My new wife and I spent most of October in a post-wedding state of happy exhaustion as we traipsed around Malaysia and Indonesia on honeymoon.
Of course, many more pictures can be found on my big Honeymoon set on Flickr. There are a lot of portrait-orientation shots there that I’ve left out for the sake of the layout below.
All photos on this page are Copyright 2013 Luke Robinson – all rights reserved.
Malaysia – Tan Jong Jara
Most of the first few days of our trip were spent in befuddled recuperation at the Tan Jong Jara resort in northeast Malaysia, where our ambitions mostly extended to thinking of what we were going to have to eat at dinnertime. It was perfect after the cathartic release of the wedding week. We did manage to do have some expeditions – to the local market, a nearby island, and a sea turtle hatchery – but mostly we enjoyed not having a wedding to plan for the first time in nearly a year.
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
After five days on the beach it was time to return to civilisation (of a sort) for a short three-day city break in KL. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll agree that at least in food terms, it is one of the most exciting cities in Asia. A vibrant clash of Malay, Chinese and Indian (and Western, for that matter), KL is a feast in every sense of the word. My panoramic photo of the Petronas Towers at sunset from the top of our hotel made it onto the Flickr Blog recently and is doing quite well on the traffic / favourites front, I am happy to say.
Java – Borobudur
Next up was a quick flight to Yogyakarta in Java, and from there up the road a piece to the environs of Borobudur, the huge ancient Buddhist hilltop monument situated in a mist-filled valley of volcanoes. There is simply no other proper way to see Borobudur than by getting there well before the sun rises (and we were the first through the gate that day), so that you can see the first rays of the sun hit the stupas and Buddha figures at the top, and so the mist is caught between the palm trees in the valley floor. Magical.
Later the same day, we toured the nearby village of Candirejo, where they are striving to establish themselves as a local tourist alternative to the posh resorts nearby. The people couldn’t have been more friendly, from the tobacco farmers to the old dear who was making cassava crackers in her dilapidated house.
Java – Yogyakarta and Prambanan
In Yogya we found a busy smallish Asian city going about its business, mostly untroubled by excessive tourism, which was different to my recollections of 19 years previous. I suppose I have developed a thicker skin when it comes to pestering touts. In any case we had a gas visiting the Sultan Palace, the Water Palace, the town market, and the Hindu temples of Prambanan.
We went for proper island life next, moving onto the tropical paradise that is Bali. The feeling of paradise was enhanced by our poshest accommodation of the whole trip, at the Four Seasons in Sayan, a spectacular resort built into a river valley, the likes of which we won’t experience again anytime soon. It was extremely hard to leave our pool villa, but we did venture out for trips into nearby Ubud, a hike up the Sayan river valley, and a daytrip up to see the Lake Bratan Water Temple, the Jatuliwiyah Rice Terraces, and a few other highlights.
The Gili Islands and Southern Bali
After our five nights in paradise, we decamped to an even more laid-back environment, riding a tiny speedboat across to the equally tiny Gili Islands, three mile-wide sandbars, for all intents and purposes, off the coast of Lombok. We got off at Gili Trawangan and were overwhelmed by the bustle of its little waterfront – a sea of Bintang (in boxes and on the singlets of numerous Aussie backpackers). We had a great time on Gili T, snorkeling and mooching around, but it was possibly a step down the luxury ladder too far for us honeymooners so we made a snap decision to come back to Bali for the last two nights. This decision paid off as we ended up on the lovely Jimbaran Bay, where we spent the days on the beach and the evenings on excursions to the Uluwatu cliffside temple and the luxe double-header on the last night of the Rock Bar and the fantastic Sundara beachside restaurant of the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. A fitting end to an incredible honeymoon.
Japan so far:
This post is a photo tour of Kyushu, Japan’s southern island, including the national park around the active volcano Mount Aso, as well as the spa town of Kurokawa and finishing up in the Kumamoto, dominated by an infamous samurai castle.
NOTE If you are reading this in a news reader such as Google Reader, or inside Facebook on a tablet, you might want to open this in a dedicated browser window as the photo layout may work better. And there are more photos from these locations available on Flickr.
We hopped an early morning train from Fukuoka south along Kyushu’s west coast and changed to a rental car. After getting our heads around Japanese road signs, and puzzling out the sat-nav system (in which you enter phone numbers, not addresses, to locate your destination) we headed through Kumamoto’s suburban sprawl, which could be mistaken for Anywhere, USA, east into the hills of central Kyushu. We were headed for the national park around Mount Aso, a set of active peaks and a boiling sulphur lake in a crater, all of which sit in one of the largest calderas on Earth. It makes for a dramatic landscape, and one that you have to take care with – the viewpoint over the crater is regularly shut down when the sulphur emissions get too strong, and there are bunkers in which visitors can shelter in the case of any violent eruptions. But it’s worth visiting as the turquoise sulphur water bubbling away, and the columns of steam shooting a hundred feet in the air, are a sight to behold…. and the rolling grasslands in the plains around the caldera made for a very enjoyable drive.
