Category: SE Asia

Indonesia by train 1 – Jakarta & Pangandaran


For only the 2nd time in my life (the other one ending in a fantastic trip to Namibia) I found myself with time and resources for a trip, but I just couldn’t decide where to go.

To be more specific, I’ve always had lists (if you saw my bedroom wall as a small boy, there were lists of things everywhere).

In this case, many of the places on travel lists, were either already booked, in hand for future years or I’d costed them AHP (after house paid for !).

So, I resorted to reading through a brochure. A train trip across Indonesia looked interesting. I’d had no previous plans to visit the place and since I knew so little about it, seemed quite exciting.


The 1500k journey would take us from Jakarta, by train and minibus to Kalilbaru, where a boat would take us on to the Island of Bali.

As usual on tours like this, we arrived a day early. You need to be rested and ready to go, when a trip like this starts, so the obvious options are:

  1. Fly business class, and arrive 3 hours before the tour starts
  2. Arrive 24 or 48 hours early, to acclimatise and get some rest

1 or 2 extra nights in a budget hotel are far cheaper than business class, so we always pick option 2.


We arrive in Jakarta, get some rest and then visit the National Museum.

It had too many interesting things to show here (ranging from canoes to dinosaur bones).


Three wheelers (or Tuc Tuc’s as they were originally known in Bangkok, and now practically everywhere else) are a cheap and quick way to get around.


The National monument.

A symbol of Indonesian independence from the Dutch.

The park it’s in was enormous.


We wander around the old town.

Our organised tour included formal visits to all these places, so we just used the time to relax and find somewhere nice for coffee (were on an Island called Java after all :).


At 6pm, our tour begins in the hotel reception.

Although I’ve already filled in my insurance and NOK details onto the web portal I end up being handed a form and told to fill them all in again (this happens on every trip).

Although everyone in the group has been told how much the tip kitty is and in what currency, half the people have to go back to their rooms to collet the money etc. (this also happens on every trip).

Enough of my moaning, our guide introduces himself, gives an overview of the trip, and then takes us to a local restaurant to try a local version of Thali (which washed down with cold beer, is quite delicious).


Up early the next morning, and we start our city tour with a trip to the local antique market.

None of the antiques are too my liking, but I find a useful knife sharpener in the hardware stall.


After an uprising against the Dutch by the Chinese, they were moved to an area just outside the city call Glodok.

Here we visited the Dharma Jaya Toase bio temple.


Wandering into Fatahillah Square in old town Batavia.

The Si Jagur is an old Portuguese canon with a sort of rude thumb arrangement at the back.


Across the square, the exclusive Batavia café where we have lunch in Colonial surroundings.


Cafe Batavia had this strange urinal in the gents toilets with a full length mirror.


Sunda Kelapa port.

They only allow smaller ships now, which travel between local Islands.


Standards of health and safety fall a bit short of what we’d expect in the UK, as shown by this “ladder”.


And this unusual way of transferring people from dock to boat !.


One of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen, the Istiqlal Mosque.

As the largest Mosque in South East Asia its 4 stories has and the size of a football pitch.


And just for religious balance, a picture of the Cathedral Church.


Jakarta was quite a modern city. Although our hotel wasn’t in the centre of town, we managed to find this nice Italian Restaurant with an excellent selection of wine.


The following morning, and it’s time to leave Jakarta.

The train is spotless, the seats comfortable and there’s even a film on the screen for those who don’t have anything to watch on their tablets or phones.

Best thing about it ?. It’s a train, so I can read without getting motion sickness as I would in a car or minibus.


And the view out of the window.


After an easy five and a half hours on the train, the next leg of our journey to Pangandaran is by minibus.

Although air-conditioned it was another three and a half hours and very tiring.

Moral lifted briefly, with this amusing scene of a man on a bicycle, holding onto the back of a lorry and being towed home.


We finally arrive. The peninsula is beautiful, but we’ve arrived late and its about to turn dark.

So we go straight to our first activity a tour of the Penanjung Nature Reserve.



Pangandaran is 80% secondary rain forest and I’m really looking forward to a couple of hours in “proper” nature.

The park was about to close, but they let us in all the same.


Near the entrance, these beautiful friendly animals introduce themselves to Tina.


A bit deeper inside the secondary rainforest, I see the sort of tree’s common to the Daintree rainforest in Australia.


Trekking along through the trails. After hours in a minibus the sense of exploration and adventure was a welcome relief.


We wander into the mouth of a cave, where lots of bats and small creatures live (quite difficult to photograph in the dark unless you work with David Attenborough).

As we continue through the cave, there is an opening at the other end, which leads out onto the beach.


We wander back along the beach to our hotel.


After getting changed and having dinner, Nikki and I wander around the town.

Not much going on unfortunately, but lots of local tourists, were driving around in these pedal cars with music “blasting” from phones.



In the morning before breakfast, we go for a walk along this beautiful beach.


But all around were these Tsunami Signs – our guide said to make sure at any given time, we knew which direction to run to reach high ground.

Didn’t seem particularly dangerous to me, but thousands had died during the Tsunami so it made sense to take it seriously.


A visit to the village to see local culture and commerce.

The vegetable market. I only really like potatoes and I’m frequently criticised for my lack of variety.

A stall holder took his through her entire selection. There were over 30 kinds of vegetable. I’d lost interest after 4, but I kept quiet so others on the trip could immerse themselves in the experience.


In the fish market, they even have Shark.


We wander into the main village.

There’s a special celebration today ! Several young boys are being circumcised.

