Monday, 30 March 2015

Melaka and the final leg



Padang to KL flight

A long travel day  to leave Bukittinggi, bus at 08.40, at the airport before check-in for our 14.00 flight opened, hung around, checked-in, had a bite of lunch, got on the flight on time after they did a very quick turnaround. Arrived in KL having ‘lost’ an hour, walked for miles through the airport to immigration and baggage reclaim, was just beginning to think it wasn’t going to arrive and there it was. 

KL to Melaka
Off to the bus station, 20 min wait and on the bus for the 2 ½ hour journey to Melaka. Arrived at the hotel just as Earth Hour had started at 20.30 so felt a bit strange checking in in the gloom while trying to skirt round the two bus loads of Asian tourists who had also just arrived! Fortunately there is a Chinese food court right next door, the view from our window in fact, so some quick and easy, and very tasty noodles was just what the doctor ordered! Shame the two plates of food came to 10 Ringetts, just less than £2 while the bottle of beer was closer to £3!


Dutch Square Melaka. Looking pretty similar to the last time we were here in 2013, except the building on the right is now refurbished, whereas last time it was all covered up. (http://brianandjackiecross.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/more-melaka.html)
Along the Melaka river
A good nights sleep and down to breakfast, a huge buffet of things recognisable, and not. Cake and croissant, fruit, toast and egg, noodles, rice, rice porridge and cook it yourself noodles with curry sauce! No lunch required today then!







Waxworks in the Cheng Ho museum depicting Cheng Ho (in blue on the left) and the Sultan of Melaka on R
Recreation of the treasure ship hold, including a giraffe as a present from Kenya
Off into the centre of Melaka to visit the Zeng He (or Cheng Ho) museum, this is the Chinese Admiral who is meant to have discovered NZ, Australia, USA and possibly even Italy in the 1400’s. Brian read two books by Naval historian Gavin Menzies about his journeys, one of which while we were in NZ, so we went off to look at the Moeraki boulders (lumps of rock or ships ballast?) and some old dock near to the Christchurch house sit (we couldn’t see it no matter how hard we squinted!) However B was interested and the museum was closed for refurbishment when we were here 18 months ago. Off we went, thinking we knew where we were going, and there was a Cheng Ho gallery as part of a big museum complex so in we went, it was rubbish, but the rest of the museum was quite interesting! Back to the hotel to lie by the pool – well it was the main reason for picking this hotel! Before looking on the internet and realising we’d gone to the wrong museum! Particularly irritating as I had found the museum website that morning, and given B the map with their location on to look at, but he already knew where we were going……!


Model of Melaka in Cheng Ho's time. Interesting model scaling
Great Indian for dinner, we’d been looking forward to some good Indian food here and we weren’t disappointed, not the best ever, but very good value £2 each for chicken tikka, garlic naan, biryani rice, tardka daal, popadom and mint sauce. Good practice for UK verses Asian portions? It was huge.

So another good breakfast, though half the good stuff only seemed to come out after the main rush was over, glad we stopped for that extra cup of coffee, before heading off to the Cheng Ho museum! Strange feeling of Déjà vu here! I think she took pity on us though after I walked in announcing we’d gone to the wrong museum yesterday and charged us half price! Fortunately for Brian it was interesting!


Models of Admiral Ho's fleet of more than 200 large ships. The largest treasure ship was 120m long by 60m wide making it the largest wooden ship ever built. The size of his fleet would not be matched for another 500 years. His recorded 7 voyages (plus many others Gavin Menzies attributes to him) makes him the most successful voyager in history
Quick trip to try to exchange our last two books, first bookshop, opening hours 12.00-18.00 still closed at 12.30, so did the 20 minute walk in the heat of the sun, “Mad dogs and English men” anyone? To the second shop which we couldn’t find! Thank goodness for the Salvation Army Family Thrift store. Sorted! Back to the AC, quick dip in the pool before deciding I would fry and back to the Indian for dinner!


