Posts Tagged With: bathroom

A Market That Was Not, And Everything Else That Was

I’m going to the market. Not a mentionable fact except that the owner texted us saying that Place des Lices is a well-known market. People come from all over the area to it.  I am one that loves markets so, needless to say, I am not missing this one.  Dean is.  I head out alone.  It’s Sunday and the streets are deserted.   Almost seems set up for me to enjoy this town through my lens.

P1190471

P1190472 Here comes the blue door deluge.  One I had not photographed the day before. P1190473

 I reach Place des Lices in no time at all but find it as deserted as the streets. P1190474  I peek in and in fact the installation is there but no people around. P1190475  I walk back and I see a couple with produce and baguettes protruding out of their bags and I ask them if they know about Place des Lices and they tell me that the market was on Saturday.  I resign myself but also am grateful that it wasn’t on for there would have been hoards of people. This way, I got to enjoy the streets calmly.

At the turn of the corner I am reminded of my hometown.  P1190501

P1190498I roam around a bit and see that Saint-Pierre Cathedral is opened. In reality there is a sign that says it is closed between 11 and 2 today but the door is open and I go in.  Turns out it is closed for the public but open for mass. It’s only me and I’m pretty quiet so I tiptoe in.  Right after me comes a Russian tour group.  The leader seems unaware or doesn’t care about the fact that there is a mass going on and talks loudly to his group of around twenty.  I cringe.  But I am also technically ignoring the rules so I move around.

The inside of the church is being repaired.  At the very end the congregations prays.  P1190477

If a cathedral has a life of its own, this one is not trying to impress but does. It is dark and uses much wood in its decor. It almost imposes introspection and demands you to stay and pray. I don’t but walk as close to the altar as I can without disturbing the congregation.  P1190481  On the side aisles (I am sure there is a proper word for the passageways on each side) there’s darkness from the paneling and I get this desire to just sit and close my eyes.  P1190485  The stained glass is beautiful though it is not the main attraction in here.  P1190482  P1190489

Before I leave I pass a little altar.   The name of Lourdes catches my attention.  My parents and I visited  Our Lady of Lourdes when I was around 6, footage that I recently saw. I don’t quite understand what it says but I have the urge to light four candles here to the Virgin.  2 for my mom and dad and 2 for Dean’s Nan and mum.  I am sure that they are looking down, protecting us as we go.   P1190490  P1190491

As I leave, I take a last glance – as I usually do. P1190478

I continue my exploration.  This wall is not pretty but anything that was built between the late Third Century and early Fourth Century has to have my respects even if the expensive and expansive wall that surrounded the city was soon to be found almost useless.

 P1190499    P1190500

P1190505  Wall art / graffiti again reminds me of Los Angeles.

  And what would this blog be without a little more on blue doors?  P1190506

This little tabby cat comes up to me and follows me as I reach the main plaza once again.  He gives up after a block.  P1190508

P1190502I reach home and am greeted with a nice cuppa (cup of tea).  Dean leaves to get a GPS for tomorrow we are renting a car for the next portion of our trip.  First stop is Mont St. Michel.

I am left to explore our home. This place we got through airbnb (I know I am sounding like an ad but it has afforded us some incredible opportunities to stay at wonderful places and meet such interesting people) is certainly not the most luxurious P1190512 though it is quite large and has really good vibes.  The bathroom is fun.  You have to go through a saloon-type door to take a shower. P1190511 Inside a sign that says its wombat crossing. 🙂 The owner has a lot of knick-knacks from Southeast Asia June 16 and that already makes him way cool in my book.  He also has tons of books some of the greats in Spanish literature. And how not love a place that has antiques P1190520 P1190518 that remind me of my little store and one which Tutu has claimed for his perch. P1190514 He is pretty stubborn just like this collectible bull which is my astrological sign. P1190524  Outside there is a kiddie park P1190525 that is for exclusive use of the building we are in, and on the other side is the park we visited yesterday.  In the middle some city work building and I catch a worker taking a break.  P1190528

I would cover the same ground I did this morning again, for when Dean returns we go out to dinner.  We settle in an Indian restaurant P1150654 where I have a vegetarian dish of spinach.  P1150658 It was delicious.  We chat at length about the town with our Nepalese waiter.  He tells us how he came to Paris first and is now in Rennes.  How there isn’t much to do but he loves it here.  I may have to agree with that!!

As Walter Conkrite would say: “And that’s the way it is.”  Good-night.

