Sunday, 10 February 2013

Thailand - Chiang Mai summary

Well, we are at the end of our holiday. Nine weeks away and just 1 more night (on a plane) before we are home. We are in Bangkok waiting for the night flight to Sydney and again have wifi and the chance to add a final blog.

On Tuesday morning we left Venice after a short walk, a trip on the water bus and launch trip to the Marco Polo airport. After flights to London them Bangkok we arrived at Chiang Mai at 8 pm Wednesday to be met by a tearful then beaming god-daughter, Little, and her fiancée Joe.

On Thursday we did a big of shopping for for lighter clothes before having a wedding rehearsal. The wedding was held in a church on the outskirts of Lamphun at 5 on Friday. I have almost no photos because as "Father of the Bride" I could not carry a camera. I'll have to rely on others for photos. The wedding, the Thai dinner after the ceremony and the party on Saturday were all enjoyable. After the initial nerves and responsibility I think I could get used to being FOB.

On Saturday we caught up with friends Jirasit, Fon and son Time, visiting their house and enjoying a wonderful meal together.

Now the trip is almost over and we have mixed feelings - sad that the trip has come to an end, but looking forward to being in the familiar comforts of home and with family again. Dear grandson Cameron is not quite as little as when we left.

After we are home I'll add some more photos from camera as this blog has used only phone-camera and most of my photos were taken with the Canon camera, especially under conditions where the phone just couldn't cope.

It's been fun preparing this Blog. Thanks for reading it.

1 &2: the bride and bridesmaids (no pic of groom as I'd been stripped of cameras
3: with Jirasith, Fon and Time
4-6: Bangkok airport - statue decorations and a view of about half the checking area (it's huge - row after rows of counters)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Guess where - not too difficult

Sadly we left Venice this morning and took a launch across the lagoon for today's mystery destination where we have a 7 hour transit stopover before flying to Bangkok tonight, then on to Chiang Mai tomorrow.

There was enough time to escape from the airport for 3 or 4 hours and observe the locals and their customs.

No prizes for guessing - where are we ?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Venice - Walking and climbing about

Just a quick entry the day after the event as we are packing and preparing to leave Venice. Yesterday was fine and sunny, but not quite as clear as on Sunday. Many people in elaborate costumes were parading through the streets. We met at the Opera House (image 3) and joined a guided walking tour for a "Secrets of Carnevale & Casanova " tour through the small lanes of Venice. Our guide David is shown below (cape and 3 corner hat). After lunch we took the water bus to the island of San Giorgio to see the church and were able to go to the top of the bell tower (a lift!) for a fine view of the city and even of the Alps and Austrian border.

Today we flight via London and Bangkok to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for the final stage of our tour. Next message will be from Thailand.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Venice - Carnevale starts

Carnevale events should have started yesterday in Piazza San Marco but the strong winds and driving rains led to cancellations. Today was completely different. The weather was mild (for this time of year), the wind had dropped and skies were blue. Visitors arrived by the thousands and there was a wonderful atmosphere.

Some of the costumes were truly stunning and photographers crowded around the best, or perhaps the oddest, costumes. Groups of gondoliers carried the girls in the "Maria" competition, bands played, flags were waved and tossed in the air and the "Doge" (historic ruler of Venice) and his retinue paraded through the packed square to the stage to review the rest of the parade.

Various events were staged during the day and on the evening a jazz band played with the theme "a touch of blue". It was a memorable day.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Venice - The most serene city

This morning we left the wonderful hospitality and kindness of the Feletto family in Conegliano and took the train to Venice. So, some of the buildings could do with some TLC, but they are 5,6,7 hundred years old! It's a wonderful place and we are glad to be back .

Image 1 - the view as you walk out
of the railway station.
Image 2 - a couple of the "palazzi" along the Grand Canal on our way to our B&B. this must be the most picturesque (water)bus ride in the world.
Image 3 - local seafood platter for lunch at a small "osteria" near our place.
Images 4&5 - 2 views of Santa Maria della Salute from the Grand Canal.

Viva Venezia!

Budapest - been and gone

This should have been yesterday's entry but I was a bit slack. Anyway, better late than never!

It was a day of mixed transport modes: in Bratislava we walked from the hotel to the bus stop, caught the bus to the station and the train to Budapest (2.7) hours. In Budapest we took the airport shuttle from the station to .... The airport (you guessed that, right?) and flew to Treviso, north of Venice where our friend and host Giacinto met us and took us "home" to Conegliano.

The picture is not good but was the best I could do through the security barrier and plate glass windows at Budapest where you can make out 2 jets (expand the image to read the name of the airline - yes, "wizz" airlines). It's a Hungarian budget airline. Imagine the travel conversation: "what did you do on your trip ?"; "took a Wizz or two - when you've got to go, you've got to go!"

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Bratislava - More sights

Bratislava had a mild day (11 deg) with no rain so we were able to get out and about today.

