Fun times in Kyoto…

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The cherry blossoms might not all be out but the party has begun… Traditional dress and selfie sticks are everywhere. Gotta love this city!

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We finally make it to Iceland…

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Iceland has always been near the top of our bucket list and we finally made it there, spent a week driving around the entire country, met some crazy sheep, cute horses and did our best at setting up a tent in the rain!

From a photographers point of view, Iceland can be best described as New Zealand on steroids. Everything is just a little more spectacular although must of the landscape is very similar. Around every bend there’s another glacier, volcano, waterfall (and what waterfalls they are!) or suicidal sheep…

This was just a taster – we’ll be back!

Welcome back to Laos…

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It’s been eight years since we were last in Laos and hasn’t time flown?! It seems only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas by the river in Vang Vieng and drinking fruit shakes in Luang Prabang.

Motivated by new AirAsia flights from Bangkok to Luang Prabang (avoiding the long bus trip from Vientianne) and a nice off-season cheapie courtesy of Jetstar to Bangkok we embarked on ten days out of Australia to Asia, at probably the hottest time of year possible!

So, if you’re wondering why all the photos are taken at dawn and dusk… the rest of the day was largely spent in hibernation (the pool), avoiding the 40 degree sun as best we could.

For those unfamiliar with the not-so-sleepy town of Luang Prabang – it’s the former capital of Laos and dotted with classic French colonial buildings and accompanying assortment of excellent food. On the surface, not much has changed over the years but there is certainly more money in Laos than our last visit. Brand new Toyota 4WD’s are everywhere as are ATM’s and new, generally tasteful boutique hotels.

We spent the first day just wandering around, exploring and eating (our favourite pastime). The next day involved a tuk-tuk ride to a nearby waterfall where locals had picnics and tourists took endless selfies. The Kouang Si waterfall is 30km or so out of town but worth the drive and the water was stunning. Rach enjoyed cooling off with a dip under the majestic falls.

Being the crazy kids that we are, the next day’s adventure was a zip-line excursion, 20km out of town on a boat ride down the Mekong River. Similar to what we did in India a couple of years ago – the course was 12 lines set up high between trees in the jungle. It felt safe apart from the cheeky guides who insisted on swinging the line and rope bridges and laughing all the time. Good fun!

The last day called for a 4:30am start to witness the local monks walking the streets of Luang Prabang in their age-old alms ceremony. In the pre-dawn stillness, locals give monks sticky rice as an offering of kindness and in return for blessings. It is a unique sight to see the procession of hundreds of monks making their way through town, a traditional aspect of Lao life that has transcended time.

Laos no longer feels like a backward country – at least not in ‘civilised’ Luang Prabang, but I’m sure out in the countryside, not much has changed.

 

Hoi An – food capital of the world!!!

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Somewhere, around the middle of Vietnam is a town on a river that attracts more than its fair share of attention…

Hoi An, once known as Faifo, with more than 2,000 years history, was the principal port of the Cham Kingdom, which controlled the strategic spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th to the 10th century and was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries – and the foreign influences are discernible to this day.

We come to Hoi An for the food. It’s amazing! It’s not only the variety, but the care and love that’s put into it. Starting our trip in the north (especially Sapa), the food was not inspiring – but down in Central Vietnam, they live for food and a half day food tour with Neville, an Australian guide – only reinforced our suspicions!

Hoi An is also very photogenic with lanterns, floating candles and French colonial buildings. The streets are devoid of traffic much of the day but of course, there are heaps of tourists…

In Saigon now – somewhere normal we can’t really be bothered taking photos. See you on the next trip…

Two days in Sapa…

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It’s been nearly ten years since we’ve visited the hilly northern region of Vietnam, centering on the town of Sapa. Dominated by small indigenous villages, rice fields and winding rivers, this is one of the most beautiful regions we’ve been lucky to visit.

Life is simple here – most families grow (and kill) their own food. Nothing is wasted and much of what they eat comes from beside the road or in the forest.

Over two days our wonderful guide, Sung showed us various villages as we walked up and down hills and through valleys in this beautiful part of the world.

Off to remote Mrauk U…

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A long way from Yangon, in the far west of Burma is a small town with an ancient past – Mrauk U. We’d heard about this place being well off the beaten track and after a long boat trip up the river from the already quite remote town of Sittwe, we arrived.

Whilst Burma might be developing at breakneck pace, life in rural areas is much slower and the people are very friendly. This was even more evident on a day-trip a few more hours north upstream to visit a number of Chin villages who traditionally tattooed their faces for village identification. These villages are remote and have some of the poorest people in all of Burma.

Mobbed by village children and covered in the endless fine dust, Mrauk U was a memorable experience…

Jodhpur, the blue city…

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Jodhpur is the second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is also referred to as “Sun City” for it’s endless sunny days (we had one at least) and the “Blue City” as many of the houses in the old city are painted shades of blue. This was a primary reason for us visiting but what we found was a city with much more…

High on a rocky outcrop is the 500 year old Mehrangarh Fort which has never fallen to enemy forces, and you can see why as it towers over the city. Originally a city in itself, at its feet grew another less fortified city, painted blue by the many Brahmins that occupy the area.

And from the fort we took a flying fox tour of the outlying area – zipping down six cables, across ancient walls and lakes – lots of fun!

The afternoons were spent lost in the maze of streets, drinking chai in tiny local cafes and doing our best not to step in cow poo!

Off to Delhi tomorrow and onto Burma via Bangkok…

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