Hui’an women certainly do hold up half the sky

It’s an old Chinese saying that women hold up half the sky but in Fujian province it seems there is a group of women who do more than their fair share.

In the recent past, with their menfolk traditionally at sea, the Hui’an women had to shoulder not only all the responsibilities of child care, and that of their elderly relatives, but also working the fields and housebuilding. In fact, in 1958 it was many young Hui’an women who build a large dam in the region – and which is named after them.hui'an (15)

These young women are now involved in cutting, polishing and carving rocks, earning the same amount as their fathers and husbands. It is not surprising that they are known throughout China for their industrious and virtuous qualities. They’re also known for the distinctive clothing. Incidentally, they’re not a minority ethnic group but Hans.

They wear a yellow bamboo hat, a scarf which covers the lower half of the face, the top is short, and their black trousers baggy – and I would love a pair of their trousers!

hui'an (13)I visit the Huihe Stone Cultural Park (plus museum, carving training centre and display park) in Quanzhou, and watch the woman’s cultural performance which tells the story of their lives in the fields and bringing up children. See it here … and apologies for the wobbly end -editing is a skill I must now learn! 🙂

 

 

She makes it look so easy!
She makes it look so easy!
Janet attempts the carving .. much better than I was
Janet attempts the carving .. so much better than I was

Gifts for travellers – whether armchair or on the road often

Gifts for travellers, whether they are armchair travellers or on the road often, can be problematic. Let me solve the problem for you with these ideas. Food, travel and tales … these books have it all.
I have all these books and know fellow travellers … or food lovers … will love them. Of course I know they would also love my travel memoir too Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad. I always get great feedback from readers about it. Available for all e-readers from Amazon and Smashwords (etc) and as a hard copy directly from me.

Global food and travel issues (and recipes) are in Lonely Planet’s new book Food Lover’s Guide to the World (published October 2012.

Even if you can’t travel, you can take your taste buds around the world in this book. With more than fifty authentic recipes, it also has contributions from celebrity food-lovers, such as chef Fergus Henderson (co-founder of St John restaurant, London), chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix, Dan Hunter (chef at the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria), Tessa Kiros (author of Limoncello and Linen Water), chef Atul Kochhar (Benares restaurant, London), Eric Ripert (head chef at Le Bernardin, New York) and Ruth Rogers (River Café, London).

It has introductions by Mark Bittman, lead food writer for The New York Times Magazine; and James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine.

For travellers you can also find the best places to find local dishes in cities great & small and most importantly, many cultural tips and how-to-eat etiquette.

I have already blogged about Lonely Planet’s latest guide to New Zealand (published Sept. 2012) but it’s worth giving you another heads up about it. While many people travel with tablets and smart phones, a huge percentage still love the paper copy in their bag. See my blog about it here.

And finally, Better than Fiction (November 2012) is their fifth literary anthology edited by Don George. It has 32 international fiction authors telling their real travel stories from across the world: this will fit perfectly in anyone’s Christmas stocking (or birthday gift). For beside the bed, or in the backpack or suitcase, mine is beside my bed for dipping into. Wonderful writing!

 

Maori tour ‘tour of a lifetime’ says National Geographic Traveler

Hone Mihaka, of Taia­mai Tours says, “To classify ourselves as New Zealanders denies our cultural identity as Maori. Being Maori is our point of difference.”

Hone, of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) is given a lot of “mana” ( respect and prestige) and I was happy to be hosted at his marae in February  as I checked out  what the National Geographic Traveler named as one the 50 Tours of  Lifetime 2011 –pretty  good for a new venture!

Their interactive Waka experience is a unique insight into ancient customs, rituals and traditions: and once a year visitors from around the world not only learn how to paddle the ceremonial waka tau (war canoe) but also become part of the annual national commemorations that acknowledge ( and sometimes protest about) the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – NZ’s founding document – on the 6th February 1840.

“Great – now let’s try that again then we will head for Pihia and our waka”‘ says Hone

This year there were guests from the USA, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany staying with the  extended Mihaka family at their traditional home near Lake Omapare, and I watched as they went through the last of their training in paddle techniques, waka manoeuvres, chants and haka in preparation for the next days’ celebration – out on the bay with all the other waka.  These photos show some of the day, with more stories to come after they feature in print media.

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As Hone says “I’m Ngapuhi, and I offer my world. Only in Tai Tokerau can you get a unique, authentic Ngapuhi experience.”

Tai Tokerau stretches from the Bay of Islands on Northlands’ east coast over to Hokianga on the west coast – which is where my Ngapuhi husband came from: Ngapuhi is New Zealand’s largest indigenous tribe of 100,000 – made up of over 100 smaller independent Hapu (clans).

