An elegant sufficiency

Friday, August 24, 2007

The time of year

We're back home now and the domestic routine is kicking in. An empty fridge means a trip to Waitrose was planned for this morning and decisions to be made. What to eat?

When we left, all was summer - strawberries, raspberries, salads. This morning, sure enough there were still plenty of berries and salad stuff, but somehow I wanted to buy root vegetables and mushrooms - and then I spotted the dark beauties over in the corner.

The damsons had arrived. That means one thing for us - Damson Gin.

A speedy decanting of last year's Damson Gin into bottles was called for, making the demi-john available for the new crop. Oh, and of course, we had to do a full and thorough sampling to make sure it met with our strict product standards.

Do you think the fruit crumble will pass muster?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hotel Art - Siem Reap

Well, I suppose choosing art to put on the walls here is a bit of a no brainer. The black and white images of Angkor which line the walls of every corridor and room in the hotel are an interesting record of how the site has altered in just a few short years.

In addition to the Angkor photography, there are attractive buddhist sculptures here and there, adding a real sense of place to each room.

And just to fool us, we looked at this poster once or twice before reading on the side label that it's a book jacket from 1997. So much for our original thought that it was a 1930s travel advert.


One last special day (4)

Returning from Bayon, we stopped to have a look around the Preah Kahn ruins, yet another remarkable place with outstanding features which set it apart from the other three sites we'd visited earlier in the day. As we left the car, it was raining hard but we didn't care - it was a refreshing way of cooling us down in the steamy afternoon heat.
Overgrown and a little more dilapidated than the other ruins, Preah Kahn was nevertheless a fascinating place, probably the site of a Buddhist university at some point.

We loved the loneliness of this site, probably because we were there in the late afternoon when most people had gone and in the peace and quiet, it was at its most atmospheric.

A few children scampered around, picking herbs here and there which Kinam told us are for the typical Khmer stir fry they'd be eating for dinner tonight.

I think I feel a log cabin quilt of some description coming on!


One last special day (3)

After lunch and a short siesta, we moved on to Angkor Thom and the central ruin, the Bayon, another atmospheric temple which I enjoyed but Mark found creepy.

54 towers and 216 (different) stone faces, well preserved and adorned with more intricate carvings.
More picturesque flashes of saffron, breathtaking glimpses through doorways and framed faces amongst the broken ruin.

We wandered around this intriguing place alone for most of the time, for although there were other people here, the architecture of the place meant that it was easy to escape the others.


One last special day (2)

On then, to Angkor Wat itself, star of the show - but in reality, only a small starring role. The best preserved of the whole set of buildings, the most crowded and possibly the least atmospheric, it was nevertheless breathtaking with so many finely preserved bas relief carvings still in place.

How's this for a repeat pattern? The bas relief along this, the Eastern gallery depicts the churning of the sea of milk, one of four galleries showing Hindu myths and Khmer history. All were patiently explained and features pointed out, for which we were very grateful - we loved seeing the small details in particular and were not only amazed at how finely the carvings had been done but also how well preserved they are.

Almost every square inch was carved with the most intricate patterns and motifs and many remain complete. The lack of colour highlights the work particularly well, we think.

So when there's a sudden burst of saffron, orange and hot pink, it quite takes the breath away - as here, in a small temple with a rather special buddha.

So many wonderful corners to explore, to delight and to try to record. Impossible, really.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One last special day (1)

One of the remarkable things about this trip has been that every day has been terrific in one way or another. So many memorable events, places, people - and there was still one more to go.

This morning we set off for Angkor Wat. Well, actually, at 7.30 this morning, we began the day at Ta Prohm, another temple in the Angkor complex. This particular temple has been overcome by trees; the roots of the Spong trees have strangled parts of the ruin and the atmosphere in the early morning steamy jungle was quite remarkable.

This was the temple of Tomb Raider stuff and as we wandered through the dark and musty galleries, we tried to imagine how it must have been. In the central hall, holes in the wall remain where jewels had been placed - hard to believe how it could have once been studded with diamonds and pearls when now it was such an empty shell.

Hardly any colour beyond the trees and the occasional saffron draped buddha. So photogenic - I filled two whole memory sticks!

We were not quite lucky enough to have the place completely to ourselves, but our guide's experience led us to find the places others didn't go and his patience meant that we were able to wait until the tour group rushed through.

This was too special an experience to hurry.


