Category: Musing/Speculation


The 7 hour overnight trip out to Inle Lake from Bagan deprived us of the sight of the lush Burmese jungles through which we passed. We arrived at around 04:30 whilst still dark. However, the proprietor was kind enough to open the gate and let us in early. After a late start we “mooched” around the town of Nyaungshwe to orientate ourselves. We negotiated a price for a day out on the lake for the following day from an itinerate Street fixer, then went back to our hostel (The Aquarius).

Tending the “Floating Tomatoe” plantation

The fast & narrow fish tail boat with boatmen for 16000 kyats (£9.25) from Nyaungshwe to the Ywama village on the other side of the lake about an hour away was a bargain. We stopped on the way to see a huge floating farm cultivating tomato & cucumber.

Ywama village was hugely interesting. Visiting various artisan establishments producing fabrics made from locally sourced silks, cotton and plants from which fine fibres were drawn spun and made into the fabric from which a variety of garments were made. Silver and Gold were also sourced locally from which jewellery was fashioned. A cigar factory where cigars, cigarillos and stogies were hand rolled from locally sourced leaf.

 

Handloom weaving…Amazing…effective simplicity.

Gliding around the village by boat minded one of other water borne environments that we had visited previously in the Mekong Delta in Cambodia. It is a privilege to meet and greet such a gentle, always smiling people.

The fishermen on Inle Lake have a novel, yet thoroughly practical way of using their feet to manipulate their fishing basket.

 

Friday 13.07.17 Headed south on the 10 am bus to Yangon. This time the beauty of the Burmese jungle did not escape us as our transport twisted sinuously down from the highlands to the low country. Utterly enchanting vistas. The trip south took 12 hours, and the taxi ride in from Yangon station another hour. Checked back in at Shannkaley hostel around eight in the evening.Lovely smiles of recognition from the hostel staff as we bowled through the door. Got settled down and promptly fell into a deep slumber.

Dexterous use of hands & feet in the process of fishing on Lake Inle.

Caught the 11:00 am flight out of Yangon back to Bangkok.
After having some reservations prior to going to Myanmar, I am so glad that I did. So much pleasure derived from meeting such a gentle courteous and helpful people. A countryside, (particularly in the mountainous jungle of the NE) that is utterly beautiful.
Will be headed south from Bangkok Friday 14.07.17 to spend some time on an island off the SE coast of the Thai peninsula

Arrived by train back in Bangkok from Vientiane to Nong Kai (after some problems with the ticket issued to us in Vientiane Laos) for a two-night “lay-over”. This, as a precursor to flying out to Myanmar from Don Mueang airport (one of the two airports serving Bangkok).
Arrived Yangon, Myanmar Sunday 18.06.17 at 10:05 am after an hours flight from Bangkok. First impressions, people very friendly and helpful. Taxi ride downtown to ShannKalay Hostel cost 11000.00 kyats (£12.60). After a small sleep took a walk down by the harbour and market area. Lots of old colonial buildings in various states of repair/disrepair, in a myriad of designs from Art Deco, Roman neoclassical, Gothic, and post-modernist vernacular.

Anyone need a hat!

Seems such a shame that those buildings that really do need saving suffer from a lack of funds. However, hopefully, as the economy opens further perhaps more inward investment may be forthcoming. Have been out for some “Street Food” (a little iffy but OK), then at a local restaurant, which was quite busy, (always a good sign). Visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s front gate (where she endured “house arrest”). Visited the “Reclining Buddha”, all 200 feet of her then took a taxi ride around town for four hours looking at various points of interest. Took a walk in the park on a decidedly “dodgy” wooden promenade. Unfortunately, twenty minutes in, the heavens opened and got absolutely soaked to the skin.

Covered quite some ground over the past month or so.

