lisbonchick

Adventures

Posts from the ‘Tanzania adventures’ category

The adventure continues…..

Here we are in the middle of another outbreak! From Thailand doing really well to having a surge in cases that is growing day by day. The vaccination is slow, only 5% of the population has been vaccinated, mostly with Sinovac which is not effective against the Delta variant. There is a sense of when will this end, it just goes on and on…. Anyway, we are again in a place of not knowing. When will schools open, will they open. When can we travel to see friends and family?

We decided to stay put once again this Summer and spent 2 weeks in Kho Phanghan and Kho Tao to get away from the Monsoon in Phuket. Kho Phanghan was incredibly restful and quiet and it was a truly relaxing break. We stayed at Haad Salad and went over to Kho Tao for a couple of days – beautiful water and snorkelling over there. We were meant to dive but Geoff perforated his ear diving at Sail Rock and I am not well enough to dive so snorkelling it was.

Recently, I had a Ulcerative Colitis flare up which left me in hospital for 2 weeks and it really got me physically and emotionally. I have been quite blazé about this illness but it is now time to take it more seriously and start learning to live with it. It is not going away and I have been reading and learning more about it and trying to connect with others who are going through the same. I have been through so many emotions, anger, despair, depression, anxiety, fear, denial… It feels so unfair but life is random and shit happens. It feels as if my life has changed although in many ways it is still the same. So, any support is greatly appreciated!

In the meantime, life goes on. I got offered a full time school counselling position here in Phuket and have left my job in Bangkok. I have also closed my private practice so that I can dedicate myself to the school. Not an easy decision as my practice was doing really well but doing both is just too much. I can now stop travelling to Bangkok every week and just be based in Phuket which I am looking forward to.

I always tend to feel that I am not doing enough, not sure what that is about… We fostered that most adorable kittens which needed feeding every 3 hours and got them onto solids so that they could be adopted. It was ridiculously tiring but amazing to know that we gave these tiny creatures a chance at life. Here they are in all their cuteness:

Here are some sunsets – we get a lot of those over here, keeps us busy in the evenings as there is not much else to do and some random beach finds. Life is pretty quiet here in Phuket. Most places are closed as there are no tourists to keep businesses open. Some areas are like ghost towns, completely deserted. The economic impact has been horrendous for the local people; we, the expats, are the privileged ones with jobs and money and there is a lot of charity work on the island to help people feed themselves and help them survive through this crisis. In the first six months of 2020 amid the first wave of the pandemic, Thailand’s suicide rate rose by 22% and it continues to rise. There is very little mental health support and it is not something that is spoken about. Let’s hope that things are looking up next time I post my next blog!

If anyone would like to make a donation to One Phuket, here is the link to the Facebook page with details on the initiative and how to make a transfer. Any amount will help to feel people who are struggling without jobs of government assistance. One Phuket.

Oh, and some really massive lotus that you can stand on.

Another amazing thing that happened! Marianne graduated and has now finished school. She has a place at the Royal Vet College in London to do a Vet Nursing degree. Very happy for her. She is taking a year out and staying put in Phuket with Blaze until they work out what to do next year.

For those who are Breaking Bad fans, look what I found… It appears to be closed, maybe they were raided!

In April, we spent 3 days on a boat, diving in the Similan Islands. It was stunningly beautiful and really relaxing. We were not sure if we would get bored being on a boat and diving everyday but we didn’t and are looking forward to doing another liveaboard at Christmas. We were lucky to have had a professional photographer on board – she took the most beautiful pictures. Thank you Allie Vautin!

Some photos of the Similans and the view from our little cabin…

During my weekly stays in Bangkok, I did some exploring. This is in Chinatown in the evening when it comes to life with food stalls and people coming to eat outside.

Not much else to report… Life goes on, we hope for a better year ahead, being able to see family and friends and being healthy. In the meantime, here are a few more photos. Until next time, stay safe and well.

Another year in Thailand…

Last time I wrote, we were in lockdown. Thailand has managed to control the spread of the virus with strict measures; a combination of government action, social responsibility and community solidarity. It is a striking difference from our more individualistic culture where it is all about our rights, our needs, our wants, what we deserve… People are kind and thoughtful here on the whole, except when you put them behind a wheel! There is a strong sense of community in Phuket and with the impact of the loss of tourism, there has been a community effort to help those who are struggling to even find food to eat.

However, as I write this, cases are once again going up (albeit in smallish numbers compared to other countries) created by a small influx of migrants which have entered the country illegally and also spread by illegal gambling dens. As of January 3rd, we have 294 new cases around the country.

