Bali – Saturday 29 November 2014 – day 36


Sanur Sat 29 Nov. 1430

Well, here it is, the last day. Technically tomorrow is, but I’m travelling home tomorrow.

I’m both happy and sad to be going home. Happy because this has been a tough trip! I don’t have the stamina I used to have, and I sorely miss it. Feeling OK was just normal as recently as three years ago, apart from having this growing trouble walking. Now, everything hurts, everything’s an effort. Everything tires me. I’m sad about it. It’s not a good feeling to be losing your health and fitness. (Which leads me back to the gastric bypass – more later.)

But I’m sad to be ending this trip because it has been epic! This has been one of the greatest trips I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a few. I’ve done things on this trip I never dreamed I would do, that I never even thought about until a month or two before we left.


  • Gliding out of Singapore Harbour at night through all the illuminated ships in the Singapore Straits;
  • Silently entering Laem Chabang, the harbour for Bangkok among the islands as the sun rose;
  • Hearing “Man Overboard” and seeing the ship do a complete 180deg turn to rescue three swimmers off Vietnam. And another 180deg as well, of course. Pure chance;
  • Again, slowly, silently entering Hong Kong Harbour at dawn and seeing that massive skyline again, last seen in 1992. I never thought I would return;
  • Being on the Victoria Peak at dusk, just as the city lights were coming on. This was by chance – we were held up by traffic earlier in the day;
  • Gliding slowly past the city lights of Hong Kong at 8pm as the laser light show started and with the pulsing beat of old rock and roll. Again, coincidence, as we were two hours late pulling away;
  • Entering the wide brown river of Shanghai Harbour and seeing all the hundreds of ships going full steam ahead both in and out;
  • Seeing the Shanghai TV Tower up close. It’s more attractive than I thought;
  • Riding the Mag-Lev train at 430Km/h in Shanghai;
  • Seeing Shanghai laid out at dusk from a 77 storey building;
  • Visiting the Nagasaki A-bomb site and Peace Memorial;
  • Visiting South Korea, even though I didn’t go ashore;
  • Seeing Beijing, especially in glorious crystal clear air, pure chance due to APEC;
  • Staying in an unusually good hotel in an old area of Beijing;
  • Seeing the Great Wall of China;
  • Seeing the Forbidden City and Tien An Men Square. Even if I was too sick to appreciate it, at least I’ve been there;
  • Visiting Hanoi and discovering what a fantastic place it is, especially at this time of the year;
  • Visiting and dining with my cousin, the Ambassador in Hanoi;
  • Coming back to this wonderful place, Bali.


What a trip! The beginning seems so far away now but it was only five weeks ago.

I must say that I couldn’t have done this trip on my own. It’s been very arduous at times and having someone to talk to and joke with has made it bearable. I would have become depressed otherwise, especially feeling so ill.

You’ll notice I don’t include the ship in the highlights. It wasn’t. No more cruising for me. The crowds, the queues! Never again.

Also a great thing has been the marvellous Olympus OM-D E-M1. This is one fantastic camera, both for stills and video. Thank goodness I brought my tripod too, because i have masses of nice steady vision, none of this amateur wave-it-about and hope for the best. You haven’t seen the video yet because it’s too hard to edit on the road.

I brought the Sony RX 10 as well. Marvellous lens, marvellous image quality, but I couldn’t get used to it. Too many times I hit the power switch when I meant to zoom. I didn’t use it much. Lesson learnt.

It’s been expensive, but worth it. I’m afraid the credit card is going to be a shock as I’ve hardly thought about what I’m spending, but time’s running down. Use it or lose it.

I can’t help reflecting on one very sad aspect: Minnie had to say goodbye for me to do this trip. I couldn’t do things like this before. In hindsight, I’d rather have Minnie back, but young and healthy. I couldn’t go through that trauma again. RIP Minnie.



Bali – Friday 28 November 2014 – day 35


Sanur Saturday 29 November 0920

Crumbs, where did yesterday (Friday) go? I could have sworn I wrote this diary up yesterday, but it’s not there. It shows that nothing is happening, I’m afraid. I’m still too tired to go out. All I want to do is eat and sleep, actually in the reverse order.

