Saturday 26 February 2011

How did the chicken cross the road?

Never mind why...

Long Load

Crossing a road in a city in Vietnam, even on a green pedestrian light, is at first intimidating. Rules of the road do not appear to apply. Bikes run red lights, go up one way streets, or take to the sidewalk (pavement). Or all at the same time.

But in fact it is not very hard, or (apparently) very dangerous. Just go, and go slow and steady. Especially steady. As long as you keep going at the same slow pace, a path will magically open for you in even the densest oncoming wave of bikes, and traffic will flow smoothly around you. Takes a bit of confidence at first, but it works very well.

And whatever you do, do not run, abruptly stop, or change direction. Confuse one driver, and there maybe trouble.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Expat Life on Sunday

Chùa Vĩnh Nghiêm

Well, not really. More like eating an enormous buffet brunch at one of the big hotels.

Last week we tried the Dim Sum at the Intercontinental. Excellent, all made to order, and a great deal. For Londoners: think Royal China on the Queensway, unlimited, for ten quid ($15) a person. In the Intercontinental.

And this week the Italian buffet at the Park Hyatt. Very good, unlimited Prosecco, but at a price level closer to London than Saigon.

You can guess how the remainder of the afternoon is spent.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Spiritual Bali: Tirta Empul

We caught little glimpses of the spiritual side of Bali everywhere. The most visually clear example was the ritual bathing of the faithful before entering Pura Tirta Empul (the Clear Water Spring Temple).


In the foreground you can see the heads of some people in the long line for the spouts.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Quiet Bali: Rice Fields

Once you get off the road, Bali is quiet and beautiful. This was down a little alley and a fifteen minute walk through the rice paddies from the centre of Ubud (with its 80,000 shops).

Rice fields

And this is one of the (somewhat rare) places where you have a view from the road, in Tegalagang:

Rice Terraces

Sunday 13 February 2011

Beautiful Bali: Damselfly


I took this in the pool in Bali. It wasn't as hard as it may seem. These flowers dropped in the pool all the time, and they attracted the little damselfly (it's about an inch long). The pool had a slight current towards the drain, so all I had to do is be ready with my camera in the pool, downstream, and wait till they drift by. That way I did not startle them and got quite close.

Minor disadvantage: without sun screen, you get a nasty sunburn when you spend a lot of time in the pool. Especially when you start out as pasty white as I was. (I turned a beautiful crimson red afterwards.)

UPDATE: I believe this is a Blue Tailed Damselfly, and it sits on a Frangipani flower.

Thursday 10 February 2011


Overdue post! We're back from Bali - the long Tết holiday is over.

Welcome to Bali

On a bike tour, in the rice fields, this happy fellow elaborately welcomed us to Bali, making a point of mentioning that we were welcome irrespective of our faith. When I asked to take a picture, he insisted that my wife be in it too. When seeing the result, he exclaimed "I am handsome" and welcomed us once more. That's when I snapped this.

Bali was not quite what we expected. Gorgeous luxury hotels, check. Beautiful, quiet and spiritual, kind of.

Beautiful whenever you get away from the road - it seems pretty much all significant roads are lined with shops. The 40km (25mi) drive from Jimbaran to Ubud was at least 80% lined with shop after shop. Half of the rest was other buildings. Leaving little view of the landscape.

Quiet, not so much. What do you want with a population of about 4 million on 5633 square km (2175 sq mi) that derives 60% of its income in tourism? (That's more densely populated than the Netherlands, the UK, or any US state by a good margin.)

Spiritual, yes. Bali is Hindu, and every compound has its little shrine, every village has three temples, and religion and rituals pervade every action. Just don't expect to find 'Eat, Love, Pray' on your holiday:-)