Tripping to Trozena…

Cyprus, May 2020…how I felt on my first “BIG” nature day out and what I stumbled across…

Whilst we are encouraged to follow the new norm of social distancing, masks and regulations in all aspects of life where you mix with other people, now our quarantine is lifted, we can just go out now.

“Go Out”…after you haven’t been able to just go out without following a raft of procedures, it actually feels quite odd to get your freedom back.

Strangely I’ve had a reluctance to just go out over the last few days. Even more strange is the fact that my going out is to places where I am unlikely to meet anyone in a social context. I’m sure the reluctance will pass, we are just taking steps out into a world where there are new norms…

If you read my blog, you probably get that I like to just go out, not to party and have a wild time, but just to be outside amidst nature.

If I’m travelling in the Middle East and beyond, I’m usually walking miles down empty beaches searching for shells, but in Cyprus, I head to the hills and if there’s the chance to head off down a lonely track, I turn onto the track…

One of my favorite round trips that is a half-day trip, is to head up the Diarizos valley, visit the abandoned village of Trozena and head back to the coast via the village of Dora.

That’s the route I took today, but as the OH is here with me, trapped in Cyprus until UAE lifts restrictions for him to return, I decided to take an alternate route back. I hadn’t wanted to do it alone, as many years ago I got into trouble on the track and have always thought since that it wouldn’t be a wise drive on my own.

It was just a lovely day, the weather is glorious here at the moment and we ended up quite high in the hills, so some lovely views, but I’m very conscious that whilst we have been locked down, I missed the transition from spring to summer, the heat is starting to dry the vegetation out and soon the hills will be brown.

I hope you enjoy my nature diary for today…

At the first stop by the Diarizos river, butterfly heaven and a surprise sighting of a black snake on the lonely road…

Trozena is an old abandoned village in the foothills leading to the Troodos mountain range. There is a small river below the village that feeds the magnificent waterfall into the valley which contains a small pool in a shaded area which is a haven for dragonflies…

 

Wild honeysuckle and views to the Troodos mountains, beautiful plant bugs, a huge lizard, and a random catch of one of the smallest butterflies in Cyprus…

 

On the track to the abandoned village of Maronas, a special butterfly, wonderful old olive trees, landscape views up and down the valley and views of the abandoned village…

 

 

Oman butterfly diary 6- Myrina silensus, Fig Blue…

The butterfly, Myrina silenus, (Fig Blue) is utterly striking once you catch a glimpse of it’s open wings.

My first and actually, only sighting of it was in late October 2019 when we were in butterfly heaven at Wadi Darbat, Dhofar, Southern Oman.

If you have read any of my preceding Oman butterfly diaries, you may have seen the beautiful waterfalls and scenery at Wadi Darbat, if not it’s worth a look at this post to see the landscape.

This small, vivid beauty was found in the lower level of Wadi Darbat on a single bush, which was full of these butterflies on that particular day, only. I returned several times during the week, but never saw them again. In retrospect, it was my lucky day!

Looking down from upper Wadi Darbat to the lower reaches. Note that the landscape looks quite burnt out, but once in the lower Wadi, it’s quite green.

I just had to include the biggest spider I have ever seen.

As I took the photo from the heights, my other half advised me to back off slowly and get my camera set up for a shot, without explaining what was hanging above my head… After a few seconds of a faster heart rate when I saw it, I calmed down to try to get the perfect shot!

After that “Oh my (insert expletive)” moment, we drove down to the lower reaches of the wadi and searched around, actually for dragonflies, but the bushes were full of butterflies and on one bush, right next to the water, I spotted a brown butterfly with an unusual shape…

 

I felt it was worth waiting for it to open its wings… I’m glad I waited, it was one of those “Ohhh, wow” moments…

 

Information on this butterfly is taken verbatim from the book “Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

This is a striking and absolutely unmistakable member of the Lycaenidae, which is found throughout Africa and Southern Arabia. Together with Coeliades anchises it is one of the most characteristic of the true African species which have managed to penetrate beyond Dhofar to Northern Oman. It has not been found in the Musandam peninsula, but may well occur since its food plants are plentiful there. Generally it is quite common except during the coldest part of the year in Northern Oman. As indicated by its vernacular name, the food plants are species of fig; experience in Africa shows that almost any species will do.

