November 28, 2006

New & Improved!

I have just completed a huge update to the blog! Now posted are all the photos I was unable to upload while abroad of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Please keep re-visiting as I continue to write, make new art, take more photos and continue to collect new inspiration.

TO VIEW ALL PHOTOS:
1. Click on a pic in my blog.
2. When it takes you into flickr, go to "Art Journey's Photostream".
3. There is an option for "sets", 1 for each country, my paintings and art-related projects.

Have fun! P

November 27, 2006

Myanmar (Burma)


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

MYANMAR: The most amazing, exotic and untouristed country I've ever been to. On top of having one of the world's most ancient cities in Bagan, and witnessing some of the impacts in an isolated country under military rule, the Burmese are the most friendliest and honest people of all.

My route took me on a bus from the capital of Yangon (Rangoon) to Mandalay, part train ride over the gorge to Hsipaw and a flight over to the mountain hill tribes in Kengtung. Along the way experiencing the water festival for New Years. After a few days in the lovely setting of Inle Lake, I took one of my most difficult days of transport over to Bagan. But that didn't top the events that happened on the over-night bus ride back to Yangon.

A ride in anything to anywhere in Myanmar is always exciting!

Cambodia


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

CAMBODIA: Hitting only the two main traveller's stops, I saw a few sites around Phnom Pehn and the country's most prized possession, Angkor Wat. Thoroughly satisfied after a few days biking around the ruins, my experiences seemed to be getting much more impactful.

Vietnam


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

VIETNAM: Cutting across the middle of Laos, it took an entire day to make to Hue. An incredible change of scenery from the dusty roads and falling apart buses to crossing the border and immediately seeing lush mountains and a constant view of water.

Laos


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

NEW LAOS PICS: The last of the photos I had posted during my trip (or that made it onto the web successfully!) were in Luang Prabang. Here are some more afterwards of Vang Vien, Vientienne and Savannakhet.

November 13, 2006

1 Year Ago

Today, last year, I was living on a farm in the centre of New Zealand's North Island. In a tiny town called Kihikihi, my surroundings were not so much like Toronto! P

Kihikihi, New Zealand


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

1 year ago.

October 26, 2006

Melbourne, Australia


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

October 26, 2005, this is what I saw.

One Year Ago

A friend I had met in New Zealand reminded me today that the memories of travelling are just as valid as actually being there. So as long as I can say "One year ago, I was... " I will start now.

One year ago, I was in Melbourne, Australia walking through the enormous botanical gardens and watching helicopters take off seemingly so close to the skyscrapers. P

October 23, 2006

Benchmark

Now up, installed and ready to sit on is our bench! In Liberty Village (King and Dufferin), right across from Lamport Stadium, you can find it at the corner of Liberty Street and Jefferson Avenue.

"Liberty Village adds Nine New Public Art Benches to its Creative Spaces. The designs are part of Liberty Village Business Improvement Area’s unique BENCHmark 2006 Program that transforms park benches into public art pieces."

"Like an inviting couch, this piece brings the comfort of inside to outside by using historical imagery to form a photographic homage to Liberty Village."

Story by Christopher Hume, Toronto Star:
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1159353728152

August 17, 2006

Rose Theater Showcase

I've been accepted into my first exhibit!

In association with the Brampton Arts Council, visual, performing and literary artists will be showcased for the opening of the New Rose Theater. Performances will be held on stage and the grand lobby will feature displays.

Would love if you came to say hello, it's also my birthday weekend!!

Pam


Details:
New Brampton Rose Theater
Downtown Brampton
Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th of September
12 noon to 6pm each day

For more info:
www.rosetheatre.ca

July 25, 2006

Square Foot Show

Just submitted a peice for this year's show, hope to see you there for the opening!

www.awolgallery.com

Reception Friday August 4th, 6pm

Awol Gallery
76 Ossington Avenue
August 4-7, 2006

Back in Canada

I'm loving the summer and meeting up again with all you folk who still look as fabulous as you did a year ago. Thanks for all your advice and support while I was away and especially now, while I make the largest transition of my life!

The creative juices are flowing and makes Toronto seem like a new city. Almost three months into my return home, a lot has happened. Visiting inspiring galleries and talking with artists full of ideas. Still taking tons of photos and the artwork is pouring out. Volunteered at the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition which I must be a part of next year. Coming soon, there are a couple opportunities to display my work and I'm looking into possibilities for my first exhibition, so stay tuned! There will be a slideshow and everything!

Pam

May 03, 2006

This is it

Bangkok was a shocker. Everything looked so modern and organized. People sat in their own designated seats on buses. Aircon cars filled the roads. There were actual highways with lines indicating lanes. And pavement so smooth, wow what a wonderful airport bus ride into the city! Electricity all day and internet and ATMs. My wallet salivated at all the tasty market merchandise. 3 pairs of shoes and many tshirts later I came to the conclusion I've never shopped like that before in my life and I'll never do it again! But a hard day of barganing deserved me my last Thai massage and a swim at the luxury $15 hotel. Thought I'd treat myself but it turned out to be scary murky water with clumps of long hair floating around and a windowless room with smudgy floors, even after I asked them to clean it. My last memory of Thailand is getting ripped off by the taxi driver, a slight misunderstandment at my expense. Why is he mad at me for his bad English?! I'm so tired of barganing for every stupid thing and still feeling like I've paid too much. That's it, I've had it, I'm coming home... tomorrow!!

And now I spend my last Singapore dollars on a great katsu set and mint-choc ice cream. It all ends well :) P

May 01, 2006

Myanmar

I am finally back into a land of communication! But wow, what a place, I cannot describe in one blog. With only a few days left of mostly flights and one day in Bangkok to shop myself crazy, my trip has unfortunately come to an end. When I'm back in Canada I'll post many more photos and blog a few final descriptions about what happened in Myanmar. Most exciting was my recent 15 turned 24 hour bus ride, delayed from cyclone Mala destruction and a Japanese samuri who punched a monk. Unbelievable maybe, but true!

Myanmar is a fantastic country with lovely people but is completely isolated in so many ways because of it's military rule. One day I find out restaurants are not serving chicken because there is avian flu in the country. As far as I know, the government has not revealed this. The next day I find out through a traveller that bombs went of in the capital. With no English newspaper or phones working and limited access to electricity only a few hours each night, there was little to go on. From a few conversations of broken English, I found out nobody was hurt and all flights were on schedule. Then we get stuck on a bus for 5 hours in the middle of the night. The reasons for all my questions being, we have a flat tire, the driver is sleeping, the roads are closed, there is an accident. 100 buses later I see whatever it is, is a pretty big deal.

In a quick summary of what first comes to mind, Myanmar is: huge smiles on everyone of all ages, hands that wave hellos so enthusiastically you think their arms are going to fall off, endless checkpoints to record passports and citizenships, poor mountain villages living only off the land, colourfully embroidered longyi and decorated lacquerware, pick up trucks with as many people crammed in as possible, a New Year's water festival when nobody is allowed to stay dry, mouthfuls of betel nuts and stained teeth, thousands of pagodas and temples filled with ancient paintings, a massive shallow lake with a most unique reflecting blue, deliciously brewed Myanmar tea with a layer of sweet milk, warm chipatis and bowls of different curries, novice monks in red throwing yellow petals in the air, shimmering flowered umbrellas in Yangon, horse drawn carriages bringing you back several decades, calling from a phone sitting on a wooden table on the sidewalk, roads that are never without a bump, extremely uncomfortable but absolutely interesting transport...

