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!
One of new favourite places in Bangkok. These are the views from the 49th floor of the Marriott hotel's rooftop Octave bar. They have a happy hour from 5-7 which means that the cocktails are not too pricey. Not when you consider the views you get thrown in.
Northumberland has (I think) the only herd of wild cattle in Britain. The herd is actually split in two because of the fear of Foot and Mouth disease. If one animal in the herd gets it then the whole lot need slaughtering (not sure why but that's how it is). They took a few animals from the herd to north east Scotland so that if ever the worst happened then the herd's genes would carry on.
Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities. Although the Georgian New town is lovely it is really the Old town that I like (They are both UNESCO world heritage sites). The only problem is, in the summer, the tourists and, all year-round, the weather. It is nice sometimes in Edinburgh (I know this must be true because I've seen pictures) but it always seems to be grey and overcast when we are there: No matter what time of year!
Victoria Street which leads (kind of) from the High Street down to the Grass Market is one of the most picturesque parts of the city. This HDR shot of it gives an idea of the colour and interest that all of the independent shops give. It's a real shame that these only now seem to cater to the richer tourist rather than have quirky stuff the average local may want to buy (which it used to, at least that's how I remember it).
The old town seems to be full of dark little alley ways and closes and appears to be a real hotchpotch of chimneys, spires and roofs (had to check the plural and apparently rooves, which I prefer, is so unusual to not be considered standard!) on the skyline. J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh and, I think, one can clearly see some of the descriptions of places like Diagon Alley and some of the homes of dark witches and wizards in her books in Edinburgh's Old Town.
As pretty much everyone knows, Edinburgh used to be known as Auld Reekie, because of the smoke and soot from all the chimneys. This is the look I've been trying for in these black and white shots of it. That, plus the dull weather puts pay to colourful shots of buskers on the mile or anything for that matter.
One of my favourite travel blogs is the travel past 50 site travelpast50.com/. Aside from the fact that its written by people from an atypical demographic to the average bloggers (This means it's a little more thoughtful and is generally better written) they are happy to return to a subject or place again and again.
Walking the walls of Berwick always seems to offer something new. Each combination of tide, time and weather seem to offer a new view.
So, with that in mind, here are some more shots of my old friends the Bridges of Berwick. These were taken with my phone rather than camera and, believe it not, we had been to Tesco's late in the afternoon and there was a hail storm.
I particularly like the blueness of the water in these pictures. There is almost no post production processing. A little bit of curves just to make it 'pop' and straightening the horizon on the Royal Border Bridge shot.
This is what comes of reading too much Nigel Tranter novels! Ooh! Lets go there! On this occasion it was a good call though. This was a top morning out. If you've got a car and are in Edinburgh on a nice day then the 20 minute drive (or train) out of the city to North Berwick is just the ticket! Its as windy as: Even on a beautiful summer's day like this one and not overly warm, exposed as one is here.
Tantallon Castle is the ruins of a 14th century fortress on the East Coast of Scotland and was the historic base of the Red branch of the Douglas clan (The Earls of Angus). Although there were fortresses on this site since at least the 1200s.
When I lived in Burnmouth for a year, this was an occasional (read long) walk along the coast from our house. We then had the problem of the return journey, plus the weather had to be spectacularly good to walk along that coastal path and enjoy it: Hence only the occasional. I had forgotten just how amazing the views of Coldingham from St. Abb's Nature reserve are.
They are a fairly iconic part of Berwick; the three bridges. This is taken from the site of the Castle on a glorious summer's day. Yes, we do have them! From l2r: Old bridge, New bridge and Royal Border bridge.
The old Bridge was the traditional way in and out of the town towards the South and dates from James I's reign: It was completed in 1608. Presumably before this you crossed either by boat or much further up stream.
Then, the Royal Border bridge was built for the trains when they came along. This was when they knocked the castle down to make room for the station in 1850. Perhaps not the greatest decision ever made,. The bridge was was designed by Robert (George's son) Stephenson and opened by little Vicky. Its now a grade 1 listed structure.
Back way back when, I used to come to Melrose at least once a year with a party of school children, I've played rugby there (and won!), driven through and round it numerous times but never really looked at the Abbey apart from in passing.
High time to put that right. It is quite a significant monument in Scottish history. Several Kings are buried there, but it is probably most famous for being the burial site of Robert the Bruce's heart; the rest of him is buried in Dunfermline Abbey. The heart is thought to have been bought back from the Crusades to be buried there, which is more than a bit odd!
However, it was 6 (yes SIX!) pounds to go in to look around. Its some ruins in a field! How can they justify that much (see Stonehenge too)? They are ruins! By definition there's no up-keep. A bit of mowing perhaps to keep the grounds looking half decent but I can't see where the money goes. Needless to say I was too tight to pay. I thought it was just my usual meanness but the week after we went friends were moaning about the same thing. They had the same solution too. If you walk to the right of the Abbey there is a little path that allows you to see pretty much everything you could see from inside the fence but, maybe, from 10 metres further away.
