All posts by pollytheperil

Saturday, 24th November

It was a leisurely start to the day. We had already prepared our overnight bags for our night in a ‘homestay’. After breakfast we gathered ourselves together for the several hours drive. We had a new bus – and it was new! Gleaming white leather seats – not what was expected somehow. However, luggage aboard and lazily watched by two tuk tuk drivers who lounged with their vehicles at the entrance of the hotel ready to carry off any guest who passed them, we set off.

On the outer edge of town there was a big local market selling everything you could think of! The stalls were laden with goods. Highlights were fine baskets, brooms and brushes of every shape and size. An egg man passed with mountains of eggs on the back of a bike trailer with a man perched on top of the egg cartons – I am not sure how that works! Bread – mainly of the baguette variety. Cooked food is available, of all types, from the start of the day!

Once out of Siem Reap we were on to the main road to Pnom Pen. It was to be like a rolling film set of rural life. The first over arching impression was of a vast flat landscape, disappearing in to the distance of mainly bright green rice fields and grassland. Trees hedged the route and drainage ditches marked off the fields. Banana trees provided the only real height, together with coconut palms – two staples in terms of the Cambodian diet. We saw very few people working the land. Young boys minded the cattle.

Intermittently ‘face on’ to the road, were properties of all sorts. Some looked quite well to do and several storey affairs, others were in the early stages of being built. However the majority were rambling ground level buildings, evolved over years to accommodate whole families with evidence of several generations of inhabitants. Babies through to great grand parents. There was often a fair amount of anything that could provide shade, quite understandable in the searing heat and constant sunshine of the dry season. While most of these were single story dwellings, there were also a surprising number of buildings on stilts. I say surprising because there was often no evidence of water around them, but there is a constant reference to monsoon rains which must make anything that can lift you away from water beneficial.

There were noticeably few big lorries. As we moved further out of town we saw water buffalo and occasionally a buffalo cart. It is interesting that motorbikes have more or less taken the place of donkeys and oxen in terms of cart pulling…….. they seem to carry enormous loads of all sorts behind quite small motorbikes.

Every few miles there was a bigger community with larger shops and often something entitled a ‘depot’ where it looked as though produce was centrally collected, but it turned out to be a filling station! Different thing altogether!! One is never sure of anything. Tyre companies seem to be quite the thing – a useful trade to be in with so many wheeled vehicles!

If there is any area of water there will be people fishing on it, down to the smallest murky puddle it seems. Fish forms a large part of the diet here and rice comes with everything.

We stopped at a stall selling sticky rice. This is rice mixed with coconut milk, sugar and black beans and is then stuffed into hollowed out bamboo and cooked on a barbecue. It was very sweet and, as it’s name implied, very sticky.

Further along the road, we stopped by the roadside where a family were creating popping rice using a real Heath Robinson device of an old generator attached to a hammer to crush the rice. There were a lot of processes before it emerged husk free and popping!

It was fascinating!! There was also a very pretty young woman with her child….

Lunch was eaten on the edge of a lake. It was a very busy place! Denise and I shared some chicken and mushroom steamed in a lotus palm. It was very good!

Moving on into the afternoon we visited the Sambor Prei Kuk Hindu Temple. Built in the 7th century and dedicated to Shiva, it was an interesting place, not least because of its being made of handmade bricks, with no mortar. The site was surprisingly whole considering its age, although it has also been taken over in parts by the dreaded fig. Another interesting feature is that all the buildings are hexagonal! The whole place had a lovely aura.

A gateway –

The Lion Temple

That brickwork…..

The woodland……..

The ultimate takeover……..

I still found it was very reminiscent of the sites we saw in Mexico. Very weird given how far apart the locations are…… It was at this site that we were to hear the first reference to Pol Pot and the tragic events of Cambodia’s so very recent history. Bombs were dropped on the site when it was thought to be a jungle area full of village communities. 6,000 people died there. A very sobering thought. Deng, our guide to the area had lived through the troubles and had obviously been very badly affected by the experience.

Leaving the temple and it’s ghosts behind, we headed off to the Deng’s mother in law’s hous, where we were to stay the night.

A very large and impressive house in Cambodian terms, but it had no flushing loo or shower, both processes being handled by ladling water out of a bucket😳

Our accommodation was dormitory style in the upper part of the house.

