THE BIG TRIP XI – THE DRAGON BRIDGE AND ABSENT GEORGE

Before I start writing my usual drivel today I’d like to say a big thank you to all the new followers to my blog.  You probably have a lot better things to do than read the nonsense I churn out every Monday morning, so it’s really kind of you to press the follow button. I would prefer to drop each one of you a line to say hi and stuff, but I’ve not worked out how to do that yet – another skill I may discover one day.

I left off last week at the Dong Ba Market in Hue and I’ve just noticed that it’s described as a romantic symbol of Hue, the attraction being the preservation of ancient distinctiveness, where tourists can see all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market. If you remember I described how indescribably dirty, hot, sweaty, claustrophobic and gross it was and yes, this is coming from someone who has to be retrained in a straight jacket if we get nearer than 50 kms to any market. Either the description is over the top hype, or the writer had not been anywhere near the place. We have better ones in Spain, without all the dead things cut open to expose their digestive systems to the world, or wriggling in abortive attempts to escape their imprisonment in plastic washing up bowls. These I could take, it was having to wriggle along the alleyways between the stalls barely wide enough to wheel a supermarket trolley.

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The rest of Vietnam, including the markets was such a delightful contrast.

Next announcement on the itinerary the following morning was a relaxing breakfast before heading towards Hoi An. Relaxing? Well only if you rose at sunrise. As usual we had to set the alarm clock to get us up in time to do all the usual stuff before sleep walking into the car at 8 am.  All the guides we had were wonderful, but not one of them would budge at my suggestion they collect us at 9 am or even 8.30 am.

We were supposed to go through the High Van Pass in the mountain but this was abandoned due to bad weather so the next attraction was the Nuoc Beach in Danang which we flew past at a rate of knots. Still that wasn’t serious as neither DH nor I are holiday beach bunnies and we have a nice beach just down the road.

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No, our guide took us to a museum instead. Now I like museums, I really do, but not this one. The Cham Museum holds large chunks of stone, part pillars and partially demolished statues. There were no labels on anything, well none we could understand and I was also a little worried the building itself would collapse, it was in a terrible state of repair . After wandering around for a bit we said we’d finished. The guide was a little sad about that, but to keep to the time table he allowed us a cup of coffee.

This is something I missed on our trip, our morning coffee routine, it just wasn’t written into the script. In Vietnam it comes in a small cup with condensed milk added – it plays havoc with your waistline but does it taste good!

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I was fascinated by the dragon bridge just across the road from the museum – it’s an amazing structure and I’ve since learned that at the weekend the dragon breathes fire, followed by gallons of water pouring out of its mouth. Now that I would have enjoyed.

Next week, the Marble Mountains.

A lot of things happened during George’s reign. For example there was an early sort of stock exchange scandal called the South Sea Bubble. Many of the better off people, like Walpole, invested in the South Sea Bubble pyramid selling scheme, which was quite legal in those days.  Sadly the structure collapsed and everyone was left holding the free mop and bucket supplied with every 200 shares sold.

SOUTH SEA BUBBLE

I can’t say I like George I very much, he wasn’t all that keen on being King of England – how ungrateful can you get! For example, although he was supposed to live in Great Britain after 1714 he visited his home in Hanover in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. Altogether he spent about one fifth of his reign as the British King in Germany. That’s not a very patriotic thing to do is it? I mean offer you a throne and you keep running home again. A clause in the Act of Settlement that forbade the British monarch from leaving the country without Parliament’s permission was unanimously repealed in 1716, but that didn’t seem to stop him. While he was away his power – such as it was – was held in a Regency Council instead of his son, George Augustus, Prince of Wales.

Just a gentle reminder that ReadFreely are asking for nominations for the 50 books of 2016 worth reading. I would love you to bits if you nominated Amie and The Child of Africa.  If the book is chosen, then they give you a little sticker and tell lots of people about it. It also makes your tweets about the book look much prettier. This is the link

http://www.readfree.ly/50-self-published-books-worth-reading-2016-nominations/

That will take you to the site and nominations must be in by 3rd June. I would be soooo greatful and please feel free to re-blog this J

Also the Bloggers Bash of the year are asking for votes on the best blogs. I’m not there of course, but you might want to pop in a vote for your favourite bloggers, you know the really funny and clever ones. Here is the link https://sachablack.co.uk/2016/05/19/vote-now-annual-bloggers-bash-awards-now-open/

Have a great week.

