Nature

Get Inspired About What You See

I had this title written down for ages, but it wasn’t until I went to Chiang Rai in June that I finally got round to thinking about it and it wasn’t hard to find something that inspired me.

The countryside in the north of Thailand is just beautiful and, living in Bangkok, I sometimes forget just how beautiful it really is.

Things to do in Thailand
Beautiful Chiang Rai

I was just awe struck at the nature around me in Chiang Rai. The greens and browns of the open fields…

 

Things to do in Thailand
Colours of Nature

…mountains…

Things to do in Thailand
Kok River running through the mountains

…rice paddies…

Things to do in Thailand
Rice paddies-not quite lush green

…trees proudly sporting their sweet and fleshy bananas and mangoes…

Things to do in Thailand
Fresh mangoes

Flowers- purple, yellow, white, red, all manner of gorgeous bright colours in every shape and form you could imagine.

Things to do in Thailand
Periwinkle Pinks

The blue skies with white fluffy clouds, clear and bright sunny days followed by the grey of a threatening storm before the clouds burst and the earth drowned under a barrage of rain.

Things to do in Thailand
Blue Skies
Things to do in Thailand
Grey skies and rainbows

Birds-swooping and diving looking for their next meal or chattering to one another in the branch of a nearby tree.

Things to do in Thailand
On the wing
Things to do in Thailand
A resting sparrow

It was the beginning of the season and the land around me was brown and dying because of the lack of rain, but the changing face of nature will soon transform the environment into brilliant green and lush landscapes once more.

Things to do in Thailand
Brown fields, soon to be sprouting with new rice shoots
Things to do in Thailand
Harvesting!

Green is my favourite colour and you can see it all around. Chlorophyll, responsible for all manner of greens; brilliant, emerald, forest, moss and jungle-all green, all different hues and values, in varying amounts, different forms, different shapes and sizes and all combine to form something that should be appreciated.

 

It wasn’t only the colours of nature that inspired me, the sounds of nature both inspired and impressed me. I sat outside my room in the evening and became aware of insects playing their nightly song, all in sync. Midges buzzing, singing cicadas, croaking frogs and, then, silence! A second later, their chorus of pulsating buzzes was back again. I was distracted by the local cat calling in the distance, but I chuckled to myself because it added to the free music festival I was enjoying.

Things to do in Thailand
Friendly cat who was all too vocal in the evenings!

Then, fireflies attracting mates or prey with their cool trick of bioluminescence. I sat and listened and watched. It’s not often I experience these sounds, but it was an immense pleasure to just stop what I was doing and listen along. It really was amazing.

Things to do in Thailand
Dragonfly obsession!

Nature is nothing less than wonderful, just the sheer diversity of it is mind-blowing. I was well and truly blown away. If you ever get the chance to visit the north of Thailand, I recommend Chiang Rai wholeheartedly! 🙂

Things to do in Thailand
Kok River

If you would like to share some of things that inspire you, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Poetry in Motion

Things to do in Sri Lanka
Poetry in Motion

A kite, soaring on the breeze
swirling and swooping
beat back by one smaller

hovering

wings flapping to keep still
searching, searching
no luck

moving on
soaring
gliding across the air currents

try again

NO

Up, up again
swirling
spying until
something is there..

getting lower

hovering

a speedy dart back to earth
talons outstretched

a flurry of wings
as claws and fur collide

success at last!

Back at the nest, all will rest until the next day

Inspired as nature unfolded in Chiang Rai, June 2018

Reflections

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous day tramping around Dovedale in the Peak District of England. Along the 3 km route, we passed caves known as the Dove Holes, used the stepping stones to cross the river and meandered along the path until we reached Milldale, a village of beautiful stone cottages with gardens full of brighly-coloured flowers. It would be so lovely to live there! From there, we turned around and retraced our route and ended the day, back at one of my friend’s houses, with a BBQ and beers. It was such a great day out, not only for the green and glorious countryside, but I spent the day with some very good friends.

Things to do around the world
Dovedale, UK

In Cyprus, my friend and I and my mum and dad visited the Paphos Archaeological Park. I love these kind of places, I’m fascinated with the history and this one didn’t disappoint. There were ruins galore, remains of beautiful mosaics, and an ancent amphitheatre. I was in my element. I remember it being so hot that day, but it was nice to get out into the countryside with three of my favourite people.

