HIROSHIMA

An evocative name in 20th century history.

The first atomic bomb obliterated this city. August 1945 changed the world, and wiped out thousands upon thousands of people in a few seconds. The blast, the enormous heat and destructive shock waves was a turning point in man’s history on this planet.

The Peace Park provides a sombre reminder, the museum details the orgy of destruction, while everything is hoping for a future without nuclear weapons.

An admirable  wish, shared by millions the world over, but seeming more unlikely by the day as more nations acquire the technology, and men with no thought for history – when will they ever learn – poise their fingers over nuclear buttons.

Buttons that can summon weapons hundreds of times more powerful that the two that finally halted the carnage of the Pacific war.

This blue white sign, in origami cranes, means “peace”

 

 

Sombre. That’s  the feeling Hiroshima left with me.

Yet the cherry blossoms still burst forth every spring for their 7 to 10 day life, while young families putter along their river in curious circular outboard powered boats. The word “boat” doesn’t seem to fit these strange craft.

By the way, pronunciation is optional. The Japanese alternatively use it with the accent on the “o” or on the “i”.

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Moji, Japan – Cherry Blossoms AND a Toilet Museum!

A calm run from Busan and we enter the country’s inland sea.

Our first stop is Moji, once an important international trading port – Korea, China and the outside world. Historic buildings line the waterfront, but our interest is the cherry blossoms, now peaking into full flower. This is why we came to Japan. We know we will see more in the coming days, but these specimens are fabulous.

 

We’re here to see stuff, so we make a beeline for Kokura Castle, originating from the 1600’s. And its renowned gardens.

Nobody does gardens like the Japanese, and when spring is sprung and the ‘chelly brossoms’ burst into flower it’s 100% visual beauty overload.29893810_754637038067935_1167899125_o

 

 

Then, the last thing you’d  expect to do, we go to the Toto toilet museum! As we all know, Japan creates the most ingenious toilets, things of wonder and not a little trepidation as you wonder what’s  going on down there. So we see a hundred years or so of toilets… riveting stuff, no?

I’ll  share with you my favourite, a must have for the Harley aficionados.

toilet on motorbike 2

Just like life, time runs too quickly and we are warmly sent on our way with a rousing number by the school band and a balloon release.

 

So,  farewell to Moji, its cherry blossoms and dunny museum.


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The Women Divers of Busan, South Korea

This is the home (we find this claim is made by a few different places) of the women divers who used to collect pearls, now abalone, octopus, sea urchins etc.

Thinking they are a thing of the past, as we learn that most are now in their seventies and older (what sweet young thing these days wants to take on such an arduous career) we are excited to see from the elevated walkway half a dozen of them, wetsuit-clad, towing floats and net bags, collecting abalone and octopus.

 

Beaches and hot-springs resorts may not be your first image of South Korea, but locals flock to Busan for just those things.

We visit Gamcheon… they call it Santorini of the east… tiny houses, close together, steep slopes, narrow streets.

We see some girls in traditional dress.

Carved parrots on rooftops, electric and other vehicles expertly driven in cramped and steep streets. Packed with people. How bigger vehicles manage it I don’t know.

Then to Songdo Beach, deserted in this cold air, but see pics of it with more people than grains of sand.

Gujke Markets cover several city blocks. Crowded, full of colour and sound, where you could buy anything. We resist it all, especially food vendors’ stalls. Doubtless tasty gear, but hard to get excited enough to sample it.

We leave Busan, and venture out once more into the Sea of Japan for the night cruise back to that country.

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M2MvM – Burma even more beautiful! Inle Lake

20160314_075737_HDRA short flight from Bagan puts us into Heho and we transfer to the fabulous Aureum Palace Hotel. This is a stand-out accommodation resort on the shore of Lake Inle. In the restaurant one young waiter learned that my name is John, and he became so excited, calling me “Johnny” because he was Johnny, too. He epitomized the friendliness of the people of Burma. The Aureum Palace would be my favourite Burma resort; if you go to Myanmar, you must stay there.

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We spend a couple of days on the huge lake (116 km2) in high speed long-tails, visiting villages around the shore, marvelling at the floating gardens. These gardens are staked to the lake bottom, replenished continually by boat loads of vegetable matter hauled on those small boats then stacked on top of the garden beds when the previous crop is harvested. Inle provides the bulk of Burma’s tomatoes and many vegetable crops. Reminiscent of the floating island dwellers on Lake Titicaca.

