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April 19, 2014
12:25am EDT

Rated: 13+ | Book | Experience | #1890134
I'm all about the travel and I'm having a whale of a time writing about it!
  My husband and I have decided to spend the kids' inheritances to see as much of the world as we can. Our bible? A Thousand Places to See Before You Die. Join us as we explore.

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April 14, 2014 at 9:54am
April 14, 2014 at 9:54am
I Own an Elephant! (AKA Best Day Ever!!)
I have always wanted an elephant. But, with condo living as it is, it seemed a bit, well, impractical. So, I leapt at the opportunity to have my very own elephant for a day at the Patara Elephant Farm. Located within the beautiful Hang Dong Valley, and surrounded by mountains, the farm is a mere 30 minute drive south of Chaing Mai, Thailand.

“The purpose of the farm is to Rescue, Rehabilitate and Reproduce,” said Pat Trungprkan at our orientation meeting. Pat and his family own the farm and run it entirely on the proceeds of the ‘Elephant Owner for a Day’ program. No donations are solicited or taken and there are no kitchy souvenir stands or food hawkers. All visitors are welcome, including children and the disabled, but limited to perhaps 16 per day. The rest (and videos) here  .
March 31, 2014 at 4:56pm
March 31, 2014 at 4:56pm
It Happened in Bangkok
“Well, who knew!?” I looked up at my husband as I prodded the wine list with a finger. “Thailand has a wine industry. Look, honey there’s a Monsoon Valley Shiraz. We like shiraz.”

“There’s also a nice Chianti from Italy,” he countered, looking a little nervous.

“But don’t you think … you know – when in Rome and all that?”
I like to try local wines. I’m no expert but I do know what I like and so far I haven’t met a shiraz I didn’t like.
We were at the China House restaurant. Located at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, it provided a superb meal of traditional Chinese dishes in a stunning environment with a red and black, art-deco interior. We had a private booth with carved and latticed wooden doors. The staff were friendly, attentive and provided excellent advice. "You've ordered too much food," our waiter cautioned us. He was perfectly correct, but who could resist such dishes as their signature hot and sour soup with huge chunks of lobster, or Peking duck with crispy, fragrant skin and meltingly tender meat? We didn't stop there, of course, we had to have the sautéed scallops and prawns with artfully arranged vegetables. All washed down with, tonight, Chianti.
But I wasn’t going to give up. Read the rest here  
March 24, 2014 at 5:10pm
March 24, 2014 at 5:10pm
Sensational Saigon
Apparently there is a concert every Saturday and Sunday morning, between eight and nine, in front of the Opera House. Today's concert was a selection of light popular songs played on traditional Vietnamese instruments. These included flutes, percussion instruments and the bamboo xylophone (or t'rung) of the E De people.

Turning my back on the Opera House and panning right, I looked down Dong Khoi Street. This is a great place to find the usual designers (Louis Vuitton, Hermes, etc.) high-end handicrafts, silk clothing and a better class of souvenir. And the little video below is an excellent example of pedestrian etiquette in Saigon. The city is stuffed with millions of motorbikes and they don't stop for anyone. There are few crosswalks and even fewer streetlights. your only hope is to start out across the street, walk slowly and steadily and keep going! The motorbikes will maneuver around you. Keep an eye on the person pushing the pram. To see the video continue here  
March 20, 2014 at 7:52pm
March 20, 2014 at 7:52pm
Cooking Up a Storm in Saigon
One of the things I like best about travelling is having the chance to try new food, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to learn how to make a few Vietnamese dishes at Mai Home, The Saigon Culinary Art Centre. First, one of the chefs took us through a local food market to pick the ingredients we would need for the class and to identify to us others that are core to the Vietnamese diet.

First and foremost comes rice.
Rice is so closely tied to the heart of the culture it’s hard for any Vietnamese to imagine a meal without it. While it can come in many forms, we were dealing with three basic ones: the grain itself, grated rice noodles, and rice paper. Rice is eaten at every meal of the day. At lunch and dinner it is usually as the grain while at breakfast, Vietnamese will often have rice noodles in soup.

Come and have a cooking class in Saigon. Read more here  .
March 18, 2014 at 10:13am
March 18, 2014 at 10:13am
Forbidden Love
The wind whipped her hair around her face as the ferry plunged cross the Mekong Delta. The year was 1929, and fifteen year-old Marguerite Donnadieu (later known as Marguerite Duras) was heading back to boarding school in Saigon from her family home in the town of Sa Dec. It hadn’t been a happy visit. Mama, previously bankrupted by a poor land investment in Cambodia, was more cash strapped than ever and her moods, never predictable, had swung wildly between elation and sobbing despair. But still, she refused to leave Indochina and return to France.

Marguerite pushed her hair back and shaded her eyes from the sun, sighing with profound relief to see Sa Dec receding behind her. Still, a coil of worry unfurled in her belly. It was clear that she was going to have to fend for herself, and soon. Her older brother, selfish, egotistical and thieving, certainly promised to be no help. Her younger brother was timid and shy. She chewed her lower lip, and scowled at the enormity of the task confronting her. See more here  
March 6, 2014 at 8:09am
March 6, 2014 at 8:09am
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin Down the Mekong
Tonight we had a special dance performance onboard by children from the Cambodian Light Children’s Association Orphanage. According to their director, Mr Pat Noun, “We are a Khmer-run orphanage and school, taking children off the street and other poor children on the condition that they attend school every weekday. These are the poorest of the poor, but also the light of Cambodia. Our mission: to alleviate the poverty of the poor and street orphans by feeding, housing and preparing them well for a better life, through love and education.” In addition to regular school, they also have an opportunity to learn kick boxing (boys) and apsara dancing (both)
Children normally stay at the orphanage until the age of eighteen when they must leave. The exception is if they continue to university, then they can stay until their program is finished. This orphanage gets no funding through NGO’s – it is all private funding, typically provided by individuals.