At least three species of Ficus are used in Dhofar. Adult butterflies are fond of sunning themselves on the leaves of the tree of their birth from where they fly off on brief sorties at great speed, often returning to the same perch. Flowers hold no strong attraction for silenus, but occasionally they will settle on ripe figs broken open by birds.

During my many Oman travels, I have only found this butterfly once in Wadi Darbat on a single bush, which doesn’t appear to be the case when the Larsens wrote their book in the 1980s. Maybe our world climate changes are affecting this species…

 

Oman butterfly diary 5- Colotis Danae, The Scarlet Tip…

Wadi Darbat is located in the Dhofar Governorate in Southern Oman.

It is a spectacular wadi which forms at Darbat lake where the water runs into the wadi from sinkholes, then wanders through the upper valley, then down a series of waterfalls and finally spills over the escarpment in a magnificent waterfall, cascading from a height of up to 30metres, which is at its best during the Khareef season (Monsoon).

In the lower wadi valley that runs to the sea at Khor Ruri, the river banks during and after the Khareef (monsoon) are green and resplendent with flowers and the whole area is a magnet for butterflies.

One, in particular, is striking for its Scarlet tips on the wings.

Colotis Danae, The Scarlet Tip is a beautifully marked butterfly but flies quite erratically and quite low, so it is easy to lose sight of them behind bushes and is hard to photograph.

One day, whilst were concentrating on these lower reaches of Wadi Darbat, I struck Scarlet Tip gold and came across several nectaring on plants very close to the edge of the water.

Butterflies of Oman, authors Torben and Kiki Larsen, for identification help.

Oman butterfly diary 4- Precis hierta, The Yellow Pansy…

My butterfly bible for Oman is “Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen, produced in 1980 in the Uk for the Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment to the Government of Oman.

I haven’t found any recent updates, so possibly names have changed, there was a reprint in 1984, but I don’t have that version.

The binominal name is Junonia hierta, but Larsen uses the synonym Precis Hierta, and as I’m not up to the right level in the world of scientific classification, I’m following the Larsen’s identification!

This beautiful butterfly is described by the Larsens, as one of the most common butterflies in Dhofar (Southern Oman) on the coast and in the mountains. It had not been found in the North of Oman at the time of publishing and I have never seen in it during my forays into North Oman.

During my nature searching days in Dhofar, in October and November 2019, I only found two of these butterflies. They were up on the high escarpment above Mirbat.

We traveled the whole of the coastline, from the Yemen border to the north, and spent much time in areas where they should be prolific but, sadly only two sightings…

They are a beautiful species of butterfly.

I hope when I finally am able to return I will have more success in finding the numbers previously indicated…

 

May 2020: End of quarantine restrictions, heading back out to nature in Cyprus….

In Cyprus, some freedom now, after staying safe at home…

May 21st, 2020 was quite a landmark day in this strange and apocalyptic year.

In Cyprus, like many other countries, we have been quarantined in our homes under curfew and government restrictions that have only allowed one exit per day for one of 8 reasons.

It was managed by sending a text to obtain approval, the phone had to be carried plus any passport or registration documents. Police checks were everywhere and anyone found without permission or documents was fined from 300 euro up, depending on the severity of the offense.

On the 12th of May, Phase 1 of the lockdown lift was introduced. That was to allow the population to leave their homes three times a day for up to three hours at a time, as a gradual re-introduction of more population movement…a little test of the infectious waters, so to speak.

