Trichinopoly – St John’s Baptism and Burial Register 1810-1834

I have just completed transcribing the Baptism and Burial (but no Marriages) Registers that Vernon Wright and I photographed when we were in Trichinopoply in October 2015.

The Baptismal spreadsheet contains 604 entries and the Burial 1696. All in all there are 1394 surnames in the surname index that I prepared, 165 of which are being researched by various members of The Guild of One Name Studies. Some of these surnames are obviously varients of a particular name, either mis-spelt or mis-heard by the Clerk, Army Officer, Missionary or Chaplain who was recording the entry, so it is most important when searching that you use try searching using different spellings, think phonetically, and use wildcards * and %.

There are sections missing from the Registers – particularly the Baptismal Register – a whole chunk from mid July 1810 to April 1816 and at least two pages in July-August 1822, the burial register is pretty much intact from 1810 to 1834. We did photograph everything that was in the blue plastic bag where the register was kept, including all the silverfish! Vernon and I even went back to the Church in the evening to finish photographing and took about a thousand photos just of this Register.

I have transcribed each entry as acurately as I can which you will find under the under the heading “Full Register Details”, The rest of the fields are for easy searching – e.g. First Name, Surname, Father’s Name, Mother’s Name, Occupation, Rank etc. No doubt you will find typing errors, despite my proof reading it twice. Please advise me if you do find any errors so that they may be corrected. Where I am not sure of a name, or a spelling I have put a ? . I have used square brackets [ ] where I have made a suggestion – e.g. [Cat]herine

Most of the Register consists of three entries to a page and each photo reflects these entries.

I hope that you find your ancestor – although some of these entries do appear under the Indian Baptisms and Burials on www.findmypast.co.uk , and www.familysearch.org they are transcriptions and not actual photos of the original register, so these photos are Primary Sources for your family history records.

Search the Trichinopoly registers

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Baptisms and Burials in Trichinopoly 1810-1834

Whilst in Trichinopoly in October 2015, our “Splendours of South India” Family History Tour visited St. John’s Church and whilst there asked if we could see any BMD (Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths) Registers that they might have, and if so, would they give us permission to photograph them. They had some registers, and they gave us their permission to photograph them. Some tattered books were produced which a few of our group set about photographing, whilst others were out photographing the gravestones. (All these, in time, will appear on the FIBIS (Families in British India Society) website http://www.fibis.org

I was handed a rather miserable looking blue plastic shopping bag, in which I found a treasure – but oh, what a state it was in. My Conservator, whom I volunteer for at The Keep (East Sussex Records Office), would have been throwing up her hands, first of all in horror with the state that it was in, and then in eagerness to examine it, despite it falling apart and full of silverfish! She would love to have had it brought to her for conservation – but it was India, not England. We did point out to the local Bishop that these registers need to be conserved properly and should be in the National Archives, and not left falling apart in cupboards or on shelves in the various parish churches.

It was a Baptismal and Burial Register from 1810 to 1834, yellowed with age but the ink and handwriting still very legible, literally falling apart, torn pages and full of little holes where the bugs have been eating it. I set about photographing it with the help of one of my team-mates – Vernon Wright who was tall enough to be able to photograph a two page spread at a time, whilst I very gently turned pages, inserted blank sheets of paper between the leaves to make it more readable, and held the pages down, whilst he used my camera, shot after shot.

The group spent a couple of hours at the church, by which time we had photographed about a third of the register, not stopping to read any of the entries, (although Vernon was interested to see that one of Chaplains was a Joseph Wright) then we all went off to explore another church and graveyard. I was so enthusiastic about getting this old register photographed for posterity before it crumbled and was destroyed, that I asked if I could return that evening to finish photographing it – Vernon, very gallantly offered to accompany me and we spent another 3-4 hours in the church – in all we took about 1000 photos jsut of that register. Good tip of everyone is to make sure you have a spare data cards, second cameras and/or phone with battery backup if attempting something like this.

Having returned to the UK, and whilst waiting for all the photographs of graveyards, memorials and registers to be sent to me by the rest of the tour members, in order for me to sort, improve the images where I can and delete duplicates etc., in my spare time (usually a couple of hours early in the morning) I have slowly been transcribing the St. John’s Register.

I have transcribed 603 Baptisms from 1810 to 1827 and am now up to the year 1824 for the Burials and so far have 960 burial entries recorded. There are only another hundred or so photographs to go (out of about 1000) – but in each photograph there are two pages – so still a lot to transcribe with three entries on each page to do – but the spreadsheets are growing. I have made a surname index which now has over 1000 different surnames, 230 of them being registered with the Guild of One Name Studies http://www.one-name.org

The information in this register is quite exceptional, with names, ages, occupations, etc. and these are the headings (or fields) that will appear once the data has been updated to the websites – and it will be searchable by name etc – but not all entries will have information in all the fields – but many do.

Trichinopoly Baptisms

Trichinopoly Burials
There appear to be two or three main Chaplains during this period, and their methods of recording the details differ quite considerably. For example, the Revd. Henry C Bankes puts in a lot of detail, including the date of birth as well as the baptismal date and the ‘Condition’ of the mother giving her surname if married as well as recording whether she is “a Native Woman”; “a Woman of Colour” or a “Half-Caste”. After 31st March 1823 the Revd. Jos.Wright takes over keeping the registers and he appears to use different clerks (as the handwriting keeps changing) to fill in the details and he only signs the entry. There is a lot less information given, and I am coming to the conclusion that if the mother of the child who is being buried is not European, then he does not appear to record the mother at all, which seems to indicate she is ‘a native woman’

Most of the writing is reasonably easy to read, especially as being a digital photo, it can be increased in size to check the actual letters in a word. There are occasions where there is information missing, e.g. a torn page, eaten by bugs, or simply has not been entered. Where I am unsure of a word or a spelling I have used a ? – where I know what the word is I have used square brackets [ ] – e.g. the long ‘s’ has been used on occasion ‘Afsistant’ is [Assistant].

One must remember that this was a period of illiteracy, and although these Chaplains, Clerks, and Army officers were supposed to be literate, their spellings leave something to be desired, and many of the surnames I think have been written down phonetically rather than using the correct accurate spelling, so when searching, it is wise to ‘think laterally’ and use wild cards * % etc when searching.

If anyone finds mistakes in my transcriptions, I would be happy to hear of them so that I can make corrections.

Hope you look forward to searching when this database goes online.

