Saturday, December 2, 2017

Oriental Mindoro, The Philippines

The scene on arriving in Mindoro by motorised Catamaran.

This was a family holiday of sorts although winging it from London in the UK to Saigon then Manila before reaching Oriental Mindoro by coach and ferry was not the typical undertaking.

Thuy and Sophie on the empty beach outside our apartment.

At least one person is tired here.

Can you see which one?

A cheese ice cream. It is a grim thought but it was okay. I wouldn't run to find another one.

A durian ice would have suited me far better.

A idyllic view from upstairs in our apartment with the outline of Luzon island to the north

This was a private beach of sorts. That is to say no one ever sat on it. 

No question it was pristine and clean. There was even bit of coral in the bay.

As a new (old) father I was actually too tired to swim more than a couple of times.

We were several kilometres from the nearby town. Several westerners lived in the neighbourhood with pretty smart houses that opened out onto the ocean.

Mindoro is a large island around 100 km long. We stayed on its northern tip.

The hinterland is largely uninhabited with mountains, forests and I think no roads that cross them and few that even lead into them.

As usual for people in this part of the world people are pretty darned friendly and conveniently, all of them speak English. 

Where we stayed was exceptionally quiet There was only the sound of the waves (and Sophie crying)

Boats moored in Puerto Galera

Next time:

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Manila, Luzon, Philippines

Welcome to readers from Turkmenistan

First impressions of Manila are less than favourable.

The city appears grey even in tropical sunlight.

The traffic is execrable. The bus from the airport, only 5 km away, took an hour to make the centre.

That journey took us through some tough neighbourhoods.

Feel Dinah Washington's This Bitter Earth

Of course merely first impressions.

At the traffic lights I was reminded of Manuelita Mascarenas - Green an environmental lawyer recently executed at the lights while in her car with her children. One of twelve such lawyers murdered in the last year alone.


And of course it's hot.

The Mexicans and the Spanish got to the Philippines hundreds of years ago at the beginning of the 16th century. Both their influences are palpable here.

The big draw here is that most everybody speaks English.

I travelled with my partner and Sophie ,who was 4 and a half months old so ... the journey was especially interesting to me.

Manila really is a bit hot so every time we went out we ducked into Robinson's Mall or a 7/11 for the air con which was fierce.

Manila grows on you though. People (in the daytime at least) are friendly and will engage you quite easily though they are more removed than people in Vietnam where I live or India say. Thailand, Costa Rica and Mexico too come to think of it.

The Philippines is pretty free and easy. You need no visa to get in nor pay no exit tax to get out though the flight costs were painfully high going with the national airline - the alternative going through the budget airlines where you select everything through to the ply of the toilet tissue threatened to cause me an aneurysm during the booking process.

Not everywhere was rugged like the neighbourhoods fringing the centre.


The highlight of Manila for me.

See wikipedia for historical detail on this area

The Philippines is the only spot in Asia with Spanish colonial influence.

Sophie, who appears as a child shaped milk ingesting bladder during these months and weeks, her in Casa Manila.

Young Filipina Daniella with her grandmother in Malate

Fort Santiago

A few damp walls and an old gaol.

Looking over to the Binondo district from Fort Santiago

Inside Fort Santiago

A typical bride and groom on photo shoot in the Intramuros district.

The demands of the bride on this shoot were interesting to experience.

The Manila centre at night didn't feel wholly salubrious with hard-faced men in singlets glowering from stools on the pavement, hot girls sneering.

Little bit of sex tourism and arrangements to that effect going off throughout. In fact the day felt like it was snoozing, waiting for night.

Inside Manila Cathedral 

A representation of the Virgin Mary in Manila Cathedral

Police Officer patrols Casa Manila

Thuy and Sophie - Casa Manila

In Rizal Park, central Manila.

Where we went next ...

Happy Travelling!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cap d'Agde

Cap d'Agde

The river Herault 300 metres from Cap D'agde railway station.

The Canal du Midi, only a stones throw from the railway too. 

Visit GuerillaZ's sister site: Singing Bird Tea here

Drinking Oriental Beauty in Vung Tau

A market stall at Cap d'Agde

By the marina in Cap D'agde. It is oddly low key. This was the last week in June. Perhaps I was expecting Ferraris and great motor launches, catwalk models and tycoons on holiday. No thing of the sort here.

There was a market selling things nobody much wanted. There was a city of moored yachts. But this town has a number of atmospheres. This marina, a naturist beach (and wife swapping) part of the town, a lugubrious old town and other areas not visited.

What I like about France. It is usually low key. 

My mother on the left, her friend Jenny on the left.

They visited for two weeks.

Surprising that vines can even grow in the middle of garrigue terrain. 

So many cheeses. 

Cleaned and ready for lunch

The local wine domain headquarters.

Happy Travelling!

