This is one of the places we really wanted to visit when we first knew we were coming to Thailand and three years on we finally made it.
My Dad's uncle was taken prisoner when his ship docked in Singapore during the Second World War and , after being held in Changaie prison by them, was one of the 100,000 prisoners who were forced to work under the most brutal of conditions by the Japanese to build their rail link across their new empire in South East Asia.
We started at the cemetery in Kanchanaburi. As always, the Commonwealth Graves commission does a fantastic job of keeping these war graves perfectly. Whenever I go to these sites its the simplicity of the messages on the tombstones that touches one, along with the pride that families express in these simple messages: That this was something you had to do and this is price that is paid. I'm fairly sure that is not something we really understand any more.
We drive past York regularly on the way up to Northumberland and I haven't been there for years, so I thought I'd put that right on our last trip down to the outlaws near Manchester. In fact, I have a feeling that the last time I was there was also a new year's day too but in the 90s and I was probably not feeling to great that morning.
A really nice winter's day with clear blue skies.
A reasonably traditional post Christmas stroll on one of the best beaches anywhere.
It was busier than the middle of July! However, you still pretty much had enough space to feel the wind in your hair and the emptiness. We were close to being the only ones there without a medium sized dog.
The first in a series of shortish posts. We had a number of trips out from our North Northumberland base over Christmas. These are not in chronological order.
These are, basically, two giant horses heads that you see as you whizz past Falkirk on the M9.
They are an impressive 30 metres high and were designed by sculptor Andy Scott. They are supposed represent the horses that powered much of Scotland's heritage. Kelpies, according to myth, possess the strength and endurance of 10 horses; a quality that is analogous with the transformational change and endurance of Scotland's inland waterways (or so their bumpf says!). The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges and coal-ships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.They are also supposed to link 16 different communities together, but how they do that is a mystery to me. They are cool, though.
Earlier in the day we visited Roslyn Chapel on the outskirts of Edinburgh and the weather, for December at least, was magnificent. The sun was just starting to sink so we decided to add 30 minutes to the journey and head further West and see these. All the way there the sky was a magnificent orange but had, unfortunately, past its absolute best by the time we had arrived. Still, there was still enough colour to provide a decent backdrop and, tbh, you're lucky to have any kind of blue in central Scotland at this time of year.
One of the nice things about here is that on some evenings Sukhothai is lit up.
So, a nice simple post this time. A series of pics from the sights we had seen earlier on the Saturday but this time at night. The only problem with this is being bitten. If you do go and want to see it at (The day time ticket is still valid for re-entry btw), then bring the mozzy spray.
Wat Si Sawai is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. It is believed to have been founded towards the end of the 12th century or early 13th century before the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom.
it was founded as a Hindu sanctuary dedicated to Shiva.
As ever, I love the plants growing out of it, giving it a sort of Tomb Raiders look
Initially the temple consisted of three prangs, constructed by the Khmer as a Hindu sanctuary dedicated to Shiva. An image of the Hindu God was discovered in the viharn during the early 20th century by Vajiravudh (Rama VI) before he was King. Later on during the Sukhothai period, the Wat Si Sawai was converted into a Buddhist temple and two viharns were added.
The intricate carving is amazing and really the point of the blog post. The other temples in Sukothai are quite similar, with columns left that used to support a roof, Buddhas in various states of disrepair and different sizes and so on.
A year ago we bobbled up to Ayutthia for a couple days on our way up to Chang Mai. This used to be the capital of Thailand until it got sacked by those naughty Cambodians. Now, don't get me wrong, Ayutthai is great but Sukhothai is really amazing.
In Thai, Sukhothai means 'dawn of happiness' and the whole thing is a UNESCO world heritage site. . The ruins are spread across 70 sq KM and there are more than 190 separate ruins. This makes a bike an excellent way to see many of the ruins. All the hotels hire them out for about 50 baht (a quid) per day. The main site is the walled area that used to be the Royal palace.
Somewhat bizarrely, but obviously correctly, Wikipedia starts its introduction to the History of Sukhotahi as being before Ice Cream! I'm not making this up!. Historians now believe that this important trading town started its secession form the Khymer empire about 900 years ago. Traditional Thai historians considered the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom as the beginning of the Thai nation because little was known about the kingdoms prior to Sukhothai. Modern historical studies demonstrate that Thai history began before Sukhothai. Yet the foundation of Sukhothai is still a celebrated event.
