lisbonchick

Adventures

Posts from the ‘Tanzania adventures’ category

End of 2017 in Thailand, Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Samet and others….

So another year comes to an end, just like that!  Thailand has grown on me, I actually enjoy being here although not so much in Bangkok.  I love the calmness of the people and the kindness and gentleness.  Of course it is not all great and life is life pretty much anywhere…  Work, routines, kids, weekends but there is something about the place that is calming and enjoyable.  The heat is not one of those things although at the moment it is a balmy 29 degrees and we were even cold the last few days with temperatures of 19 and 20, it was a shock to the system, I can tell you!  Small problems, indeed.

There have been horse shows, a wedding, a python and trips to islands.  Diving has not happened as the weather was not great but we are still hoping to practice some more soon.  We live in a somewhat sterile, American type of community, not something we are used to at all so it continues to feel rather strange and weird to be in this bubble.  It does have benefits, it is quiet and kind of pleasant.  However….  we are in Thailand and beasties lurk even in the man made sterile environments.  We have seen plenty of monitor lizards about but the other night we nearly ran over a huge python crossing the road!  Not expected at all!  Beautiful thing, had time to get off the bike, get my phone out, fumble with the camera and finally take a pic, this is as good as it got before it slithered off into the bushes.

20171202_222451

BIG python, about 4 metres long!

Snake excitement aside, we attended our first ever wedding on a beach.  Congratulations to Adam and Miyoung on what was a truly fun, relaxed, beautiful and loving few days.  One of the best weddings I have been to.  Koh Chang has beautiful beaches and amazing sunsets.  Highly recommended.  The only downside was the wind!  We caught the end of a storm and it was actually rather chilly (well, in Thai terms!) and very windy.

20171218_070350

Koh Chang

20171218_092533

DSC04251

These are popular….

DSC04256

Flower arranging service

DSC04286

Am I getting smaller?!

DSC04282

DSC04293

Health and safety nightmare…

DSC04310DSC04298DSC04318

DSC04314

This dog loved his daily evening soaking

DSC04321

DSC04331

Sunset

DSC04330DSC04324DSC04335DSC04340

FB_IMG_1514017239155

More beach fire

FB_IMG_1514017224616FB_IMG_1513991512648

FB_IMG_1514017153423

Beautiful people in and out!

20171218_085748

Petrol station

20171216_131248

Thai buses are pretty cool!

20171216_13123620171216_13113720171216_131204

It was bloody hard to leave the island!  Strong winds meant that there were no boats running so we embarked on a 7 hour journey – it should have been 1 hour, really…. Got on a boat.  Boat turned back.  Got in a taxi.  Onto another boat to mainland.  Long drive to another boat.  Boat to Koh Mak.  Another taxi and we arrived at our destination which turned out to be shit and we had to go in search of another place to stay!  Phew, a long day but ended up somewhere beautiful.  We enjoyed Koh Mak despite the awful weather (I know, it looks nice but it was chilly).  Small and rustic and very quiet, perfect!

DSC04422DSC04421DSC04419DSC04410DSC04401

DSC04400

Not sure that goes…

DSC04399

Koh Mak has lots of rubber plantations.  Here is some latex drying, it is quite stinky!!!

DSC04396DSC04395

DSC04394

The local museum turned out to be quite a surprise.  An old house over the water, full of old trinkets from various eras.

DSC04393

I think the floor is quite sturdy?

DSC04392DSC04390DSC04387

DSC04386

A room with a view.

DSC04385

More sunsets

DSC04377DSC04366DSC04364DSC04359DSC0435720171221_175058

20171220_135057

So many fish!

20171220_13444220171220_073123

Back to Bangkok to enjoy Xmas and NY.

FB_IMG_1514722167779

I wish that was mine but it was empty!  It still smelt of chocolate though…

DSC04446

Later afternoon trip to Ayutthaya to stroll and enjoy the sunset

DSC04438DSC04435DSC04426DSC04433DSC04424

20171231_234127

Poor attempt at selfie!

20171231_230321

We went into Bangkok for NY.  Never seen so many lights in my life.  Amazing mix of people on the streets, all having fun, no fighting, no drunks, just fun and happiness.

 

20171231_23025220171231_23010120171231_22591420171231_22530620171231_22472920171231_224656

After a night of dancing in the streets of Bangkok and being squished in a crowd of thousands, we treated ourselves to an outing to a 1st class cinema!  It was actually before the above but it all seems like a long time ago now.

Never having heard of such a luxury before, we were damn curious to find out what this was all about.  What better way but to see Star Wars in comfort…  We are shown to a lounge were we are offered a free drink canapes – very nice.  Inside the cinema, there are ginormous chairs which turn into beds, blankets are provided and there is a butler service for drinks and pop corn.  Well, not bad, a tad decadent but rather pleasant.

