Monday, 31 January 2011

Sydney Day 3 Jan 31st

Our last day in Sydney, and a real change from the last few ‘culture vulture’ days. We took a ferry to Manly in the morning to enjoy the harbour views from the water and to see another side of Sydney. It was a lovely day again so we took swimming things and decided to stay there a while. It was a lovely sail and Manly docks and the headland walk were beautiful. We found a nice quiet cove and went for a couple of swims and a sunbathe in between, but really it was too hot by then to be out in and we hid in the shade quite a bit. Rich had a hankering for fish and chips for lunch, which was great. I had a mixed plate of fish, calamari and prawns..yummy!
We got back and did the packing then off to the Opera Bar by the river for a drink, (great idea Iona, thanks) and to soak up the atmosphere before going in to see Sting. Our last minute seats were a bit to one side of the stage, but really close and there was a great atmosphere. It was very special to also have the Sydney Symphony orchestra playing with him. He sang a lovely selection including nearly all my favourite songs and a few early Police songs rearranged, with some very talented musicians accompanying him. He did 4 encores after rapturous applause and we didn’t get home until nearly midnight! A truly wonderful evening.
Photos here.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sydney Day 2, (and end of Day 1) 30th Jan

We set off with plenty of time on our hands to see “Soap” at the Sydney Opera House. This extra time meant we could take plenty of shots around Circular Quay at night. While I was focusing on “Luna Park” on the other side of the harbour, Ann noticed a ferry going past with purple illuminations and entitled “Eve”. So that photo is for you Evie, hope you like it. The Opera Bar was bustling with pre-event revellers and a party of 4 girls were caught taking pictures of each other under the lamplight.
The Soap performance was truly stunning.  A cross between athleticism, comedy, musical and dance routines. There were 4 women and 4 men and 6 baths of all sizes and shapes, upon which (or in which) a variety of gymnastic writhing, juggling, balancing acts and interactions took place. The music was great and towards the end, the dry stage became very wet as one guy performed brilliantly with a full bath splashing all over the stage. The rest of the troupe then came on and did their best to get the first couple of rows of audience seriously damp. Fortunately we were in row J.

This morning (30th) we caught the free city shuttle bus (green No 555) again up to Circular Quay. This time our aim was to see the Botanical Gardens, which border the Opera House. After some time we caught the little train, with the temperature rising fast as we could see that we would not be able to do the whole gardens justice if we only walked around. Some stunning views of the harbour can be seen from all around these gardens. When we were at the Rose Garden I noticed that someone had been flying in circles above the bridge. On the road this would be called doughnuts….. any suggestions for a sky version?   I finally managed to get some shots of the fruit bats, roosting in the trees. These were a sandy colour as opposed to the very black ones further up country. Still big bats and proving to be bit of a tree killer as their claws strip the bark when roosting.  We also managed to find the name of the birds that we first noticed when we arrived here. They are Sacred Ibis and made their way into the city a couple of years ago when their normal inland habitat suffered from a drought.  They found water here in abundance in all the fountains and are now here to stay.

From the gardens it was a short walk to the “Art Gallery of NSW” where there was currently an exhibition of the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shihuang. Needless to say photos were not allowed in this gallery, but we saw eight of the soldiers and two horses along with an enormous amount of other artefacts. The soldiers and horses were full size and weigh between 250 and 350 Kgs. How they were fired way back then, and in such numbers, beggars belief. So far there is an estimate of 7,500 of these terracotta figures buried in the ground and only just over 2000 unearthed so far. Qin the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty pronounced “Chin”, is widely regarded as the origin of the English word “China”. As we left I managed to get a couple of shots of a half size chariot.

We also managed to fit in a visit to the Australian Museum for a special showing of “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” exhibition. Some stunning work on display here and all shot with stunning equipment. Many photographers had gone to great lengths to get great shots. One guy strapped his 4000 GBP Canon and lens to a log in the jungle along with a laptop to set the camera off every 10 minutes.  Then left it for a couple of days. The result was a stunning shot of a croc sunbathing! I think the camera lived to see another day. This is just one example of techniques used. Another included leaving a camera on the ice for a polar bear to play with, a remote trigger was then used from a safe shed.
On our way back to our 555 bus we spotted these girls playing in the fountain. Yes it is hot here!
Photos here.
Tomorrow we catch the ferry to Manly in the morning………. because everyone says it has to be done. The best harbour cruise and a half day at the beach seems very attractive. Also in the evening we are down to see Sting at the Opera House so will not post again until we reach NZ.  See you there.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Sydney Day 1 Jan 29th

Today dawned a bit cloudy but with sun promised later, so we decided to head for Circular quay and to see the bridge and Opera house from the outside and visit an art gallery, also showing a big Annie Leibovitz photography exhibition. We had a fantastic time! We got completely carried away with the Opera house and went in for a tour. It is an amazing place, with stunning details throughout the interior, like the toilets with a wave like structure for booths and washbasins, and water that flows away to nowhere. Sorry about the reflection, didn’t notice it till we were reviewing the photos. The tour is excellent and well worth the money, giving you all the history of its construction as well as showing you all the different performing spaces and all the detailing. I had no idea it was so old, always imagining it to be a similar age to the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
In fact we got so carried away that we booked to go to see a show tonight, that came from the Edinburgh fringe festival, ‘Soap’, a gymnastics show set in and around a stage set of lots of baths, would you believe! And to top it all, we are going to see Sting on Monday night. Thanks for that kids, that’s what we are using my birthday money on.
We had a lovely picnic lunch on the edge of the Botanic gardens gazing out at the harbour, the bridge and the Opera house. Then off to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibition. That too was brilliant, giving you a good overview of her life and work in a video, then a huge selection of her most famous photos. I have always admired her work, and it was great to see it A1 size or bigger, instead of the little illustrations you usually see.
Back then to the hotel to sort and publish all this, eat and get ready to go back out to the Opera house. Wow what a cultural day….and we had forgotten about all the street theatre that goes on around big cities, the unicyclist juggling a knife, club and flaming torch on his 10 foot high unicycle got our vote!   Photos here.

