OK, OK, so I am the world’s slowest blogger! But here’s the next instalment…
I went to let our dog Rosie out around 6:30 one morning and went straight back inside to get my camera. This is the view that greeted me at our front door – it reminded me why we moved here…
We had tradesmen working on the house as early as the end of January. They were installing the electrical cabling, recuperation unit and plumbing (but not heating). Now the builders have started again in earnest and most of the plastering and roof insulation is finished. They are also starting to install the exterior insulation.
All the utilities are connected and our sewage processing plant is installed with a humongous soak away. We will have the windows installed next week, so then it will really start to look like a house rather than a building site. We are still hoping to move into the house by November – time will tell.
We are so glad that we were dissuaded from renovating the old house by our building engineers. They knew what would almost certainly lay underneath the surface. I will talk about ‘Czech building’ in a later blog, but suffice to say we would have not had much left if we had renovated the old house and almost certainly a lot more expense. To prove a point about a square metre of ceiling in our old house fell on Miluska last week. The actual ceiling is solid but has a ‘skim’ of about 2cm of strong mortar mix. One of the pieces (after hitting the floor) was about 4kg. So goodness knows how heavy it was when it hit Miluska. Luckily she only suffered a few grazes and bruises – even luckier was that it was not Danny underneath when it fell! I also had to repair an electric cable in a fusebox to our water heater as it had burnt out with a rather dramatic bang accompanied with the appropriate amount of smoke. My repair was a real botch job (by English standards) as the cable was so brittle, but probably standard for the Czech Republic (sorry guys). We have had a persistent damp problem in our bathroom ceiling caused by a roof leak and a fairly new damp problem on our bedroom wall adjoining the bathroom. I have tried many fixes to the roof leak and eventually installed an ‘internal gutter’ to catch the drops and take them through a hole I have cut in the wall. The bedroom wall damp turned out to be a broken bath waste pipe which is buried in concrete and has now saturated the solid floor. The solution? Install a new waste pipe which goes directly outside through a hole in a 50 cm thick wall to drain away in the garden. It seems crazy to attempt any proper fixes for these problems with the house completion so close. I am thinking that I could now present a new DIY programme on TV called Mr Bodgit!
The sooner we get out of this house the happier (and safer) we will be!
Well, a month in Vietnam was a real adventure. In honesty I really didn’t know the couple I travelled with (Honza and Lenka) that well before we went, but from the moment I met Honza I knew we would ‘get on’, and Lenka is just lovely.
During the holiday we spent many nights sharing a room and I can honestly say that we never had a cross word. I enjoyed their company immensely – thank you both. Indeed I can’t remember laughing much so for a long time at some of their stories.
We travelled the entire length of Vietnam, from Cần Thơ (35oC) and its floating market in the Mekong Delta…
…to the mountain town of Sa Pa (5oC) on the Chinese border in the north.
We were also lucky enough (good planning by Honza) to be in the vibrant city of Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) for the Vietnamese New Year (Tet).
Amazing fireworks at midnight…
Amongst the places we visited were: The quiet seaside resort of Mũi Né;
…the lovely mountain town of Đà Lạt;
…the vibrant and beautiful seaside town of Nha Trang;
…the beautiful historic town of Hội An;
…the old historic capital of Huế with the Emperor’s Citadel; the amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hạ Long Bay
…and the interesting capital of Hanoi.
Of course there were markets everywhere with interesting sights, sounds and smells!
Dogs are very popular…
… and they love dressing them up in clothes…
… others are not so lucky…
Buddhism is the main religion in Vietnam and is a big part of people’s lives with temples everywhere, including shrines in most shops and restaurants.
The people were always friendly and seemed to love having their picture taken.
Honza and I were curiosities as we were very tall, and bald! Lenka was a curiosity as she is beautiful, but more importantly blond! Ladies and girls would come up and stroke her hair in admiration – totally uninvited.
I could probably write several blogs on Vietnam, but will try and give you a flavour of the country in this one blog.
Vietnam is really not what you would expect from a single party socialist state. In the past, Vietnam has been occupied by China, Japan, France and America. Despite this and in spite of the terrible loss of life on both sides during the Vietnam War there was a general acceptance to all nationalities visiting their country. Ho Chi Minh, who led the communist fight against occupation and for independence and is revered by most Vietnamese and appears on every bank note. He is affectionately referred to as ‘Uncle Ho’ and you see his photo and statues everywhere.
In 1986 Vietnam underwent economic reforms. Private ownership was encouraged in industries, commerce and agriculture. Vietnam is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Vietnam is now a single party socialist state with leaders described as “keen capitalist communists”. Walking down a single brightly decorated street, you will see extreme poverty and slums, dilapidated colonial buildings in a French style, and then an ultra modern hotel costing $200 upwards a night next door to a BMW dealership. But there is still a lot of poverty in rural areas and cities, with some of the population living on under 1 $US per day.
We needed to travel light, but this was difficult as we had a variety of climates to face. But after much heart searching and cutting back our backpacks averaged around 9 kilos each – although I had an additional 3kg of camera equipment.
It seems that everyone is selling something and there is always a ‘money angle’ to every conversation. In my naivety, I thought it was rather nice that we were often greeted by ‘Where you from?” It quickly became apparent that this was not a sincere interest in which country you hailed from, but the answer was used for a quick assessment of how rich you were and therefore what price they could charge for what they were selling! Regardless of this, virtually everyone seemed amiable and helpful, despite extreme poverty in some places.
Bargaining is essential and you rarely see anything priced. You quickly get to know what an acceptable price was and what was a rip-off. Train tickets, meals and tourist attractions often have separate prices for tourists and Vietnamese nationals and sometimes separate entrances!
I don’t think that anywhere we ate would pass European health standards and generally Vietnam is very dirty.
I just don’t think the locals see it! Having said that we carefully chose places to eat that were popular with tourists or locals and some of the street food was truly amazing.
I once had two pancakes (well a cross between a pancake and an omelette) filled with tiny fresh flash friend squid, with a piquant sauce and fresh fragrant leaves for 20,000 dong or 60p (or $1) – truly delicious! Probably 10,000 dong to a Vietnamese!
Rice noodle soup is staple fare with beef and chicken noodle soup available practically everywhere. It is very tasty and there are variations on a theme but trust me, after a month you won’t want to see another noodle for a long time!
I could write so much more, but I will just say “Put Vietnam on your places to visit list – you won’t be disappointed!”
Hopefully it won’t be so long until I blog again…