One of the things about Northumberland, and Berwickshire on the other side of the border, are the number of castles. There's a good reason for this of course, in that both sides liked a day out to raid, fight and nick each other's cattle and women. Plus ca change!
One of my favourite ruins is Dunstanburgh castle; a short walk along from the sleepy fishing village of Craster. It dates from the 14th century (about 1313) and was built by the Earl of Lancaster. He was a rival to Edward II and it was probably meant as a safe refuge, if things went too badly wrong in the south. It was also, of course, a monument to his wealth and power. A wise move really, as he only visited it once before his capture after a battle and subsequent execution! It then passed into the hands of the crown (or at least the Royal family) for a couple of centuries at least.
Well, it's been a while!
We bought a house back in the UK where we both used to work and are now busy showing the children the sights of the North East of England, when we can drag them away from the wifi. There will some evidence of nice weather in future posts, but I have to say it is really cold on the coast here after Bangkok!
The weather has been a bit hit and miss. We have had some fabulous days and some absolute shocking weather too. The rain has meant that one needed to be creative to take interesting shots on some days.
We've had some shocking weather of late. It has either been pouring down, or when it isn't actually raining the humidity because of the rain has been terrible. So, all in all I've not been out and about with the camera much of late.
However, I have been trawling through old pictures and re-editing them. I saw some really nice, high contrast, black and white rhinos on instagram and that is what I was (originally) trying to go for. I definitely have a favourite.
First up is the original edit...
and then the Black & White version. It's fairly close to the effect I was after. BUT, is the third one nicer?
... and then one with a warmer look.
Then, a more sun faded/vintage look....
Friends of mine who took 'gapyahs' (to be fair none of them are gap-yah people.) after finishing university went to Koh Chang. No roads, no electricity, just some bloke with a boat who dropped you off on a sandy beach. We decided that we wanted a short break on one of the islands but hated the idea of Phuket and the like. In the end this seemed to be right up our soi.
A bit of diving, a bit of beach, a bit of pool-lounging, eating, a cheeky beer or two and doing nothing much at all. Not our normal trip but, variety is the spice and all that.
This end of the island used to be a fishing village. Most of the new buildings are built on stilts going out into the bay which makes it look lovely. You also feel that the verdant mountains are right on top of one. You can also enjoy your well earned beer looking down through a glass table-top and a hole in the floor straight into the sea, which is a little odd. Relaxing, but odd!
When we lived in Taiwan, on one of the telly Travel channels there used to be an advert they would run again and again and again. It told the story of travelers who turned up in a village in the arse-end of nowhere, realised they were lost and were desperate to get back on the road again. Only, of course, there was no transport for a day or two. They then slowly realised that being lost, or at least not where you wanted to be is what travel is about. I think the tag line was something like 'you can't find yourself until you're lost'. What a load of hippy-dippy baloney, is my usual view of that. I have to say I like things planned. That doesn't mean no flexibility but I enjoy planning a trip and like to know what is going to happen next.
Planning it is half the fun.
Although, if that were actually true, then I should plan two trips, have the same amount of enjoyment and save a fortune. But you know what I mean.
However, on occasion, I can be proven wrong about this and we stumble upon (or get pushed into) a hidden gem.
We were off out for the day from our Air BnB week to, I think, Galle for the day. About 10 minutes into the journey our driver turns off the main road and up a hill, round a corner, up a bit, down a bit and round a few more corners.
When he eventually stops he proudly tells that this is the temple of his own village.
Just a short post this time, you might be glad to hear. This was the only kingfisher we saw. Last time, they were two-a-penny. And, this was the only decent shot of that. Not as impressive coloring as their more common cousin.
These are magnificent little birds. You see them all over the south of Sri Lanka. This first one was taken in Yala NP. Their feathers are so fine they look like hairs.
As I've said before, this is one of my favourite things to see in Bangkok. This time it was a school trip (To find out about the costs and benefits of tourism, if you're interested.). We were supposed to go to the Grand Palace but it was felt that it would be absolutely rammed (correctly) so this was the substitute.
Although you don't always go exactly where I would have chosen (been here before so somewhere new for preference), it does mean I get to go to some cool places. I didn't even have the hassle of having to organise this one. Nor is it just a jolly, however, please note. There is a proper educational purpose to the trips and you are legally responsible for a bunch of teenagers. So, all the jokes about counting people and nagging about seatbelts do have a purpose. Having said that, it doesn't mean that it isn't a pleasant change either.
These are just a few shots taken with my phone. Their purpose was to back-up the evidence the students were collecting on tourism, but a bunch of photos of scruffy 15 year olds huddled over clip-boards wasn't that exciting to be honest.
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.