Ghosts, an Indian boatman and 101 lost kittens………

It’s the first week of winter and the cold has already begun to cling.   For quite some time my days have been filled with work so a day off, quite selfishly all to myself, has been wonderful and made even more so due the scarcity of them lately.  Rising early I grabbed a coffee and headed to the beach which was deserted, blustery and cold.  A massive swell hit our coastline bringing with it huge waves, chop and wash.  Somehow though, for all its bitter chill there was much warmth in this lovely day.

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Although other things in my life are sorely neglected at present, I am inordinately happy.  I baked last night toasting pecans, weighing butter and roughly chopping dark chocolate late into the evening.  Before I knew it I had whisked and folded into the early hours of the next day.  It was lovely though as my home was quietly dark and filled with the rich scent that only brown sugar when baking can bring.  The little cat content and I lost in thought while listening to the radio and watching for the oven temp to rise.  Finally to bed, I dreamt.  Haunting images often disturb my sleep and on this night my sometimes nebulous eidolon came beautifully clear to me.  I woke early feeling that way you feel when a harsh jetlag or far too much gin sees you somewhere between midnight and god knows where.

We all have our ghosts, real or imagined, which haunt us in different ways.  Though our loss, memories or unresolved issues are not physically present, they are still very much around us.   I have often tried to release a ghost only to become more haunted and I cannot but wonder why we carry these signifiers around for as much as we move on, these stubborn constellations of our past and of our future remain.  Perhaps there is much gratitude to be sought in the belief that time, in her most graceful of ways, heals all.  Little by little the passage of time will take away some of those ghosts, the hurt or a raging grief to bring you to a point where you begin to no longer mourn that which is lost to you……..even when you still dream about them.

The street art of George Town Penang…….

One of the things I love most about George Town are the strikingly beautiful street art murals.

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These charming depictions of children and life and the detailed heritage nod to the urban allure of this city are works which cannot be constrained to any one gallery.  Breathing life into and capturing the winsome spirit so essentially George Town, they are pieces which need to live and exist upon the crumbling walls and in the winding streets and alleys of this ancient city.

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Hailing for Lithuania, the brilliant artist Ernest Zacharevic, is possibly the reason the street art scene became so prevalent in Penang.  His wonderfully iconic and life-like images of children and heritage would bring joy to the harshest of art critics hearts.

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I am drawn to the thought of Artivism, (which is my belief in that lovely cross over between art/activism and advocacy), when I think of the works 101 lost kittens.  These thought provoking images are a collection of around twelve cat related works aimed to create awareness toward the strays of George Town.  How wonderful is that.

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Not only are there painted and 3D images, but also wrought iron sculptures looking so very like a neat charcoal sketch imparting tiny snippets of the history of the area in which they are located.

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These wondrous works are succumbing to the elements.  Over time, they have flaked and faded due to their exposure to the harshest of elements and of course human intervention is also a contributor.  You will find most of these works though by picking up a map and following it until your heart is content or hire a trishaw driver for a few hours as they know all of the places these works are located.

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The Boatman of India…..

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For me though, I just preferred to wander the streets and stumble upon these art works as there is far more joy for me in the anticipation of a discovery which is unplanned.  It was here too in the back streets where the small skittish cats roam that I began to really appreciate the serendipitous beauty of George Town as my moseying often took me through the more unique, interesting and oftentimes bleaker areas of the city.

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During my hunt for the street art of George Town the city began to look so very different and I knew it could never appear the same again.  And ghosts or no ghosts, we all have that which haunts.  The saving grace however, is to find that which is wonderful and to cherish the small moments or to perhaps discover a little piece of art on a wall somewhere……..x

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By George!

I’m in George Town, that wonderful UNESCO World Heritage listed city in Penang where the very traditional and contemporary collide.  This stunningly cosmopolitan and energetic city is one of extremes from the frenetic modern pace of hipsters, street art and stylish cocktail bars to the rickety old trishaws parked in front of crumbling yet ornately lovely clan houses.  This city really is all about grit and glam as its intentional beauty sits oh so effortlessly right alongside the raw and the rough.726

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Now I love this city.  It is a maze of narrow alleyways, archways, lanes and streets that pulsate with colour, energy and community spirit.  There are grand town halls, mansions, antiquated merchant stores, clan jetties, colonial buildings of exceptional beauty (made even more lovely when floodlit) and unsurpassed history.

