Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas 2013 at The Alice

As the end of another year draws close, the temperature has increased in Central Australia with a hint of humidity and everyone is winding down for the Christmas festivities. Many families leave Alice Springs for seaside resorts or to the major cities to spend time with loved ones or simply to get away for a bit.

When you live in such a remote location, it's good to go somewhere else at least once per year. Somewhere where the sights are greener and there are more places to go. More choices for everything. If you are lucky, the place you visit will be a bit cooler although temperatures in some of the major Australian cities have been as hot as Central Australia this year. All part of the planet's cyclical climate change pattern.

We are staying at home this year. Our family isn't religious, so Christmas is more a time when we get together and celebrate our togetherness. We do exchange gifts, following the tradition of the three wise men whom legend has it provided baby Jesus with gifts. We'll take time out to eat some lovely food, including roasts, drink a bottle or two of beer or wine ... or maybe both ... and generally laze about. Perhaps we will discuss our plans for 2014 and beyond.

If you celebrate Christmas, we hope you have a safe, pleasant and relaxing festive season.

for the Henry family

Friday, November 22, 2013

Visiting Bublacowie Military Museum and Memorial

With such an unusual name and a location out of the way, we weren't sure what we'd find at the Bublacowie Military Museum and Memorial. It took a bit of finding, but with our iPhone maps app, we eventually arrived only to find that the museum was closed on Thursdays. Damn!

As we were driving off, a small, fluffy, white dog attacked our beautiful Toyota Landcruiser Prado and fearing I would convert it into a floor mat, I stopped. The dog's owner, Chris Soar who is the owner and curator of the museum, came to our aid. He managed to coax the dog out from under our car and after a short discussion he invited us to view the museum, which he opened specially for us. Fate has a way of helping out occasionally and his generosity was greatly appreciated as we don't plan to visit the Yorke Peninsula again.

We accepted Chris's offer and were pleasantly surprised and delighted with the absolutely massive collection of memorabilia, memorials and associated objects and implements of interest. Well worth the $10 per head entry fee.

Chris Soar is a living legend with whom I quickly established a rapport and deep respect. He had a lengthy military career in the Australian Army and served our nation in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam (two terms). He has also made a considerable contribution to the various communities on Yorke Peninsula and obviously spent a lot of his waking hours collecting memorabilia and setting up the museum and memorial.

The memorial has plaques for numerous veterans of all world wars whose local relatives have requested their ashes be interred at Bublacowie. Now that those of us who served during the Vietnam War era are aging, numbers of the memorials are those of Vietnam veterans, young people willing to give their lives for our freedom ... something which we should never forget, especially with the onslaught of Islamists amongst us who state in public their intention to take over our country and place us under the yoke of Islamic sharia.

Chris has done a great job of setting up memorabilia in campaign order and service order eg, there are sections for the Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and several of the peace keeping operations like Timor Leste.

We spent a couple of hours touring the exhibits, some of which brought back fond memories of my days in the Royal Australian Air Force and later in the Army Reserve. Disappointingly, there was little about 10 Squadron RAAF with which my father flew in the UK during WWII. The crews of 10 Squadron went to England to ferry back to Australia a number of new Sunderland (or Catalina?) flying boats, but war broke out and they were told to stay in England. My father spent two years flying around the Bay of Biscay, the British Channel etc finding and destroying German submarines that were creating havoc with shipping coming in and out of the British Isles. As Chris says, there is a flying boat museum memorial at Lake Boga in Victoria. (I've been there and it brought tears to my eyes to see a photo of my father before he had even met my mother).

If you are anywhere near Yorktown in South Australia and are interested in Australia's military history and more, you simply must visit Bublacowie Military Museum and Memorial. If you are really lucky, you will get a chance to meet Chris Soar, one of Australia's heroes.


PS: Bublacowie Military Museum and Memorial is open Sunday to Tuesday 10 am to 4 pm or by appointment.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Port Broughton, One of Many Ports on Yorke Peninsula

This leg of our trip we are driving from the top of the Yorke Peninsula down the west coast and up the east coast and then head to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, before heading back to Central Australia. 