Licuala Lodge to Townsville to Sydney 27th & 28th Jan

Last night after Paronella Park we arrived at Licuala Lodge,  just 4km south of Mission Beach, at about 6.30pm. A really spectacular B&B place. It had a great garden area in the middle of the rainforest complete with Jungle Swimming pool. The noise of the jungle all the time helped the general ambience and many birds were seen and heard. Monkeys were also heard but not seen. As everything closes really early here, we soon dropped our bags and sped off to the local Pizza place, placed our order and then went through the drive-in liquor store to pick up a couple of wines. This is a strange idea to us…… just like a drive thru Burger King, except that you park up inside the store, choose your wines, pay and then drive out. Back at the lodge we helped our selves to beers out of the fridge and had our pizzas. Then processed the photos for the Reef and PP over a glass of wine or two. In the morning I took a few photos of this place. Over a fantastic breakfast Mick and Sue told us a bit about the history of the place and how over the past 8 years they had had guests from all over the world. Several maps in the lounge covered with pins to show that and now including a Menorca Pin. Whereas most Aussies don’t have any idea where we come from Mick and Sue also related a story about when they had been on holiday to Menorca and knew about the trotting races and the market squares of both Mahon and Ciutadella. We then spent some time relaxing by the pool, had a swim and got ready for our drive south to Townsville. On the way to the car I noticed a huge spider hanging on a web under the stairs. This spider if placed on a postcard would hang over the edge….  At least 7 inches across, and a body of over an inch long.
The Bruce Highway is a smallish main road and considering it serves the East Coast completely, is relatively underused.  There were times when we were the only vehicle on the road. The massive road trains…. Articulated lorries with huge trailers, came thundering through going north and obviously “kings of the road”. We took a detour to Forest Beach for our lunch stop, expecting to find white sands and blue sea, so we could have a dip. However the sea was muddy with all the rains and subsequent pollution washed down and there were so many lethal stingers in the area that swimming was banned everywhere except in a special area surrounded by a boom with hanging net and only then if you wore a stinger suit. We declined to swim, or even lie on the beach as crocs had been recent visitors. The drive was mainly through wetlands, rain forest and acres of sugar cane. We passed over hundreds of creeks as they made there way to the sea, all muddy and one in particular accurately named “Blue water creek”.
 We arrived at the hotel in time for yesterdays blog posting. This Self catering apartment (Oakes M on Palmer St.) was very well equipped and we managed to do a good wash and tumbledry of lots of stuff. We could have ironed it as well, but decided not to, and went out for dinner instead. On the way back to our room we passed a tree and to our surprise a fruit bat launched itself off into the night sky only feet from us. These are big bats. The wingspan is reportedly up to a metre wide and up to that point I had not believed it, but with a couple of swishes of its wings, which we felt, it was up and away in seconds. I have tried to take photos of these in Cairns, but either did not have the camera with me or they had flown into town and roosted before I was ready.  They are very much nocturnal animals. If you imagine a raven sized body with wings either side the length of your arms, that is about the size they are, and were seen all along this coast at dusk.  Maybe I will get another chance down in Sydney.  If not, you may get an image off the internet.
This morning we were up and off early to return the car and catch our flight to Sidney. Looking forward to some big city culture for a complete change. On our descent we noticed a patch of water where the clear sea and muddy silt had been disturbed by a boat going through. Very surreal. Later we flew over the famous bridge and Opera house before landing.  After finding our hotel and getting settled in we went to explore the streets around us. We found ourselves at Darling quay, a very nice waterside venue with lots of eating places and entertainment possibilities. Lovely water features and flower beds. Plus there are some strange water birds here in Sydney… any suggestions? For a quick supper we discovered a “Pie Face” shop just over the road from here. Steak Pie with Mash and gravy….. lovely!  We wonder if this is where Debbie’s nephew got his name?                Photos here.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Frankland Island & Paronella Park Jan 26th (Australia Day)

We had to get up early today to get to the jetty for 8am. We were lucky it was Australia Day, so there were far fewer Aussies interested in the trip and we were only 32 instead of the normal 100. We set off on the boat down the river looking out for crocodiles, which frequent these waters, but didn’t see any, which was reassuring. When we arrived we were put into ‘stinger suits’ like rash vests but whole body suits, against their jellyfish, the stings of which can be lethal!! Then we got flippers snorkels and masks and were ferried to the most idyllic tropical island, just us, no-one else allowed. We had a fantastic hour in the water above the barrier reef, fish and reef watching. Quite tiring but an amazing experience, all the shapes, colours and sizes imaginable: never to be forgotten. Next we walked around the island with our guide explaining about the seeds, trees and plants we saw, and looking into rock pools to see what was there, mostly crabs. Then back to base, where shade had been erected and lunch of salad, chicken, prawns, ham and cheese was set out. A little rest after lunch then lots got back in the water to snorkel or just swim for a bit, keeping cool and enjoying being in that very special place. On the way out they served us tea or coffee and biscuits and tea and cake on the way back…great service! I had to be woken up as I was out for the count.

Paronella Park
Rich had read about this amazing place between Cairns and Townsville built by a Spaniard Jose Paronella in the early 20th century. The story is all there on the internet, but really nothing prepares you for the place. We were a bit late getting there and debated going in, but they don’t close as they also have night tours so we had plenty of time to explore. There was a very knowledgeable young guide who took us around, then left us to explore on our own. The pictures of the waterfall, used to provide hydro electricity in the days when there was none anywhere else, can’t quite do it justice, and to imagine what it is like in flood is impossible, even when you see how far up the steps it got to.
It really is a wonderful creation, largely constructed by Jose, 800 balustrade columns, 500 concrete plant pots, not to mention all the ornate buildings, lily ponds, tennis courts and paths all around the property. Feeding the huge number of fish, eels and turtles in the river has become another visitor attraction. The present owners are very enthusiastic and intend to renovate to get rid of the concrete cancer which is everywhere, while still retaining Jose’s designs throughout.  Photos ..... here.
We then drove on down to our overnight stop at Lacula Lodge, more of which later.

Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway 25th Jan

We collected the car from Avis early and headed off to the Skyrail terminal just north of Cairns. The cable car was not to Ann’s liking (I was scared to death!) but she got used to it eventually. The views out of the gondola were truly fantastic, looking down onto the canopy and out over the city behind. We could see a long way in all directions. The trip is split into three sections and at the end of section one we got out, much to Ann’s relief and joined a guided tour of the rain forest around that station. The eco system was well explained and we saw ferns of all varieties as well as a stick insect and spiders. The trees here are massive and several hundred years old. Lots of vines, aerial roots and strange shapes, which on closer inspection turned out to be massive versions of what we know as house plants in Europe. We were shown a small snake, sunbathing in the undergrowth, but it disappeared before I could focus the camera. At the second station we were shown the magnificent Barron Falls and had several opportunities to view this real torrent. It had rained heavily over the past week in Queensland and this was the spectacular side of the rains. We could also see the KSR on the other side of the gorge where it had stopped so the passengers could view the falls from that side. At this station the guy helping us onto the gondolas pointed out a spider that had caught a large moth. About 4 month’s worth of food he reckoned. The spider itself was about 4 inches long. The last station was Kuranda itself and by now Ann was quite used to the gondola’s habit of almost slowing to a stop and then building up speed again…. Very un-nerving at first. Here we grabbed a beer and settled ourselves, before setting off into the village. The first stop was a small art gallery which was full of didgeridoos, boomerangs and glass art work. If you are reading this Nigel Mason, you will have to come here. The proprietor was working on his computer while awaiting sales and I asked him to Google “Nigel Mason + Glass” which brought up your work.  He was very interested. He even suggested that you would make a fortune if you could make a glass Didge.
We then went on up to the butterfly park where I tried in vain to get a shot of the lovely large Blue ones…. about 5 inches wingspan, but they never settle with their wings open. So only a blur of that I’m afraid. Plenty of others though, and plenty more on the way, as they have a breeding station full to the brim next door. After an ice cream stop we spent the rest of our time in Kuranda perusing the very expensive markets, which sold everything from A1 photos of Ayres Rock for 4,300 Aus $ to uncut but polished stones of random shapes for 2$ each. Also Aboriginal art work and clothing of all sorts. Here I spotted the tee-shirt with the “Today is a gift” logo. We then made out way to the KSR station where we had a cup of tea…. In true Yarrow style, and then started the descent back to Cairns along the historic railtrack passing again Barron Falls and many other waterfalls on the way.  The views from here were equally magnificent though often very brief, as we passed between cuttings and tunnels. There was a very informative commentary throughout, about the terrible conditions and difficulties faced in its construction. At Freshwater station we were taken by coach back to the Skyrail terminus to collect our car. All in all a very memorable day. Photos here.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ayres Rock to Cairns, Jan 24th

We had to check out before 10am and spent some time before our airport transfer (12.45) looking at some of the other hotel complexes. The “Sails in the Desert” had a very nice art gallery as well as nice architectural details. The weather forecast for the day showed just what we have been having these past few days…… 43 degrees and 10% humidity. A very dry heat that gets you in the throat, like a sauna before you throw water on the coals.
At the airport I took some photos of some pictures of the Rock’s first airport. A bit too close to the rock itself for my liking. One last shot of the Olgas as we took off and then a few more as we descended into Cairns. The sea had a muddy look about it as the rivers had washed so much silt down these past few days. It is not raining now, and tomorrow is said to be OK for our Skyrail trip up into the rain forest. Photos here
Absolute rubbish Internet here in Cairns........ will get back when I can.

Sunrise over Ayres Rock, Jan 24th

The alarm set for 4.10am ensured that we caught the bus that would take us to the viewing platform for the sunrise photo opportunity. On our way to the bus we saw our first mammal of the trip, a rabbit outside our door. Ann had a cup of tea and some biscuits as we got off the bus, but with biscuits in hand I made my way straight to the platform to claim my space. In all, I estimated there to be over 300 budding photographers all jostling for the best space. The real professionals with tripods and 2000 GBP lenses had been there at least an hour before us and were very well established. If the photos of the rock do not have much foreground, that is because there were so many people down at that level as to spoil the shot. So many of my shots have a lot of sky in them. The change of colour was very gradual as the sun came up, and to be honest I was expecting something a bit more dramatic as it had been hyped up so much. “Like watching paint dry” said Ann. I finally ended my shots with 5 panoramic views left to right and have merged them into a shot that would print out at about 2 metres wide in full resolution. We then went around the otherside of the rock to see the colour without the sun on it…. Very purple. Photos here.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Uluru Base Tour. Jan 23rd

Uluru Base tour.
Up early to be picked up (8.40am) for this tour around the base of Ayres Rock (Uluru). When we arrived at the climb station the climb had just been closed for the day and there were a few people coming down the last stage. Heather (our guide) explained that a few years ago, a Japanese tourist, as he was descending, saw what he thought was his bus leaving. He started to run down the rock, tripped and fell for so far at such speed that he was dead on arrival. What a way to go. We toured on foot and saw lots of aboriginal art work, where the locals had held their schooling lessons for the younger generations. The artwork being the lessons to be learnt….. visual aids.  Some was reported to be over 300 years old. We were also taken to a watering hole where the water comes off the rock and fills a pool about the size of a tennis court. Here we had an explanation about the local legend of Kuniya, a snake who’s image can be found on the rock. Also the heart shape depression where she coiled herself to contemplate the fate of her nephew who had been killed as part of “Man’s business”.
A lot of the vegetation around here showed signs of being burnt and apparently a few local children set fire to the area back in 2003 (or thereabouts). They got into a lot of trouble and the fire service could not get too close as the heat generated by the gum trees was so intense. However the fire has triggered a lot of seed germination and it is now a greener place than it has been for many years. Heather told us that the annual rainfall is between 75 and 180mm of water per year. Over the past few months they have had 750mm. The sounds of Silence dinner on the 21st Jan was cut short by a thunderstorm. An aboriginal told her that he has not seen the area look so green in 45 years. Tomorrow we get up even earlier (4am) for the sunrise viewing. So more photos then, but we will not post again until we are in Cairns.  Photos here.

Sounds of Silence Dinner 22nd January

This was a totally amazing experience and quite the most unusual birthday dinner I have ever had. Rich had kept all cards and presents to take with us so we set off with a big brown paper bag!
We started by being taken into the wilderness where the bus stopped and we walked up through the dunes to an elevated plateau to watch the sun go down over the Olgas and to see Ayers rock in the changing colours. We heard didgeridoo music wafting down as we climbed to be greeted with a glass of bubbly. We were also served canap├ęs of smoked salmon and kangaroo meat as we watched the sun go down.
From there we were guided to a dining area literally in the middle of nowhere, marked out by solar lights and seated at tables with lanterns in the centre. I began opening all my cards and presents and have to say a huge thank you to all of you who thought about me so far in advance and sent such a lovely selection of things.
Our meal was fantastic, starting with roast pumpkin soup, suitably decorated, and progressing through an amazing array of salads and meats, including casseroled kangaroo and I tried barramundi fish for the first time. Deserts (in the dessert) were also an array of choices from chocolate brownies and carrot cake to apple crumble and bread and butter pudding with various exotic fruits and sauces. All the while we were being plied with wine and water and finished with a glass of port. Phew!
There were interruptions to exclaim over the wildlife attracted to the lamp and spoon them out of our glasses, then for an astronomy expert to describe the southern hemisphere night sky to us, all lights out, and to tell me and the other guy who was also celebrating his 60th that the light we were seeing from the Gemini constellation began its journey to us, as we were being born!
There were telescopes set up for you to go and get a closer look at various galaxies, stars and planets before the coaches took us home, tired, full and very happy. Photos here.