Indian e-tourist visa scheme extended to British travellers

Great news! If you haven’t already applied for your India Tourist Visa you can apply on-line for an e-visa from 15 August 2015. The current fee of £89.44 will be reduced to $60 (£39) and you do not need to book an appointment at an application centre or send documents in the post. Instead applicants will upload any documents they need to provide, such as photographs etc., via the website and pay and track their application on-line.

The following press note is from the Official e-visa website which you can read here

Press Note

Extension of e-Tourist Visa scheme to 36 more countries/Territories and 7 more Airports from 15th August 2015

Government of India has launched e Tourist Visa on 27th November 2014. The scheme has been extended to Passport Holders of 77 Countries/Territories for entry at nine Indian Airports designated for providing e-Tourist visa service till
now.

We are now going to extend this facility to Passport holders of 36 more Countries/Territories from 15th August 2015. The new Countries/Territories being added in e-Tourist Visa scheme are:-

1. Andorra
2. Argentina
3. Armenia
4. Aruba
5. Belgium
6. Bolivia
7. Colombia
8. Cuba
9. East Timor
10. Guatemala
11. Hungary
12.Ireland
13.Jamaica
14. Malta
15. Malaysia
16. Mongolia
17. Monaco
18. Mozambique
19. Netherlands
20. Panama
21. Peru
22. Poland
23. Portugal
24. Seychelles
25. Slovenia
26. Spain
27. St Lucia
28. St Vincent & the Grenadines
29. Suriname
30. Sweden
31.Taiwan.
32.Tanzania
33.Turks & Caicos Island
34. United Kingdom
35. Uruguay
36. Venezuela

With this addition the total count of Countries/Territories under the scheme will go upto 113 (One hundred Thirteen).

Simultaneously, we are going to add 7 more Indian Airports as Designated Airports for entry on e-Tourist Visa from 15th August2015. New Airports being included in the scheme are:-

1. Ahmedabad
2. Amritsar
3. Gaya
4. Jaipur
5. Lucknow
6. Tirchy
7. Varanasi.

With this total number of Designated Airports will become 16.

Since the launch of the scheme on 27/11/2014 more than 200000 (Two lac) eTVs have been issued till now.

It is expected that this substantial addition of countries and airports will give big boost to tourism industry in the country.

Further details in this regard may be checked on the e-Tourist Visa website https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html

Useful links

What to take to India – documents, clothing and essentials

ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO KNOW ABOUT AND WHAT CLOTHING TO TAKE WITH YOU TO INDIA

FIT FOR TRAVEL

The following points and suggestions are gleaned from my own personal travel experiences and do not necessarily reflect other travel specialists points of view.

Your travel documents and itinerary – Indus Experiences, who are organising these tours, will be sending you each one of their lovely folders with all of your travel documents, so don’t worry about printing out the itinerary, just put your travel insurance details into it and you are set to go!

Some things to remember to take with you – make a tick list

glasses – if you wear them – even just for reading – don’t forget to take them – you will need a pair of sunglasses as well – take a note of your prescription lenses with you in case you lose or break your glasses – if that happens to you it is very easy and quick to obtain a new pair in India
• if you wear contact lenses take your favourite solutions – but the pharmacies in the major cities in India are usually pretty well stocked
• if you use a walking stick or cane, think about getting a folding one as easier to fit into your hand-luggage and won’t be put in the hold as an ‘offensive weapon’, or left on the luggage rack.
Take a sun hat – Panama’s are ideal as they can be bashed around and will usually ‘bounce back’ into shape and are cool. A ‘Tilley’ hat or a canvas safari hat are also ideal as they can go into the washing machine if they get too sweaty. Even a baseball or sailing cap will do to keep the sun out of your eyes. Remember the old adage that it is only ‘the British who go out in the noonday sun’ and that is why our ancestors in India wore ‘solar topees’ or pith helmets.
• Ladies, make sure you have a headscarf, especially when visiting religious sites – or you might not be allowed in. Some venues do not accept a hat as a head covering!
• A small travel umbrella is good for both the sun and the rain
• Carry a small hand-held fan for when you are on the coach or train. The hotels will have air-conditioning or ceiling fans (which I personally prefer). I have a folding fan (see my ‘essentials’ photo) which I use all the time but there are plenty of small battery operated fans that will fit into a pocket – if you have one of these don’t forget to have spare ‘long life’ batteries for it. Boots, Lakeland, M&S, Amazon all offer these mini personal fans for about £6
• Take some hand sanitizer and/or wipes and I take make-up remover wipes rather than bottles or tubes. All the supermarkets here sell them.
• A small pair of binoculars or opera glasses can be very useful – especially if you are a bird or train watcher!
• If you don’t like going with bare feet into the temples (as you will have to take your shoes off) , take some short ankle socks
• A hand mirror is excellent to use when trying to read the inscriptions on gravestones (as is aluminium foil, but that can be purchased locally)
• Take a paint brush (at least ½ inch wide) for brushing out inscriptions before you photograph – can be used as a lens cleaning brush as well.
• Photograph your suitcases before you leave, so that you can describe them exactly to the officials should they get lost or delayed.
• Don’t bother taking shampoo and soap as the hotel will provide these, but not all supply a shower cap, so take a disposable one.
• Same applies to slippers – the hotels will provide them
• I take pre-printed labels for all the postcards that I wish to send to grand-children, friends and relations
• I always buy a duty-free bottle of spirits at the airport to take to the hotel with me – costs a lot less than purchasing drinks at the bar, and mixers, such as diet coke, lemonade, tonic, soda water etc. are usually easily available from the street vendors or small supermarkets.

Some point to consider – don’t let them worry you – just be aware .

You can always check for recent updates on travel in India by looking at the British High Commission website. www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india

In recent years there has been an increase in reported cases of sexual assault against women including female tourists.