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The centuries old and wonderfully quaint clan jetties with their fish traps, old wood fishing boats, stilt houses and long winding planked wood walk-ways are the last of a once thriving Chinese settlement.   Do be respectful when visiting as these water communities are still home to many families who eat, pray and live there……...

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Penang itself is beautifully multicultural with three prominent religions.  I visited serene mosques, shrines with their garlands of fragrant blooms left by dedicated worshipers and temples where saffron robed Buddhists light huge joss sticks.

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It does get very hot here so it’s best to sight-see first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the stifling 95% plus humidity.  The good old foot falcon (just watch for the large open drains) is always my preferred mode of transport however do hire a trishaw for a couple of hours as it really is one of the best ways to truly appreciate this town.

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I really do admire the strength and bravery of the trishaw men and their ability to maneuver about in the heaviest of traffic.  Though lean and seemingly fit as a fiddle, these men are by no means young.   Always nut out your price before you go, which is negotiable, and these guys will fill your afternoon with history and all the little hidden gems you won’t find on your own so kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy………

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Although I have bestowed much love upon George Town, it does, as anywhere in the world, have its flaws.  It has been said of George Town ‘she was once a pretty woman who just hasn’t washed her face in a while’ and perhaps there is some truth in that statement.  For me, the absolute charm of this lovely city lies in its grimy time-worn soul however that grim extends to her deep-water sea harbour and water-ways which are polluted, murky and an outlet for raw sewage.  What a elegantly ironic moment though, when I photographed a heart floating among the rubbish strewn waters of the Penang Strait.  Please love our oceans.  They really are some of the most importantly beautiful places on earth…….x

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There are one hundred and one things to love about this graceful melting pot of a city and although the tourist numbers are growing, George Town holds firm its alluring and peaceful charm.  You can still take a leisurely stroll about the streets, wander past temples filled with faded paper lanterns, listen for the melodic call to prayer and explore lanes filled with water-marked terrace houses safely and without the intrusion of large tourist crowds.

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Part II, the amazing street art of Georgetown, coming soon………xx

Singapore fling………

Although autumn, that lovely transition from summer to winter is here, small pockets of heat and sunshine linger.   I have to admit, I wasn’t quite ready to let go of summer just yet so the past week of wonderful weather has been welcomed.  Early mornings have been spent in the surf on and under glorious waves big, slow and rolling.   My playlist has been warmth and sun, cornflower blue skies, perfect waves, sandy hair, good company and pods of dolphins.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.

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These past months have been busy with nary a moment to spare.  Set to a feverish pace which sometimes sees me time poor to do that which I love most such as just watching the ocean, creating, losing myself in the pages of a good book or baking from scratch.

We all have the same amount of hours in our days but it really is up to us how we spend that time.  I have a list of things which make me happiest and a list of that which must be done.  I recently compared those lists and with mindful gratitude, adjusted accordingly.

Singapore:  So strict yet so sophisticated

It seems like a lifetime ago that our trip began in Hong Kong and finally ended here in Singapore, that fastidiously clean yet flawlessly beautiful melting pot of culture.  The Lion City can also boast of having THE best airport in the world and it is natural disaster free.

I think anytime you travel to another country you should always read up on their customs, laws and culture and although Singapore is a contemporary and sophisticated city, there are a couple of little quirks (aka laws) you will need to respect:

  1. Gum control – I have absolutely no issue with this law and its hefty fine as I dislike chewing gum immensely.  I don’t think anyone looks hip nor intelligent while chowing down on gum so when in Singapore, fair warning – don’t buy it, don’t import it, don’t chew it and above all do not leave it stuck anywhere!
  2. Flush – and I am not referring to the literary ‘blush’.  Failure to flush a public toilet  in Singapore will result in a $150 US fine.  And a word of warning – they do random spot checks.
  3. Nuding it up – it is illegal to walk around in your home naked.  Close your curtains otherwise you will be hit with a $2,000 fine or 3 months jail time.
  4. It is also illegal to feed the pigeons or to smoke in public.  Don’t jaywalk, litter or spit and do not annoy someone with a musical instrument…..Nickelback, take note!!  Again, these acts will result in a fine which is perfectly fine by me.

