Cat ba island - Vietnam 13-16 February 2019

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Cat ba island is off the coast from Ha long bay. This trip was just to be a couple of days in length. The main excursion was a boat trip around the islands and no time to paint.

We took a private tour and were treated highly to a cooked-on-the-spot meal on the small boat. Then a laze around a small island and back via the floating village. These seem to be places where people live and run small fish farms. Each has a dog. These are not just small dogs but qiite large growly fiercesome things roaming around the pontoons quite freely snarling and showing their teeth at us as we went past. This seems to be their only excercise and we weren’t about to go on board to give them more. These animals are important and protect the farmers livlihood in an important way. 

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Ducks in a bag - close feathership. Duck is often on the menu and these were waiting on the quayside on the mainland to go over to the island for a certain death. Nevertheless in the short term they seemed quite happy in the bag but definitely the future wasn’t rosy.  

The area has many large tour boats but many seem to be quite old with signs of added glory. 

And now to Hanoi.

Tam Coc - Vietnam 7-13 February 2019

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From Hoi an we took a short flight to Hanoi and then a taxi transfer to Tam Coc. Our Homestay was along the Main Street so handy to shops and restaurants.

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On our first day we realised the the mayhem of Tête wasn’t quite over. This is the Chinese and Vietnamese New year celebrations and is the largest festival in the calendar. We planned a trip to a nearby town a journey which was to take us along a narrow road and then to a much larger one. The congestion was quickly quite crazy so much so we never reached the destination.  

On another day I painted along a narrow lane overlooking flooded rice paddy fields. The women in Vietnam seem to do a lot of the work or at least it appears that way. Here they were removing rice saplings from a nursery and washing the roots to plan for planting. This seems to be ther job. The men do clearing of the waterways and removing weeds and debris. They also play cards and drive around on motor bikes as well as trying to get tourists to take motor-bike-taxi fares from them. Frequently would be asked ‘hello motor bike’. 

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This area has many waterways and with waterways come boats. Hundreds of them. And tourists like boats and the locals like it when they spend money. These boats are taken by the score with a rower rowing with their feet. Very clever as then they have hands free to catch up with their friends by mobile phone. The more organised have a camera boat alongside the one with the tourists. Fleets of young men on motor bikes collect and relay camera cards back to base in time for the tourist to return and be sold the picture. 

From Tam Coc then to Cat Ba island before going to Hanoi. 

 

 

 

Hoi An - Vietman 30/1/19 - 6/2/19

By night

By night

The year of the Pig.

The year of the Pig.

If we had to change anything about coming to Vietnam it would have been not to come a Tet. This is the time of the Vietnamese and Chinese New Year and is the most important celebration in Vietnamese currently culture. It’s longer name version means the ‘Feast of the First Morning of the First Day’.  It usually falls in January or February in the Gregorian calendar. It is the first day of the Lunar new year. 2019 was to be the year of the pig. The river was a-wash with many little lantern-lit boats taking tourists on excursions. On dry land many restaurant hustlers would try to beckon us their way. We gave most of our custom to a small cafe with one long communal table. This made for some interesting and informative conversations with fellow eaters. The place was found using Tripadvisor - a very useful resource.

On arriving in Hoi an the first thing to  deal with was purchasing paint thinners. Usually we use white spirit or mineral spirits but to date I haven’t been able to figure out how to ask for it. I have been offered petrol and in Georgetown before getting something vaguely suitable. Also got something which might have powered a Saturn 5 rocket but as far as thinning paint it dried to fast. In all of the things i have bought I still have no idea what it is. But seems to work and leaves no trace of a smell. This is something which has to be accomplished after each plane journey  as needless to say air travel and inflammable liquids don’t go together.

Hoi An was exceptionally crowded with many tour busses. It was quite difficult to get around in the evenings. We stayed in a Homestay on the river and quite close to the centre. 

Hoi an street

Hoi an street

And behind me!

And behind me!

My painting excursions in the town were qiite hectic with many on lookers intent on getting as close as possible. The usual unwanted selfies were a problem and a distraction and with all the noise it sometimes was hard to think and plan a painting. I attempted a number in the busy part and one down an alley way where there weren’t so many tourists. 

I have included one of the view behind me on one of these paintings. Against my instinct I bought a selfie stick as now I have found a use for one. 

Rice paddy fields

Rice paddy fields

On another day I took myself off into the area of the rice paddy fields and did one out there.

