Cyprus ~ March '19

Monday, 18 March 2019

A weekend in Cyprus with Aaron my son, we flew out Friday morning and back Sunday afternoon ..

Flight times were better with Easyjet for Paphos which meant a 2 hour drive for Cape Greco ..

We stayed in the Alion Hotel which I can't remember booking but it was great hotel, bar, restaurant with lovely food, indoor pool and gym all at a very resonable price and located close to the Cape ..

Friday afternoon and most of Saturday it rained on and off, first time apparently for 5 months, great timing for a weekend away but we made the most of it ..

Stayed on Cape Greco trying for Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear and when we wasn't we were shooting footage for Aaron's next video and future track release ..




A return visit is in order as i've got unfinished business with both species.

I will go back to the Alion hotel ..

Capercaillie ~ Latvia - Feb '19

Thursday, 28 February 2019

A long weekend for Capercaillie in Latvia seemed a great idea, a few messages to Gaidis Grandans who I had previously met at Getlini and a trip was arranged ..

A 2 hour drive from the airport to a forest in Smiltene and we were met by this awesome bird ..








We saw 3 separate Ural Owls over the weekend ..

Ural Owl

Tawny Owl

Pygmy Owl

Woodpeckers on the sunday showed well with ..
Black, Great, Lesser, White-backed and Three-toed.

White-backed Woodpecker

Three-toed Woodpecker

Nutcracker

Willow Tit

Long-tailed Tit ~ Ssp caudatus

And about 30 minutes from the Caper on friday was this bird on Sunday just magnificent birds ..







Ural Owl

Thanks Gaidis I had a great weekend ..


Cambodia ~ Jan '19

Sunday, 17 February 2019

It seemed like ages to wait for this family trip to come around having booked the main flights nearly six months prior to departure.
But what this did mean was that I had plenty of time to wind them up and when some of them are gullible it makes it a lot of fun for me ..
On the flip side of this is the fact that I have to keep it a secret and be very careful in what I say to them so as not to give the game away ..

First massive hurdle was travel vaccinations normally you go to your GP but I couldn't do that as they need to tell them where for the jabs.
So I found a Travel Clinic that was prepared to do the jabs in Manor Park, London.
They waited outside while I briefed the staff asking them not to let slip where they would be going and thankfully it all went to plan without a slip up.
Rabies jabs was a different hurdle not only was there a national shortage but they seemed unwilling to do the jabs, so it was back to phoning around and a Travel Clinic in Bexleyheath came good. 
Rabies is a 3 course vaccination so the first course was booked, I arrived early and briefed the Doctor about not saying anything and he was great. 
Each week we returned for the follow up jabs and the doctor never said a thing to them about their destination.
I had most of the trip booked, all flights, accommodation, restaurants, transport, tuk tuks and boat as the days counted down and departure day loomed I gave them all a rucksack !!
They were asked to pack only 7kgs in to the rucksack and that's all they could take with them.
Three women with only 7kgs each I thought this would prove difficult but they packed what was necessary and all managed to hit the target weight.

     

We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 on January 14th had some food and demolished a few bottles of wine, and then found somewhere to set up for the reveal ..

They were seated and each given an envelope with two letters in !!




So with the destination now known we made our way to the gate for our BA flight to Bangkok, 11 and a half hours departing at 15:15 and arriving at 09:45 the following morning ..

We got a taxi to Siri Heritage Hotel which was nicely placed near some of the main attractions.



It wasn't long before we were heading off towards the Grand Palace but first we did a boat trip 




 Talut Phlu





 Khlong Dan


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Temple of the Emerald Buddha


Grand Palace








Grand Palace


Grand Palace



We made our way back to the hotel to get ready, then took a taxi  for our 7pm reservation at the renowned Nahm Restaurant ..







They were asked to be back in our hotel reception at 04:00am as we were moving on and little did they know that we were heading back to the airport !!



Less than 24hrs in Thailand ..

Now we are on a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia .. Wednesday 16th departing at 07:25am 

Some 50 minutes later ...




 And we are met at the airport by 
Sok Menea

#besttuktukdriverinsiemreap

I can highly recommend him not only as Tuk-tuk driver but a guide as well contact him via the above link.

I gave him a rough idea for 3 days and Sok added to this and made 3 great days out.

Sok and his other driver took us first to our accommodation before heading out for the day ..

Angkor Heart Bungalows





Once we had dropped the rucksacks off and had a fresh coconut then it was the start of the Temple Marathon ..
We stopped on route and purchased our 3 day passes for the temples.


 Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


 Where's that secret ?


 I think i've found the secret up here !


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm




Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm


 Love birds

Sok took us to a restaurant for lunch which was fantastic I had Khmer vegi curry ..


  


  Angkor Thom ~ East Gate


Angkor Thom ~ East Gate


Angkor Thom ~ East Gate


Angkor Thom ~ East Gate


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


 Is the secret up here ?

Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Bayon


Angkor Thom ~ Shrine


Baphuon


Baphuon


Baphuon










 Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat




Angkor Wat ~ Northern reflection pool

Back at our hotel, Angkor Heart Bungalows we had a nice evening meal and a swim in the pool ..



The next morning after breakfast Sok picked us up in a minibus for the long drive out to Beng Mealea ..


 Preah Vihear


Preah Vihear


Preah Vihear


Koh Ker


Koh Ker


Koh Ker


Koh Ker






Preah Vihear










Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea




Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea


Beng Mealea


When we arrived back in Siem Reap, I had a little surprise lined up with a stop off here ......



