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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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High Tea And Strawberry Jam!

Andrew and I left the steamy plains of Ipoh for cooler climes. Another creaking bus, another winding road, another sick bag and we made our way to Malaysias’ highest peaks, ‘The Cameron Highlands’. We had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this. On route, I cast my eye over mile after mile of unattractive plastic sheeting scarring the beautiful landscape. Strawberry fields stretching to the horizon, only all under a hideous covering. Had ‘The Beatles’ come together here for inspiration, the song would, doubtless, have been entiltled ‘Polytunnels Forever.’ Every turn we  made there were giant fibreglass fruit welcoming tourists inside to have a pluck. I must say, I have always been baffled by the practice of ‘Pick Your Own’! When I was a child, my father would often drag the family to some bland farm in some home county or other where we would all set out to pick our own. I could never see the fun in this back-breaking escapade – especially when you could pick up a full punnet in Sainsburys round the corner and save on the petrol.  The extra plus being that somebody else had slipped a disc whilst gathering your harvest! Poor old dad, he was a huge strawberry fan and so we humoured him. Strawberries, strawberries everywhere, and everyone to eat! So many farms, that we were caught for three hours in slow moving traffic – now that’s what I […]

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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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Trains And Boats And Planes.

And so we come back to Thailand and she greets us much like an ‘Ex’ with whom one is still on speaking terms – just. Not with open arms, but her fists are certainly unclenched. We have only one night in this  Issan city of Ubon Ratchathani. The familiarity of the food and the attitude here is comforting after being lost  in Laos. Today, as I visited the umpteenth temple of our travels, in search of yet more enlightenment, I find myself in trouble. I leave my shoes on the wrong step when entering the sacred space.  As I leave, I notice the cleaner has moved them into the dirt and is now scrubbing down the step in the manner of an ‘Ebola’ outbreak.  Do I really look that unclean?  Quite possibly, after a week without any decent water and no ‘bum-gun’ in sight! I re-shoe and go in search of Andrew – who has been distinctly absent since I entered the temple grounds. Then, I spot him. He is deeply engaged with a Burmese tramp who is bumming ciggies at the entrance. The three of us share beer, chew the fat ( from entirely different animals! ) and pass the time. The ‘down and out’ then asks me for my hand – I offer it up willingly. He grabs it like a wrestler and flips it over to reveal my palm, probably fracturing several small bones in the process. […]

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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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