It is a real shame that Darren's niece Mia is so good at playing hide and seek and so she is completely invisible in this photo. The only tiny clue to her whereabouts is the interest Rosie is taking in the proceedings.
I don't have a copy of the Guinness Book of Records but I might be in it next edition in the 'largest amount of washing done following a holiday' category. The excitement continues as tomorrow I may be a contender in the 'largest pile of ironing' section.
Arrived in K L yesterday after catching a bus from Singapore. Once again got to the bus station with no timetable or ticket, but were on our way within five minutes! About to board our flight to Gatwick shortly and will be back in England before midnight.
Indonesia has three national flowers and I looked really hard when we were there and didn't see any of them. The national flower of Singapore is a beautiful orchid called Vanda Miss Joaquim and I didn't see that either, although I saw loads of lovely orchids. So instead, this is a climbing plant that we found on a raised walkway.
Our second 'new year' of the year. This one is to bring in the year of the Water Dragon which only occurs every 48 years and is, apparently, the best of all the years to be born in. It is also very lucky to walk under a garland of flowers, which is what we have just done. Happy New Year again everyone!
Left Bali this morning - hurray! - in the middle of a downpour and caught a flight to Singapore. Just after we arrived and was on a sky train towards our hotel, the most amazing thunderstorm started. It beat Bali's efforts this morning by miles. One thunder crash was so loud it set off all the alarms on the train, and even the local people jumped.
Arrived in Ubud yesterday afternoon and it looks a nice place. Started to feel really worn out and dragged along behind Darren. Once we got back to our hotel at about 5pm ish, I had a lie down and didn't get up again until 8am ish today. Feeling really washed out so did nothing at all until early evening when we went out for dinner/tea, or for southern readers - lunch/dinner. Not much chance to take photos but liked this cat who sat next to us and ate the offerings. He did leave to Ritz Cracker though. Am going to spend the money I saved from missed meals on a manicure later.
Left Amed this morning after a disturbed nights sleep. There was something either in or very near our room that kept making a really loud squawking noise intermittently during the night. I kept imagining it was a giant bat, but it seems it may have been a frog. We arranged for a taxi to do a tour for us and to end up in Ubud. The drivers idea was to not bother stopping anywhere, but he did take us to view the volcano. Unfortunately it was cloudy and so uninspiring that I didn't even get the camera out. Did get a snap of the paddy fields on the way down though.
Managed to solve the problem of not being able to use the zoom underwater by going snorkelling this morning with the tide out! Completely accidental, but about six feet closer to the reef. I don't think Jacque Cousteau needs to get worried yet though.
Moved from Jelian to Amed yesterday. Have a room overlooking the sea up about 100 steps. The reason we are here is that it is a long way from Kuta and you can snorkel straight from the beach. It is fantastic but unfortunately I cannot zoom in on the fish as my phone is touch screen and I can't touch it through the plastic case.
Check out this tourist who is blending in by wearing the local costume. He has thoughtfully worn a red tee shirt that matches perfectly with his red and yellow sarong and orange sash. Our taxi driver took us to an awful place called Bat Cave Temple that was exactly what it said on the tin. The bats were really lively and I stayed well away. You might find a photo of them on Darren's twitter. It was all a bit too weird for me.
Our hotel is very nice and a lot of the hotel is unoccupied as it only opened three weeks ago. The pool is right next to our room and completely deserted. Forgot to mention yesterday that there are three security guards outside our hotel and they search every vehicle that arrives and check underneath it with mirrors to ensure there are no bombs. Can't decide whether to be reassured or concerned. Ps the photo is of the little offerings that the local people put everywhere. This one is at the side of the road and I particularly like the Ritz cracker.
