Traditional fishing on Inle Lake

Rediscovered photos – Myanmar

It’s been a while since I flicked through my digital photos. Actually, it’s a while since I’ve looked at any album – digital or otherwise. I forgot about these photos and came across them while looking for something else. I realised I’ve not blogged any of my Myanmar photos since I visited the country back in 2014.

Short on time, I went on a 15-day organised tour which took in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Kalaw and Inle Lake.

Yangon was like any Asian city – noisy, dusty and chaotic – however always in the background was one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites – the Shwedagon Paya.  At 99 meters high and covered in gold, it can be seen from almost anywhere in Yangon. It helps is also sits on a hill. The centrepiece of  the Shwedagon Paya is dome topped with a stupa that is encrusted with rubies, sapphires, topaz and over 7000 diamonds. We visited at sundown and saw the pagoda glow under the lights.

Before setting sail along the Ayeyarwaddy River to Mandalay, we took a quick trip to the ancient city of Bagan and I fell in love with the place. It was the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Yangon. We cycled around Bagan and visited a few of the 2230 temples that rose out of the landscape. It is believed there was once around 4450 of them built between 1057 and 1287.

I decided (quite late) to go on a ballon ride. Sadly, this was not to be. As I was about to get into the basket, the ride was called off. The wind was too strong. I was gutted.

We overnighted in Mandalay before hitting the road to the small town of Kalaw where we hiked through the pine forests. Kalaw was once a hill station for the fleeing British trying to get away from the searing heat of the plains.

Our final stop was Inle Lake where we are able to take photos of Myanmar’s most iconic images – the fishermen. These fishermen have a unique way of rowing – they tie a paddle to one leg, and while standing up are able to row. The reason for this is because the reeds beneath the water make it hard see while sitting.

Myanmar has been one of the top destinations for visit before tourism truly takes hold. Starbucks is now being sold and now KFC is planning to open in downtown Yangon. This trip didn’t even scratch the surface of Myanmar and I would love to go back and do it independently.

View across the valley

A walk up Snowdon

It’s taken four years, but finally I made it to the top of Snowdon. It was supposed to be a training ground for my Everest Base Camp trek back in 2011 but somehow my friends and I were not able to get a date in the diary until now. This was back in April so lambs and daffodils were out in force

While there are many paths to the Mount Snowdon, we decided to hike up the Snowdon Ranger Path, an eight-mile round trip from the Snowdon Ranger YHA and one of the oldest routes to the summit . The self-proclaimed ‘Snowdon Ranger’ John Morton used this path to take Victorian visitors to the summit. It’s a fairly easy hike to the top, however the views were not spectacular until you hit the top and you get a great view of Snowdonia.

We also visited the village of Beddgelert and walked by the river to the grave of Gelert the dog. Legend has it that back in the 13th century,  Llewlyen, Prince of North Wales returned after a hunt and saw his dog covered in blood, an empty cot where his son should have been, and blood stained bedsheets. Thinking the dog had eaten him, Llewlyen drove his sword through his pet, only to hear the wail of his son. It is said the prince was filled with such remorse, he never smiled again.

I wouldn’t like to leave on a sad story, so as ever, here’s a selection of photos of our trip.

Photos taken with the Lumix GX 7.

Picture of my students in Kathmandu in Nepal

Nepal earthquake

I’m sure you’ve heard about the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal earlier in the week. Over 5, 000 people have been killed. More than eight million people have been affected by the quake while about 10, 000 people have been injured. Villages destroyed. Aid is starting to get through, but many are still sleeping outside, too scared to return to their homes because of aftershocks.

Nepal has a special place in my heart. Not only is it a beautiful country, it has a rich cultural heritage. In fact, the Kathmandu Valley was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. I stayed in the country for two and a half months back in 2011 where I saw the sun rise over Everest, taught English to porters and guides and trekked the beautiful Annapurnas. Some of the same students that I taught were up in the mountains when the earthquake hit. Sadly, I know of at least one person who has been killed. I taught him at the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project – an NGO promoting sustainable tourism and provides training to those working on the mountains. He took me on a hike around the Kathmandu Valley, telling me about the villages and the legends that surrounded the valley. I will remember him as a lovely, giving person; passionate about his country and wanting to share that with me.

They need our help right now. Nepal was already one of the poorest countries in the world and now they have to deal with this crisis. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) have set up The Nepal Earthquake Appeal. The Guardian also has a list of other appeals where you can donate.

Harbour Bridge

Going to The Land Down Under

I didn’t mean to go to Australia for the third time. As a general rule, I don’t go back to countries that I’ve already visited. The exception is Salzburg, Austria – not to be confused with Australia – of course. I lived there for a semester (Austria that is) while I was at university. I haven’t been back since 2002 but I have been meaning too. Australia, however, seems to have an invisible pull that I didn’t realise was there.

