Brisbane, QLD

Friday, July 18, 2014


When I was teaching in PNG we had about 8 weeks leave at the end of each year. I usually flew home to Sydney to stay with my parents and visit friends. However, at the end of 1966 I went on a cruise to Malaysia because my parents were on their first trip home to England after migrating in 1949. So it had been 16 years since my parents had visited their homeland. Unfortunately, in that time 3 of my 4 grandparents had died. That must have been sad for my parents and for my grandparents to not have seen each other again.
My friend, Jan and I bought tickets for a cruise on the ship, "Australasia" to visit Malaysia. The ship was mainly a cargo vessel which took some passengers also. So it wasn't like the flash, multi story cruise liners of today.
We sailed from Pt Moresby to Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and back to Singapore and Pt Moresby.
I was 23 and excited to be going on my first cruise and holiday overseas.
Up until 1965 when Singapore gained independence and Lee Kwan Yew became Prime Minister, Singapore had had a turbulent history and wasn't a well developed country. Lee Kwan Yew dragged it into the twentieth century and it quickly became the clean, modern place that it is today.

The first thing I remember about Singapore was the heat, the rain and the smell. Not like todays sanitised city. However, it was exotic and a little scary but we had some of the ship's crew with us. This was the first time I had seen transvestite prostitutes in the street. It was a seedy place at night.

We visited the "Tiger Balm Gardens" where we saw lovely tropical plants, many sculptures and even monkeys running around begging food.

There were many men with straw hats peddling bikes with a rickshaw's attached at the side. The shops were so different to the modern malls of today.

The apartment blocks had a rustic charm but probably not as comfortable as today's apartment towers.

It was 1966 and Lee Kwan Yew had started to get modern apartments built. 

The ship was a few days in Singapore unloading cargo. There was always a little blackboard at the top of the gang plank telling us when the ship would leave. We were told that the ship waits for no one. We had to make sure that we were back in time and hope that they hadn't unloaded earlier than expected.
We sailed up the coast of Malaya to Penang Harbour, where we had to be taken to the wharf in a tender. Our ship, Australasia, is in the background

In Penang we caught a funicular cable train up to the top of the island. It was very steep.

It was an amazing view at the top overlooking the harbour.

It was a beautiful rugged Island.

Then we rumbled down the track back to the town. I had my heart in my mouth.
I had lunch at a hotel on the beautiful white sand with my friend Jan and some boys from the ship. It is hard to believe how this place was devastated by a tsunami not long ago. I recently met Jan again in Adelaide after all this time.

We visited temples.

Inside was a giant reclining Buddha wrapped in gold.

Outside this temple there was a big pot with sand and joss sticks burning. Lying on the sand were many viper snakes. I think they were sacred and had a religious reason for being there.

Tourists were encouraged to pick them up for photos. They are deadly poisonous snakes but they had their fangs removed and were made sleepy by the burning joss sticks. So I plucked up the courage to hold one.

This was a Chinese temple. I enjoyed Penang very much but this was as far north as the ship went. 

We turned south and called into Pt Swettenham the gateway to Kuala Lumpur the capital of Malaya.

We got taxis into the city. It was quite a modern city compared to Singapore at that time. This was the National Mosque.

A rich sultan's house.

The museum

A most beautiful Siamese Temple with gold trimmings and roof.

The war memorial.

Besides buildings we went on a tour of industries. A rubber plantation with Brahman cattle. It was the first time I had seen these type of cows. Now we have them in Northern Australia too as they cope with heat.
We saw a tin mine too.

Then we were on our way home but we stopped in Singapore to have the tallow cleaned out of the holds by these women. Apparently it was a horrific job. They worked in the terrible heat of the hold. They had to scrape the tallow off the walls by hand. Tallow is rendered beef and mutton fat processed from suit. It is solid and is used to make soap and as animal feed. It is also used to produce shortening  for cooking. McDonalds used it to cook fries until 1990.

After a few days at sea we were back in Pt Moresby ready for another year's work and fun.


  1. That was quite an adventure. Travelling in those days bears no comparison to the luxuries we enjoy today. Considering the age of your photos they are remarkable.

