UK September 2012
It's been a long time without a holiday, so it was good to get back to the UK for three weeks. A long weekend in London was the highlight. The weather helped, of course, but you can sometimes forget just how great our capital city really is.
Oman - November 2011
A few shots from our trip to Oman. Be warned if you anticipate visiting the country between July and October. The cold Oman Coastal Current results in a lot of cloud and drizzle along the coast on the east coast. It stops the air temperature becoming too hot but water temperatures can be as low as 22 to 23C.
We stayed at the Shangri-La complex. Highly recommended if you can find a two-for-one deal, or something similar.
Maldives - August 2011
We don't usually holiday abroad during the summer months, as for many places in the tropics, this is the rainy season. This is the case in the Maldives, but needs must etc so we booked a week at Vilamendhoo, one of the southwestern atolls.
Weatherwise, it was a bit iffy. Rather cloudy at times with some torrential showers, but after the heat and unbroken blue skies of Doha, this was a welcome change.
Vilamendhoo is approximately 900 metres long by 200 metres wide. It really doesn't take long to get around the island! We booked a beach villa; one of the over-water villas would have been nice, but as we knew we would spend much of our time on, or in, the water, we didn't think it was worth the extra expense.
We booked full board. If you are a big drinker it might be worth opting for all inclusive. But divers need to keep a clear head and so alcohol was limited to the early evening 2-for-1 cocktail hours. (Very good they were too, and quite strong.)
The food was excellent. A full buffet with enough variety to stop us getting bored. Obviously, the fish was very fresh and the curries were excellent. I never fancy curry for breakfast but my wife did how her Indian roots by giving it a go.
The diving was with Euro-Divers who were OK. But what really makes this island stand out is the quality of the snorkelling. The house reef harbours an amazing amount of sealife. Whilst we enjoyed diving off the reef on our own, we saw most marine life from the surface as we opted for snorkels rather than regulators and BCDs.
Arriving and leaving by seaplane was noisey but fun - although it does add considerably to the cost.
The Gambia - January 2011
This proved to be a much more adventurous trip than we imagined. Charter flights have been landing in the Gambia for more than 20 years, so we expected a lot of development. But apart from the coastal strip along the coast, just south of the capital, Banjul, there was very little.
The coast is reminiscent of the north Cornish coast - gently sloping surf beaches, except, of course, the air temperature is at least 20 degrees warmer than Newquay!
We did some great nature walks with local guides and explored the local towns and markets getting around on the dangerously overcrowded bush taxis.
The highlight of this part of the trip was alocal village football match between two teams based in Ganjur - twinned with Marlborough. There was a crowd of at least 1500 spectators and the match was billed as Manchester United versus the Rest of the World.
The teams had full kit; there were 4 official dressed in black; police patrolled the perimeter of the pitch to keep control of the crowd and there was a VIP area complete with Gambian FA officials and WAGS!
All the players adopted the names of their heroes and there was a commentary over a tannoy system. "Here comes Rio Ferdinand, he's lost the ball. He's not very good but he has enthusiasm." Motty this was not!
Eventually Machester United won the Cup with Beckham scoring a hat-trick. (Well, what did you expect?) And Renu got to hold the cup aloft and mee the manager.
250 km up the Gambia River things were much queter. En route to the Bird Safari Camp we saw chimps, baboons, colobus and vervet monkeys, crocodiles, snakes and more than 100 species of birds. Amazing.
To finish off the trip we syaed in a luxury lodge, Farankuku , back on the coast. Highly recommended! All in all, a great trip and the Gambian people were so friendly.
Thailand - March 2010
Two weeks in Thailand - such a big country that we decided to concentrate on the south. We started with a few days in Bangkok which was as noisy and vibrant as you would expect. Our hotel was on Sukumvit Road, right in the middle of it all, but the Park Plaza was a really good boutique hotel - highly recommended.
We caught a train - third class but pleasant enough and great fun - up to Ayuthaya, the ancient capital of Siam. The Kyymer ruins and temples were very impressive even if some of them were leaning at precarious angles after earthquake damage.
From Bangkok we hired a car to Kachanaburi, where we transferred to an hotel right next to the ridge on the River Kwai. Whilst the metal bridge has been rebuilt since the Second World War, much of the line has the original sleepers laid by Allied POWs.
After a trip to the Erawan waterfalls and some rafting, we headed back to Bangkok by minibus before catching the overnight sleeper train to Sanit Thuri. The sleeper was great fun, even if we didin't get much sleep.
After arriving at Sanit Thuri and 6 am we then caught a taxi to Khao Lak. This was to be our base for the remainder of our trip. We had a few nights at the Merlin, which was a luxurious hotel, but we also spent 4 days and nights on a dive boat. We headed out to the Similan Islands which are world renowned and also Richelieu Rock. 4 days of diving starting at 6.30 am each day and finishing after a night dive.
The diving was very good with the highlights being a couple of leopard sharks, seahorses and green turtles.
Getting back to the UK was a little fraught and it was a 13 hour flight from Bangkok. But, all in all, it was well worth it.