Monday, October 31

Kura Happ at Club Raro

Kura Happ is a talented Cook Islands singer/songwriter. She performs regularly at various restaurants around Rarotonga – I’ve seen her at the Windjammer and Tang (the recently opened tapas bar at the Crown Beach Resort).
I don’t usually like live bands in restaurants because they’re nearly always far too loud – I think dining out is about talking to people and not just eating, however good (or otherwise) the food might be. In Kura’s case the music level is just right. Loud enough to hear clearly if you want to listen but not amplified so that you can’t hear yourself speak.
This video is part of a performance at Club Raro in Rarotonga at a recent 'Divas in Paradise' show.
‘Divas in Paradise’ was organised by Motone, the same people who brought ‘Opera in Paradise’ to Rarotonga earlier this year. Two local singers (Kura and Tara Kauvai) joined overseas artists Bella Kalolo, Julia Deans and Ladi6 for sets at Club Raro. There was an excellent turnout, both locals and visitors, of all ages and all intent on having a good time.
It’s great having a diverse range of overseas performers here in Rarotonga. Motone is doing a good job bringing them here.
I’m looking forward to the next show.

Wednesday, October 26

Vietnam highlights – Saigon

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been off the rock on holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Had a wonderful time; they’re both fascinating countries. Come to think of it, most countries in the world have plenty to recommend them.
We started with a few days in the capital of Vietnam before travelling up the Mekong River and into Cambodia.
The Vietnamese capital is variously known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City and HCMC. Before the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the American War) it was Saigon and indeed it still seems to be for many older people not to mention tourists like me! Well, Ho Chi Minh City is a bit of a mouthful and while HCMC is quicker to write it’s just as long to enunciate. Still, youngsters and the (government-run) newspaper stick to the new name.
There’s plenty to see and do and the centre of the city is easy to walk around once you get the hang of crossing the street. Traffic is horrendous, particularly the motorbikes. The population of Saigon is about 7 million; the number of motorbikes is 3 to 4 million every one of which seems to be on the road at the same time. Main junctions have traffic lights but right-turning bikes (vehicles drive on the right - mostly) tend to drift around regardless of the colour of the lights. There are also zebra crossings but no rules governing their use. The trick to getting across a road is to wait for a window of opportunity, a small gap in the flow, then step off the pavement and walk slowly and steadily towards the other side. Make no sudden movements and do NOT try to dodge oncoming vehicles, let them take all the evasive action. Some people say to look left towards oncoming bikes until you reach the middle and then look right at bikes coming the other way. I think this is the macho male technique. I preferred to look down at the ground. There were two reasons for this: firstly it alerted riders to the fact that I wasn’t going to change direction, so it was up to them; secondly it meant I didn’t have to look at the hordes of bikes bearing down on me.
Now, if that sounds too negative think again. Traffic speeds are low, we saw no road rage or anything like it and drivers were considerate and good natured.
You can check out the traffic situation at the end of the video.
Once you’ve got the system off pat you can wander round and visit places of interest, shops and markets to your heart’s content.
We did plenty of this.
For tourists the markets, particularly Ben Thanh, are great for cheap clothes, shoes and souvenirs. For the locals it’s all about food.
We went to Ben Thanh market to get food for a Vietnamese cooking class. Apparently fresh fish and meat can only stay on display for 2 hours max and the market didn’t smell at all.
However, the fish section was gruesome – I gave serious thought to going vegetarian.
It doesn’t get much fresher though.

Monday, October 24

All Blacks fanzone on Rarotonga

The waiting’s over and the New Zealand All Blacks are rugby world champions after a nail-biting final.
Rarotonga has been showing its support of the team since the start of the cup with shops and businesses decked out in black and white, but once they made it through to the final somebody suggested a fan zone similar, to Auckland’s Cloud, where people could get together and see all the action on the big screen.
The idea just took off! The NZ High Comm, ANZ Bank and many other businesses got in behind it and in just a week our own All Blacks family-friendly fanzone, dubbed ‘Te Aorangi Black Out’, was up and running.
It was alcohol-free with plenty of food stalls, always popular at an event like this, and lots of activities for kids of all ages.
The All Blacks were overwhelming favourites to win but the local French community, although it isn’t large, made their presence felt with a popular face-painting stall.
Kids spent a most of the time running around, screaming, singing and chasing lollies until it was time for the main pre-game show – the haka competition. Large teams from St Joseph’s, Avatea and Avarua primary schools and a small group from Rutaki strutted their stuff on the stage at the National Auditorium then a bunch of older guys from the Tupapa Panthers joined in. The audience loved it.
By the time the big game started on a very big screen, I reckon most of the kids would have exhausted themselves and fallen asleep.
I have to confess I headed home at this point and watched it on a much smaller screen in the comfort of my living room.
It was tough going for the spectators. The French played their best game of the tournament and the ABs really had to fight for the win but thank goodness they made it in the end.
If they hadn't the air of national mourning over NZ and Rarotonga would have been hard to bear!

Thursday, October 20

Atiu drum dance at Te Maeva Nui

I’m back on Rarotonga after a fantastic visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. Working on some video from there but in the meantime here’s more footage from this year's Te Maeva Nui.
This ura pau (drum dance) from the dancers on the outer island of Atiu earned the team a B grade.

Tuesday, October 11

Tongareva action song at Te Maeva Nui

I'm still on holiday, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the moment having visited Siem Reap and the temples at Angkor Wat. It's a fantastic country but suffering from floods at the moment. Looking forward to editing video from Cambodia and Vietnam but in the meantime here's another video from Te Maeva Nui. It's the Tongareva (Penrhyn) action song and it earned this group a B grade