Wednesday 24.06.17 Took a bus for a five-hour ride over to the West coast and the Andaman sea to a town called Ngwesaung, where we checked in at “Hill Top” a small hostel with twelve traditional wooden chalet type buildings. We are now in “rainy season” so the place is fairly deserted and it rains most every day but then brightens. Breakfast and evening meal is provided however, one has to get used to the “house” cat strolling nonchalantly across the table and ants busying themselves with whatever ants tend to do whilst evening meals are consumed quickly as the midges feed themselves on ones ankles, where those “juicy” blood vessels lie close to the surface. The various resort hotels in Ngwesaung are all shut for the rainy season however, one can see that the environment is slowly being developed into a “go to” seaside location for both indigenous people and foreign visitors.
02.07.17The Green Dragon bus company provided a relatively new(ish) Higer bus which barrelled along the narrow roads back from the coast. First twisting and turning around hairpin bends, then slowing to squeeze past other, slower road users with the judicious use of horn and braking systems.We crossed several rivers of varying sizes on bridges constructed either from concrete or wood. Those constructed of wood creaked & groaned disconcertingly as the bus made a passage. The journey continued, passing acre upon acre of rice paddy fields, fish farms and the occasional grazing water buffalo, our progress took us through small village environments where the cadences of daily life played out. A man transporting his 14-foot canoe on his bicycle accompanied by and sometimes engulfed by a variety of geese, goats, dogs and itinerate traders bearing their wares bound for markets and roadside pitches. Young boys, who otherwise should have been in school (one assumes), carrying large bundles of wood on their heads to some ill-defined destination. All this is seen fleetingly as the bus “ghosts” in and then out of these various tableaux.
03.07.17Once more we found ourselves on a bus again following an overnight stay at ShannKalay Guest House in Yangon.(It never ceases to amaze me how far out of town Bus Stations are in Myanmar. Sometimes driving by taxi for an hour and a half out of town, just to get to it!)

Stupas are round. Temples have a square footprint. There are many hundreds of them throughout the area.

At 21:00 we got on board for a 9-hour overnight journey north to the city of Mandalay. Bus stations (to a stranger), seem like a chaotic “madhouse” of feverish & chaotic activity. However, it all seems to work reasonably well, and we find ourselves ensconced in a rather nice Swedish built Scania Vabis Executive coach with A/C, fully reclining, comfortable seats, onboard seat back t.v. sets with a choice of films in most languages. There are also snacks and drinks on offer.09.07.17 Mandalay seems overwhelmed with temples and stupa of varying sizes and styles.The town is fairly spread out and has a walled “Citadel” which the army appears to be used as a barracks. Only stopping a couple of nights then another coach trip south to a town called Bagan lying on the Irrawaddy river.

Most every woman and child seems to have a predisposition to paint their faces. Now whether this started out as “sun protection” & ended up being quite fashionable, I know not. Quite unusual though.

Though a rather dusty place, it has a vibrancy and development is taking place very quickly as the economy opens up to enterprise and irrepressible entrepreneurs.08.07.17 Inle LakeArrived here in the early hours (04:30) and got into town by Tuk Tuk as the bus station was some distance from town. However, the night watchman woke at our calling and kindly let us in. It was still dark.

A lady of the Kayan tribe who inhabit an area in NE east Burma close to the Thai border

Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Myanmar, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area.[3] Among the refugee camps set-up, there was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and not needing financial assistance.

Tomorrow will take a native boat trip around Inle Lake to visit some villages, Stupas, watching fisherman at their labours and a visit a floating tomato farm which are plentiful around this area of the country.

Three hour bus trip north from Bangkok in a fairly cramped “People Carrier” gets us into Pai at around 15:30. The countryside improved greatly after leaving Chiang Mai and started the climb into the mountain area in which Pai is embedded.

06:00am…C29..It’s going to be a beautiful morning here in Pai

Three hundred hairpin/switchback bends later, we cruise down main street to be greeted by a really “Bohemian” environment full of “young trendies” doing their thing and “hanging out” as I believe the phraseology goes. Paitopia is our domicile for the next three nights. Its a grouping of a number of purpose built wooden “A”frame houses on stilts built in random fashion near an outdoor pool and bar/restaurant around a small lagoon/lake.

A “Massiman” repas, along with a bowl of spices and a cool Leo.

Hired a moped for a couple of days (100 Tai bahts(GBP 2.20)!)
Although the immediate future involves a move to another domicile called Bulunburi on the banks of the Pai river, the intention is to head south again to Chiang Mai and out east to Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong to make the border crossing  over to Laos at the Friendship bridge over the Mekong river at a small border town called NongKhai. A two day boat trip down the Mekong then ensues, to a town in Laos called Pakbeng, stopping overnight. The following day the boat trip continues until we disembark and head out to Luang Prabang. However in the interim, I have to gain some motivation to do an “on-line” application for a subsequent border crossing at a later date, into Myanmar.

