Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Myanmar in pictures

Crossing U Bein Bridge, Mandalay

Sunset, near U Bein Bridge, Mandalay

Sunset and swallow, U Bein Bridge, Mandalay

A helping hand, monastery near Mandalay

Well-behaved novices wait patiently for their lunch

Horse and carts in Ava, village outside Mandalay

Buddha statue, Greater Mandalay

Snapshot of rural Myanmar

Monks cross U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world, Greater Mandalay
Gold stupa near Bagan

Contemplative monkey, near Bagan

A pack of monkeys noisily rule over this pagoda near Bagan 

Daily jobs, monastery near Mandalay

Washing, monastery near Mandalay


Idyllic scenes in Bagan

The temples cover a vast area of land, Bagan

Shrine within an ancient temple, Bagan

Sun setting over Bagan

A low sun over Bagan

Temple ruins, Bagan

Horse-cart driver, Bagan

Temples in Bagan

Lunchtime in Bagan

A cheery girl chases our cart, despite her heavy load

Happy girl in make-up

Resting beneath a Banyan tree, under which Buddha reached Enlightenment

Just another gold stupa, Thanlyin village

Around 80% of Myanmar's population is Buddhist

A romantic stroll around Inya Lake

Children begging at Kandawgi Lake
Biographies of Aung San Suu Kyi sold on the street- a sign of increasing freedom of expression? -Yangon

Jennifer, 12, who sold us postcards, Yangon

A street market in Yangon

Pigeons, downtown Yangon

Shwedagon Paya, the most important Buddhist monument in Myanmar- Yangon

Monday, 28 January 2013

Burmese Days

My past four days in Myanmar have been more or less as hectic as the preceding two that I wrote about. We spent two in Bagan, once the seat of the ancient Burmese Empire, and two in Mandalay, the former political capital and current 'culture capital'. I really loved Bagan; we stayed in the old town, surrounded by ruinous temples that we could explore during the day. Travelling by horse-cart along dusty roads from temple to temple felt like stepping back in time. Unlike the Angkor temples in Cambodia, those in Bagan receive far fewer visitors, making it a very special experience for us. On our first day we watched the sun set over a hazy horizon of red sand against which stood the silhouettes of temples for miles and miles around. It was one of many beautiful sunsets we've enjoyed over the week, owing to the mostly flat topography of the country. The best of these was from a boat looking out onto U Bein bridge, the world's longest teak bridge, near Mandalay. A notable thing about Myanmar is that despite, for obvious reasons, it's small number of annual tourists (around 300,000), it has many record-holding sights to impress visitors- besides the world's longest teak bridge, there is the world's largest book, in Mandalay- spelled out on stone slabs, each set in a pagoda, which are lined in rows surrounding a gold stupa. Then there is the world's largest Buddha image- measured by density I believe- which is also in Mandalay. This Buddha statue is coated six-inches deep in gold leaf left by a century of pilgrims, giving it a lumpy texture and huge, clumsy features like a giant.

Other lasting impressions of Myanmar have been the abundance of gold stupas, the smiles and friendliness of the people, the red teeth of men sucking beetle-nuts who spit the blood red juice across the streets in slashing arcs, and the inescapable dirt that leaves greasy hair and black feet from a day spent walking barefoot around temples. On more than one occasion I would walk around temple grounds and have every person there staring at me, but I never felt unwelcome, and several Myanmar people whom I talked to told me that I was welcome to come back to the country again and again. The issue of tourism in a country run by military dictatorship is double-edged; on the one hand, the benefits to impoverished people that it will bring, and on the other the inevitability of putting money into the pockets of the corrupt government, one that is currently detaining over 2,000 political prisoners and using repression, torture and rape as means of controlling its populace. I am sure that tourism in Myanmar will continue to rise since the National League for Democracy ended its tourism boycott in 2010- personally, I would love to visit again some day- but as for the political situation, it is impossible to know.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Yangon in a day

Our last day in Yangon has been a long one and we have got a lot of sightseeing done. Lily reckons that we have done everything suggested in Lonely Planet's guide of Yangon, and God only knows what you'd do with yourself next without Lonely Planet telling you!...

