Saturday, 28 January 2012

Prachup Khiri Khan

Friday 20 January: A real highlight of the Upper Gulf is the laid-back provincial capital of Prachup Khiri Khan. Clinging to a wide island-studded bay there's good inexpensive seafood, a temple-topped mountain with a looking-glass shaped rock arch from which it gets it's name - Mirror Mountain, fantastic scenery and even free entertainment - swimming and diving monkeys in the temple moat.
Also, there are very few tourists, a large Chang beer is only 40 Bhat and I have a large and comfortable reasonably priced (250Bt) en-suite room in the Yuttichai Hotel.
I'll stay for a few days.

Photos of Prachup Khiri Khan.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Hua Hin

Thursday 19 January: My guidebook lists Hua Hin as one of the highlights of Thailand's Upper Gulf but really it's just an old fishing village virtually destroyed by the package tourism hotels strung along the beach, the taller ones casting afternoon shade over their sunbathing customers. At the heart of the old village is the terraced Hilton Hotel with nearby alleys of girly and sports bars with names like Liverpool FC, Man United and Celtic - each bar's livery matching the colour of their customers shirts.
The place's only saving graces are the good, but expensive, seafood and the pretty little wooden station viewed from a departing train.
Photos of Hua Hin.

Monday, 23 January 2012


Monday 16 January: I'm staying at Rabieng Rim Nam Guesthouse which has all I expect of a traditional teak-built house and more. The delightful little restaurant overlooks the breezy river and the owner plays Leonard Cohen music each evening. Taking an amble around most of the temples in town I end the day at Khao Luang cave, filled with hundreds of Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes.
Tuesday 17: It's a steep climb to the top of Khoa Wang (Palace Hill) which is topped by temples and palaces but the sights and views are just reward.
Photos of Phetchaburi.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Thailand: Bangkok

Wednesday 11 January: Wearing shorts and sandals it's great to be warm again and back in the comfort of Tuptim B&B in Soi Rambuttri, Bangkok. It's noisy at night but spotlessly clean and a good deal at 300 Bhat (around £6) for a light and airy fan room, including a light breakfast and free Wifi. I'm enjoying a pork steak (50Bt) and a big Chang beer (44Bt) at Mr Yim's in the north part of Rambuttri (what an unfortunate translation) and then heading back to Tuptim. Musicians play and sing in the restaurants nearby with John Denver songs being particularly popular. Mixed foreign and Thai couples sing along to the choruses, some more enthusiastically than others . . .

So kiss me and smile for me,
Tell me that you'll wait for me,
Hold me like you never let me go.
'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again.
Oh babe, I hate to go.

Sunday 15: All my boxes are ticked, laundry done (20Bt per kilo), teeth cleaned and polished (700Bt), haircut and shave (100Bt), silk boxer shorts (four pairs, 100Bt), traditional Thai massage (150Bt), guidebook (250Bt), mosquito coils and repellant (108Bt), Inland Revenue tax paid (don't ask), cold weather gear stored (10Bt per day), so I'm heading south to see some temples.
My photos of Bangkok from August and September 2010, and, those from January and June 2011.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

New Delhi: Paharganj

Sunday 8 January: I'm staying at the, only slightly grubby, Hotel Downtown in Main Bazaar, Paharganj, near New Delhi station. Since my last visit, in March 2010, I'm impressed by three improvements. Firstly, lining the "pissing wall" opposite the station there is now a row of gleaming, spotlessly clean, free-of-charge toilets. The little Tibetan Bakery restaurant I loved so much has expanded into a delightful former mosque next door and, unusually for this part of the world, it's non-smoking. Thirdly, the slickness and efficiency of the Airport Metro Express is almost unbelievable for India, there are even working flight departure boards at the New Delhi end. But, after all, this is India - a country full of surprises.
Photos of Paharganj area of New Delhi plus photos of Delhi from November 2009 and March 2010.

Friday, 13 January 2012

India: Kushinagar

Friday January 6: Ramabh Stupa, an unremarkable pile of red bricks, marks the funerary site of the 80 year old Buddha who died here in 543BC. With saffron-robbed monks meditating it's a pleasantly calm and tidy place to contemplate life. The shrine of Matha Kuar with a Buddha statue in the attitude of touching earth indicates where he gave his last sermon and the white-domed Nivarna Temple has a Buddha statue reclining on his right side with his head facing westward representing the dieing Buddha.
The most spectacular of the modern temples is the golden Burmese stupa, the Thai one is the prettiest and the modest Tibetan temple is a good place to stay.

Saturday 7: Bus to Gorakhpur's enormous high-tech station for the 17:05 Vaishali Express sleeper to New Delhi.
Photos of Kushinagar.


Monday 2 January 2012: Bus to Bhairawa and a local fume-belcher to Limbini's busy bazaar. Where better to start the New Year?
Tuesday 3: Buddhism is not a religion as it is not based on a god but on a philosophy and moral code thought out by a human being, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known to the world as Buddha. Here in Limbini, in 563BC, is where he was born.
There's not much to see but Devi Temple that marks the site, Ashoka's pillar and the small adjacent lake are very serene. The rest of the area is a building site of new temples, most reflecting the style of their home country, in various stages of construction.
Wednesday 4: Local bus back to Bhairawa, jeep to Sanauli, the border town with India, and another local bus to the Indian railhead town of Gorakhpur for the night.
Photos of Limbini.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Friday 23 December: Pokhara's only a quarter of a mile or so lower in altitude than Kathmandu but it's a lot warmer and less congested. I've bargained a 450 Rupee en-suite room with hot water and a balcony in the modern Peace Plaza hotel overlooking the lake. It's nice, so I'll stay here for the New Year
Sunday 25: Merry Christmas. It's a good walk around the south of the lake and up through woodland to the World Peace Pagoda with fantastic views from it's little garden over the lake and up to the Annapurna Himal with Machapuchare (Fish Tail Mountain) at it's centre. Stopping here for a simple lunch it's a great place to spend Christmas day.
Back in Pokhara, dinner in the evening is an avocado and mandarin starter followed by pumpkin soup, spit-roast boar with Mustang apricots and, fig and walnut cheesecake, all washed down by a velvety Aussie Shiraz which cost more than the entire meal. I had promised myself a Buddhist meditation course as a present but, somewhat surprisingly, the ashram is closed for Christmas.
Monday 26: It's a long walk through the old part of town to the Gurkha Museum and tales of Victoria crosses and battle heroics.
Tuesday 27: The International Mountain Museum is mostly photographs and stories of first ascents of the world's highest peaks but the views from the garden to the Annapurna range are stunning.
Wednesday 28: Strolling north around the lake I reach Pame Bazaar. There's not much here but the countryside is pretty and the bird life along the river and lakeside is varied and plentiful.
Saturday 31: It's party time and Pokhara Lakeside's main street is now traffic-free so all of the businesses have spilled-out into the road with tombola stalls and such-like that wouldn't look out of place at an English village fete. The little Tibetan Kitchen Restaurant, serving up dhall bhat, momos and hot tongba beer is my favourite
Potos of Pokhara.