A Travellerspoint blog

Mrs World, quality tea, camp men and other random ramblings

Obscure items of (little) interest from HCMC

semi-overcast 31 °C

Another London bus type entry with two new postings in one day. HCMC is a bit of a weird place. Take today for instance. Everything was very surreal indeed. Like in those movies where the picture goes all wavey like you're in a dream. You know how Jill and I like a pagoda ... so we set off in pursuit of the Van Nghiem pagoda on our trusted 152 bus. It turns out to be a spectacular sight with a massive gold Buddha as a centrepiece, flanked by equally large gold statues of some of his disciples, huge 10 feet high wax candles, and beautifully laid out altars. And in the middle of these altars were vast amounts of boxes of Choco-pies, presented as offerings to Buddha. Take away the Choco-pies and the whole space is really beautiful and restful. When we'd had a look around we sat down in the hall for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Suddenly, a monk appeared followed by an entourage of men, a photographer snapping away, and a very glamorous lady came in with a sash around her saying what we thought was "Miss World". It was a bit bizarre but she proceeded to stroll about having her photo taken whilst all these other people were praying. We thought ... is this the real Miss World? It can't be. We surreptitiously inquired and apparently it was. Even if she did look a little short. Now I'm never sure about the pc / non-pc factor that revolves around Miss World but it was too good an opportunity to miss. So we had our photo taken in a pagoda with this very glamorous lady. When she waltzed off we went outside for some lunch and were flicking through our photos ... we noticed the woman's sash actually said "Mrs World". Checking at home we found that there truly is a Mrs World competition and so what you see in the photos is us with the marvelous (and obviously very talented) April Lufriu - Mrs World 2011. A sort of Miss World for married women. We should really have known as the lovely April was only about 5'3" but we were somewhat swept away in the bizarreness of it all!

Whilst in the pagoda we were also latched onto by a very camp man called Hiep who was also thrilled to have his photo taken with Mrs World but was equally besotted with me. This seems to be a bit of a theme in this city and I appear to be attracting the attention of a number of men. Apparently, they all want to improve their English. Which may or may not have been mis-translated in all current Vietnamese / English dictionaries and phrasebooks. I will keep you posted with any future incidents, obviously. In the meantime I will refrain from baking, collecting banana stickers and chasing butterflies with gay abandon - which might have something to do with it.

Today we also came across a brilliant tea shop which sold the best tea in the world. It was hidden down a side alley and no one was inside. We were greeted by the owner and fed amazing orange and durian fruit creme brulees and the most refreshing and reviving tea. He said he'd only been open a month and business was slow ... we were the first English people to visit and no one seemed to know about it, which probably had something to do with the fact that it was completely hidden from the main road and there was absolutely nothing to suggest it was there. He admitted that marketing was not his strong point! He was a lovely bloke but we don't hold out much hope of it being there should we return in a few months. Which is a shame. It was ace.

A strange day, then, in a strange city. In which nothing is as it seems.

Elsewhere, we completed our first run since being over here - run being in the loosest sense of the word. It was a 4K effort at 7.00am but the weather was still blisteringly hot and a woeful 25 minutes later I finished looking very ill indeed. Jill did a very creditable 33 minutes. We will endeavour to improve at the next one next month.

And lastly, we have been thoroughly enjoying the cinema of late. A bargain at £3.00 a go and we have seen the splendid Premium Rush, the tear-jerking Odd Life of Timothy Green, the woeful and distasteful The Watch, and the Bollywood spectacular set in London - Cocktail. Such is the popularity of cinema in Vietnam that we have shared the cinema, in total, with less than 20 people. And they still tell us where we have to sit. Which is very bizarre and just about where we entered this blog post.

Posted by TheBackyard 21:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)



sunny 34 °C

Well folks, who would have thought that spending five days in Kuala Lumpur with librarians could be such fun? Jonathan and I were surrounded by beautiful librarians whilst we toured the International Schools together. Some schools are very modern and each child boasts an I-pad to load apps for their home work, etc!

Day two and I (Jill) step out alone and head for the Petronas Towers. The sight takes my breath away (although I did not cry as I did when I first laid eyes on the Empire State Building). Surveying the buildings they look like two giant steel cake tins. I book our tickets for the following day and head in to town.

