Friday, 31 October 2008

Aussie BBQ

Last night I went to the Australia Club for their monthly BBQ. It is one place where you can get decent wines, Australian wines. So a friend and I ordered a bottle of red, Cabernet Sauvignon, to share.

On a close inspection I found it was from Stonehaven winery in Padthaway, south east South Australia. Here is a map to show you where:

It was a tasty drop to sip while passing the time until the BBQ was ready. It was later than normal because there was so many people there. They stopped selling BBQ tickets once they got to 200! It was worth the wait thought - pork sausages, steak & onions, vegetarian lasagna scalloped potatoes and more . . . . .

What may have attracted the crowd was that there was also a fashion show plus a display of "rickshaw art". The latter is the type of painting normally seen on the back of rickshaws, is instead done on boards to hang on the wall and also on rectangular boxes. It is full of bright colours and often includes birds or animals or people that are half human, half animal or ocean pictures. I wasn't remotely tempted though.

A slow trip home again . . . . .

Well yesterday was a slow trip home from school again - it actually hasn't really happened since Ramadan finished but the last two weeks since the local schools went back, there has been traffic problems galore. It took 30 minutes to cover the one kilometre of so from school out to the main road, so I got out my camera (my old camera) and took a few photographs along the way. Here they are:

This is a reflection of the construction of a building seen in the walls of a huge new shopping centre that is being build there. Not sure what that will do to the traffic problems!!

These trees decorates with swathes of fabric have been like this a while and I have been meaning to take a photo of it. That and the yellow "squares" in between are advertising for the opening of a new shop nearby.

This is a man and his daughter in a rickshaw. Look for the phone - I didn't know about that until I had downloaded the photo and looked at an enlarged version.

These are typical of the shops along the road, but it actually hasn't rained for about 3 days and yet the water still lies!

There are many fruit stalls that line one side of the road as it approaches the intersection. I often think that it would be nice to jump out and buy some. It is also a place to see lots of the women out and about in their vividly coloured saris.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

I've got the windows open!!!

FINALLY the weather is cooler. It rained a little last night and there is still light showers but it has cooled the temperature down so that I can actually open the windows to let the cool breeze in. And there is no need for the a/c. Will it last? I have no idea but people who have been here longer than me keep saying it should get cooler . . . . . . . .

Here are a couple of photos I took from my balcony door with my new camera. The first two are taken on the sunset setting, which is meant to give more realistic sunset colours. It was a nice sunset but this colourful - I'm not sure??? Plus I was running a bit late and it was getting dark so they are not crystal clear.
Next is a pretty kingfisher that was sitting on the electricity wires. Even though I zoomed in, I still had to crop the photo. Not that I know what kind it is. Harriett????

Finally a quick snap of the "houses" that some people live in on the other side of the lake. They can only access them by boat/raft as they are built up against a concrete wall in the lake edge.

Need to get out and take some photos around the neighbourhood, just need better weather.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Having been to the Forbidden City on a previous brief visit to Beijing, this time I went to the Temple of Heaven. The spectacular temples are set amid a 267 hectare park with walkways and shady trees. A very peaceful oasis in the bustle of Beijing At the centre of the complex is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. it is built without nails and has solid wooden columns made from a single tree supporting the ceiling. Originally it was built in 1420 but burnt down and was then rebuilt. It has ornate painting decoration both inside and out as can be seen below.

The number of pillars inside all have symbolic meaning. It is 35 cm high and 30 metres in diameter.

Also with symbolic meaning is the round shape of the Imperial Vault of Heaven temple and its square base below. All the structures of examples of Ming architecture.
This is some painted detail seen on the painted beams in green and blue that shade the walkway to the central temples from the East Gate.