Were asked if we’d like to join in. Err, no.


Away from the disfigurement, were shown how palm sugar is made and see these rice crackers drying in the sunshine.


Wayan Golek puppetry is very popular in Indonesia.

The puppeteers have to make their own puppets, and this chap gave us a demonstration (he even had 2 apprentices).

He gave a brief demo of a scene from the Ramayana. In a “fight scene” he made a loud clicking sound, did some background music with symbols (while still operating the puppets).


A school in the village where nurses were trained.

The nurses were thrilled to meet visitors, but unfortunately, only females were allowed inside the school.

Also, the nurses weren’t allowed to be photographed, so our womenfolk got this picture with the Director of nursing.


The final excursion of the day, a bot trip up Green Canyon.


As we got further into the canyon it was right out of Dr Livingston.

We finally stopped and people were allowed to disembark the boat and swim the remaining 200 metres up the canyon.


It sounded like a fool’s errand to me, so I relaxed in the boat.

People sometimes see pictures of me relaxing and think I look bored. I’m not, its just when I relax, I relax my face as well.


Meanwhile, the swimmers reached the top of the canyon and took this picture.

Daft buggers.

Indonesia by train 2 – Yogyakarta & Seloliman nature reserve


Leaving Pangandaran, we head to the next destination on our journey across Indonesia.

Yogyakarta is described by as the hidden gem of Indonesia, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

We get taxis from the train station to our hotel. Quickly checked in and then headed out for some sight seeing.


The opulent Sultans palace.

I really enjoyed it there, there were loads of interesting things to see and the present Sultan still lives there.


Next the Taman Sari bathing complex with loads of areas like this one.

After a couple of hours, we head back to the hotel and get a couple of hours rest (were all exhausted).

Delighted I find a steak house in the town for dinner.


The next day, were off out to see Candi Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure on earth.


Our local guide follows route of the ancient pilgrims, through the mandala shaped structure from the early realms towards nirvana.


We’re given a chance to relax in a place of enlightenment.


We’d arrived at 7am, so about 10:30am we headed back to the hotel.

Time for a soak in the pool.


Later, we visit the Prambanan temple complex.


The area suffered during the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake. It had caused all kinds of damage, and hundreds of researchers had worked to put many of artefacts back together.

But a lot of work still remained to be done and our guide showed us piles of hundreds of stones that were being catalogued.

Machine learning computers were trying lots of permutations to see how the blocks could fit back together.


Some of the amazing frescos. This one is a scene from the famous Ramayana.


Inside one of the temples, this Ganesh statue.


Wandering around, you can see the size of the site.


That evening, Nikki attended performance of the Ramayana (I’d already seen it, so I went out for a few drinks in Yogyakarta).

After the performance, Nikki was able to take this photo of the sun setting over Prambanan.


But later that afternoon, we pedal out of the city on a 6k bicycle tour visiting local villages.

One of our group didn’t fancy cycling himself, so he had a sit down cyclo and got to see the place at leisure.


A small “factory” where Tofu is made.


A typical paddy field you can see the houses in the background where the people who tend it live.


A break on the trail to enjoy the beautiful countryside.


Bricks made of clay. Placed into moulds then dried in the sun.

Back to our hotel and our final evening in Yogyakarta. Being quite international, we were able to find an Italian Restaurant for dinner that served Moretti beer.


In the morning we’re back on the train.


Leaving the train and travelling by minibus, we see some of the countryside that will make up our next stay.


The Seloliman nature reserve is located on sacred slopes of Penanggungan volcano.

It is run by the Seloliman Environmental education centre and it’s volunteers.


We’re shown to our chalets and our bathroom although private, is actually outdoors !.


One of the centre volunteers shows us around the garden.

All the food consumed at the centre is grown here along with various herbs and local medicine.


Income is generated for the reserve by tourists (like me) staying in nice accommodation and eating and drinking at their restaurant.

For the volunteers, its simple dormitory accommodation and were shown around one.

I thought these stairs (in a house built by volunteers) were particularly clever in their design.


Wandering out of the camp, we go into the village to find out about local life.


Tours of the village are done each day from the Nature Research at 9:30am.

… And the local Ice cream “van” isn’t daft. He knows the route so is able to tout for business (and seemed to do quite well out of it).


A woman in the local village makes her own coffee.

She runs a small business with her daughter (who is 70, she is 90 and still going strong).


Were offered a cup. It tastes like mud.

But she’s a simple woman, and very kind, so purely to reward her enterprise, I buy some coffee to take away (and give to someone I don’t like).


The main trade in the area is rice production, so we begin wandering through the rice terrace’s.

Local people are working hard to harvest the rice. We don’t want to interrupt them, so were on our way.


 All the electricity in the area is provided by this Mini hydroelectricity plant.


The rice terraces are that rare thing, completely practical and beautiful at the same time.

We head back to the Nature reserve and this picture is my lasting memory of that place, which I’ll never forget.


We have lunch and then a short lesson on Javanese herbal medicine.

Were shown how the herbs are crushed and prepared. At the end, this concoction will help with cold and flu symptoms.

I’ve no idea if it works, but when I took a sip of it, it certainly tasted like medicine!”.

Indonesia by train 3 – Mnt Bromo, Permuteran & Ubud


Getting towards the end of our trip to Indonesia, but with some of the most exciting things still left to see.


Up at 3am, we climb into trucks and head for the viewing point of Mount Bromo.


It’s still dark when we get there and the sun is just starting to be visible (as well as the screens of several camera’s and mobile phones.


