Thursday, 30 March Luang Prabang

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Thanks for all your comments guys. (except maybe for Ewan - this keyboard is better than yesterday, although the backspace key doesn't work, so I might have a Third World feel infused through out this as well).

It has been a wonderful 24 hours - we lashed out and had a fantastic feast for an evening meal consisting of Laotian dishes in a set menu. Dishes included Clear noodle soup, light and aromatic with ginger, galangal lemongrass and chilli. Spicy green papaya salad, beef la'ap, a whole steamed fish (each) and sticky rice with platters of fresh fruit and the excellent Cafe Lao to follow. One set meal was probably enough for two, but somehow we managed! Bob has a reputation to maintain, afterall.

That afternoon I disappeared to the Red Cross for a Herbal Sauna, 10,000 kip (about $1.20). I didn't quite know what to expect and was led through the teak interior by an attendant who spoke no English. I changed into a sarong (first time I'd tried to tie one of these things, It kept slipping down) and was given a small towel. Then to a bathroom where I was to shower with a bucket (traditional Thai and Lao style) with unexpectedly aromatic water.

I then entered the door marked Woman (as opposed to Man) and was in thick, swirls of white steam everywhere punctuated by musical giggling along the walls. With assistance from some of the lithe bodies in there I found a spot in this tiny space (about 180cm x 120cm) along the wall, and exchanged smiles with others in the din of steam. A tiny bare bulb illuminated the space from outside through a small, opaque window.

After 10 minutes it was outside to drink herbal tea and chat (although my Lao consists of OK, Coca Cola, Sab a Dee and Khob Chai Lai Lai which doesn't go too far!), and then do it all over again. The brochure indicated that Mr Housphouy collects over 24 local herbs personally in which he uses for the sauna and tea. Unlike the European Sauna, do not shower between or after to allow the herbs to sink in and do their good work!

I don't know if it was the colonel's special herbs and spices or just the great wads of steam, I would suspect the later, but after my third time I could smell a little, and could breathe through my nose as well as just my mouth. Hallelujah!!

Alas, I had agreed to meet Bob back at the hotel at 6:15, so left after my 4th turn (at one time there were I think 15 bodies in the steam room), changed and returned to the hotel. Fantastic! Must go again today!

Bob had bought me a special treat as a surprise. He also had locked me out accidentally as I dripped outside for 20 minutes and he was in the shower, but would I complain? The bag of treats, looks brown (chocolate?) and crisp (fried banana maybe). As I reached in . . . . Legs, wings, antennae . . . Fried and salted cicadas (only 2,000 kip - a bargain!). We had seen villagers catch them deftly when trekking, by coating a pole with a sticky substance (probably a tree sap), and touching them quickly. They were then strung on to stings, still croaking for later cooking. MMmmmm.


Wednesday 29 March 2006 Luang Prabang.

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My head cold has modulated to more of a cough and severely blocked left ear than the splutter I had yesterday. Bob attempted to have an unairconditioned night with only the fan function . . . this, and keeping my head as high as possible certainly helped.

We were unable to view the national museum yesterday - a snap 'closed on Tuesday' policy, however workers were busily setting up lanterns and decorations to light the the old palace for an upcoming festival.

We thus turned, with little forethought, to plan B a massage at the Lao Red Cross. En route i popped by the very-Camus L'eterange book exchange and tea rooms (sorry the shift key doesn't work), to see if I could get some more English language reading matter. The prices were in baht, and suffering from currency conversion overload, we continued on. It's difficult dealing each day in thai baht, lao kip and US dollars for everything. So many zeros is confusing!

this was underlined when i found a 235g jar of Vegemite in a local version of a "continental deli" - 93,000 kip! B y any standards this is expensive! thankfully we still have an unopened tube of the black gold with us. Why do I so crave Vegemite when i am overseas?

the red cross rooms indicated that the herbal sauna was only operational from 4:0pm daily. bob and I enquired about the attire require for the sauna and massage, after finding that in the Thai hill tribe village local custom decreed that we should stay dressed with upper legs and shoulders covered for cultural reasons.. no such deal here, so bob went with a young bloke, whilst I headed off with a strong and experienced woman of 50 who spoke reasonable English. Under a high roof of shingles supported y dark, almost Japanese style stained teak beams and supports, I lay there while her hands and fingers worked the oil into my stiff muscles. A deep guttural clang of a gong from the Buddhist wat opposite resonated throughout the ethereal space. I wondered how men could do so well at thinking of nothing. This had been brought home to me when i was working in a (delightfully so!) male dominated environment 6 females to 150 guys at one stage. Whilst I feel more like on of the boys, than one of the girls when talk turns to shoes (heels, not support and traction control); clothes (silk, not coolmax); and makeup (eyeliner, not bodyglide and liniment), i felt like an outsider when a group of colleagues discussed how their partners where incredulous when their universal answer to the question 'what are you thinking" was - nothing. that man could just sit and be, and not think is alien to me.

Whilst lacking the Y-linked chromosome for girly girl shopping type stuff, the notion of the brain not constantly whirring is unfathomable. So whilst bob finds the massage soporific and dozes off, my mind is going non-stop and my state of relaxation is severely limited. i tried to empty my mind, but to no avail. The masseuse and I chatted more when I was on my back, once again finding finding in her a series of responses ranging from shock, disbelief and then sorrow when she found out that we hadn't had any children. This response has been universal in everyone we have talked to from Thailand and Laos.

After the massage we planned our next few hours. we wanted to buy a few of the beautiful items available and mail them back to Australia. A postage box from La poste was bought and the costs of seamail (3+ months) was explored. mail from here is incredibly expensive by any standard. The postage alone for a single postcard could buy a meal. however, one cannot later return for these items and we made a pragmatic, thoughtful and short list of what we most desired; a bed cover for Bob, a lush hand embroidered scarf for me (to match my orange sandals!) and an apron for Bob to chop up vegies. We did a little daylight research, then headed off to a local restaurant for dinner of local specialties of Lao soup and salad, and laap of turkey (for me) and duck (for cannibal Bob). Seasonal fruit to follow, and a bottle of the light and aromatic local red wine Lao for Bob - 660 ml and only 7% alcohol (14,000 kip or less than AUD $2). The meal was very good, even if in my blocked snoz state i was oblivious to the chilli bite or delicacy of flavours.

back to the markets to study the seemingly infinite array of choices. First the bed cover, seeking one in the blue grey colours we coveted (that is meant to be a bed coverlet pun!) and some fine hand work. it was difficult to choose, but eventually we settled on one. Then to the cute slippers, which were too impractical and uncomfortable when tried on that we crossed them off the list.

An apron for Bob was found with the local swirl pattern, and the search for the scarf commenced. So difficult to decide, but one stood out with it's two months of hand work evident not only in the wonderful lush detail, but alas, also in its cost, at USD $40 it was far more than I had bargained for. We3 ended up getting it, after some good spirited discussion between Bob and the vendor. A large packet of the fried sesame and garlic encrusted Mee kong seaweed we have enjoyed so much for lunch, and we headed back to the Rama hotel, tired, but happy with our purchases and a very good day.

I was uncertain about whether a run this morning would be feasible, after a disturbed night, punctuated by Bob's sudden nightmare that we had spent USD$530 at the scarf seller in handing over 2,000 baht. this resulted in me staying in bed resting somewhat longer than i would have liked. my nose isn't running so much , but it has settled on my chest resulting in a husky (does husky = sexy?) cough and a very sore and blocked left ear.

We have spent a lazy, languid, Laotian kind of day, putting in our laundry, finalising the box for posting and photographing the contents, and 'wasting' a couple of hours in the Scandinavian bakery where there is an exceptional toilet (the pleasures is such things!), free coffee refills and one much valued copy of the International Herald Tribune. I am concentrating on re-hydrating orally and dehydrating nasally, catching up on world affairs and recovering for our next stage.

my current state has resulted in us changing are immediate plans . instead of travelling to phonsavan tomorrow (8 hours by local chicken bus), to explore the plain of jars, and then another 9-10 hour local bus service to Vientiane, we shall probably stay another day in this delightful town (Yay, i can run tomorrow if I don't have to be at the bus station at 7 am) and travel directly to Vientiane. there is limited information about phonsavan, and although the Plain of Jars looks wonderful, that is all that is there, and most recent info states that motorbikes and cycles were not available to be hired to foreigners due to security concerns, thus necessitating joining some sort of tour or hiring a car and driver.

great lunch by the river in a local restaurant (no menu or English) of spicy papaya salad, noodle soups and fruit shakes for a tiny 21,000 kip (less than AUD $3 for the two of us).

