Posted by: travelrat | January 19, 2020

Don’t Go There

I have noticed a rather annoying trend lately. Some writers are putting out pieces like ‘10 Places to Avoid in 2020’. I will acknowledge that there are places which are a little bit this side of Heaven; indeed, there are places I’d rather stick pins in my eyeballs than visit. But, I will attempt to convey that it’s my personal impression, and not try to discourage anyone else from visiting. I’m probably in a minority, and there are countless people, no doubt, who regard something that doesn’t float my boat as the holiday of a lifetime.

(Personally, I’d avoid places that offer ‘free drinks packages’ or ‘free kids’ places’ … but, of course, I accept there are those who would welcome such offers.)

A prime example was a writer who held up Angkor Wat as a ‘tourist-ridden catchpenny’. It certainly wasn’t when we visited; in fact, someone who lives in Siem Riep said that visitor numbers were significantly down this year. Besides, your ticket also gives you access to a vast complex, in which it’s easy to avoid the crowds.

It did, actually, make me wonder if the writer had actually seen the place, or was just going on hearsay.

A little bit more constructive was an article in an otherwise well-regarded travel magazine, which suggested that, if you didn’t want to visit a well-known attraction for some reason, you might like to go to another, similar but less-frequented site nearby. For instance, if you wanted to avoid Stonehenge, you could go to the stone circle at Avebury, instead.

Stonehenge was included in another list which caught my attention lately. It figured in Places that Look Great in Photographs, but are Disappointing When You Actually See Them. (Nothing new here; estate agents have been doing it for years) In this particular case, I agree to some extent. It’s only when you call at the Visitor Centre, where they’ll explain how it fits into a much greater landscape that it really becomes an experience not to be missed.

The bottom line, I think, is it’s OK to say I didn’t like it’ (and, preferably, say why) … but, to state ‘I didn’t like it, and therefore you shouldn’t go’ suggests a touch of arrogance and superiority, and is, in my opinion, just plain bad writing

Posted by: travelrat | January 16, 2020

Stonehenge in Pictures

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I’m a little late with this one, as the new Stonehenge Photo Exhibition opened a couple of weeks back. I did go to the preview the day before it opened, but I only had my tablet with me, which doesn’t perform very well in restricted light. To say the pictures I took were ‘unsatisfactory’ would be a gross understatement. Especially the picture I took against the Stonehenge backdrop … visitors are encouraged to take photos against the backdrop, and I wanted to be the first.

Unfortunately, although my subject is, in reality, a rather attractive lady, the pictures made her look about 120 years old, in the first stages of decomposition!

So, on my next volunteer stint, I took my ‘real’ camera, and got much better results.

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The exhibition is of … surprise, surprise! … photographs of Stonehenge. They were contributed by many people, taken over the last 150 years. What they illustrate is not so much the stones … apart from a few cosmetic repair jobs, they’ve changed little over the intervening years … but the changing attitude to people towards them.

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Also, it’s possible to track changing fashions. Who dresses in their Sunday best to visit Stonehenge nowadays? Who, indeed, lays out their picnic among the stones? But, it is rather fun to compare the modern restaurant with the rather basic tea-dispensing caravan of bygone days.

Posted by: travelrat | January 14, 2020

Angkor Wat: Pictures

Angkor Wat C

Siem Riep: 11th November 2019

In a way, Angkor Wat reminds me a little of Petra, in Jordan. We’ve all seen pictures of the towers at Angkor Wat, and the Treasury at Petra. Even if you haven’t been to these places, you can recognise them immediately, and say:

‘That is a picture of Angkor Wat! (or Petra)

But, in each case, there is much, much more to be seen beyond the familiar facades, and I hope this slide show will show a little bit of it.

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Posted by: travelrat | January 12, 2020

Plans

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‘I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible’  (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Where to next?