If you are unable to take part in the Waitangi Day events, you are still able to paddle a waka with them – up to Haruru Falls .. see their website or find Taiamai Tours on Facebook

In Lonely Planets‘ book “Happy” on  page 105 it says ” Be Proud of your Roots. Embrace your heritage to better understand yourself.” The page is about Maori and their haka and Taiamai Tours embody this ‘secret to happiness’ and offer it to others.

As traveller, I believe  learning about other cultures helps us understand and embrace our own no matter where we’re from.

“This edited extract is from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.”

Birthplace of a nation: New Zealand

One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event: but more of the celebrations in a later bog.

The house is not only historic and beautiful, but is set in lush native bush and has guided tours and cultural performances night and day. It’s been some years since I visited and my memory of walking up a grassy slope to a white house alone on the top of the small rise, and with the flagpole, is now presenting a different picture: the house and flag pole are still there but the (mostly) native trees have grown, and it was through this bush and forest, with its birdsong, I now walked.

There are many guided tours and activities including “Introducing the Birthplace of our Nation” through to a fun workshop with our native flax, and “Living with Nature’ which explores New Zealand’s native plants and trees and their relationship to Maori legend.

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Naturally, there are Maori cultural performances during the day, and in the evening,  a twilight show which can include a buffet dinner.

New Zealand residents have free access to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, while visitors’ tickets last 2 consecutive days.  Open all year (closed Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm, the off-peak season is from April to October so check the website for actual dates each year.

NOTE: For more information about Northland check the official tourism website and to hire a rental car in Auckland I can recommend the company I use:  Rental Cars NZ.

For more about New Zealand and our ‘treaty’ and national day, see our history encyclopedia website Te Ara

OMG .. Bali closed for the day!

O my goodness gracious me! Did you know that on Nyepi day, Bali is closed for the day. It seems it’s a day for meditation and absolute silence in Bali, – which this year falls on Friday, 23 March, the entire island of Bali will be closed for 24 hours to all traffic, including air traffic.

In keeping with the strict traditions of the holy day, Bali grinds to an absolute halt from 6:00 a.m. on Friday, March 23 until Saturday, March 24, 2012.

On the eve of Nyepi, celebrations are held when floats of huge colourful paper demons are paraded through the streets of cities, carried to the beach and torched, making a bright bonfire. Each one then quietly retreats to their homes to spend the entire day in silent reflection, free from any noise. Homes may also not have any open fires, nor any lights lit at night.

Also, on this day, no one is allowed on the streets and on the beach, including tourists. Flights to and from Bali will be suspended. While this may sound eerie, it seems those who have gone through this absolute quietness of a whole island find it a most exhilarating experience. See more here

The observance of the day is all-pervasive and includes:

  • The requirements that Bali visitors stay confined within the grounds of their hotels for the 24-hour period and not leave the premises, except in cases of medical emergency.
  • All streets are empty and closed. No one is allowed on the roads. All businesses are closed. Only emergency vehicles are permitted.
  • Bali’s airport is closed during the 24-hour period. No flights are allowed to land or take off from the airport. Technical stops are allowed but no passenger may disembark or embark on a flight during this period.
  • Television and radio stations are closed and cable broadcast companies are asked to suspend their signals to Bali during the proscribed period.

Top of my list for things-to-do in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

My number one ‘must do’ in Gujarat’s largest city, Ahmedabad, is the “Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is the former capital and is sometimes known as its old name – Karnavati: it is also the fifth largest city in India, with a city population of approximately 5.6 million

On the banks of the River Sabarmati, Ahmedabad was founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah to serve as the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate, and was named after him.

Our guide tells us that according to legend, the Sultan Ahmed Shah, while camping on the banks of the River Sabarmati, saw a hare chasing a dog. Really impressed by this act of bravery, the Sultan, who had been looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to build it in this forest area on the river bank and christened it Ahmedabad.

This old city, with many of its original walls, is fascinating, but not a place most travellers will explore on their own. It often seemed we were in peoples’ backyards, as indeed we were.  Walking round here alone I think I’d be lost in the labyrinth of streets for hours, if not days.

However with the guides, all who are volunteers with a love of history and architecture, I didn’t get lost as we weaved through the various ‘pols’. These are unique neighbourhoods around a cluster of houses with narrow streets, common courtyard and community wells.  Each pol was, and sometime still is, protected by gates and secret passages: this is why you need a guide!

They not only told us about the different buildings, but also some of the history, art, and religious and or cultural traditions. As I have said – this is a must do.

The walk starts at Swaminarayan Mandir (8am) and finishes at Manek Chowk at 1030.

