A photo tour of the Buddhist temples of Myanmar

A photo tour of the Buddhist temples of Myanmar

I was going back and looking at more and more photos from our trip all over Myanmar from 2013 and rediscovered many of the amazing temples we visited.

I have broadly divided the photo collection here into 3 segments:

  1. The temple city of Bagan
  2. Cave Temples
  3. The Temple punched on top of Mount Popa
  4. The last Kingdom of Mandalay
  5. Slowly crumpling temples in the hills of Inle Lake

 

Temple City of Bagan

 

Cave Temples

 

Mount Popa

 

The last Kingdom of Mandalay

Temple spires in the hills of Inle Lake

 

Holiday Plans - April 2015

Shwedagon pagoda with the full moon

Holiday Plans - April 2015

Frankie has been looking at holiday locations for next year. He is looking at being home in Myanmar for the Burmese New Year Water Festival and usually falls around mid-April.

Taking onto the end of that I am planning some dive spots in Thailand as well as some much needed rest and beach time.

Some probable locations are: Kuala Lumpur Krabi Bangkok Chiang Mai

And for the many may Americans who read my blog this should help

Have you been to any of the above, particularly Krabi or Chiang Mai? Suggestions? Diving Suggestions too?

Travel: Winter Road Trips - Ep1

I love going for drives around our region during winter, it is the best time of year to see the region after the winter rains. Starting early we headed off from Canberra to Batemans Bay via Bungendore, Braidwood. The sun was bright over the green dewy fields of Bungendore followed up by a stop off at the Lolly Shop in Braidwood.

 

 

Winter_Road_Trip_Map

Lunch was on the waterfront with fish and chips in Batemans Bay followed by wandering around the marina looking at boats and slips for #ProjectSailBoat, just information gathering.

 

Heading back south heading through Narooma down to check out our favourite camping site at Mystery Bay, then south to Bega and up to the mountains through Bemboka (remember to stop off for a pie at the famous bakery) then up further into Cooma.

 

Just before dark we managed to make it back to Canberra having missed most of the first snow of the year but we did catch the trail end of the storm.

Were is your favourite road trip to?

 

 

 

#projectsailboat boat features / boat shopping list

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I guess to truly explain what I am looking for in a boat I need to further explain why the dream is there. That the dream is split in two parts.

1) This may sound strange to some seafaring folk but the idea of even tinkering and working onboard a boat at mooring all weekend I find incredibly appealing. Even when the weather is crappy, just being aboard a vessel that by definition is part of the sea. Every movement, every wave, ever breeze effects what you do.

2) The actual sailing – clearly this is linked to part one. A safe and comfortable boat that you know well only further enhances the time you have underway – that feeling when you cut the engine and nothing but the unseen force of the wind filling the sails – just like solar power – it’s magic.

 

A typical example of an E24

 

 




Background

My first visit to the Indonesian Island of Bali was with my parents as part of a family holiday.
My parents had never been overseas before my work trip to Timor-Leste. In fact I think my Mum’s passport didn’t arrive in the mail until only a week before they departed Australia. East Timor was a turning point in my life, both personally and professional. I will cover more of that over in the Timor Category as I update more info. You can follow those posts here.

Getting there

Most cities have direct flights from Australia to Denpasar by either Virgin Australia or Qantas / JetStar.  My first trip was actually Canberra to Brisbane, meeting my parents who were living in the Northern NSW regional city of Coffs Harbour in Brisbane.

The next day flying Brisbane (BNE) to Denpasar (DPS)  on Virgin Australia.  It was my parents first decent length flight. Say what you will about low cost carriers, and semi-low cost carriers, but I actually prefer them over the full service.

Why I went

Our first goal was a family holiday. My family is not a family that requires gold plated, 5 star resorts – not least because we can’t afford it.  The accommodation and activities I mention are not 5 star, nor are they backpacker / a few dollars a day type. They are your typical family type places.

As I said in previous posts, my parents had not travelled internationally prior to coming to visit me in East Timor in 2008. Almost a year after the visit to East Timor, my parents had saved enough for a modest holiday to Bali

After planning and bookings were well processed my sister announced she was getting married, also in Bali, during our holiday.