The impact Covid has had on tourism can be seen on the islands. Although Bangkok still remains relatively busy, there are shops closed and emptier streets in some areas. Phuket has been hit very hard and some areas remain deserted, without tourists there is no life here. Last year, foreign tourist nearly hit 40 million but now 93% of customers are Thai. Businesses and hotels have shut down, some forever. Last I read, about 3 months ago, 70% of businesses in Phuket had closed. This video of the busiest beach in Phuket really highlights the current situation in Phuket: https://youtu.be/YVeBOy9j2kA.

We feel very fortunate to be here during this period! We feel safe, we have freedom within Thailand and great healthcare. The downside is that we are cut off from family and friends abroad and that has not been easy. We hope that we can travel and reconnect with friends and family this coming Summer. In the meantime, we amuse ourselves here. Wildlife is coming back as there are not many people about.

Must not forget the snake hiding in the shoes! Harmless radiated rat snake – non venomous.

We could not go out of Thailand in Summer so we went to Kho Samui for a few days. Samui is a lovely small island, I say small but it is the second largest island in Thailand. It has some beautiful waterfalls which are good for swimming and as in the rest of the country, places are semi deserted.

The rest of the time was spent pottering about in Phuket and Bangkok.

Bangkok in July is hot and sticky with bits of rain in between. Shopping and eating is the main thing to keep you occupied. Goldie (yes, Goldie, who remembers him!) lives in Phuket, of all places and has opened an art gallery in Bangkok – https://aurum.gallery/. Aurum Gallery is a contemporary, urban and street art gallery.

The only street food stall in the world with 1 Michelin star! She is 74 years old.
Chef Jay Fai wears a wool cap and safety goggles to ward off the heat from the charcoal fires in the alley where she cooks all of the restaurant’s meals. She is such a perfectionist that she doesn’t let anyone on her staff do the cooking.
Mall in Bangkok, quite random…
Vhils is the tag name of Portuguese graffiti and street artist Alexandre Manuel Dias Farto. This piece of art is on the wall of the Portuguese Embassy in Bangkok.

After our Bangkok stay, we came back to Phuket.

We have had quite a long monsoon this year as La Nina is also in force!

Phuket views
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Geoff in a giant cup!

We also visited Kho Yao Yay, a small island not far from Phuket. Geoff enjoyed having his own pool party and I did my “look, I can walk on water” trick!

And it is Christmas! It is so hard not to be able to see family and friends and Xmas makes us more aware of this. Luckily, our friends from Bangkok came over for a couple of weeks and we had a lovely time connecting with people we are close to. Hooray for friends!!

We also went to Bangkok as they go overboard with Xmas, always fun to see all the decorations and lights around the city.

Also saw more graffiti, love it!
Lights festival, lots of light installations around old Bangkok
Alex Face

Covid has had and continues to have such an impact on our community here in Phuket. Places have been deserted and look apocalyptic and people are struggling to feed themselves. We feel so lucky and so grateful to be here, in this lovely house on a beautiful island. The animals are returning, the beaches are clean, the water is clear… It is hard to say how happy we are when we know how hard this is for some. As usual, it is the poor that suffer the most, the inequalities are more evident during this pandemic. There is a strong sense of community here and of helping each other rather than trying to step on each other.

I got a new tattoo, with the island closed off, prices were slashed to 50% so good time to get inked. Geoff had a traditional one with bamboo, the guy was so fast, amazing to watch.

This is what Bangkok looks like from 76 floors up! The Mahanakhon Skywalk is a rather impressive building. It looks like a block of jenga with bits missing. On the top floor there is a glass platform, you can walk on it and look down at Bangkok. A little scary at first but I trust the engineers and the builders did a proper job… The lift is incredibly fast, it takes 50 seconds to reach the 74th floor. All in all, the tower is 314 metres, the tallest in Bangkok. You can see the glass platform in the picture below.

On our return, we went back to this amazing viewpoint; Samet Nangshe in Phang Nga Bay. The light was different from our previous visit and it was rather beautiful, you can’t beat nature!

It is one of the most beautiful views, so serene and tranquil….

Panorama view

And now, for some more wildlife in our garden…

This is a very long blog but I hope you enjoy looking at the photos. I have always loved taking pictures and it is my way of recording experiences – always a pleasure to look back. I started these blogs for the kids so that they would have a record of their life abroad.

