Thought at one stage that the late arrival in KL of the flight from Bangkok DMK to KUL 09.08.17 would obviate the connection to Oz. However, made it with time to spare. Landed nine hours later on a beautiful, cloudless Friday morning on The Gold Coast. Number 1 daughter and grand daughter came out to pick us up.

Day after day after day…….clear blue skies & bright sunshine. Temperatures are steadily increasing also, to C24 with an occasional leap to C30, and back down again to C25. On the news, I noticed that a report from Melbourne in the south, people were still wearing top coats and sweaters, invoking re – realization how there is much cooler weather there, and just how big Australia is!

Took Amelie to “Baby Rhyme Time” at the local library. Have noticed that the numbers attending are steadily increasing as the half hourly sessions bring parents and children in for a sing song and social. Also went for a walk around a beautiful man made lake adjacent to the Coomera river. It is utterly enchanting doing the walk with a child as they notice & pick up on lots of things that “grown ups” just pass by. Like the wind rustling leaves, birds in flight, the fragrances of woodland, flowers, freshly cut grass, flickering sun light coming through leaves of trees. On the way back called at Dan Murphy’s for a few “tinnies” & crisps.

Baby Rhyme Time at Coomera Library.

Last weekend,Fri 08.09.17 went down to Sydney to see number two daughter and hubby for a visit. Walked down to Bondi Beach to stretch our legs and came across a kite competition along the beach. Pitched up at the North Bondi RSL club for a drink and a snack with great views along Bondi Beach.

North Bondi RSL Club.

Seems bizarre that we are headed toward Christmas, a period within which “summertime” temperatures will be in the mid C30’s!

Friday 21.10.17 Down to Sydney to see #2 daughter for a quick flying visit. Also a party to celebrate a birthday and 1st skydive that a friend had undertaken. Then back up to Coomera on Sunday afternoon.

Headed out from Coomera to Singapore on 03.11.17.  Will spend a few days here, no doubting a visit to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. Saw the Light Show set to music  on the lagoon, not far from The Sands for the first time. Impressive!

05.11.17 Krabi (Thailand) Got a transfer to Popeye Guest House and  walked down a familiar road to the beach, where one notes that they had completed the paved area promenade to the left. Unfortunately the “fish tail” boat engine noise was still a subliminal irritation as they ferried never ending groups of tourists to Railay Beach around the headland. All that being said, it will be pleasant relaxing in the sun for a week topping up the tan.

11.11.17 Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) Arrived at 10:50am after an early departure from Krabi & and a one and a half hour flight south. Always a pleasure going back to Malaysia as people are so courteous and pleasant to deal with. Will stay for two nights at Submarine G/H before taking a flight out to Doha early in the morning. From Doha will grab a connection back to Manchester.   

 

 

 

 

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Took a 10-hour executive overnight coach down from Bangkok to Ko Samui. Inclusive transfer by boat for an hour and a half trip over to the island and taxi ride to the Relax Hotel at Cheng Mon for a total cost of £20.60p per person, I count that as a bargain

Now, just waiting for the weather to improve. Came south with the hope of getting some sunshine, however, the last couple of days have been overcast with occasional rain.

Well goodness me..the weather didn’t disappoint! It’s a consistent C30 & clear blue skies day after day.

26.07.17 The weather has improved and the sun seems to be showing through the cloud much more regularly than hitherto.Hired a moped and went for a mooch around the island. Found a pretty little village located on the north side called Fisherman’s Cove, ( I guess that is a contrived name for the benefit of the tourists).

Made an appointment at a Dentist as a crown needs replacing. Should get it done for around Baht 8000 (£182).

02.08.17 Wednesday Down to the beach again today. The tan has come on really well with all the good weather we have been having. Only a short time left here as we will be making way back to Bangkok on Sunday for a couple of days. Then it is out to Brisbane to see our grand daughter.

The 7 hour overnight trip out to Inle Lake from Bagan deprived us of the sight of the lush Burmese jungles through which we passed. We arrived at around 04:30 whilst still dark. However, the proprietor was kind enough to open the gate and let us in early. After a late start we “mooched” around the town of Nyaungshwe to orientate ourselves. We negotiated a price for a day out on the lake for the following day from an itinerate Street fixer, then went back to our hostel (The Aquarius).