Things to do around the world
Paphos Archaeological Park, Paphos, Cyprus

I arranged to meet my friend in Adu Dhabi and, one day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went up the Burj Khalifa, a real treat with phenomenal views for miles around. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. It was a trip to remember.

Things to do around the world
Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Wat Po in Bangkok reminds me how much I love exploring my city. I love just going out, with my camera, and visiting my favourite places and there are plenty of new places that I find all the time. There is a never ending source of things to see.

Things to do around the world
Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent seven weeks in New Zealand and at first I really didn’t want to be there. I had just come from Thailand and I missed everything about it, but thank God I got over that because I ended up having the best time there. I did so much and saw some wonderful things in that short space of time, including these Mirror Lakes. The water is so clear and still, it created some gorgeous reflections.

Things to do around the world
Mirror Lakes, New Zealand

Whenever I used to go home, I always made the trip to Scotland to see my Nana, who is, sadly, no longer with us. This day, my mum and I had taken a trip to Edinburgh and we had lunch in the Halfway House. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Scotland, so I never really got to enjoy the city as an adult. It’s a beautiful place, and, although I wouldn’t choose to live there again, it’s nice to go back to my roots.

Things to do around the world
Edinburgh’s Smallest Pub, Edinburgh, UK

New Zealand again, this time in Bluff. I’d rented a car, from Dunedin, and taken a road trip down to the south coast. It was New Zealand’s winter time, so I had the place, almost, to myself. I took the Bluff Heritage Trail, through wind-worn forests with brilliant views out to sea. I was also treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf. On the way back to Dunedin, I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in Owaka, so cold that I had to wear five layers, all under a blanket. Brrr! I can still feel the cold. It was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and sightseeing.

Things to do around the world
Bluff Heritage Trail, Bluff, New Zealand

In 2013, I graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor of Science with honours. I can’t tell you how proud I was! I wasn’t even going to go to the graduation ceremony, but a friend suggested I go, otherwise he thought I would regret it. I was glad I did. It was in Manchester and my mum came with me. The ceremony was a little nerve-wracking, but everyone there had all done something that was really worth this grand occasion. Afterwards, my mum and I took to the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks in a Thai restaurant.

Things to do around the world
Manchester, UK

Another day out in New Zealand and this day took me on a jaunt along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It was on a day when I was supposed to be going whale watching, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So I wrapped up and went off in exploration of the local area, through farmland and forests, until I reached the black-pebbled beach, and sea. I did loads of other stuff in Kaikoura, like horse-riding, wine tasting, cave exploring and having a Thai meal in a restaurant that didn’t have a liquour license, but not to worry, I had two lovely bottles of wine in my hand that I had bought from the winery. How’s that for good luck?

Things to do around the world
Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whenever I’ve visited my rellys in Adelaide, they’ve taken me out and about to see stuff and we’ve gone to Granite Island a couple of times. It’s a small island next to Victor Harbour, small enough so you can walk around passed huge boulders, plants dancing in the sea breeze, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the cute fairy penguins which live there. It’s even better when you’ve got Ernie by your side telling you about all the different plants and animals there.

Things to do around the world
Granite Island, Adelaide, Australia

I love going to Adelaide and the last time I went was for Christmas in 2014. I wanted to do some exercise, so my cousin suggested we hike up Mount Lofty. So, at 6.00am we started our day, along with my other cousin and his daughter, Amy. When we arrived at Mount Lofty, we stopped at this map which showed the different routes available to the top. I asked “Where are we?” Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign. She giggled “We are here!” I didn’t live that down for the next thirty minutes, she couldn’t stop laughing! It was a fabulous morning out in the sunshine, followed by a well deserved coffee afterwards.

Things to do around the world
Mount Lofty, Adelaide, Australia

A few years back, I spent a month on Koh Tao with friends. One day, I said I was going to visit a resort called Mango Bay. The best and easiest way to get there is by boat, but I wanted to walk across the island and my friends jumped at the chance to come with me. It was such an arduous journey, slowly going up some very steep hills with nothing on our feet but flip-flops. When we finally made it to the top, dripping in sweat, we took a well deserved break at the Mountain Bar. The views from our vantage point made us forget how hard it was getting there.