• Wear a wedding ring (even if you don’t normally) to avoid harassment.
• Do not take any expensive jewellery with you – leave it all at home. When we were in Vietnam recently, one of our cruise party stepped out of the main doors of the 5 star hotel to find a young man on a motor scooter waiting on the pavement, he leaned back and snatched her gold necklace from around her neck and rode off! She and her husband spent the rest of the morning at the police station, (had to be reported so that she could claim on her travel insurance), with no chance of recovery of the necklace.
• Don’t tell strangers where you are staying or give out too many details about your travel plans.
• Try to always walk with another person in the group rather than on your own. A group is an ideal way to travel, as there is always someone around you can talk to, walk with etc.
• If you receive unwelcome propositions or remarks – it is usually best to ignore them – appear confident.
• Try not to flag down a taxi in the street – go into the nearest hotel and ask them to order one for you, and get the price before you get into the cab.
• In the hotel, always lock your door and never leave your key where someone can note down the number.
• Don’t leave your window open if it is at all accessible from outside – monkeys as well as thieves like to explore an open window.
• Make sure you leave any valuables locked in the hotel safe.

effervescent Vitamin C tablets
Effervescent Vitamin C tablets

• Only drink bottled water. The larger hotels will use purified water for ice, but if not sure, always ask. We shall be staying in good quality hotels where bottled drinking water will be available – but always check the seal before drinking. I take some effervescent Vitamin C tablets to add to my bottled water – improves the taste and protects you against colds! Tesco currently do a  “3 for the price of 2” and offer 3 varieties, so I will be taking a tube of each with me.
• Do not be tempted to pet any animals – there are still plenty of cases of rabies in India. You will find monkeys even in the cities – steer clear of them as well.
• Ignore the beggars – especially the children. Their parents take them out of school to prey on the tourists. If you want to give them something, take some pens or pencils or cheap notebooks with you, or even some lollipops or sweets, but don’t give them money!

CLOTHING

India is a conservative but tolerant country, and visitors should dress accordingly – think about how your clothing will fit in with local customs – what are the local women wearing? There is a chain of stores in India called ‘Fabindia” www.fabindia.com that have great clothes at great prices. Ladies if you find that you are larger than many Indian women, head straight for the men’s department – cotton tunics (kurtas) and elastic waisted pants in many colours are available and with less embroidery on them. You will find them very cool to wear and tourists seem to get more respect if in Indian garb.

Guideline to follow for the ladies – no bare shoulders, knees and especially no cleavage! Ladies, leave your strappy tops and short shorts at home. OK on the beach, but not where we are going!

Remember only half fill your suitcase and pack for just one week – if you need more, buy it there. Good excuse for a spending spree. Colour coding and ‘layering up’ are the way to go. A good website to look at is www.onebag.com all about reducing the amount you take on holiday and how to pack your case! Lots of great tips for the traveller!

image of travel essentials
My travel essentials

These are a few of my essentials for travelling in hot climates – a fan, a little clothes hanger for drying my overnight washing, some travel soap (but shampoo washes clothes equally well and that is always available in the hotels. Insect repellent, as well as antiseptic hand wipes.

Most hotels offer a 24 hour laundry service, so with a bit of planning you should be able to keep ahead of the dirty washing game and if you read my blog about Vietnam, there will be some “Widow Twanky’s” around as well. A word of warning – just be aware that in the county areas the laundresses have a heavy hand with washing, and sometimes ‘bash the living daylights’ out of the clothes, so I wouldn’t take any new or expensive items, unless you aim to wash them by hand yourself. Don’t bother with a travel iron – if you need to iron anything, the hotel will provide one, or do the pressing for you.

According to my husband, for a man this is all that is needed in the way of clothes

Gentlemen should pack

• a light sweater or lightweight fleece.
• a light woollen scarf. It will roll up nicely and won’t take up much room in your suitcase. Especially useful for the flight home or the cool evenings.
• pack about four short-sleeved shirts, and a similar number of polo shirts.
• two long-sleeved shirts, useful for the evenings to keep any bugs or mosquitoes at bay, but especially if the temperature drops
• about three pairs of lightweight shorts or long slacks for daytime wear.
• a couple of “respectable” pairs of trousers for the evenings (and/or for meeting Bishops), and for travelling to and from India.
• jeans you will probably find too hot, take too long to dry and are heavy, but they are acceptable.
• a pair of strong sandals and a pair of moccasin type deck shoes. Wear a stout pair of walking shoes or boots on the plane – they will be the heaviest.
• good quality socks – cheap ones only make your feet sweat! M&S do a range of anti-bacterial socks called ‘Fresh Feet” – haven’t actually tried them myself.
• a pair of swimming shorts.
• light cotton short pyjamas.
• comfortable underwear – a vest for when the evenings get a bit chilly.
• a hat with a brim, such as a Panama.
• take a light cotton jacket which doesn’t crease too badly when packed.
• 1 tie (just in case you go to a ‘posh’ restaurant or bar)
• belt that fits all the pairs of trousers

From his personal experience, among the most practical trousers and shirts are those made by Rohan www.rohan.co.uk or ‘ Peter Storm’ which are firms specialising in travel clothes for all climates. The travel trousers are designed with large, secure, zipped pockets, and most are lightweight and breathable. The lightweight ones can be rinsed out in the hotel bathroom and will be dry again by next morning. The double zipped trousers can be easily adjusted to be either shorts, long shorts or full-length slacks. An example can be seen by following this link http://www.millets.co.uk/mens/132820-peter-storm-mens-ramble-double-zip-off-trousers-regular.html

Image of Peter Bailey's fishing vest
Peter Bailey in his fishing vest

When Peter Bailey, Chairman of FIBIS, travels, he wears a fishing vest underneath his light-weight jacket – keeps him warm, on the plane, easy to wear and has lots of pockets to stuff things into. If you find your hand-baggage exceeds the weight limit fill the pockets of your jacket, as they don’t weigh you at the airport!

If you are not a Gentleman, then I will leave the selection of clothes up to yourself!

Ladies should pack

For the Ladies my husband suggests the following

• seventeen long-sleeved blouses (to match the decor in the hotels)
• thirty-four pairs of slacks and matching skirts
• headscarf
• twenty-two pairs of bloomers (2 per day for 11 days)
• eleven pairs of shoes
• eleven pairs of matching sandals
• eleven essential handbags
• a box of Kleenex
• nail file

Having taken the above suggestions tongue in cheek, this is what I will be taking in my suitcase – and don’t forget this time I will be in India for 7 weeks – those on the tour will just have to get used to seeing me in the same range of clothes, although I do intend to buy a kaftan and a couple of Indian Kurtas or tunics whilst I am there!

Head scarves image
Head scarves

• pack-a-mac
• long cardigan
• light knit cotton cardigan
• 2 long-sleeved tops
• 6 T-shirts and tops – mainly cotton or easy care – ie don’t need ironing and dry quickly
• 1 long cotton skirt
• 1 long jersey dress and bolero for evening wear
• 1 skirt and top for evening wear
• 5 pairs of slacks colour coordinated to tops
• cotton dressing gown
• 2 cotton night-dresses
• one piece swimming costume and wrap
• headscarf/shawl – I purchased these scarf’s last time I was in India, and they are great – don’t crease, can be rolled up, are long and can be pulled out wide and worn as a shawl

Footsies
M&S Footsies

• Wool pashmina (if you don’t already have one wait until you get to India to buy one)
• Comfortable underwear
• 1 pair of tights (for evening wear)
• 2 pairs of good quality socks
• 2 pairs of ankle socks for temple walking
• 3 pairs of M&S ‘bonded footsies’ (Code T606992) I found these invaluable – wore them even with my sandals – stopped me getting blisters

SHOES – always the bane of my life when it comes to packing but this is what I take – don’t forget to stuff them with socks, hankies and other small items.

