25 September 2009
21 September 2009
19 September 2009
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not judging the book by its title, which might lead you to believe it is quite a sexy book (it’s not), I really just expected this to be another backpacker’s account of her jaunt through Asia. As someone who, like many others, has “done the jaunt” herself, I found a lot to relate to so, excuse me as I write this review from a very personal viewpoint. The book is set in China in the mid-eighties, a couple of years before my own first, brief encounter with mainland China. Susan Gilman and her not-very-well-known friend, Claire Van Houten hatched a plan on the back of a paper placemat while out late one night of conquering the world on a trans-planetary trip. They decided to start in China and the descriptions Gilman writes of encounters with bureaucracy, once grand but now falling apart ships and other transport barely held together with spot welding, hotel and travel agent staff who tow the party line as far as only presenting what was allowed to be presented…and no more, not to mention other backpackers, is spot on. Anyone who travelled to China in the late 1980s right up to the mid-late 1990s will relate to this book on some level and probably really enjoy it for the nostalgia factor. Places too, ring true from freakishly tiny and sparse, swimming pool tile-lined guesthouse rooms in Chunking Mansions, a backpacker icon that is still existing in that ‘state’ as far as I know. If you haven’t been there or read the book yet, I don’t want to give anything more away as her expectations versus reality play-by-play about the place is brilliant. And this is just the first part of the journey.Yangshuo is another centre of the backpacking world in China and, in those days, was one of the few places foreigners could go and decompress from all the experiences had during travel in China. To have been struggling, quite out of your depth, with renegade bus drivers, unknown animal parts served up in soup, and language barriers for weeks on end then, finally coming upon the then little village of Yangshuo with its rows of cafés serving Western-style food from English, French, and German menus just seemed like a godsend. I really liked how Gilman placed their visit to Yangshuo in the story as sort of the beginning of the end as that is exactly how the place feels to many who’ve travelled there. You get a sense of having slogged your way round in relative hardship and this is the intrepid backpackers’ reward…banana pancakes all around! Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t just the reminiscing factor that I enjoyed about the book. There is also the storyline of what it is like being with someone you barely know, 24/7, for weeks on end. In this case, the increasingly bizarre relations between Gilman and her friend Claire whilst travelling in a country with a high difficulty rating, as far as backpacking goes, make for an interesting thread that runs throughout.Call me non-imaginative, but I do like books that go back and tie up lose ends. Gilman does this in her Afterwards chapter really well. For readers who haven’t travelled to China, you could easily get a sense that what the book describes is how it still is to travel around the vast country. In some places it really is still like that, but China has been hurtling towards a developed travel infrastructure at an alarming pace. Even 10 years after the book was set, it was sad to my Western nostalgic sensibilities to already see beautiful old temples crumbling or being replaced by white tiled square boxes of buildings. In fact, the first time I went to Shen Zhen on the mainland near Hong Kong in 1989, it was a small village with dirt roads. I remember an old man pulling his cart full of pigs past me. The next time I went there in 1998, it was full of gleaming white sky scrapers. I actually had to check my journal to see that I was indeed thinking of the right place. I was. In 9 years the place had become unrecognisable. Gilman’s modern description of the places her and Claire had been to really expresses the changes that have taken place. Changes that would have to be seen to be believed otherwise.In short, although I had low expectations of the book, I was pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in travelling independently in China. And I would strongly recommend this to those who have already participated in the backpacking rituals associated with travel in China. You will be reliving much of that experience!
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Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam
Originally uploaded by Shanti, shanti
Ever since someone made a comment here about my time in Vietnam I’ve been really pining for those days. By sheer coincidence, I noticed a little file on my computer marked “Vietnam”. Hmm!? We lived there before I started blogging and way before I had a digital camera or even this hard drive that my photos are kept on, so I thought all the photos were in slide form. But we must’ve had some put on disc and at some point I uploaded them. I’ve spent an entire Saturday morning reminiscing about those days. I would love to go back there although I think I’d try living in Ha Noi rather than Ho Chi Minh City, just do get a different perspective. Ha Noi, you are calling me!
18 September 2009
I'm confused about Blogger comments. I have comment moderation activated and it works just fine. I open the page and OK any new comments. But then they disappear from the list and reappear on the relevant entry. Fine. But if someone comments on an older entry, is there no way to find out which entry that person's comment went to? I'm not making sense and I know it.
OK, someone comments on a blog entry I wrote a few months ago, only I don't know which entry they are commenting on because there's not a date on the comments awaiting moderation. Is there any way to find this date? Any old Blogger hands know??
In other news, it's gorgeous and sunny and really warming up. Without saying this out loud and jinxing it for everyone...shhhhh, I think summer is coming, shhhh... And, do you know what else? It's Friday so I'm off to the pub to enjoy it!
(Photo randomly selected from the ones I took out our window in Osaka)
14 September 2009
"WEB 2.0" just means interactive web pages!
I swear to God I had never thought about what that meant before. Yes, I'm ashamed to say that I live in cyber space as much as the next blogger. Can they take my blogging rights away from me?
11 September 2009
That's it! I've decided. I'm a reasonably intelligent woman, who thinks she can write reasonably well, and who doesn't want to work for other people any more. This was some of the thinking that prompted me to launch my food blog in order to get something out there. So, I thought I'd give myself until the end of the year to research the possibilities of freelance writing. I mean, the actual writing is one thing, but I'm the first to admit that I know nada about the industry.
The universe tends to provide, methinks, as all of a sudden I've met two writers in the past week. It seems I need to start building up a portfolio of work and commercial writing seems to be a way to do it. I was thinking that could be my bread and butter and anything else I do would be a bonus at the beginning. Do I know what I am talking about? Hell no!
I'm not sure how you get to know just what types of opportunities and avenues there are out there, but I've started reading everything I can get my hands on. Still hoping for that 26 hour clock to set in. I've always worked with words, but I guess I'd have had a better feel for the market if I'd studied journalism or some such at uni...well, too late. But I'm thinking that my knowledge of travel, food and education can be channeled somewhere.
Yes, this post is me thinking out loud...and maybe a cry for help...and full of bad writing (This won't be in the aforementioned portfolio!), but I'm determined. OK universe. Bring it!
Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids
08 September 2009
1. Take a week off work.
2. Air out your sleeping bag,waterproofs and boots.
3. Pack up the station wagon.
4. Get out of the city and into the wilds.
5. Make a small plan but be open to changing it completely.
6. Put boot to Earth and breath the fresh air in deeply.
7. Put ski to snow and hurtle down a volcano.
8. Spend time with old and very dear friends drinking wine and laughing.
9. Observe the beginning of spring.
10. Revel in the feeling of calm and contentment!