Archive for March 2013


As with every stop, the folks in Cambodia chose to show with pride some of the best they had to offer. In Cambodia the total devastation of their country limited the sites available to show, but the spirit of recovery shone through.

By the way, I believe you can enlarge any of these photos by clicking on them.

Our first stop was at the Intra Ngean Pagoda, nearing the end of a 10-year process of reconstruction. It was basically a series of buildings and statues around a partially enclosed square. Entering the square, we were met by signs of poverty in the begging children who approached us, and signs of entrepreneurship in those selling objects, especially suitable for the Chinese New Year that was being celebrated everywhere during our trip.

I first met Emily who was selling lovely decorations which, I am quite sure, she had made herself — skilled and lovely. I promised I’d come back to her later to purchase some. She was the first of the two future business leaders of Cambodia I met that day.

But first I wandered around seeing the sights – especially the reclining Buddha.
Reclining Buddha

In my explorations I was met by Tia, also selling the lovely hand-made New Year’s decorations. (I’m sorry. I have no photos to show you of the decorations. I realized I bought too few and ended up giving them all away, so I have none of my own to photograph.) Tia, a super salesperson, tied a braided bracelet around my wrist to wish me happiness and good fortune. Of course I bought several from her.
Tia (1)

Then I went back to Emily and purchased some, but she wouldn’t let me take her photo, because I’d bought more from Tia than from her. (I really hadn’t realized that under the pressure of purchase.) At any rate, I’m sure I have met two very powerful women of the future in Cambodia.

The next thing they had to show us was the beach with its many chairs and open-front restaurants, obviously waiting for their evening customers. And the folks selling wares. See the banner at the top of this blog presentation.

On the beach

We also saw a fishing village — pretty quiet on the day we were there because it was the New Year’s holiday. I did get a shot of the village street.
Fishing Village

And the resting (and very expensive) fishing boats.
Resting Fishing boats

As in everyplace we visited, we saw the markets. Here in Cambodia it was a crowded market carrying all kinds of wares, including TVs, fresh food, and even a hairdresser cutting a customers hair.
at the market

What a courageous and delightful group we met. How I want to return in 10 years to see what they have accomplished.

Two Days in Bangkok   3 comments

Two Days in Bangkok.

Posted March 17, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Two Days in Bangkok   8 comments

What I have to show and tell here is limited, I know. A day or two in a country, with selected excursions, does not make me an expert. So, what I hope I’m doing here is sharing my limited experience. I do want to point out, though, that in each country our hosts were proud to show the best of their homeland.

During our two days in Thailand, visiting Bangkok, our hosts clearly enjoyed creating fun for us as well as showing us three impressive Wats, sacred sites for Buddhists. If you’d like to google them, we visited Wat Ratchanadda, Wat Suthat, and Wat Po. At the latter site there was a record breaking reclining Buddha – so huge the building that housed it was built around it. So large my camera couldn’t get a photo. To tell the truth, it took a visit to Asia for me to learn that the Buddha is portrayed in many positions. It is not an effort to reproduce his appearance, but a reflection of the feeling, spirituality inspired by the Buddha.

I didn’t get very good Buddha photos here, but I am including one that isn’t too bad.

I’m also including a photo of the Wat of one of the King’s brothers. (OK. I confess, I don’t know who the king was, but I was interested that he loved the Chinese porcelain so much that he even used the broken pieces to help decorate the Wat.
King's brother's Wat
The most “fun” thing the first day was a TukTuk ride – so called because that’s what they sound like.
Riding the Tuk Tuk

I did manage to get a decent photo of Bangkok’s appearance around the metal palace. (You might like to google that too.)
Bangkok Thailand - Metal Palace

The second day we saw a 45 minute cultural show in a large theater. That was before I realized that my camera (probably five years in my possession) took movies. That wouldn’t have helped with filming the show, however, even if I had realized it. It was too dark. The best I got was a photo of the back ends of the crowds seated on benches to watch the show. Definitely not interesting enough to share.

But I do have photos of the elephant show that followed, as well as the ceramic garden we visited afterwards. First, the elephant show — the opening parade.
opening parade

And take a look at the banner on today’s post. People lying on the ground so the elephants can step over them. It was clear the audience knew the routine, because when the time came they ran out to put themselves in position to be stepped over. Also, there were those who volunteered to be picked up and carried in the elephant’s trunk. I didn’t include a photo of that here.