There is a small admission charge but its valid all day so you can have a cycle round, nip off for a refreshing coffee und kuchin and then todal back, wander, go home for a swim, and come back again. System works well.
Whilst the ruins are spectacular... particularly at night when, if you go at the right time they are floodlight (see next post), it is the quality of the carving that I really liked. For example, please see exhibit 1, below:
A one week visit to Victoria for work. As always on these jaunts its unusual to see much more than the inside of the hotel and a school. However, my flight left late at night on the last day so I had a day at leisure in Melbourne. Spring had sprung, the grass had rizz, I wondered where the birdies is. The weather was glorious... early 20s, sunny and fresh. Melbourne is a nice city to walk around and that's just what I did. I downloaded a few walking tour guides and plumped for the street art self-guided walking tour. Although by the time I'd found the beginning of it I was already a bit knackered and didn't really get going in the afternoon like I planned. In fact, I found a park and lay in the sun and read for a good part of it.
I have to say that two of the major sights of London leave me fairly underwhelmed. The Houses of P and Westminster Abbey are quite impressive buildings but they are, frankly, dull to look at. I know I've been inside Westminster Abbey but I can't remember anything much about it and it costs 20, YES TWENTY! quid to step inside. It is, frankly taking the piss! Firstly, its supposed to be a church and secondly, the CofE is abso-fucking-lutely loaded and has a right cheek to charge 20 notes to walk in.
Although I really enjoyed our sojourn in the capital, these was the least good bits. Ironically, they would be top of many people's list of things to see in there. Give it a body swerve, there are much more interesting things to see and fewer tourists to negotiate. As everyone who doesn't live there knows London is dirty, crowded, expensive and full of unpleasant people. This tourist filled area is probably the main reason that image is so popular amongst the rest of the country.
Below is a touristy icon shot of that there London. Its more the cliche value of the picture that I like rather than any particular merit or interest of the picture.
This is a real touristy trip down one street. But it is cool and there is loads of histroy to see, At the top end of Whitehall, is Nelson atop his column.
and at the bottom he is guarded by the Lions sculpted by Lnaseer
This follows directly on from where my last ramblings left off.
This came highly recommended to us by friends, but you have to book your tickets in advance and you get a specific time slot to visit. However, on the plus side it is totally free. Unlike the Shard which was 30 quid to go up. I have to say, we loved it.
But first, the building its in. This is really cool too. Apparently, its called the walkie-talkie but that's pushing things a bit far. Just to show how much good taste I have, it has apparently won several awards for ugly buildings. Originally, it was meant to be much bigger but planners made them scale it back as they feared it would dominate. God knows what the original would have looked like as this is bloody massive.
It overhangs the street below in two directions which give a slightly odd effect close up.
I used to work in the City when I first left university. Nothing glamorous involving a bank of computer screens and multi-million pound takeovers. I worked in a wine merchants on the end of London Bridge (where little Waitrose is on the map below if you're interested). It was a bit of shock to the system to realise that it was 25 years ago, so not really that surprising that the place has really changed. And, has it ever?
The building I worked in has long gone and there is a great mix of old stone built buildings in tiny narrow streets and lanes and massive steel and glass skyscrapers. For example, Canary Wharf tower used to dominate the skyline out to the east. Now you have to work to find it.
When I was there, I loved the Lloyds insurance building and I'm pleased to say it still looks modern and edgey all these years later. Never realised it before, but once rush-hour is over, the city is a great place to wander. Loads to see, lots of history and, as everyone else,is busy at work, its pretty deserted.
In the weather we had over the summer, even Liverpool is nice. I have always liked the Albert Dock area, although it is a complete tourist trap (I preferred it with the weather map floating in it). The new shopping area is just soulless and apart from that its just another small British city. Will make the effort to go to the Cathedrals one day.
Mrs. E went to university here so she loves it and I used to go out here regularly when I was doing my PGCE. It is (or at least was) a top night out. But, dey do dat der, don't day dow?
