Thursday, April 30, 2009

destination london?

Going to London? It's now possible to enjoy the city even more. The tourist board published an excellent free booklet (Go Further in London) that tells us exactly how to how to make our budget go further. The booklet is available in many places and information is also on the website

London's made up of many villages each with their own character and style. It's one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world and I've been taste-testing the food of different ethnic groups. Try Lebanese delights in Edgware Road, Chinese food right next to Soho and Indian food in Brick Road, and Brixton for some Caribbean or African flavours - whatever your tastes, it’s available.

You know the big tourist destinations (see side bar) but what about places and events that are less well known: many free. For me it’s the green spaces that make London wonderful: large swathes of uncut grasses are left to flower and seed - attracting butterflies, insects, birds and other wildlife - these contrast with the manicured parts and the 'keep off the lawn' signs. Wandering around these parks is a real treat - it's hard to believe one is in one of the world's largest cities. Take a picnic lunch and spend time in Greenwich Park that has the meridian time-line, observatory and Maritime Museum, and superb views over much of London and the Thames.

Experience nature in the city at Barnes in West London - home to the Wetlands Centre - both resident and migratory birds are easily seen.  Check the website or phone for special activities.

Within the city there self guided walks - with free maps –around well-known icons of London and other fascinating places along the way. London is a good walking city and the tube also gets you around easily.

Markets are another superb way of seeing Londoners at work and play.  With more than three hundred to chose from there is something for all tastes - Greenwich for arts and crafts, Petticoat Lane for a variety of goodies, Spitalfields for flower lovers and Covent Garden for British made articles. Brixton even has a guided walking tour around the area and markets  Camden's my favourite for its alternative-lifestyle atmosphere and Borough is the place for fabulous food. Open on Fridays and Saturdays you can buy anything from organic food through to black bean chilli, oils and olives, ostrich burgers, cheeses and chocolates - a veritable cornucopia.

Explore Hampstead and its cemetery (Archway Station Northern Line) - one of London's most celebrated literary and intelligentsia suburbs. This area has more 'blue plaques' celebrating its residents than any other London borough: these range from John Keats, Boy George, AA Milne, and Agatha Christie through to Richard Burton, George Orwell, Freud, Twiggy and many others.

The Highgate cemetery (guided tours daily) is divided into two; the West Side is sentimental Victorian - when people didn't die but were merely sleeping. The East part is still being used: buried within its walls are Karl Marx, George Elliot, Christine Rossetti and Michael Faraday, to name a few. The headstones make interesting reading and are wonderful for atmospheric or spooky, black and white photography.

And finally, on my small list of hidden London gems, is the fabulous St Pancras Chambers. This Victorian, Gothic style building was originally a hotel, which closed in 1935 when it became railway offices. It is being restored to its former glory and will soon become a luxury hotel (Marriott) and apartment block.

The prestigious Art and Design Show is held twice yearly and the unrestored backdrop of its interior is a great foil to the pieces on display. Michael Czerwinski, artist in residence, is responsible for developing the systems that have made the visual art exhibitions, opera and other performances possible. Guided tours take place on most weekends.

So once you have seen some shows, once you have done the museums (mostly free) and art galleries, and once you have completed the top ten sights, buy a travel card and explore the many unheralded jewels in this ancient city.

London's top ten attractions  (by ticket sales)

1 London Eye

2 Dali Universe

3 London Dungeon

4 Tower of London

5 The Original London Tour (Open top double decker bus)

6 Madame Tussaurds

7 Hampton Court Palace

8 Westminster Abbey tour

9 Banqueting House

10 Kensington Palace

 (Source: www.

·        30% of London is green open space

·        London has 1,800 parks and open spaces

·        Richmond Park has 2,000 acres of landscape

·        Greenwich Park was created in 1433 and is the oldest royal park

·        Hyde Park has been a royal park since 1536

·        Hyde parks riding track - Rotten Row - was the first public road to be lit at night in England

·        Hyde Park has 4 miles of horse rides

·        Kew gardens has 40,000 varieties of plants and grows more species than any other garden in the world

·        Kew's Victorian Palm House is 2248 square metres and houses banana, coffee and paw-paw plants