The Great Wall

Once I knew that I was going to Beijing for a work conference and was able to leave a couple of days early, I decided that going to the Great Wall was my priority. When I mentioned that to my friend who I was staying with, she said she'd organise a driver. So after arriving on Friday, Saturday morning saw us heading out to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. There are actually a number of different places to visit from Beijing. It was about 90 minutes with the last 30 being very scenic as we drove through valleys and the foothills of the mountains, passed orchards with apples, pears, crab apples and apricots. We also passed many fruit stands beside the road that were selling this produce, many with piles of walnuts still in their shells. They also had lots of Fuji apples that were the highlight of my fruit experience in China: crunchy, juicy and with lots of flavour. On arrival we walked up the hill, past dozens of tour buses to the cable car station. That is the short, easy way up to the wall, not that I think you can walk up anyway. Here is the cable car.
Once up the top we decided to walk along the wall, up and down, to reach one of the higher points to hopefully get a good view. This section of the wall is popular as it has many guard towers. Here is part of the wall looking through the doorway of one of the guard towers.
Much of this section of the wall has been restored, with restoration continuing. The wall walkway is about 3 metres above the ground below, with a brick wall either side of the path. This shows the high point we walked up to.
Looking back from on high, it can be seen that the Great Wall meanders along the ridge top. We were also lucky that the surrounding vegetation was tinted in orange and gold as the leaves were slowly developing their autumn colours. A couple of weeks later and the colours would have been even better. Not that I could complain with blue skies overhead, and sunshine warming my skin.
Here we are after our picnic lunch on the Great Wall. In the background is the section we walked. It was a great trip.
After taking the cable car back down again, we had to brave the souvenir sellers that lined the steps down to the car park. "T-shirts for $1", they said although apparently the price increases when you show interest. There was also dolls, umbrellas, brass and wooden statues, wall hangings and bedspreads. Some were quite aggressive blocking my path or even grabbing hold of my arm. But they did not succeed. I did by some dried kiwi fruit from the dried fruit stalls further down the stairs. Here are the stalls.
These dolls are just one of the things for sale.

The Great Wall really is a must see and I wasn't disappointed by what I saw. There was masses of tourists there when we arrived at about 11.30 am but by 2.30 when we came down, most had gone and the wall was fairly quiet.

Back in Bangladesh. Been to Beijing.

Got back last night from Beijing after a 21 hour travel day a 6 hour flight to Singapore, then a 6 hour wait before the 4 hour flight back to Dhaka. It was like going from one world to another, even though both cities are in Asia.
In Beijing, excellent roads, freeways and streets with footpaths, whilst in Dhaka footpaths are rare and many streets are full of potholes and edged in dirt.
In Beijing, new buildings sprout like mushrooms being built fast and efficiently with things such as cranes while here they go slowly, very slowly with all work being done by hand. Bamboo is the scaffolding are ladders are made from scrap wood.
In Beijing are shops, lots of shops where you can get almost anything. There has even been a recent increase in English bookshops. Here limited English books are available. I actually ended up going shopping at Singapore airport for books.
Many people in Beijing also live in apartment blocks. My friend lives on the 12th floor of a 32 floor building. Here they only get to 5. The view from her apartment.
And food, the Chinese food was great be it noodles or Peking duck. I will do later posts on some of the tourist things I got to go.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


This evening I went for my first fast food experience in Bangladesh. With a friend who is travelling to Beijing with me tomorrow (assuming I get my passport back in the morning), and her son we went to KFC after we'd been to the money changers to get US dollars.

So what was KFC like? Same logos, same uniforms, basically the same food with looong queues and lots of people. I ordered a 2 piece combo. The chicken and mashed potato were much the same but both seem to have a hot, spicy undertone to the taste. I did pass on the Pepsi though so I could sleep tonight, instead having water. All the same it was quite nice for a change. Here is part of the menu -:

Just down the road is Pizza Hut, just in case you need another fast food experience or a reminder of life in the west!

Stopped at the traffic lights on the way home, the beggars came knocking at the windows. First a young boy of whom I could only see the black hair on the top of his head. Next was a man with white goatee on his grizzled skin and sparse white hair drooping down. Not sure if all his body parts were there as often the beggars have part of an arm missing, are on crutches because their leg has been amputated below the knee or are blind. Even though I feel sympathetic, I know as I was reminded of tonight, that once you give money to one they all come swarming around. I know it is mean but . . . . . . . . I have to go out walking on those streets again and I don't like the feeling of boys following me for ages then starting to grab at my hands and arms. Mind you , if we can eat at KFC, I should probably be giving. THAT is one of the many dilemmas of life in Bangladesh.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Beside the river

While the previous post looked at life on the river, which basically consisted of boats, ships and more boats, it was also very interesting to see what life was happening on the banks of the river. we passed many small villages with houses made of woven bamboo walls, and thatch on the roof. Small wooden boats would be pulled up on the bank while cattle would be tethered and chicken wandering. In one place there was a women in a lipstick pink sari digging up mud from the riverbank. What a contrast.

