad Building with its Moorish-style architecture was originally the British colonial administrative headquarters.
  • Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque). Located at the convergence of the Klang and Gombak rivers is the stately Masjid Jamek, constructed in 1909 and, therefore, one of the oldest mosques in the city.
  • Pasar Seni, Kuala Lumpur’s original Central Market opened in 1888 as a wet market. In recent time it has been refurbished and perhaps lost some of its old charms. The now airconditioned market now sells crafts, fabrics, jewellery and other trinkets, both local and foreign. A market street that runs parallel to the markets, called Kasturi Walk, also operates as part of the market.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

Who would have thought that we would list The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia as a ‘must visit’? On the recommendation of a friend whose advice we respect we did take the time to visit! Situated in the southern corner of KL’s Golden Triangle. This Arts Museum is adjacent to the enormous and visually spectacular National Mosque of Malaysia, and this whole precinct is accessible from the original Kuala Lumpur Railway Station – a Moorish designed masterpiece and one of only two grand British-built railway stations remaining on the Malayan railway network.

We found this Arts Museum to be an educational oasis with some ten thousand artefacts over 12 galleries, as well as an exceptional library of Islamic art books. A display at the entrance was particularly impactful, setting out the disastrous impact of conflicts over recent time on the art, architecture and historical treasures of the middle east. Visually stimulating – the internal architecture includes massive decorative ceiling domes in each of the exhibition and display halls. Mentally stimulating – learning about and seeing first-hand, the diversity of art and design from across the Muslim world, and across the ages. To us, this art museum is a must visit.

Perdana Botanical Gardens

Perdana Botanical Garden, formerly known as Taman Tasik Perdana or Lake Gardens, came into being back in 1888 as a recreational park for the residents of colonial Kuala Lumpur. In June 2011 they made the transition from public park to Botanical Gardens. This transition continues though there is plenty to see now across the 226 acres of landscaped and beautifully presented gardens. We spent a good part of an afternoon here wandering and admiring and were especially taken by the Orchid Gardens. When you need to rest, there are great little Cafes to take in a cooling Iced Coffe, ice cream or the like. Entrance to the Gardens is free, though there are specific attractions within the Gardens like the ‘Bird Park’ that have an admission fee.

Getting Around

Malaysia’s electric train system was an exceptionally pleasant and positive surprise. The very well maintained modern trains with clearly set out timetables seemed to run consistently to schedule. Having travelled down from Ipoh, we found arriving at KL Sentral a breeze.  Currently, the biggest train station in SE Asia, KL’s modern central station was easy to navigate. Helpful station staff pointed us in the right direction for our exit as well as helping us find the on-station tourist office. KL Sentral is also the hub for KL’s Rapid rail services (LRT, MRT and KL Monorail lines) so access to most anywhere in KL is easy from KL Sentral as long as your destination links to one of the Rapid rail services.

Hot Tip:

In KL we purchased a ‘KL TravelPass’ which gave us our tickets on KLIA Ekspres (airport transfer) for our return flight to Hua Hin. Not only did it give us non-stop transfer from KL Sentral to KL’s International Airports, but we also received 2-days of unlimited travel on KL’s Rapid rail services (LRT, MRT and KL Monorail lines). At 75 MYR per person (24 AUD on current exchange rates) that’s a fantastic deal. We were also able to top up the card as we had more than two days in KL using the Rapid Rail systems.

Another Public Transport option, especially around the Golden Triangle of central KL is the Go KL City Bus which is a free service for visitors and locals alike. Here’s a link to the four routes these modern light purple coloured buses cover.

KL – Just so Easy

This was our first-ever trip to KL (and Malaysia) and given our location in Hua Hin Thailand, getting there and back is so easy via the inter-country trains and now, direct flights from Hua Hin thanks to Air Asia.

Blog posts on the other Malaysian points of interest that we stopped at are coming soon. Do keep an eye out for them or add your email to the box on this page and we will notify when the next posts go live. We promise we will only contact for that reason and nothing else.

 

 

Pranburi Saturday Night Market

Pranburi’s Saturday Night Market has been on our local ‘must do’ list for some time, and just a few weekends back we finally made it there! It’s only a short (25km) drive south from Hua Hin to neighbouring Pranburi and the Market only happens Saturday evenings.  This is definitely a locals market with genuine Thai characteristics. A ‘walking street’ market worth spending a few hours wandering and partaking of its offerings!

