Wednesday, 28 January 2015

THE MAGICAL LANDS OF OZ AND FRUITOPIA

It had been a while since we've spent time in Australia, and I realized, unexpectedly, that I really missed it! Being in Asia for so long, we had forgotten the intense beauty of Oz, especially the gorgeous colours and smells of the bush, particularly the outstanding wildflowers, and the vibrancy, diversity and arty nature of the cities. For 6 weeks, we were taken in by generous friends and family in Cairns, Brisbane, Nanango, Sydney and Melbourne and experienced funny and varied little snippets of Oz life and culture- bush walking, a live cricket match, birdwatching, uniquely Aussie BBQs, picnics in parks, op shopping, fantastic markets, garage saleing, vineyards, city cafes, opera, the Archibald Prize, rugged beaches, pubs, Dandenong rainforest, a Melbourne Cup sweep, and even lawn bowls! The highlight, though,was catching up with Sal's fabulous family and our best buddies, and it was difficult each time we had to say goodbye.



Beautiful waratah flower

Sal in the bush

Large insect on large flower

Gorgeous grevillia

Spectacular colours

Australian bushland

Wild parrot in our friend's garden

Dessert delights

Sri Lankan feast thanks to my broher and sister in law

Enjoying a beverage at the cricket, Brisbane

Rich trying his hand at bowls, Melbourne

Catching up on sleep on the plane in between hectic schedules!

Sal's beloved Melbourne



People sometimes scoff when we say we need a rest from all our moving around the place. But as wonderful as traveling is, the fact is sometimes we have a hectic and energetic schedule (as in the last year and a half) and we feel the need for a break. For us, the perfect place for this, is our old favorite, Ko Fruitpoia. Much has been talked about this place on other posts, but this year was particularity fantastic, so much so we decided to stay longer than usual, and ended up there for several months. It was the people, really, that made it for us this year, and from the time we arrived in early November when there were only a handful of guests, right through to the busy, more populous high season, we met so many hugely entertaining and brilliantly unique new friends as well as many from previous years. They were all there in all their glory: The Long Time Travelers, The Inexperienced Newbies, The Drunks, The Potheads, The Aging Lotharios, The Keen Young Pups, The Schedule Keepers, The Time Wasters, The Socially Awkward, The Extroverts, The Yoga Fanatics, The Beachbums, The Chilled Out Families, The Musicians, The Princesses, The Young, The Old and everything in between!



Tai Chi on the beach

Noel in a dream

Great friends
Enjoying the serenity


Queen D getting creative

R's new look

Getting artistic



A lonely beach


By far, this year was the time for music. We were so privileged to have many first class musos amongst the guests, and many an afternoon and countless evenings were spent listening to, and joining in with songs and laughter. A hugely special added bonus was Queen D at her very best, with her happiness manifesting in some amazing sea gypsy song sessions, including some written just for us!



Naree feeling inspired


Full of energy, Annie
Tony's hard working hands

Deela in her element

A new song, one of many this year from Deela



And, of course, there were the sunsets......I tried to choose just a few, but every day is different and beautiful, so I've been indulgent!















To say these last few months have given us great happiness and inspiration would be an understatement! We've truly been revitalized and rejuvenated by the good energy of so many uplifting people, and ready to take on the world (or at least some of it!)


Happy and healthy

Friday, 16 January 2015

BEST/WORST LIST FOR 2014

Some of you more observant readers may notice there is no "Best /Worst List for 2013" post. The reason for this is most of the year we were helping out in the guesthouse in KL, and the remainder of the year was spent in India, so the results would have been somewhat skewered! So, we've taken a little liberty, and included the last few months of 2013 on this list for 2014. It's been our best travel year yet!


Best Muslim monument- Tie, Shah-e Chareagh, Shiraz, Iran/ Jameh Mosque, Yazd, Iran

Best Hindu monument- temples around Pushkar lake, India

Best Christian monument- Geghard monastery, Yerevan, Armenia

Best Jain monument- Jain Temple, Bikaner, India

Oldest Monument- Choqa Zanbil, Ahwas, Iran

Best colonial architecture- Calcutta, India

Best Soviet architecture- Yerevan, Armenia

Best Mogul architecture- Maheshwar, India

Best heritage town- Bushehr, Iran

Best village architecture- Tie, tiered houses, Masouleh, Iran/ cave dwellings Meymand, Iran

Coldest weather- Bikaner, India (December)

Hottest weather-  Ahwas, Iran (May)

Most rain- Bandar Abbas, Iran (February)

Best western food- Pushkar, India

Best local food- Kazbegi, Georgia

Best overall food- Iran

Best beer: Georgia

Best wine: Armenia 

Best restaurant- Tie, Blue Sky Cafe, Calcutta/ Traditional Tea house, Kerman Grand Bazar, Iran 

Cleanest guesthouse/hotel- Swallow Guesthouse, Krabi, Thailand (third year running!)

Homiest guesthouse/hotel- Birdnest, Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia (third year running!)

Best value guesthouse/hotel- Kazbegi guesthouse, Georgia

Best social guesthouse/hotel- Tie- Ko Fruitopia, Thailand/ Birdnest, Kuala Lumpar

Worst guesthouse- Hotel Maria, Calcutta, India

Cheapest guesthouse/hotel- Tie, Mama Luna Guesthouse, Pushkar, India/ Ganesh Guesthouse, Omkareshwar, India (200 rupees/ AU$3.50)

Most expensive guesthouse/hotel-Downtown Hostel, Yerevan, Armenia (13,800 dram/ AU$36)

Most beautiful clothing- Tie, Rajastan, India/ Baluchistan, Iran

Best festival- Tie, Pushkar Camel Fair, India/ Dark moon Festival, Omkareshwar, India/ Baluchi wedding, Iran

Best wildlife experience- 20 otters playing, Cherating, Malaysia

Best beach experience- Ko Phangan, Thailand 

Best museum- Tie, Tehran National Museum, Iran/ Shahri-e Sakhta, Zabol, Iran

Best fort-Tie, defensive towers, Shatili, Iran/ Bikaner Fort, India/ Chittogarh Fort, India

Best music- Persian Gulf, Iran

Best market- Tie, Minab, Iran/ Verissage Flea Market, Yerevan, Armenia

Friendliest people- Tie, Baluchistan, Iran/ Persian Gulf, Iran ....actually everywhere in Iran!!

Most unusual “sight”- Tie, Minab women, Iran/ Rat temple, Deshnok, India

Best motorbike ride- Pushkar to Aloo Baba, India

Best public transport- Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia

Best train trip- Indore to Chittor, India

Most scenic road trip- Tbilisi to Shatili, Georgia

Worst road- Tbilisi to Shatilli, Georgia

Best hike- Tie, around Goris, Armenia/ Shatili to Mutso, Georgia