Sunday, 27 April 2008

Run, run, run...

It is less than a week since we returned and less than a week until we head off again.

Have been replacing stolen stuff, making insurance claims (Grrr! Don't start me on that issue!), tracking down foreign currencies, answering mail, seeing my parents (see below), attending parties (see below), chucking out things we took but never needed, collecting things that we will need (we think) in the cooler countries of the next leg. It's all go, go, go.

Pretty soon we will go.

I need the rest!


Phase two of our travels are: The trans-Mongolian train trip (Beijing to St Petersburg), Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Leaving on May 2nd, returning August 20th.


You may recall a post a while back where I showed a lovely little parcel of goodies Hliza had given us. We ate the nibblies as we travelled but kept the flossed beef rendang to share with the family when we returned home.

Not to be.

Apparently, no meat products are permitted to be brought into Australia.

Sniff! If I had known that I would have eaten it before we got here.

The garden

Arrived home to find the garden alive. It is autumn here so things are in decline for the winter.

Just as well, it seems that as of yesterday, the 26th, Melbourne had had 10% of its average April rainfall.

I know all you doubters out there say climate change is a myth and these are natural cycles but someone has stolen our rain. We haven't had anything near an average month for ages.

Martin & Roni

The official engagement party for Martin and Roni last night.

Not my natural habitat - lots of noise and chatter - but a good night.

My Dad

Returned home to the news that my father has been diagnosed with lung cancer.


Chemotherapy and radiotherapy to start this week.

The good news is that the specialists talk of 'cure' rather than 'palliative' objectives when discussing the effects of the treatment. It will be less than pleasant though, these things always are.

How do I feel about travelling while this is going on? Mixed feelings. Obviously I would like to be here but it is a six month treatment and what could I do? And it may make Dad feel worse if he feels that he is stopping my travelling.

Both he and Mum have said 'Go, go...'.

But I will be twitchy.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Home again...briefly.

Home again.

The mail pile has been sorted, the hair cut, the garden explored and the bed tested.

Especially the bed tested. Didn't get much sleep on the flight from Ho Chi Minh City, via KL.

The garden has survived - the boys have taken good care of it - just a bit of pruning to do.

Less than good news on the health front regarding my father but both my parents are adamant that it shouldn't affect our future travels.

So now comes the reassessment phase of the first trip - what was unnecessary but we carried for seven weeks anyway, what should we have taken but forgot, time to replace the stolen bits, generally regroup for phase 2.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


When we collected our luggage at Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) we found there to be a Cambodian Security label on Margaret's bag. Interesting, we thought. Wonder what that means?

Well, when we got to our HCMC hotel we found that we could no longer open the combination lock on Margaret's case. (ie the correct combination no longer worked.)

Above, two engineers take less than a minute to hacksaw their way through the padlock.

No idea what the Cambodians were looking for, whether they found anything, whether they took anything or why they bothered putting the padlock back if it was stuffed.


The Victoria Angkor Hotel, Siem Reap.

We spent our last days of this holiday at the Victoria Angkor Hotel at Siem Reap, Cambodia.

You know it is a posh hotel when they provide champagne as part of the breakfast buffet.

The pool.

Shutters in the stairwell leading to our room.

Down pipes that empty into an indoor pool in the main building.

One of the hotel's old cars.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Thursday, 17 April 2008

...and one tricycle.

We visited the "River of 1000 lingas'.

Now, any reader of the Karma Sutra will know that "linga' is the Hindu word for penis. There are some issues on length and diameter but I will leave that alone. In temples they have a linga on a square platform, hence the shapes in the river. The water is considered holy after it flows over them.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is older than Angkor Wat (abt 960AD) but has lovely carvings - they have survived because the sandstone used (pink) is better than the grey of Angkor Wat. This allows for deeper carvings.

Plus the occasional bullet hole.

Local bus.

Cambodian Random Shots 3

Lady selling herbal remedies - includes dried marmosets and porcupine stomaches.

And...tiger's teeth.

More folded lotus flowers.

The local picnic site, at a waterfall.

Lady selling fried sweet potato - quite yummy.

Cambodian Random Shots 2

The local name for a coconut tree is "DONG". Suitable if one hits you.

The stairs to a local buddha; the people along the steps are beggars.


The top of this rock is carved into the shape of a large reclining Buddha, now enclosed.
This girl charged $1 to look after our shoes while we went to look at the Buddha.

Cambodian Random Shots

The lady of the tree.


The local delicatessen.

Scooter fuel - in one litre Johnny Walker bottles.

The local bar and grill.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The jungle fights back...

The fig trees have found their way into some of the ruins.

Hazy but...

Angkor Wat from a helicopter.

Rememer, the moat is 190m wide.


Origami meets Botany

Lotus flowers with the outer petals folded.

Vietnam Wrap - a bit late...

