Monday, 2 January 2012

Extra Photos: Part 1

When I travelled a decade ago, the world was a very different place. Televisions used aerials, Arabs accepted their oppression, and Justin Bieber was still sperm. Also, cameras almost always still used film. I travelled with a small, crappy camera and small supply of film. As a result, I had to be frugal with the photos I took, saving them for the most special of occasions. Alas, take me, a cheap camera, and only one chance at a photo, and you get stuff like this:

There's a lot of stuff like this in my 2001 travel collection. Therefore, although sometimes you may catch me in a rant about the greater charm of yesteryear, with film and cameras and personality, there can be no doubt that the modern digital "charmless" camera is far superior in the hands of someone inept like myself. During four months of travel in 2001 I took something like two hundred photos; in a similar amount of time in 2011, I have taken well over two thousand. There's no one-shot deal any more, I can take multiple pictures of the same thing until I'm thoroughly sure the moment has passed.

Obviously, I've included many photos as I've been going along, but there are plenty that didn't make the cut, not due to quality, but more due to relevance. Nonetheless, they are relevant to the overall travels, or are simply nice-looking photos. This first bunch were all taken from Burness's camera - my camera broke in Cambodia so since then we've been using his. Here they are, in a rough chronology.

Handsome Men

Well, here's a nice one. This one was taken in the astonishingly expensive Avalon nightclub in Singapore - entry plus two beers cost almost threes time my daily budget. Burness only convinced me to go by saying it would be an integral part of the Marina Bay Sands experience. That I'm not sure of, but it was a good night, helped by the cheap vodka we plied ourselves with prior to going. As you can see, we're uncharacteristically well-dressed - Burness had to borrow my shirt - due to a perceived dress code at the door (it turned out T-shirts and jeans would have been fine). All other photos of the night are much less flattering. Oh, ok, here's one:

Burness Style

As you will know, I'm someone at the cutting edge of style and fashion. Which is why it pains me sometimes to have someone around me who is less fashion-aware. Above is Burness at Prambanan, Indonesia. He had bought the cap that day, for £1, and still talks about it today (although wears it notably less so). One of Burness's reasons for travelling is to recapture the sense of youth and enthusiasm that three decades of bitter life have hammered out of him. Wearing a blue-and-yellow cap will not, I fear, put him in closer touch with his youth.

Mount Merapi

Our night climb of Mount Merapi, in central Java, Indonesia, was a tough one. Not just due to the cold, or the darkness, or the very steep climb, but because of the sandy soil underfoot that made grip difficult and slips frequent. After about four hours of climbing, we reached a summit (not the summit, mind) and it was very windy. So we sheltered in a cave, getting the merest hint of a sleep, and then woke to a beautiful sunrise. Not just any old beautiful sunrise, but unquestionably the most beautiful I've ever seen, with Burness too fully agreeing. The first photo can only give a suggestion as to the beauty, as to give a better idea you would need to blow it up a hundred times and have it all around you. The sunrise went on for ages, held back by a distant mountain, otherwise surrounded by horizontally flat land, that concealed the sun, while the colours danced, whirred, magically revealed, confounded, sparkled, hoorayed, and whatever else beautiful sunrise colours do.

Due to time and wind, our guide wouldn't allow us to scramble up the dangerous slope to Merapi's volcanic crater, but we climbed a nearby summit, and admired the view.

Beng Melea in Angkor

We saw a lot of temples at Angkor, and in the end I couldn't write about them all. The most significant one I passed over was Beng Melea. This colossal pile of ruins was a couple of hours away from Siem Reap and therefore far less explored than the main circuit of temples. Built by the same guy as Angkor Wat (Suryavarnam II) and approximately the same size, it is now an immense pile of bricks. Will they one day reconstruct it? I don't know, but the raw material is there, so it's possible. It would probably the the biggest jigsaw puzzle ever. For an hour or two, with a guide that I think was mandatory (it's hard to tell, there may just have been a bunch of opportunistic locals hanging around wearing the same colour of shirt), we clambered around and explored the ruins. Local children could be heard playing, in perhaps the best playground on earth.


This was taken in Luang Prabang, in Laos. There was a restaurant that could only be accessed by getting in a small, long, narrow boat and being taken there (a seasonal bridge was being constructed, but it wasn't yet finished at the time). There we ate some Lao food, called... um... oh, something. It's a metal bowl/grill thing put over fire, and a bunch of water, stock, vegetables, and meat placed inside. It was very tasty, hence why three of our five nights in Luang Prabang we ate it.

Ho Chi Minh Rooftop Bar at the Sheraton

Burness persuaded me to go to the Sheraton for our one afternoon and evening in Ho Chi Minh City, and try some Happy Hour cocktails. They were still very expensive. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed my "Grasshopper" and did my best to look thoroughly sophisticated doing so. (I should mention that virtually the entire clientele were backpackers, there because it's mentioned in the Lonely Planet, which is where Burness got it from. Oh, spirit of adventure!)

Terror Trekking

This picture only gives a hint, but the first day of our trek in and around the Banaue Rice Terraces had some hairy moments. There is a path, but there are also a lot of landslides, and sometimes the walk became very precipitous. There were times when a slight slip, and on very loose soil, could have had very unfortunate consequences. This picture isn't the steepest example, but it gives the idea that the trek wasn't always a stroll.

Wat Chai Wattanaram

And finally, for the Burness portfolio, is this, Wat Chai Wattanaram in Ayutthaya. It's on the other side of the island, and not part of the Historic Park, which is a shame as it's probably the best looking temple. This photo was the only picture we managed of the temple, just before the battery ran out, and was taken during our little boat trip which passed by at sunset.sed by at sunset.

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