Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Friday, 18 May 2007

I think this ladies head has been photoshopped onto a different blouse - I can't think of any legitimate reason why.


So Hue Hue Hue... do you think you are! Do you think you are...

Events have taken a surreal turn in the charming city of Hue. Last night an electric storm lit the sky with its veiny white fingers. Today, as I stepped out of my hotel the first thing that came to my attention was a charred Vietnamese hat left on the ground - owners whereabouts unkown.

I have provided a picture of a slightly dull looking lady sporting a Vietnamese hat to bring colour to this otherwise troubling story.

This is not all though. The people of Hue have a strange fascination with the Kangaroo. The following conversations have occurred.

Slightly unnerving Vietnamese waiter: Do you know of the kangaroo.

Me: Yes - from Australia.

Waiter (leaning towards me conspiratorially): Yes they are very big - their young they raise in pouches. Do you have a pouch?

Me: No. (I amusingly unzip my pocket) I have a pocket though.

Waiter (guffawing): yes but that is for your baby wallet. Did you know they box - man and kangaroo - thats what the Australians do. And I also saw on Discovery channel that some kangaroos can fly!

Me (incredulously): no... they're far too big. Do you mean flying squirrels?

Waiter: No, Kangaroos - 300kg it weighed and it could fly.

The next Kangaroo exchange occurred with a cyclo driver on the way to the Citadel (imagine oriental ruins of the like I have described many a time before).

Cyclo driver: Do you have a coin with the kangaroo on it?

Me: No - an australian coin you mean. No sorry.

Cyclo: Are you sure... my baby collects coins (my baby collects coins?! what?). This is a very good coin.

A short pause occurs while he is silent. He pipes up again as we pass a blonde girl of indeterminate origin. He waves at her to get her attention and points at me.

Cyclo (to blonde girl while pointing at me): Look, Kangaroo. You Kangaroo too.

Cyclo (to me): You like that Kangaroo (winks).

And finally in a tour office.

Tour salesman: Do yu know the Missy Roo cafe? They sell take-away salads and fruit shakes.

Me: No.

Salesman (looking slightly crestfallen): Oh a shame... do you see my Kangaroo (points to inflatable Kangaroo of the variety carried by Aussie sports fans worldwide).

Me: Yes its very nice.

Salesman: Yes it is isnt it. The cafe they gave it to me as a present - such a lovely Kangaroo - in exchange I promote their restaurant.

Me: They pay you in Kangaroos...

The salesman just goes a little dewy-eyed and stares with longing (lust?) at his Kangaroo.

All very strange. I really haven't imagined this!

Take care

James and Jayne xxxx

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Apocalypse Nam

I write from the charming city of Hue (pronounced Hweh - like the policeman in 'Allo 'Allo). Very French, pleasantly quietish, too many shoe shops. Oh and too many hat shops also.

If Cambodia is the country of the ubiquitous pyjama Vietnam is plagued by the erroneously worn surgical mask. I presume they are to stop people taking in traffic fumes, but they seem to be worn everywhere. I think they may be paranoid about germs - I personally would spend more time cleaning the toilets than wearing a face mask.

Hmmm some sort of order please. Saigon first - more aptly described as Missed Saigon as we spent our entire time failing to get our plane tickets changed and then it rained and rained and rained. So despite going out for some drinks we spent most of the time watching old Bond movies.

In the small amount of time we did have to walk around the following observations were made. People buy nodding pigs or horses for their car rather than dogs and secondly that Vietnamese food is insane.

Completely insane.

So far we have eaten shrimp vinegar fondue (the most complicated eating process I have ever come across. Douse rice pancake in cocounut water, lay it on plate, cook prawns in vinegar, take them out of boiling vinegar with miniscule chopsticks, place on paper with fish sauce, unripe banana, pineapple, lettuce, mint and then wrap into an elegant origami style cylinder - all in the space of about thirty seconds before your pancake sticks to the plate), fiddled with rice and pork mush wrapped and steamed in banana leaves and been physically threatened with vodka marinated with cobra or more pleasantly sea horse.

There is a French influence in Vietnam stemming from their occupation of the country between 1850 approx and the Vietnamese War. Fresh bgauettes are widely available as is dark rich coffee. The coffee is actually a little disappointing - a bit too sweet. They also eat a lot of pate which is very odd for this corner of the world.