Spole to a guy jogging well along the road, he had particupated in the thailand temple run in which we were interested, really enjoying it but doing nearly 4 hours and well oer an hour more than his normal time in the conditions. Still might consider this for future years. With proper shoes from The Runners Shop, of course!!


Contact in Laos

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I keep forgetting, because we can seem to send SMS messages outside of the country here, although between each other it's fine (we have 30 free SMS credit).

bob and I hae each got Laotian SIM cards, and our contact numbers are

+856 2 05090945 (me)
+856 2 05090946 (Bob)

We also need to be in Vientianne by early April to renew our Visa's which we could only get for 15 days at the border. We are still rather undecided about what to do after this, the Plain of jars out of Phonsaan (terrific if we knew that we could hire bikes, but there used to be a ban), or straight down to the south after Vientianne.

It's amazing how quickly we can go through a million kip, even if it isn't that much by Australian standards. The wad of notes (there are no coins) is extraordinary!

later.



It is a wonderful place!
Even as I write this, I have a heavy head cold and am stuffling and snorting, but I don't care. (Of course if I was sharing a room with the wonderful Rad, this wouldn't happen, as we both like to roast, whereas bob has the air conditioning at sub-artic temperatures).

Girl on mee Kong River bank

yesterday was a day to die for. We rented a couple of clapped out Gary Fisher MTB's and rode to the kuangci waterfall. It was the most spectacular day, the countryside was pretty, although no photo could do it justice. However it was the people that made it so special. Cycling through undulating countryside on a well graded dirt road that serviced many villages, we passed many young teak plantations, groves of bananas, rice paddies and lush vegetable plots.

Mee Kong River Fisherman

however everybody was so friendly, whether we shared a language or not. Young children, often naked from the waist down would run out to smile and wave, and giggle and laugh with wonderful abandon. Young cyclists heading into he other direction would call out a cheery Sabadee! As they held out their hands to high five me as we passed in the opposite direction. It was absolutely delightful, and including stops to buy water and chat to locals took about 2 hours to cycle to the waterfall.

We had to pay an enrance fee here of 10,000 kip each, but it was certainly worth it. A well maintained, natural trail wound it's way around a series of swimming ponds and cascading waterfalls, although very similar in many ways to far north Queensland, it was quite beautiful. At the main waterfall a series of picnic tables were being set up with an elaborate feast of food for lunch for one of the catered tour groups. Despite this, there were not many people beyond the rim of this pool, although the monks around proved to be as technologically savvy as they are commercially competant at shopping, snapping away on a series of sophisticated digital cameras.

We climbed up to the next waterfall, past a man sweeping the clay trail of leaves leaving a good surface to walk on. A very hard job to do day in day out. Climbing under a tree along the way, this was a lovely pool and view over the cascading water below.

A further track led up to another pond, hoverer this was a strenuous climb requiring 'hands and heels' and was about a gradient of about 1 in 3 for much of the 100 m climb. (Gadget girl to the rescue). This was a peaceful and deserted place, in which Bob paddled around in his Keen Sandals (Thank you so much Wild Thing for your recommendation, they have been magnificent!), whilst I enjoyed the peace and the view of the ubiguous hammock on the other side. Many small fish swam in the pools, no doubt about to be washed away when the rains came.

Bob swam under the waterfall on the next level, about 100m down, and I chatted to a friendly Thai tourist who was also enjoying the view. I am embarrassed that English is the lingua franca everywhere, there are tourists around, however they are a quiet respectful lot, from Israel, Holland, Denmark, Japan, France, Thailand, Britain and the US, English is the method of communication among all. I wish I was a better linguist!

Some much needed water, and a few steamed dumplings (Salaa Pao) meat and pineapple, and we were on our way out of the area where stands had been set up to accommodate the lunchtime and afternoon tourists who travel here by jumbo, a bus on the pack of a small ute, and we rode 4 kms down the road to the nearest Wat / ban (temple and it's attached village) for a simple noodle soup lunch. Then more of the same as we traversed the track back to the town, with many Sabadee! calls in reply to those of everyone we saw en route, our exaggerated bows and broad grins when cycling up a few of the steep sharp inclines where we could not call out or lift our hands to wave.

Again, about two hours back, even though it was now the heat of the day. My throat had been dry and scratchy when I woke, and had not improved, but it was a wonderful trip. We continued to ride around the peninsula of the town, past much French Colonial architecture and in a delightful setting for noodle shops and cafes, before returning our bikes. Both of our bums were sore! (but happy!), something of a feature of this trip after two days spent sitting on the slow boat on hard, wooden planks. Lucky I have so much padding!

MY sniffles started to get worse as we attempted to transfer the memory card to CD, collected laundry (the travellers lament), and had a simple meal of local river fish in a red curry sauce, fish in a spicy eggplant and chilli sauce, vegetables and rice. Although early, my head cold had exerted it's full force now, and we had an early night, where I snore so loudly as to wake the dead (alledgedly), and realised during the night that the running gear I had so excitedly lain out the night before would not been used this morning.

On Sunday night, as we wandered after dinner, we came across a giant carnival, a version of the rural shows held all around Australia. Lots of junky stalls, lots of excited kids and teenagers, and a large inflatable slide which was proving a huge hit with the kids. Amongst the stalls selling (very popular) photo stickers and clothes, was one selling knock off shoes. I had found one reasonable pair of suitable shoes in a camping shop, however there were only two pairs in sie 45 . . . Too big for my fat feet. They kept insisting that other cute looking shoes were good too - but as they were specialist monuntian slimbing and hiking boots, I declined. The Adidas/Nike 'running' shoes were not great quality, and negotiation was a hassle, but I ended up with a pair porporting to be adidas (hah!), with rather too stiff a sole, for around $15 australian. Another stall proided a pair of simple socks for less than a dollar. They do not provide much cushioning, but will be OK for short jaunts of 4 or 5 kms. Unfortunately, we left too early to cycle to the falls on monday, and the head cold stopped me this morning. nevertheless, I hope to put them to the test, maybe late this afternoon.

Today, the national museum in the old imperial palace, maybe a ay or two, and a fancy dinner in a restaurant with laotian and luang Prabang specialities, such as fried river algee. Mmmm, algee.

A herbal steam sauna probably wouldn't hurt my snoz either!

until later.

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http://www.tadfane.com/_home.htm
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Saba Deii

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Or welcome in Lao! (I'm the world's worst linguist, so please excuse me!)

Our first full day in Luang Prabang. It has been very special. I have been looking around for some shoes in which to run, not far mind you, maybe 5 k's at the most, but I certainly feel well enough to run and my toes are itchy! They are so ugly compared to everybody else, at least that would explain it! I guessed last night that behind the locked shutters was a sports store, and I headed there on our rounds this morning. It was, however the shoes seemed to be specialised to two sports only, football (studs) and badminton (indoor, non marking soles). I'm not too fussy, and will keep looking for anything suitable.

Bob did go for a run this morning, (lucky duck) and we then went around the morning markets and had some Lao coffee (arabica beans grown in the hills and sweet, but good). Afterwards we explored Phou Si, the hillock which rises 100m in the centre of the old temple district of town, with a spectacular old Wat at the top, surrounded by huge, ancient frangipani trees. Buddhas 'footprint' is nearer the base on the northern side, a depression in a sacred painted cave about the height of two men, and some interesting depictions of Buddha on the way up. It was pretty impressive, but also lovely and serene and worth visiting again.

A long protracted stroll around the town afterwards enabled us to find an out of the way noodle place for a bite to eat, very good and cheap, before walking across a bridge to another smaller local market on the other side. I had a coconut drink (whole coconut with a hole stabbed through the top for a straw) and we contemplated our future plans.

At the moment, we are likely to stay here for another 4 or 5 nights. We have found a place that rents OK mountain bikes (the frames are a bit big, but otherwise OK), and maybe tomorrow we will cycle out to the Waterfall about 32kms away. As long as we take lots of water and leave very early, we should be alright on these bikes, getting back before the full heat of the day hits.

Another essential is to visit the Red Cross for a massage (and herbal sauna for me). There are so many things that we have to write them down (I use the note function in my mobile phone, but hell, I'm a gal from the 60's).


The garmin is a treat on this trip, although we found that one camera (compact 8 Mb Olympus MuJu) between two control freaks is false (weight) economising! Next time, 2 camera's for sure!

Until later (Duck 1 has cornered the photo CD - again (grrr), back these are available at www.flickr.com/photos/bob_harlow/



(It's gotta rhyme in some language, somewhere)!

Yep folks, we are in beautiful Luang Prabang, the old imperial capital of Laos, home of the lotus eaters and gentle people.