The view of mount Bromo and surrounding vista from Mount Penanjakan.


Thinking that the fun is over, I climb back into the truck expecting to head back to the hotel for breakfast.

But no, we head out into the desert.


Mount Bromo. At 2329m, its the most well known location in the Tengger valley. Now in the valley we get a chance to walk up it and look inside.

Someone was even renting out horses to ride to the volcano (one of the Americans on our trip had worked with horses all her life and briefly considered hiring it, but we were told not to as there were “well-being” issues with the animals there).

There was no way I could make it there and back in 45 mins, so I bought some coffee off the local traders and a Gollock jungle knife which I’d use later in the trip.


Nikki however did manage to get to the top, and took this excellent picture.

Finally, back to the hotel for breakfast, a dip in the pool and then off to the train station.

bags at station

This time were headed for Kalibaru.

Our guide always got us to the locations in plenty of time, so there was time to get out my kindle and catch up on some reading.


Our hotel in Kalibaru was so close to the station that we were able to walk.

I have to say, the hotel was excellent, but the town of Kalibaru itself, didn’t have much going on.

In the hotel grounds, when I went for breakfast, this bat was hanging from a tree near our room. Honestly, it must have been 3 feet long (but perfectly harmless).


We visited a plantation to see how the locals make Coffee, cocoa and rubber.

This picture shows the rubber being harvested from the tree.


And this one the finished rubber after processing.

Afterwards, we had to chance to try Kopi Luwak coffee with fried bananas.


Said to be the best coffee in the world and nicknamed Civetcat Cofffee (as it is digested my a Civetcat and the “output” is processed into coffee).

Its also the most expensive with a Kilo costing upto $700. We got a cheaper version to take home. I have to say the coffee was very nice.


A minibus to Gilimanuk, we wait for the ferry across the Java Strait.


We’ve now left Java and are on the Island of Bali.

Staying in a place called Pemuteran, the best hotel of the trip, with another outdoor bathroom.

There were various options for activity’s for the day like Yoga and Snorkelling.


We decided to go on a jungle trek. It was organised by the hotel and the trek was lead by a local park ranger.

The route we’d be taking would be from Tegal Bunder, visiting Prapat Agung and circling clockwise around the coast of the West Bali national park.

The intention was to stop at Waka Shorea at an isolated hotel reached by boat for refreshments then follow the trail around Tluk Terima to finish at Labuan Lalan.

8 miles. It seemed an awful long way to me in baking heat.


We arrived at the start of our walk and were introduced to our guide. We’d brought plenty of water but were given 2 extra bottles each by the guide.


We’d been told to bring packed lunch. The night before we went out shopping for supplies. We had mostly fruit and biscuits, as you can’t buy M&S sandwiches in a place like that.

We needn’t have bothered, when we arrived, they gave is these really nice chicken salad things, wrapped in leaves.

This is mine, opened out later for lunch, with the Gollock I used to chop through the jungle.


In some places, the jungle was quite dense…


… and in others, just brush-land.


After several hours of trekking, I’ve had an amazing time, but I’m exhausted (my companions are raring to go).

Nusa Bay is normally only reached by boat and is an exclusive resort. I have to say we didn’t really look like the G&T crowd when we arrived, but we had a coke and a well earned chance to relax.

At this point, I realise I’m really struggling and regretfully, I consider getting a taxi back the 2 miles to Labuan Lalang. But wait! what taxi?. There isn’t a road, it’s meant to be a secret hideaway.

Our guide is able to help. The staff boat, taking people home who have finished their shift has just left, so they are radioed and come back for me.


Some of the staff seemed quite interested to hear where I’ve been.

Others just looked tired after a day at work and annoyed I’d delayed their journey home.


My companions and guide, continued the last 2 miles on foot, while I hung around for about 90 minutes relaxing.

Finally, were all reunited and and treat ourselves to coconut milk.

A really memorable day. Exactly why I love adventure travel.


In the evening we have dinner at the hotel and the staff entertain us with music and traditional dancing.


The hotel was quite stylish with a really elaborate breakfast on offer.

They wrote our names on the plates, but unfortunately, got Nikki’s name wrong.

Just after breakfast and were back in a minibus heading for Ubud (sadly, the last destination on our trip, before home).


Driving along we get to see views like this.


After stopping for lunch, we visit Taman Ayun temple.

It had loads of open spaces and tree’s and stuff like that. The spirituality of it was perhaps lost on me, but the connection with nature wasn’t.


Unfortunately, there’s very little time available to spend in Ubud.

We quickly put our stuff in our room, then head to town.

A few coffee’s and a walk around the shops.


Before you know it, its dark and we have a wander around a few bars.


It’s the last night of our tour, which officially finish the following day after breakfast.

I’ve met some pretty cool and interesting people on this trip (a German psychiatrist, An American woman who worked for 20 years in a prison and in her youth did Rodeo, a New York city guy who wanted to try something different).

Also, our guide Abe (pronounced Abi). A modern young processional who’s still in touch with his countries culture and history.

Excellent food, excellent wine and excellent company (but sad all the same, I’ve really enjoyed this fantastic trip).


The next morning, we get packed and ready for home.

Our flight is leaving about 2pm, a friend from the trip has booked a local guide to drive him around some interesting places and invites us along.

So, the adventure is back on.

We spend an hour visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Like the shires from Lord of the Rings.


The Turtle temple (which looked like a sort of cartoon turtle to me).


We wander down the many levels of the Elephant cave temple of Goa Gaja.