From Saigon to Nha Trang. Nha Trang is simply a beach resort, nothing of any note except some good bars and too many gap year students talking to me about how many days they have been on the sauce for. This makes me feel a little over the hill as I struggle to go out two nights in a row at the moment. Time for me slippers, pyjamas and face mask possibly.

After drinking all the teenagers under the table we undertook an arduous 14 hour bus journey to Hue, our starting point (only in a written sense). The scenery more than made up for the two hours sleep. Rolling green hills sauntering into wide blue bays. The landscape is pockmarked with colourful tombs, seemingly placed randomly, as if families all have their own morbid plots at the end of their garden - Great Uncle Albert's just past the washing line and the plastic climbing frame.

The rules and regulations of my hotel have politely asked me not to bring any radioactive material into my room. I sleep better at night knowing that there is unlikely to be any radioactive material lurking in my hotel - its a common worry. I was surprised that they let me take up my curiously deformed rucksack (its like a bag with cerebal palsy) up to my room as rule five states: no suspiciously bulky items allowed in rooms. Thank god we're not travelling with chubby lothario Russell Grant - he'd have to sleep on the stairs.

Well thats it so far. Hope everyone is well, fine and reading the Dandy.

Lots of love

Jayne and James xxx

Friday, 11 May 2007

A Phnom Penh(y) For Your Thoughts or I Didn't Use a (Phnom) Penh To Write This I Used a Keyboard

Cambodia, glorious land of pyjamas, inappropriate topiary and somehow humorous adverts dsiencouraging child prostitution.

The women here wear pyjamas everywhere (literally pyjamas - they are decorated with whimsical designs of babies sleeping and sheep leaping over fences).

The topiary is ubiquitous and seems to be done to every living plant imaginable - from hedgerows to mighty oaks!

The adverts star a little stick-pervert in a kind of comic strip. Firstly he gets on a plane, secondly he gets a hotel room holding a stick-child's hand and next we see him clinging desperately to the bars of his prison cell with an anguished stick-grimace.

We are now in Phnom Penh - Cambodia's capital city. In short - here is the report:

National Museum: Rough Guide says "take at least 2 hours to explore". Our survey says "take five minutes to walk round three hundred slightly differing statues of the Buddha".

Grand Palace: Rough Guide says "visit the glorious silver pagoda and the Royal Throne". Our survey says "spend a few minutes looking at another statue of the Buddha and then some silver floor tiles".

I am beginning to become the worlds leading enemy of idolatry.

With the sights dissappointing all that was really left to do was go out - and go out we did to the world famous "Heart of Darkness" Bar. Mad dancing with the locals ensued alongside our new Kiwi friend Carly who is heading to London in the opposite direction to us. One guy was wearing a flat cap similar to those worn by Cambodian soldiers during Pol Pot's reign of terror. International opinion (well mine and Jayne's anyway) is split as to whether he was wearing this hat through coincidence (Jayne) or in irony (James). The guide book is again slightly innaccurate when it comes to Phnom Penh's nightlife - claiming that there is an arrogant middle class youth that frequents the late night bars - Cap Guy and his friends proved to be very nice giving me free beer (not laced with rohypnol) and dancing the tango with Jayne and strangely enough myself.

The next day was wisely spent lazing in bed although we did manage to book a tour to the infamous Killing Fields.

The Fields are unsurprisingly an unnerving experience. For a start I thought the mass graves would be much bigger in size. Its horrifically surprising how many bodies can fit into one small hole. The biggest grave contained over 400 bodies all in a space 6m deep, 3m wide and about 6m long. Most people were killed with blunt instruments, children were killed by holding their ankles and flinging them into trees or throwing them in the air and piercing them with a bayonet.

There are many people still alive in Cambodia who were involved with Pol Pot's regime. Many lower ranked people have served jail sentences although Pol Pot never faced a court and died in excile in the late 90s. Its very hard to imagine how these people must feel now - they were after all victims themselves of coercion and brainwashing (soldiers who refused to kill dissenters etc were executed themselves along with their families). I wonder whether they have a detachment to it, live in a state of shock or still believe in their actions. In all it is estimated that about two to three million people were killed and the vast majority of the population is now under the age of 25.

Next door to the Killing Fields site there is a school and the cries of the children float over the graves. Thunder cracks and the clouds draw in and suddenly we find ourselves talking about affable Irishman Ronan Keating as he is performing in Phnom Penh tonight (as if Pol Pot wasn't enough!). The whole scene is fairly bizarre and I find myself making the guide laugh when i tell her I don't like Boyzone.

