Eight Hour Day Monument, Melbourne Australia

This monument, commemorates the institution of the eight-hour work day movement, which began in Australia in 1856 following organized protests by Melbourne’s stonemasons, i.e, HIGHLY skilled and necessary workers who worked for the local government. The 888 concept went on to become one of the central tenants of the Union movement, dictating a human need for 8 hours of sleep, and 8 hours of living (being with family, relaxing, etc), and not just a life of solely work and sleep. Although there were two such movements in Australia, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne, according to this website, Australians credit the Melbourne one for improving workers rights in Australia at large because while the stonemasons in Sydney had achieved the same a year earlier, their brothers in Melbourne managed to do it with no loss of pay (i.e., same total wages, while working fewer hours). As such, it’s Melbourne that therefore gets the credit. The entire state of Victoria (where Melbourne is located) went on to pass the Eight Hours Act in 1916, 60 years later

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The top of the monument shows 888

[When considering the success of the Melbourne movement in 1856, it’s important to keep in mind some key points: 1) the Melbourne area was first purchase, invaded, or incorporated as a settlement — depending on your point of view, by settlers from the penal colony in what is now Hobart in Tasmania, in 1835 — always with the intent of making it a city; 2) the milestone which was achieved (traditionally only given to towns with Cathedrals) in in 1947, upon completion of the Old St. James (Anglican), by declaration of Queen Victoria; and 3) it became the capitol of the newly formed State of Victoria in 1951  — as it’s population doubled in year, and then grew exponentially as a result of one of the world’s biggest gold rushes, as gold was found in nearby places like Ballarat (where the Sovereign Hill park is located). The combination of factors meant that the government NEEDED these guys, whose skill sets were in short supply, happy and working. To quote Wikipedia:

“The 1850s and 1860s saw the commencement of Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the Old Melbourne GaolVictoria Barracks, the State LibraryUniversity of MelbourneGeneral Post OfficeCustoms House, the Melbourne Town HallSt Patrick’s cathedral, though many remained uncompleted for decades, with some still not finished as of 2018.”]

However, the 8 hour work day, 40 hours a week or short-time movement, while it did achieve some of its earliest success in Melbourne was NOT, in origin, an Australian idea; although, based on the little amount of testing I have done I think more than a few of my Aussie friends would be surprised to know that. The slogan: “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest” was actually coined by Robert Owen, one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement, in 1817. It was these sorts of movements… that were popular in that period, that resulted in social experiments — mostly failed, like Lagrange Phalanx experiment in Indiana. A shorter working day was also part of what the Chartist movement reformers (1838 to 1857) in the UK were fighting for

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That said, it was not Australia, but rather Uruguay who in 2015 first instituted a national 8 hour workday, with Australia following five years later in 1920, but with a 6 day workweek; Australia didn’t achieve the 40-hour, 5 day work week until 1948.

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The town of Siem Reap and the Angkor temples, Cambodia, 2012

Back in late April of 2012 I did a very brief bucket list trip to experience first hand some of the temples of the (once hidden within the jungle) capital city of Angkor (or Yaśodharapura}, from the time of the Khmer/Angkor Empire (802-1431 AD) near the modern city, popular tourist destination of Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived the evening of April 23 and left on the night of the 26th… so essentially only three days. I’m posting about it now– using the notes I wrote on my Facebook account at the time to remind myself … because, to be honest…  I seriously doubt I’ll ever be able to do this trip a 2nd time.

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I went there with my Canadian work colleague — the one whose home, in Mill Bay Vancouver Island, I visited in June 2016. We shared an office in the Business school’s Marketing department for the entire time I taught at Kyung Hee University in Seoul South Korea… and took this trip together over the course of an extended weekend — I’m vague on it at the moment, but I think it may have been the period given to students to prepare for their midterm exams.

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Our one obligatory tourist shot… our tour guide insisted… what you don’t see is the long line of other tourists waiting to do exactly the same shot

Normally, this blog site will only cover trips from 2015 and later… or will reference back to previous trips because of more recent ones I’d just done (like the Halloween at Three Disney Parks post, or the one regarding Stubby Henge in Rolla, Missouri, where I compared it to the henge it mirrors back in England, visited in 2014)… But this was sort of a special case and the need to post about it has been plaguing me for a while now.

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Priests in their orange, and a balloon ride off in the distance

IF I were to go again, it would only be if I could stay there for like three weeks or longer, which is not something I would be willing to do as a woman traveling alone. So it would mean having to find a friend willing to go with me, and to spend that long leisurely exploring the sites together. This could of course happen, I’m just not sanguine about it…. so I’ve decided I sort of HAVE to document that trip (from SIX years ago) as best as I can remember it at this point… just for the heck of it.

So, let’s get started.

First off… Siem Reap’s Airport, was TINY!! The image below was NOT from the parking lot, as you might imagine, but was rather taken from the edge of the tarmac!

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(Don’t worry, the plum-colored shirt I’m wearing has the consistency of mosquito netting… utterly transparent up close, but helps keep the little malaria carriers at bay.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2351.jpgThe building was only one story tall, so it’s of the type of airport where they bring stairs to the plane, which is about as tall as the building itself…  and then you have to walk over to the building…

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The building as seen from the tarmac

As you can probably tell, we were able to get a direct non-stop flight from Korea to Siem-Reap airport. [One of the things we discovered while there is that Korean pretty much dominate a segment of the tourism trade there, and are disliked by the Cambodians because their businesses are insular — creating very little profit for the locals]. Passport control for all incoming flights is one tiny room…. and then you’re out.