We have been to Singapore prior to this trip and worn out the soles of our shoes en route to Raffles, along Orchard Road, on the Quay, in Chinatown and through the history, landmarks and stunning architecture of this beautiful island state.  This time around however, we decided to spend our down time in one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts…….

The warm, wonderful and boldly colourful Little India.  And why Little India you ask?  Well that is because simply being here makes me happy AND their fish head curries are the stuff of legends 🙂

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I am smitten with Little India.  It is exotic and strikingly vibrant with its arcade’s of tiny spaces filled with silks and saris, spices and sweets along with the gold shops, beautiful flower garlands and Hindu temples.

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From the ram-shackled food halls and hawker stalls to the open street restaurants, the air is filled with the spicy aromas of curries laced with turmeric, coal black cardamom, cinnamon buds, nigella and garlic.  The neighbourhood really is a riot of smells, colours, sights and sounds and it truly is as Indian as India itself……but without the Ganges and sacred cows.

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We were also incredibly fortunate enough to be in Little India at the tail end of  Deepavali, also known as Diwali the festival of lights.  This is the most important of all Hindu celebrations and it commemorates the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair and knowledge over ignorance.

Packed with thousands of Hindu families who descended on the district, Little India was transformed with beautifully decorated statues of elephants and peacocks and one million and one lights.  And there is nothing more fabulous than to be caught up in the human crush of love, festivity and happiness.

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This for me, is one of the prettiest of temples and I have photographed it many times.  Standing in the heart of Little India on Serangoon Road and seeing it again during Deepavali just seemed to bring a little more joy to my heart.  The temple is dedicated to the goddess and destroyer of evil, Sri Veeramakaliamman and it is one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples.

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And don’t be put off by the severed heads, the eating of intestines and the necklaces of skulls – although I am assured each victim deserved their fate – as that is only part of her story and as we all well know, there are always two sides to every narrative.  Macabre to some perhaps, I still think it is a most beautiful temple……..

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So that’s the trip.  Done and dusted from beginning to end.  I found during the writing of these eleven blog posts, there were at times a difficulty in describing a place or an experience simply because it had been far too wonderful to just whittle down into mere words.  I found too that travel for me is a necessity, not a luxury.  That a big world awaits and I never want to feel the disappointment of that which I did not do.

It seems too with each trip my backpack gets a little more frayed and my camera, a little more battered yet I have no issue with that as the memories they have held far outweigh the well-worn.  Catch you all on the flipside soon………x

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Hell Yeah……xx

 

‘If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way’…..Nichiren

The road to Hoi An, the beautifully charming UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, is well travelled.  Wrapped in exquisite layers of grace and tradition the town is essentially a living breathing museum with its whimsical mustard-yellow Japanese merchant houses, crumbling buildings, tea-houses, lanterns, Chinese temples, lovely Vietnamese tube houses and stunning French colonial buildings.

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With its cut-through canals and water-ways this lovely town, a labyrinth of alleyways and lanes, dates back to the 15th century and it was once a thriving Southeast Asian trading port.

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Centrally located in Hoi An, this graceful and very pretty little wooden bridge was constructed by the Japanese in the 1590’s.  Centuries may have passed yet little has changed on this gently arching span which has become a major tourist attraction for the town.

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Whilst in Hoi An, you can leave the traffic snarls behind as cars and motorbikes are banned from the central part of town.  There is a welcomed pace here and apart from the rickshaw and push-bikes, the good old foot falcon is the best mode of transport.