PROOF I’M AN IDIOT – THE BIG TRIP VII – AND NEXT UP MONARCH

Just as you think you’ve got a handle on things life smacks you in the face. Last week I was so proud of myself. I wrote my blog in Word on the Sunday to free up my half day ‘me time’ on the Monday. I found all the pictures and popped them into the media box – so now all I had to do was quickly cut and paste and I’d be writing Amie 3.

Now if you are about to ask why I didn’t do the whole thing and then press publish on Monday, well I’ve yet to work that one out. The last time I tried it, it went live immediately.

So, all completed nice and early, pressed publish and then remembered that I’d not added the categories and tags. No problem I thought, I’ll just pop back and edit it. So I did and then I sent out a blog which was only tags and categories. A kind follower alerted me to this so I had to go back and do the whole thing all over again – sigh.

So, where were we in SE Asia? Oh yes, on the boat on the Halong Bay in Vietnam and believe me it was pretty cold, being January I guess that was to be expected. I had packed some winter clothes, in fact I was wearing all of them – at once, all at the same time.

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While DH had a massage down one end of the boat, I tried to relax with a book in our cabin, until I noticed it was getting colder and colder. The damn aircon was on full blast. I fiddled and fiddled with the remote- no luck. I then clambered up and pressed every button in sight, no luck, I tried to unplug it but it refused to cooperate. Finally in desperation, I went for help. The guide failed, the steward failed, the engineer failed and the captain failed.

After a long discussion they decided to give us another cabin – the presidential suite. Well this was the life – except you didn’t want to sit down on these chairs, unless you were very well padded.

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And the bathroom – or more correctly posh heads? When did you see a Jacuzzi this size on a boat?

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There were, however two small problems. We had been warned that after 8.pm there was no hot water on board. Time now? 8.30pm. I was already cold enough, and the thought of sitting in freezing cold water with even colder jets spraying over me was not too enticing. Also, there were no instructions and we hadn’t the faintest idea what you twiddled, pushed, pulled or thumped to make it work. We settled for admiring the red-brown coloured enamel work.

Then problem #2 arrived. Somehow, while using the sink, I managed to get the metal flip stopper stuck in place. There was no way to empty the sink. Frankly I just didn’t have the courage to call for help a second time, so for the rest of the time on board, we had to brush our teeth over the loo.

It’s not all fun in these posh places you know.

But all was not lost. We visited this pearl farm floating on the water, where they nurture and grow them in little pens and then kill them and wrench the pearls out of them.

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I passed on the cooking class, as by then I was feeling really ill – from frost bite I thought.

But I managed the trip to the fishing village, all on stilts. It was just amazing, set among 2,000 limestone islands but the kayaking, swimming and diving were a little out of the question. If you take a trip there, go in the summer!

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We shared a boat with these nice people, and as we all remarked, when they get the pics developed we will all be asking “Who the hell were they?” Little did they know it was me!

Then it was time for bed, so I popped over the side to take a quick pic of the boat with its lights on.

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HISTORY LESSON PART SOMETHING

Sadly the little prince died when he was 11 years old, and then his Daddy died, and then Queen Anne herself popped off her mortal coil in – 17 something or other and now parliament was in a fix. No heir? They looked around Europe desperately and began offering current accounts at Barclays, books of green shield stamps, Amex cards and Debenham accounts to anyone who was protestant and would sit on the throne of England. They even threw in a free subscription to Readers Digest.

Eventually they had a taker in George who came from somewhere in Germany, only it wasn’t Germany in those days, just a lot of little states and I won’t bother to mention which one as I would probably spell it all wrong.

Enter George I and we’ll meet him next week.

 

 

 

THE BIG TRIP VI – AND ANNE’S DESPAIR

Once again we rose to the rattling of the alarm clock, had we fooled ourselves into thinking this was a holiday? After more unusual fare for breakfast – raw fish has never been high on my preferred breakfast menu – we were whisked off on a 3 hour road trip towards the coast. The scenery was much as I had seen on the odd television programme, small shops by the side of the road, millions of scooters, often carrying whole families and swathes of rice fields.