Things to do around the world
Views of Koh Tao, Thailand

Another day out in Adelaide with my two cousins, Scott and Craig. We walked along the Torrens River before heading back to the city through the botanical gardens. I love trees and this Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, was worthy of a photo. It was thought to be living between 1,500 and 2000 years ago and it died when it was 500 years old! Imagine the things it has seen in its lifetime. We finished our walk at my favourite bar in Adelaide, The Austral, somewhere I try to visit whenever I’m in town.

Things to do around the world
Ancient Tree, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia

Vachiratharn Waterfall is located in Doi Inthanon National Park, near to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand and I went there when I first came to Thailand in 2008. Throughout the day, I did bamboo rafting and stood on the highest point in Thailand. In the evening, the tour guide asked me out for a few drinks with him and his friends. We didn’t go anywhere fancy, just a little roadside bar, but we had such a fun night and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, there may be times when you feel lost or lonely sometimes, and I certainly felt that throughout my travels, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.

Things to do around the world
Vachiratharn Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I like to be reminded of some of the things that I’ve done. I wish I had a photographic memory and remembered everything I have ever done, which is why I love to take so many photographs! 🙂

What makes you remember some of the things you’ve done? 🙂

The Changing Seasons-April 2018

The Changing Seasons post, inspired by the lovely Sarah at Secret Art Expedition and hosted by Su at Zimmerbitch. I must say, I am loving writing these posts, it reminds me of everything I’ve done during the month, from the big things right down to the small. So, without further ado, here’s what I got up to in April.

I started the month with a visit to one of my favourite drinking dens, Le Cafe des Stagiaires, with my little partner in crime, Chris! It’s a lovely little bar in Sathorn, with happy hour deals, always good in my book, and a nice atmosphere with seats on the pavement, canopied by the trees that line Soi 12. You can really imagine that you’re in Europe somewhere! 🙂

Things to do in Bangok
Le Cafe des Stagiaires
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton

I work really unsociable hours and my hours don’t match Chris’s, so when he’s off, I’m not, and vice versa. But, Sundays are a good day for both of us, even if Chris is meant to be working, he gives in sometimes and we enjoy our “Sunday Sessions,” as we’ve fondly named them.

Things to do in freetime
Sunday Sessions
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton
Things to do in freetime
So uncouth!!! It was a non-alcoholic drink that we put to good use in our Mojitos! Actually not bad!!
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton

There is an abundance of different colours and many different species of flowers and plants at my local park, so I always stop mid-run to photograph a few.

The best thing I did in April was to visit Italy to celebrate my birthday (35 AGAIN!!!) I met my mum and dad there and what a wonderful week we had together. Honestly, I took SO many photos and I plan to write about my visit there, but these are just a few of my favourite places.

Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica
Things to do in Rome
Ponte Sant’Angelo
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Roman Forum
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navonna
Things to do in Rome
The Duomo, Florence
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Del Popolo
Things to do in Rome
The Pantheon
Things to do in Rome
The Spanish Steps

When I got back to Bangkok, I still had a few days holiday, so me and Chris when to Escape, a new roof top bar located, strangely, on the fifth floor of one of the monstrous shopping malls here in the city. It was glitzy and glamourous and the drinks were fairly pricey, but we were making the most of a rare weekend off, for me at least.

Places to go in Bangkok
Creativity in wine!!
Places to go in Bangkok
Decorated bar

Good old Facebook 😉 reminded me of one of my all time favourite tunes; Tiesto’s Adagio for Strings. It stirred up a good few memories from the past and it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it!

I was introduced to the Mark Steel lectures by a friend earlier this year, and I finally got round to watching one of them. He takes famous people from the past, like Freud, Aristole, and Napoleon and tells their story in a way that is informative yet hilarious!

And finally, it was my 50th birthday! God knows how I got to be 50, I am still 18 in my heart and head! (Not so in body- it takes me days to get over a night out!) Still, they say life begins at 30/40/50/60/70…!! After a few months of actually freaking out about it, I have accepted this fact, after all, it’s only a number !!! I stopped counting at 35 anyway!!! 😉

If you would like to join me and the others in this challenge, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

Parks and the City #2

My favourite park, and possibly my favourite place to go, in Bangkok is King Rama IX Park. It’s not far from where I live and I go there to run most weeks. Sometimes, I go there just with my camera because, around every corner, there is so much to photograph and I never get tired of taking photos of the same things, but I always manage to find something novel.