20171226_19154620171226_19151920171226_191426

It has been a rather stressful and fraught couple of months.  After finding out in November that Geoff’s contract would not be renewed, I found out that my position was also not going to continue.  Nothing personal, apparently…  Still, it left us aimless and wondering what to do once again.  I guess that is the nature of this game (expat, teaching life) but it is still a little disconcerting to have to find a new job and move house/countries, whatever.  We also needed to find two jobs instead of one which created complications.  After a few arguments, unpleasant moments and some anxiety all is well in the Costa-Buck household.  In the midst of all this, we decided to attend a Search Associates job fair (for teachers in international schools).  These are held around the world and there was one in Bangkok so off we went.  It was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have had!

It took place in the Sheraton in central Bangkok which has delightful views.  That was probably the only good thing going for it.  There were about 550 candidates and various schools from around the world.  So…  You look for the vacancies, place your CV in the school’s folder and next day you queue up at each of the schools and try and get an interview.  It is like speed dating, you have a short time to convince them to interview you.  In my case, it was a matter of a quick glance at my CV and a polite no, you do not have enough experience.  I take it that they meant that my life experience, coupled with a masters, social work and some teaching experience and counselling did not count for much!  Geoff fared better but they were only interested in him and not me so we left empty handed, demoralised and angry with the cattle market feel of the place.

As I tend to say, things happen for a reason although I do not believe in destiny!  Such is life, Geoff got a couple of job offers in Phuket and we are off to United World College in July.  Rather excited even though I am jobless.  Something will come up…

In the middle of all this, Geoff and I spend a relaxing few days in Koh Samet.  Close to Bangkok and very beautiful.  We were quite surprised that the island was so close and so lovely.  Got a scooter, explored and enjoyed the beach.

DSC04495

DSC04484

Little baby urchin holding on

DSC04483

Best beach on the island

DSC04482

DSC04480

Sunrise

DSC04476

DSC04473

Hippy moment watching the sunrise

DSC04467DSC04466DSC04465DSC04458DSC04457DSC04455DSC04454DSC04452DSC04448

20180105_124456

The water, the water….

20180105_113835

I rescued this bug from the sea.  Thought it was dead but it came back to life eventually.  Found out that is is a mango tree borer.  Quite an amazing looking thing!

20180105_113733

20180103_205905

Very excited to ring the bell and wait for the raft to take us to the floating restaurant.  It was not to be, the restaurant is now inland.  It was really good though!

20180103_13015920180103_08174220180103_081705

20180102_093830

Got to love the Thai signs…

We are now in process of selling our house in the UK.  The end of an era, the start of something new.   Maybe a house in Portugal?  Watch this space!

Thailand, Hong Kong and diving!

I did not know so much could happen in two months!  So we have finally found out that Geoff is not going to have his contract renewed.  A lot of you are asking why…  Well, he was on a 2 year contract covering for someone who has decided to return.  We were hoping a vacancy might have come up but no such luck.  We need to move, again!  Don’t know where yet, but we do know when, June!  Watch this space.  Shame as was starting to acclimatise to our new life and really enjoying my new job.

On another note, we have been busy exploring as usual.  Since the summer holidays, we have been out and about, here and there.  The most exciting thing has been to finish our PADI and to go sea diving for the first time.  It was bloody scary at first.  I experienced an under water panic attack which was rather unpleasant but I also found that there is a whole new whole down there and it is magical.  We had the nicest of instructors, patient, caring, gentle and thorough; could not have asked for more.  Need to get a few dives in before we leave this diving paradise!

20171118_091315(0).jpg

Waiting for the first dive!!  I look happy but am petrified…

20171118_091520.jpgDSC04200.jpgDSC04205.jpgDSC04207.jpgDSC04209.jpg20171118_104340.jpgDSC04211.jpg

DSC04213.jpg

Sattahip fishing port

DSC04217.jpgDSC04215.jpgDSC04218.jpgDSC04220.jpgDSC04222.jpgDSC04224.jpgDSC04227.jpg20171119_085225.jpg20171119_085334.jpg

I have had a couple of exciting weekends!  The previous one I went to Hong Kong which is a place I never really thought to visit.  Fortunately, there was a conference I wanted to attend so it was the perfect excuse for a little escape.  I really liked Hong Kong (and the conference!).  It is an environmental nightmare but it is pretty and lots of lights always look impressive.  Beautiful views, good place to stroll and eat and lots of boats to take from one island to another.  What more could I want?  I met a kindred soul at the conference, what a lovely woman!  We got completely lost with a map and Google maps and ended up getting into a cab and asking the driver to take us to where we already were!  He was amused and drove us around until we realised we were in the wrong area after all.  So cool to meet someone who is as useless as me with maps!

DSC04197.jpgDSC04194.jpgDSC04193.jpgDSC04192.jpgDSC04189.jpgDSC04188.jpgDSC04187.jpgDSC04186.jpgDSC04185.jpgDSC04183.jpgDSC04184.jpg20171109_180546.jpg

We had Loy Krathong in November when people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing beautiful lotus shaped rafts, decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto the water.  Every year, Loy Krathong falls on the night of the twelfth lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full-moon lights up the sky.  This festival is celebrated for many reasons.  The main rice harvest season has ended and it’s time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply, as well as an apology for polluting the waters.  Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges you have been holding onto, and including a fingernail or a lock of hair is seen as a way of letting go of the dark side of yourself, to start anew free of negative feelings.  If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck.