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Suddenly we turned off the road and entered a different world. The potholes had disappeared, the grass verges were neatly trimmed and floral displays abounded. Brand new buildings, retail space on the ground floor, offices or possibly apartments above. Not many were occupied but from a rural third world we were catapulted into the first world by turning a corner.

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At the end of the road we saw shelters, small offices and the river Halong. Hugging the kerb was a long line of tourist coaches and hugging the river bank a long line of small boats waiting to transport holidaymakers to the larger boats a little way off shore. We were provided with life jackets and catapulted onto a small boat along with our luggage. Why, oh why did I choose to buy a luggage set in white I asked myself.

I could mention at this point that it was pretty cold. The sun was shining, but gave us little warmth. I was muffled up to the eyeballs.

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We climbed aboard our boat, two decks, about 20 cabins and a dining room and a spa. I suppose it could cater for around 50 people, but it was less than half full. Our cabin was very pleasant and we settled in for a night on the water. I just loved the way they described this as checking in to our private cabin – we had not been planning on sharing it with anyone else.

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Soon we were gliding along, and the scenery was amazing. Tall rocky outcrops rose out of the water and the river stretched as far as the eye could see as we cruised up or down the river, I wasn’t sure which way we were going. We were transferred into a smaller boat and taken into an almost circular cave where, they informed us proudly, Leonardo de Caprio had filmed The Beach. Sad that their high point of tourist info came from the halls of Hollywood, when this World Heritage site was worth seeing simply for its beauty and grandeur.

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The itinerary mentioned sunbathing and swimming as leisure activities, but certainly not for me, and no one else ventured into the water either. By now I was wearing as many layers of clothes as I had brought. My suitcase was practically empty – I was like a Ryan Air passenger wearing more than I had in my luggage.

After dinner, while DH went for a massage, I decided to have a quiet read on the bed and it was then that the trouble started …  to be continued.

Poor old Anne – well of course she wasn’t poor was she, despite losing vast sums of money at cards and treating her favourite women to wads of cash on a whim. This must have been a particularly long card game as someone painted a portrait while they were at it.

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But she was beginning to realize that she was not going to have an heir. She’d been almost constantly pregnant since her marriage and one after another after another she either miscarried or the babies only lived for a couple of years until only one son survived.

He was a bit strange though, and sickly. As was common in those days posh women didn’t feed their own babies, they called in a wet nurse to do this for them. Enter Mrs Pack a Quaker woman who apparently was well, very well endowed in the milk production area. She saved little William’s life and was thus installed in the nursery.

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He suffered from hydrocephalus, so his head was out of proportion to his body, but this deformity was not reflected in his portrait, he was spared the vicious truth of the modern selfie. But he was quite bright with a burning interest in military affairs. He recruited 90 young boys, dressed them in uniform and drilled them daily. He even persuaded the king to come and review his troops. It’s just as well he had a big garden to play in. It must have been like the annual dreaded kid’s birthday party with hoards of screaming kids every day of the week. Sensibly, Anne gave him his own house miles away from the court.

 

THE BIG TRIP IV – HANOI AND A BOSSY WOMAN

Vietnam was my first visit to a communist country, and the first difference I saw was the reverence paid to Ho Chi Minh. I just had to google this man, I thought he was not much loved in the West. I was surprised to learn that he had died in the 1970’s but he is still remembered, you simply can’t forget him. Everywhere you look, there are statues, pictures and places named after him.

Oh. Before we go any further, a word of warning. If we thought this was going to be a gentle, relaxing holiday we were in for a shock. Our bouncy, friendly guides – Ming and Ling – insisted on collecting us around 8 am. At my tender age that meant rising around 6 am, to allow time for a shower, dressing and breakfast. So, just as I was being swept off my feet by George Cloony telling me I was the woman he’d been looking for all his life, I was rudely awakened by the wretched cell phone screaming its little heart out.

I just love the presentation in the bedroom. I was tempted to sleep on the floor so I wouldn’t disturb it all.

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We went first to the mausoleum where Ho’s body lies fully preserved. The streets around are kept clear of traffic and the area around is beautifully maintained.IMG_3210

 

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However when we arrived the mausoleum was closed, I understand for cleaning. But these friendly soldiers were guarding it. Don’t you just love the white welly boots?