Other gems

BBC TV centre

Brahma Tea & Coffee museum

Ride a canal boat from Camden


Physic gardens

Bank of England museum

Theatre Museum

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

recomendation from

Recommendation For You

#13675 Exploring Dizzying Heights From a Bird's Eye View in New Zealand Trip image
South Island’s mountainous west side near Mount Cook conjures up perfect afternoons of picnics beside pristine crystal-clear lakes, traipses through trout-fishing streams, and “tramps” along snowy mountains. But why not go above and beyond and explore the South Island’s snow and wind-swept peaks from 10,000 feet off the ground? Take a 70-minute helicopter flight with Heliventures Limited and swiftly skim above the untouched alpine wilderness near Mount Aspiring, dip and dance above the popular Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, and dramatically land on a glacier carved between hundreds of snow-capped lofty mountains. As you step onto the spotless snowfield of the bowl, the dazzling-blue cobalt sky and dizzying heights of the surrounding snowy p eaks will literally take your breath away.
By Lori Wilson | Photo: Lori Wilson  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

longest world in the world in New Zealand


“PLACENAMES CAN BE DIFFICULT  Here in the UK, the longest name of any place is the famous Welsh one, usually written as Lanfair PG:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. There are many longer, including one in New Zealand with 92 letters. This week it was admitted officially that yet another long place name, of a lake near Worcester, Massachusetts, has been spelled wrongly on signs as Chargoggagoggmanchaoggagoggchaubunaguhgamaugg for some years. It should be Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The locals call it Lake Webster   

Read more great wordy stuff here in worldwide words.

While back here in New Zealand

The longest place name in New Zealand is in Hawke’s Bay is a hill known as "Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu", which translates into English as "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'landeater’, played his flute to his loved one." Locals simply call it Taumata Hill.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

happy new year from Spice Tours

Sawat Di Pi Mai!
Happy Thai New Year!

Calm returns to Thailand
Songkran is Thailand’s New Year celebration, a fun spirited water-throwing festival, but this year it was accompanied by some untraditional political chaos. Most residents and tourists were unaffected by the April 10th to 14th demonstrations, with the government providing a step by step response that quickly restored order while dispersing the protestors without consequential violence.
Even during the height of the tensions visitors enjoyed their trips oblivious to the protests in Bangkok. No SpiceRoads tours were affected by the unrest and all our tours are running as scheduled. Sawat Di Pi Mai!

PASSING this on as I have done a bike trip with SpiceRoads and they were great :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

travelblather - read this and see why I love it! Always good stuff:)

April 23, 2009

Blogging for travel writers - Why bother?

I had an interesting evening at the British Guild of Travel Writers monthly get together last night. I was speaking with Alastair McKenzie and Simon Ward Wanderlust's web editor about all things web 2.0.

We were preaching to a quite sceptical audience. And I can see why. There remains little money to be made for pro travel writers in writing for web... and next to nothing from blogging or tweeting.

So why bother?

Well, one thing we all agreed on was that it's getting ever harder to make a proper living writing about travel and the net is very much to blame. Falling ad revenues for print media are directly related to reduced reader numbers - because people are reading stuff on-line for free and not bothering to buy magazines and newspapers in the ways they would have done before the net existed. The future looks pretty bleak for old school freelance travel writers.

Some key points I tried to make about why being part of the on-line world matters (and I hope I succeeded) read the rest here

Thanks Jeremy, you certainly did succeed, and I concur: hence my presence as a bloggerand twitterer!

wild bears - brown bears wake up in Finland

Had to pass this on! I will be watching  (from 1st May)  for the bears as they stretch and yawn after their long sleep - great for arm chair travellers and will no doubt whet our (my) appetite for travel to Finland

World Premiere: Bearcam Featuring the Brown Bear

Finnish online service BearCam allows you to admire Europe’s greatest carnivores, the brown bears (Ursus arctos) as they awaken from winter hibernation. Starting May 1st live videos will present the wild bears from the taiga forest in Eastern Finland, near the Russian border.

The BearCam is installed in the animal observation site of the Wild Brown Bear Company, which arranges animal watching tours. In tests last summer, the webcam system which films live feeds showed a very high probability of capturing the bears on film. Although brown bears are classed as 
near threatened in for example many European countries, the taiga forests ofEastern Finland are home to a large number of them.