Then on 21st May our quarantine restrictions were lifted under Phase 2 of society re-entering the world, where the unseen threat of COVID-19 lurks in your consciousness and the population of the Republic of Cyprus were free to leave their homes.

The nightly curfew was lifted, and we no longer have to send a text to obtain approval to leave our homes for the 8 reasons initially allowed.

I have no criticism of the actions our government took to protect this small island.

New cases have been decreasing recently and today, 23rd May, was the first day we had no new cases, so, in my view, a successful operation and it’s up to us, as the population, to continue to follow the new norms that will dominate our lives for the foreseeable future.

Normally I am out in the hills with my camera a couple of times a week, especially March, April, and May when nature in Cyprus is at its glorious best.

The hills are green, wildflowers are rampantly growing, there is a constant buzz of bees, the dragonflies start to emerge, butterflies are taking wing and the whole island is awash with pollinators and vibrant color.

It’s the time to tramp the hills before the summer heat burns out the foliage, but, like everyone else, we missed it this year.

So when we got to the 12th, after 5 supermarket visits since March and no other exits from home, I had to escape.

The nearest get close-to-nature valley to my home, is the Esouza river valley, with its wealth of dragonflies, butterflies, and flora.

We headed to the water pools at Ayia Varvara, a small village along the Esouza river, which is also a magnet to our local bird watchers, but I missed out on the bird photos, sadly!

I wasn’t disappointed, having only spent time in my garden, to be walking in nature was utter bliss…

Some of the finds in the 3-hour escape…

Bugs and flowers…

Butterflies…

Damselflies…

Dragonflies…

A little disclaimer: Some of my identifications could be incorrect. Dragonflies are hard to identify, I’ve had a year of accompanying a dragonfly recorder and I’m still learning. If any mistakes are spotted, please correct me in the comments…Bug and Flower ID is ongoing, to be updated when I have a positive ID…

Kenya diary: Elephants at Amboseli…

Amboseli National Park, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is a national park in Kajiado South Constituency, Kenya, about 240 km southeast of Nairobi

The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an 8,000 km (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The local people are mainly Maasai, but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area, average 350 mm (14 in), one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world with 400 species of birds including water birds like pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hamerkop and 47 raptor species.

The park protects two of the five main swamps, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene  lake and semiarid vegetation.

The park is famous for being the best place in the world to get close to free-ranging elephants.

Other attractions of the park include opportunities to meet Maasai and visit a Maasai village. The park also has views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

And when it says above “get close to free-ranging elephants” well, I hadn’t expected to be standing in an ancient camper van, head and shoulders poking through the open roof amidst a herd of elephants crossing the track in front and behind us.

Close seemed too close!

I was quite scared at first, but our guide reassured us that the driver was alert to the herd and would move quickly, but we were to not to do anything to make them pay attention to us.

Standing in a what seemed like extremely fragile protection from these enormous elephants, I didn’t feel particularly convinced that we were safe, but we had had a 4.30am start, suffered a 4 hour drive along the Nairobi to Mombasa road, and I was in the midst of a herd of elephants that I had come all this way to try and see, so I started taking photos….

Being scared turned to being awed and I realised that I was really lucky to have this close experience…

We did have a little incident as we were further round the park.

A very large elephant was running along the side of the track, quite a distance away .

As we passed the elephant changed direction and started to chase our little tin can, sorry… camper van.

I managed two very close shots before the guide asked us to sit down as they were going to drive faster as the elephant was charging us. I instantly complied!

Amboseli park information from Wikipedia….

Kenya diary… Grey Crowned Cranes in a mating dance…

My very first post on my brand new WordPress site way back in 2013, when I thought I’d be a blogger, having done all my 101’s, before I launched myself out there in the big wide blogging world was a tiny and very nervous step into blogging and I just threw out a teeny, weeny little précis of a truly amazing weekend trip.

I re-visited my photographs during our current lockdown and was quite amazed that I actually managed to get some really good photos.