I feel a bit better, but I suspect it’s because I’ve stopped taking one of my medications. I’ve suspected it right from the beginning of the cruise and tried stopping once before on the ship. But when I do, I realise it serves a purpose – it’s not vital, I’m not going to die without it, but now that I’ve been completely off it for several days I remember why I was taking it. Something to talk to the doctor about on Monday.

Bali – Thursday 27 November – day 34


Happier times (C) PJ Croft 2011, 2014

Well, I’m not dead but I may as well be. I have no energy. All I want to do is sleep. I wouldn’t say I feel sick, I just can’t walk for more than a few minutes without feeling woozy and with waves of tiredness washing through my shoulders.

Luckily, if you have to be laid up, there can hardly be a better place. I only have to walk 80m to the restaurant for great food. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve walked back, I just want to crash on the bed again.

I emailed the medical centre yesterday and I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday at 11.30am. I’m feeling a little better than when I made the call, but still something’s wrong. And I’m deaf as a post – wax I assume, but it won’t clear.

Anyway, I can’t help asking myself, is there a more pleasant place in the entire world? I don’t think so. Perfect temperatures, moderate humidity (I don’t mind it at all), every day a perfect day, soft breezes, beautiful scenery, lovely people, endless places to go and things to see, great food, nice hotels, brilliant shopping – I can’t think of anything I want more. The only worry is the health aspect, but with the BIMC that seems to be taken care of, unless it’s really major.

Unfortunately, I believe Medicare cuts out after 6 months now, so the option to retire here but scoot home for Medicare treatment seems to be closed off. Maybe I’ve been misinformed? Buying here seems impossible for me now with all my health worries, so maybe more frequent visits? I’d forgotten how nice it is. I hadn’t been here since May 2011, apart from the one day visit in March this year.

I find it hard to remember that time when I had the energy to just jump on a plane and start moving all my stuff up here. It would be impossible now. I can’t stay the pace any more. Oh well.


One thing very noticeable is the lack of tourists. There are only 15 rooms occupied out of 57 in this hotel. The waitresses are commenting on it. I’m sorry for them, their lives are hard enough without fickle tourist numbers.

STOP PRESS: I’ve just read this in The Guardian: “The Indonesian government has also announced it is scrapping the US$35 visa entry fee from January 1, which won’t harm Bali’s attraction as a low-cost holiday destination.”

It’s hardly a barrier, but it’ll be nice to breeze through without having to pay once again.


Preparing the feast (C) PJ Croft 2011, 2014

Bali – Wednesday 26 November – day 33


(C) PJ Croft 2014

I’m not well, I’m afraid. So little energy I can hardly get up off the bed. Something’s wrong. No more kidney stone pain and only a little blood, but my urine is blackish rather than brown as it was. Vision effects and waves of weariness. My hearing is reduced by wax, mainly left ear, and I can’t shake the chest congestion, making me gurgle and rumble and rattle. Fed up with it. Not a happy onion. Not sick or nauseous, just no energy.

I investigated coming home early but to change my flight is quite expensive, and Jan still has his time here to think of. I’ve asked Air Asia for wheelchair assistance at both ends. I’ll make it, but it’s lucky this hotel is so pleasant because I’m doing little outside the room. But neither is Jan, just reading books. He’s “travelled out” too.

We went to Hardy’s in search of new distractions and I bought five DVDs at Rp10,000 ea. The other day I implied that they are expensive but I had my zeros mixed up. Rp10,000 is less than a dollar! I should have bought Interstellar even though it might be a bad copy.

Taxis are a minimum charge of Rp25,000 for this area, i.e. fixed price, so that makes it easy. That means a taxi for any reasonable distance is less than $3. Very fair in my opinion.

It’s clouded over; let’s hope we get some rain. It has been raining each night, especially noticeable when you’re sitting outside groaning with pain.

Bali – Tuesday 25 November – day 32


Besakih Beach Resort. The water is too warm.

Pretty bad night last night. The pain was up to 9/10 around midnight. I was groaning so much I went and sat outside for 90 mins or so. I took as much Tramadol as I dared and it does work, but it just dulls the pain.