We are now in Vietnam and although the topiary and pyjama wearing has sprung up again like Rocky in the final rounds, we haven't done anything of note yet. Will fill you in when we do.


James and Jayne

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Angkor.What? Not another bloody temple!

Hi there everyone. Well after the hedonism and wild living of bangkok for a second time, we are now in cambodia the land of eerie temple ruins, land mines, child sex tourisn and apparently cultural performances of shadow puppetry.

Our first stop was Siem Reap, a city slap in the middle of the Angkor temples which seems to have developed over the past few years at a phenonenal rate purely to support the massive influx of tourists who come here to see Angkor Wat. It's mostly made up luxury hotels, backpacker guesthouses, huge 'souvenir shops' and overpriced bars and restaurants. Even though it sounds awful there's something really pleasant about the place. Maybe after the 15 hour journey from Bangkok which included 7 hours driving on the worst road imaginable in a bus that had definately seen better days any place would seem pleasant?

Anyway along with 15 million japanese tourists we decided to buy 3 day passes to really explore angkor. It really was amazing to see Angkor Wat and the hundreds of other fascinating temples in various stages of ruin. The temples were only "discovered" by the western world in the early 1900's but they are so steeped in history and myth that walking around inside the huge temple complexes made me feel as though I was stepping back in time. So different to seeing exhibits in a museum. The experience was slightly marred by the crowds of tourists and being mobbed by aggressive children who desperatly competed with each other to sell you a cold drink. These kids could speak 4 or 5 languages but never went to school and had no understanding of what they were saying but would repeat phrases like "maybe later","lovely jubbly", and even sing beatles songs at you. Cute until you wouldnt buy anything from them and then...Ive never been given such daggers!

After getting up at sunrise to visit Angkor and sated with culture, the afternoon was pleasantly spent lazing by a pool side bar owned by an alcoholic ex soldier. As we were his only customers he thought it best to sit and get sloshed whilst lecturing us on the ways of army life and giving us a bitter diatribe about the unfairness of the lonely planet guide. We ended up sneaking out as he stared morosely into space.

From Siam Reap another sticky, bumpy bus ride brought us to Phenonh Penh the capitol of Cambodia. Phenonh Penh ticks all the boxes for an Asian city (pollution, road side food stalls, suicidal tuk tuk drivers, cheap beer and food) but has an unmistakable European feel to it. The buildings are very colonial and the baguettes are very French. I could quite happily wile away a few days here drinking coffee and watching the world go by but being a diligent traveller decided to "do the sights". After a day sightseeing we thought we would reward ourselves with a couple of drinks. A "couple of drinks" turned into dancing till half three with the rich kids of Phenomh Penh to cheesy disco and even cheesier R&B...I dont know if they watch alot of MTV here but those kids can dance! They put mine and James's drunken attempt at a tango to shame (or maybe we did that ourselves!) Anyway the hangover the next was not pleasant and I dont think visiting the National Genocide Museum was the best idea.

More to come soon on the Killing Fields, and general Cambodian pursuits.

love Jayne xx

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

new photos!!

Hello new photos can be seen at


James and Jayne

Koh take a walk!

Once again Bangkok languishes in Holiday while I am here - which results in raucous nights and lazy days as everything (conveniently enough for my hangover) is shut.

I think we were about to go sea kayaking the last time I wrote. It was a pleasant trip through mangrove swamps and hungry monkeys (enticed by our pineapple bait). My navigation skills left something to be desired though as Jayne and I quite frequently found ourselves propelled at speed into unsuspecting trees.

From here we were advised to go to Koh Lanta rather than Koh Phi Phi - as it is supposedly less touristy and more picturesque. Unfortunately when we arrive there the place is deserted and the food terrible (so unusual in Thailand) so we decide to just spend a night there. A relatively uneventful evening was enlivened when we met Su, a Thai man whose English name is apparently Jayne. He has very good English and informs us that he went to University to study Leisure and Tourism. In Thailand this seems to be a very different degree to the drop out subject in England. Tourism is Thailand's major industry so a degree in Tourism is very important. The teaching of the degree is somewhat dubious though as they seem to make people cling to social stereotypes - for instance Su told us that if he met an English person he would be told to say:

"Oh I love the Queen's English" and to offer us an imaginary discount.

American: "oh your country is so big!"

Irish: "The irish people are so witty but I am sure you enjoy a drink yes?"