The Cheng Ho museum Melaka
Really looking forward to being home, just not the journey tomorrow to get there! Taxi to the bus at 11.45, bus 12.30, flight 20.00 (yes, the 14.30 bus would have got us there at exactly the right time, but I need leeway!) to Saigon, gain an hour? Three hours there anyway, then 00.30 for the 13 ½ hour flight to Heathrow, arrive 07.40. 09.45 bus from Heathrow to Birmingham airport to be met by Denise and Paul (B’s sis and B-i-L) before meeting the new Grand Nephew Rory. Just hope he doesn’t cry or I may join him!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Lake Maninjau and Rafflesia, the largest single flower in the world



Our route in West Sumatra with Bukittinggi at the centre

Bukittinggi, Harau Vallay and Danau (Lake) Maninjau roll off the tongue, and most peoples itinerary together, although many visitors seem to base themselves in Bukittinggi and do day trips, or an overnight to the two places on organised trips. As we had more time and wanted to experience them on our own, we decided to make our own way to each place and stay for a few days, So it was with Harau Valley, on our last blog entry and again to Lake Maninjau on this one.

One of 6 little kittens in a shop in Bukittinggi
In between we returned and stayed a night in Bukittinggi, we could have done it in one go (if we were prepared to pay 500,000Rp - £25 per person to Abdi Homestays preferred taxi service), but instead paid 250,000Rp (£12.50) per person just to Bukittinggi, which we still think was overpriced. Our onward journey from Bukittinggi to Lake Maninjau, booked by the fabulous Ling at Hello Guesthouse was only 30,000Rp (£1.50) per person, confirming the overpricing of Abdy’s, or at least his taxi service!


Water buffalo haul a plough in a small paddifield at Lake Maninjau
Hello Guesthouse is all that we’d hoped it would be, fabulous modern room with balcony and Ling, the friendliest, most helpful person we have met. She is quiet, modest, superbly efficient, unflappable and knows everything! We need a shared taxi booked to Lake Maninjau, 30 seconds later, that’s booked, we need a shared taxi booked back to Padang airport, 30 seconds, that’s booked, flight boarding passes printed, coach transfer ticket back in the UK printed, she knows where to stay in Maninjau, how to get there and back, how to catch the bus from KL airport to Melaka (another country for her!) and even what the weather is like in Maninjau. As we said to a German couple we met in a restaurant in Maninjau who also stayed at Hello Guesthouse and were impressed with Ling ‘How does she know all this? She knows everything!’

Stepped paddifields on the slopes above Lake Maninjau
Lake Maninjau is actually a large caldera (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caldera) formed by a volcanic eruption estimated to have occurred around 52,000 years ago. The lake is 8km wide by 16km long, has a maximum depth of 165m, is 460m above sea level and is surrounded by steep sided jungle clad slopes. The only access is the road constructed by the Dutch from Bukittinggi that undulates over the lower slopes and up to the crest of the crater where a fabulous view of the huge lake, some 200m below, protected by steep sided jungle clad encircling cliffs fills the entire view. 
Cloves and nutmeg dry in the sun
The road then plunges down into the crater, through jungle with occasional good views, round 44 hairpin bends (they are all numbered), watched by monkeys sitting on the crash barriers. The road is good, but it’s fairly narrow, so traffic can back up on the hairpin bends to give way to traffic coming the other way, but we arrived at the lake in the town of Maninjau where the road meets the 70km long circular lake road, told the driver which hotel we wanted to be dropped off at, turned right and drove about 2km to the Pasir Panjang Permai Hotel, whereby lies a story.

The lizards of Pasir Panjang Permai Hotel!
It seems that not many people visit this area anymore and we’re not sure why. Our Lonely Planet guide says that ‘since the crash in tourist numbers many locals have taken to fish farming on the lake to make ends meet’ and certainly there are a lot of the square fish enclosures surrounded by floatation devices and little huts with bags of fish food dotted about our side of the lake. Some people have suggested that Indonesia tightened visa regulations a few years back restricting the standard visa (which we have) to 30 days from 60 days and charging $25 and people stopped coming here. There is talk that this is changing, we heard next month, to a free 90 day visa on arrival, which may change things for the better if it does actually happen.

Panorama of Lake Maninjau from the hotel
The better Tan Dirih Guesthouse from the Beachfront Restaurant
The result is that the main town of Maninjau seems like a ghost town, gently decaying. The hotels, guesthouses and homestays have all seen better days, as have the restaurants, all still staffed with tired looking people, and all seemingly waiting for the visitors who don’t arrive. True we were here in the low season, seeing only a couple of other tourists (we saw only three other white faces in our 4 days there), the high season is apparently June to October and locals talk of more tourists here then, and although undoubtedly true, we can’t help thinking a lot of it is optimistic wishful thinking and the numbers are not that much more. 
Outside our room at the Tan Dirih Guesthouse
The fish farming has certainly had an effect on the lake, making the water quite green (but still with lots of fish) and, although our LP guide says swimming is popular, we didn’t like the look of it so didn’t go in. Lake Maninjau is visually more appealing than the other crater-lake we visited, Lake Toba, but because of the fewer tourists it lacks the facilities Toba has, which seems a real shame.







