Three hundred years of print and thought.

The sunlight filters through the panes
of book-shop windows, pockmarked grey
By years of grimy city rains,
And falls in mild, dust-laden ray
Across the stock, in shelf and stack,
Of this old bookshop-man who brought,
To a shabby shop in a cul-de-sac,
Three hundred years of print and thought.

Like a cloak hangs the bookshop smell,
soothing, unique and reminding:
The book-collector knows its spell,
Subtle hints of books and binding—
In the fine, black bookshop dust paper,
printer’s-ink and leather,
Binder’s-glue and paper-rust.
And time, all mixed together.

‘Blake’s Poems, Sir—ah, yes, I know,
Bohn did it in the old black binding,
In ’83.’ Then shuffles slow
To scan his shelves, intent on finding
This book of songs he has not heard,
With that deaf searcher’s hopeful frown
Who knows the nightingale,
a bird With feathers grey and reddish-brown.

John Arlott.

The British cricket commentator – I can remember him on the radio (in the UK) as a child, but not being a cricket tragic I never knew that he wrote poetry, until years later.

As I looked at the books stacked on the pavement near Churchgate in Bombay (Mumbai now), his poem came to mind. Must admit I couldn’t remember it all, and had to look it up.
He originally wrote it for a friend, after seeing more than fifty book shops in Hay on Wye, on the boarder between England and Wales.

DSC05946r

Pavement book sellers Mumbai – blue tint due to the bus windows.

Book seller

DSC00275cc

The above book seller in Hay on Wye was not happy with Kindle, he calls himself Prince Derek Fitz-Pitt Booth Addyman – the self proclaimed King of Hey on Wye – he proclaimed his title in 1977.
In the mid 60’s he visited the US to collect books from libraries that were closing,  and he shipped the old books back to Hey on Wye to help create what we know today.

DSC00279c

Hay on Wye sellers could be a standard shop or just an open stall in the grounds of the old castle.

Each year they hold a festival of books , which President Clinton refereed to in 2001, as the ‘Woodstock of the mind’.

Hey on Wye is in Wales, but the Royal Mail considers it is still in Herefordshire  –

DSC00278c As we walked in to the town we ‘crossed’ the border . . .

DSC00286c

There was no misunderstanding for this home owner as to which country he lived in – the house was right on the border. The Welsh Dragon said it all . . . .

The world is not always what you think

While in Georgetown, Penang, we decided to visit an unusual place.

DSC06433r

I like to hang around a place.

DSC06434r

Even the dinning room looked a little odd.

DSC06436r

The kitchen was clean, but the fridge door kept opening when ever someone leaned on the fridge.

DSC06438r

The piano could have done with a tune up.

DSC06440r

The strange environment didn’t seem to bother the fish.

DSC06442r

At least if you fall off the ceiling you have a soft bed on which to land.

DSC06444r

One had to hold on to keep their balance.

DSC06448r

Grab the bedhead and swing over to the bed.

DSC06450r

The children’s room was smaller

DSC06452r

One more go at landing correctly.

DSC06454r

Take a dive and hope that nobody will flush . . . .

DSC06456r

Hang on !

DSC06458r

Play room, and the blood is no longer rushing to my head.

DSC06460r

One handed balancing – now that is what I call balancing.

DSC06462r

Outside was just as strange.

DSC06464r

Stop that!

DSC06466r

Still outside

DSC06468r

The outside veg & fruit shop was interesting.

DSC06470r

A head for heights comes in handy as we inched along the ledge.

DSC06473r

Even when we finished I still felt a little off centre.

The lowest advertised fare is not always the lowest overall cost.

When I arranged our holiday in Vietnam for my wife and I, and our friends, we were all price sensitive, so I had to be careful of the costs.

Flying out of Sydney we could fly with Vietnam Airlines VietnamAirlines  or Qantas Qantas_Airways_Limited_logo.svg, but when I checked on the prices I realised that Vietnam Airlines had a virtual ‘monopoly’ on the route. Qantas did not operate their own aircraft, but sold tickets on their subsidiary airline Jetstar  Jetstar . Once I knew this I checked the cost of the Jetstar tickets. Their tickets were still too expensive after one added various additional charges for food, drinks, and entertainment.
My wife & I and another couple had flown Jetstar on a domestic route for a ninety-minute flight. We found them satisfactory, but as I am over six feet tall (188 cm in new money), the limited space in economy was tolerable for a maximum of ninety-minutes, so for a flight of eight-hours or more it was was out of the question, so it had to be Vietnam Airlines. Or did it?