To be continued.

April 07, 2006

Yangon

Every time I am about to touch ground in a different country, I get an overcoming new wave of excitement. Landing into Myanmar was glorious. Truely The Golden Land. Even through Yangon's thick smog, there were flecks of gold shining through far away in the distance. Pagodas were everywhere and this isn't even Bagan. P

April 05, 2006

Leaving Cambodia

Like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok is like returning home. The bus ride from Siam Reap was my worst yet. And I just happened to wake up that day with a clenching gut. 14 in a minivan, 4 of us packed into 3 seats. I got the space between the 2 seater and the 1 seater. We gathered a shoe, bag and sweater to fill in the gap. 2 people took up 2/3rd's of the room which left Kevin and I to share 1/3rd and our arms up on the seat since there wasn't enough shoulder width for everyone. Our heads crashed when the back tire fell through a metal plank in the middle of a bridge. Thank God we didn't get a flat! Actually, I was more grateful we didn't fall through! When we finally arrived at the border, my best moment would have been throwing up on some potted plants, right infront of customs.

Out of Siam Reap, the paved road ended and turned into bright orange dust with gravel and pot holes. The land was so flat with only a few short, gray bumps far away along the horizon. The Norwegian vegetarian described with enthusiasm her 15 course cobra dinner. The Canadian on my left listed the most unbelievable unluckiness she's had during only 1 month of travel.

Bordering a field to our right were red danger signs with the skull and crossbones labelling a landmine area. 2 boys were playing in there. 2 people die and 7 are injured every single day in Cambodia due to landmines. P

April 01, 2006

Angkor Wat

I am here! Spent three sweaty days on a bicycle, riding the 7 km each way from Siam Reap plus many more to explore the massive grounds of these ancient ruins. Angkor itself is actually only one part of hundreds of temples scattered around the beautiful jungle. Standing on top of them, you can sometimes see the familiar lotus shaped peaks jutting above the flat horizon a few kilometers away.

The size is staggering and the workmanship unbelievable. Trying to imagine how many people it took to build and then how many artists to carve the intricate reliefs and patterns. Huge blocks stacked into steep staircases and tall, arched walls. Details covered all surfaces and sculptures. Large, smiling faces of Bayon on 4 sides of each tower. So many parts shifting and broken and fallen and angled. Tree roots mangled between Ta Prohm's cracks and doorways. Piles of puzzle pieces not yet solved. Preah Khan heads stolen from the railing of men holding a snake. Walls before moats curved on the edges of missing sections. Framed landscapes between open windows. Baphuon's maze of tiered reliefs of 9 headed snakes and dancing women.

Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, I wonder what colour the blackened and mossed covered stone looked like. How each carving looked without parts cut out, cracked or worn away. The sounds of intense jungle, uncleared the way it looked in the eyes of the French explorer. But even still, what remains now, is the most impressive thing I've ever seen. P

March 29, 2006

Killing Fields & Oudong

Motos are great, especially at night. The dark air is relieving while speeding down the streets. But at a stand still, the relief turns into another shiny layer on the face. Jacky, my driver takes me along a road full of carts filled with morning glories. The rivers cutting through the fields and tall sugar palms grow like bean sprouts, individually scattered across a flat horizon. The pink-brown dirt flys up and I aquire a nice blue mask that loops around my ears.

We end up at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where all the victims from S21 were found. Large holes, surprisingly very close to each other used to be filled with skeletons. The largest, not looking so large, contained over 400 people. Torn clothes still clung into the earth. Piles of tibias and femurs by each sign. A tree where children were beaten. A tree that had contained a microphone, used to muffle the sounds of pain.

In the opposite direction of the city was a completely different atmosphere. Passed several markets and schools through a Muslim area and stopped for a refreshing glass of sugar cane juice. Further North, we saw more countryside. Fields of opened pink lotus and the river weaving in and out of view. The flat plains were interrupted by only a few mountains clumped in the distance. The peak was the tops of temples, Oudong, the old capital. Lots of chicken for lunch including liver tasting lungs, lumpy boiled skin and skinny heads and legs. Then the climb up the stairs giving better views of the countryside below, getting closer to the chanting ceremony at the topmost temple. I guiltily handed over donations and gratefully accepted a free chat with monk nuns and kids. Odd fabrics cut into triangles, decorating the ceilings. Young monks laughing at me as I dash past the jumping monkeys. A cool ride home, happy to stand again. P

March 28, 2006

Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng Museum, a school converted into rows of now empty rooms. Except for a cold metal bed frame, placed in the middle of yellow tiles. The light poured in from the far, barred window with bright green banana tree leaves waving in the breeze. Above the bed was a rough black and white 30-odd year old photo of a person chained to the stiff contraption. He lay flat in an uncomfortable position. Underneath was a black circular pool on the floor.

Isles of 4x6 portraits showed expressions of sadness, helplessness and fright. They dared not scream, cry, laugh or disobey. Brick walls slanting creating narrow cells only a couple feet wide. Silence is defeaning, ghosts not resting. Reflections of myself and a photo behind, blends into the wide eyes of a young girl. Bright white patterns from the holes in the walls, subtracts parts of faces. Blood stains still existing on the floor. I find art in the numbers and lines painted by the doorways. The coils of barbed wire and holes in the doors. Today, grass grows and white flowers speckle the trees. Yesterday in the past hopefully never to return. P

From Vietnam to Cambodia

Wow, the last few days have gone by so quickly but with many drawn out painful moments. My last day in Saigon I strolled into a gallery exhibiting an artist from Hue. Included in the show was a blank easel, waiting to painted with someone's face. I was up! Starting with a red blotch, my portrait evolved into a bright mixture of thick, wide strokes. A few Picasso-ish lines for the eyes and nose and it was done, very fun. But the day was mostly about eating... sampled a few freshly made waffles, cooled down with some ice coffee, tried ice cream at a trendy cafe, had a bowl of noodle soup on the street, savoured a cup of warm soy milk and then totally indulged into a massively tall Auzzie burger. Mmmmmmmm.

Then came the 'wonderful day on the Mekong Delta tour'. Two days of hot boats on a windless river, cramped buses filled with dust from the pot-holed roads, waiting for late buses, a shared room that was stiffling with no fan or windows that would open, getting up early, a 'free breakfast' of bread, arriving late, driving around trying to find a room. I absolutely refuse to get on another boat or take another tour! But the hassle of the last few days were reduced to a distant memory. The trail we had created within the first hour of entering Phnom Penh was a string of moto drivers, hotel workers and waiters that brought our separated group of four back together again. Cambodia is filled up to the rim of enormously helpful people. P

March 25, 2006

Saigon

Toured through Cu Chi tunnels with a stop at the War Remnants Museum. Walked through 100m of the 200 plus km complicated system of small tunnels. Three levels deep, these tiny entrances and low passages were dug out with a trowel and basket. Kitchens, sleeping areas and toilets were set within the extensive maze. Booby traps were created for the enemy--if they entered, they never came out. For three years, the Americans didn't even know this creation existed.

