St Ives – as good as being abroad!

St Ives or in Cornish, Porth Ia, meaning St Ia’s cove is a gorgeous slice of coastal loveliness nestled north of Penzance.

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It’s a big hit with artists due to the quality of the light, and while i don’t usually subscribe to all that gumpf, it does indeed seem to have an especially clear, blueish tinge to the air, making everything seem clearer and more fresh.

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It was a blustery, fresh day when we visited but the sunshine did make an appearance from time to time, showing the beach and pretty village to it’s best advantage.

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The white sand and turquoise sea would have you believe that you were in Italy or some other exotic Mediterranean coast.

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It’s so ruddy cold however that my fingers can barely take the snapshots!

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However Neil is still super happy at being by the sea again!

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There’s lots of lovely little alley ways to get lost in and shops to sample the local delicacies. Here’s one of the amusingly entitled streets (childish I know . . )

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and an interesting combo to tempt your taste buds!

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Surf’s up!

After settling into our four berth caravan at Seaview International Holiday Park we plot the next move.

The caravan is immaculate and well fitted with one good sized double room and a small room with two single beds. Ideal for a family with younger children but a bit of a squeeze for four adults!!!

First on the itinerary, our perennial favourite, and surfers hangout, Newquay! Parking up at Fistral Beach we enjoyed a bracing walk across the sands.

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Not much surf but still flotillas of wanna be wave riders cluster on the sands and shiver in the sea. We pick our way across the slimy seaweedy rocks to gaze at the still blue waters.

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It takes me back in time to my several, ill fated, attempts at mastering the white horses . . . forget standing up, I couldn’t even seem to lie on the board. Preferring it would seem to continually roll off the sides like a drunken walrus.

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Even on a chilly day the beach is still full of hardy souls, erecting wind breaks, cowering beneath piles of coats and jumpers as red faced children leap into rock pools and run, shrieking, from the icy waters.

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The headland hotel surveys the action from its lofty perch high on the cliff side.

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Despite the chill, it is still a lovely place to visit and when the sun briefly shows its face, it gives any foreign beach a run for its money.

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We head past the Headland Hotel and pay a visit to the Huer’s Hut. Named after the Huer, an important figure in the pilchard fishing industry that once thrived in Newquay.

The Huer would watch out from his high vantage point for the shoals of fish to arrive in the bay and then call out to the town by shouting ‘Heva, Heva’.

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And then we have a potter around the harbour to see the floaty boaties and the fishermen coming in with their catch.

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The flotillas of little boats come chugging into the harbour, fishermen hollering to their friends on shore, demanding hot tea or a fortifying pint.

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Skip skip skip to the Looe . . .

Next up on our whizz around the South of the UK is the cute little fishing village of Looe.

Looe has one of the largest fishing fleets on the Cornish coast and has a long maritime history.

Didn’t have long here, just time to grab a few snaps including this of the most classily named establishment in the world!

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In medieval times there were two towns on opposite banks of the River Looe. East Looe includes the fishing harbour, the main shopping centre and the sandiest beach.

The two towns are now one, joined by a bridge across the Looe river which flows into the sea.

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You can saunter along the “Banjo Pier” – unsurprisingly this is a pier in the shape of a banjo!

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It is also home to some rather hungry, vicious locals . . .

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And a dedicated rowing squad who happened to be heading out to sea as we stood watching.

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Aside from a lovely stretch of beach, Looe has lots of tiny backstreets that you could easily loose a few hours in.

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Cornwall for Easter

Bit of a change of pace now, from the heat and colour of Thailand to the sunny yet blustery South coast for our annual Easter jaunt.

Stopping overnight in Plymouth to break up the long drive we were headed for Cornwall and the little fishing village of Mevagissey.

First up on routehowever – Rame Head to visit the volunteer’s in the National Coastwatch Institution lookout on the top of the headland.

These dedicated souls give up their free time to monitor and record the vessels going into Plymouth harbour and listen to the radio frequencies for boats in distress.

They asked if we were “from abroad” (ie England) as the Cornish consider themselves a breed apart from their Northerly counterparts. Incidently, a few days later, the Cornish were officially recognised as a national minority group. Next up passports to enter Kernow? . . .

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The Rame headland has a prominent but lonely little chapel, dedicated to St Michael, accessible only by a steep footpath . . . and off we clamber.

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St Michael’s chapel was first licensed for Mass in 1397 and is probably on the site of a much earlier, Celtic, hermitage.

