The Floating Village in Ha Long Bay

Just a quick word on this place. Ha Long Bay, made up of 1969 islands, conveniently the same number as the year of the death of Ho Chi Minh, nations beloved leader that freed the Vietnamese from French rule. ‘Ha’ means descending and ‘Long’ means dragon, (think that’s the right way round). The tour guide spent 20 minutes telling us how the islands were formed by a dragon plummeting into the sea and firing pearl flames at the invaders, defending the Vietnamese. The pearls from the dragons breath solidified into these jagged limestone dolomites. Making the waters too treacherous for attack ships to navigate, eventually forcing them to retreat. The next tour guide stepped up and blew holes in that fairy tale with some cool geological science, but I can’t be arsed to relay that on. Check out WIKI or something, here, here’s a link. The floating fishing village is something to see. All the locals, generations upon generations of fishermen and their families spent their entire lives in the Bay, returning only to the mainland to sell on their catch. Now the lovely UNESCO have got involved, making it…
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Some thoughts on Hanoi

Home to 7.5 million people, with 9 million motorbikes. Here they have no dimmer switch, you either drive with a face mask or with a cigarette pursed between your lips. The streets have a frenzy to them, not like India where cows roam and feast on piles of trash, but it’s still chaos. The pavements teem with parked bikes, forcing the towns folk and tourists to walk on the street and negotiate the traffic. Bisecting the city is the Red River which carries the pink soil from the Chinese mountains. The Capital city is home to the Mausoleum which houses Ho Chi Minh lying in state. Ho Chi Minh declared the city’s independence from the French here in 1945 and lived here until the time of his death. He lived alone, no kids, no wives. “He was gay for sure, but no one talks about it,” the missus says in line to the citadel, a line that not only goes around the block, but runs serpentine round many streets. We google ‘Ho Chi Minh gay’ and open up a dark web worm hole where we spend the next ten minutes scouting…
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Tian Tan Buddha Hong Kong – Scrapbook

Arrived here mid-day, climbed to the top of Tian Tan Buddha. It doesn’t have the majesty of Statue of Christ, or the view, but it does have a swastika on its chest. The Nazi’s inverted the swastika, probably the most pernicious hijacking of a sacred symbol since Usain Bolt plagerised the Victory pose from Arnold Schwarznegger during his Mr Universe years. Down in the valley a pacified wild bull roams and shits up on the locals.  
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Look Up! Hong Kong Skylines – Scrapbook

Hong Kong has the kind of rain you can walk around topless. The vendors down Temple Street Market have no fear of getting drenched, even their cigarettes appear impervious to the slue. The sounds of the city are dominated by traffic beeping like defibrillators at pedestrian crossings. A drum of metronomic ticks, quickening to trills or demi-quavers to signal it’s safe to cross. One thing you need to know about Asians, they have a thing for karaoke. One street had a bar full of them, bookended by tarot card vendors and palm readers. The Asians don’t sing to impress. They sing for the fundamental joy of it. With gaiety and total lack of self-awareness. The mainland has the spirit, the spunk. Hong Kong island has the tourists, the money, Lantau has the poverty, the ethereal magic. Tai O; the town that time forgot. Oh yeh, Bamboo scaffolding is a thing.  
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Tai O – The Fishing Village Built on Stilts

Tai O, is a fishing town on the western side of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. The village is now mostly squatter’s huts and dilapidated stilt houses, known as pang uks. People still live here, unlike the floating fishing villages in Ha Long Bay where the government have moved the residents into brand new apartments. Tai O, as disruptively beautiful as it is, has street dogs. It’s never a good sign for your town or village when dogs roam around, ownerless, with a kind of pimp-like swagger, high fiving other dogs. But then this is a slum, only a slum with flat screen TV’s, not tube teles like the Favelas in Brazil. Historically, any fish that went unsold by Chinese fisherman would be dried out on the piers and placed into salt barrels. Shrimp would also be left out in the sun to ferment, before being mashed by feet into paste. This practice is still employed today which will account for large parts of the harbour smelling like a Grimsby tackle shop. The cats here don’t care much about you either. But that can be said of all cats I suppose. The posters for the boat…
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Hannong Strasbourg – Hotel Review

Close to the station, right in the centre of town and a stone’s throw away from the main tourist attractions, the Hannong Hotel combines all the attributes for completely unique stay in Strasbourg. On Tripadvisor; rated 10 out of 128 hotels to stay in Strasbourg, lets find out how it faired. Bed: A little small, feet dangled off the bed and I’m all of “5.6. Missus was unimpressed but thats a running theme. 6/10 Toilet paper: Not pointed, but nice paisley pattern. 7/10 Shower: Awesome, dual optionally, over head and one to shoot straight at your balls. Also in the centre of the room, with the option of open blinds. Feels a bit saucy, voyeuristic watching the missus shower with a glimmer of boob through the blinds. 8/10 Bar:  Good, gave you a half price drink voucher at reception, staff served it up, promptly with a smile. 7/10 Kettle: Yes, ace actually, no manual or degree in mechanical engineering required to operate the fucker. Same can be said for the Safe. 10/10 Breakkie: Not thrown in, additional €14 ish. After the deluge of carbs, pain au chocolate, croissants and crepes, came…
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On the Road to Piz Gloria – Final Chapter – It’s not a …