Located on the eastern side of Pranburi Railway Station, the market takes over two adjoining streets and is free of traffic making it so easy to meander the stalls and shops that populate the walking street. Old Teak buildings, original I can only assume, stand proudly with doors and shutters wide open inviting you in to discover the treasures that await – antiques, bric-a-brac, woven bamboo baskets and bags, Thai kitchen utensils, and many more discoveries. Some of these old Teak buildings have been transformed into Cafes with outside seating or an upstairs balcony for a better vantage point.

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. A traditional dance troupe, all young girls in Chut Thai Chakkraphat formal dress danced their way along the narrow street with crowds stepping aside as they passed. The dancers were followed by a troupe of Thai boys drumming in unison as they made their way along. On the intersection of the two streets that make up the walking street market, tables and chairs are set out with a great assortment of food and drink stalls dispensing their particular delicacies – and all at local prices.

Market stalls stretching maybe 500 meters along the main walking street offer second-hand clothes, local Thai desserts, hand-made wares, locally designed t-shirts and matching cards and stationery, traditional Thai dress, shoes and sneakers, even novelty ‘old style’ American advertising signs and wall decor, and much more. Interspersed along the walking street between the stalls are musical performers adding another level of atmosphere.

To find the market make your way to Pranburi Train Station and park where ever you can. Walk under the station (pedestrian underpass) and the walking streets will be in front of you. Saturday evenings only (5 pm to 9 pm). Get here by 6 pm if you want to capture the scenes before dusk and the onset of nightfall.

Pranburi’s Saturday Night Market is very much a locals market. It’s kitschy and quirky, yet the walking street is relaxed, friendly and fun surrounded by traditional Thai architecture and history. As mentioned, entertainment, food, and beverages are available so plan to stay and eat once you’ve perused the streets and taken in the offerings.

So glad we finally made it here!

A Foodies delight @ The Boutique Farmers, Khao Kolak

Recently we took advantage of an offer that, as foodies, was particularly appealing and required an out of town overnight stay. We didn’t have to travel far. Pak Nam Pran and Khao Kalok are neighbouring beaches in the Pran Buri region just 30 minutes’ drive south of our home in Hua Hin. And just 500 meters back from Khao Kalok beach is ‘The Boutique Farmers’ and our destination for the weekend. From all we had heard and read this place, it promised to be a foodies delight!

The offer we took advantage of was simple. Book dinner Friday or Saturday night, or their now famous Sunday Brunch at the restaurant on The Farm and overnight accommodation in their homestay was free. As a special bonus, they even included breakfast the following morning.

Pak Nam Pran and Khao Kalok are developing areas, with a well-maintained beachside esplanade literally stretching for kilometres as do the beaches and includes cycleways and walking paths. The area is still semi-rural with pineapple plantations, small cattle grazing concerns and paddocks devoted to coconut palms. Yet brand-named and boutique resorts have also found a place among all this. There are quaint Thai eateries along with small European bakeries, and larger Cafes and restaurants scattered along the length of the esplanade.

On arrival, The Boutique Farmers Co-owner and Chef, James Noble welcomed us and gave an overview of the property and facilities. He and wife May have developed the farm side of the business for the last 7 years.

Boutique Farmers – the Concept

The concept sounds simple enough – produce food and related products through sustainable, organic agriculture, using only local staff. To their credit, the farm has provided specialist organic vegetables, fruit, herbs and preserved products to the Chefs of elite restaurants in Bangkok and Hua Hin for the last 5 year. James, May and their farm team continue adding to their offering as the Chefs become more engaged and understand what this enterprise can offer.

Guests to the homestay or restaurant are encouraged to wander around the property. We saw a multitude of products from figs and mulberries to hothouses full of cherry tomatoes; rows of corn; garden beds of eggplant, cabbage, lettuce of several varieties, cucumber and edible flowers. In the kitchen garden: microgreens; fennel; mustard leaf; and herbs including flat and curly parsley; purple basil (heritage); thyme; oregano; as well Thai herbs.

It took me back to my grandmother’s garden from my childhood – food grown naturally and with love to be shared with family and friends. This garden, while on a much grander scale, seems to have a similar ethos to my grandmothers!