Diving trip to Racha Yay. Beautiful clear water and some interesting fish, many puffer fish and a huge moray eel. Photos aren’t great but it is the best we could get from our dive master. This dive is on a ship wreck so plenty of fish! I have the blue hat on and Geoff is in most of the photos too.

And we are nearly at an end of 2020! Another year…. All was quiet in Thailand for the past 7 months and now we are in the midst of another Covid wave. Let’s hope this time next year, we have managed to make a dent on this virus.

New Year on the beach and a learn to sail course which turned out to be one of the most boring things I have done!

Happy New Year dear friends and family. Let’s hope we can be reunited this year I miss you all.

Lockdown in Phuket 2020

Yesterday, our village, Bang Tao, was finally allowed to roam free once again. After having become the epicentre of the virus on the island, a strict lockdown was enforced in Bang Tao. This was ok until the rest of the island reopened and we remained locked in. Frustrations started to rise and locals gathered at the road block saying they were dissatisfied. As with most things in Thailand, there was no violence and people went back to their lockdown quietly. The road block remained…

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In January people started wearing masks and taking precautions in Bangkok. The first novel coronavirus infection in Thailand was reported on 13 January 2020, making it the first country outside China to report such infection. Still, it all seemed kind of ok and not really a worry. By February, things were not so good! Masks, hand sanitisers, temperature control. By March, things started to look pretty serious, Thailand recorded the highest jump on 19 March.

The country was placed under a state of emergency on 26 March which continues to this day. Many regions were placed under lockdown, borders were closed and all foreigners stopped from entering the country. In Phuket, the airport and the bridge were closed; the airport remains closed and the bridge is open for those who want to leave the island to return to their home in other provinces.

So, how has life been under lockdown? Here are some photos of closed roads.

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One of the first we came across

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By our house

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By our front door

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Stay off the beach they said!

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South of Phuket

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Near our house, first time we came across a closed beach

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Roadblocks became familiar but for us, we were soon to be further locked in as the virus took hold in Bang Tao, our small village. With limited access to anywhere, really, we found ways to amuse ourselves. Luckily, even though beaches are closed all over the island, Bang Tao beach has remained accessible. Perhaps because there is nobody here at all and often the beach is empty, the police do not seem too harsh on the few stragglers that occasionally appear on the beach.

Moody skies

Monsoon season has arrived

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Initially, lockdown was very relaxed, roads were still opened and we could move around. It seemed fine, not much had changed except for less tourists which made it rather more pleasant for us. We took time cycling around the now quiet roads and enjoyed having the place to ourselves.

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Found a cashew nut tree

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…and some minions!

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Then the district lockdowns kicked in. Our world became small but it was about to become even smaller as the virus took hold in Bang Tao! We spent most of our time working which kept us sane. We got used to being together 24/7 which did not always keep us so sane. I discovered Honduran Zumba on YouTube and baked and baked. Walks on the beach kept us going and gave us a sense of freedom. We started to imagine that we were in the tiny island of Bang Tao with our own private beach – it worked well. The cats and the dog also took well to the lockdown.

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The shops are now slowly reopening, schools are to remain closed and the island remains quiet. Although it is idyllic, we are all too aware that a quiet island means that many people are not making the bare minimum to survive. It has been sobering to see how fragile the economy is here for some people who live on so little already and now simply have nothing.

The mental health impact has also been notable. I have had more enquiries which are domestic abuse related, people not coping with the kids being home and with home schooling and some finding it hard to face the world once again. We do not talk about this; it is always about how to cope during isolation but what about when we need to return to the “real world”? I, for one, am quite happy in this bubble, I do not look forward to being thrust back out there. This life is more peaceful, more flexible, more relaxed and we have all found that we do not need very much to be ok. A bit like Tanzania all over again, in a way. It is a reminder that we have more than enough and that is enough.

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The joy of being silly with friends

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Or alone!

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Can’t get to the shops, make your own burger buns. I am never buying burger buns again!

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Managed to get through a road block and have a sneaky ride

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One way to pass the time. Lotus flowers…

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More baking

People moan and they always will but I have been grateful for the way Thailand has handled this crisis. Initially, the response seemed to be slow but once they got going it all kicked into place. We have been well looked after. Temperature checks and hand sanitiser everywhere we go. House visits to check temperature and to deliver food essentials provided by the government. We also have excellent health care and we are not in an overcrowded place, many things to be grateful for.

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Shopping malls reopened with strict control measures

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Roadblock temperature checks

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Free food pantry 

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Government food deliveries

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Clean it up!