• 1 pair of walking shoes – You will need a good stout pair when visiting the cemeteries which are invariably overgrown – these shoes will be the heaviest so wear them on the plane
• 1 pair of dress shoes for evening wear (or ballet pumps)
• 2 pairs of sandals for everyday wear
• 2 pairs of Sketchers (ladies ‘go walk’)

Image of skechers go walk show
Skechers ‘Go Walk’ shoe

I discovered Sketchers shoes www.skechers.co.uk just before I went to Cambodia and Vietnam earlier this year and shall certainly be taking them again as they were most comfortable and so light to pack and can be thrown in the washing machine!

More on Indian food and souvenir shopping to follow.

What to take to India – Medicine, luggage, currency and tipping

Our holidays to India are only weeks away and so planning should be underway – time to think of obtaining your visas and any medication or inoculations and don’t forget you will need comprehensive travel insurance. Don’t leave these three important ‘things to do’ until the last moment, or you might run out of time! Once you have these in place take 2 photocopies of all your essential travel documents – one to leave with friends or relatives at home, and a spare set to carry with you stored separately from the originals,

Do read my earlier blog on “What to pack when travelling abroad

MEDICATION

When I asked my doctor what injections we would need, he suggested that as we are all different, we should each contact the specialist nurse in our own local clinics who will be able to advise and procure the necessary inoculations. He did suggest taking some Imodium for the inevitable ‘Delhi Belly”.

Make sure that if you are on any prescription drugs that you get enough to take with you to cover you for the whole time you are away and it is advisable to take about 25% more than you need, in case of emergency, planes being delayed etc. Do make sure that you pack these in your hand luggage, just in case your suitcase should get lost or delayed. You can take medicines into India as long as you carry the prescription with you. Drugs are illegal in India, and there is a minimum sentence of 6 months for possession of small amounts deemed for personal consumption and a minimum 10 year sentence for possession of other amounts.

A small quantity of analgesic tablets, and anti diarrhoea tablets, a few ‘band aids’ for minor cuts; ‘corn plasters’ in case you should get any blisters, Obviously the hotel or local tour guide will handle anything more serious. Paracaetamol or similar pain killers are a useful standby and I will be taking a couple of tubes of effervescent Vitamin C tablets to add to my bottled water – makes it a little more palatable and also help keep any colds at bay. Also a small sewing kit for minor repairs is useful

If you have trouble sleeping hang onto the eye mask and earplugs that the airline will provide. If you have a good set of earphones do take them with you for the flight, but make sure that you have a universal ‘jack’ that will fit any airline as they do vary.

LUGGAGE AND EQUIPMENT

luggageLuggage – don’t take too much and remember that you only have two hands with which to deal with all your items. I take a ‘pull along’ hand baggage, a small handbag or mini ruckssack and one reasonably solid suitcase which when fully packed usually weighs in under 23kgs and I find that the type that have four wheels are easy to push alongside you rather than those with only two wheels which you have to drag. No point in buying really expensive luggage – they only attracts thieves and they will get just as ‘trashed’ as any other suitcase by the airlines and luggage handlers. Tie, or tape, some brightly coloured indentification to your case so that you can easily spot it on the carosel or in the piles of luggage in the hotel foyer.

Aim to only half fill your suitcase as you are bound to want to buy something whilst you are away – clothes, souvenirs, pashmina etc., and if your suitcase is packed to the brim before you start, you will have nowhere to put anything else. Porterage will be included in your travel package for one suitcase each, but if you have more, then you will have to pay the extra porterage yourself on the additional luggage. Porterage happens everywhere in India – from the airport to the taxi or transfer vehicle; to the train station; into the hotel; onto the coach – wherever you are moving from one place to another might involve three or four transfers of luggage in just one day! Don’t think you will be able to do it all yourself – you won’t – as a group you will be ushered into the hotels, onto the coach, train etc and the luggage all gets handled elsewhere. Tipping I will come onto later as a separate item.

You are allowed fairly generous hand baggage on international flights

BA – Checked baggage – Economy – 1 suitcase -23kgs – and two items of hand baggage – an announcement made 1st August says BA is cutting the size of the second ‘personal’ bag to 40x30x15cm – – for full details go to –
http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/baggage-essentials/hand-baggage-allowances

Emirates allow 30 kilos for checked baggage and one piece of hand baggage.
Economy Class customers are permitted one piece of carry-on baggage, either a handbag or laptop bag, that may not exceed 22 x 15 x 8 inches (55 x 38 x 20cm) and must weigh no more than 15lb (7kg).
Note: For customers boarding in India, the size of carry-on baggage may not exceed 45.3 total inches or 115cm (length + width + height).

Pack a change of clothes in your carry on baggage, so that at least you have something clean to put on when you get to your destination, just in case your main suitcase is delayed or lost – it has happened to me twice. As mentioned before put any medications in as well, but remember that any tube or bottle must be presented in one plastic bag for security inspection at the airport. Ladies, this applies to makeup, nail polish, suntan lotion etc. – just last month my sister was flying back to France and lost half her makeup because it would not all fit into the airline allocated plastic bag. The airline will give you a toothbrush and mini toothpaste on board, so pack your larger tube of toothpaste, your deodorants, shaving cream etc. into your main baggage along with your insect repellant, suntan lotions etc. for you won’t need them on the flight – remember any aerosols also have to be packed in the main suitcase. Most importantly, any penknives, scissors or sharp instruments must not be carried in your hand baggage – I had a pair of tweezers confiscated in Vietnam! I asked why and was informed they were ‘too sharp”

If you are taking a laptop, ipad or tablet, or any other sort of computer equipment you will have to take it out of your hand baggage at the airport and present it separately at security, so make sure it / they are readily accessible. Do ensure that all your pieces of equipment are fully charged, for if (on request) they cannot be turned on at the airport they may be confiscated. That applies for your return flight as well. Plugs and cables should be kept (where possible) with the laptop, phone etc. that they belong to – again just in case your main suitcase goes missing.