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On almost every corner, little charcoal burners heave under the weight of pork and chicken skewers.  The smell of cooking meat is amazing and their accompanying salads are to die for.  You know how sometimes you think ‘that was a pretty rough day.  I won’t make it worse by having salad for dinner’ .  Well that is not the case in Vietnam as the salads are just divine.  Fresh, light and incredibly moreish with their coriander, mint and Vietnamese basil.  Nom du du bo kho is a favorite with its green papaya, dried beef, roasted peanuts and fish sauce dressing.

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The local beer is cold and it is cheap and it best accompanies the inexpensive hawker food on offer and of course you always know what I always say about street food……..EAT IT!   So hunker down on those tiny plastic squat chairs and enjoy.

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This elegant town does have its touristy side such as the rustic and over-crowded market stalls.  Everything and anything is sold under low slung awnings but just go with the flow and enjoy it all for what it truly is.

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The lovely lanterns of Hoi An…….

I find lanterns breathtakingly romantic and in Hoi An, I fell in love with the way they adorn the cities’ alley-ways and lanes.  Traditionally hung on the full moon, it is said lanterns bring good luck to a home.  How could such serendipitous warm beauty not soften the coldest of hearts.

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There is often a good tired which comes from travel and I was, after my time in Hoi An, in sleeping swan pose before I knew it.  Unfortunately I was still on the bus at the time!   Headed for our next destination, I dozed on and off during the 3 hour long ride occasionally waking to watch for the comfort the acres and acres of green rice fields seemed to bring.  I watched for the locals with their flocks of runner ducks and buffalo and I waited for the motion of the bus to dip beside forests so I could see the tops of the tallest of trees and glimpse the ocean occasionally.

Sometimes my thoughts strayed to ‘home’, but where is home for me.  I have always believed it is that place where I live at that moment.  The place where I unpack my life and where I lay my head and where I can enjoy the serenity of just standing still.  It is where I am always willing to meet myself and where I often fail spectacularly especially on the journey of looking after myself.  It is a place where I always fall in love with something.  Where I am trying to live my best life by having less and having more – less friends, less possessions, more kindness, more compassion and to be more rich in the time I devote to something I love.  It is the luxury of a moment alone in the ocean, finding a book at my local library, finding a piece of sea glass along with a perfect coffee and the joy of a late season summers day.  Most of all, when fortunate enough, it is the place where I am able to hang my lantern…….xx

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The Cu Chi Tunnels and why you should always say goodbye……..

Yesterday I left for work without patting and cuddling our little cat, telling her that I will miss her and for her not to call boys while I am gone.  I do this every time I leave but that morning, I had one hundred and one things on my mind and I left.  I closed the door and I left without saying goodbye.

Our beautiful Trisha died late last year.  She left without saying goodbye.

My friends son died on Sunday.  He left without saying goodbye.

People died during the Vietnam war.  They left without saying goodbye.

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………………

The following post will not be light as there is no lightness in war just as there will never be a war to end all wars.  Wars are ugly and they are brutal.  They display utter barbarism, simplistic poor judgment and horrific violence.  You may believe fate has a hand in war but it is not the hand to turn your face from the thousands of dead, from the displaced and from the atrocities committed just as there will never be a war won without loss and suffering.

It is deeply saddening that in 2018, the world is still the same.  Bombings of the innocent, tactical starvation, war crimes, humanitarian cataclysm and violations of international law.  It just seems the more things change and the more we advance in civilisation, the more we seem to stay the same.

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The Cu Chi Tunnels

Our bus motored on alongside the endless tide of mopeds, through towns and villages, over the mighty Mekong and past miles and miles of rubber tree plantations, the largest in Vietnam and established by the Michelin Company in 1925.  In long, neat straight rows the trees’ bark is wounded and tapped maple-syrup style allowing the milky latex to seep.

And the item most produced by this latex is………….the prophylactic.  A word best pronounced by Sir Sean Connery himself.

Rubber tree plantation, view down rows of perfectly spaced trees

I had never been a huge fan of coach travel prior to this Vietnam trip however I am now grateful for what a bus trip affords.  Of course it can be a little slower but on the up-side there are no security lines, there was free Wi-Fi and air conditioning, good pit-stops for a leg stretch and you get a better view of all that is going on around you.