As well as it being my first foray into blogging, it was also my first trip with a proper camera, which I really didn’t know how to use properly, apart from the auto function. (FYI it was a NikonD3200, but I think I bought a few days before and had no idea of its many functions, so it was a point and shoot expedition)

I’d booked a random travel to Nairobi for a weekend on a special offer  (Dubai was a really good place for last minute special offers) and I booked a trip online to Amboseli National park.

I hadn’t quite taken into account that Amboseli was on the Tanzania border and was a 4 hour drive from Nairobi, but, hey-ho, when the company responded to my booking request and asked for a 4.30am pick-up, I just clicked the ok box!

Experience now tells me there were many closer places, but actually I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I cannot describe the African light, especially in Amboseli, it’s totally different to our polluted European (and other) skies….

The day was a magical experience I will never forget. I have so many photos, I’m going to break this up into several posts but one of the many magical moments was stumbling across a Grey crane mating dance and being able to photograph the whole performance.

I wasn’t party to the result, they did fly away after the dance for a bit of privacy, but I did have a David Attenborough moment as the incredible performance took place right in front on my lens…

 

For information on the Crane ( thank you Wikipedia)

The grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum), also known as the African crowned crane, golden crested crane, golden-crowned crane, East African crane, East African crowned crane, Eastern crowned crane, South African crane, is a bird in the crane  family, Gruidae. It is found in Eastern and Southern Africa, and is the national bird of Uganda.

The grey crowned crane is closely related to the black crowned crane, and the two species have sometimes been treated as the same species. The two are separable on the basis of genetic evidence, calls, plumage and bare parts, and all authorities treat them as different species today.

There are two subspecies .The East African B. r. gibbericeps (crested crane) occurs in the east of the DRC and in Uganda, of which it is the national bird represented in its national flag, and Kenya to Eastern S. Africa.

It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller nominate species, B. r. regulorum (South African crowned crane), which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai… a little light show…

The Burj Khalifa is a spectacular building and landmark in Dubai.

At over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records: Tallest building in the world, tallest free-standing structure in the world, and the highest number of stories in the world (at the moment).

It dominates Dubai, can be seen from everywhere in the city and it is extraordinarily graceful for such a mammoth construction.

My son was visiting me, so we did the tourist trail and watched the early evening light show on the facade.

It was quite an event.

A few photos below, they show how spectacular the building looks with at night with the changing light show…

January 2020: Dubai Butterfly Garden…

Given my interest in butterflies and photographing them, a visit to Dubai Butterfly garden was a must, when I was back in the Emirate in early 2020.

I have never been to a Butterfly garden before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The entrance shouted “Theme garden”, but it wasn’t going to deter me, having made the effort to get there..

Beautifully done, as always in Dubai, the building consisted of 4 large garden rooms, full of trees, flowers, sitting areas in small gazebos with different butterflies, organized by region.

So, alphabetically, the butterflies,

(My OH very kindly identified them for me as I didn’t take notes in situ, (slap self for that omission, too much fluttering, and camera action), but it gave him something to do during this morning’s lockdown and as it was an important task, he could avoid home cleaning duty! Grateful thanks to the OH, he did an excellent job, but it’s also a little disclaimer!) Please hover over the photo for the name…

 

 

If you have got to this stage of the post, my grateful thanks for looking at the butterflies… I know it’s butterfly exhaustion by this stage, but there are some unusual offerings of butterfly art in the next part of the post…

You exit through the inevitable shop which consists of butterfly souvenirs and pictures that are made by using butterflies….hmmm, you can see for yourself below, some lovely ideas but I wasn’t rushing to buy one, not to my taste, I prefer to see them alive and I decided after my visit I prefer to see them in the wild.

 

However, reflecting,  I did have the opportunity to see some beautiful butterflies, which I would not have the opportunity see in the wild as I’m quite sure now my future travel is limited for a while…so, whilst I felt slightly uncomfortable about the concept during my visit, whilst I was editing the photos for this post, I did think that I was very lucky to have seen some extraordinarily beautiful butterflies.