The first time I went to Oz was when I was 19, my first backpacking experience. Let lose and fancy free, I drunk my around the country. I first started in Perth, Greyhound bussed it to Adelaide before hopping on the green Oz Experience bus that took me up through the middle and then down the well trodden route of the East Coast.

The second time was when I was 24, which was my stop off point to make some money before continuing through New Zealand then South America before heading home. I was on a round-the-world trip that started in Moscow, Russia and ending in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I ended up living in Melbourne because of U2. The tickets to their gig were sold out in Sydney, but weren’t sold out in Melbourne. So off I went on the Greyhound bus, saw the gig, got a job at a bar and stayed there until I had to leave the country. Melbourne quickly became, and continues to be, my favourite city in the world.

Which brings me onto my most recent trip to the Land Down Under. It was the first proper grown-up holiday I’ve had i.e no hostels, was with my Significant Other Half and less alcohol. Due to my job working at a travel agent, I was lucky enough to stay at a five-star ecolodge that was nestled in the Daintree Rainforest and overlooked the Coral Sea. After chilling out for a few days, we travelled down the East Coast to Fraser Island on the, you’ve guessed it, the Greyhound bus. We joined a tour and was one of the oldest one’s there. Frightening thought considering we’re only in our early 30’s. Still, I enjoyed being with the other backpackers, but soon we were on our way down to Sydney and back to five-star luxury.

We stumbled on the I’m Free Tours, run by the very knowledgeable Justine. I’m not one to over-enthuse about products or services, but I throughly recommend doing one of their walking tours if you’re in the city. You pay what you think the tour is worth. We only had four days in the Sydney and was a great introduction to the sights and history of the city.

Despite visiting Australia for the third time, I’ve yet to travel the West Coast and the Northern Territory. Maybe next time.

Photos taken on my Lumix GX 7.

Portobello Market

I find markets a great place to take photos. There’s so much going on. One of my favourite places in London is Portobello Market (although vying for No. 1 spot is the Sunday market over in Brick Lane). There are several ways to get to the market. I tend of get off at Notting Hill Gate, you first hit the antiques section. Carry on and pass under the railway bridge you’ll get to the clothes and jewellery section.

I enjoy wandering around the streets, seeing all the quirky and interesting necklaces and dresses that I can’t really afford. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. I once bought a vintage Welsh wool cape that I’ve only worn a handful of times. It cost me about £40 and now hangs at the back of my wardrobe.

A walk through Stoke Newington

I’ve been spending a lot of time over in norff London of late. I think it’s a bit more happening than down here in the south. Maybe that’s because I’m secretly a hipster and aspire to be cool. The other day I found Camden Passage over in Islington which reminded me of the Brighton Laines and visited the third of the Breakfast Clubs for a spot of brunch.

I took a walk in Abney cemetery over in Stoke Newington. It was one of the seven magnificent garden cemeteries in London and now a woodland nature reserve and spied some green parrots eating from a bird feeder. I didn’t realise that there was a big parrot population here in London.

After pottering around in Stoke Newington I decided to walk to Liverpool Street station. It wasn’t a hard – I just had to go in one straight line. It took me a little over an hour and 30mins – but I did stop to peruse a vintage shop and pick up some raspberries at a local street market. After walking through Stokie, I went through Dalston, onto Shoreditch and hopped on a bus from Liverpool Street station to Waterloo. I know it shouldn’t, but it always surprises me at how close places are in London.

My top tip for London – don’t take the underground. Take the buses or walk. You get to see more.

Monks praying at the Boudhanath, Kathmandu

Waiting for a divine intervention

I feel that I know the Boudha quite well now. My group and I were stuck in Kathmandu as the weather was too bad for us to fly to start our Everest Base Camp trek at Lukla. Being stuck for six days, we had pretty much exhausted all there was to see in Kathmandu. The problem was that we had to hang around in case the weather broke and we had to hurry to the airport. So we hung around here instead and watched the world go around in one of the many roof top cafes.

The Boudhanath is one of the holiest sites in Kathmandu and is a very popular tourist attraction. Built in around 5AD, the Boudhanath is on an ancient trading route from Tibet. Many merchants have stopped off, rested and offered their prayers for centuries, and is still an important site for Tibetan Buddhists. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It’s huge! It’s 40m height and 100m wide making it one of the biggest stupas in the world. I didn’t want to take any chances and joined with the Tibetans and walked around the stupa three times hoping to start our trek without any disasters. I think Buddha must have heard me as we did our trek in record time and all got back in once piece.

I also made some video diaries while on my travels through Nepal. Although my camera work isn’t the best here, I thought I’d share this with you. Enjoy!