Last time I went to Bali I was so determined to have a purely relaxing holiday I deliberately left my big camera at home and didn’t bother about photos. Though this recent week was also mostly about relaxing and pampering (hot stone massage, mmmm) I did take some shots of a few beautiful places we visited.
A striking and mesmerising documentary with no conventional narrative, Baraka presents a collection of sights and sounds from around the globe – mountains, places of worship, cities, wilderness – as a sort of lush travelogue, set alternately to tribal beats and rather New Age-y soundtrack.
The sights of the movie are not always beautiful, detouring at one point to the humanity’s darker places like the concentration camps and Cambodia’s killing fields, as well as sweatshops and overcrowded slums in South America and Asia. This is probably going to be the shortest film review I’ll ever do, because this movie is one to experience, rather than talk about. It’s an ambitious achievement that really leaves you in awe of the world’s sheer variety and splendour, and reminds me of the sadness I always feel at the thought of seeing only a tiny little sliver of the world in my lifetime. It’s a moving portrayal of faith and nature even if you’re an atheist like myself and find hippy-drippy sentiments maybe a tad cringey.
More images from the film:
Another I-moved-to-another-country book, this one by a London woman who moved to Denmark after her husband got offered a job with Lego – and rather than exchanging one capital city for another, they move to the “real” Denmark, a tiny town of 6,100 in the rural Jutland (the European peninsula part of Denmark). Unlike many other books of the similar sort, which are rather rambling in nature and simply concern themselves with the author’s experiences in a foreign country, this one has an actual focus: uncovering the secrets of Danish happiness. According to the statistics, the potential new home of Helen and her husband (nicknamed Lego Man) is officially the happiest country in the world, with most of the Danes Helen interviews in the course of the book ranking their happiness at 8, 9, or even 10 out of 10. To Helen, who is supposedly living her dream with a high-flying job as an editor on a glossy magazine but instead feels overworked and overstressed, this is an attractive mystery to explore.
We stayed in Hoi An for three nights, and it was totally worth it: it’s an incredibly pretty place, especially enchanting at night. We did another countryside excursion on the second day, this time on a mountain bike. By the end of the trip, I felt like some parts of me might never be the same again, but it was a fun day out. Among other things, we got to make our own rice noodles for lunch.
I’ve never heard of Nha Trang before, and it turned out to be a coastal resorty place, full of Russian tourists. It was bizarre seeing Russian signage and menus everywhere. We had a full day boat trip on the bay, including snorkelling which unfortunately I didn’t get to do since I can’t see much without my glasses. The water however was lovely and warm, and I really tried to squeeze in as much sunbathing and swimming as possible before coming back to Melbourne and the impending winter.
Once in Ho Chi Minh City (our group leader never called it so, preferring the old name of Saigon), I finally gathered enough courage to try the frog. It tasted kinda like chicken and caused many Kermit jokes around the table. I really liked the city and its wide shaded boulevards, even if the street traffic here was at its most intimidating to cross.
I’m back from my two-week trip to Vietnam, and it’s amazing how quickly the rubber band snaps right back and the whole thing feels like a dream. Thankfully, there are photos to remind of all the good times had. It was a big success all-around: great group and leader, a wide variety of experiences, yummy food. The weather was humid and got progressively hotter as we went further south, but other than sweating like a piggie I bore it surprisingly well. The only real low point came when I ate something dodgy couple of hours before boarding the overnight train. Food poisoning and bumpy Vietnamese train and me with my motion sickness… let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s probably a karma payback for all those times in Egypt and India when I was almost the only person in the group without tummy troubles.