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Next it was off to visit Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts – built for him by a Frenchman so it looks as if it was transported straight from the Champs Élysées.

The first pic is the place he refused to live in

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and this is the one he preferred.

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That was very pleasant, except there was also a party of school children in school uniform also visiting and they were not doing it quietly.

Then we gawked at a pagoda standing on a single pillar.

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It’s a Buddist temple, as most of them are of course in this part of the world, but I’m still puzzling as to why they wanted it to build it on a pillar. The steps were quite steep and it is very tiny inside.

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We then peered at the Tran Quoc Pagoda built on an island and yet another pagoda called the Quan Thanh Temple.

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And then it was time for lunch after which, we were informed, they were going to take us by rickshaw round the streets. I nearly sent my lunch back to the kitchen. They were going to put us in little wheeled vehicles and push us head on into all that traffic! I trembled and concentrated hard on the excellent electrical wiring systems that hang in picturesque bunches as they led us to what I was convinced was my last ride ever on this planet.

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(Some naughty pictures coming next week).

Now I mentioned last week that Sarah was a very bossy lady. That social ladder soared onwards and upwards. She managed to drag herself up from this

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To this

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She was no wilting violet. First she asked for a title – Lord and Lady sounded so much better than Mr and Mrs. They were now Lord and Lady Churchill. Next she asked for shares in Walmart and Tesco and a platinum American express card. Ann gave her wads of cash instead.

I just have to include this as it is so amazing. The coat of arms for Ann’s husband Prince George of Denmark.

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He was quiet, easy-going and what we would call today “a drip/idiot/nonentity,” that’s before the politically correct get to us. Of course the king could say what he liked. “God’s fish, what have we here? I have tried him drunk and I’ve tried him sober but can make nothing of him, but the Princess Anne seems satisfied, so it may be she has been more fortunate than I.”

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George was called “Est-il-possible?” as that was all he was heard to mutter. But he and Ann had one thing in common, the love of food. Lots and lots and lots of food. So they both grew fat together.

Just one line about my new book up for pre-order  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DPVB4M8 it’s very funny.

UAE KINDLE COVER

 

 

THE BIG TRIP III HONG KONG TO OZ PLUS QUEEN ANNE

Hong Kong is one of the places I had always wanted to visit – and Singapore is another. I’ve read so many books set in these places and I wanted to see both of them. The whole purpose of the trip was to spend time with DH’s family in Perth, Australia and it seemed sensible to include a little side visit on the way there and on the way back. So I made a total nuisance of myself as it’s likely to be our last big trip – unless the world goes mad and buys millions of my books or they phone from Hollywood tomorrow – and I decided I wanted to see both.

I wasn’t disappointed in Hong Kong. I learned that it’s more than one island and the airport is on one, called Lantau – they have a Disney world there too, but there was no way DH was going there.

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The island next door is Honk Kong Island itself and then there is a large area called the Kowloon Peninsula which is also Hong Kong? Confused yet? Well you should be, if, like me you thought it was just one island.  To the north of the bit on the mainland is an area called the New Territories, and I think you need to travel north through that area to say “I have been to China.”  Hmm, not a politically correct statement I guess, as it all belongs to China now, but HK is still an autonomous area.

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We did all the touristy things, cable car to the peak, ride on the White Star Ferry which possibly gave Noah a ride on his way to the Ark. The night market looked a bit scruffy so we didn’t explore that but we saw an amazing laser show against the backdrop of skyscrapers which really took our breath away.

To our shame, and please don’t tell anyone, we had a Big Mac for breakfast – noodles just didn’t seem right at that time of day.

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This is the Taoist temple we visited. I would have liked to stay longer, but the smoke from all the candles made even my eyes water.

The people in the streets seemed to be constantly rushing, focused and quite serious. Many wore face masks, although the air appeared quite clean, and there certainly is a buzz.

This was an impromptu concert on the steps of some colonial building and the oldest can’t have been more than 10. Such concentration and they played really well.

The Christmas decorations made the city extra special and three days wasn’t really long enough to explore the whole island(s) and it was sad to drop off our luggage in the centre of town where it would be taken to the airport ready for our flight later in the day. Now if that’s not efficiency, I don’t know what is!

