Weeks: #42: things anew

2014-10-13 09.21.30New week, new office, new view. This is the first time for nearly four years that I have actually had a view from my office. And I get an iconic bit of Canberra too.

2014-10-13 09.25.12Of course, there was a bit of unpacking to do too.

2014-10-13 12.35.22Turkish lemonade!

2014-10-13 19.38.58More SkateFit – mostly being tortured by Shorty.

2014-10-14 08.30.18I met this guy at the physio. Physio is a pretty regular part of my life between my dodgy neck and my dodgy hip and all the other dodgy bits in between. I have been going to Atlas Physio for about 13 years now and it is a bit like family.

2014-10-14 09.20.34-1Despite high hopes for continuing good weather, it turned cold and wet this week. I wore my footy shoes walking to work.

2014-10-14 09.37.04I was pretty excited to discover this, but then when I had some I discovered – aspartame. Blergh. Oh well, it can come with me overseas for those times I can’t find fizzy caffeinated beverages and am in need.

Hairdresser before and after.

2014-10-15 18.02.35Had a meeting with the Secretary. She remarked on my phone.

2014-10-15 18.46.49Schnitzel night!

2014-10-15 19.10.46Sometimes Ainslie is a very beautiful place to live.

It was up early and off to the airport – not for me this time, but to farewell Sebastian who was off to Melbourne for the Tournament of the Minds final. We had considered whether one of us should fly down on Saturday to see their presentation and so forth, but Sebastian was more than happy to have his weekend away with his friends and we have travelled so much recently, it was nice to not go anywhere.

Off to see the ballet Thursday night. Was rather fun, though I thought the choreography for the men was a lot more interesting than for the women. But very enjoyable nonetheless.

2014-10-17 13.02.16Played in another work soccer game on Friday – this one was the semi final and we managed to win in extra time, taking us to the grand final. I am not sure that my sporting prowess really lies in soccer, but it is fun to have a bit of a run around in the park at lunchtime.

Cricket season is well started now and Friday evening I got to see Zachary bat in his first ever cricket game.

2014-10-17 19.36.31Afterwards, Jude, Zac and I headed to the Dickson Noodle House for dinner.  Up to the usual standard.

2014-10-18 11.54.29Zac continued his biking practice on Saturday with me and on Sunday headed off on biking adventures with Jude. It has been hard to get him off the bike since then!

2014-10-18 15.17.57Skating started up again on Saturday afternoon and Jude and Zac were super happy to be at training.

2014-10-18 19.16.46Bit of adventuring Saturday night. “Quick, beyond the guacamole, I see the dragon!”

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The weather was beautiful again and so I couldn’t resist a ride.

Sunday afternoon we headed to Pod Playgroud to meet up with Jillie and the mini-Peppers. Lots of fun all round.

2014-10-19 15.57.13Jillie couldn’t resist the acorns.

2014-10-19 16.04.42And then it was time to collect Sebastian from the airport – they hadn’t won, but they had had a good time.

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Weeks! #41: of bakeries, blood moon, brisbane and bikes (oh and other stuff)

2014-10-06 11.22.28Another week beginning with a road trip. This time, all five of us were in the car and we were heading home to Canberra. Sebastian didn’t enjoy the hilly bits in the Macedon Ranges and there were a number of vomit-stops before we got to the freeway.

2014-10-06 12.49.50We stopped at the Beechworth Bakery though for lunch. I have been wanting to visit for a number of years since I saw its somewhat renowned boss Tom O’Toole speak some years ago about training. It talked about how training people had added value to his business and helped him expand and he said something which I have often quoted and never forgotten: “People say to me, what if you train people and they leave? I answer them by saying, what if I don’t train them, and they stay?” It is always great to see people who understand how training staff helps their business. And the pies were good too.

2014-10-07 09.25.16First day back at work and guess what? I’m on a plane. Not the plane pictured above, but off to Brisbane for the day.

2014-10-07 12.09.25Hello Brisbane.

Then back on another plane home.

2014-10-07 19.19.57-2Sometimes you just need a glass of wine.

2014-10-07 19.48.07I finally managed to be in Canberra and available to play with my Branch soccer team. Of course, it is really hard not to shoulder check  – soccer’s OK with that, right?