Tried steamed tapioca and watched people try some shots with an AK47. The recreations of traps with deadly-spiked bamboo waiting at the bottom of hidden pits. Metal spikes made from recylced bullets casings. The dried leaves in the regrowth of a new forest crunched as I stepped forward. I was silenced by my thoughts of what it would have been like only 31 years ago. Feeling a little unsettled as the gun shots crackled in the distance. Feeling disturbed at the hundreds of photos dipicting destruction, death and torture. And the continued suffering of the after effects of agent orange. Not only in the men walking around with crutches, but also the soldier's children who inherited the painful disfigurements of this chemical. P

Chaing Mai, Thailand


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

Thailand and Laos pics are up! P

March 22, 2006

On a bike again

My favourite part of today was finally arriving at Linh Phuoc Pagoda. It was a beautiful bicycle ride with great views looking down at valleys of farm fields and smoking mountains in the distance. But great views means great heights and pedalling up 8 kms meant a few breaks for water and some smiles from the lucky people speeding by on their motos. But also, what goes up, must come down and I even ended up passing others down the long slope. It was awesome, even knowing that I'd have to take the same road back to town.

I arrived ready for a snack and asked a woman what she had hidden underneath her silver pot's lid. They looked like clear wontons with a shrimp paste inside some and a yellow something in the others. Served cold in a clear sauce they were delicious. After looking at Buddha, I was then invited over by two friendly men eating something like yogurt. In 2 seconds I was sitting on a little stool at their little table, had a cup of this white pudding substance, a cup of tea, and we all laughed about Vietnam traffic and cold Canadian winters.

Then it was time to climb up the pagoda. A spiral staircase covered with broken tea cups, saucers, vases and bottles. The colourful glass and patterned ceramics crunched beneath my feet and fragments fell on my head from floors above. No "under constuction" or "do not enter" signs to be seen. Guys were chipping away, moulding these pieces into tiles that fit into the wall's mosaic of flowers and dragons. I squeezed through scaffolding, walked on their materials and kept asking "Is it ok for me to go up?" Yup, thumbs up, hellos and how are yous all the way! The view was spectacular, I was on top of Dalat. 1500-something metres above sea level and all I could see were rows of salad ingredients, a pastel Catholic style graveyard, stacked French styled homes and the hilly horizon spiralling all around. I ended the day with another bowl of pho. Shared another little table with a family this time, the sweet 2 year old delighted to wave to a stranger. P

March 21, 2006

Dalat

I would rate today as one of the best on my top 10 list. Paid more than I would have normally, but having my own driver to take me around the country side on a moto was so worth the experience. Once in the area, everybody knows Easy Rider, the company that takes travellers around Dalat on a day tour or or even several days (backpack and all!) from Saigon to Hanoi. The drivers are also guides with excellent English and a positive attitude.

Eric, NY, on his moto and I toured around the fresh, cooler climate of the city and it's surroundings set atop some mountains. There are a few volcanos in the area that have provided rich, orange earth to grow fields of organic vegetables. So crispy and flavourful in the local pho (soup pronounced "fu"). Groups of coffee, avacado, jackfruit and pine trees. Lettuce, basil, mint, beans, strawberries and mulberries planted in lines. Roses and hydrangeas growing tall and brightly under the plastic-roofed green houses.

Walked behind a roaring waterfall with the spray swirling in circles. Was grossed out by a few bamboo walls filled with crawling white silk worms building their cocoons. Admired the factory where they speedily unravelled the oval shapes into large wheels of pure, natural silk. Walked through long lines of hanging bags of sawdust for the growing clusters of mushrooms. Was facinated by the young, uncomplaining children weaving baskets so fast and accurately. Wandered through the maze of twisting hallways and unusual shaped rooms of the "crazy house", designed by the daughter of Vietnam's previous leader. Was inspired by the quantity of paintings created by the "crazy monk" who will one day travel the world off his profits to visit tourists who bought his paintings. Shared a delicious hot pot of simmering fresh greens, meats, fish and noodles in a tasty broth. Ah... P

March 20, 2006

Nha Trang

A very pleasant city with everything you need. I decided to take advantage of the weather and do the party boat ride around the islands and relax on the tree-lined beach. Our energetic guide sang karoke while he danced, was a floating bartender in the water and made sure we had enough pineapple, watermelon and tofu-bean-fish-spring rolls to eat. All the waitresses spoke great English and held my hands and hugged my shoulders as if we had been friends for years. They asked where I was going next and that they would miss me and gave some suggestions of hotels to stay at.

I wasn't sitting on the beach alone very long before I had a young woman custom fitting two anklets on my left foot, an older woman selling flat-seeded crispy bread lying asleep on my left, a bright kakhi green costumed security guard on my right, a girl and her cousin squatting behind me to say hello and then the rest of her large family to later join and circle all around. A very relaxed and quiet little gathering we had formed, keeping shaded from the pines behind us. They mostly just stared at me until I looked and we smiled at each other. I get a few answers from my questions but mostly there is just laughter from not understanding. My sudden group of friends gradually left and soon it was just me again, to finish my drawing of the shaped trees in the park. A garden of dark cubes, cylinders, cones and spheres, up in the air, supported by their mangly branches. P

March 17, 2006

Kon Tum

So I went! Another ride with beautiful scenery of more mountains and the greens that covered them. It was a strange city for me though. Much bigger than I had anticipated and much few tourists as well. Actually, I was the only one! Strolling the streets being looked at for my whiteness, not my money was better I guess, but no matter what happens everything's so freaking strange! Woman reaching out to stroke my cheeks. No, I mean it was a great experience, very nice people there, but you wouldn't really know at first glance.

The kids are the best and want to say hello because it's just too funny. One hopped on my bike and another pushed us along. One at a time, a few girls ended up peddaling beside me to ask a couple questions, or not. A little girl showed me how big she could blow up her corn balloon. High-schoolers invited me under their shelter while we drank water and waited for the storm to die out. The cutest 3 boys sat infront of their house, behind a house shouting "Hello, hello, hello!!!". We had a small conversation and they agreed to a photo. But they are the only ones I have met who didn't want to see their picture. Their unsure expressions and no movement to come over made me wonder if they have even seen a digital camera before? Anyway, great photo!

The day was super humid as I rode around. Fields behind the villages grew various plantations in the corner of the Dakbla River. A couple Rung houses appeared above the tree tops. They are traditional meeting places that are recognized by a massive, tall roof. The height represents power, not sure if there's a physical reason for it. Sat at a teeny table on the sidewalk while the rain subsided. Was intrigued to try a savoury pancake with bean sprouts inside, made on 5 little burners right beside me. My mission was to find shampoo in the market. I successfully did not by hair dye but unsuccessfully gained a bottle of conditioner. My favourite person was An, an artist who has designed a cafe of carved sculptures, hanging gongs and plants all over. He lost his father in the war. He says my drawings remind him of a French artist who came to Kon Tum, named Soffie. P

Getting half of the way there

My plan was to get the 6am bus to Qui Nhon and transfer to another bus at 12 to get over to Kon Tum by 5. It didn't work. I blame it on the rain.