The Tan Dirih cat plays with a large cicada one evening
The driver stopped outside the lakeside hotel we had chosen and we went into the large, old hotel spread along the lake front and after looking at a number of very tired looking rooms with old bathrooms, we chose a ‘Super Deluxe’ room with air-con, a big but very old room with large balcony with old recliners right on the lake and Jackie negotiated a reduction from 400,000Rp per night to 350,000Rp (still overpriced for what it was). We were in a wing of the hotel well away from reception and we were the only people staying there, which made it feel very creepy! 
The only bit of mechanisation for rice that we saw
Jackie's TripAdvisor report on our stay there was entitled 'Seen "The Shining" This is it!'(http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g680011-d1440397-Reviews-Hotel_Pasir_Panjang_Permai-Maninjau_West_Sumatra_Sumatra.html). It was such a shame, the people there were friendly, although spoke little English and the included breakfast was OK, but it just felt creepy! We woke on both nights there to something screaming, maybe a monkey, maybe the half metre long lizards who live beneath the broken slabs outside our room and swim in the lake each morning to catch their breakfast, we don’t know, but we decided we needed to find somewhere else for our final two nights there.

Leaving the lake behind and entering the jungle of the waterfall walk
After walking into town and looking at some sad old homestays and guesthouses that need even more refurbishment than the one we’re at we found a nice place two doors away, the Tan Dirih, which was a small guesthouse, reasonably smart and well kept, right on the lake shore with only 4 or 5 rooms. We were still the only people there, but it felt so much more comfortable and nice and we really enjoyed our 2 nights there. Western breakfast was included and it was 100,000Rp cheaper – result!


Lost in the jungle. Which way now?
Most of the restaurants in town catered for locals and were open little old wooden shacks with small grubby tables and chairs with unrecognisable cooked food in containers and drinks with questionable ice, so we pretty much discounted those. 










The waterfall!
One stood out, the Beachfront, next to the Tan Dirih, with coloured lights, nice tables and chairs at the lakeside and even an ‘island’ dining area, built on stilts in the lake and accessible via a wooden bridge. We ate there twice, the first was just OK lake fish, but the second was a very expensive and very disappointing venison steak that was tiny and overcooked and had to be eaten on a spoon to avoid it shattering if poked with a fork! The best place we found was Bagoes Café in town, still a bit old and grubby, but friendly people and nice reasonably priced food (including freshly caught lake fish, BBQ’d while we waited in a secret spice paste and washed down with ‘Bintang’ beer – yum!), even if we didn’t fancy their old but cheap lakeside rooms! The local ‘flying foxes’ gliding through the evening sky, looking like pterodactyls, were an added bonus.





A 'self timer' photo, we were alone!
Getting information on things to do was hard as ‘Rama Café’, recommended in LP, seemed to have closed, no-one else knew anything and there were no signposts. Went hunting for a waterfall, but went too far along the lake road and ended up on a nice circular walk through paddyfields and tiny hamlets, high up on the hillside with great views, which was good, but not the one we wanted. In the end the guy in Bagoes Café told us where the hot spring pool was (found it but didn’t fancy it – grubby!) and where the waterfall was, which we did do on our last day (after a day of ‘chilling’ reading and emailing at the Tan Dirih guesthouse).

Jackie's arm coming out in a nasty rash
Had a lakeside breakfast (toast and peanut butter – yum!) and set off assuming it would be a leisurely, easy walk to a waterfall and back. Found the concrete track off up the hill and ambled up through paddyfields, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove groves and a few houses until we reached the edge of the jungle where it got much steeper and rougher; the concrete track stopped and a vague track led into the trees. ‘Let’s tuck our trouser legs into our socks to guard against leeches and other things like lizards, scorpions and spiders that we knew inhabited these areas’ Jackie said and off we went.

