Thursday, March 17, 2011

Notes from a steam room

This afternoon, via Sandakan, Malaysia and Makati, Philippines, J and I were discussing the merits of cruise ships via BBM. J seems to like big ships more, but I just love the small luxury cruise ship experience because it’s so intimate and personalized, but complete with all the necessities for a great cruise: a decent selection of restaurants, enough facilities, and good shows in the evenings.


“The Silver Spirit’s spa’s just fantastic, by the way,” I texted him. “I’m BBM-ing from the steam room now and it’s large and nice. It even has a picture window looking out to the sea.” We’d started texting in the morning and it had continued on and off throughout the afternoon as I took in a three-hour cultural heritage tour of Sandakan that took us to the 19th century local church of St. Michael's and All Angels and the reportedly haunted home of Agnes Keith, Sandakan’s most famous expatriate during its heyday as a thriving colonial outpost of trade. Sandakan, which once boasted of having the greatest concentration of millionaires in the world because of its lucrative timber trade, looked very much like a smaller version of Brunei to me, with its quiet commercial center and its water villages on stilts. It’s also known for its orangutans and Silversea offered a five-hour tour that included a viewing of these great apes in their natural habitat. However, I opted to do the cultural heritage tour instead.

After my tour, I’d headed straight for the steam room in preparation for a spa treatment, and I’d brought my phone in with me for want of something better to do. “Your Blackberry is not designed to be used in a steam room,” he replied, adding a smiley face at the end. I guess he was worried about what would happen to his text-mate, in case my Blackberry conked out on him. Who would he BBM instead? (I’m sure I’m going to get a reply – or rather a clarification -- when he reads this...) I replied: “I know. But it’s so boring without it.”


Then he added: “And I see you blogged about our exchange this morning.” There was another smiley face at the end, so I figured he was smiling when he texted this.

For once, I’d initiated the BBM messaging for the day, and he’d teased me about writing it up in my blog in the same way I usually recounted the start of his texts at the start of the day: “You can blog that I’d been quietly working when my Blackberry pinged – and it was you.”

And that was exactly what I did in a previous entry. It’s not often that I BBM him out of the blue, so this was a refreshing twist to our BBM dynamics.

After this exchange, the Silver Spirit sailed back out to sea and onwards to the Philippines. I promptly lost my Malaysian telecom communication and so I’ll probably be back on email and BBM-less again for another 24 hours at least. We’re spending a day sailing and arriving in Manila on Saturday morning in time for a big lunch with friends of Silversea in Manila.


Tonight was a really fun evening on board the Silver Spirit. The crew had planned a big barbecue on the pool deck, followed by an outdoor disco. But this was suddenly canceled due to unstable weather conditions, so everyone spread out to different indoor restaurants. I joined my friends from different countries in the La Terraza Italian restaurant, which was serving an excellent selection of pasta. They were all so good that I broke my no carbo-vow and had two servings.

Then we all just sat out by the pool looking at the stars and listening to the music from a Filipino singer. The weather was just beautiful and it was even surprisingly cool for this part of the world in March. It was really nice to be spending the evening in this way.

“This has really been a much-needed break,” one of my friends said. All of us nodded in agreement. And I’m sure we’ll all be sorry that it’ll be the last night of the cruise tomorrow.

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