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Some 70,000 people live in these water villages. One small group still follow the ancient practice of rings (actually a long spiral) around the neck and legs of the women. We’re told that it’s not a beauty thing. It’s actually intended to make the women seem ugly to invading marauders. The practice h20160314_103943_HDRas nearly died out. Fascinating.

The fishermen on their long-tail canoes use “leg paddling” to manoeuvre their canoes. The long paddle is held against the body, one leg wrapped around it propels the boat, leaving both arms free to handle their conical fish traps and other gear. Against the setting sun, they look like so many ballet dancers performing an elegant and ancient ritual. I hope this fishing system never dies out.

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The lake is surprisingly shallow. Much of it is about 2m deep in the dry season, and crystal clear. Dense growth on the lake floor, in places reaching to the surface, provides a home for a large fish population, predominantly a species of carp. Boats zip around on it all day dragging rooster tails, people travelling, harvesting lake weed, fishing – a multitude of pursuits all based on this massive water resource.

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Villages around the lake provide homes for craftsmen of all types. We watch silk weaving on handlooms, visit the ringed neck women, have lunch in a restaurant on stilts, see beaten silver ornaments. Surprise, surprise, we acquire a couple of paintings. They’re now on our kitchen wall, a constant reminder of a wonderful month in our lives.

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At the end of another wonderful day we return to our rooms – yes, plural; our unit is probably as large as our own house – hoping that somehow we could stay here for a much longer. But as the man said, tempus fugit, and so must we, tomorrow, to Yangon our departure city.

Book, you say? What book? It’ll have to wait.

John Bell Books

AMAZON – John Bell Books

PAYBACK – by John Bell – Book 1 | Williams Series

PAYBACK-COVER

“He leaned on an old bamboo cane, its carved handle smoothed by the years.  A sharp eye might pick out the Sepik River motif, but only a wantok could explain.  Eyes wet, the old man looked up to where the crows hunched … the movie suddenly stopped, then began to roll forwards … Ben Williams was once again seven years old.”

Paradise is shattered the night Lu, niece of a respected and proud Chinese merchant family, was brutally raped.  Such an act cannot go unpunished.  Payback is required, is expected.

And so begins the feud …

Ben Williams – The serious eldest child of Harry and Victoria Williams, leader of the pack, as wild as his adopted country.  From an early age Ben proved a quick study, displaying a raw toughness beyond his years.  While still wet behind the ears, he mastered knife, gun and explosives, not for sport but survival.  His strong business sense expanded the family’s interests beyond copra, into gold, crocodiles, timber and shipping.

Jack Williams – Ruggedly handsome, untamed and competitive.  His vivid blue eyes miss nothing over the bow of his schooner, Garamut. As formidable as his brother Ben in the art of weaponry, the glorious Jane Bifold presented his greatest challenge.  Spiriting her away at high tide against the furious protestations of her father, Jack and Jane find themselves caught up in a war that this tiny nation is ill prepared for.

Josh (Joseph) Williams – Highly competitive, his blue eyes would flash in challenge at his older siblings as he strived constantly to be the best.  Josh quickly discovered that quality crocodile skins were a much sought after commodity, and one he could produce well. He wasn’t prepared for Khanitha, the poised and elegant daughter of the merchant Wong Yuk Chong.  Were his skills enough to win the love of this most magnificent creature as well as the respect of her formidable family.

George Williams – The youngest of the William’s clan.   Born after the tragic death of sister Ethel, he grew up to be a solemn and quiet young man often shadowed by the imposing Ben, passionate Jack and impetuous Josh.  It was the freckle faced young Margaret who would be the one to crack the shell and bring him to life.  A life sadly cut short when captured somewhere in New Ireland, then lost at sea with over 1000 others with the sinking of the Japanese p.o.w. ship Montivideo Maru.

Gustav Hart – With a German father and Tabar Island mother he found himself despised by the Germans and disowned by the Islanders … he grew bitter as he aged.  This bitterness flowed on to his five sons to three mixed-race women.

Karl Frederiksen – A product of Gustav’s brutal parenting, his upbringing created a thug. Blond, cunning and clever.  He is forced to flee Lavongai in the darkest hour of the night following the discovery of his involvement in the rape of the Chinese girl.  Payback is heading his way.  He does not want this exile – for those who forced it upon him their time for payback would come.