Categories: France, Rennes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Return of Sorts…

Today I had taro frozen yogurt in my neighborhood parlor.  So what does that have to do with my blog?  Simply, the taste took me back to a journey through seven countries I remember with great nostalgia and fondness.  So it seemed so very right to get back to this blog to relive and share the second half of it even when it has been three months since I returned from it.

Last I left you was in Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields.   Less somber areas to cover from now on.

We leave Phnom Penh today and head over to Siem Reap.  Thaly –our only female guide- is there to see us off.  People are well into their day.    The road awaits us and it will be an all day trek.  We will go through Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces.   Stupas along the way…  

Of course we must stop at a “happy house” (aka: as bathroom).  I don’t need any more “happiness” so I roam.  There is such peace in this place.  Wish we could just eat here.  

Orchids hang from the balcony.    Reminds me of all the orchids my mother grew in her backyard.  There you go again Asia, a million miles and time period away and you are bringing me closer to my past than I’ve been in a while.

We pass by numerous lotus plantations.  The lotus plant is not only beautiful but every bit of it is of use.  Every part of it can and is used for medicinal purposes. At the side of the road we spot a vendor selling its fruit.  Some in our party are excited to see it since they used it in salads and have not been able to see it any other place outside of India.   

But the lotus flower is so beautiful that one almost forgets the rest.

    

We stop and gawk but must continue on toward spiders and crickets and water bugs and lots more creepy crawlers.   When we get there, one tarantula decides to check the time on Tom’s watch.    Our tour guide approaches me with it and I don’t think I’ve ever jumped back as quickly as I did then.   Some of his species where not as lucky as it was and ended up in this huge pile on the side of the road, fried to a crisp.   Yep, I actually had one –all I could taste was the rancid oil it had been fried in- though I decided to pass on the crickets and water bugs…

A kid, trying to sell us some green mangoes, demonstrates how the crickets are yummy too.  

I wasn’t buying it.  Which says a lot, for this kid could sell you anything!  

He had a way with words and his expressions said so much.    And he had a lovely smile.  Yep, I bought a bag of mangoes.

As we leave a vendor is bagging some tamarind.    

We are back on the bus.  Our next stop is a stone carving village.   No matter what culture, children always like to play.

Carvings are impressive.      

Some oversee the abodes of the ones that carved them.  

It’s almost hard to appreciate the skill it takes to carve them when there are so many together.

But it is a skill passed from one generation to another.  

The larger the piece the more valuable it is and the more skilled the carver has to be.

   

But again, it is the faces that captivate me the most.  What are they thinking?  What is generating that expression?  What is he reacting to?      

After a bit more of a ride we stop at Prei Proh Village where lunch is riverside.     

After which we visit the ancient bridge of Kampong Kdei.   Three things I am particularly fond of photographing: bridges, windows and doors.

I am happy snapping away.

 

Ah, but I forgot:  faces, I love photographing faces, specially when they are not aware of it.

This man waits for a tourist to offer a ride to. And not having found one returns to just waiting.

So does his horse.  

A bit more of a ride and mid-afternoon we arrive at Angkor Home Hotel whose lobby can’t be any more soothing to the soul. 

At night we go to a Angkor Mondial restaurant and show.  The dancers were amazing.  A characteristic that stuck to me of the dance is how the women, while dancing, bend their fingers back so much that it seems that they will break.

Tomorrow we will go to Angkor Wat, a visit I have been looking forward to throughout the trip!

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cambodia, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   


Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

P.D.R.

I do not want to leave Luang Prabang and am seriously considering letting my inner child take over and let her stomp her feet, throw herself on the floor, little fists in a ball, face streaked with tears and yelling: “I don’t want to gooooo!”  But the adult in me knows that it won’t go well with the rest of the group and primarily, that it will do me no good.  So my bag is packed and out the door.  I delight myself in some local flora and pretend I’m here to stay.  

Laos P.D.R. is the full name of the country.   P.D.R. stands for People’s Democratic Republic though it is also an acronym for the country’s way of life:  “Please Don’t Rush”  I don’t want to rush in its discovery.

But then comes a tuk tuk ride to the bus.  A daylong bus ride to Vang Vieng is ahead of us.  We are warned that most of it will be on a windy, bumpy road.  We are going to stop for bathroom breaks and to visit hill tribes along the way.  Noon will find us at a “pretty for pictures” mountain-high restaurant.  I mistakenly wrote I was on the “death road” yesterday.  Well my mind got things mixed up and it was today.   It is going to take us –on a good day- between 6 to 8 hours to get to our destination.