I spent some time checking a number of different airlines Malaysian Airlines  MH (our old friend), which would require a night stop in Kuala Lumpur (more cost), Cathay Pacific Cathay_Pacific_logo.svg via Hong Kong was too expensive, Thai International  250px-Thai_Airways_Logo.svg ; a possibility over Bangkok, but they were expensive, so I finally checked Singapore Airlines Singapore_Airlines_Logo.svg and their rate was the same as Jetstar fare when I add on the additional cost for food, drink & entertainment. In fact Singapore Airlines was a few dollars cheaper than the total Jetstar price, and much cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, so it was Singapore Airlines, which would require an hour and a bit transit time in Singapore; but our bags would be booked through to Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh ).

Having flown with Singapore Airlines before I retired, I knew that their economy seating was larger than Jetstar – more room for all of us..

I booked with Singapore Airlines and we left Sydney at 8.30 am and connected with the 2.40 pm flight from Singapore to Saigon, arriving at 3.45 pm local time. I found it ironic that if we’d have booked the more expensive Jetstar we would not have arrived in Saigon until around 10.00 pm.

By using Singapore Airlines our booking would give us the opportunity of taking advantage of their ‘special offers’, which included discounted hotel rates in Singapore, discounted entrance fees to many places of interest, a free tour of Singapore, so a couple of nights in Singapore, at the end of our Vietnam trip, was the way to go.

Am I the only one that finds it funny that Ho Chi Minh’s city code, for the airline industry, is still SGN (Saigon). I suppose it is the same as PEK (Peking) for Beijing or RGN (Rangoon) for Yangon, BOM (Bombay) for Mumbai, CCU (Calcutta) for Kalkata . . . . it must be me.

Transport in and round Dubai.

DSC06357rMetro station entrance – note the lack of graffiti, litter and rubbish, nor did we see anyone constantly cleaning so the locals must have been well educated with regard to litter etc.

DSC06358rMetro platform, well designed and marked out to let passengers off the train before new passengers enter the coach.

DSC06359rTrain about to leave

DSC06360r

Believe me, this is an air-conditioned bus stop. One is hardly uncomfortable in the heat at 41 c , while moving from cold shopping centres to cool metro station, and comfortable trains, even when crowded.

DSC06361rThe old way to transport people and goods.

DSC06285rr
Local river boat, the fee to cross the creek is about $0.30 so the boat leaves when it is full.

DSC06376r
Floating restaurant getting in position for the evening trade

DSC06377r

When I first visited Dubai in the early 60’s the creek was quite wide.
The dhows ran aground on the creek bank or tied alongside small wooden piers.
Over the years the creek bank has been pushed closer to each bank to create a river rather than a creek.
I just wonder what would happen with heavy rain up river, would the Creek over flow its banks as did the River Seven after that river banks were ‘squashed’ closer to each other.

DSC06380rAnother ‘water taxi’ which we hired for an hour to check out the views of Dubai from the river. The cost was about AUD $24 per person and we had the boat to ourselves.

DSC06381rTaxi area that reminded me of Venice.

DSC06386r
Many more restaurants boats from dhow shapes to Chinese junk shapes.

DSC06402r
Not sure if this is a private or public boat.

We passed the home of the Sultan, which was hidden behind a high wall and protected by signs that photographing any part of the wall was forbidden. The area of the home was very large and took up a great length of the ‘river’ front. Obviously I didn’t take any pictures because I’d heard of 28 days lock up for small offences, before one can see a solicitor.
I wasn’t sure that the people on the roof that I could see, on some of the buildings, were guards or just staff relaxing – I wasn’t going to take the chance of being wrong by taking any pictures.

The largest shopping mall in the world.

DSC06298rThe mall was HUGE – with waterfalls, ice ring, aquarium, its own souk, and 1200 hundred shops that made us feel over whelmed (well they overwhelm me!).

DSC06301rElectric baby chairs – place the child in the seat, switch it on, and it rocks back and forth with a very similar movement as it would have felt before it was born.

DSC06303rWater down a waterfall – the water fell for two or three floors.

DSC06306r
A lone diver

DSC06308r
This attempts to show the size of this indoor waterfall.

DSC06309r
Of course if the waterfall gives you cold feet go ice skating in the Olympic size ice rink. . . .

