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Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

Prague in the Wintertime


On the occasion of my wife’s birthday we decided to head for an impromptu 3-day city break to Prague. This was a bit of a risk in February as chances were good that we could suffer an ice-locked endurance trial of a city break – as had happened to me and my sister in 2006 – but fortune smiled upon us and we were blessed with clement and mild weather for most of our visit. We had a grand time and hope to make it back sometime in the summer.

More photos from this trip can be found over on Flickr.

Swans on the Vltava and the Charles Bridge
Swans on the Vltava and the Charles Bridge

St Vitus Cathedral
St Vitus Cathedral

St John of Nepomuk Brass Plaque, Charles Bridge
John of Nepomuk Brass Plaque, Charles Bridge

Statues of Charles Bridge
Statues of Charles Bridge

Seagulls, Charles Bridge
Seagulls, Charles Bridge

Wenceslas Square
Wenceslas Square

Grand Hotel Europa, Wenceslas Square
Grand Hotel Europa, Wenceslas Square

Tesla Radio Stained Glass
Tesla Radio Stained Glass

Statues in Franciscan Garden, Nove Mesto
Statues in Franciscan Garden, Nove Mesto

Night View of the Charles Bridge from Mala Strana
Night View of the Charles Bridge from Mala Strana

View of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle by Night
View of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle by Night

Photos from Malaysia, Java, Bali and the Gili Islands

December 4, 2013 2 comments

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.

Sunrise at Tanjong Jara, Malaysia

Laughing Market Trader, Dungun Market

Beach Panorama, Tenggul Island, Malaysia

 

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.

Petronas Towers Sunset Panorama

Chinese Night Market, Jalan Alor

Chow Kit Chicken

Petaling Market

 

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.

Borobudur before Dawn

Borobodur Sunrise

Borobudur Panorama

Borobudur Relief Detail

Sunrise Buddha, Borobudur

Borobudur from a Distance

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.

Tobacco Ladies of Candirejo Village, Borobudur

Drying Tobacco, Candirejo Village, Borobudur

Yam Crackers, Candirejo Village, Borobudur

Yam Cracker Lady, Candirejo Village, Borobudur

 

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.

Tea Ladies of the Sultan Palace, Yogyakarta

"Underground Mosque", Water Palace, Yogyakarta

Roofs of the Water Palace, Yogyakarta

Pasar Beringharjo Market, Yogyakarta

Prambanan Temples, Yogyakarta

 

Central Bali
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.

Red Dragonfly on Leaf, Four Seasons Sayan

Pura Taman Saraswati, Ubud

Sowing Rice in Kedewatan Village, Sayan Valley

Cockatoo in Warung Ibu Oka, Ubud

Sayan River from the pool of the Four Seasons, Bali

Labourers on a Truck

Pura Ulun Danau Bratan - Water Temple, Lake Bratan

Jatuliwiyah Rice Terraces

Jatuliwiyah Rice Terraces

Guardian Statue, Taman Ayun Temple

 

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.

Boats off of Gili Air

Sunset from Karma Kayak, Gili Trawangan

Gili Meno from the Sea

Late afternoon, Gili Trawangan

Village Life, Gili Trawangan

Village Children Playing, Gili Trawangan

Uluwatu Temple and Cliffs, Bali

Macaque, Uluwatu, Bali

Sunset from the Rock Bar, Ayana Resort, Bali

Peaceful Day on Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Japan – Mount Aso, Kurokawa, and Kumamoto

January 11, 2013 4 comments

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

MOUNT ASO
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.

 

KUROKAWA
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.

 

KUMAMOTO
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.

Photos from late summer trip to Mykonos and Santorini

September 14, 2012 4 comments

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.

Mykonos

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.

Sunset at Little Venice, Mykonos

Harbour fishing, Mykonos Town

Nap time, Mykonos Town

Kitchen of Niko’s Taverna, Mykonos

Railing and blue sky, Mykonos Town

Blue door, Mykonos Town

We enjoyed Mykonos and would go back, but the jewel in the crown was yet to come…

Santorini

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.

Typical Blue Church Dome, Imerovigli, Santorini

Bougainvilla, Firostefani, Santorini

Santorini Caldera Coastline

Oia, Santorini

Lazy Cat, Oia, Santorini

Sandstone Cliffs, Vlychada, Santorini

Inter-generational fishing, Ammoudi Bay, Oia, Santorini

Classic Blue Church Dome, Oia, Santorini

Church Bells, Oia, Santorini

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…

Sunset Crowds, Oia, Santorini

Panorama of Oia at Sunset, Santorini

Oia at Sunset, Santorini

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!