South Australia has two main peninsulas ie, Eyre Peninsula (the most western), which we have already travelled and Yorke Peninsula which we are travelling now. For those who aren't familiar with Australian geography (and those Australians who should be, but who nodded off during the South Australia segment of their geography classes), both peninsulas lie roughly north-south and are separated by the Spencer Gulf. At the northern-most tip is Port Augusta. Between Lucky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula and Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula there is a vehicular ferry, however, the price per linear metre is $30 and as our caravan and vehicle are almost 10 metres, we decided it would be cheaper to pay for fuel to drive the four hours north through Port Augusta and south again into the Yorke Peninsula. So we drove the four hours and reached Wallaroo around mid-afternoon.

Wallaroo is at the eastern side and slightly north of the St Vincent Gulf separating the Yorke Peninsula from Adelaide and much of the eastern parts of South Australia.

Our first few days we spent at Port Broughton (north of Wallaroo) which is where the photos in this post were taken from the jetty of the foreshore and main street with a lovely sunset thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, even digital cameras as good as my Canon DSLR and my training in digital photography from the New York Institute of Photography (ahem) cannot show the true beauty of a sunset no matter where one manages to record it. It just never seems to be as glorious as the way nature presents it to our eyes.

Everywhere we have stayed has been windy with lots of bloody flies and the winds have been coolish. However, we've seen the sea and the lovely beaches and walked in the sand (too cold to swim!), something not possible at Alice Springs, so we feel refreshed in both respects: physically and psychologically. Sighting of literally dozens of shingle back lizards, emus and other animals has been enjoyable too, to know we haven't yet killed them all off.

After Port Broughton we stayed at Moonta Bay south of Wallaroo and then Port Rickaby and will probably stay at Marion or Stenhouse Bay near the Innes National Park at the southernmost tip of the peninsula in the coming week before heading across to Edithburgh and then heading north with one more stay until we head to Adelaide.

The Yorke Peninsula has a mining history and once had a strong Welsh influence among the many Welsh miners who immigrated here to make their fortune or to escape their lives in Wales. Today, much of the peninsula grows smallcrops: wheat, barley, lupins and other seeds and huge paddocks with crops can be seen everywhere as can the various types of cropping and agricultural machinery.

Unlike the Eyre Peninsula where many of the people we ran into were from Western Australia, most of our fellow grey nomads here seem to come from South Australia and live just a short distance from where they are visiting. None of this long haul stuff from the Northern Territory for them. It must be delightful to travel a few hundred kilometres and be somewhere totally different and nice.

On our first night at Port Rickaby, the caravan park manager put on a sausage sizzle a-la-carte with heaps of salad, noodles and lasagne all for a miserable $5 per head. Excellent value for money. The little amenities room where we ate was chock full of people so it turned into a great social event with everyone having a glass of wine, a beer or a soft drink and chatting about their caravanning experiences. It's the social aspect that makes caravanning so popular.

Until next time, cheers.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All in a Day at Coffin Bay!

We drove from Alice Springs for two days to get to Coffin Bay on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. We stayed overnight on day one at a roadside stop on Ingomar Station. Night two we stayed at the Kimba showgrounds where the council allows caravaners and RVers to stay for up to 24h, which is very considerate of them.

The first day at Coffin Bay we relaxed and regrouped in order to throw ourselves into the Coffin Bay National Park (CBNP) today, day two of three we have allocated to stay here before moving on to nearby Port Lincoln. We did go for a one hour walk around the bay along a walking track that also took us through the scrub and up to a lookout one km from Coffin Bay central. During the walk we run into a huge male emu with half a dozen chicks (the males look after the chicks)following it here and there. Not wanting to get too close and incur its wrath, we gave it a wide birth but took some photos.

Today we had a leisurely morning, packed a few items for lunch and departed for the CBNP It costs $4 per head to enter for concession card holders and $10 for younger adults. Kids are free. There's an honesty box for the money. You write your car registration number on a form attached to an envelope, stick your cash into the envelope and then lick the envelope flap to glue it shut. You place the envelope in a steel container and place a permit on your windscreen. They should pay us for spending the time ... I usually charge $48 per hour.

We visited several bays and beaches and looked from several lookouts (isn't that what you do?) staying at one for a while to have our lunch which we had brought with us.

