December 22nd, 2015 / posted by paularath
Ha Long Bay   Photos by Jerry Mayfield

Ha Long Bay
Photos by Jerry Mayfield

As you may remember, Jerry is never without his sketchbook on our trips and his sketches often segue into watercolor paintings. He travels with a sketchbook, palette, a few favorite brushes and a loose leaf binder with watercolor paper.

This blog features some of my favorite paintings from his Southeast Asia sketchbook and notebook. I asked him to comment on his work.

Ha Long Bay – “These rocky islands, with their extreme vertical interfaces, combined with the atmospheric perspective of light and dark, prompted me to do this painting.”

SEAsia J art boat

Tonle Sap  boat -”The strength of these boat people, combined with their agility to maneuver every kind of boat, was the inspiration for this painting.”

SEAsia J Art river house

Bangkok khlong – “This painting, primarily painted with a water soluble ink and an accent of watercolor, was inspired by the TV satellite dish in contrast to the old wooden structure.”

SEAsia J art Ta Prohm tree

The famous tree at Ta Prohm Wat – “This tree, spreading its massive roots  and its towering trunk, inspired this painting, as it crept over the old temple ruins.”

SEAsia J art coolie

Coolie in the street – “The transport of objects in this on-the-shoulder method seen everywhere in Hanoi, was the key to this painting.”

 

SEAsia J art image

 

Monk going to pray in Angkor Wat – “The contrast of the red-orange monk’s robes against the gray of the temple ruins prompted this painting.”

SEAsia J art paddler

River people – “The conical hats are everywhere in Southeast Asia, on both land and sea.”

And that’s a taste of what keeps Jerry creative when we travel. My multi-talented husband!

- Paula Rath

December 17th, 2015 / posted by paularath
A fishing village on Ton Le Sap Lake. Photos by Jerry Mayfiled

A fishing community on Tonle Sap Lake. 

Life on the water is fascinating in Vietnam, Cambodia and Tahiland. Whether it’s a lake, river or ocean, the fishing people find a way to get the most out of what they have.

There are 127 fishing communities on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake and about one million people live on or around the lake. Our guide Kheang told us that few of them have ever been to a city. They do, however, have TV on their boats and “the new generation doesn’t want to live there any longer because they have seen the bigger world (on TV),” he said.

A family tosses the fish in the nets to sort them.

A family tosses the fish in the nets and baskets to sort them.

This little 10-year-old boy (below) could be the next Cambodian billionaire. He has it wired. He is the assistant to the boatman and helps bring the boat in and out. But when he’s not busy with that, he massages the passengers on the boat. He asks for $1US which is a lot of money in Cambodia, but he’s usually given $3-5. Not bad for a few hours’ work.

Siem Reap boy massaging

Life on the Bangkok khlongs varies greatly, from wealth to poverty:

Bangkok klong house messy

Bangkok klong house by J

A croc spotted on the Bangkok Khlong San

A croc spotted on the Bangkok Khlong San  Photo by Jerry Mayfield

 

The Bangkok klongs are teeming with life, as well as with fish.

Bangkok fish

Bangkok fish

Jerry just loved our room at the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. The floor-to-ceiling panoramic views let him see how busy the waterway is and how many different kinds of boats traverse it each day.

Room with a view. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Room with a view. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

We were amazed at how young some of the boatmen on the khlong were! Guess they don’t need permits or licences.

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The rich and the poor live side by side on the Bangkok khlong. It’s a pretty stark dose of reality.

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Bangkok at night

 

Bangkok at night can be mesmerizing, especially when you can’t see the dreaded smog.

Next up: Jerry’s wonderful watercolors of our trip.

- Paula Rath

December 8th, 2015 / posted by paularath
Angkor sunset 2

Photos by Jerry Mayfield

Angkor Wat was the most anticipated part of our trip. It had been on my bucket list for decades.

We had an ideal introduction to Angkor Wat when an Australian archaeologist, David Brotherson of the University of Sydney, lectured us on the Greater Angkor Project, which seeks an understanding of the city as a whole and not just the temples. His PhD thesis involves mapping the city from 802-1431 AD, known as the Angkorian Period.

 

Angkor Thom temple

Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor Thom

I had not realized that at one time the Khmer Empire included all of Southeast Asia.

Angkor’s 100 or so temples make up the skeleton of a spectacular administrative and religious center which had houses, palaces and public buildings constructed of wood. They have long since decayed.

Perhaps the most photographed section, as it was made famous in a Lara Croft movie.

The Ta Prohm tree, perhaps the most photographed feature of Angkor Wat, as it was made famous when it became a set in a Lara Croft movie.

The right to dwell in brick or stone structures was reserved for the gods. The Khmer king identified with Shiva, Brotherson explained, which led to stability.

The temple is at the center of the complex. The reservoir was built in the 10th century and the second temple in the 12th century. They believe Angkor Wat started to decline in the 15th century.

