Yangon: completing a circle of friendship

Yangon’s official highlight is the Shwedegon Pagoda, a huge temple complex with a golden stupa visible for miles around. Towards sunset the entire site comes alive with the sound of chatter, prayers and the rich round sound of buddhist bells, being rung to create karma.
It is a wonderful experience to go there early on in a trip to Burma and I loved it. It is difficult to photograph but hopefully this shot of the golden stupa and the one below o the crowds walking past will give you a little taster.
Shwedegon Small
Shwedegon People
The Shwedegon Pagoda wasn’t my highlight, though. The highlight was completing a circle of friendship. I went on holiday with Bree, an Australian friend I had first met in 2009 on a trip to Cuba. Her travel companion fell in love with our tour leader and a year later I went back out to Cuba to visit them. A year after that I went to Sergio and Rowan’s wedding in Australia. Bree was bridesmaid. We talked about Burma then and when I realised that Aung San Suu Kyi was asking tourists to return, I was on the case immediately.
A fantastic trip to Cuba came full circle when Bree greeted me as I stepped out of the lift at the hotel. From Cuba to Canberra to Yangon – I love it when a plan works out!
More Cuban friendship moments were in store. On a parallel trip to ours back in 2009 were two fantastic Californian women, Carol and Janet. They were on the last day of their Burma tour as we arrived. We had a fantastic lunch, reminiscing about Cuba and hearing about their experiences of Burmese people and places.
Here we all are in Yangon:
Yangon reunion
This picture says everything about one of travelling’s true delights – meeting fascinating people and making friends for life. I have that first Cuba trip to thank for meeting at least eight people who I hope would call me ‘friend’!
If you’re a solo traveller debating whether to go away with a group, do it. There may be one or two people you don’t click with but there will be many more who inspire you for many years to come.

And if you’re going to go, why not make it Burma and make it this year? It’s a beautiful country, as this pic from Yangon shows:

Yangon - the Royal Barge

By Carole Scott

Burma: a land of light and smiles

I’m going to start posting about my trip to Burma tonight. I went in December and it was everything and more that I hoped it would be. From the glorious bling of its temples to the warmth of people’s smiles, it stole my heart.

One particular gift it gave my photography was light. This was the second foreign trip I had been on since buying a ‘proper’ camera (i.e. a digital SLR) and the way light danced wherever we went has stayed with me.

So here is a teaser for my first photography post that will come tonight. On our first day in Yangon (Rangoon), we went to a public park to see the royal barge and for a view of the Shwedegon Pagoda. As the group walked back toward the bus, I caught a glimpse of workers on a jetty, screened behind a sprinkler. This quickly captured shot became my favourite of Yangon.

Yangon01

By Carole Scott

Canine Austen: romance novel for dogs?

I was a grumpy old cow this morning, when I boarded the 6:11 a.m. train to London. I grouched my way into a seat and grumpily slapped on my slap while sipping strong coffee and reading the Indy.

You can probably tell I’m not my sweetest early in the morning. So when a large ‘country’ chap in a diamond-stitched jacket plonked down next to me, I was tempted to growl ‘get out of my space’.

It was this kind of jacket

Barbour Jacket..you know the type.

…but bigger and filled with a pink-cheeked man.

But I’m a nice, well-mannered person so I continued with the paper and the coffee. A quick glance at the book he had laid on the table changed my mood from growl to woof. ‘Gundog Sense and Sensibility‘ was the title that greeted me.

Being an Austen fan, the imagination gets to work.

‘In Stephen Wilson’s charming tale of two dogs Eliza, a black lab puppy, falls for the  dastardly but great-smelling Brutus, when he rescues her in the park from a surprise hailstorm. Unknown to her, loyal retriever Edgar is waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces when Brutus’ true character is revealed. Meanwhile, older sister Janty is pining for pedigree pointer, Henry, whose owners have forbidden him to be with her. Will Janty ever find her true mate?’

Okay, so it’s less Austen and more Mills & Boon but you can see where I was going at 6.20.  It cheered me up no end – maybe I’ll even write a short story on the theme at some point…yeah, maybe not.