In some places the rice paddies came right down to the river's edge, but they were so pretty being a vivid lime green.

In one place we saw a herd of cattle being moved along the mud flats beside the river, an event that could only happen at low tide. How do you think we would go to carry an umbrella when moving cattle in Australia???

Then at Mongla, Bangladesh's second port we saw signs of industry. Ocean going ships unloading cement powder where it is stored in large concrete, cylindrical silos.

Then there were the tall chimneys of the brickworks, an icon of Bangladesh in many ways as they are EVERYWHERE.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Bangladesh river boats

I am sure at the present moment that about one-third of the country called Bangladesh must be under water. There is water everywhere. As we drove we saw it on either side, the rivers are wide and there is more water on the other side of the embankments. It is no wonder that boats are the most important form of transport in this country. Mind you, some of the sights I saw also showed why it can be so dangerous, such overloaded boats have to be seen to be believed. Spending many hours travelling up and down the river, a huge variety of boats was seen The following photographs show a few.
Here is a river passenger boat, that is not dreadfully overloaded.

This is the smoke stack of an ocean going ship that was at the port of Mongla.

This is the typical type of boat used by the villagers, made of wood and propelled with a wooden oar. here it is being used to transport freshly cut grass.

However, the majority of the boats we saw on the river were fishing boats like the one below. They usually contained 3 or 4 people - one at the back to steer, two at the from to paddle and one in the middle to put out (or bring in) the fishing nets.

This is one of the overloaded boats as seen in Khulna where it ferries people from one side of the river to the other.

Here are the wood cutters on their boat at the river mouth with the Bay of Bengal in the background.

This is another passenger boat but not overloaded this time.

This shows the contrasts of the boats found on the river - a small wooden boat with the side on an ocean-going, cement carrying ship in the background.

And this is one of the more modern boats, a coast guard vessel near Mongla.

Here is a barge being pushed along by another boat.

Muddling through the mangroves

Another way to explore the Sunderbans on foot was to go on a mud walk through the mangrove forest. After waiting for low tide in the early afternoon, we donned special shoes provided by the tour company, Guide Tours, that could get muddy. Socks were recommended to be worn as well. I put on the smallest shoes, a men's size 7 but they were still much too big for me so I laced them up tightly and hoped. We started near what used to be a resort until Sidr came to visit.
Here are the girls playing in the mud, and we haven't even left the beach yet!

The walk started walking along a boardwalk, then after a few metres along the concrete support (all that was left) it was down into the mud This first area was quite open but again the damage from the cyclone was very evident.
It was a challenge when squelching through the mud to remain upright and keep one's shoes on. Often it felt to me that mine were going to be sucked off, but the tight ankle laces kept them on. With the extra length of the shoes I managed to upset my balance twice - once I ended up sitting on the pneumatophores (the air roots of the mangrove trees that stick up in the mud) and the other time I managed to land on some branches. So at least I didn't end up sitting in the mud. But there are some creatures that call the mud home. There were tiny crabs with a single white or red pincer scuttling around on the beach and disappearing into the mud at our approach. There were also larger crabs about 10 cm across in the forest plus the molluscs shown in the photo below that could either be found in the mud or attached to the trunk of a tree, from where they were easily knocked off.

We then entered an area of thick mangroves, having to bend out head and hold branches to not get flicked in the face. There was deeper mud and we even had to follow a few water channels. the highlight here was seeing tiger scratch marks on the trunks of a couple of trees. These scratch marks were above my head height so perhaps it was lucky we didn't meet any! From the dense mangrove we headed back towards the shore where the signs of a rejuvenating forest could be seen. Soon this entire mud area would be under 1 then 2 metres of water

Further on another sign of rejuvenation - a small mangrove seedling growing in the sand.

Then we saw a water snake in a small pool of water and passed by the cottages that were once homes to visitors but our now slowly being restored after a 3 metres tidal surge went through and almost destroyed them during the cyclone. Even the jetty is being rebuilt. It is inspiring to see the rate can overcome the damage but I can also see why powerful cyclones in the future may also lead to the destruction of the Sunderbans.

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