After an  overland / overnight  11 hour trip by road  north, the bus pulled in by the old city Tha Phae gate in Chiang Mai at 06:30am. First impressions, were of a city much larger than I had expected. Indeed the metropolitan area outside the ancient city walls spreads for a considerable distance and is home to 149,000 people. Chiang Mai sits close to the Ping river. The old city walls date back to the 13th century. They have warped, distended and truncated with the passage of time. Checked in at Jimmy & Jengs Homestay in a small enclave just outside the old city gates.

Jimmi & Jengs Homestay lodging just outside the old Chiang Mai city walls.

edium wp-image-1469″ src=”https://magnuskwaszenko.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/img_4050.jpg?w=300″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ /> 13th Century city wall section, warped and distorted through time.[/caption]

During the ensuing few days  took a TukTuk ride and also mooched around the city centre . The driver said that there were 300 Temples within the city walls. After visiting two or three I’m afraid that I started rubbing mine,(temples…that is). Have been out to China Town area a few times to try the “street food”, and experience the atmosphere. The food was incredibly cheap, 30 Baht (67pence) for a filling meal eaten, sat on some plastic stools. The atmosphere was good humoured and convivial.

China Town Market, like markets all over the world provides a forum for exchange on many disparate levels.
The weather forecast is predicting C39 on Tuesday & Wednesday. A tad warm methinks!

Beautifully carved wooden Temples, ubiquitous throughout Chiang Mai.

Sat down and enjoy some Tofu, spring onion, green/red peppers, coriander, and some other stuff, I know not what! However, the inner surfaces of my mouth were on fire as I finished &  left  in search of a soothing Chang beer or two.

China Town Market. Like markets all over the world providing a forum for exchange on many disparate levels.

Now appears to be a good time to start planning a trip NE via Mueang Chiang Rai, crossing the boarder into Laos and picking up a boat on the Mekong River for a two day journey, heading to Luang Prabang in Laos.

13th Century city wall section, warped and distorted through time.

However, whilst travelling, word sifts through the ether about a place called Pi. It seems that among the back packer fraternity, it is “the” place to visit to chill, for a few days. So booked tickets for a 3 hour drive up there to stay and soak up the atmosphere for 5 days.

C37 here in Bangkok today, clear blue skies and busy busy down the Khao San Road. Traders, stall holders, massage parlours, bars, eateries, hookers, hawkers, beggars,  and bible bashers, all in an undulating, pulsating ephemeral tide.

Checked into “Thai Garden House”  19.04.17, which is, as Thai descriptions go more generally, “never knowingly undersold.” However, everything and everyone seem to rub along well together. Time spent here is dedicated to “Chillin’, Relaxing & Planning”.

The Thai Garden House Hostel is a traditional old wooden clapperboard property which has kinda’ been overpowered by subsequent development. However undaunted “Mr.Thai” the owner, works assiduously to keep customers happy.

The trip north by bus, ensues at (19:30pm) Monday evening. Chiang Mai was missed last time one was here, so once there, will provide an excellent opportunity to head east into Laos.

A decision has yet to be made how to get to Laos. There are two possibilities via the Mekong river,(9hours fast boat…or 2 days slow boat). However, one has been advised to reject the “fast option” as too dangerous. Apparently, there have been many accidents, with boats hitting rocks in the river, capsizing and throwing occupants and luggage overboard!!!

Alternatively, one could fly to Vientiane (southern Laos) or go overland to Luang Prabang.

Just discovered, subsequent to having bought overland tickets north, (isn’t it always the way..) that flights are available to fly to Yangon (Myanmar) for £25!!!! from Bangkok. Anyway, coming back to Bangkok after Laos, to pick up some luggage we left behind to lighten our burden. Therefore, leaving Myanmar a considered option for later.

Yeh!!! 1920’s rocks!!!

On a completely separate note, I got some “RayBan “Gatsby”” sunglasses as a birthday present from my two daughters and their husbands…..What do you think?????…mmmmmm

The hill top town of Cartona provides sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

Strange title, I know…but true. The last three weeks have been tough going renovating, repainting and refurbishing a property. Case of  waking, working, eating and sleeping from 06:00am to 18:00pm relentlessly for 21 days. However, the results were satisfying and the project is now completed.
I’m writing this in Fiumicino (Leonardo DaVinci) International Airport in Rome. It’s 22:00 we are on airport benches relishing the prospect of a nights sleep on them as a precursor to getting the train into down town Rome tomorrow to check in at our Airbnb accommodation. Never been to Rome before, so I am looking forward to the prospect of visiting historical sites in their ubiquity. Architecture, sculpture and artworks that have beguiled, enchanted and inspired through the centuries of their existence. My only concern is that there will be just too many tourists doing exactly the same thing that I propose doing!
08.04.17 Friday

I’m afraid that I have completely capitulated to the stunning beauty that that now envelopes me within it’s bucolic embrace. The softly rolling hills, captivating villages and the gentle pace of life are utterly beguiling.