See that little hat out in the water? That's a fisherman who had just walked into the water with his nets to catch his family's dinner.

See that little hat out in the water? That’s a fisherman who had just walked into the water with his nets to catch his family’s dinner.

It’s horrible to think what happened to these temples in the 1970′s and the 1990′s. During these times of civil war, Angkor Wat became a battlefield and looting was rampant.

Our guide, Kheang (who was fantastic) was conscripted at the age of 13. He remembers sleeping with his AK47 inside the temple at night. He saw a Buddha’s head being taken away one night.

Our guide, Ly Sok Kheang

Our guide, Ly Sok Kheang

Artifacts are still being discovered all over the world. Some of them are being returned to Cambodia but many are lost forever.

The Citadel of Women

The Citadel of Women

Because we were a small group and had an experienced guide, we were able to visit some of the lesser known and seldom visited areas: Banteay Srei, also known as the “Citadel of Women,” and Banteay Samre.

 

Monks come to pray in the temples.

Monks still come to pray in the temples.

Angkor Wat reflection

We had a brief but thunderous rain that left puddles for the temple to reflect upon.

We had a lovely sunset experience in a gondola-like boat with wine and canapes served. We were really lucky that our boatman happened to be a sometime singer and he serenaded all of us as he paddled us around the moat at sunset.

Angkor sunset boat

 

Angkor singing boatman

It's a magical view as the sun splashes the temples with color.

It’s a spectacular view as the sun splashes the moat with color.

 

Angkor Wat is a place of magic and spirituality that will long stay with me.

- Paula Rath

Angkor Thom carvings

Angkor Thom doorways

Angkor carving women

December 4th, 2015 / posted by paularath
A typical Saigon intersection. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

A typical Saigon intersection.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Nothing looked familiar to me in Saigon. Nothing whatsoever. In fact, it felt so different that it was easy for the to transition to calling it by its currenr name, Ho Chi Minh City.

The traffic is the first thing that hits you. It’s a city of 7.5 million people and five million motor scooters – more than Hanoi. Our guide said “Traffic lights are just decoration.”

Few vendors have cars  or trucks so they just have to make do. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Few vendors have cars or trucks so they just have to make do.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Saigon places reminders of the war squarely in the faces of visitors. Propaganda is pervasive and, at times, infuriating.

Quan Am Pagoda in Cholon

Quan Am Pagoda in Cholon

These conical incense holders are something I had never seen before.

These conical incense holders in the Pagoda are something I had never seen before.

There is a bridge in Saigon named after a popular Viet Cong terrorist. And a street named after a guy who tried to assassinate McNamara. And then there’s the War Remnants Museum, filled with pretty vile anti-American photos, posters and a host of other vicious propaganda. Also damaged U.S. tanks and planes.

But I must remember that Vietnam suffered 100 years of occupation by China, followed by another 100 years of occupation by France, and then 20 years of war.

After 1975, the South Vietnamese were treated really, really badly. For example, our guide told us, there was a park in Saigon where many South Vietnamese high government officials were buried. In 1975 the government told the families to dig up the bodies and move them out to another cemetery. The people were too afraid to claim the bodies because they believed it was a ruse to capture the families of sympathizers. There has never been a cemetery for the South Vietnamese army or government officials.

A guide demonstrates how to enter a tunnel. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

A guide demonstrates how to enter a tunnel.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

By far the most interesting part of our journey in Ho Chi Minh City was a visit to the countryside and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Of course I had heard a great deal about the Cu Chi tunnels from our CBS News correspondents and my brother. They were a brilliant form of warfare on the part of the VC. Virtually impossible to detect.

A model of the Cu Chi Tunnel network.

A model of a section of the Cu Chi Tunnel network.

There are about 150 miles of tunnels on three levels: 1-10 feet deep; 20 feet deep and 30 feet deep under the ground. The tunnels housed storage rooms, hospitals and sleeping quarters that accommodated rebel fighters for up to two weeks at a time. Even heavy bombing could not halt the movement of the VC through these tunnels.

I didn’t have it in me to climb down into a tunnel and crawl through, but Jerry did, and he emerged victorious:

Jerry emerges triumphant from a tunnel in Cu Chi.

Jerry emerges triumphant from a tunnel in the Cu Chi network.

Our guide, Hung, described some of the weaponry used against the American soldiers.

Our guide, Hung, described some of the weaponry used against the American soldiers.

One of the traps used to ensnare the unknowing.

One of the traps used to ensnare the unknowing.

Another VC devise.

Another VC devise.

It’s hard to be reminded of Robbie as a point man, having to watch out for devices like these as he led his fellow soldiers into the unknown jungle.

Saigon Jerry shooting

I guess I was a pretty poor sport during this visit to Cu Chi. I didn’t even want to shoot a gun. But Jerry did!