So, Krathongs were duly made and released into the Chao Praya river!  Quite beautiful and a happy time to be outside celebrating with everyone.
20171103_180255.jpg

Making Krathongs!

20171103_173911.jpg

Boys and Krathongs

20171103_173759.jpg

20171103_173033.jpg

Krathongs made of fish food

20171103_172844.jpg

All shapes and sizes…

20171103_172710.jpg

Made out of bread dough

20171103_172658.jpg

 20171103_17392120171103_17394220171103_174042

20171103_193906

Ready to launch!

20171103_17513620171103_17432220171103_174308

20171103_212337

Monk selfie!

20171103_19464920171103_194543

20171103_194505

Wat Arun

Related image

What it looks like from the water

To finish off, some photos of life around here.  We love going to Kho Kret and walking around the island.  It is peaceful, very close by and there it always looks different depending on the season.  We went recently and found that most of the island was underwater.  Sad for the people who live there, it is not an uncommon occurrence as the rain swells the river which then overflows over the whole island.  People continue to live there and we walked past someone’s living room with the family sitting on chairs with water up to their knees watching television!  A rather strange sight but then again, Thailand is not like other places…

20171029_10331620171029_10385920171029_10395120171029_10401720171029_10403220171029_10420220171029_10433920171029_10445620171029_10460820171029_10462320171029_10463820171029_10595620171029_11215720171029_11300220171029_11300920171029_113915

20171029_114359

Pretty weird but this guy was just walking around with his slow loris pets!  It is illegal to have these as pets but he let me take a photo of the little guys.  Considering he was walking around Very cute but sad that they are not in the wild.

20171029_114427

20171029_114957

Life goes on….

20171029_115027

20171029_120605

Thai sweets

20171029_12061120171029_12062220171029_12154120171029_12154820171029_121835

20171029_121928

A boat is the way to go!

20171029_12222320171029_123131

20171029_124424

Road becomes swimming pool

20171029_12443720171029_124626

That is it for now.  Thailand is growing on me now, especially when we venture out of Bangkok!  It is a beautiful country full of surprises.  The language is pretty impossible to learn, the food is like something out of another world (not always in a good way!) and the people are a constant source of puzzlement for us.  It takes time to understand such a different culture and way of thinking but we like it here!

Bangkok and Thailand adventures

It has been hard to write…  No inspiration, no time, no ideas, no adventures…  Finally, teacher training has come to an end and I can think again.  It was intense, enjoyable, frightening, fun and an incredible learning journey.  I have a job as a Pastoral Leader in an international school nearby and am very excited to start in August.  New start after 3 years without a job, also a new experience which I have not enjoyed so much, lost my financial independence and work identity but learned to be alone and to immerse myself in new experiences.

Where to start?!  Today!  We went off exploring Bangkok, the new Bangkok I find ugly, busy, smelly, materialistic and not very inspiring.  However, there are still areas of old Bangkok where I can feel I have been transformed to a different place altogether and I love spending time in these “secret” places.  One such place is Khlong Bang Luang on the West side of the Chao Phraya River.  It is a laid back neighbourhood, a small village with stilted wooden houses along an old canal.  There are plenty of narrow alleyways with art galleries, studios, shops and local eateries.  Along the canal runs a rickety boardwalk where you can let your feet dangle above the water and feed the hundreds of catfish that live in the Bangkok canals and rivers.  The artist house was our main destination – Baan Silapin, coffee shop below, gallery atop and painting and colouring activities on offer. Great place to relax and while away an afternoon.

DSC02727-001DSC02726DSC02724

DSC02722

Cat fish feeding frenzy

DSC02719

DSC02706

No idea how MJ got in there!

DSC02708DSC02710DSC02711DSC02697DSC02699DSC02700

DSC02702

The most beautiful and atmospheric guitar playing…

DSC02703DSC02704DSC02696DSC02692DSC02690DSC02689DSC02680

DSC02682

Walkways and alleyways

DSC02683DSC02684DSC02679DSC02677DSC02680

 

Another place we really like is Kho Kret, a small island not far from our house.  It is, once again, like being transported to another time and place.  A path runs around the whole island and it is a great walk which goes through a local market, past various temples and pottery making places.  We always try something new to eat when we go there and mostly it is suspect (such as barbecued frogs!) or other stuff that we do not know and tend to throw away as it does not agree with our taste buds!  It is a wonderful place to while away a few hours, have a look:

DSC01967

One of many kilns around the island

DSC01968DSC01969DSC01971DSC01972DSC01973

DSC01975

Cafe where your feet dangle over the water

DSC01977

Mon cuisine consists of a lot of fried vegetables and flowers

DSC01978

Fried orchids

DSC01979

Sacred tree

DSC01980DSC01981DSC01982

DSC01983

Sticky rice cooked in bamboo

DSC01984

Sweet things

DSC01985

More sweets

DSC01986

DSC01992

Tree!

DSC01994

DSC02001

More catfish madness!

