Thursday, April 28, 2011

Because who doesn't love stationery?

Husband spotted something interesting in a tiny subsoi (side street) while we were exploring Luang Prabang.

The little shop was like an installation, brimful of products made from saa paper, (made from mulberry bark.) Lanterns hung down on our head and papers, envelopes, notebooks and albums were piled high in neat lines. Each piece was beautiful in its own right but its strength was in the whole.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lovely Luang Prabang, Laos

We didn't do all thirty two temples in Luang Prabang but here are some images from those we did visit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

So many reasons to go to Laos

Buddha Park alone was worth the visit to Vientiane but one day there was enough. Luang Prabang, UNESCO World Heritage site, was the main event. Actually, forget the thirty-two temples, for Son and Husband I suspect the French baguettes were the real draw.

(Laos became a French protectorate in 1893 when a French warship reached Bangkok via the Chao Phraya River and pointed its guns at the palace. It compelled the Siamese to give France sovereignty over all Lao territories east of the Mekong.* Hence the French bread…)

But I digress. If I’d known there’d be a parade of elephants in Thanon Sisavangvong, Luang Prabang to greet us, that might have been the main incentive to me.

I am so easily bought and I do love elephants. Right at the end you can hear me practising my Lao. They say 'sabai dii' for hello, which in Thai means 'how are you.' I was perpetually confused.

*Lonely Planet: Laos by Austin Bush, Mark Elliot, Nick Ray

Monday, April 25, 2011

Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

Buddha Park is a sculpture park built on the banks of the Mekong River about half an hour’s drive from our hotel in Vientiane, Laos. The park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu (Venerable Granfather) Bunleua Sulilat who was a yogi-priest-shaman. The sculptures are not new; they were built of concrete in the ‘50s and combine Buddhist and Hindu icons, philosophy and mythology. We had a fantastic, if hot, two hours wandering around here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last stop in the UK

My last call in the UK was to a writing friend.

We hadn’t made plans – beyond my going to hers overnight - but there was a touched upon agreement that it would involve wine, chocolate, wheat free food and pulses. 

It was perfect after the ‘messing with my head’ experience of the writing workshop. And, before I returned to the concrete jungle that is Bangkok, I filled my head with images of the countryside. Here are a few:

Picture postcard perfect:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Water in my eyes: York memories

I was in the UK for York Festival of Writing.

At the end of the festival weekend all I wanted (I thought) was to collapse on my hotel bed and watch some undemanding TV but my taxi driver drove me through the city centre via Piccadilly, Pavement and Coppergate. Those names gave me my second wind and after five minutes inside the hotel room I put my boots back on and walked into the city.

I know York. I worked for York Archaeological Trust twenty years ago, nearly fresh out of university and clutching my classics degree. Not-Yet-Husband was finishing his PhD so I bought a tiny house in Hull and drove across the Wolds each day to work.

But my fondness for the city had started as a student. Dr Stanley took us as part of our Roman Britain course. We were shown inside the Roman Baths pub (not for the beer!) and shown the few surviving Roman parts of the city walls. York has more miles of intact walls than any other English city and it’s something that defines the place for me. I remembered, while I worked in York, reversing my estate car into a tiny space just along from Walmgate Bar – one of the few remaining places I could still park without a permit. A white van man sat across the road waiting for the traffic lights to change, watching me, knowing the spot was too small – particularly for a woman – to park in. I got it in; I am shit hot at reversing into tiny spaces and White Van Man gave me a round of applause.

Of course we went to York off duty too, for pub-crawls. In those days it wasn't all day drinking so after ‘lunch’ we'd have to go and waste time somewhere  - shopping or the cinema - until the pubs opened again. (Jeff Goldblum in The Fly will forever be synonymous with York.) And I remembered one of our friends, AP, stripping to his underpants and swimming across the Ouse while we drank pints of Purple Nasty outside the King’s Arms. I recalled games of Ibble Dibble inside the Punch Bowl.

And I remembered organising Soon-To-Be-Husband’s wedding ring to be made by a tiny jeweller in the Shambles right by Whipmawhopmagate. Who can fail to fall in love with a city with a road name like that? And how many more evocative names are there? Finkle Street, Nether Hornpot Lane, The Shambles, Jubbergate and Bartle Garth. I could go on.

Such lovely memories: any water in my eyes while I wandered about was down to the chill in the air.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On stupidity and being married to Jason Bourne

If I feel as though I’ve spent the last month packing, unpacking and repacking my suitcase it’s because I have.

I tried to be all relaxed during my travels, leaving my lap top in Bangkok and only taking my ipad but I wasn’t cool at all – just too stupid to understand how to get the most out of it. If I ever had a period where I kept up with technology (and my family say I did – for about three months back in 2008) it’s gone now; I’m trailing behind all over again.

I spent ten days in England (in five different venues) one week in Bangkok and then a week in Laos (Vientianne and Luang Prabang) for Thai – and Laos – New Year. I was so glad to get back to Bangkok on Saturday evening even if it meant more unpacking. At least this time the suitcase can go away until July.

This last month has been a rollercoaster of emotions too. I gave up writing and started again. Three good friends – those that I’d turn to in a personal crisis – are leaving Bangkok in the next few weeks and months. Husband took Daughter to the airport for a long anticipated trip to see her BF in Australia. On checking-in they were told she couldn’t fly because she had no visa. (She’s British; who knew she’d need a visa?) Husband went to an internet cafĂ© and managed to get her cleared and she flew but it gave me three long days of palpitations for not checking in the first place… I mean she’s British… Commonwealth countries? No? We’ve had a horrible situation with a charlatan company with VERY DODGY practices that gave me the heebie jeebies for a week. I handed the problem over to Husband while I ran around in small circles weeping and squealing. I'm excellent in a crisis.

But the good news? Well, we thought this weekend was Easter so we spent yesterday eating chocolate. I think we can do that all over again next weekend, right? And Husband is a hero; firstly because of solving AustraliaVisaGate and secondly for saving us $$$ by his calm negotiations with Charlatan Company. He IS Jason Bourne… Oh give the man a break; it’s his birthday today. He IS Jason Bourne.

See you tomorrow.