“Bears are shy, mostly nocturnal animals and are rarely seen without hidden observation huts and the use of carcasses. However, one can see bears approximately 95 per cent of the nights between late April and August,” explains Jaana Keränen, the sales manager of Wild Taiga, a network of the region’s tourism operators.
BearCam feeds live videos in the hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., the time when bears are most active. Daytime visitors of the website can browse the video archive.
From April, the 
first to wake up from their winter’s sleep are the large males, followed later in June by the mother bears and their cubs. Obtaining good quality video material is easy during the period of the Midnight Sun when the sun doesn’t set. For darker nights in the autumn, the video camera is equipped with infrared light. 
The evergreen taiga forest provides possibilities for guided wildlife observing and photographing trips. In these excursions, one can admire different rare and endangered wild mammals, in particular bears, wolves and wolverines. 
Starting May 1st the BearCam can be found on the Wild Brown Bear website at 

Information about operators offering wildlife observation tours can be found at Wild Taiga website 
For more information on Finland visit 


Friday, April 17, 2009

literary scams --- warnings

Warning Signs: How To Spot A Literary Agent Scam: Part One

Thursday, 16 April 2009 01:25 by Writer's Relief Staff “How can you tell if a literary agent or agency is legitimate and not a scam?” New novelists and veteran writers can fall prey to literary agency scams—hidden tricks that literary agents use to fake legitimacy or make a quick buck on a book. Writers should be wary of scams when approaching literary agencies or individual agents.

The only way that a reputable literary agent should make money off an author is by selling the author’s book. That’s it. If an agent is asking for any fees (reading, evaluations, marketing, or retainer fees), let the red flags unfurl.

Reading fees at agencies weren’t always a red flag, but because several agencies began abusing the system—charging fees without having any genuine interest in the material itself—the practice was abolished by the Association of Authors’ Representatives or AAR (the trade group for US literary agents).read more 

A Message from Writers Relief
 Writer’s Relief, Inc. is a highly recommended author’s submission service. Established in 1994, Writer’s Relief will help you target the best markets for your creative writing. Visit their Web site at to receive their FREE Writers’ Newsflash, which contains valuable leads, submission guidelines, and deadlines for writing in all genres. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

is travel in thailand safe?

Check out my blog on this topic at http// 
Some of my friends may disagree with my opinion as they think I''m either couragous or crazy with most of my travel so they may ignore my ideas.

Also, I have friends on facebook who are teaching in Thailand and I dont hear any concerns from them!

I love this photo of a monk being a tourist in Bangkok (taken by me - Feb 2009)

Monday, April 13, 2009

the 'what not to do' list and other intersting links

The what-not-to-do travel guide

Friday, March 20, 2009

By Kim Wildman
MSN NZ Travel writer

When travelling, you're bound to have a list of "must-dos" like learning a new language or perhaps even going bungee jumping. But there's another travel list you should pay heed to — the "what-not-to-do" list. Here's our top 10.

Don't use or carry drugs
Unless you fancy spending your holiday taking in the view from a jail cell, whatever you do, don't use or carry drugs. In some countries drug possession carries severe penalties. Indonesia in particular has some of the toughest laws and currently has around 20 foreigners, including three Australians, sitting on death row for drug offences. It's simply not worth the risk.

Don't carry someone's bag
Never offer to carry someone else's bags or belongings, in or out of a country, for them. Just ask French national Michael Loic Blanc; he's now serving life in prison for smuggling 3.8kg of hashish through Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar, found in a bag of diving gear he claims he was carrying for an acquaintance he met in Bali. Unfortunately for Michael, his "friend" disappeared once the discovery was made.

Don't take photographs of official buildings
In many countries it's read more here

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

endorsing a service I use - PayPal

Check it out yourself: I have had no problem at all.

Below this line is from their website

Can I use a credit card with PayPal?

Yes. You can use Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express with PayPal. 
Plus, when you pay with PayPal, you don't expose your credit card number to merchants.

the prince and the bogus guru

“Come with us” the Prince said. So, with that royal invitation, I feel compelled to follow him and three other men.

Down the ancient steps, past Ahilya temple, past widows, their hands out for alms, past stones identifying extreme monsoon levels, and further down, we reach the 300-year old ghats where women are washing clothes. Others proffer water, in cupped hands or in a container, towards the sun, and as the water runs through their fingers they are reciting sacred verses.

Beside Nandi the bull and Shiva-lings that mark the cremation sites of various nobles, we climb onto a flat-bottomed, traditional boat on which white plastic chairs sit. The prince is taking us upstream to another temple that belonged to his ancestor.

Twenty–two generations ago, Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, the celebrated Indian Queen (died 1795) renowned for her piety, charity, and statecraft, built Ahilya Fort at Maheshwar on the banks of the holy Narmada River. Now her direct descendant, Prince Shivaji Rao Holkar, son of the last Maharaja of Indore, allows a few guests in his fabulously restored palace. After weeks of backpacking, I value the luxury.

Another guest in this boutique, royal-homestay, is Sam Adams Green who, incidentally, introduced Andy Warhol to his muse – society girl Edie Sedgwick – and also gave him his first exhibition when he was director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Now founder and director of Landmarks Foundation, which works at protecting global sacred sites: our destination is one of those sites.

