Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Living in the Blue Bus

A lot of the people we met on vacation were curious about our home. We bought the Blue Bus in 2008. It has 38,000 miles on it. Some people call these things RVs. Others call them motor homes. This one weighs 20,000 pounds. It has a 6.8 liter Ford V-10 engine that gets about 7.5 MPG with a 75 gallon gas tank. We live here all the time except when we go on vacation  and have no plans to return to an immobile home.


Inside, the sofa makes into a double bed for visiting grandchildren. We also have a blowup bed for the floor and the dining table makes into another bed. The driver's seat and passenger's seat swivel around when we're parked.


The bus is 35 feet long. The passenger side has an electric awning and a slide room in the bedroom to provide some extra living space when parked. The awning can be set to retract automatically at various wind speeds. The drivers side has a bigger "slide room" that contains the sofa, dining table and refrigerator. The slide rooms go in and out with a push of a button.  Since these pictures were taken, we have removed the carpet and vinyl floor from the living area and put in a vinyl floor that looks like wood.  So much easier to maintain.


This is a view of the kitchen sink and a propane stove and oven. A smaller oven above is electric and is both microwave and conventional. A propane heater is below the sink.


There are two HD TV sets, one over the dashboard and another in the bedroom. They run on cable, satellite, antenna and a DVD player. Sometimes we get 500 channels with nothing to watch. The Rv has three video cameras for viewing traffic on the sides and back. The back camera also has a speaker so Mrs. Phred can talk to me when we are backing into a new home.

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The refrigerator has an ice maker. It also has a computer that tells it to operate on propane or alternating current, depending on what's available.


Bedroom.


Italian washer/dryer.


Four hydraulic jacks level the RV when parked.


An automatic satellite dish on the roof finds the satellite when you turn it on.


Two roof air conditioners also are heat pumps as an alternative to using propane for heat.


The tow bar for the Toyota.


Here is where you plug in sewer, electric and fresh water when parked. If these are not available, you can function on battery power, generator power and the fresh water, gray water and black water holding tanks for a week or so before finding a place to dump. There are two six volt batteries and a 50 amp generator.


The "toad". The RV is 13 feet,  six inches tall. Some bridges aren't. The whole package is 55 feet in length.


I cook most meals outdoors. This goes in the Toyota trunk for travel.


My bathroom.



Mrs. Phred's bathroom.
 

Home is where the wheels are.
 

Friday, 30 December 2011

Thinking Back

Sarasota, Florida

The vacation was really interesting.  The best part was meeting the people. In Thailand, Carol's  cousin Bennett was extremely kind to arrange almost a week of sightseeing. It was good to see him again. You never know when will be the last time. It's hard to imagine topping this vacation.
 

Our local guide and driver in Thailand, Ken, was extremely knowledgeable  about things to do and see in Northern Thailand. We liked him a lot and we felt privileged to meet his wife and three children for dinner one night in Chiang Mai.

 

In Cambodia, our guides were Bantah and Sothy. They both had personal experience with the Khmer Rouge and the genocides in Cambodia at very young ages. Despite this, they were very humorous and knowledgeable guides.

 

Tony and Henry (so what makes me think they might have other names?) were our guides throughout South Vietnam, Cambodia and North Vietnam. Tony was responsible for our section of the group and helped us overcome some Visa difficulties. They both were very likable people who showed a great deal of wisdom and maturity in dealing with some of the more difficult and crotchety members of the tour.

 

Tony would end each evening by singing a beautiful rendition of some song that Frank Sinatra might have managed on a good day. Such likeable people. It's hard to believe that we were trying to rack up a body count on people like Tony's father 45 years ago. What were we thinking?
 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Leaving Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi was an interesting place. We only had one day there to see things and now we are having breakfast in the Hanoi Airport and are 3 hours into our 36 hour journey back to Sarasota. The picture below shows Ray inspecting a column of NVA veterans. The veterans are visiting the Ho Chi Minh memorial complex in the centre of Hanoi. Ray is now in his 80s. Ray is a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam and has his veteran hat on for the picture. Ray's wife passed away a year ago during the holidays. He's taking this trip by himself.