This morning it’s much better. It’s still aching just to remind me but it’s OK. But I’m feeling so woozy! My eyes are not following my head. I  assume this is the hangover from the Tramadol. I just want to go back to bed but they’re cleaning the room and painting part of the ceiling. Not now, please.

A guy is also in the bathroom fixing the safety rail. I hardly put any pressure on it but it just pulled away from the wall. So much for safety.

9pm —  another night in Paradise. If you have to be laid up on the bed, this is not a bad place to be. Still no pain, but lots of blood. Cross fingers.

Bali – Monday 24 November – day 31

Bali dawn 2

Sanur at dawn. (C) PJ Croft 2014

Aaaaaarrrrrgh! Kidney stone! Damn. It started this morning about 9am and it’s still going on as I write this at 6pm. Obviously the pain is bearable to be able to sit up, but I’ve taken two Tramadol and they seem to be working to dull the ache. Feeling pretty woozy though. I can take the next two at 7.30pm so I hope they’ll keep me going.

The hotel will call a doctor for me if I need it at a cost of 1 million rupiahs, about A$92, but it’s not intense enough yet. If I have to I’ll go to the Bali International Medical Centre by taxi. But not yet.

We’ve moved hotels to the Besakih Beach Resort. We’re sharing a room again. This hotel feels much nicer than the other one and by sharing, the cost is the same. They are really trying hard here and are very friendly. I told the room boy I was in pain and soon afterwards I had a visit from a woman, who I think was a marketing person. She asked me if the room is OK and enquired about my pain, so word had been passed. That’s good.

So, not much to report today, except that Hardy’s looks as if its been spruced up since 2011. It looks good now instead of the chaos it was. I asked about getting new glasses made but they want a week to make them, so no luck there.

And I looked in on the DVD store and it seems much neater too. I found a DVD of the new SF movie Interstellar and grabbed one excitedly, but they said “It’s not a good transfer, sir”, meaning someone’s pointed a camera at a cinema screen. No thanks. They’re all Rp 10,000 or about $9.20. Seems higher than 2011? (No, Rp10,000 is 92c !)

Then it was to the Guardian chemist nearby to buy pain relief. They had Tramadol no problem at Rp 50,000 for 10, so I bought three strips. It’s in foil and seems to have worked. I asked if they had oxycodone as I was in a lot of pain but they couldn’t supply that one. Not surprising.

Time to try to eat some food – I haven’t eaten all day. Cloudy evening but no rain, I’m afraid. I was really hoping for the daily thunderstorms.

Bali – Sunday 23 November – day 30


Gunung Agung © PJ Croft 2014

Aaaah, back in beautiful Bali. It feels like coming home. I wish it was home.

As predicted, yesterday Saturday 22 November was a long hard day for me. Up at 5.30am (I woke early) and packed ready by 6.45am for the van to the airport. Saying goodbyes to the lovely staff. This hotel has been excellent.

Ugh, the van to the airport was pretty grubby and old. Bench seats for small Vietnamese. But the drive to the airport was really interesting, seeing much more of Hanoi than I had before. A huge flower market, for example, and buffalo in the fields. Plenty to see, in other words, at 40Kmh in the traffic. Nice drive.

The airport only has one terminal and it was packed. We had a long wait in a queue, the reason seeming to be simply that everything took so long for the computer to respond.

Once finally checked in (my case came in at 19.5Kg) we wondered where to go next. We thought we should go through doors marked B1 something. A woman in army uniform smiled and beckoned us in. We found ourselves in a room with a giant X-ray machine, big enough to put a couple of bodies through at once. I hefted my stuff onto the conveyor, but was then told no, no, and we were shown out again. Why were we in there? Why had she beckoned us in? We’ll never know.

We finally realised that we needed to find Gate 5, and after getting through the crowds, there it was. Immigration and we’re through. Not as friendly this time, no smiles. That’s OK lady, I’m leaving.

More security checks and we’re through into a different world of high class shops and duty free shops. We had a fair while to wait so I bought a bottle of vodka for US$17 to use up my remaining dong (dong!). I still had a wad of about 350,000 left and as it’s useless outside Vietnam, I handed it to the duty free girls and said, “Here, for you, buy a dinner for your family.” That got a surprised and pleased reaction. It made me feel good, so …

Phew, that bottle made my already heavy carry-on bag even heavier. I carry my camera bag with three camera, plus my CPAP equipment in my carry-on. This time I had my laptop in there too, so with the 1litre vodka it really added up. Finally we were past the boarding pass check and down the tunnel. But then it was down four flights of metal steps to a waiting bus! Uuuugh, this is hard for me.