While driving around we saw a pair of shingle back lizards (aka sleepy lizards because they are very, very slow). One of the pair was on the road service, so I stopped to take a photo. First it played dead with the hope I'd think it was just a stick or a dead leaf (yeah, that's right, a stick with four legs, a fat tail, a head that looks like a shingle back lizard's and two beady eyes). Then, realising how smart I was to identify it as a lizard, it curled itself into defence mode, opened it's mouth and hissed at me. Although I have a 100 kg weight advantage and stand much taller, it frightened me off, so I returned to the car and drove off making sure not to flatten it on the way.

Next, we saw another clutch of emus. Ho hum, they are as common as tourists here. I took a few shots and kept going, next stop the wharf at Coffin Bay. There we found all the things you would expect to find at a wharf, cars with trailers, most empty, some full; a boat ramp, a few boats and people.

Two women were filleting their catch and feeding pelicans with the remnants of the poor beings who will be lunch or dinner in the near future. We stopped by to have a look and one of the women asked Chris if she'd like to feed the pelicans, handing her the remnants of a filleted fish ... a head, tail and bones with hardly any meat. Not much use to you and me, but a wonderful treat if you are a pelican.

When Chris had finished feeding a few of our feathered friends, and after I'd taken enough photos of pelicans, we decided we had had such a hard day, we headed to the Oyster Bed Cafe for a cup of coffee.

We've booked a table for tomorrow night and plan to have dinner there at 7 pm ... oysters kirkpatrick, red wine and some other foods.
What a life eh?


Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Great Central Australian Midwives Gourmet Sausage Sizzle

Wow! That's a title and a half, but it says it all: Chris Henry organised a gourmet sausage sizzle on behalf of some of her midwife colleagues from the Alice Springs Hospital last night.

Held in our backyard, we had a variety of sausages including, kangaroo, boerewors (South African), duck and pork, lamb, turkey, chorizo, and tangy pork and leek cooked by son Dale, undoubtedly the best sausage cook in the Northern Territory (seen in action at left).

Dale carefully placed the sausages on the barbecue grouped by type so we could track which was what and label it for our guests.

Robin carried the cooked sausages into the kitchen where Christina cut them into thirds, with the exception of the boerewors which was one very long sausage packed in a circle and looked like a short, thick snake. We placed them into dishes and put them on the table with signs indicating the sausage contents.

With a collection of salads, salad dressings, dukkah, and some mushroom sauce with cream, everyone took at least one piece of each of the sausages, grabbed a bread roll and returned to the table to test the gourmet sausages.

To my surprise, everyone thought they were great and several discussions ensured about sausages, the pros and cons and how the kangaroo sausages are the least damaging to health because kangaroo meat is fat free with no cholestorol. While the midwives discussed cholestorol, and plant sterols (whatever the hell they are), the men discussed climate change, golf, politics, and women.

At left are four of the eight men who attended. The first left is my golf buddy Darrell with whom I get together with most Sundays to walk, hit golf balls, swear moderately and discuss how well our golf is progressing, despite our final scores and evidence that the truth is not always told among golfers.

After I'd taken the photos, I noticed that each of the four had a drink in their right hand and their left hands were either in, or near their pockets.

Hands in one's pocket! Is this a man thing that happens on cue when a photo is taken or is it just another coincidence? We'll never know, but there is a safe bet that each of our friends is right handed.

Before everyone departed around 11:30 pm, I managed to get the shot at left of the midwives, although two are hard to see. The tallest lady, whose face is partially obscured, Dianne, is the manager of the Midwifery Department and the remainder are various specialists representing perhaps 500 years of combined nursing/midwifery experience ... the cream of the crop.

Daily, numerous mothers and neonates benefit from their invaluable knowledge and experience which they are also passing to the new generation of midwives who in time will take their places in what is a very important profession.

By the end of the evening, everyone had consumed a nice meal, the sausages being followed by sweets including trifle and fruit, a few drinks either alcoholic or non-alcoholic and they agreed that each month they should get together in a similar fashion with a different theme.

With Christmas on the horizon, there will be ample opportunity for celebration between now and the beginning of 2014.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Now that we are Grey Nomads ...

After a half century of working for the man (or woman as the case may be) and having purchased our Blue Sky Caravan and a Toyota Landcruiser Prado with which to pull it, we can now officially call ourselves "Grey Nomads".