For me the only way to discover the city is by Tourist 'Hop On Hop Off' bus. One burst tyre and 4 hours and 30 minutes later I have managed the circular route.

I am struck by the modern spanking new tower blocks, and the relics of colonialism of the Cricket pitch (now Freedom/Merdeka Square) smack right in the centre of town. The Muslim women look so vibrant in their brightly coloured clothes rather than black. I have never seen so many different patterns in my life; they are very graceful.

Next day we head for the National Mosque and after some persuasion to staff Jonathan is finally allowed in due to him wearing shorts, he is offered a fetching purple outfit... see the photos ...

The Mosque was tranquil and modern and the decor was calming. I was really struck by the sound four times a day of the Muslim chant that rang from the Mosque ... whipping around our hotel at 24 floors up it was so mesmerising. In the evening we head of for a night of merriment with 34 other librarians - that is not something you hear everyday. Eleven of us choose to take the train to the venue and it's very exciting. You don't get tickets - you get plastic tokens. And there are "women only" carriages ... which we reluctantly do not use as Jonathan is with us. We are guided (or marched more like) by three German librarians, the eldest of which is remarkably like Grandma Guy! They promptly get us lost and we end up at the wrong station, with a twenty minute walk to the hotel and we arrive an hour late for dinner. The proverbial librarians and breweries springs to mind.

The following day at the Petronas Towers and standing on the highest bridge in the world, I braced myself for the 86th floor. Wow it was high but exhilarating. Absolutely spectacular.

And finally the food, the curry which was the best I have ever tasted was in 'Little India - Brickfields' area. Jonathan was happy when the sign on the door proclaimed ... BE VEGETARIAN FOR MIND BODY AND SOUL.

All in all a wonderful place ... next time I want to visit the Cameron Highlands and Penang!

Next stop 'Phu Quoc' a island of Cambodia!

Posted by TheBackyard 05:02 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Cholon, pogodas, zoos and other sundry bits on interest ...

... Possibly

rain 30 °C

Jill has reminded me on more than one occasion that I has been more than slightly amiss in updating this here blog page and for this I apologise and I'll let you know what we've been up to over the last two weeks ... and more importantly, what number buses we've been riding on.

So, with Jill fully recovered from bronchitis and Daisy well on the way to recovering from heat rash (although she still rattles rather impressively from all the prescriptions she was given) we hit town with a vengeance. We went to explore Cholon, which is the Chinese enclave just outside the city centre. We caught the no. 1 bus. It is very much like the city centre but with lots more Chinese people. It does have some rather spectacular pogadas which were really very beautiful. The best of them were the Thien Hau pogada and the Quan Am pogada. They were ace. As with most of the city the area seems to be undergoing constant redevelopment and is a work in progress. However, it also has a very, very good street market which was splendid to walk around. Food-wise you could get just about anything, as the attached photos may prove. Rather impressive pigs ears!

We have also visited the very excellent Dam Sen water park. If you ignore the general health and safety implications of all the slides and rides it is a top morning's entertainment. The slides were lethal but altogether brilliant and the rides with the blow up tubes were just as good. Daisy and I had to collar a poor, bewildered Vietnamese girl to go on one of the rides with us, only for Daisy to fall out of the ring half way down and get the biggest cheer of the day from everyone else watching as she ended up in the bottom pool all by herself. Marvellous. Oh, and we got the number 69 bus back to town which was a very good journey.

Daisy left on Thursday which was quite sad but I was buoyed by the fact that she purchased a conical hat and an I-Pho t-shirt and in no way looked like a tourist. She looked splendid as a photo in the next few days will testify to.

Yesterday we ventured into town to buy me some more shirts for school. We hit Ben Thanh market and were promptly collared (literally) by two women stallholders who wouldn't let us go. I thought they'd send out for a ransom demand. It was quite scary. We finally extracated ourselves from their vice like grips and legged it to a the safety of a fixed price stall. I'd hoped to get a few regular checked shirts but it appears they are unheard of in HCMC. It's cut price fake labelled shirts or nothing. I promptly came home with four Tommy Hilfiger shirts (although they're not) and a natty t-shirt with 3 conical hats in the shape of the Vietnam flag. Trust me on this one - it's actually quite tasteful. The other thing about shopping is that you have to buy everything in XXXL because no one weighs more than about 8 stone here.