Alas, I can see from the image on Amazon that although the book purports to be about the ‘inner nature’ of gundogs, it is really about getting them to fetch things. Good old Wilson Stephens, I wonder if he’s ever read any Jane Austen?

Gundogs - they're sensible, you know.

By Carole Scott

Thank god for pen and paper

I started writing a short story last weekend. I was in the sun on the Isle of Wight and started to scribble from an idea I’ve had buzzing my head for a couple of years.

Please note the verb ‘scribble’. Thank god I did. I had a note pad and pen, as I was on a walking break with no computer. I’ll put some pics up later, as I was in a beautiful garden attached to Northcourt House.

This morning, sitting in bed, I decided to type up the story so far, to see what it looked like and how it was going. 700 or so words, dark and funny but mainly dark, and I was feeling quite chuffed. My stomach rumbled and I looked at the time – midday! Time for brunch before going to visit friends for tea.

I was struggling to think of a name for the story and that blank in my mind prompted me to ‘don’t save’ instead of ‘save as’.

Thank god I started this story in a notebook. All I have wasted is 45 minutes typing and reading but it’s all there to be rescued later!

Lesson learnt? Save a document before you start filling it with creative writing. Who knows what mistakes your musings will cause!Image

By Carole Scott

Burma: is praise too early? Comment from Zoya Phan of The Guardian

I went to Burma (Myanmar) at Christmas. I responded to the call from Aung San Suu Kyi the previous year for tourists to come back now that the democratic process was opening up.

I’m going to be blogging about my wonderful experiences there. As a result of visiting, I’m reading alot about this amazing country. This piece from Zoya Phan absolutely nails the thoughts I was having even before I went, which were based on instinct, not evidence.

I would definitely urge tourists to go there. But if you do, please make sure you go independently or – if like me, this wasn’t practical  due to time constraints – interrogate your travel company, to make sure they are taking you in an ethical way, minimising the amount of money going into the coffers of the government.

Here’s the link to Zoya’s article. I hope she writes more.

International praise for ‘reformed’ Burma is premature – and dangerous | Zoya Phan | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Zoya Phan, who fled Burma as a teenager due to persecution

By Carole Scott

Google Author Rank: kept me up late!

I have it on good authority that ensuring one’s Google Author Link is in a profile and post is absolutely vital. But boy, trying to get it in the right place isn’t straight forward unless you have a friend/colleague/wise person to tell you how!

For anyone who has followed complicated instructions on the Google badge page or on the WordPress forum, let me simplify life for you.

Go to the Text (or HTML) tab of your blog post or profile page. Just pop this coding in your profile and on each post, making sure you put in the long string of numbers from your very own Google+ profile where I have put UNIQUEGOOGLEPLUSID. To find the long string of numbers, just go to your Google+ profile page and copy the numbers at the end of the URL. Then put your name where I have YOURNAME – oh, and don’t forget, put your name in Title Case, otherwise it’ll look like you’re shouting!

Thanks to RainbowClaire for this!

By <a href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/UNIQUEGOOGLEPLUSID?rel=author“>YOUR NAME</a>

By Carole Scott

Just booked: a weekend in Marrakech

I haven’t been to Morocco since 2002, when I booked a last minute holiday in August. Yes, that’s right, August. I like a heat challenge.

I went because a trip to South Africa with my boyfriend didn’t pan out…the boyfriend didn’t pan out, so that’s why the trip didn’t.

I loved Morocco but was disheartened at the holiday. Explore Worldwide advertised it as a ‘small group’ trip. Instead, we were a group of more than 20 in a full sized bus. I did enjoy it but there was an inflexibility to our days that frustrated me, particularly when our local guides decided that their ‘special’ shops were better than the madrassas and museums I was keen to see.

So I’ve wanted to go back ever since. Happily a friend is keen to go. We have booked to go for a long weekend in April. Four nights and three days in the heart of the city in a small, privately run, Riad.

Watch this space to see how I get on. I hope to bring you wonderful photos, as last time round I had a compact, film, camera with virtually no zoom. I think I have some pics somewhere, but they’ll be in a photo album, in a box, in my loft! How things have changed in 10 short years!

Moroccan tea tray
Snapped in Granada, Spain, October 2008

By Carole Scott

travel, pics & assorted thoughts from Carole Scott

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