Sunday, 16 October 2011

Ayer Tawar

For the next few days we are camping in the home of elderly relatives out in the sticks and it's quite an experience! They live in a small town in traditional housing they have lived in for forty years that is a world away from western ideals.

There is also a palpable sense of insecurity and a lack of faith in the police who are considered both inept and corrupt. Stories of robbery and bag snatching are rife. Hence the house gates are padlocked as is the house front door and rear door automatically just as soon as we are inside.

The house itself is comfortable but utilitarian and designed to be practicable rather than aesthetically luxurious. Lighting consists of unshielded fluorescent tubes nailed to the wall with the wires powering them snaking to distant sockets. Ceiling fans move the air around and the floors are simple polished cement kept spotlessly clean by constant sweeping. Life is simple and uncomplicated with most time spent outdoors rather than inside the home, socialising with friends until late in the many roadside restaurants.

And, again, there is no attempt at sophistication or decoration in any of these eating places as all that that matters is the food. Its a place utterly free of pretentious snobbery. So on our first night we found ourselves at the roadside sitting at a wobbly stained plastic table on grubby plastic chairs of the type you find in discount garden centres. But none of that mattered a jot as the cafe was full of people and animated chatter as the owners busily served and cooked the food on smoking grills nearby. Next door the recorded sounds of Swallow bird-song filled the night, encouraging the swooping birds above our heads back to their nests in the roof spaces above. The nests are a valuable resource for soup and regularly harvested.

The aroma of spices and smoke almost dispelled the waft of raw sewage from the drains but not quite. Not a place you might choose perhaps by choice, but then you would miss out on the charactor and friendliness of the people and the food was absolutely delicious and that, after all, is all that matters.

On our flight from Cambodia I was surprised to see walking down from the cockpit a very beautiful pilot. Female pilots are uncommon enough in the West but I'm guessing they are pretty rare for the East. Or maybe I'm out of touch. She must be pretty special I recon and the flight was as smooth as the landing.

Our pilot leaving the plane to fly itself after discovering a traveling shoe salesman as a passenger ...

Ming and his wife.

Not sure if this house is going to be saved.

Mudskipper fish strolling on the mud.

Political correctness almost arrives with the change in name of this toothpaste from Darkie to Darlie ...

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