Where we stayed.

The decision was made very early that we didn’t want to stay in downtown Kuta. The sight of drunk and drugged Aussies peeing in the street at 10am is not a sight that is conducive to enjoying another country’s culture and sights.

We stayed at the  Puri Dewa Bharata Hotel just off the main road near Seminyak. In fact since 2009 to today my parents have stayed there every year. They are offered discounts as repeat customers.

 

Favourite Memories

Middle sister:

Getting married in Bali during my first trip, returning later to take my children to Bali and the zoo.

 

Favourite place to eat:

Middle sister:

Any restaurant along the beach along with Marlo’s

 

Hot tip: Over 22? Don’t want to be another ‘aussie drunk in bali? Stay out of Kuta after sundown.

 

Have you been to Bali? What was your highlight?

 

 

Don’t forget to check out the map page to see posts about other destinations

 

 

East Timor - Getting there

The view from my former house

 

Further to my recent post on my 6 months in Timor during 2008 here is a look at the rapid changes around transport, specifically Getting There.

 In 2008 there were extremely limited ways of reaching East Timor.

  1. Either flying from Darwin to Dili with a turbo propeller 15 seat aircraft at an extremely prohibitive cost of something in the area of $700aud each way.
  1. Air Merpati from Denpasar (Bali) at around $370aud
  1. Overland from West Timor – while cheaper, this process was hazardous as well as the border was commonly closed or disrupted

Now in 2014 I have discovered the following

  1. Air North now flys an newish small jet – Embraer 170 for around $550aud  Darwin – Dili
  1. Air Timor  Singapore – Dili  $370USD
  1. Sriwijaya Air – Denpasar (Bali) – Dili 2,200,000 IDR – approx $200-250 AUD
  1. Overland as above

Visitor / tourist visas, as with 2008 are available as visa on arrival for around $30usd for 30 days.
East Timor uses the USD for notes and Timorese coins.

 

While I was living there Comro Airport / Dili international

Airport was a dual Military & Civilian airport with UN flights, Australian Military and commercial airliners arriving often.

 

 

The view from my former house

 

 

6 Months Timor-Leste

I was fortunate enough during 2008 to live in Timor Leste for 6 months for work. Timor Leste – Leste meaning east in Tetum, the local language, really was a turning point in my life. I spent a majority of my time in the capital Dili, with only the briefest jaunts out of the city limits, usually on work business. Looking back, the lack of further exploration is one of my biggest regrets I am seeking to remedy with a return trip possibly in 2015. During my time in TL, I was also fortune enough to learn to speak Tetum to a conversational level. Sadly my reading and writing Tetum isn’t up to scratch.

In June 2008 when I arrived the the President, Jose Ramos Horta had been shot in an attempted assassination only a few short months earlier. After the briefing work had given me about what to expect they made it sound like I was going to an active conflict zone. However what I encountered could have been further from the truth.  Sure if you wanted your electricity to operate without question and in turn your air conditioning; if you wanted your milk fresh; your meat shrink wrapped; your fruit and veggies from mega farms then possibly TL isn’t for you. If however you handle never going over 40km/h in your car, never obeying a traffic light, coffee strong enough to melt the spoon, grass so dry and tough that will stab your shoes  - TL most certainly is for you. I tease.

Looking back, I can not think of a many negatives about the country while I was there – apart from not being able to drink the water from the tap. Over the coming weeks I will be making posts about my time there, sharing stories and experiences. If you would like to read more, keep an eye on this link, it will be a central point of all my Timor Leste posts.

Kyait Htet Gyi- A day hike around Mt Kyaiktiyo

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A short hike you say..

During our time at Mt Kyaiktiyo Frankie suggested a ‘small’ hike to a neighboring village where some pre Buddhist ‘Nat’ spirit idols are situated in the hillsides.

The small village, Kyait Htet Gyi (pro.Jow Chat Gee) is tucked away from visiting foreign tourists, approx. 1-hour hike straight down the mountain along a dirty maintain track. The monsoon season has not been kind to the Kyait Htet Gyi area. Situated along a ridgeline on one side of Mt Kyaiktiyo in the region near the Myanmar border, which is home to Karen (pro. Car En) people, which are a Burmese Ethnic minority and to the east is Thailand.