Tending the “Floating Tomatoe” plantation

The fast & narrow fish tail boat with boatmen for 16000 kyats (£9.25) from Nyaungshwe to the Ywama village on the other side of the lake about an hour away was a bargain. We stopped on the way to see a huge floating farm cultivating tomato & cucumber.

Ywama village was hugely interesting. Visiting various artisan establishments producing fabrics made from locally sourced silks, cotton and plants from which fine fibres were drawn spun and made into the fabric from which a variety of garments were made. Silver and Gold were also sourced locally from which jewellery was fashioned. A cigar factory where cigars, cigarillos and stogies were hand rolled from locally sourced leaf.

 

Handloom weaving…Amazing…effective simplicity.

Gliding around the village by boat minded one of other water borne environments that we had visited previously in the Mekong Delta in Cambodia. It is a privilege to meet and greet such a gentle, always smiling people.

The fishermen on Inle Lake have a novel, yet thoroughly practical way of using their feet to manipulate their fishing basket.

 

Friday 13.07.17 Headed south on the 10 am bus to Yangon. This time the beauty of the Burmese jungle did not escape us as our transport twisted sinuously down from the highlands to the low country. Utterly enchanting vistas. The trip south took 12 hours, and the taxi ride in from Yangon station another hour. Checked back in at Shannkaley hostel around eight in the evening.Lovely smiles of recognition from the hostel staff as we bowled through the door. Got settled down and promptly fell into a deep slumber.

Dexterous use of hands & feet in the process of fishing on Lake Inle.

Caught the 11:00 am flight out of Yangon back to Bangkok.
After having some reservations prior to going to Myanmar, I am so glad that I did. So much pleasure derived from meeting such a gentle courteous and helpful people. A countryside, (particularly in the mountainous jungle of the NE) that is utterly beautiful.
Will be headed south from Bangkok Friday 14.07.17 to spend some time on an island off the SE coast of the Thai peninsula

Arrived by train back in Bangkok from Vientiane to Nong Kai (after some problems with the ticket issued to us in Vientiane Laos) for a two-night “lay-over”. This, as a precursor to flying out to Myanmar from Don Mueang airport (one of the two airports serving Bangkok).
Arrived Yangon, Myanmar Sunday 18.06.17 at 10:05 am after an hours flight from Bangkok. First impressions, people very friendly and helpful. Taxi ride downtown to ShannKalay Hostel cost 11000.00 kyats (£12.60). After a small sleep took a walk down by the harbour and market area. Lots of old colonial buildings in various states of repair/disrepair, in a myriad of designs from Art Deco, Roman neoclassical, Gothic, and post-modernist vernacular.

Anyone need a hat!

Seems such a shame that those buildings that really do need saving suffer from a lack of funds. However, hopefully, as the economy opens further perhaps more inward investment may be forthcoming. Have been out for some “Street Food” (a little iffy but OK), then at a local restaurant, which was quite busy, (always a good sign). Visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s front gate (where she endured “house arrest”). Visited the “Reclining Buddha”, all 200 feet of her then took a taxi ride around town for four hours looking at various points of interest. Took a walk in the park on a decidedly “dodgy” wooden promenade. Unfortunately, twenty minutes in, the heavens opened and got absolutely soaked to the skin.

Covered quite some ground over the past month or so.

Wednesday 24.06.17 Took a bus for a five-hour ride over to the West coast and the Andaman sea to a town called Ngwesaung, where we checked in at “Hill Top” a small hostel with twelve traditional wooden chalet type buildings. We are now in “rainy season” so the place is fairly deserted and it rains most every day but then brightens. Breakfast and evening meal is provided however, one has to get used to the “house” cat strolling nonchalantly across the table and ants busying themselves with whatever ants tend to do whilst evening meals are consumed quickly as the midges feed themselves on ones ankles, where those “juicy” blood vessels lie close to the surface. The various resort hotels in Ngwesaung are all shut for the rainy season however, one can see that the environment is slowly being developed into a “go to” seaside location for both indigenous people and foreign visitors.
02.07.17The Green Dragon bus company provided a relatively new(ish) Higer bus which barrelled along the narrow roads back from the coast. First twisting and turning around hairpin bends, then slowing to squeeze past other, slower road users with the judicious use of horn and braking systems.We crossed several rivers of varying sizes on bridges constructed either from concrete or wood. Those constructed of wood creaked & groaned disconcertingly as the bus made a passage. The journey continued, passing acre upon acre of rice paddy fields, fish farms and the occasional grazing water buffalo, our progress took us through small village environments where the cadences of daily life played out. A man transporting his 14-foot canoe on his bicycle accompanied by and sometimes engulfed by a variety of geese, goats, dogs and itinerate traders bearing their wares bound for markets and roadside pitches. Young boys, who otherwise should have been in school (one assumes), carrying large bundles of wood on their heads to some ill-defined destination. All this is seen fleetingly as the bus “ghosts” in and then out of these various tableaux.
03.07.17Once more we found ourselves on a bus again following an overnight stay at ShannKalay Guest House in Yangon.(It never ceases to amaze me how far out of town Bus Stations are in Myanmar. Sometimes driving by taxi for an hour and a half out of town, just to get to it!)