Additional to the onsite produce, the farm has its own herd of cattle, work exclusively with a local fishing boat for their catch and has a shellfish farm in neighbouring Sam Roi Yot. Nothing comes more than a few kilometres away, and all suppliers are working to the same sustainable philosophy. No extravagant ‘Food Miles’ here!

As James explained, this is one of the critical elements of the project – knowing exactly where everything they serve or sell comes from and that it’s all sustainably produced, organic and local.

A Foodies Delight and No Food Miles

And on the eating front, any meal experience at The Boutique Farmer is entirely dependent on what’s available from the farm and their local co-operative suppliers – on that day! And that requires some culinary creativity!

Thankfully Chef James is no slouch in the kitchen. Initially developing his cooking skills at two Michelin Star restaurants in Europe, before spending 4 years as Mick Jagger’s (The Rolling Stones) personal Chef on the West Indies island of Mustique. And most recently, 10 years in Thailand including several years teaching at the elite Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Bangkok and as General Manager of the original award-winning boutique luxury resort on Pak Nam Pran.

Chef James marries his creativity and strong Food skills with all that is available on that day to create stimulating and gastronomically exciting menus.

For our Saturday evening dinner, we munched through appetisers of Wild Pork Brawn topped with baby beets and berries; Spicy Seabass Ceviche with sweet pea guacamole, pomelo and sea grapes; and Duck liver Pate partnered with a fig compote and generous slices of Farm bread.

For mains, Duck Bolognaise and Harissa Chicken were the two dishes that caught our attention. To go with these, we chose the Simple Tomato Salad – tomatoes that were still on the vine an hour prior and served on a homemade creamy curd. Tomatoes with real flavour and the freshest you can ask for!

Could we have desserts? Did we have room?  After a few moments of deliberation, the decision was made – Yes! “Dessert please!”  The choices – Salted lime sorbet served on a tasty crumb; a warm Chocolate Fondant; or Fig Crumble with rosemary custard – delightful!

Breakfast the following morning was equally a culinary tour that tantalised and educated our palate, accompanied by quality coffee to wash it all down.

Our weekend at The Boutique Farmers cost around 1,200 THB per person (about AUD50) – that’s a 3-course dinner and drinks, comfortable overnight accommodation and filling breakfast – all food organic, and gastronomic, without any of the ‘foo foo’ that some Chefs get carried away with. A great experience to learn about Boutique Farmers the concept and to see it working up close. Truly a Foodie’s delight!

Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand

One of the joys of our ‘new life’ as Retired Aussies in Asia is developing new skills and learning how to apply these. For me, one clear example is learning how to write – creative writing I suppose. It all started with this blog and am now contributing to magazines and other interested sites. International Living is one of those who regularly publish stories and articles from Vivien and me. Here’s a recent article I wrote for International LivingThe Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand.

Our reality is this Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand list could go on and on, as we so love exploring our new home country of Thailand, and more broadly SE Asia. Lots of these explorations can be found on the pages and posts of this Blog. Feel free to explore and the Search function on the right of the screen may make it easier to delve in.

Hope you enjoy the article, and please use the comments box on this page to tell us what you would add to this Top 10 list.

And here we are having some fun whilst out and about exploring!

 

Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass, 2018

Descending through the lush tropical bamboo forest we hear the gravel crunch underfoot. We walk quietly through a twenty-meter-high rock cutting that’s carved out by hand. Bamboo lanterns throw eerie shadows, as people quietly make their way along the dark path. This is how Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass in the Kanchanaburi region of Thailand started for us, this 25 April 2018.

Reaching the ceremonial clearing we joined many hundreds of Aussies, Kiwis and people from all parts to await the Dawn Service. Some speak in hushed tones, others reflecting in silence. A young man proudly wears his grandfather’s medals and we all wait patiently. The uniformed Catafalque party approach, their crisp footsteps distinct, and take up traditional guard positions around the central memorial. Padre Cornelis Bosch leads us in thanks and prayer, followed by a Statement of Remembrance by the Chief of the Australian Army.

As dawn breaks, leaves gently rustle, and melodic bird songs compliment the soft, sombre tone of the ceremony. Ears are peeled as 96-year-old Australian ex-POW Neil MacPherson OAM speaks:

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

 We will remember them.”

“Lest we forget”

The Royal Thai Army Buglers further captivate the gathering and pierce the soft morning playing the Last Post. We all stand silent, reflecting on our own thoughts. Proudly we watch the flags slowly raised; the bright, cheerful call of Reveille, helps lift our spirits to a new day. Beautiful wreaths are placed by Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand officials in memory of so many lost Prisoners of War.