These photos just give you a tiny taste: I loved this so much I went twice in 3 days, each time with different guides who imparted a slightly different flavour to the walk.

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Wellington … my new city

Wellington: New Zealand’s creative capital is my new city.

And,  as a travel writer its good to be in such a vibrant place … I will be adding to the arts scene with my photography (exhibition – Thistle Hall, Cuba St, in late June 2011) and a Travel Writing Workshop (at Toi Poneke,  Abel Smith St 9th July 2011) Contact me for more details heather AT kiwitravelwriter.com

 

So,  this is what NZ tourism says about my new backyard ….

“Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city – is known as the nation’s arts and culture capital.

And, while it is the seat of government, there’s nothing grey about downtown Wellington with its lively café culture, quirky public art works, and distinctive Kiwi architecture.

As the home of Te Papa – the national museum and art gallery, Royal NZ Ballet, State Opera, NZ Symphony Orchestra, several professional theatres, and Sir Peter Jackson’s international film empire, Wellington is a city brimming with creative talent.

Two inner city university campuses add to the city’s youth and talent pool, and crowds drawn to major cultural events such as the annual World of WearableArt fuel the constant artistic buzz.

With all that, it’s no wonder that Lonely Planet dubbed Wellington as “the coolest little capital in the world” and listed it at #4 in cities to visit in 2011.

Dramatic harbour setting

Wellington’s compact café-filled central city – poised between the hills and a dramatic harbour setting – offers visitors more than its fair share of art galleries, museums, fashion and design boutiques, all within a short walk from each other.

The cityscape is one form of public art with its blend of old and new – from simple wooden colonial houses to imposing heritage buildings and post-modern architecture.

Noteworthy architecture includes the 19th century Parliamentary Library, the 1970s Beehive and the 21st century Supreme Court building. In Civic Square, old meets new to create a modern public piazza linked to the waterfront, close to the new Wharewaka / Māori canoe house and Te Papa’s imposing form.

The waterfront walkway and main shopping streets are populated with creative flair – quirky Wellington-themed art works, sculptures and a writers’ walk of quotations about the city.

Urban hum

Bars, nightclubs and restaurants hum into the early hours in Courtenay Place – the city’s main entertainment hub – alongside the stately St James theatre and cinemas, including the Embassy Theatre which hosted international film premières for The Lord of the Rings.

Wellington is renowned for its sophisticated food scene including more than 300 cafés, bars and restaurants, and claims more places to eat and drink per capita than New York.

Wellington’s top restaurants – and some of New Zealand’s finest dining establishments – include Matterhorn, Logan Brown and Martin Bosley’s, where the focus is on fresh, seasonal, local food.

Guided food tours introduce visitors to gourmet food stores, coffee roasters, cafés and restaurants.

Boutiques for New Zealand fashion design names, including Voon, Robyn Mathieson, Starfish, Andrea Moore and Alexandra Owen, populate the shopping precincts of Victoria and Featherston streets, while Cuba St is the face of emerging designers.

Galleries and museums
Wellington is home to numerous galleries and museums, including Te Papa Tongarewa – the national museum of New Zealand, the City Gallery, and the Museum of City and Sea – each with their own store of creative works from New Zealanders past and present.

Te Papa is a contemporary museum of innovative and interactive displays – beloved by adults and children alike – that showcases New Zealand’s diverse art and visual culture in collections featuring wildlife, history, Māori culture, contemporary art and culture.

Museum of Wellington City and Sea, in a significant waterfront heritage building, offers an insight into the city’s social and cultural history.

Film and theatre scene
Wellington’s thriving theatre and film scene has produced some of New Zealand’s best known actors, performers, film and television industry professionals.

Often referred to as ‘Wellywood’, Wellington is the home of film director Sir Peter Jackson and his production facility, and was a location for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong. The latest production underway is The Hobbit.

Weta Cave offers a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects used in the Jackson movies, including film interviews with Weta co-founders Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk. The mini museum showcases characters, props and displays from more than 20 years of Weta history.

Visitors can take LOTR location tours, or self-drive to the more accessible locations.

Cultural events

Wellington’s calendar of large scale international events includes the World of WearableArt awards and the International Arts Festival.

WOW – a spectacular show where fashion and art collide – attracts entries from more than 300 international designers that show to sell-out crowds over a 10-night period.”

 

So, as a travel writer its good to be in such a vibrant place … I will be adding to the arts scene with my photography (exhibition Thistle Hall, Cuba St, in late June 2011) and a Travel Writing Workshop (at Toi Poneke,  Abel Smith St 9th July 2011) Contact me for more details heather AT kiwitravelwriter.com