Friday, 1 July 2016

Sad News

My wonderful wife Liz died on 27th June 2016. She was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2004 but thankfully it went into remission for many years; years that we enjoyed together immensely. The cancer returned to haunt us in 2013 and gained momentum over the next 3 years with the end coming rapidly.

I will fill in the blanks in the log one day.

Friday, 18 January 2013

A little bit of Laos - first Vientiane.

Arriving in Vientiane we brought our experience of travelling in SE Asia to the fore and ignored the touts with their gleaming air-conditioned Mercedes at the Arrivals door and carried our bags to the airport gates (only 50 yards in this tiny airport). We were rewarded by finding a tuk-tuk - far more ethnic and in keeping.

A quarter of an hour and we were in the frenetically busy centre of town where more than 50% of transport is two-wheeled and business is conducted 'on the street'.

Vientiane is a very popular destination for young back-packers and this is reflected in the wonderful mix of people, stalls and vehicles. This scene is right outside where we will be staying.

Installed in our hotel, we headed for a quick overview of the city - it is the capital after all - to get a feel for what we need to do in more depth.

The Patuxai Arch was first to qualify for a 'WOW'. It stands proudly over a main thoroughfare and has a great story. Also known as the Laotian Arc de Triomph, which is a bit hard as it commemorates the lives of Laotians lost in the struggle against French colonialism. However it exists because America donated money for the creation of an airport runway. A noble gesture, but the Laotian Government felt it would be better spent on a monument. Hmmm.  Anyway it gave birth to it's most popular nickname, 'the vertical runway'. Visitors are allowed to explore the monument, so we take a note of that for later.

The symbol of Laos is the magnificent buddhist stupa of Pha That Luang. A place of prayer and meditation with walls surrounding it. We are advised that it should be seen either at dawn or at dusk.

We opted for dusk. Actually we went a couple of times as it was equally fascinating when it was crowded with both tourists and adherents. But certainly at sunset, the whole golden structure glowed.

Offerings being made at Pha That Luang seen through a haze of incense.

The city lies on the Mekong River and at this point you look south and west to Thailand. The river is a thoroughfare and a source of minerals and food; interests that are frequently conflicting.

Many fish farms are sited on the banks alongside the bustling city waterfront and we watched as this man transferred fishes from trap to trap.

The Laotian traditional style of building is retained despite outside influences, mainly Thai, over the years. The French colonial periods are well represented, but tend to be in addition to buildings of Lao appearance. This place is modern and we saw an exhibition of work by local artists inside.

On the outskirts of the city, farming starts and the familiar sight of rice paddy fields.

Buddhist monks shooting their posed pictures alongside the sleeping Buddha.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Pangkor Resort Island Marina

IMG_3315Back to Ellida after a 3 month break in UK. There is always that ‘bated breath’ moment when the hatch is unlocked and the boat interior is revealed. Will there be unwanted visitors; ants, cockroaches or even rats?  But no, all seemed fine, even the battery power level had been kept to an acceptable level by single solar panel.

Now the only hurdle is the jet lag. I’m sure I read an article somewhere that said, ‘for every thousand miles of latitude, allow one ‘recovery day’.  Surely it can’t be that much …can it? Let’s see …we’ve just done 100o of easting, so that’s 6,000 miles  = 6 days!!!

Our plans are still taking shape, but we have decided to remain in this area (Malaysia/Thailand) for at least a year or two. The piracy threat in the Indian Ocean is still far too serious to ignore and we have plenty to see here. In fact, we have booked a one week trip to Cambodia (departing on 15thMarch) where we plan to explore the Angkor Wat area from Siem Reap. Photos will follow, you have been warned.

IMG_3343In the meanwhile, it is only a short walk of perhaps a mile or so (including the bridge shown in the photo) to the mainland where there are a few basic shops and commercial enterprises.

