Life On The Mekong

To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the Mekong River is big. Really Big. When so much water runs through six countries before spilling into the web of the Mekong Delta, figures becoming meaningless.

Wherever you choose to join the river, it abounds with life: villages to towns to larger cities, isolated houses, cluster of fishermen. Even those stretches where the jungle tumbles down to the water's edge are filled with the drumming of dragonflies and the splash of leaping fish.

The rain, when it comes, is sudden and heavy. At times it can be difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. But then it goes, and the world around me was soon steaming in the lazy heat.

For many, the river is little more than another road. Small boats transport people across this waterway using only the power of oars; floating markets sell all things imaginable. Other boats bring food and drinks to those selling all day at these markets. Many craft sail perilously close to the Plimsoll line.

The petrol stations …

Koya-San, Japan's Holy Mountain.

Koya-San is one of Japan's Holy mountains, revered as the resting place of the Kobo Daishi, who brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan.

Although he has been dead for over 1000 years, monks still bring the Kobo Daishi food twice a day in his mausoleum, the Oko-in. As I walked towards his resting place, the sunlight tumbled through the cypress trees, and midges danced in the sunlight. (Be warned: as the daylight fades, these are replaced by starving mosquitoes!)

Over a million pilgrims and tourists alike flock to Koya-san, to walk hand-in hand with this monk, in the hope he will help lead them to enlightenment. Even the dead line the paths here, waiting for the return of the Buddha of the Future, one of the most esteemed figures in Japanese history.

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All the Fun of the Fair

Ah, all joys of Sydney’s Royal Easter Show! Even the prize chickens and rams get in on the action.

Images of Japan

I passed this lady amongst the tombstones in a shrine in Japan, laying some flowers. She has obviously seen much in her life, and blessed with memories to be carrying flowers for those she still loved.

Staying in a Convent When Travelling in Italy

I've stayed in convents in Venice, Florence and Rome. One was an old palace, another consisted of white-washed walls and perfect coffee. Convents and monasteries make for an interesting alternative when looking for somewhere to stay - perfect locations, historic buildings, and usually much cheaper than hotels in a similar area.

Above is a view from my room onto a shared courtyard; the top photo shows the entrance to a place I stayed in Venice. Naturally there was a gondola stop outside, and the convent was literally less then 200 steps from St Mark’s.

Another offered this perfect view onto the neighbouring apartments. A true Rear Window experience, watching everyone come and go, complete with a grandma cooking all day long. And in the grand hall below my room, a renaissance fresco was being loving restored.

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Images of Venice

Since Venice has floated grandly on the seas for centuries, the best way to approach is via a water taxi. I believe everyone should fly into Venice at least once in their life; then catch the vaparetto from the airport into Venice. This day the city hid behind the mist; I felt alone with the sea, until suddenly the boat arrived at the Piazza San Marco.

Squeri, or gondola repair shops, once filled Venice. A few remain, such as the Squero di San Trovaso. Hidden in a side canal, it is closed to the public, but standing on the other side of the canal I got more than a adequate view of a craft which has been handed down the centuries.

The Doge's Palace can be overwhelming with its sheer opulence, the enormous size of so many of the paintings, and the overall grandeur of the building. After all, it was built to reinforce the splendour of Venice to all who visited, and render mere mortals to feel inadequate. Yet even the tiniest details are exquisite, such as patterns on a marble stairc…

Port Vila in the Rain

A soft rain was falling as I sailed into Port Villa, Efate in the South Pacific. Yet an island paradise it proved all the same.