Going West from Bangkok

So after the market on the railway line, and around the most important thing I did in Thailand there were these “other” bits, that I want to show you before I wrench your hearts with the most important thing I’ve done in terms of being an Australian for a long long while. But more about that later.

I’ve not yet been to a so-called floating market that bore any resemblance whatsoever to the advertised images, so as you may see, along with my highly camouflaged companion I was suspicious. I was right. The lengthy, smelly (the fumes of outboard motors is a theme of this post), uncomfortable, knee breaking journey that went no-where, was less than fabulous, and apart from a great view of a temple and Buddha, was not resembling the advertising materials.

Gorgeous bougainvillea. Continue reading “Going West from Bangkok”

The Market on the Line

We walked the line… Today’s (well yesterday’s but I started this yesterday) first stop, after a 5am pickup, was a local market that sets up on an operating railway track. When the train comes through at 830 am everyone rushes their produce off the line and pulls silly tourists to safety. The main thing wasn’t so much about the train, although trains did form a pretty special overarching theme to the day, but I do love a good Asian food market. Mostly for the characters and the faces, but also the quite amazing produce.

Aren’t they just brilliant? Such a wonderful, alive, vibrant, human Thailand compared to what I’m seeing around here. Continue reading “The Market on the Line”

Time out in Thailand 

After months on the go it’s time for a rest, thankfully I was invited here just outside Pattya in Thailand for 10 days. I’m supposed to be doing nothing and I guess a massage a day is kind of doing nothing. It’s nice. But we all know I’m still writing papers for that Canadian woman in secret.

In between working, blogging and sleeping here are some sights. Maybe I should get out more, but I’m just chilling, staying around about.  Haven’t been brave enough to try the prawns at the street food stalls yet, but they look great.

There are little shrines everywhere, some tiny and cute others more elaborate, all special and cared for. Apparently even the crocodile is for good luck. I’m a bit concerned about the God’s non-communicable diseases risk as they seem to receive a lot of sugar sweetened beverages and cigarettes, but maybe the God’s are grown up enough and can look after themselves. Have to confess to having a few sugar sweetened alcoholic beverages myself. Continue reading “Time out in Thailand “

2014… Coming home to Cochin, to India and finding it different

So as this 2017 trip draws to a close, I’ve finally finished uploading my 2014 trip. I’ve posted it in reverse order so you can read straight down from the top and they’ll be in order. Even those of you who read the emails 3 years ago didn’t get the pictures and may find that I’ve redacted something new. I have inserted some bits from 2006. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, this reworking has made me cry, and smile again.

day-1-img_0676Namaste, Welcome to India, to Cochin in Kerala. Welcome to the travels of your unemployed, ex-engineer, Aunt. Woohoot.

Ok I’m determined to have a great positive happy relaxing trip so I hesitate to start with a gripe, but bloody poms sitting around the pool on FaceTime with their iPads at full volume yelling about the curry should remember the words of Kerry O’Kieffe after Sydney: “five nill, five nill, five nill!” Bloody irritating wankers. Well now that’s off my chest – Namaste welcome to Kerala – god’s own country. It’s 8 years since I was last here but I’m still sure they’ve no idea which god’s this country is, so all are welcome.

The boys in the hotel restaurant are competing to be the first to introduce me to every local breakfast delicacy so I’m having to fight them off. But it is delicious and does set one up for the day, although at three breakfasts a morning I’m starting to feel like a Hobbit. Continue reading “2014… Coming home to Cochin, to India and finding it different”

Munnar, magic mountains of tea

Well I’d just you written a long winded pompous discussion on cultural change in an internet savvy media educated India and the sad loss of naivety and values in the name of economic development. But it came across snobbish and ethnocentric which was not my intention so I ditched it. Progress inevitably changes people, I am happy that many Indians have thrown off the vestiges of the British Raj and see themselves as equal with the best in the world, I just hope 5000 years of culture survives embracing western “values.” But if John my driver is any indication I have little hope.