At the beginning, the road offers the usual scenery.  Fields along the way, houses, sky, mountains in the distance.  Then I doze off and awake to this…     

Suddenly the words “bumpy”, “windy”, “hill”, and “mountain-high”, connect!  I add “death-road”, “vertigo”, “ouch”, “Can I get off now?”  Later I would read that the road was “not recommended for nervous persons”.  There are few to no barriers separating the bus from a vast ravine.  Someone asks if I had fallen asleep because I was too quiet.  No, I say.  I’m just too queasy to talk!

No wonder my head hurts.  It’s been bouncing against the window.  Sort of like the head of those dogs they use for good fortune (the ones that their head bobs on any movement.) Fortunately, my palpitations will be reduced by a walk in the hill tribe village we stop at. 

We are the local entertainment.   

A protective older sister wraps her arm around her sibling and as I press my shutter gives me a look of  “don’t you mess with my sister”. 

We are invited by a local to visit his home.  In all the villages and homes we have visited there is a television and satellite alongside abject poverty.  But these people do not live in misery for they are content with who and where they are.

Kitchen at entrance.    

Our host lives in this home with his wife and 11 children.  He answers all our questions and I see in his eyes wonderment and disbelief in some of the things we are curious about.

There is a strange flickering noise in back of me that is a bit unsettling (Is something alive there?) but I don’t want to be rude, turn and potentially run out screaming if I find a strange animal resides in that corner.   

Other kids join us or come in.   

And we leave.  We are still the entertainment.     

Can you tell who will be the gang leader from this photo?  

After a few hours –many more than I like- we arrive at the restaurant for lunch.  Mr. Peng laughs as he sees my expression of horror as he parks the bus head first, facing the precipice.  Lucky me is in the front row.  Okay, you are close enough, please stop the bus, stop please, STOP, NOW!!!  

We go to “happy place” (local speak for bathroom) first.    

Then a little walk uphill towards the restaurant.  To my left a view of the road. 

To my right, a scene that could be labeled many ways.  My whole being quiets and settles.  

A view of where we came from.  We are at approximately 5,000 ft.  

Reaching the restaurant, a little figure, advertising god-knows-what, seems so out of place that we all gawk at it and name it “little happy laughing girl Buddha”.     

We eat.  Wash our hands.  Explore the surroundings a little more.  and back to the bus for another couple of hours till we stop at a mountain food market.  You aren’t tired already, are you?

We are instructed not to point our cameras at any of the dead animals that are offered (head and all).  Seems that these vendors are fully aware of Facebook and that a photo may go up that will force authorities to come in and fine or confiscate.  They sell some animals that are not supposed to be sold.  Fortunately I see none with a face to it.

There are a lot of “normal” selections of fruit and vegetables. 

Bamboo shoots.  

Banana blossom. 

Taro.  I would later have taro soup and then taro ice cream. 

And something that is nowhere near common or normal in my book.  Our guide points out what looks like a stalk of something and says that it is a delicacy in his country.  I am leery.  Delicacy = very odd, strange, gross, inedible, retching-induced!

Our vendor starts the process.

She peels.  

Almost done.  

And out comes the yuckiest of worms.  It has been cooked in the stalk but that doesn’t make it any more appetizing.   Our guide repeats it’s a delicacy and proceeds to eat it.  Amazingly, so did one of our group who told everyone it tasted like chicken.

Ohhh, the Americans ate the worm!  

Back on a bus that, at this point, nobody wants to be in.   Another hour and another stop at another happy place where, believe it or not, they sell Kit Kats and Snickers. I buy them and eat them both in a nano second!  I don’t even like chocolate but somehow it was appropriate and satisfying to do so. It didn’t stop me from trying the local taro ice cream, either.

A million years more of a bus ride (or so it seemed) and my sore bottom and me arrive in Vang Vieng.  The bus is too big for the city streets so we shall walk to the hotel.  Vang Vieng has the reputation of being a backpacker’s paradise and it lives up to the fame with advertising for tubing, zip-lining, trekking, parties, etc.  I get a kick out of one that is none of those.

Are you over seacall?  Busticker anyone?  

Sign with all the familiar breakfast (at least for the Brits) 

We had seen an ad for a balloon ride in the plane and wanted to do it but once we saw the balloon and how incredibly close he got to that building we change our minds.   

The ever-present temple along the way.  

As I look towards a street vendor, I capture her expression right before she gives me the thumbs up signal.  

Graffiti in Laos? 

Then a road that becomes indicative of the type of resort we are staying at. 

Though it hardly matters where we sleep for this is the view before us.       

