Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You shall go to the ball, Cinders

Got togged up in best clothes (very rare commodity round here) and high heeled shoes (for the first time in over a decade) to go to the launch of the latest good food guide. Feet survived without a problem - so the shoes could well get another airing sooner than 2021! Did make an awful noise clip-clopping down the street though. What is the etiquette for quiet high-heeled prancing?  Not walking??
Phone camera - despite the evidence here, everything is black

Friday, August 26, 2011

More spring

It's delightful watching the small green birch leaves unfold from their winter hiding. Amazing colored sky.

The farm garden beds are yellow (daffodils), white (narcissi), purple (hardenbergia), dusky pink (hellebore), and orange (marigold).

With a little blue peaking out - the miniature irises are so small that they are almost completely obscured by their strappy leaves.

Hover flies are starting to appear - not easy to photograph but great fun to watch.

You do need to look very closely to see the little critter!  Or click on each photo for a high-res view.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vietnam - day 6

We transfered to local boats and meandered through narrow channels to visit an evergreen island and floating fish farms.  This area is fairly flat, and criss-crossed by many canals and small rivers - all man-made (or man-redirected).  The flatness of the land lends itself to massive rice production - which is also reliant on the river flooding.  The area produces 30 per cent of Vietnam's rice in a tenth of its terrain.

River flooding is vital for agriculture all along the Mekong River and it is a matter of considerable concern to the people living along the river - China has plans for dozens of hydropower dams, proposing to build them without consideration for the needs of others living along the river.

Because of the flooding which occurs every year (so far) the houses are built on high stilts four or five metres above ground level, and the animals are kept in large corrals slung under the houses.  The animal floors are slatted and urine and excrement are collected in buckets for later use in the fields and vegetable patches.

Camera shy goats

The children all bounce excitedly around visitors and adults are graciously polite.  Almost everyone we meet in Vietnam and Cambodia says "please tell your friends about our country - we need tourists to improve the economy".  Their openness and generosity is a salutary lesson to those of us who live well and take life for granted.

After wandering around the island we headed for Tan Chau, district capital of Tan Chau, part of An Giang Province.  Confused?  Don't worry!  
Chillis drying

Corn drying

Fish drying

More fish drying
We wandered through a rattan making factory - the noise was horrendous.  One assumes all the employees are deaf.

Snail eggs
Tan Chau is famous for its silk, particularly Lanh My A - a silk dyed black by Diospyros mollis fruit (Mac Nua).  There's an interesting - and sad - article on the factory here.

The best way of getting around a hot dusty town is by trishaw - xe loi - good for the passenger, not so good for the driver.

Long day at the market

Blue is considered a lucky colour

Lotus flowers

Lotus seeds, extracted from ...

Lotus pods

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vietnam - day 5

Sa Dec in Dong Thap Province was an exercise in contrasts.  Here we visited a brick factory, the old house of Huynh Thuy Le (now known as "The Lovers' Museum), the local market and Fujian Temple.

Disembarking at the brick factory was the only time we succumbed to a drenching on the entire trip. These huge conical buildings are the brick and tile kilns.  They are loaded with thousands of bricks - rectangular four-holed extruded clay from the river, and fired for about three weeks - day and night.  Rice husks are used for fuel.

Mr Huynh Thuy Le, son of a wealthy Chinese family, earned notoriety for his clandestine romance with then-pubescent French writer Marguerite Duras. Their story was the basis for Duras's 1984 Prix Goncourt-winning novel The Lover (L'Amant); adapted in 1992 into the film of the same name.

The house of Huynh Thuy Le, for many years an office for a government agency, is now open to the public.  During the tour we were treated to delicious tea and very more-ish candied ginger.

Another market ....

Not for eating
Interesting comments re dogs - southern Vietnamese vow there is no way they'd eat dog meat, but then "those northerners - you just can't tell, they're known to eat dogs".

Then a tour of the Fujian Temple.
Our irrepressible guide.