Thursday, 15 February 2018

Angkor Wat and the 7 must see temples of Angkor.

Angkor Wat

The Angkor Archaeological Park, just outside Siem Reap in Cambodia, has the largest concentration of temples in the world. According to Google there are more than a thousand scattered across some 200 square kilometres. Even the most intrepid traveller can hope to visit only a fraction. Are you up for a thousand temples - no! I didn't think so - but don't panic! Luckily for you, David and I have done all the hard work and over a three day marathon of religious monument hopping visited most of them - well it felt like it!  Actually we saw thirteen but they were absolutely the best thirteen. Out of that thirteen I have picked seven which you simply must visit.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Wat Hanchey Temple, Cambodia

Garuda Wat Hanchey
It is the first morning of our Mekong River cruise aboard Scenic Spirit and we are standing at the top of a hill waiting for the rest of our group to come into view. They are climbing 300 steps to the temple at Wat Hanchey. As one of the 'walking wounded' I have ridden to the top in a mini-bus.  Only a month or two ago my healthier self would have been one of the first to take the challenge. That person is returning slowly, but not yet. I envy the climbers. By the time they reach the temple they will be able to view the temple through the prism of a well-earned achievement.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

A Mekong River Cruise with Scenic Spirit

Scenic Spirit
My first impression of Scenic Spirit was long before we saw the ship. On the overland journey from Siem Reap in Cambodia to Kampong Cham, our port of embarkation, the tour bus stopped for what was euphemistically called a 'happy stop'.  Lining up for the loo I got talking to a small group of other women. Passengers on the cruise before ours, they had disembarked Scenic Spirit that morning and were travelling toward Siem Reap.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Is snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef overrated?

Turqouise Bay Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef is one of the largest fringing reefs on the planet. It extends for 260 kms (162 miles) along the coast of Western Australia from Red Bluff, near Carnarvon to Bundegi Beach just north of Exmouth. The turquoise blue waters are stunning, the fish and other marine animals prolific and, best of all, much of the reef can be accessed by stepping straight off the beach. What is there not to love? I am a self-confessed snorkeling addict married to an otherwise perfect husband, who doesn't swim. Being able to snorkel by stepping straight off a beach ought to be nirvana for me. It saves me going out alone on long boat trips to reach the coral.  Perhaps my expectations were too high but having nagged David for years to take me to Ningaloo Reef, I was disappointed.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Where can you see penguins in Sth Africa?

African penguinPenguins in Africa! It sounds like a contradiction in terms but there they were, on Boulders Beach, right where our guide book said they would be, dozens and dozens of African penguins. Also known as jackass penguins, because their call sounds a bit like a donkey, African penguins live along the south-western and southern coasts of Africa between Namibia and Port Elizabeth.  If you want to see them and you are in Cape Town just head out to Boulders Beach, Simons Town, a mere 45 minutes by car. Combine your visit with a trip to the Cape of Good Hope for a great day excursion.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Madi-Madi - A Luxury Safari Lodge in the Klein Karoo, Sth Africa

Executive Riverfront Cottage Madi-Madi
It is late afternoon in the Klein Karoo, five hours drive from Cape Town along South Africa's captivating Route 62. We are sitting on our private terrace at Madi-Madi Karoo Safari Lodge hoping to catch sight of some of the wildlife which populates Madi-Madi's private game reserve. We are not disappointed. As if on cue, a herd of springbok wander into sight. With their striking markings and regal bearing they are unmistakable.  An antelope with a predilection for pronking (leaping), the springbok has a habit of suddenly launching itself into the air in leap after elegant leap, cruising several metres before hitting the ground and repeating the performance. The springbok in our field of view remain, frustratingly, firmly anchored to the earth, much more interested in quiet grazing than giving us a show of their physical prowess, but this is Day 1 of our stay and I am confident they will perform for us eventually.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Kirstenbosch - Is this the world's most beautiful botanic garden?

Sunbird on protea
Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden in Cape Town is one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Nestled against the slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is 36 hectares of pure flower heaven. Somehow we missed seeing Kirstenbosch on our first trip to Sth Africa -  honestly I don't know how that happened, but this time it was so lovely we went back twice.

Take my advice and go in spring. We visited in the first week of October and then again in the last week. The flowers, especially the magnificent yellow proteas, were slightly better in the first week but any time in October will give you a stunning display.

Friday, 3 November 2017

72 Hours in Cape Town: The best things to see and do.

Bo Kaap
Cape Town has drawn us back. A year and a half after our first experience of the capital of South Africa's Western Cape, we couldn't resist another visit. What is it about Cape Town's eclectic mix of African and European culture which is so compelling?  Last visit we had only two days to explore the city, much of it spent in a jet-lag induced haze. This time, armed with a couple of Cape Town Passes, we were determined to see all the things we missed.

Our Cape Town Passes gave us entry to the city's best attractions and the phone app which came with them worked like a travel guide with descriptions and photos of each attraction and turn by turn directions showing how to get to them.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Pinnacles and Stromatolites: Ancient formations and living fossils on Western Australia's Coral Coast.

The Pinnacles
The Pinnacles Desert and the stromatolites of Lake Thetis make a great day trip for anyone with even a vague interest in what the earth may have looked like in primordial times. The Pinnacles may be as old as half a million years, while the stromatolites show life as it was at the dawn of time - 3.5 billion years ago. Bored to tears by geology in high school, I found the Pinnacles Desert and the Stromatolites of Lake Thetis fascinating.

No one knows quite how long ago the eerily, striking natural structures of the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park, Western Australia were formed, but today they draw 250,000 visitors every year. Pillars of time-warn limestone, some several metres tall, jut out of the surrounding sand dunes like a petrified, paleolithic garden. Every structure seems to have its own unique, weather-beaten shape.

The stromatilites of Lake Thetis are babies by comparison. While the organisms you see are estimated to be only 3,500 years old, they are living descendants of the earliest life-forms to appear on earth - literally living fossils.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Hutt Lagoon, Western Australia: A pink lake you can drive to.

Hutt Lagoon a pink lake
Hutt Lagoon near Port Gregory on Western Australia's Coral Coast is a brilliant effervescent pink - or at least parts of it were on the day we visited. I have been chasing pink lakes for a while now and I finally found one which is easily accessible. You might remember, last year David and I went all the way to Esperance on Western Australia's far south-east coast looking for pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos. We lucked out on both scores. You can read about our search at Esperance: Pink lakes and kangaroos on the beach. This time we hit the jackpot. Hutt Lagoon was a bright shiny pink, just sitting there waiting to be instagrammed.