Stupas are round. Temples have a square footprint. There are many hundreds of them throughout the area.

At 21:00 we got on board for a 9-hour overnight journey north to the city of Mandalay. Bus stations (to a stranger), seem like a chaotic “madhouse” of feverish & chaotic activity. However, it all seems to work reasonably well, and we find ourselves ensconced in a rather nice Swedish built Scania Vabis Executive coach with A/C, fully reclining, comfortable seats, onboard seat back t.v. sets with a choice of films in most languages. There are also snacks and drinks on offer.09.07.17 Mandalay seems overwhelmed with temples and stupa of varying sizes and styles.The town is fairly spread out and has a walled “Citadel” which the army appears to be used as a barracks. Only stopping a couple of nights then another coach trip south to a town called Bagan lying on the Irrawaddy river.

Most every woman and child seems to have a predisposition to paint their faces. Now whether this started out as “sun protection” & ended up being quite fashionable, I know not. Quite unusual though.

Though a rather dusty place, it has a vibrancy and development is taking place very quickly as the economy opens up to enterprise and irrepressible entrepreneurs.08.07.17 Inle LakeArrived here in the early hours (04:30) and got into town by Tuk Tuk as the bus station was some distance from town. However, the night watchman woke at our calling and kindly let us in. It was still dark.

A lady of the Kayan tribe who inhabit an area in NE east Burma close to the Thai border

Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s due to conflict with the military regime in Myanmar, many Kayan tribes fled to the Thai border area.[3] Among the refugee camps set-up, there was a Long Neck section, which became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and not needing financial assistance.

Tomorrow will take a native boat trip around Inle Lake to visit some villages, Stupas, watching fisherman at their labours and a visit a floating tomato farm which are plentiful around this area of the country.

Have been in this idyllic location since 16.05.17. The temperature has been fairly consistently around C34/C35 with sometimes cloudy, sometimes showery conditions. It never seems that bad when it rains though, it being so warm.

Went to the UXO Lao Visitors Centre yesterday.

The UXO visitors centre in Luang Prabang gives heartrending literal/graphic depictions of how a bombing war’s effects in the 1960’s are still being felt to this day.

It’s a graphic and literal representation of the impact that bombing had on areas of Laos during the Vietnam war. As you may know, part of the Ho Chi Minh trail went through Laos and it drew the attention of American bombers. More than 2000000 tons of explosive ordnance was dropped on the country.

At a basic level, little is known in the west of the damning residual effects the Vietnam war had on ordinary peoples lives in Laos and the price is still being paid to this day.

The residual effect are still being felt to this day. Children and adults, whether playing or working in the fields regularly suffer injuries as a result of moving, touching or inadvertently impacting these dangerous pieces of ordnance.
Came away feeling hugely moved by the stoicism and bravery of these people, just getting on with their lives.

As an adjunct, I would like to offer a name check for our time here in Luang Prabang. Given that you are going to stay in Luang Prabang, you must try to book “The Deck House”. Steven & Meryl provide exemplary accommodation in a beautifully prepared guesthouse offering, breakfasts, advice & encouragement to explore the locality. They have immersed themselves in a venture to which they have engaged themselves with aplomb. Furthermore, they have endeavoured to support and succour the local community in a myriad of disparate ways. Lynn & I tip our hats, in a salute to excellence.

06.06.17
As an aside, I would like to add my reflections on the impending General Election that is about to be played out back in the UK  in two days time. In the wake of the Manchester suicide bombing and subsequent London “Ram & Slash” attacks by Islamic extremists, which cost the lives of a cumulative 29 people and upwards of over 40 seriously injured.The prospect on the ballot sheet of having the likes of Corbyn, Watson, Abbott, Milne, McDonnell, and bankrolled by the likes of McCluskey and the UNITE union fills me with revulsion. These people are dyed in the wool “Cultural Marxists” who would destroy our country, it’s history, and it’s identity. Let’s hope for a large turnout and a providential vote.