Deng took us for a walk across fields of rice straw to see the sunset. On the way we saw oxen and cattle heading home for the night….

The highlight of the walk was the sunset.

Despite the late hour, some were still fishing –

The sky just got better and better…….

After a supper of rice, fish and green beans we had a very early night…..

Friday, 22nd continued

With my usual high standard of technical skill, I am going to continue my commentary on yesterday on a new page – adding to yesterday’s was a bit challenging! So here we are, early on Saturday morning, in my air conditioned room, looking out on a day that is sunny, and looking very hot. It is 6.30 am

……. to continue the story. It is obvious that tourism has become a major industry in Cambodia. For those who can get into it, it is a pathway to riches. Getting there is another matter. Free schooling lasts to the age of 12 and is ‘compulsory’, but it was evident when we reached the rural areas that access and other pressures mean that children often drop out of school much earlier. Certainly financial issues prohibit many from going further. Not only do you have to pay for school but things like language tuition is an additional cost far beyond the reach of the majority. In the lakeside communities we saw evidence of this.

When we got nearer to the lake, there were literally hundreds of boats……. some of the drivers were certainly no more than early teens.

We boarded our craft and set off. Initially our route took us down a broad channel, but soon this widened out and we were travelling through a forest on the lake. Apparently this inhibits the rush of water during the monsoon season when the lake swells and the whole area floods.

Everything travels by water and a boat is obviously vital. There was a floating ‘corner shop’ run by an enterprising lady!

The houses show how high the water gets.

Some were obviously substantial. Others less so.

Once out on the lake there was a restaurant that housed crocodiles, imported from local crocodile farms. I have to say they looked dead – but they obviously sleep with their mouths open!

Others just sleep.

We got out onto the roof and you could see for miles……..

The lake is certainly a size – 150 k long and 70 wide – and provides a livelihood for the communities around it. These floating villages of between 1,000 and 4,000 people make a living from fishing or growing rice in the flood plains. We got off the boat in a village called Kompong Pluk. There were signs of Buddhism and Christianity, but the poverty was obvious.

But the children were having fun – playing in an old boat!!

Or maybe it was a new boat yet to be launched!

This one was left over from the New Year celebrations apparently!

On the way back we saw an interesting indication of the poverty in that a boat passed where the sightseers had thrown bags of dried noodles into the water and children and older women were swimming and boating to get to them to add to the day’s food. A sobering thought when a packet of noodles is a highlight of your day. We saw one woman literally thrust a small child into a life jacket and throw him into the water to go and get a packet of noodles floating past.

We eventually turned for home. Back on dry land, we stopped at a road side vendor selling barbecued frogs, chicken and fish. The frogs were gutted, stuffed with curry and peanuts and cooked. They were surprisingly good – I just hope I don’t live to regret it!

The afternoon was spent back at the hotel. A short rest. A long drink and then off to centre ville for dinner.

Two margaritas later and a power cut and it was time to get a tuk tuk home to bed. Tomorrow a ‘homestay’.

Friday, 22nd November

It was a lazier start. We were up to go for breakfast at 8.00 am. It was a nice sunny day. We were off to the country!

We set off out of town. The traffic was quite heavy. It is still a public holiday it seems.

However having headed out of town, we found the rural community busy with the timeless hum of life away from the hustle and bustle of the City. The broad thoroughfare lined with shops and works of all kinds, garages and hotels is behind us and now there are fields being worked by older ladies and wooded areas. We then came to a small community, tuk tuks, motorbikes and scooters ruled the traffic. Cars seemed in the minority.

We were dropped off at the entrance to the market. The whole place was humming. First stop was a stall selling some thing that looked like a small potato but turned out to be a very sweet fruit with a black pip. Next came a similar coloured round fruit similar to a lychee.

Next came barbecued rice bananas …..

We tasted and we stared and wandered for an hour, occasionally jostled by scooters mixing with the pedestrians.

Many stalls sold fish from the lake nearby – all were being gutted and de scaled by very skilled hands wielding huge cleavers with amazing dexterity. I could not help but feel that I would lose at least three fingers in the first five minutes if I attempted these activities. Sometimes one feels very inadequate and in awe of other people……!

It was a true kaleidoscope of colour and delight……

There were live crabs from the rice fields – apparently you have to put your hands in their holes to pull them out……..

They were sold live!