DSC02002

No idea…

There are numerous vendors cooking up a number of local treats mainly Thai and Mon snacks and desserts.  Favourites that the island is known for include “Khao Cher.”  This dish is a Mon specialty of rice served with chilled fragrant water and a number of little side dishes. It was a royal favourite for hot summer days, but now is hard to find most anywhere besides here. “Tod mun pla nor gala” is another treat.  This is spiced fish cake with the shoots of local ginger variety.  Gives you an idea of the variety.  I just love wandering about the paths and through the market trying out stuff and soaking up the atmosphere.  At the weekends the place is full of Thais visiting the temples and the markets so pretty busy!

On another note, today is 37 degrees and it feels rather balmy.  We have returned from a few days in Kanchanaburi where the famous bridge over the river Kwai is.  The temperatures there reached 46 degrees, I never through Bangkok could feel cooler than it does right now.  Kanchanburi is not far, about 2/3 hour drive, it gets more and more jungly as you drive into the countryside.  The river is beautiful and we stayed on a floating cabin which was peaceful and beautiful.  Erawan falls were one of our destinations, a series of 7 falls which you have to walk up to, higher and higher.  The great thing is that the higher you go the cooler it gets and the less people there are.  The first 3 falls are packed with Thais with their huge lunch boxes and ice drinks.  At the top were the tourists who have little to carry such as us!  Highly recommend it.

DSC02516

Very rickety bridge

DSC02517

Oooops

DSC02521

Marianne was not too sure about this….

DSC02522

Maybe that says do not walk on the bridge!

DSC02523

DSC02526

Random shrines….

DSC02527

Flowers everywhere

DSC02531

New found poser

DSC02536DSC02538

DSC02539

One of the 7 Erawan Falls

DSC02540

DSC02541

Here come the monkeys!

DSC02542

DSC02544

One of many swimming spots

DSC02546

Shall we swim in this one too?

DSC02548

DSC02550

Or this one?

DSC02551DSC02552DSC02554

DSC02557

Lurking in the bushes….

DSC02561

Geoff’s jungle look with photobomb

DSC02563

Offerings….

DSC02565

Our cabin

DSC02567

Bamboo rafting going past

DSC02511

DSC02556

Another fall…

As we had visited the war museum and learned more about how the railway was build and its awful history, we decided to take a trip on the Death Railway as it is known.  The initial part of the trip was beautiful although old train and heat does not bode well.  Still, I thought about the poor men who were transported in closed metal carriages for up to 3 days without much breeze, food or water…  No wonder so many died building the railway, around 100,000!

DSC02568DSC02570

DSC02572

The faceless monk

DSC02576

DSC02578

Train views marred by thoughts of the men who carved through this jungle…

DSC02580DSC02583DSC02585DSC02586DSC02587DSC02589DSC02591DSC02592

DSC02600

And so we arrive!

DSC02602

The bridge!

DSC02604DSC02605

It was quite moving to see the bridge and to travel part of the way (a lot of the railway is no longer in use) on such a well known part of our history.  It is hard to imagine the suffering of those who toiled and the cruelty of those who enslaved so many.  After a thoughtful and roasting day, we returned to our river cabin and proceeded to float down the river which has a pretty strong current, as we found out!  Great fun and wonderfully cooling.

DSC02608

First challenge, get on a bamboo raft

DSC02610

Then jump in!

DSC02615

DSC02618

And float…

DSC02624

DSC02628

Floating…..

DSC02630DSC02638

DSC02639

Sun is going down

DSC02644DSC02646DSC02667DSC02674

DSC02675

Enter a caption

So Thailand is full of surprises.  The old and the new co-exist side by side in the most unexpected ways.  It is such an alien culture and language that I feel it will take me years to even feel I know what is going on around me!

Getting settled in Bangkok

As usual, it has been a roller coaster!  Although not as challenging as settling in Moshi turned out to be, settling in Bangkok is proving to have its challenges.  We have certainly gone from a society of little to one of excess.  Well, I say excess in terms of shops, malls, stuff to buy, buy, buy but poverty all around too.  I find it hard to be surrounded by such excess of consumerism when there are people living in shacks outside the gates of our cosy compound.  I guess it is the same in the UK but unlike here or in Africa, poverty is not on show.

So, what are the challenges?  The language has to be number one!  It is incredibly difficult to learn, to understand, to speak, and writing or reading is impossible.  English is not widely spoken so we really have to learn it to get on with life.  We have group lessons which inevitable turn to hysterical laughter halfway through due to the crazy sounds and tones we have to make.

Getting around is not hard although the road system makes no sense to us and the roads are always busy.  Driving is fun and fast, overtaking can be done in any lane so easy peasy. My revelation has been riding a scooter.  So, I am 50 years old and have now discovered that I love riding about, why did I not try this before?  I like going through the clogged up traffic thinking “so long suckers” the best!

Food can be interesting.  As we all know, Thai food is delicious and yummy and can be bloody hot.  Well, it can also be hard to identify what it is we are actually eating so a degree of curiosity and lack of fussiness is required.  I like to touch everything I see which as we know can lead to certain injuries.  With the food, I am tempted to try everything although I was pleased I passed when Geoff inadvertently ate a frog!!

As usual, we have been exploring as much as we can and as much as the moaning from the kids allow.  If it is not far, we leave them here.  Further afield they come with us moaning and complaining and making our life a misery (well, most of the time).  We love them really but this teenage business is rather tiresome.

