The Not So Secret Sanctuary – In Borneo…..

I, inadvertently, made a reservation for two nights at a nudist guest house called ‘The Secret Sanctuary – perhaps that was the secret! After a well needed sleep and a morning tour around the grounds, we found ourselves enchanted and have decided to throw our caution and attire to the wind and extend here ….. By that, I mean our stay! Cyril, the creator of this fascinating abode, takes great pride in ensuring each of his guests is treated like a friend. That is, if one is allowed through the […]

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Barking Mad!

I thought I should end the shaggy dog story – it only seems fair. Loula is good, she is a strong girl with genuinely caring owners – though sadly, there  is a twist! When we first encountered Clarence, her master, and his gorgeous family – we explained all – one of his first questions was, what colour was the man on the bike? This seemed odd to me, but he went on to elucidate…. There are four main ethnic groups living side by side here in Malaysia. The Malay, who seem to run things; the Chinese; the Indians; and the Orang Asli – the indigenous people, who, ironically, as the name suggests, were here first:  a  tribal group, much like the ‘Aborigines’, where many are struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. I explained that the guy who was thrown from his bike was very brown – the blood that was pumping from his foot and his knee was was almost imperceptible. It was only when it spilled over me that the claret was obvious! From this information, Clarence discerned that the bloke must be from the Orang Asli. He thought this a good thing, as he imagined he would just need to pay for the damage to the victim’s bike. Apparently the other ethnic groups thought of Clarence  and his family as just ‘Chinese’ and would treat them accordingly – i.e. Come down on them like a ton of yellow […]

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A Dog’s Life!

Our lowest point in The Cameron Highlands came yesterday, when Andrew and I witnessed a terrible collision between a beautiful, gentle honey-coloured dog and a motorcyclist! As with all accidents with which I have had the misfortune to be connected, everything occurred in slow motion. We both watched as this gentle creature decided to cross the road at entirely the wrong moment and inevitably disaster struck. The poor guy on the bike was as oblivious as they both came together in the most hideous of manners. It is a sight and sound that I’m sure will never leave either of us. We both froze for what seemed like an age as the  flip-flop clad rider flew over his machine and landed directly on his head ten feet further down the road. The motorbike came to a halt immediately on impact with the animal’s rib cage . After what seemed like an age, which in reality must have been just several seconds, we both ran to the scene. Andrew took care of the dog and me, the man. How typical! The poor animal was writhing on her back in agony and the man silent and shaken. I pulled him to the grassy bank at the side of the road.  He was visibly shocked and bleeding profusely from his foot and leg.  I tried to recall my days with the scouts and manouvered him into a position I thought was helpful.  It […]

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A City ‘On The Up’!

Malaysia has revealed herself to be a country fecund with Oriental unexpectedness. The famous food in the scruffy ‘World Heritage City’ of Georgetown, for which we were longing, proved to be somewhat disappointing and sometimes inedible. We found this irritating, as stuffing ourselves is a subject both close to my own and Andrew’s stomach! The population, on the other hand, we have found utterly delicious. Funny, polite, intelligent and witty. By that, I probably mean, most of them have laughed at most of my jokes. So with an empty belly […]

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There’s Something In The Water!

Let us not discuss the fourteen hour bus trip that brought us, bumpily, to these beautiful islands. Let us also not talk about the decor on the vehicle – suffice to say, the soft furnishings  made ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ look practically slimline. I thought, at our first stop, we were going to be asked to help assemble ‘The Waltzer’, luckily, it was just a swift stopover to collect something alive in a sack. I didn’t ask! Two more buses, well, ‘pick-ups’ if I’m being literal and,of course, the ubiquitous boat and we’re here. ‘Four Thousand Islands’ in the far south of Laos on the Cambodian border. Or Sim Phan Don to give it the correct nomenclature. I Grew up in London close to the river. It was always present. In history, myth and legend, boat-trips to Westminster pier or up to Hampton Court Palace and of course the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race. For whom, my family, were inexplicably Cambridge fanatics. Knitted mascots, pale blue rosettes – the lot. All this light blue zeal, in spite of the fact none of us had yet been near a university, let alone Cambridge. I think it was the colour nanny favoured and so we all took our lead from her. After all, ‘Oxford Blue’ can be so funereal. I’m rambling about good ‘Old Father Thames’ because he has never left me. Whenever I return to London he’s there to remind me of […]

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The Party’s Over!

We have been having a marvellous time in Vientiane, capital of Laos , a city full of diversity. A place where the now meets the then with no apparent friction whatsoever. Yesterday, I had a private cookery demonstration at the Lao international food fair. I was shown how to make ‘papaya salad’ from scratch, with ingredients I had never seen. Our great friend Stella will be thrilled – though I doubt we shall find the strange fruit the brilliant lady peeled and threw into the pot when back in Spain. We  then had a herbal steam at the local baths – I say ‘baths’ but there were none,  just two ‘Tenko’ style huts, a metal pipe shooting out hot steam that could rival that of ‘Old Faithful’,  and a large bucket of twigs. Andrew and I have always been partial to an old geyser! It certainly wasn’t Baden Baden! But we were both as clean as a vicar’ s whistle by the end.                (Terrible simile – do vicars even blow?) This morning, despite Andrew’s protestations, we headed for the Lao National Museum. The national collection is housed in a beautiful crumbling French colonial house surrounded by blossoming Frangipani  trees. We thought we must visit, for earlier on during our trip, when in Chiang Mai, we met a gregarious American named Keith. He regailed us with a marvellous tale concerning a Buddha he had […]