But I am including one of the many photos I took in the ceramic garden.
Ceramic Garden

I hope that showing these photos conveys the sense of pride and fun our hosts displayed. The trip was feeling like much more than a view of tourist attractions. I was — and am — filled with the warmth of contact with wonderful people. And guides who spoke amazingly good English — mostly American English.

Posted March 17, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

Koh Samui, Thailand   6 comments

The writers rule is “Show;don’t tell.” That’s what I’ll try to do here. I’m sure you will see immediately what a change there is from Singapore to Thailand. Still tropical, but otherwise … well, just take a look.

What we experienced depended, of course, on what excursion we had chosen to buy, but the impression remains that here, as in our subsequent stops, folks were anxious to show the best of what they had. Here’s a sampler, beginning with the header. Yes, coconuts actually look like little faces. It’s my understanding that the white nose is the embryo, protected by the shell.

Enroute to see the harvesting of coconuts, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand where our guide demonstrated a number of fruits that were unfamiliar to me, but some in our group recognized several.
Ko Samui Roadside Fruit stand

The first stop after that was a coconut plantation where we watched a monkey working at harvesting. They actually go to school — along with their owners — for training in efficient removal of coconuts from the tree. Removal? They literally throw them down. Here I have an owner holding the restraining rope as his monkey starts his climb to work.
Monkey climbing to work

Still in the coconut frame of mind, we visited one of the many fresh food markets we would see until we hit the big cities again.
Fresh Food Market

As we had seen in the Buddhist/Tau temple, we saw a neighborhood of Buddhists and Muslims living side by side.
Buddhist-Islam neighborhood

That’s where we saw the grandparent’s houses built by Buddhist families to honor their dead ancestors. This is a particularly classy one that has recently been supplied with gifts to the departed.
Grandparents house

And finally – the gold-leafed sitting Buddha. You may already know that shoes must be removed before entering the temple.
Seated Buddha

Travel with me from Singapore to Japan   9 comments

I am anxious to share with you my impressions and not-so-professional photos from this amazing, broadening, heart-warming, one-month trip.

It was a trip through the degrees of recovery from colonialism, civil war, international conflict — the destruction of which human beings are horrifyingly capable. Throughout, it was clear to me that there are no exotic people — only folks like us who have been through lives we can only imagine. And the courage of working to restore devastated countries.

Please, please, don’t cause them any more pain.

I’m sure our view was limited by the fact that we were on paid excursions of our choice. I know that tourists see a different Washington DC than the people who live there, for example. Within that limit, what stood out was the eagerness to show us the best they had.

So, let’s start with Singapore. We spent two nights there before departing for the cruise away from the equator. We were tourists taking delight in a beautiful city-state, unblemished by civil war as the British peacefully left their heritage behind.

Here was the beginning of the Buddhist atmosphere. As in locations we visited later, we found here a close cooperation between religions, as in the temple share by Tauism and Buddhism.

Buddhist Temple

Here was a modern, affluent community, as viewed from Faber Mountain.

Faber Mountain View

Our hotel, the Fairmont, was luxurious, with delightful people in the dining room. As we left, we were each gifted with our favorite hotel brand tea by people who had quickly learned our names.

Raymond and hostess -- gift of tea -- Asian Restaurant (1)

Exiting the restaurant led us into access to the shopping mall with its many opulent stores.

Mall view

Finally, the photo at the top reveals the Singapore Flyer, claimed to be the largest ferris wheel in the world, and. to the right, the ArtScience Museum where, among other things, we took a brief course on early photographic methods, bringing home a souvenir attempt of our own.

Comfort, opulence, and appreciation of air conditioning, being practically on the equator.

Things looked different at our next stop.

p.s., I can’t figure out how to remove the reference to Ireland at the top. Any helpers out there?

Posted March 12, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

I’M BACK   16 comments

As you may have guessed, or knew, I’ve been out of the country for the month of February. An amazingly fabulous experience. Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea, Bangkok, China, Japan ..

I plan to share photos and comments with you. And no, this is not a photo of my means of travel — just an excursion.

People are wonderful! There are no exotic people — just delightful folks met casually or with more intention. My view of the world is so much fuller.

But for now, I’m just proud of myself that I managed to get this posting up. Actually, no jet lag, but oh my! What does accumulate. And it seems that all my electronics took my absence personally and decided to break down.

It was worth it! I’ll be back with more words and photos.

Posted March 9, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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