It remains as an intact shell with intricately built stone walls shoring it up against the bracing weather.

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Dartmoor ponies are dotted around the headland grazing in the sunshine.

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They look very cute but the signs warn that they kick and bite! I don’t need telling twice but some people just have to get closer!

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I sneak upto one of the deceptively placid little fluff balls to grab a snap before running away again.

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The Rame headland is prominent to sailors and fishermen leaving Plymouth through Plymouth Sound.

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Very often it’s the last piece of land they see when leaving England, and the first they see when returning home.

According to my favourite internet guru (Wikipedia) Rame Head appears in the sea shanty “Spanish Ladies”.

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Spanish Ladies lyrics (in case you’re curious about ancient sea shanties!)

The first land we sighted was call-ed the Dodman,
Next Rame Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland and Wight;
We sailed by Beachy, by Fairlight and Dover, (or “Dungeness”)
And then we bore up for the South Foreland light.

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Here’s a few more snaps of the tiny but speedy Dartmoor ponies as they chomp their way contently across the grass.

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Next up is the tiny picturesque village Looe before our final destination – squashing four adults into a caravan outside of Mevagissey!

Dancing for Gods and Fallen Heroes

Well that’s it for the Thai reminiscing folks. All the heat and colour is captured,  trapped like insects in amber and laid out for your readerly enjoyment!

While I plan the next global jaunt I’ll be taking a random look back at oddities from trips gone by. Here’s one about architectural details . . . .

As I travelled around various different Asian countries and snapped away at all the fascinating temples, a particular decorative element kept catching my eye.

Beautiful slender, elegant women, dancing, adorn so many temples from Angkor Wat in Cambodia to hill side temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the many ornate temples in India.

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I know them as Apsara, and decided to find out a bit more about the meaning behind the symbolism (by which I mean I went on Wikipedi!!)

According to the bastion of internet knowledge “An Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.”

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I read one of the most beautiful descriptions of Apsara while in Cambodia “Dancing for Gods and Fallen Heroes”.

Below are just a few of the delicate celestial dancers to be found at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, captured in stone forever but still swaying to the universe’s music.

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English translations of the word Apsara can include nymph and celestial maiden.

Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings who excel in dancing. They are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra.

They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, and entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men.

They pop up all over the place – here they are decorating a Jain temple in the Indian city of Udiapur,

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As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often shown taking flight, or at service of a god, they may be compared to angels.

Here are a few more of the cheeky ladies carved into the amazing, ornate pillars at the Indian temple of Ranakpur in Rajashthan.

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Damnoen Saduak floating market

We had a single day in Bangkok before heading home and wanted to do something we’d not done before. I had fancied visiting a floating market and never managed it during the last trip.

So we headed off to the most famous one Damnoen Saduak which is a fair ole ride out of the city in a very cramped van on a very pot holed road! (equalling one very sore butt . . )
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Now I had heard various reports about the market, namely it was a tourist trap, you got dropped off at the wrong place and had to pay more to get to the actual market etc. In short the usual Thai experience.

In truth it was incredibly busy and full of tourists (more tourists clogging up boats and walkways than actual vendors!) full of people over charging for cheap items, trying to get you posing with a snake and other annoyances.

However it was still fun! Lots of colour, piles of food, spices, wooden carved artwork, fans, buddhas and other items to browse.

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Fancy a grilled banana or a conical hat? Sorted! Ditto a coffee, fridge magnet, tea-towel, boiled dry fish, peppercorns, pineapple, sticky rice and mango and more!

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More of the tiny dried shrimps that seem ubiquitous in Thailand on every street corner, market stall and food vendor.

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But there’s more. Pre packed fruit and nuts, plenty of tempting piles of jewel bright morsels.

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There was also a wide selection of traditional headgear in evidence. Including one that appeared to levitate above the wearer’s actual head!

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This style of bamboo-hat is called a ngob and protects from the sun and heat. The space between the hat and head allows air to circulate, keeping the wearer cooler.

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The colourful wares for sale are a nice contrast to the grey, grimy water of the canals.

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While a canny sales man waits with his slippery photo opportunity.

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Long tail Thai boats

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One of the prettiest beach spectacles are lines of traditional Thai longtail fishing boats all bobbing in the shallows.

P1090491Garlanded with colourful flowers to bring the skipper and crew good luck they are a ubiquitous sight on many Thai beaches.

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Now often used to ferry boatloads of tourists around the islands, these lovely wooden vessels always make for fantastic photos.