Perth to Ayres Rock 22nd Jan

Happy Birthday Ann.
Sat here at the Domestic Airport (T2) which is several km from the International Airport (T1). We have about an hour before our flight takes off. They have a very modern check in system here……… no one on check in at all, just terminals everywhere and the occasional helper to sort plebs such as us.  She told us that Sydney will be the same, so we learnt the process to use later on. She also told us to have the camera ready when we land as the best view of the rock is from the airport.
Some things that we noticed about Perth.
It never rains……… Oh yes it did, and everyone was talking about it.  Only a few drops actually and not enough to wet the paths.
The town names are all much the same as the UK.  Welshpool, Exmouth, Ascot, Wembley and of course Perth itself. I suppose the Brits named the towns after the ones they had left. This can be a bit confusing when talking about people’s addresses, you never know whether they live in the UK or a Perth suburb.
The ocean and river are never far away and makes for a really great place to live. Also people buy houses here to knock down and rebuild much more so than they would in the UK or Spain. It’s the plot that is all important. Also there does not seem to be too much interference from the planning people and houses of all shapes and sizes live next to each other, often by only centimetres. It is not uncommon to buy a plot with an old bungalow on it and fit two or three new builds into the space.
Termites are a major hazard here and they can destroy the softwood within a house in a few months. New builds have to have anti-termite barriers built into the foundations and to get your house insured you have to have a termite inspection annually.
The city is very people friendly, with wide pavements and lots of green spaces everywhere. Having the river there and the lovely Kings Park also make it feel very peaceful and civilised.
There are loads of eating out places around the city which has virtually no unemployment and a very well paid workforce, with lots of disposable income. They eat out a lot, but unfortunately this has led to some of the worst service reputations imaginable, as we found out when we took our hosts Debbie, Todd and Jo, Deb’s sister, out for a meal.
As we flew out we had great views of the city, though through two layers of airplane window Plexiglas does not help the little camera. On the outskirts of the city we passed over a mine of some sort.  A great hole in the ground that could probably not be seen from ground level. We also passed over what first looked like a lake, but on closer inspection we found it had a dam, so must be some sort of reservoir.  For some time we were passing over what appeared to be salt lakes, some much bigger than others.  Some were being “farmed” and later others showed no sign of human activity at all. In fact it was quite some time before we left human intervention in the desert landscape. Roads, railways and fences were evident along with the occasional homestead for at least an hour’s flight time.  As we descended into Ayres Rock resort, we could clearly see the Olgas, with the rock proper behind. The lady at Perth was right, but once on the ground we had to wait for or bus transfer before we could get another glimpse. Photos here

Friday, 21 January 2011

Australia Day 3 Jan 21st

Today we headed down to Wembly Downs to meet up with Carol's daughter, Helen, her husband Adrian and daughter Eva. We then drove to the Floreat Beach where we all swam in the Indian Ocean. Saw this fantastic car in the carpark.  It was way past tea and cakes time, so we put that right before getting the kit out the cars and getting into the surf.  Really great to get in the sea again; first time since Menorca. Back then to Helen's place for a cheese butty and then back here so that we could skype Corin, Jen and Harper. Good to see them getting ready for the move. Also managed to catch Andy and Mary on Skype as they got up. Now preparing for a BBQ tonight to meet some more of Deb's friends, before we set off tomorrow for Ayres Rock and Ann's birthday celebrations. Not many photos here .

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Australia Day 2 Jan 20th

Today we caught the bus into Perth to see a bit of the city and King’s Park.  What struck us most about the city is how the new buildings are interspersed with the old.  I say old……… nothing is really old here, but by comparison….. as you will see in the photos here. The Kings Park is a botanical garden / park where they are in particular looking at indigenous planting and the preservation of endangered species. The fountains were most entertaining. We went down to the waterside for a pub lunch. We then had to rush home so we could Skype Iona before she went to work. 7am UK = 3pm WA. Later tonight we are going out for a meal. A bit of Pomme humour for the techy gadget owners out there...... here  View full screen if possible.

Australia Day 1 proper! - Jan 19th

The Wine Tour
Wow! Australia is so different again. It is really hot and dry here, almost all year by all accounts and they have plenty of eucalyptus and palms growing. What did surprise us this morning is that there is also a big wide river here in Perth and also plenty of waterholes or billabongs beside homesteads, or vineyards.  Speaking of which this is the day of the wine tour on a VERY pink bus! At first we were the only two on the bus as the other customers had a flight delay, but they joined us at the coffee stage. The first wine tasting (of 45 glasses in total, thereabouts) was at about 10:30 in the underground cellars at the Water's Edge . So called after the founder Thomas Waters, coincidentally on the edge of the Swan River. A great explanation of some wine basics for plebs such as us.  Our next stop was the winery where they name the wines after Fish….. Yes, very surreal, but you will never forget a “Fishtail Wines” I can particularly recommend the Whitebait, Pink Salmon and Red Snapper.  Time for a change and for our other customers to catch us up. Coffee tasting.  Why do “Starbucks” not come here to see what coffee should taste like? Really great coffees here on offer and we particularly liked the coffee syrup “Iced Coffee” to mix with cold milk or pour over ice-cream. Truly scrummy.
Then on to Cape Lavender where we tasted Lavender tea (not keen on that) then scones with lavender jam and cream (better) and finally Lavender flavoured wines (most acceptable). I must say I was not the only one who thought their scent glands had been transported back to their Grandmother’s house. Ann was wearing a lavender dress and blended in well.  Then on to Charlie's Wines where we were treated to a full range of delicious wines and where most of us purchased some bottles. We then had a great lunch at the Pink Bus HQ, met the boss and were treated to even more wine tastings by a very jovial wine waiter.
Now the time had come for some culture and history so we visited an Aboriginal Art Gallery, where we had a talk about traditional life and weapons hand crafted and on display. Did you know the boomerang is designed to damage the legs of prey, first and foremost. Then you catch the lame victim and dispatch it with a club to the back of the neck. Great Art on display and also ethnic jewellery. Off to Elmar’s Brewery for some beer tasting.  All brewed on the premises with German ingredients to German Standards. Apparently the biggest Brewing Kettle in the southern hemisphere. I liked the darker beers, as they were closer to UK beers. Our final stop was the chocolate factory where we could sample the three varieties, dark, milk and white chocolate buttons as we entered the store and could see through the windows some of the processes going on. Some very strange things on offer as can be seen from the photos. Here the group disbanded and we were returned to near Debbies house by about 5pm.
We ate a Chinese takeaway under a full moon, ate chocolates and drank wine….. the end of a very memorable day. Photos here