What I did notice not only around Hoi an was the amount of rubbish and the throw it away culture. This part of the blog is being written sometime after we were in Hoi an so there has been plenty of time to see the amount of rubbish strewn around. Children seem to just eat a snack and leave the papers and recycling seems to be in short supply!

I painted this one of the rice paddy fields in a lovely location just off a narrow lane. I was under a tree to get some shade so it was a very pleasant place to be working.

I cant be sure but there doesn’t seem to be a tourist tax in Vietnam and perhaps much added revenue could be got in this way to help deal with rubbish. 

Rant over about rubbish, for the moment. 

The day after painting the rice paddy fields I again went in search for a subject and found an area of quiet lanes along the river. One small passage took me on a path less then a metre wide and ended up in a man’s front yard. He seemed a little surprised and perhaps more when I stopped and started to bring out my easel and things. In a way that only English speaking people can I used actions to describe what I was intending to do.

On this grey day there was a small jetty and a basket boat with a couple of other boats thrown in for good measure. These basket boats seem quite like an Irish curragh and made of basket weave (or at least originally). They are used for tourist purposes. Later the man would come over to check progress. Then around lunch time he came and gave me a large bunch of bananas.  When finished I thought i would go over and say goodbye but he was fast asleep in his hammock.  At that point I saw his heavy looking prosthetic leg lying beside him on the ground.

Basket boat.

Basket boat.

lovely spot to paint.

lovely spot to paint.

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I tried one of ferry ladies crossing the river. These ladies offer what seeems a valuable service across the  river saving just  a few hundred metres but useful  when the passengers have luggage and can’t so easily access the other side by car. We used it a couple of times and it became apparent here were two prices! 

Soon our visit to Hoi an was to end and the next venue is to be Tam Coc south or Hanoi. 

 

 

 

 

Ferry lady.

Penang, Malaysia 22/1/19 - 29/1/19

We arrived at Penang airport and I must admit it was a bit of a shock to the system. The first thing to encounter was finding a cash machine in the airport. I was sent in a general direction and immediately saw 5 cash machines in a row all with different bank names. Which to choose was the thing. All I did was to follow suit with the previous person drawing money. Seemed a good method. Then the taxi. A fairly uneventful trip where the taxi driver made a big thing of showing us a fridge between the front seats and that it was specially designed for cars. 

The taxi made it to the hotel in a very efficient manner and dropped us off outside the door. That was when the whole Penang experience started. There was an over whelming feeling of noise, cars, motor bikes, smells, rubbish, open drains along the side of the road, crowded or non existent footpaths, street food etc. 

When I say it was a bit of a shock we had just left Canberra in Australia a Truman Show-like place where everything is new and modern, where the cars seem to revolve around the roads as if on tracks and there is a general feeling of order. Penang took apparent disorder to a whole new level. 

We were in a hotel in what seemed the main drag in the centre of the old town close to street food, and some bars. When I mention footpaths the lack of them seemed to nearly double some travel times when walking. A footpath could be a covered arched walkway outside shops. It could quickly become a mechanics workshop for mending motor bikes, lawn mowers, generators or anything which the shop specialised in fixing. A run of shops could be all off similar genres but quite easily there could be some cafes etc and interspersed by someone doing panel beating as a service.

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When negotiating the footpaths you would end up having to move off it to somewhere or the road. There could be steps of various depths and some quite large between a walk way and something else. Health and safety - limited. The difficulties start when you have to move onto the road as it sides are congested by neatly packed motor bikes and scooters and quickly you’re on the road to be greeted by honking of horns.  

Prayer Hut at the end of Jetty

Prayer Hut at the end of Jetty

All I can say was that getting about was fun. 

Entrance to. Chew Jetty

Entrance to. Chew Jetty

I painted the view of the entrance to Chew Jetty. This is one of the famous Clan Jetties. These were a group of jetties on timber stilts. Originally there were 7 but after one was destroyed by fire they are down to 6. They are the last bastions of the old Chinese settlements here where people live on houses on stilts along the waterfront.

Read more at: http://www.penang.ws/penang-attractions/clan-jetties.htm?cid=ch:OTH:001 Also a Prayer Hut at the end of it and a back view to one of the jetties. I had tried the same Prayer Hut composition in a more vertical format but decided to change to the a horizontal. I  could never get the time correct to do one with the tide in so had to contend with painting mud. 

Around these jetties were various pieces of rubbish half buried in said mud. This could be a half submerged boat or a car.  