It didn't seem like that at first though, as we had something of a culture shock going from sweet, gentle Thailand on a two and a bit hour bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, where I got a couple of passport photos taken for my Laotian Visa (40 baht), and enjoyed a caffe dopio in an Italian cafe. Then, a walk across the brownish sand to our 'ferry', a guy with a long boat and the trip to 'The Far Side'. No fancy pants ceremony here, change your hard currency into Kip (we were briefly instant cash millionaires, at 7,200 kip to the Australian dollar), buy your Visa (15 days only, and renewals only possible in Vientiane, the capital) and once again we were in frontier territory; no pictures of King Rama (everywhere you look in Thailand), barely paved roads, and a more reserved attitude.

Our accommodation was basic at best, although at a comparatively high price (500 baht) for clean-ish squalor. Our evening meal was in a carport at the front of the house (Grandpa watching TV in his chesty bond a metre away through the open door, very tasty, despite there being no shared language.

The slow boat to Luang Prabang was a tale in itself: one other western couple, and many locals, winding our way down through the gorges of the upper Mekong passing an increasing parade of people on the riverbank, cleaning, swimming, panning for alluvial gold with bamboo baskets, fishing and living a true subsistence existence. It was all rather surreal (again! De ja vu) listening to Paul Kelly singing about the MCG, St Kilda and Bradman with this as a background.

The boat didn't arrive until nearly 6:00 pm and there was much consternation from we westerners who had their tickets collected and not returned. We were told (we think) to be down here (no wharf, just rocks to clamber over) at 7:30 am to catch the boat. With some lack of conviction we trundled up the track that passed as the main road and diverted along the bank to see how how preferred accommodation rated. OK, but not too well. It was new, but overpriced (400 baht, despite how hard Bob tried to negotiate), with no pretence at hot water or furniture beside a pair of beds. New beds with plastic on the mattresses and a fake fleece blanket instead of any top sheet, bedspread or anything (but new nevertheless).

We had a reasonable meal in a local place, sharing it with their daughters watching fascinated at a very melodramatic Thai soap opera. I must admit, even I was wondering what was going to happen! I especially liked the cartoon music that accompanied it to mark the plot.

Thankfully an early night meant that we were in bed and the garmin charged from the one light switch/power outlet just moments before the power cut out. Pak Beng was the worst sort of tourist 'development' (I use the term loosely), and we were looking forward to leaving.

Fortunately, we did manage to con our way on another boat down the river to Luang Prabang, this time mainly full of young 20-30 something backpackers with a sprinkling of locals carrying metre long fish, bamboo poles, Lao Beer and sundry groceries between the sparsely hutted villages along the river route.

It was a lazy, hazy, Sunday afternoon kind of trip (even though it was a Saturday) and took a whole day, not arriving until the sun was beginning to set. Touts for guesthouses and tuk tuks at the wharf (a well made concrete road this time) were a little persistent, although far more polite and Buddhist in their behaviour. We were enchanted as we made our way up through the laneways of this UNESCO World Heritage Town, and found a good hotel back from the river at USD$18 per night (negotiated down from USD$20) - the Rama.

I may have enjoyed a shower more, but this came pretty close, and clean and refreshed we hit the street for a couple of noodle soups (Ban Than for Bob - special dish made with ravioli like noodles), and a Spicy Pork Noodle soup for me, with added lettuce, chilli, fresh lime juice, cress and Vietnamese mint. Mmmm. We also shared a Salaa Paa - a Chinese style steamed bun.

A walk around the night market stalls revealed the best non-food markets I have ever encountered. I am not a market person, and not a shopping (sport and technology items excepted) person. So it was with considerable surprise that I was moved to gasp in awe at display after display of richly woven fabrics and hand embroidered wares. It was made so much better because the people are wonderfully calm and peaceful, not only peaceful, and not pushy, but artisans themselves carefully working away on their craft as we strolled the street, not just there to sell.
We slept well that night, in crisp white sheets, strong air conditioning and chooks to wake us in the morning. Life is good in Luang Prabang!


Treeking with the hill Tribes

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It seems as though I lost my newsy post about wild dogs and Bob's (two) near death experiences when the computer logged out, but I will post a little now.

We are just back from the most fascinating two days spent in the hills to the north west (to be confirmed by garmin) of Chiang Rai in the far north of Thailand.

Although an expense, Bob and I had our own guide, Kaochiang, from the PDA, a population and development centre in Chiang Rai which aims to assist the hill tribes through economic autonomy while maintaining their culture.


with a driver, we first visited a number of villages of the Yao, Akha and Lahu people. Many do not have Thai citizenship and still live a genuinely traditional life. Our guide Kaochiang, having studied Aquaculture in Launceston was from the Yao tribe and it put things very much in perspective. He had a great deal of difficultly in getting an identity card and passport, despite have been fourth or fifth generation Thai. We shared lunch at a village behind the ride of our life - an elephant (small, Asian) over the mountain pass including a trail that must have been 35% in some places! With our backpacks on the back, it was exciting and great fun! The old girl enjoyed stopping for snacks of bamboo and banana at most opportunities, and especially to hose herself with water when walking up stream.

After Bob had a dip in a waterfall, we trekked up to the Red Lahu village where we were to spend the night in a woman's traditional hut. Bob and I were as pleased by the chooks, pigs and dogs wandering around the village, as the young boys practiced shooting their homemade bows and arrows at targets on trees, and life continued as it had for centuries.

Together we prepared dinner, of a Thai (tinned tuna) salad with (too few for the Lahu) green chilli, fish sauce (Nam Pla), onion, coriander and Chinese celery. Then a dish described as sweet and sour, although worlds away from the bad memories of my childhood of sodden fried balls in a gelatinous sweet muck. Some fresh pineapple, Onion, (pretend there is garlic), Thai (holy) basil, finely sliced pork, cauliflower, soy sauce, "tomato sauce" (not as we know it, chilli . . . Good. Another dish of pork with fresh peppercorns, whole chilli, and eggplant the size of a fingernail. A clear soup with a vegetable similar to what I know as Chinese broccoli, and and another dish that has temporary escaped me!

Cooking dinner with KoaChiang

The women's two nieces, visiting from another village for the holiday joined us in our feast, and later gave us massages. Bob fell asleep during this, but I slept soundly on our beds made under a diaphanous blue mosquito net with thin pads covering the floor of split bamboo over open bamboo poles. The pigs and chickens grunted and clucked and slept below, and it was a surreal experience lying there in the room without windows (to keep the spirits out), however with light clearly coming through the slats, horizontal on one wall, vertical on another. The evening sounds of village life pervaded everything, and music wafted over from a far off valley.

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For information look at www.hilltribe.org

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Here they are are preparing our breakfast in the morning as the sun shines in through the slats. It is amazing that all the cooking is done on this surface.

Cooking Breakfast

The next morning after a breakfast of noodles and egg, we were joined by another guide or porter from the village who showed us the way over the mountain. Kaochiang spoke Yao, his native tongue, Thai, English, Lahu, Chinese, Yunnanese, and a couple of other languages ' not very well'. Our local guide only spoke his hill tribe language, but was very gracious and gentle, walking the entire way in his languid easiness in plastic flip flops.

We climbed a couple of good hills, covering about 10km over terrain that John Harding and the rest of the Mountain Running Community in Australia would die for. Made the Mt Majura course last year look like a pimple!

Bamboo Forest


This doesn't do it justice, it is 'just' a rare flat view of the bamboo forest on a flat saddle. Note the nifty bamboo cow grid on the route.


Day trip to Myanmar

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Burmese Border
We rented a car with two other blokes staying at our hotel on Monday and drove to the border with Myanmar (Burma) for a look see. It was the wild west, a fronteir town and something completely different!
Burma
If I had thought what I had seen as ethnically and culturally diverse, I ain't seen nothing yet!



Lots of gun toting soldiers (although this guy often had a smile on his face), and many consumer buddhist monks!

