Sunday, November 23, 2008
Going though some photos from Christmas last, when we were in Burma. The photo was taken near Old Pagan. There are more photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com.au/damien.coghlan/3cBaganOldPagan
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Monday, November 13, 2006
a travel memoir
There comes a time in each life like a point of fulcrum. At that time you must accept yourself. It is not any more what you will become. It is what you are and always will be.
Not every traveller wants to go home in a literal sense – some are marooned for so long that they think they are at home - but every traveller, even the kind that never leaves his armchair in front of the fire, wants to find the place where being what he is will matter. That place is home.
There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller.
There were night-scapes in Saigon to be visited only when the moon was in a certain phase, and rich mandarins – still existing in those days in what remained culturally a
– would pay for white herons to be released across the sky when the party was seated in readiness for the aesthetic experience. province of China
Borders are strange places, and the borders of countries that don’t care about their image need to be approached with great care. It may not be dangerous, but it can certainly be very challenging, frustrating, irritating, annoying, demoralising...
On a previous visit, we’d flown into
I love those land borders between two countries that feel really different: between, say,
We walked the few hundred yards across ‘no man’s land’ with some trepidation, and crossed under the yellow star of the Vietnamese flag into a tall, spacious border post.
As the sort of person who likes to do things properly, I’d insisted on carrying our little yellow inoculation booklets with us this trip. No one had actually asked to see these for some years, but a lot of time and money had gone into collecting the stamps they contained, and you never know when someone wants to know when your latest yellow fever vaccination was.
Well, it turns out the man at the Vietnamese border post did. We filled out the necessary forms in triplicate, on the finest of tissue paper, and presented ourselves for harassment. If you didn’t have the medical evidence, you were harassed, made to pay a small fee, and inoculated on the spot. Clean needles? Sort of. As we arrived a European man was loudly (and therefore, to the Vietnamese, very rudely) protesting that he had already been vaccinated, and refusing to be injected here using ‘that awful equipment’. He was still there when we left - he may still be there now, brushing up on his ‘how to deal with Vietnamese border guards’ etiquette.
On the other hand, if you did have the evidence, if you could produce the little yellow books, then you were in real trouble. The immigration officer, in his pressed uniform and his hugely peaked hat, read and re-read and re-read the vaccination stamps, getting crosser all the time. The amount of money you had to pay for the vaccination was so small that couldn’t have been the issue, whether he pocketed it or not. No, there seemed to be a genuine disappointment that we weren’t to be given an injection. We tried not to look happy, made our way obsequiously to customs, who only emptied two of our bags, searching for who knows what. He said he was looking for money. I think he was looking for happy pills. He didn’t find any of either.
At the small drink shop we came to outside the Boc Mai customs hall, the relief among our fellow travellers was palpable, as was the frustration that needed venting. Communist or not, Coca Cola was on offer, and we shared a Coke as we shared notes on our how we’d fared with immigration. We waited quite a while for some of our fellow travellers to jump through the bureaucratic hoops, then boarded another bus for the final leg into
We emailed from there.
Date: Aug 06 2000 05:59:45 EDT
From: "On the road with B, D and T"
Subject: Bouncing into Ho Chi Minh the latest from the travel trio
We arrived in
After that, the trip by road to
An hour or so out from
A few more hours brought us to the border, with all of those little forms to be filled in, and other things to be discussed at a later date, taking a fair bit of time. From there, however, it was a breeze. The Vietnamese (or was it the Americans) have created a very good road system, and although the congestion on the roads meant that we didn't travel very fast, at least we travelled in one direction - forwards - rather than up and down and around.
So here we are in
D, B, T and Gumnut, who is starting to look a little travel stained - she needs a good bath, but you know how koalas hate baths.
 Norman Lewis, in the preface to the 1882 edition of A Dragon Apparent, in Norman Lewis Omnibus, Picador, 1995