There is plenty of wildlife to encounter. Here are a few of the birds and animals that I regularly see there.

Parks in Bangkok
Little Egret
Parks in Bangkok
Water Monitor, looking at me, looking at him (or her)!
Parks in Bangkok
Chinese Pond Heron. I love the light on the water, it looks like it’s been painted using thin strokes
Parks in Bangkok
Green Bulbul

There are so many beautiful flowers in the park too.

Once a year, in December, there is a flower festival called The Magnificent Plants that Beautify the Suan Luang Rama IX Flowers Festival. Fantastic name, don’t you think? It really is a great time to visit because they make a special effort to plant new flowers, so there is an outburst of colour during the festival.

During the festival, many people have stalls where they create beautiful displays of flowers for people to buy.

There is more than just flowers and plants to buy, there’s also Thai food and handicrafts.

King Rama IX is a huge park, covering around 200 acres and there are 2,300 plant species and loads of trees for shade on a sunny day, which is usually everyday here.

There are 6 different areas to the park.

Parks in Bangkok
International Garden with a Roman temple
Parks in Bangkok
The Garden of the Great King with the Ratchamangkala Pavilion
Parks in Bangkok
The Romanee Garden with flowers and plants that have been taken from other parts of Thailand to recreate the different environments from across the country.

Parks in Bangkok

Parks in Bangkok
Mangrove Forest walkway

The trunk of this tree reminds me of a giraffe setting out on a walk! Can you see it?

Parks in Bangkok

Then, there are the people who, like me, enjoy this beautiful green space a great deal. It depends on the time of day I visit as to whether there are many people about. The park gets busier as the sun goes down.

Parks in Bangkok
Sleeping
Parks in Bangkok
Chatting
Parks in Bangkok
Catching up on social media
Parks in Bangkok
Playing
Parks in Bangkok
Taking photos

And last but not least.

Parks in Bangkok
Getting married!

I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt around King Rama IX Park. Just one of Bangkok’s parks in the city! 🙂

 

 

 

Parks and the City

I love going on jaunts around Bangkok and, invariably, I’ll find myself in one of the parks in the city.  Sometimes, I plan to go there, but other times I’ll wander through on my way somewhere. It’s so lovely to see all that green hidden amongst the concrete, and, even though you can still see the buildings all around, it really feels like you’re miles away.

So, let’s take a wander through Lumphini Park…

Things to do in Bangkok

In 2016, park officials removed some of the 400 water monitors living in Lumphini Park because they have been damaging plants and scaring people, some of them are over 10 ft long!

Things to do in Bangkok

Jogging anyone? Lumphini Park, just like most others in Bangkok, is a popular place for people who wish to exercise once the sun starts to sink and it gets a little cooler! Although, these enthusiasts were out enjoying themselves at 3.40pm!

Things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok

What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon, canoeing on the lake, right in the middle of the city!

Things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra

Things to do in Bangkok

There aren’t many people around, it’s far too hot yet, but this means I get the place, almost, to myself!

Things to do in Bangkok
Things to do in Bangkok
I hope you enjoyed today’s wanderings. Join me for the next one soon! 🙂 In the meantime, check out my Top 6 Parks in Bangkok!

Sea Turtle Hatchery at Peraliya

One of the most magical experiences I have ever done was to release baby turtles into the sea. In Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, my friend, Mark, told me that he had been to the hatchery several times before I got there, and each time they told him that the turtles would be released very soon. Mark wanted me to be there when the babies were released, and he hoped that I wouldn’t miss it.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

During the week, we walked down to the hatchery from home, and the guy told us that they would be liberating the babies the following evening.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

So, the next day we returned, only to be met by a big group of people. Obviously, the news had spread and they too wanted to witness this spectacle. The guy who runs the hatchery told us about their charges. Some of the larger turtles had been injured by boats or had lost a flipper from being entangled in nets.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

The ones that had lost flippers aren’t able to swim straight in the sea and become easy prey, so they are rescued and kept at the hatchery until they are able to be released. The manager told us that he teaches them how to swim and catch food again. He does this by reducing the amount of water in the tank and when the turtle can swim and feed easily, he increases the water level. It continues like that until the turtle can swim and feed in deeper water. Once they have fully recuperated, they are released back into the wild.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

