Posted by: travelrat | July 5, 2020

Haircut!

I couldn’t find a picture of myself with really long hair; this is the best I could do

The other day, the Government announced that lockdown restrictions were being eased, and we were able to do a few things we haven’t been able to do for the last three months. When the measures were first announced, a question being asked all over social media was ‘Where will you go when restrictions are lifted?

At first, people responded with the ‘usual suspects’ … Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, just about every beach from Blackpool to Bondi … but, with time, the ‘lists’ contracted. Could it be that the lockdown is introducing mild agoraphobia, or is it just caution?

My own list has been reduced to the library, my favourite coffee shop and … the hairdresser.

At the moment, my hair is at an awkward stage … long enough to be scruffy (think Boris Johnson) but not long enough to really do anything with. I used to have long hair … I grew it just after I left the Air Force, mainly because I could, and usually wore it in a …. I was told not to call it a ponytail, but a ‘queue’; ponytails are for women!

That style, however, didn’t last long … I went back to my usual ‘just long enough to keep the Station Warrant Officer happy’ and wondered how ladies who liked long hair dealt with it … sometimes all their lives.

I did try and assemble a collection of ‘barber shop stories, but could only manage two … if you count Alec’s ‘Salt and vinegar, Sir?’  which was his way of asking if I wanted any dressing on my hair.

For my best story, I need to go back to the late 60s, when I lived in Limassol, Cyprus. I’d have my hair cut by Costa, whose shop was just a short walk from where I lived. He was a friendly, chatty sort of guy, and did an excellent job, exactly the way I wanted it.

Fast forward 25 years, and I was once more in Cyprus, on detachment to RAF Akrotiri. Needing a haircut, I dropped into the Station Barber … to see a familiar face. Obviously, he’d aged a little, and grown a beard, but I recognised Costa straight away. And, the recognition was mutual.

‘Good morning, Mr. Kellett!’ he said ‘The usual, is it?’

Posted by: travelrat | July 2, 2020

The Juice Bar

La Boca, Buenos Aires

Fancy a fruit juice? In many South American countries, they’ll make it while you wait. More ‘freshly squeezed’, you cannot get; no danger of missing out on your ‘five a day’ here!

Posted by: travelrat | June 30, 2020

The Citadel

Hué: 19th November 2019

This morning, we visited the Citadel, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1993. This was the seat of power in the former Imperial capital of Hué. However, it would take several mornings to see all of it. There’s even a ‘city within a city’ where the Emperor lived, and where no male (except eunuchs) but himself was permitted, on pain of death. It’s called, naturally, the Forbidden City, and was modelled on its namesake in Beijing.

At each stop, we were given a potted history lesson, but, after a while, I stopped tracking which king did what, and just concentrated on the architecture. It’s been restored, despite being badly damaged in both the Indo-China and Vietnam wars … although it’s hard to believe these days. Most guides and guide-books gloss over this; who was ‘responsible’ depends on who you’re listening to.

Posted by: travelrat | June 28, 2020

Video … Through the Ages

I was trawling through some old pictures, when I came upon this one, taken in 1994. I know what it looks like … but she’s NOT video-ing her knees! Back in those days, that was the only way of viewing the footage you’d taken, until you got home. Then, you’d put the cassette into an adaptor, and put it in your video recorder/player. Even then, you probably couldn’t do much with it, unless you were very rich, and/or had a lot of spare time on your hands.

That camcorder went to the charity shop some years ago, and I haven’t any of that analogue footage left. It could be converted to digital, but, even at ‘mate’s rates’, the cost would have been horrendous.

Nowadays, though, with digital cameras and computer software, just about anything is possible. Maybe the results won’t be professional, but they’ll usually be presentable. Camcorders have changed, too. The little Panasonic I used to have … indeed, still have; last used when I let my grandsons play with it … would easily slip into a pocket. The GoPro I presently use is even smaller; it’s about the size of a box of matches.

The little Canon compact I just bought has a video feature, too. I haven’t tried that yet; I will, when I find something worth video-ing. And, I rather regret that I couldn’t save some of that analogue video. Maybe another African safari, or Nile Cruise is on the cards, to replace it? Maybe I should keep buying the lottery tickets?

Posted by: travelrat | June 25, 2020

Loch Ard Gorge

Nowadays, it’s a relatively easy thing to descend by a stairway to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge. But, a different thing altogether to climb those cliffs without the stairway. But, a young shipwrecked sailor did just that in the 19th Century, to summon help for his companion.

Posted by: travelrat | June 23, 2020

Hué: Continuing the Rickshaw Ride

Hué: 18th November 2019

Having visited the bustling city centre, we continued our rickshaw ride round the former Imperial city of Hué. We’ll see a lot more of its historical World Heritage sites by daylight tomorrow; meanwhile, we’ll just enjoy the ride.

Music: ‘Mountain Emperor’ by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Posted by: travelrat | June 21, 2020

Motor Bikes

It’s some time since I last rode a motor bike, but I do feel a longing for bygone days when I see one. Back in the day, just about everybody rode one … you could ride a motor bike at the age of sixteen, but you had to wait till you were eighteen to drive a car. So, in the intervening years, you’d ride a motor bike. Passing a test wasn’t essential, as long as you carried L plates, and didn’t carry a pillion passenger.

