Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Markets

South America 1 – Chile

Monday 27, Tuesday 28 & Wednesday 29 November 2017

It has been a long time since that last holiday jaunt to Europe – but here we go again and much further afield.  I am hopeful that this blog will now be much closer to real time as we head off to far flung shores – this trip includes very small portions each of Chile (one night), Argentina and Brazil.  I also hope that the quality of the photographs might improve, but not sure that either of these hopes will be sustained!

What has changed is that I now have decent working apps on both iPad and phone for WordPress and so hope that if time permits something can be published as progress is made.

We shall only be in Chile for the one night – so no great insights can be expected.  Formally the Chilean capital is Santiago de Chile simply to avoid confusion with the one in Spain.  Our taxi is due at 6:15pm and the plane is due to depart at 22:00.

British Airways are now flying direct to Santiago – the flights commenced on 3 January 2017 and at 14 hours 40 minutes they are the longest flights that the airline makes.  The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners are allocated to the operation – panic commences given our experience on the return trip from Mexico earlier this year!

A huge plate of cheese and biscuits each and then settle down to sleep.  Get about 6 – 7 hours sleep with a decent breakfast and the flight is slightly early into Santiago on Tuesday, late morning.  Apparently the Chileans are keen on queues as the passport line takes an hour for us and much longer for the people behind us as it overflows the theme park style queues and is backed up, up the stairs.  Not helped by those at the front of the queue not actually watching the display for the next free border officer!  It is a bit mad as we reach the exit with huge numbers of waiting drivers.  We miss our guide on a first pass but a wander back along the line gets us heading into the town centre with guide and driver.

Hotel Plaza San Francisco is almost in the centre of town with a beautiful church next door – internally it looks like this:

Earlier we had been advised by our guide to go to Lastarria which is walking distance and he particularly recommends Bocanariz.  First we do a wine flight each to taste some different wines and then have a bottle of Carmenere to go with our steaks.

Photos of the first views of Santiago are here.

The following (Wednesday) morning we are met by our guide and are driven to the Presidential Palace and then taken on a walking tour through the City to the main markets which are huge – we see the fish and the farmers’ markets, the latter is mainly fruit and vegetables.  The Chilean garlic looks very strong!

In the background Santiago is largely surrounded by hills – on one side the Andes which we have to cross again shortly.  There are no trains across the border apparently.

We are then driven to the lower end of the cable car which takes us up to the top of the hill for San Cristobal and the view over the City.  I see the funicular which is on the other side of the hill but we do not have time to return that way.

Photographs of the morning tour are here.

The final part of the tour is a drive around the new expensive modern suburbs before returning to the airport for our flight to Mendoza.  Once on our way I establish that at some point my small Canon camera has not made its way to its normal place in my bum bag and appears to have been left at the hotel.  Subsequent attempts to contact them have not been successful!

Sa Dec and Cai Be

Day 16 Wednesday 31 December 2014

We have been away from home over two weeks – this is probably the longest holiday ever, but as I no longer go to work it is perhaps more appropriate to say that this is the way we live now!

Sa Dec has a large retail market which we walk through.  The photos cannot really do it justice as  it would be boring if I posted a picture or each vegetable stall or each fish stall which replicate along the length of the market.  However merely one example of each hardly gives a fair representation either.  Also dashing around but not recorded are people delivering meals (usually some soup) plus the inevitable scooters weaving in and around the market. for the photographs.

At the far end of the retail market is a wholesale market and of course supplies come here in bulk before being broken down.  I suppose that Covent Garden was once like this.  I believe now that there is little direct trading at Nine Elms or at the other large markets in London, all of which have declined as the supermarkets have gained dominance.

Marguerite Duras lived part of her early life in Sa Dec and her most famous book concerned a relationship with a wealthy chinese man she met on the way to Saigon.  We had been shown the film the previous evening, but frankly I saw no merit in the story and gave up about halfway through!  The wife persisted to the end but no good came of it.  A few years ago it was realised that the house of the chinese man’s father remained in Sa Dec and it has been restored and can now be visited by passing travellers such as ourselves.  An interesting foot note but little substantial meaning.

We rejoin the local junk used for the journey from our cruiser to the town to travel a little further to see a church of a local important religion – Cao Daisim (or Dao Daisim).  Whilst relatively recent, being less than a hundred years old the religion beings together the teachings associated with Ying and Yang from China, the later developments of Confucius, Buddhism and Christianity, noting the significant overlaps and common teachings across these separate religions.  The religion has its home north of Saigon (see Sunday 4 January) and has a large number of adherents across the southern areas of Vietnam.  It was originally supported by the government and was not permitted after 1975 but has in more recent years become far more substantial.

In the afternoon we visit Cai Be.  The catherdral of St Joseph marks the continuing strength of the Catholic religion in the region and the area outside has various additional statues and has bought neighbouring land to permit expansion.  This has been achieved by money sent from church members now living abroad who are able to send money back to the church to provide the additional memorials.

It is noticeable this afternoon that a number of the group is smaller than usual with others choosing (as we did earlier on ) to stay aboard the mother ship.  Before we left home one of my wife’s main concerns was the transfers to and from our cruise vessel to land as this nearly always requires the use of a smaller motor vessel, capable of seating about 30 and for which we are required to wear life jackets (so we won’t drown – merely die of the pollution in the river) but each transit is between two vessels both bobbing around.  Pleasingly all of the transitions are made without a problem – except to my head.  Once again it is proven that I am significantly oversized as I clobber my head (despite the regular warnings given by all of the crew providing assistance) on the roof beam of the junk.  This time quite hard.  I cannot say I wasn’t warned.  They are of course built for people who generally are probably six or more inches shorter than I am.  This size problem will arise again.

