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Christmas tree 16 December 2013

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Christmas is back.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Christmas. Sadly no snow for me this year, though, as I am staying in Australia. But look at my Christmas tree – finding the Christmas spirit all the same. Enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!

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More on trees 22 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Travelling, Travels.
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Yesterday’s post about trees made me remember another little anecdote I heard recently.

When I was back in the Netherlands, I met this fantastic old lady. She was bright, 91 years old, and had a real twinkle in her eye. She was about five-foot flat, and she had been a doctor in her working life.

She had us all in stitches as she was telling us her stories on being a “house doctor” early on in her career, when she delivered over 30 children in the town where she worked. She was joking that the mattress used to be about eye height for her, and during deliveries, she used to crawl up onto the bed with the woman who was in labour to be able to assist the delivery.

However, she mused, going from house to house was not for her, and she soon changed her vocation to private practice, as whenever she went on a house visit, they were always serving her tea and coffee. And she couldn’t refuse, of course. But there were not very many trees along the road she normally travelled.

From the twinkle in her eye, the subtext was clear – she had to give up her job as a house doctor to accommodate her bladder.

 

K-I-S-S-I-N-G 21 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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One of my Vietnamese friends has fallen in love with an Australian girl and he recently went to Sydney to visit her. Before he went, he came to see me for a chat, and I was teasing him, by saying

(his name) and (her name), sitting in a tree
Kay-eye-ess-ess-eye-en-gee!! (K-I-S-S-I-N-G)

He thought this was very funny, and I thought it would be a humourous insight into school yard teasing for him. He had a marvellous time, and he posted lots of photos on Facebook, for everyone to enjoy his time with him.

When he came back, I was so pleased for him, and I asked him; “How was your trip?”

He said: “Fantastic, I had such a good time!”

“Great! How was Sydney?”

He went bright red and said “there were a lot of trees everywhere.”

I was initially confused until he reminded me of the previous conversation. In other words, they had found plenty of opportunities for kissing! A gentlemen never kisses and tells, but he can indicate the number of trees he has encountered ūüėČ

Good on him.

Ha Giang – lovelier, the second time around 8 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in only in Vietnam, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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I have, of course, completely stolen the above headline from my partner, who pointed out that it was indeed lovelier, the second time around. Which hard to believe, if you saw our reports on our original trip.

We were a group of six travellers this time, keen for adventure and the country side. We took an overnight sleeper bus to Ha Giang, which was actually not too bad, but sleeper buses designed for Vietnamese (where men are on average 22 cm shorter than me) is never going to be extremely comfortable.

Arriving in Ha Giang at 3 am, we had called ahead to a hotel and booked rooms, so we could sleep the rest of the morning in beds before getting started on the day.

Friday morning, we rented bikes, organised the appropriate licences required to travel in the region (as the Vietnamese like to know who is loitering in the border area with China) and set off into the mountains.

Unfortunately, it was raining and rather cold, and we soon also hit the mist which covered the mountains, so we were soon chilled to the bone. But riding through it was still beautiful and spectacular, with villages and mountains poking through the misty landscape. The roads were twisting and winding along the mountain passes, through valleys and onto mountain passes, with gigantic trucks and buses coming around corners in the mist.

On the first day we did not get very far, we stopped off at Tam Son for lunch (about 45 km), and then on to Yen Minh (another 44 km) for the night. I found the landscapes we passed through (when we could see further than 20 metres ahead) fascinating, and they varied almost per valley. Sometimes, they were dry and¬†wintry, other times green and lush, almost spring like. We’d pass through pine forest or leafy tropical forests with palm trees and birds¬†screeching¬†above.

On Saturday, we set off for Pho Bang (about 19 km), a traditional Chinese style village near the border of China, where we were received with smiles and waves. The local school also had just had a break, and we had a sticky beak into the class room when it resumed as the toddlers were reciting Vietnamese proverbs. They were so adorable! The landscape was yet again amazing, and you could practically see China from where we stood.

In Pho Bang, we stopped for a coffee, and watched the locals set up for a wedding. Everyone brought the tables and chairs from their houses, and there was a giant tarpaulin stretched right across the road for the revellers. The karaoke system was already installed before they had finished setting up the tent, so it looked like they were gearing up for a big party. The groom had gone early that morning to fetch his bride, so we did not get to congratulate them, and we needed to push on.

I was pleased to come across a game of Mah-Jong, too, clearly indicating that China and Chinese customs were not far away!

As we reached the turn off for the northernmost point of Vietnam, the group split up, with some going to Lung Cu (the northernmost point where there is a giant flag tower) and the others going to Sa Phin, where there is a restored mansion that used to belong to the Mong King which looked amazing. But just as I pulled up outside of the castle, I changed my mind and drove after the guys who went north.

