For a friend’s 40th birthday ….
Pine trees represent a strong character and steadfastness. They cling to rocks where others cannot survive.
Plum blossoms represent beauty and optimism. It flowers in the cold of winter, bringing hope in the face of adversity.
Cranes represent fidelity, longevity and good fortune. They are fabled to mate for 1000 years. A symbol of enduring love.
Red and white for happy and auspicious occasions!
It’s been a long time between blog entries but I’m officially back and coming to you from the wonderful Brisbane in Australia. Our expat sojourn is over. We’ve staggered through airports (“Yes we ARE moving country”), adjusted our eyes to the quietness of Australia (“Where’s all the traffic?”), rediscovered our home, reacquainted ourselves with our family/ friends/ cat /neighbours, negotiated a new school/ activities/ business etc etc. It’s been HUGE but great. Living in Oz is VERY easy and I hope we can all hold onto that. I love that our 6 year old still thinks it’s cool you can drink water out of the tap! And I LOVE sleeping in our bed again!!!
More on the business ventures (both of them) soon …. plus a new adventure – New Zealand in the New Year. The first for quite a while. Til next time ….
My husband commented the other day my blog was looking heavy on travel posts. “What happened to the business development stuff?” Good question! Short answer is HEAPS of REALLY fun travel!! Keeping my eye on the business ball whilst making the most of our expat stint has been a little tricky. The time frame was 2 years whilst we’re here in Manila and honestly it was just too long to keep focussed. It’s lurched along in spates of enthusiasm …. then sat idle for weeks …. punctuated of course by trips of a life time!
But our time is running out here and all of a sudden I can see it’s finite (read emerging sense of PANIC). You had 2 YEARS!!! What do you mean you’re not ready to go??
So heads up people. It’s business business business coming your way …. except maybe that trip to Vietnam next week …. and that island at Christmas …. and did I tell you about the awesome fares I discovered to Borneo ?? …. Oh dear …. I would make a brilliant travel agent!
If you love a bit of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft style adventure get yourself to Cambodia! Exploring moss covered ruins in the midst of the jungle is brilliant fun. We spent 3 days in Siem Reap and we all wanted to stay.
For us Angkor Wat was the least of the attractions. It was very impressive but quite well restored and almost museum like. None of the atmosphere that Ta Prohm and Preah Khan had. Bayon was pretty incredible too. They were what we went for! You just never knew what was going to be around the next corner.
Aside from the obvious attractions the people were incredibly hospitable. The food was absolutely delicious. Our accommodation divine. If you’re looking for an alternative to the stock standard, big hotel arrangement (that could be anywhere in the world) check out Sala Lodges. Restored Khmer houses set in lush gardens complete with rice paddies and a chorus of frogs. Had Siem Reap turned out to be awful we really could honestly have just stayed put! On the first night, after a pretty awful night flight, my 5 year old crawled under his mosquito net into bed and gave me a big smile. “I love it Mum. It’s so beautiful. I love everything!” We thought so too.
Given we travel so much we tend to keep a tight leash on accommodation costs. This time we added just a couple more dollars and it was absolutely worth it. This is a first for us …. but maybe sometimes the accommodation can be a destination too?
All in all it’s going to be a hard act to follow ….
As Aussies living in Manila there are some things we miss. Easy access to fabulous beach is one of them. There really is nothing like a weekend of sand between your toes and a bit of splashing around. It may have taken a 3 hour drive but we got our fix! Our little cottage sat a mere 25 metres from the water under the shade of a beautiful tree. The kids dug. We read. Everyone swam, chased crabs etc. Bliss …..
When you’ve had an absolutely BRILLIANT holiday it is almost inevitable that the post holiday blues will follow …. and so it has been for me.
So here is my favourite strategy – fantasize about the next one! Not exactly living in the moment I know but it has helped me through.
I have some great ideas on the drawing board and my mojo is back! Pictures to follow soon ….
I find Japan to be a land of fascinating contrasts and its mountainous landscape gives rise to many of them. Near vertical mountains are densely populated with trees, birds and occasionally idyllic rural farm houses etc. In contrast the narrow coastal strips (which are often so close you could throw a stone at them) are home to high density, utterly efficient, modern living. And yet they are worlds apart. The very close proximity of one to the other was both reassuring and at times odd. Rice was being hand planted in fields as the Shinkansen (fast train) whizzed by at several hundred kilometres an hour. Kyoto continues to nurture the ancient artisan traditions but is a major centre of electronics manufacturing. McDonald’s and 700 year old restaurants co-exist.
We were even lucky enough to stay in a renovated home in Kyoto which was a stunning example of old and new co-existing harmoniously. Old timbers and features strikingly highlighted by the boldly new. Geoffry Moussas was the architect and I’m keen to follow up his work.
I loved that we never had to go far to get our dose of trees. In fact we stumbled across them a number of times in completely unexpected places. In Hiroshima across from the port was a tiny island. It turned out to be largely beautiful, dense forest. Strangely it wasn’t mentioned in any tourist literature at all but was a highlight of stay. You could have been miles from the city but the reality was a distance our nearly 3 year old was happy to walk. Who would have thought this was possible?
Whilst the suburb-scape of the cities could rarely be described as pretty I was constantly pulling out my camera to photograph yet another beautiful little vignette. A bonsai on a step. A red door frame contrasting a plan facade. A discreet sign or door plate. Within the crowded city people still found abundant opportunities to create beauty and put their stamp on the environment. The lively creative spirit in even the dullest places was really inspiring. It was a great reminder that even tiny tweaks can utterly transform something mundane into a thing of beauty.
It seems the Japanese have made an art of both mass production and bespoke detail. Very impressive. Of course kimonos are a brilliant example of this. Each one follows a standard design and is made with panels of fabric in a standard width. There are millions of them and have been for decades. Yet each is folded and stitched to fit the individual. Many are hand painted. Most are hand stitched.
So to home – Manila. The world’s mostly densely populated city. Also a place of many contrasts and contradictions ….
At the risk of sounding evangelical ….. You just MUST try cycling as transport on your next holiday. It is AWESOME!! The slow food equivalent of travel. You don’t just whizz by the landscape – you’re in it. Part of it. We smelt the pine trees. Heard the birds. Felt the hills! And unlike walking covered a pretty decent distance.
We’ve been to Japan before but 3 days on a bike on the Shiranui Coast left us feeling far more connected with our host country. The “authentic” travel experience every intrepid/romantic/idealistic traveller craves. Our accommodation on night one was also a highlight. A little family run ryokan. They spoke a little English. We spoke a little less Japanese but goodwill aided communication and we all brilliant time. Give it a go!
I must confess some of the hills pushed me a little but I only walked 3 stretches and flying down the other side, cruising through idyllic coastal towns in coves pirates dream of, gazing out to multiple islands and the glow of virtuous achievement each day made it all worthwhile. We also had quite a lot of light rain but to be honest I’d prefer that to roasting in the sun. Ours was a self guided tour through Japan Biking. Email me if you want further info.
Currently planning a follow-up bicycle assisted foray in Vietnam. Stay tuned ….
PS The kids loved it too!