2014-10-08 12.15.09All the boys got new cricket gear ready for the season – Zachary’s first. His cricket gloves are so tiny.

2014-10-08 18.10.34It was Blood Moon night so there was compulsory viewing, including with the two telescopes the boys own.

2014-10-08 21.23.31The weather has been turning increasingly beautiful so I am figuring there are not many #yourtightsatwork days left for the year.

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The boys, still on school holidays, spent Thursday with Ga and Katie, so we went and joined them for dinner for Katie’s last night in Canberra. All hands on deck for the helping out. The boys were also pretty sad to say goodbe to Katie who was heading off to Sydney for a couple of days before returning to London.

2014-10-09 20.52.05 2014-10-09 20.57.51-1Friday was moving day in the office. Fortunately, others had done most of my packing.

2014-10-10 11.37.14Escaping from work early meant I could catch up with the boys for pub afternoon tea.

Saturday we were off to Skate Nation for some eight wheel action. Zac managed to go lowest on the limbo.

And when you have the ingredients, why not enjoy a cocktail? The Bombay Amber is perfect for a negroni.

Meanwhile, Jude discovered the ultimate in multi-tasking – knocking in his cricket bat while watching Minecraft videos.

2014-10-11 16.45.38-1Dinner – a lovely piece of Jonai Farms pork shoulder and some equally excellent wine.

Sunday and Sebastian and I did a monster visit to the supermarket.

2014-10-12 12.22.46I also helped Zac on his bike. He has ridden a little bit but just needed some final concentrated attention and help. Didn’t take long.

2014-10-12 16.28.42Look, it is excellent that the boys help with hanging clothes on the line, but sometimes the results do make me wince slightly.

2014-10-12 17.30.07Finally, some baking with Jude – peanut butter cookies.

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Weeks! #40: Big city, beautiful country

2014-09-29 09.00.02So on Monday morning Jude, Zac and I loaded up the car to head off to Melbourne. James and Sebastian were flying there from Adelaide, so we had the car.

The drive wasn’t too bad – half the time, with Zac and Jude watching movies or playing on the iPads, it felt like I had the car to myself and could sing along to my music as loud as I liked.

2014-09-29 12.56.02We stopped for the traditional lunch break at Holbrook and arrived in Melbourne before dinner to reunite with James and dine on Italian food in Lygon Street.

Tuesday morning it was breakfast at James’ favourite hipster Brunswick cafe, Industry Beans.

2014-09-30 11.10.19-1We then went to see Sebastian play in his hockey tournament. Sadly, the ACT team was significantly outclassed and the week involved a number of thumping losses. But the boys played as hard as they could.

2014-09-30 15.15.27-1Jude, Zac and I headed off to see The MazeRunner at Melbourne Central while James had to fly back to Canberra to give a speech.

Next morning we headed off to visit Annabelle – while she and I gossiped, the boys had a lot of fun bonding.

Then it was off to zoo.

We liked the butterflies…

…and lemur island where we could walk around with the lemurs was cool.

The gorillas managed to elicit many sounds of disgust from small children as one gorilla proceeded to eat its poo, straight out of its bum.

2014-10-01 14.30.48We spent quite a lot of time looking at the reptiles.

2014-10-01 15.28.31-1And I always love a good seahorse.

2014-10-01 15.33.15Penguins are always a big hit.

2014-10-01 16.22.55-1And who doesn’t love a giraffe….

2014-10-01 16.24.41-2…or a zebra bum?

2014-10-01 19.19.15-1Zac tried another Lygon Street restaurant’s lasagne for dinner.

2014-10-01 20.08.41And both boys were excited to try the churros.

2014-10-02 08.32.29I caught up with Melanie my former roller derby buddy who has been living in Melbourne for a year or so now for breakfast. Afterwards I didn’t feel well and ended up sleeping all morning while James took the boys to see Sebastian play.

And then it was Luna Park time.

The boys particularly liked the giant floating balls.

Jude came for a ride with me on the ferris wheel – here we are at the top.

2014-10-02 16.30.17We all had quite a few rides on the purple dragon.

2014-10-02 16.48.42-1Zac didn’t like the dodgem cars at all (but James did)..