There’s even a nice cafe, and some traditional Indonesian coffee.

Our bags are in the guides car, so he drives us straight to the airport. The morning turned out ok after all.


And to top it all, the flight is overbooked, so were upgraded to business class.

The chap serving us wine, is delighted to speak to Nikki, as he finds someone who appreciates just how knowledgable he is.

Indonesia, somewhere I’d never thought of going, but what an amazing trip.

Inle Lake – Myanmar


Another short flight, and we arrive in Heho.

We’ll be staying at Nayaungshwe township, on the bank of Inle Lake, a 2 hour drive away.


Another refreshment stop.

Several people had commented on Kay’s parasol. She takes us to visit this guy, who makes them.

The entire intricate mechanism is made on this foot powered lathe.


We’ve got free time in the afternoon, so Kay recommends the Red Mountain winery.

Sounded like a fab idea, so Kay organised a chap to take us and wait until we were ready to come back.

We get a tour of the winery and its beautiful grounds. It must be said, the climate here isn’t ideal for red wine, but the owners (from France) are convinced of its viability.

Whatever the quality of the wine, the grounds were incredibly beautiful.


We were shown around the production facility and then we did a wine tasting, including a tasting board with 4 red wines.


Kay had also recommended somewhere nearby to eat.


The Inle heart view had spectacular views across the valley and the food was superb.


Back to our hotel (which was superbly fitted out and practically brand new).

A gin & tonic before bed, and a good nights rest.


In the morning, we wonder to the rooftop restaurant for breakfast.

As I look out on the view at the back of the hotel, its not nearly so lovely as the view at the front.

Things are improving, but many of the local people are living in poverty.


We head for the lake moorings and set off.


It’s 4 people to a boat and we take it in turns to sit at the front (the boat operator, sits at the back).

These things fly along at an exhilarating speed.


This picture gives an idea of the size of the lake (when it was my turn to sit at the front).


The lake is famous for its fishermen, who stand up to get better visibility of the fish, while rowing with their feet.

It has to be said, this has more to do with tourism these days, and whenever you photographed one, the hand was out straight away (and there didn’t seem to be many fish in his boat).


Indein on the western banks of the lake. An intricate pagoda complex with hundreds of Shan style stupas clustered together on its hillside.


Funny how a walk to a major site of interest usually involves walking through a market of some kind.


We reach the hillside and there are literally hundreds of small Stupas to explore


Following years of decline, and with the forest reclaiming the site walking amongst these hauntingly beautiful ruins has a very Indiana Jones feel.


Inn Paw Khone village.

A community of buildings on stilts.


Inside, entire industries making Silverware and Lotus fibre weaving.


They also have a restaurant and I have lunch of crinkle cut chips, egg fried rice and a bottle of the local beer.


We head deeper into the lake.


Although some people make their living through tourism, others do so, from subsistence farming and literally live on the lake in huts.


Not sure I’d want to spend a night in this particular hut, it seemed like it was about to fall down.


Exploring the floating garden.

name of monastry

Located on the lake, the famous Jumping cat monastery.

The previous person in charge had been famous for training cats to jump in the air and this had led to the name of the monastery being changed.

He has since died, nobody does anything with the cats, so there’s not much there to see (although its considered an iconic must-see sight in the area).


Finally, on our way back, were shown how traditional boats are made.


After a shower and change of clothes, we decide to head into town and see a bit of the place.

We find this friendly bar, and I’m delighted to see on the menu “chip butty”. I’ve been away from home for a few weeks now, and can’t rest it.


So when it arrives, I’m a bit surprised. It’s basically, some oven cooked chips, in the sort of pancake you use for crispy duck.

Didn’t matter, I ate it anyway, but I’ve never seen a chip butty with so much salad 🙂

Mandalay, Ubehn bridge & Irrawaddy river cruise – Myanmar


Well, Kipling’s Poem begins with the line “On the road to Mandalay” and that’s how this leg of our journey began.


After a couple of hours on the bus we had a refreshment stop.

It’s fun when I’m travelling and I see things that remind me of my youth in Manchester.

It’s almost certainly illegal now, but when I was about 10 it was quite common to see pieces of broken bottle cemented onto the top of the wall to stop burglars/vandals.

On the wall surrounding our stop, they obviously still do.


We arrived quite late in our hotel, were able to have a candle lit dinner.

Well of course we did, the electricity had gone off, the the kitchen staff were cooking with lanterns and torches.


In the morning, were up really early to see the famous U Bein bridge.

With just a series of wooden uprights, planted into mud, I was amazed at how stable it was.


The bridge just as the sun was rising.

This was also important, as this isn’t just a tourist attraction, tens of thousands of people use this bridge every day to go to work, visit friends, collect groceries and suchlike.


The other incredible thing about it, is its length.

At 1.2 kilometres, its the longest teak-wood bridge in the world.


After some breakfast, we head out to board our boat.

It was exciting walking along a thin plank, and I couldn’t see a health and safety officer anywhere around.


Our boat was very comfortable, with a shaded seating area on the top to relax and a dining area bellow.

We set off, and after an hour or 2, we arrived on the other side of the river to visit Saggaing Hill.


We were driving up the hill, in this minibus.

As we passed a small market, I asked if we could stop, and I was able to get some cooking equipment at a very competitive price.


From here, we visited the Mya Sekkya Monastery.

We were allowed to go inside, but the monks were having their lunch, so I just took a picture from outside the door.

Later we were shown around their library. It had lots of interesting books (but then most books are interesting to me !).

