Off to Hogwarts
The Glenfinnan viaduct carries the railway to Glenfinnan Station across a 1,000 ft span, 100 ft above the ground. The viaduct overlooks the Glenfinnan Monument and the waters of Loch Shiel. The viaduct features in four of the Harry Potter films and Potter fans worldwide flock here, selfies galore, while Bonnie Prince Charlie stands virtually ignored opposite.
Eilean Donan Castle
Probably the most photographed castle in Scotland. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some great scenery. Although first inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.
In the far north of Skye the Quiraing offers some challenging hikes but rewarding views. One such walk is to the 'prison' ( zo heet de rots ver rechts). From the top you can breathe in the beauty and the immense wildnessness while you feel so very, very small.
The Quiraing is a landslip at the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The whole of the Trotternish Ridge escarpment was formed by a great series of landslips; the Quiraing is the only part of the slip still moving. A pittig walk but the views are amazing especially on a clear day.
And this is how we experienced our two weeks in the Highland and Isles of Scotland. Everyday blue sky, high temperatures and not a single drop of rain. Unbelievable, as was the scenery. Some days it felt too hot too walk, but we did. This is part of the West Highland Way that allows you to experience the loneliness of the wilderness area of Rannoch Moor. While we had imagined the moor to be covered in mist we found by mid morning the moor shimmering in a heat haze. The white cottage belonging to the Scottish Ladies Mountaineering Club is at the start of the walk.
Last week in Tallinn a pleasantly surprising quiet city, hardly any traffic easy to walk around and with a 2 Euro bus ticket easy to get out of the city. But first the Old City. The Pakuli viewing platform is a great place in Toompea providing panoramic views of the Old City and the Baltic Sea.
Just outside Dalat, the fisherman eats his packed lunch by the side of Tuyen Lam lake. It is named Tuyen Lam, because of the grandiose nature around it – where stream and forest are close to each other. Tuyen = stream, Lam = forest.
Another of the many caves in the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, this is Paradise cave. Surrounded by forested karst peaks, this remarkable cave system extends for 31km, though most people only visit the first kilometre, so keep walking.The scale is breath taking, as wooden staircases descend into a cathedral-like space with colossal stalagmites and glimmering stalactites.
Once you enter the cave’s gaping mouth the engine of the boat is cut and the boats are negotiated silently through cavern, the water is an iridescent blue due to the minerals present. On a more sombre note, Phong Nha Cave was used as a hospital and ammunition depot during the war and was heavily bombed.
Phong Nha Cave
Designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers. Boats cruise along past buffalo, limestone peaks and church steeples to the cave’s gaping mouth. The engine is then cut and the boats are negotiated silently through the cavern. Visiting this NP was probably the highlight of our Vietnam holiday.
I found Vietnam a little bit tame this year, so many tourists, more than I had imagined. In the Central Highlands where we spent most of our time, it was ok and the authenticity was still there but in other places, (Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An) and especially along the coast........Mmmmm. Be warned if you are travelling to Vietnam and you want an off the beaten track plekje, do your research well.
The lone boat at...Du
Dungeness a great location for taking some dereliction and grunge shots you feel like you are inside some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape, but its also very hip, trendy. These old fisherman's huts and houses are selling to DFL's (people from London that have weekend home here, - Down From London) and being transformed. I saw one such house advertised on Airbnb for Euro 450 per night.
The quiet place
I told you about Dungeness in my last upload, so I wont repeat it here. I mentioned the Nuclear Power Station, that is still in operation, that creates the backdrop for the village. A quiet and somewhat eerie place. I think b/w does it justice here.
The end of the road
Dungeness, what a strange place. A once fishing village on the Kent coast. The site of Europe's largest shingle beach. The site of one of the UK's nuclear power station. (still in operation). A few years ago no one lived here. Fishing was no more, the fisherman's houses, boats and tools abandoned on the vast spread of shingles. But then a few artists moved into the houses, others quickly followed snapping up what became weekend cottages for pennies. Now a surreal place. An arty community living under the gaze of the nuclear power station. The day we were there it was story, the wind blew and made Dungeness look like a film-set for an apocalyptic film set. Enjoy the series.
Not what it seems
Whilst in Yangon this year, we crossed the river to a village where we have been supporting a small health center since Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The health center is the first port of call for almost 3000 people. The health center had one bed. A visit to the health centre costs Kyat 500 (50 cents), but even so, many can not pay this. This year we donated a bed to the health center and the team wanted us to see it. Whilst Yangon transforms itself on one side of the river with foreign investments, infrastructure and tourism, nothing changes on the other side for many people. There is no running water here and although this pond, which may look idyllic, was completely contaminated by Nargis. It is slowly purifying itself but remains the source of water for the villagers and the source of many health problems.
On board the public ferry from Bhamo on the mighty Irrawaddy, just before Katha, a small town tucked into the foothills of northern Burma and where George Orwell was stationed. A brief stop and we are surrounded by food vendors, a delicious breakfast of pineapple and sticky rice and we sail further.
Just admiring the...C
Every day thousands of people worship at the Cholas' grand Brihadishwara Temple in Thanjavur. Here are the ochre foundation blocks of perhaps the most remarkable civilisation of Dravidian history, one of the few kingdoms to expand Hinduism beyond India. An historical legacy of the great Chola empire during its heyday.
A work week took me to Helsinki. What a nice city, small compact, easy to walk around, good food even for vegetarians, and above all although around -4 during the day, gorgeous blue sky. A distinctive landmark in the Helsinki cityscape, is the Lutheran Cathedral with its tall, green dome surrounded by four smaller domes, the building built in 1830 is in the neoclassical style. Pure white during the day, catching the sun rays and turning pink at night a beautiful sight. I had the extra luck of listening to a rehearsal of Handel's Messiah whilst visiting.
Wedding photos on the
Da Lat railway station and its vintage train is also a popular spot for wedding photos. During its hayday, most passengers were French citizens or Vietnamese officials. The journey then from Saigon to Da took half of a day and Da Lat quickly became a popular holiday spot as people came to make the most of the city’s temperate climate and stunning landscapes. European style villas mushroomed up and the city was nicknamed “Little Paris”.
Back in Time
Dalat Railway Station is the oldest one in Indochina. It was designed in Art Deco style and built in 1932 by French architectures, and opened in 1938. During the war it ceased to run, but nowadays two classic trains make a short 7 km trip daily. It is primarily a tourist attraction but does conjure up a sense of nostalgia.
Do you speak English?
"Do you speak English?", he asked as we walked through the monastery, "Yes we do", we replied. I am trying to find the right words for my story, he told us. And we sat with him for a while, or rather man-lief did helping him with finding the right word. I walked around the impressive colourful garden taking photos, orchids of every colour, bonsai trees in many forms and sizes. Everything in the monastery was so harmonious, even the monk I noticed when a return blenden in with his spartan home.