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Inside was easily the cutest nicest passport processing area I’d ever seen, replete with what I, in-retrospect, learned to recognize as re-creations of the Angkor Wat statues that decorate most of the hotels and such around town (at the time I was a bit worried they might be originals, but they looked too shiny and clean). These are usually made by handicapped artists — often folks who survived stepping on land mines — from a training place located near our hotel (see images of that later).

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The whole building was very new, and very spotless. The Cambodian government has clearly been convinced of the benefits of tourism to its economy, and has invested likewise — probably with some help from UNESCO grants (but I was guessing).

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This was the North Gate bridge entrance to the Angor Thom temple complex (I know this only by searching Google maps for photos, and this location was distinct), which was the first place of many that we visited on the first day, with my friend/office mate and our tour guide for the day – who I am still Facebook friends with almost six years later (I’m putting up his link so if you go there and want a good guide… hire him). He had been an English lit major in university (and as such spoke English impressively well) but had to leave because his wife started to have health issues and he needed to earn money

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_22f4.jpgand our Tuk-tuk driver, who had been assigned to us for a whole trip… He picked us up at the airport and was supposed to have dropped us off at the end, but didn’t show up. I’m pretty sure we kind of stunned him cause we treated him like our friend instead of our hired help — only I ultimately think he didn’t trust it was real. We insisted he eat with us at almost every meal (he refused the first time, but then gave in), and treated him when he argued that it was out of his price range;

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we introduced him to his first cheese burger and fries [which he enjoyed a lot, although he was wondering where the vegetables were — a slice of tomato and a leaf of lettuce weren’t doing it for him]. During those meals, he shared with us that he had been a street kid after his parents died under the Khmer Rouge (ruled Cambodia 1975 – 1979), [for those unfamiliar with the regime, I suggest you read up about the Killing fields, or see the movie of the same name] but had been pulling himself up by his own bootstraps ever since. His English was very good, all things considered … I no longer remember his name because he never stayed in touch with us….. even though he said he would. AND, I might add, my friend was all ready to send him a box of textbooks on topics he said he’d wanted to study, because he couldn’t really afford to go to school but still wanted to able to study … For those who don’t know… the tuk-tuk, a sort of mechanized update on the rickshaw, is the omnipresent form of taxi in Cambodia — only they’re SO CHEAP that you can afford to rent them by the day, like your personal chauffeur …. MUCH more pleasant

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The carvings on the bridge are from Hindu mythology, and represent a serpent that is being used in a sort of epic tug of war,  to churn the sea of milk. According to our guide, the process resulted in the birth of many Hindu gods and the dancing nymphs. We saw this sort of image often throughout the temples …. as to the missing heads, sadly, he told us that during the civil war folks would knock off the best ones and sell them on the black market to private collectors.

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Something you see all over while traveling around these temples is workmen reconstructing them. On one hand, this is great for tourism… but as an anthropologist, I felt like I was continuously seeing an archeologist’s nightmare in progress. What they’re doing is taking the toppled blocks up from the ground, figuring out where they go and putting them back… so … on one hand, good… on the other… worrisome

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B+Zqcz2LSJKnZ4xQZ%qw0g_thumb_3a6b.jpgAnother thing you see is these temples aren’t just tourist destinations, they are still used by the locals for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it gets pretty depressing, a few times we saw mothers who had seriously sick kids and were praying for them… Often the sort of illnesses you just don’t see in affluent societies. One particularly unforgettable example was a baby who seemed to have water on the brain so that the head was the size of a large watermelon on the torso of a baby who looked to be less than a year old.

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The old nymphs, and the modern ones

The cleaning staff is everywhere, constantly cleaning… Again, on one hand an archaeological nightmare, but it made me think of how this must have also been true way back when these temples were in their heyday.

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We were worried about this little guy, but it turned out that his mom (one of the cleaning staff) and his FIVE brothers and sisters all weren’t far away… again you saw this a lot, mom’s who were on the cleaning staff brought all their kids with them… often kids who should have been in school. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2354.jpg

At this point I have to make an admission… I think at some point before this trip I had ‘neuroticly’ turned off GPS tracking on my phone, and as such, I’m not actually sure WHICH temples the following photos are from… they’re in order… I just can’t specify the specific locations. and there are a lot of little temples along side the big ones that I’m pretty sure they took us to, and I’m only posting what I felt were the best pictures (there were a LOT of pictures)

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Our tour-guide, took us off the beaten path around the back of the temples, away from the masses of tourists so that he could share with us one of his favorite things about this place…. the chorus of birds doing jazz rifts in the forest. Also, the trees in these jungles (much of which have been cleared in order to better display the temples) have a beauty to them that’s a bit like modern art

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you can’t really see it from this angle but from the side (and looking at it sideways) this lump I’m touching looked like a head and two outstretched arms.

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An amazingly beautiful sight… the way the light was hitting the tree, etc..