They read the menu and everyone was
 up for the challenge ..













Friday 18th this was always going to be a good day and it took them no time at all to suss what we were doing today as we were picked up at our hotel by ...

Quad Adventure Cambodia

After a short briefing and test we were off going through the stunning countryside, and yes it was fantastic ..
All day on the quad bikes.

Our first stop was a temple ..





















We stopped off at a Crocodile Farm before continuing on towards Tonle Sap Lake and one of the villages there..
In the wet season this is a floating village.






























It was a unanimous decision that all future trips must have Quad days ..


 We went in to town for the evening 

It was a very early start on the 19th for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, we were picked up by Sok and when we arrived Rachel really wasn't well and grabbed a Tuk-tuk back to the hotel. The rest of us did the walk out along with 100's of others ..
I had already done my homework on the internet for the best place to stand and did a recce a couple of days ago.

So the best place to stand for the sunrise for photography is at the edge of the northern reflection pool as shown below ..




There was easy another 1000+ just on the northern reflection pool so probably double that and some spread over the site standing in the dark waiting ..




We sat for a quick coffee and now it was Aaron's turn to not feel well but he decided to stick it out ..











From here we then visited 
The Cambodia Landmine Museum and then the Butterfly Center.





















The early start caught up with us so with four empty hammocks it seemed a waste not to have an hour's sleep.




 Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei


Banteay  Srei



I now wasn't feeling too great so Me, Aaron and Rachel all gave in and tried to sleep it off while Amy and Amelia went for dinner ..

To be honest I had seen more than enough temples and probably overloaded at least a day ago so the morning of the 20th with something different brought new excitement ..

We had breakfast and the Tuk-tuk took us back to Siem Reap airport for a 11:35am flight to Sihanoukville we landed an hour later with taxis waiting to take us to Lazy Beach office.
We got our tickets, sun cream and changed up more dollars and got ourselves ready to get the boat.










It was a 45 minute journey which dropped at Saracen Bay on the island of Koh Rong Sanloem.









It was stunning and they thought we were here, there was tears of joy mainly from Me & Rachel and then I said follow me ...
We had a 20 minute trek through the jungle !!



We came out the jungle to the amazing resort of Lazy Beach ..





This place was a little piece of heaven ..
No internet just bliss.

It's the only resort in the bay 

It's not called Lazy Beach for nothing ..

And we fitted right in ..

















This was my shack !!





And my view from the balcony ..



The food was nice, the alcohol went down easy, we swam, we snorkeled, we drank more and lazed about ...















In hindsight we should have stayed here a bit longer but we had other experiences to try ..

I don't think any of us wanted to leave.

I would go back here in a heartbeat..



The morning of Tuesday 22nd we did the walk back through the jungle and caught the boat to the mainland.
The first bar we went in and had coffee and breakfast.
Whilst outside I was bartering for a taxi for our 2hr ride ..

We headed north towards Chi Phat and was dropped off at a ferry crossing ..



On the other side 5 mopeds were waiting for us ..

What the four of them must have been thinking at this point  I don't know but their minds must of been in overdrive thinking what was coming next ..



It seemed like ages but was about a 30 minute ride to our jungle chalets.



This was The Wildlife Alliance Release Station at Koh Kong it promised a lot but didn't deliver it was still an amazing experience but as already said hindsight is a wonderful thing.



At the Release Station waiting their turn for freedom were Sun Bears, Pangolins, Leopard Cat, Grey-headed Parakeet, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Great Hornbill and Mynah Birds ..
The Oriental, Great and Mynah had been released but chose to stick around the camp.


 Oriental Pied Hornbill


 Olive-Backed Sunbird





Back on the mopeds on the morning of Thursday 24th stopping at a waterfall before meeting our taxi at the ferry.



We are now heading south again ..

It was either a 6+ hour taxi ride to the capital Phnom Penh or a 35 minute flight from Sihanoukville which was 2 1/2 hours in the taxi ........

It was a no brainer which is probably why I chose it, and already having this flight cancelled 2 months ago and having to re-book it with a different airline still didn't ring alarm bells ..

So were in the taxi and the road forks ..
Left fork to Phnom Penh
Right to Sihanoukville.

Now we are back to that hindsight thing again we should have gone left yes left, LEFT ...

But we went right cos we had a flight booked and we arrived at the airport nice and early over 4 frigging hours early, in that time we could have driven to the Phnom Penh but we had a flight remember ...

One flight on the board was in red letters as Cancelled ...
Every single other fight including ours on the board was in pink letters as C/W notice ...

It's not cancelled so we sat there along with everybody else, sat there and checked the board but nothing changed, boarding time came still no gate No: nothing not a thing !!

So I went to the desk and asked ..

Cancelled ....... !! ... Wtf ...??

Told ya should have gone left ..

So now we get a taxi to town, grabbed a bite to eat before getting the night bus to Phnom Penh which takes 5+ hours ..
The night bus was a sleeper so you have to lay down and sleep the journey away, just by luck I woke up and looked out the window and we were there in Phnom Penh, we got off the bus double quick or we would have ended up back at Siem Reap !!

We should have arrived at the hotel Blue Lime about 07:30pm had a nice meal, some wine and a few hours sleep.








We actually arrived at 02:00am had a shower, some wine and at 03:00am got a Tuk-tuk to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok.
With a 4 hour lay-over before the return flight back to London.

We had a great time ...

Bring on the 2020 Trip ..

I bet I have to keep it a secret .