When we thought we might not get to Bangkok at all yesterday we were not too disappointed as we had a plane to catch this morning at 6.15 and it would solve a few problems if we missed it. We were due to fly to Bali, but over the last couple of weeks we had both been searching the internet and neither of us could find things we wanted to do there. Everything looked really expensive, there was no public transport or cycles to hire, and lots of people gave negative reports on blogs and tripadvisor. Every where else we have had the problem of too many places we wanted to see and too little time. Anyway we got to our Bangkok hotel at 23.30 and decided we would go to Bali afyer all, and left at 04.00. Arrived in Bali without a hotel but eventually booked a nice one, just away from the main tourist spot which is called Kuta. Had a lovely swim in the afternoon downpour and then set off to explore. I cannot tell you how bad this area is. Tripadvisor says it's much nicer than Kuta, but we reached the beach and it was full of rubbish. There wad no way I would dip even a toe in that water. Also, the roads are full of potholes, the pavements don't exist so you have to struggle in the gutter, and there are motorbikes racing everywhere- I was so surprised. Then we found a shopping mall and a western man standing with big banners saying 'save Bali'. I asked him what from and he said 'from drowning in it's own filth!'
We got to the train station in plenty of time yesterday but was told it was running 40 minutes late - then they said an hour. We weren't too concerned but then our Guardian Angel appeared. This was a Thai lady who we met on our last bus journey who helped us out with our tickets when no one else spoke English. She had spotted us on the platform and she was also due on our train. She told us the train was actually much more delayed than we knew about and might not even arrive at all. She said she had got a refund for herself and was getting a tut tut to the bus station to see if there was a bus to Bangkok. We hurriedly thanked her and copied her actions. We jumped in our own tut tut and set off after hers. Part way to the station our guy turned into Lewis Hamilton and shot past her and zoomed towards the station. We arrived at 4.03 pm and I saw a sign saying a bus was leaving at 4.00 so I raced to the stop just as the bus was ready to go. The conductor started taking our money and loading the luggage. I tried to look for our Guardian Angel but could not see her and I had to get on the bus as it was leaving. We took the last two seats and as we left the station, less than five minutes after we arrived, I tried to hide behind the bus curtains in case she saw us. Felt really, really guilty.
Don't try and google this temple from my spelling as the writing in the guidebook is particularly small. I only wanted to go and see it because of the crazy name but when we got there it was pretty good. It dates back to 1257 and the pose is to persuade relatives not to quarrel.
Caught a bus for about 60 k from Sukhothai to Phitsanulok and all being well at 3.08 pm we then get a train 388 k to Bangkok. Thought we would have a look around Phitsanulok and came across this huge party which at first we thought must be called 'we love the police' but then I met a Swat team soldier who was keen to have his picture taken with me. I then had a lovely time with his soldier mates trying to help me to pretend fire a shoulder balanced machine gun and a big bazooka. Ps we found out later it is actually National Childrens Day. But I enjoyed it too!
Wat Mahathat is the main temple at the sight but there are lots of smaller buildings scattered across a large area. This lovely Buddha was my favourite because of the gold nail varnish. There are also moats and ponds everywhere which gave me the opportunity for some arty shots. By mid afternoon we were the only westerners around and a group of polite school children on an outing were the only other visitors. They had a list of questions to ask foreign visitors - what's your name, where are you from, etc - and we kept bumping in to them. I thought it would be disappointing for them when they compared results in class if all of the answers were the same, so I started giving different answers to different groups and told one set I was Jane from Australia.
Caught a bus made mostly out of wooden planks to Sukhothai historical park and then hired bikes to get around the site. Sukhothai was established around 1247 and means 'Dawn of happiness'. A very happy time was had by both, but a major panic occurred at a roadside cafe at lunchtime. I went to use the toilet, which was also part of the owners house and I went in, locked the door and walked across the room to the toilet. When I turned around I realised that I had locked a very large dog in the room with me! And it was right next to the only exit. Fortunately it did not seem bothered by me and obviously, I escaped with my life. Moral of this story - check for sleeping dogs when visiting Thai bathrooms.