Corn……

Morning glory and water hyacinths – all used in cooking!

…….ice and chickens

Firelighters…..

And betel nuts to make your teeth red!

Sadly in the end we had to leave, but what rich pickings!

Just around the corner en route to the bus – a petrol station!

We were then off to the water. We were heading for Tonle Sap Lake. As we neared the area, canals appeared either side of the road. Here men fished in very shallow muddy water. As we watched, their nets frequently came up empty…….

At this point I am going to pause as it is lights out! Tomorrow we are off to a ‘homestay’ with few facilities. I am not sure when Wi-fi will be available, but I will return to this extraordinary outing……..

Thursday, 22nd November

After a pretty sleepless night, we were up at 4.00 am to be ready to leave at 4.45 to catch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. This is the big one. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is said to be one of the largest religious monuments in the world. Armed with this information we put the best face possible on being up and setting off in the dark to see it.

First stop was the ticket office. It had the feel of a busy railway station, with countless booths selling tickets. Each ticket has a photo of the owner on it, which is a nice touch and I thought I did not turn out too badly for the unearthly hour it was taken……!

Of course when we arrived at the site with a million other people to see this wonder the inevitable occurred. It was cloudy and there was no real sunrise! Nevertheless it was amazing to see such a world renowned edifice slowly emerge from the gloom in which we first saw it.

Gradually as the light gradually infused the scene the silhouette and reflections improved. It is a vast site and (very reminiscent of the Mexican Mayan monuments I thought ) emerged from the vegetation which engulfed it over centuries. Of choice ruse the local villagers knew it was there, but it took Europeans to draw attention to it and reveal it from its overgrown state.

Angkor Wat derives its name from the terms ‘Angkor’ meaning city and ‘Wat’ meaning temple. Angkor was the capital and wealthiest city of Cambodia until the capital was moved to Pnom Penn. It, and it’s surrounding religious sites, cover a vast area. Angkor Wat is seen to be the finest and best quality structure, although we were to see 5 very different monuments during the day. Angkor Wat, built in 37 years, started life as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu for the Khmer Empire. It was built in the early 12th Century by King Suryavarman and ultimately became his mausoleum. By the end of the 12 century it had been transformed to Buddhism.

There was a lot to see and some lovely shadows and etchings but we were unable get to the highest point because it was a Buddha day and there ceremonies taking place. The sound of chanting could be heard throughout our visit.

Leaving the Angkor Wat site……..

Following this we visited four temples and one citadel. Many showed signs of being adversely affected by tree roots. Most figures have lost their heads due to looting or heads being removed to prevent looting – to my mind amounting to the same thing, headless figures! It was a challenging day because of the heat and the number of other tourists involved, but all of the places we saw merited the visit and were fascinating in their own way but we were exhausted at the end!

A few pictures to tempt you and I will try to get the names right in the order we saw them……. As my first typing letters would say ‘E&OE’ – Errors and Omissions Excepted!

First came the Citadel, which was near a lake.

The chap in charge at this stage sounds a pretty good egg. He built hospitals and free road houses for travellers. All very enlightened!

Next we visited Preah Khan where we saw the first evidence of trees growing through stonework. Extraordinary! The area was approached by a bridge where monks created a great contrast to the dark stonework….

On the way there we came to a sort of side chapel where, once again I was surprised how similar the architecture was to that which we came across in Mexico. Even the way it was built……..

The next picture is tricky – the alert will see the head of a sleeping Buddha in the brickwork. 😳.

I liked the next one – at Angkor Thom, The Bayon, where all heads came the right way up and all different…..

Finally, we visited Ta Prohm where the ruins were literally riddled with roots making some amazing pictures but by this time I think we were all drooping. The heat was nearing 40 degrees and I was running out of charge – both in device and in person!

I have to report that we were pretty pooped when we got back to the hotel and only managed an hotel sandwich for supper and then bed.

What a day!

Wednesday, 21st November, Siem Reap, Cambodia

It seems no time at all since I put down my pen equivalent following my Australian musings and here I am taking it up again to report on my delve into the delights of Cambodia and Laos.