Especially interesting was the magazine section which featured several copies of Private Eye (but sadly, no copies of Viz).


After a busy morning we head back to the boat for lunch and a few cold beers.

As we eat, our boat heads for Mingun.


No minibus when we arrive this time, transport is a bit more basic (but with entrepreneurial flair).


Skirts are worn in Burma by both men and women.

Kay takes us to a shop where we can buy them, and while there, shows us the different styles with which they can be worn.


Still more stuff to see, the Mingun Bell.

It’s the largest functioning bell in the world. It’s the 2nd largest bell by size and weight after the Tsar Bell I saw in the Kremlin.

You could actually climb underneath and stand inside it (I wouldn’t want to do that while it was being rung !).


Shinphyume pagoda modelled on the sacred Buddhist mount Meru.

The 7 levels, represent the 7 sacred mountain ranges.


Mingun Pahtodawgyi

An unfinished pagoda. More of a tourist attraction now, listed in the Guinness book of records as the largest “brick pile” in the world.

The earthquake of 1839 caused huge cracks in the building. Although there is a walkway to the top it’s not recommended.


The huge stone “Elephant” statue.


And with that, our adventure is over.

As we sailed back, everyone had an afternoon nap.

Bagan – Myanmar


The 2nd leg of our trip to Burma/Myanmar, Bagan.

It contains over 4000 Pagodas (and by the time I left, I felt like I’d seen every one !).

People joked about getting Pagoda’d out in Bagan, but seriously after a while, you honestly can get sick of seeing these beautifull things.

Anyway, more about the trip…


Logistics in Myanmar are a farce, so much of the travel on the trip, was done by plane rather than road.

We arrived in Bagan, and then were given the rest of the day free, so Nikki and I went out exploring on our own.

We got a taxi to the Bagan Archaeological museum. Our guide Kay offered to help organise our transport, but we said we’d be fine (a decision we’d regret later).


Inside, the museum was very atmospheric and reminded me of the Egyptian museum in Cairo.


They were doing extensive renovation work in the museum, but instead of big screens and the like, it was photocopied pages and blue-tack.


As we walked back, I saw this – Nuclear Catastrophe Overcome Pagoda ?

Couldn’t work out what that was all about, but at one level, I suppose it speaks for itself.


The Bu Paya Pagoda is famous on the banks of the Irrawaddy river.

What should also be famous is the River View “restaurant” next to it. It had some of the worst food I’ve ever eaten.

But I was so hungry, I just ate it anyway.


We walk through the city gate, of old Bagan and its time to head home. We thought if your somewhere popular, there is bound to be lots of transport.

No there isn’t, what our guide had meant was you need to schedule a taxi to take you, and then wait until you want to come home.

We hadn’t done that, so we had to make our way back on foot, in the baking heat. We found a guy with a horse and cart, but Nikki was concerned about the well-being of the animal.

After about 3 miles, we came to a bit of a village and hired a minibus and driver. As my friend Nick would say,  we had our “hats nailed on


Back in town  near our hotel now, we decided to get something to eat and drink.

There were lots to choose from, but the sign above swung it for me.


Our next excursion is at 3pm, so an hours nap for me and a swim in the pool for Nikki.


Outside Hti Lo Min Lo Temple the architecture is impressive even before you’ve been inside.


Once inside, its even more impressive.


We got to see an example of sand painting.

The basic idea is that you take some fabric and “paint” glue onto it. Soft sand will stick to the glue.

Once you’ve done this several times, you end up with an elaborate layered picture. I didn’t buy one (which I regret now) Nikki bought one of Ubein bridge and I admire it every time I’m in her living room.


Ananda temple is one of the earliest built in the area and a fantastic snow white colour.


It’s also very popular and and the entrance is like a market.


There are 4 of these Buddha statue and each one is 9.5 metres high.


Exploring around inside, it was like Tomb Raider !.


Just had to put this up here.

It’s easy for pictures of century old beautiful buildings to look tired.

Luckily, the owner of this car has helped by parking it right in front of Pagoda. Thanks !.


Sulamani temple (told you you’d start to get bored of them).


Standing outside the temple, it’s early evening and our group sort of hang out and relax.


Some local lads play Chinlone or Caneball in the shade under a tree outside.


Now its time to watch the sunset from Shwesandaw Pagoda.

I’d heard about this, and it was even worse than I’d expected. Massively noisy and overcrowded.


So, I walked around to the back of the Pagoda (which was empty) and sat there relaxing.

Looking out for miles was across began in peaceful silence was one of the highlights of the trip for me.


Back to hotel, out on our terrace, I update my blog.

I had been testing a new function on my camera. You could place the camera somewhere convenient, and then run an app on your phone, which would show you what the camera could see. One you were happy with the shot, you could take the picture remotely from the phone.

This picture was taken that way, and I was really impressed with the results.


Later that evening (fantastically) we find an Italian restaurant.

They did pasta and other Italian dishes, rather than just pizza’s which we’d become bored of.

The also sold red wine, which was very welcome.


The following day, a few more Temples and Pagodas

Shwe Gu Gyi.


Gubyaukgyi Temple.


Dhammayangyi, an interesting “pyramid” shaped temple.


We got the usual tour of some traditional crafts.


Which as usual finished in the showroom/shop.

They had several pictures sowing Barack Obama who had visited there. Some of the Americans on the tour wondered if they’d by so proud if it was Donald Trump.

I try to get 1 small souvenir from each place I go. I bought a small porcelain figure of a local traditional fisherman (I’m running out of shelf space at home).