Unfortunatley on one of these painting trips I ended up along a lane way and seeed to be in a restricted area. I was quickly told this and by limited English and sign language was told to get out. Then a man on motor bike appeared and told me the same thing but after a short conversation and before I left he apologetically shook my hand and continued into the site. Would that ever happen in the UK? Imagine you end up a few metres into a government site and after being told to get out the official says sorry by shaking your hand? Maybe not.

Narrow lane

Narrow lane

I attempted some other paintings and not amazingly pleased with the results. This one of a narrow lane way off a side street. These contain housing for the population and in this case there was a man whose job was to take tourists on tours on his bicycle rick shaw.  

While in Penang I had tooth issues. This had been the scenario in Australia and one ended out a a tooth removal. This was to be dentist number 3 of the trip. This time the problem was a loose crown. Checking around I found a Chinese dentist who did a prefect and professional job and by UK prices very economical. 

I could have spent longer in Penang and was starting to get to grips with the subjects but our itinerary was to take us to Vietman on a short flight to Da Nang.  

 

New Zealand South Island 16/11/18 to 10/12/18

We flew Gisbourne to Nelson on 16/11/18 and from there enjoyed 2 rainy days around the town. 

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Then from there to the Abel Tasman National Park area. This is a beautiful part best accessed by boat. Beautiful coastal scenery, bush tracks, deserted beaches and the ocean.

Like many areas of New Zealand there are ‘pests’ and ‘weeds’. There is a policy to cut down or kill the non indigineous trees and allow the area to revert to it’s original ‘bush’. Cutting down the evergreen trees was discovered not to work as the the trees just seeded themselves so it was discovered that drilling holes in them and injecting herbicide killled the  trees. So there are large tracts with brown trees.

There is also a problem with what they call pests. These are non indigineose animals which have been brought in years ago and have now over run areas. These pests are stoats and there is also methods to reduce wasps. Traps are wide spread around the park and  native birds and animals are being re introduced. Rabbits are also an issue in some parts of NZ and rabbit proof fences are used to at least keep them out of cleared areas. New Zealand is diligent in protecting its bio-diversity and warns people coming into the county not to  bring in fruit etc. Even mud on boots is a no-no. There are large fines if you are caught bringing in something g they done want. Aircraft food can be a problem so don’t even try’s to bring in an apple. Dogs are used in the airports to sniff out these things. The honey and kiwi fruit industries are a big part of their income so protecting these is important.

Wainui Bay.

Wainui Bay.

After the Abel Tasman in the North of South Island we stayed near Takaka and from there I painted this view at Wainui Bay. It is on the edge of the National Park and just wanted to be painted. Ruth found this subject for me while our for a drive. I was pleased with the outcome of this one.

 In some other areas lupins are now a weed. Initially we thought they were nice but then realised they had reached epidemic proportions along roads and river beds. They are native to North America and here they do well in gravel river beds and the sides of roads. They were brought in over 100 years ago and now there is mixed opinion as to what to do with them. In some parts there is a policy of spraying them. 

 

Douubtful Sound

Douubtful Sound

We then flew on to Queensland on 10/12/18 and stayed in a very comfortable flat under the owners home.  From there to Manapouri to take a tour on Doubtful Sound. Access to it is by boat across a lake and then a bus trip up over a gravel road. The name doubtful was given by James Cook who could not see it would be possible to access the inlet. 

Pearl Harbour, Manaouri

Pearl Harbour, Manaouri

The rainfall in this area is very high - around 7M annually on the ocean side and 4M on the inland side. On the west of Ireland where we think it rains a lot we have 1M to 1.25M. In reality in this part of New Zealand it rather doesn’t rain a lot but when it does rain it is extremely heavy.   The moisture is picked up from the ocean between Australia and New Zealand and when it reaches the mountains rises and condenses into rain and lots of it.

The other much visited sound is Milford Sound but we chose Doubtful and decided it was a good choice.

From there a few days in Wanaka and then Twizel near Mount Cook.

At Wanaka little tree had been quietly growing out of the lake for many years disregarded by all and sundry as just a tree. Then along came Instagram and now it has achieved the status of stardom with a steady stream of visitors taking photos even disregarding signs and swimming out to take a selfie photo.  

The area around Twizel is quite beautiful. Mount Cook,  wide plains, lakes etc. We stayed there just a few nights and would have loved to have been able to stay longer.

 

Mount. Cook from near Twizel.

Mount. Cook from near Twizel.

Will return now to Australia for. Christmas with the family and then go on to SE Asia on 22 January. We will visit Georgetown in Penang then to Hoi An, Hanoi in Vietnam. They itinerary isn’t worked out yet so these plans may just develop along the way.  

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Wanaka tree

Wanaka tree