One day we went off to Ayutthaya which was the capital of Thailand for over 400 years from 1350 until 1767.  Sadly the Burmese ransacked the place and today it comprises mainly ruined temples spread over a large area.  It is a really beautiful place to wander about for the day and explore the ruins and the area.

dscn4598dscn4600dscn4604dscn4605dscn4610

dscn4612

Is it safe to assume that these do not date to the Ayutthaya period?

dscn4619

Very large reclining budha

dscn4621

dscn4623

Very small reclining budha

dscn4626dscn4629

Our next stop was a weekend away in Hua Hin where we went to a water park which the kids actually enjoyed and wandered about the local beaches and markets.  Geoff managed to crack a rib and I went on two slides which is a record for me!

dscn4630

The “beach”

dscn4631

They’re in there somewhere

dscn4644

Joshua finds a more dignified way to get out of the ring

dscn4646dscn4648

dscn4649

Extremely rare photos of the kids happy together!

dscn4664dscn4665dscn4666dscn4667

dscn4672

Running away from each other

dscn4675

dscn4681

Thai sweets

dscn4682dscn4683dscn4685

dscn4686

On the way back we went for a stroll in Petchaburi.  Temples and palaces built in 1869 and the setting for the film “The King and I”.

dscn4688dscn4689dscn4691dscn4694dscn4695dscn4696dscn4700dscn4708The following weekend we took part in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.  A good event but sadly we were not allowed to march outside the park.  We are all probably on some Thai list of trouble makers!  Out of focus but here is the Sparkling Elephant from Tanzania!

dscn4711dscn4712dscn4716dscn4717

dscn4719

The end…

dscn4720

dscn4725

Bangkok as we see it, not the most attractive of places

Time flies as usual.  My course has started and am enjoying studying again, I think I will become one of those eternal students…  The flat feels very homely and cosy and purely by accident we have acquired two cats.  I think it is my animal magnetism that draws them to me!  One needed a home so I offered and the other was a foster placement but he is too cute to give back.

1473053617437

Randomly stacked on the pavement…

img_20160904_114413

Orchids everywhere and ridiculously cheap

img_20160904_140513

Small street temple but there are no zebras in Thailand…

img_20161003_163654

The newly adopted cats

img_20161006_131804

Who knew riding a scooter would be so much fun.  Been missing out all these years!!!

So, this is now going on a bit and there is much more I want to say so bear with me. Marianne entered her first Thai horse show and she had lots of fun.  Here she is working towards her dream of becoming an Olympian show jumper.

horse-showhorse-show1

horse

Posing…

horse1

Waiting for the race to start

horse1-001horse7

unnamed8

I shall end with a few things I have learnt since being in Bangkok.  Thai culture can certainly seem strange to us, “farangs” and it takes some getting used to.  Thais believe in ghosts and historically, overnight visitors to a Thai home were requested to ask permission from the phra phum (spirit ghost of the land) to stay in the house. The visitor would then be asked to thank the ghost when they left. This custom still exists in some rural areas of the country.  Raising you voice is unacceptable in Thailand, and considered an act of losing control. Remain calm at all times!!

Don’t touch anyone on the head unless you want trouble. This is hard for me as I enjoy playing with small children and got a very angry look when I tapped a child on the head the other day.  The head is considered the sacred part of the body and not to be touched without permission.  Don’t point at monks or pictures of any of the Royal Family, ever!!

I am scared of this: lèse majesté in Thailand which makes it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent since 1908. The punishment is three to fifteen years of imprisonment per count. There is no legal definition, however, of what actions constitute a defamation, insult or threat against the monarchy, and there is plenty of room for interpretation.  Be careful with what you say…

Until next time…

 

From Lisbon to Brighton to Bangkok!

WP_20160621_003

Balcony views

DSCN4398

So much graffiti, love it!

DSCN4399

Botanic gardens in Lisbon, a small oasis of calm

I know, I know…  I have said it before.  Time flies!  Here we are in Bangkok but before I launch into the delights of being in this humongous city, I will have to go via Lisbon and Brighton where we had a fabulous time reuniting with family and friends.

WP_20160627_006

The talented nephew!  What a voice!

Lisbon is such a beautiful city.  We had not been there for quite some time and I fell in love with it all over again.  I’m not sure what it was.  Going to Portugal, in particular, Lisbon has always brought too many sad memories and a feeling that I wanted to get out of there. This time it was different; it was a beautiful and happy stay and I wish I could have stayed longer.  We got off to a good start with a great Air B&B flat and plenty of family visits.  One of the highlights was to see my nephew sing and perform with his group Seconda Pratica at Sintra Palace.  An absolutely stunning and special evening.

WP_20160626_001

No trip to Lisbon is complete without a visit to Belem where the original Pasteis de Nata are still made!

Lisbon has certainly changed, it is more dynamic, more creative and there is a lot more to do. Beautiful food in great restaurants, strolls around the old town but the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (https://www.maat.pt/en/about) was one of the highlights of our visit.  A stunning old power station on the river bank which retains many of its original features and equipment and also showcases modern art installations.  Great fun and it is free!