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Note the images visible in the doorway

These wild chickens are EVERYWHERE… in case you ever doubted that the domesticated chicken began in Asia and moved west…all you need to do is look at these birds

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they’re definitely chickens, but look really skinny, tough and inedible…. and they run very fast. This totally makes sense, think about it… flightless birds that are as slow as our domesticated chickens really do need to be protected from predators in order to survive, while these guys move SO fast… and you have to look hard cause their chicks are almost perfectly camouflaged by the leaves

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I love the way the two human forms sort of mirror each other, the nymph, and the man
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Like ants, crawling up a hill…

When it came to the big temples like this one my friend, who is much hardier stock than me — the woman rode her bicycle to work every day while I took a taxi because just the walk up the hill (our University’s business school was at the top of a relatively steep hill) was too much for me.

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These orchestras were everywhere, and would switch out every few hours at the same choice locations. All are made up of horribly disfigured amputees, missing limbs, eyes, you name it.

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More toppled stones being replaced into the locations they believe they came from, like a giant 3D puzzle.

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The hoards, lining up for the obligatory picture on the pedestal… Everyone comes here wanting to take the same picture… in the same place, under the same tree… Also note all the blocks of stone that are on the ground… Those are both the walls and I assume some ceiling bits?

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I think this is my favorite picture of me from the whole trip

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The killer embrace

If you look you’ll see that in the background, behind my friend and the guide, are two trees, with one wrapping itself around the one below it…. and killing it.

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And when you walk through the doorway around to the other side of the wall you see this… the roots of the killer tree like the tendrils of an alien crushing the buildings….

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But again everyone wants their picture in front of it, because its also kind of beautiful. After this our guide took us to a different place, but the Tuk tuk driver needed to stop for fuel first… which turned out to be kind of a horrifying experience….

%HZz+qpVTvKnRznYDaGU5Q_thumb_c252.jpgthese are what roadside gas stations look like in Cambodia…. they’re everywhere, loaded up with empty water bottles or such… filled with what looks like lemonade .. but is actually fuel.

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As we drove we came across monkeys sitting by the side of the road, my friend and I kept squealing out.. “Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!!” Our driver had to be convinced to turn around and let us ogle them… Cambodians see them as annoying pests

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_39e3.jpgFor some reason, maybe it was because we’d just seen the monkeys, our guide decided that when we approached Angkor Wat the first time it should be from the back side of the temple, rather than front…

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The famous Angkor Wat Temple, from the back

And this is where we saw a representation of the monkey wars… I forget that actual story but after our glee at seeing monkey’s this was where our tour guide took us next

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If you look to the left you see the beginnings of carvings that were never completed

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Note!! The Buddhas in this hallway are all missing their heads… Again, they were broken off and sold during the civil war (according to our guide)

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Again, the monkey wars

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When they dug this temple out of the jungle, this building was dense with bats, and the ground deep with bat-shit, which is apparently very acidic. The acid mud when the rain hit it ate away the bottoms of these pillars

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_237a.jpgLocals poured into here to have a red thread tied around their wrists, and to be blessed by the old man. Our tour guide (who was wearing one) explained that it was sort of Cambodian belief that these red bracelets warded off evil spirits

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The detailed caving on this wall depict a massive battle from Hindu belief; the reason it is black and shiny is from so many hands having touched them over the years. As a result, now they try to discourage people from touching the walls because all the acid from their hand is eating away at the stone the same way that bat shit ate away at that pillar

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The famous Angkor Wat, from an angle

This guy had earlier in the day asked me if I would take a picture for him. Later we ran into him again, and he insisted on buying me a coconut as a thank you, an offer that I quickly took him up on. I had already figured out at lunch that coconuts were going to be my dehydration savior. I was pretty much dying at the time, when our guide suggested I get a coconut water. I slurped the thing down, and my friend said she could see the light coming back into my eyes.  I ordered two more and was right as rain and good to go, after having been almost at death’s door not a few minutes before, because of dehydration.

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Coconut water is not only sterile to the point where you can use it as IV fluid in a pinch… but it’s better than Gatorade at curing dehydration. He ended up buying them for our whole group (including our guide). Turned out he was a retired cop from a Malay Island we’d never heard of, and was in town for two days just so that he could see Angkor Wat before he died. We agreed that too was why we had come as well, because it was a bucket list item — we then had to explain to him what a bucket list was.

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Me and my friend, at Angkor Wat

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The Buddha’s footprints

After this, they took us to a silk farm; this group is trying to ensure that the traditional skill of silk production doesn’t disappear (which it almost did after the civil war), and also as a way of trying to keep locals in the rural areas by providing them with gainful employment

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I learned that raw silk is actually yellow and is the other part of the shell… while refined silk is white and is the inner part of the silk thread

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if you look close you see the individual threads being drawn out

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2352.jpgAn example of a traditional Cambodian pattern, is present in the stone carvings at the temples… of course they’re taking you here in hopes that you’ll buy some silk. We didn’t.

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At the end of our VERY long day, we were taken for an hour-long foot/leg massage, which was included in the cost of the tour… we later discovered that a massage like this in Cambodia only costs about $5. They even offer them in the waiting area in the airport near the duty-free shops (only more expensive).

END of Day ONE

YUP, ALL of that was ONE day… in Cambodia, in April when the average temperature is a whooping 96 F !!!! AND HUMID!!! If I were to try to do all that today in those temps, I’d die!

DAY NUMBER TWO…

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On the second day we went to a less visited area where the temples had not yet been “reconstructed” and the difference in what we were looking at was radical.  The other places also had stones on the ground, but nowhere near as many. I’m not sure if Angkor Wat and the places we saw the day before — which draw most of the tourists — had when re-discovered simply been in  better condition than this or not… and that’s why they’re famous. (As in maybe they weren’t the best temples at the height of the Khmer Empire, but were just the ones who survived best over time).