That’s a decision we put off till after Christmas. We’d only just returned from our South-East Asia tour, and I did lay down some criteria for the next trip:

‘It should be short haul, and we stay in one place. Unpack once, and don’t pack again till it’s time to go home.’

So, here we are, surrounded by brochures, and a lot of websites in the ‘bookmarks’ folder. And, guess what? None of the places we’re considering meet these criteria! Another thing we need to consider; my passport expires in June, and some places require six months’ validity remaining on said document. So, I may need to renew early.

One thing we did notice … some firms are already advertising their 2021 trips! We did see one we rather fancied, which isn’t happening till late next year. We don’t generally plan that far ahead … but, we cut the ad out and will have another look at it a bit closer to the time.

I think we’ve decided upon where we want to go; we’re still trying to choose the operator that offers the best deal. I’ll let you know where when it’s set in concrete, and we’ve made a firm booking

Posted by: travelrat | January 9, 2020

A Quick Call in Ireland

Ringaskiddy: 27th June 2019

We were due to dock at Cobh, but the berth had been re-assigned … to another ship from the same company. We docked on the other side of the bay, at Ringaskiddy, and the only thing I found attractive about it is its name.  We could see Cobh out of the window, though, and it does look rather pleasant.

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We didn’t take any of the tours on offer, Kinsale we rejected, because we had been on holiday there some years before, and Blarney Castle … been there; done that. And, there really wasn’t time in port to go further afield. However, there was a free shuttle bus arranged to take us into Cork.

In the short time allotted, there was only time for a quick look around, and we didn’t see anything we recognised from our previous visit.

But, we didn’t see very much then, either.

Cork

We did do a little shopping. I had about 30 euros left over from a previous trip, which I’d stashed in a safe place. So safe, I forgot where I put it! But, they readily accepted a card, and the charges weren’t too onerous. Maybe that’s the way we’ll go on future trips?

Posted by: travelrat | January 7, 2020

Angkor Wat

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Siem Riep: 11th November 2019

Cambodia claims to be the only country with a building on its flag. That building is, of course, the familiar profile of Angkor Wat, It’s not just a building, though; it’s a vast complex … indeed, the name means ‘temple city’. It’s claimed it’s the largest religious structure of any kind in the world. But, it’s only part of a huge complex.

It was ordered in the 12th Century by King Suryavarman II, of the Khmer Empire, as a temple to the Hindu god Vishnu. But, within a generation, Buddhism had replaced Hinduism as the main religion, and statues of the Hindu gods adapted to those of the Buddha. Even today, although some of the temple is in ruins, the walls ring to the chant of what, we assumed, are Buddhist prayers. Orange-robed monks are frequently seen, sometimes giving blessings. I don’t normally photograph people at their devotions, but the monk smiled and nodded when he saw my camera, so I assume no exception was taken. And. I put a donation in his bowl, earning another smile.

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The instantly recognisable features of Angkor Wat are the five towers, which represent Mount Meru, the holy mountain of Hindus, said to be the abode of the gods. We saw, in a recent TV documentary, Sacred Places  with Sue Perkins, the ‘gardeners’ at Angkor Wat scale the perilous heights of the towers to painstakingly clear the plant life from the stonework to prevent it from suffering the same fate as other temples within the area.

Since you can’t go around knocking pitons into the stonework of a ‘sacred place’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however, they do it without any protection whatsoever!

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Posted by: travelrat | January 5, 2020

Happy New Decade … or Not?

Here we are at the start of a new decade. Or, so just about every media outlet I see would have us believe. But, they’re wrong! I accept that I’m probably a lone voice crying in the wilderness, and I know it sounds horribly pedantic, but the ‘new decade’ doesn’t, strictly speaking, start until 2021.

The reason is there was never a ‘Zero AD’; if they numbered years back then as they do today, the ‘first decade’ would have been 1 AD to 10 AD. The older people among us may remember some of us had the same argument 20 years ago. Even the eminent science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke argued that the 21st Century didn’t start till 2001.

