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.
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.
The trunk of this tree reminds me of a giraffe setting out on a walk! Can you see it?
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.
And last but not least.
I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt around King Rama IX Park. Just one of Bangkok’s parks in 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…
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!
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!
What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon, canoeing on the lake, right in the middle of the city!
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra
There aren’t many people around, it’s far too hot yet, but this means I get the place, almost, to myself!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
Mount Tongariro, New Zealand
This is one of my tales from my new book which is on the way to being published 😉
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently read a post about beachcombing by Global Housesitter X2 and it reminded me how much I love it. When I went travelling in 2008, wherever I went I would take time to stroll up and down the beach in search of things that had been washed ashore. Beautiful shells, interesting pieces of driftwood or coral, anything that would catch my eye. The only thing was I had to be careful how many things I collected as it was so easy to get carried away and have at least 1kg or more added to my already full case. Even before this, many years ago, I would beachcomb when I was on holiday and I collected hundreds of shells and small stones, all from different countries, all different colours and shapes, which were taken home and placed in a large glass jar.
I remember once, my girlfriends and I took a trip to Puerto Banus in Spain and we had spent the day on the beach where I went in search of more treasure, so I could add to my collection at home. I found this pebble, it was big, I’d say about 7-10 inches across, but it was so beautiful, smooth and black, I couldn’t resist it, so in my bag it went. At the end of the holiday we got ready to fly back to the UK and I put the pebble in my hand luggage, not really thinking about it. When my bags were scanned to board the plane, the woman at security asked me to unpack my bag and I remembered my lovely pebble was in there. She wanted me to hand it over. I looked at her, as if to say, “please can I keep it?” but, not saying anything, she gave me a look that said “really?!” Not wanting to be the person that got arrested for having a large, potentially deadly weapon (pebble) in my bag, I, sheepishly, parted with it.
So that particular find never made it home and, when I moved to Thailand, the glass jar, by this time brimming with my beach finds, was handed over to my parents who kept it in their conservatory. I thought it was still there until a few weeks ago when I casually asked my mum if they still had it. “Oh no,” she said, “we had to throw them away because the shells had started to smell.” I couldn’t expect my parents to continuously wash the contents of the jar for me.
I know there are more important things in life, but, I have to say, I was a little disappointed. But, not to worry I have the beginnings of a new collection right here in Thailand. And, back home, even my mum and dad have indulged in my treasure finding hobby for themselves, but their little stash never leaves the garden.
I travelled around New Zealand in 2008, and ended up in Auckland as part of my trip. One day I took a trip over to the nearby island of Rangitoto.
I took a boat from Auckland and the volcanic cone, which rises up to 850 feet, can be seen for miles around, it’s a sight to see from afar. The name, Rangitoto, is Maori for “Bloody Sky” and the name comes from Tama-te-Kapua, a captain of the Arawa Waka, who was badly wounded there during a battle.
Rangitoto island was created over 6,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions and evidence of the eruptions can be seen across the island in the form of fields of black lava stones. And it’s these black lava stones that were quarried between 1898 and 1930 and used as building material for Auckland. It’s a very unique landscape.
On the island, there are paths, that were created between 1898 and 1930 by prisoners, that lead right up to the summit.
It was a fabulous day out, tramping the old dirt tracks up to the summit and seeing the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and out to sea. I love exploring new places and being reminded of old ones.
I visited Koh Chang earlier this year and I have to say it’s my favourite island in Thailand to date. The island is big and covers just over 420 sq km, and around 70% of it is unspoiled rainforest, steep hills and cliffs, waterfalls and long sandy beaches. I went to stay with my friend Mark and he was my tour guide for the few days I was there. We drove all over the island and spent time on a few of Koh Chang’s best beaches.
Klong Prao Beach
On the west coast, Klong Prao Beach is a long sweeping stretch of soft, golden sand lined with tall trees and gorgeous mountain views surrounding the bay. It wasn’t that busy when I visited, but it’s long enough to be able to find a private spot all to yourself. The water is warm, calm and shallow, so it’s perfect for swimming, and the blue colour is irresistible in the heat of the day. It’s a fabulous place to spend the day before you grab a beer and watch the stunning sunset disappear below the horizon; we did just that, and more than once!
Kai Bae Beach
The next beach to the south on the west coast is Kai Bae, another long sandy beach, but smaller than Klong Prao and even less crowded. We parked the bike at one end and walked through a forested area, with charming wooden huts, before hitting the beach. The tide was out, so it was a few extra steps into the warm, blue water. But that didn’t matter we were there to relax under the swaying palms. In the distance, we spotted elephants wallowing in the water, so we went to investigate and sure enough, there were a few adorable little baby elephants splashing around in the water, but they were being burdened with humans on their backs. After one of the babies said hello with its trunk and wandered off into the waves with its load, I could only feel sorry for the poor things.
On the locally named “dark side” of Koh Chang, because it is less developed than the west coast, is Long Beach. Right at the bottom of the southeastern tip of the island the beach doesn’t really live up to it’s name. It’s not very long at all, in fact, this beach should be called Lonely Beach because there are no crowds here. The road there turns from tarmac to dirt and there are some very steep hills and hairpin bends to contend with, and, once there, there is just one beach bar serving food and drinks. Apart from that, all you’ve got is a beautiful tree-lined sandy beach, calm blue water lapping its shores and a secluded bay with views of the mountains around. Totally unspoiled and wild, it’s worth the effort of getting there.
Chang Noi Beach
We didn’t go to Chang Noi Beach for the beach, we went to have a few drinks at Shambala Beach Resort, but that didn’t stop us admiring the views of Koh Chang’s widest beach with not a soul on it. The sandy expanse is protected from winds by a large horseshoe-shaped bay, tree-covered mountains and slopes on either side, and the water is calm and mesmerising. It’s a fabulous spot for sunset gazing and the beer is refreshing as well!
Bang Bao Beach
On the southwest coast is Bang Bao Bay; two beaches with the same name and we visited both. One crowded, with people swimming in the warm water, relaxing on the sand with drinks in hand or asleep under the creaking palms. The other, a deserted strip of white sand that sits at the far end of a disused resort in the shadow of a 7-deck cruise liner called The Galaxy. We sat and gazed out to sea for a while contemplating the fate of this abandoned ghost liner.
On the west coast, a little further than Kai Bae, is Lonely Beach, a golden sandy beach with a young crowd. This is Koh Chang’s equivalent to Ibiza’s sunset strip, just a little sleepier. Gorgeous guys and gals enjoying themselves on the beach, sunning themselves or drinking cocktails as they listen to funky tunes coming from the beach bars. This place is so cool, international DJs, like, my all time favourite, Danny Rampling, come here to play their sets every year. When we sat down to enjoy the atmosphere we were most put out when a young guy, who was handing out party flyers, bypassed us and didn’t give us one. He obviously thought we wouldn’t be interested in partying the night away, but, as my friend pointed out, we’ve done our fair share of partying in the past and could probably party that young whippersnapper into the ground! 😉 Ah, the joys of getting older! 😉
Have you been to Koh Chang before? What’s your favourite beach on the island? 🙂