Europe » United Kingdom » Scotland April 20th 2009

Most things have remained the same, one or two new things to catch up on. I found the maple syrup in the same place as always in the supermarket; but who the hell is Lady Ga-Ga? No such person when I left. I caught up with Dorothy in Rotterdam who helped provide me with a soft landing and spend my first night back in the UK at Sonia & Mick's place, before picking the car up and driving home to a stack of mail so big it- well, I won't go into it. Banking to be done, screens and screens of emails to answer on my computer at home. My own bed feels fantastic and so does wearing jeans again - 6 & a half months of artificial fibre trousers was starting to get tiresome. ... read more

Europe » Ukraine » Kiev April 18th 2009

Nearly the end. Ukraine is my final significant destination I'm going to tell you anything about. After that its a brief stop in Western Europe to see friends I haven't caught up with in a while, then it's home. In a way, I'm already winding-down from the trip since the adventurous bit is finished now. I've been to the Ukraine before, I have friends in Kiev and I know my way around. I can thoroughly recommend Kiev for a short city-break if you fancy a change from Paris or New York: it's a lot of fun with great restaurants and bars and you'll see a place that's a little different from where people normally go. But for me it's no chasing around dodging mopeds anymore; no hoofing around with my backpack trying to find accommodation ... read more
Dolphins across the Black Sea
Black Sea Sunset
Unknown soldier memorial, Odessa

Asia » Georgia April 12th 2009

I hadn't initially planned on a second entry from Georgia, but this one place left a bit of an impression on me and I want to tell you about it. So: a short-ish entry fuelled only by my enthusiasm. I returned from my week in Armenia with enough time to try and knock off the cave monastery of Vardzia. The guidebook says you should try to see either David Gareja monastery or this one. I hadn't heard of Vardzia before I left the UK, but saw an article on it in someone's in-flight magazine and with pictures like that, I had to go. Didube bus station once more in Tbilisi and again I'm looking for a marshrutka. Again, I have a name and telephone number in my pocket, with the assurance from Irina at the ... read more
Vardzia I - from across the valley
Vardzia II
Vardzia III

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan April 10th 2009

Public transport: The Marshrutka I'd been working on Russian; I had a few dozen words maybe, but no grammar because I'd been doing it myself from a book and a CD in the car. But my tutor in Aberdeen, Anya, gave me a couple of hundred more words plus some basic grammar so I should now be able to hold survival-level conversations about buying tickets, asking directions and ordering food. But that was last Summer and since then I've been a little slack about practising, as well as having a confused head with trying to get some Japanese in there too. Anyway, 4 weeks in the former soviet union countries of Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine should bring much of it back. Last entry I mentioned something called a Marshrutka minibus and I think it'll be ... read more
The Marshrootnoye Taksi (Marshrutka)
Yerevan Viewpoint
Yerevan, the Opera House (left) and Mount Ararat

Asia » Georgia » Tbilisi District » Tbilisi April 4th 2009

Outside the Parliament building in central Tbilisi they're flying the blue EU flag next to the Georgian national one. But if I get a map and draw a line directly south from here, it passes through Iran which is definitely in Asia. Also Georgia is further East than "Middle East" countries like Lebanon, Israel and Jordan... so where am I? It's this location at the cross-roads of 3 distinct geographical areas, not fully-in or fully-out of any of them, that has led to just about everybody having a crack at Georgia. It's history is blood-red and she has been Greek, Roman, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Mongol and Russian, when not self-governing. And I might even have left a couple out of that list. Most of the time it has been a Christian nation; the second to ... read more
He has left us alone, but shafts of light sometimes grace the corner of our rooms (Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta)
Metekhi Church and statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasili
'Twin Brothers Cellar' in Napereuli, 20km North of Telavi

Middle East » Qatar » Doha March 17th 2009

I've thought for years that airline stewardesses get a rough deal on looking good. The uniforms are reasonable except for KLM whose shade of blue suits nobody, but often the hats are ridiculous. For example, Servisair in the UK used to give it's check-in girls these awful boaters with a wide-brim; they looked like gauche public school girls - "I say, do you play Lacrosse?". I seem to recall BA had a corker some years back, a variation on a bowler hat I think, which has thankfully disappeared now. Anyway, I can't remember which airport I was in but a couple of years ago I saw some Emirates stewardesses and couldn't stop looking at them. The hat is an ordinary pillbox affair, but the scarf doubles as a veil and loops upwards over one ear ... read more
Doha 'The Pearl' Development I said.
The Old Souq, near Tajine restaurant

Asia » Vietnam March 14th 2009

Stop Following Me I flew to Vietnam feeling quite apprehensive. If you spend a couple of hours with the guidebook you'll get the impression you're going to get scammed and ripped off at every corner. There are stories about drivers that take you to their family's guest-house rather than the one you already booked, then getting shirty when you refuse and ask to be taken where you wanted in the first place; tales about collections at temples where the money doesn't get to the monks. A guy in KL the other week warned me about an aggressive street vendor who chased him across the road, shouting, after he refused to buy a book or something. I don't want to approach this place with the demeanor that they're all out to get me, but the stories ... read more
Thích Quảng Đức Memorial
Acres and acres of rice pudding
Saigon War Remnants Museum

Asia » Malaysia » Selangor February 20th 2009

So Vietnam won the poll, for those of you that didn't spot my brief note at the bottom of the last entry. I've got a visa and have a flight booked as well, so I'll tell you all about it in another couple of weeks. But first... Kuala Lumpur Dad was stationed in Singapore when he was in the Navy in the late 50's. He'll have had Chinese food for the first time, watched dragon-dances at New Year and been amazed at all the red lanterns, silks and gold embroidery around. In the days before cheap air travel allowed us all to go abroad for our holidays it must have been an incredible time for him. He brought some tastes home with him and I remember being the first kid in my class to use ... read more
Chinese New Year lanterns in Bukit Bintang
Masjid Jamek Mosque
Kuala Lumpur: Butterfly Park I

Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Perth February 2nd 2009

A short entry this time. I've had a relaxing 10 days in Perth doing next to nothing. After 4 months of peering at computer screens, copying numbers and directions into my notebook; buying tickets in a foreign language; booking flights and bus tickets - and I have done all this without making one mistake with my credit card; reading the guidebook and trying to come up with what to do today... after all of this I am a little tired. Any long journey's going to have these lulls and I can't be adventurous backpacker-man every day. So once I got here, I'm afraid I slumped into the care of Cameron and his friends and took a rest from it all. I've sunbathed down at Cottisloe beach in Freemantle. I've wandered around central Perth, I've met ... read more
With Allen, Peter, Alison, Harvey and Jo in Little Creatures
With Richard, some open-air bar on St. George's Terrace
Later on, dinner, with Richard at the King's Street Cafe (no. 44)

Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Perth January 23rd 2009

A bunch of the guys and girls I used to work with at Kenny's have now moved to Perth in Western Australia and I also had an invitation from Cameron to stay at his place if I was ever in town. I'd spent a week in South Australia between Merryn's pal Sarah's house in Dutton (near Nurioopta) and then a weekend in the city of Adelaide itself at Amanda and Adrian's to see the opening stage of the cycling. The Tour Down Under kicked off with a 30-lap (about 50km) circuit of Rymill Park in Adelaide town centre. Local boy - well, he's from Queensland but he's an Aussie - Robbie McEwen took the trophy and got the kisses from the podium girls (Lance Armstrong came 64th). There was more wine tasting too, in McLaren ... read more
Tour Down Under: 1st stage.
05:55am Ceduna road-house as I arrived
06:45am Ceduna Road House: my bags and a couple of parked trucks for scenery

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