Realistically, I have to conclude that given my age and our current world situation, I’m not going to be hacking through jungles any time in the near future, so, I’m actually quite glad I did visit and can look back the photos of these beautiful butterflies…

There are also butterfly pictures of members of the Ruling families of the Emirates, a typically local mark of the affection for the Rulers.

I find it quite hard to imagine, that in either the UK or the US, anyone would think of creating Boris or Donald in such an affectionate platform. It was all a little strange, but, it is a popular attraction and as I’m in lockdown away from the UAE, I’m very glad I did take the time to visit…

 

 

Zanzibar: Intensely blue skies and rainbow sunsets- Part 2…

Zanzibar, June 2017:  After a couple of days at the north of the island, I felt that the final day and night we had booked up there was wasted time, we had seen everything at the North tip and because I think you know by now if you read this blog, I’m not a beach bunny… I want to go somewhere and see it all.

I wanted time in Stonetown, I’d been reading up on the history and whilst you can say “Oh, we’ll come back another time”, well, practically, you probably won’t return and I so wanted to see Stonetown… so much history and the historical connection to Oman, another of my travel places, (a link about the connection history ) Slavery was a big part of the connection, sadly…

So, after breakfast, I found a room in an old traditional hotel in Stonetown at a good price (wifi and online booking is such a godsend in this day and age, instant confirmation…let’s go!) we cut our losses at Kendwa and headed off to town.

Stonetown is utterly fascinating and I was in my element, poking around the ancient streets, checking out the doors… see links to my earlier posts about the doors and old town , my Stonetown desire was all about the historical doors initially…

We went on a walkabout, we had about 36 hours in town and sleep could be minimal.

What a place… such history, such vibrancy, I just loved Stonetown.

At sunset, we headed down to the main beach, with everyone else in town, it appeared.

Sunset was a big moment that night, the streets were humming with life, street food everywhere, it was totally unexpected and so vibrant.

It was just after Eid, so I think that after Ramadan, there were a lot of people out, enjoying the beautiful moment after a month of piety …The beach was packed, loads of people in the water as the sun went down, swimming, playing, and enjoying life…

it was lovely to be part of the exuberant crowd and catch the glorious Stonetown sunset…

Zanzibar: Intensely blue skies and rainbow sunsets- Part 1

2017: An Africa trip, Mafia island (yes, really, it’s called Mafia island, just had to go there when it came to trip planning, Mafia will get a post of its own soon) Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam were the places for the trip plan.

Zanzibar was the “sunset over the sea” place of the trip.

In Zanzibar, we were perfectly placed for a sunset view towards the African coast, and the sunsets were really something else.

African light is just different, possibly the lack of air pollution… I don’t know why, I have no science knowledge, but I do notice on my travels that in remoter areas there is just a different clarity of light and intensity of color in the sky, day and night. So different from what I have been used to in Europe and Dubai.

We arrived at the Kendwa Rocks hotel late afternoon, drove up to Nungwi beach at the tip of the island, and just strolled along the beach, soaking up the atmosphere of this unique island, but out across the sea, an African sky drama was happening, a potential storm moving around in the distance, flooding the skies with drama and it was the backdrop to our walk, light and dark playing out in the distance until the sun finally set in vivid color…a beautiful experience to look back on.

Please enjoy my photos of the Zanzibar skies…

Thailand diary: Buddha, monkeys and weird and wonderful temple statues, Part 2…

In these strange times, my concentration is quite distracted. I’m drifting from one thing to another rather a lot and, on posting my previous post, I completely forgot that the ending should have been in another temple!