History to be discovered

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Wine tasting fun – when opportunities present!

Large red wine glasses, two rows of five, lined up atop the wine bar. Monsoon Valleys winemaker and their wine consultant on one side of the counter, Vivien and me on the other. A serious wine tasting happening right in front of us. The task for them was to choose the next Shiraz to take the place of the current vintage. The stock of the current vintage was all but sold out. There were four newer batches of Shiraz under consideration – but which one was ready?

Tasting each in comparison to the current vintage. Identifying the characteristics of each, a little too much tannin on one, a nice chocolatey character on another, the fruit a little too vibrant on one more. And we got to play along whilst the experts went through their process. Just Vivien and me – what a privilege!

Having attended a wine tasting hosted by Monsoon Valley wines – a large vineyard just 45 minutes drive from our home here in Hua Hin. The evening was coming to an end and the invited crowd was now focused on securing their dinner.

Over the course of the last hour, the 30 or so invited guests, including us, had sampled Monsoon Valley’s Signature White – a Chenin blanc. Their Signature Red, mainly based on the locally cultivated but German origin Dornfelder grape variety. And Monsoon Valley’s Sparkling Brut Prestige. The wine tasting was accompanied by canapes from the wine bars kitchen – all perfectly tasty and suitable matched.

Two, soon to be launched wines, were also tasted – a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region and a Shiraz from South Australia’s Langhorne Creek. Both to be released under the companies Mont Clair label.

Appreciative comments on the wines were overheard by our fellow wine tasters. Questions proffered to and answered by the winemaker on the wines and the new imports. The crowd suitable happy with what was on offer and the price points of the various wines. The sniff of potential wine sales a positive outcome for winery staff.

We had been having a conversation with Hans-Peter Hoehnen, the German wine consultant who has worked with the vineyards winemakers for the last 10 years helping them successfully develop international standard wines.

Hans-Peter and French-trained local winemaker Suppached Sasomsin now needed to make their choice for the next Monsoon Valley Shiraz. Instead of suggesting we leave, they invited us to be part of the process. Hans-Peter was aware that I had already written and had published magazine stories on the vineyard – simple ‘must do’ travel pieces for people coming to Hua Hin. This insight into the winemaking process could be an interesting story Hans-Peter suggested! Who were we to say no to such an opportunity?

For wine lovers like Vivien and me, we were now privy to a private insight into the challenges winemakers have, vintage after vintage! After some twenty minutes of wine swirling in their bulbous glasses, aromas evaluated, color and texture in the glass assessed, tasting and spitting done – wine by wine and all against the ‘benchmark’ current vintage. A decision was made. A successor names!

And for us, time to say goodnight and a heartfelt thank you to our hosts. We had a new found appreciation for winemakers and their requisite skills.  What an opportunity we had just had. And what a soul-enriching evening this had been!

You can read about a previous visit to Hua Hin Hills vineyard, now called Monsoon Valley vineyards, here.

Vassavasa – Thailand’s annual ‘rain-retreat’

This blog post looks at two connected religious holidays that have happened this last weekend. They mark the beginning of Vassavasa – a three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada Buddhists which in Thailand equates to over 93% of the population.

Our new home of Thailand certainly offers near-daily opportunities for experiencing and learning something new about life in the ‘Land of Smiles’. These new experiences could be related to history, culture, customs, language, food (Yum), and in this particular instance, the religious aspects of life.

Vassavasa – broadly translated means ‘rain-retreat’ and stipulated that during the rainy season monks and other ascetics remain in their monastery or temple grounds and refrain from travel for the 3 lunar month period of Vassavasa, usually from July to October.

Monks would spend this time meditating and developing their understanding of Buddha’s Dharma (doctrine or teachings). The retreat period is also popular time for Thai boys and men to become ordained as monks.

Asanha Bucha

Asanha Bucha Day, falling on the full moon is the first of the two days and observes Buddha’s first sermon in the Deer Park in Benares, India. In the sermon, which is known as ‘Setting the Wheel of Dharma in Motion’, the Buddha first spelled out the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This event, which took place about 2,500 years ago, also signifies the founding of the Buddhist sangha (monkhood).