I don’t like him, I may yet yell at him (he wouldn’t get it he’s so blissfully self-confident he could be a gen-y) but I’m stuck with him so I’ll cover my girls thoroughly and tell him to mind his own business when he wants to know everything from my weight to whether my husband lets me have other boyfriends. Yes I invented a husband who I’ve now had to flesh out for 500 subsequent questions. I have now swapped to “that’s never a polite question” as a standard response. It’s my holiday and so long as he continues to accept my instruction not to poke the accelerator like it’s a prostitute I won’t vomit in his car.

So moving on from critical observations… Today I’ve moved to Munnar up in tea country, does 5,000 feet sound right? The boys in the hotel in Cochin farewelled me with a four course breakfast which was lovely and fortified me for the 5 hour drive. Less said about the actual drive here the better.

day-4-img_4957There’s not too much to say about Munnar other than it’s lovely. The steep hills are covered in tea bushes which are plucked regularly by women, it’s totally manual. They must get osteo and RSI injuries. Their access paths and the regular trimming of the rows of camellias make the hills look like pin cushions or maybe tea cosies. They are dotted with granite boulders and occasional thin spindly trees to control temperature and give the birds somewhere to sit, it makes them look like a Japanese painting in steaming hazy tones of green. Everything smells of tea and you can inhale the anti-oxidants. Continue reading “Munnar, magic mountains of tea”

A Madurai morning – market magic

The next morning

day-9-img_5187aToday is slow. I’m in a five star resort converted from a British cotton and silk merchant’s company estate. It’s lovely. There are peacocks outside my bedroom window. There are cool sweet scented breezes. There is a pool to which I will retire directly for the afternoon.

After last night and before this morning’s violent re-emergence of breakfast in under 15 mins – Karthick took me early to the Madurai markets. Apparently it’s Sunday and in good post-colonial style Sunday is still a holiday here so much of the markets were closed. But I still had fun wandering around the flower wholesalers taking photos scented with jasmine and rose. The rose wholesalers offered me chai and a smile.

Then we went to the vegetable market where my pictures smell of coriander, mint and curry leaves. Lots of smiles and waves and head wobbling.  Being 80% closed was much more relaxed than a normal day I’m sure, but that suited me and my camera.

Aren’t these just such beautiful people? Makes me smile just remembering them welcoming me like it was perfectly normal for a crazy Australian woman to be wandering around at dawn taking their photographs like they were royalty.

It was then back to the hotel for breakfast hmmmm. You will have guessed above, it was a fatal mistake. No more to be said about dodgey omelette. I’ll live, just feel like a day by the pool. Sorry to today’s three programmed temples, but I’m sure there will be more in the next 12 days.

I now receive a daily call from Delhi office to make sure everything is in order madam. Ah well, good to be memorable! I’m not mentioning the omelette, they’ll only worry. Now for that nap then the pool.

Temple Junkie

Confucius say: woman who walks barefoot in Hindu temple should watch where she puts foot. Eeeuuuuw

Did actually see a yin yang symbol in Jambukeshvara Temple, along with quite a few Chinese style lions head and dragon carvings on the gopuram. I guess they have been trading for 3000+ years so exchange of art makes sense. But I’m getting ahead, distracted as I am by recollections of standing in ugh Vishnu knows what… I refuse to speculate. Anyway since last I wrote it’s been days of full on temple overload (I started this days ago, sorry, you do now have Pondicherry in between.)

We left the villa in Madurai and started winding our way north. First stop Trichy also known as Tiruchirapalli. Two temples, overnight stay, hotel not memorable. Temples totally memorable! The first Ranganatha the largest Vishnu temple in India and site of my unfortunate foot step. It was once destroyed by Muslim invaders so was rebuilt with seven walls and facilities for the entire town to hide inside in case if siege. Granaries, kitchens, sleeping quarters, cow sheds, the works. It was the penultimate day of a festival so there was lots happening. It’s an auspicious time for festivals in Tamil Nadu it seems. P’raps even festival season.

Having declined the temple involving climbing 426 steps we went instead as second of the day to Jambukeshvara a Shiva temple dedicated to water as one of the five elements. There are five famous Shiva temples dedicated to each of the elements.  Nice columns and light – site of yin yang carving. I’m being understated, apart from the elephant in chains I really did love this temple (it’s the one on the right above and these ones here below). Continue reading “Temple Junkie”