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Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Many of the Temples in Chiang Mai take the opportunity to give a little advice to us tourists as we pass through admiring the architecture.  Here are some of my favourites.

adversity

nothing

brotherly

sacrifice

covetous

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First time I was here 10 years ago I didn’t even own a camera.  Thank God I got a second chance to take some memories from this amazing city.

 

stupa 2

worshippers

buddha 4

monks pray

don temple stupa‌mini buddha

pray man

buddha 2buddha 3buddha 1

chinese templebuddhas 1

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Some photos of my trip to Hoi An.  Once the greatest trading port in all of South East Asia,and now a Unesco world heritage site,this small town is the most captivating in all of Vietnam.

Boats in the town harbour at night.

boats night

 

Dragons in a water feature in a Chinese temple.

dragons

 

A Mother of pearl eagle above one old the Chinese meeting houses

eagle

 

A shrine at a Family home and Incense burning in a Taoist Temple

houseincense 1

 

Kids Playing in the street at night, and lanterns hanging outside a doorway.

kids nightlantern

 

Another of the Chinese meeting houses.  Each one built for a different region.

meeting house

 

A boatman waits to take people on trips down the river.

relaxing boatman

Temple Alters

tao god

shrine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Hoi An Housing.

 

street

A Chinese lantern showing tanks and bombings.

war lantern

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saigon bikesThe story begins one drunken evening in Saigon.  After meeting a couple of people having just done the road trip from Hanoi we decide to buy two motorbikes and make the journey ourselves.  The next afternoon we’re $200 lighter, but the proud owners of two Honda Win’s – Vietnam’s finest. Check out our video of the trip – The electic tigers youtube…

hogsWe test drive the bikes on a 50km drive out to the Cu Chi tunnels – where the  north Vietnamese would take shelter from the constant shelling from American artillery and then nip up in between to pop off a few GI’s or launch somecu chi rich rocket attacks.  They survived down here almost the entire war. It wasn’t until the American presence was ending that they finally destroyed the network – a kind of swansong to the whole campaign.  Some areas of land here still feel the effects agent orange and other chemical weapons used by the US military.

gunshipSo the trip went well, chaotic, but easy driving…until we try to get back to our hotel.  Its getting dark as we enter the built up area of Saigon and the streets look pretty much the same.  There are very few landmarks and nobody speaks enough English to help us find our way back to our part of the city – And a map is useless if you cant find where you are on it.  Nightmare.  It takes us hours to find it.  But many lessons are learned, and luckily we need only navigate this crazy metropolis one more time.  We’re glad to hear no other city is quite as intense.

mui neAnd leave we do, the next morning. And head for the coast and a town called  Mui Ne. Where we chill for a couple of nights and hit the beach – and check out some sand dunes. Though we have our first breakdown – my accelerator cable snaps.  Rich drags my up the hill to the town where we find a mechanic.  he can fix it.  We time him.  It takes 12 minutes,including the trip to buy a new part.  It costs $2. Awesome.

Its Here we come up with the idea – or steal it from another guy, to start a biker gang and call it the Vietnam Electric Tigers.  You can check out our facebook page click here – Vietnam Electric Tigers!.  All facebook likes would be appreciated!!!

gillan duneNext we drive up to Dalat, in the southern mountains.  The road there, well, it isn’t a road.  More a collection of bits of road mixed with dirt track and some gravel – And potholes that schools of fish could easily live in.  But we make it in one piece.  Up here the cool weather is a break from the heat down south.  The town is nice and a trip to the ‘Crazy House’ is fun.  1 electricWe also get the decals of our biker club, the electric tigers done here.

But its the road back down is the star – a newly paved piece of road, winding all the way down to Nha Trang on the coast.  Beautiful scenery of dense jungle clad peaks and views all the way out to the sea. The best road in Vietnam.