2014-10-02 16.59.33…but he won the day by going on the scariest rides – including the ride that just drops you from heights, and the wheel thing that goes from the horizontal to the vertical. Jude and I were both like “No. Way.”

2014-10-02 17.14.04It was then off to see the filming of The Project – as Natasha’s guests we had front row seats, then the boys, along with Conrad, got to try out the desk for size. And be taught how to shoot baskets with paper balls by Rove and Peter Helliar.

It was also lovely to catch up Natasha and Conrad afterwards.

2014-10-02 19.39.48On Friday we watched Sebastian’s last hockey game…

2014-10-03 09.12.25-1…before heading back to Industry Beans.

The boys in Brunswick…

2014-10-03 12.03.05-1Once we collected Sebastian finally, we headed for the hills…stopping in Daylesford for refreshments.

2014-10-03 15.25.32It was then off to the farm of the Jonai and some wonderful farm times and excellent foods.

It was wonderful to finally get a chance to visit Tammi and her family at the farm. It is an absolutely beautiful spot, and wonderful to see the happy pigs and their beautiful surrounds. And to eat such fabulous fresh food and enjoy such lovely hospitality.

The boys absolutely loved the dam and spent many hours playing on it with Atticus. My job was to supervise which suited me fine.

2014-10-04 14.16.23-1James helped out with the moving of the old chook shed. Here is Tammi looking delighted by its absence.

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The boys were also pretty keen on the trampoline.

There was also the great installing of the dam jetty which involved much drilling and nailing and all hands.

And as evening comes, time for a gin and tonic and some beautiful sights.

2014-10-05 08.48.28Tammi made us some absolutely delicious baked eggs on Sunday – just a sample of the many wonderful foods we ate.

2014-10-05 12.23.58And we spent some more time visiting the pigs. It was a lovely couple of days – great friends, great spot, great food – and such a stress antidote!

Weeks! #39: all sorts of fun things

Fun start to the week with a visit to the Chinese Embassy for Chinese National Day celebrations.

It was followed in the evening by an invitation to see the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra play. I tool Jude, viola specialist, along with me. We went out to dinner first and then Jude got to experience the Diplomatic Cocktail Party before we got to listen to the music. He was blown away by the first piece – a Chinese  piece using the pipa. it was indeed awesome. I think he enjoyed the chance to see musicians in action. It was a lovely night together.

Tuesday night I had a date with Sebastian – well, he and I went to his hockey presentation night. He got a medal for being a representative player and, even better, got to hang out with Martin.

2014-09-24 20.59.34Lunch.

2014-09-25 08.24.06Due to rain, walking Zac to choir was replaced with driving him. Jude was sick so stayed at home.

2014-09-25 08.31.50Despite the rain, spring was clearly upon us.

2014-09-25 09.08.10It was then off to the airport and off to Adelaide.

It is quite odd to go to Adelaide and stay at a hotel, but it happens sometimes. This time I was there for the Ministerial Council meeting, and was at the office printing papers til 8pm, at a pre meeting dinner until 10.30am and then at the venue to prepare at 7.30am, so the hotel was by far the best option. So here is my hotel room view.

2014-09-26 06.54.50After the Ministerial Council meeting was all over, I moved into the second phase of my stay. Sebastian had flown over by himself earlier in the day and been picked up by Mum and Dad. He was in town for the junior roller derby nationals and Team Australia trials. They had a BBQ at the beach to kick off the fun, so I picked up Sebastian and we headed off.

2014-09-26 17.56.03Here’s the group photo from the BBQ.

Sebastian was pretty keen to take the opportunity to enjoy the beach, even if the water was a bit cold.

As we were already at the beach, we headed off to see Natasha and family. Conrad convinced Sebastian to play Question Time with him, while Cordelia just wanted hugs.

2014-09-27 09.40.27Saturday morning Mum and I took Sebastian to the derby clinic – I was more than a bit jealous when I saw the clinic line up.

I got to watch Sebastian being coached by Godjilla and Skate Pilgrim and Rogue N Josh before Mum had to take me to the airport, leaving Sebastian to do his thing. I had to fly to get back for the big celebration….

Jackie’s surprise 60th, including with a surprise visit from Katie.

