Friday, August 19, 2011

Cruising around Vientiane

A couple of weekends back was the 1st time in a while that we have had a free weekend here in Vientiane and good weather at the same time.  So we headed out on our bikes on Sunday morning and rode.  A 16km ride in fact.  Doesn’t sound like much but in the heat it does feel a little further.  [Actually the temperature doesn’t get too bad until the afternoon and we rode in the morning – but we wont let that ruin a good justification]

Riding alongside paddy fields on one side and residential on the other we spotted this man checking his fishing line, while floating on his inner tube.

It is still rainy season and plently of water is needed for the rice grow.  Unfortunately there have been a couple of tropical storms with too much rain and many people have had their crops washed away.

Back in the ‘suburbs’ not too far from our place we found a cafe.  Not just a cafe, but a place that sells the BEST chocolate cake we have had in Laos. 
We ordered our coffee and a slice to share.  However as it was hoovered up in a surprisingly short time we had to order another.

yes Andrew …we will return there.  In fact we went back this week and confirmed the chocolate cake is superb. 

And an unusual construction scene here.  It has a superb safety message.  Then you look closer at the workmen pulling the paper off the building, and you see there are no harnesses and everyone is in bare feet.  At least because this building is so big they have metal scaffolding rather than the ‘traditional’ Asian bamboo variety.

And another find as we returned home was to discover David Beckham has been modelling for the tailor in the street over from us…who knew

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

KL - end of a nice weekend

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Islamic Arts Museum.  It is a hidden gem that all visitors to Kuala Lumpur should visit, but often don’t.
It opened in late 1988 and is the largest museum of Islamic art in South East Asia. It houses an impressive collection of jewellery, pottery, textiles, books and manuscripts.

I had to return to find Andrew at one point because he was so entranced in the 1st room we had entered into.  He spent 20 minutes looking at the architecture models of various Mosques and temples around the world along with the information panels about them  Eventually I got him to look at the other galleries full of objects.   The collections are organised by subject rather than timeframe or geography. 

The whole place exuded style and spaciousness and had lovely architectural detail such as the internal decorated domes. 

To get there we had to skirt around the National Mosque – women can not enter on a Friday.  We ended up walking through stalls surrounded by people.  They were selling snake oil.  OK it was some bodily fluid from a lizard – but why let that ruin a a good sentence.  There were display bonnets having polishing wax put on and being set alight to prove how good the wax protected.  Suzanne Paul would have been right at home.

Back near our hotel we indulged in a little retail therapy but not buying much.  One thing we could not find here in Vientiane were men’s shoelaces.  Most here have slip-on shoes (easier to take on and off as you enter temples or homes) so laces are not quite as common.  I’m sure they are sold somewhere but we have not found it yet.

And we rounded out the day with a cracker meal at a restaurant called Albion.  Serving modern British food it recently won the TimeOut KL best independent restaurant.  We got there early – not intentionally and partook in their before 7:30pm menu.  For the equivalent of NZ$80 we got 3 courses of really good food, 1 beer and 3 glasses of wine…bargain and delicious.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Having had a brief taste of KL when we overnighted here returning from Sri Lanka, we decided to return and have a more intensive couple of days.

We headed off to the Central Market.  It was once a wet market but it has reinvented itself as a craft and bits & pieces market - sounds tacky but it isn't and is worth a visit.

There we joined a Heritage walk around the market area.  Our guide was just new and learning the ropes so she wasn't scintilating, but we did learn more than if we had wandered around by ourselves.  We went past a number of old buildings and colonial architecture.

As it was Friday we could not go inside the Masjid Mosque but we did peer through the fence and over the river at it.

Then we headed through old Little India - 'old' Little India because a few years back the government relocated Little India to Brickfields, another area of town.  But there are still some old remnants there.  And we finished in a chinese temple built early in the city's history.

It was an interesting 1.5 hours.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the morning was the Fish Spa that Andrew tried out NZD2 for 10 minutes of fish nibbling at your feet!  There was a lovely sign that said the fish have no teeth.  He described the experience 'as very different' and 'a feeling I had never had before'  He doesn't look entirely comfortable...or maybe he is trying to commit the words of the song playing to memory...Malaysia, truly Asia...(which is their tourist adverrtisement this year) Repeat after me,  Malaaaaaayyysia, truly Aaaaaaasia