Got to Chiang Khong late afternoon on the 15.05.17. It has rained more or less continuously ever since. Will stay at the “Green Inn” for a couple of nights in expectation of crossing the border into Laos on the 17.05.17 (Thai visa runs out 18.05.17). Plan on a two day boat trip down the Mekong staying one night in Pakbeng (Dp guesthouse), before continuing the second day down to Luan Prabang, stopping at “The Deck House” for eleven nights. The trip, priced in Laotian currency works out at 325,374.00 Kip or £30.30 per person for the two day boat journey on the Mekong. I count that as a good deal!

The Mekong at Pakbeng.

Friday 19.05.17 Still overcast, but thankfully the drizzle has abated somewhat. Arrived at Luan Prabang about 17:00 in the afternoon and was happily met by Meryl from the “Deck House” who had kindly thought to come down to pick us up at the quayside. After introducing us to Stephen her partner, back at the “Deck House”, grabbed a shower freshened up and went down to the lounge to chat to them both at length, as a precursor to going out to a local restaurant for a meal. Flopped down and slept soundly after a tiring day.

Fishermen make their way against the strong Mekong currents.

Out for a walk around town to orientate ourselves. There’s a bamboo rope bridge that is constructed at the start of “the dry season”(Oct-May) over the NamKhang river (a tributary of the Mekong), and deconstructed/washed away during the “rainy season”(June to September) for which a nominal 5000Kip(50p) is charged. Access to the market, restaurants and bars is down in the main body of the town. The market stretches some considerable distance along the main “walking street” where purveyors of goods have wrested dominion back from the car and other forms of transport, which is always good to see.

The rope / bamboo bridge over to town centre Luang Prabang

The night market in Luan Prabang.

The intention “at the moment” is to lay over here for thereabouts a month, then head south to Vientiene (the capital) and then back into Thailand were some luggage needs retreaving.

Three hour bus trip north from Bangkok in a fairly cramped “People Carrier” gets us into Pai at around 15:30. The countryside improved greatly after leaving Chiang Mai and started the climb into the mountain area in which Pai is embedded.

06:00am…C29..It’s going to be a beautiful morning here in Pai

Three hundred hairpin/switchback bends later, we cruise down main street to be greeted by a really “Bohemian” environment full of “young trendies” doing their thing and “hanging out” as I believe the phraseology goes. Paitopia is our domicile for the next three nights. Its a grouping of a number of purpose built wooden “A”frame houses on stilts built in random fashion near an outdoor pool and bar/restaurant around a small lagoon/lake.

A “Massiman” repas, along with a bowl of spices and a cool Leo.

Hired a moped for a couple of days (100 Tai bahts(GBP 2.20)!)
Although the immediate future involves a move to another domicile called Bulunburi on the banks of the Pai river, the intention is to head south again to Chiang Mai and out east to Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong to make the border crossing  over to Laos at the Friendship bridge over the Mekong river at a small border town called NongKhai. A two day boat trip down the Mekong then ensues, to a town in Laos called Pakbeng, stopping overnight. The following day the boat trip continues until we disembark and head out to Luang Prabang. However in the interim, I have to gain some motivation to do an “on-line” application for a subsequent border crossing at a later date, into Myanmar.

After an  overland / overnight  11 hour trip by road  north, the bus pulled in by the old city Tha Phae gate in Chiang Mai at 06:30am. First impressions, were of a city much larger than I had expected. Indeed the metropolitan area outside the ancient city walls spreads for a considerable distance and is home to 149,000 people. Chiang Mai sits close to the Ping river. The old city walls date back to the 13th century. They have warped, distended and truncated with the passage of time. Checked in at Jimmy & Jengs Homestay in a small enclave just outside the old city gates.

Jimmi & Jengs Homestay lodging just outside the old Chiang Mai city walls.

edium wp-image-1469″ src=”https://magnuskwaszenko.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/img_4050.jpg?w=300″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ /> 13th Century city wall section, warped and distorted through time.[/caption]

During the ensuing few days  took a TukTuk ride and also mooched around the city centre . The driver said that there were 300 Temples within the city walls. After visiting two or three I’m afraid that I started rubbing mine,(temples…that is). Have been out to China Town area a few times to try the “street food”, and experience the atmosphere. The food was incredibly cheap, 30 Baht (67pence) for a filling meal eaten, sat on some plastic stools. The atmosphere was good humoured and convivial.