And this was the harmless looking culprit, Dendrocnide Moroides
Generally following the stream we zig-zagged through jungle on steepening slopes through head high undergrowth, mud, loose stony slopes, crossed the stream on several occasions on loose exposed rocks, got lost when we scrambled up a slope away from the stream, having to retrace our steps back to the stream again, hanging onto roots to stop ourselves sliding down the slope into the stream below, but we did eventually find our way to a nice waterfall pouring over a semi circular vertical rock wall in amongst verdant jungle. We felt quite pleased with ourselves, we retraced our steps without difficulty, but of course we don’t know the jungle and what is and isn’t dangerous and one plant Jackie brushed against had her arm turning red in a big rash. It brought back memories of our visit to NE Australia where notices warned against touching a toxic plant, the Dendrocnide moroides (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrocnide_moroideshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrocnide_moroides). Well, it turned out that’s what it was, giving an extremely painful stinging sensation that can last days, weeks or months and in some cases can be fatal!

Our saviours, Imam with two of his sons
Her arm is getting worse and we’re starting to get a bit concerned as we emerge out of the jungle and back onto the concrete track and that’s when we bumped into Imam and his two sons coming up hill on a motorbike. Imam lives in one of the houses on the track with his extended family in several houses and was on his way up to tend to his rice. His English was very good although he started speaking to us in Indonesian until I showed him a photo of the waterfall on my camera and he decided we were friendly people. Jackie showed him her arm and he immediately recognised it as being from this toxic plant and set off into the fields with his machete, looking for the same plant, digging up some of its roots, pounding them with stones until wet and then rubbed it vigorously onto her arm, making her wince. ‘Leave it to dry for an hour’ he said and, although it was still painful, she said it was a lot better. Today it seems to be fine, with only a light pain if directly touched, so a bit of a lucky escape!

Imam preparing the root antidote
The rest of the day turned out to be really enjoyable and totally unexpected as we spent it with Imam and his 16 year old son. After going back to his house nearby, meeting his family, having coffee and learning all about cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg he offered to take us up into the hills to find the largest single flower in the world, the Rafflesia arnoldii (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafflesiahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafflesia). He occasionally takes people on trips up the 44 bends to the top and them down through the jungle to see the group of 12 waterfalls (we only found the bottom one!), a palm sugar production farm and the Rafflesia flower. He does little of it now due to lack of tourists, earning his money from his crops, teaching English and Biology in the local school. It was after lunch so we said ‘no’ to the waterfalls and palm sugar farm, but ‘yes’ to the Rafflesia flower. He charges 220,000Rp per person including lunch he said and since we felt we already owed him for helping Jackie’s sting it seemed like a bargain, so off we went, me on the back of his motorbike, Jackie on the back of his 16 year old sons up the 44 bends to the top and to fabulous views, in a huge gale.

Vigorous application to the affected area
Cinnamon Tree bark
He got lunch on the way and we set off down into the jungle on really steep muddy slopes with his son carrying lunch and walking in bare feet! We went a long way down, could only see steep jungle ahead and steep jungle behind on barely defined paths he had used before, listening to jungle insect noises and the occasional hornbill (he said). He used his machete to clear away nasty toxic plants and thorny specimens and we picked and slid our way down past huge nasty looking caterpillars and lizards, finding only dead and shrivelled Rafflesia on the jungle floor. He’ll only charge us half price if he doesn’t find any he said, but eventually his son shouted out, ran across up from us, Imam went up and shouted with excitement ‘come quick’ he said ‘this one is only a day old and only just about opened’, so we hurried as fast as we could through the undergrowth to this fabulous looking flower. It wasn’t the largest specimen, probably 400mm across, male rather than female so smaller, but it was perfectly formed and brilliant to see, we were so pleased to have bumped into him and done something so unexpected.

And this is a nutmeg
Imams house
Forgetting about tucking our trouser legs into our socks this time, Jackie stopped during scrabbling back up to find two leeches sucking away at her leg, one gorging away as the blood around it showed. They apparently inject a chemical in to prevent the blood clotting, so after they are pulled off the wound continues to leak blood, so she had blood stained trousers at the end and now has two vampire like marks in her leg. I took a quick look at my legs and found one attached, but it hadn't had time to settle in so it pulled off without problems.