Then we had to climb a stairway into the aircraft. I was last up because I really battle with steps and my heavy bag made it very hard going. I got there, puffing and panting. It was a 3hr 20min flight to Singapore and we got a full meal, very nice too. Airbus A330 I think.

Singapore at 3pm and a rush to the toilet. I was busting! Just made it. Bloody immaculate toilets, Changi Airport class. This has to be the world’s best airport. Everything is just top of its class. It makes Perth look like a country airstrip terminal.

Skytrain to change to terminal 2 (Jan had gone on ahead) and more long walking even to reach a travellator. Bloody hell, these places are big. Got to Gate E11, then found I didn’t have my boarding pass so had to go back again to the transit lounge to check in again. Bought something for my persistent cough and chest gurgles as well.

Finally onto our plane, and it was bloody huge, and crowded. I realised it was a Boeing 777-200. I’ve never been on a 777 before. I can’t say I liked this one, not at all. There are no individual air vents and all the power went off for about 5 mins, aircon and all. Ugh! The seat pitch was noticeably tighter than Vietnam Airlines and both of us felt cramped. We were over the wing and had no window, just a blank wall. Not too happy. At least my seat belt fitted, no extension needed. And I could just get my tray table down. We got a full service meal, even though it was only a 2hr 10min flight. With that number of passengers, 10 across and absolutely full, that was pretty fast work.

The in-seat entertainment device was hopeless again, constantly stopping and going blank. The picture quality is execrable for a digital system. Very poor effort, Singapore Airlines.

Arrived at Bali airport around 9pm and it was into the new terminal building, new since I was last here in about May 2011. Time has flown. My cardio problems have stopped me travelling, but it seems to be a non-issue now. I hardly get any palpitations or flutters, thank goodness. If I didn’t feel so weak, I’d be well OK. But if I could lug that heavy bag up those steps without any chest pains at all, I must be OK. Visa on Arrival is US$35 now. Hmmm.

The hotel is a disappointment. That’s what I get for choosing a cheapie, I guess. It’s A$57 a night, versus A$110 for one I’ve stayed at before and liked a lot. This one is basic, clean but old, no frills, old towels, clunky hand shower that won’t stay in place, only a stool, no chair and so on. Breakfast was basic, a tiny glass of fruit juice, fruit, no choices, two eggs and only one small rasher of bacon. Boring coffee. Not a good start.


Sunrise over Nusa Penida Copyright PJ Croft 2014

And it’s 400m walk to the beach! I thought this place was right on the beach. Bugger. It’s almost enough to make me want to change hotels, but then I think of the packing and lugging of bags again. No, it’ll have to do.

So now it’s our final laid back rest from our big trip before home (next Sunday 30th). This has been a huge trip, an amazing trip, but gee it’s hard going at times. It’ll be easy this week. I must look up my friends in Bali with another surprise visit.


Yudhie’s restaurant. © PJ Croft 2014

Hanoi – Friday 21 November – day 29


Get me to the church on time.

Another quiet day. It’s been very smoggy today, not hot or cold or wet, just smoggy and grey. We’ve had marvellous weather right through this trip and this is no different, cool, dry and pleasant.


See what I mean? There’s just a constant stream of things comin’ at ya, wrong side of the road or not. Jan says just ignore them and walk confidently. Yeah, easy to say.

The food is nice but my taste buds seem to demand chili and spices these day and I’m not getting them. I’m finding the food bland. It’s not that it’s bad, not at all, it’s just Vietnamese food, and although you get a little bowl of dipping sauce, I want chili and I can’t seem to make them understand.

I ordered a starter and a main last night but the starter, fresh (ie non-fried) spring rolls never arrived. That’s OK, I always regret ordering too much. Their gin and tonics are $4 approx and seem to be about 50/50% gin and tonic. Aaaah.


Buildings seem stacked and stacked. Considering this is a flood plain and the freeway to the airport is a dyke … wait until I’m outa here.

