THE BIG TRIP SOME NUMBER OR OTHER

Yes, I’ve got a bit confused with the numbering system and if I didn’t have the itinerary here, I wouldn’t remember where we went next.

After breakfast it was off to another airport and another flight. As I’ve mentioned before I love flying and I could quite easily get used to hopping on and off planes. Besides being a writer, my next choice would have been a career as a stewardess, but then, the family were not in favour of that either.  We flew from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. I’m not sure if news had got back to China where our tour operator was domiciled – about those two old codgers who were looking totally knackered –  but they allowed us several hours of leisure time in Chiang Mai at this smart hotel

and a delightful evening wandering around a very nice night market.

Next day it we were off to see the elephants. No, not to ride on them, or watch them perform but to care for them. Despite the fact they were Indian elephants and much smaller than their African cousins, to me were still very large.

We were given melons to feed to them, initially we were behind a metal barrier then they took us out in the open and encouraged us to pat them and make friends.

I remembered the ranger I met in Chobe who took visitors out to meet this one friendly elephant. He’d shake hands with it to the delight and wonder of the admiring tourists. Until, the day he chose the wrong elephant. It crushed his hand to pulp.

These are different elephants I told myself, not daring to think of the time we’d been charged by one. These have been rescued from the streets where they were mis-used by their owners to beg for money, or made to give rides for hours or work in the logging camps. This was an elephant refuge where they were well fed and well treated.

After lunch we all trekked down to the river to give them a nice bath. Personally, I thought DH was very rude, remarking that my bucket throwing was not up to par, and if I stood at that distance from the leviathans, the water would never reach them.

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I got as close as I dared. I’ve not lived this long to take unnecessary chances.

So, we are up to William IV gracing the throne of England. (I guess there were 3 other Williams before him at some time, you would have to check back). He reigned at what came to be known as the start of the industrial revolution. This came about from the instruction of the steam kettle, useful for making cups of tea. Sir Robert Louise Stevenson put wheels on them and turned them into trains and other useful things.

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THE BIG TRIP – MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

I think the most emotional moment I had on the whole of the Big Trip was the reason I had set my alarm clock for 5.30 am. I had mentioned to our guide that it was on the itinerary we would be taken to the morning alms giving ritual, and, as we were leaving the next morning, when would we see this? It was obvious he wasn’t going to rise at that hour, but told me I could simply walk outside our hotel and see it from there at 5.30.

So there I stood, camera in hand in the dark, shivering. Remember this is Luang Prabang in Laos, which is pretty far north, and we’d brought minimal winter clothes.

As the sun began to lighten the sky there appeared out of the mist three young monks. A few people were sitting at the roadside by now and as the monks passed they accepted offerings into the basket each one carried.

A pile of food had been left outside one house, so they paused, and in unison, chanted for a few minutes before moving on, their orange clad figures disappearing into the early morning mist.

By now I had been joined by another couple from the hotel and I was debating whether to go back and crawl back into a warm bed, but for some reason, decided to stay. I was so glad I did.

A slow procession turned the corner at the end of the road, distant orange figures who walked towards us. There must have been 30 or 40 of them, ranging in age from fairly elderly men to young boys possibly as young as seven. Not a word was spoken, nothing said. I snapped one picture after another and then felt very guilty, as if I was taking a typical tourist advantage of a holy and almost private moment of their daily lives. I felt an intruder. Yet I couldn’t help myself, I had to get a record of this moment – to remind me of what I’d seen.

I wanted to somehow give the message that I was more than a nosy tourist, so as the last monk was approaching, I hesitantly offend him some American dollars. I just hoped he wouldn’t be offended, and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. He looked at me, then opened his basket and held it out. I saw it was full of food and I paused, remembering what we’ve all been told about money and germs. I placed it inside as gently as I could, and then stepped back. He looked up at me and said “Thank you,” and he smiled.

In the cold light of a Spanish evening, this may sound trite, but in that early morning in Laos, I felt my soul move.

Next week i meet elephants.

Have a great week.

SECOND WARNING FOR THE FAINT HEARTED – AND WILLIAM OF THE DRUNKEN BRAWL

SECOND WARNING:  If you think the other week’s picture of the little, furry dead things with tails for sale in the market was bad – worse is to come in this blog. So close your eyes when the pictures come up or you may never drink again.

I know our guides came for us at 8.30 each morning but if felt more like dawn, as this was now day 16 and frankly we were knackered. We’d not had a rest at all, no weekend off and all the temples we had seen were now just floating before my eyes one after the other.