We eat well.

Pumpkin soup.  

Remnant of my tilapia.   

After which I dive, literally dive onto my not so soft bed.  Lots of excitement to be had tomorrow!

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Laos, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Ayutthaya and more…

Bangkok is huge.  10 million people live here though only about 6 million are “official”.  It is a metropolis of pagodas, temples, new buildings, a ton of cars (nothing to envy my beloved Los Angeles), tuk tuks, brand new cars, a wave of pink and green and yellow and orange cabs and –needless to say- people shoulder to shoulder in the street that manage to follow their own path and not be swallowed by the swell of people going another way.

We are headed to Ayutthaya, a couple of hours away from Bangkok. 

It was the capital of Thailand for 417 years, and is now registered as a UNESCO world heritage site.  I take advantage to write a blog that I very possibly won’t be able to post for a few days.  At least it will be ready to go.

We will walk the last part of the trip and I am really glad to do so. Ever seen a leaning stupa? The soil is soft to begin with, but the floods have made it even more uneven and this one is going sideways, indicating perhaps that too many years have past and a time to rest has come.

I pass scenes of daily life that mean nothing to those who live it while I feel blessed to be able to witness.   

A headless Buddha intrigues me.  In the old days it was customary to –when making a Buddha statue- to put valuables in the Buddha’s head.  As a result, when this country was invaded Buddha statues were decapitated to find what they held.  Later, looters finished off what the invaders did not find. It is during this walk that I start to see “The Land of Smiles”. 

We arrive to Ayutthaya.   Everything guides you to look up.  There are a few stupas on the side that hold ashes of past kings.  A gold offering plate contrasts with the redness of the rocks. 

Otto told us that Americans have a penchant to check bathroom facilities everywhere they go.  He may be right.  Bathroom break.   We have to pass through a market to get there.

Disco balls anyone? 

 The bathroom itself is worth it just for its signs.   We pay 5 Bahts to get in (roughly .15 cents in US money).  

The sign that indicates the female toilet just makes me want to break out in song… “I am woman. I am strong!”

We head to the temple.  It is at this Buddha’s feet that I decide to follow tradition and pick up a bamboo cylinder with wood straws with numbers on it.  You shake it until only one of them falls out.  On my first try number 9 comes out.  Then you make an offering and you are handed a paper that corresponds to it.  For those curious, mine said in Thai and in English:  “Going South or West will bring you good luck.  Love affairs will not yet meet up to your expectations.  Health problems are lessen.  Donation is beneficial to you in the long run.”  I quiet my inquiring mind that wants specifics and would have preferred it to read something like:  “You will continue to travel and be inspired for the rest of your life. You are where you need to be.  Getting old won’t come with aches and pains. Donation will bring you much wealth.”  Not touching the love section 🙂

We make another stop at a place where we can feed and ride elephants.  I am doing a mahout course (elephant owner/trainer) in a Chang Mai elephant camp that rescues them.  (Mahout) I don’t think I want to do this 10-minute ride, but do so anyway.  I feel sorry when he raises his trunk and its mahout asks me to put a dollar in it.

Next stop is Rich Restaurant with two honorable mentions.  One is and ice cold Singha beer.  And the other a dessert that consists of combining a whole lot of things (I won’t even attempt to know what they are),   adding ice cubes, a sauce that has evaporated milk in it, mixing it all together and getting something that looks complete unappetizing but that tastes delicious!  I have two servings.  Our guide says it’s called friends dessert ‘cause so many different ingredients are joined to create something fabulous.  I agree.

With full bellies and a happy countenance, perhaps due to the beer, we head to the river.  

We board a long boat.  (Actual nomination; not a description.)Life along the river is hard.

Some live on it.  Some don’t have it that hard.  Some worship along it.

Catholic Church on Riverbank

Some observe from it. I am relaxed and marveled by it all.  The hour ride seems like minutes.

A two hour bus drive to the hotel and we are on our own.  But, of course, I have built up an appetite and Otto has talked about a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms. The restaurant has really great food, some organic, most healthy, in a really cute, laid back (yes, pun intended) environment. “Statutes” made of condoms dot the entrance.  

Tiger figure. Read the sign. 🙂

"Tree"

Lamps are condom covered.  It was established in part to support the activities of the Population and Community Development Association and promote the health and safety aspects of condom use in a fun and amusing manner. All proceeds from the restaurants are used to fund this organization.

A quick tuk tuk ride back and we are done for the day.

Tomorrow, Laos awaits!

Categories: Ayutthaya, Ramblings, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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