Tag Archives: Shopping

Kupang to Dili: this sailing life

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head down, bottoms up – Keith inspects the anchor locker

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Dili street scene

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provisioning the boat with real food grown by real people, Kupang market

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main sail

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sailing Timor-Leste waters

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dragging the tinny down to the water, Kupang

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stars over kuta

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The three brightest stars in the sky above Kuta Beach are not stars at all, they’re aeroplanes. They orbit the sky, once, twice, before descending. I watch as they approach, becoming larger and more fanta-coloured as they draw near.

The aeroplanes drop like muscular angels to the earth, chasing one another up the runway, lifting the skirts of their wings like frisky schoolgirls, teetering on the narrow lip of land that separates runway from sea. Finally, they come to a standstill before the crooked elbow of the disembarkation ramp, disgorging another fat helping of tourists into the swollen body of the Denpasar Bali airport.

To balance out the equation, three aeroplanes take off. They enact the dance in reverse, lifting their gaze to the horizon, hunkering down, and launching themselves at the sky. As they claw their way up into the stratosphere their blunt bodies shed vortex after vortex of spent air molecules. The sound falls like a meteor shower on my head, mingling with traffic to create a peculiarly Balinese symphony. The change in air pressure as the planes fly overhead leaves me flattened and subdued.

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an aeroplane coming in to land at Denpasar Airport

bright star... ? aeroplane

bright star… ? nina, aeroplane & sea

In contrast to the antisocial airport, the beach is full of human-friendly shapes: surfers, mandorla shortboards and the pleasingly symmetrical silhouette of traditional Balinese fishing boats, jukung. Lifeguards in Baywatch buggies ply the shoreline. Dogs on leads buck their owners in a comic play of walker and walked, whilst higher up, on the tree-line, the well-heeled make ready for a performance of gamalan, sipping cocktails with names more redolent of the Carribean than this overpopulated strip of beach that lies terrorised and trembling under the flight path of the Denpasar Bali airport.

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The human magnitude of the beach is astounding: surfers and their girlfriends; honeymooners; gangs of local youth who have come to perve on bule in bikinis; hawkers selling beer; photographers; wedding parties; families; schoolgirls. Amongst the masses there are tetchy parents, who at this late stage in the day have surrendered, like cornered sloths, to the devilish antics of their children: I watch as one embattled father pivots in the sand, permitting his 2-foot son to fill his pockets, hair, underpants and ears with as much sand as his eager hands can gather. Continue reading

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3 Days in Chengdu

People's Park dancers, Chengdu

People’s Park dancers, Chengdu

After spending 83 hours on a bus to get there, I was prepared to love Chengdu. Gratefully, it wasn’t a hard task. The city was eminently likeable, not least the Tibetan enclave where we found lodgings at the auspiciously named Holly Hostel.

Growing up on a diet of leanly-timed rain-water showers I felt appropriately guilty as I treated myself to an inordinately long judicious scrub in the hostel shower room.

Sleeping was another matter. After an average of three to four broken half-hour sleeps per day, for four consecutive nights, seated above the rear-axle of a dilapidated Xinjiang bus,  I was stymied! My body clearly did not recall how to respond to tender treatment: a bed and clean linen. Horizontality was anathema. My head swam and my legs twitched. There were only two things for it: a walk and a Sichuan hotpot.

Sichuan hotpot, the ultimate food experience

Sichuan hotpot (huŏguō), the ultimate food experience

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Not a Tesco in Sight

In the four weeks we’ve been in Morocco we’ve barely seen a supermarket let alone shopped in one. Of the many things we miss about the UK supermakets are not one of them.

Life on the streets of Morocco’s medinas is a far cry from life on England’s high streets. They’re brimful with people flogging their wares, naming their price and pausing to shoot the breeze. At times it can be hectic but on the whole people are friendly and don’t mind a banter and a haggle.

Whereas in the UK people tend to do their shopping once maybe twice a week, in Morocco you’d be a fool not to shop 4,5,6 times a week. Strawberries, oranges, carrots, beetroot, fennel and herbs all arrive fresh on a daily basis and more likely than not have been grown within 50km of where you’re buying them.

In the streets of the medina there’s a preponderance of carts, small stalls and ‘pop-up’ vendors who flog there wares from the side of the road and on the footpaths. There’s no telling where they’ll appear or how long they’ll stay. There’s every chance that the man from whom you brought your walnuts yesterday will be gone tomorrow, and in his place, someone selling sardines or golden piles of fenugreek.

As Richie can often be heard muttering with amazement as we tramp through the dusty streets, “Everyone’s got a shop!” While this observation might not seem strange to Moroccans, or to individuals who grew up in countries like India or Thailand where there’s a strong culture of ‘backyard commerce’, to someone who grew up in England this is truly remarkable.

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