Wandering in the group along Cai Be street enabled at last the picture of a small outlet selling wooden furniture.  Compared with some of the other larger scale enterprises we have seen this is modest and I am only glad that we do not have time to stop and buy (also I am not so sure how comfortable the chairs would be).  A separate album for Cai Be:

At the end of our walk is a factory producing variously popcorn, rice wine and fine rice paper.  The production processes are explained to us.  The rice wine here is not so near fire water compared with the Laos sample but on the whole I think I prefer a small cup of sake.  We wander around the processes and Jackie observes that the girls pressing the  toffee are doing so with bare hands whilst the sweet popcorn is being  packed by girls sitting on the tables.  I am sure they all wash regularly.

Jackie is particularly taken by the production of rice paper, wanting some authentic paper for a dinner party when we return but oddly it does not seem to be on sale here!  There is a shop but nothing catches our fancy.

After dinner it is time for “Mekong Prestige has got Talent” where normally the crew entertain the passengers.  But we have a surprise.  Among the Japanese contingent there is a trained dancer who has offered to perform and we have already see her twice during the day practicing.  She performs well and it is extremely brave of her to do so.

The crew have various party pieces – “YMCA” from one section, a great singing voice from the ship’s purser and the chief engineer is also a master magician with pieces of rope joining and splitting magically.  We are promised a disco and entertainment until the new year but all this fresh air and travelling means we go to bed.

In our cabin we note we are tied up alongside a form of pier and that on the quayside there are numerous containers.  If this is a passenger terminal then it is being seriously under-invested and gives a little weight to the comment made by the tour guide (Matthias who did a grand job over the entire week with three distinct groups speaking English, German and Japanese) that the facilities along the river are being stretched by the 16 cruise vessels now being operated along the Mekong.  When we went to the Nile some 20 years ago the numbers operating were much higher and there were facilities everywhere to tie up rather than using transfers.

Luang Prabang Day 2

Day 5 Saturday 20 December 2014

An early call this morning as we are going into LP with guide and driver to observe the giving of alms to the monks.  All of the many monks start at one end of town and steadily progress through the entire town to end up at the main monastery we had visited the previous day.  So soon after six in the morning one side of the road, towards the end of the procession which is not so heavily populated, are ladies with bowls of rice (some have others items) and on the other side numerous onlookers like ourselves.

A gong sounds to give notice of the approaching monks and in groups, representing different monastries they steadily process past.  Eventually the light improves sufficiently to permit photographs which are on the Flickr site.

Somewhere around the middle of the procession there is a break and the ladies then have the potential to refill their bowls of rice.  At the end of the ladies in or group is a small child and she does not give the monks any food but instead receives and it is explained that it is known that she is from a poorer family and the monks share the food they have received with the poorer groups.

We later find that our guide was a monk for a number of years.  If the land canot support the younger members of the family then joining a monastery  provides food and a good education and is beneficial for all concerned.  So Buddhism rather than a national dependence on the state – are we institutionalised Buddhists?

Heading back to the transport we walked through the morning market – it opens at 5 and the villagers from the surrounding area bring in all sorts of goods to be sold.  This covers  vegetables, meat, fish plus scarves and other goods of all descriptions.  There are photos – but again there do not seem to be any shortages of anything important and indeed in terms of vegetables these seem to be excellent in quality and quantity.

Anyway back to the hotel for breakfast and to shed our overcoats.  We have a big excursion today when we return to the town and the riverside to take a boat upstream for about two hours to visit a cave where the gold buddha was originally kept when brought to the country.  After the climb the previous day we decline the visit to the upper cave as we are told it contains not only buddha statues but also bats!

We cross the river to a small village and we walk through to where they keep the elephants in a small reserve in winter.  In summer they are used to move logs so are still working elephants.  Fed with numerous bananas they seem quite happy and relaxed even if necessarily tethered.

Then we wander back through the village for lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Mekong river – the sunshine is brilliant and it is again a warm day.  On the return trip to LP we stop at a village where they can show us numerous scarves and the wife is able to buy some items for a close friend’s impending birthday.  Here we hear the almost universal request “Do you want to buy a scarf?” in a polite but slightly singing voice which cannot be done justice in print.  This is repeated as we walk through the village as there are numerous sellers ans more scarves and table runners than the one village can possibly produce.  However thy are all very nice pieces and each house appears to have its own weaving loom we do wondr just how much weaving can possibly be achieved locally.

Whilst the village is obviously organised for visits like ours it is also notable that most of the houses have huge satellite dishes (athough rusty) and therefore presumably some form of power supply and television.  It may be rural but certainly they are not cut off from the outside world in any form.  Even here there is a well decorated and maintained temple – it reminds me of Greece where there may be economic problems but the religious houses are well maintained.

Travelling with the current our return journey is a little faster than outward and so towards the end of the afternoon we return to the hotel.

The evening commences with a Baci ceremony for the four travellers where about 20 local people welcome us to Laos.  About 10 ladies plus a couple of musicians sing a welcome and then a dancing group entertain us with their skills  and a number of different dances.  The end of the ceremony requires us to present our wrists and they tie pieces of string around each wrist to represent close ties between Laos and ourselves.  We are also presented with a flower arrangement which I receive from the Village elder (Shaman / priest) and I have to present this the following day at the Watermelon stupa.

We were a little amazed at this being laid on for just the four of us and we were somewhat relieved when a Mexican couple joined us during the proceedings.

Our evening was rounded off by dinner in the hotel and I can report that yet another excellent repast was consumed by the travellers.  The hotel kitchen can cook and the only thing we find difficult is that the concept of “courses” seems to be unknown as the soup arrives and the remaining food arrives almost immediately when the waiting team return to the kitchen!  After such a long day we are glad to retire to bed.

Good night.