Monks shop, shop, shop


Sunday 19 March - Chiang Rai; Jewel of the North

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Headaches on the weekend seem to be de rigeur no matter where I am. Ouch.
We are in a (for us) fancy hotel - The Moon and the Sun - 500 baht each night, which has a lovely feel, despite the Muzak of Sound of Music Thai-style. It's all rather surreal. Now it's "The House of the Rising Sun" Thai-rised.
I spat the dummy last night at Bob, after the 12 hour train journey, a couple of hours walking in Chiang Mai and a 3 hour bus journey, probably left me a little dehydrated and weary. I needed to sit down and not think, and walked out and back to the hotel when I couldn't make a decision. (Sorry Bob). I slept straight away however, which probably did me the world of good. Even then, in my groggy state I travelled past a wonderful array of street life, and was delighted to be gadget girl. The garmin came into it's own as a navigational aid, and I found that by setting the location of my starting point (in this case the hotel) I am able to explore freely and end up back where I want to be easily.
Chiang Rai is a delight. The Rickshaw (check local term) driver/riders are universally wizened old lean, leathery men who would regard Rad suspiciously as a young upstart. These are used as a regular form of transport by primarily older women, whereas the tuk tuk's and motor scooter taxi's are used by the young everywhere. We had our cheapest meal ever today, lunch at a local stall, without an English menu. By pointing and smiling I selected a rich and spicy tomato based soup with chicken liver, chilli, rice noodles and bean sprouts. With a bottle of water and ice the total for two was 30 baht (a tad over one AUD). It was delicious.


Saturday 18 March - It must be Chiang Mai

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After an extraordinary farewell from ayutthaya in the company of (no longer strangers), we caught a mini disco van to the train station and entered our two berth sleeper in readiness for the night. the airconditioning was cool, the beds the softest we have yet come across, and after a short shower we were both ready to turn in for the night as it rocked it way through the northern Thai countryside.
despite the comfort of the beds, I didn't sleep much at all, just one of those things, however listening to the train wasn't at all unpleasant.
When we awoke, the blood red sun was rising, mountains and thick forest of trees and bamboo were emerging, and breakfast was delivered at a stop at ?Lampung railway station - a congee like rice porrige with pieces of pork or chicken. Fresh orange juice, the obligatory slice of pineapple, and strong nescafe 'red cup' coffee to wash it down.
There were few people in the carriage and it was quiet and pleasant all through the journey.
we arrived in Chiang Mai right on time, and made our way directly to the bus station (well, OK, maybe not directly as in the shortest route between a and B direct) and booked tickets on the first available air conditioned bus to Chiang rai. It is a tough call, but as we both like spending more time in one place (the friends from Ayutthaya still make my heart jump), we decided to skip Chiang mai and head north this morning.


Friday 17 March

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I have plenty to say about yesterday, (like Bob's two near death expereinces- a slight exageration), but while it is still fresh in my mind I will report some of today.

Bob went for his first run this morning, 40 minutes or so up to the other end of the island and came across only one other jogger, a gentleman of Rad's age,dress and demenour. I showered and went down for (ugh) nescafe and a slice of sweet white bread toast (with a smear of precious brought from home vegemite), and did a little blogging.

We then headed off to the nearby Historical study Centre, a grand modern structure in the modern Thai style, with an interesting and concise display of the history of the region and Ayutthaya as the imperial capital of old Siam.

(Note: If this seems a little clodden and mistyped, then I am negotiating around both a Thai keyboard and thai script for each of the pages. Flashduck looks particularly cute).

Back to the hotel for a refreshing cold shower, and to pack up, before lunch nearby of shared mixed stir fry vegies, pad thai in an omlette for Bob, and a vermicelli glass noodle salad with cuttlefish and seafood for me. With water and tip, it came to around 135 baht.

We did had an agonising walk around the market area once more with a fantastic array of smells and offerings. We tried a couple of apples (5 baht each) which were floury and not great, so we tossed them, followed by a 'pineapple on a stick' - small whole pineapples with the stalk still attached to use as a handle, deftly peeled and presented to eat. Great takeaway dessert, for 10 baht between us.

We moved to the tourist district to rent a couple of bikes, (30 baht each) and we a went exploring. Crossing the river so that we were now north of the island, we rode up on the good local road to the Elephant Kraal, which wasn't touristy, and got accosted by elephants big and small! We then continued along through a procession of villages, passing more ethnicly diverse people, with a high concentration of muslims near the mosques. An amazing monument then rose up to meet us, and we paid homage to the great king (insert later when I have access to his name), you beat the invading Burmese in hand to hand combat (yay!) and lived hapily ever after in the depiction of his battles with crocodiles, sharks etc around the base of the massive statue.

The wierd thing though was the chooks. Squillions of giant statues of chooks. Big ones. Silver mirrored ones. Gold mirrored ones. Black ones. You get the picture. Lots, and lots of chooks.
Behind this monument was a ceromonial Prang or Chedi, the base of which had been built by the invading Burmese however the conquering Siamese king then built his Thai style oblisk on top. A functioning Wat or Budhist temple was behind this with some pretty cool, and heavily tatooed monks. The most beautiful looking chooks ruled the roost here though, with an ambundance of cared for cats provided climbing frames for the day old chicks. very zen.
We cycled back on a teritary road which passed a number of old temples on a wide concrete path used by motor scooters and the occaisional vehicle, but excellent for cycling. accross the river and we were once again in the midst of the hustle and bustle, returning our bikes and having a meal at the markets. Bob had discovered the local Chang Beer, which is fairly strong at around 6% and comes in large bottles (and very small cans).
we retruned to the hotel to collect our bags, however the owner, whose son has just started year 11 at trinity college in Melbourne and her english speaking staff member Nook, went out to buy us some sticky rice treats, cooked (as it was te evening) with a palm sugar caramel and coconut milk. It was very good.


Wildlife and wild dogs.

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Wednesday 16 March 2006 - Ayutthaya

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Having settled into our accommodation (i.e. dumped our backpacks and gathered a few things into a smaller bag), we went exploring down to the main drag and importantly, the market area, as Bob hadn't eaten for over an hour and his stomach was rumbling!

We were enchanced by the smiles from everyone we met, of all ages and demenours. This was wonderful! At the markets, I felt like I was reigning in a kid in a candy shop. Bob wanted one of everything, although we had only just began. A wander around the maze of stalls selling food, fresh flowers, live fish and sea creatures, padlocks, clothing and everything else you could think of, finally led us to the a place where we opted to eat our first thai street meal.

Bob chose a dish with Beef with chilli and rice (30 baht), whilst I struck gold with a rice noodle soup with pork (20 baht). With added chilli and fish sauce, it was a wonderful treat. We opted for Lime drinks to have with this (15 baht each) crushed ice with lime juice and a slurp of sugar syrup. This was about the best drink I can remember. I was hooked!

There were a few things we needed to do on arriving, such as buy a local SIM card for the mobile phone, an adaptor plug for the phone, and changing some more Australian cash. We managed to achieve all these, slowly, whilst wandering around the markets, buying the odd drink to rehydrate, and drinking in the delightful smells and sounds.

The will-it-be or won't-it-be Thai election next month means that there are tuk tuks (3 whelled motorised ute style taxi's) parading the streets with political billboards on the side and loud hailers of music and "vote for Taksin" being broadcast.

Bob took a photo of me in front of McDonald's (hopefully I'll be able to upload it). Although street and market food is magnificent, there was a precinct of western fast food joints; KFC, Pizza Hut (rebadged) and Macca's. They were lamentedly full of chubby locals, paying 3 to 4 times the cost for basic drinks and very forgettable food!

Oh well!

Bob was particularly taken by a woman who sold fried pieces of pumpkin, taro and sweet potato for a few baht. On our alternate route back to the hotel we passed a shopfront which looked good for a foot massage. Many places offered this service, howver this was a delightful choice, very local (without english) and indulgant. We each had an hour in the chair as two women worked on our feet, achilles, calves and knees! I giggled as the underside of my feet were ticklish, and gritted my teeth as the knuckles were worked hard into the achilles and calves. I want this every day! Although embarrassed by my runners bunions and toenails, it was bliss. 150 baht each.


Back at the hotel, Bob found a two hour boat trip (200 baht each) which we joined with another couple from The Netherlands. At dusk, it was a fantastic introduction to the river life of the community, with kids swimming, and playing with motorised boats (especially good fun in the wake of our outboard motor, with 10 minutes a shore at the remains of a couple of Wats (temples) destroyed my Burmese invaders. This was magic. The baotman was very grateful of my acting as bowman to get the boat to the jetty or shore each time, a little more diffcult given the extreme low tide.

Dinner at the night markets provided too much choice, with an excess of ethnic amd religious diversity.

A good day was had by all, and we slept well.



It's Friday morning (customs day!), and it is hard to believe that we have been here only 48 hours (+ one night - which doesn't count!).

The flight was surprisingly cramped and the service was poor on British Airways. Bob knicknamed, rather unfairly I feel, our fellow passenger in the aisle seat "Miss Smiley" (because she didn't), and I was keen to ask if she were a runner, as she was wearing Nike Free shoes, although the watch etc didn't bear this out. However, it's not obligatory to look like one is ready to get on the starting blocks 24 hours a day. Alas, there was no opportunity.