The marina itself is adjacent to the terminal for the ferry to Pulau Pangkor and so has just ‘convenience’ type shops for the trippers to the island.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Rice Fields of Bali

The famous Jatiluwih rice fields form one of Bali's most picturesque areas - if not THE  most. They can be found about 20 kilometers north of Tabanan, in Bali’s western region.  Situated majestically in the hills 850 meters above sea level, the atmosphere is refreshingly cool. Jatiluwih means ”really beautiful”.  An appropriate name indeed with breathtaking views across terraced rice paddies, Mount Batakaru and many undulating hills and valleys.
We took an obscene number of shots between us in this location, to the extent that Liz ran out of space on her camera card and had to borrow a spare. I have posted several shots instead of resorting to a collage for this location - I have this vain fancy that some folks may care to see some of them up-large so to speak.
Stitched Panorama

Our first impression of Jatiluwih.  Picky I know, but who allowed a telegraph pole to be sited there? The roads could have been used.

A view that shows the young rice plants growing in the water. The irrigation system here is from a mountain source.



A lone worker in the paddy field. P1160271

We had the distinct feeling that we were walking on private land. Not another visitor was to be seen and we had been assured that it would be crowded. Granted we arrived quite early in order to get good light, but still it was a surprise.
P1160273_postcardA lady came towards us with a basket on her head in true local style.
We made an approach and were greeted with smiles and cheery words. Jeremy had a few phrases of Bahasa and coupled with some sign language, convinced her that he would like to try carrying her load himself. Just to see how heavy it was – and to test his skill at balancing I suspect.
P1160276Finally, a little shrine, beautifully maintained in the centre of the growing area.

We really had to tear ourselves away from this amazing location. Our driver knew a cafe nearby and we paused for a break and also to experience the views from the cafe.
Temple CollageWe have booked the transport for the day and had previously agreed the itinerary, so we pressed on to venue two, a temple complex commencing with Pura Lumur Petali which embraces several discrete temple locations.
At this point we were in the Regency of Tabanan which occupies a big chunk of the west of Bali.
Back in the 15th century it was a kingdom in its own right, but after the Dutch conquest, the Royal family were taken captive and the territory eventually was granted regency status.
Driving on we came to Pura Luhur Batukau which is a royal ancestral temple, with a seven-tiered pagoda, built on the foothills of Mount Batukau. Not as easily accessible as others, this temple remains off the beaten track its forest surroundings have an abundance of flora and fauna.
P1160331There were quite a lot of tourists here and at the gate we were each supplied with a 'srendan' (a wrap around) in accordance with local custom

b-Trip to World HeritageThe area had an air of verdant charm and despite the numbers of people present, it had a tranquillity of its own.
Our guide book goes on to say:    'The tourist is few because it is not maintained of the road. Therefore, an approach to a shrine that goes to ruin and a covered with moss wall quietly have mysterious atmosphere.  There is a shrine where the god of Danau Bratan, the god of Danau Tamblingan, and the god of Danau Buyan pieces are enshrined in the hillside in Gunung Batukau. It can climb a mountain from this place.  Because it is a high ground, it is very cold according to the climate. Taking the jacket recommend it.’
IMG_0692 2 collagePassing through some stunning scenery (well, pausing occasionally), our journey heads north towards Singaraja.

Ulu Tanau Bratan

But first an important temple stop at Puru Ulu Tanau Bratan. This a Hindu and Buddhist shared site. Founded in the 17th century it is dedicated to the Dewi Danu Goddess of the Waters and is actually built on small islands and is thus completely surrounded by the lake. Pilgrimages and ceremonies are held here to ensure a supply of water for farmers all over Bali.
IMG_0747One of my favourite shots shows the temple musicians taking a rest break. It reminds me of a very famous print of seven policemen enjoying illicit pints of beer, known as ‘Seven Pints of the Law’.

We have pretty well finished the journey as we arrive at our last scheduled temple stop; that of Maduwe Karang, the Temple of the Landowner.
b-Trip to World Heritage3Like the Pura Beji (featured above) it is also dedicated to agricultural spirits, but this one looks after un-irrigated land. The temple is also quite famous for its sculpted panels one of which shows a gentleman riding a bicycle with petals for wheels.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Singaraja and thereabouts

The nearest town to Lovina Beach is Singaraja. which has the honour of being the regency seat of Buleleng. The name incidentally means "Lion King" in Indonesian.  It has an area of 27.98 km² and population of 80,500. Singaraja was the Dutch colonial administrative centre for Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands until 1953, and the port of arrival for most visitors until modern development in the south.