DSCN4431DSCN4430DSCN4428

DSCN4424

I’m watching you!

DSCN4421DSCN4417DSCN4433

DSCN4434

One of the ways to cross the river in Lisbon

The light exhibition was visually great fun and the map of the world showing which countries have electricity is shocking.  Check out Africa!  We were indeed often in the dark in Tanzania.

DSCN4414DSCN4411DSCN4409DSCN4405DSCN4404DSCN4403DSCN4402

One place I have always wanted to visit was Tomar, north of Lisbon.  Tomar was built inside the walls of the Convento de Cristo which was constructed under the fourth grand master of the Knights Templar in the late 12th century.  It was the last Templar town to be commissioned for construction and it is well worth a visit.  In the 15th century, Tomar was a center of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ.  The Convento is nothing short of spectacular and really takes you back in history.  I just love walking around old places where you can “feel” the history!  I will not bore you with details but if interested have a look here http://www.conventocristo.pt/en/.

DSCN4285

DSCN4280

Dining hall

DSCN4279

A window from a window!

DSCN4274DSCN4272DSCN4271DSCN4270DSCN4269DSCN4268DSCN4267DSCN4265DSCN4264DSCN4259DSCN4258DSCN4256

As we were in Tomar we could not leave without visiting the famous Castelo de Almourol. Almourol is a medieval castle, located on a small islet in the middle of the Tejo River. This castle was part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templar and the area is also very beautiful to visit.  The only way in and out is by boat or swimming if you prefer. It is a peaceful place with wonderful views and gorgeous villages.

DSCN4315DSCN4313DSCN4312DSCN4311DSCN4310DSCN4309DSCN4307DSCN4306DSCN4302DSCN4301DSCN4297DSCN4296

DSCN4291

On the islet

DSCN4289

This is one thing I love about Portugal, the history and the beautiful old buildings, ancient villages, fortified towns…  Obidos here we come.  An historical, walled town very close to Lisbon.  Cobbled streets, colourful houses and ginginha (cherry brandy) served in little dark chocolate glasses which you eat when our drink is finished. Delicious.

DSCN4393DSCN4390DSCN4389DSCN4383DSCN4382DSCN4380DSCN4379DSCN4378

DSCN4377

Got him where we want!

DSCN4376

He was not trapped for long….

DSCN4372DSCN4370

DSCN4373

Up on the walls

Being in Portugal was relaxing and a good introduction back to life in the west.  It was incredible to be in a city after 2 years in Moshi, to see shops, variety, culture, cars, so much activity and people walking so fast!  It was enjoyable and fun and I can not wait to go back. The thought of going on to the UK is not so enticing but Brighton here we come, let’s hope the weather is not too cold!

Although all this moving about sounds terribly exciting, it is also very unsettling and confusing.  Have we done the right thing?  Will we like the new place?  Will we miss the old place?  Will the kids be happy?  Blah, blah, blah….  We go round and round in circles and the anxiety before the move goes up and up.  Being in Lisbon was great but going to the UK means that there is paperwork to sort out, more boxes to pack and the anticipation of waiting for the departure date.  Still, friends await and we are excited to get there!

1469733304282

Joshua is enjoying having plenty of food!

1469733303706146973330328514696531363591469733297001146973329750714697332988971469733298402

What strange people!  So good to see friends and have a laugh, good food and hugs. Wish I had taken more pics now…

14691980372281469208499096146920856711214692512325721469227528106

Thank you to all friends who put us up, lent us their houses and made us yummy food.  We miss you all already, please come and visit us in this beautiful country.

I was extremely lucky to have been in Brighton for my 50th birthday and it did not even rain for our annual birthday picnic.  Great company, good food and lovely presents.  I feel very lucky and loved, thank you dear friends.

DSCN4461DSCN4455DSCN4456DSCN4457DSCN4458DSCN4459DSCN4460DSCN4454

DSCN4452

From Primary to teenagers!

DSCN4443

Walk on the downs, glorious weather

DSCN4444

DSCN4451

Marianne trots away happily…

DSCN4449

In her element!

DSCN4448DSCN4445

And so it goes, three weeks gone.  Happy times, sad to leave again but before we go I leave you with some Capoeira shots!  See you next summer.

14694295882361469359954344146935995555314693599572921469274527670

The time has come to leave once again.  Bangkok here we come.  No idea what to expect but ready to get there.  watch this space!

Farewell Tanzania

It has certainly been a challenging and interesting two years but now it is time to go.  It seems like yesterday…  Packing, saying goodbye, getting on a plane to go somewhere new.  Arriving in this strange place where things did not make sense (and a lot of the time still do not!) and everything was so alien.  Time is an amazing thing.  Suddenly, we are comfortable, familiar, have friends, know our way around; it feels more like home.  And now it is time to go, to start all over again, somewhere else.  I am excited, sad and a little scared to face the world outside Tanzania.  This has been a place of simplicity, of no frills, no extras, only the essentials are present, everything is practical, nothing is superfluous. Flying into the so called developed world seems rather shallow in many ways but also feels exciting to be able to have choice and efficiency once again.