Preparing for the motobike ride up the hill
We were back down by 5:00pm, showered and washed everything we’d been wearing and met him and his family again in the evening at his local school where we exchanged email addresses. He wants to come to England to obtain a UK English diploma to allow him to teach English in an Indonesian university, so maybe we can help him achieve that. I’m sure he had tears in his eyes as he said how much he had enjoyed meeting us and we certainly had a fantastic day. What a great way to finish our Sumatra experience!



Stopping off to buy lunch on the way
This morning we caught a shared taxi back to Bukittinggi and returned to the Hello Guesthouse following Ling’s instructions and we’re now back in our fabulous room with balcony (but very ‘loud call to prayer’ singing from the mosque opposite) for one night. Tomorrow we get a shared taxi to Padang airport, a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and then a bus to Melaka on the Malaysian coast facing Sumatra for our last three nights in SE Asia, before returning to the UK on 1st April.

The view from the top, Maninjau town, the lake and encircling cliffs
We just had time to go up to the Fort De Kock at the top of the hill to see ‘peg-leg Ging’, the very friendly cat with the badly healed broken leg who lives up there. He seemed very pleased to see us and enjoyed the fuss we gave him in front of the six local teenagers who looked a bit bemused at us.
It’s been great here, Sumatra’s a great destination, full of friendly people and lots to see and do. We’ve barely scratched the surface of Sumatra, let alone Indonesia so we’ll definitely be back at some point in the future. Malaysia and then home, here we come!
A very large stag beetle on the ridge crest just before we started down through the jungle
 
Jackie with our guides Imam and his 16 year old son just setting off
 
Pausing for a breather on the way down
Still going down...
 
Local wildlife. Is it dangerous? No idea!
 
More wildlife, no idea if it's dangerous or not, this is as close as we got!
 
A Rafflesia Arnoldii bud. It will take about a week for this to open to a flower
And finally, after lots of disappointments, a newly opened Rafflesia Arnoldii, the biggest single flower in the world!
Enjoying our final sunset from the deck of our Guesthouse on Lake Maninjau

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Homestay in the Harau Valley



Our cabin at the Homestay with a waterfall behind

Two whole days without internet, what has happened out there? Has Steph had a baby?


Collected by Ikbal and his brother Iwol and taken to the valley, all worked a dream, though they were earlier than we’d expected, we’d just ordered some food when we got a text saying they were 20 minutes away! Wolfed down dinner and away we went in the pouring rain, seems to be wet most afternoons!





Sitting in our porch on the first night. It's very dark here! By the way Helen and Ian, Jackies holding the Cadburys wrapper containing the last of your wedding chocolate. we'd saved it, but now its gone!
The Homestay cabins amongst rice paddy fields
There are six rooms here and a kitchen with a small building attached used as overflow accommodation, all the huts were full, one with Mike who we met on our last day at Lake Toba as he was about to get the 15 hour bus overnight to Bukittinggi, while we wimped out and got our flight. “How was it?” We asked, looks like we made the right decision, a lorry broke down and blocked the road, for 10 hours, making his total journey time 27 hours! Made our unexpected early start not such a problem after all!


Inside the cabin, mozzie net draper behind the headboard
The homestay is rustic, but it is a lovely place to stay, comfy bed, dark, peaceful, electricity, but no running water or wifi. It has been comfortable, though probably enough is enough, I would like a hot shower! We still don’t know how much it is costing us, 150000 rupiah for the bed and possibly breakfast (£8) but the food, which has been very good, seems to be on a pay what you think it’s worth basis! How on earth will we decide?






And this is the bathroom. No sink and the bamboo shower didn't work. The big tub on the right is the reservoir and there's a small bucket with a handle. You fill the bucket from the reservoir and throw it down the toilet to flush, you throw the bucket of water over yourself for a shower, which of course soaks everything. We're not sure about the sink replacement, but we put a full bucket of water on the floor and used it as a sink. The light above is completely open to the outside, there are monkeys locally, spiders and, of course mosquito's who can all get in quite easily, but only mozzies did! Rustic or what?
The Homestay cat, who quite liked it in our cabin!
Our first day we walked across the rice fields, to a waterfall and up to a panorama point which was very pleasant, back to shower while it was still warm and sit and chill, the view one way of the cliffs and the monkeys playing and the other way of a mountain and rice paddies. Not bad.