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But consider (images above and below) the state of this building andu766TCcgSfSCbJpQ0apkJw_thumb_c253.jpg

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note the HUGE difference from the ones I visited yesterday

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All HAIL Coconut water… seriously, if you go to Cambodia, this is your dehydration savior. Happily they were sold everywhere. When I first got there I was suspicious but it’s actually the safest thing you can drink. Coconut water is a completely sterile solution till the moment the flesh is pierced… and the women who work these stands are SO good at their jobs that they can whack off the top chunk suck that just a tiny layer of fresh coconut fruit is left covering the top. You poke a straw through that to get at the drink inside…. and if you’ve got a spoon, you can can scrape out the fresh coconut for a snack afterwards.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2327.jpg

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Like I said before, it was Cambodia, it was HOT and it was humid…. and I have a strong preference for elevators….

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My friend however was more than game to climb up the temple steps, while I stayed on the ground and took photos.

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These priests were really excited to talk to us. I think most tourists kind of just look at them in awe and don’t get that priestly duty in these countries isn’t any different from say… the two obligatory years of working as a missionary is for Mormons; the only difference being as Buddhists, you can do those two years at almost any age…  (I of course know all this because my boyfriend in college was a getting his Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy) Although most folks chose to do their obligatory service to the religion it at about high-school because it makes it easier to find a good job or a wife if you’ve already done it, the fact is some will even do it when they’re young children

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After this, our Tuk-Tuk driver took us to this temple, after asking us first if he could. As I said previously his parents died under the Khmer Rouge… these memorials, which include the actual bones dug up from the killing fields offer a stark reminder to the Cambodians of those times. It marks the location of the one the 20,000 mass grave sites that were uncovered after the end of the regime. To save on ammunition, most of these people were killed via blunt force trauma, hammers, blades, axes, etc.. The location is not just a holocaust spot, but rather doubles as a school and orphanage, so alongside this visual is the sound of children’s laughter.

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At the end of the day, after a bit of a rest they took us to a buffet and show (included in the price of the hotel, if you can believe it); we insisted that our Tuk-tuk driver eat with us rather than stay out at the vehicle, which turned out to be a very good thing for us because, and we didn’t know this in advance, until he broke his leg in an accident which resulted in a limp, he had been a dancer at this very show and knew a lot of the dancers.

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Apparently, in Cambodia, the hospitals just amputate badly broken legs that require anything more than just being set in cast. That is, of course, unless your family can pay for better care, and as I said previously he’d been a street orphan. So instead of going to a hospital for care, he’d had gone to the priests who did NOT amputate, but now one leg was a bit shorter than the other.

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It’s amazing how these shots light up ever speck of dust on your lens

We had to get to bed a bit early that night, because our next morning was going to start very early. We were going to do the obligatory “sunrise over Angkor Wat” — a trip that was also included in the price of the hotel room.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2386.jpg

For me, part of the fun was watching the hordes of tourists, all taking photos where if you adjusted your exposure right, it almost looked like you were there by yourself, watching it…

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only you weren’t you wee surrounded by hundreds of people (and keep in mind this was the off season) watching the same thing….

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I don’t even want to think about the crush would be like at the height of Siem Reap’s season.

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One of the omni present features of the temples is the mass of hucksters, selling everything from silks, to fans, to postcards.

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Something that is a bit disturbing about it is that more than a few of these hucksters should really be in school. But the economics of the situation is that their parents need them working, because tourists are more likely to buy something from a little kid.

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We figured the pig had gotten away from the restaurant (which is off to the right of this location — it’s the same place where the cop bought me a coconut the day before.)

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The long shadow taking the photo is me

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After this … my friend who I was traveling with leads a grueling pace…

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we went on a boat trip down the river to where the floating towns are located

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A boat loaded with priests… note the orange robes

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Life along the river was kind facilitating, at first I wondered about having their lives on display like this, but then I figured a river is not really any different from road, or a train, and it was like how you can look in on people’s lives as you traveled past

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A floating town (that’s not the shore)

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That said, some of the house-boats were really, REALLY, nice and immacuatly kept up

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Note how the well-kept houseboats have satellite dishes and TV antenna’s. Thing is when you first see it you don’t really notice those little details — in part because you have your own assumptions about how these people live their lives. Me, I was wondering how they got their power…

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cars in the driveway

And there were also some less affluent homes

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While there we stopped at a store where they tried to sell us school supplies for our next stop, which was going to the be the village’s school.

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My friend, who is a bleeding heart liberal, wanted to buy some… but I was skeptical (having pointed out the satellite dishes to her along with some other details of affluence), and didn’t let her. Our Tuk-Tuk driver (who had come with us) grinned widely after I did so, and backed me up. He said normally he never says anything but it’s a huge scam. Tourists buy supplies, and as soon as they’re gone, the unopened supplies go right back the store to be sold over and over again, with most of the profit going to the store… which is NOT owned by the boat people.

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This boat, which he pointed out after was docked next to the school, loaded up with tourist donation about to head back to the store

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2312.jpgAnd THEN after this visit, we were taken to a project not far from our hotel, where handicapped men were taught to create duplicates of the sculptures at the temples, to decorate hotels and sell to tourists.