Also, Liverpool, you could make something of the Beatles being from Liverpool and everything, you know. Seriously, the shameless way they milk this is quite tawdry at times. The day we were there McCartney was playing a gig in Matthew Street (where the old Cavern club was) but even so, the shameless cashing in is a bit over the top. Also, as the woman at the consulate (we were sorting Mrs. E's visa out.) pointed out... He can't sing anymore and should know when to pack it in.
The last post concentrated on the Baltic Art centre in Newcastle. This second one on the Toon looks at the rest of quayside in Newcastle. I have to say that there is a bit of a bridge theme to this summer's posts. Not very photogenic, but definitely worth a mention is the Biscuit factory, which is a 10 minute walk up from the Quayside. Its an art gallery cum shop. They display the work of, mainly, local artists of all kinds and act as a kind of agent for them if you feel moved to buy. Importantly, there is a cracking little coffee shop there too and a restaurant which is supposed to be ace but we didn't try that.
Like lots of places in the UK, Newcastle has really changed. Loads of money has been spent tarting up the Quayside and surrounding areas. A load of new riverside flats, student accommodation, restaurants, bars (of course, its still Newcastle!) art galleries, fancy shops and God knows what else.
We were there on a lovely day which always helps. It might be a bit different on a wet Wednesday in November as the temperature drops and the wind whistles in. But the day we were there was the kind that the planners had in mind when they planned it all.
This is one of my favourite structures on the planet. I love the elegance of the engineering of it and the difficulty that they must have building it without modern lifting machinery in a fairly inhospitable stretch of water. I could have spent a long time at South Queensferry taking photies and still come back the day after for more.
We visited here on a stop over on the way home for the summer, mainly to visit friends, but also to see what's what.
I have to say, what an excellent little destination. After the humidity of Bangkok, the heat was almost refreshing. It's a little hotter than Bangkok but its a dry heat so it is actually not too unpleasant to walk around in (for short distances anyway!) and lounging by the pool is a top way to spend a couple of hours.
Really, really nice food and a relaxed atmos (certainly compared to nearby Dubai, anyway). The highlight of our stay was the Museum of Islamic Art. It's not really Islamic art but art from Islamic countries. It's not the largest collection, but what they do have on display is just amazing. Well worth an afternoon of anyone's time. The building is supposed to like a woman wearing a Burqa and, for once, I can see what the architect meant. Usually, when they say a building is supposed to reflect such-and-such an idea or theme, one is left thinking 'Really?'
And, as ever, it is the details that make the building, like this Islamic inspired window.
The MIA overlooks the Persian Gulf and right next to it is the mooring for the Dow's that, I assume, now fish for tourists rather than pearls but you never know. Over the way from the dows is the modern Qatar skyline. Again, I thought it more interesting than many. They seem to have gone for interesting rather than just massive. There were very few massive rectangular blocks. It was a bit hazy when we were there so you don't really get the full wow of it.
Obviously, being an Islamic country there are mosques. I loved the minaret on this one.
This mosque backs onto a Souk (well, fronts on, really!). This is a reproduction of what they think a souk would have looked like in the past. I have to say that it is not a bad job and is nice mix of tourist trap and local hangout, with lots of really nice cafes and restaurants. They obviously put a lot of thought into trying to mimic traditional building styles...
Well, its been a while! Not really been anywhere either in Bangkok or further afield so nowt to report.
It is now the hot season here and Thai new year (Song Kran). My daughter completed her PADI open water last year and really wanted to dive again. That, and given that is as hot as a furnace in Hell at this time of year in Thailand meant we decided we would head to an island for a bit of R&R (I remember when it was I&I, but hey ho!).
We didn't want a busy noisy place so looked for one of the quieter islands... Koh Mak.
Vietnam was the first big holiday we had when we first ventured out to Asia a long time ago. There were only two of us in those days so we did exactly as we pleased! So, 14 years later we decided to head back. It was the perfect combination of seeing how the place had changed and meeting up with old friends.
Every holiday there seems to be one destination where everyone goes. Having worked in several countries in the region we have disparate groups of friends (Plus those from home) and there always seems to be one place that pulls people to it each holiday. This time it was Vietnam. We had arranged up to meet up with two different groups of friends and former colleagues as well as a group of my oldest friends from university who were out from the UK. In addition, we bumped into a friend in the middle of central Saigon and arranged to meet up with another couple who we know from China. Small world and top times!
