The World Seen From …

Exploring the world from different perspectives, be it:

Riding :

A donkey while in Tenerife, Canary Islands 19 July 1985

***

An elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand 17 November 2007

***

A camel in Norita campsite, Uzbekistan – 9 May 2008

***

Sitting in:

A carriage in Fontainebleau, France – 6 September 1986

***

A rickshaw in Vietnam – 11 March 2001

***

An ox cart in Isalo Park, Ranohira, Madagascar- 5 May 2009

***

Diving underwater in the Maldives – 11 July 2012

***

Climbing up mountains in Bhutan – 9 October 2016

***

or

Rising higher up above in a hot air balloon in Luxor, Egypt – 4 December 2016

The Night I Was Crowned Empress 👑

Today, reading that Japan revealed the name of its new imperial era in line with the new emperor’s reign took me back in time to 2001 when I was crowned empress in Vietnam 🇻🇳.

It was in Huế – ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage site – and our tour guide Huu had planned a royal dinner experience in a historic residential palace 🏯for our group of twelve ladies. Before the pickup time, he recommended we dress in light clothing to avoid feeling hot as we were to add another layer upon arrival : a traditional costume👘 . His advice provoked one friend to wonder loudly: “Can we wear our swimsuits👙?”- light, isn’t it ?! 😉 Unbaffled, Huu replied : “The name of the agency I work for is Exotissimo, not Erotissimo. “

So that evening, on our way to dinner, Huu told us to choose two people to dress as emperor and empress, the others will be mandarins. While one friend requested to carry the male crown🤴🏻, the female one 👸🏻 landed on my head:a friend kindly suggested to bequeath the coveted title to my humble self , the baby of the group – her words not mine 🤷🏻‍♀…

For me, that was a battle won without arms 😊

Excitedly, we all wore our outfits and proudly headed towards the old palace with great fanfare, accompanied by two people holding an umbrella each for our highnesses.

We had a private room for ourselves and the culinary experience was heavenly. Needless to say all of us, mandarins and royals delighted in the authentic Huế dishes that were once the prerogatives of royalties of the Nguyễn Dynasty. However few details set the royal couple apart:

-our table was higher than the mandarins’. The latter were divided on two long tables of five facing each other, one on our right and one on the left.

***

***

-In front of us, a band was playing traditional music🎶

-Two people stood by our sides throughout the whole evening with the sole duty of fanning us

***

-Our dishes were ostentatiously decorated

.

.

PS: We had so much fun with bouts of loud laughters that two Frenchmen – without the traditional costume- came knocking on our door. They were with a group of tourists visiting from France; drawn by the noise, they came to inquire about the reason we were having more fun than their crew..and we explained jokingly : husbands were miles away😉

PPS: Actually this sojourn is among one of the most memorable I did with the girlfriends. Just like that, we all fell in love with this breathtaking country, the heartwarming hospitality of the Vietnamese people, a world class gastronomy… not to mention the diversity of the shopping that drove us crazy and resulted in serious overweight luggage on the return flights.

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde Sans The Evil Streak …a Woman of Many Contradictions

My sister once said to me, you are like Lebanon, the country of contradictions…

You are devout and a party animal… you endeavor to practice your 5 daily prayers and more, the beautiful voice of one specific muezzin makes you stop everything to listen to his beautiful call for prayer, but again certain songs can pull you to the dance floor with shameless abandon…

Your friends? Social butterflies and literati. You are equally pleased in the company of the younger in their 30s as well as the older with experience in their 80s.

What else? I love a good workout as much as I love farniente. I enjoy living in the fast lane, enjoy the adrenaline that helps me cope with a hectic lifestyle but equally enjoy a relaxing morning just catching up on the world or reading a catching book, staying home and not having any planned outings…

In the morning, I look forward to the peace and quiet of the night and the rituals preceding the “machine switch off” while at night I look forward to the morning “waking up process” and its routine – a warm shower and coffee in the garden listening to the chirping birds.

These contradictions must be explained by the following: my yin and yang DNA is probably the “joint account “of 2 extremely different ancestors.

Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoy the luxury of 5* hotels as much as I enjoyed the overnight homestay in Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca in Peru , the shared sleeping accommodation – we were 12 – of a wooden boat during a Mekong cruise in Vietnam, the rudimentary comfort of a traditional yurt in Uzbekistan, and camping in Bhutan under torrential rain  i.e. muddy terrain.

Anyone like me?

.

.

.

Four Seasons Hotel Anahita, Mauritius –3/6 December 2014

***

 

Le Negresco Hotel Nice, France – 14 June 2014 

***

Lake Palace Hotel Udaipur, India –15 February 1998

***

Riads, Morocco – 6/14 April 2016

Les Jardins de Shehrazad Fès 7/8 April         Riad Nashira Marrakech 10/12 April

***

Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Inlay Lake Myanmar – 10/11 February 2005

***

Beach bungalow Hotel Vanille, Manakara Madagascar – 8 May 2009

***

Local’s casa, Amantani Island Peru – 22 October 2011

***

Wooden boat, Mekong Vietnam – 22/24 February 2003

***

Yurt Campsite, Nurata Uzbekistan – 8 May 2008

***

 

Campsites between Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan – 8/11 October 2016

Dressing up

Dressing like the locals gives you a feel of the place, whether for:

-a photoshoot: India, China, Peru and Japan

-modeling the outfit for your travel companions: Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Guatemala

-going out for dinner: Cambodia

-dressing up as an empress for dinner in a “palace turned restaurant”: Vietnam,

Or for the whole stay: Iran.

7F20F976-E068-4F14-AFD2-80A61A436855Udaipur, India – 16 February 1998

***

E7F8A9CF-211A-49E2-8755-87C007E9012B

Beijing 31 August 2011   China   25 Cheng Du April 2012

***

D9BF151C-4FBC-4EE8-A66B-6FCFCC7C9CE0

Lake Titicaca, Peru – 21 October 2011

***

7C767B2D-91BA-4FD6-95A4-6F63BEAF6563

Kyoto, Japan – 2 April 2015

***

3600B4FE-AD54-49F7-91E0-73FB80768CFF

Sri Lanka – 24 February 2004

***

3D6B3B5A-3625-439B-8DDB-76827307EA01

Uzbekistan –7 May 2007

***

DE3140B6-EACF-4B17-9086-841C9DCDF2D9

Guatemala – 30 October 2015

***

E6B37512-C0C6-45D9-80F5-6EB6250391E9

Siem Reap, Cambodia – 26 February 2003

***

BD2C42A3-90EF-4BD6-AE50-0A7A1F89C817

Hue, Vietnam – 16 March 2001

***

1AF15C51-6B86-4E3C-A137-D3EFE1E2A149
Shiraz 28, Isaphan 30 Apr 2003 Iran Kangavar 9 May 2001         

 

From Place to Place

Applying black lacquer on the teeth of young coming-of-age women was a very popular rite of passage Hoi an,Vietnam – 18 March 2001

                                                                           ***
Madagascar – 7 May 2009

***
Peru – 27 October 2011
***
Xangkhong, Chiang Dao, Thailand – 17 November 2007
***
Carmine or brown red teeth colour are a side effect of chewing betel nut, a very common practice in SE Asia Paro, Bhutan– 7 October 2016