I did think this morning when I looked back at the original post “Oh, never mind, no-one knows anyway where I went” but actually the last temple was the “weird and wonderful temple statues” bit and in my thoughts, the images are too weird and wonderful not to post, so…. hey ho, I’ve climbed back onto the scooter, pootling on down to the road to Wat Tham Khao Tao temple to park up and start walking…

It’s quite a climb up to the top of the hill where there is a massive Buddha statue at the top and excellent views towards Hua Hin.

On the way up the concrete steps, you pass through a cave of effigies of well-revered monks and rooms with plenty of Buddha statues to worship…Whilst everywhere is full of gold, vibrant red and clashing colors, it’s actually all very serene and peaceful. There were no other visitors during our climb, there are many other more convenient temples to visit in the Hua Hin area and possibly the climb is off-putting, but it worked to our advantage!

On the corner of the steps, a rest by the laughing Buddha…probably placed to bring cheer to those toiling up the steps in August’s heat and humidity, luckily there are no photos of me and my humidity hairstyle at this stage!

 

Past my most favorite scary statue ever… guess which one?

And then a little break at a bell ringing area with another impressive Buddha on a corner…

An effigy of Ganesha, the Hindu god, surprisingly in this temple but, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on im­portant events in his life.

Another Buddha break at the top of another set of steps, he is very relaxed, but does have a dragon to ward off interlopers… it was a pleasant pause…

Nearly at the top, some rather elegant and vibrant statues, the light was good for the photos of these rather ethereal figures. By this stage, I wished I understood a bit more about what they represented, it was a regret that I didn’t have a guided tour so I could understand the reason and reverence for these slightly odd statues…

Just before the top, a beautiful Buddha room…

Reaching the top, fairly tired as it was a hot and sticky time in August, it was worth the climb.The view was quite stunning, back towards Hua Hin…

And a beautiful Buddha, serenely sitting at the top of the hill. Well worth the endless climb…

A lovely place to visit, off the beaten track, not busy at all, possibly the climb put this temple off the tourist temple trail.

After a scooter ride back to the comforting sanctuary of the hotel, it was time for a relaxing sundowner amidst the water flowers…

Thailand diary: Buddha, monkeys and weird and wonderful temple statues…

I picked up a too-good-to-be-true offer from one of the websites that offer holiday deals from Dubai.

Thailand, a week in the Evason Six Senses, Pranchanburi, Hua Hin, accommodation was a private villa/room with plunge pool, a week’s stay, less than a week in a comparable Dubai hotel…

Whoop-whoop,  a bargain, ok, it was August, sussed the weather and it is the rainy season in August in Thailand, but, living in Dubai with temperatures of 45+ during August, a holiday in a rainy season is actually quite tempting and beach holidays are long past now, exploring is the key…. so, swiftly booked and including a 3-day tour of Chang Mai, Maehongson and Pai, The Golden Triangle area, added to maximize the Eid holiday leave I could take from work.

On arrival at the Evason, after settling into plunge pool villa (divine) we took a stroll around and instantly understood why the bargain holiday was on offer. The Evason sits behind the beach road, a short cross to the beach, but the beach road was being re-done, completely dug up with bulldozers, JCB’s and huge boulders stacked for the sea defenses, so there was no access to the beach at all.

Well, that didn’t matter in the slightest to us…we really had found a bargain that suited us, lying on a beach is in the past…

The area is all within the most beautiful National parks so we hired a scooter and trundled around exploring and enjoying the beauty of the forest area.

One of the joys of Asia is stumbling across exuberantly decorated temples and strange statues in odd places. Thailand didn’t disappoint. The color is always vibrant, unexpected and always a glorious discovery.

Pootling along on the bike, past prawn farms, then suddenly finding monkeys on the side of the road and then to arrive in a tiny little coastal fishing village to be greeted by a magnificent crab roundabout highly decorated in gold and red, well, it’s an assail on the senses and a lift to the spirits.

Some of the sights…

Between Pranchanburi and Hua Hin there is a beautiful forest park, so one day we decided a little scooter ramble was the order of the day. Very luckily I’ve been able to pick up the routes and shrines on Google maps, so I can find the temples and shrines many years on.