Late afternoon and the sun settles down into the Umbrian landscape

The Tiber (Tevere) river’s sinuous track through Rome.[/capt]

09.04.17
Of course the ultimate aim of this little junket to Rome is to make our way north east to a tiny village in the Tuscan hills called Montelucci for the wedding of my second daughter Georgina to her fiancé Dominic on the 15.04.17. For the moment we are spending a few days in a Tuscan hilltop village called Villastrada in the Province of Perugia for a little private time with our daughter.

Saturday

The elevator carried me up from deep levels of unconsciousness. Up and up it went, through my campaigns at the side of Wellington, the Peninsular wars,  through to Waterloo,….tricky negotiations with Napoleon,….and later, at another level, consultations with Kennedy. I pleaded with him not to go to Dallas……but hey ho, he wouldn’t listen…..Anyhow, as I reached “ground floor”, I peeked from under the sheets to see…that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Blue skies…horizon to horizon, a crispness in the ether, birds tweeting and the smell of a bacon and egg breakfast, and coffee….excellent. It’s going to be a great day. To Bondi methinks…for some serious sunbathing among the “beautiful people.”

Bondi Beach, playground of the "beautiful people."

Bondi Beach, playground of the “beautiful people.”

Ambled back up Bondi road about four hours later…one doesn’t want to “over do it” and start peeling, that wouldn’t do at all.

Called in at Bondi Surf Seafood again for three pieces of salmon, (the one we had three days ago was delicious). Picked up more spinach, fruit and a couple more “tinnies” in the expectation of another fine meal on Sunday.

The chest infections seem to be slowly resolving themselves and now feeling a little more “chipper”.

The Fruitologist on Bondi road has fresh and crisp fruit and vegetables.

The Fruitologist on Bondi road has fresh and crisp fruit and vegetables.

Tonight looks to be a great night to catch up on “House of Cards” and the devious Frank Underwood.

I neglected to mention that the warm weather and languid daily routine, copious consumption of fresh fruits and fish, have conspired to deplete the weight that I had put on over the Christmas period, which is not entirely unwelcome.

Got back to Manchester from Malta on 11.01.17 after another “stupid o’clock” flight. Picked up a hire car and got over to Rossendale for a doctor’s appointment. Picked up some clothes and then over to the Wirral to see some friends. Having spent four days back in “Blighty” the Sunday 15.01.17 at Manchester airport again for a sleep on their very comfortable, though uncompromising steal seating for an 06:10 “check in” for a trip to Budapest for some dental work, and as it turned out some whooping cough vaccines. Budapest was freezing! Five days later we’re on for a quick hop to Berlin and transfer going to Abu Dhabi.img_3596 A two day layover there, and finally out to Brisbane and a transfer to Sydney.

Bondi Beach, the proverbial stomping ground of the "Beautiful People", Surfers & Sharks

Bondi Beach, the proverbial stomping ground of the “Beautiful People”, Surfers & Sharks

The whole point of the trip was that on the 15.01.17our first grand daughter Amelie was born into the world. Two weeks earlier than the anticipated 31.01.17 forecast date. Babies do have a habit of generating frenetic activity don’t they?

Unfortunately, we appear to have picked up a chest infection which precludes us seeing our grand daughter until it clears up and we can make it back up to Brisbane to see her.

Tuesday 24.01.17 after a stonkingly good nights sleep, lazy start, and a coffee, ambled down Bondi road to the beach and Bondi Surf Sea Food store to pick up some salmon, Bondi Fruitologist for spinach & tomatoes and a few tinnies from Kemnies. Crickey! it’s pricey though (AUD49.47 or £30). Our prospective son in law, being something of a “gourmand” employing his skills as a chef provided an exquisite salmon dinner presented in his own inimitable way. It was delicious.

Looking down on the eponymous Bridge.