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Australia here we come

Singapore to Australia,  Jan 18th
A fairly uneventful journey, except for a lady being wheelchaired off the plane ill, and then a half hour wait to find her case. We found Debbie at the airport once we turned on our phones..... she was driving round the car park, waiting for us to emerge and we were waiting inside at arrivals (having a cup of tea). We past a sign for Welshpool on the way to her house...... strange.......... and then she explained that Manchester was the name here for linen. So people go to buy Bed Manchester. Todd made us a great evening meal and a few beers and a couple of wines later we dropped into a lovely bed and slept well.
Wednesday.  Jan 19th
Today we catch the bus in just under an hours time for a  Wine Tour of WA (Western Aus). 
No photos for yesterday at all, but I'm sure I'll get a few good ones today......... so a bit of musical entertainment for

Singapore Day 3 Jan 17th

Today at the botanic gardens was also wonderful, lots of lakes, resting points and in  particular a wooden walkway up in the trees, which are so huge and lush, and then the orchid garden, containing so many varieties, colours and shapes of these most exotic of flowers.
We have only glanced at the rest from a tour bus, amazing buildings, the whole harbour area and a number of shopping malls, and will have to return to do them more justice. Photos here
We have to check out tomorrow at 6.30am and are hoping for Airport WIFI to post this lot.

Singapore Day 2 part 2 -- Jan 16th Evening

Jan 16th Evening
We’ve had a fabulous time in Singapore! It has been great to be in a completely different type of environment: very clean, developed and civilised. We have felt completely safe, and in fact people have all been very friendly, polite and helpful. We’ve consequently had some more daring eating experiences, alongside locals on plastic plates in a market as well as more civilised ones, in and out of the hotel. A special recommendation for “My Grandma’s Place” at 17, Mosque Street, Chinatown.
It’s been great timing with the Chinese New Year celebrations starting the day we arrived, although the weather has been rather erratic. We have spent a lot of time in Chinatown because of all the things going on there, from auctions of ‘antiques’ in Chinese, incredibly varied markets, fan dancing and, the stars for us, an Australian ‘acrobat’ group “Strange Fruit”, working in what looked like paper and bamboo lampshade spheres 2 metres diameter and at times 6 metres up in the air. They float around on fibreglass poles, seemingly at random and then, by design, they occasionally all meet up in the middle, incredible. You will get a taste in the photos which unfortunately have no sound or movement, but you will get the idea. It was so magical it brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.(Ann)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Singapore Day 2, Jan 16th

We set off for China town really early.  About 9.15 in fact, and got there before most shops had opened. Then we realised it was Sunday and they may not open at all. We strolled around for a while, Ann bought a few presents and souvenirs and I bought a pair of Italian sandals. Also I succumbed to a 0.5 lens attachment that effectively makes my 18 to 270mm Tamron telephoto into a 9 to whatever Wide angle lens at a fraction of the cost of a new lens. We will have to see when we hit the wide vistas of Australia and NZ to see how it performs.
We saw lots of blossom on the road side, not all of it genuine, but effective none the less. It would appear that some light up at night. We will return. Also we had thought that I might get a linen jacket made up for me while we are here. They are famous for this fast service. The first tailor said yes no problem, “We will have it ready for you tomorrow night…. 680 S$… that’s about 340GBP. We said no thanks….. several times, and his last offer as we left the shop was 280 S$. I think there is a lesson here. The next shop did a similar sales patter, but offered more expensive cashmere cloth and started over a 1000 S$. Again we left the shop resigned to be buying in Next or Primark for ever more.
We stopped for a coffee and a biscuit and I had a pretty pattern drawn on the top of my latte by the waitress. We checked the map, asked our way and walked on down the road trying to find Banda Street where later tonight there is to be some special street performance as it is Chinese New Year. Every one wishes you “Happy New Year” and your first thought is….. that’s 2 weeks ago. But no, we are just starting the year of the rabbit and they are everywhere. They must have been breeding well these past few months. Also we have heard… “Have a nice day”…. Did not think I would hear that until we hit the USA.
We came across the Siri Mariamman Temple which had the most impressive gateway. As it was another “Shoes off” place and the ground a tad damp, we decided to keep looking for Banda St. when we came across the “Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum”  This is very touristy and they let you keep your shoes on, provided you stay off (yes off) the carpet. Magnificent interior and exterior, but the incense fumes were a bit too much for our sensitive chests after the coughs we are just getting over and we had to leave after a short time. We have tried our first Chinese medicine for that, some slightly bitter liquid containing Chuan Bel, almond, coltsfoot flowers, brown sugar and water.
Behind the temple along a lantern lined walkway there is a fruit market where we found huge grapefruits (Tambun Pomelo) and some guys eating some strange fruit. If it tastes like it smells, they are welcome to it.  We also wandered into a food hall where all manner of food was being prepared and eaten there and then by the locals. Ann had duck and noodles and I had pork and rice. Half way through we swapped. Both were very good and cost just  5.50 S$ or just 2.75 GBP for both dishes.  No ill effects yet! Back at the hotel now to fire up our three hours of Internet. Ann has had a swim and we now know which pool is attached to this Hotel.  Later tonight we will return to China town for the evening entertainment, providing it does not start raining again.  A few more photos this time here.