Being here, among people whose poverty dictates their way of life in many ways makes you humble.  It makes you question your existence back home and the way we live our lives.  Strange thing is, once we return it is easy to fall back into it and it soon becomes “normal” once again.  All these thoughts are going through my mind and I am not sure what to expect or how I will feel but I know that it will be ok!

So, our last few weeks here have been busy and very reflective.  Are we happy to go? Would we like to stay?  Will Thailand be good?  Where else can we go?  Life is too short and there is too much we want to do still.  In the meantime, we have enjoyed friends company and appreciated nature around us.  Leaving makes you realise how beautiful things are and what you will miss, I guess that what I like about travelling and moving around.  There is a constant appreciation and little is taken for granted.  It makes you feel more alive.

Today, we are off to Maramboi for the last time.  One of our favourite places where we can enjoy Lake Manyara and the animals that roam freely around the lake.  I hope to see some elephants with whom I have fallen in love with.  I truly hope humans do not kill them all! Maramboi is one of those special places where you go once in a lifetime, I have been lucky enough to go 5 times and to see this fabulous scenery at various times of the year.  This final time, we went with good friends, had a laugh, enjoyed being together and listening to the lions roaring at night.

DSCN4100

Sunset over Lake Manyara

DSCN4102

Stinky, dead wildebeest

DSCN4104

DSCN4106

Fluffy, puffy plant

DSCN4108DSCN4111DSCN4113DSCN4117DSCN4118DSCN4121DSCN4128DSCN4129DSCN4136DSCN4138DSCN4141DSCN4142DSCN4143

DSCN4153

Zebra enjoying the dust

DSCN4154DSCN4156

So, I went rather wistful on the flora this time!  There are so many beautiful plants and flowers here as well as hundreds of small butterflies of all shapes and colours.  Instead of looking for the large things, I went looking for the ones we often do not notice.

After Maramboi, it was our last week in Tanzania.  Packing, saying goodbye and more packing.  It feels odd to go, exciting but sad.  Also a little scary to go somewhere new and to leave a place that has become familiar and has begun to bear fruit in terms of friendships. So no more blogs about the wilderness or big beasts!  Thailand is next so expect temples and culture from now.  In the meantime, we spent a day in Istanbul which is one of my favourite destinations, walking and being amazed at being in a city after two years in Tanzania.  Istanbul is truly beautiful and walking around is a pleasure to the senses.  The food was also good and the sweet shops were very visually stimulating.  First stop, Turkish ice cream followed by pastries, Turkish delight and chocolates.

DSCN4161DSCN4162DSCN4163DSCN4164DSCN4166DSCN4167DSCN4169IstanbulIstanbul2

I wondered how I would feel being in a city again with all mod cons.  I was a little worried that I might be too overwhelmed and want to hide in my room.  This did not happen! Being in a city was wonderful.  Lots of variety, food, beautiful buildings, electricity, water pressure for the shower….  It made me realise how much I had missed being in a city with so much to look at.  So now I am torn between variety and stimulation versus wilderness and space.  Is there a way to have both?!

Off to Portugal we go, more culture, family and lots of delicious food!

 

Friends come to Tanzania, finally!

In March 2016, David and Jackie arrived!  This being our only visitors during our stay in Tanzania meant that we were extremely excited, especially as they were bringing chocolate and books!  So we got cleaning and planning and finally they were here.

What better way to see Tanzania than being taken on one of our adventures…  We started with a few days in Moshi where we managed to pretty much take them everywhere (it is not a big place) including Mataruni Waterfalls, the local market (obligatory) and the famous sugar cane plantation (the posh place as we call it).

Here are some of the highlights of their Moshi stay.  First stop Mataruni waterfalls, a beautiful walk through jungly forest, chameleons and a stop at a local banana beer bar. Dave seemed to somehow find this vomit like drink quite pleasant…  After having been warned about Jackie’s “episodes” around water, I am pleased to say that the day was incident free and much enjoyed by all!

DSCN3435DSCN3437DSCN3438DSCN3441DSCN3442DSCN3443DSCN3446DSCN3451

beer

Dave enjoys his bucket of sick, sorry, banana beer

Chameleon

Jackie interacts with a two horned chameleon, check out the freckles!

There followed a trip to the Usambara Mountains and yet another waterfall walk where once again Jackie came out unscathed.  I, on the other hand fell flat on my face in a shallow bit and got soaked.  At least I was not wearing shoes…  I think it will make me laugh for years to come.

DSCN3462

DSCN3461

The rock of mandatory poses

DSCN3458DSCN3457

DSCN3453

The crossing of doom, how I fell in that and got soaked will remain a mystery!

DSCN3455

The Usambara Mountains are truly beautiful covered in virgin tropical rainforest which is sadly being lost rapidly due to deforestation.  Negatives aside, it is a delightful place to visit and we dragged Dave and Jackie up to Irente Farm, a lovely drive with far reaching views and sparsely populated mountains.  We had a really nice stay and highly recommend Irente Farm for their hospitality, delicious food and amazing walks.

DSCN3463

DSCN3464

Mambo

DSCN3465

Women dancing in Mambo, as they do!