Our airport hotel, booked online for AUD $30 odd, was fine, with us upgraded to a Deluxe 2 bedroom suite for the night. This won't continue! We slept well, and were down to breakfast in good time, with me opting for Hot Ginger Tea, sliced fruit and passable coffee. Bob went the whole egg with made to order omlettes and vegetables. During breakfast I took my garmin forerunner down to lock on to a satelitte; this was achieved with realtively little drama and time, despite Friar's warnings!

A trip to the nearby rai l station and the purchase of two local class (3rd) tickets to Ayuthaya (40 baht - about AUD$1.20?) and we were away, the train arriving just as we had tickets in hand.

It was a short and pleasant journey, through rice paddies fringed with banana trees. On arriving at our destination, we stopped by the onward booking office to buy tickets for the next leg of our journey to Chaing Mai. We had hoped to get a night train if possible, although all the guides we had read indicated that this was dificult without long pre-booking, so had expected to have to travel during the day. Although there were no second class sleeper seats available on Friday night (tonight!), there were first class sleepers and seats (sitting). We made a quick executive decision and lashed out on the first class tickets (around 2,400 baht for two) on the train departing Aruthaya at 9 pm. This takes around 12 hours, and will mean that we have the best scenery (allegedly) around the mountainous north from dawn when we wake.

A flyer at the rail office led us to check out accomodation a 1-2 km walk away on the main island. A most charming girl, Nook was there to help us, and whilst Bob considered which room to choose, I enjoyed the ambiance of the teak structure with large open areas very similiar to the Queenslander style of architecture. He chose the most expensive room, due to it's first floor elevated location as much as anything, with airconditioning (necessary) and cable tv (not required and an extra 50 baht a night).

It was still only mid to late morning, and we were on another time plane, rather than just 20 hours away from Canberra.


The Last Post (for now)

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  • I have whittled away the packing to fit in one (albeit large) daypack which is classed as carry on luggage in size and weight (> 7 kgs).
  • This has required that there are no swiss army knives, nail clippers or knitting needles (a real chore that one!) to enable easy passage on board.
  • MP3 loaded with saome Aus music and Jazz/Blues/Soul.
  • Newspapers cancelled.
  • Floors scrubbed and vacuumed in preparation for 'Uncle Paul'.



Now, the difficult decision is whether to take (and therefore lose), the new R4YL magazine or not . . . .

Bon Voyage everyone. I'll be in touch :)


Weston Creek Half Marathon

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Last year, Aki sat at home in front of a computer, periodically checking to see when the results were in.

This year, I didn't make it to the starting line (despite having occasional twinges), but watched from the sidelines and taking the times at the finish line.

This gave me a good vantage point to cheer people in to the finish, although no opportunity to catch up afterwards or provide support. I later found out that Aki had started with a stomach bug with vomiting during the night, and suffered badly at the finish. I only discovered this later, and was sorry that I wasn't there to provide support. She also failed to mention that she had been crook during the night!

Quite a few Cool Runners turned out on the day, Jeremy Horne and "Lilly Legs" were both in the first bunch, with CJ running well and winning her age group and Strewth running strongly. Both auger well for their assaults on the Canberra marathon and 50k in a few weeks time.
Speedy Geoff ran far faster than that required for the 4 hour pace group; Friar was a member of both a two person and 3 person relay; and Bob ran better than I anticipated given his current form and amount of triathlon racing in the last few weeks.

Two others were wearing CR gear and looking good, however I didn't have a chance to meet them. It was great to talk to "Vurt" at both the start and finish. He has done great things in a short time and has a great running future ahead - especially addictive in these Canberra autumns.
The conditions were far hotter than usual for this time of year, and the glitches were few and manageable.
Well done everyone - I just feel guilty that I came home and slept for 2 hours and didn't do anything!


Swings and Roundabouts.

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A Very Canberra Tale.

I lobbed up to Customs today with few expectations; a walk around the course would make me feel part of the running community, and I would catch up with people before we head off. With that in mind, I left very early, before the 'watch' started, although I found that it was too unnatural to walk, and I found the urge to habitually jog too great. With an easy track on the downhill start I gave it a go, and was surprised to see that I was managing close to 5:30 pace on the downhill stretch. I eased up, and tried to maintain a pace a little slower to this. Although close to noon with no other customs runners around, I was surprised to have my watch alert me to having passed through the first kilometre without incident.

I was breathing [check]; no shaking or chills [check]; pain threshold manageable [check]. I passed Acton Ferry Terminal without problem, although I was slowing down a tad. It felt wonderful to run, and I now had a goal to make it to the Willow Tree turnaround without having to walk. In beautiful conditions of 28 degrees, this was achieved in 14 minutes 15 seconds, not exactly a sparkling time for 2.5kms, but hell, I was ecstatic!

I kept going, seeing a few fellow runners on my return leg. Jodie was looking very strong, but as though she was keeping it all back. More of the back-markers started to come through, with me managing to see much of the field before I turned off. With no pressure I managed to keep moving at the same pace, slowing somewhat near the pavilion and trying just a bit harder on the downward stretch.

Friar had come along to hold the clock as well, and he had just sent PB, to days back-marker off before I finished. He is saving himself for the Weston Creek Half Marathon on Sunday which should be held in perfect conditions with these cool autumn mornings. We chatted and cheered the finishers in, the field proving to be small with only 21 runners (including me). Jodie managed to break 30mins once again, which she is more than capable of doing all the time now given her current running fitness.

The best news however was to hear about Craig Mottram's record in Melbourne overnight, breaking the 2,000m Australian record by 10 seconds in an incomprehensible 4:50.




Not much about running here.

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Continuing to prepare for the trip ~ after coffee with Bob's sister yesterday morning, we stood in queues to obtain Thai Baht and US Dollars. We are unable to get Laotian Kip or Vietnames Dong until we are in their respective countries.

Bob is anxious to go !now, and is relieved about not doing the Six Foot Track. I can't share his sentiments however, as it was not a decision taken voluntarily; I'm not doing the Six Foot Track this year, because I can't.

I will go along to the Customs run early today to head off early to do the Customs walk, and hold the watch at the end. It will be good to see a few people before we go, although unfortunately both Aki and Apple (a.k.a. "Pink Lady" by Aki ~ a fruity seasonal allusion there) will miss it through work.

Bob has added a few suggestions to his proposed, flexible itinerary. This includes the Plain of Jars to the east of the road between Luang Prabrang and Vientiane.

It's all very flexible, and will be dictated by my health more than anything. I'm rather annoyed that I'm on a downward trajectory at the moment, however it will still be a great trip.


It's time for a break

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As planned, I lobbed up for the BBQ Stakes, with the aim to walk (fast) rather than run. With many thanks to Friar and PW, I wasn't oblivious to the change in parking signs at the back of the course; It had been NO PARKING from 9-11am and 2-3pm, which meant it was (nearly) perfect for the Stakes. One large section of where we usually park had been converted to NO PARKING continually which was a trick for young players. With their insistence I avoided a hefty fine.

The start of the clock was earlier than anticipated, with the late-ish arrival of the sign on book, so I missed heading off scratch, and made it away at 1:00 minute instead. Out of instinct, I jogged from the outset, only remembering that I wasn't going to do this a hundred metres or so along! I slowed down considerably, finding it difficult to stop the jogging motion, and thought that this not-quite-race-walking, not-quite-running style would be an appropriate compromise. I was wrong.

After the first underpass at Hindmarsh Drive and well before the second, I found that I was shivering and chattering again. I persevered for a short distance and found that it was just worsening. I had honestly forgotten about this being a problem, and it was quite a shock when it hit. I stopped jogging and walked.

Although I was the first to start, I was soon passed by a procession of early runners indicating that my walk was not so fast, and I would be lucky to finish before the 2:00 pm parking cut-off! I experimented with adding short periods of slow jogging, on one minute, walk 2, 3 or four.

Even though the running was easy, it wasn't a success with more violent shivering. In response to provide my good ol' GP some answers, I attempted to suss out if it was more generalised (I think so), I felt faint (not particularly), if I was actually cold (despite hot weather, my skin was cold and clammy to touch). I walked and desisted in running until I saw J on the descent of Waldock St, long after everyone had disappeared. I jogged on the downhill to catch up with her in the hope of not being way too late for the timekeepers.

This was more difficult than it seemed, and I kept up for a time, although the system was going into meltdown and I dropped off. In the end I finished in something over 46 minutes, which has marked my dramatic decline over the last few months.