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By this point in the day I was really worn out by our travels, the early morning, and the heat, and my tummy for some reason wasn’t happy with me, so begged out of what my friend had lined up for us as for the afternoon (more temples). Instead I stayed home at the hotel and rested for a few hours, and got to enjoy the view from our hotel, before we went out for dinner

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Before our trip, my friend and I discovered (to my horror) that by the time we got around to looking into it that it was too late to start the anti-malarial treatment. We got shots for Japanese Encephalitis and some other thing, but Malaria is a HUGE deal in Cambodia. That said, apparently since Siem Reap is the ONE major draw for tourism to the country, the government actually invests a lot of money in trying to control the mosquito population in the jungles that surround it. But I was still nervous, so I basically bathed in repellent on a daily basis, and soaked that cheese cloth like shirt in the stuff for good measure — I was not pleasant smelling the whole trip, but I didn’t care. Happily, I managed to avoid the little suckers and only got ONE mosquito bite, on our very last night in Cambodia (when I’d begun to get lax in my neuroticism), at the fancy restaurant we took our Tuk Tuk driver to which was on the edge of town (across from a graveyard) … I was praying it was NOT a malaria carrier… and luckily it wasn’t.

Sydney’s Iconic Harbor Bridge, a photo montage…. and some thoughts about the city as a tourist destination.

The Harbor Bridge, in Sydney Australia, which Wikipedia claims locals refer to as the coat hanger (although in the three months I’ve been here I’ve yet to hear it referred to as such), and the combined views of it and the Sydney Opera House … are as iconic of the city of Sydney as the Golden Gate is to San Francisco.

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Taken from the west, Opera House to left

Having grown up in the Chicagoland area and having LIVED in cities like London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Seoul (the latter of which I consider to be one of the most overhyped cites in the world –the rest of Korea is great, but Seoul itself, is Soulless), and I have visited Rio and Los Angelus (I HATE LA)… I’m now on my second trip to Sydney (the first one being shaped mostly by the massive concussion I suffered, which a year later I am still dealing with) and am still trying to figure out what it is about this city …OTHER than its impressive natural beauty — which is complimented by the Sea Shell like Opera house and the bridge, makes this city top most people’s lists as a tourist draw…. Seriously, I don’t see it.

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Taken from the East, Opera House to right

That said, I was really happy to see that Travel.com agrees with me that once you get past the views of the bridge and the Opera house — which admittedly are SO good that you can happily spend weeks just admiring them — that the city of Sydney itself is completely overhyped… especially if like me, the beach really isn’t a major draw.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2063.jpg

That said, the views are really quite impressive…. Every time I walk around areas where you can view nature, and admittedly Sydney offers a lot of them… you’re often times also seeing the bridge

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[With regards to the Opera House, I’ve heard the six performance spaces it holds are more about great acoustics than about looking impressive — once I’ve seen shows in them, then I’ll post about the interiors]

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_208a.jpgGot to love the double bridge effect in the photo above…. first the rainbow bridge, and then the Sydney bridge

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And as is obvious from the images above… I’ve spent many hours enjoy it from my Airbnb’s bedroom window … DAMN did we have a view or did we have a view???!!! (Not very expensive either considering it was an entire two bedroom apartment at the height of the Sydney travel season… about $140/night)

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Watched fireworks over it

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and bats flying in front of it

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2062.jpgOver the few months that I’ve already spent in Sydney, I have taken boats under it

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From a bus, from a car you can’t see much

And have been driven over it by car ….and by train (but didn’t take photos from the Train)

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UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2064.jpgThe ONLY things I’ve yet to do is walk across it — I will at some point when I’m feeling athletic and the weather is not too hot… that and climb up it… which I’ve seen people do regularly… it’s a THING for tourists to do, but I am no longer capable of it now that I’m in my mid 50’s, 50 lb overweight and suffering problems with my hips, knees and balance.

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That said I felt I should probably to a photo montage at this point of some of my best images of it to date.

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Me and My travel buddy

Luna Park, Sydney Australia

Luna Park, in the suburb of North Sydney Australia (kiddy-corner across the bridge from the Opera House) is a classic, “historic” amusement park (of the pre-Disney variety). It was based on New York City’s Coney Island, is one of the few surviving parks to feature “Fantasy architecture” in the Art deco Style, and interestingly… is one of only two amusement parks in the world that is protected by government legislation… and is listed on the NSW Heritage Register

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Luna Park was initially constructed in 1935 and has a history of on again off again, operating schedules, due in part to a fairly dodgy safety record, which included a catastrophic fire in 1979 that killed six children and one adult, called the Ghost Train Fire.

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As a result, during its off years, some very high-end housing developed around the location, whose residents complained loudly when the park began operations again. This resulted in a compromise of removal of rides that were deemed too loud … because of screams of happiness from riders, and limited operating schedules at night… making it basically impossible for the park to be profitable.

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Apparently there used to be a really good roller coaster back here… the residents of high-end condo’s complained and it was removed.

That said, Luna park still consists mostly of rides I can’t ride (because of my inner ear issues)… with the possible exception of the Ferris Wheel, and games I’m no good at, so that from my perspective while it’s very PRETTY to look at the place it’s really not a draw, for me personally… NOT the way Disney parks are… and the few times I’ve been there it’s looked pretty empty, all things considered.