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Everyone is doing their bit by wearing masks

So, if you want some advice on what to watch on Netflix, let me know, I might just be able to help you out with that. Never has Netflix been so busy, did not know there was so much shit you could watch. How would we survive this without tech? Makes me wonder…

 

Marooned on a Tropical Island!

My last blog was in 2019; 2020 was on its way, full of promises, new opportunities and challenges and according to astrologists:

  • 2020 is all set to bring positive changes for all Zodiac signs. Hence, your 2020 will surely be full of positive vibes and happiness. Ok, right…
  • New onsets are always very exciting and astrology 2020 promises that and much more. There are plenty of good times ahead. Yeah, yeah…
  • On the first New Moon of 2020 which will be in Aquarius on 25th of January, the Yellow Earth Pig will finally wag its tail at us and depart handing over the reins of power to the White Metal Rat. Hmmm….

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So, here we are in the midst of a global pandemic; our worlds turned upside down, wondering how this virus will change the world and the way we live. Where will we be in 3 months, in 6 months, in one year? Nobody knows. Hopefully we will use this crisis to rebuild, produce something better and more humane. But we may slide into something worse. Who knows… I certainly have plenty of time on my hands to mull over my thoughts. Perhaps, a little too much time!

Life in Phuket is quiet and peaceful. We have food, we have water (well, not in my house at the moment) and we have electricity (for now, at least). The island has now been closed – bridge and ports are only open for very specific cargo. The airport will close in the next few days and beaches, shops, hotels and restaurants are closed but hey, we are marooned on a tropical island. Can’t say that is something that happens everyday.

On another note, the monkeys are going crazy as they are now not being feed by the thousands of tourists. There have been monkey riots and they are running around attacking everything desperate for food. STOP MESSING WITH ANIMALS!!!

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Bangkok In January – getting ready!

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No beach – nooooooo

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We are armed and dangerous

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The new reality

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How one local restaurant feels

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Everyone is now wearing masks

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You can even get them for babies!

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On our quest to go swimming, we finally found an empty beach – sometimes, forbidden fruit is truly wonderful

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Cat quarantine.

The worst thing so far has been renewing my visa. Two trips to a crowded, busy, very hot immigration office with plenty of forms and still no success. Hopefully, by the time you read this I will have been able to get it sorted.

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Before the world came to a standstill, we had some adventures though.

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“Our beach” at sunset

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Onto another viewpoint, this time in Phuket, Promthep Cape. Very lucky as it is usually packed but we were pretty much the only people there; maybe because it was so bloody hot!

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In our day to day life, we come across unusual things, like this display in a DIY shop in Phuket. Don’t ask…

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Another escapade into Coral Island. An amazing place for snorkeling and as there are no tourists around, we had the place almost to ourselves.

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Not my photo! Coral island beach with pontoon and reef.

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A truly beautiful place on our doorstep. Best of all (for us), there were no people around.

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From one beach to another with Marianne on Captain Hook. It was his first time on the beach and he loved it.

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United World College is a truly remarkable school. At UWC Thailand there are more than 60 nationalities in a school of 450 students. It is a place of diversity, unity and understanding where children and young people learn about each others cultures and engage in social change. This photo was taken during Pride week at UWC; it captures Marianne as a strong, proud young woman!

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And we are back in Bang Tao, on “our beach” where sadly we are not allowed to go at the moment.

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As I write this, more and more areas are going into lock down here in Phuket and road blocks are being put in place. Let’s see if we can beat this thing. At the moment, we can still drive around to certain areas but probably not for long… It is a time of some anxiety, for me getting sick scares me a little with the IBD as not sure how they might complement each other!

Being at home due to this virus has been a time of reframing our routines and learning to be together 24/7. It has been good so far; time to think, to reflect on our lives, to spend time together without stress, to focus on important things (like baking and chilling!) and to find out which friends are always there for us during hard times. There are some emotional ups and downs, mainly due to so much uncertainty although living in the moment is also very liberating. We will get through this one way or another….

Being at home and looking through photographs has unearthed these, some from a long time ago.

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One of my best buys. Make your toilet great again toilet brush!

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How I would look like as a man.

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Trip to Dublin on the Ducati, circa 1989

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Working for CAFOD in Mozambique, circa 1994

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Rasta waterfalls in Martinique, circa 1991

It is a good time to reminisce and to look forward to what is coming next. Stay safe dear friends.

More Asian and European wanderings….