07/03/2006 46:300
01/03/2006 39:00
22/02/2006 35:25
15/02/2006 33:39
08/02/2006 33:04
01/02/2006 35:09
25/01/2006 34:16
18/01/2006 31:11
11/01/2006 32:15
04/01/2006 32:40
14/12/2005 13:48 3kms only
23/11/2005 30:37
02/11/2005 31:17
26/10/2005 31:53
19/10/2005 30:35
12/10/2005 30:14
14/09/2005 38:13
07/09/2005 30:25
24/08/2005 31:40
17/08/2005 27:54 4:39

03/08/2005 28:19
27/07/2005 28:09
29/06/2005 29:00



The graph is not heading in the right direction! Bob and I will have an enforced break from the stakes for at least 7 weeks.

My vision and general health was rather shaky and blurred when I finished, and I took my time driving home and fell into bed and slept until early evening. It will be a very early start and gentle stroll around the Customs course on Friday. Thank heavens I'm helping out at the Half Marathon on Sunday and not committed to a relay team or the Six Foot Track!



Pity that that gene pool doesn't work backwards and through partners (I have no hope!).
Well done Rob!

Health wise, the wheels are continuing to fall off, bit by bit, (I don't know how many wheels/axles I started with!), which reinforces why I was so happy when I injured my ankle last May (albeit through a hanging-out-the-washing, rather than running injury). It was lovely to be injured rather than crook.

Lots of continued planning and preparation for the trip, not the least preparing our wonderful, but far too small and overcrowded house for nephew Paul to come and 'holiday' here, looking after Lucy the wonder cat (20 years 8 months and counting).

I will head out to the BBQ Stakes today and WALK (ineligible for points, but a walk will do me good), and will get me out of the house.

The planning for the trip is tricky only so much as for the limitation on what we are taking. It has been many years since I have travelled so light. We are taking only day packs with us, with no checked in luggage for the 6 weeks. A vast change from the weekend away in the car where one has two (or often 3) pairs of running shoes, cycling shoes, casual sandals, other sandals, and the whole catastrophe to go with it.

I necessarily have a raft of medications (sounds like a a line from "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest"), which are non-negotiable and need to be in their original packaging etc.

Add to that the essential toiletries of things that will not be in little bottles in the guest houses and hotels we are staying, contact lenses and solution, anti-malarial, yadayadayada and that takes up a surprising amount of space and weight.

So, limiting the clothes and 'accessories' is necessary. Wildthing pointed me in the direction of Keen Sandals, rather big, clunky and closed in, but wonderfully comfortable and a great shoe alternative. A couple of pairs of shorts, a couple of t-shirts (coolmax or dri fit where possible), minimal underwear, ideally which dries quickly or will double for swimming or outerwear.
The garmin and recharger (no downloads until home) will be great, as will the mobile phone as a torch, compass, aide de memorie, emergency camera, and local SIM card recipiant.


Woo Hoo - Cycling Nephew Wins Stage 1!

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http://www.cyclingnews.com/road.php?id=road/2006/mar06/taiwan06/taiwan061: "Tour de Taiwan - 2.2
Taiwan, March 5-11, 2006
Main Page Results Overall standings Next Stage
Stage 1 - March 5: Kaohsiung Criterium, 66 km

McLachlan takes first stage

Drapac Porsche rider, Rob McLachlan, competing in his second Tour of Taiwan, won the opening stage in a thrilling bunch sprint. 'There were attacks right from the gun, so we weren't sure if it was going to be a bunch sprint,' McLachlan said after the race. 'My team really worked well for me today, chasing back breaks and they also gave me a good lead out in the final kilometre.'

Kirk O'Bee, riding for the strong HealthNet team, finished a very close second, and Hwa Chien Hung-Hse from Taipei was 3rd.

Rob McLachlan will go into tomorrows 80km kermesse with a fifteen second lead. 'We won't work too hard to defend the Yellow jersey, there is still a long way to go.' McLachlan said.

The third stage of the tour is a very hilly 220km. Many of the stronger teams believe that this is where the General Classification will truly begin to take shape.

Drapac Porsche is hoping that experience in Taiwan will make all the difference with McLachlan having won the tour way back 14 years ago.

Results
1 Rob McLachlan (Aus) Drapac Porsche
2 Kirk O'Bee (USA) HealthNet p/b Maxxis
3 Hwa Chien Hung-Hse (Tpe) Taipei"


Can't Sleep. Can Blog.

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I'm going to miss having a handy keyboard at my beck and call . . . but I'm sure that there will be compensations!!

Our travel plans are, as always, very flexible, with only bookings made for the flights in and out of Australia to Bangkok, returning to Bangkok from Ha Noi, a few nights accomodation in Ha Noi in a cheap hotel in the old quarter that Bob stayed in and enjoyed on his cycling tour last July, and a room to doss in at the airport after we arrive around 11:00 pm.

Nevertheless, Bob has done more research for this trip and any other, despite it being one of the shortest, at six weeks.

I fear that this isn't the latest version of Bob's (very rough) plan, but here goes - I'm conscious that having information on my blogsite is useful for me when we are travelling.

Tuesday 14 March Fly Canberra Sydney QF 1424
Fly Sydney Bangkok BA 10

Film and TV Channels
1. Movie Prime
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2. Movie Jarhead
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3. Movie Breakfast on Pluto
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4. Movie The Greatest Game Ever Played
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5. Movie Pride and Prejudice
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6. Movie The Legend of Zorro
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7. Movie The End of the Affair
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8. Movie Keeping Mum
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9. Movie Good Night and Good Luck
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10. Movie Spider-Man
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11. TV Comedy
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12. TV Comedy
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13. TV Sport
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14. TV Explore
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15. TV Documentary
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16. TV Business Life TV
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17. Family Movie Chicken Run
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18. TVCartoon Network
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Shuttle to Quality Suites Hotel Booking Ref:
Wednesday 15 March Train from Airport to Ayuthaya, the old imperial capital
Spend a couple of days exploring.
Friday 17 March Train Ayuthaya to Chiang Mai (11-12 hours)
Saturday 18 March Morning Bus to (3 hours)
Sunday, Monday Trekking etc around Chiang Rai
Tuesday 21 March Afternoon Bus to Chiang Khong (2 1/5 hours)
Wednesday 22 March Ferry across Mekongto Huay Xai, Laos. Then slow boat to Luang Prabang, an UNESCO world heritage site, via Pak Beng. (2 days on boat).
Thursday 23 March Arrive Luang Prabang. Stay ?6 nights Happy Birthday, PRB!
Wednesday 29 March Bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (7 hours) Stay 4 nights.
Sunday 2 April Bus from Vientiane to Pakse (10-15 hours) Stay overnight.
Monday 3 April Slow Boat to to the town of Champasak. (1 1/2 hours). Stay 2 nights.
Monday, Tuesday Explore Wat Phu Champasak.
Wednesday 5 April Slow Boat to Don Khon (4-5 hours). Stay 2 nights.
Thursday 6 April Explore the Island of Dong Khong.
Friday 7 April Bus from Don Khong to Pakse (3 hours). Stay overnight.
Saturday 8 April Bus from Pakse to the Bolaven Pateau. (2 hours) Mmmm. Coffee. Stay 2 nights.
Sunday 9 April Cheer on Canberra Marathoners. Ride elephant. Happy Birthday 8th Birthday Sarah!
Monday 10 April Bus to Savannakhet. (8 hours). Stay overnight. Dhong Ha, Da Nang, My Son, Hoi An,
Wednesday 19 April Train from Hue to Ha Noi (overnight)
Thursday 20 April Stay at Camilla 2 Hotel in the Old Quarter, Ha Noi
Tuesday 25 April Fly Ha Noi to Bangkok on Air Asia.
Fly Bangkok to Australia QF002
Wednesday 26 April Fly to Canberra QF


A Season PW (and how!)

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and a great meal that night.

I'm still not firing on all cylinders, evident at Lake Ginninderra on Tuesday (last), the BBQ Stakes on Wednesday (last) and the Aquathon on Thursday (not last thanks to Aki and her swim!!).

I decided to leave early so that I wasn't tempted to push myself too much around the course; easier said than done, even though I did find that I was pushing myself the whole way as I barely churned out 6 minute kilometres and wanted to get back to 'hold the clock' and look after the gear that was left behind.

A finish time of 30:18 is a spectacular drop-off from my form over recent weeks, but I couldn't have done faster over the flat, fast 5km course in excellent cool conditions. It took about 400 metres or so, but once again the chattering teeth returned without explanation.

The great conditions meant that many runners did excellent times though, with PB's for quite a few including Jodie who smashed a minute off her previous best. Way to go girl! Two runners smashed the 18 minute barrier as well.