My companion on this trip is my old friend and adventure sharing buddy Denise, Keith having decided that he could resist the attractions of steamy heat and temples. I have to report that Denise and I have ‘previous’ on this travelling business, having walked the three peaks in Yorkshire, clambered over several Brecon Beacons, journeyed through Holland and more recently wandered around Burma together In addition to having survived numerous commuting train journeys and a major company merger. With that behind us, how can this trip fail? Nevertheless it faced a very early hurdle as I had the start date wrong. For some reason I had it in my head that to start a trip in Cambodia on the 21st November I could leave Kent on the same day. Unfortunately not possible. I therefore have to very shamefully report to having let young Mickey Wightman down on our planned day out together and set out to travel on the 20th.

So here I am. After a ten hour journey to Bangkok and a 40 minute journey from there to Siem Reap and three breakfasts later I have arrived. I have to pause here to record another little nicety – the tartan food bag.

This is what Smile Airlines served our third breakfast in and insisted that we should keep it. Obviously the challenge of the holiday is going to be ‘How many uses can you find for your Smile bag?’ It is a worry!

After this excitement, and once we had obtained our Visa to enter the country, it was fairly plain sailing to collect our bags and find the man to take us to the hotel. Our first impression of Cambodia was extremely favourable. Leaving the airport we were immediately driving along a broad ‘boulevard’, with three distinct and separate lanes of traffic. An interesting phenomenon- the middle lane in which we were travelling had traffic in both directions. To our right, over a grass verge was another lane of traffic travelling in the same direction as us. To our left, across another verge was traffic coming towards us. Interesting….

Anyway, leaving the traffic behind (as it were) and back to those first impressions – it is a clean, green and pleasant land. The vegetation I would describe as lush and all along the road initially there were the ubiquitous umbrella covered Asian stalls selling everything from clothes to miniature temples. Eventually these ceased and we were treated to an array of up market hotels. These of course were not for us. We skimmed pass them (the driver did not seem to get out of second gear – do you think we are going to see Cambodia in second?) and turned off into a narrower much busier road, and then again into an even narrower and even more busy sort of lane. Here we turned into our hotel, nestled under large green leafed vegetation, no doubt harbouring a million mosquitoes. Those that aren’t hovering around the poolside that is. We are home for the next three days. Surrounded by local colour.

We were very prettily greeted by the young reception staff. We learnt several things. First that our rooms would not be available for several hours (it was by now 9.30 am), that there were to be 6 people on our trip and that one of them was an Australian girl called Sarah from Melbourne.

Feeling pretty tired, after a drink in the Hotel breakfast room,we adjourned to a shady sun lounger where we snoozed away a few hours. This sleep update continued once our room was ready…..!

and we slept very happily until about 4.00 pm when we rallied to prepare for the inevitable first night get together. Here we met our compatriots – Gabriella from Switzerland, Emma from London, Bruce from New Zealand, the previously mentioned Sarah from Melbourne and our guide, Kom. Definitely a small but beautifully formed group.

Chats over and having found that it is a 4.45 start tomorrow to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, we set off for supper. We have arrived during the festival of Moon and Water so the place was heaving. There seems to be no rules of the road and motorbikes, scooters, push bikes and tuk tuks vied with cars for space, all at the expense of the pedestrian. On reaching the river we crossed to the Amazon Cafe where we had an excellent meal.

All life was around us. Sprays of water could be seen being shot into the air a little distance away. The lights of the night market could be seen going into the middle distance. The jewelled colours of lights on the water. It was a kaleidoscope of colour and noise. However, we decided that that early start was our priority and we turned away from the hubbub and back to the hotel. To bed.

,,

Monday, 15th October (my birthday eve!)

It was a very dark and dismal day from a number of perspectives – not least because our wonderful holiday is drawing to a close. Nevertheless we had committed to meet up with David Halliday for a last walk around Long Reef and despite the inclement weather we headed off down the hill to meet him.

David walks his dog (Bella, fondly known as Bella the Otter for her love of water). It was not long after we met up that it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

It was a very different scene to those we had experienced before on this route…

The sea churned below us. We were soaked. Despite the rain we descended to the beach for Bella to have her swim, undeterred by the elements.

The seaweed was wonderful!

Having completed the walk we adjourned to a local cafe for a drink and poached egg breakfast. We really enjoyed the opportunity to spend more quality time with David.

Back up the hill it was time to pack. This turned up into a whole day affair! (Our luggage has expanded considerably!

Everything tucked away we had supper with the girls and Justine. All was going swimmingly until, having adjourned to prepare for school tomorrow, Mickey cut her finger and we hastily said goodbye before she was hurried off to hospital….