The next morning James was up before I was awake and off to see Sebastian skate in bouts. Jude, Zachary, George and I had a very lazy Sunday.

2014-09-28 14.39.58I did get an armed escort to the shops.

Then it was time to open some gin and try out some tonic.

Clearly attracted by the smell of gin, Tess and Frank popped over for a g&t or three and stayed for homemade pizza with the boys and me. A lovely end to a week…except when Frank struggled to get over the hiccups.

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Weeks! #38: skating, learning and success

2014-09-15 20.00.01I got myself back on skates this week by venturing to SkateFit. It was fun, even though it did prove that my winter of illness and travel has left me with a little to be desired in the “fit” category.

Learning journey time! First up was Jude – we wrote fast stories together and looked at conductivity.

2014-09-16 10.10.45Then there was me with some rare office time.

Zac showed us all the things in his classroom, including his political critiques. His teacher, David, told me that the day after the budget Zac came in, went to David’s desk and asked “so David, how did the Budget impact you?”

Then Sebastian showed us simple programming along with the rest of his work.

2014-09-17 18.44.41I had cunningly scheduled in the learning journeys before I headed up to Brisbane for a couple of days.

2014-09-17 21.40.38I was staying again at the hotel with the disturbing bears on the bed. They stare.

My two days of my learning group also gave me time to catch up with friends for breakfast and a little bit of alone, contemplative time.

Flying home at sunset.

2014-09-20 10.23.07Zachary got into some lego Saturday.

There was more skating Saturday afternoon with a trip to Skate Nation.

Then it was off to the derbies Saturday night to see the CRDL teams. The ghoulish face painter was there again so Zachary and Alice ended up looking quite disturbing. More disturbing is that guy behind Alice….

2014-09-20 22.16.12After the derby, James and I headed to Molly to meet up with Dave and Caroline and down a cocktail or two.

Sunday morning was fancy Pod Food brunch. Here is Zachary drinking his tea.

We then headed to ANU to have lunch with Sebastian where he was in the middle of the Tournament of the Minds ACT final. A magpie chose to join us as well.

2014-09-21 17.14.11 2014-09-21 17.34.48-1And lo and behold, proving he is just as good with Language Literature as Maths Engineering, his team won and it is off to the national finals. Watching them perform in the afternoon, the Turner team went last. Part of the topic was “heroes” and after the first two schools featuring super heroes, and the third doing something totally random, we were extremely pleased to see Sebastian’s team focus on Nelson Mandela. After that, it was less of a surprise that they won. But very well down to them. Three of the four ACT winners at the primary school level were Turner teams – a big tribute to the teachers at Turner who guide TOMs there.

2014-09-21 17.36.15And so, another beautiful Canberra day, and busy busy week ends.

Weeks: #37: China and babby

2014-09-08 09.59.02So Monday morning it was up early and off to China.

2014-09-08 10.55.27As “nutritious” as this might have been, I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it.

2014-09-08 12.23.16-2I was flying to Chongqing via Guangzhou. Visiting Chinese airports starts to hint at the size and scale of China – there are so many different airlines that you have never heard of (all domestic Chinese) going to so many different cities, most of which you hardly can recognise. Sometimes it is a jolt to remember that even though China is a country like Australia is a country, the size and scale of it is so far beyond what we are used to it is virtually incomprehensible.

The views from my hotel windows in Chongqing did nothing to change that sense of incomprehensible size. Chongqing is one of the strangest places I have visited just because of its scale. The municipality of Chongqing has around 30 million people and the apartment blocks go on for ever and ever. With a monorail and roadside greenery, it was rather like a 1980s vision of the future. Weird. 2014-09-09 13.02.10-1

While there, as well as meeting with the municipal government, we visited a couple of training providers.

It was stupidly hot – Chongqing isn’t known as one of the “Three Furnaces of China” for nothing.

2014-09-09 14.55.05One of the more extraordinary sights was visiting the second training provider where we found massed students outside. For one terrifying moment I thought I was going to have to address them.

2014-09-09 15.57.56Instead they were actually marching in place, turning around and generally following the commands being given to them over the microphone by an army dude at the front. Apparently all first year students have to do two weeks of “military” training and this was part of it. It was bizarrely an image which one almost expects of China.