After a quick drink, I took my board and headed off to see the secondary schools section of the Sri Chinmoy short 'Joyathon' triathlon at Yarralumla Bay. Another Customs stalwart, A unfortunately has to miss the event at the moment due to a timetabling clash, however her son was competing this afternoon and I had offered my wetsuit and bike box for him to try for his competition in the National Schools Championships in Port Arlington later this month.

I had to dash and get home and showered for a 'chat to the doctor' appointment, to which Bob accompanied me. There were a few theories about the shock-type reaction when running, all of which seemed pretty plausible, and the consensus was that I should give the running a miss for the time being and enjoy the trip to SE Asia.

Even though I felt like I needed to crawl into bed or just vege out for the evening, we had arranged to have dinner with friends at Anise in West Row. Although the menu for far meatier than what I would normally gravitate to, I had heard good reports and was keen to try it out.

Bob and I arrived a few minutes early for our 7:00pm booking and there were already two tables seated. We were greeted by a very professional young waiter, who was quite charming. Electing to sit on the upholstered bench side of the classic white linen table setting, a long table set up for around 20 guests caught our eye and we hoped that it wouldn't be too disruptive. We were right to be concerned! Soon a trickle of men started to stomp through the narrow space to the back - they looked and acted like tradesmen, although the time of day was a little odd. Gradually they returned and sat at the group setting, with a few women joining them as the final wave filtered in. The Billie Holiday which as crooning in the background became a distant memory, and it was difficult to maintain a conversation as Bob and I sought to pick the eyes out of the menu before our friends arrived. Our long established habit, when a menu looks good, is to each whittle down to a short list of two or three dishes, see where they intersect (maybe make some adjustments to avoid having the same style or ingredient) and then carefully eat half of each dish and seamlessly swap plates at 'half time'.

The menu was more than adequate to allow us to do just that, especially as in my non-athletic state I had no concerns of limiting fat, meat or the usual dramas.
Bob's initial choices were:
Entreé
French Onion Twice Cooked Souffle ($17)
Calves Liver ($17)
Zucchini Flowers with Meredith Chevré ($18)

Mains:
Lamb Rump ($29)
Confit of Duck ($30)
Oven baked on Mediterranean vegetables and tapenade ($30)

My choices were:
Entreé
Zucchini flowers with Chevré and pesto ($18)
Calves Liver ($17)
Wild Boar Terrine with Pickled Pears ($17)

Main:
Grilled Blue Eye Cod on Skodalia ($30)
Lamb Rump ($29)


I thought that the roasted mediterranean vegetables and tapenade was what he had on his breadrolls each day, and therefore the Cod would be a better fish option. Balancing the (only vegetarian - and not vegan) option on the menu (Fried Zucchini Flowers) and Blue Eye with the red meat of the Calves Liver and Lamp Rump was straightforward.

Our friends had both elected to have the Duck confit, and Lyn opted for the soufflé, while Brian tossed up between the Wild Boar terrine and scallops with Lime and Vietnamese Noodle salad. He opted for the terrine and a small dish of the world's tiniest olives were brought for us to nibble. Good sturdy Italian bread was brought around warm from the oven in slices for us to select, both butter and olive oil on the table. (Lyn buttered, Brian oiled, Bob and I go au natural as usual).

The big group in gearing up big time! Cocktail glasses were brought out with strange coloured interiors, along with plenty of beer. It must have been a set menu, for the whole table soon had bread and a dish delivered to each. It was in stark contrast to the rest of the restaurant.

Just as suddenly as they arrived, a few stood up and moved outside, for cigarettes we thought? However within very little time, only a couple of blokes were left, and then they too took their unfinished bottles with them outside. We were intrigued, it was very early, and while they were milling around outside, it was apparent that they had left, permanently for the evening.

Billie Holiday resumed her crooning amongst a convivial hum as now almost all the other tables in the restaurant were now occupied.

The restaurant had a formidable wine list, both comprehensive and diverse, with many local cool climate wines, as well as interesting domestic and overseas selections. When dining with Brian and Lyn though, it is an opportunity to dust off some of the better wines in the cellar. Confirming beforehand that BYO wine was permissible (it is a brave restaurant in the Canberra scene which doesn't permit this), we were advised of the $7 corkage charge.

Lyn doesn't drink red, so an unwooded Candobolas Chardonnay, almost thick and syrupy was chilled and opened for the entreé. On arrival, great respect was immediately afforded to the 1990 Penfold's Limestone Ridge, which was opened and decanted. Our female waiter was joined by a fellow with a wonderful sense of humour and the familiarity that is so welcome and appropriate in Australia. After many jokes about the cooking wine, the Limestone Ridge was sipped and slurped with a very peppery nose and still sharp bite.

The Zucchini Flowers (3 spokes on the plate) were delightful, despite my concern of the lack of seasonality. The Calves Liver was napped with a rich demi glace and was well flavoured and delicate at the same time.

Bob and I were impressed. The next course did not disappoint either; the skordalia presented as a light garlic mash rather than the lemony garlic dip that it usually represents, but was an excellent foil for the one large thick and two smaller fillets of Blue Eye Cod which rested upon it. The lamb was medium rare as requested, and was a fine example of just how good this cut can be.

The mood in the restaurant had picked up since the larger group left, and it the atmosphere, great service and food ensured that it was a good night. The desert menu listed a fairly predictable assortment of Vanilla Bean Cremé Bruleé, Frozen White Chocolate Mouse, and a tart of apple with honeycomb ice cream. The standout item was an orange soufflé with blood orange sorbet, however the 25 minute preparation time excluded this on this occasion. We were tired! Bob and I decided on the apple tartin and a raspberry and hazelnut torté with semi-freddo after a short confab. Coffee and petit fours were expensive at $5, however it was seriously great coffee, even the decaf long black I ordered which is usually a great disappointment.

Bob and Brian did check out the wine selection with a Jeir Creek sticky with desert which they both raved about. However, after a Boag's or two, and bulk of the Chardonnay and all of the Limestone Ridge, (I wasn't drinking, and Lyn had but a glass), it is hard to know how much of this joi de vivé would equate to a more sober occasion.

An excellent find (although it has been open since 2001), which required further investigation, especially if the menu choices lighten up a little. We didn't get home until 11:00pm and I slept for 12 hours.



Preparation for a Laotian Spring

1 comments

I'm starting to consolidate things for being away for six weeks; unsubscribing from blogs on Bloglines (sniff) so that there isn't a 11,736 new items alert when return to my computer. I shall try (or hope) to keep in touch with a few bloggers and to write about our journey while we are away using internet cafés (Bob found them in the most unlikely places on his Northern Vietnam cycling trip), however one never knows! Also I'm totally at home with the standard English keyboard, which invariably means that having to change to that of a foreign language is fraut with difficulties.

I have set up a GMail account to consolidate my email (the storage is far superior to the webmail of Bigpond or Hotmail) for access whilst away, and have unsubscribed from an increasing number of mailing lists that are of interest, but shall have to wait for a month or two!



(. . . to be continued)


I have the T-Shirt!

5 comments

It's not flash, it's not colourful, it's rather generous in size, but I HAVE THE T-SHIRT!

I made it along to the BBQ Stakes after rather unceremoniously collecting Bob from John James Hospital, taking him home and checking that he was alive and hungry! (He was both). I headed back to Woden for the third time that day, and arrived in ample time.

I tossed up about whether to leave early - scratch would be nice - but, stubborn as always, I left off my now rapidly dwindling handicap time of 10 minutes. The legs were leaden to begin with, and I was yet again surprised to see that after a hundred metres or so, my lower jaw started to chatter in the manner of shivering from cold, or more appropriately, shock. This had occurred every run for the last 10 days and lasted for the duration, weird and unexpected.

I kept my jaw slack (so that the teeth didn't knock) and continued along the bike path on the current out and back course, being passed but the now familiar succession of runners. My breathing was OK though this time, and I wasn't experiencing the same distress that I had the previous week. I made it to the turn around (as the first Wednesday of the month, the course was being run in reverse, so I rounded the mark anti-clockwise), and began the 3km return journey, aware that there was more descent than ascent.

Despite the surprised concern from someone who passed me earlier that "I must be coming back from injury?" I was putting my all into the event. I didn't want to come last!

Although I could see someone in a white T-Shirt ahead of me as I came up to the 5km mark near Chifley shops, I couldn't catch him or keep him in sight by the time I neared the finish. I did try though!

My time of 36:16 (ish) was a significant negative split though on the easier second half which pleased me considerably. Announcements were made, such as Phibes (a Stakes regular) great performance in the World 24 hour track champs, and I headed home to check on the tired lad.
I was last, but I didn't care at all!



A work in progress.

Train travel in white, bus in red, flight is mauve.