While strolling along the dirt track we were over taken by a local man, muscular and wiry which was perfectly suited to his role as a carrier. As the name suggested he is a man powered product mover. He was carrying supplies on his head and in his arms for the local tiny corner stores. For extra income he also carried timber that was harvested in the area for building supplies often carrying weights equal to half his body weight in a single trip – up hill and down dale, on their head or on their back

Frankie struck up a conversation with him in Burmese and he offered to be our guide in exchange for us buying a drink from his little house stall. Today he was taking the trip to deliver goods to the small path-side stalls in preparation for ‘festival season’ and the newly constructed stalls. The trip normally took him 35-45 mins. With us novices it took over an hour. He also kindly took us to his main source of income – his stall. We met his little daughter and son both aged less than 5yo along with the business manager – his wife.

When not carrying goods they all live in a small space behind their stall measuring no more than 5m x 5m constructed of bamboo, thatch and tarps. Frankie purchased all the children little packets of chips.. the cautious smile that appeared on all faces was priceless.

In fact we approached one fork in the path our ‘accidental’ guide pointed out the path to Thailand.

Almost at the end of the trail our guide took us down a small washed out landslip to a small ‘Nat’ temple for the ‘Mother of Dragons’ who guard the mountain. The Game of Thrones reference was not lost on me and brought a little smile to my face when Frankie translated our guide’s explanation.

Further at the end of the trail was another rock that is similar to ‘the golden rock’ only, not golden. The rock is balanced precariously on the side of a cliff just like is more famous cousin. The elders of the village that also look after the temple space told us that each year they travel to another village to collect a long thick vine that is climbed by a designated village member to place donations of gold leaf and adornments on the top. If the walk down to the village was not harrowing enough… the walk back – all uphill was certainly a challenge.

A massive 6 months!

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Starting around Sept 2013 I finished a 6 month rotation to Darwin, where I found a new found love of jogging and exercise.  I was lucky enough to meet great friends and go  to places I never would have the option of going to if it was not for work .

 

Read more about my time in Darwin here

Almost as soon as I arrived back in Canberra we were off again. Thanks to my  amazing partner lead me on a tour of his incredible country – Myanmar. We spent an unforgettable 3 weeks traveling the lengths and breadth of this nation. Even after all the sights and experiences his FAMILY was the true highlight for me. His mother’s warmth and care, his father’s intelligence and willingness to share and ask questions about my life too. 

A more in-depth write up of our time in Myanmar is here
 
Then the “ experience “ of meeting my parents in Kuala Lumpur and catching up with my good friend Ron who then joined the four of us traveling to Redang Island (Palau Redang) off the north east coast of Malaysia. It was the second time Frankie and I had been to the Lagoon Redang resort. After the ferry ride from Kuala Terraganu on the mainland over to the resort (where my father’s sea sickness came to a head) and check in, the island is really just a water sports playground. 
All expenses paid apart from alcohol and diving services. After snorkelling every day and also trying SCUBA I was HOOKED. The resort is a PADI accredited resort which means they have instructors and Dive Masters who can facilitate everything from the minimal training ‘Discover SCUBA’ right through to your ‘Dive Master’ qualification. Frankie, Ron and I decided finally we would try the ‘Discover SCUBA’ – which is essentially being kitted up and thrust under water. 
 
Frankie and Ron could not get get more than 10cm under the surface before pulling the pin. I managed to get all the way through the experience – roughly 15mins getting to a depth of 5.5m. I was so excited to be doing it I forgot to actually take my GoPro3 from the dive bag on the beach before getting in the water. 
 
Back in KL the ‘experience’ of travelling with my parents again reached crescendo with the all important family yelling match in an international airport. Don’t be shocked. Its rather common for my family. We get over it faster than our words echoing around departures. 
 
  
 
A more in-depth write up of our time in Malaysia is here
On return back to Canberra I started in a new role with a new team in the a new office. 
 