As most of you know, my blogs are mainly about the photos with some information on the side. This one takes us to the end of 2019 and another set of adventures… Enjoy!

Another trip to Penang in Malaysia for yet another visa, no more until next year. At least Penang is an interesting and a fun place to spend two days at. This time I ventured out of town to see some temples and visited old Chinese mansions – there are plenty! Another great thing about Georgetown is the amazing Indian food, I always come back stuffed.

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Kek Lok Si Temple

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Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

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Sky Walk at Penang Hill

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Summer in Portugal never disappoints, in fact, we cannot think of many other places we would rather be. This time we explored Marvão and Castelo de Vide. What a stunning area; old medieval villages, castles and views to die for. If you like history, some of Castelo de Vide’s earliest inhabitants were the Romans who settled there in 44 BC. There is no shortage of cobbled streets, whitewashed houses with granite and gothic doorways.

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Castelo de Vide

20190624_10454920190624_10505820190624_11060820190624_11122220190624_11204420190624_163432We did a short hop to Cáceres in Spain which was truly amazing. The medieval walled city has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. Narrow cobbled streets twist and climb among ancient stone walls lined with palaces, mansions, arches and churches, while the skyline is decorated with turrets, spires, gargoyles and enormous storks’ nests. Protected by defensive walls, it has survived almost intact from its 16th-century. It is like stepping into the Middle Ages.

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Back to Marvão! A little bit of information from the internet as I love a bit of history: Perched on a quartzite crag of the Serra de São Mamede, Marvão’s name is derived from an 8th-century Muladi duke, named Ibn Marwan. Ibn Marwan, who constructed the Castle of Marvão – likely on the site of an earlier Roman watchtower – as a power base when establishing an independent statele – covering much of modern-day Portugal – during the Emirate of Cordoba (884-931 CE). The castle and walled village were further fortified through the centuries, notably under Sancho II of Portugal (13th century) and Denis of Portugal.

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Marvão by horse – can’t keep the girl away from these beasts….

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Evora

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As luck would have it, we stumbled upon Lisbon Pride, great fun!

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In Lisbon for the Santos Populares festivities

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Bansky exhibition in Lisbon

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LX Factory

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Quinta da Regaleira near Sintra is worth a visit. Never been there before and I am glad that I went! My favourites were the gardens, the secret tunnels and the inverted towers.

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Inverted tower

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The “other side” in Lisbon, across the bridge for lunch and to go up the Boca do Vento lift. Beautiful views and some cool graffiti.

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As a lover of graffiti, I took a day to explore and discover various murals around the city. There are some amazing graffiti artists around, here are some examples.

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Just a Lisbon doorway….

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EDP Headquarters, great modern architecture!

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My place!

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Some random photos of Phuket!

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Bang Tao beach, close to our house where we often go for sunsets.

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One my best buys of 2019! Make your toilet great again, Trump toilet brush.

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I wonder if he knows what his T-Shirt means….

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Getting ready for the rainy season in November

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How to make yourself confortable

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Phuket graffiti by Cece Nobre

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Phuket Town, no idea….

 

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Geoff finally finds out who he is

In April, we ventured into Laos to Luang Prabang. Beautiful town and we caught the Festival of Lights which celebrates Lai Heua Fai, in celebration of Boun Awk Phansa, the end of Buddhist Lent. The city was incredibly beautiful, illuminated by wax candles melting to pagodas and crepe paper lanterns hanging from temple roofs and the windows of local homes. Screen Shot 2020-01-19 at 12.35.53

 

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Going up to Mount Phou Si, 100 m high. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. Amazing views and a lovely temple!

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I love bugs!

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The Mekong

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Moon bears sanctuary – these poor bears are trafficked and suffer a terrible fate. They are trafficked as exotic pets but many are imprisoned and abused in bear farms, where they are often kept in tiny cages, unable to move, while catheters are inserted into their gall bladders to extract their bile, believed to have a multitude of health benefits in
traditional medicines.

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Kuang Si waterfall, so beautiful!!!

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Just a walkabout in Luang Prabang

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And we end the year in Bangkok to see the Christmas lights. Over the top and extravagant as always. Bangkok is a city of extremes and excess, you either love it or hate it. I am not too fond of it but am drawn to it now and then…

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Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia exhibition in Bangkok

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Cocktails in the sky

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And so ends another year in Thailand. Who knows what 2020 will bring?

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.

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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.

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Koh Chang

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These are popular….

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Flower arranging service

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Am I getting smaller?!

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Health and safety nightmare…

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