Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City - still shines as Saigon

A day or so in Saigon is like a week anywhere else, staying in District ! at the delightful Caravelle Hotel (yes, still the best breakfast in Asia)we are opposite the charming Opera House, near every high end shop in town and 15 minutes walk away from the real shopping in Ben Thanh Markets - oh joy, oh joy!
The streets are buzzing with millions of motorbikes and we were pedalled around in a rickshaw yesterday - always a bit embarrassing as the drivers are usually the size of my left leg!
Visited the Reunification Palace and for the first time I visited the War Remnants Museum (much more realistic than the word 'War Memorial'); sombre and heartbreaking, the museum pulls no punches and the photographs on the walls tell the horrific story of Vietnam's suffering.
A funny thing happened at the Palace, there was a group of war vets, men and women who were ecstatic about having their photographs taken with us . . .see, you don't have to mention the war!
Off to Myanmar later today - the world is truly amazing place.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mushroom magic

On a quick trip to the Blue Mountains (two hours drive from Sydney) the Australian Society of Travel Writers met for a meeting recently. We stayed at the once magnificent, and on its way again to be, Fairmont Resort at Leura. Twenty years ago the Fairmont was the saviour of tourism to the Blue Mts with families, conferences and weekenders filling each and every room. Set overlooking a magnificent valley, there was hardly a resort to match this in Australia. Bad moves and bad management left the place in a state of neglect but it's feeling the love again. And it's looking good with many of the local staff returning. Welcome back gorgeous!
While in the Mts we dined at the Grand View hotel in Wentworth Falls on excellent bistro food and had dinner at the famous Ashcrofts in Blackheath on Saturday night - bravo Ashcrofts.
Next day we headed to Oberon, a small town with a big heart. We were taken on a 'Mushroom Forage'. I somehow thought I had to get down on the ground and do truffle sniffing but it was easy - once I was told how to identify the mushrooms. In these pictures, the pretty red top one with the spots is dangerous/poisonous and downright nasty - on the other hand the ones I am holding - Saffron Milky Tops are juicy, meaty mushies that when cooked up are delicious.
So if you are out that way, visit the Oberon Visitors Centre for mushrooming kits and go for it.
And if you're asking - there were no hallucinations taking place that day - but what was that seven legged apparition poking its crazy head out of the pine forest?

This could be the last post for a few day, I have just arrived in Vietnam and will be going to Myanmar tomorrow - where it is said that there will be little or no internet connection . . .we;ll see

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rocky Mountaineer - soft sell - all aboard!

If you need a bit more encouragement - enjoy this lovely video of the train and all who sail in her!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rocky IV

No, it's not Rocky anything other than the fabulous train. Canada's Rocky Mountaineer is one of the world's great trains that offers one of the world's great train rides. It choofs across parts of Canada that are wild, wonderful, craggy, gentle, awesome, interesting . . . still looking for more superlatives. I have had the privilege of riding these rails and not only did I see a stunning part of the world I ate Canadian produce prepared by Michelin-trained chefs - can't get much better than that.
If you think this blog is mostly about food, perhaps you are right!
A trip on the Rocky Mountaineer is pretty special as it only travels during the day. You can include the train trip with an independent holiday, get on and off, and extend the dream with a cruise afterwards - rail & cruise - just add water!
After being filled to the emotional brim with the grandeur of the majestic Canadian Rockies go cruising.
On the train enjoy being nurtured by the staff, spoilt by the chef and maybe you'll meet the CEO onboard serving drinks!
During the season, all corporate staff do their time onboard - so if you meet a bloke called Randy who's swerving around the carriage - he's the president and CEO of the company. (It's OK, you don't have to tip him.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Washing day

Continuing my fascination with India I want to share the washing day image. Everywhere we went where there was a river - there were woman and some men washing. Beating rolled wet clothes to a pulp almost, this water washes bodies, food, cooking pots and clothes, sheets, towels, saris and more.
Every white piece of fabric was whiter than white, and these mum's didn't have a Whirlpool!
I asked a woman I met there if she owned a washing machine: "Yes, I do, but after I use the machine, the house help takes the clothes to the river - the machine just doesn't clean the clothes as well." See these lovely clean clothes in the picture.
The other shot was of a sweat little bird poking out of a hole in the wall of the big temple in the palace at Mysore.
(Thai International Airways flew me to India, to Chennai via Bangkok.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Indian signs of the times

Still sorting through many images from my recent trip to India. The further I get away from my return, the fonder are my memories. It really is a big cliche - that is, India! It's been said forever 'a land of contrasts!'. And it is, at every blink of an eye, at every corner, every day - something that sits beside something else that is crazy and just doesn't fit - but it does and it's India. The picture here of the 'modern men's urinal' is mad, as around the corner, 'un-modern' men are peeing up against walls in the street, or on anything that doesn't move; the soft drink bottles and the coconuts - two snack drinks - and the coconuts are healthier and cheaper - every gutter has a pile of coconut shell litter decomposing; and the sign across the front of the bus: 'God's grace', it's the only way you survive a bus trip. We drove up a mountain with 30 hair-pin bends - true! Face to face with other large vehicles; motor bikes and scooters and cheeky cars - everyone wants to get to heaven in a hurry - by God's grace.
Read more about my India trip in the next issue of Get Up & Go magazine. Namaste!