Back to the river, and while we spotted a few other tourists all cramming into one boat, we had a forty-seater all to ourselves. Guess that’s how the other half live? It was two hours up the river, according to my daily diary, until we pulled up on the left bank and our guide strode off leaving me to negotiate some rather slippery floating planks which had no intention of either keeping still or meeting each other.

We had arrived at the Pak Ou Caves. We guessed these caves were holy in some way as you can only reach them by going up some very steep steps and the nooks, crannies and shelves were all wall to wall Buddha statues, most of them quite small. Our guide explained that every family member places his or her own statue in the cave. There are thousands and thousands of them. Some are quite old and damaged, while others are obviously new.

They show all the different positions – meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana). It was difficult to feel we were in a holy place as there were other tourists there and a couple of locals selling souvenirs.

You could go up even higher into the top caves. I took one look and declined – being the #1 coward that I am – but DH hopped out of sight, after giving me a very condescending look. He was back a few minutes later after he saw just how many steps he would have to climb.

We boarded the boat again and were ferried across the river to have lunch on a floating restaurant (boat on water tied to the bank) and then it was off to other rural villages – Ban Xanghai and Ban Xangkhong. Here, I suspect the locals engage in papermaking, silk weavings and wine making mostly to sell to the tourists. Close your eyes now if you are of a nervous disposition.

We fell into bed that night and I set the alarm for 5.30 am. Tell you why next time.

What more can I tell you about William IV? He was known as the sailor king. Well I guess he never expected to be king as he was the third eldest boy born to George III and Queen Charlotte. So he was allowed to join the navy as a midshipman when he was only 13 years old, although Mum and Dad insisted a tutor went with him which spoiled the fun a bit.

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But he got about and was arrested in Malta after a drunken brawl. Of course they let him go immediately  they realized who he was. It’s always who you know right?

Quick tip:- Walking over Eggshells is due for a promo on Thursday at $/£0.99 which is probably a bit silly me telling you that now, as no one is going to buy it for the next few days, but then remember, only my blog and FB page readers will know that.

Here are the links to Amazon and it’s also available on Nook, Kobo and Apple. (Smart pic with the silver medal on).

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E8HSNDW

I’m writing an extra blog this week with more news. Take care and thank you for reading.

WARNING 1 – THE BIG TRIP XV

WARNING:  for those of a nervous disposition, do not read this post, as it has a gruesome picture in it for lovers of little furry friends.

We bade a fond farewell to our guides with pleas from them to recommend holidays in Cambodia – and I do recommend it. The people were so friendly, the hotel was gorgeous and the ruins amazing.

It was time to move on, away from the wide majestic waterways and the inhabitants who eek out a living there, and take an afternoon flight across yet another border to Laos. Still a communist country and not as prosperous as Vietnam from what I could see. Luang Prabang is a lot further north and very much colder – though I must admit it was January.

I wrote in my diary it was a bit creepy, the bed was lumpy and the wedding party drums kept us awake for hours – yes, this is me who always reckons she could sleep through the 1812 played at the foot of the bed. But we were both so cold even cuddling didn’t keep the chills away. It was a nice hotel though but a little out of town.

Our first visit was to a market.

The little things with tails? Please don’t ask.

I was blown away by this little girl playing with a cell phone wearing Disneyland leggings. On one hand it shrinks the world, on the other emphasises the enormous gap.

Then it was off to another temple. I’ve been puzzled in the past about Buddhism, and was determined to sort out the principles on this trip. Instead of a greater understanding I became more confused. There appear to be dozens of slightly different sects with varying rules. I mention this as we were off to another temple complex called Wat Xieng Thong. Plus a trip around the Royal Palace museum.

Next time, dining on tree stumps.

Can I find anything more interesting to say about George IV? Well I scratched around a little and can share with you the following.

When he was born, an attending courtier announced he was a girl.  He didn’t like living in the small houses (huge mansions to you and I) preferred by his father, as I’ve mentioned they did not get on.

So he went mad building enormous residences for himself once he got to sit on the throne.

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Buckingham Palace from the back for a change.

He was mad about clothes and spending money and he was very selfish and self-centred. When he was old he slipped into a fantasy world assisted by laudanum and cherry brandy. He believed he had personally defeated Napoleon. He had his first serious love affair at 17 and tried to divorce his wife, except Parliament wouldn’t let him. He only married in the first place, a good, acceptable, Protestant princess so the government would pay all his debts. He was blind drunk at his wedding. Wow, don’t you wish he was your neighbour?

OK here comes the advertising bit (well I’m told I should include it). Can I persuade you to go on my mailing list? As soon as I’ve sent Amie 3 off to my editor, I will be writing some back stories only available to a special set of people. Also you can find out when you can get my books free or cheap and there’s the occasional competition to win free books just for signing up J

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