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Eventually, we came to a stop in the suburban district of Cu Chi which is approximately 70 plus k from Ho Chi Minh City.  We had travelled out here to visit the Cu Chi Tunnel complex.  An underground honey-combed network of tunnels which covered an area of approximately 250k and ran from the outskirts of Saigon to the Cambodian border.

This is a somewhat chilling memorial.  The construction of the tunnels began as early as 1940 against the French however the tunnel system gained immortality during the 1960’s and they have been preserved by the Vietnam Government to become a major tourist attraction.

We had booked a tour and to our great fortune, we had the wonderful harmonica playing simpatico Hung Lo (which I suspect is not his real name) from SaigonTourist as our guide.  This joyous and energetic man along with his tin sandwich kept us entertained, up to pace and in line with renditions of ‘When the saints go marching in’.  Who would have thought.  I went half way around the world to be serenaded with the club theme tune for the Saint Kilda Football Club 🙂

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Pockets of fun aside, this knowledgeable and beautifully passionate man told not only the story of the Vietnam War without prejudice, but also of his life as a young boy during that war.  He spoke of how his world and that of his country changed forever.  How the once lush, fertile and stunning landscape of Vietnam was showered in millions of tonnes of defoliant rendering it a barren and impoverished wasteland.  How the social fabric of a quite and simple life was left in tatters and how humble villagers suddenly found themselves homeless refugees.

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As he spoke throughout the day I understood that the truth of this war was far more complicated and the story, even harder to tell when you are involved.

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The tunnel system is one of the few historic war sites of the world which presents not only an in-your-face ferocity to an unshakeable and determined spirit but it is also a symbol of revolutionary heroism by the Vietnamese people and the Vietcong-controlled Cu Chi villagers.

It is inconceivable to think that below the feet of allied soldiers and scratched out of the soil by hand were weapons factories, field hospitals, command posts and living quarters all accessible only by camouflaged trap-doors.  The tunnels are dark and tight and they were built to accommodate the slight framed Vietnamese, made even leaner in those war time conditions.  The construction made it near impossible for the allied troops, the Americans and the Australians, who were larger framed to penetrate especially when carrying their packs and weapons.

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Camouflaged under leaf litter and completely missed by all who stood around……….

The 1968 Tet Offensive, one of the greatest tactical achievements and one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War, was also conceived and launched from these very tunnels.  On the morning of January 30th 1968 the Vietcong army launched a surprise attack upon 13 cities in South Vietnam which marked the turning point for the Vietnam War.

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When we had first arrived, the sky was blue and the air warm.  The sound of bus engines and chatty unreserved tourist had echoed.  Crickets chirped and the bird song was sweet and all in all, it seemed quite a lovely day.

But as you begin your slow gathering walk on muddy tracks worn down by the thousands of shoe soles before yours, there are no longer birds or crickets to be heard.  The air becomes thick and muggy.  The reviving landscape, smelling so strongly of rotting leaf litter and harboring fire ants and scorpions is steamy.  Laughter is lost to a disturbing quiet and then you hear it!  The impenetrable and disconcerting sound of live rifle fire which stops you dead in your tracks.

The land is still healing and although the jungle is reclaiming back its ground, the pock-marked bomb craters still remain, evidence of the heavy bombing raids during that time.  Around your feet also remain ant-hill-like structures of mounded soil which were the ventilation units for the tunnels.  It was only through these tiny openings did the air flow into the tunnels.

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Ventilation holes disguised as termite mounds and also found at the base of tree roots…….

A dirty and claustrophobic crawl through the underground tunnels is not to be missed.  I remember thinking while crouched in the dark, what an extraordinary yet very singular moment this was.

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The booby traps were it seemed, barbarically unsophisticated, but the ingenuity of them was not to kill outright but to devastate, incapacitate and maim.  No doubt they achieved their intent.