If you chose to take the test, it simply consisted of riding around the block without falling off or hitting anything, and performing an emergency stop when the examiner stepped out in front of you. There was many an ‘urban myth’ about an examiner stepping out in front of the wrong bike, with disastrous results.

A lot of riders didn’t take the test, though … because, when you became old enough to obtain a car licence, that covered you for motor bikes as well. Of course, it changed over the years … there were restrictions in engine size, alternating with you weren’t allowed to ride a motor bike at all … I’m not at all sure what the current rules are. I think I’m allowed to ride one up to 250cc, but I’ll have to check, in the unlikely event I’ll take the road on two wheels again.

To get to the point of all this nostalgic rambling … on recent visits to Asia. I found that motor-cycling is a far bigger thing that it is in Europe. In India, it’s almost replaced the family car. Although in Europe, we’re restricted to the rider and one pillion passenger, there seems to be no limit in India; the most I’ve seen is six. The smallest child was lying on the tank; two more between Papa and Mama … who was holding the chota walah in her arms!

Although the Japanese makes are finding favour more and more, a great favourite in India was the licence-built Royal Enfield … for which I have a very soft spot, for my first motor vehicle of any kind was a Royal Enfield. Simple and robust; ideal for a teenager to learn on … and fall off occasionally!

The place where the motor bike really rules is Vietnam. Everybody seems to ride one! You can even get a motor cycle ‘taxi’ that will take you where you want on the pillion. (For the record, I’ve never ridden pillion in my life, and I’m not starting now) For some reason, I thought of Amsterdam. There, you’re likely, if not careful, to be mown down by a pedal cycle; here, it’s the ubiquitous motor bike … although, to be fair, there seem to be very few accidents. I imagine that, in both places, the ratio of bikes per head of population is about the same?

Like I said, I haven’t ridden a motor bike for some time, but I’m somewhat tempted by the electric bike. I need to work out, though, whether you use the pedals on the flat, and use the electric motor to assist you up the hills (I live near the top of a hill!) or vice versa?

And, is some Government Neddy going to eventually decide it’s a motor bike, and legislate accordingly? 

Posted by: travelrat | June 18, 2020

Juneau

Our ship moored at Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Across the harbour, we could see floatplanes, which emphasised that, capital city though it is, the only way in or out is by sea or by air.

Posted by: travelrat | June 16, 2020

Velo-push

I think, in most places in Asia, the traditional man-hauled rickshaw isn’t used any more; in some countries, they’re now illegal. But, they still exist in the form of the trishaw, or bicycle rickshaw. We’ve ridden on them in China and in India, and, as I’ve mentioned before, they make pretty fair platforms for photography or video. They’re also ideal for getting from place to place in the city, quickly and inexpensively.

They have them in Vietnam, too, but they’re different to the Chinese and Indian ones. The Vietnamese version is called a velo-push; the driver/motive power sits behind the passenger. The disadvantage is that, in the event of any incident, the passenger would cop it first; the advantage is you can take pictures without the back of the driver’s head in them.

I did some video of our ride through Hué, which I shall post in two parts. This one is the traverse through the city centre; I didn’t have to find any music for this one as it was kindly (??) provided by shopkeepers and stallholders along the way. There’ll be footage of the longer trip later.

Posted by: travelrat | June 14, 2020

History

‘Geography’ someone once wrote ‘is best learned through the soles of your boots’

That’s a sentiment I agree with heartily, and I think it could also apply if you substituted the word ‘history’. To my mind, the two subjects are intertwined almost inextricably. Indeed, a young friend tells me, at her school, the two subjects are taught by the same teacher, and the dividing line is very vague indeed.

Which is a long way from my schooldays: I loved geography, but hated history. Maybe because the teachers were, respectively, a young, dynamic ex-soldier and a boring old fart who had the dreariest voice known to man. No prizes for guessing which taught what!

Of course, those geography lessons, coupled with issues of the National Geographic Magazine that my Dad’s employer used to give me, made me want to see these places for myself, and discover that travel really includes history.

For instance, we were taught that  ‘ … Captain Cook discovered Australia’. He didn’t, though … you only have to scroll back to earlier entries in this blog to discover that, actually, Lieutenant and Commander James Cook explored and charted the eastern coast of a land that was already vaguely known about, thanks to explorers such as Tasman. But, Tasman was Dutch, so little, if any mention was made of him.

But, if you ever visit Australia, especially Tasmania, you’ll find out more than was taught in the classrooms of the 50s.

Listen to the story of the Crusades … as told by a Jordanian tour guide, or, more recently, find out about the ‘real’ Vietnam War by visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Reunification Museum … and talk with a former Vietcong fighter.

This was brought on by recent events, which caused someone to ask on Twitter:

‘Don’t they teach about the slave trade in schools?’

Not in my day, they didn’t … although I may have been asleep during that lesson. I do remember something about ‘William Wilberforce freed the slaves’. But, most of my knowledge of the trade came from works of fiction, mainly from Wilbur Smith, or the ‘Bolitho’ books of Alexander Kent.

And, I mustn’t forget the ‘Museum of Slavery’ at Juffure, on the Gambia River. I learnt more in an hour there that in ten years at school.

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