All hues of yellow and spring green fields streaked brightly through the wet windows. Pleased, I thought it worked out that it rained on a day I was only in transit. Displeased, it slowed us down by 2 hours and the driver broke his promise to drop me at the bus station. "Take moto. 6km. Over there." The store owner I was disposed infront of said "You walk. 50m. Over there." So I walk over there to find a bus sign but no buses. A girl shook her head and offered me a ride but we head in the opposite direction. I ask her why we go this way but my question fades into the loud crinkle of her plastic raincoat and the heavening rain ticking on her helmet. She stops at a different bus sign and talks to the man sitting under it. After some discussion they decide for me to get on his moto, brushing off "How much?" because nobody speaks English.

We continue in the wrong direction, past the same rice paddies I saw half an hour earlier. Probably 6km but not the right way! A family stands, brother, girl holding baby, man, woman, lined up outside a wooden house. 50,000 dong for the moto, an argument that won not in my favour. "Where is the bus station?" Everybody laughs. I stand in the downpour, my own blue plastic raincoat bought too late because I was already wet. The woman keeps pulling out a small, red plastic stool. Why would I want to sit here? They all talk to me in rapid Vietnamese, pointing and laughing along the way. I feel ripped off and abandoned on some dirt road with these amused strangers. I ask for a toilet and they point down a narrow lane between 2 buildings. I stumble over broken bricks and strewn garbage to find a corner with a view of some dreary river. The cool rain falls in huge droplets down my back and face, mixing with the warm water from my eyes.

I felt horrible and everyone seems to be laughing at me. But seems is what it was and their way of helping. I began to see minivans pass by... Hanoi, Saigon, Kon Tum. The young student who writes in his book said 3 hours but maybe he meant 3 minutes. The driver said that way but maybe he meant this way. I do not know, I will not know! I feel ridiculous not able to speak their language. It could have been a funny adventure. But these are the days I don't want to be the only single traveller on the bus, nevermind the only traveller to go to Kon Tum. My travel instincts were wrong and I expect them to be better by now. So now stuck in Qui Nhon I try to decide if it's worth going to this off-the-beaten-track town. P

My Son

Even though my ride picked me up nice and early at 8am, there was waiting, a motorbike, waiting, a bus, waiting, a minivan, and waiting, which didn't get us started until at least 10:30. Another rush through the ancient ruins for a few pics and a glimpse of Cat's Tooth Mountain in the background, to catch the "noon-thirty" bus back to town.

My Son is rated as one of the most important sites in Southeast Asia, along with Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur in Java and Ankor Wat in Cambodia. However, it really is a ruined ruins, many of the monuments completely destroyed by the war in '69. A few black corners of walls perched on a moundy green hill. Small stone peices arranged into columns horizontally on the ground. Cob webs and grass spreading across and growing into the layered bricks. Parts of washed down reliefs in the broken walls. Beheaded figures and lonely feet mounted to walls. Streams of sweat dribbled down to my feet even in the coolness of an unlit temple, protected from the beating sun. P

March 14, 2006

Hoi An

Maybe it was just Hue, my experience with the people changed radically when I stepped foot off the bus. I realized this town was very similar to the places I passed through in Laos, where almost everyone is living off of the tourist's sales. A society where personalities and expectations have changed due to the fact they see me as a rich tourist who can spend as I please. And then I take the liberty of having my specific measurements measured, taking advantage of cheap custom made garments. I have fallen under the spell of buying again, unable to resist the wonderful displays presented before me. Hundreds of beautifully fit tailored suits, dresses and tops line the roads. Dozens of coloured lanterns light up the dark nights. Canvas and silk paintings of girls on bikes and woman with long ponytails.

Very upsetting, I have lost my lovely Japanese hat. It has served me well over the past 5 years but it will still be sadly missed. I think the tragedy happened in the chaos of the crowded market of bubbly cucumbers, flat mandarins and layers of bean sprouts upon baskets of cabbage. When saying "no thank you" to every offer of necklaces, t-shirts and ceramic plates. When trembling as a poor man begs with no eyes and no arms. When paying a coin for a photo to the laughing woman with bright yellow flowers turning warmer in the late afternoon sun. When the pesky little girls and boys who hit me when I don't buy their cards. Perhaps, I can find a collapsable Vietnamese cone hat? P

Out and about around Hue

My bicycle took me around a huge round-about. I was centred among criss-crossing motos infront, beside and behind me. It looked like chaos but for some reason it all made sense and seemed natural, nobody hit me or even came too close and I felt relatively calm gliding steadily with the flow. By the day's end, I even braved making a left hand turn (Laos and Vietnam both drive on the right... usually). How silly I thought it necessary to wear a helmet in Toronto! But before this turn, I'll admit to the brief halt to examine the situation. In one moment a woman approached pointing to water. I say "No thank you" with a smile which triggers her to abandon the thought of a sale and ask one of the usual questions "How old are you?" "30" She holds my arm firmly. "How old are you?" "30" "Lying. You Lie! Why do you lie to me?" "I'm not lying, it's true!" Maybe she believed me, maybe she didn't, but for now on I'm 25 to avoid these looks of shock and conversation-stopper-situations once and for all. And maybe then it will be more acceptable that I'm not married or have any kids. It's really funny and I take it as a compliment, but really, this is getting way too repetitive!

My opinion about the Vietnamese gets stronger every time I see another one smile with pure delight. They are truely the sweetest people I have ever met. Many will say hello when they see me. Other's stares transform into outbreaks of laughter when I say hello first. Maybe it's just Hue, but they do not get upset or lose interest when I don't want to buy. They just genuinely seem to enjoy having an English conversation. Women squeeze my arms and look deep in my eyes. Girls hold my hands and giggle with me. Cyclo drivers ride beside and ask what I did today (knowing I do not need a ride). Little boys jump up and down when I tell them my name. They are so lovely!

Oh ya, I saw a Japanese covered bridge, 7km out of town, past enormous rice paddies. But it was definitely about the journey today. The best (and pretty much only) part of my day was passing people and watching for their amazing reactions. P

March 08, 2006

Hue

Clusters of roses on every street corner,
cut petals and leaves colouring the sidewalks.
Streets filled with motos, cyclos and bikes,
smiling and handshaking, just saying hello.

The Forbidden Purple City was mostly green,
overgrown grass and scattered plant pots.
It felt so mysterious, enchanted and erie,
because in a gigantic courtyard was only me.

Classical music played on a piano,
a distant tune among stone-cold sculptures.
Windows were closed and classrooms deserted,
one student rides by on her bicycle.
It's weird and cold and uninviting,
like I've appeared on stage for a horror movie.

All of a sudden appear 3 male voices,
laughing together and saying hello.
They point in the direction of an open doorway,
framing an easel sitting inside.

I walk on over to see the drawing,
inside were rows of 20 more.
It's quiet inside until I get to the back,
2 students fine-tuning their accurate shading.

5 more people arrive, then 10, then 15,
no longer alone, they ask where I'm from.
I show them my sketchbook and take their photos,
we laugh and misinterpret eachother's words.
Time to leave, the teacher was waiting,
Thank you. A smile. The class resumes.

I re-enter the strangeness of abandoned ruins,
parts of walls, the rest destroyed from war.
These remnants of orderly temples and gates,
grew into a maze of walkways and gardens.
So much was gone but so much is the same,
as the outside city littered in flowers.