We stay in Nha Trang for nearly a week, socrazy houseaking up the sun, sea, sand – and a good bit of the local happy hours – 50c beer anybody? and then move on up the coast along the dreaded highway number 1 – or as Paul Theroux calls it in ‘ The great railway bazaar’, “The highway of no joy”.

view bikeThis road is the worst – potholes everywhere, buses, trucks, crazy minibus drivers, police trying to wave you down to extort money – we never stop for the police, in fact we don’t stop for anybody.  In fact we don’t stop until Rich’s back tire blows out on the highway.  A real scary moment, but he slows down quick and neither him nor the bike are damaged – apart from the hole on his tyre, obviously.  It takes us ages to get the bike along to a repair place, going super slow in the red hot sun.

gillan bikeWe don’t stop again till night falls and the sand and dust is turning our eyelids into sandpaper against our eyes.  We stay overnight in what is clearly a brothel – but god are we glad to get off that road.

The next day we ride into Hoi An.  We need a few repairs on the hogs and take some time to relax.  This place is a shopaholic’s dream and by far the prettiest city in Vietnam – More on this in a separate post.

lanternMoving on we travel further north over the Hoi Van pass – Named for the mists and clouds that top the peaks.  And we literally drive right up into the clouds.  The road is not used by trucks and buses, as a tunnel  has been built, so we have the road to ourselves. But getting over the other side, the geographical separation of the country between north and south we begin to notice a big change in the weather.  Here they are experiencing colder wet weather and this affects the rest of our trip.

1 hueWe get into Hue after lunch and stay for a few nights, hoping the weather will change.  A typhoon has just left the Philippines and is heading right for us.  We have to move on, but head inland for the Ho Chi Minh highway where hopefully we are shielded from the worst.  The HCM Highway is another spectacular piece of road – This time with Karst mountains running up either side of the road and thundering rivers running down the steep valleys below. saigon hammer and sickle But the weather really is unpleasant, to say the least, and we struggle with the wind and rain stinging our face.

We stay overnight in Phuong Na farm stay.  A great place with great people.  Sadly we cant visit the famous caves as the entrance is flooded and the next day we head on for Vinh.

By this time a second tropical storm has hit and its no longer wet,  its a swimming pool just being out of cover.  We leave the HCMH and drive towards Highway 1.  At this point the road turns to the worst I’ve ever seen.1 phong na  Potholes going on for 100m and no way to know how deep, no proper road surface to speak of – and the rain still battering down on us.  We hit highway number 1 again coming into Vinh. Its unreal.  How could it possibly get worse?  Although the road is better water coming at us from every angle – Trucks, buses, cars, all passing us, covering us in water, and the clouds so dark we can hardly see with our sunglasses on – our only protection against the lashing rain in our eyes .  Freezing cold we head into the train station – And finally give in.

We cant go on anymore so we put the bikes on the train for the last couple of hundred km’s and get into Hanoi early the next morning.  And its over, and were glad.

An experience.  And An achievement.  but not to be repeated in the near future….but hey, never say never.

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Obviously we all come to Siem Reap to visit the huge temple complexes outside of town – But when it’s raining?  Really, its pretty hard to appreciate the temples when its pissing it down.  Sadly on my last trip we found that it rained pretty much all the time – so we learned a little about the town.

Anyway, my little list

1 boys fish spa1. Get a fish spa – A little bit tickly at first, you soon get used to it and 30 minutes later all the dead skin is gone from your feet.  And at $2, with a free beer, it’s a bargain.

7 crocs2. Visit the Crocodile Farm. With more than a thousand crocodiles, it keeps you busy for at least 30 minutes – and it’s only $7 to feed them a live duck!

8 rice cake3. Eat – There a literally hundreds of options in Siem Reap for food.  From local food down the market, to upmarket French – And everything in between.  Fresh morning pastries at The blue pumpkin are my personal favourite.

10 happy herb pizza4. Have a happy herb pizza – It’s pizza, with herbs that make you happy – what else is there to say?

11 mantis brekkie

5. Do nothing – Just kick back on your balcony and relax – and hang with the praying mantis as we did.  Sometimes it’s good just to have a rest from all the people trying to sell you stuff, take you on tours, have you eat in their restaurants……Don’t forget you’re on holiday

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1 angkor entrance

Back in Angkor Wat again for the third time – well somebody has to make up for all those people who haven’t been!