Today Jill and I went to see the Botanical Gardens on the 19 bus. Well, we had intended to see the Botanical Gardens. However, the gardens actually held the local zoo. Anyway, we paid the extortionate fee of 75p each, hoping to view some impressive colonial gardens a la Kew. Instead we witnessed a lot of disturbed animals going somewhat sir-crazy in very poor conditions and people throwing plastic bottles of pop into the orang-utang enclosure so that they could open them and drink them for entertainment. It was all a bit distressing. The elephants were definitely not altogether all there in the head or heart and the tigers were more than a little frustrated with life. We escaped quickly.

To calm ourselves I went to get my haircut at the barbers in one of the less sought after districts of town near where we live. And the bloke gave me the best haircut ever for £1.00. After a few false starts in which I thought he was going to slit my throat with the cut-throat razor, then give me a Frankie Howerd / Paul Daniels / Terry Wogan style toupe he came up trumps and I now look almost respectable.

In between our sojourns about town school is going marvellously. The pupils are still lovely and the library is jam packed at lunch-time. Lucas in year 3 is already a legend, as is Tommy in the same year, and the 6th formers are tops. However, trying to find out the school gossip from them is hopeless. And, the reading group have no concept of the importance of biscuits and cake to reading. Some things are still a work in progress. And we do seriously miss the Stanchester Reading and Amnesty group. And everyone else there.

It continues to rain daily, we continue to swim daily and we continue to discover new things daily. More news as and when it happens ... or quite soon after. Jill and I hope you are all well and happy and we love you all very much.

Posted by TheBackyard 05:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

Hoi An

lovely beaches

sunny 27 °C

Daisy and I headed off to Hoi An in Central Vietnam for a few days. It is a great town and our guide informs us that it is an UNESCO World Heritage site where traders from around the world came to trade their wares from the 16th Century.

It is quaint and beautiful and the architecture is stunning a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and European.

Hoi An is also famous for hand made clothes and shoes that they will make for you within about 24 hours. Daisy and I went in search of something and settled on a pair of shoes each. In less than a day they have measured us and hey presto ... new shoes.

We have had fun at the beach and Daisy enticed me to go paragliding. Half way up panic set in and I wondered why I agreed. Daisy tried to calm me. I was pleased when we finally made a splash landing.

Another day was spent at the Holy place of My Son, a temple, also given UNESCO recognition. It was a huge religious centre between the 4th and 13th centuries ... Plenty to see and learn about. Daisy and I sweltered in the heat.

All in all it was a splendid few days.

Jonathan and I are off to Malaysia next for our adventures. It is amazing where a school trip can take you!

There's a few pictures attached of our escapades ... including the natty shoes.

Posted by TheBackyard 05:28 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam we have arrived!

overcast 30 °C

Hi all folks back home in the backyard!
I know you have been waiting with baited breath...for our ramblings. Vietnam is in some parts is slower than Burton Bradstock time and in others faster than the wind. Just the other day we became connected to things electronic and I (Jill) feel alive again.

I love this place though its hot it is a riot to my imagination with all the sites and sounds, I experience in a good creative way.

I have taken to what the locals do, I am out walking at 6am- well I know I did this in BB, but now I contend with seeing a massive sea of people playing badminton, exercising, taking in the morning air. We in good old blighty, could learn a lot from this, the women are so slim and beautiful!

I especially like hearing from our apartment the street vendors calling out their wares, baguettes at 6p each and bunches of banana's 8p. It reminds me of Dickensian London, (not that I was there!). Mainly women selling and cycling with their conical hats on.

We have also taken to going on local bus...at 12p a ride why not. We explained this to the school staff they looked at us in horror and amazement..as they tend to take the £3 taxi. We get to see the diverse city this way, and we meet the lovely people.They are very friendly and always think we have missed our stops as we head out to the suburbs...

Well school started for Jon on Thursday, a culture shock, a small library and he loved the way the primary children just came in laid on the floor and read...there are lots of challenges for him tough..and I know he will be a huge success.

Well Daisy arrived yesterday much to our pleasure, next week I am taking her to the UNESCO world heritage site of Hoi An. Where there is still the site of a 15th to 17th Century Southeast Asia , shops and trades from around the world....mm what shall we buy...

well thanks for reading, love to all

Jill and Jonathan xxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by TheBackyard 16:44 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

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