Singapore Day 1. Jan 15th

We set the alarm at 6.30 this morning and had breakfasted and checked out by 8. A metered taxi again charged us the 500Tb to get the airport where the usual security took ages. Just when we thought our struggles were over, we came across a large sculpture of a tug of war using a dragon’s tail as a rope.  There were mythical sculptures in all corners of Bangkok airport. If only we had set the alarm for 5 we may have had time to appreciate a few more of them.  We ran our Tbs (Thai Barts) down to the absolute minimum and only just had enough for a bottle of water on the plane.  On landing the taxi arrangements could not have been easier.  So much better than BKK.  5 taxis were ushered in by a controller and when parked, 5 sets of passengers were released from the queue. When they had gone…. Another 5 and so on. No squabbling, no getting run over, and best of all, efficient. This time the meter ran and when we arrived it had 17 Singapore $…. Which really meant 20 or in other words about 10 GBP again. To future Singapore travellers…… the ATM is near BurgerKing! 
As we drove out of the airport it started to rain…. And then some! Our driver explained that every day about that time it rains. It’s the rainy season. For the next hour or so it tipped it down.  (Ann now) What that does mean is that there is really lush growth everywhere. There were amazing displays of big groups of different kinds of orchids as we came through the airport and outside the trees seem to just keep going up and there are ferns, bromeliads, and orchids growing in their branches.
At the hotel the first room we were offered smelt musty, and some of the paperwork on the desk was actually damp. We enquired about air freshener and Internet access at the front desk to be told that the WIFI does not work in that half of the hotel.  So we moved from 626 to 1011. A much drier room and a 5 bar reading on the WIFI. Also a much better room, though not yet sure if the two pools we can see are actually attached to our hotel. People are still using them even in this downpour….. Once you are wet, you are wet!
We resolved to stay in and had the Hotel buffet supper…. Superb. About 9pm we went out, as it had stopped raining.  Everywhere was really wet, yet so humid, my shirt was soaked by the time we got back. We sorted the local area, river taxis and the general direction of Chinatown ready for the morning.  As it was rather wet I only took the little camera (Sony Cybershot 7.2 mega pixel)  Not the best choice for night shots but a lot less conspicuous. We saw what we thought were lit up kites in the night sky, but they turned out to be battery powered, LED lit, remote controlled model flying machines.  Can’t really say airplanes as they were more kite shaped, but had no strings attached and could fly silently with such grace as to keep at least 200 spectators transfixed for ever. I will have to return with the Canon 7d and hope they have another session. Hopefully you will see some better shots later.
(Ann again) Again everywhere is planted up with what are for us rare and slow growing species, or house plants in England, but here are monsters! There is a botanical garden and an orchid garden I am looking forward to seeing. Not many photos here.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Bangkok Day 2.... A walk in the park.

Today we decided to have an easy day as the pressure of tourism was starting to show.  We needed a rest. We set off after breakfast to discover the “Emporium” a shopping mall just up the road. A cross between the Trafford Centre and Corte Ingles. All designer names and nothing sensibly priced. However there were still plenty of customers.  We walked about a bit, saw their Lego display,  used their loo, bought three books for the price of 2….. or was that 5!! And set off down the road back to the Hotel, passing a sign saying that there would be a fountain display at various times in the evening. We then had a swim and sunbathe at the roof top pool before packing the suitcases ready for an early start tomorrow. In the afternoon we walked around the local park packed with all sorts of sculptures  and even saw the odd  tortoise in the murky waters. At 7.30ish we set off to watch the fountain display, which was very good. Started at 7.50 ish, but what the hell?  Back to the Hotel for a room service Pizza and an hour or so of packing and “un-accounted for surfing!!!” and that’s the end of another day.  See you all from Singapore.  Photos here enjoy !!!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Bangkok Day 1 Jan 13th

This morning found us both a bit the worse for wear. Rich still with a terrible cough that doesn’t allow him to sleep and me absolutely washed out after a horrible sore throat. We’re not sure if the Delhi smog is taking its toll or whether jet lag and general time change effects are the reason.
Our hotel is situated near the sky train and we got maps and headed out to try to see something of the city from above as it were. However you really can’t get above Bangkok! It’s a city of monstrous skyscrapers all very modern and concrete and glass, lots of huge shopping blocks and hotels as well as offices and living accommodation. Dotted amongst all this there are a few green spaces, a small park or even a golf course and most buildings have some plants or even trees planted up their side.
We arrived at the river where you can catch a variety of different boats to get to different tourist destinations in the city. You catch a glimpse of the other town that has grown up along its banks, floating or built on stilts in it. We got off at Pier 8 Wat Pho, a 16 century Palace to house the largest collection of Buddha images in Tailand. Amongst which was the biggest reclining Buddha and the sumptuous temple around him. I have never seen so much gold, decoration and carving, and so many statues of Buddha in one place. There was worship going on amid all the tourists too.
We had intended to do more but feeling washed out in the humidity and heat we came back to the hotel for tea and a snooze. Siestas are such a good idea.  Later that night I (Rich) ventured out to top up the cough mixture supplies and get some milk as all we ever get here is coffeemate powder stuff. At night it is like a scene from Bladerunner.  The road underneath the skyrail, cables everywhere, people wearing masks, and all sorts of people selling all sorts of food and other goods on the pavements.  The walkways are uneven and I have tripped once, but survived. Massage on offer everywhere. “turn left at Snow White Massage and then left again at oil and head massage”. The most unusual must be the “Henna and yoghurt” massage. 
Photos here.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

007 to 1911 12th Jan.

At the Hotel Impress we were allocated room 007, which means just behind the check in desk, ground floor. Here at Imperial Tara Hotel Bangkok, we have room 1911, which is 19 floors up and has stunning views over a very different landscape to the one we have been looking at for the past few days. Whilst awaiting our airport shuttle, Ann noticed an advert in the India Times that Joy will like.  The arranged shuttle from the Impress was in a bit of a shed on wheels.  The suitcases were thrown up on top to a roof rack (no straps) and he seemed rather put out when I did not let him do the same with the camera case and laptop. Anyway we arrived at terminal 3 with everything still intact and the co driver, who was on training for the day, almost awake. We said good bye to a couple of elephants lurking in the check in area and made our way to the departure gate.  Collecting on our way, 20 USD from the currency exchange man and 500 Rs worth of cough mixture and lozenges not to mention some good old vicks rub!
The flight was uneventful save being nearly an hour late.  We were sat on the runway for at least half an hour. When we arrived at Bangkok Airport we were naturally directed to the “Limo” taxi rank…… 2000 TB for our ride,  That’s about 45 GBP. I refused and eventually after much discussion they eventually told us where the “Public” taxis were waiting.  500 TB later and with lots of patter from our driver we arrived at our hotel.  I still think we were done, from the look on his face when we handed over the cash, but the metre was not running and who were we to argue? The contrast in driving conditions to that of India was most noticeable.  We never heard one horn.  The roads were fast, smooth and unpopulated.
After a bowl of soup, some local whisky (not bad) we are about to crash. We will post this tomorrow when we start a 24hr WIFI connection for 200 TB… 4GBP. Not too bad. Should be ably to do at least a couple of sessions with that. Now where’s that Vics.
13th Jan.
P.S. Also added a couple of shots taken before our sight seeing begins proper. Photos here. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Jaipur to Delhi -- Jan 11th