We needed a new diesel filter, so we took a taxi into town. Our driver proved to be a really jolly and interesting man who asked if we would like to see a couple of extra highlights. “Would we ever!”

Just a little way along the main road he turned down a lane and almost immediately we found ourselves in the middle of rice production. As always in Indonesia we were greeted with waves and smiles.Rice working

Our first sight was of field workers paddling in muddy water planting the young rice. We had been told earlier that two or even three crops of rice can be produced in one year, so planting, ploughing and harvesting take place side by side – although I’m not absolutely certain that mud of that consistency qualifies as ploughable.

P1160173At this point we were only yards from the coast and our driver took us just a little further on to an old and obviously well established fishing port. It doesn’t appear on our charts, but the vessels here were sizeable and wonderfully exotic. The colours brilliant in the sunshine and being packed so closely together, the effect was visual overload!

IMG_0427As I mentioned earlier, Singaraja is significant. We drove for several miles through the outskirts until we reached an enormous statue of the bulls in a sled race. A wonderfully impressive structure, doubly so as we had witnessed the races ourselves only a short time ago.

Stitched PanoramaOur driver was determined that we would see the highlights, so we were taken to the pride of the port. A refurbished walking area with various levels and a massively impressive Yudha Mandala Tema monument celebrating an Indonesian freedom fighter in their struggle against the Dutch colonialists in the 1940s. A bit like ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ on Lewis’ corner …but with clothes.

Just opposite was the Ling Guan Kiong Chinese Temple. Always worth a visit as they are so exotically painted and the architecture is just so incredibly different to our western eyes. I’m sure there is a symbolism, but we walked over a bridge to enter the temple area and were met by an official who had English sufficient to point out the main features. One of which was a brightly painted bell – with the casting mark ‘Kent’ on the outside.Singaraja temple
















P1160205Leaving the city and travelling further east our driver took us through more rural rice growing areas and we saw – albeit from a polite distance – a funeral procession with mourners carrying umbrellas. Sorry about the hazy picture – it was zoomed quite a lot.

P1160211Close by is the Pura Beji Temple.

Dedicated to Dewi Sri, the Hindu goddess of agriculture with particular emphasis on irrigated rice fields.





Stitched Panorama







We also visited the nearby Pura Dalem temple Always good for a photo opportunity, the temple is locally renowned for its carvings.


P1160241In the evening there was another concert on the beach. More dancing and of course …gamelan music – I think I have heard the tune before!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bali–Arrival and Local Entertainment

Thirty miles across the Selat Lombok [the Lombok Strait] and we are lucky with the currents. We had identified a shallow bay with sandy shallows offshore at a place called Ambat. P1150935Not much information was available about  the spot as an anchorage, but it looked suitable. Apparently several other folks thought so too, because we were the seventh boat in the line-up nose on to the shore-line. As usual there was a small town nestling in the bay complete with mosque, and we even saw a couple of tourists!

The view looking towards the shore was very pleasant; mountainous and giving a dramatic backdrop to the tiny village. We were not planning to stop here as the ‘event’ was starting in Lovina Beach and if you want anywhere safe to anchor, it is better not to be the last one in!

P1150949Another easy, light airs sail from Ambat to Lovina Beach. There were an enormous number of the unmanned rafts [shown left] which apparently provide a form of shelter for young fish and therefore a food source for larger fish. Fishermen are ingenious. Approaching Lovina Beach there was an invisible avenue in the coral reef through which we had to pass to reach the anchorage area. The GPS co-ordinates should be reliable, but we have found that some charts that folks use have slightly different off-sets and ‘invisible avenues’ are a bit nerve wracking. We need not have worried, the fleet was in and clearly visible and soon we were at anchor.

P1430863The dinghy launched, we rowed …yes rowed …too the shore (we need the exercise) and were so impressed with the preparations that had been made for us as a Rally. For a start there were young men on the beach just standing by to haul dinghies up onto the dry sand. Then looking around, there were rows of marquees; a reception tent housing the Rally officials and a row of kiosks displaying local foods and handicrafts.

Marquees collageWe did come to appreciate that we had to run a gauntlet of keen salesmen (and ladies) each time we came ashore. We need not have worried about a lack of necklaces, bangles, paintings etc. or even the availability of tour operators or laundry services. They were all there throughout the daylight hours. Plus there was a choice of very reasonable restaurants that were pretty much ‘open air’. They are called Warungs and seem to be like a restaurant only more informal. The food however was delicious.