Electricty in India is 230 volts, so those of you coming from Canada or USA, you will need to make sure any of your equipment will take that voltage rather than the 110v you have at home. Plug sockets tend to be 3 pin but they are round – so you will need at least one adaptor for charging anything electrical, and make sure you take it with you when you unplug your equipment before moving onto the next hotel.

Camera – take lenses, spare batteries, cards, USB memory sticks etc. as you will be taking lots of photos. I download my camera every day onto a separate hard drive, or USB stick so that I can keep my camera empty for the next lot of photographs. Good idea to save them online to your personal ‘icloud’, dropbox etc., in case your camera is stolen or you loose all your gear! Most of the hotels witll have wifi, even if it is only in the reception areas and if not, we can always end up in a “Macdonalds”! – they always offer free wifi.

Pack your reading glasses, ear phones(if you are taking them), book, kindle, etc. that you want for your flight into your hand baggage so that you can easily access them when you board the plane (I put them all into one plastic or cloth bag inside my hand baggage) – for there is nothing worse than having sat down having stowed your hand baggage overhead (and maybe not even above your own seat) than to find that you haven’t got your crossword puzzle, game, book etc. and then having to disturb everyone around you whilst you get your hand baggage down and root around for the items you require.

Image of handbagsHandbags – I only carry two – a very small one for day or evening wear into which fits my passport, notebook and pen, phone and purse with local currency. The other is a small foldable rucksack for day trips – it is zipped, so hard for pickpockets to penetrate, and if I feel it is necessary, I wear it on my front, rather than my back. It is big enough to carry a local currency purse, a small bottle of water, raincoat or jumper, mini iPad, phone and head scarf. I always leave my passport in the hotel safe and just carry a photocopy of it with me at all times.

WEATHER

You’ll be arriving in India on the cusp of a seasonal change in the weather, between the very end of the Monsoon Season, and the beginning of Autumn. Indians consider that by November its winter, but it’s all relative and Europeans shouldn’t find it uncomfortably cold in the places you’ll be visiting. Nevertheless, ladies will be wise to pack a light sweater or woolen jumper and a pashmina type shawl (plenty to choose from when you get there) because it can get chilly in the evenings, which is especially noticeable if its been a warm day. Similarly, gentlemen should pack light sweater and also a light woolen scarf. It will roll up nicely and won’t take up much room in your suitcase.

In southern and central India it doesn’t usually get cold, so if that is where you will spend most time, think “hot and humid”. (I will discuss clothing more fully later) If visiting the North, its bracing, rather than cold, and it may be misty in the foothills or even raining later in the year, so a lightweight raincoat or anorak to keep off any showers is worth packing. I purchased an inexpensive nylon anorak with a hood from my local garden centre. I can roll it up tight into its own pocket and pack it in a corner of my suitcase. Don’t bother with a deluxe sailing or hillwalking jacket. Too expensive and too bulky. Personally I don’t to take a coat at all – just a long cardigan and the pack-a-mac – mainly for wearing on the airplane.

There are plenty of websites you can access for climate conditions– this is a particularly good one as you can search city by city http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=422950&cityname=Darjeeling-India

CURRENCY

The basic rule: you are not allowed to take rupees in or out of India. That means that you will need to obtain some currency upon arrival, rather than sorting it out in advance. The safest way is to take a mixture of cards and cash.

There are various methods for obtaining the local currency

Debit Card – You can use your bank card in any ATM machine, but do advise your bank that you will be travelling in India or it may be declined.
Also check what your Bank charges for withdrawals, as some banks add a hefty fee each time you make a withdrawal. One risk is that your card might be cloned in an ATM machine so do check your bank statements for any unauthorized use.

Credit Cards – very useful for purchases, as it protects you against faulty goods, supplier going bust etc, but to obtain currency, you will definitely be charged a fee – up to 3%. Find a Credit Card that will not charge you a fee for overseas purchase transactions – I use a Post Office Credit Card when travelling for that very reason, but I always have my Amex card as a fall back as well as my Bank Debit Card.

Traveller’s Cheques – these are now considered ‘old fashioned’ and sometimes there are difficulties with cashing them, even some of the larger hotels won’t change them, and there may not even be a bank in the neighbourhood and if it is out of banking hours when you run out of money, then you will be out of luck!

PrePaid Travel Cards – these are becoming very popular, but be aware that Prepaid cards are not eligible for protection under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. These cards can be obtained either as a ‘Pay as you go” or with a monthly charge, however, do pay attention to the charges and the redemption fee for transferring back into sterling. Caxton’s global card offers a flat rate of £1.50, but others can be higher. With one of these cards there is no risk of thieves getting into your bank account and Prepaid cards offer the added benefit of locking in the initial exchange rate for the duration of use,

Caxtons http://www.caxtonfx.com – says you can use your card at over 35 million outlets and ATM’s worldwide where MasterCard is accepted.

The Indian ICICI Bank is offering a Rupee Travel Card and you don’t need an account with them in order to obtain one – just link your current bank account in order to transfer funds onto the ICICI UK travel card http://www.icicibank.co.uk/personal/travel_card.page

Centtrip www.centtrip.com offers a single prepaid MasterCard that can be used to pay in 14 currencies at the actual live currency rates, rather than incurring a bank’s conversion charges. Consumers pay one fixed annual fee of £10 and 0.5 per cent of the value of funds. Don’t know if the currency includes Rupees

Moneysupermarket.com – This site shows a whole range of prepaid multicurrency cards with all the charges and fees listed, so well worth researching to get the right travel card.
http://www.moneysupermarket.com/prepaid-cards/other-currency/

Cash – very easy to change into Rupees, as there are moneychangers everywhere, but under no circumstances change money in the street. Because of Britain’s cultural connections with India Sterling works well, although US$ work equally well. Take clean (ideally new) notes in £5, £10 and £20 denominations. You probably won’t need too much, because prices in India are low – so long as you avoid high-end places. You can change money very easily in all sizeable towns and cities, and it is worth shopping around a little for the best rate. In resorts and other tourist areas, many shops will also change money. Use the Hotel’s safe to keep your valuables under lock and key.

Try to keep exchange receipts (or ATM receipts) because you will need them if you seek to change rupees back to sterling at the end of your trip. But in practice it is much easier simply to change money little and often during your trip, so that by the end of it you are down to zero.

TIPPING

Always a question travellers ask! – Tipping is part of the tourism industry in India. Anyone offering you a service will expect a tip. These include your driver, guide, hotel porters etc. In a restaurant a 10% tip will be expected.

As we will be travelling as a group, it will be a lot easier for all conceerned for me to hold a “kitty” and work with the local agent on a daily basis what is required – that way you should have your hand in your pocket only on a few occasions where you personally want to give a tip for excellent service., or if you are off doing something on your own!

