Posted by BE on January 31st, 2010
I really shouldn’t have brought my laptop to Vietnam. We intended to do the occasional blog on our travels and leave it at that. But the temptation to check out what was happening in Godzone – there’s not much in the Hoi An Times - was too hard to resist, so I took a peep this morning at the Kiwi Sunday rags. Had the government changed? Had Herne Bay been declared a disaster zone in our absence? Had Phil Goff rocketed in the polls? Had Bainimarama invited Helen Clark to act as mediator in the NZ-Fiji standoff? Had Lockwood Smith introduced smacking for naughty MPs? You know – the really big stuff.
No, nothing much had changed since we left two weeks ago. According to the Herald on Sunday, the really big news was that John Campbell might be sacked.
I like and admire John. He’s a talented broadcaster and a really nice person. That’s the problem really, I can’t be in the same room with John because I’m a diabetic. My sugar levels go off the scale. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by JC on January 29th, 2010
Our affair with Vietnamese food began a few months ago in Sydney. Miss Saigon in Balmain East serves food that is not only perfect for Brian’s diabetes, but so yummy that we ate there three times during our weeklong stay.
Like any good Mills and Boon, this love affair didn’t start auspiciously. I wanted the fresh spring rolls with roasted duck, vermicelli and fresh salad. Two large objects arrived at the table and we looked at them with distaste. I’ve been trying to find a delicate way to describe them, but truly, they looked like turds in condoms. Fortunately we were starving, because nothing else could have persuaded us to taste them. They were delicious, as was the chicken with onion and ginger sauce, the delicate rice and everything else we tried from the menu. I was told by Auckland Vietnamese that the food in Sydney has become “Aussified”, and that the real thing was even better.
So treating Singapore restaurants as a training run, we hit Hanoi with the intention of eating like the locals. The locals, however, seem to squat on kindy-sized stools on the pavement, and we’re too old, stiff and wary to try that. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on January 27th, 2010
You know there’s something amiss with your holiday when you wake up thinking how nice it would be if you were going home. That was first thing this morning.
We’d taken the hour long flight from Hanoi to Hue on Vietnam Airlines the previous day without incident, other than the fact (agreed by all the passengers) that the First Officer who was flying the plane was either drunk or had yet to pass Piloting 101. To be fair, he was OK on the flat bits; it was taking off and landing that had him stumped. People were crossing themselves and praying as we thundered endlessly down the runway on take-off with absolutely no sign of actually taking off.
‘We’re going to run out of runway,’ the plump American lady in the seat next to me said. She had barely finished the sentence than we were in the air. A steep climb was followed by a stomach-losing, roller coaster dive and a collective passenger cry of ‘Wow!’. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by JC on January 24th, 2010
In Hanoi the sky is leaden, the city grey and misty. We are told it was fine until we arrived. The first two days it poured. We were dragged through the teaming rain by our determined guide to admire Ho Chi Minh’s grim mausoleum, and be earnestly instructed at the Temple of Literature, its grounds rapidly becoming a lake. Old ladies gleefully cashing in, offering paper-thin plastic rain capes for inflated prices at every monument. We buy them with gratitude. Soaked jeans, soaked trainers and increasing misery. We called a halt. Enough sight-seeing in the rain. Stopped at Shoe Street on the way back for a $20 pair of “Nikes”.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by JC on January 20th, 2010
I like Singapore. I like the city, I like the people, I even like the steamy heat. When Lee Kuan Yew was asked to name the greatest invention of the 20th century he nominated air conditioning, and I’ll admit that it’s only the chill relief of stepping into a building or hotel that makes the heat enjoyable.
Our travel agent cut an amazing deal so we’re staying at the Ritz Carlton. Luxury, silence and a wonderful view from our room. Who can ask for more?
Singapore is always building. Illuminated cranes etch the night sky, the new casino is set to bleed the locals dry in a few months, but there’s another botanical garden being built with as much enthusiasm and as many investment dollars.
Singaporeans live to eat and shop. They’re well-catered for. Brilliant food is everywhere and cheap as chips – even the famous Blue Ginger fails to dent the credit card. Orchard Road slides from Armani to Prada to Louis Vuitton. Chinatown is preparing for Chinese New Year, and there is slightly less subtlety – garish reds and golds, accompanied by a joyous sense of expectation. The Year of the Tiger is on the way; good times are coming.