Chongqing is the home of the hot pot, so we went to a local hot pot place to try them out. We all had to don matching aprons and then had an individual hot pot on an individual burner and then cooked all the foods in it. My hot pot was half chilli, half non chilli and wholly delicious.

Note, Chongqing is also the home of a lot of chilli. A very large amount. Most of our food (other than breakfast) had chilli. By the time we left Chongqing, I was starting to suffer slightly from Too Much Chilli – which for me, is a lot.

We also visited a lift factory. Around China last year 600,000 sets of lifts were produced and the market has apparently grown 20% year on year. This tells you something about the economic growth in China. It was a really interesting visit – elevator installation is highly skilled and the company – Eastern Elevators whose home base is Sydney – struggle to keep skilled staff because there is so much poaching. Also of course, it is well known that I love to visit a factory. Who can resist a hard hat?

2014-09-10 14.24.35So we said goodbye to Chongqing and flew to Beijing for two days of meetings.

This was all I got to see of the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square as we did a drive by. Such is the business trip.

Some other photos from the backs of cars of interesting architecture and the smoggy smoggy sky – the first building is 78 floors high.

Our meetings went well though, even if we did learn that over-warm meeting rooms and long monologues are integral to Chinese meetings. Sometimes I was very grateful for the endless supply of tea provided by the silent uniformed tea women who haunted every meeting room.

2014-09-11 18.13.26We also got an hour at the Silk Market for some shopping. I don’t think I bought anything that was actually silk.

2014-09-12 13.26.37And we found where New Zealanders had brought Antipodean coffee stylings to Beijing.

Finally, Andrew (who was travelling with me) and I found that at the very end we had a spare hour before we had to go to the airport. So it was time for some speed tourism with a visit to the Lama Temple. It was very impressive, and got more impressive each gate you passed through. The final destination – the 18m high statue carved from a single piece of sandalwood (not pictured because photography not allowed) was definitely worth the visit.

The actual flight home was a bit of a nightmare. Well, not the flight so much as the airports. When we went to check in, we were told our flight from Beijing to Hong Kong was already delayed, and that it therefore c0uld not get us there in time for our flight to Australia – for some crazy reason our travel agents had only given us 55 minutes in Hong Kong. There was an earlier flight, and they were going to try and get us on it, but because it was a Friday night out of Beijing to Hong Kong, we had to wait for standby til the last minute, get down graded to economy and then run for the plane. Once on, doors closed, the pilot then told us the flight was delayed. At least I had Veronica Mars on the entertainment system to keep me company. Eventually the plane took off, but ten minutes after our original flight had been scheduled, so we knew it was going to be tight in Hong Kong. Which indeed it was – we ended up running the length of Hong Kong airport following a diminutive Dragon Air agent. We had to traverse a bus, lifts, escalators and a train as well as any number of long corridors, fortunately arriving in time to buckle up before take off. It took a while for the adrenaline to subside. Unsurprisingly, our bags didn’t arrive in Sydney with us.

I felt I earned my gin purchase. Quite like the new Tanqueray 10 bottles.

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So it was lovely to be home after a week and a half away and watch the boys fight it out in the sunshine in the back yard.

The other pleasure of the weekend was going to visit Sarah and finally meeting Isaac. Welcome to the family.

Weeks! #36: dragons and other things in Canberra and Hanoi

2014-09-01 18.45.31It is always busy a week that I go overseas, but at least if I bring my work home I can do it while drinking a g&t.

Some more family D&D. They aren’t quite up to fighting dragons yet – more like orcs.

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James and I went out for breakfast on Wednesday at the new cafe 80/20 in Braddon. Very nice, if a *lot* of kale on the menu.

2014-09-03 17.43.56Wednesday night was the first leg of my trip. Off to Sydney. I was pleasantly surprised by the chicken and leek pie at the Qantas Business Lounge.

2014-09-03 21.42.29-1View from my first hotel room of a trip that would involve four different hotels.

2014-09-03 20.34.03It was a long day. I spent from 8.30pm to nearly 11.30pm doing emails and still hadn’t completely caught up. It was good to take the shoes off and get on the bed.

