The world is a book and those who don't travel only read one page...
Welcome to my website – the end result of many frustrating hours attempting to master the mysterious (to me, anyway) arts of “web design” and “Wordpress”. I really wanted a place to document my travels, share my trips with interested friends, and create a memory aid for myself and my carers when the inevitable Alzheimers sets in! “Adventure before Dementia” became my motto long before I embarked on my mammoth round the world expedition over 10 years ago now, and I am fortunate enough to have enjoyed more than my fair share of adventures for a 60-odd year old.
We had a few hours to kill in Prachuap before making our final journey by train back to Bangkok, but trying to stay dry as we dodged buckets of water being hurled from the roadside and hiding from van loads of youngsters wielding water guns, proved quite challenging!
They may not have the most “user friendly” website in the world, but I have to hand it to Thai National Railways, their trains are extremely well managed. With uniformed guards to assist you with your luggage, comfortable air-conditioned carriages and even a complimentary meal and drink, they’re better than most of the airlines we’ve flown with and definitely preferable to travelling by minivan.
So far, our favourite place on the trip had been the laid-back island of Ko Lanta, so we decided to spend one more relaxing week there before slowly making our way back up to Bangkok.
I never expected to feel quite so at home at “the Palace” but as we walked into the impressive lobby at the Ayodhaya Palace in Nopharat Thara, Krabi, the familiarity was welcoming, after months “on the road”.
Our next transfer involved two buses and a ferry, but everything ran very smoothly and within a few hours we found ourselves on the opposite (Eastern) coast of Thailand, on the island of Koh Samui.
Arriving in the Khao Sok National Park – allegedly the “oldest rainforest area in the world” – I thought it would be a cinch to arrange a special day for “nature lover” Ian to enjoy on his birthday. Clambering for several hours in 90% humidity, uphill through dense jungle to view some rare flowers, apparently wasn’t it!
Our return to Thailand was somewhat muted by the reoccurrence of Ian’s food poisoning symptoms, and the memories of the catastrophic tsunami that affected this part of the Thai coastline that tragic Boxing Day in 2004.
Like Georgetown, this once important trading hub situated on the straits between Malaysia and Indonesia, Malacca (or Melaka if you prefer) had a varied and interesting history. Influences from the original Malays, the Chinese and Indian settlers, and then the European colonizers – the Portuguese, Dutch and British combined to make this a gloriously multi-cultural city, and a UNESCO World Heritage centre to boot.
Our ears popped as we were whizzed up to the 43rd floor of our apartment complex in a matter of seconds. It had been over a decade since I last visited Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur and I was astonished at the masses of high-rise developments that had sprung up everywhere.
Walking into town from our mock Tudor style guesthouse in the Cameron Highlands, wearing my new sweater (yes it was 19 degrees but felt decidedly chilly!) amongst positively alpine scenery, with the Arabic call to prayer in the background was quite bizarre, I have to say.
Transportation in Malaysia seemed more challenging than in Thailand, so we swapped ferries and buses for our own four wheels. We were told that the road system and driving was much better here, so filled with confidence we rented a car for a couple of weeks to discover some of the country.
It felt as though we had been dropped in the middle of a film set as we alighted from our taxi in Armenia Street, in the historic centre of Georgetown, on the island of Penang.
Departing the mainland from the Thai region of “Satun”, we did wonder if we were about to enter “hell” on our arrival in Koh Lipe...
Our next port of call was the tiny island of Ko Mook or Koh Muk. However, we soon learnt that it should be re-named “Ko Mud” as the lanes that traversed it rapidly turned to quagmires in the torrential rainstorms that returned to plague us over the next few days.
A disappearing island…well, that’s what it seemed to be when sitting looking out to sea from our balcony. Some days it was there, but when the clouds moved in and the heavens opened, it faded into the greyness. We were intrigued...
The pace slowed down further as I finally succumbed to the cough and cold that Ian had been nursing since before we left home. Dosed up with various local remedies (amazing what you can buy over the counter here…), I was grateful that at least I now had the opportunity to rest up and recover.
Here I am at another of life’s “crossroads”, this time at the bus stop on the corner waiting for some “reasons to retire” when, like buses, several come along at once: Surviving Covid and its fallout - Turning 60 (I know!) while still enjoying reasonably good health - A reasonable pension (which will go much further where we are going…) - The imminent cost of living crisis - The end of the world as we know it - The UK going to hell in a handbasket - West Ham’s mediocre start to the season - And finally… why not?? So, after what feels like months of planning, we set off for Thailand for the winter.
..felt like a very long way, after navigating the queues to check in at Gatwick, having to re-scan our vaccination certificates on arrival, and then Ian losing his spectacles while waiting for our bags. What with the 6 hour time difference and a very bumpy 3 hour journey by road to our first destination I was glad that Ian wasn’t driving and we were ready for bed on our arrival in Monteverde. We didn’t expect to be woken by howling winds. Had I dreamt it all, and we were back in the depths of the British winter?
"I'm positive!!"...in different times, the words uttered by my partner would have been met with delight and encouragement, but they were NOT what I wanted to hear the morning we were expecting our COVID PCR results.