It was a lovely drive, with amazing views, and apart from the fact that one of the guys had a small accident with his bike and came off it (slightly scraping his knee) and subsequently also had a flat tire, it was a beautiful side trip. I thought we would swing by the castle on the way home, however, due to the time lost to the accident and the tire, we chose a different route (which cut the distance to Dong Van in half) which I now thoroughly regret. I would have loved to see the Royal House! I thought I would get to do both, and I think if I had known that I would have to do either the flag tower or the royal house, I would have chosen the latter, especially as the mist shrouded the surrounding countryside, and we could hear the flag before we could see it as we were climbing the stairs.

On Sunday, we got up early to see the Dong Van market, which was still misty and smokey, but warmer than before. By the time we had explored the stalls and had some local pho, the sun came peaking through, and when we stepped on the bikes, it was almost warm!

We stopped off in Meo Vac for their markets as well, where we got to see all the beautiful ethnic minority people buying and selling their goods. It was intriguing to ride along the roads, where driving out of Dong Van all the minority peoples were walking towards you, heading to the town you had just left, and then, further on, they were all walking in the same direction as you, heading towards the town you were going to.

We also fit in the markets at Lung Phin, which are held every 6 days, and, luckily, we had worked out that they would also be on that Sunday. The locals were intrigued by our presence, and looked as much at us as we did at them. We soon headed back in the direction of Yen Minh, hoping to get there in good time.

Along the way on the last day, the mist had lifted, and we could truly see the landscapes that the north of Vietnam is famous for. All the peach blossoms were also out, and at one point, I came upon a mountain road where the clouds literally tumbled over the edge. You could see the movement of the clouds, rolling over the road, and I sat there, with my engine turned off, listening to the quiet and watching the marvellous picture nature was offering.

As we were all nicely warmed up, and driving through the mountains at ease, we managed to get to Yen Minh by lunch time! We had done 70 km in one morning! So we decided to get back to Tam Son, and then see if we wanted to keep going. In Tam Son, we were all doing so well, that we rode the entire rest of the journey back to Ha Giang (total of 170 km in one day!) to find some dinner there.

It was an exhausting day, but well worth the effort, because that meant that we did not need to leave early again the next morning to make it to the bus station.

Some of us went to a village near Ha Giang on Monday morning to have a look around, and were again pleased with what we found, riding along little paths, watching the locals go about their daily lives with their buffaloes.

When we arrived at the bus station, however, we were told the bus would not leave at 10am, as expected, but at 1pm. After trying to find a solution, everyone went to sit down, thinking we had a big wait ahead of us. I was a bit slow, and the guy in charge of the bus asked me whether we could wait until 1. I said no, we need to go now.

“Ok.” he says.

I just stand there, not knowing what he means.

“Hurry up, get on the bus. We will leave now.” He tells me.

He calls the driver over who is having a cigarette and a coffee.¬†“You need to leave immediately!”

So somehow, we got to go at 10am after all! We made it back to Hanoi tired, and happy, utterly pleased with the trip we had made. To anyone who wants to explore Vietnam by motorbike: do!

Hanoi Boogie 16 September 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Art, Happiness, Vietnam.
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The wait is over, guys. I know you have all been on tenterhooks since I said “watch this space” at the end of June.

But it is finally here – the Hanoi Boogie – with yours truly singing backup vocals.

So go and check it out, and because I cannot help myself, I think you should also go and learn the dance that comes with it!

Wedding extravaganza 12 September 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, Travelling.
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I spent Friday preparing for and celebrating the wedding of two friends of ours. It was a beautiful day, with the most amazing people. I wish them both all the absolute best in life, and I feel so lucky to have such immeasurably valuable friends.

Weddings are, to me, one of the big three – one of the three events in life, next to births and deaths, that one should endeavour not to miss.

It might be the only opportunity one ever has to gather family and friends together to celebrate what matters most in life, namely love between people.

I felt so privileged to have been present at this one, and I regret that I have not been able to go to all the weddings I have been invited to in the past. Seeing the love that my two friends have for each other, celebrating it and sharing it with us all was a most touching experience.

Good luck, dear friends, and I wish you a very romantic honeymoon. I look forward to seeing you both again soon.

Had to re-post this 3 August 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Just had to.

HT: The Daily Dish

Zombies 19 July 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Art, Zombies.
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As promised almost a month ago, I am going to provide you with 10 amazing pictures of zombies.

However, it has taken a lot longer than initially expected, because I thought I should present you with 10 originals. Whether they will be ‘amazing’ is still a little doubtful. But I have spent the weekend drawing and drafting, so I expect to present the first result to you during this week. I hope it will be successful.

But at least I am having lots of fun, they are zombies with a twist.

Only in Vietnam #1 11 December 2009

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Only in Vietnam. The first installment of many?

In was told at my new job that I would be expected to sing something at the Christmas party, because I was the new kid.

My standard response to a lot of things involves tap dancing for some reason. This time, I said “sure, I’ll sing, if you tap dance!”

And sure enough, he is a tap dancer! (It was bound to happen eventually) So I had the pleasure of singing Deck the Halls to the rythmic sounds of tap dancing shoes on tiles. Any takers for a more random carolling experience?