Sunday, 26 August 2012

Book Review - How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

I was given this book by a friend as part of World Book Night 2012, as such it probably not a book I would have come across otherwise. I think it is primarily a book for teenagers but don't let that put you off, this is very good read. It put me in mind of The Hand Maidens Tale by Margaret Attwood, except that this book centres around a group of teenagers. 

The book sucks you in from the very first page and is very engaging, when I began the book I knew nothing about the story that was likely to unfold and I was quite surprised at direction it took. 

The story, set in the present day, is about how a group of teenagers cope without any adults to look after them when a world war breaks out. It covers the breakdown of society and the brutality of war, but mostly it focuses on the overwhelming desire of humans to survive. 

I thoroughly recommend this book to teenagers and adults alike. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Asian Adventure - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

A trip across the Delta!

I can thoroughly recommend the Majestic Hotel  in Ho Chi Minh City. The building is beautiful, the staff are amazing and you will be in for a very relaxing time if you book a room there. 

We spent the first day there choosing trips to go on and relaxing by the pool, reading, dozing and swimming. 

The pool courtyard

Sunrise over the Mekong

Hotel foyer
The first trip we went on was to the Mekong Delta and the island of My Thor. Our guide picked us up at 8am and off we went.
First stop was a pagoda with a rather large Buddha.

Whilst there we had tea with a monk, it was a very peaceful experience and a lovely atmosphere. 

Next we were off in a boat across the Mekong 

Firstly to a place with lots of bees. 

More tea - this time with crystallised fruit

Then we moved to tropical fruit bar with folk entertainment

A relaxing canoe ride

Then we headed back across the river to a coconut candy factory

Before being taken to restaurant for lunch
For our trip the next day we selected to go the CanGio Forest a UNESCO site preserved for ecological purposes. The booklet didn't have much information on this trip - so we didn't quite know what to expect - but we were so glad we picked it.

Boat across to the island.
Feeding the crocodiles

Hungry jaws

Mangrove Forest

Viewing tower

The view

Happy Saigon cocktail at the Majestic Hotel

Morning over the Mekong
 The final trip was a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

A tiny entrance to the tunnels.

Shoes made out of tyres.

The first layer of tunnels - you can go through these.
 After returning from the tunnels we had a quick walk around Ho Chi Minh City.
Reunification Hall from the outside.

Reunification Hall from the inside

Notre Dame - Ho Chi Minh City

The Post Office

The Heli Pad

Monday, 20 August 2012

Asian Adventure - Hue to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I didn't realise Vietnam was so long!

So - when last I left you I was heading across the Laos / Vietnam border on a bus that had broken down four times, making my way towards Hue and a 7pm train connection!

Finally through all of the border controls we got back on the bus and drove into Vietnam - within 5 minutes the bus had broken down again, another 20 minutes later and we were on our way. Meanwhile, just as in Laos, I received a message from my phone network telling me that I had entered a country where I would be unable to make or receive phone calls - only texts. They weren't kidding - I couldn't even ring top up.

The first thing that struck me about Vietnam was how the scenery changed so quickly and dramatically from Laos. 

As a historian - I could see issues with the Vietnam War policy of Defoliation and I had only been in the country half an hour!

Well, the bus poodled on and on and on and didn't break down again but we didn't arrive in Hue until 8.30pm, far too late for the train connection to Ho Chi Minh City. So we were really left with one option - stay the night in Hue and reassess in the morning. Luckily there was a nice little guest house just along from the station and a nice little restaurant over the road.

The view from our guest house in Hue. 
The next morning when we should have been on a train halfway to HCMC (but lets not dwell on it) we had three choices:
1) Get a train - but it wouldn't get to HCMC until the next morning meaning we missed a night in our hotel that was already booked.
2) Get a bus - which at this point in time we thought was quicker than a train!
3) Get a bus to the airport at Danang and see if we could fly - now when I had checked out flights a month earlier there weren't many available so I was worried about this option.

Therefore we chose option 2 and jumped in a cab to the bus station where we had arrived the previous evening. There was a VIP bus leaving within 15 mins and we bought our tickets and hopped on!

It was a strange bus - it felt a bit like an ambulance at first.

Large comfortable seats - with a duvet. 

10.30am - All aboard and off we went. 
Again the scenery was lovely.

Lots and lots of rice fields

Lots of little villages. 
And the day went on and on - we stopped for lunch at a rest stop - back on the bus and we slowly wound our way through village after village.

Another rest stop at about 8pm - and we got talking to a Buddhist nun - we asked her what time the bus would arrive in HCMC - expecting her to say about 11.30pm. When she said "Oh tomorrow morning sometime" we were dumbstruck - now you would have thought that we'd asked that question at the bus station - but we didn't and so we were faced with a night on the bus rather than our lovely hotel waiting for us in HCMC. To say I was miserable and cross was an understatement but there was nothing else for it - so - knowing we would laugh about it one day - we got back on the bus and settled down for the night.

Eventually at about 8am the next morning we drifted into HCMC - my first sight of the Mekong since Mukdahan. 

The bus driver made a delivery at a morning market. 
And at 9am they deposited us at the bus station, we jumped in a cab and arrived at the Majestic Hotel at about 9.30am - thankfully just in time for breakfast.

Within minutes were seated on breakfast terrace eating the most amazing breakfast and the memories of the bus journey began to fade. 
We now had four days to look forward to in Ho Chi Minh City.

Crochet Notes - Tudor Rose, Cappuccino Lace and Daisy Loop Bed Topper

Using Wendy Supreme Cotton Chunky and Rowan Aran Cotton with a strand of lace added. 6mm hook. (8 balls of blackcurrant and 1 teal.)...