The summer was almost over, more Covid lockdowns were threatened and I desperately needed an escape. The list of countries on our exemption list was diminishing by the minute, and a damp weekend in Clacton just wasn’t going to cut it. So when my son Dan suggested we meet up in Cappadocia, Turkey my interest was piqued. I’d always been enthralled by the images of multi-coloured balloons gliding over the strange rock formations, carved out and inhabited by generations of cave-dwellers. So channelling my inner Flintstone, I “clubbed” together with Dan and my partner Ian and set off on our “mammoth” adventure.
Castles in the Sky… Uçhisar, Turkey Oct 2020
The interesting terrain in this part of Anatolia lends itself to exploration by foot, and we have come prepared with our hiking gear (in Dan’s case an old pair of trainers and his school backpack!). We were grateful for our walking boots as the terrain became increasingly treacherous as we made our way along Pigeon Valley the following morning. After a few wrong turns, we were glad to make a pit stop at the Calgary Tea Room which surprised us as we rounded a steep bend on the route. The scenery resembled the American Wild West, with sandstone arches, majestic canyons and the ever present fairy chimneys. The Valley is named after the copious amount of pigeon houses carved into the rock. Apart from a food source, but now regarded as “sacred”, the ancients used their droppings as fertilizer – no sh#t!
Up, Up and Away… Cappadocia, Turkey Oct 2020
We caved in early, in anticipation for our sunrise balloon trip the next morning. We soon reached the valley where we would begin our ascent and the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons in various stages of inflation was one I’ll never forget. Our excitement swelled along with the bright nylon as hot gas was pumped into it by huge fans, lighting the balloon up like a magic lantern. Finally, like Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Lou, it was time for us to jump into the basket.
Drop Dead Gorges... Cappadocia, Turkey Oct 2020
Grateful for once that we’d chosen Dan as our nominated driver, we wound our way down the narrow lanes in our rented car and set off for a road trip to the Ihlara Valley. My impression of Turkey as a cultured but economically underdeveloped country was quickly dispelled as we passed factories and towns which wouldn’t have looked out of place in Western Europe.
Drier Straits! - Istanbul, Turkey Oct 2020
After a very early start, we bid farewell to Ian at Istanbul (he was due to return to work so travelled straight back to London to quarantine!) and took the coach through the traffic into the city. Constantinople, as it was called back in the 30’s, had always sounded like one of those exotic places you read about in spy or adventure novels and I was looking forward to exploring. Dan had stayed here previously on a couple of occasions (once worryingly just before terrorists planted a bomb at a nearby nightclub). Istanbul had always been on my bucket list and I had originally planned to visit once things were safer - what better time than in the middle of a pandemic?!
Raining Cats and Dogs… Istanbul, Turkey Oct 2020
The rain had eased a little the next morning so with aching legs, we rode the “Tünel” - a historic subway funicular built in 1875, making it the world’s second oldest underground urban rail line after the London underground. The line consists of only two stations, the historic carriages carrying you from Karaköy (sea level), climbing around 60 metres, reaching the upper station, Beyoğlu after travelling just over 500 metres. It doesn’t sound very far, but if you’d climbed as many stairs and hills as we had during this trip, it was a godsend!
Night Boat to Breda May 2020
Under the cover of semi-darkness, “Pearl Earring”, her code name for this mission, made her way through the park, hoping that she wouldn’t be recognised. She imagined suspicious eyes boring into her back and it felt as if she was dragging a headless corpse behind her instead of a wheelie case… Thankfully the station was deserted as she boarded the train to the docks to pick up the night ferry. Her first mission…. to reach Holland by first light, undetected…
In the Red Hurghada Apr 2015
"Let's meet somewhere in the middle", said Dan clearly missing his dear old mum (and some time off work) after four long months. And to be honest I was looking forward to some quality time with my eldest, not to mention a bit of r & r somewhere hotter than Essex.
Death (of Tourism) on The Nile Luxor Apr 2015
Feeling like visiting royalty (especially as Dan insisted on wearing his ghutra (Saudi headdress) as a sun-hat, we were waved through the numerous check-points on the 4 hour taxi journey to Luxor. Apart from the half-built railway line that followed the road and the occasional car (and tank!) it could have been the turn of the century... the 20th century!
Dubai Airport Jan 2014
Sitting, once again, on route backwards and forwards from London to Perth, trying…but somehow never….quite…..succeeding…. to rack up enough Emirates Skywards points to upgrade to “Silver” card status. Oh how I covet that shiny little card – so much better than the plain old blue one, that they have somehow never gotten round to sending me. Each time I get within a couple of thousand miles of the magic figure I need, they expire and I’m left back at square one again. Firmly in the “no upgrades and extra luggage allowance for you, missy” level of social strata. If I had a silver card, well I would now be sitting amongst the bling in the Emirates lounge, with a cold glass of wine in my hand and a convenient convenience within easy strolling distance.
Hello Possums! Most of you by now will probably be well aware of the tumultuous events of my life over the past few months and know the reason why I am currently living in Perth, Western Australia. For those who have missed out on the catch up e-mails, Facebook updates, Skype calls, etc. here's an edited "omnibus" edition of my life since I returned to Oz...
Round the World Adventure 2010
So, here I find myself at another crossroads in my life about to take a deep breath and step into the unknown. I`ve been told that I`m `brave`, but I don`t think that it`s courage that`s brought me here. More a sense of curiosity and adventure to see what else is out there. A real drive to experience new places and people, visit at first hand those places I`ve pored over in brochures and travel books. And finally a quest to fit in as much `living` before I might lose the urge or be unable to do all those things I want to do and go to all those places I`ve always wanted to visit.