Image 1 - the Michael gate & tower , the only surviving tower from the old city's walls. Plaques mark the sites of the other gates torn down in late 18th century.

Image 2 - the old Town Hall building

Image 3 - one of the elegant buildings around the old town square.

Images 4 & 5 - just 2 of the 4 statues we saw as part of the street art. One fellow emerges from a manhole ("rubberneck") and the other represents a "dandy" who used to flirt and hand out roses to women about a hundred years ago.

Image 6 - chocolate fountain and shelves of confectionary at our coffee stop.

Image 7 - Bratislava Castle overlooking the city and our hotel which is at the foot of the hill.

We've enjoyed this city despite the drab and rundown areas in the "new" city and frequent graffiti vandalism. Some city signs called Bratislava the "little big city". I think it's a nice "big little city" (of about half a million people).

Tomorrow we return by train to Budapest then plane to Treviso , north of Venice.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bratislava - Tea or coffee?

Had an enjoyable meal of local foods at the Bock Bistro located close to the hotel. The trout was delicious, as was the stroganoff with bread dumplings. Tonight was also the time to try the Gundel pancakes (image) after seeing them listed on menus and cafe windows in Budapest. They are really delicate, thin creeps rolled and filled with a ricotta-type cheese filling and served with a light vanilla custard/sauce.

Drinks? There was "Caj zcerstveho zazvoru" (lemon & ginger tea) and "Bezkofeinova kava" (decaf coffee) - accents and critical marks over letters omitted.

Bratislava - First day, with rain

This morning we woke up to a fine and sunny outlook, the best we had seen. It didn't last long, as hazy conditions soon set in. We caught the bus then the metro to the international rail station for a train to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovak Republic. For most of the journey we travelled beside snow covered fields shrouded in fog - it was both eerie and beautiful. At times there was almost a "white out" of fog and snow as far as we could(n't) see. For a while the railway line rain along the banks of the mighty Danube, a foggy white river, not "... The beautiful blue Danube".

Unfortunately we've arrived with the rain so we haven't walked too far. We have seen some attractive streetscapes with fine buildings, the St Martin's Cathedral and the Bratislava Castle / fortress. We look forward to seeing more tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Budapest - outdoors and indoors

Budapest looked just beautiful under a coat of fresh snow and light snow fell on us as we walked out today. We caught the Metro line to "Heroes' Square" at the start of a large recreation area encompassing the zoo, lakes, a pool now in use for skating and a large thermal bath complex. We spent about 3 hours at the baths and it was quite fun - and certainly a unique experience for us - to have snow falling on us as we were immersed in warm pools.

After a massage we went to the beautiful Opera House for a tour, had coffee in a late 19th century coffee house still with "old" if not quite original decorations. Our day concluded with a recital of music from a fine, large pipe organ in a basilica with a wonderful acoustic.

Tomorrow we push on to Bratislava, the capital of Slovak Republic.

Budapest - more language stunners

Seen whilst on the Metro today. Second image is part of an advert for an HP printer. Third image is part of the "you are here" street map with Metro stations. They are just astounding to me.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Budapest - Snow

Woke up this morning, went to the window, and ....... wow! It's snowing. The forecast is for a slightly "warmer" day than yesterday ( 1 vs -3 max temp). Just -2 at the moment and a bit cool. The hill opposite and even our balcony is coated.

We'll rethink today's plans- bathing in the outdoor thermal spa could be an interesting experience but getting in and out will be a challenge.

And ..... it's still snowing. Beautiful.

Budapest - sights and spellings

It's been a long but fruitful day in Budapest today. First we went up
Gellert Hill by bus then by foot to see the impressive Citadel which withstood many sieges. From there we walked down through snowy fields to the river, and on to the Buda castle and palace quarter from where we had wonderful, but somewhat hazy, views of the city.

On top of the mountain is a 700 year old basilica and the "fishermen's bastion" - the section of the old wall defended by fishermen - with its fantastic fairy-tale towers and turrets (see pix 1, 2 and 3). Part of the old fortifications now houses the very elegant Halaszbastya restaurant (the 2nd & 3rd "a" should have an accent which I can't include here).

We crossed the Chain Bridge, went into the St Stephen's Basilica (that's the Stephen as in ... On the feast of Stephen), saw the facade and foyer of the Opera House, and the Great Synagogue - 2nd largest to the biggest in New York.

Dinner was a filling but simple meal of Hungarian Goulash soup, a local wine and a coffee with a slice of delicious Dobo cake. The cafe was simply called "Anna" which was one of the few names we can read on signs. Hungarian words frequently include accents above the letter a, double dots and little "v" marks above letters making them look strange to our eyes. Tomorrow we hope to visit Vajdahunyad castle, swim at the Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo outdoor thermal spa baths, and attend an organ recital. Names of places near us include: "Szabadsad hid" and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky. For us the signage illustrates how different the Hungarian language is to us.

Tomorrow we will take our bathers (swim suits) to the pool but are not sure if that is the custom. If could be an interesting morning!