Band&stageAs it came to late afternoons, then numbers of people increased, the stage areas became crowded, and this happened virtually all week, local performers took to a temporary stage and we were treated to Balinese Dancing accompanied by various Gamelan orchestras.



Dancers-1 collageBefore one of the shows, Liz made contact with a few groups of dancers waiting for their calls to go on stage. They were delighted to be photographed and struck wonderfully complex poses as she snapped away. All with a smile and a laugh.



Dancers-2 collageIt would have been fun to know more detail about the significance of the dancers movements. Each dance was given a brief introduction, but they seemed to represent complex stories or parables.



Another day, another experience. We were invited to visit the Bull Races that were being held nearby. I confess that many of us, with our very western wariness of anything to do with cruelty to animals, were a little curious an reluctant. However, when the format of the event was explained (and the history checked out on the internet), we signed up for the trip. Well, it was a walk actually, and a good one at that. Probably only 2  or 3 miles, but the sun is strong and the roads are busy, dusty and without continuous pavements.

bulls collageReaching the stadium, complete with tiered stands and a band, we walked past the competitors. The bulls are chosen for their colour and their elegance, they are all light brown, immaculately groomed and their harnesses and sleds decorated using traditional colours and designs. As usual, there was a great deal of waiting around before the main event got going. Then, because the announcements were being made in Bahasa, it all started without warning. The bulls race in pairs pulling a sled and two sleds compete each time. Just one length of the field – turn about and race back. The bulls carry their tails high like flagpoles and even their noses are in the air like snooty ‘upper class’ bulls.

After the main events, which took an hour or two, foreign visitors were offered the chance to have a sled ride – well it would be churlish to refuse, wouldn’t it!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Medana Beach and the Gillis

vTanjung lifeLeaving the resort required a bit of walking, but it was interesting. We first passed through a very small local community then walked a quite major road which led to Tanjung a bustling township with adequate provisioning and plenty of interest. We paused for lunch on our first foray to the town at a family run rumah makan [trans: eating room]. It was one of those spontaneous successes that just happen. The meal was simple and the family serving and cooking it were so very friendly and welcoming, a really enjoyable event.

Village collageThe Rally organisers laid on a coach trip to see some sights of Lombok and it proved to be an enjoyable day. Our first call was to a traditional community near to Tanjung (our nearest significant town). Inhabitants were demonstrating weaving, basket making, rice preparing and just outside the village boundary, paddy fields stretched to the distant mountains, a lady wearing a picturesque hat beamed a wonderful smile.

vBasket & satayWe did much re-provisioning and re-fuelling of course (we always have to) – and it is so labour intensive. There are no pumps on site, so trucks have to deliver jerry cans in the required number, which can take an entire day.

However, and more interestingly, there was a cookery demonstration that I attended and learned how to make Indonesian satay

and also a basket making class that Liz attended and succeeded in making a very credible container.

There followed an afternoon and evening of traditional dance and music. A superb performance ending with a childrens’ choir coached by Aki, the manageress of the resort.


Jeremy and Kathy from Sal Darago were still in need of a replacement dinghy after suffering a burst seam whilst on Savu. Bali, it seemed was a place where a dinghy could be obtained. It all made sense, Bali is a popular tourist and sailing location it has a marina, a sailing club and perhaps more than one chandlery. Fired up by this opportunity, Jeremy and Kathy set off for south Bali.

vGilli MenoWe stayed and signed up for a trip to the Gili Islands off the Lombok shore. Three tiny islands, tourist spots all, that are pretty and have good snorkelling. Aboard a power launch the Gilis (islands) Air, Meno and Trewangan were only an hour away and were indeed lovely, if slightly wacky. We snorkelled on Air, then moved round to Meno in time for lunch and a break for exploration. The lunch venue was exotic, bordering on the hedonistic!

After lunch a walk. Liz teamed up with a couple of friends, but I thought that a circumperambulation would be fun. It was further than I thought – I should have taken some water!

Returning to Medana Beach it was time to prepare to leave. Next stop Bali.