We’re off to Bali tomorrow, leaving here at 1045am on Vietnamese Airlines to Singapore, then a three hour wait until a Singapore Airlines flight to Denpasar, getting in about 9pm. It’ll be a long day. Jan meditates, so he’ll be OK in Singapore airport.

We’re staying at a beach hotel up near the top end of Sanur, the Puri Kelapa. We’ve got separate rooms again. Five weeks of sharing a cabin and rooms for two guys who like a bit of solitude. No problems, though.

I spoke to my cousin here about the chest infection he’s had for 6 weeks. It’s streptococcus F apparently, and requires a specific antibiotic. I don’t know the name yet but I hope I’ll be able to obtain some in Bali. On the other hand, I’m already taking the a/b the doc gave me last Monday so I’d better not meddle.

Jan’s arranged hotel transport to the airport at 0730 tomorrow for US$19 for the two of us, so that’s good value. Up at 0600.

Hanoi – Thursday 20 November – day 28


Making headstones

The woman above is painstakingly using a scalpel to remove pre-cut sections of the white plastic film on a blank piece of stone/ The sections are in intricate patterns and lines which form the decoration on the gravestone. A photo of the deceased person is put in the middle and sealed with a plastic cover. You can see examples in the background. I assume the stone is acid etched in the areas where the film has been removed.

I watched her for a couple of minutes and she ignored me, even when I took this photo. But when I moved off she tried to grab my attention as if to want to sell me one of her headstones. Aaaah, no thanks, not right at this moment.

Hmmm, a very quiet day today. I’m still suffering a bit with my chest infection and minor tummy rumbles, enough that I didn’t want to go out.

To be honest I’m travel fatigued. This place is fantastic, as I’ve said, but walking on the streets is so difficult and hazardous that I’m afraid to do too much. The footpaths are clogged with bikes so you have to walk on the road, and the rushes of air as another car of scooter goes past put the wind up me, so to speak.

As well, the constant importuning to buy something is like Bali in the old days, except this is high density and high intensity.

Last day tomorrow.

Hanoi – Wednesday – part 27

_DSC0366Wednesday 19 November 2014

I’ve spent a very quiet day today, working on this blog (I lost a draft at one stage and wasted time retrieving it). But mainly I’m still feeling very washed out. I’m sleeping poorly – due to my chest, still wheezing and crackling. My cousin said he’s had his infection for six weeks so far.

There’s a set of scales in the room and if they’re to be believed, I’ve lost more than 10Kg. It wouldn’t be surprising, I’m eating less, missing meals and walking more. My hands and arms seem noticeably scrawnier. I know, it’s hard to believe, and I’m having trouble myself.

I’m also working on my ProShow production. I know you don’t want to watch my stuff, but you’ll be missing something. It looks magnificent. I’m just inserting hi-def video clips of the Shanghai Mag-Lev train at the moment. I shot pieces up to 1 min long but I have to chop them up into 5-10 sec segments, only retaining the steady and relevant bits. It’s slow painstaking work. I have hundreds of clips of this trip along with hundreds of still images. All have to be selected, worked over and resized.

_DSC0357One thing I don’t like about Hanoi is the bloody car horns! They blow their horns for any reason at all, loudly, repeatedly, often. It drives me nuts. The noise is virtually constant. They’re loud, too, with specials, obviously tricked up to be trendy. I won’t miss that. There’s a bloody car alarm going off and it’s been going for half an hour! I’ve had to close the window but I can still hear it.

As well there’s an intermittent loudspeaker voice announcement. What about? I have no idea. I saw its source yesterday, it’s a big horn speaker near the lake. And there’s a woman singer faintly repeating a phrase over and over in the distance, every 10 seconds or so. That get’s a bit wearing. It’s not there all the time.

But I do hear roosters crowing. That’s nice, I haven’t heard those in years. And the street vendors’ ting ting ting on their bottle or bell. I know all this because the window’s open. It’s not warm enough to have the air-con running and I like the fresh air.

Dinner now, and TV. They have satellite or cable in the room with 55 channels! Most are in Vietnamese, of course, but there’s an English movie channel and CNN. I have a good book as well.