  2. It was fun to read this Diane. That was quite an adventurous holiday, especially seeing places as they used to be.

  3. Diane, what an amazing adventure. You are the brave one picking up a poisonous snake..I love all the temples. Your photos are wonderful, great memories of your trip! Happy Weekend!

  4. That was a great holiday! You were very courageous and adventurous - not only for holding the snake. Despite the years gone by I could recognise the temple and museum.

  5. What a post, and terrific photos. I remember my partner talking about Tiger Balm Gardens when he was there in the 70s. It was subsequently rename, and then is once again Tiger Balm Gardens.

  6. I love seeing the world through the eyes of a young girl being so adventurous in the 60s. My adventures didn't start until the 70s, but I also have fond memories. In spite of being a cargo ship, yours does look quite nice.

  7. that is one scary railroad track.. the tin mine looks a lot like a brick making mine i saw in atlanta. and i like the cows... i am 69 and never been on a cruise our out of our country, all this is amazing to me

  8. a neat and natural place. you've had a lot of adventures.

  9. OMW, Diane, I had an adventure just following yours! I felt like I was on set : The King and I! I enjoyed every word and also the excellent photos of your post. Have a wonderful weekend. Jo

  10. Diane, wonderful and fantastic story.And photos are amazing.It is very interesting corner of the world. Thanks for sharing photos.

  11. That indeed was some adventure and a good one. It's great you have the photos to show all of us.

  12. Wow what a trip, I can tell you there is no way in hell I would hold a snake for a photo unless it was a fake snake.

  13. It sounds as if your first cruise was a definite success, although I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to pick up a viper. I've always heard that a cargo ship is a great ship for a cruise. I enjoyed your pictures very much.

  14. Unbelievable third picture and what a cruise story, the ship is very different than the Celebrity Cruise line we always book on.


  15. Always enjoy these posts detailing your travels, Diane.

  16. Wow Diane what fun that must have been and you have great records now of what it was like before modernisation took over. Great that colour photography was in general use by then as it adds so much to these photos. I am sure writing this must have brought back some wonderful memories. Hope it is not too cold over there - t'other Diane

  17. What a wonderful adventure ! Probably today you won't recognize all these places anymore ! At that time I took for the first time an airplane to Sicily, that was quite and adventure too. I was the first one who ever had taken an airplane at that time ! They were mostly for business men and not for tourists yet !

  18. Woooo--loved this post and am amazed that you all did that so many years ago. Times have changed, haven't they?

    They say that Singapore is as clean as a whistle these days. That certainly changed.

    I have quite a few Malaysian friends on blogs... Penang sounded like a really up-to-date city.. I'd love that train ride... Beautiful views.

    Sad when thinking about the tsunami.... Mother Nature can cause so much devastation.

    Love the temple--but was sad when reading about the women who had to clean those holds...

    NO way in this lifetime would I EVER pick up a snake.... ha


  19. Hello again Diane. What an interesting tale you had to tell in this blog entry. I am glad I decided to stop by. that was an amazing adventure you and your friend were on. Thanks for stopping by to welcome me back. I have missed keeping up with all your adventures!

  20. When I lived in png we used to fly to Singapore for the weekends. It was by then the modern city. I visited the other places you have shown on business trips in later years. The traffic in KL was horrific. You seem to have seen it in gentler days.

  21. Diane you had so many interesting and wonderful adventures at such a young age! Your photos are fantastic and a treasure to document times as they were.

  22. Oh what a great experience and I love the pictures I went to Singapore and Malaysia in 1991 and it looked already much different.
    We didn't go to Penang That looks lovely as well. Thanks for sharing

  23. What a wonderful look back at an extraordinary adventure aboard that ship. You've had memories to last a lifetime , sampled many cultures without all the softness we expect today.
    Thanks for sharing these memories with us. ..I remember always hearing on the news about PNG during those years.
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia

  24. Put that deadly Viper down immediately!! Wow Mum, you really did have some adventures in Asia before us kids came along! That was really interesting looking at your old slides.

    Well I certainly understand where Sonya's and my wonder list comes from!

    Love Carol xxx