Looking down on the eponymous Bridge.

Last time we were here the bridge was “alive” with fire works, colours and smoke bringing in the new year 2014.

As an aside, it seems that the new U.S. president “The Donald” has made a whirlwind start with a whole swathe of new legislation plus ridding the State Department of many Obama acolytes.

I hope that our incapacity does not make our planned trip north too protracted.



Coming to the end of this brief junket to Malta and Gozo. Will travel back to Valletta tomorrow, spend the night and catch a 07:30 to Manchester.

It’s been fairly challenging the last few days as the weather had really turned quite cold and a Mediterranean storm blew in for around three days.

Marsalforn harbour Gozo, getting a battering. Notice the sky was still blue.

As one may imagine, the houses are not well insulated as it is only for about two months of an otherwise warm year with high temperatures that any kind of heating would be needed. Under those circumstances, people dispense with the expense of heating a property and merely just wrap up in warmer clothes!
Got back to Manchester 12.01.17 at 10am, picked up a hire car and drove to town in order to attend to problems with an iPad. Drove up to Rossendale to attend to some medical stuff and to present prescriptions at the Chemists. Over to visit Doreen (a friend) who had kindly invited us to dinner. Subsequently got to Petr (our AirBnB host) quite late.
13.01.17 Friday Snowed during the night, which will not really be conducive to driving over to the Wirral to see a couple of friends (Paul & Vicki).

16.01.17 Sunday 19:45 Saw us onto the Ryanair flight from Manchester to Budapest. Minus C7 here at the moment, however learning that we had become grandparents for the first time has warmed our hearts.

Ice flows on the Danube!

Ice flows on the Danube!

img_358220.01.17 Have bundled warm clothes up into a parcel and air freighted them back to Blighty as at “stupid o’clock” tomorrow will being on a flight to Berlin and then on to Abu Dhabi and eventually Australia, where one hopes that the weather will be a tad warmer. Not looking forward to, yet another night sleeping at an airport, but Hey Ho this is the life one has picked for the near term.

Time in Budapest has been characterised by soaking up the Austro-Hungarian C19 architecture, enjoying the majesty of the Danube and its bridges, restaurants, theatres and quirky entrepreneurial businesses like a cocktail bar where one can imbibe alcohol in a beach setting, with sand parasols and heat lamps whilst looking through the “shop front’ window at people passing along the thoroughfare in sub zero temperatures! Naturally enough the establishment is called the Beach and appears to have year around adherents.

The transport infrastructure is second to none. Totally integrated trams, underground and bus network. Best of all, if one shows id to confirm one is over 65….it’s totally free!

Budapest definitely has a lot to offer. However, I would recommend that one comes here in the summertime, as it’s definitely a little too cold (temperatures at night are C-7 & barely above freezing during the day) in the winter months.

Returned the car to the hire firm at the airport and caught the bus to the port town of Comino, on the west coast Malta to catch the ferry over to the island of Gozo. It was a bright blue morning and the crossing took about fifty minutes, docking in Mgarr harbour. The bus service over to Marsalforn, where our host Alex met us, took an hour.

Mgarr harbour Gozo is a quaint & picturesque little harbour which services the ferry's over from mainland Malta.

Mgarr harbour Gozo is a quaint & picturesque little harbour which services the ferry’s over from mainland Malta.

After chatting to Alex and depositing luggage meandered down to the harbour side town centre in Marsalforn and along the sea front for a couple of miles out to an old fortification on a promontory west of town. There were numerous coastal rock formations and water sculpted tesselations of the ancient sea bed that caught ones interest. On the way back, picked up some provisions at the local store and a nice Malbec in expectation of a pleasant evening before settling for the night.

Kind of wasted Wednesday with software issues with an ipad which took an inordinate amount of time to resolve with the Apple engineers over the phone and uploading new software.

Harbourside at Marsalforn on Gozo today. A" little breezy", one could say!

Harbourside at Marsalforn on Gozo today. A” little breezy”, one could say!

Thursday 05.01.17 Took the bus from Marsalforn to Victoria and then out to the Azure Window today. The weather was pretty windy and the seas were unusually wild, which made for a few good snaps.Also took the bus out to the “Azure Window” on the west coast. Its a sea carved arch, the will in due course collapse under the precepts of coastal erosion, the depredations of which are constant.

The Azure Window, west coast Gozo.

The Azure Window, west coast Gozo.

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