We could not believe it! Happily, although we had adjourned to bed in readiness for our early start, we received news that no stitches were needed. What a relief!

And so our third trip to Australia drew to rather dramatic end. What a trip it has been. What amazing things we have seen, experiences we have had and people we have met. We return home so much richer in experience, with so many wonderful memories and determined to return.

Sunday, 14th October

With apologies for the delayed post!

It was as a quiet start to the day.  By 9.00 am nothing stirred in Wightman Towers.  It was probably a fairly typical day after the day before or in Justine’s case, the day after the week before. However, by mid morning we were all assembled for the final brunch for this visit and our final planning meeting to establish how we were going to spend our day.

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After a bit of debate, it was agreed that we would all go to Lavender Bay, a harbourside suburb on the north shore of Sydney.  Lavender Bay is named after the Boatswain from the prison hulk ‘Phoenix’, which was moored there for many years.

We took two buses and started our perambulation of the area at the Kirribilli Market. This was a real melange of stalls selling everything from jewellery to drums made into coffee tables, from vintage clothing to fancy fondants.  I think we all survived the experience without a purchase beyond some rehydration, something of a requirement all round……  Moving on, we walked towards the water. The houses were incredible, many of them quite old (in Australian terms!).  As we neared the harbour we found we were getting a very different view of the bridge and the city as we glanced it, initially through the buildings, and eventually when a wide vista emerged.

We continued to wonder along the waterside.  We passed old moorings and buildings left over from English colonialism.

We passed the end of the bridge and watched the fishermen.  Eventually the bridge was behind us

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and we arrived at Luna Park, Sydney’s world famous amusement park built in the 1930’s   Since it was built, Luna Park has a bit of a chequeredhistory and been subject to several redevelopments, but in 2004 it reopened under new ownership and has been operating ever since.   Walking through the rather startling entrance, we bade farewell to the Wightmans who returned home to chores and school preparation and meandered on past the rather old fashioned stalls and slide shows

One of the things that I was keen to see was Wendy’s Secret Garden and soon after we passed out of the amusement park area we came across it as we mounted the steep steps to move away from the waterside.

The Secret Garden is a green oasis of lush foliage, native plants, fig trees and beautiful flowers.  We were lucky enough to see some of the flowers in bloom and everything looking very rich and flourishing.  Created by Wendy Whiteley, initially in memory of her ex husband artist Brett Whiteley who died in 1992 and whose ashes are buried in the garden, the garden has been maintained and beautified by her and volunteers since then.  Sadly their daughter’s ashes are also there now, but it is not a place of sadness, but more of a place to enjoy and take in the views.

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It was eventually time to turn for home. Our time in Australia fast coming to an end.

For our ‘last supper’ with the family we were all off to the local Indian restaurant. It is becoming something of a tradition for our ‘last night’, which we are bringing forward 24 hours as we are being collected at 3.00 am on Tuesday morning…..

The restaurant is just around the corner, so we did not have far to go.  We had a jolly night of chat and reminiscence.  It has been an amazing trip and choosing the top 5 moments is nigh on impossible.

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…and so to bed for our penultimate sleep.  Tony is out tomorrow night, so we said our goodbyes to him – he has been such a wonderful host and definitely one of our favourites!

Saturday, 13th October

After what seems like months of planning and anticipation, the day of my Australian ‘gathering’ dawned. Despite poor weather nearly all week it was dry and although a bit cloudy, clement enough for us to take Helen for the Saturday constitutional around Long Reef.

Smartly at 7.40, the boxers and the walkers skidded down the hill. The ground was too waterlogged for the cricket fraternity, but some golfers were out. The tide being out we were able to get right out to the spit.

Back at the house, there was rather a poor attendance at breakfast with only Tony and I taking the opportunity to sit out in the sun and eat our eggs.

Eventually we were there. After a tense hour sitting on the runway, Justine had arrived (she was exhausted poor soul, but looked as stunning as ever!) and Helen and I had a last view of the ocean before setting off.

It was then a bus into town and a bit of fancy footwork to reach what used to be called Darling Harbour and now is known by its Aboriginal name of Barangaroo, where Cirrus, the restaurant, is situated.