DSC06312rIn addition to 1200 shops you can walk around the Souk.

DSC06314r
Souk corridors lead to a centre . . .

DSC06315r
I didn’t know that dinosaurs were blue. . . . . .
DSC06317r
More Souk

DSC06319r
A rather large fish tank – so large that you can walk through it via a tunnel, and watch the fish from within one of the largest aquariums in the world.
The coloured lights in the picture above, are lights from various shops, reflected in the glass.

DSC06322rSting ray

DSC06324r
Only the chips are missing.

DSC06327rWe had a drink across from the aquarium wall.

DSC06329rWalk outside the mall and you will find it very difficult to get the next building in the one frame – the tallest building in the world (at the moment, as there is another being built in Jeddah, so of course Dubai is planning a larger one again.)
We saw an advert for a trip to the 124 th floor, the observation deck, at a rate of $140 for the two of us, so we thought we’d bite the bullet and experience the trip.

On showing up at the counter we were asked for $400 for two tickets, apparently they have different prices for different times. The $140 was the most unsocial time so we gave it a miss and I downloaded the view via Google . . . $400 to look out of a window was a bit steep (excuse the pun).

DSC06330rThe lake was impressive, but the fountain was not working during our visit.

DSC06342rAnother old style (but very new) Souk, with views of the man made lake.

DSC06345rInside this Souk we found a small supermarket and the food was inexpensive considering the very up market position. This building also housed an hotel.

DSC06347r  A shot of the old style building come hotel & Souk, from across the lake.

DSC06350r

Our last port of call

We docked in Dubai, UAE, the largest man made harbour in the world, our last port of call before we left the ship.
As we entered the harbour I could see a familiar sight ahead, the vessel with the red funnel, in the middle of the picture.

DSC06259rThe other white vessels along side belonged to various UAE dignitaries – more weekenders.

DSC06264rThe cruise terminal with the city in the background.

DSC06270rA closer view of the vessel with the red funnel – Queen Elizabeth 11. She was bought to convert in to a floating hotel similar to the Queen Mary in Los Angeles, as yet it hasn’t happened. I must admit she does look like a ship and not a box boat or a block of flats . . . . sign of age I suppose.

DSC06276rThe view from our room at the Pullman Hotel.

DSC06277rOur hotel is built on top of a shopping centre . . . .

DSC06279rc

A short metro ride to the nearby Dubai Creek we found the ‘Old Souk’, which we thought was not as attractive as the souk in Muscat.

Tomorrow we will visit the largest shopping centre in the world, I don’t know if I am looking forward to the visit or not . . . . .

Muscat, Oman

We arrived off Muscat, Oman around 7.00 am on the 29th April – Maureen’s birthday.

I’d not seen Muscat for about fifty years, and my memory of the city was of ‘yesterday’, so when we arrived the only piece of Muscat I remembered was the cliffs, the old fort and a few houses along the shore line.

DSC06127rThe old fort overlooking the town of Muscat.

DSC06129r

  The old town, with a piece of yesterday floating in the harbour.

DSC06134r

Harbour side road, and the one thing that jumped out at me was the lack of rubbish.

DSC06136rThe road leading from the harbour area, which was spotless.

DSC06142r

The dhow in the harbour is similar to the dhows that were used fifty years to carry cargo from the ship, in which I sailed, to the shore.
The vessel behind is the Sultan’s yacht – thanks to oil.

DSC06145rFind the rubbish . . .

DSC06148r

Even under the freeways the pace was litter free – very impressive.

DSC06153r

Opera House

DSC06172r

Center of a roundabout – water flowed past the bows of the dhow.

DSC06176r

Part of the parliament area. . . . more like advisers to the Sultan, than a parliament as we know in the UK, Australia etc. I had a feeling of a benevolent dictator.

DSC06187r

Location, location – the Sultan’s home.

DSC06204r

A weekender. . . .

DSC06206r

Muscat Souq.

DSC06207r

We were told that if you are asked to buy anything and you refused the approach they would not keep pestering you.
They were correct – each time we refused to buy, the seller backed off, unlike the sellers in Bombay and Cochin.

DSC06209r

DSC06211r
As a rough guide AUD $4 = one rial, many items were not as cheap as they first appeared, but we did buy a few items.
We did buy a stuffed camel for our grandson – it was made in China of course!

DSC06229rWe sailed for Dubai in the evening.