Day 102, April 17:
It’s been said that travel is broadening for the mind and during our Grand World Voyage Humberto, Duffy (our bear that went around the world) and I have seen and learned so much about our planet, its countries and the peoples that populate it. Some curiosities that we have come across here and there stick out and I thought I would share these as a “Top 12 Curiouser and Curiouser” with you today while we enjoy a day at sea.
Curiosity #1 – Those “Big Heads” Are More Than Meets The Eye – The world-famous “big heads” of Easter Island are like icebergs in that there is much more to them beneath the surface! The full bodies of the statues are simply buried by years of being subject to the elements, tremors, mud-slides and the like.
Photo of the big heads on Easter Island.
Curiosity #2 – Strict is Synonymous with Singapore – Littering is, well, a real no-no in Singapore. Before we disembarked we were given a list of what we could not take ashore, in part: chewing gum, chewing tobacco or imitation tobacco products, pistol-shaped or revolver-shaped cigarette lighters, firecrackers, obscene articles or videos. We were informed that offenders are subject to severe fines. There is a $1,000 fine for spitting on the street and various other fines and penalties for offenses. Barbara, our travel guide said that though Singapore’s infamous ban on chewing gum has been relaxed, you’d better still not litter with the gum if you know what’s good for you. Surprisingly, we did spot some litter on the streets of Singapore –must have been thrown by uninformed travelers!
Curiosity #3 – Learning to be a Good Traveler From a Cat – Singapore was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. One often sees a porcelain Japanese cat, Maneki Neko, in the shops of Singapore. The cat is supposed to bring good luck to its owners. It appears to be waving with a paw up and fingers down, but it is actually beckoning. In Japan, the gesture of putting your hand up palm out and moving your fingers down indicates beckoning, not waving as in Western countries. A good traveler can learn much from this cute kitty: it is important to learn a country’s customs and the meaning of gestures before a trip, as well as a little bit of the country’s language. This makes for a more enriching experience and the people of the country are appreciative of a well educated traveler.
Photo of Maneki Neko Beckoning Cat.
Curiosity #4 – Mommy Kangaroos Can “Prepare Formulas” For Different Age Joeys — While at an wildlife reserve near Sydney, Australia, we learned that mother kangaroos have two teats in their pouches and sometimes have a newborn baby and an older joey living in their pouches. At those times the Mommy is able to produce two different milk “formulas” appropriate for each of her young.
Kangaroos in Koala Park in Sydney, Australia.
Curiosity #5 – There is No Obesity Problem in Vietnam – While visiting two ports of call in south Vietnam our local guides told us people eat just two meals a day. Breakfast is taken at around 9:30 a.m. and consists of soup, vegetables and rice and dinner is eaten at 4:30 p.m. and includes rice, vegetables and a slice of meat.
Curiosity #6 – Chinese Superstitions Encompass Numbers and Colors – One of the most prevalent superstitions in Hong Kong is the belief in the power of numbers. In the Cantonese language, many words share the same pronunciation as numbers. The number three sounds similar to life, nine sounds like eternity and the number eight like prosperity. The number four has the same pronunciation as the word for death. People will pay more to get an address that contains one or more eights. Each year the Hong Kong government raises millions of dollars for charity by auctioning off automobile license plates with “good” numbers. And couples rush to be married if there is an eight in the date, so, as you can imagine, August is a busy month. Several buildings don’t have a fourth or 14th floor.
Curiosity #7 – Colors are Also Important to the Chinese: White is the color of death, and mourners at traditional Chinese funerals often wear white cloaks, sometimes with a black ribbon. Black on white is traditionally associated with funerals, and if you see a large circular flower arrangement in black and white, it denotes someone’s passing. Red is a happy color, symbolizing prosperity. In traditional Chinese weddings, the bride would wear red. Today, the red gown is usually reserved only for the wedding reception. Restaurants, temples and other places where people gather are often decked out in red. Yellow, which was traditionally the color of the emperor, is believed to repel evil spirits, which is why temple fortune papers are printed on yellow paper.
Curiosity #8 – The Temple of the Tooth – While in Sri Lanka we learned about Kandy’s Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), a fascinating tribute to the enduring nature of belief. This shrine was built to house one of Buddha’s teeth when it was reportedly rescued from his funeral pyre in 543 B.C. The relic is encased in a heavily guarded gilt box, which contains 12 successively smaller boxes (and ultimately, the tooth, according to local lore). It is not exactly certain that the tooth even exists or that it is Buddha’s tooth, but that does not deter visitors.
Curiosity #9 – It Takes Two to Tango – Overwhelming popular belief is that the tango was invented in Argentina, but neighboring Uruguay also lays claim to it, saying that the beguiling music was born in the River Plate basin bordering both Argentina and Uruguay and bringing up that one of the earliest and most famous tangos, La Cumparsita, was composed by a Uruguayan. In Argentina, tango music, now a darling of sophisticated ballrooms, arose in brothels of the poorer suburbs before the end of the 19th century. With its raw and earthy appeal, it was the favored music of gangsters and other criminal elements of those neighborhoods. When tango music became all the rage in Paris in the 1920s, it attained a measure of acceptance that spread around the world.
Tango dancers at Prado Park in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Curiosity #10 – That’s Not a Swastika on Buddhist Temples – At first glance, a symbol decorating Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia seemed to be a swastika, but upon closer observation we noticed the arms were pointing a different way. If you ever come across it at a temple you visit on your travels, do not become alarmed, it is an ancient Buddhist symbol meaning peace.
Curiosity #11 – Hold the Salt, Please (and keep your left hand to yourself) – In Egypt, we were advised, it is insulting to add salt to your food. We should also always use our right hand instead of our left hand when eating, gesturing or greeting. And about greetings: There are so many types that it is easier to wait for the other person to initiate the greeting and then imitate his or her action.
Curiosity #12 – Speak English, Please! In India there are 18 major languages and 1,600 minor languages, so to make it easier to understand each other, they simply speak English!
Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.