I was amazed, not only at his knowledge of sea turtles, but his compassion for wanting to help these beautiful creatures was inspiring. I am never quite sure whether these establishments really do have the animals best interests at heart, or whether it’s just a money making scheme, but I felt differently about this place. They really seemed to want to be help the animals and be involved in the conservation of the species.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, people eat turtle eggs, however the hatchery takes on the task of collecting the eggs from the beach or paying the fisherman for them. They are then taken back to the hatchery and it’s here that the babies will begin their lives. The eggs are buried in sand and they incubate until they are ready to hatch. The people working at the hatchery are careful to replicate things as they would be in the wild, so after the eggs are buried, the sand is built up in a conical shape, so when the babies hatch, the sand collapses in on them and the turtles have to scrabble to make their way out into the world.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

We made our way to the small beach where loads of others had congregated, waiting for this wonderful spectacle. We noticed a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) flying overhead. We watched as the kite was attacked by three, considerly, smaller birds, maybe protecting their young perhaps, or trying to get rid of the competition for what was about to happen.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

We did think it odd that the kite was there at the exact same time as the turtles were being released. Although, I guess, this is what happens in the wild, predators know when events like this are happening and they congregrate. However, this is the unfortunate thing with human intervention. On one hand, the hatchery works tirelessly in their effort to protect the turtles, but the mere fact that they collect eggs from the beach and release the babies amidst a crowd of tourists must alert predators to what they are doing. Brahminy Kites are intelligent birds, and they use associative learning in the wild where visual and auditory cues help them to search for food.

The guys in charge told everyone that each person could come and take a baby to release. We weren’t expecting that! We thought it would be observing only! We were thrilled, although come to think of it now, the babies may have been a tad scared of these big human forms looming in over them. But, they seemed eager to get on their way, their flippers flapping vigorously. So with cute baby in between gentle fingers, we were told to line up and let them go all at once.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

And off they went! They were tiny, but they were so determined to reach the water. The waves had other ideas though, and swept the little ones back to where they had started. But they continued on and, eventually, after much encouragement from the humans, they made it to the sea, and there they began their journey into deeper water and through their long lives.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Suddenly, the Brahminy Kite reappeared, flew overhead, took a swooping dive, and swiped one of the babies up into its beak. We all shouted at it, like that was going to do any good. We thought about what happens in the wild. Only 1 in 1,000 turtles survive to adulthood. There were 50 babies released, so we hoped that the other 49 made it! But, still, one has to wonder, are the humans to blame in this instance?

As our little turtle scampered towards the sea, both Mark and I had tears in our eyes, as did a few others I expect. We almost started full on crying. They were tears of joy though, it was a really emotional experience, setting that tiny creature off on its journey into the big wide expanse of the ocean. And to think, if those babies survive to adulthood, the female of the species, remarkably, returns to the same beach she was born, to lay her eggs. They truly are amazing animals and deserve to be protected. I can only hope that this hatchery really is making a difference.

Click here for more baby sea-turtles.

Sea Turtle Hatchery, Peraliya-Telwatta, Sri Lanka

Website: www.srilankanturtles.com

Email: bknimal@yahoo.com ruwan_5@yahoo.com

The Wilderness of Mount Tongariro

Back in 2008, I toured the north and south islands of New Zealand and one of the most amazing things I did was to hike across an active volcano, otherwise known as Mount Tongariro. Feeling a little hungover, as was the norm back then, I started on the hike across Mount Tongariro National Park. I had five layers of clothing on, it really was that cold, and it took about eight hours to cross from Whakapapa Village to Ketetahi. The scenery was dramatic with snow-covered mountains rearing up into the sky all around our little hiking party.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

At ground level, there were mountain springs flowing with cold clear water, and the greens and browns of plants growing up out of the melted snow.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mountain spring, Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

About halfway through the hike, we passed Mount Ngauruhoe, otherwise known as Mount Doom, which, for me, was a real highlight. I’m a die-hard fan of The Lord of the Rings, and I couldn’t stop myself from climbing just a little way up and getting the guide to take my photo.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Doom, New Zealand

We hiked on through dove-white valleys, the wilderness that lay ahead unseen, concealed by the brilliant white all around. It was blissfully quiet, but I could hear my fellow hikers chatting in the distance. In fact, it was a good job they were there because I could easily have gone missing, never to be heard from again.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

I trundled on and started to make my way upwards. It was such a struggle, the snow made it very slippy, so I had to wear crampons. It was incredibly cold and the higher I got, the windier it got. Eventually, I found myself at the summit of the mountain. The effort is always worth it!