Cinnamon drying in the sun
A coco tree, or as I said, a green chocolate tree!
Yesterday we went on a day out with a Swedish couple, first we stopped in a typical Minangkabau village to look at the architecture, and somehow got invited in to day three of a wedding, we didn’t see the bride and groom but were photographed by the official photographer sitting in the wedding chair and invited by the brides brother in law to a very strange drink, grass jelly in coconut milk and to have some gado-gado to eat – vegetables with a peanut sauce, very pleasant and most unexpected.



Sitting in the bride and grooms chair
The rather strange but actually quite nice drink
Next stop was the Kings Palace, though not the original palace as that burnt down five years ago but has been completely rebuilt. A very impressive building, glad we went, though it wasn’t high on the list of ‘must sees’!


The main reason for the day out though was the cow racing! One man, two cows each with a wooden harness on not to hold but to stand on while holding the cow’s tails, while the cows were made to run through a rice paddy, imagine water-skiing! To make the cows go faster? Bite the tail! Not many people made it the full length of the field without ending up face down in the mud, but apparently it’s not about the people, it’s about the cows, showing them off to see which they can get best price for! It’s crazy but quite entertaining, and muddy even for the bystanders as Brian’s trousers were testament! Have a look at this short Youtube video of a couple of cow races: http://youtu.be/-2N_7Lm6kHs



Our very hospitable hosts at the wedding
Even time for a bit of cooking. Serious cooking for a lot of guests mind!
Quick stop at a coffee factory which was interesting enough, but we were all a bit jaded. Though coffee/tea made from the leaves of the coffee bush was worth a taste. We also bought some cinnamon to go with the palm sugar we were given by Mery and Abdy, mix it with ginger and there you have the best ginger tea apparently! We got about 10 x foot (300mm) long lengths for 60p. Anyone want some cinnamon?






Flower arrangements for the happy couple Yon and Vera. What a shame we didn't meet them
At the Kings Palace with our Swedish friends
Little walk out this morning to see the three waterfalls we didn’t see the other day, which were very pretty, and very busy, well it is Sunday, but still worth the walk. Many photos with many family groups, what will they all do with pictures of funny white people? The advantage of it being a Sunday was the reptile rescue people being there with snakes, lizards and an owl to make a fuss of. Writing this while we sit and wait for the driver from yesterday to come collect us. Three buses in the heat with rucksacks? Perhaps we are not proper travellers!


A local wanting her photo taken with us. This happens very often, they must think us white people very strange!
Jackie with almost no shadow. It's midday on the equator
Have we enjoyed it? Yes, on the whole but we are leaving with a slightly bad taste in our mouths, not really quite sure why though, they are all lovely, free flowing tea and coffee and bottled water, Iwol and Noni are very friendly as is Ikbal, though we can’t decide if he doesn’t like us, or if he is just a little more reticent. We asked our driver yesterday if he was going straight back to Bukittinggi, “no” he said, “tomorrow”, “you can give us a lift then” Only he did go back yesterday, so 250000 to return today, oh well, the three Italians are going back, we can go with them, only their car would be too small, so cancel their car and go with our driver. This however was vetoed by Ikbal as they had made a commitment, and it would reflect badly on him! We weren’t sure about the day out yesterday as it was a bit expensive we thought, but he spoke to the Swedes after he spoke to us, and they were keen to go, so he reduced our price a bit, as long as none of us talked about price!


I’m also not convinced that the bedding is changed between every set of visitors….
Corrine, our Swedish friend also showing from the shadow of her umbrella that the sun is directly overhead. It's Spring Equinox at midday on the equator, one of only two times a year this happens.
Getting ready for the cow races.....
And they're off! What do you expect when you bite a cows tail in a muddy field?
 
He seems to be struggling to stay upright
 
But he's looking pretty good, albeit a tad muddy!
 
But he wasn't so luck, it all went wrong for him!
 
To see them in action click on this link: http://youtu.be/-2N_7Lm6kHs
 
A rice nursery, prior to planting out in that very muddy field
 
Brian with a snake
And Brian with an owl, after he had nibbled my ear
 
What a handsome fellow he is. Not sure what he is though
 
One of three waterfalls we walked to today
Jackie found a little goat to stroke, in preference to a nearby cat I have to say (but the cat did 'deaf her out')
This is one of those coco pods that has been broken open to show the beans
 
And here's some coco beans she did earlier, now drying in the sun
 
Bye-bye Abdy Homestay it was an interesting rustic experience. We think we enjoyed it but we'll be glad to get back to civilisation for a proper hot shower!