A Travellerspoint blog

Green, green and gold

Hanoi

A typhoon was aimed at North Vietnam with heavy rain arriving in the afternoon. THis meant our tour group was urged to use the cable car to reach the Pagoda - reluctantly I agreed to pass on climbing up! What it meant for the villagers was different.
Rice harvesting was underway in a frenzy of activity. The small bus wove through villlages where every flat surface including the road had rice spread to dry. Small threshing machines sprayed mounds of green rice straw in one direction while women colllected grain in shallow woven trays. They cheerfully shifted the machine so vehicles could edge past.
Harvesting was by hand so the small fields were dotted with figures in conical hats. Colours changed from green to gold as the day warmed. By late afternoon, as the rain began, most grain was stored in bags and tall mounds of straw showed where the day's work ended.
On the river, the dominant shades were all green. The karst hills rose very sharply from river flats and the calm green water merged indistinctly with the slope. Sometimes it was only possible to detect water by the gliding motion of a distant person.
Women rowed us upriver in flat boats with lots of chat. A few men fished for crabs or with scoops in the silt, flicking tiny paddles to slide over the surface.
The hillside with LOTS of steps was many shades of green. Once at the top, we cautiously climbed down to a large cave to admire this famed place of worship. Then a quieter glide downriver with the first spatters of rain.

Posted by woylie 18:56 Comments (0)

Snails

Hanoi

They are big, really big. What do they taste like? How many disease are carried by snails. According to D, Lots. Spoilsport.
We meandered through a market this afternoon which stocked more variety than Coles. Lots of live fish and eels, prawns, shellfish, pupae of something, and what looked like mealworms. Fabulous mountains of spices and greens, stalls selling cooked meat and fresh slabs, and a lady very keen to sell us a tshirt. The fruit is too good to ignore so I think we will have to try a mixed bag. Biggest dragon fruit I've seen and tiny pineapples.

We braved a couple of taxi rides today crosssing town to visit the Ethnography Museum. Feel a little more knowledgeable about the multiplicity of languages and ethnic groups. One of the best parts was the examples rebuilt there of house types. The brilliant weaving is truly staggering in the baskets, hats and house gear. I yearn after a fishing basket, but Customs would not be happy.

It is 35 degrees today wiht 50% humidity. But the good news is that the traffic accidents look like they are down on last year.

Food: citron tarte, fresh orange juice, lots of beers, green mango and bean sprout salad with peanuts
Coffee is weird with cardamon? overtones.

Posted by woylie 06:33 Comments (0)

In praise of euros

Hanoi

The morning after.. we were a bit zonked by last night. Very little sleep on the plane to KL particularly when they offered a meal at around 4am, the somewhat surreal KL airport (well, after Perth anything woud seem flashy). Swapped planes and arrived into 32 degrees. It was a big relief to see my name on a pickup slip.
Traffic is ... interesting ...here. People don't seem to be aggro but the horns talk to each other and the mix of foot, bike, motorbike, small car, 4WD, buses weave around and across with some attention to lanes.
We are in the Old Quarter in a mini hotel down a street too small for cars. Sitting having pho for breakfast - tangs of lemon grass and herbs- I saw a woman in a classic cone hat trotting past with a pole on her shoulder balancing two loads. This part of the city is packed to the road edge and past with small stalls, families seated outside businesses, and it takes care to dodge the open concrete drains. There is a slight "drain"smell everywhere - not surprising in this climate.
We walked and walked yesterday afternoon, getting our bearings (hah!), and head out today with new determination. It was overwheming - new language and new currency. With a LOT of zeros. Since most references are to US$ I am converting between 3 currencies to have an idea of prices.

OK, today's goals are to find a bookshop for a good map - there doesn't seem to be a central Tourist Bureau, just lots of eager travel agents- and the Baguette and Chocolat patisserie. Oh and the Museum of Women and the Museum of Ethnography.
Food report: Fried fish with cashews, lemongrass and chili chicken and rice, and noodles for breakfast. The coffee was maybe cardamon laced. mmmm

Oh and the cables looping above the streets would make Mieville happy!! Colourfully painted narrow buildings 4 or 5 levels high and lots of urban decay for David.

Reads rather disjointed which is probably a true relflection. I will aim for a more "composed" entry next.

Posted by woylie 19:00 Comments (0)

Setting off

Hanoi, here we come

Just remembering where everything fits in the case. Heading north to fly out tonight.