 Not long after our return from our big overseas adventure we decided to start thinking about buying a house. When I say thinking, we looked at one and brought it. A 2br, split level east facing townhouse. Requiring 5% down in Nov 13, and the rest in around Nov 2014. Perfectly suited for what we needed. Also keeps my NBN dry. 
 
 
 So because I am swimming in cash *COUGH COUGH* I then booked my PADI Open Water Dive Course. 
 
 I nearly didn’t get to do the course! 
 
The doctor was worried my lungs were almost not up to the minimum capacity. But don’t worry, I managed to get over the line. 
 
 The first weekend was half theory and half practising in the pool! I don’t know about you but I am never lucky when it comes to being partnered up in anything sporty, usually picked last. Well there was this one mega cutie on our group – and for once guess who I was partnered with!! JACKPOT! He was a great guy, sweet and innocent of the ways of the world. It wasn’t until the pool technique practising that my inner filter turned off. I couldn’t stop giggling when our instructor was inadvertently saying things with MASSIVE innuendo such as “ right team lets get under water, get on our knees and have some fun’ I looked at our assistant instructor with my ‘trying not to laugh’ face – which is hard in full mask and regulator in your mouth’ Sadly his mouth was level with the water and it caused him to inhale and cough with the biggest smile. The laughs only continued.. 
For those that are not divers, there is a requirement to learn how to tow your buddy should they become fatigued or injured, this cryptically is called the ’Tired Diver Tow’ which involves you laying on your back and your buddy laying between your legs face up, you hold their tank and kick – pushing you both forward. I simply said ‘ I don’t open my legs for every one this easy, buy a boy a drink first sailor’ He too could not control his giggles The second weekend was the in water component, unlike the current Australian government immigration policy, as it was under water rather than on water I can talk about it. The first day was 3 dives at 6m practicing skills we learnt in the pool. The second day was at a site called Toll Gates – read about that bit here
 
 
 

All was going well, a little too well.

 

I was getting ready to finally sell my maxi road scooter – 500cc – on consignment with a local dealer.
 
 
 
 
The fates intervened again. I was crossing an intersection with a green light, I stopped as a cyclist crossed my path and was collected right in-between my passenger front and rear doors. Causing $6000 worth of damage. I am insured however the insurance company is still ‘determining fault’ hmmmm. 
 
 
To top of a roller coaster of emotions. I was voted by an overwhelming majority to lead my employers Gay & Lesbian Network. A total of 1/2 of the overall votes came to me. A lot of pressure is now on me – some will say ‘its just a volunteer thing, no extra pay, why bother’ – It is important to make changes, drive the changes. You can’t do that from the outside.

 

If this was the last 6 months, I wonder what the next will bring.

Hopefully you will also see some changes on the site coming soon. I hope you will enjoy.  As always, please like, comment or subscribe.

 
 

Padi Dive Course Complete!

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What a weekend!

As you know I have been completing my Open Water Diver Certificate through INDEPTH Scuba here in Canberra.

The past weekend saw the second and final weekend component.  Heading down the coast on friday night with all our gear packed, my dive buddy and I arrived at the dive lodge to start fresh and early on saturday.

Saturday saw 3 dives, mostly concentrating on practicing and demonstrating skills we learned in the pool the weekend before. My biggest apprehension was the component relating to removing my mask in the water, and replacing it. This simulates your mask being kicked off and you need to recover it. I just could not calm down enough to process not breathing through my nose! Well in the open water (a 6m deep shore dive location at Bawley Point NSW) I nailed it. Taking it slow and not rushing.

The following day was the 4th and final dive was a boat dive at a location off Batemans Bay called ‘The Tunnel’ The current from the north was described by our boat captain along with our dive instructor and dive master was ‘ the strongest they have seen’. Descending the 10m down the boats anchor line to the lip of  ‘The Tunnel’ the divers looked more like a flags in a storm. But once crossing into the ‘The Tunnel’ it was calm. Reaching our max depth of 18m – the max depth of our PADI qualification – we saw a lot of sea urchins and the Blue Rass that love to eat their creamy insides.

Sadly I was unable to capture any video or images of the dives as they were learning dives and I wanted to concentrate on the actual skills needed.

Below is the group and our instructors.