Things to do in New Zealand
The summit of Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

At the top of Mount Tongariro, I got three hundred and sixty-degree views and it felt like I was on top of the world. The clouds were lower than the summit and it seemed otherworldly. It was peaceful, even though I wasn’t alone, and I took a moment to stand there, looking at that perfect scene in front of me and thought of all the things I had done up to that point.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

On top of that mountain, I felt elated and overjoyed I was there. It was one of those moments that made me realise all the decisions I had made about my life were the right ones and I was definitely living my life to the fullest.

After a while, it was time to continue on my hike. The way down was bloody difficult because the slope was so steep and, instead of snow, I had hot rocks to contend with. Not just hot rocks but slippery hot rocks. The easiest way to do it was to inch my way down, much like when you’re on skis. I tried that, but any small movement would send a cascade of rocks down the mountain taking me with them. The next tactic was to slide down on my backside, but before I could even manage to get in a position to do this, I slid, fell on my arse, and ended up in a heap with five other people.

Things to do in New Zealand
The way down, Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

We started to laugh, every little movement sending a few more rocks downwards, and us another inch from where we sat. Eventually, we managed to pull ourselves together and made it to the bottom unscathed.

The whole hike was amazing, and the last part of the journey to Ketetahi Road was through a small forest which, compared to the strenuous hiking I had just tackled, was easy. But, I was so intoxicated with joy that I skipped and ran through that forest until I reached the end.

Things to do in New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

The hike had taken around eight hours through a wilderness which had stirred my heart at every turn. Mind you, my body was singing a different tune over the next few days because I ached all over, but it was one of the best days out I’ve ever had.

This is one of my tales from my new book which is on the way to being published 😉

A Beautiful Home in Hikkaduwa

Sri Lanka

I spent the first few days of 2018 on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, otherwise known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It really is one of my favourite destinations for a number of reasons, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the food, and the wonderful hospitality of the Sri Lankan people.

After 7 years, my friend Mark has left Thailand and is currently living in the coastal town of Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka’s south west coast, and I was lucky enough to stay in the house he has rented.

Dahana Holiday House

And what a house it was! Dahana Holiday House is something else. A gorgeous villa with an exquisite garden with green grass, vibrant flowers, many species of trees and plants, and daily visits from colourful birds and butterflies. There’s even a mongoose that roots around in the undergrowth every day which I, sadly, never got to see. And let’s not forget the fish pond with koi carp, statues, and interesting wall hangings inside. It’s not your average place to stay that’s for sure.

Dahana Holiday House is located in Seenigama, a small Sri Lankan village, around 2 kilometres from the main town of Hikkaduwa. It’s a sleepy neighbourhood where the locals go about their day to day business. As you walk along the small lane to the main Colombo-Galle road, men on bicycles cycle by, women in brightly coloured saris pass you by, with just a hint of curiosity in their eyes, and couples walking along hand in hand, sheltered from the sun by their umbrellas. Dare to say hello and you’ll get a wonderfully warm smile in return. Crossing over the main railway line makes for some fabulous photo opportunities, and if you’re there at the right time you can marvel at the train as it trundles past with its passengers hanging out of the doors.

The Guys

The house is looked after by manager, Sanjaya Indrajith, and housekeeper, Lasitha Pathum, or just Pathum. Pathum is also a fantastic cook and he’ll rustle up just about anything you desire for breakfast from typical Sri Lankan fare to European food. His eggs, sausages and tomatoes served with toast is delicious and just what you need for the day ahead.

Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Sanjaya Indrajith
Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Lasitha Pathum

Healthy Living

It’s not only Dahana Holiday House that will lift your spirits while staying here. There is also the, aptly named, Villa Spice Forest, a second villa, just as gorgeous and just as calm as the first. Pathum took me on a tour of the grounds and he explained that the resort uses herbs and spices from the garden to produce Ayurveda medicines for health purposes. These same herbs and spices are also used in the food that he cooks. You’ll love the platter of fruits, like pineapple and guava, that is served straight from the trees. All of the food produced is organic without any fertilisers being added, so if you’re looking to stay healthy while enjoying your holiday, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be as amazed as I was, when Pathum gives you a handful of leaves to smell and you recognise the smells of cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and ginger, or he points out turmeric and aloe vera plants.  It’s simply wonderful.