March 07, 2006

Out of Laos

A very long day starting at 6.30am of tuk tuks, buses and motorcycles. The first bus gave me time to improve my skills at killing mosquitos. I don't think Buddhism is for me because I get so much satisfaction in this. The best are those electric tennis rackets... tzsip! Had one stop when at least a dozen vendors filled the isle with various things on sticks. I think the 3 boiled eggs are a great idea! Regretted not buying the insects (legs still on) beautifully stabbed length-wise in a neat formation. Passed a storm of white butterflies which glorified a poor village. The drunk man next to me took great interest in reading the bios of the Lonely Planet authors.

My first impression at the border of Lao Bao was a dusty mess and everyone wore masks. I wondered if there had been a new SARS outbreak but I think it was for the construction and/or pollution. I then got to have several tours of the city driving back and forth wondering if our bus was actually headed for a destination. But I found a few minutes past the city, the country transformed into an entirely different land from Laos. Mountain ranges became higher in numbers and in height. The grass was greener and the slopes covered in luscious vines. It was a breathe of fresh air in scenery and in the people. Each border official man and masked money-exchanger woman said I was beautiful (hehe!). The girl next to me giggled at my Vietnamese pronounciations and I helped her with English. Her, along with a new passenger also took great interest in reading my popular Lonely Planet! Motorbike-guy in Hue was tough to bargain with but took great care to make sure I got to my guesthouse okay, and with a huge smile! So many other happy, smiling, friendly waiters and drivers within my first few hours. And the beef noodle soup came with a heap of lettuce, mint and other greens which was refreshingly healthy. I love Vietnam! P

March 06, 2006

Savannakhet

Such a strong contrast from the other cities I have seen in Laos, I counted less than 10 other tourists today. There are so many parents begging with their children at each temple and restaurant. I gave my coconut to one little girl and her dad, who ended up asking me two more times throughout the day. It's a very small town, with more curious monks at the temples and lots of motorcycles weaving around tuk tuks, cars and my very upright bicycle. Tons of one-tabled restaurants but nobody seems to be serving. Found one Lao-Paris Cafe which served some delicious chicken-mushroom soup and spring rolls. Long streaks of lightening threatened each side of the city but only dark clouds hovered above and wind scattered the dusty lanes. Thin plastic bags bounced along the gravel and tree tops swayed madly. Across the Mekong, a sand cloud drifted along it's length, fading out the view on the other side. P

March 05, 2006

Leaving Vientiene

Eight hour bus trips always give you lots of time to think. Sometimes I think I should be thinking about something much more important just to at least be productive with my time. I cannot write because it's too bumpy, cannot draw because the pictures move by too fast, cannot read because I don't have a book, cannot listen to my music because the Thai pop karoke is blasting... I'm very good at excuses.

I laugh at the fact the bus stops at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Everyone stumbles out to find their spot in the grass or behind a bush to pee. I was so glad I didn't drink any tea this morning because that was our first stop in four hours. A few hours later a little boy ran out to a rock and took so long, I think nervous the entire bus was waiting for him.

I admire the fact that dogs are allowed to take themselves for a walk down the street. Cows are not limited to a designated square within a fence. They wander either in rows to a certain destination or stand unconcerned in the middle of the road blocking traffic. Small children appear so confident riding infront of their parent on a motorcycle.

I loved the idea of 3 hard boiled eggs on a stick, a perfect snack for vendors to sell through the passenger windows.

I ate a fish today. The whole thing was placed infront of me with it's huge mouth pronouncing "OHHH". I thought a bubble would come out at any moment. It was grilled with salt whitening it's body and tasted really good with the sticky rice. P

March 04, 2006

Vientiene

The French influence is all around from the writing on signs to the fluffy croissants served in cute cafes. There is even a modern imitation of the Arc du Triomphe, a concrete arch in the middle of a huge round about. Built in 1962, it was made with concrete donated by the Americans to build an airport. Now stands a stucture, it's own sign even saying it becomes less impressive as you get closer. Up top is a great way to view the golden stupa from a distance, the famous structure printed on the cover of the Laos Lonely Planets.

Tried out a weaving course at a Woman's Training Centre North of the city. They use the traditional looms to make silk fabrics, similar to what I see everywhere. Even with all the strings counted and the pattern pre-determined, it took a lot of concentration to remember all the steps. Kup patiently demonstrated the steps without hardly saying a word. Emily and I were in a silent meditation of: step on the right pedal, pass the black thread through, flip up the wooden plank, weave each row of coloured threads, push the threads together, repeat with the left, lower the bamboo stick to change the pattern, replace the wood, flip it up... After 3 solid hours I managed to create a scarf about 2 inches long. I think I will just continue to buy all my fabrics ready made! P

March 03, 2006

Phoudindeang Village

Only a few kms from town is a small organic farm that makes silk, grows mulberries and provides a library and classroom to teach English to kids. It was the perfect escape from the renovation-construction-tourist chaos that was happening in town. I didn't see the silk but the tempura mulberry leaves were light and crispy, the rice had a nice pink colouration, the shake was frothy and the fat berry-packed pancake was gorgeous. And then I volunteered to try my skills at teaching. I discovered that knowing english is much easier than showing others how to learn it.

DAY 1, What I Expected: a 1 hour class, teaching art, communicating in english. What I Didn't Expect: Almost 50 children 11-18 years, no responses to my questions, only 8 peices of paper, 1 outdoor watertap which meant paint all over the ground outside. The Plan: Introduce myself as an artist and talk about things that have inspired me during my travels in other countries including Laos. Do a simple demonstration with watercolours and have groups paint a mural-collage using pictures and words to describe what they find inspirational about their village. Result: Not one person volunteered to speak. Because I used the mountains as an example, all 7 groups had a mountain in their mural. Nobody wrote any words. Used way too much paint out of the new tubes. The only questions they asked were "What is your name? How old are you? Are you married? How many people in your family?" My Thoughts: I never want to teach ever! They didn't like the class. Need a much better plan for tomorrow. I want to run away!

DAY 2, The New Plan: Have a lesson explaining what a noun and a verb is. Play Pictionary as a way to draw words the audience has to guess. Use the word in a sentence using at least 1 noun and 1 verb. The Class: At the beginning I had to place the white board marker in hands and force people to go up and draw. My sentence "I saw a turtle in the toilet today." (true story!) triggered one boy to write "Ross poos in the toilet." One child had a lot of difficulty writing n's and m's, and d's and b's but the class helped him by yelling out the letters one at a time. Result: It became a community effort, I'm sure much like how they live their everyday lives helping eachother at home. Each one spoke more and looked much more interested than yesterday. Everyone said thank you and good luck to my family (that's for you, mom, dad, Steven, Nancy!) and hoped I would come back. My Thoughts: Success! I felt overjoyed from their enthusiasm. These young adults are very well behaved. As an non-mandantory, after school class, it's incredible they were all there because they chose to learn. I would prefer to teach art to younger kids, who speak english as a first language! Well worth the experience. P

March 01, 2006

Vang Vieng

The twisting road down here was never straight for more than a few seconds. But the drive was well worth the scenery. The mountains were high, flat planks of rock, making unusual jagged formations on top. Some were rounded and seemed like they would fall over. Others tall triangles like tops on a castle. For some reason they had very little detail and were just massive, flat objects of grays. Irregular shapes getting whiter, further in the distance, until they were hardly there. Even closer, tubing down the river with the mountains looming on the right, they still didn't seem real. A wonder of natural limestone and never a section of river without a Beer Lao in sight. P

February 27, 2006

Around Luang Prabang

The night market was so fabulous I went three times. In the warm yellow glow of a lightbulb hanging above each stall was a feast for my eyes but a leaky faucet for my wallet. It aroused the materialism within me that I have been pretending didn't exist. I didn't do so badly though, and my bartering skills are definitely improving, but it took amazing self control to not buy the entire market. Fabrics shone in deep earth tones, highlighted with some golden strands. Woven fisherman's pants (the traveller's most comfortable garment) in every colour combination. Paper lanterns and umbrellas lighting up the walkways. Delicately embroidered pillow cases, bed spreads and handbags. Nancy, I saw the exact little-people ones you bought!