We took a taxi for the day and headed off first thing for Thanlyin, a village half an hour away from the city. Here we took a boat to a temple on an artificial islet and then visited a Stupa onland. We saw a scaled- down version of the Shwedagon Pagoda that we visited last night, and then a red brick Catholic cathedral built in 1914 where a solitary nun was praying and, outside, a solitary cow was mooing. After this we stepped back in time to visit the country's first church, built in 1750 by Portuguese missionaries. Today all that remains are ruins, and the site has evidently been adopted by wayward youth, judging from the broken beer bottles and crude graffiti on the top of a tomb. Next, our taxi got a flat tire... But sooner or later we were back on the road to Yangon for lunch.

In the afternoon, with the sun mercilessly beating down on us, we headed out to see a vast reclining Buddha. It was an impressive and beautiful structure, particularly due to the soles of the feet, which, unexpectedly, were decorated with symbolic pictures and patterns. Our next stop was to see the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, where she was held under house arrest for over twenty years. There was little to see from the roadside where we stopped- only a high wall topped with barbed wire and stamped with posters of the of the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLF). In fact, it may well have been the NLF offices that we arrived at, and not actually Suu Kyi's house. We didn't stop to ask.

We paid a quick visit to Inya Lake and it's surrounding gardens, where couples shared romantic moments beneath parasols. At sunset we found ourselves at Kandawgi Lake, walking along the rickety bridge and enjoying the peaceful scenery. Here, Lily and I were followed by two young boys and a girl of twelve or thirteen, carrying  a new-born baby in a worryingly precarious manner. It was tragic to see that, probably just a few days into its life, this child was being used as a prop to help the family make money through begging. I gave them a little money after they begged to have their photo taken, and quickly regretted it.

As the evening drew in we found ourselves at a Chinese restaurant near the river, on the recommendation of a taxi driver, where we had a cheap meal of roasted duck, noodles and rice. And so passed our second day in Myanmar. Tomorrow morning, all of us besides Lily (who is travelling by herself to Bali), will fly to Bagan in Central Myanmar to see ancient temples built in the 11th-13th centuries. In fact, Shu-Fang and May have just called by my room to let me know that we will leave the hotel at 4.30am. There really is no rest for the wicked.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

First tastes of Myanmar

We arrived in Yangon, Myanmar yesterday evening and had to set our watches back half an hour from Bangkok time owing to the country's unusual time zone. We took a taxi to our downtown hotel just as the sun was setting, and observed the scenes outside: open-doored buses packed with passengers, men wearing sarongs, women with smudges of cream- coloured make up or sunblock on their cheeks and noses, and not a motorbike in sight. We were driving on the right hand side although the cars are right-hand drive. After checking in to the hotel we went out to eat, and sat outside on low seats at a local cafe. We learned that to attract a waiter's attention, you should make a kissing noise in their direction, something that feels very unnatural and rude to us!

Today we had a full day of sightseeing. With the aid of a Lonely Planet guidebook I led the five of us on a walking tour of downtown Yangon. There were some architectural gems to see, from gold painted stupas to crumbling colonial facades to impressive modern government buildings. We walked down a street known as the 'open air library' where it was possible to buy all sorts of copies of books in both English and Burmese. I was pleasantly surprised to see rows of biographies and writings of Aung San Suu Kyi on sale here (later we saw t-shirts imprinted with her face, but I doubt anybody would wear these in public). Another highlight was walking through an outdoor food market along one street, where colourful fruit and vegetables and slabs of enormous fishes were being sold from dishes and baskets on the floor.

At one point we stopped for me to have my palm read by a fortune teller sat in the shade of a tree, surrounded by colourful diagrams of hands and below an umbrella suspended between the tree and his briefcase, as though it were levitating. He told me with absolute certainty that I will marry this year, at which Lily and Jessica loudly expressed their opposition. Amongst other things, I was told that I am somebody who is liked by all, although after checking the length of my thumb he changed his mind and said that I have a 'hard mind' and people are afraid of me. The already questionable credibility of his statements was totally shattered, however, when Lily' s fortune was read after mine and the predictions were suspiciously similar. Perhaps he had only practiced a limited number of phrases in English.

In the evening we visited a very special place, somewhere so sacred to Burmese Buddhists that most hope to make a pilgrimage here at least once in their lives. It is Shwadegon Paya or Pagoda, an enormous gold stupa first erected over a thousand years ago, and today considered to be the most impressive religious monument in all of Southeast Asia. We arrived at sunset and stayed until it was dark. As the sky became a darker blue, the gold of the stupa became more radient. The atmosphere was very serene and the gentle scents of Jasmine and incense added to the magic. Lily and I were shown round by a monk who, at our parting, gave us a set of rosary beads each, a lovely souvenir, we thought.