After a lovely outing to Mount Aso, we headed down through the mountain passes into the forested valleys south of the caldera region, ending up in Kurokawa, an onsen town built around a pretty bend in the river, hosting scores of ryokans catering mainly to more mature Japanese tourists whose idea of a fun day is to lounge around in a yukata robe and flit around from one outdoor hot spring bath (rotemburo) to another, and retire in the evening to be pampered in traditional Japanese ryokan style. We were keen on this, as it happened, and we chose an excellent inn just outside the main town, the Sanga Ryokan, because it had its own pretty stretch of river, seemed smart, and boasted no less than five separate rotemburo. Aside from all this, it had incredibly pretty traditional rooms and the food was edging onto what you would get in a high-end kaiseki restaurant. We could have stayed there longer. Sadly, we had only the one night.
In the morning, after another lovely rotemburo at another ryokan set beside a river with a waterfall, we took our time driving back to Kumamoto, as the weather turned sour. We felt very lucky to have gotten a lovely sunny day to see Mount Aso, and so we arrived in Kumamoto fairly happy with our lot. We (just) had time to pop over to Kumamoto’s samurai castle, infamously besieged and burnt down during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, which was the loose basis for the film The Last Samurai. Sunset arrived and we were ushered out (politely, of course)
That’s all from Kyushu. The next instalment will bring us back onto the main island of Japan and will feature Hiroshima and its monuments, the idyllic island of Miyajima, and then we will head off into the mountains to stay in a Buddhist temple and visit Japan’s most prestigious…. cemetery.
Once in a while you’ve got to remember to have a good old fashioned summer holiday, free from agenda, without every step being checked against a multitude of websites beforehand, with no plans beyond getting a tan, having a bit of a wander, and eating some good food.
This was one of those holidays. The Cyclades are a classic Mediterranean holiday destination, whose only mission in life is to host, for six months of the year, hordes of tourists, be they day-trippers from the cruise ships, two-week honeymooners, backpackers, or, in our case, casual island-hoppers.
Our first stop was Mykonos, with its classic maze-like old town, the bars of Little Venice, the inevitable decorative windmills, the beaches, the gays, the party crowd, and the omnipresent meltemi wind, always lashing the northern coast and making every beach visit an exercise in finding the optimal way to make sure your beach towel doesn’t turn into a sail. We largely avoided the “party” beaches and the ones where the sun loungers were almost on top of one another, and found some nicely sparse ones to the southeast called Elia and Lia. But we won’t be showing you the beaches here, because, well, that’s boring. What you’ll see below is a selection of shots mostly from Mykonos Town itself.
We enjoyed Mykonos and would go back, but the jewel in the crown was yet to come…
Santorini is the glorious island that launched a million postcards, the result of a massive volcanic explosion that blew the top off the mountain island and left just the rims of the caldera poking above the Aegean. Since then, on the main island that remained, Thira, the steep rims of the caldera have been colonised by dramatic cliffside villages, blocky white “cave houses”, blue-domed churches and luxury villas stacked on top of one another, tumbling down the hills. It is immediately dramatic and beguiling, and we were lucky enough to have snagged a lovely little villa in the village of Firostefani, just north of the main town (also called Thira). We made a number of excursions to other destinations (the beaches at Perivolos and Vlychada as well as the towns of Pyrgos and Megalochori and the fishermen of Ammoudi Bay) and had some truly excellent food at places like To Psaraki in Vlychada and Aktaion and Mama Thira in Firostefani. It was a grand way to end the week.
Of course the first thing every tourist guide and dog-eared Lonely Planet will tell you is that you shouldn’t miss the sunset from Oia. So we, along with every other tourist in Santorini, duly trekked north to participate in this mass ritual of sun worship. And I mean every other tourist. Despite the crowds we snagged one or two nice shots…
That was to be all for our Clycladic adventure, however I knew that when I got back to London I would have to turn right back around the next day and leave for Bangkok on a work trip. More to come on that matter…
Of course, as ever, there are more photos from this trip to be found over on Flickr.
Until next time!
As part of the same trip that started with a few days in beautiful Paris, we travelled south to the Dordogne / Limousin area for a few more days of exploration, relaxation, and degustation before joining up with some friends in the region for a three-day wedding extravaganza.
Our route took us from Limoges down to the Dordogne river itself, which is festooned with medieval villages and chateaux hewn out of hillsides and perched atop cliffs. Many of the villages and chateaux were variously at odds with each other during the Hundred Years War, with the French hunkered down in one redoubt while just a kilometer away, on the other side of the river, Richard the Lionheart might have been planning his next conquest. We were able to variously visit or canoe past many of these during our first couple of days.
Click on any of the photos below to view larger versions on Flickr – and click them again once you’re there if you want to see full screen!
Over the course of our visit we moved North, away from the Dordogne river, and visited many quaint (and quiet) villages en route, including Bourdeilles and the very picturesque Brantôme, “the Venice of the Dordogne”.
More images can be found in my Flickr set “The Dordogne and Limousin – June 2012“.