More wandering around and exploring on our last evening.


And to finish off, dinner and drinks in this iconic establishment.

Yangon – Myanmar


Flying AirAsia from Bangkok (where we’d just flown in after 3 days in Luang Prabang, Laos) we arrive in Yangon for our whistle-stop tour of Myanmar (Burma), a country closed off to tourists for nearly 25 years and only recently opened up to the world.


We got into a taxi from the airport and headed for our hotel.

It took about 50 minutes to travel a relatively short distance, as all the roads were gridlocked.

We found out later, that traffic congestion is so bad, that due to repeated accidents, mopeds and motorbikes are banned in the city.


Although closed off from tourism for a number of years, that didn’t stop Myanmar from keeping it’s business connections going. Jade mining and processing is massive in this country and has enabled it to thrive despite it’s previous status as a pariah.

I was mildly surprised to find a BMW showroom on route, which had clearly been there for some time.


We’ve travelled separately to get here, but now we’d be joining an official tour.

In the reception, was an invitation to our initial meeting. These are quite common on trips of this kind, but the surprise for me was this one was marked as COMPULSORY !

Our first glimpse of local culture, was a table in the hotel’s reception, which had local make-up which doubles as sun protection.


Well, it was morning and the meeting wasn’t going to be until afternoon, so we decided to go off exploring on our own.

Not far from our hotel, we cross a railway bridge and see a train packed with people, travelling to work.


We decide to pay a visit to the National museum of Myanmar.

Hazardous road crossings are not new in adventure travel, but at points this was really quite scary.


The museum was old and a bit run down, but had excellent air conditioning.

One minor disappointment, was you couldn’t take pictures, so I borrowed this one from the internet.

After a couple of hours in the museum we head back to our hotel. The heat of the day justifies a taxi. I was impressed by Taxi’s in Myanmar, drivers were always polite and well turned out, cars were comfortable with seat-belts.


Back at our hotel, I’m preparing myself for 10 day of oriental food, so snatch the chance of some western food with a burger and chips from their restaurant.

Our introductory meeting begins, and we meet all the other people on the trip and our guide, Kay introduces herself.

She tells us a bit about the country, what we’ll be doing on the tour and stuff like that.


This was a fast track trip (we needed to be at the airport for 5am the following morning) so we headed  straight out onto town to see the highlights.

The Karaweik Royal Barge. Its made of stone and doesn’t actually float, but is in the middle Kandawgyi lake.


As we explore the inside of the barge we get to know our guide Kay a little better.

She explained although English is taught in the country, it is not by native speakers.

Considering this, I thought her English was superb and it was also obvious that she had previously worked as a school teacher.

She was also strikingly dressed at all times.


Exploring around the Park around Kandawgyi lake.


We now head towards the Shwedagon Pagoda.

We visit the famous Bodhi tree on the hill top, which is 99m high.


The main Pagoda itself, is an incredible sight on a hilltop overlooking the city, its visible from practically everywhere in Yangon.


In the evening an almost carnival atmosphere as thousands of local congregate there to pray and celebrate.

When we had handed our passports to Kay earlier, she had worked out our birthdays so explained which birth animal we were.


At times the area was quite spiritual and I felt a real connection there.


In some of the smaller Pagodas, it got a bit silly and in this one for example a female warrior who looked a lot like Margaret Thatcher.


The introduction of Christmas tree lights and screens didn’t help. This one looked like something from 70’s era Dr Who.


In this temple, we met some Monks who wanted to photograph me (on account of my blond hair, which they had never seen before).


We finish the evening with a meal at Padonmar Restaurent, one of the best in the city.


We returned to Yangon a few days later and picked up where we’d left off.

Kay shows us around a street market, which you could literally buy anything from food to fire engine parts.


Yangon City hall building, in Maha Bandula park.

It was a Sunday and lots of people were relaxing in the park.


Burma (as it was then called) gained independence from Britain in 1948.

The statue of Queen Victoria was returned to the UK and The Independence monument above, was put in its place.


Wandering around Pansondan Street you can see lots of colonial buildings.


The former British customs office.


I always like to Finish a trip in style. And where else but dinner at the Strand Hotel.

Bangkok to start SEA trip and catch up with Frank


In 2005 I got married in Thailand (to a girl from the Wirral before anyone asks 🙂

I had 3 fantastic weeks there and even visited Vietnam and Cambodia.

On the trip my oldest friend Frank came with me. On the last day of the trip, I told him we were going to get a taxi to the airport the next day and he was welcome to share it with us.

He said it was OK, and that he was going to hang around in Bangkok. I smiled and agreed. I remember saying why not its such a beautiful place, why not have another week or two here.

No said Frank, I’m actually going to stay here for good. And there with a bag on his shoulder smaller than the one I carry to work his only possessions, he set out to make a life for himself there.

I always promised to go out and see him (although it was never as frequent as I’d have liked and I really missed an adventure companion who was up for anything here in the UK).

Well, Myanmar (Burma) recently opened to the world after years of being closed to tourists due to its Dictatorship. We were flying into Bangkok to start the trip so I was determined to go there and catch up with him.


I left for the airport straight from work. A stopover in Abu Dhabi and after 25hrs of travelling, were finally in Bangkok.

Were here for 2 nights and we’ve got a lovely hotel Nikki has stayed in before, on the bank of the river.


We decided to get out and stretch our legs.

My first exposure to Thailand, was a noodle bar in Manchester called Tampopo (which I believe is still there, 20 years later).