Here’s the line up of boats at Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh.

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The colourful ribbons provide a vivid contrast to the almost unreal turquoise of the tranquil seas.

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The boats are basically a tractor engine with an extra long prop shaft that acts as a rudder as well. They produce a distinctive sound as they bomb across the sea.

They can produce quite a cloud of smoke though and do contribute to the pollution of the area.

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Morality messages or art as shock?

I don’t usually deviate from my usual blog post style of posting lots of lovely photos and creating a visual diary of my travels, more for my own memory aid then anything else to be honest!

But I spotted an article today on that bastion of journalistic prowess – the Daily Mail – about a tourist who was offended and shocked by one of the murals at Wat Rong Khun, the gorgeous white temple in Chiang Rai .

This intrigued me as I have very recently visited the temple and was enchanted by it. While the exterior of the temple is a spun sugar confectionery of whimsical whiteness and shiny mirrors, the inner temple is a riot of colour, depictions of demons and hell and unusual modern imagery.

Photos are forbidden inside the temple however (gahh!)  which I why I have none to post. But many others were not so considerate and you can find lots of pictures online.

The murals feature a wide range of disparate subject matter ranging from superman and the villain from the Saw movies to the striking and emotive image of the trade towers being hit by a plane on 9/11.

What has this to do with Buddhism you may well ask? Some say it is a reminder that superheroes can’t save you, only the supreme love of Buddha, others speculate it is a warning against the evils of materialism and sensualism.

Whatever the actual meaning that architect Chalermchai Kositpipat meant his paintings to convey, it certainly divides opinion and sparks debate.

You can read the whole article below (although when I say article, I actually mean – one angry quote from an unnamed Nottingham bloke and then some words that the Mail just lifted straight off a blog and published – epic journalism skills there – no really I do mean it! )

Daily Mail – Tourist offended by murals 

What are your thoughts? Are you offended by the use of the trade towers? Do you feel that Kositpipat is right to appropriate this tragedy for his own ends?

Snorkeling and freaking at fishes

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We quite like the beach, the water, the waves and the sandy stuff. However it all gets a bit more intense when forced to come into close contact with the inhabitants of the big wet sea place!

Hence the slightly manic grin on my face here. It is partly due to the rather bumpy / terrifying speed boat death ride we’d just endured, but also down to the fact we are about to SNORKEL!!!

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I am not a sporty person.This face says it all . . .

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Snorkeling is no exception to this rule.

However, once I stop panicking and trying to manically breathe through my nose, and squealing at waves, and freaking out at shoals of fish, then I am fine . . ish.

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Like a large, unwieldy, multi-coloured floaty fish I blend in effortlessly . . . just as long as the actual fish stay far, far, FAR away from me. Occasionally some brushed against me. I think they were doing it on purpose.

Look at the beady glint in their tiny little soulless black eyes . . . .

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Neil however is part merman and enjoys a spot of free diving amongst the sinister gilled ones.

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Christmas day at the beach

So, as Phuket is rip off city and the local tuc tuc mafia charge extortionate prices to get anywhere, we only went on one day trip during our week stay.

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That was on Christmas day and was a hair raising (and very bumpy) speedboat trip to Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding islands. Here’s me barely keeping my hair on!!

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We make a brief stop at Monkey Beach in Tonsai Bay. The beach got its name from the crab-eating Macaque monkey colony living here but is littered with rubbish from tourists and was quite a sad spectacle really,

The main attraction of the day was Koh Phi Phi Leh’s Maya Bay – a broken circle of crystal-clear waters surrounded by high vertical rocky cliffs.

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It is here that the Hollywood blockbuster The Beach was filmed. Simultanously putting Thailand on the mainstream map and paving the way for its inevitable downfall.

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The beach is crammed with hundreds of tourists, all vying for the ideal picture postcard snap of white sand and turquoise sea.

It is there of course, as you can see by my very carefully composed photos, hiding the multitudinous masses.

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Here’s some of the traditional Thai fishing boats moored up along the shoreline.

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We also floated past the Viking cave where swifts’ nests are harvested to prepare the world-famous bird’s nest soup.

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The platforms are a rickety looking set up. It’s amazing that anyone can do a decent days work on those.

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We then ate our Christmas lunch overlooking the beach on Koh Phi Phi Don – not bad!!!

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It’s a little bit different to sprouts and roast potatoes!!! Next up snorkeling and more beaches.

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