Kwang Xi Waterfall is made up of tiers of light, white-green pools. The walk up to the falls across wooden bridges, through twisted trees and vines, on dirt floors covered with red and purple flowers, was paradise. Each layer was only revealed a few at a time until at last the rushing water fell from so high in even more sections. Had a quick swim in the cool water. Then woke up at 4am with things moving in my stomach. Not sure if it was food or drink, but got to create a waterfall for myself... am feeling much better now!

Had a side trip over to Pak Ou to see the Tham Ting. It is advertised on all the waterbottles, an cave within the side of a high cliff. The black opening begins with a white staircase and wall. Within are over 4000 buddhas that have been placed there by worshippers. Large and small, dull and shiny, heads without bodies and bodies without heads, it's a buddha audience overlooking the Mekong River. P

February 24, 2006

Luang Prabang

Three straight days of travel to get where I am, in the middle of northern Laos. One day by minivan to the border town of Chang Khong and two full days on a long uncomfortable "slow boat" ride down the Mekong. The seats made from 2 narrow planks of wood and the boat so full some people sat on their packs or lay on the metal roof above. It was slightly degrading, an over-packed boat of sweaty tourists. The other option were the speed boats zooming by, doing the same trip in only one day. Those passengers wore helmets, either to protect their ears from the screaming engine or their heads in the likely event of flipping. Perhaps our boat wasn't so bad!

During the many hours of having absolutely nothing to do and no desire to try and speak over the loud engine, I remembered the recent words from the monk, "Keep your body and mind together, always in the present moment." Instead of wishing for the future (to get off the damn boat), my thoughts focused on nature's images before me and I condured several strings of descriptive lines for each tiny event. In total concentration, I ended up in the most relaxed state I can remember myself being for a long time.

Patches of bright sand dotted with planted clumps of greens. The edge a dune spilling strings like sand timers into pointed mounds below. Contrasting the steep highlighted ridges of horizontal shadows...

Fat, healthy cows, submerged in the river or lying on the bank. No movement except ears twitching, flicking off flies. Goats roamed the steep hills in white, black and beige...

Women wearing red sarongs walking in one's or two's. Carrying filled baskets on bamboo across their shoulders. Seemingly nowhere, far from any village...

Children rowed dug-out long boats and bathed by slanted, layered, rocks. Tiny silhouettes holding inner tubes watching us from the beach...

Men standing in boats, or waist-high in the water. Throwing white nets into hollow, momental forms. Organizing wood to build a new boat...

The distance highlighted with wirey, white trunks. Glowing against the dark jungle's interior. Stalks of bamboo in circular patches, arched outwards and upwards, softened with foliage. Thousands of species, vines and trees, entangled together in a connecting leaf canopy...

Yellow leaves sprinkle in the wind. Falling and flickering like families of butterflies. Some rocks were purple, like moss only on the West side. More colours stand out, new shapes approaching. I could go on forever describing this land. P

February 20, 2006

Chiang Mai

Had a quick taste of old town Chiang Mai which is surrounded by a huge moat and the remainders of a brick wall. Then off on an adventurous jungle trek high in the mountains where hill tribe people live and elephants roam wild... uh, they did hype it up just a tad. Although it did make for a fun getaway in fresh air and greenery. Walked through a few rice paddies, sat below freezing (but very refreshing) waterfalls and said "sawadi-ka" to the locals picking tamarin in the trees. Laughed at our guide who was on a mission to find ant nests. He threatened we were having ant soup for dinner, which we didn't, and was actually a little disappointing! The slow elephant ride got exciting when the one behind us butted infront and gave a huge elephant-roar. Trunks were flying and sides bumping, it was quite chaotic. Our well-mannered monster stayed well behind and even opted out of the bath it's very aged skin needed. We did get wet though on the bamboo raft down the river. I don't think it was ever more than a foot deep, but we all got soaked! Jumping from one to the other, crashing into a rock and getting splashed by all the locals visiting the water on their Sunday afternoon.

One free day in the city and I ran around to all the "must see" temples. Chatted with a few monks in orange and saffron in the truck ride up to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Many of them seem to come from Laos to study Buddhism in Thailand. Returning to the temple with their new purchase, a used tv. But I thought monks don't own anything? "As long as it's used for the right reason." Followed by "Things are changing." The one with a cell phone, asked to take my photo with him which peaked some tourist to lecture me about not associating with monks that way "especially as a woman". Ya, like I'm trying to pick up a monk!

Heading to Wat Suan Dok for the 1-on-1 monk chat, I looked forward to some real insight about Buddhist beliefs. He's (I'll keep the name anonymous) 24 and spoke carefully and patiently, smiling and squinting his eyes genuinely as I imagine the Dali Lama would. Every morning at 6am the monks walk around the temples with an apple, accepting food from people. They only eat what they are given and even though monks are vegetarian, they will eat meat if it is offered to them. A very pleasant chat which unexpectedly ended with "Would you mind if I travelled with you when you're in Laos?" My outburst of disbelief was reponded to with "When I leave, I won't be a monk for a month." ?#$%^&!!! So after presumably being hit on by 2 monks in 1 day, made me a little bit skeptical about this whole monkism idea. I'm sure many are legit, but like our tour guides and drivers, many will leave by their 20's. But you just have to laugh, right? P

February 14, 2006

Phitsanulok & Sukhothai

Had a stop over in Phitsanulok to see the most beautiful Buddha in Thailand. It was gold all over and the mirrored things around it made the whole interior sparkle. Patterned black and white columns lined the sides with people covering the floor praying between them. The monk with a microphone seemed to enjoy spraying me with water thrown from a handful of incense sticks. I really wanted a photo of the monk seated in between a long row of seated Buddha statues, talking on his cell phone!

