One of the last things we did before departing for China was a day out visiting old friends in Oxford... We both decided we could see ourselves living there until we looked into Estate Agents windows and discovered how much a teeny-tiny house would cost!
A pleasant morning wandering around some of the university colleges and along the banks of the Cherwell and a couple of pub stops on the way.
As we've been stuck indoors for more or less four months, firstly working form home and then through the SongKran holiday and now summer's here. Horah! Hmm! We had an amazing summer planned to Italy which would have been fantastic as it is just coming out of lockdown and we would have had the place to ourselves, but whilst one can fly out of Thailand without too many troubles, one cannot very easily (or at all!) get back in. Therefore all of that is cancelled... Hopefully next year!
Its the rainy season here so its not that great to be here... Grey and humid would sum it up. We do have a few trips planned but the OH's school messed around their holiday times so we don't have very long off together. I've already planned every holiday we could possibly take for the next 15 or so years so, I have maps of trips I want to do, a map of our bucket lists of places to go: All sorts. 'So, what's next?', I hear you ask.
Glad you asked! I thought I would have a look at some of my older posts from when we lived in Taiwan, Brunei and Spain and add them to this blog.
I was scrolling through old photos and thinking about the places we went to and realised that my first attempt at a blog has basically disappeared into the mists of internet time never to be seen again and it would be a shame to loose those altogether.
So, interspersed with some new stuff are our memories of what is basically pre-China. Not sure if it will be in a chronological order yet or just the order that I publish them in. We'll see!
I have to say I do like Malaysia. Perhaps I'm just getting old but it is just nice. Although Singapore has a reputation for being dull, I think its rubbed off on its neighbour a bit. People are unfailingly polite, its quietly affluent and just goes about its business. I know there's huge scandals about massive, almost Russia-like, levels of corruption, but as far as I can tell it all, just basically works. The food is great (coffee less so!) with excellent Indian curries, Malay dishes, Chinese cuisine and some really good fusion/modern stuff too. The pick, if you visit, was the China House. THis is one of those traditional buildings mentioned below, with gardens and cakes.
They have, I think really made a big effort to attract tourists without turning it in to a theme park and haven't done too bad a job, but they do have one of those umbrella streets that seem to crop up everywhere.
Penang is an old colonial trading port and a UNESCO world heritage site. The old town, which is the bit we visited, is full of beautiful colonial buildings with fading glory. Again, I really like the slightly shabby but well-loved appearance of much of it.
Bangkok, shall we say, has a reputation.
However, there is another side to Bangkok, that's not all temples and sex-tourists. For some reason though, Thais don't seem to be proud of this (Not saying they're proud of sex-tourism btw) and tend to hide a cool and funky light under any convenient bushel. It's actually a real shame because there is lots of cool and interesting stuff out there, but its never publicised, really. For example, there is loads of modern Asian art (in the broadest sense of the world) but trying to find out about it is a bit of a mare.
This is a great case in point.
If you're bored of the crowds of Grand Palace and the markets selling all eleven kinds of tourist tat then I can not recommend highly enough Chula Art Town. There is a big bit of it that's almost finished and I'll be going back to that soon, but don't let that put you off. It looks like they've taken the influence for it from the rebuilt hutongs of Beijing. Modern buildings, but with a clear Thai/Asian feel to them in a rabbit warren of streets. The ground floors of which (I hope) will be independent coffee shops and retailers selling all manner of what-have-you.
That was a by-product of our visit to the university district. We'd got wind of street art project sponsored by Chulalongkorn University and heard great things about it so off we went and it did not disappoint!
We were planning on coming here early on new year's day and went to York instead. Turned out to be a good choice, another friend did go and said the world and his wife was there. York, nicely quiet. Whitby is always busy! Although I have to say a cold, crisp and sunny January morning, with frost on the ground and the Abbey would look lovely.
Instead we went on a really lovely summer's day. The beach and the rest of the town was packed. Oddly thought, the Abbey was quiet. You couldn't say we had it to ourselves but it was by no means busy. The drive through the North York Mores to get there was lovely (Middelsborough excepted). One of the things about Whitby is that it is in the arse-end of nowhere... Says the man who lives in Berwick!
While in Durham, just after a cracking lunch at Vennel Cafe (really good quiches and, the one we were all after, scones!) the weather turned south as we headed just up the road and into the cathederal. It is an immensly impressive building, and like all 'big' churches one needs to imagine it the best part of 1000 years ago when it would have domintaed the skyline for miles around and reminded everyone of the power and wealth of the church. I always struggle to get an impressive shot of the outside of a church though, so its either the inside or details that get shown... The interior this time.
WWe had arranged to meet some of my oldest friends for a nice Saturday out. At the last minute we decided we would copy them and let the train take the strain.... Good decision, as it turned out.
Anyway, we left the station, and what a set of sights there were there... Lots of large orange ladies wearing bits of their net currtains on their heads. Apparently, they're called fascinators! Wear a hat or don't wear a hat but not those! Also, they were all wearing skirts that were at least a size too tight for them. I believe it was ladies day ay York races.