• Only 18 passengers on the KL to Hanoi flight (737).
• Very hazy in Hanoi. Drizzles rain occasionally but sky never clears.
• Driving to Hanoi – paddy fields, cows and buffalo on the highway, four story houses (only about 3m wide) in the middle of nowhere, bikes, scooters, vans, constant tooting and light flashing. Organised chaos.
• Hotel adequate but not flash. But a fridge with beer in it. Warm. Can only run the fridge or the TV at any given time. Have unplugged TV.
• Walked into town and went to the famous water puppets. Quite funny and very clever. Loved the ‘catching a frog’ sequence. Noodles and home to bed.
• Up early – Margaret joined in a community Tai Chi group at the local park. I watched.
• Breakfast at the hotel – lots and lots of French folk in at present. Almost as humorless as the Germans in Thailand. Don’t know why.
• Taxi to museum of ethnology – ripped off something terrible by the taxi driver – paid the meter fare but far too high, must have been fiddled with.
• Museum of Ethnology quite interesting. Lots and lots of school kids there; many said ‘hello’. Several Uni students wanted to take our photos.
• One young lass wanted to show us around Hanoi – fearing a scam (and wanting our freedom) we said ‘no’.
• Taxi to the Temple of Literature – one fifth the cost of the first taxi. Beautiful architecture. More school kids. More ‘hello’s.
• Tried to find a restaurant for lunch. The first time I can recall anywhere where we could not make ourselves understood in either broken English or broken French. Even sign language seemed to make no headway. Picked two dishes at random from the menu – ended up with stir-fried greens with garlic and some sort of beef dish with chips. Ate the greens and beef. Plus a beer.
• Walked home past the army base – kept my camera firmly in my pocket.
• Guy on a bike riding beside us offering to sell us books – The Quiet American, something with that famous picture of the young girl with napalm on her back on its cover, various other books that all seemed to have a guilt-trip element. Didn’t work.
• Trying to master the local words for ‘thank you’ with mixed success. As Vietnamese is tonal I am probably offering to fill their letter box with rice porridge. Or possibly worse.
• Crossing the road an act of faith – you just walk out into the traffic and rely on it going around you. They, in return, ignore most traffic signals.
• Lovely fresh salads – risky eating-wise but, oh, the flavour!
• War relics – bunkers from both the French and the American wars.
• The Imperial Citadel in Hue – fascinating complex; being rebuilt after over 75% demolished by bombing in the war (well, the Viet Cong had set up home there, you see, so you can’t really blame the US for bombing it.)
• Mad drivers, overtaking on blind corners.
• Four sacred animals – Turtle, Dragon, Phoenix & Unicorn.
• Storekeepers who shout out “Hello Sir, you buy something?” as you walk past. (Variant: “Where you from?”, “Australia”, “Gidday mate, you buy from me?”). No-one asks what you are looking for, just implores you to buy something. Anything. You seldom get left alone to browse but have immediate attention from someone who keeps passing you stuff. System overloaded, I walk away.
• At restaurants small children approach you and try to sell postcards, Tiger Balm gel, flowers, and chewing-gum. It is a really awkward feeling when they do this – you don’t want what they are selling and yet you feel for them. One, when walking away, said “It’s not fair. You have so much and I have nothing.”. Ouch.
• Sitting on the front verandah of a restaurant; watching rats running past the front step. Lovely food, though.
• About eight high-rise five-star resorts being built along Danang-Hoi An beach. It will be a totally different place in 10 years time.
• 6am at the fish market – hustle, bustle but no hassle. The first time we have been totally transparent. They know we don’t want to buy fish so ignore us and we can wander at will. Gently moved to one side if we are in the way.
• People drying their product in their front yards – corn, peanuts, squid...
• Eating grilled, dried squid while walking home late at night.
• Considering that dogs are a delicacy, there are a surprising number of them about the place.
• Rice nearing harvest.
• Watermelons en-route to the markets by truck and boat.
• Lovely meals with lots of aromatic fresh herbs. (Yes, I know the ‘rules’ say ‘don’t eat salads’ but they are so nice!)
• Pretty young ladies in tailor shops charming na├»ve men into buying clothing. Whole new slant on the term “suitors”.
• Ancient ruins in the bush ay My Son, Hindu temples from 6th-13th century, overrun by weeds and camera-toting tourists. Hot, hot, hot. And sticky. Same story as the Imperial Citadel – a lot of it bombed during the war. Now a world heritage area. Lots of officials looking over us, shooing people off the buildings.
• Breakfasts a mixture of Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho), western cereals and French cakes. And the ever present fruit.
• The Viet Cong tunnels were amazing. More so when it turned out that many of them were from the French era and that when the US came they built over the top of them.
• Hard not to cry at the War Remnants Museum.
• The overriding feeling in Vietnam is a country on the go and a people on the hustle. The country is building and growing but, as a tourist, I was forever feeling that I had been taken for a ride and over-charged wherever they could get away with it. But lovely scenery, lovely food and enough pleasant people to help forget the others. The best single word for Vietnam is energy.

Photos and previous country wraps:

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Smile! (Cambodia)

Buddha and friend.

I'll take that one!

The Bayon temple has lots of 'life' friezes. Above, a shopper choses from a store.

Happy dancers.

Some detail of some carving but the interesting thing is the joints of the blocks. The blocks are often not square or rectangular but odd shapes fitted together.