Been ’round the world

Re-reading “How Proust Can Change Your Life”

At all costs avoid exhibiting the “self-satisfaction of “busy” men – however idiotic their business – at “not having time” to do what you are doing”



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Come on, play a little…


Verona on a Weekend


The highest praise that I seem to be able to give to a town is “It is SO European!”. Obviously when we go to Asia the praise transforms itself to “This is SO Asian!” so it is not like I am not culturally sensitive:) However, I have to admit that while “It is SO European” sounded just about right once upon a time in Connecticut, this same phrase sounds a bit silly in some places we have visited recently:




Verona is European alright!




I have begun a love affair with Northern Italy that has clipped any other travel wishes I might have had.


It’s the colours – bright and fresh or sun bleached pastel. It’s the walls that emanate heat, the window shutters that pretend to keep the sun away.




It’s the cobble stoned piazzas nested between century old balconies and plant covered terraces, the randomly scattered statues, the bell towers and fresh fruit markets.




It’s the cypresses reaching upwards to the blue azure skies and fluffy frothy clouds.




Oh my God it is sometimes too much, it is too beautiful, too ancient, too symbolic, too emotional.




Words will not be enough to capture this summer and how happy I’ve been wondering these sun scorched streets with the love of my life.





Visit to Yen Duc Village (Vietnam)


Our tour of Ha Long Bay was officially over around noon on day 2. While all of the other tourists were promptly put on a bus back to Hanoi, Bugi and I were booked to go to a local village for the rest of the afternoon (I am not sure why but visiting a local village sounded very appealing to me but not to all of the other people visiting Ha Long bay – at this stage I started worrying whether they knew something that I did not…). We were sent to a separate bus where we met our guide who would take us around the village.


Being the only two people on an organised tour has its perks but it can quickly get a bit awkward as well:




Well hello there…having 6 elderly people serenade you is a bit too much for us! Thankfully three american girls joined us for the first part of our Yen Duc village tour so we were not the only centre of attention. After a mini concert our tour began with a visit to the local shrine dedicated to the locals who died in the American war (in Vietnam the Vietnam war is obviously called the American war).




[The whole country bares the scars of this conflict and while the heroism of the Vietnamese and malice of the Americans is a common propaganda theme, there is also a lot of truth mixed in with all the propaganda. Horrible things were happening in Vietnam and the US government managed to hide a lot of its crimes for a long time. While the violence of the war and the suffering of the Vietnamese people is intertwined with the very fabric of the Vietnamese national identity today, we did not feel that the Vietnamese hold feelings of resentment towards the US today. They seem a lot more practical - understanding and accepting the history but somehow keeping it separate from today's reality. I find this remarkable given the limited time that has passed since the Vietnam/American war.]


Our next stop on the tour was a local house. We were invited for green tea and snacks (corn and sweet potatoes):




We were then lead to one of the rooms where the owners of the house proudly displayed his family tree on the wall:




Oh yes, we were a bit more impressed by the fortified wine complete with several snakes and god knows what else in the bottle. I love eating eel but this is just a bit too real for me!




Despite our fascination with the wine, our host insisted on telling us all about his family routes. Now, the family tree seems very very busy but it actually went only 2 generations back. Nope, they did not have 50 children in each generation – they just had 4 wives and each of the wives had 10 children. Sadly, the host noted, polygamy is no longer legal in Vietnam.


Having completed this part of our tour we were quickly ushered to the local temple. It was completely empty and in the quiet of this hot afternoon, it was slightly surreal.








The shrine was as big as the other ones we had visited in Hanoi but we had this one solely to ourselves – it was clean and completely devoid of the crowds in the city.




Much much better if you ask me.




Bugi as you can see was thrilled to be there. I think by this stage he was getting a bit worried that we had 3 more hours in the village booked and we had already met everyone who lived there and seen everything at least once…


We got even more worried when the three American girls left because they had only booked a 2 hour visit to Yen Duc. I had apparently gone for the 5 hour full tour…


To be continued…


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