Before Jerry went to medical school, he was an artillery officer in the Army. While we are both extremely anti-gun, he got a kick out of firing on the Cu Chi target range.

Saigon Cu chi weapons P

A few of the scary weapons our soldiers faced daily in the jungles of South Vietnam.

I had hoped to recognize something familiar in Ho Chi Minh City but there was nothing of the old Saigon left. Even the Caravelle Hotel, where the CBS News Bureau was based, has been rendered unrecognizable  as the city grew up around it.

Saigon in 1971 was chaotic, clouded with crime, riddled with prostitution and free-flowing drugs; to me it felt scary,uncertain,tenuous,transient.

Ho Chi Minh City in 2015 felt chaotic in a very contemporary way: too much traffic, too many people, too much fast food and just too fast paced.

Oh well. At least it brought me to a closer understanding of what Robbie went through, as well as an even greater respect for him and what he achieved in Vietnam. He was recognized for his heroism and his son Rob now has the medals to prove it.

And I have a far better understanding of the entire war and what made this war such a difficult (or impossible?) war for us to fight.

- Paula Rath

December 3rd, 2015 / posted by paularath
Protecting his banana from invading monkeys.

Protecting his banana from invading monkeys.

One might surmise that the most exciting thing about Danang was the monkeys who visited us pretty frequently on the lanai of our enormous and beautifully appointed suite at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort.

Well that’s actually true. Danang is sort of like the Las Vegas of Vietnam – lots of neon, bright lights, glitz and glamour.Beach houses in Danang sell for upwards of $1 million. It’s not a place I would ordinarily choose to go, but I really wanted to see China Beach and the breaks where my late brother Robbie used to surf when he was on R&R as an Army point man/radio operator with the 9th Infantry Division.

We love swimming in the rain! Photo by Jerry Mayfield

We love swimming in the rain!                                                                    Photo by Jerry Mayfield

We didn’t actually go to China Beach, but we did get close. It rained much of the time we were in Danang, but that didn’t keep Jerry and me from swimming in the hotel’s spectacular infinity pool.

I kinda wondered why AK included Danang in our group’s itinerary, but I think it was to show off this hotel.

The hotel was built by some Vietnamese entrepreneurs who had done very well for themselves in Russia. They spared no expense in creating a destination resort with all sorts of amenities and beautiful suites. The hotel has three tiers, called Heaven, Sky and Earth. We stayed in Sky. Here is a view from  our lanai.

A little blessing of rain.

A little blessing of rain.

Danang Hotel bedroom

In order to get from one level to the next, there is a really cute little tropical trolley:

Our favorite way of getting around was this trolley. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Our favorite way of getting around was this trolley.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The other transportation option was little golf cart-like vehicles referred to as Bookies that you called to come pick you up. Walking was a challenge because of the rain, the distances and the incredible number of stairs.

Our room was really beautiful and comfortable and the bathroom was a place you could simply sink into, literally and figuratively. When you open the blinds, you get a view of the ocean from the bath tub!

 

I loved this enormous tub! Photo by Jerry Mayfield

I loved this enormous tub!
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Danang hotel bathroom

But, seriously, it was the monkeys we will remember when we think of Danang.

Jerry had his first encounter with one of the male monkeys while I was out touring. He was painting on the lanai and a monkey came up behind him, and was quite hungry and upset. Jerry had to fend him off with a stool!

Jerry watched some maids fending off a monkey on another lanai and saw that they gave the monkey a banana. They told him it was okay to feed the monkeys some fruit. So when the monkeys returned to our lanai and started banging on the sliding glass doors, I grabbed a banana and threw it out to them. When the bananas were gone, I threw a mango and a female monkey proudly possessed it, with the males looking at her with envy in their eyes.

The resort was pretty much carved out of the jungle and the monkeys came right along with the development. The mountain has always been called Monkey Mountain, after all.

A happy monkey.

Finger licking good! A nice change from his pounding on our door!

 

The original monkey that tried to attack Jerry.  Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The original monkey that tried to attack Jerry.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

As we drove away from Danang, we saw a suspension bridge that was built in 1966 to take weapons to China Beach.

We stopped at a traditional fishing village and got to see a whole fleet of fishing boats, as well as some of the traditional round basket boats that are still used for fishing. Pulling in the nets reminded me a little of helping my father bring in his nets on the North Shore.

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Danang fishin village P

These round basket boats are still used to catch fish. Up to three people can fish in them. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

These round basket boats are still used to catch fish. Up to three people can fish in them.
Photo by Jerry Mayfield

The old American heliport and hangers are still at China Beach, but are now used for drivers education, we were told. Really? The people we see on the roads actually had drivers’ ed? Our guide told us that 30 people die every day in Vietnam in auto or motor scooter accidents. Sad, but not surprising.

More coming tomorrow regarding Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), which I had not seen since 1971 – and I didn’t recognize a single thing.

- Paula Rath