China Town Market, like markets all over the world provides a forum for exchange on many disparate levels.
The weather forecast is predicting C39 on Tuesday & Wednesday. A tad warm methinks!

Beautifully carved wooden Temples, ubiquitous throughout Chiang Mai.

Sat down and enjoy some Tofu, spring onion, green/red peppers, coriander, and some other stuff, I know not what! However, the inner surfaces of my mouth were on fire as I finished &  left  in search of a soothing Chang beer or two.

China Town Market. Like markets all over the world providing a forum for exchange on many disparate levels.

Now appears to be a good time to start planning a trip NE via Mueang Chiang Rai, crossing the boarder into Laos and picking up a boat on the Mekong River for a two day journey, heading to Luang Prabang in Laos.

13th Century city wall section, warped and distorted through time.

However, whilst travelling, word sifts through the ether about a place called Pi. It seems that among the back packer fraternity, it is “the” place to visit to chill, for a few days. So booked tickets for a 3 hour drive up there to stay and soak up the atmosphere for 5 days.

C37 here in Bangkok today, clear blue skies and busy busy down the Khao San Road. Traders, stall holders, massage parlours, bars, eateries, hookers, hawkers, beggars,  and bible bashers, all in an undulating, pulsating ephemeral tide.

Checked into “Thai Garden House”  19.04.17, which is, as Thai descriptions go more generally, “never knowingly undersold.” However, everything and everyone seem to rub along well together. Time spent here is dedicated to “Chillin’, Relaxing & Planning”.

The Thai Garden House Hostel is a traditional old wooden clapperboard property which has kinda’ been overpowered by subsequent development. However undaunted “Mr.Thai” the owner, works assiduously to keep customers happy.

The trip north by bus, ensues at (19:30pm) Monday evening. Chiang Mai was missed last time one was here, so once there, will provide an excellent opportunity to head east into Laos.

A decision has yet to be made how to get to Laos. There are two possibilities via the Mekong river,(9hours fast boat…or 2 days slow boat). However, one has been advised to reject the “fast option” as too dangerous. Apparently, there have been many accidents, with boats hitting rocks in the river, capsizing and throwing occupants and luggage overboard!!!

Alternatively, one could fly to Vientiane (southern Laos) or go overland to Luang Prabang.

Just discovered, subsequent to having bought overland tickets north, (isn’t it always the way..) that flights are available to fly to Yangon (Myanmar) for £25!!!! from Bangkok. Anyway, coming back to Bangkok after Laos, to pick up some luggage we left behind to lighten our burden. Therefore, leaving Myanmar a considered option for later.

Yeh!!! 1920’s rocks!!!

On a completely separate note, I got some “RayBan “Gatsby”” sunglasses as a birthday present from my two daughters and their husbands…..What do you think?????…mmmmmm

The wheels hit the tarmac at Suvarnahbumi airport in Bangkok at 05:30am this morning after an hour and fifty minute flight from Singapore and an hours transfer. I hardly slept at all on the 12 hour first leg from Rome ( Leonardo Da Vinci) and was a tad irritable when the accommodation didn’t make itself apparent in either “Maps.Me” or “Google” as bags were dragged to and from the Khao San Road for about fifteen minutes (C28), which ended in giggles from the proprietor at the fact they didn’t have a sign……. anywhere…..and e-mail directions were balefully skimpy.

The Colosseum in Rome stands through time as a witness to both man’s stupidity and his propensity for excellence.

Rome, totally beguiled me and I’ve promised myself a return trip.Tuscany and Umbria are utterly beautiful with their gently undulating landscapes dotted with vineyards, olive groves and the exuberance of the food from small family run restaurants.

The wedding went,……as one would suspect….emotional, tearful, a kaleidoscope of meetings, greetings….but ultimately…..my daughter….moving on. I love them both so much it’s just tough to have seen them both go…..but,…I guess that’s what one has strived for,… all those years to accomplish. Independent free spirits, that make their own choices.

For me…..speaks volumes.

Not to end on a melancholic note….the weather here is superb and I’m really looking forward to going south.

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