Friday, April 1, 2016


Welcome to readers from Taiwan, South Korea, China and Peru

Mount Fuji from my window in Narusawa. 

Narusawa really was such a small village. It sad astride the equivalent of a B road.

Like most villages in England you could walk around it and barely see anyone. On one side was an escarpment with pine trees on its upper reaches. On the other side of the village woods that gave out to the rising landmass of Fuji itself. You needed some kind of permit to climb Fuji and well I've more or less stopped climbing now unless it is on a bicycle.

Fuji from space

The tallest mountain in Japan Fuji stands at 3776 metres. Each year around 250, 000 climbers scale Fuji. In the non-climbing season another estimated 150, 000 manage it. It is the most visited peak in the world.

The View from the summit, c 1910

Being near Fuji  draws out the impulse to be blase. From its base Fuji looks like a stroll with some slippery stuff halfway up. The Eiger, Mont Blanc, Popocatepetl, Kanchenjunga (double the height), the Jungfrau are all mountains I've visited. And they look terrifying. Surely you can walk up the gentle slopes of Fuji?

Here is what it is really like if you climb Fuji and slip.

Ice-fall on Mt. Fuji

The mountain really is beautiful and it's difficult to take your eyes off it. Even when it wasn't visible I found myself looking for it. After seeing those images I remember why I love flowers, drinking tea, reading and meditating.

Lake Fuji-ko

This was more like it. A stroll around the lake with the mountain appearing occasionally.

Super neat ploughed arable land

Okay so I'd been in Japan for a month and was getting to end of my budget. A month cost somewhere in the region of $3000. And that was super budget accommodation (except for 2 nights in Bessho), budget food, snacks more like, from the local store. An apple was $2. Ok, it was quite a large apple.

The village where I stayed

Happy Travelling this year! Year of the Monkey

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Visiting Bessho in the Japanese Alps

Welcome to readers from Myanmar and Namibia

Bessho, Ueda.

The Asama shinkansen from Ueno station Tokyo took a supremely comfortable hour to roll into Ueda City. From there a small, six carriage, narrow gauge train called the Dentetsu took me on the thirty minute ride to the village of Bessho. I was there to feel the contrast with Tokyo’s greater metropolitan district populated by 44 million people and to visit the best example of a wooden temple in Japan.

Even though Bessho had a population of 2361 people only a handful people were visible at any one time. It was quiet.


Image result for bessho hot springs

At Uematsuya Ryokan

What a nice surprise

A matcha tea served within moments of my arrival

The food at Uematsuya is outstanding. To stay for one night with breakfast and dinner cost around $60. 

If you like matcha green tea visit: Making matcha in Uji, Kyoto

Here's something about staying in a Japanese Style Room. The flooring will be tatami (reed mats). When you enter the room you will see a low table with cushions around it. Before you go to bed this table will be moved and your bedding will be prepared in the same location. You room may contain some or all of the following, depending on the style, design, and expense of the ryokan. · agari-kamachi - after opening the door guests step into this small area and take off their slippers (do not wear your slippers on the tatami) · shoji - sliding Japanese doors that separate the agari-kamachi from the room · tatami - reed mat flooring · zataku – low, often wooden table · zabuton - sitting cushions · futon - sleeping quilts · tokonoma - an ornamental alcove built into the wall, used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls · oshiire - a closet for futon sleeping quilts · engawa - enclosed sitting area separated from the room by shoji

Bessho Onsen

These figures sit in the forest at the bottom of the steps up to the Anraku-ji temple

Listening to: Bach's Chaconne in D minor arranged by Leopold Stokowski

Dinner at Uematsuya

Sumo hotpot

After dinner Hoji-cha

Even though it doesn't look it - Hojicha is a light, mild, smoky tea good for the digestion. 

The tea is a lower grade of tea known as bancha, a roasted green tea with low astringency. 


Just 300 metres uphill from Uematsuya lies the Anraku-ji Buddhist temple. There are few sights in Bessho but therein lies its beauty. Its alpine appointment, pretty local flowers and other Alpine flora. A few public onsen and the one located in my ryokan.


The only remaining wooden temple in Japan

When Japanese tourists visit Florence in Italy they have been known to faint at the beauty around them. They end up at the local hospital behind the railway station. I didn't faint in Japan but somehow felt bloated with the richness of what I saw. The beauty there has a purity difficult to put into words. Japan can appear inexpressible at the bottom. Describable yes but its spirit elusive. Regarded holistically Japan is a touch stultifying. It's impression needs to be reduced into working parts, stumbled upon scenarios and more then can be made of it.

One of the great things about Japanese inns is that your room carries a personal caddy of fresh green sencha tea, kettle and kyushu tea pot. 

Drinking tea and writing something is close to perfect. That beautiful taste again, rich umami, deeply satisfying. 

Mount Hotaka 3190 metres and the 3rd highest mountain in Japan

Happy travelling!