2 bas 13 bas 2

4 angk hall

7 headless buddha

8 apsara9 apsara 2

12 bayon head

13 bayon head 214 bayon head 317 bayon20 temple ruins

21 ta prohm entrance22 ta prohm entrance

24 ta prohm tree 224 ta prohm

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4 the road

1 lariatGetting in a car and driving through a chunk of American nothing has always had some huge appeal to me.  I loved American road movies like ‘Convoy’, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Vanishing point’ – I especially loved the comedy ones like ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ and the ‘Cannonball Run’ – but maybe the biggest influence was Jack Kerouac’s book – On the road.  The book that made me hit the road in the first place.

0 nothingSo with a little bit of courage and a lot of naive romanticism I hit the road heading south from Vancouver to the American border.  My route was simple – First drive through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah to the gambling and entertainment paradise of Las Vegas, Nevada – Then return back through California to Oregon and Washington.  I’d brought camping equipment, cowboy boots, and a tub of Kimchee given to me by a Korean friend.  The only map I had was an A4 size one that came free with the Lonely Planet which didn’t exactly provide the level of detail needed – In fact I spent quite a bit of time driving while trying to read the inside maps of that massive edition – though I never got lost once.

2 petrolAnyway, driving through northern Washington past Seattle it wasn’t long before the green northwest gave way to an endless landscape of dry grass and rocks.  My first stop was the town of Yakima, home to much of Washington’s wine trade and apparently the Palm springs of the state.  Here I fill up on a massive, tasty pulled pork sandwich at the Lariat before heading on and climbing up onto the central plateau of the rocky mountain states.  I made pretty good time, stopping in Dunkee – where a plump gas station attendant, wearing a t-shirt that says ‘freedom Isn’t free’ fills my car while telling that his cousin speaks seven languages.  I eat again outside Boise, Idaho.  Filling up on a huge club sandwich.

nowhereJust before Utah 1372km in, as the sun is setting, I stop in ‘the middle of nowhere’ to get gas – the attractions here are two alpacas, and being the only fuel in miles.  At this point I’m ready to sleep and decide to stop in the first town over the state line.  The road around here is just one straight line to nothing.  At one point my car begins to shudder and shake. What’s going on?  I realise I’m sitting at 185kmph – I haven’t turned for 45 minutes.  I slow down pretty quickly.

3 alpacaAfter 1559km and 16 hour driving, I stop at some town 160km from Salt Lake City.  A couple of beers in the bar across the street – only 3.2% in Utah!!, and I retire to my motel – car parked outside the room, just like in the movies.

5 salt lake churchThe next day I’m glad to have made a big push the day before.  I only have a seven hour trip today, nothing!  First I stop in at Salt Lake City, visiting the religious centre for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.  Its a nice if pretty bland town, but definitely worth checking out if you happen to pass.  The central cathedral is pretty impressive and the people are as nice as you’d ever meet.

6 mormon kidsI roll on, hammering down the road stopping at the eagles landing service area and Beaver, Utah – birthplace of Butch Cassidy no less, just after here I break the 2000km mark and I know I’m close.  Listening to Right wing radio talk shows is great around here – they really love Obama these guys!!

6 mormonJust before I cross the border into Nevada I drop through the Virgin river gorge.  Dropping straight off the edge of mile high Utah is an experience I won’t forget.  Red sandstone walls on either side, foot heavy on the brakes as I’m going down so fast.  The bottom is the desserts of Nevada.  Its pretty flat from here on in.

As soon as you cross the border the casinos begin. Big grassed areas in the middle of arid desert – pretty surreal.  Surreal too is at the moment I’m seeing Vegas in the distance on comes the Who’s ‘Who are you?’ – CSI anybody??beast

I drive straight into my hotel, Circus Circus, and get ready to hit the strip.  What a trip 2320km, two days, five states and a shitload  of fast food…

Next part 2 – The City of Sin

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bb san fran streetEverybody I’ve ever met that’s been here has fallen in love with this relaxed, fun city – and I was no exception.  How easy is it to fall for a place that’s just so pretty, so laid back, with so many interesting areas to wander, have coffee and just simply hang out and soak up the atmosphere.

aa mex mural

And in SF the atmosphere just oozes out  – The people, the buildings, the history,  the amazing arts scene, so much character, and no one seems to be trying at all.  aa vesuvio signThere just seems to be some sort weird thing in the water that makes things seem cool – In fact I felt so much cooler just being here!chinatown fortune cookie maker