Meditation and Buddhism

Sanjaya told me that if visitors want to learn about Buddhism during their stay he will be only too happy to share the Buddhist philosophy and a little of the Sri Lankan history and culture. If mediation is on your mind, he can teach you why it’s important and how to use it properly. Believe me, the quiet and stillness of the garden is the perfect place for morning meditation or maybe a spot of yoga.

River Safari

Both Sanjaya and Pathum speak English and are on hand to help with anything from organising trips to pickups and drop offs at the airport. My friend and I wanted to go on a river safari, so we talked to the guys and they suggested we visit the Madu River or Madu Ganga. They told us there was a lake 10 minutes from Hikkaduwa, but they suggested we travel the 8 kilometres to the Madu River because this was the better place to visit. We weren’t disappointed. Sanjaya and Pathum drove us there in their tuk-tuk and even came on the safari with us. The river is huge and has some 64 islands and is home to over 300 species of plants and over 248 species of animals. It is said to be one of the last remaining areas of untouched mangrove forests in Sri Lanka. As we travelled along the river we saw brightly coloured kingfishers, water monitors, snoozing in the mangroves, sea eagles, herons and cormorants. We got off the boat onto Cinnamon Island and we learned how cinnamon sticks are made. The guy who lives there stripped the bark of the tree, this alone smelled heavenly, then he carved strips off the bark with his knife and laid them on a rack to dry out. My friend and I were intrigued because you don’t often think about where things come from when you’re shopping in the supermarket. I’m a cinnamon lover, it’s so healthy for you, so we bought some cinnamon powder for tea and a small jar of cinnamon oil which is good for fighting viruses and helps to decrease inflammations, among other things.

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Around Hikkaduwa

Dahana Holiday House and Spice Forest is just 400m from the sea, in fact, when the waves are high, you can just about hear them crashing onto the beach on a still night. The town is not far away and there are tuk-tuks available if you want to spend the evening in any number of Hikkaduwa’s bars or restaurants. It’s also ideally located for onward travel as the train and bus stations are close by.

There’s plenty of stuff to see in Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa beach is a stunning stretch of golden sand perfect for relaxing or surfing in the huge waves. Seenigama Muhudu Vihara is a small temple located on a tiny island just offshore, just a 3 minute boat ride away. The Tsunami Honganji Vihara is a temple erected to commemorate those that lost their lives in the 2004 tsunami. A statue of the Buddha, with its hands facing the sea for protection, was donated by the Japanese for good luck. There is another tsunami museum further along the road with hundreds of photos which brings home just how devastating this natural disaster was. The woman who runs the museum will give you a little insight into what happened. It’s very sad and shocking, but it’s a beautiful memorial to visit.

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Just a 15 minute walk from the house, in the small town of Peraliya, is the sea turtle hatchery. A fantastic place to learn of the conservation work they are doing to protect these beautiful sea creatures, and the programs in place for recovering turtles before they are released back into the sea. If you’re lucky enough to be around when the baby turtles are released into the sea for the first time, it’s an experience not to be missed.

The Details

During the high season between October and March Dahana Holiday House costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night.

Villa Spice Forest has two parts, 2 rooms on the ground floor and 3 rooms upstairs. The cost for upstairs is $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night. The ground floor also costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 4 people.

Low season between March and October the cost is $40 per night for both houses. Additional guests will be charged $10 per person per night.

If guests plan to stay more than 1 month they will receive a 30% discount.

$30 will be charged for cleaning for 2 week stay.

For bookings and prices for your chosen dates you can find Dahana Holiday House and Villa Spice Resort on www.booking.com and www.airbnb.com or contact Sanjaya at sanjayaindrajith@gmail.com/tel: +94 775787279.

Dahana Holiday House
Seenigama-Aluthwala Road
Hikkaduwa
Southern Province
Sri Lanka
80240

See morrisophotography.co.uk for more photos of Sri Lanka