PADI Open Water Diver Certification -Learning to dive pt 1

So its started!!  

I have been wanting to learn to dive since the PADI “discover diving” in Redang Island Malaysia. I found my local store here in Canberra offer a 2 weekend package that combines theory, “confined water dive practice” - code for swimming pool, and then finishing with a weekend demonstrating and exploring those skills in the open ocean to give me the base qualification of “PADI Open Water Diver”. For those that done know PADI is the Professional Association Of Divers International. Back in the early days of diving they set the standards and benchmarks for the training of new divers. They currently train 90% if the worlds divers. I have to say I didn't really have any understanding of the technicalities of this when I signed up.  One of the benefits of the standards is that if I ever want to go diving with a buddy ( you should never dive alone) if they have the PADI base qualification, I know they have been trained in the same safety procedures, same checks, same under water hand signals the whole works.

The process starts when you approach your dive centre to learn to dive. Mine is located in Belconnen, Canberra  - some 1 and a half hours from the ocean.  The intro night is where you meet, are talked thought the forthcoming course, measure up for wetsuits and other gear as well as the all important Dive Medical. No use getting down to 18m and realising your lungs are shot.

Starting bright and early the next saturday - the theory starts. Hardly arduous concepts but none the less it must be learnt.

The next day it time to put that knowledge to the test on the pool with all the equipment on. I have to say the most daunting thing isn't removing my respirator underwater effectively leaving me without air for a few seconds.. its the removing my mask completely - knowing to clear it I need to not breath through my nose until I need to breath out to clear the mask - oh sure that sound simple - but my body keeps wanting to breath in throughout my nose.  I managed to demonstrate the required skills to pass that section.

So that leads us to the open ocean. Today is Wednesday,  tomorrow evening I need to swing past the shop and pick up my dive gear as well as my buddy’s as we are driving down to the coast Friday night, to start mega early on Saturday in the real wet stuff!

Until then - keep thinking about me and not breathing through your nose!

 

 

 

Walking to the top of the highest mountain in Australia: MOUNT KOSCIUSKO

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We had been planning a trip to see Mount Kosciusko during the off ski season. March 15th was that day! The day was a ‘little’ windy – once we cleared the top chair lift from Thredbo to the “Eagles Nest” we were greet with a temp of -1 including wind chill and 50-70km/h winds.

I will let the video speak for its self, but the day was great. I kept telling Frankie “ This is the highest mountain in Australia, it is not meant to be easy”   As you will see in the video we did not make the true summit due to the weather – good call – within 30 mins of reaching the base and getting in the car, it absolutely bucketed down – that plus wind and -1 temps? Hmm no thanks. 


To keep the cold out – what is better than a cup of tea in nature – nothing I say – nothing at all and the JetBoil really came through.

 

Narooma: Camping in the rain

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I really needed this weekend!

We had been planning another quick weekend away. This time it was more a car camping trip to test out our larger, cheaper car or festival tent the Shoalhaven V4 by Spinifex from Anaconda for only $99.

For the price this tent took a battering this weekend. At least 6 hours of solid rain. At one stage I woke up in the middle of the night to find the ground so soaked that the water was simply pooling. 

Not a single drop inside the tent. The only downside is the super cheap pegs.




The ventilation and double door (one within the veranda and one from the opposite side) along with the full body mesh, other than the tub floor, make is perfect for our yearly trip to Tropical Fruits in the hot steamy NSW North Coast hinterland of Lismore. With the waterproof fly fitted it withstood the nights rain.

Another highlight of the weekend was seeing a poor lost lonesome penguin nesting in a tiny sea cave.

The weekend was a great chance to test out a new little toy I picked up a few months ago from Goal Zero. Their USB powered LED “Luna”. A really versatile little light that was perfect for lighting the whole tent.

 

Update from refund from @kathmandu_live

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Following my post yesterday  the online customer service team from Kathmandu contacted me to offer some assistance. After a few phone calls they asked for some photos of the issue. Provided. Then another call. Essentially ‘while the designers can't find a fault, you are obviously not happy, so we are going to refund you’. Which was what I wanted the store to say.

So it appears we are now at a conclusion.