The coolness factor is pretty visible when you take a wander through the amazing array of distinct neighbourhoods.  This range seems to give this actually bb did youpretty small city a sense of proportion way bigger than it is.  As you turn a corner and move from the bland modern functionality of Union square to the hyperactivity of Chinatown, then to the cafes and boutiques of North Beach its like moving from one completely different city to another.  The rejuvenated old pierssea lion 3 and ferry buildings of the waterfront seemingly have relation to the wooden Victorian town houses of the Upper Haight,  where hippie culture still lives strong on the corner of Haight and Ashbury – albeit next to Ben and Jerry’s!streetcar (The clock on this corner has stopped at 4.20pm for a long time, i wonder why?).  But something, just like the streetcars and cablecars binds and unifies the neighbourhoods of this diverse city.

ee haight 420But its not just the pretty streets or the cool inhabitants that make this place, the romantic movie made notion of SF runs deep in anybody with any interest in American counter culture, and for me two of my favourite culturalrock submarine highlightsof the last century happened here – This was the favourite haunt of beat writers like Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg, who we rockdrank in dive bars playing jazz, writing poetry and books like ‘on the road’; And also where the summer of love kick started a worldwide hippie phenomenon.  I got such a buzz being able to drink in a bar that a hero of mine like Jack Kerouac used to drink, or to hang out in bars along the Haight.

cc mural lady 2And then there’s the food – really this deserves a whole post on its own (and many people have devoted there life to writing about the food here).  So much good food, on every aa kerouac streetcorner something different – a quirky place selling coffee and hand made croissants so flaky people in Paris would be proud, Italian bakeries selling fresh focaccia, Chinese restaurants where even the waitressmusee mchanique doesn’t know when the meal will end, Northern Californian Italian places where the food makes you speechless, gastropubs making sausages that pair with incredible brews made in the basement.  The list goes on…and on – and all this made with some of the best local produce found anywhere on the planet.sfmoma head  It would take years of hard work to really get on top of the food scene here.  I’d relish an opportunity to try.

old newSo I’m pretty sure you can tell I’ve fallen in love with this city, just as everyone does.  And if you haven’t been – unlucky you!truth

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No trip to Bangkok is complete without a trip to Wat Pho and the Royal Palace – wearing your only pair of trousers and long sleeve shirt in the blazing hot sun, no immodesty here please!

But it’s definitely worth it – Lustrous gold and brightly coloured glass all shine in the sun drawing your attention to the remarkably detailed stupas and Buddha statues.  The palace itself tries to be as close to heaven as possible – the only fitting home for a dynasty which have traditionally been seen as demi-gods.

Along with Wat Pho, the palace is seen as the focus of Buddhism in Thailand, and although the royal family have now moved to a modern European style palace, this area is still a deeply religious one – hence the long sleeves.

It is, however, a bit of a tourist trap, with wave after wave of people bussed in on their Thailand tour, so it’s never going to be a relaxing experience.  But as with all tourist traps – there’s a reason they’re there!!

The Great reclining Buddha’s toes

buddha toes

Buddhas lining the corridors that surround the central temples in Wat Pho

buddhas wat po 2buddhas wat po

Some of the many demons and gods protecting the religious areas of the royal palace

demon 2

demon 1

demon 3

Mother of pearl detail on the Buddha’s Feet

mother of pearl buddha foot

The huge reclining Buddha

rclining buddha

The Great Buddhas face and that of a Taoist statue outside protecting the temple.

reclining buddha facetaoist statue

Not BKK, but a nice photo of a local kid on the beach in Koh Chang

kid beach koh

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Sitting up on a plateau in the foothills of the Shan mountains, Inle Lake is one of the  most popular tourist spots in Myanmar. But it’s still incredibly low key, with most villagers focused on their day to day business rather than trying to make a quick buck from tourists.

Everything about the place seems to relax you.  The main draw here is the stilted villages of the Intha.  Whole communities are built out on the lake and getting around means going by boat – even to your immediate neighbour.  The famous Intha Leg Rowing is always  on show when a tourist appears, though I’m sure It’s not as popular as it once was.  As with nearly all of the people in Myanmar they are some of the nicest in the world, with not even a hint of danger anywhere.  This could be the friendliest place in the world.

One of my favourite places in the world.  Check out some photos HERE

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