My impression so far of Myanmar has been hugely positive: everybody is so welcoming and friendly, ready to give you a big smile, and the streets are attractive and interesting, despite the dirt, traffic and cracked pavements common to the poorer parts of this region. As Lily said, there are no obvious signs that this is a population living under the longest- running military dictatorship in history...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hua Hin

I've had a nice few days on the Thai coast. We are lucky enough  to be staying on a lovely stretch of the beach, although we've not had a huge amount of time to enjoy it as Jessica has been keeping us busy with her tours of the area. Two of Jessica's friends, Shu- Fang and her daughter Mei Mei, are travelling with us and in typical Taiwanese style, want to see everything. On Friday, Lily and I met up with the others at midday. We went to look around the town and some of the nice hotels such as the Hyatt, and in the evening went to a great weekly night market for dinner and shopping.

As we are staying around 15km away from the town, it is necessary to take a tuk- tuk back to the apartment in the evening. We have discovered that it is impossible to negotiate a fair price for the journey, and it is inevitable that we will have to pay 300 Baht (around £7) for such a journey. This makes Jessica very mad. The reason for this is probably that there are a lot of retired Europeans living in Hua Hin who will pay whatever price is quoted to them for a tuk- tuk journey. As there are no real public transport options, especially in the evenings, they hold a monopoly over tourist transport.

Yesterday we hired a driver for the day and went to see a waterfall, a vineyard and an elephant village, where Shu- Fang and Mei rode an elephant and Jessica, Lily and I petted a cute baby one. It was a tiring day but good fun.

Today we have a day to relax. Shu- Fang and Mei left for Bangkok in the morning, where we will meet them tomorrow. Jessica is going for a spa treatment at the Hyatt and Lily and I will stay and relax. The three of us will take the 6am train to Bangkok tomorrow morning, and in the afternoon we all fly to Yangon.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

36 hours in Bangkok

With a limited amount of time we managed fairly well to make the most of our trip to Bangkok, despite the fact that a large portion of our fe portion of our daytrip to Bangkok, despite the fact tairst day was spent at the Myanmar Embassy, arranging our visas for our trip there next week. With the rest of our time we made a trip up the river towards the Grand Palace, although we didn’t actually go inside as we were short on time and money by then. We did visit Wat Arun on the other side of the river, an impressive Khmer-style spire structure made up of a mosaic of tiles. We dared to climb the incredibly high, steep steps to about half-way up (but no further!) for views over the river.

Lily at the front of the river bus

Looking back towards the city

Buddhas line the cloister wall at Wat Arun

The scary steps up Wat Arun!
In the evening we dined at a semi-famous restaurant named Cabbages & Condoms, owing to the fact that the restaurant works to reduce the spread of Aids across Thailand through sex education programmes. The food is good too, and its large courtyard and upper mezzanine are decorated beautifully with fairy lights. Afterwards we had a look around the night market on Silom Road before taking the last skytrain to the hostel.

At Cabbages & Condoms restaurant
The next morning we had planned to meet Jessica, and two of her friends from Taiwan, at the airport in the morning. Owing to a last-minute realisation that they wouldn’t be able to purchase a landing-visa on entry into Myanmar, they instead had to come into town to meet us and arrange their visas through a travel agent. This gave Lily and I enough time to fit in a little more sightseeing in the morning. We visited the house of Jim Thompson, an American who promoted the Thai silk industry and gave it the world prestige it holds today. His house in Bangkok is beautiful; Thompson was very interested in Thai architecture and art and paid homage to this in his home, which infuses traditional Thai style with a Western-style layout. There are several buildings within the grounds, each purchased from different parts of the country and transported to the site. The buildings are made of teak wood and painted deep red on the outside. Within, they are decorated beautifully with antique furniture collected in the Chinatown area of Bangkok and Thompson’s collection of Thai paintings, sculpture and ceramics. It was a beautiful home and a delight to look around. Thompson himself vanished mysteriously in the jungles of Malaysia at the age of 61, and nothing has been heard of him since.

Flowers in the garden at Jim Thompson's house

One of the buildings at Jim Thompson's house (photos were not allowed inside)
Later we met Jessica and her friends to begin our journey to Hua Hin, a seaside town where we are spending the weekend. An old friend of Jessica’s owns a holiday condo here, and his driver was sent to take us there from Bangkok. We arrived in the evening, and I went for a jog along the beautiful beach. Then we headed into town for seafood and cocktails.

