Monday, 14 April 2014

APRIL 2014 : Ho Chi Minh City : Day 3

Piers, Mark's brother, has become involved in fundraising efforts for needy causes on behalf of the international consulates in Ho Chi Minh City. This week Vietnam is recognising those with disabilities. To acknowledge the contibution of the consulate group, he was invited to a special performance by disabled and orphaned children, who would receive scholarships to subsidise their care and education. We went too, unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster that would entail.


Awards and scholarships for orphaned (as a result of AIDS) and disabled children.


Song by blind students. Many blind groups, possibly due to birth defects from insecticides.


                     Blind student in a hills' district costume playing a bamboo xylophone.


                                                     Deaf and mute students signing a song.


Celebrity pop stars provided entertainment and they were spontaneously joined on stage by this enthusiastic bunch.


                 Yum Cha or Dim Sum at the Inter Continental with copious quantities of green tea.


                                               The French Colonial Post Office.


                            Inside the PO being watched over by the people's hero, Ho Ch Minh.


               A visit to the large food, flower, clothes and craft markets, close to the apartment.


                                                       Dinner at a local soup cafe.


                                                   Very filling and only $3 a bowl.

We have had to postpone the remainder of the Vietnamese leg of our trip until later in the year.  More later. 
We fly to NEPAL in late April for a 3 week trek to the Langtang Valley and the Tilman Pass. Then on to Europe for some more walking.

Meg and Mark

APRIL 2014 : Ho Chi Minh City : Day 2

Up early and into the hustle and bustle of the city. Driving towards the Opera House we noticed a lot of traffic and activity.


Upon closer inspection we discovered a group of traditional musicians, giving a concert at 8am.


Our first introduction to Vietnamese culture and history was Sophie's Art Tour. It is a 4 hour tour organised by a young, articulate English woman and looks at the major shifts in the twenty and twenty-first centuries in Vietnam through artists' eyes. Traditional, French influence, propaganda and modern art. We visited the HCMC Fine Art Museum and some local galleries, which gave us a strong understanding of influences from the seventeenth century.


We met at a local restaurant for the beginning of the tour. A restaurant that was originally a beautiful home with the large garden, enclosed and under cover.

Sculptures outside the Fine Art Museum. The museum was originally a large home of a wealthy Chinese merchant but was abandoned with the overthrow of the South in the 1970s. It even has a ghost! A sad story. The family had several daughters. The youngest contracted leprosy which could not be treated so the merchant built an exquisite bedroom in one of the attic rooms, with a n opening to pass food etc. Apparently it was a very painful disease but no doctor could be found to treat her. Her screams could be heard throughout the neighbourhood. She died at a young age and her ghost is still purported to roam the corridors.

This is Sophie with a large lacquered piece, famously Vietnamese process, demonstrating the propaganda artwork of the twentieth century.


Then down another deep and dark alley.


Upstairs we discovered a gorgeous cafe and shop, L'Usine. Western food and great atmosphere.


Piers had organised the ultimate experience for dinner. The Vespa Street Stall tour.
We met the other 60 guests at the aptly-named Zoom Cafe for a refreshing drink and to meet our hostess and Vespa drivers, groups of about 6.



Off we went into a balmy evening with the death-defying antics of the city's bikers.


First stall specialised in seafood and......


.....Frogs!  More like toads....but delicious...just like chicken.


The second was Vietnamese pancakes. Thin rice flour pancakes with a range of fillings - seafood, beef, bean sprouts, herbs and sauces.


                                                              Filling,fresh and tasty!


Then we were taken upstairs (down another alley) to an intimate music venue where various singers sang with violin and piano accompaniment - traditional Vietnamese folk songs and modern English R&B numbers.


The final surprise was a loud disco bar! Gotta love the contrasts.



APRIL 2014 : Ho Chi Minh City

A good excuse to visit Vietnam with Mark's brother, Piers, and partner, Richard, living and working in Ho Chi Minh City. 
A city of 7 million people with a history of French influence and occupation as early as the seventeenth century and their defeat (1954) and the Vietnam war with the South, and it's capital, then Saigon defeated in 1975. It was then cut off from the world under the new Communist regime for 10 years but then re-emerged on the world stage opening up their markets due to economic necessity in the late '80s. 
First impressions. A busy city, with remnants of French architecture and gardens. The skyline is not full of high-rise buildings - office blocks but not residential. Accessible and very friendly.

Piers and Richards' apartment in District 1, convenient to all amenities - local markets,restaurants.

The apartment is fully serviced with pool, maid service etc. There are apartments available in the complex for short-term rental at excellent rates.

Our first evening was spent at Hoa Tuc restaurant set in a lovely garden down an alley way. Fresh and delicious local fare.

Weather is warm, early 30s, and pre-wet season which begins in the next month.

Meg and Mark

Thursday, 17 October 2013

TASMANIA : DAY 6 : OVERLAND TRACK : Windy Ridge Hut to Lake St Clair (9km, 3 hrs)

WEATHER : Rain overnight and pouring, driving rain all morning

A flat but saturated walk from Windy Ridge Hut to Narcissus Hut, Lake St Clair
Proof that Tasmania is the wet and windiest Australian state

Waratah budding

First sight of bottle brush - stark contrast with the grey conditions
Flooded pathway

Scrubby vegetation with duckboards for easy walking
The welcome sight of the suspension bridge over a tributary to Lake St Clair

 Quick run to the wharf to catch the ferry, if weather conditions were safe

Ferry arriving - preparing for a quick getaway
A mini bus collected us at Lake St Clair and drove us north to Quamby Estate to collect our gear and celebrate a wonderful week together
Safely back at Cradle Huts base and Rob reminds us of what we have achieved .

Thank you to Rob, Tom and Andy, our effervescent guides, and the friendly group, with whom we enjoyed this fabulous Tasmanian experience.

TASMANIA : DAY 5 : OVERLAND TRACK : Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut (9km, 4 hrs)

Weather : mild at first, snowy and cold
 Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut ( near Bert Nicholls Hut)

Sunrise over Mt Oakleigh, clouds clearing
Swallows who live under the eaves of the hut

 Rob, our guide, nicknames this peak 'The Nipple'
Myrtle beech forest

Du Cane Hut built by a trapper, Paddy Hartnett in 1910.
He lived here with his wife, Lucy, and their 7 children.
Inside the hut, there is a huge fireplace where the possum, wallaby and wombat pelts were dried. Very primitive conditions for a large family in freezing temperatures.
Ingenious toilets dug through tree trunks near the house.

A wallaby in the scrub nearby
Trees in the oldest part of the forest
They have found that some of the King Billy Pines are 2000 years old
A highlight of the day. We were walking adjacent to the Mersey River which runs north into the Bass Strait. We visited 2 major waterfalls.

We climbed carefully down the slippery track, interlocked with huge root systems, and were amazed at the beauty and verocity of the D'Alton Falls.
Majestic gums - colour heightened by the rain
Light snow fell as we left the waterfalls.
Walking through Falling Mountain, which felt like emerging from the wardrobe into Narnia.

A special meal for our last night. 'Bearded' pumpkin soup as starters
A demonstation to see how echidnas hear

The happy crew after a beautiful day's walking, delicious meal and
original entertainment