‘Do you mean it?’ – Tracy, On her Majesty’s Secret Service The long corridors beneath the Alpine Room were lined with Bond posters, chronologically, the good ones. The cartoon ones. It then eddies through the Daltons, Brosnins’, finally coming to a pitiful stop with a solitary shot of Daniel Craig wearing a roll neck and shoulder gun holster. If ever there was a more linear depiction of creativity being lost in the arts, capitulating during the 80’s, prolapsing through the 90’s then finally flatlining in the 21st century, look no further than the Bond posters. Inside the museum we were free from the Chinese tourists, hah! Fucking charlatans. A mere selfie on the skydeck with a Lazenby statue and that’s that box ticked. But this. THIS was for the purists. Seeing Blofelds Coat of Arms, (apparently created by the College Coat of Arms especially for the film, details in the appendix) learning that Diana Rigg never bothered to learn to ski and did all the scenes pulled in a sled on her knees, how Lazenbys’ stunt double slipped from the cable cart scene into a valley, only to be saved by an outstretched…
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On the Road to Piz Gloria – Chapter 2 – God Bless the Chinese

Piz Gloria is Schilthorn. Piz Gloria wasn’t actually a thing until Fleming made it a thing. The revolving restaurant that was in the process of being built in 68’ scouted by Hubert Fröhlich for the upcoming celluloid Bond, On her Majesty’s Secret Service. It ran out of ideas and money, the Bond Production company EON stepped in with a rescue package which enabled them to redesign the construction to fit the narrative of the movie. Off the gondola from Birg at Schilthorn, spearheading the pack of Chinese tourists, left the missus for dusk. Up two escalators, through the souvenir shop to the roof. Made it, the very epicenter of the Bond universe. Two 2-d Lazenby statuettes made from acetate and durable fibre glass positioned themselves proudly on the skydeck where Bond stockpiled his shag list during a game of curling. The snow spat with the velocity of a gritter truck. The Chinese tourists erupted onto the skydeck like one of those videos you see of American’s invading a Walmart on Black Friday. God bless them, injecting hard currency into Bond World, no doubt single-handedly financing Piz Gloria’s operations and keeping the…
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On the Road to Piz Gloria – Chapter One – Where’s George?

“Just a slight stiffness coming on.” Bond, On her Majesty’s Secret Service Stepping off the train at Lauterbrunnen, the valley before the ascent to Murren, base camp to Piz Gloria, home of the newly commercially coined ‘Bond World’ you’re hit with an indistinguishable smell of cow shit. Lauterbrunnen still 2612 feet above sea level, is also the end of the line for the melted caps descending from the peaks of Jungfrau, spilling off the table top down into the ravines. It’s the most beautiful train station you’re likely to see. To try and school you in the exact route for your pilgramge could be a lesson in futility. Numerous cable carts, trains, even the 141 bus. All you need is the SBB App, a Swiss Pass, and a girlfriend that has a nose for north. You’ll know where you are when you hit the cable cart at Grutschalp, a totemic poster of George Lazenby in his herringbone suit, dimpled chin and balled fist is there to welcome you. In the foyer a Schilthorn Bond snowglobe, a shadowy figure reminiscent more of the Man from Milk Tray than Bond is embossed on…
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Look Up! Strasbourg Skylines – Scrapbook

“It’s still corporal punishment, see you in Strasbourg“. – Alan Partridge, Alan Partridge. I ponced around Strasbourg Cathedral, still wearing my Stetson, still in Houston mode.  It was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874 , when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai’s Church, Hamburg. Today it’s the sixth. Eat my knowledge. A shortish chap, non-descript, with an unbelievable look of shock and dismay in his eye approached. In French and pigeon English he muttered, motioning me to lift off my hat. “I got ya chief,” I said, lifting my hat. The missus took ownership and planted it on hers, with a lady like tilt. Women can wear stetsons in cathedrals apparently, but men can’t. I mean what kind of bollocks rule is that. Later we had lunch at Umami. I asked what the waitress, who swooned between the desk and floor with cocksure insouciance, “What’s the catch of the day?” Immediately I thought of a joke and laughed to myself, disturbingly. Anyone wanting to know the joke please inbox me, it’s not relevant or repeatable here. For dinner we went to La Riviere. I asked the waiter who was of Asian descent, whom…
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