It was then not long before everyone arrived – Sarah, Wendy, Peter and Helen from the Silk Road trip, Aileen and Mick from our Ocean Pacific trip last year, Justine and Tony, now more family than friends and David and Lesley, two friends of Justine and Tony’s who we have become friendly with by association. A merry dozen, seen to get more merry as time progressed. The meal was amazing and served as sharing plates. It was beautifully served.

I provide the menu and foodie pictures for those interested readers……

After some initial angst from Keith and I as to whether everyone was going to get enough to eat, we soon settled down to a delicious meal, with much laughter up and down the table. Everyone seemed to be getting on. The wines were great and a good time was had by all. There were lovely cards and presents and then the girls arrived with the cake. It was scrummy lemon drizzle with lots of candles (😳).

To date I cannot track down a photograph……..

Late into the afternoon people started to depart. (One of my favourite photos of the event! Even if I do like a dwarf!)

So sad to say our goodbyes to so many lovely friends, not knowing when we may return but I am convinced return we will. We have that last quarter to cover…….

A hard core then adjourned to a bar. I have to admitted to being a little ‘squiffy’ at the end of all this.

Friday, 12th October

It was a quiet day. A sort of calm before the storm of birthday activity.

I have still not settled on an outfit for my French birthday gathering, so I decided to leave Keith at Wightman Towers and launch into the Australian shopping scene on my own. I did buy another dress but Mr Gregory is still not convinced…… back to the drawing board…… one could say brinkmanship of the first order. 😳

I returned to Collaroy in time to welcome Mickey home. I was so pleased to learn that the young cadets had been moved from their tents on their camping week as they had been flooded. Apparently the whole experience had not been as bad as anticipated, often the way in my experience, which was good. We left her to some ‘me’ time and we both headed into town to collect Helen who was flying in from Alice Springs for my party. She is staying with us at the Wightman’s for the night. We took the opportunity to make some final purchases before meeting up at the bus station. It is always a delight to see Helen. We certainly haven’t seen enough of her this visit, but hope to get a sighting in Europe next year.

It was the rush hour, so the bus was busy, but we were soon home and had the bubbles opened. Tony joined us for dinner which was Mickey’s favourite to celebrate her home coming. Justine is to fly in from Singapore tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10th October

It was a really dark, wid and woolly day. Keith and I were going to the theatre to see The Accidental Death of an Anarchist at one of the small theatres at the Opera House. Unfortunately this outing had coincided with a busy day at the office for Tony, so the plan was to take Coco with us to the City and then she would spend the afternoon with him in the office.

It was a tortuous trip into town. A combination of the weather and the traffic made the already long journey even longer. The bus was slow and steamy and the roof started to leak!

Just as we got off the bus the heavens opened even further and we were caught in an absolute deluge. Poor Coco had chosen probably the least good umbrella that she could find, with the result that by the time we got to the Opera House bar where we were to hand over our charge, she looked nearly drowned. We were running late, but poor Tony was even later and we made the play with just a few minutes to spare.

It was very funny and very clever. The writer is a favourite of Keith’s but this version of this particular farce had the added dimension of an all female cast. It was excellent but I was really glad it was not an audience participation affair as we had the middle seats in the front row!!

The play was on at an odd time. It started at 1.00 pm so it was finished by 4.00.

We returned to Collaroy and before long it was time to set out again. We were having dinner with my old friend Paul, who sadly will not be able to join the ‘gathering’ on Saturday.

It was not raining when we left,but by the time we got back to the City it had started again. Paul has just bought an apartment out at Central, so it was a train and a walk.

We arrived at his very upmarket absolutely dripping, but he was very gracious (ignoring the deluge of water that arrived with us) and showed around his new establishment and new dog and pointed out the penthouse outside area which I am sure will provide a wonderful outside room when not covered in cloud.

We went put to dinner at a really good Vietnamese restaurant called Mekong located at the end of a road known as Spice Alley.

Here hungry diners chose their food from an array of Asian food booths from which delicious smells and colourful dishes were being dispensed.

The Mekong served really good food. Regrettably Paul’s partner was tied up for the evening with a senior politician of some sort, but he managed to join us just as we were leaving, so we were able to say ‘hello’ before we disappeared into the night to make our return journey to the northern beaches. As was late we caught a bus to the bottom of the hill and considering too late to ask Tony to come and get us, clambered (in my case rather slowly) up the hill.