Before we get to India I will work out with indus Experience how much each of you should put into the “kitty” at the start of the trip, and if there is any left over at the end, decide how we distribute it.

An approximate currency conversion rate

£1 Sterling = 100 Rupees
1 $US = 70 Rupees.
1 Canadian $ = 50 Rupees
1 Aus $ = 50 Rupees
1 NZ $ = 43 Rupees

As a very general guideline, Indus offer the following suggestions about expected tipping amounts:

Local Guides: Rs.200 for half-day sightseeing & Rs.300 for full day sightseeing.

Drivers: Rs.200 for full day in a particular city. For longer trips over several days, Rs.200-300 per day. This should be given to the driver as a lump sum at the end of the trip.

Hotel Porter: Rs.20-50 per porter.

Railway Porters: Rs.20-30 per bag.

The above-mentioned amounts are simple guidelines for minimum expected tips but in case of excellent services rendered by any individual it is at your discretion to tip more. Similarly, in case of unexpected bad service, you need not tip at all.

When visiting temples and other religious places, a small offering is usually made. An enthusiastic priest might suggest you donate Rs100, but you will see that most worshippers give coins or small notes.

More about what clothing to take will be in the next blog

Vietnam – Saigon – Ho Chi Min – Viet Kong tunnels

1Having put out our large suitcases into the corridor the evening before, we just had to have breakfast, clean our teeth and disembark from the ‘Jayavarman’ to finish our holiday in Vietnam before heading south to Australia.

Overall, as we drove into the city, we guessed from the appearance of the shops and houses, that Vietnam is a little more prosperous than Cambodia. It appears that there might be something left over in the weekly budget for a few of life’s luxuries, although in the West we may not feel that the life here is particularly advantageous or attractive.

And so in due course we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, or as the politically incorrect locals still call it when no-one in authority is listening, Saigon. It was always known as ‘The Pearl of the Orient” and still can be found the relics of French colonialism in the Notra Dame Cathedral, the Opera House and Post Office.  However as well as the old there are plenty of new sky-scrapers and trendy bars, and one gets the feeling that although this is a communist country, it is fairly ‘laid back” and entrepreneurial with a booming economy.

Hotel Majestic image
Hotel Majestic

We are staying for a few days at the Hotel Majestic overlooking the Saigon River. It’s on Ton Duc Thang and our large and comfortable accommodation on the sixth floor looks directly across the river.

illuminated floating restaurant
Illuminated floating restaurant

At night we have a spectacular view of bright neon advertising signs in the far bank. On the near shore wait festively illuminated floating restaurants which fill with patrons between seven and eight o’clock. Below us the lights of moving traffic passing slowly along the six lanes of the road remind one that this is a busy and vibrant place. Behind the french doors to our balcony though, it is very quiet and we don’t hear any sound.

The hotel was build with elegance in 1825 in the ‘old world’ classical French colonial design so it is plush, and as ‘Tripadviser’ should say, if it knew the meaning of the word, “commodious”.  There are sufficient lifts for one never to have to wait in the lobby, an efficient room service, a knowledgeable and friendly concierge, and a pretty decent open-air roof bar with a grand selection of cocktails at reasonable prices. The barmen are good too, remembering who’s who and who orders what. It’s the kind of place that we would happily re-visit.

Early in our stay we meet some experienced travellers who tell us of an interesting little cost-saving wriggle. In the street next to ours can be found “the washing lady” who specialises in taking in laundry at a price about one quarter of that charged by the hotel. Because we have quite a bit of the stuff after a week on the boat, and when I had the laundry done on board, everything came back the same shade of grey!  So we decide to give it a try and on our first exploration of the locality we find her standing beside her advertising board near a corner and in front of a travel agency. She is the jolly looking, matronly type, not unlike ‘Widow Twankey’ but without the boots and blonde wig. We discuss terms, and tell her where we are staying then hurry back to exhume the wad of grimy garments, create a laundry list and shove everything into a linen bag. She promises to deliver clean clothes twenty-four hours after collection and sure enough the next day, although a couple of hours overdue, our beautifully clean and immaculately pressed kit is delivered back to the hotel. What a fantastic service and a good start to our stay in Saigon!

Temporary gardenSaigon is full of surprises. In the street next to our hotel there was a huge festival of flowers taking place in the main boulevard, and the entire centre reservation for three hundred yards was given over to colourful temporary gardens, exhibition stands, and musicians. It was so busy – full of perambulating crowds, all dressed in their best, takings lots of photos and ‘selfies’ so the police recommended that we follow the stream and walk slowly up one side and back down the other. It’s more comfortable than trying to walk against the current.

(Above) Just some of the colourful displays!

We also went to have a look at the lovely old Opera House – a lovely old historic building.  We bought two of the last tickets available tickets for the A O show that was recommended by both our Travel Agent and our local guide, and we were so glad that we did.  One of the most exciting and entertaining evenings we have had for a long time – all done with 20 or so young adults, bamboo poles and baskets – unfortunately photography was forbidden during the show, but I did manage to take a few before and after the performance.

Opera House
Opera House

According to the Theatre Guide

This highly modernised fusion of music and dance provides a refreshing take on traditional circus acrobatics that will not only amaze but also take you on an emotional journey through the heritage and spirit of Vietnam.

During the 60 minute performance you learn of the overwhelming importance that bamboo and the basket boat have within society and the integral part they play in daily life, even today.  Stunning visual effects are created with the use of basket boats, lighting and more which guides you through the story of survival, love and everything else in between.

I did find a video clip on YouTube – so do take a look.

Restaurant meals are astoundingly inexpensive by Western standards, and the food is exciting, although in one respect there’s a problem. The thing for making toast in the breakfast restaurant is slower than a Greek tax collector so you learn to place it on the rack, get your fresh fruit, order your omelette and hunt down the bacon (crisp, American style) consume the above, wander purposefully to the toast machine only to discover that its still journeying along under the grill, and still white.  Oh well, nothing’s perfect.

After our leisurely breakfast our guide collected us for our trip to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels – over 250 kilometres of secret underground passages, sleeping quarters, hospital, food preparation and dining areas, used extensively during the USA/Vietnam conflict in the 1960’s.  These tunnels were actually built in the early 1940’s during the Indo-French wars and later expanded for the Viet Cong – even more expanded in places now in order to let the Western tourists take a look, as their body size is considerably larger than the small Vietnamese frame.

tunnel

tunnel entrance
Tunnel entrance

On the left – this photo shows how tiny the secret openings were and above how small the tunnels are in circumference and how hard it is to negotiate round the corners.