Neither of us is completely grey yet, but I can no longer get away with telling daughter Meredith that I have my hairdresser put a bit of grey around my temples to make me look distinguished ... she sees through that fib immediately.

Unlike many men much younger than me, I still have most of my hair, although thinning on the front. Christina still has a lovely crop of hair, as is the case with most aging women, but I no longer tell her that if she dies first, I want a hair transplant. After all, it's getting grey too.

So, as we are officially part of the  Baby Boomer, Grey Nomad clan of Australians, you can imagine how delighted I was when a friend who considers to me to be an ex-officio father, gave me a bottle of Grey Nomad shiraz for Fathers' Day last Sunday.

I've not yet opened the wine to test the delights and will do that during our next caravan escape in mid-October when we travel to the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. I already know the wine will be excellent. How? It's from one of Australia's premier wine growing regions, McLaren Vale in South Australia. With a heritage like that, it has to be a good quality wine.

The label on the obverse side of the bottle at left has a bit of a blurb about Grey Nomads (you may need to click to enlarge the photo). I don't know whether it is all true, but it sounds as though it could be ... spending our children's inheritance has been a priority for us for a while.

In October we head south to our neighbouring state and plan to spend some time at the beachside towns such as Coffin Bay. I'll take some photos with my beloved Canon EOS 450D and if you are really lucky will post some travel information covering the towns along the way.

Keep watching this space for more and in the mean time, stay well.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tory Does Palm Valley

Recently we took a day trip to Palm Valley which is within the Finke Gorge National Park, an east-west running valley in the Krichauff Range 123 km southwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia.

It's a pleasant drive during the cooler months and requires a four wheel drive vehicle after one reaches the Aboriginal town called Hermannsburg, which was once a Lutheran mission township.

The Palm Valley palms are red cabbage palms found nowhere else in the Northern Territory. Although the region is now arid, the presence of palms reflects the time when Central Australia was tropical.

We've been to Palm Valley on several previous occasions and although it hadn't changed any since our previous visit, it's still good for the inner being to get out and be surrounded by the beauty and ruggedness of nature.

Christina and I took grandson Tory along for the trip and were accompanied by friends Robyn and Darrell Wallace.

Tory had a great time exploring the landscape here and there and running about like a ferret. We did quite a bit of walking and climbing before having a picnic lunch.

Apart from the walking we do among the hills surrounding our house, Tory hasn't done much "exploring" in the outback, so it appeared to be a good change from tennis, bike riding and football, to get some exercise climbing rocks and running along the dry Finke River bed.

We didn't see any lizards during our trip ... it's probably too cold for them at this time of year, but there were some lovely honeyeater birds, a few hawks and a variety of ants, butterflies, dragonflies, and various bugs with which to entertain ourselves.

When we travelled home, the sun was setting over the beautiful MacDonnell Range reminding us that both had been here for many millions of years and would be still here millenia after we are all gone.

By the time we had arrived back home at The Alice it was late afternoon. Tory sat in my chair (yes, MY chair), and within seconds fell asleep as can be seen in the strip photo at left.

He's such a handsome fellow, I have no idea where he gets it from.

Everyone had a great time. Our next trip will probably be to the old gold mining region of Arltunga which is north-east of Alice Springs.


Saturday, March 09, 2013

Off in the Beautiful Sea Princess

All Aboard the Sea Princess

Well, here we are on the high seas, north of Australia and heading to Brunei. We've never been on such a large ship before, but many of those in this cruise are recidivists ... if that's an appropriate word. Or perhaps I should refer to them as frequent cruisers.

As the boat rolls from side to side slightly, one has to keep one's balance, but the surrounds are akin to a five star hotel, so it's no burden, although it occurred to me that it's a bit like being under the influence of that demon drink. The key difference is that you wobble when sober, not inebriated. And of course, when you are inebriated (so I'm told), you aren't aware that you are lurching from side to side. Essentially the challenge is the same; something out of your control is causing you to walk a bit funny and occasionally lurch left or right.

Before embarkation, my sister-in-law, Lyndie asked me what I'd do for 40 days. Having just spent a month in Vietnam looking at the many beautiful or at least attractive women there, I thought I could sit by the swimming pool on the ship, Oakey glasses firmly affixed and ogle at some of the bikini beauties. Alas, she informed me that most of the people would be my age and therefore showing advanced signs of wear and tear. Damn! She was spot on. But there are, thankfully, other things to do. And many of the largely Asian crew are worth a second look and chatting with. There are also many nice fellow travellers.