Praise for John Bell

“Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.  A real page turner. Congratulations.” KL, NSW

“Payback is a great read, I couldn’t put it down.  A heartbreaking story especially knowing it is based on a true story.” LB, TVL

I have just finished my reading of Payback last night. This was a book equal of any that I have read … it was a novel that was hard to put down, and for some the epic would be seen as being profound in the history of Australia.” GB, QLD

“Outlandish, but has a ring of truth.  Payback is a true story disguised as a novel.  Based very closely on Bell’s family history, it is set in New Guinea … The temptation for the reader in this book is to try and work out what is true and what is fiction, but this is a fruitless exercise … Bell has produced a great read – tragic, funny, engaging and throwing a new light on our nearest neighbour, PNG.  In a word: ENGROSSING.”  Excerpt of review, Townsville Bulletin’s Weekend Extra

Purchase by following the links below:

AMAZON – John Bell Books

John Bell Books

PAYBACK – written by JOHN BELL – first released 2008

PAYBACK-COVER

“He leaned on an old bamboo cane, its carved handle smoothed by the years.  A sharp eye might pick out the Sepik River motif, but only a wantok could explain.  Eyes wet, the old man looked up to where the crows hunched … the movie suddenly stopped, then began to roll forwards … Ben Williams was once again seven years old.”

Paradise is shattered the night Lu, niece of a respected and proud Chinese merchant family, was brutally raped.  Such an act cannot go unpunished.  Payback is required, is expected.

And so begins the feud …

Ben Williams – The serious eldest child of Harry and Victoria Williams, leader of the pack, as wild as his adopted country.  From an early age Ben proved a quick study, displaying a raw toughness beyond his years.  While still wet behind the ears, he mastered knife, gun and explosives, not for sport but survival.  His strong business sense expanded the family’s interests beyond copra, into gold, crocodiles, timber and shipping.

Jack Williams – Ruggedly handsome, untamed and competitive.  His vivid blue eyes miss nothing over the bow of his schooner, Garamut. As formidable as his brother Ben in the art of weaponry, the glorious Jane Bifold presented his greatest challenge.  Spiriting her away at high tide against the furious protestations of her father, Jack and Jane find themselves caught up in a war that this tiny nation is ill prepared for.

Josh (Joseph) Williams – Highly competitive, his blue eyes would flash in challenge at his older siblings as he strived constantly to be the best.  Josh quickly discovered that quality crocodile skins were a a much sought after commodity, and one he could produce well. He wasn’t prepared for Khanitha, the poised and elegant daughter of the merchant Wong Yuk Chong.  Were his skills enough to win the love of this most magnificent creature as well as the respect of her formidable family.

George Williams – The youngest of the William’s clan.   Born after the tragic death of sister Ethel, he grew up to be a solemn and quiet young man often shadowed by the imposing Ben, passionate Jack and impetuous Josh.  It was the freckle faced young Margaret who would be the one to crack the shell and bring him to life.  A life sadly cut short when captured somewhere in New Ireland, then lost at sea with over 1000 others with the sinking of the Japanese p.o.w. ship Montivideo Maru.

Gustav Hart – With a German father and Tabar Island mother he found himself despised by the Germans and disowned by the Islanders … he grew bitter as he aged.  This bitterness flowed on to his five sons to three mixed-race women.

Karl Frederiksen – A product of Gustav’s brutal parenting, his upbringing created a thug. Blond, cunning and clever.  He is forced to flee Lavongai in the darkest hour of the night following the discovery of his involvement in the rape of the Chinese girl.  Payback is heading his way.  He does not want this exile – for those who forced it upon him their time for payback would come.

Praise for John Bell

“Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.  A real page turner. Congratulations.” KL, NSW

“Payback is a great read, I couldn’t put it down.  A heartbreaking story especially knowing it is based on a true story.” LB, TVL

I have just finished my reading of Payback last night. This was a book equal of any that I have read … it was a novel that was hard to put down, and for some the epic would be seen as being profound in the history of Australia.” BG, QLD

“Outlandish, but has a ring of truth.  Payback is a true story disguised as a novel.  Based very closely on Bell’s family history, it is set in New Guinea … The temptation for the reader in this book is to try and work out what is true and what is fiction, but this is a fruitless exercise … Bell has produced a great read – tragic, funny, engaging and throwing a new light on our nearest neighbour, PNG.  In a word: ENGROSSING.”  Excerpt of review, Townsville Bulletin’s Weekend Extra

PAYBACK, the first novel in the William’s Family series, will soon be available for purchase on Amazon.com.  Also coming soon to Amazon are its sequels – PURI PURI & MELTED WAX!