One of my memories of Vietnam are these street vendors flogging souvenir T-shirts. You'd see these tiny tressale tables piled high with all sorts of Vietnam themed shirts. Also, I remember people flogging loads of knock versions of guidebooks and other novels. Not no more! They've gone!
It seemed to me that the whole place has been tarted and tidied up and, generally, gentrified. It has definitely lost some of its character, but the upside of that is that it looks a lot more affluent which, I suppose, is far more important to those who live there.
Not sure what there is to see in Mumbai, but to be honest, I thought it was just a big dirty city. Sort of like Tianjin in China but with more chaotic traffic!
Things I saw on my afternoon there included the Taj hotel.... Most impressive from the outside, nice views across the bay and the Gateway to India and possibly the most expensive beers in India. However, with the beers they did serve popcorn dusted in chilli powder and paprika which was pretty good. The beers weren't cheap but actually nor were they outrageous... Just seemed a lot for India!
Also, not sure it looks like the Taj Mahal (hence the name), its a different colour for a start!
My first time to India was mainly a week spent in rural India. Having been picked up from my very nice hotel next to the airport in Mumbai, we braved the madness that is Mumbai traffic.
I now know where JK Rowling got the idea for the contracting bus in the Harry Potter books. I think I'm an old hand at Asia traffic but there were numerous times when I was convinced that there was not enough room between the cars our mini-van was squeezing past. Each time, the cars seemed to magically move apart to create enough space for us to edge through.
A bit of an interesting drive along the highway and then a couple of hours through single lane track snaking through the countryside.
The school we were visiting was in the middle of a bio-diversity reserve miles from the nearest city. The views from the top, especially at sunset, were stunning.
Well, its been a while!
The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was known as Wat Sakae. When Bangkok became the capital, King Rama I renovated the temple and gave it its present name. Phu Khao Thong (Golden mountain, ภูเขาทอง) is a steep artificial hill inside the Wat Saket compound. Rama I's grandson, King Rama III, decided to build a chedi of huge dimensions inside Wat Saket, but the chedi collapsed during construction because the soft soil of Bangkok could not support the weight. The hill was built out of the mud dug out to make the canal network around Bangkok. During the reign of King Rama IV, construction began of a small chedi on the hill. It was completed early in the reign of his son, King Rama V. A relic of the Buddha was brought from Sri Lanka and placed in the chedi. The surrounding concrete walls were added in the 1940s to stop the hill from eroding.
This is one of the more famous Wats in Bangkok and delights in the full name of Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan. The name is derived from the Godess of sunrise and a rough English translation is the Temple of the rising sun. It's central stupa has, for the last few years been shrouded in scaffolding and bamboo matting as repairs were completed. However a few weeks ago this was removed and it once again became a place to watch the sun go down.
There are a string of rooftop bars on the other side of the river from which to watch the sunset on the wat. Not sure we picked a good one though. Firstly, they wouldn't let me use my tripod. Others were using smaller tripods but my full size one was not allowed. All the other bars seemed to have no problem with them however. Also, we thought we were being clever getting a bar directly opposite the Wat. A better option would have been further westwards as we would have a better view of the light glinting off the mirrored mosaic tiles of the stupa. Next time!
Following from the previous Bamburgh post: As the sun goes down the light, the open spaces and the reflections can be spectacular.
This is a huge, sandy beach that is so large that even when the car park is full there is enough room to have it largely to yourself. It's overlooked by its Castle, which is not that old really, which adds interest to one's photos.
All that is needed is to walk a few steps either way from the car park and the 'crowds' (I mean 3 or 4 other groups of people) are far enough away to satisfy even the most curmudgeonly old git!). However do wrap up warm as it is cold even in the middle of summer, when the sun is out.
As I say, 'busy' is a relative term. The picture below is about as busy as I've seen it. And, although the sun was clearly shining, you can see people are still walking along in their coats!
This will be a blog about my latest shots and what I liked or was trying to do with them
I am a teacher of Economics and have worked in various schools in Europe & Asia. One of the things I love doing is getting out and about with my camera.