Brian has a love/hate relationship with the city. Everyone’s too happy for his comfort. Gaggles of young people crowd the malls, the waterfront and the restaurants, laughing and chatting with an innocence that belongs in an earlier decade; the already spotless streets are swept nightly by nanny-state machines; there’s a touch of the British Raj in the discipline and scrupulous politeness. It’s Happy Days, Brave New World, and it makes him uneasy. Me, I lap up the ease and security of the place, I applaud the pride the people have in their island state – until it slips into jingoism, but that generally belongs in the public sphere, not on the streets where we prowl, eating and shopping with the locals. I try not to think about legal system and its style of justice.
Tomorrow we’re off to Hanoi. I think it’s going to be something of a culture shock!
Posted by BE on January 16th, 2010
Pic: John Selkirk
Pic: John McCombe
- Pic: John Selkirk
The issue of ‘celebrity justice’ is in the news again – ‘famous’ Kiwis getting name suppression in criminal trials because publicity for their offending might cause them ‘unreasonable hardship’. (I put ‘famous’ in quotes because when I was told the names of the defendants in two recent cases, I was none the wiser as to who they were.)
As Phil Taylor demonstrates in an excellent piece in this morning’s Herald, this is a complex question. On the face of it, the principle that we are all equal before the law should apply. The TV star and the All Black should receive the same treatment from the justice system as everyone else.
I accept this principle. But should ‘the same treatment’ not include the same punishment for the same crime? I would have thought that it should. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on January 6th, 2010
For many years I have admired John Minto’s courage in taking a stand, often in the face or virulently hostile public opinion, on issues he believed in, most notably his opposition to sporting contacts with South Africa during the apartheid era.
But I can find nothing courageous about a group of protestors congregating outside the ASB Tennis Centre with loud hailers shouting at one Israeli woman player, “Blood, blood on your hands, freedom for Palestine’ and ‘Go home, Shahar’. ‘Intimidating, cowardly, inappropriate, embarrassing and pointless’ might all be better epithets.
And probably, though the concept may have little currency with these zealots, a singularly unsporting way of trying to put Shahar Peer off her game. And counterproductive too, since I – a severe critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – and I suspect many others, now hope that Peer takes the women’s singles title despite this barracking harassment.
What is happening in the Middle East cannot and should not be laid at the feet of one Israeli tennis player. Responsibility for the policies that have turned Palestinians into squatters in their own land belongs solely with the Israeli government. If we disagree strongly with those policies, then the appropriate course of action is to attempt to persuade the New Zealand government to impose sanctions against Israel, possibly including sanctions on sporting contacts.
When I’m occasionally asked what I think is the defining characteristic of the New Zealander, I invariably reply, ‘Above all, New Zealanders are a fair-minded people.’ For that very reason, I’m confident that while we might accept the idea of rowdy protests against the presence of a large Israeli sports team, very few New Zealanders will feel comfortable with an abusive demonstration against one woman tennis player, whose only crime is to be an Israeli citizen.
2.55 pm Friday. Congratulations to Yanina Wickmayer who has just beaten Shahar Peer in closely fought straight sets. Peer was beaten not by the taunting abuse of the protestors outside the ground, but by a better player on the day. An entirely satisfactory outcome.
Posted by BE on January 4th, 2010
Had an email from my old friend Ivan Strahan in Belfast. Ivan’s a bit worried about his mortality. People of his own age, and younger, are dropping like flies. ‘We are,’ he wrote, including me in this dire prognosis, ‘in the death zone.’
Death is a no-win situation for the atheist. If you’re right, you don’t get to tell anyone; if you’re wrong, everyone, including God, gets to tell you. That’s the scary bit.
There is of course an upside to being right – you don’t have to worry about being tormented for eternity by some divine psychopath. The downside is that you are inevitably going to find yourself, like Monty Python’s Norwegian Blue: ‘stone dead, demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, a stiff, bereft of life, snuffed it, up the creek and kicked the bucket, extinct in its entirety, an ex-parrot’. Well, an ex-atheist really. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by JC on January 1st, 2010
A new year has arrived and with it, subject to debate, a new decade. May it bring you all good things and unwind all your recessionary tangles.
I don’t have the resolve to keep up new year resolutions and the end result is a feeling of failure rather than achievement. However, we have promised to see more movies this year, so to avoid this being a doomed New Year Resolution, we started this week.
We love going to the movies. We favour the grey power sessions – afternoon showings that come without giggles, texting or popcorn (god, don’t you hate the smell of that stuff?). We occasionally pay the price of loudly whispered elderly commentary, but on the whole the patrons are quiet and courteous and the cinemas mainly empty – we’ve even had an entire cinema to ourselves on occasion.
There’s no expectation of that sort of peace during the holidays, but sometimes you just can’t wait round for the silent season. So we went to see Avatar on Wednesday – and this is the point of this post.
Make a new year resolution: See Avatar. Read the rest of this entry »