I've been doing some paid work while on board and that has helped fill in a little time. Then there's the Kindle ... plenty of books to read. I did attempt a gym session, but it was chockers and I'm an impatient exerciser who doesn't want to queue for machinery. Never mind, when I get back home it will be back to the three games of golf per week and some cycling.

Talking about Kindles and books; if you are a politician or have anything to do with helping run Australia (or any other Western country for that matter), you really need to obtain a copy of Dr Dambiso Moyo's, "How the West Was Lost". Perhaps also get up to speed on the progress of Islam in the West and elsewhere as it successfully implements both its murderous and passive jihads on freedom, democracy, human rights (especially those of women), and our cherished Western values.

Every morning a copy of "The Officer's Log" arrives with some sales blurbs and a program of activities which includes everything from tooth whitening sessions to movies. Last night we watched the latest Bond movie, Skyfall. There is plenty to do if you are interested in the topics being programmed. One session I have been following is about astronomy and the creation of planets etc which has an excellent, well informed lecturer and many topics of interest if you like space topics. I gave the sessions on "Religions of the East" and Zumba a wide berth.

The food on board is excellent with multiple places to eat. There is the Horizons Restaurant which has a wide variety of foods in a buffet or smorgasbord setting. It seems to be the most popular as you can wear almost anything there. There is a pizza lounge and a first class restaurant where you are expected to wear "smart casual" to dine. All options have a good range of choices and food equal to any other quality restaurant.

So far, the water has been as flat as a billiard table and we have simply cruised along past this or that island wending our way to our destinations.

It's a tough life, but 1,900 of us are doing it on the Sea Princess. Throughout the globe, there are probably tens of thousands floating their way across this or that ocean.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Wedding of the Year

On Christina and my 40th anniversary (17FEB13), son Dale married Ean (Yen Ngoc Than) at Lagi in Vietnam.

It was a spectacular occasion with several short formal elements where grandparents and other senior family members grant approval for the union to take place. The remainder was like something out of a celebrity event with fireworks and all.

Three hundred relatives from Ean's family turned up for the feast at midday and there was much frivolity and laughter as those who had not seen each other for a year or two whooped it up. A table of young people was rather loud and got louder as the intake of the dreaded drink beer took hold. But not to worry, the music from the karaoke type machine was so loud, my teeth shook and Dale, being hearing impaired had no chance of hearing anything but the music.

The session lasted until about 2:30 pm and almost immediately after the last course of food (fruit) arrived, the   guests began leaving slowly like crabs on a beach. As we were to find out, another marriage was planned and a reception starting in a hour. The workers at the venue had a tonne of beer cans and other stuff to clean up in a hurry before re-setting the tables.

By the time we departed from the venue, all I wanted to do was to crash for an hour or so. I had been "forced" to engage in a couple of "YO!" sessions and even though the beer has ice in it, it was beginning to take its toll. A Yo session is where you are challenged to drink a full glass of beer in contest with another. I had last done that when I was in my twenties ... now that I'm a responsible drinker, I'm out of touch with these rites of passage.

A good day was had by all and it was a joyous opportunity for families to get together. As you can see, Dale looked like a celebrity as did Ean in her traditional dress. Both had a couple of changes of clothes. Dale went to a white suit and Ean to a lovely royal blue dress.

Obviously we wish them every happiness and hope they live long, prosper and look after us when we get old and difficult.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Remarkable Interaction with 6 Year Old Hung

Last night my new daughter-in-law asked me, my son and wife to attend one of her relatives places for a chat. We had already had dinner at Uncle Ing's place, where I learned why many of us in Australia are fat and obese and few Vietnamese are not. But that's a story for another day.

I had the most fascinating experience with a six year old girl called Hung. She looked as cute as ever in her school uniform, her long, jet black hair, smooth brown skin and brown eyes. She approached me and, probably never having seen an aging Australian with different eye shape, skin colour etc, addressed me in Vietnamese. I said hello to her in Vietnamese, one of a growing handful of words I know and then spoke a few words in English. She suddenly began speaking to me in English that was comprehensible, but slightly out of tone. She began counting to me and as I watched her searching for the next number, she reached 20 before she decided that was enough.