The Fish Paste Village

Our guide took us to the "Fish Paste Village" - it has a proper name but the local speciality resulted in the nickname and it's stuck. Unlike the floating village, this riverside community is built mostly of wooden homes on stilts, allowing for a cool shady place to be during the day.

The houses front onto a muddy street, with the backs on stilts above the water on one side of the road. The lady is doing the rounds, selling dumplings.

You can see what a high price is set on education- this private school in the village operates some English classes, which bearing in mind the average person earns about $40-$50 a month, are pretty pricey.

Then, ting-a-ling, the ice cream man comes along. Some things are the same the world over!


Monday, August 20, 2007

A different life on the Mekong

We're now at Siem Reap, further up the Mekong and near the Tonle Sap lake. This afternoon we visited a floating village which was fascinating.

The people here are self sufficient in that they have everything they need in their community. They move their village around according to the season and the level of water in the lake.

There are mobile stores, a petrol filling station, basketball court, pool hall, a school and a police station in the community, alongside dozens and dozens of houseboats.

There's a Catholic church for those who wish to attend Mass

And the farmer can still keep his pigs happy in a floating pigsty

Not too sure about the sanitary conditions, however, though our guide tells us that all homes are registered and the villagers still have their taxes to pay. There's no escape from that.

Well, Maggie said in a recent comment that she used to bathe in the water as a child, but I don't think I'd like to join her in this water.

Out in the lake it's more peaceful, though the drink sellers still buzz alongside and offer their wares. Persistence sometimes pays off.


Hotel Art - Phnom Penh

Aaaah, L'Indochine.

A pity these two chaps wouldn't fit in my bag!

Actually, come to think of it.....

(interesting garment, n'est ce pas?)



There's quite a bit of catching up to do, but no time right now! Arriving in Phnom Penh yesterday meant a new hotel and a better internet connection so at least I can share one experience with you today. Bearing in mind events at home just before we left, we found it rather funny

Phnom Penh is very interesting indeed and the Cambodian people charming. Having checked in, we headed straight for the Royal Palace where we were captivated by the wonderful colours, the stunning architecture and overall beauty of the place. Our guide filled us in with just enough background information and we spent a happy hour or two there.

As we left, there were the first few heavy drops of rain, typical for an afternoon at this time of the year, said our guide.

On then, to the National Museum and another guide. This time a happy, giggly lady who had a delightful manner but whose face became anxious as the rain began to fall and a bit of thunder rumbled in the distance. The rain became heavier and heavier and we watched, amazed at the powerful tropical storm outside, which continued for the whole hour we were in the museum.

Time to go, then, and what should we find outside, but a good 12" of water in the street! Our driver insisted on bringing the car right up to the steps so that Sir and Madam wouldn't get their feet wet - Madam's Crocs wouldn't have proved a problem but perhaps Sir's leather Timberlands might not have been so waterproof!

Up to the junction then, and *bang* - our driver reversed the car into another in the middle of the water. We sat whilst the whole accident stuff was sorted out, watching the goings on in the water, children larking about and trying to get our attention, the crowd building up to see what happened - and the antics of the driver of the other car trying to get the best out of the situation as he could. His car was not badly damaged, a light broken at most - but clearly this needed to be sorted and we didn't mind how long it took - the scenes through the window were better than TV.

Sorted out in about half an hour, by which time the waters were receding and the deluge over. We returned to our hotel for a quiet night in, happy hour in the bar and a brilliant Khmer dinner - more later.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hotel Art, Saigon

At Grumpy's request, some Hotel Art. I have to admit to being so taken with the sights and sounds of the day, that much of the hotel art has been overlooked. However, I did document it all, honest!

Danang was totally bereft of art. Totally bereft of quite a bit actually (including internet service, but that's another story!)

Saigon delivered the goods in the form of one framed picture on the side wall. Quite textile-y in a way - though it wasn't. But most certainly the kind of thing produced by the hundred for each room of the hotel. I didn't feel it did a great deal for the atmosphere, certainly didn't give any hint of time or place and could have been in any room in any part of the world.

Above the staircase was this huge ?painting ?print? Couldn't tell. The light was bad there but it was a strikingly large image - probably 5ft square. I feel it all is supposed to mean something but quite what, I have no idea!

My favourite was our bathroom installation. Beautifully posed, don't you think?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Seen in Saigon

Running a market stall is such a tiring occupation.

I loved this ceramic frieze along the roof of this temple.

There were some great walls of prayer papers inside too.

More incense cones hanging from the ceiling.

I think this is the place to buy a hat.

The china ware all packed up in sets for wholesale.