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The live rifle fire I spoke of earlier came from the AK 47’s which have been made available for tourists to shoot.  The AK 47 was the primary weapon used by both the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong during the conflict and although manufactured originally in the Soviet Union, the chief supplier of these assault rifles during the Vietnam War was the Peoples’ Republic of China.

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I do respect there are those in the world who love guns and those who despise guns and gun ownership but what I do find disconcerting are those who claim a passionate loathing of guns yet fire them and boast of it on social media (#insta).  Perhaps the none-too-bright-of-the-world will just continue to shoot themselves in the foot.  But hey, if guns and weaponry, weapons and war history and having a shoot is your thing, then knock your socks off.

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No doubt this was an unpopular war and the tunnels, well they were a profoundly haunting experience but there was an added weight of something far greater in that jungle and of what, I am still unsure.  The Vietnam War had been awfully human place.  It had been a bloody place and it had been a place of horror and horrendous loss with over 1,118,000 lives being lost.  Such a raw legacy of misery is still so incomprehensible.

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After spending hours at the tunnels, we stopped in at what seemed an oasis.  There was food, but I don’t remember eating it.  Beers, I don’t remember drinking them.  There was a small bridge and a creek and a quite serenity which I welcomed.  I kept thinking of the terror and fear both sides endured during this campaign and forty years on there is little solidarity with historians on how and why this war really began.  There is also little consensus as to the wisdom in the handling of this conflict but frankly, I don’t think anyone is in a position to morally judge what we truly do not know nor understand.

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While standing by the river bank on this day I thought of my grandparents who we grew up with and who are both now gone from our lives.  It was the orchid blooms that made me think of them.  I imagined them in their garden, the moments in the late 60’s when they would dress up to the nines for the dance and I remembered how they were when we camped in a tent during the long hot Queensland summers at Tallebudgera.

Most of all I remembered how Nana loved orchids and how on a whim Dad, my paternal Grandfather, would walk for miles to the local orchid grower and choose a perfect orchid plant for her.  This gesture was always a small, very private and loving moment of their relationship.

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In most instances our goodbyes are not heartbreaking unless we never have the opportunity to say hello again yet I sometimes worry time passes too quickly.  One moment it seemed I had said, ‘Dad/Nana died yesterday’‘Dad/Nana died last week’‘They both died a few years ago now’…….

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I actually have the lime green gloves my Nan was wearing and I wear them with love x

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Happy times and how I like to remember them or maybe they were celebrating the arrival of another orchid…….

Perhaps during loss our hearts cannot go unscathed yet it is but a moment taken to say goodbye when we have the chance.  The one good thing though with having to say goodbye to a country like Vietnam is, you immediately want to go back to say your hello……….xx

Why I temporarily lost my shit in Vietnam and how I killed my darlings……..

Our trip, which began in Hong Kong and ended in Little India, has been covered in these last few blog posts.  This was a huge adventure and as wonderful as it all was, I find I just cannot write of the one thousand and one things I experienced during that time.

It has been said that writing becomes your darling.  You write a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter and although you love that piece of work, it will, at some stage, need to be cut.  In my case, I may feel I want to write about every moment of this journey but I can’t, otherwise I will be here for the next ten years!

So although I haven’t suddenly developed murderous intent, I will be putting my darlings to the sword by culling some moments and condensing others and therein, I will begin to kill my darlings.

More Vietnam…….

Again the days saw us immersed in street food and the Vietnamese culture.  I was still head over heels for this country and I don’t think that will ever change.

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Bussing it to the foothills of the Trai Thuy Mountain, we discovered the lovely Taoist architecture of the Long Son Pagoda.

Behind the Pagoda, and after a climb of the steep stone 152 step stair case, there is a large and very perfect white lotus blossom.

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And seated in the centre of that very perfect blossom, is a huge and very perfect white Buddha.

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I am never one to ask of travel to give me a life changing moment but seeing that majestic and very beautiful Buddha made my heart leap.

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There is peace to be found among the temple gardens and small grave sites located on the lower level and the beautiful mosaics constructed of glass and ceramics which adorn the roofs, entrances and halls are just lovely.