I remember reading on a menu, something called Pad Thai, described as a popular Bangkok street dish. I’ve been to Bangkok 6 times, eaten Pad Thai hundreds of times, but never actualy bought it from a street vendor.

So here we are, 20 years later buying Pad Thai, which was delicious.


We were going to meet Frank at his wife Na’s shop.

Won’t bore you all with the details, but I didn’t research it properly and instead of getting a taxi, decided to walk.

The map above showed our route across Bangkok on a Sunday.


Along the way, we found this building where the road runner gets all of his revenge ordnance from.


Ended up with Nikki and I finding a place in a shopping centre and messaging Frank on Facebook explaining that I couldn’t find where he was.

Turned out, he was just upstairs in the building and popped down to join us for a drink.

The people of Thailand were still in mourning over the death of the king and like many, Frank was wearing a black shirt out of respect.


We popped upstairs to see Na at her shop.

I had a really good shot lined up then an enormous African woman came over to buy something from the shop. Money is money, so I got out of the way and left them to conduct their business.

Also, Na’s lovely friend Lek wasn’t around either. For this reason I’ve used a picture from a previous trip.


From here, Frank took us out for a walk around Bangkok.

I’ve been here many times and I was looking forward to seeing what sort of “outdoor/adventure” walk we were going to have.

I shouldn’t have wondered, Frank took us to this spot where the UDD red shirts had an uprising against the military (I remember seeing it on TV and it was surreal to actually be standing there).


We head for a really nice place called Lumpini Park.

It’s name after Lumbini the birthplace of Buddha.

There were some awful swan shaped boats in the lake.


We carried on walking past the lake and through the length of the park.


We continued walking. After about 50 minutes, he showed us this cycle path he’d found.


It was raised above the houses and shops bellow.

It was really quiet and relaxing here and we were able to just walk along and catch up on old times.


At the end of the path, we cross this wobbly bridge and this “jungle with skyscrapers in the background” scene.


We find ourselves in a sports bar.

But instead of tv’s with sport on, it had dozens of pool tables. The regulars their seemed surprised that 3 people had just come in for a drink, but they were very pleasant and gave up their seats at the bar for us.

Wandering back into the “normal” Bangkok, we visit cheap Charlie’s, which is due to be demolished.


By now, its getting Dark.

Na has finished work and joins us all for a for a delicious meal at Zaks restaurant.

Two hours of fun and interesting conversation then sadly, it has to come to an end. We say goodbye to Frank and Na, Na negotiates the price of a taxi and we head for home.


In the morning, we have breakfast at the hotel, then head for the airport for a 4 day trip to Luang Prabang in Laos.


Having completed our trip to Luang Prabang and Mayanmar, we’re back in Bangkok.

We arrive around 10am in the morning and were due to fly out at 8pm in the evening.

Nikki has cleverly booked us in at an airport hotel. We relax by the pool have a few drinks and something to eat.

Nikki decides to have a swim. A very relaxing way to prepare for the end of a holiday.


I leave the pool and go for a wander around.

I find a really smart bike shop, that sells coffee.

I have 2 cups of coffee, while I watch Thai Boxing on the TV.

Another 90m minutes by the pool, then 30 min lie down, shower and complimentary taxi to the airport 3 miles away (and all for £15).


Back home in the UK, I spend the morning on my own, have a nap then head out.

I head for the lock keeper where I take of my whistle and have a pint of beer.

My transition to normal life is complete.


Nikki texts me and asks what I want to do that evening (I’m back at work in the morning).

There’s really only one thing I can think off…

After 2 weeks of oriental food, its off to Harkers for Sunday lunch, with gravy and Yorkshire puddings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so I’ve found a picture of this attractive woman eating the same meal that I ate (well not the “same” meal, but you know what I mean).

Another amazing trip complete.

Luang Prabang, adventure playground (1/2).


After flying into Bangkok (the main hub in the area) and catching up with Frank, we had a couple of days free before out organised tour to Myanmar (Burma).

The airport was quite small, and you needed to get a visa on arrival.


We got a truck from the airport (the main form of transport) and travelled to our hotel.

It was next to a road, and on the other side of the road they had a sort of cafe/bar where we had breakfast.

A beautiful teak building, the people there were really friendly and I was starting to get really excited about the trip.


We’re here for 3 nights. Were interested in doing full day activities for the 2 days in the middle, but of the afternoon we decide to wander around the town and get a feel for the place.

As we wonder out, we see this half completed building that gives an idea of how traditional buildings are constructed using modern methods.


Although the place is great to spend time in, the actual town itself only has 3 “must see” sights according to the lonely planet.

Wat Xieng Thong – the temple of the Golden city is a Buddhist monastery.


“mount” Phosi has commanding views of the whole town (although to be honest at 100metres above sea level, its more hill than mountain).

There is a woman of the bottom of the steps, who sells birds in cages. The idea is that you can climb up to the temple and set the bird free.

But like Nikki said. The old lady only trapped that bird because she new someone would buy it. If you really want to help the birds, keep your money in your pocket.


At the top of the main run of the stairs, a large tree, then you pay an entrance fee.

From here, the stairs go off to the right.


Wat Chom Si is the Buddhist temple at the top of the hill.


Around the back are some spectacular views of the peninsula.


Back down the stairs and right across the road is the Royal Palace.

A collection of regal buildings and a museum.


A wandered around the gardens which were kept in very good order.


The main building has a museum with fine art, a garage with Royal cars and stuff like that.

