Posted by: travelrat | December 5, 2019


Thingvellir 1

Reykjavik: 24th June 2019.

An essential was a call at the Thingvellir National Park, in which Iceland’s ‘thing’, or ruling council used to meet … and which is still used on important national occasions.  You might sometimes see it written as Þingvellir  … but, although it looks like a P, it’s actually a thorn which gives a ‘th’ sound … which is actually a sort of double-ended P which I have so far been unable to find on ‘Character Map’. (I copied it from Wikipedia!!)

A feature of the Park is the fissure along which we took a short walk. This crack, which is widening imperceptibly, is the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. I imagined a visitor from Kenya, saying something like:

‘Call this a rift valley? We have a much bigger one!’

But, Kenya’s Rift Valley wasn’t featured in ‘Game of Thrones’ … although this valley didn’t terminate in a castle, where people the owners didn’t like used to get dropped through a window in the floor on to the rocks far below.

(At one stage, our guide gave us a potted history of Iceland, which made ‘Game of Thrones’ seem like a playground spat)

At the mouth of the rift is a mound, topped by an Icelandic flag. It was here the Icelandic parliament sat, from 930 AD until 1798 … I should imagine that, on some occasions, the cold weather kept the debates short! It claims to be one of the oldest parliaments in the world … but not the oldest; I think the Isle of Man could give them a century or so. And, here, not far way, the bus awaited, to take us back to Reykjavik.

Thinvellir 2

Our last call was at The Pearl  … a sort of cultural centre cum museum cum art gallery. But, the main feature for us was the circular fourth floor viewing platform, which gave superb views of Reykjavik.


Posted by: travelrat | December 3, 2019

Beng Mealea

Beng Melea 2

Siem Riep: 10th November 2019.

Most visitors to Siem Riep make a bee-line for the world-famous temple at Angkor Wat. Our operators, Wendy Wu Tours believe, I think, in keeping the best for last; Angkor Wat could wait till tomorrow. Instead, we went to visit another temple; the ruined Beng Mealea.

This is located about 75 km. from Siem Riep, and 40 km, from Angkor Wat. Little is known about its history, but it’s believed it was a Hindu temple, built in the 11th or 12th Century. Some of the carvings suggest a Buddhist influence; I was particularly struck by the carved columns, which I thought suggested Buddhist prayer wheels.

The architectural style is so similar to Angkor Wat that some have suggested it was a ‘prototype’ for that temple, and may well have been come out of use shortly after the larger complex was completed.

It’s now completely abandoned, and largely unrestored, save for the wooden walkways that lead among the ruins. The temple is being taken over by the jungle, its structure being torn apart by trees and creepers. It’s still a sight to see, though; UNESCO thought it was important enough to add it to the World Heritage Site Tentative List in 1992.

Beng Mealea 3


Posted by: travelrat | December 1, 2019



While my intention is, as usual, to deal with events in our tour of South-East Asia in chronological order, this organisation really deserves a shout-out at an early stage.

KOTO: It stands for ‘Know One: Teach One’ and is a non-profit organisation, which aims to improve the lot of at-risk and disadvantaged young people in Vietnam by teaching them culinary and catering skills, as well as providing full board, and helping graduates to find employment afterwards.

It was established in 1999 as a simple sandwich shop in Hanoi, and has grown to a training centre in Hanoi, and restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We ate in both of these, and, apart from explanatory posters on the wall and various literature about the place, these was very little to distinguish it from other, equally excellent restaurants at which we ate.

There are a number of ways in which you can help. You can make a donation, either as a monthly or a one-off payment … you’d even be supporting the organisation if you just went for a meal there. You wouldn’t be disappointed!

You can find out more about KOTO at


Posted by: travelrat | November 28, 2019

Icelandic Horses

Horse 2

I couldn’t leave Iceland without at least one picture of Icelandic horses. We saw them everywhere from the bus … and one of the guides pointed out that, in spite of their small size, they were horses, not ponies.

The best photo op came when we stopped briefly at a trekking centre. To tell the truth, I was rather dissatisfied with my photos. I had to do a lot of cropping to exclude the horse-petting people … and I didn’t quite succeed in disguising the fact that they were confined to a rather squalid paddock, surrounded by Icelandic horse-manure.

But, I suppose time didn’t permit us to seek out horses in more pleasant surroundings?

Horse 1

Posted by: travelrat | November 26, 2019

Back from South East Asia.

Cambodia Boatman

We just returned from our tour of S.E.Asia, and it’s damp, drizzly and miserable. I wish I was back in Vietnam! It’s tempting to start posting about it right away, but I do want to set things in order, as I usually do. I’m rather tired, too, which doesn’t usually make for good blogging; an 11-hour flight does rather take it out of you.

I do have favourable mention of Thai Air, with whom we flew. Although Economy Class is never everyone’s idea of Heaven, the cabin crew did try to ensure it wasn’t a too traumatic experience. The food was acceptable … but the inflight entertainment was not to my taste; the only films I thought worth watching were North by Northwest and Superman.

At Bangkok, we transferred to a smaller, prop driven aircraft to fly to Siem Riep. It was only a 40 minute flight, but they still managed to serve out a light meal.

We had a bad moment at Siem Riep, when one of our bags failed to show on the carousel. However, the ever-helpful staff soon found it; it had fallen off the carousel before it entered the baggage hall.

Leaving the airport, we met our National Escort, Sokhoeun, who conducted us to the Lotus Blanc Resort Hotel, and, in the following days, would show us some of what Cambodia has to offer.

Posted by: travelrat | November 22, 2019

Good morning, Vietnam!! (2)

Posted by: travelrat | November 21, 2019

Ha Long Bay

Posted by: travelrat | November 18, 2019


Posted by: travelrat | November 16, 2019

Cruising the Mekong

Posted by: travelrat | November 14, 2019

Good morning, Vietnam!

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