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This really is an enchanting place to spend a little down time but just watch for the traffic (and the power-lines) as you cross the road………

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The bus we caught in south-central Vietnam weaved along to pull up in the coastal city of Nha Trang.  Sometimes when on a bus, I would press my face to the glass not wanting to miss a moment or I would just sit and write small notations while watching the landscape of the country run by.

Off the bus this day, I walked across to the ocean which seemed to pound with furious monotony onto the sand.  It wasn’t the postcard I had expected and nor had the beach before it been, nor the one before that.  Rubbish and plastic bottles had been left among the sand and more were about to wash up from the cresting waves.  Dispirited, I didn’t even bother to photograph it.  There are I know, some incredibly beautiful pockets of ocean in Vietnam but I just hadn’t found them on this trip.

I caught up with my husband and walked from the ocean across the ever busy highway clogged with traffic.  Hundreds of step-throughs, push bikes, tour buses and the odd car choked the four lanes in both directions.  I watched as a medical emergency worker, in the centre of one lane, tended an elderly man who had been knocked from his bicycle.  As the mans blood seeped out onto the hot bitumen, the traffic swerved around them and continued to surge on.  Later in the day I saw the lifeless body of a motor-bike rider.  The small twisted figure lay by the road side and only days later again I saw another body.

Finally across the road we rounded a corner passing a small fishing village and its River Cai harbour which smelt so heavily of shit and of the sea.  The sky was once again heavy as we followed the curve of the road.  I was worried about the injuries to the man who lay on the hot tar, I was missing our little cat and I missed my beautiful New South Wales beaches.  I was snippy and I was tired.  Drained by the heat and lack of sleep and exhausted by the disappointment in the true realisation of how little respect we humans have for our fellow man, our planet and especially our oceans which we seem hell bent on destroying.

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In a very brief and somewhat demoralising moment, I thought that if I never saw this part of Vietnam again I would be sad but somehow relieved.  Perhaps my gloom had been fed by the heat, by the tiny insects I was only now allowing to bother me and by that very distinct and very unmistakable smell of shit.

The tourists, irritatingly slow and in plagued proportions, bothered me the most!   Their exasperating boorishness, condescending stupidity and gracelessness seemed no better than a horses arse at times.  The careless and misplaced arrogance they cast over the respectfully gentle Vietnamese grated.  These are the same people who probably fart while in the confines of an aircraft!  It really matters little how ‘educated’ , elite or superior you believe yourself to be.  How you ultimately treat others will always show your integrity and it will always speak the truth of who you really are!

Yet just around the corner, perhaps only thirty more steps away, would lay my reprieve as the Po Nagar Cham Temples awaited…….

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Beautifully charming and deeply complex in structure, these temples are the largest collection of Cham ruins.  They are thought to have been constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries and they are located on a small hill 50 metres above sea level.

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These incredible temples, erected to honour the Hindu Goddess Po Nagar, have survived war, vandalism, lootings and neglect to hold fast their history.  Built on two levels, the first being a large meditation hall of which only the pillars remain, and the second part accessibly only by steep stairs hold the east-facing temples, of which only four survive today.

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Suddenly, I was enjoying it all again.  My brief moment of pessimism banished as I again began to treasure these moments and of where I was in our wonderful world.  The assertive and every present hawkers peddling their wares, the noise, the crowds, the disagreeable attitudes of some, the heat, the smell of shit and even the swarms of tourists no longer bothered me.

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The day began to fold in on itself and the sky, that big Vietnamese sky remained the same which to me, seemed pretty perfect again.  In those few of days I saw the beautiful and the not so beautiful.  I saw life and the harsh reality of death.  I realised that patience truly is a virtue and that all things, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable, will come to pass.

I understood too when travelling there will be times where I will miss much which is so dear to my heart and that shit, no matter where you are in the world, will always smell like shit but that’s okay.  It really is all very okay.

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And in the midst of it all,  I even managed to kill off a few of my darlings……x

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Foot Note:  Nothing of literary note was harmed during the writing of this blog post.