Caught a bus to Sukhothai which is about five hours south of Chiang Mai. Staying at a backpacker hotel which costs £5 per night and seems nice. Just sitting in the reception with a beer, but no photos today. Instead a picture of a lovely plant I took a few days ago that might be the alternate national flower of Burma.
Royaaal floooora, royaaal floooora de dum dum, de dum. I can't get this tune out of my head. We heard it echoing round the park all day and night. We stayed for the after dark shows and they were as amazing as the place. 'The miracle of greenitude' was an unexplainable sound and light show, there were huge flower beds filled with lights and a parade, which is where this giant bee is making a line for me!
After the elephant ride we did what they call 'trekking' and I call walking up a really steep and rocky path to a waterfall. We then carried on to a hilltribe village and finally to a hot spring. You could buy eggs on the way in to boil in a tank, but we missed that treat and instead went for a laze about in a hot spring fed pool that was the temperature of bathwater. It must have been hot because my face looks like it's going to explode! Even managed a cold shower afterwards.
Went on a good trip today. It started with a long tail boat ride, very speedy and low in the water, and then and elephant ride along the river. The elephant plodded along and it is very difficult to take a picture of yourself on an elephant, but we are sitting on his back and the driver is on his head. We also bought some sugar cane and bananas to feed to the elephants which lasted about 10 seconds.
Helpful sign at a temple we visited today. We found a map with the top nine temples in Chiang Rai on it and we had a look at all of them. We also got lost part way round and found another temple that wasn't even mentioned on the map, but it had the best fat bhudda statue ever. Ps couldn't snap it from the front as my camera can't cope with shade.
Went to the Bhudda Caves which are about 5 k from our hotel. Very strange place as there was nobody around at all except us and lots of large dogs that were lying at the entrance to the caves. We climbed up to one cave and there was a lifesize statue of a monk who didn't look pleased to see us. Behind him sat another one who looked like Osama Bin Laden. I was so un-nerved by the whole experience that I couldn't wait to leave and I didn't dare take his photo. Strangely, there was also a massive rock in the river next to the caves with a metal bridge to walk over to it, and on the top was this friendly white bhudda with a sunshade.
'Too sweet with the greatest colourful of Chiang Rai's Clock Tower' Useful words from the local guidebook, but I had no idea what they meant. After visiting the White Temple I learnt that it was also designed and paid for by the same artist - Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Not a name that sticks easily in ones memory. Ps it lights up and changes colour every evening at 7,8 and 9pm while a specially written song about Chiang Rai is played over the tannoy.
Visited the White Temple - Wat Rong Khun - this morning and arrived just as a group of about 20 Hells Angels from Holland and Denmark were about to leave. They all lined up in front of the temple and left together and the roar of the bikes was amazing. It is a fairy tale place and is still being built. It was designed by a famous Thai artist who is using his own money to create a modern Buddhist Temple. He has painted demons in the shape of George Bush and Osama Bin Laden and the fence has tiny gold skulls on it. Quite surreal.
The national flower of Burma is the panduak, and I have failed to photograph it as it does not flower until April. Visited a garden this afternoon called Mae Fah Luang and normal behaviour is resumed as Darren very quickly thought it boring.
Managed to get to Burma (or is it Myanmar?) this morning for a quick visit and to sort out our Thai passport issues. The border is over a river and strangely, the traffic has to swap sides of the road on the bridge over it as they drive on the left in Thailand and the right in Burma. Hired a little tut tut to show us around some local temples. The first had a handy sign to show we were in Myanmar and the second had a lovely gold queue of life sized monks.
We are staying in tonight and done our best to arrange a cheese and wine party. Unfortunately neither Thailand or seven11 are big on either so we have a few processed cheese slices, Ritz crackers and some wine spritsers. By far the best buys came from the market which is made up of tiny stalls where I think villagers come to sell their excess crops. They pile it on to little plates with the price written on top. We spent 60 pence on bananas, 20 pence on tomatoes and 20 pence on a big bag of leaves and flowers that we hope are herbs.