Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vietnamese Crafts Market

Once we crossed the border into Vietnam, we stopped at a crafts market for the day. We arrived by smaller water craft, as usual. Just glad we didn't have to paddle there on our own like this lady.

If you look carefully, you can see the dog on the boat in the pic above. There was another couple dogs hanging about at the crafts area. And look at that playpen used by the locals.

I love the ceramic dog guardians sitting atop the gate posts. I could make a coffee table book of the dogs and roosters of SE Asia from my camera roll.

We watched demonstrations on puffing corn and making a local sweet treat. 

Spirits, anyone? You could choose from scorpion infused...

or how about some cobra?

The tour guide said it's the Viagra of Asia. The husband took a shot of it, along with some of the other adventurous folks on our cruise. I politely declined.

Little Suzy Homemaker

As a reluctant hausfrau since we returned to England, I keep busy with the family, dog and house. I recently spent part of the day nosing through shops looking for some cute holiday pyjamas with matching booties for the 15-yr-old. She sure does love wooly jammers to wear in the winter months. Then I returned home to bake her some lemon and blueberry bread. Best part about not teaching is that I can schedule everything on my own timetable since I don't have to work in cooking, cleaning, carpooling, shopping, appointments, etc around school hours.

Off the Beaten Path in SE Asia

One of the most interesting aspects of our river cruise on the Mekong is that we were off the beaten path most of the time, able to see how the locals went about their everyday lives. As you can imagine, it was often a humbling experience as we toured around in a local boat to see the countryside and its residents.

I found the raised goat pens quite interesting. 

In the picture above, a local woman fried up some fresh corn cakes for us. In the pic below, you'll see the dearly departed resting in peace in the family's front yard.

The fish drying in the sun were rather odoriferous, while the chilis were quite beautiful.

The local markets were a sight to behold, with all of the various smells and noises and sights to behold.

A daily trip to the market is necessary because there is no refrigeration in the little villages. We saw a plethora of rural homes with neither electricity nor plumbing. 

Transportation leaned heavily towards motorbikes. I was appalled at the little ones squeezed in and hanging on like little monkeys with their parents, typically no seatbelt or helmet in sight. The gentleman below was purchasing large bags of rice to pedal home.

 I had to snap a pic of this fellow because it was a rare sight in Cambodia and Vietnam, an overweight person. Looks like he enjoys the wife's cooking!

Finally, here are two videos from the market. You can see the fish are SUPER fresh. And the little boys were a hoot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Royal Temples and the Three R's

OK, I lied. I thought I would create 2-3 posts from the Mekong River cruise and be done. But once I started looking at the pics I took on my mobile phone - still haven't downloaded the better pics from the camera - I realised I wanted to document this a bit more properly and extensively.

Today's post focuses on the Imperial Palace and a visit to a village in the countryside, in addition to a Buddhist compound on the top of a hill where we received a water blessing and visited a local school. Best part of the palace tour, hands down, was my cyclo driver. He spoke very limited English, so I did a lot of smiling and head nodding when I didn't catch it the second time I asked for a repeat. I distinctly heard the names Clinton, Trump and Obama, so it appears this guy keeps up with US politics. He chattered on and on about Trump, so I figured he either loves or hates the guy. Which mirrors how most Americans feel these days. 

Above is a pic of the obligatory temple/ruins cat we always notice on our travels. Below is a restored fresco on an exterior wall. And beneath that is a royal stupa, aka Cambodian mausoleum.

Here is a little side story I gotta share. When Mr Cyclopedaler asked me where I was from, I responded Texas and he got very animated. It seems he has some family living in Port Arthur, part of the Golden Triangle of Southeast Texas where I grew up. It's a popular area where Vietnamese and Cambodian fisherman have settled. More proof it is indeed a small world. Although we were told the river cruise company would be tipping all of the cyclo men, I gave him a nice tip because he was so entertaining. He broke out in a big old grin and shouted "God Bless America!" as I walked back to board the boat.

In the afternoon, we visited a Buddhist temple sitting atop a hill where we visited some local school children at class after receiving a water blessing from the monks.

The colourful and intricate architecture was incredible. All of us cruisers had purchased school supplies that we gave to the children after they practiced reading in English to us. Their school has only 1.5 solid walls - the rest was chain link fence to keep the critters out - but you could tell education is a priority. Many of the kids were asked what they want to be when they grow up and at least half of them said teacher since they're highly respected professionals in this culture. Another popular response was tour director. Seriously - our tour director on the cruise was AMAZING. Phiem was well spoken, solicitous and knowledgeable. He went out of his way to make sure we had a wonderful cruise experience.

Finally, I want to add a pic of my travel heroes. About half of the 24 folks on our cruise were from New Zealand, just like Gill and Bruce you see in the pic below. He's 87 and she's 84. They've traveled all over the world and are still making plans to see more. I want the husband and I to aspire to be just like Gill and Bruce when we retire. Do some touring, then come back to the boat for a G&T followed by a nap. That's the way to do it, I'm thinking.