Bali is our vacation from our vacation. I was worried at first that a month on this small island could drive me insane, given that both Staffan and I have spent ample time here in the past and it should be obvious by now that we like to keep moving. But it is working out better than I could have imagined. We are staying mainly in villas with private pools, carefully selected based on proximity to renown surf spots.
Posts from the ‘Scenic’ Category
Last night, I read The Velveteen Rabbit to the kids. It had particular impact since they each still have a dear stuffed animal to whom they cling at night or when upset. Woof is a white stuffed dog with sad, brown eyes who was given to Phineas by Mia, his paternal grandmother. Phineas caresses the tips of her clumped fur with his fingertips as he falls asleep. She is the first thing he reaches for when awaking from slumber, his small hands groping in the dark to strum the soft spot of fur left under her tail.
For what Vientiane lacked in quaintness, Luang Prabang made up for in droves. This entire little town, situated on a peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, is a UNESCO world heritage site. From the 14th to the 16th century, the peninsula of Luang Prabang was the capital of Lane Xane, the Kingdom of a Million Elephants. Its strategic position along the Silk Route is responsible for the wealth and influence it amassed. Much attention has been put into restoring the traditional wood and bamboo buildings that line the streets.
I have to admit it, we find ourselves in Vientiane because I liked the sound of the name. I've toyed with coming here for years on weekenders from China, but always felt compelled to see more of China itself. The name Vientiane conjures up images of an old French protectorate, with long-tailed boats meandering up the Mekong river and dotted with golden temples.
Namaste! (pronounced Nam-ah-stay, with much-varied elongation and stress on the last syllable), is the traditional greeting in Nepal, whether between Nepalese or passing villagers or trekkers of all nationalities on the steep and rocky trails. I've now said it hundreds of times in a handful of different ways: mostly with a smile, sometimes with a grimace, often very quietly in an effort to conserve energy, with a loss of breath.
Sri Lanka enjoys a rich history, a laid back island culture, and some pretty awesome landscapes and scenery. We hired a car with driver for 10 days to tour the island's sights, first winding our way up small mountain roads through the tea plantations, then to the important old capital of Kandy (where the tooth of Buddha is stored in the temple of the sacred tooth relic), and continuing on to the northern plains where one can find the ruins of ancient capitals and buddhist monasteries.
We always intended to include Sri Lanka, land of serendipity, on our round the world adventures, but our swifter than planned departure from India threw us into an un-researched land. In the day we had to plan our travels, rather than reading about the different parts of the island, or checking on the status of the recently solved 26-year civil war (which came to an end in May, 2009), we prioritized studying various websites trying to map out population density, both of humans and divine bovines.
We drove north from Sossusvlei and out to the Atlantic coast, passing the Tropic of Capricorn, to spend a couple of nights in Swakopmund, the second largest town in Namibia. Industrial buildings sit among small golden sand dunes in the land surrounding the town. The town itself is a bit like a Disney rendition of a german village.
We landed in Windhoek, Namibia in the afternoon of Sept. 4th to sample some of the serious heat that we were to face in the following days. Woodland Hills had trained us well, and our endurance was about to be put to the test. The customs line was unwieldy: a lot of German was being spoken rather than the Afrikaans to which we had accustomed our ears in South Africa.