Below is one of the ‘man traps’ the Viet Cong set for their enemies – for such a peaceful and happy people these traps were lethal and barbaric – you only had to stand on the cover, the trap was sprung and you were impaled. They devised many different silent forms of ‘man traps’ for dealing with their enemies.

man trap
Man trap

The whole area is extremely well set up with tunnels to actually explore maps and excellent ‘dummy’ displays showing how they lived and worked in such cramped conditions.

Dummies in a tunnel display
Dummies in a tunnel display

signWe could hear the sound of firing as we walked around the area, and at the end of the tour we came across a firing range, where tourists could ‘have a go’ at shooting at various targets  – for a charge!  As the sign says, “all kind of bullets [and guns] are available”

 

 

If you want to read more about the tunnels go to http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/07/underground-tunnels-of-cu-chi-vietnam.html

Of course it’s hot even though it’s winter at present, and some of the aromas in the narrow alleyways between the traffic infested streets are therefore reminiscent of Singapore twenty five years ago, but it’s nevertheless a good place to visit for a few days.

Our tour of the city finished with a drive around the outskirts, then a walk through the market, a visit to the Cathedral, the Post Office and other French colonial buildings sited around the city.

(Above) Not the Railway Station as one would presume from the exterior of the building, but the Post Office!

It was a good experience. Some fascinating insights into the Vietnamese character and its tolerance of other people’s belief systems. For the VC’s tunnels and armaments to the classical colonial architecture of the central part of the city there is equal respect.

Then we had to leave the comfort of our French Colonial hotel on the waterfront for the rigours of the airport and eventually Melbourne.

What is Vietnam Air like?

We had not heard of it before we confirmed out holiday details and had some concern that it would be the local version of a scruffy third-world snakepit with an ancient 707. In facts it is a low cost airline operating a fleet of new Airbus 320s, and it’s really good. Comfortable, clean, award winning and with better food than several other national flag carriers we could name. It leaves on time, arrives on time and doesn’t ask its passengers for a whip-round to pay for the fuel. We would certainly fly with them again.

It’s a longish indirect flight to Melbourne, (about 20 hours) taking into account a stop in Bangkok, where we swap to a flight with Jetstar in whom it had a majority shareholding. The other part is Qantas owned.  With plenty of legroom and seats near the front we are comfortable and relaxed enough to get a few hours sleep so that we arrive in Australia feeling relatively fresh.

Last full day on the Mekong

We spent the morning in a motorised sampan gliding through the narrow channels – we were hoping to visit the floating markets but because of the Chinese New Year festivities, most of the boats were moored, with little or no activity, whereas on a normal day there are local boats coming from all the provinces of the delta laden with fruit and vegetables, but not for us, for everyone was having a rest day.

Samapan's image

We did explore Binh Thanh Island at Sadec where we were shown how they manufacture rattan mats – usually two women working together – one threading the reeds whilst the other the shuttle.  In some cases it was mother and daughter, and in others mother and child – on this occasion a young lad.  These are the mats that they use for their bedding and their floor coverings and they supply many local areas.

After returning to the ship for lunch on board, for the first time the two sampans used for the morning excursion were tied up to our stern and the Jayavarman continued sedately down river until we reached CaiBe, quite a distance from where we had our first stop.

Catholic Church
Phu An Catholic Church

We disembarked once more onto the two sampans to be taken to the Phu An hamlet passing on the way, the extraordinary sight of a Christian church steeple, rather than the spires of a Buddhist temple, emerging behind the riverside shacks.

This Catholic Church was built in 1929-1932 by Adolphe Keller, a German priest and boasts the tallest bell tower (with five bells) in the Mekong delta.

Sampan driver & Tan our guide
Sampan driver & Tan our guide

We disembarked from the sampans next to a local river ferry, much to the amusement of the local motorcycle passengers as they watched 25 tourists divest themselves of life jackets and try not to trip up as they hopped from one craft to another.

River ferry

The rice factory we had stopped to see was an interesting local workshop producing a range of rice products, from alcohol to confectionery from caramelised ‘popped’ rice to rice and coconut sweets, stretched and pulled like we pull sugar into candy rock that is often found at our British seaside resorts – but the Vietnamese don’t put letters into their candy.

Rice factory

Popped rice

The rice, together with black sand, is heated in a large bowl over a red-hot fire fuelled by dried rice husks (the yellow grain like substance with the two wire prongs as shown in the photo).  As the sand and rice are stirred around the sand helps the rice grains to ‘pop’ and explode (just like our popcorn).  Once ‘popped’ the mixture is sifted twice through a fine mesh sieve to remove the sand, then the popped rice is returned to the hot bowl and palm sugar and coconut milk are added which caramelises and coats the rice whilst being mixed very energetically by hand.  It is then turned out into a greased frame and cut into blocks, which are then packed into plastic bags ready for sale.  To me they looked like packets of maggots but in actual fact the result was very tasty.

They also distilled rice into alcohol.

My husband was very impressed with the Snake Wine that was for sale and thinks we should forget the expensive pills and potions that are prescribed by NHS doctors and use the People’s Republic of Vietnam’s traditional remedy.

For cure of rheumatism, lumbago, and sweat of limbs, try the following, three times a dayMake you strong and make baby too. Just a cupful of snake wine, preferably also containing scorpion and giant ant for added potency.

It only 200000 Dong for litre bottle. Can’t miss!
Take it now, also keep bad spirits away
Also good for nosebleeds and ladies problems, and cure bad breath.

Back on the ship we had a most spectacular sunset for our last night on board the Jayavarman.

Sunset on the Mekong

Chinese New Year – yellow blossoms everywhere – Day 6

Penultimate day on board the Jayavarman

Stuart on a CycloDay 6 – Moored in Vietnam at a remote border town of Tan Chau where we proceeded to the local town market at a slow and uncomfortable pace – (the Cambodian ‘Clyco’ was much more comfortable!)  Unfortunately the market was closed, as it was a holiday with everyone recovering from celebrating Chinese New Year the night before.  In fact our guide was supposed to have met us at the Vietnamese border the previous day, but had been celebrating with his family, so had a very long late-night bus ride to get to the Jayavarman in time for our day’s excursions.