This morning Lily and I slept in, and awoke to a stern note from Jessica informing us that she would leave us to ourselves for the day. This has given me the opportunity to update my blog and upload my photographs, although we will try to find them later on. Nonetheless, it’s very nice to be by the seaside and to enjoy the sunshine.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Intrepid travellers

Today Lily and I went into town again, to have a look around Ben Thanh market and the nearby Fine Arts Museum. We also arranged transport for Lily's trip across Vietnam, which she plans to do at the start of February and which I will accompany her for for part. As it will be in the run up to Tet, the lunar new year and Vietnam's largest holiday, all of the trains she had planned to take were fully booked, so we had to book places on tourist buses instead, which will at least be a lot cheaper. Lily plans to spend two days in the beautiful ancient town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam, one in Hue, the former imperial capital, and then make her way to the Northern capital of Hanoi and visit Halong Bay before flying back to Saigon. I will accompany her as far as Hue and then take a mammoth 28 hour bus journey back to Saigon, a decision I made rather last-minute and which I hope I won't come to regret!

Very shortly we will be setting off for our flight to Bangkok. Over tea I contemplated to Lily how little time two weeks now feels to me, as I am so used to setting off for trips of such a length by now. It reminds me how incredibly lucky I am to have the opportunity to travel so much. It also made me think how quickly this year will pass- in fact half has already gone! Although right now it feels like I've spent such a long time away from home, I've got the feeling that when I get home I'll feel that my time in Vietnam has gone faster than I've been able to take it all in by.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Lily's arrival

Lily outside Notre Dame Cathedral

My best friend Lily arrived in Vietnam from the UK early yesterday morning to spend five weeks staying with me and travelling around South-East Asia. Sadly, I'd had some bad news the night before as my dear Grandad, who has been ill for a long time, passed away. With her jetlag and my sadness, it was a funny-feeling day for us both.

We had an easy going day in the local area. Luckily, it was a lovely warm day with a blue sky. I took Lily to the salon, where she had her nails painted bright blue to match her holiday spirit, and I had my hair cut. Later we went to the pool to soak up the nice weather, although when we both found ourselves falling asleep on the sun-loungers I decided we needed to go home and have a walk to keep us awake.

After a better night's sleep, we went into the city this morning to do the main sightseeing spots. We walked up Dong Khoi, the city's high street which is lined with beautiful buildings such as the historic Hotel Continental and the new Vincom Centre, to see the Central Post Office and Notre Dame cathedral. We ate lunch at Au Parc, a lovely cafe with an international menu and views into the treetops of the park outside. Afterwards I showed Lily around the Reunification Palace, once the seat of government for South Vietnam, and now a visitor centre since the North Vietnam Army tanks (models of which are displayed on the grounds), came crashing through its gates on 30th April 1975.

Me in front of the Reunification Palace

Tomorrow evening we fly to Bangkok, to begin two weeks of travelling, in Thailand and Myanmar for me, and Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia for Lily. It feels surreal to me to begin on another trip already, as it doesn't feel any time at all since I was travelling across Vietnam with Chris and then to Cambodia with my family. And, for the first time since my arrival, I will be travelling outside of Indochina. Although this trip is not directly relevant to my project I'm sure I can still learn a lot, and I can work on my book reviews for my project while lying on the beach in Hua Hin.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Four cafes, three miles cycling, a book review and a marriage proposal

I have completed a new book review today, of Denise Affonco's harrowing 2007 memoir To The End Of Hell, which recounts her imprisonment in labour camps in rural Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period of 1975-1979. Please read it here.

It has been a bit of a wearing day today; I knew I had a review to complete, but also planned to Skype home during the afternoon. Around 3.30pm, just the time I had arranged to call home, the internet stopped working and my efforts to get it to work again by switching first the laptop and then the modem off and on again, proved fruitless. I went to the local cafe and ordered a mango juice. Alas, their internet was down too.

I cycled across the park to try another place. I was stopped from going up one of the streets by one of the neighbourhood security guards. I looked ahead, and first saw a crowd of people, then a message printed on multiple peices of A4 paper: 'Will U Marry Me?'. Finally, I saw a man on one knee before his lady, whose hair hung over her face and whose hands were held up near her chin. The friends around them were silent. I stopped for a few moments to witness the pivotal moment of this young woman's life...She nodded...the friends jumped up and cheered, and I cycled off, thinking that if anyone tried to propose to me in that way I'd wring their neck.