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Huge Liquid Life Bottle, Tulsa OK

Located on a frontage road adjacent to Route 66/I 44, is what I’m guessing is the worlds biggest bottle of liquid life, a product that to be honest I’d never heard of before — and I’m guessing it’s the largest cause I doubt there’s another one like it anywhere.

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It is standing in front of the headquarters for the TRC Corporation, which makes the stuff. From what I can tell TRC’s major concern is actually minerals from mining. There is nothing on the internet describing why this bottle is here, and it’s only noted on the various Road tripping sites by people who’ve passed it.

On the topic of how to take a photo like this when traveling alone? My iPhone is sitting on the hood of my car, and I used the remote control on my apple watch to activate it.

Golden Driller Statue, Tulsa, OK

Originally built as a symbol for the International Petroleum Exposition held in Tulsa Oklahoma (ever four years) in 1952 (and then temporarily again in 1959) the Golden Driller, is a statue of a Paul Bunyanesqe Oil worker. At 75 feet tall (23 meters), he stands majestically with his right arm resting on the top of an honest to G-d oil derrick (moved here from a depleted oil field in Seminole, OK), and is the 6th tallest statue in the United States — with Lady Liberty still being our tallest at 151 feet (not including her base)

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As a result of how popular he was with Oklahoma natives, the exposition donated him to the Tulsa Fair grounds in 1966, this time as a permanent fixture.

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He is located just a mile south of Route 66, on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, and was officially declared the states monument in 1979 by the Oklahoma Legislature, and as such, he’s one of the few locations in my “big things” category that can easily be found on T-shirts and mugs, etc.

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The Meadow Gold Sign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a study in how iconic historic, but mildly ‘silly’ stuff is preserved for posterity

If you drive down Route 66 in downtown Tulsa Oklahoma you can’t but see the Meadow Gold Sign. All of the “what to see” sources had talked about this sign as an iconic Route 66, and when I first saw it I had assumed (never assume) that they had destroyed the original building but they kept the sign — and thought that there was something glorious about that… but I was wrong. While the sign had always been on historic Route 66, its original location had been at about a mile East (but still on the route) at the corner of 11th Street and Lewis Avenue.

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The sign is in fact a set of two signs that once stood back to back (note the back of the 2nd in the picture above), but is now set at a sort of V alignment. This was done to serve its new purpose, as historical art, that has been made easily visible to traffic moving in either direction on route 66.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aee9.jpgOriginally installed in the 1930’s, on top of a small one story building, the sign’s lights started going dark in the 1970’s. Once the building where it had sat was destroyed (now an “Advanced Auto Parts” store) this iconic to the city neon-sign was saved from the wrecking ball, and began to be restored in 2004 (to the tune of $337K), and moved to this new location on Route 66, which was donated to the city for this purpose. What it stands upon is more of a shelter from the elements, than a building, and has a collection of brass plates explaining bits of the history of the sign.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aeea.jpgThe restoration and moving of the sign was a project that involved many hands. Initially the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture (TFA) had received a small grant of $15K from the National Park Service‘s (NPS), Route 66 Corridor group to restore the neon sign. This was done through their “National Center for the preservation of Technology” group, among whose stated goals is the preservation of the neon signs along Route 66. This is being undertaken in recognition that neon signs are not JUST advertising, they are a form of functional-art; and that together, these signs help to evoke earlier times along Route 66, but that are just like our historic buildings are currently under threat by neglect or demolition and can only be saved from the shortsightedness of the market place by government intervention. Maintaining these past technological structures is important not only historically, but also because it supports local economies through tourism.

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Once the initial seed funding ($15K) had been secured by the TFA from the NPS, this “primed the pump” so to speak, making it easier to raise matching funds from other sources — to the tune of  $322,273, the actual cost of restoration. Among these were the privately funded National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. And then more funds were collected from the public at large via the City’s Vision 2025 initiative; this was a new one cent tax increase that would be maintained for 13 years whose proceeds were earmarked towards economic development and capital improvement projects, such as saving the Meadow Gold sign — but that had to be agreed to by the voters of Tulsa County.

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This tax was ultimately instituted, in part as a result of multiple newspaper articles about how the sign was in danger of being destroyed, and that funding was desperately being at first being sought, and this new tax was needed to that end.

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Mural on a wall directly facing the sign’s location, I’m assuming this was in regard to raising the money needed (over $300) to save an Iconic Route 66 sign

Meadow Gold had been a dairy brand that belonged to the Beatrice Foods Company, founded in 1894 initially as the Beatrice Creamery Company, and then incorporated in 1905 as the Beatrice Creamery Company of Iowa. During that time they had begun the Meadow Gold dairy brand — which by World War II was a household name in much of America, and had branched out into the development of other dairy products … so that in 1946 the company changed its name yet again to simply the Beatrice Foods Co., as visible on the sign.

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That said, the in the 1980’s the Beatrice fell on hard times mostly of their own construction. They lost a major lawsuit against them for toxic dumping (which resulted in an award-winning book and a film called A Civil Action),  and they operated in South Africa during apartheid and hence suffered from some boycotting. As the company had taken on many other non-food business over the years, in 1984 they changed their name from Beatrice Foods Co. to Beatrice Companies, Inc., and then sold off their Meadow Gold Brand, along which was now part of their Beatrice Dairy Products, Inc., subsidiary, along with a couple of other brands, to Borden, Inc. in December 1986 for $315,000,000. Borden then went defunct in 2001, so that the Meadow Gold brand (which is still an American household name) is now owned by Dean Foods.