One of the joys of trundling around on a scooter is that as a passenger and pootling along at a slow place, I  have the time to scan the surroundings and spot anything that looks interesting. Parking is always easy on a scooter, just stop…

Spotting a golden head towering above the trees we stopped at a shrine. I think this one is Jow Por Big Mountain Shrine, but I can’t be sure….stunning buddhas though… I was quite awed on seeing these in the mountaintop setting, in perfect light high above a beautiful landscape…

Just down the road, I spotted another golden buddha head and an odd crocodile…well, we just had to stop…this is Chao Mae Tubtim Thong shrine… I cannot find the reason for the gi-enormous crocodile sculpture at this shrine, but it was unexpected and quite fascinating that in this beautiful place with glorious views and a truly stunning buddha statue there was a massive painted concrete crocodile..I’ve tried to research it, but without getting deeper into Thai Buddhism, I can’t find an explanation…the photos are worthy of posting though!

 

 

 

Orchids in Thailand…

Whilst I’m in our world’s lockdown, I’m using the time to look at all my photo data. There is rather a lot and it’s opened up some forgotten memories too…

My Thailand travels were before I realized I enjoyed photography and made it a feature in my travels. I was using a fairly basic camera at that stage and I think I didn’t even look to consider adding the travels into the blog,  but, actually, as I review the photos, some are worthy of inclusion.

I loved to see the orchids in Thailand, cultivated or wild… some of these are from a Chang Mai Orchid farm and others from a stop off on a canal tour around Bangkok…

 

Vietnam diary- Images of Huế, life on the streets…

When traveling I always want to see how life really is on the back streets, planning my trip to make sure I have city time, if it’s safe to do so…

In Huế, The Citadel and the Imperial City were my main reasons to visit, but I had the extra time to see how people live behind the tourism facade.

I set off to walk around Huế city centre, but I wasn’t too strong, an old hip injury decided to kick in on the beautifully paved streets, it was very humid and I was beginning to despair of my capabilities to walk around Huế.

I had seen many cyclos on the roads.

Cyclos are one-man cycling you around in a sort of front pod, so you relax in comfort and he cycles you, yeah, I was uncomfortable with the concept, it seemed so colonial and privileged, punkah-wallah era, but very normal in Vietnam.

So, I was just having a rest under a leafy tree wondering how long it would take me to hobble back to the hotel and then my Huế saviour cycled up to me.

Offering his cyclo services in a completely charming way, (the price was minimal to a European) and I told him I didn’t think I was comfortable with the concept, but if he could just take me back to the hotel I would give him a good tip. I was about 2kms from the hotel, then he said to me “Don’t you want to explore Huế?”

 

I said I would love to and I didn’t really think I could do the walking and with a welcoming smile he stopped,  “Come on, climb in, let’s go”.

Easily persuaded, as my hip was really hurting, I clambered in and settled into comfort. Cyclo man lived in a village 12km outside Hue, uphill…so at the end of each day, after cycling in 12kms, then cycling around all day, he then cycled home a further 12 km uphill. Humbling really…

He realized I wanted to see street life, I accepted I couldn’t do it on my own and he was just such lovely company, perfect English, guiding, bending over my shoulder as he cycled so I could hear his commentary and such a historian of Huế city.

After the first trip, we negotiated a price for the next day and he was my Hue mentor.

As a local, he had the knowledge of the side of the city that I wanted to see. He got my measure quite quickly, so took me into places that maybe are not on the tourist trail and, as a local, paved a path for my photography of street life in Hue coercing people to interact with me, guiding me through markets, stopping for street food and choosing the best for me to eat.

Temples, markets, street vendors, back streets, my view from the cyclo caught the reality of everyday life in the bustling city.

This lovely Cyclo man, he made Huế come alive for me…

 

                                                                              Images of Huế…