At the second cafe I realised that the internet must have been down for the whole neighbourhood. I don't have a phone at the moment and so I am completely reliant on the internet to communicate with everyone back home. Jessica is away in Taipei so I didn't even have her to help me; it was imperative that I could get online. A three-mile cycle ride and several cafes later, I managed to get a connection at a cafe in the centre of Phu My Hung at around 5pm, and was able to talk to my dad for an hour or so. After this, I wanted to buy a card for Thuy as it is her birthday tomorrow. Unfortunately, card-sending doesn't seem to be a Vietnamese tradition in the way it very much is a British tradition, and although it is easy to find pretty paper cards marketed at tourists in the city centre, I was having trouble finding any in the local shopping area. As I pushed my bike around in the dark, visiting convenience stores, toy shops and photo developers in the vain hope they would sell greetings cards, after several hours of cycling around the same area searching for internet connection, I realised that my life seems to be made up of this sort of chaotic, time-wasting and mind-numbing activity. Why is it that, both here and back home, I so often find myself spending a day looking for the most unlikely item in the most improbable place? Perhaps because I am artistic and over-ambitious? I'm sure I would make a good roadie for a high-maintenance rock band, collecting the strange items requested on their riders while on tour, as I already have experience of trying, and ultimately succeeding, in having a sari made for me in Ho Chi Minh City, or, for one example, being able to find fresh mint leaves in inner-city Leeds late on a weekday evening to make mojitos. Hopefully all this intuition and determination will be an asset to me in the future, to make up for all the time-wasting it causes in the short term.

After first rejecting the overly-gushy cards (although Thuy probably wouldn't understand the message in English, I couldn't bring myself to give such a card to anybody) and party invitations (not really birthday cards) that I was initially directed to, I finally managed to find some acceptable ones, although the cards don't really fit into the envelopes properly. I got home at 7pm.

And so I find myself, at 1am, finally finishing my work for the day. In four and a half hours, I need to be getting ready to pick up Lily from the airport, as her flight arrives at the very unsocial hour of 7am. But as she will probably be very jetlagged, it's probably only fair that I join her in being lethargic and miserable. Goodnight!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mellow days

For the past few days we've had a sudden downpour, and sometimes thunder, for an hour or so every afternoon. Supposedly this is very unusual as we're in the midst of the dry season at the moment. For my part, I think the rain has arrived to accompany my sullen mood now that Chris has gone back home. The weather is no trouble to me though, as I've been inside, and besides I quite like hearing the downpour against the windows.

Only this morning it was a blissfully warm day with a bright sky, a break from the usual clouds and humidity. I spent a few hours in the local cafe to use their internet, where the friendly owner chatted to me. It's really a very nice neighbourhood that I'm living in here, and I'm very grateful for it. It's different to what I'm used to, living quite close to a city centre back home, but I can appreciate the tranquillity and attractiveness of Jessica's neighbourhood. The two of us went for a walk after dinner and talked about this. I proposed that the only thing missing from the area was a couple of small bars to give it a bit of a night life, as the nearest are in the local centre, a taxi journey away. As if by my prompt we stumbled across a new restaurant and bar that has just opened and met the French-Asian owner and his glossy black Labrador. The menu offered waffles and crepes with various toppings, and they were playing ABBA Gold as we passed. I think it may be a place for me.

I really enjoy taking walks because of the chance encounters you may have or discoveries you may make, however insignificant they may be. Round here, there are always interesting houses to look at when you walk around quiet streets, as they are all newly-built and varying in style. Lots of houses have open glass fronts that allow passer-bys and peeping toms such as myself to have an intimate glimpse into the lives playing out in kitchens and dining rooms. The house across the road from us has an open front such as this. I am still trying to establish their family dynamic; the household consists of a man, who I think is French and is clearly the patriarch, and three or four Asian women of varying ages. Amongst them will probably be a wife and a maid. What is certain is that they have some heated arguments from time to time, and I can get a good glimpse of what goes on while I tie up my shoelaces on our doorstep to go running.

Besides this fascination, the best thing about walking around the neighbourhood is listening to people playing the piano from within their houses (certainly a sign that it's a well-off neighbourhood). I like to imagine the person playing inside to be lost in concentration and unaware that outside I'm claiming their music as a charming accompaniment to my afternoon stroll.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A return to some sort of normality!

