Friday, July 29, 2011

Two hours apart

6.30 am
Two hours later

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tidbits - small and particularly interesting items of gossip or information

Delightful online magazine from the folk at Kinfolk - young creatives doing all they can to counteract the solitary online life.  Beautiful photography and thoughts.

Have you come across kuksas?  A kuksa is a drinking cup made by the Sami people from carved birch burl (or any hard wood).  Here's where I first discovered this fabulous piece of personal drinkware.  There are lots of other sites.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vietnam - day 3 - Rice paper making in Cai Be

Click on the photo for a link to youtube and lots more pics. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vietnam - day 3

A one-hour drive along the river from Saigon to embark on RV Marguerite at My Tho.  My Tho was the traditional gateway to the Mekong Delta, and is still the embarkation point for exploring the Mekong.  However, the port does have a very intimate, small-town feeling about it.
View from Saigon hotel room

Port at My Tho - RV Marguerite left, wood barge right

Timber being off-loaded 

Info from the guides:
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has a population of approx 90 million!
Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of rice, coffee and spices.
Vietnam is the world's second largest consumer of tobacco.
Most building blocks are 4m wide. (Often rising to 6-7 storeys high.)
Planning permits are for negotiating.
Bank interest rates are about 24% pa.
No-one trusts banks so everything is paid for in cash - even $1m+ houses.
Petrol costs about the same as in Australia; Vietnam has large reserves of oil, which is mined and sent to Japan for refining then exported back to Vietnam.
Family inheritances go to the youngest son, which is usually hard for the youngest son's wife as she is subsumed into her husband's family and must look after everyone in the extended family.
Vietnam has a communist government and a capitalist mind-set.
Education is compulsory to age 18.  Good news - except that it costs, a very high proportion of annual income.
Average annual income is approx $700-800.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eugene von Guerard

Have just returned from the most wonderful exhibition of Eugene von Guerard's work at the National Gallery of Victoria Fed Square. That man was a genius. The exhibition finishes early in August - if  you are in town - GO SEE!

Eugene von Guérard - Nature Revealed

The side descriptions were very well done - but nowhere was there reference to (a) the tiny birds which appeared in half the paintings and (b) the rain showers that appeared in many.  What was noted often was von Guerard's meticulous, detailed and breathtaking imagery.  It would be wonderful to have an exhibition comparing his scenes with present day actuality.  The image below (from the NGV website) is of Tower Hill in south west Victoria - it's years since I've visited there, but I know it doesn't look like this!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vietnam - day 2

First a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels - the tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong guerillas) during the American War.

Terminology is fluid - depending on who is telling the story - Americans = Vietnamese War and guerilla fighters; Vietnamese = American War and resistance fighters.

Whatever - they are evidence of a terrible time for all concerned.  And the outcomes of the war still resound throughout the population today, over 40 years later.  If your relatives - even two generations ago - worked for the Americans, you are "ineligible" for state-sponsored employment; and that is a big issue as only state employees have access to pensions/social services.

Then from division to amalgamation.  A visit to the town of Tay Ninh, home of the Tay Ninh Holy See - a Cao Dai temple.  Cao Dai is a synthesis of the fundamental doctrines of Taoism, Confucionism, Buddhism, Christian and Roman Catholic church organisation, formed in an attempt to create a universally acceptable religion.  Services are held four times a day - midnight, 6am, midday, 6pm - and viewers are encouraged to line the gallery for the 45 minute service (few last that long!). The music and chanting is exquisitely beautiful.

Buddhist elders wear yellow robes. Confucian elders wear red. Taoists blue.  The general congregation white.

Check the yellow feather duster

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vietnam - day 1

We landed in Ho Chi Minh City - formerly and and very much still known by the locals as Saigon.  Hot and humid as it was the beginning of the rainy season.
Mould encrusted statue - click for more detail!
First instructions from the guides?  The road rules in Vietnam are - there are no road rules.  Those traffic lights?  Just for decoration.  Want to cross the road - put up your right hand, look straight ahead, do not linger, do not rush, focus on the other side of the road and walk.

The traffic is truly chaotic.  Some bicycles, millions of motor bikes, lots of buses and very few pedestrians.  But somehow it all works and people get to where they want to.  Accidents?  Lots, but little is done about them - people tend to turn a blind eye and the legal system is so poor there's no point in trying to extract legal / criminal outcomes.

The afternoon's activities were a walking tour around the central city - Notre-Dame Basilica (constructed between 1863 and 1880, all building materials imported from France), Saigon Opera House, Central Post Office (designed and constructed by Gustave Eiffel in the early 20th century), central city parks - and then the amazing, death-defying cyclo ride around town and back to the hotel.

It is general practice, apparently, that prior to getting married, the affianced dress up and have their photos taken around town.  The images are then projected during the wedding celebrations.

Power supplies are not very well regulated - this is Vietnamese spaghetti.  It is truly of concern; later in outlying towns we were told people do not go outdoors during storms as it's highly likely power lines will fall.
Check the centre of the photo

One of many (recent) election posters

Friday, July 8, 2011

Candied lemon peel

The amazingly prolific lemon tree has been picked - sort of - over two dozen thick-skinned very juicy lemons are now sitting in the basket waiting for action.

I'm about to make cordial and candied lemon peel from here. Hope it turns out as well as this - always a sucker for a gorgeous photo!

Later: steps one and two completed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back to the farm

In a roaring, wet gale this kookaburra just sat and sat, seemingly unperturbed by nature.

And these persimmon jewels just light up the winter orchard.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We've been blessed

We've been blessed in more ways than one, but this is proof of our latest blessing - by the monks at Wat Preah Phrom Rath Temple in Siem Reap.
And that's why there haven't been any postings in the past few weeks - we've been cruising the Mekong from Saigon to Siem Reap.  Pics and thoughts when both have been processed - it was an interesting and challenging trip. Challenging not as in travel, but as in learning more about these countries (Vietnam and Cambodia) and meeting their amazing people.