Thursday, 26 February 2009

New Glasses

I still need two pairs of glasses. One pair for reading and another for driving and watching the television. I don't need glasses for walking about - yet. But the prescriptions are getting closer so I reckon in two years time when I have my eye test they'll tell me I need one pair with graduated lenses. That's OK because this 'buy one set of designer frames and get one free' will mean I can have a pair of prescription sunglasses as well so that I can read, drive and walk about wearing shades. And have a glass of wine in the pub during the day wearing shades because I need to see.

I love my new red glasses. They match my lipstick.
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Monday, 23 February 2009

I thought I'd focus on the children who live in the villages along the Mekong Delta. They live in bamboo  houses built on stilts. At high tide and during the rainy season their houses are at water level so they step out of their front doors directly into their boats. During the dry season and at low tide they walk down the wooden steps onto dry land.  They are very poor. The river is their life. They fish, they dredge, they harvest silt, sand and wait for tourists to disembark from their luxury Colonial River Cruisers and sell them stuff. These children are irresistible. 

"Hello. You have dollar? You buy my scarf?"

I bought seven scarves for twenty dollars. I asked our guide if they were made locally. She said


Back on the boat a fellow passenger said she'd bought identical scarves in TopShop and they were made in China. 
These little boys were selling a tray of six homemade cakes for One Dollar. I said I wasn't hungry.

"You not hungry? I'm hungry. Baby hungry. Buy my cakes. One dollar"

I didn't buy their cakes but I gave them five dollars.

I didn't buy their cakes because there was a sign at the entrance to their water village on the Mekong saying

"Do not buy cakes from the children because they are made with out of date ingredients and you will get colic if you eat them"

I did give them five dollars because my youngest grandson is about the same age as the oldest little boy in this photo. This Christmas my grandson bought himself an electric guitar with his Christmas money. It cost him £175. He still has to learn how to play it. 

This little boy has nothing. He's trying to sell me cakes that could hospitalise me. He, and his sisters, is likely to be sent away to work in textile factories in Cambodian cities. Sent away to work in a tourist hotel in Ankar Wat. To clean hotel rooms. In the kitchens. They are children. I try to imagine my grandsons being sent away from home at this tender age to work in a factory. I can't visage this without hurting.

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These two pretty little girls were eating raw sugar cane for their afternoon snack. They are poor. As we approached their village they ran up to the men in our group, all aged over fifty, and asked them if they could teach them English and "Have you got a wife?"

The men felt uncomfortable. Understandably. 

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Killing Fields

If I had been told in the 1970s that one day I'd be travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia on a luxury river boat I would have said this was madness. May as well tell me I'd be holidaying on the moon. So throughout this trip I had to keep telling myself this was real. I was there. Although I have titled this The Killing Fields I don't feel ready to write about this experience yet. I've been to Auschwitz and Birchenau death camps and thought I was prepared for the horrors the gentle, warm and friendly Cambodian people went through- but I wasn't. Instead, here's a picture of me resting under a palm tree near Phnom Penh, shading myself from the intense heat and humidity. The Killing Fields must wait.

This is the boat, the RV Tonle Pandaw, that was our home for eight days on the Mekong Delta. This was the best river boat we've ever been on as it was a replica of the colonial steamers developed in Scotland by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in the early part of the last century, yet all built in the last ten years in Rangoon and Saigon. There were just thirty cabins on two decks with a mixture of passengers of all nationalities including Australians, Dutch, French, German, Canadians and Americans. Over half of the forty passengers were from the UK. We all seemed to be intent on spending what we've got and enjoying it rather than saving for that rainy day. We journeyed 565 miles upstream from Saigon in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia, making side trips in small boats through back-waters and wetlands, where we disembarked and spent three days visiting the temples at Angkor Wat.

The boat was superbly fitted out in varnished teak and brass. The cabins were very comfortable with divine air conditioning as well as perfect showers. The upper observation sun-deck served tea, coffee, soft drinks, local beer and gin, whiskey, rum and brandy from six in the morning until whenever. All free. This was a very pleasant surprise as we usually run up a hefty bar bill at the end of our river cruises so it was a first for us - drinks included. I was a bit wary of the Local Gin until I tasted my first one and it was as good as a Gordons.

More to come.

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

This Is Not My Hand

There is so much to say about our wonderful two week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, including one week cruising up the Mekong Delta in a Paddlesteamer, so I thought I'd begin with the spiders. And this isn't my hand. I couldn't do that. Never. We are in a Spider Market in Cambodia. That huge spider is about to be deep fried and served with fresh garlic and then eaten.

This is a bucket full of deep fried spiders. And they aren't my pink Crocs or floral pants either. Several Brave Brits actually nibbled on the deep fried spiders. Just the legs and declared it was like eating garlic flavoured matchsticks. Not one of them was bold enough to eat the body. Can you imagine that? Soft and squishy spider body.

I suppose if I was hungry enough. No. I'd rather eat the pink Crocs. Which reminds me. I did eat Crocodile Tail for dinner in Cambodia and guess what? It tasted just like chicken.
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