One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster

Actually, it was two, but then I wouldn’t have been able to use the line from that famous 1984  (is it really that old?) song by Murray Head!

This was an obvious starting point for my first trip to Thailand last year and I don’t mind admitting that I was more than a bit nervous about exploring Bangkok alone. I’m from the generation that didn’t really do the whole gap year thing, in fact, I don’t know any of my friends who took time out to travel in our late teens or early twenties. We all finished school went to college or to work and then aspired to get onto the property ladder!

But you hear so much about Bangkok – how it’s full of young backpackers partying up a storm, how unsafe it is, how you can buy or sell anything, and of course about the rather dubious nightlife.  Even so, I felt as though I had to take a couple of days to see it even if my expectations were rather low.

But you hear so much about Bangkok. Was it safe for me to explore alone?

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Caught up in a caiman face off

Think a canoe trip in the Pantanal region on Brazil is a quiet affair? Think again!

(Visiting the Brazil stand at the World Travel Market yesterday made me think back to this most memorable of days during my solo trip to this incredible country)  

Today we’re talking reptiles and mammals and despite the night safari being cancelled due to high winds, the 7am 4km walk through the neighbouring area showed up a whole array of strange and exotic creatures. That may sound like an early start to some of you, but believe me, it’s impossible to sleep past 5am as a cacophony of birds, ably led by the extremely loud and ubiquitous chaco chachalaca, shake you out of your bed whether you’re ready or not. (Side note here – I am awarding the chaco chachalaca my ‘how to big yourself up’ award as it has a fabulous name that sounds like a samba step and a call like nothing you’ve ever heard before yet it is the dullest and most boring looking thing you’ve ever seen. The thing is, everyone knows it and it is completely unforgettable  – a great job of self-publicity that we could all learn from!)

Back to the morning walk and it wasn’t long until we came across howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, yellow armadillo, marsh deer, and South American coati.

 

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Talking Travel

Meet Julie Lovegrove, a professional photographer with a passion for travel and a mission to combine them both to help us improve our photographic skills. Here Julie shares how volunteering in Africa sparked her love of solo travel, her top tips for solo woman travellers starting out in mid-life and her own solo travel style. 

Tell us a little about yourself and what’s your mission?

I’m a 58-year-old professional photographer who specialises in photographing women and babies. That’s the day job. However, my passion is travelling abroad and recording those travels with my camera. My mission is to expand on this to do two or three trips a year and take others with me. The main emphasis of those trips would be to concentrate on improving their photographic skills as we go, with some dedicated ‘classroom’ sessions followed by plenty of practical practice.

Why are you passionate about this?

Whilst I seemed to be a natural at capturing great moments and scenes, it took me a LONG time to learn the technical aspects of how to get the best out of a camera. I had to be drip fed information from my very patient husband, but if I was in a situation with other photographers I lacked the confidence to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or not knowing what I was doing. I want my clients to be able to enjoy a ‘judgement free’ trip where everyone is supportive and like-minded and feels l that they can ask for help over and over until they ‘get it’.

 

Namibia
Caught doing what I love – photographing something amazing

 

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Sri Lanka Hill Country – go for the tea, stay for the curries​

Sri Lanka is foodie heaven and a vegan paradise

It’s mid-morning and the train to Nuwara Eliya is climbing through the lush, green countryside on its way to the hills of Sri Lanka’s tea country. Since I boarded at Haputale the scenery has changed completely and I find myself jostling with other passengers, hanging precariously out of the open carriage door as we wind our way through the undulating, rough country risking my life to get the perfect photo. Yes, the tea plantations are impressive and that is why I’m making the journey, but it’s the manicured terraces brimmed to capacity with vegetable plots that are really getting my attention. I had no idea that Sri Lanka produced such an abundance of fresh produce but then I suppose there’s a reason why the national dish is rice and curry and most of those curries are made from vegetables.

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