BBQ Stakes analysis

4 comments

I'm trying to be philosophical here ~ I'm not going so great physically (with me it's a matter of my health holding out, rather than injuries), but Bob and I have a great trip planned which is rapidly approaching (and I WILL be well enough for this!).

I feel a bit a bit like a fraud, as running shall have to lose all focus for me in the immediate future as I both cut the course short yesterday (Lake Ginninderra Stakes - I cut off the peninsula) and couldn't keep up with Rad as I jog/walked it to the finish, desperately attempting to divert my attention away from the knife like pain which was exacerbated by the increasing pace of movement.

Today could be my one hundredth BBQ Stakes - as a weekly event, not such a great achievement, except that I started 15 years ago, and have had to stop for long periods where I never thought that I would run again. These times were the nadir of my life.

However, since my immune system reset around Anzac Day 2004, I have been both sober and realistic in my return to running, having the longest 'good' stretch for around 14 years. Consistency, at even the slowest pace, is a wonderful thing! Thus, to bring up my 100th run I did the 40 over a period from 1990 to 2000. Sometimes speedy (I'm still proud of my PB of 25:21 in 1991), sometimes slow when returning to health, in those days the field was usually under two dozen and I may have been the only female running. I still feel pangs of guilt when I see Roger P. though as I recall when we were competitive (Ha! He now does a sub 3:30 marathon) and I instinctively elbowed him out of the way on my way to the sprint finish. sorry Rog!).

Since my tentative return on 28 April 2004 in 40 minutes and some seconds, I have been trundling along more regularly; the fields now regularly stretching to 50 or 60 participants, when a good contingent of regular and new females turning up. This is great, even if the organisers don't seem to realise that the run to win ratio (like a PE, but different!) has altered over time; one win in 20-25 runs is perfect when the field may be 18-25, although this seems to be a no no now, as the 50 people turn up! The maths is simple really . . . .)

The first 40 runs took 120 months (3 wins), however I have completed the last 58 runs in 22 months (1 win). My consistency with the Customs 5k run has been better (67 runs in 22 months), and has become the social feature of the week. No T-shirt to strive for though!

After yesterdays Lake Ginninderra debacle running probably isn't too smart, but I will aim to turn up and compete . . . Bob is at John James Hospital this morning having a small procedure however, and my need to collect him and take him home and shower him with love and concern (you know what Boys are like) might make this unachievable! Oh well, there is one more Wednesday before we head off into the wide blue yonder.


Click for Hanoi, Viet Nam Forecast


About me

  • I'm Carolyne
  • From Canberra, Australia
  • I love to run! Staying in Weymouth, Dorset on the South West Coast of England until October. I'm 46, live in Canberra with Bob and have been running since 1990. This has been interrupted by long periods of illness, however I am extremely stubborn! I'll never be a fast runner, however I give it everything, and am slowly learning to read my body better and adjust my training and expectations accordingly. Or rather I would, if running were possible at the moment - I will retuyrn soon.
  • My profile

  • <>Vietname vs Brazil Olympic Football Friendly 8PM 1 aAugust 2008
  • A Hot time in the Old Town tonight
  • <>Trip to Nha Trang and Da Lat 4 August to  August 2008
  • Flights Booked
  • <>Scooter Trip to Ninh Binh  aAugust 2008
  • Planned
  • <>Trip to Cambodia and Siem Riep 17 August to 24 August 2008
  • Flights Booked & 2 Nights accomodation




  • Long Course Tri 2k/83k/20k 12 February 2006
  • Sri Chinmoy Long Course Tri 2.2k/80k/20k 6 March
  • Backpacking Laos & Vietnam 14 March to 26 April 2006
  • Thailand Temple Run 21k 19 March 2006





  • Customs 5k Fridays
  • BBQ Stakes  6k Wednesdays
  • Tour de Mountain 19k 18 December
  • 1:55:02 Results
  • Cross Country Summer Series 5k Tuesdays in November
  • Cool Runners Six Foot Track Slow Jog/Walk 46k 25-27 November
  • Wonderful!!
  • Sri Chimnoy Triple Tri Relay 20 November
  • 1:55:38 1:04:53 1:22:55 Results Report Photos
  • Tour de Femme 20k Fun Ride 13 November
  • 40:40ish
  • Bonshaw Cup 6.4k 16 November
  • 30:30ish
  • Hartley Lifecare Fun Run 5k 17 November
  • Belconnen Fun Run 6k 12 November
  • 28:38ish
  • Mt Majura Vineyard Two Peaks Classic 26k 5 November
  • Last! 3:08:00 Results Report
  • Wagga Tri-ants Duathlon 10k/40k/5k 30 October
  • Scratching
  • Bulls Head Challenge 27k 23 October
  • 2:20:49 Results
  • Weston Creek Fun Run 6k 16 October
  • 32:02 Results Results
  • Fitzroy Falls 42k & 10k 15 October
  • Results
  • Orroral Valley 20k 9 October
  • 1:52:44 Results
  • Sri Chinmoy 10k 3 October
  • 0:50:14 Results
  • Duathlon Championships 10k/40k/5k 23 September
  • 3:09:07 Results
  • Canberra Times 10k 18 September
  • 0:45:30 CR TE AM!
  • Sydney Marathon 11 September 3:47:13
  • ACTVAC Half Marathon 21.1k 28 August
  • Entered DNS
  • Black Mtn UpDown GutBuster 5.2k 16 August 0:33:38
  • Results
  • Mt Wilson to Bilpin Bush Run 35k 20 August 3:15:14
  • Results
  • City to Surf 14k 14 August 64:17
  • Bush Capital Mtn Runs 25k 30 July  
  • 2:17:09 Results
  • Shoalhaven King of the Mtn 32k 17 July
  • 2:53:15 Results
  • Sri Chinmoy Off Road Duathlon 3.3k/23k/7.7k 2 July 2:40:29
  • Results
  • Woodford to Glenbrook  25k 26 June DNF Injured Results
  • Terry Fox 10k 19 June 46:59
  • Results
  • Aust Mtn Running Champs9k 18 June 1:06:33
  • Results
  • ACTVAC Monthly Handicap 9k Farrer Ridge 29 May 0:46:05
  • ACT Mtn Running Champs  9k 28 May 1:06:50
  • Results
  • SMH Half Marathon 22 May 1:41:56 (1:40:50)
  • Results
  • ABS Fun Run 7.3k 19 May 0:34:45
  • Results
  • Canberra Half Marathon 15 May injured Results
  • Sri Chimnoy 10k 8 May 0:47:55
  • Results
  • Nail Can Hill Run  1 May 56:23
  • Results
  • Newcastle Duathlon  24 April 2:45:39.2
  • Results
  • Canberra Marathon  10 April 3:47:56
  • Results
  • Women & Girls 5k 3 April 22:53
  • Results
  • Sri Chimnoy 10k 28 March 47:56
  • Results
  • Weston Creek Half Marathon 13 March 1:43:23
  • Results
  • Sri Chimnoy Long Course Tri 6 March 5:30:35
  • Results
  • Hobart International Triathlon 20 February 2:52:05

  • Canberra Capital Triathlon 30 January 3:01:43
  • Results
  • Medibank Private Australia Day8k 26 January 38:39
  • Results
  • Lorne Pier to Pub Swim 1.2k 8 January 22:12
  • Results
  • Lorne Mountain to Surf 8k 7 January 0:37.56
  • Results



    moon phases

  • 5k 20:11 Cairns 2000
  • 10k 43:49 Moruya
  • City to Surf 1:02:57 2000
  • Half Marathon 1:33:50 Steamboat 2000
  • Marathon 3:47:56 Canberra 2005
    Chip Time (3:47:13) Sydney 2005



  • Kilometres Run
    January 212
    February 199
    March 214
    April 201
    May 188
    June 182
    July 255
    August 246
    September 155
    October 159
    November 200
    December 62
    Year to Date 2,267




    Last posts

  • New Blog Address
  • After having been largely blocked from posting on ...
  • Back in Canberra, Blogging Service (hopefully) Res...
  • Kama, Krama, Kramar Chameleon
  • Restaurant Review - Siem Reab
  • Back from Angkor Wat
  • Update
  • Notes from a Rainy Da Lat
  • Overnight Scoot to Tam Dao Hill Station
  • Viet Nam Plans


  • Days Sick
    January 10
    February 10
    March 10
    April 4
    May 7
    June 8
    July 9
    August 11
    September 11
    October 11
    November 9
    December Lots. ?15


    Distance Swum
    February 17,400m
    October 3,800m
    November 4,150m
    December .
    Distance Cycled
    November 120km
    December 297 km