Posted by woylie 19:41 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hola! Pigeons, poo, pastries...

Just navigated our way past tiny shops specialising in handles and hinges, or tablecloths or wheels to find this internet cafe (except being in Portugal, it is an Internet bar!) We are in Porto on the river Douro and it has been a morning of misty rain. As a result we have visited the Se or Cathedral which was surprsingly pleasing inside with simple lines and vaulting arches. Outside it stands heavy on the cliff above the river joined to an old part of the medieval city walls. Then we wandered by bus along the river´s edge,until it dried. YThanks to Hilary´s suggestion we packed a couple of ponchos which finally had an airing. I have to say D looked pretty alarming with his backpack/hunch covered in waves of blue plastic. No doubt I was my usual suave self in a fetching clear number.

Menus here have lots of rather good fish but a shortage of salads. We stocked up on some cheeses in Granda and I enjoyed the EC support of its farmers- prices were noticeably lower. Where we can buy fruit etc in mercados our meals are much cheaper but vegetables are harder to manage. Pastellerias are in good supply with yummy pastries and recently some violently yellow tinged croissants. We made a special effort in Lisbon to test a speciality - pasteis do Belem- a Portugese version of a vanilla slice.

I hope you notice the casual multilingual touch! Actually we were just starting to pick up some useful words in Spanish when we moved on to Portugal, which is quite different. Portugese is spoken here by 10 million and by 130 million in Brazil, plus in 5 African nations. However, it sounds like Russian!! And the pronunciation guides give me a headache. I can do "Bom dias" and "Obrigado" but dribble to a halt quickly after that. This can pose a challenge when booking rooms on the phone. Fortunately, there are huge numbers of people here with English who help.
We are staying in a pension in the Ribeira area of Porto, down near the river. The street looked a bit dodgy when we arrived but it is clean and quite roomy with friendly staff. Only one speaks English but the other two ladies are sure that a rapid continuous flow of Portugese will ensure our understanding. Mostly it works. On the street, a set of steep steps lead down to the river - or we discovered the funicular. What a terrifying experience!!! It has been a day of extremes. First I plummetted down this steep slope in a tiny vehicle, then D urged me to climb 225 steps up a tower where being just a teensy bit thinner could have seen me slip through the ridiuclously wide gaps in the balustrade. The guard at the bottom was just amused by the idea of tourists in the tower when the multibell peals were bellowing in their ears!

We head off tomorrow back into Spain via long distance bus for a brief stop at Burgos, then to San Sebastian.
It is frustrating not to have more time here and in northern Spain. Granada and Cordoba gave us some memorable images and experiences. They were both cities where the "special" places more than met our expectations. We stayed in Granada in a small white walled house in the old Albaicin area, the Moorish part of the town, and could see the Alhambra from the roof terrace. In Cordoba, we were beside the wall of the Mezquita. This has the advantage of acting as a highly useful landmark when wandering in twisting laneways of old cities, which was of course why I selected them!

We have been musing over the ubiquitous pigeon and its droppings. Two pigeons are enough, but that is not how it works. There is often a generous supply of dog droppings as well. And of course, there are challenges to the sewerage system of places with so many people and such old pipes.
I have been hugely entertained by how workers manage to get materials up to and out of high apartments in tiny streets. Some very enterprisng solutions, like the sets of bottomless buckets which make a tube for rubbish. The best show was watching over a couple of days as guys dismantled scaffolding around a magnificent building in Lisbon after it had been renovated. They tossed steel cheerfully down the levels to each other and then flung them with brio into a truck below. It was like a dance.

We decdied to head for teh countrysied earlier in the week and visited the small town of Tomar, which had a fortress adn monsatery form the time of teh Templars. It was a good choice a s we travelled through farming country to a busy but pleasnat town. The local students were building up to graduation and intiation ceremonies of the next intake. Dramatic street procession with the graduates dressed in black with great black capes, stitched with badges. The weather was kind and we enjoyed an evening dining outside as the sky slowly coloured, with conversation with some Slovakian architects working in Dublin and a Danish student working for his masters in water studies in Lisbon.

Yesterday we enjoyed a surprise meeting with Geoff, from Narroign book club, and Claire, who are staying in the same pension! Going in different directions tomorrow.

Might not manage another posting until Nice. Loooking forward to staying still for a while but not keenly to returing to work...

Posted by woylie 08:59 Comments (0)

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