Today was another bright sunny day but most of it was spent driving between Jaipur and Delhi for our last day in India. We passed the Amber fort on our way out and were once again impressed by its scale and grandeur and the elephant procession up to it.
We have come to understand over the last week just how the traffic works. It appears chaotic and shocking at first, everyone going anywhere they want, including over red lights and the wrong way down roads, animals included, and so loud with everyone honking away. But, once you realise no-one obeys the rules and no-one expects you to, the system becomes clear. Basically you try to drive as fast as you can, weaving your way in and out of the slower traffic and you honk to inform anyone in your way that you need to pass. They move out of your way and you do the same when someone faster wants to pass you.  So far so good, and no aggression or road rage. Then we saw the normal system of squeezing 7 lanes of traffic into 5 happening at a toll pay station and no-one would allow the extra 2 rows into their queues, and we saw our driver become agitated for the first time…so obviously there are some rules! Opportunist sparrow sized birds were taking all sorts of chances in their attempts to find the odd bit of grain dropped off the back of a lorry or picked up in the tyres.
We also had our first stop at stand-up non- flushing toilets on the road, not a very pleasant experience, but necessary. The coffee or chai stop a bit later was nicer. We saw a few wrecks along the way as drivers went into the ditches or turned sharp left forgetting that their load was rather top heavy…. Oops why is my lorry on its side in a ditch?
Then, as we got into Delhi again we noticed some interestingly different architecture and the use of solar panels in the more modern part we drove through. Those following the blog for some time will remember that we had to find an extra night’s accommodation due to flight changes.  Well here we are at the Hotel Impress. Not as posh as the other hotels thus far, but a bigger room, free WIFI, a sofa and what appears to be a comfy bed. We can only just detect the airport noise and that is a lot quieter than the traffic noise associated with the previous hotels. We are about to go to  sample the Indian Spice restaurant, attached to the Hotel, for one of its “Crispy meals” …… or so it says on the web site.  We will leave the “Today’s Chosen Image” as that selected for yesterday, otherwise it will be only displayed for a hour or so. Tomorrow we fly to Bangkok and arrive at 1800 hrs Bangkok time.  It is highly unlikely that we will blog that day, so we wish you all a good night and see you soon. Photos here.

Jaipur Day 2

A Grain of Long Grain Rice !!

We awoke this morning, for the first time here, to a clear sky and no fog! It was still a little chilly but we were off to the Amber Fort by 8:40 and very excited about the promised elephant ride. It was an awesome sight to see the Fort, protected by another behind it and a wall which covered the tops of the hills for miles and miles. Up onto our elephant and away up the hill we went, an unforgettable experience with lots of photos as evidence, some taken by our guide and numerous opportunistic ‘photographers’ on the way!
Inside the Fort, built in sections by three successive Maharajas, there were some stunning sights, especially the mirrored Winter Palace and the views from the top levels through the screens the Maharanis sat behind to watch the world go by. There were 2 lovely knot gardens one outside and one inside with a fountain in the middle.
Next we moved on to look at a gem factory and a carpet and fabric cooperative. Despite our resolve, we did at last succumb and bought an amethyst silver ring and a block printed bedspread, after watching some very interesting demonstrations.
We next stopped at the Water Palace and the Palace of the Winds for photos. The Water Palace is destined to become an isolated luxury hotel, but surrounded by a polluted lake full of floating dead fish. I’m not sure of its prospects for success. The Palace of the Winds seems in a strange situation on a main road, until you are told that the court women came from the City Palace to watch celebratory processions from there, hidden from the gaze of men.
We were very impressed by the Juntar Muntar at Jaipur, as it has been restored, but also it is much bigger and has more astrological instruments than were at Delhi. We went finally to the City Palace, which is full of the most fantastic costumes and portraits of the various Maharaja and Maharani and some of their famous meetings with foreign dignitaries like the Mountbattens. One carried gallons of water from the Ganges in two huge silver urns with him to London in huge silver casks and it seemed equally bizarre to know the present Maharaja is living just at one corner! Albeit a five storey section, much higher than the older parts.
Our last ride through the centre of Jaipur was hair raising in the busy traffic but we arrived at the very serene workshop of a small family group of 4 miniature painters. Fantastic work! Luckily we only came away from there with a grain of rice with both our names painted on it. For today's photos click here and for the whole blog pack click on "Todays Chosen Image".  Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Agra to Jaipur (and Hideous Fog)

We awoke this morning to absolutely no view whatsoever from our bedroom window. It was 7am, and by 9 it was little better. In days gone by, in London, they would have called it a real “pea souper”. More smog than fog, and I seem to have developed quite a chesty cough, which might be the smog or the air con, who knows.  Our driver and guide suggested that we miss the red Fort of Agra as there would be little to see that would be different from the Red Fort in Delhi.  A fort is a fort! So we made our way to Fatehpur Sikri, 37km from Agra on the Jaipur road. You will see from the photos that it was still foggy when we arrived, so I suggest you Google “Fatehpur Sikri Agra” to see photos of what it looks like in decent sunshine.  This place is an abandoned city. For 14 years it was the Mughal Capital, built by Akbar in 1571, and then abandoned as they were having constant trouble getting water to it. Akbar had three wives, one Christian, one Hindu and one Muslim. Inside the city walls lie the three residences of these wives each built and carved in the style associated with their religions. Only the Hindu wife bore him a son, so she was his favourite. Akbah also had a white elephant that he used to crush victims by stepping on them on a stone in the garden.  When he dished out justice, there was no appeal opportunity! When his favourite elephant died he built a special monument to him, but due to the fog we could not see this.
The road to Jaipur was much better than other trunk roads we have been on thus far. There were still loose dogs crossing and camel trains and lorries coming the wrong way in our fast lane.  Our driver took it all in his stride and accepted the inevitability of it all, as if normal.  We got to Jaipur at about 4pm and saw many kites in the sky.  Both varieties!  January the 14th is National Kite Festival and everyone is getting ready for it. There were more Kites in the sky than pigeons. They come in a variety of colours and materials, but so far are all a basic square design, about the size of an LP. Enjoy the photos  here  and why not try out the slideshow if you have not yet found that option. The WIFI here appears to be quite slow and so I will not update tomorrow, but leave it until the afternoon of the 11th when at our last hotel in India, the WIFI is free.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Delhi to Agra and Taj Mahal