There are lots or rules for apsara dancing. Originally it was a female only dance form, but since the girls must take small steps, not show teeth when they smile and not move about violently, boys were admitted to do the famous Monkey dance. This group of dancers was from the Italian Association for Aid for Children, School of Art in Siem Riep. The little fellow on your left was a cheeky little beggar, absolutely radiating charisma as well as technical talent. He’ll go far.

To see the video's and the rest of the post see here  
February 24, 2014 at 8:34am
February 24, 2014 at 8:34am
We headed to Prek Bang Kong, a silk weaving village, to examine the local family workshops and see the process of silk looming. Once again we hike up a steep embankment. Wooden logs have been placed to create steps and the ship’s crew is on hand to grasp elbows and offer assistance. It feels a bit like ‘pass the parcel’. Once at the top, we were greeted by a throng of children. None look older than 12, the youngest wore a heavy diaper.
To my left, plastic sheets were laid out on the ground and were covered in luminous silks.
“Hello, hello,” a boy rushed up to me, beaming. “What’s your name? Where are you from?” He had a big gap where his two front teeth were missing.
I told him and asked him his name.
“Hello, Kirsten,” I’ve had native English speakers mangle my name more. I smiled, this young lad was charm on wheels. “My name is John. Will you buy from me? My mother makes beautiful things.” He gestured to one of the makeshift ‘stalls’.
I shook my head. We were just starting out, I explained. “But I have to come back this way,” I assured him.
‘You’ll buy from me, though. No one else,” he pressed. I shrugged noncommittally and we rushed on. Read more here  .
February 23, 2014 at 1:31am
February 23, 2014 at 1:31am
Water Blessing
I forgot to put on mosquito repellent one night - one lousy night - and I wake up looking like bubble-wrap! Go Benadryl!

We were using a paved road to make the steep climb up the hill to the Wat Hanchey temple complex when I asked Q why he had persisted in taking English when it was illegal for so many years.
He nodded and explained.
"Just before 1975 there was a Buddhist prophesy that the country of Cambodia would be emptied of its people. My father's father, my grandfather, was a Buddhist priest and his wife, my grandmother, a Buddhist nun and they told my father the Buddhist priests predicted that the cities of Cambodia would be emptied. The roads would be empty and the sun and the moon would rise on empty fields." He gestured to the sky and the island rice paddies on the islands in the Mekong below us. "They also predicted that when Cambodia recovered, a lot of foreigners would come - particularly to Siem Riep province, to help restore the country.
Now, at this time, my father spoke French and we learned French in school. After the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979 and we went back to school, my father reminded me of the prediction that a lot of foreigners would come. So I needed to learn another language than French, I needed to learn English. They had to pay a fine because I was learning English, it was a multiple of my body weight! That is why we moved in secret from house to house to study. Read more here  
February 22, 2014 at 1:52am
February 22, 2014 at 1:52am
Snake Soup and Ships
As we entered Kampong Cham, Q's story continued, “Everyone ate anything during the Khmer time and now they can’t give up- crickets, water beetle (tastes like mint) and tarantula (eat the legs first, the body last). Tarantula tastes a bit like chicken,” Q mused. “Well nothing really tastes like chicken, does it,” he laughed. “When you eat tarantula it is also a medicine for arthritis. Trick is to deal with the venom. If you get bitten put ice on it.”
“These insects are economical. Crickets are eighty cents a can. Tarantula $1.50 each. We also eat water snake from the Mekong River, over five million are caught a year. Crocodiles are raised by feeding with water snake. People buy dried snake. Cobra soup is more delicious than water snake.
Here is a recipe for cobra soup. Read more here  .
February 20, 2014 at 4:47am
February 20, 2014 at 4:47am
I Have a Lara Croft, Tomb Raider Moment
I’m Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, sleek, lithe and dangerous as one of the tigers that inhabited this area as I race through the magnificent ruin that is Ta Prohm. My quarry – an elusive Cambodian girl who flickers in and out of the sinister doorways that surround me. She appears for an instant to point me to this tree.
Here. I find the jasmine I’m seeking, I turn and the girl has disappeared, then the earth opens beneath me and I drop into a ...
"Got it!" Q exclaims as the camera shutter snaps. I blink. My faithful sidekick stands beside me and Q is talking again. "It's a good shot," he says, returning the camera.
“What is this tree,” I ask, pointing to the writhing roots that surround me. It’s hard to avoid writerly excess when describing these trees. Suffice it to say, I’m imagining that if I am unwary, they will wrap, serpent-like, around my neck and body and I’ll remain here for all time and –
“It’s called silk-cotton tree, or kapok in English. In Cambodian we call it ‘sprung’.”
Q nodded,” Yes, that’s the sound it makes when you whack the trunk. The sound carries very far. You can use it if you are lost in the jungle. Someone will hear and rescue you.”
I’m dubious.
We stride on, over fallen slabs of bricks and columns. Read more here  

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© Copyright 2014 Kirsten Marion (UN: kirhyanna at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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