We have the same thing with our seasons. ‘They’ will tell us that the 1st March/June/September/December heralds the first day of Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter. We were taught that it happened on the 21st of each month … the time of the Solstices and Equinoxes. (I could have been really pedantic here, and written ‘equinoces’!!). In this case, it doesn’t really matter; since when has Nature taken any notice of the calendar?

Also, Boxing Day. Most people accept that it’s always the 26th December; the day after Christmas Day. That wasn’t always the case … up until relatively recently, if the 26th December fell on a Sunday, it was just St. Stephen’s Day. Boxing Day was the 27th. One theory is that the reason for the name was that workers would receive their ‘Christmas Box’, or bonus from their employers on this day … and, in a lot of places, people didn’t work on a Sunday.

But, again, it doesn’t really matter. Most people in Britain don’t work on Boxing Day anyway … and, if they still get their ‘Christmas Boxes’, it will probably be paid into their bank account at the end of the month.

Posted by: travelrat | January 2, 2020

The Sunset that Wasn’t

Most of us will, at some time, have come across a ‘sunset that wasn’t’. It’s when you are taken to a particular place, which is reputed to give ‘the best’ views of a sunset on, or above, a particular landscape or feature. Sometimes, the sky is so obscured by cloud that the sunset doesn’t happen. At least, the organisers of such events sometimes provide wine to drink while you’re witnessing it, which is usually served anyway, so all is not quite lost.

But, this is a ‘sunset that wasn’t’ of a totally different kind. You’ll know that, in the Northern summer, the further north you go, the longer the days will be. Until you get to the Arctic Circle, beyond which, a few weeks either side of the Summer Solstice, the sun does not sink below the horizon at all.

Our recent cruise took us above the Arctic Circle … and we were above it on the 20th June! I didn’t capture the sunset on the actual date … but this picture was taken a couple of days later, a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. But, at 10.45 in the evening!

I reckon that’s close enough!

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May I wish all followers, readers and visitors a Happy New Year, and a hope that 2020 brings everything you wish for. 

Posted by: travelrat | December 31, 2019

Tonlie Sap: Video

Chong Kneas 2

Tonle Sap: 10th November 2019.

You won’t find Chong Kneas on a map, because it’s constantly changing position. The houses are built on rafts, which can be moved according to the water levels on the lake … and, presumably, where the fish are. Convenient for the villagers, but not so good for the users of Cambodian SATNAV??

Anyway, here’s some video of our cruise on the Tonle Sap lake.

 

Posted by: travelrat | December 29, 2019

Tributes

While we were away, we were invited to go and see an ‘Elton John Tribute Act’. Now, I am by no means Mr. John’s greatest fan, and I’m not really familiar with his work, so I don’t feel qualified to pass judgement on the act.

But, it seems that everyone who’s ever come within spitting distance of the Top Forty in the last fifty years has a ‘tribute act’ going for them. With my ‘grumpy hat’ on, I think … must they copy someone else? Can’t anyone think of anything original any more? It’s getting like the movie world, with its constant remakes and sequels … very few of which is as good as the original.

Mind you, some tribute acts are very good. We once saw a ‘Queen’ tribute act which was nearly as good as the original. Some, though, are a little bit short of perfection. We witnessed an Abba tribute act … well, they sang Abba songs. There was just the two girls … no sign of ‘Bjorn’ and ‘Benny’. Of course, all the boys did was go ‘oom-pa-pa!’ in the background … and write the songs!

They were followed by a singer who sang Elvis songs. To be fair, he made no attempt to look like ‘The King’; in fact, he wore a business suit, and bore a strong resemblance to a leading British politician. I wish I’d had a video camera to hand. I’m sure ‘Michael Gove Sings Elvis’ would have got quite a few hits on YouTube!

Speaking of Elvis, does anyone know why, although everyone else gets ‘tribute acts’ … Elvis gets ‘impersonators’?

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