Back in time, and I was just checking out about Queen Anne and I realized that she was born in 1665  –  (I am putting together a talk on her for the History group).  Now you know how I hate dates and being even the slightest bit accurate about history in this blog, but I did notice that this was the year of the Great Plague in London and that’s exactly where Anne was born. So she must have been a tough cookie. Of the other 7 children born to her mum and dad, the only two to survive to adulthood were Anne and her elder sister Mary. Now what does that say about strong women?

In those days Mummy and Daddy were not to be bothered with screaming kids running riot round the palace, and getting underfoot, so Ann was shipped off to live in France and only came back home when she was five. Then she and Mary had their own establishment quite separate from their parents, who were taking no chances of being bothered by their play stations, and constantly ringing cell phones. Like most sensible adults they enjoyed their peace and quiet.

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Where Mary and Anne lived in Richmond. the rumours that this was a shed at the bottom of the garden are untrue.

 

 

 

THE BIG TRIP II HONG KONG + ANNE

I got it all wrong – we didn’t spend the night at the airport till later in the trip. As I was describing our route to friends, DH gave me a hard stare and explained I had it all muddled up. So let’s jump straight to the first destination.

We landed in Hong Kong, took the airport express bus and then a taxi to the hotel. It’s one of those upstairs ones in a busy main street – but I’ve got used to that in Europe.

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I wasn’t expecting a long, sweeping, maple tree-lined drive, even I know that Hong Kong is just a small island – except it’s not. Half of it is on the mainland with China, which is a bit confusing to someone like me with limited brain power. The two are linked by a ferry which is very famous. I know, I’ve read about it in books. Now here is a view of HK you’ve probably not seen before.

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That was taken from the cable car as we went up to the Peak – well you didn’t expect me to walk up there did you?

HK blew me away. I have a sneaking suspicion I was an architect in a previous life – Sir Christopher Wren springs to mind – as I have a fascination with tall buildings and HK is full of them.

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What also blew me away were the hotel facilities. I was amazed to see they provided us with a free lap top and it wasn’t even chained to the wall either! Imagine that in most cities.

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Since I was already going into a deep depression about leaving my lap top at home, I hastily checked to see if there was a price for it. There was certainly a price for everything else. A first, and one we were to see in lots of places. It intimates that you don’t steal the soap, bed linen, fluffy towels, even fluffier bath robes etc but pay for them at the reception desk.

I’m still trying to work out how someone would take the safe? It was bolted to the wall for a start and you could hardly pop it into your pocket and sneak out the door.  I thought some of the stuff looked quite cheap while HK$ 1,000 for a phone seemed a bit steep.

I was also quite amused at this reminder that you should not hang your clothes up on the sprinkler – in case of fire I guess.

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As this was not part of the tour – we were on our own – we bravely ventured out for our first meal in one of the cute little back streets. This will be fine, we thought, HK is a very civilized place. We will order ‘safe food’ for our first night. It would not be a good idea to get a bad tummy on the first day of the holiday.

So we bypassed this restaurant. I know these pictures are not very clear but I had to include them – unselfishly we chose to prolong the life of these cuddly crustaceans.

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DH ordered Indonesian fried rice with a fried egg on top. No problem, except they only had chopsticks available and you try eating a rubbery fried egg with those!

I was more sensible and opted for scrambled egg and spam, which I’d not had for ages. It came floating in a bowl of soup of an indeterminate origin – my chopsticks were equally redundant. Since we were the only diners in there, maybe the locals knew something we didn’t?

We went for a wander round the streets, crowded, vibrant and cluttered until it was time for bed where we slept a full 12 hours.

While I’m boring you to death with the intimate details of our Big Trip, I’ll keep the history thing short. I’m fed up now with WilliamanMary so let’s move on to the next one Queen Anne.

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Anne (centre) and her sister Mary (left) with their parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, painted by Sir Peter Lely and Benedetto Gennari II

Her Daddy had been James II & VII of run-a-way fame so you can guess that her elder sister Mary of WilliamanMary fame did not have any surviving children. Having also been brought up as a Protester, it was fine to pop Anne on the throne without upsetting anyone.

When Anne was about 6 she made friends with a girl called Sarah Jennings, who married John Churchill and his sister became the Duke of York’s mistress. Later he became of course James I & VII. Confused? Well I am.