You can't take any pictures in the huge mausoleum. They move small groups though quickly. Ray come close to collapsing from shortness of breath and I fall back and help him slowly move past the body. One of the Honor guards approaches and asks if Ray is all right. Another guard motions impatiently for us to move along more quickly. We ignore him and move past the body as soon as Ray can begin to catch his breath.


Uncle Ho wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread in both halves of Vietnam after reunification, but they ignore his wishes and do a Lenin style display of his body in this giant mausoleum.They close the memorial two months a year to refurbish the body. Uncle Ho died in 1969 before he could see the reunification that occured in 1975.


In the market, I see a street artist doing a copy of a stylised portrait of Hunter S. Thompson.


The wiring in Asian cities we visit always appears as if it would be difficult to troubleshoot. We really like our Vietnamese guide, Tony. Tony says that when they have an electrical  problem, it is not uncommon to just give up and string a new wire.


We see the lake in the centre of Hanoi. They fished John McCain out of it with a broken arm after he parachuted out of his Navy fighter jet.  This dragon is on the lake shore.


The dragon seems to have a happy face (and so does the statue in the background).


They customise scooters and bicycles in very innovative ways to transport goods.


The weave and dance of vehicles though intersections and roundabouts is completely amazing. They all seem to ignore what traffic lights there are. A double beep on the horn seems to mean "watch out, I'm coming past".


We visit the Hanoi Hilton, where some American fliers were imprisoned. The building below was right at the edge of the little historic prison, which was also used by the French. It had a guillotine at that time. The prison itself is just not all that photogenic. The cells are very dark and do not photograph well. There is a video explaining how well the Air Force POWs were treated. I'm sure that when Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib become museums, we will produce something very similar. The victor gets to write the history.

Monday, 26 December 2011

ABT (Another Beautiful Temple).

Angkor Thom Temple
Siem Reap, Cambodia


The Angkorean Empire lasted from the 9th to the 15th century.


The empire was ruled by a series of god-kings who commissioned a number of fantastic phallic shaped temples.


The kings had extensive canals dug, which held water during the dry seasons. This water and the fish and water of the nearby Tonlé Sap (the "Great Lake") helped to proved three rice crops a year and sufficient resources to support all the construction.


The area was abandoned to the jungle because of attacks and incursions by the nearby Thai people.


The French naturalist Mahout rediscoved the area in 1860 and the French colonized Cambodia from 1863 to 1954..


You buy a three day pass for $40 to visit all the temples you can handle. The pass has your picture and is checked at each site you visit.


The U.S. dollar is widely used within Cambodia. We're packing to fly to Hanoi today. We'll have one full day there before flying back to the real world






Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas in Cambodia

Angkor Wat Temple
Siem Reap, Cambodia


The temple lies within a moat that is 200 yards wide. Inside the moat, an outer wall 15 feet high surrounds the temple. The wall is  2.2 miles in length.

The complex was begun by  Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Our guide refers to him as King S2. In 1177, about 27 years after the death of S2, Angkor was sacked by the Chams. After that a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital. Our guide calls him J7.


Our guide says that the sandstone to build the temple was brought in by raft from a quarry 25 miles away. He says that 40,000 elephants, 70,000 rafts and 8,000 engineers were used in the construction.


Within the walls, the temple rises in three different levels. At the center a single funeral jar was found. This is perhaps the most eneregy ever expended to dispose of a corpse.


There are some bullet holes in the outer walls. The Khmer Rouge occupied the temple as a military base for a time. Our guide says that he lived here when he was three. He is a funny guy. He tells lots of jokes and laughs hysterically at them.


The walls are covered witl delicate carvings. The labor involved in carving hundreds of thousands of sqaure feet of sanstone is almost unimaginable.


Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world, but it is only the southernmost of a whole complex of historically important structures.


The temple was abandoned to the jungle for 400 years and rediscovered by a French explorer in 1860. He wandered the jungle for seven years before stumbling upon the complex.


This is one of the library buildings inside the outer walls and outside the temple itself.


I lost ny glasses taking the library picture. Mrs. Phred forced me to leave the tour and retrace my steps to look for them. They were laying in the path only about a half mile from were we started to search.