DSCN3470DSCN3471DSCN3474DSCN3476

DSCN3477

Our balcony

DSCN3478DSCN3480DSCN3481

DSCN3486

Mambo Cliff Inn, spartan, basic and very nice.

DSCN3487

I want to stay there!

DSCN3488DSCN3489

DSCN3491

And now for the scenic drive down…  A little steep at times

DSCN3493

DSCN3496

The roads are in need of some tlc

DSCN3498DSCN3500DSCN3501

DSCN3503

Crossing the river bed

DSCN3505

Cha

Hornbill

Dave’s photo of a hornbill in flight

Josh

Strange creatures lurk in Tanzania….

Staying at Mambo Cliff Inn was definitely a step down the luxury ladder.  Our bedroom door did not close at all.  Dave and Jackie had no power and no water in their room but had a lovely mattress, apparently.  The food was good though, beans and rice.  What more do you need…

And off we went to Tarangire where we went even further down the luxury ladder and put up our tents in the park.  This is my favourite thing, camping in the wilderness with the animals walking about, no frills, basic toilet and shower and a campfire.  Perfect!

DSCN3535

DSCN3537

So many lovebirds!

DSCN3539

Tarangire river

DSCN3542

Lilac breasted roller

DSCN3544

Leopard tortoise leisurely crossing the road

DSCN3551

DSCN3553

Morning view from the tent

DSCN3556

Our neighbours

DSCN3557

Crossing goes well

DSCN3561

Tsetse flies

DSCN3566

Dave’s home

DSCN3569

Cute little cubs with angry looking mums

DSCN3572DSCN3583DSCN3584

DSCN3585

Jackie admires the view

DSCN3589

DSCN3592

Dik Dik

DSCN3607

DSCN3616

Weird campers….

cam2

Dave has fun playing with his camera and a solar light

raining

When it rains, it rains!

recuers

Our rescuers!  Top guys.

Stuck s

Yes, we are stuck

Stuck (2)

Very stuck!

One thing I learnt in Tarangire was that crossing rivers during the rainy season is not a good idea.  Well, the middle was ok but the sides were kind of like soft sand which sucked our car in.  After trying to dig whilst Jackie stood across the river looking out for lions, we came to the realisation that the car was truly stuck.  No mobile signal but who to call anyway…  Luckily, our friends were with us or else we would have had to walk and hope not to be eaten by lions and whatever else lurks in this wilderness.  On a positive note, the river was beautiful, the water was warm and there were pretty birds around.

So, throw in a few blokes, a couple of cars and plenty of hours and our tank was finally ready to roll.  Unfortunately, next day we went for a drive in heavy rain and got stuck again…  Say no more!  Coincidentally, I was driving both times but this has never been mentioned by anyone out loud.

After our muddy stay at Tarangire we decided to return to Moshi and snuggle up in our own beds.  Dave and Jackie, intrepid as they are, went off to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.  They had a very eventful time with their car breaking down twice, a buffalo rubbing its head against their tent as they tried to sleep and they witnessed baboon destruction on a large scale.  Apparently the baboons had got into a kitchen area in the campsite and eaten all the food and drank all the wine, they then went on a rampage and destroyed everything.  Their party was completed by smearing everything with poo!  Wish I had seen that although apparently the smell was not welcoming.  Very amusing stories that they will not doubt be telling for years to come.

We were finally together at Maramboi where luxury was on the cards.  Maramboi is a really beautiful tented camp which is unusually not horribly expensive.  We had fun getting muddy in Lake Manyara and Dave got up close and personal with a Maasai.

Stuck

Happiness is a free cocktail (or a few)

quizical

No idea where this was but they look silly

Maasai

Have a good look Dave!

DSCN3644DSCN3645DSCN3650DSCN3652DSCN3653DSCN3656DSCN3657-001DSCN3658DSCN3659DSCN3660

DSCN3662

Walkabout in Lake Manyara

DSCN3663DSCN3664DSCN3666DSCN3668DSCN3670DSCN3672DSCN3674-001DSCN3675DSCN3676

DSCN3680

Mud skating

DSCN3682DSCN3684DSCN3687

DSCN3695

Flamingos and pelicans

DSCN3697DSCN3701

After a restful two days and nights spent walking, watching animals, swimming and reading it was time to return to Moshi once again.  However, there were still a few days left to fill so what better than to go to Simba Farm and do a little hike over to the Shira Plateau.  Off we went to West Kilimanjaro to stay in an old working farm with the most fantastic views.

DSCN3713

Simba farm

DSCN3716DSCN3717DSCN3718DSCN3720DSCN3723

DSCN3724

Walk down to the river, lush and green

DSCN3728

Not a bad place to rest

DSCN3729DSCN3731DSCN3732DSCN3741DSCN3758DSCN3761

DSCN3762

Big horse vs small horse

DSCN3766DSCN3768DSCN3769

DSCN3775

Mount Meru

DSCN3777

On the way to Shira Plateau, beautiful views of Kili

DSCN3779

DSCN3782

Kili disappearing into the clouds

DSCN3785

Out of focus leopard prints

DSCN3787