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Interestingly, I did not find a SINGLE source talking about how the Meadow Gold brand or Dean foods chipped in to help save the sign advertising THEIR product. BUT, I could of course be wrong, and maybe they did so anonymously — which from a political standpoint would make sense.

Stubby Stonehenge in Rolla, MO vs seeing the Real Stonehenge & Avebury Henge, in UK

Located right off of Historic Route 66 as it meanders through the town of Rolla Missouri and passed the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is a half sized version of Stonehenge, similar to the one on in Amesbury on the famous Salisbury Plain of England.

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Sometimes referred to as the Stubby Stonehenge, according to their website the structure this ‘functional art’ ….

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… works just the same way that the original Stonehenge, as a solar calendar… only in this case it comes with annotations in the form of etchings into the stone and plaques placed on the various rocks… and it

“stands for many things; a lasting monument to man’s drive for knowledge and engineering, the largest monument to ever be cut with a water-jet, and a link from the past into the modern. It was dedicated on June 20, 1984 or the summer solstice, at the site of the northwest edge of campus. Approximately 160 tons of granite were used in the monument. The rock was cut to the proper dimensions by Missouri S&T’s Water-jet equipment.”

According to other websites, it was mostly something to do to show off how good their High Pressure Water Jet Lab was at stone carving. Although I also found an FAQ page put up about the place by the University

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Somehow I did not spot this on any of the preparatory maps that I used when planning this Route 66 road-trip… so to just happen to drive by it, unexpectedly…  it was a super cool surprise…. it made the geek in me very happy…..

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Of course this also gives me opportunity to include some images I took back on July 3, 2014, when I was at the REAL prehistoric Stonehenge site near Amesbury … less than a month before my father died. I had gone to the UK to present an academic research paper at a conference at Keele University near Stoke-on-Trent, and afterwards had gone to visit a friend of mine who USED to work for Google in SF (she was on the team the created Google mail) but who had grabbed her golden parachute when her stock options matured a few years before, and had retired to Bristol in the UK, about an hour drive away from Stonehenge.

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For an explanation of the fences behind me, keep reading

[My T-shirt reads: “English doesn’t borrow from other languages.  English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.” Why yes, I’m a geek, what’s your point?]

I remember that I got there late, and didn’t make it in time to actually be able to enter the site. I had “assumed” (never assume) that closing time meant closing time… it doesn’t. For Stonehenge the LAST admission to the site is TWO HOURS before the place closes, and they only let in a limited number of people at a time, so unless you’re very lucky, you’ll need to book your visit in advance (from this site), which I had not done… not to mention I showed up a half hour before closing. When I got there the guard refused me entry and told me to come back some other day, and to book my admission rather than just showing up. I almost cried… when I explained I was American and this was my last chance before heading home… he made a suggestion. He told me to drive around the henge area, to a gravel side road on the far side of the tourist entrance, where I would see a lot of other parked cars. From there, he said I could at least see it better. So I drove there…  and met this new age-ie guy, making a mini- henge with rocks he found on the road…. [The paved road visible via google maps is NOT accessible to public traffic, it’s for tourist busses only]UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2006.jpg

There were in fact a LOT of new age types parked along this gravel road… they had a sort of mini community thing going on over there. Since then Folks have even noted its location in google maps, and if you zoom in you’ll see a LOAD of cars along that road, parked for free instead of in the paid lot. They ALL suggested that I walk down to the edge of the official property, at which point there’s a pedestrian accessible wooden gate to his property, with some warning signs on it about keeping your dog on a short leash and respecting that you’re on private property, etc., that opens to a path along the edge of his sheep farm and along the official Stonehenge property … and they promised me that the farmer who owns the place actually wants folks crossing his property to get a closer look — they said it was a sort of “fuck you” to the English Heritage Trust government folks — that was as long as you don’t mess with his sheep.

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The view from the location of me in front of Stonehenge, but in the other direction

The ironic thing is… IF you go in the official way, while you do access to the educational tourist center, which is supposedly quite good (I have not yet seen it) … that’s not what you’re paying to see. What you’re really wanting is to get close to Stonehenge — but no one is allowed to do that anymore except on days like Solstice and other Pagan festival day like that. Somewhere we’ve got photos of when my brother and I were very young children (so like 50 years ago) and our parents took us to Stonehenge. In them you can see him on one of the rocks (I was still a toddler). But those days are LONG past… Today, ironically, the distance between this free path, and the path you’ll be paying to walk along is little enough as ‘never mind’. That said, the free way limits you to one side of the henge, while the paid path takes you all around it… but pretty much at an equidistant.

 

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That said, three days later on July 6th, 2014, my friend who I was staying with in Bristol (she’s the one standing, wearing a backpack, with her back to the stone in the picture above) took me to an arguably more interesting, albeit less famous, prehistoric henge directly north of Stonehenge in Avebury, on what is debatably the northern edge of the Salisbury Plain (the actual edges of the plain are up for debate). This henge, which the public can STILL visit entirely for FREE and get up close and personal with the stones, is actually the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe (in terms of ground covered). Unlike Stonehenge, which has the largest stones and as such is famous for the “how the fuck did pre-technology man get stones this big to this location?” question, that has in the past made people think aliens must have done it… This henge consists mostly groundworks, that encircle very large stones (but of the, “ok, I can see how primitive man working together might have moved these to here” size).

