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 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

As the Ganges dominates north-eastern India so the Mekong River dominates this region. From the Tibetan Plateau it flows through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos and Thailand meandering more slowly as it crosses Cambodia and on into Vietnam.  Its plain is flat and fertile and numerous societies, cultures and religions have left their marks here. 

 

Not so long ago, in geological terms, Indochina was a lot bigger.  When humans first arrived it was possible to walk all the way to Java. The Gulf of Thailand across to Borneo and Java was a low-lying plain probably intersected by substantial rivers. 

Stone Age and early Bronze Age humans lost this territory and overland routes to inundation due to sea level rise and tectonic activity (making Australia even more isolated around ten thousand years ago);  this rise continues slowly today, ever-changing the shorelines.

image002
From Wikipedia:  Early Human Migration & Sea Level change 

With the advent of metals technology and organised agriculture, civilisation began to develop across these lands spawning trade routes, great empires, great tyrants and maybe a few benign rulers.  In turn, these cultures were a great breeding ground for religion; to give meaning and succour to the disadvantaged; to justify power and the rule of law; to give the powerful hope that their power would never end; and maybe, to encourage the well off to help those less so.   As one empire fell so another took its place; from dust unto dust; ‘for all is vanity’; to borrow from another religion.


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Travel

India

October 2009

 

 

 

 

In summary

 

India was amazing. It was just as I had been told, read, seen on TV and so on but quite different to what I expected; a physical experience (noise, reactions of and interactions with people, smells and other sensations) rather than an intellectual appreciation.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

A Secret Agent

 If you have an e-book reader, a version of this story is available for download, below.

 

Chapter 1

 

 - news flash -

Body in River

Monday

 

The body of a man was found floating in the Iguazú river this morning by a tourist boat. Mary (name withheld) said it was terrible. "We were just approaching the falls when the body appeared bobbing in the foam directly in front of us. We almost ran over it. The driver swerved and circled back and the crew pulled him in. The poor man must have fallen - or perhaps he jumped?"

The body was discovered near the Brazilian side but was taken back to Argentina. Police are investigating and have not yet released details of the man's identity...

 

Iguazú Herald

 

Everywhere we look there's falling water. Down the track to the right is a lookout. Over the other side of the gorge is Brazil, where the cliff faces are covered by maybe a kilometre of falling curtains of white, windswept water. Here and there the curtains hang in gaps or are pushed aside by clumps of trees and bushes, like stagehands peeking out into a theatre before the performance.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

A new political dawn

 

 

The State election on 26th March saw a crushing political defeat for the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. Both sides of politics are still coming to terms with the magnitude of this change.  On the Labor side internal recriminations seem to have spread beyond NSW.  The Coalition now seem to have an assured eight and probably twelve years, or more, to carry out their agenda.

On April 3, following the advice of the Executive Council, the Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, gave effect to an Order to restructure the NSW Public Service. Read more...

It remains to be seen how the restructured agencies will go about the business of rebuilding the State.

 

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