We wandered back onto the main road, had a few drinks and a delicious Pizza, cooked on a wood burning stove.

There were loads of shops open in the evening, advertising day trips. We decide that the following day we’d do the classic boat trip to caves and drive to waterfall.

The following day, we’d to a jungle trek to 2 villages and the Tad Sae.


In the morning, were up first thing and we have breakfast by the river.

Property is quite expensive in Luang Prabang, so many of the people who work there, actually live on the the side of the river, and sail over first thing in the morning and last thing at night.


Were picked up by van, just outside our hotel, then driven around the blog and dropped off at the boat jetty (which interestingly is only 60 metres from the place we were picked up).

The “captain” of our boat pilots it from the front, it has a roof in case of rain and had been modified with really comfortable car seats.

We share the boat with a French couple who had 2 well behaved young children with them.


A relaxing 2 hour journey up the Mekong. At one point it looked like our boat had engine problems, but our captain sorted this out pretty quick.


And we arrive at Pak Ou caves. There are actually 2 caves here, and we visit the lower one first.


There were all sorts of carved stone figures of Buddha here, but in the end, a caves a cave and there’s not much I can say about that.


I found a nice spot to take a picture of Nikki.


Further along, a stairway leads upto the other cave.


The other cave was a bit more “tomb raider and you could rent torches to explore it.


Back to the jetty and we set off.


But we dont go straight back, we stop off at the whisky village.

They had whisky and dead scorpions in bottles. We decided not to buy anything.


Back to Luang Prabang, and we’ve got 90 minutes to have lunch in the alternative brew bar, a really nice coffee shop before jumping in a truck and heading to our next destination Kuang Si waterfall.


It’s about 40 minutes in a minibus, and once you get there, well, its a waterfall.

The most interesting thing I found was to wander around the top of the waterfall and explore.


You can’t actually swim around there, but a pool nearby is a better option.

I found somewhere in the shade and had a can of beer.


Our group had been allotted 2 hours for the trip. To be honest I was bored after 40 mins, so we wandered down the hill to the town and found a nice bar there to relax in.

Along the way, we passed this zoo where local bears live (but they’d hidden inside so we didn’t see them).

Luang Prabang, adventure playground (2/2).


Luang Prabang in the evening was a lovely place to hang out, drink some nice red wine and eat Asian or Western food.


A ubiquitous night market sold everything under the sun.

Therese always some sort of fashionable trinket, and this years was a bamboo thing that you put your mobile in.

When you played music, the bamboo enhanced the sound.


The following day were picked up and head off for our jungle trek.

Several different groups were in the truck, and the first group were dropped off to do mountain biking.


When we arrived at our destination, another couple were going canoeing.


They put to water in this river.

The start of our jungle trek was on the opposite bank.


We were transferred across by traditional canoe.



Our walk begins through rugged tracks leading towards the first village on our trek.


The villagers main source of income is are rubber trees, and here you can see a tree being “piped” and some bags with rubber ready to be processed.


We leave the road and head through forests.

Our guide Lan was a really interesting guy who had worked as an adventure guide for several years.


From here we head into the jungle.

Lan (like many of the people we met on the trip) was very comfortable in the jungle

He demonstrated this technique of fashioning a large leaf and “sewing” it together to make it into a hat.

I was impressed.


The route takes us higher into the mountains and we are furnished with walking poles.

I wondered what kind of cutting tool our guide would have. A Parang, a Panga, perhaps a Kukri.

Interestingly, none of this. He had a kitchen cleaver. To my surprise it performed perfectly.

He explained he used it as he could use it for preparing chickens at home, being stainless steel it was easier to clean and held and edge for longer.


We reach the top of the col, and the view into the valley is spectacular.


At the bottom of the hill, were on the outskirts of another village.

They have constructed this simple shelter, so that travellers and people visiting relatives have somewhere to stay.


Much less dense, we wander through a wood towards the village.


The village has a school, a rice store and loads of other cool things.

It was quite simple though, and most of the people we were introduced too, seemed reasonably happy though they didn’t have much in the way of possessions.


In the middle of the picture is an artillery shell.

It had been repurposed as an anvil and was used making things and processing bamboo.

As it was a nice day, we visited the village shop.

The owner and a few friends were inside sitting around a fire (in baking heat) and drinking whisky.

It was too nice a day to miss an opportunity, so I bought a couple of bottles of beer and we sat outside in the shade for an hour and chatted.

It was one of the most relaxing moments in the whole trip. I opened the bottles with my Swiss army knife, Lan seemed as impressed with that, as I was with the cleaver.


Leaving the village, we wander through a clearing and back along the road.


We leave the road and follow a trail by the river.


And shortly afterwards, we arrive at the Tad Sae waterfall.


Around the front of the waterfall, there are loads of people relaxing and sunbathing.

Not like use hardened trekkers.


Tragically, we’ve now left the beautifully jungle and arrived at a tourist trap, with all the razzmatazz that entails…

But, we’ve also got lunch included with our trip and I have delicious Pad Thai with Chicken.


I rest my weary feet in the cool water.

Whilst doing so, I admire my Rohan Jungle cargoes.

I bought them some years ago, and I always think its a wast to go to a jungle and not wear them for their intended purpose.


A boat takes us back across the river where the trick waits to take us back to our hotel.

Another lovely evening, red wine, and a nice peace of steak for dinner.


In the morning, after breakfast by the Mekong Delta, we load up another truck with our bags and head for the airport.

My first visit to Laos complete, I thought the place was fantastic and I’ll be going back.