Bonsai treeWe saw many of these beautiful bonsai trees full of yellow blossom that the families use to welcome in the New Year, many were on the pavements outside small shops, on balconies, in entranceways and it seems that the number and size of the tubs, indicate the wealth of the family.  When funds are limited, these bonsai trees can be hired for the New Year duration.  After New Year in order to ensure that they will be in blossom at the correct time the following year, especially where they are privately owned, they are taken to a local gardener to be looked after, so there might be half a dozen trees of various sizes in a forecourt waiting for collection or hire.  A cheaper option were yellow chrysanthemums which were in abundance everywhere, but not so the inhabitants apart from a few sleeping figures bundled into hammocks drying out from the excesses of the previous night.

Fish farming on the Mekong

Fish farming on the Mekong
Fish farming on the Mekong

We were taken by motorised sampan to view a fish farm.  Our excellent Vietnamese guide Tan explained how the fish were irrigated daily with fresh river water through the large meshed tanks secured under the decking between the pontoons.  They are fed on some expensive fish-meal pellets, but this is supplemented by cheap home-produced high protein fish-food made from dried fish and rice husks (large brown balls of what looks like mud)

In the afternoon we cruised to Sadec beside the Evergreen Island along one of the narrower channels so had excellent views of how the local people live on stilt houses.  We stopped to visit My An Hung – a small traditional village where the current cash crops were chillies or bananas.

The local sanitation accoutrements left something to be desired, as did the bridge connecting both sides of the village.  We didn’t venture to use either!

We were first of all entertained with music and singing by Mr and Mrs Lam, interesting but not what I personally would call melodic.

Mr and Mrs Lam

Then the Unicorn Dancers (local youth group) entertained us with a gymnastic performance to welcome the New Year.

We were invited to partake of some of the local village fruit, and I must admit that it was only when I saw the chefs from the boat had prepared the fruit that I overcame my worries about whether it was washed etc. for we are always told to be careful of unwashed, unpeeled fruit in order to avoid any tummy upsets.  We didn’t experience any problems at all during our time in Cambodia or Vietnam.

Royal Palaces, Pol Pot, the ‘Killing Fields’ of Cambodia – Day 4

Day 4

Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia – a city of total contrasts – now a noisy, bustling place, but during the cruel regime of the Khmer Rouge between 1974-78 the city was deserted – it had been evacuated by the Pol Pot when they tried to transform the citizens into a society who knew and understood nothing apart from bending head and knees to the Ankar (Kampuchea Community Party).  This small minority gained huge power by eliminating schools, hospitals, all religious practices including pagodas, mosques and churches; any signs of culture or entertainment were destroyed; they burnt the market places; abolished the monetary system; the public and private transport; executed the intellectuals and professionals; turned adolescent children into informants and some into ‘killing machines’, all in the hope of changing the whole of Cambodia into a rural, classless agrarian economy focusing primarily on massive increases in rice production

We were moored near the city and taken by bus to “The Heart of Darkness” – the “Killing Fields” of the Khmer Rouge situated 15 kilometres from the city centre.  Once an orchard, this is where the heinous genocidal act of massacring over 17,000 men, women and children was carried out by the Pol Pot regime.  The area is covered in dry grasses and spindly trees with large holes and ditches where the remains of nearly 9,000 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves – apparently 43 of the 129 communal graves have been left untouched.  We were told by our guide that small bones and teeth still regularly appear on the surface, no doubt disturbed by the numerous feet that pass by.

After exploring the site we were then moved onto the Genocide Museum and the Toul-Sleng “S21” Prisoner Camp – the two photos below explain both sites.  Many of those executed at Cheung Ek were held here for at least 24 hours before being taken to the ‘Killing Fields’ where they were beheaded; killed by a blow to the head; or had their throats cut – in order to save bullets!

The morning was a very moving experience and one is left wondering how much psychiatric help has been given to those affected by these deeds which,  after all, occurred only 45 years ago!

In total contrast, after an ‘on-shore’ lunch in a local Restaurant we visited the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda in the centre of the city.

Royal Palace

After which it was back to our floating hotel by ‘Clyco’

That evening we were entertained by Apsara dancers (Khmer Angels) on the terrace deck in their elaborate silk costumes, accompanied by a singer and two musicians.

Day 5 – ‘River Highway’

A lazy day on board with no shore excursions but as we motored down the river towards the Vietnamese border, for those who were interested there was a tour around the ship including the galley, (immaculately clean) the wheelhouse with the First Officer in charge and the hot and noisy engine room where the diesel engines and the water salination plant were working flat out in the mid-day heat.   In the afternoon there was a demonstration and ‘hands-on’ cooking class where we learnt to make Vietnamese spring rolls and Khmer Chicken Amok in coconut milk.

Stuart making spring rolls
Stuart making spring rolls

 

(if anyone wants these recipes contact me)

Lazing around – time to catch up with some reading
Lazing around – time to catch up with some reading

Lazing around – time to catch up with some reading.

A Water World – a kaleidoscope of colours – Day 3

Day 3

For those wishing to rise early at 6.30 am every day there was a Tai Chi class on the top deck – I never made it in time!

Image of a sampanThe “Jayavarman” anchored in the river near Kampong Chnang, a busy rural port town complete with bustling markets.   It was a motoriaws ‘sampan’ ride to the shore and then a short drive in three or four rather ‘clapped out’ mini-vans to to the Khmer-style pottery at the Aundaung Tussey village.

Here we were shown how the villagers make all the earthernware cooking pots that are used by Cambodian housewives.  This  ‘factory’ which employed about a dozen workers, everything is done by hand, starting with the hand formed clay inserts  to cutting and applying the zinc which coated the outside of the pots (to make them last longer).  Each cooking pot cost about $US3 and would apparently last about 3-4 years before needing replacement.

We were also given a demonstration by a very pregnant (8 months) young lady who proceeded to make a lovely pot without the use of a pottery wheel – just an upright log which she walked around to shape the pot, and then sat on an old rice sack, with a couple of wooden paddles to finish it off – very skilled.

Further into the village we were given a presentation by an octarian climbing up the side of his palm tree (he owns half a dozen) to collect the palm flower sugar syrup which had dripped into a bamboo container he placed up in the fronds 4 or 5 hours earlier.  This is then boiled into sugar cakes, distilled into very potent alcohol and preserved for market in large clay pots giving him an income of about US$1500 – making him a comparatively wealthy farmer.

SampanBack to our motorised sampan and off down the river to see the floating houses, the fish farms and the wetlands of this region – a kelidescope of colours along the river bank –mainly Vietnamese illegal immigrants – some who have been in the region for many years having escaped from the Viet Kong war – some are newcomers and although the Cambodians do not despise or hate them, they feel as though their own livelihood is at stake with all the refugees infiltrating into the fishing industry etc.

River folk

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