Japanese people will apparently buy anything and never barter and German people never buy anything always believing that they can get it cheaper and better elsewhere.

Su was also surprised that he would not stand out in England because of the colour of his skin which he wished was paler. Something many people in India were surprised about.

From Lanta we moved on to Koh Phi Phi which i suppose provides one with the archetypal vision of Thailand. Azure sea napping white soft sand. This does come at a cost - Koh Phi Phi seems to be about three times as expensive as anywhere else.

Koh Phi Phi was the most affected place in Thailand after the Tsunami. On the main road in the tourist resort there is a Banyan tree wrapped in yellow ribbons which serves as a memorial - the Thai people bow to it as they walk past. Some of the damage is still apparent - some buildings haven't been rebuilt where people have run out of money. There are some photos of this on the blog.

One bar stays open late on Phi Phi - the Reggae Bar. Each night they encourage drunk tourists to fight in their boxing ring for free drinks. The men fighting really went for eachother - it was quite sad watching these two men start fighting as a joke but then start to seriously hit eachother as everyone else looked on and cheered.

From Phi Phi to Ao Nang on the mainland where Jayne and I had to take it easy due to funds. We spent one day in bed watching films and contemplated staying there for the rest of the trip and just making up the rest of it!

In Ao Nang the sex industry is very apparent. As usual Jayne and I accidentally ended up in a bar in the Red Light District and we were mobbed by Thai "bar" girls trying to drag us into their establishment. I am quite torn on this subject - as to its rights and wrongs. Ideally, I don't think any women should have to work in the sex industry but the problem here is not as black and white as it would seem.

Many men come here because they are old and feel unwanted in Europe where they are thought of as 'past it'' and unattractive (there is nothing quite as excrutiatingly embarassing as seeing a man over the age of 50 trying it on (and failing) with the new 18 year old bar girl at his local pub). Here, although they are of course paying for this feeling, they feel wanted and useful, there is a greater deal of respect for older people in Thailand than in Europe. They are obviously living a lie but it seems a lie they are happy to live with.

The funniest thing I have ever seen happened two days ago - a whore-imbibing-gentlmen (as I like to call them) had obviously run out of steam with his personal girl of choice and resolved to take her out in a kayak. I watched for twenty minutes as they went round in circles, capsizing and crashing into various rocks - he got progressively more and more red-faced and she just didn't give a monkeys - she lay back and didn't row at all, indolently dragging her manicured fingers through the water.

On the other hand some of the men are extremely seedy about the whole thing and at the end of the day, despite some sympathy (or pity) one may engender for these men, they are exploiting someone. All these exchanges boil down to lust, rejection and money so nobody comes out a winner. Throughout Asia people are forced to surrender their dignity in the name of poverty simply because Western people are a lot richer than them. Many people complain about scams and dishonesty here, but I ask you - what would you do if you had no money and were surrounded by overweight, I-pod wearing, nefariously whoring, money drizzling imbeciles. It is very easy to think yourself honest when your wallet is fat.

(As I write this (originally by hand on a bus going from Thailand to Cambodia) an American girl has just turned round to me and asked 'excuse me, do you know which of the border's we are going through?" - all fine except for the fact that she did little quotation marks with her fingers as she said borders. Now unless she sees the world as one big country and that borders are but abstract concepts I'm not sure what her little sign means. Do she not think the border is real or perhaps that Thailand and Cambodia are the same country. The border is real and its a complete pain in the arse to get through (13 different stamps in total and my passport was checked three times))

The next evening we are joined at our table outside the seven eleven (cheap beer being our motivation for this classy seat) by a Swiss man who owns a hotel in Ao Nang. He turns out to be more a fan of Thai boys than ladies and hinted heavily that he had used prostitutes before. Next we are joined by another Swiss guy who manages one of the bars in the Red Light District. He has the opinion that Thai people either can't or won't "think ahead", they live entirely for the moment and never have ambition or interest in anything further than their daily needs. This is obviously untrue and he is an obnoxious character with little foresight himself.

This trip is turning into a den of vice!

We return to Bangkok and meet Kaz - a charming Japanese guy who spent three years in London and recently tried to throw himself off a building after his girlfriend left him. After spending a night out clubbing he invites us to watch Spiderman 3 with him at the cinema the next day - I think this film might give him ideas so I advise against it.

As you know we are now in Cambodia and have seen the Temples of Angkor Wat today - however as this entry is already very long and rambling all over the place - I'll write about it later.

Hope everyone is good.


James and Jayne