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Amphawa Floating Market @ dusk

Amphawa – Captivating Markets & Mighty Warriors

We love that there is always something new to do and experience here in our new adopted home in Thailand. Be it new foods to taste, cultural events to experience, natural attractions to visit, or new locations to tour and explore. Our latest outing had us visiting two very different and captivating markets and learning about some mighty warriors in the township of Amphawa in Samut Songkhram province just 145 km north of our home in Hua Hin and only 70 km south of Bangkok.

The area is characterised by a network of more than 300 canals (Klongs) jutting out from the adjacent Mae Khlong river.  The region is also naturally rich with an abundance of seafood, fruits, vegetables, salt fields and coconut palm sugar.

Amphawa has managed to retain its classic rural Thai charm. So much so, the town received an award from UNESCO in 2008 for its efforts to conserve the centuries-old teak wood homes and temples that line Amphawa’s central canals.

We decided to make it a weekend trip so we had a reasonable amount of time to explore Amphawa and surrounds. Our first stop was to the Mae Khlong (Railway) Market.

Mae Khlong (Railway) Market

The original Mae Klong Municipal Food (Wet) Market in Samut Songkhram town backs onto the Ban Laem Train Line which terminates just a few hundred meters away at Mae Klong Railway Station.

The market sits within a purpose built building and is said to be a great place, in particular, to shop for fresh local seafood. Somehow, over time, it seems that the market has grown out the rear of the building and onto the sides of the railway track immediately behind.

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Songkran – Thai New Year 2017

It’s our second year living in Thailand and second Songkran (Thai New Year) so I started wondering what Songkran is all about.  It has become know as The World’s Biggest Water Party and now attracts thousands of people who visit Thailand specifically to take part – but it must be more than this. Having more or less, hidden behind closed doors last year –  heard so many negative stories about the behaviour of people on Songkran. This year I decided to take much more of an interest – and most importantly try to understand what this festival is for Thai people.

Here’s what I found out!

Songkran traditions are a long way from the images shown in the world’s newspapers every year – powder smeared tourists armed with water pistols and wide grins.

The Thai New Year, in its purest form, is a religious festival steeped in Buddhist and Brahman traditions. Marking the end of a 12-month cycle when the sun moves into April and there was traditionally a gap between rice harvesting and planting a new rice crop. Acquiring its name from the Sanskrit word “Songkran”, meaning to move or pass into. The origins derive from the ancient Indian Festival of Makar Sankriti. The Indian version recognizes the sun’s celestial path and Thai translate the version recognizing the passing of an old year into a new one. Songkran is now held on fixed days, 13-15 April.

So what do Thai people do during Songkran?

Regarded as one of the most important traditions in Thailand because it encompasses three major values in the Thai way of life which are:Read more of this post

Andaman Islands – our cultural insights!

Andaman Islands – our Cultural Insights

India’s the Andaman Islands and more specifically it’s capital, Port Blair provided us with several cultural insights – and isn’t that what travel is all about – seeing new, unexpected, or just real life experiences and events that provide insight to local people’s lives.

There were so many highlights and bonuses that we did not expect. Here is a selection of experiences that stuck with us!

And if you have not read about our Andaman Islands cruising story here.

Weddings

Our first cultural insight was accidental. Wandering the streets adjacent to Aberdeen Market one of our troop noticed stores that looked like they hired out catering equipment – massive pots 3 and 4 feet across and gas burners to sit underneath. On asking our driver he explained these are used in preparing the catering for weddings held at halls just up the street. After some encouragement he took us to one such hall where, coincidently for us, a wedding was in progress.  Our troop tentatively entered the courtyard of the hall and found ourselves being welcomed and encouraged to enter to see what was happening. The males in our troop were ushered into the male eating area and plates of food thrust forward. People were happy to pose for photos and parents even offered their children, dressed in their finery, as subjects for more photos. What a colourful, happy, friendly and joyous place!

Hindu Festival

The annual Hindu festival in celebration of Goddess Devi Muthu Mariamman was happening during our second visit to Port Blair. Devotees, mainly Tamil speaking Hindu, participate in 10 days of devotion and get blessings. We were lucky to see the gathering and procession of devotees who had chosen to participate in the sacred Fire Walk – a culminating event of the festival. The Fire Walk is perhaps something devotees do in thanks to God after making a wish and receiving the desired outcome. Read more of this post