Mon, my first female rickshaw driver wrote my name in Thai, it looks pretty cool. I love Thai characters, I think it is the most beautiful written language. Oooo, I like Japanese caligraphy too, but Thai has these little circles and curves that look amazing when hand written. So after the most beautiful Buddha, I went to the old capital of Thailand, Sukhothai "Dawn of Happiness". This is where the Thai alphabet originated, derived from India. There is massive World Heritage site about 800 years old. The park is filled with wats (temples) and shrines with Buddhas sitting, reclining, standing and walking all over the place. A couple have some Hindu and Khmer influence which is interesting. Met Danny from Guelph of all places and admired the ruins while talking about his adventurous trekking in China, Tibet and getting some good advice for Laos. When the sun began to lower, an orange glow enhanced the colour in the bricks so I made a lot of use of the "autumn" setting on my camera! And I had forgotten about that black and white option, also put to good use today. Way too many photos and only one speedy sketch. P

February 11, 2006

Bangkok

Had a brief, familiar stopover in Singapore and flew again the next day to Bangkok. Excited to have another window seat, I saw absolutely nothing except blue above the clouds and gray below them. The pollution was so thick, there was a purple-gray horizon line hidding everything underneath. As we descended I realized I had just left the cleanest air in the world and was now going to be enveloped in one of the smogiest. The landscape was divided percisely into long, gray rectangles of farmland that went as far as the eye (or the smog would let you) see.

Bangkok reminds me so much of Bali! The intricate, dark wood carving on the wall, the pots of plants lining each river and house, and the streams of motorcyclists.

The city is absolutely gigantic. My 2 new Estonian friends and I walked up to the river, got on a packed boat ride along the river, had a tuk tuk driver that took us to unknown temples where his friends will give him free fuel coupons, bus 47 to National Stadium where the ticket taker made us get off but we actually should have stayed on which took another half hour to figure out, and then bus 15 to finally see the Grand Palace a far walk in the distance. Total: 3.5 hours. Crazy!

The Palace is a colourful maze of temples and and tall spirals that point into the sky and from the huge white wall on the outside, looks like a candy land. It contains the Emerald Buddah who I thought I had missed as we left but he just happens to have a gold coat on in the winter! Gold and mirrors and detailed murals and coloured mosiacs of flowers and patterns and painted tiles... left me bedazzled for the rest of the day. P

February 08, 2006

Christchurch

Christchurch was a very green city with a river running through it, a massive park to the left and possibly the best art gallery in NZ. I would have loved to stay longer to see more of it, but my time was up in this little country.

However the flight was amazing and had the most number of spectacular views I've ever witnessed! I had no idea I was about to step onto an 11 hour flight (I knew I was flying haha, but predicted 7 hours). Before we flew into the white cloud that rained onto the city, there were rectangular patches of all colours. The rest was white and then ocean until the approach onto the coastline of Australia. It must have been just south of Sydney somewhere. We ended up flying diagonally across the entire continent, over Alice Springs and then to Derby in the West which I never saw on land. The ground transformed several times into weird and interesting arrangements. The familiar red-oranges covered everything with the occasional gray water hole and streams of greens. Possibly a salt field in ameoba shaped blobs. And the brilliant white clouds dotting the surface, several hundreds of metres above it all. Casting dark blue-gray shadows back down onto the land. And above the clouds were us, in the air where it is always perfectly blue because nothing is above us, abstructing the view. These layers of patterns and objects just need to be painted.

That's not all! On the edge of northern Australia, a cloud streamed rain onto the coastline and a thick, colourful rainbow arched the phenomenon. Passing over one of the Indonesian islands, a huge, black volcano with a deep sandy interior, poked high above the clouds surrounding it. I didn't realize ocean could be so calm as to reflect a cloud's image like a mirror. Passing more islands, large and small, blobs and triangles. Separated sometimes by a river, sometimes by miles. Parts of the edges submerged under water, but still visible through the clearness. I could peice them all together like a puzzle, thinking about how many years of earthquakes and eruptions it took to separate them this way. WOW. P

February 06, 2006

February 05, 2006

Otago Peninsula

Took a bus out to Portobello where Rob and I rented a couple bikes with a refreshing start to the morning with some cool rain. Thankfully it didn't last too long and even though the cool wind made it hard riding up the many hills, it was perfect conditions for the albatross. At the head of the peninsula, huge, white birds with a wing span of about 3 metres soared high above our heads. Using the push of the wind, they didn't even have to move their wings, but just tilted sideways or vertically, gliding in huge circles above our heads. They moved around as elegant as kites. And so high up, the size of them still evident.

Further down the road, made a visit to the Penguin Reserve. My main purpose to visit Dunedin was to find a quiet spot on the beach, letting the penguins wobble up towards me, getting a close up personal view of their actions and drawing them all day. But like other occasions, my imaginings are not allowed to come true. The few places the penguins do wander up to are protected by reserves and the only way to see them is to pay a guide. And on the tour, there is limited time at each nest, as the group is pushed along to the next site. However, with only a minute to sketch here and there along the trail, we did get as close as 5 metres to the world's most endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin. Only about 4500 exist along the south-east coast of NZ, Stuart, Auckland and Campbell Islands. Mostly the chicks were around as the adults were out fishing. But there was one hiding in the grass with the distinct yellow head poking out of the grass. They are even cuter in real life! Their wings point out in odd directions as they bend over to clean their feathers, or poke their head up to see who is coming, or turn their head sideways to seemingly talk to the penguin next door. This species is a little odd, as they are much more independent and do not hang around in huge colonies as the others do. One day I have to go to Antartica to see that!

The rest of the ride was a little rushed as we lost time pushing the bike up the steep gravel roads. Saw views of a couple harbours, but would need another day to see NZ's only castle, do the hikes and see the volcanic formations. Again, for next time! P

February 04, 2006

Dunedin

Checked out the Dunedin Public Art Gallery to see a display of yet more things Japanese... Miyabi, a collection of woodblock prints of samuri portraits, ladies in kimonos and landscape scenes. It's just all so amazing I'd love to live in one of those prints. To be among the most amazing colour pallets, have delicate flowers falling from above, several intricate patterns all around, contrasted with the solid black graphic shapes that make it so pleasing. This feeling of a magical world is what I want in my paintings and live in while creating them.

It was a long trip to get here, but in one day we saw a lone penguin (from a distance), huge sea lions on the beach, seals swimming way at the bottom of the steep cliffs and dolphins swimming amongst people willing to stand the freezing water. A lot of aqua water, sunny sun and spectacular landscapes which made my day. P

February 01, 2006

New Zealand Sketches


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

Here is a photo to click on to get to the others on flickr. BAAAAAAAAHHHH...

January 30, 2006

Invercargill

The most Southernmost city that has the most southern of everything from the YHA hostel to the McDonalds. Stuart Island is next, a couple hours by ferry, population 360! Not too much to do but had a pleasant date with Rob, roaming the musuem-art gallery displaying photos of Japanese fashion and the ancient Tuatara lizard. Then took advantage of the Tuesday special and watched Memoirs of a Geisha. Some really beautiful scenes of kimonos and cherry blossoms, high cliffs and mazes of tiled rooftops. I would have preferred to hear it in Japanese with subtitles and the geisha lipstick was not drawn on properly, but overall a pretty and romantic film to watch. P

Te Anau

Three relaxing days in the sunshine amongst the Southern Alps encircling the town. With a little bit of exertion on the last day doing a walk along the Kepler track to Docks Bay. Really, it was such a small peice of the 5 day track, I'd love to try the experience of hiking the whole thing. So NEXT time I'm in New Zealand and I'm really rich (it's ridiculous how much hostels and park fees are when you stay over night), I'm going to do all the heli-hikes, great walks, skydives, parasails, paraglides, scenic flights, maybe even a bungee jump or two, and exciting things this extreme sport country has to offer. Until then, I'm completely content to enjoy the smaller things like a cold swim, a gaze at the southern hemisphere stars and sampling hokey pokey ice cream in each destination. (WHY don't we have this in Canada? It is the best! Just think of crunchy butterscotch balls in a mound of vanilla so big that it overpowers the size of the cone trying to balance it all!). mmmmmm.