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Here, and I was shocked when I first realized this — and you can’t but, I noticed it as soon as we drove to the location, the village actually cuts THROUGH the center of this historic henge, so that some homes actually have henge rocks in their gardens….

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This is most easily seen via a satellite shot, like via google maps (see above), or from an aerial shot from a drone or plane…. like the one that heads this English Heritage Trust’s website for Avebury (click-through to see it).

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Note the road I was on when I took the photo cuts right through the circle, and the shot below is of the same location from a slightly different angle (you can tell from the church spires) only in the 2nd one I was up on top of one of the ground-worksaKhq%FLtS2yPCoxzYKT0fw_thumb_20d5.jpg

In a way looking at these is sort of bitter-sweet for me. Unbeknownst to me, my father was having real health issues back in the states but he refused to tell me about them because he didn’t want me cutting my trip to England (he was British by birth) short on his account. MEN!

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As is obvious from the above picture, this prehistoric area is actively used by locals for hiking and picnics, etc.

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and it’s really easy to see how the ground was worked by prehistoric man, with both dug trenches into the chalk ground (which must have been very hard work) and then used that to make man-made mounds surrounding them

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The top of the man-made mound, and the chalk exposed as a result of folks walking there
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Where these holes part of how they lifted and carried the rocks?

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Agawa Crafts & The Canadian Carver, Pancake Bay, Ontario Canada

Back in August of 2016, as I was road-tripping along the Trans-Canadian Highway on my way from Vancouver Island in the far west of the country to Stratford Ontario  (just east of Detroit Michigan) I came across this really unique combination store that I liked so much that I can actually see myself driving back there (albeit, on a more direct route next time) to buy things for my home… once I actually get one.

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It’s actually a combination of a few stores that is only open during the tourism season (closed in winter, even just before Xmas — which is a bit crazy if you ask me), as well as a liquor store and gas station which stay open all year round.

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Smoked Fish and wild rice!!! YUM

Agawa Crafts sells items made by the local First Nations (i.e., Canadian name for Native Americans) tribal members,

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while the Canadian Carver is a gift store, full of hand-made items from local artists

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…some that looks a lot like cheesy stuff you could buy on-line or from gift-shops along highways … but ALL of it is in fact hand carved by artists they represent — although of varying levels of ability….

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The better stuff, from more skilled artists, is usually is grouped together on a wall

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or a shelf, with a photo and description of the artist alongside the items.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1fd1.jpg

Although some of it is just easy to self identify….

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was seriously wanting to buy this fruit bowl (left) and table (right) for myself, but no room

While I was here I did buy a carved duck, but as a wedding gift for two friends of mine who were getting married about a month later in September 2016, in Chicago.

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I’ve known the spouse since kinder-garden, the purple dress was purchased in Victoria, and is made of 100% hemp — so comfortable

 

It was of a sort decoy duck, a type of traditional North American Folk Art, usually carved out of a wood that will float — and sometimes used by hunters to confuse a duck into landing near them … like in the image below, only the one that I bought was MUCH nicer

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the one I bought almost looked like it was breathing … I’m sorry to say I never took a picture of it before wrapping it … my bad… that had been carved by a master level carver by the name of Larry Fell, and was signed underneath by the artist. (Works from some of the more famous master carvers have gone on to be collector’s items that have sold in the high six figures — so I figured, good gift.)

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I took this photo so my friends would know who the artist was who made their piece, should it ever become a collector’s item

… which I later, while in Stratford, ON… paid to have wrapped to my specifications (because when it’s worth doing right, pay a professional) at a high-end chocolate store called Rheo Thompson Candies

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Even though it’s a candy store, when I was walking through it one day I noticed that… because of all the people in that town who like to give chocolates as wedding favors, they had wedding gift paper with butterflies on it … so I asked them if they’d be willing to wrap my gift for me even though I wasn’t going to buy any chocolate, and they said they were…. I also asked if I could have these clay butterflies, which were on display as part of something else in the store, attached to it, and they agreed. I think the wrapping cost me like $30… but I think worth it… Getting the whole thing back to chicago without it being damaged was the tricky part.

Cuba Missouri, The Mural City of Route 66

Cuba Missouri is yet another small town that has discovered the economic value of public art. It is the largest city in its county, with a population smaller than my high school had when I graduated, and yet it’s on every “MUST SEE” list for travelers traversing Route 66.

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A local bank funded the “Viva Cuba Project” in 1984 because while trying to lure potential investors into the town, that they were being turned off by the high percentage of eyesores… and realized that a city beautification project was needed in order to spur economic growth. This initially involved businesses investing in beautifying their business and the city investing in trees and shrubs and various landscaping projects. So for instance check out this incredibly cute cafe, The Fourway (Kabobs, salads and fresh foods) in what has to be the cutest re-use of a historic gas station that I’ve seen so far.

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I can’t review it as a restaurant’s food as I didn’t eat here, but I was tempted, SO CUTE

IMG_0660The Mural phase of the city’s beautification project began in 2001 and was completed in 2007. It was the Missouri legislature which designated the city the Mural city or Route 66… which I think a lot of the other small towns on 66 in other states, that have also gone this route, may take issue with.

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I noticed however that the murals, for the most part, face east…. so the artist is assuming that most visitors who are traveling Route 66 are headed west.

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Betty Davis Apparently visited the town once, and this mural honors that visit

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