Having left the station, and sauntered into the usually quite quiet city centre, we were confronted with hordes of people, all intent on getting stuck into the town's supply of booze and more than a few sub-machine gun armed polis. We had no idea but it was the annual Durham miners' gala.
This is an old day out associated with trades unionism and, in particular the miners and mining villages that used to stretch across county Durham. I'd sort of, vaugely heard of it but if you'd have asked me I would have said it died out with the pits in the mid to late 80s.
How it works is each pit (usually) a village, carries a huge banner behind which their brass band plays and the village would follow on behind that and large quantities fo alcohol would be consumed. The parade would end up at the racecourse where political speaches were given. This year it was the leader of the opposition, the Magic Granddad, as the star turn.... Hence the machine gun totting police (I don't mean in a political assination sense of it!).
The black drapes along the top of the banner used to be used to signify that someone had died in that mine during the year. Now, they symbolise the death of mining!
One of our local tourist traps; and I dare say numbers are on the rise since it was the setting for a detective novel. When visiting, the first thing to check is the tides. You could be stranded on the island for 6 hours waiting for the tides to turn and causeway to be passable again. However bleak the prospect of being stuck on Holy Island might be, its better than risking the causeway. Every year, probably about once a month, some poor idiot doesn't heed the signs and drives off the island at the wrong time and their car is abandoned and left to the mercy of the sea as the tide engulfs the narrow strip of road.
Have gone for a bit of a black and white vibe in these. The prior is the oldest part of the island and was founded by St Aiden who was a monk at Iona on the West coast of Scotland. St. Cuthbert, Northumberland's patron saint was abbot here .
The graveyard is well worth a mooch. There are graves of priates, masons and plauge victims (amongst others). In the picture you can see the castle in background... Whch seems to be the motif running though all the pictures.
The monastry was, of course, disolved by Henry VIII and its stones were taken to make the original castle builiding around the same time (mid 16th century). During the Jacobite Rising of 1715, Lancelot Errington, one of a number of locals who supported the Jacobite cause, visited the castle. Some sources say that he asked the Master Gunner, who also served as the unit's barber, for a shave. Once Errington was inside, it became clear that most of the garrison were away; later that day he returned with his nephew Mark Errington, claiming that he had lost the key to his watch. They were allowed in, overpowered the three soldiers present, and claimed the castle as a landing site for the Jacobite group led by Thomas Forster, Member of Parliament for the county of Northumberland. Reinforcements did not arrive to support the Erringtons, so when a detachment of 100 men arrived from Berwick to retake the castle they were only able to hold out for one day. Fleeing, they were captured at the tollbooth at Berwick and imprisoned, but were later able to tunnel out of their gaol and escape (Which sounds about typical of Berwick!).
The castle was rebuilt in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir Edwin Lutyens. To be honest though, the inside of both the castle and priory are a bit dull and my advice would be save your money. A wander round the outside of the castle is lovely and you can see all that is of interest from the free graveyard of the monastry without paying themassive entrance fee.
Now even with my merd French, I know that means water gardens.
We now quite regularly stop for lunch on the way down to my out-laws near Manchester and one of my favourite stops is at Once Brewed near Hadrian's Wall. One of the sights that I've wanted to see here is the famous sadle in the landscape that has a solitary sycamour tree growing in it. The tree featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and was apparently less than a day's journey from Dover back then! It is also all over Instagram and other such places.
It is clear though that it is the sky that makes the shot here, as I am rather under whelmed by this. So, back again another day! Hey-ho!
It is about a mile from the car park at the pub (Twice Brewed; geddit? (Once brewed for the place and a second time for the beer being brewed) Along Hadrian's Wall (or what's left of it) to the gap. If you follow the wall it's very up and down and hard work (But short!) or go slightly south of the wall and its about the same distance but not as hilly.
The Castle dates from around 1200 CE and for most of its existence was owned by the Hepburn family (Part of the Douglas claan). Originally built by the de Gourlay's: a Northumbrian family, they chose the wrong side in one of the many English Scottish skirmishes and had the house taken off them by the Scottish crown, who gave it to the Hepburns, who built it from a fortified house into a castle.
Thai beach destinations have a bit of reputation for seediness and if one goes to Pattaya or Phuket then that side of them is certainly on view. However, with just a little more effort, one kind find a much nicer side of things. Koh Chang is one of those. I have friends who went there before it had electricity and, whilst its a long way from that now, it gives an idea of how underdeveloped it is.
We particularly like the southern tip of the island around the small town of Bang Bao. This town (well tiny village would be giving it ideas above its station!) is based around a jetty leading into the bay with shops, restaurants and bars on either side and beaches either side of the bay. There is also a thriving diving community with some fabulous days to be had snorkelling and diving.
As most of the restaurants and bars are built on stilts over the water, they have holes in the floor that allow you to sit with your feet dangling just above the water. You sit on cushions at knee high glass table the basically covers the hole, which is nice.
Its not the most exciting place on the planet but it is, well, just nice!
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.
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.