Oh and the Australian couple sipping some wine in the sun set, preparing themselves for the Milford track the next day, who passed on a huge rose to thank me for taking their photo. Then an unexpected romantic walk alone around the edge of the bay in Queenstown's Botanical Gardens. A satisfying meal of blue cod fish and chips. Laughing disgustedly at the old guy trying to pick up young girls in very revealing swimmers. Admiring new birds with a white V shaped tail or a mohawk on a duck or the inquisitive ones that want to hop so close with no hesitation. :) P

January 27, 2006

Milford Sound

Fiordland is the bottom, West section of the south and sounds like something out of LOTR. You drive a few thousand feet into the valley and are awe struck to tears at the magesty of it all. Looks like it too, drifting on a boat through the blue water with sheer cliffs on either side. The highest, mitre peak going up a whole mile to a triangular point. Going through was so windy, it was a sport trying to drink tea before the wind dipped into the cup and splattered it out into the air. Bit of a mess, but coming back was much calmer, admired the seals soaking in the sun on a flat rock and passed by lengthly waterfalls that looked like streams running down the mountain surface. One stopped before touching the bottom as the wind carried the last drops away.

Imagining the most magnificent views if it was raining and the hundreds of falls rushing down in the fog... but so grateful it was sunny and warm and the luck I've had in the south with this amazing weather. Instead of the last few months of stepping into rain and leaving the sun behind, finally is has turned around in my favour.

January 26, 2006

A bit about the past few days

WOW! New Zealand just keeps getting beautifuller and beautifuller that I cannot just say it's beautiful, but it is beautiful, beautiful and I will save beautiful, beautiful, beautiful (man, this word is starting to look funny) for when things get even better beacause that seems to be what will happen. Just had a conversation about that actually, how no matter what you do or see or where you go while travelling, things just get better. You begin to think you planned the itinerary in the perfect order, but really, order doesn't matter, every place has something amazing to offer, completely different from the last.

Ah, at a time when internet is scarce, I have so much to say but I'll have to expand later. For now, I will mention the walk in Haast was like entering into a dinasaur's oasis, Franz Joseph Glacier was a spiky mound of interesting formations, and Queenstown is a great place to do any kind of extreme activity, or in my case, to watch it all. P

January 21, 2006

Nelson to Abel

Much less internet as I head down the much less populated west coast of the south island. Where the line of mountains grow about 5cm's a year and the road twists along the changing colours of the river and scrumptious leafiness of the forests... it's all getting much more beautiful as we go. On the Stray bus again with a couple of English guys who have made the last couple of stops much too funny. I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long time which feels so good as I emerge from the gloomy holiday season.

Nelson had a few galleries to stroll through including Jens Hansen maker of the ring in LOTR and Lisa Hoskin's jewelery of delicately designed printed charms. Oh and girls, check out the Cicely cards! So funny, I was the weird tourist laughing out loud at the card stand, www.cecily.co.nz.

Then the amazing coastline at Abel Tasman National Park. Did 11 kms of part of one of the greatest NZ walks. The low blue tide sinks down to raise the patches of white sanded islands. Making it to our water taxi pick up and avoiding all the sandflies that day, descended into Anchorage Bay, water broken into a paint-by-number of green, blue, tourquoise and gray. Many funny llamas looking very feminine and cows, posing for me to draw just by our cabins. P

January 16, 2006

Picton

I thought 3 months in NZ would be so much time and it is passing by too fast. I still have the whole of the South Island to see and I know it will whiz by in a blur. The Queen Charlotte Track which runs along the Queen Charlotte Sound, is a 5 day walk along the ridge of a stretch of mountains. It starts at Ship's Cove where Captain Cook stayed during his many visits, over towards Picton. Up top you probably have a view of the water on and more mountains beyond on both sides. A Belgian girl will be doing that now, but I, leaving that for the next time I come (I have to keep saying that), took a boat ride along the water up to an island with a bird sanctuary. It has been protected from predators that have been affecting the wildlife on the mainland which allows for native birds to survive here. I saw blue penguins up close! It huddled with it's partner in their soft bed of little, white feathers and peered up with friendly eyes. The rest of the Sounds had a NZ King Salmon farm, water sometimes blue or brilliant tourquoise or completely whited-out from the shimmering strong afternoon light.

Met an artist in residence called John Keith Reed, water colourist. His advice is to paint every evening, have many exhibitions, know that your audience wants to relate to your work, and most importantly, love what you do. His enthusiasm and reading a bio of his past successes gave me a new rush of inspiration. Driving to Nelson, I scribbled down new ideas and words for my first exhibition. TBA!!! P

January 14, 2006

The Interislander

I am finally out of gloomy Welly! More to do with my mood though than the city. But all is good and the sun warmed my face and made the sea sparkle. I sailed away through the Sounds of rivers, islands and houses perched on the long stretches of mountains. Across the Cook Straight, and then through the Marlborough Sounds of rivers and islands and only trees covering even higher mountains. Speed boats left their trails of white lines behind them. Birds flew by. A young girl pointed to Picton's port ahead with their ferry just about to depart. "That must be where we're heading." She looked at me and offered her binoculars. I took a peek and put the strap back over her pink cap. Imagining how easy it would be for it to slip and fall into the water of other lost cameras below. P

January 11, 2006

It can't be!

Only 10 days into the new year and I find my first gray hair. Outside, the clouds are low over the mountains and the air is gray, streaked with rain. How very, very sad :( P

January 04, 2006

King Kong

Ok, I'm in New Zealand, so I just had to watch the latest Peter Jackson film. Not only watch it, but experience the luxurious Embassy Theatre where Lord of the Rings premiered. It's newly renovated marble staircases, white, laticed domes, large leather seats and a ticket with a seat number, made me feel I was going to an Opera in Prague, not a movie. The line ups went out the door, popcorn smells filled the air, and everyone poured in. Angela prepared ourselves with a handful of tissues. I was ready for the emotional love story, but the giant gorilla just didn't make the tears drip. The ratings weren't quite as good as expected, but I still enjoyed the action, although the dinosaurs could have been omitted, reminded me too much of Jurassic Park. And I didn't like the "helpless female" comment either, but this isn't modern New York anyway. Like his previous trilogy, the scenery was stunning. Yay for Petey, he's one sweet-as guy! P

January 01, 2006

January 1st, 2006

Happy New Year to two thousand and six!
I hope you celebrated with a good mix.

And sooooo, how did the eve go?
Maybe a little kiss under the mistletoe?

I didn't, but whatever,
it's okay because it's summer!

Here in Wellington I'm sitting a house,
and Panda the cat who hasn't caught a mouse.

My head is a bit itchy,
hopefully not fleas from kitty.

I garden and cook and read all day,
and try to write poems that kids can say.

If only my friends were here with me now,
I wouldn't have to end this yet with "chow"!

Happy New,
Year to you! P