I told her she was very good at counting in English. We sat down and I began to point to parts of her body and say the English word. She responded, "nose", "eyes", "chin", "fingers" in her cute little voice and when the intonation was incorrect, I would tell her, "no, it's n-o-s-e" and as quick as a flash she would repeat it. Several times she had successive attempts, but eventually got it as close to 100 percent as anyone could expect from a six year old.

What I found quite remarkable is that she remembered every word we had spoken and got the correct intonation in several repeat sessions. Then she decided to teach me Vietnamese. She would say a word and then open her hands out in front of me to say, "well, say the word". If I got it incorrect as I did many, she would gesticulate in the way Vietnamese do to say "khong" ... "no" and redisplay her tiny hands to suggest I repeat the sound.

I couldn't believe it. There I was, a 65 year old man being taught Vietnamese by a six year old girl. And she was doing a great job of it. We had about a 3/4 h session, but I'm sad to say I'm not as efficient a learner as Hung.

It was an amazing experience and suggests to me that this young lady is brilliant. Truly an example of what is known in education as the "blank slate", the slate that has plenty of room for learning and absorbs everything quickly.

If I was staying here for an extended period, I'd ask her parents if I could have a few one hour sessions with her each week from which we could both benefit. I enjoyed our interaction very much despite our vast age difference and the absence of a considerable language barrier.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Finding Paradise in Lagi, Vietnam

Our trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Lagi, 200 km away took about four hours in a "bus" which was really a large taxi. Five of our extended-family-to-be met us at the airport, so they and we three had to cram into the bus with all our baggage. I had my feet up on the engine cowling and Christina was twisted a bit like a pretzel, however, after a slightly uncomfortable journey we made it to the Mai Long Hotel at Lagi where I sit now as I write.

As hotels go, it's very nice and it's also very cheap at about $12 AUD per night. Everything is inexpensive here by Australian standards which makes one realise how taxed and profit conscious we are. One thing that really impresses me is that wifi in the hotel is free and lightning speed, not like the service provided in our so-called "first world country" by Telstra/Bigpond.

The local currency, with the unfortunate title of "Dong" is in the thousands and you feel like you are being over-charged for everything until you work out the comparative cost. Twenty thousand Dong for two cups of Vietnamese style iced coffee is about $1 AUD. Take off the last four zeros and divide by two for an approximation.

A can of 330 ml beer is worth around $0.50 cents ... very easy to become a drunkard here.

Our new inlaws, Nup (mother of Ean, who is marrying son Dale) and Vian (father) run a fish wholesaling business and seem like a very lovely family. They are surrounded by what seems like a cornucopia of brothers, uncles,  grandparents, fathers and so on. The great point of note here is that everyone looks after everyone else in the family. The older family members are supported financially by their offspring ... no Centrelink Office here.

The people are friendly and manage to keep themselves reasonably well groomed and clothed with the odd exception. Everyone and everything here seems to busy with motor cycles coming and going day and night.

Our hosts have had us running from place to place meeting Uncle Ing, grandmother something or other, attending dinner here and breakfast there. We even found Paradise as you can see in the two photos above. And I thought paradise was only an imaginary place where the good, dead finished up. Not true!

There are no credit card facilities here which has been a pain, but we have managed to use ATMs to keep ourselves loaded up with Dong.

At present we are in the middle of the Chinese New Year so celebrations are ongoing, but shops are still open selling coffee and food, hardware and other things. The next week promises to be an interesting and demanding one for all of us. I'll keep you posted.


PS: Our new daughter in law is a lovely, intelligent lady who will be a welcome addition to our family and despite the cultural and language challenges, a great partner for our son

Thursday, February 07, 2013

It's Different but Similar in Vietnam

After an uninteresting and ordinary flight from Singapore, we arrived safely (always a bonus) at Tan Son Nhut Airport around 6:30 pm. While the standard of the airport surprised us, the two and a half hour wait to get our pre-booked visas process didn't. Been there, done that in several other countries.

After standing in queue for so long, it reminded me why one has to be at least reasonably fit to travel. It's not just carrying the bags that is the issue. For some, standing without anything to drink for a couple of hours can be daunting. Fortunately, I'm reasonably healthy and a placid person and not usually prone to impatience, having learnt early in life that being impatient doesn't help to make things happen any sooner. I do admit though, that I was pleased to get my visa and get out of the airport.