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Au Revoir Luang Prabang x

Au revoir Luang Prabang! Goodbye Luang Prabang, or as Andrew insists on calling it, ‘Prang Labang’! I’m still clinging on to the possibility that he’s doing it for comic effect, but after a week here, the joke is starting to wear as thin as a stale ‘After Eight’ mint! We shall miss this little ‘town’. Some who visit loathe the mix of Mekong and marketing, but we’ve seen much, much  worse. We’ve had our moments but most of them have been great ones. The French influence has been ‘merveilluex’! Even if the French here, ‘under the influence’, have not! There I go again, xenophobia kicking in like a ‘Rampant Rabbit’! (I’m told they’re powerful). Don’t worry I would never name and shame. Andrew tells me every time I blog rudely about a particular nation we lose ‘likes’ on our Facebook page. Oh well, C’est la vie! Yet, it continues to surprise me, that travel does not seem to broaden everyone’s mind – sometimes, only their ‘Tete’ – Excuse-moi – I mean, their head! And so with a heavy heart and a big welcome to our ‘Twitter’ followers ( who have just joined us – as The BBC so often likes to say), we leave these enchanting ‘environs’ and head South! We have an aeroplane to catch tomorrow that resembles one of those polystyrene gliders you assembled when you were a kid. It appears to require only an elastic band and […]

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4.30am – Our Call To Alms

4.30 am – A Call To Alms! We’d both heard stories of the saffron- shrouded Buddhist monks who walk the streets of Luang Prabang at dawn. Or rather, Andrew had heard them from me. So when a chilly, dark 4.30am came ‘a calling, we both rose – before the Lark had even considered warming up her tonsils! We wrapped ourselves like Sherpas and hit the black deserted streets in search of this sacred, spiritual practice. The little town resembled a cemetery ground, the odd Chinese lantern thankfully lighting our way. Somnolent was not the word. We strolled down the ‘high street’ alone, growing colder and more concerned that absolutely no preparations for the event had even begun. ‘Are you sure they do it every bloody morning?’ Andrew rasped, fag in hand. ‘Yes’ I hissed back. We were certainly in need of The Buddha. We then stumbled across a temple complex – that was apparently empty. Golden, glistening palaces, all sympathetically floodlit, for no-one apparently, but us. We marvelled at these stunningly foreign creations, alone, for some minutes.  Then we noticed we had company. A young, berobed, monk was standing in front of one of the gilded structures and raising both arms. In supplication I romantically assumed. As we got closer I realised this kid had his mobile phone and was using it to get a few snaps of his digs before the ceremony. My pretentious deep moment was somewhat punctured. […]

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The Birds!

What a day this has been – what a great mood we’re in – why, it’s almost like being in Laos’! What a country! Rarely, nowadays, do we find an authenticity and kindness that is beyond blogs! This place is charming. We had croissant this morning the French colonial hangover is ever present. Comme fantastique! AND, after a herbal tea provided by our host, Pan, I realise what puts the bang into ‘Luang Prabang’! Our day was like something from a Hitchcock movie! I was, of course, Tippi Hendren, and Andrew, no help at all! Birds, birds, nothing but birds.  Parakeets and  Peregrine and Minor Bird and Cockatoo! Fried! No judgement – I have no idea what the local diet consists of, but, suffice to say, Hilda Ogdan’s ‘Murial Wall’ would not have been safe! A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I believe that’s the saying. As we rounded down a small side street we we’re suddenly in a market akin to a slaughter house – there were, quite obviously, no birds left in the bush! Decapitation at every turn! Eyes front, I said to myself but then came face to face with two half dead chickens – I’m still convinced that one of them looked at me pleadingly on it’s way to the block.  It was horrifying – old ‘Hitch’ would have been proud. As we exited this scene of avian horror we had both […]

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Rolling Down The River!

At 8 AM we boarded our boat – (the H.M.S number 13!), with just a little wariness and and more than a few tots of Thai Rum to hand. We were going to sea after all – well, to river. Both Andrew and I looked and felt dreadful. But, we were looking for adventure and so it came and ‘Thai-Boxed’ us right in the proverbial ‘eek’. We met some wonderful people on the jetty, but were slightly reticent to engage as we knew we would be sharing the next ten hours with them on a barge that looked as if she wouldn’t be comfortable on The Thames, let alone the mighty Mekong. The ‘Marchioness’ came to mind but I swiftly exorcised that thought and certainly didn’t share it with ‘His Highness’, who is not exactly Lord Nelson when it comes to messing about on the water! I was seated next to a wonderfully jolly South Korean named ‘Muang’ and as I took my seat he rubbed my knee and whispered that all his Western dreams had come ‘tlue’! No bullshit! I pointed out my partner to him, on the pier, still smoking, at which point he lost complete interest in my thigh and frothed at the mouth, rabid, for what he called ‘Superman’! He obviously doesn’t know Andrew well! When Andrew did board and I politely introduced him to Muang, my ‘better half’ immediately decided to bring up North Korea […]

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