After breakfast we were met promptly at 9am by our driver who earned his money today taking us along the road to Agra. This is only 205 km but took 6 hrs. Much of the time we were stuck in slow moving traffic.
Q. Which side of the road do you drive on at home?
Ans. In the UK it is on the left and in Spain on the right.
“That’s OK then, because here it is optional!”
It appears that here the majority of people drive on the left: a leftover from the British Raj. However today on a dual carriageway (main trunk road, but by no means a motorway) we hit a traffic jam and 60% of the cars did a U turn and left the wrong way down our carriageway….. or drove off the side down a 2 foot drop to join the service road which ran parallel to us. The two lane carriage way had four lanes of traffic, all jostling for position only millimetres apart. Add to this the constant beeb beeb toot toot beeb toot honk honk, which appears to be the normal way of saying “look out, I’m coming through whether you like it or not”, even across red lights that have been red for a full minute. The white/yellow lines and zebra crossings on the road are “purely for decoration”. We passed a lorry which had crossed the central reservation…. In the fog? ….. overloaded rickshaws, tuc tucs, camel and buffalo trucks as well as luxury Mercs and ramshackle buses. Despite all this we managed to get to Agra unscathed, had a “comfort break” in a bazaar for good measure and arrived an hour and a half late.  This meant that our guide had to give us a whistle stop tour of the Taj Mahal. Somehow (maybe he is well known for it) he managed to just walk us past very long queues right up to security check and then again right into the actual mausoleum. No one so much as blinked, not the guards, nor the 500 people or so we had “queue jumped”.  We spent only about an hour and a half here before being taken to a marble shop / factory outlet, where table tops are made by skilled craftsmen in front of you and you are invited to view their creations. All very beautiful and way above our budget, even for a chopping board sized slab.  It goes without saying that the Taj Mahal is stunning. As the photos show the workmanship is so accurate with black onyx inlaid into white marble and a selection of other semi-precious stones to add other colours. Originally it had precious stones also, but these have been looted over the years. It took over 20,000 craftsmen 22 years to complete and to get the stones to the top they built a mud ramp, one and a half kilometres long. The dome has two skins, just like St Paul’s in London has now. Photos here or the full pack by clicking on "Today's Chosen Image".

Delhi Day 3

After breakfast, we were met by our guide for the day, Deepa, who took us by car, with a driver, to a few selected sights in and around Delhi. We started off at the Red Fort where the Mogul empire built this city out of the local red sandstone. We heard all sorts of stories about power struggles, murder and accession to the throne by a prince who locked his father away in the Taj Mahal. (To be seen tomorrow). Inside the fort were many other buildings, all religious in some way, or courts of some kind where the King gave judgment. Here there were many kites circling overhead as well as chipmunks running wild everywhere.  Cute but probable so close to rats as to be vermin really.  From there to the largest Mosque in Asia, the Jamar Masjid, where they were preparing for prayers. This Mosque can accommodate 25,000 if she has her figures right. We had to remove our shoes and Ann had to don a floral house coat so that we could enter.  Stopping only for one photo at the gate of India on our waywe drove to the President’s Palace (once occupied by Lord Mountbatten) where topiary elephants guard the drive inside the walls and stone ones stand guard on top of the boundary fence. From there to the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi (Raj Ghat) where his footsteps are traced in stone on that fateful day to the spot where he was assassinated. Next we visited the Qutab Minar or Tower of Victory where 5 of the original 7 storeys now remains to mark originally the might of Islam and now having lost the two top storeys to a lightning strike …. The onset of Muslim rule in India. Once you could walk up the 360 odd stairs to a viewing platform but after an accident when several people died due to a panic stampede, when some stairs collapsed under the load, this is no longer an option. Finally we were able to see the tomb of Humayun, an impressive precursor to the Taj Mahal. His wife built it for him and it sits in a beautiful peaceful garden, with rills and fountains all around it, to echo the paradise he would go to. 
A water buffalo had got caught up in some barriers and caused some consternation on our journey to Kahn Market where we successfully used an ATM (proving our cards work overseas), had a coke in McDonalds, and did some browsing of the many stalls. Once again by tuc tuc to our Hotel for tea and cakes where we start an evening of packing up ready for our trip to Agra tomorrow. Photos... here 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Delhi Day 2

A local newspaper “ The Hindustan Times” was delivered to our room this morning and it told us that the schools had shut until 10th Jan as the current cold snap was unacceptable. Presumably because the schools are equipped with air con, not heaters.
We had a very good buffet breakfast, which set us up for the day. We were officially “off” the Golden triangle tour today, and free to do what we wanted so decided to go for a walk around the locality. Wherever we walked we were accompanied by tuc tuc owners who were willing to take us anywhere for 10 Rupees…. (About 14pence or 16 centimos) We declined their offer, needing a walk to get our bearings. We were then accompanied by the foot version of unsolicited guide, always very polite and interested in who we were and where we had come from. When told “England” the reply was often…. “lubbly jubbly” or “what part of London?” We managed to see a few sights of the hidden areas, off the tourist trail. We found several photo opportunities here… for photo set (view slideshow) and particularly liked the chicken biryani shop and advice to motorists, as well as asking us to keep Delhi green in what has to be the most polluted city we have ever visited. After being guided away from where we wanted to go, we eventually were taken to the tourist office (looking for all the world like a seedy minicab office) where we were told to retrace our steps, three blocks.  Here we found the Jantar Mantar…… which means Instrument of Mathematics. This is a collection of constructions that sets out the movement of the sun, moon and polar star and was completed in about 1724. Allegedly the first of its kind world wide…… Stonehenge methinks!!  We decided to take a tuc tuc ride back to the hotel and had two drivers bidding for our ride. We chose the one we asked first…. This was a mistake, for it was the second driver who actually knew where our hotel was… or so he said. Our driver always looked lost and when we found ourselves going the wrong way yet again, I told him the name of the road (which we had passed the end of twice) and he took an interesting detour across a pot hole ridden back alley to get us to the front of our hotel. He left with a big grin on his face….. either because we had paid him over the odds (about 60p), or because he had just learnt another hotel to add to his list. They seem very skilled at getting you from where you are now, to where they want to take you, rather than where you actually want to go.  We will see. We finished our day out with tea and cakes in the hotel lobby. Very nice and safe at last. We still have the camera and all of our money intact.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Arriving at Delhi

The flight here was uneventful, on time and very smooth.... especially the 747 bit when we flew seats A and B..... thats Port Side.... The first bit of POSH..... Port Out..... Starboard Home. We were met efficiently at the airport by the Cox and Kings rep Samuel, who is in charge of the Golden Triangle tour. He explained that to drive in India, you only need three things......... Good Brakes..... Good Horn, and Good Luck !! While waiting at the immigration desk I turned on our phones and got 6 enquiry notification for our apartment in Son Parc.  Christmas is over and here come the bookings. The WIFI here at Ramada Plaza is expensive (7 GBP for 2 hrs) so I will only log on a couple of hours each day. If you want to send email expect a delayed reply. I am adding a few photos to the Flickr account. so click on "Todays Chosen Image" to view them. Ann is currently having a massage in the Spa....................

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Time to say goodbye to friends and family in the UK

Jan 4th.... and today Jen takes us to Manchester airport to start the tour.  Later tonight we board our 747 for Delhi. The best I can find for musical goodbyes is here and view full screen if poss. I know we are not going here but this is just so spectacular it is really worth seeing.
A more light hearted version here.
Snow has returned to the UK, but so far only a dusting.  Fingers crossed it will not delay.