Two young men, standing at the rear of the boat, move us upstream with large paddles; we have tea and biscuits that the prince produces from a picnic basket, watch life on the riverbank and cattle cooling in the water, as we glide towards Kaleshwar Temple, a 12-century temple complex. “It has been a site of Hindu pilgrimage destination since the beginning of time and memory,” Sam tells me.

There are 7 holy rivers in India, including the Ganga in the north and this one, the Narmada, in the south – it divides the north from the southern peninsula of India.

The southern bank is ancient Gondwanaland, which, as it moved north collided with the Central Asian landmass. Between the two, a rift valley was created and through which the Narmada flows over some of the oldest rocks in the world. The north – where the palace and temple are – is made of hilly sedimentary sandstone while the southern bank, peninsular India, is flat igneous basalts.

Parikramavasis, a thousand-mile circumambulation of the holy Narmada traditionally takes 3 years, 3 months, and three days to walk. Starting 3000 feet above sea level and finishing some 1300 miles later at the Arabian Sea this is the only Indian river where a parikama of the entire course is performed.

In ‘Sacred Virgin Travels along the Narmada’ by Royina Grewal (whose own sacred journey began in 1993) says: ‘depending on where you meet her and how, the Narmada can mean different things to different people. For the many turbulent stretches, she is called Rewa, derived from the Sanskrit ‘rev’, to leap. Of her many names, this is my favourite. But she is also called Manananda, who brings eternal bliss, Rajani, the spirited one, and Kamada who fulfils desire, Vibhatsathe the terrifying one, and Manasuardhini who craves the lifeblood that she has nurtured. Ferocious, insouciant, benevolent.’

Prince Richard tells me that where the holy Narmada flows only Shiva is worshiped

for he is the only god who has the tranquillity to calm her.

Approaching Kaleshwar, we see two sackcloth clad, and orange wrapped devotees standing on stone fortifications that have tumbled down from the temple to the waters edge after a high monsoon. Prince Richard of Indore has ambitious plans for the rejuvenation of this ancient temple and dharmasala – a pilgrim’s rest house – and those who make donations over $US5000 towards its restoration are invited to tour the princely state of Indore and stay as his guest in his 18th century palace home.

Currently a bogus guru is holding up the process, effectively denying a free place to stay for some 50,000 pilgrims annually.

A couple of years ago this ex-army man asked the prince if he could stay at the temple for a few months. Soon he had set up a health clinic and was giving fake injections to cure many ills. Eventually chased out of town, he came back, ran up many bills, was run out of town again and when he next appeared was wearing the saffron robes of a holy man. Moving back into the temple, he has gathered a few devotees around him and intends to stay: it seems squatters have rights here and he cannot be evicted. Money has been offered for him to go but even this honey has not sweetened a move.

Prince Richard and the Landmark Foundation must be feeling like Henry 2nd when he said of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ as they too wonder what to do with this man who happily poses for my photos – an incongruous guru with a mobile phone hanging from his neck.

Back at the rivers edge the holy men who are walking the length of both banks of the river have washed and re-covered their bodies with ash.

India is vivid and varied, a melting pot of religions and people from central Asia, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and here, with a, prince, a fake guru, and genuine devotees, it’s just as Sam said: ‘these guys could have walked straight out of central casting for a Bollywood movie.”

see more here

©Heather Hapeta

Friday, April 3, 2009

blogger dies in custody

Blogger dies while in custody

An Iranian blogger sent to prison last month for insulting the country's religious leaders and making propaganda against the state has died under questionable circumstances, report ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Omidreza Mirsayafi died in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison on 18 March, just over a month after he was sentenced to more than two years in jail for posting comments on his blog about religious figures, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution.

Prison authorities said Mirsayafi, who suffered from depression, committed suicide by overdosing on sedatives. But his family questions their findings, maintaining he would not have possessed enough medication to kill himself.  According to RSF, Hessam Firoozi, an imprisoned doctor who has treated some of Iran's best-known political activists and witnessed Mirsayafi's treatment, told Mirsafayi's lawyer that Mirsayafi's death could be attributed entirely to the prison's failure to provide medical assistance.

Mirsayafi was awaiting a further trial on charges of insulting "sacred Islamic values". The offences were allegedly committed on his now defunct blog, Rooznegaar, which focused mainly on Persian music and culture, says RSF.

Mirsayafi had consistently denied the charges against him, saying his blogs were not political in nature. He told RSF in a recent email that he would "not have the energy to live in prison."