It was up early and across to my favourite pre travel destination, the Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney airport. Sadly, my flight left before the spa opened, but I had time for a pleasant breakfast.

In flight photos. I flew Cathay Pacific from Sydney to Hong Kong, then DragonAir to Hanoi. Good flights. I like Cathay, particularly because Business Class features the capsule-like individual seats. After four movies, I also discovered they had Veronica Mars Season 1 on their entertainment system and that was hard to resist rewatching, having recently seen the movie.

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Here is the compulsory view from my hotel room window. Somehow I managed to score a room on the 22nd floor with some pretty spectacular views.

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Pho for breakfast? Why indeed not?

I was in Hanoi for the APEC Human Resource Development Ministerial meeting, so the APEC drill of sitting behind the Australia sign (still love that), and putting on the headphones for simultaneous translation.

2014-09-05 14.08.48-1There was also an exhibition on vocational education on and I spoke at the opening ceremony. Which also involved a very interesting “ribbon cutting” moment complete with glitter gun.

2014-09-05 14.11.46I love seeing the promotional materials for vocational education – especially as promoting skills in Australia is now part of my job.

2014-09-05 19.37.17We had a meeting at one of the Ministries – I was thrilled to see Ho Chi Minh in the meeting room. He’s one of my favourite revolutionaries of course. I wonder what he’d think of modern Vietnam. As a nationalist first, and a pragmatic communist second, I think he’d probably be pleased to see the independence Vietnam now has and the way it is developing. But I imagine that he’d have concerns that some of the consumerist and capitalistic aspects of some of that growth might end up leaving some of his people behind.

2014-09-06 08.38.17And here’s the President of Vietnam opening proceeding for the actual Ministerial meeting day on the Saturday.

2014-09-06 15.01.19Today it was pho for lunch. And chicken this time, not beef.

2014-09-06 16.27.31I had time for a quick walk at lunchtime. I was a bit horrified by the electrical cabling. These kinds of things make you think that training in electrical standards (plus some regulation) would probably be a good thing. I also have clearly been doing my job for too long when these are the things I take photos of.

Before the official dinner there was time for a quick sunset swim.

The official dinner involved traditional Vietnamese entertainment and a Vietnamese feast including these curious looking long necked clams. Delicious. I ate a lot of Vietnamese food in Vietnam.

2014-09-07 09.54.22Having barely escaped the hotel for the first two days of my visit, I was delighted that my schedule gave me all of Sunday off to have a wander about. I naturally tried to cram a lot in.

First off I wandered down to the lake which legend has it someone threw a sword into and used to be inhabited by giant turtles. Turtles are one of the four legendary animals of Vietnam – the others being unicorns, dragons and phoenixes, so as the only actually existing Vietnamese animal icons I imagine they carry a bit of a heavy symbolic load. I went and looked at the temple over the red bridge and was also delighted to spot roller bladers (sadly no quad skates) on one of the squuares near the lake. I also ventured a little into the old town, to do a little shopping – I mostly was keen to find some old propaganda posters, a mission in which I was quite successful.

2014-09-07 12.53.48After a brief water break at the hotel (it was stinking hot walking around) I caught a taxi to the Temple of Literature.  A Confucian Temple considered to be the first university in Hanoi, it has quite lovely grounds and some well preserved buildings.

Also, some cool dragons.

I then went across the road to KOTO which was established by an Australian Vietnamese man who wanted to help provide training and income to street kids. Food was delicious and very reasonably priced.

2014-09-07 15.03.13I then went and had a massage (75 minutes for $15) and the taxi ride there let me see Ho chi Minh’s tomb and the Presidential Palace and the big lake as I passed by.

In the evening I walked to the Metropole where I was meeting colleagues for dinner. I loved seeing these kinds of juxtapositions on the way – I think I took the two above photos from the same spot.

2014-09-07 21.16.24A cocktail and colonial style dinner to end the day, and pretty much my brief visit to Vietnam. It has been nearly twenty years since I was in Vietnam, though I didn’t actually make it to Hanoi last time. Some things have changed radically – the presence of Western advertising and products is the most noticeable. There was still much of the same feel about the place though and more bikes and scooters than cars and things like that.I imagine it will be completely different again in another twenty year – although hopefully I will visit again sooner than that.