Chris and I returned from our lazy weekend in Mui Ne on Sunday evening. Monday was his last day in Vietnam. During the daytime we went into town for Chris to do some last-minute shopping; he bought two dirt-cheap North Face jackets from Saigon Square (knock-off brands central) and a leather cabin bag, or 'man-bag', as he needed additional space to take home all the things he bought here. We had the man-bag with us when we went to another shopping centre for Chris to buy parting gifts for Jessica and Thuy. The girl who served us was very friendly and chatty; she spotted the bag and asked if we were flying home today. "He is", I said, and explained our situation to her. "Ooh!", she said, "I have a boyfriend too, but I'm always with him, I don't want to leave him!". She was moved enough to discreetly hand us a little gift of a pair of fridge magnets- a girl and a boy in traditional Vietnamese dress. It was very sweet.

By some miracle Chris managed to pack all of his stuff, and after a farewell pizza together he was gone. I felt very lost and lonely to suddenly be by myself after five weeks of his company, but I suppose things are back to how they were before. I've had a very long holiday and now I have to get back to work- a bit of a shock to the system! Luckily, my best friend will be here at the end of the week. Jessica and I will be taking her to Thailand for a week on the beach, and then we will travel to Myanmar.

This morning I had an informal meeting with Jessica to review what I have yet to do for my project. I still have seventeen book reviews and thirty interviews to complete, and I must also organise twenty hours of charity work. I have spent today updating my accounts book from the past month and adding photographs to my blog posts from December, very tedious work! In our meeting Jessica reminded me that my blog should serve as a medium for reflection as well as a diary, and so I have been reflecting on the busy past month that seems to have flown by. I think it will take a while for everything I have seen and done this past month to sink in; looking through the 2,000 or more photographs I've taken since Chris arrived reminds me of everything I've done- seeing much more of Vietnam, visiting the wonderful Angkor temples and spending precious time with my family and boyfriend for the first time in three months. I was so happy to be with them all again and it was painful for me to say goodbye, knowing it will be another long period of time before I next see them. But it was easier to say goodbye this time than when I first left for Vietnam, now that I've already been through the experience of living far away from home. I hope this is a sign that I've become stronger. I've certainly learnt how much I value my friends and family from this experience; something I hope I will never take for granted.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Rainy and grey in Mui Ne

Chris and I are in Mui Ne, a seaside resort a few hours from Saigon for our last days together before he returns to England on Monday. We arrived yesterday lunchtime and went about in search of a hotel with a friendly American man we met on the coach. We found one quite easily and spent the rest of the day having a leisurely lunch and then relaxing by the pool. Periodically, our American friend would pass by us and let us know what he had just seen while exploring up and down the strip on a hired motorbike, and we would nod and smile, looking up at him from our sun loungers. Today we find ourselves in a beach bar looking out at the grey sea and listening to the rain dripping from the leaves of Palm trees. Earlier we hired bikes and set out for a couple of kilometres looking for an attractive part of the beach, but turned back when it started to spit with rain. It is looking like we'll go for a massage or something today, a preferable alternative to sitting in our hotel room waiting for the miserable weather to pass. Mui Ne has two large areas of sand dunes, one white and the other startlingly red. We are thinking of taking a tour tomorrow to see them, and a few other attractions, by jeep, weather permitting. In fact, we are even considering taking a tour that begins at 4.30am to see the sun rise over the white dunes! I hope the rain will die down, at least.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Years Resolutions

It was sad to say goodbye to my dad and sister today as they flew back to the UK. I've had a lovely holiday with them although I now have a lot of work to catch up on! It's amazing to find myself almost half way through my time in Vietnam, already! But heading into the new year, I'm pleased to have a renewed focus on my project. During my time in Cambodia, I made the decision on the theme and focus of the book I will write as the outcome of my Indochina project. I want to write about the social, economic, environmental and perhaps political problems in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, discuss their historical origins, and most importantly, give case studies of the people and organizations that are working to combat these problems. I think this would be a good marriage of my interest in history and Jessica's involvement and interest in charity work. And now that I have a clear direction to my project, I hope to progress quickly with my research and writing in the time I have left.

However, I have a few days left with Chris yet which I want to make the most of. We have bus tickets booked to Mui Me, the seaside town I visited on my first weekend, very early tomorrow morning. We will stay until Sunday evening.