Friends including our daughter-in-law to be were waiting patiently for us and as we were incommunicado, must have wondered whether we had in fact arrived. All's well that ends well however.

We spent our first night at Saigon where, in the course of finding a place to have a beer, son Dale and I had an interesting interlude with a couple of "bar" girls. One sat close on my left, threw her leg over mine and rubbed my thigh. Even after only one beer, I thought she was stunning ... we drank our beer quickly and scurried off with tails between our legs. Maybe we should have stayed to see where the journey led, but we had a fair premonition and decided cowardice was the best form of survival, my son being about to marry and me with a wife of almost 40 years with whom I'd like to spend the rest of my days. I still have a vague recollection of having said, "until death do us part", with no mention of sudden death!

The city was as expected, similar to other Asian countries we have visited and also had some similarity to the Arabic countries with the sole exception of course that most of the people are Asian (what a surprise). There is a flower festival under way at present and we spent about an hour wandering among the many beautiful varieties of flowers. Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the hotel so missed many golden photo opportunities which I regret.

After doing some necessary business with the Australian Consulate-General's Office at Saigon, which was almost as painful as the visa issuing process at the airport, we walked about the streets and markets and managed to find a restaurant for dinner. We had an early night for in the morning we were off to Lagi which is where we are now.

Everywhere in Vietnam is a reminder of how resilient and motivated the Asian people are, having a penchant to turn anything into a way to make a Dong or survive for another few days. The motor scooters and motorcycles are ubiquitous; the thought passed my mind that there must be a huge trade in sins of the flesh, motor bike sales and repairs. Everything else must surely be subordinate.

Thanks to our Vietnamese friend Phuong, adapting to the local routine is much easier.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Heading for Vietnam

It's taken a while, but in early March I'm heading to Vietnam (see previous post). I tried several times to get there during the Vietnam War period, but the Air Force obviously considered I was needed more in Australia, so I never got posted and consequently missed out on a Defence Housing Loan and some other benefits only available for "veterans".

I spent my war supervising the loading and unloading of C130E Hercules aircraft flying to and from Vung Tau, Vietnam, a long way from the front line.

Oh well, it's probably safer to visit now 40 years later.

My wife Christina and I are heading to Vietnam to hopefully marry our son Dale to Yen (pronounced Ian). So, not only will we get to visit the country for a month, but we will see our only son get married ... at long last. Having a daughter-in-law will be nice too, especially one who brings a different cultural viewpoint into our family.

After we return from Vietnam we are heading off on a 40 day (yes, you read it correctly) cruise from Sydney across to Japan via Airlie Beach and Darwin in Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, China and then return via Guam. It promises to be a wonderful experience too, but I'll write more about it as it happens during the long days watching the ocean pass by.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Travel Plans 2013

While our new caravan sits about waiting for our attention, we are heading to Vietnam in February to see our son Dale get married to Yen (pronounced Eyan) at a smallish town outside Saigon.

We are delighted that he has found someone with whom to share his life and look forward to adding Yen to our family, which is very small.

After the Vietnam "holiday", we are off on a cruise from Sydney to as far as Japan and back with numerous stops enroute to such places as Airlie Beach (Queensland) and Darwin, Australia, Hong Kong, Shainghai, and Brunei. It's a 40 day tour on a very large ship and a totally new experience for both Christana and me. Neither of us has been on a cruise before, so we are really looking forward to it.

In the second half of the year, we intend to head to the north of Western Australia with our caravan and wend our way south eventually coming back to central Australia via the Nullarbor Plain and the Stuart Highway extending north from Port Augusta in South Australia.

While doing this, I will be doing some copy-editing and instructional design tasks for a client which will keep me busy for a day or two most weeks. Christina will work casually at the Alice Springs Hospital Midwifery Department during our time at home.

We've both adopted the semi-retirement life very well. I incorporate two or three games of golf each week into my less than busy life and Christina spends more time sewing and using her iPod and iPhone with which she has become very proficient. When the daily temperatures decrease a bit, I'll also spend some time fixing up our garden, a task that is long overdue, but among the many skills I have, gardening isn't one of them.

Stay well.