Sunday, 10 November 2019

Kathmandu Funny Signs

Best cold drinks around, perfect on a hot day

You know what to expect

Bit small but they loved it...
Today they have a brand new one, so much bigger and just for them

Are you ready to try? Wishing you luck...
I didn't so can't advise

Or perhaps this one's more to your taste...
Mine, definitely

No pictures of angels but they were there
We had a giggle and a lovely chat...

No Pepsi for them
Just blowing bubbles (with water) to strengthen their lungs
So when they're big, they can play the temple horns

©Solange Hando
Images Kathmandu and beyond 
Phone numbers likely to have changed over time

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Devon Langstone Cliff Hotel Review, Dawlish Warren

Langstone Cliff Hotel ©Solange Hando

As the name indicates, this lovely family-run hotel is situated on a cliff top with spacious grounds, trees and lawns, overlooking the Exe estuary. 
There's plenty of private parking, bus stops just outside the entrance and a shaded footpath leading to the rail station and the beach with eating places and entertainment. The hotel is family and dog friendly. 

Pleasant Room at the Langstone ©Solange Hando

The Langstone has 64 rooms on two floors with all the amenities you would expect, free WiFi, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, biscuits included, comfortable beds and a choice of bath or walk-in shower.
Luxury rooms boast private balconies or patios, with lawn or sea views.

Orchids a Treat ©Solange Hando

The hotel is justly proud of its flowers, from orchids to hanging baskets, hydrangeas and more.
If you love flowers and colour, this is the place for you, all beautifully tended and in perfect condition.

Lincoln Restaurant ©Solange Hando

With its adjoining bar, the Lincoln serves delicious food, in smaller areas with waiter service or in the main restaurant which offers a buffet with a wide choice of starters, main courses and desserts with clotted cream if you wish. 
Food and snacks are also available in a range of connecting rooms overlooking the lawn and pool. Look out for afternoon tea on the lawn.

Guests Lounge at the Langstone ©Solange Hando

Plenty of comfort and space to chat and meet friends, share a drink or read the free paper.
Though if you want to be active, there are two swimming pools (in and outdoors), tennis court, a fitness room and a beauty-therapy room to pamper yourself.

The Verandah ©Solange Hando

The veranda is a lovely place to relax, in the shade or in the sun, close to the bar and looking across garden and pool and the estuary beyond.

Relax with a View ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Spice Village Hill Resort in Kerala

Cottage in Spice Village ©Solange Hando

Close to spice plantations and the Periyar National Park, Spice Village is a CGH Earth resort, 'clean, green, healthy' Located on the edge of Kumily village, it's in the Thekkady district of the Kerala's Western Ghats.
Accommodation is in traditional bungalows scattered in the greenery, built with local materials and thatched with elephant grass. It's an oasis of peace, beautifully quiet at night.

Guest Room, Spice Village ©Solange Hando

Rooms are spacious and clean and at over 700 metres, pleasantly cool so no need for air conditioning. Furniture is made of recycled pine wood and floors are tiled, with coir mats as needed.
It may look a little spartan but with hot water, soft lighting and all the usual amenities, everything you might need is at hand.

Lawns and Trees in Spice Village ©Solange Hando

There's a lovely garden to relax in the shade, enjoy your lunch or perhaps a cool drink or herbal tea. Friendly staff make you feel most welcome and although you may well be tempted by the colourful stalls along the lanes, take time to unwind at least for a while in your little haven.
Other facilities include a Green Leaf Ayurveda Centre, yoga and meditation, badminton, tennis and activities such as trekking, bamboo rafting or visiting a spice plantation.

Tamarind Restaurant at Spice Village ©Solange Hando

Overlooking the swimming pool is Tamarind, the main restaurant serving regional and international fare. Or you could try the '50 mile Diet Restaurant' which guarantees that all ingredients are produced within a 50 mile radius. There's is also a pleasant Woodhouse Bar where you can meet and chat with your friends. 

Spice Village Organic Garden ©Solange Hando

Then wander up the slope and right at the top, beyond the last cottages, you will discover the resort organic garden where fruit, vegetables, lettuce, spices and more are grown for healthy and tasty dishes. 
Besides sheer eating pleasure, it's good to know that so many local people have found employment in this caring Spice Village  hotel, grounds and garden.

The Periyar National Park ©Solange Hando 

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Bukhara on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan

Bukhara Poi Kalyon Complex ©Solange Hando

Madrassas, mosques, mausoleums, there's so much to see in Bukhara you'd need a full week to do it justice but if time is limited, Poi Kalyon is the place you should not miss, right at the heart of the Old Town.

Meaning 'at the foot of the Great',  it includes a mosque which can hold 10000 worshippers, a madrassa still providing a four year programme of religious studies and a minaret rising 45 metres above the town.

The Trading Domes ©Solange Hando

A popular access to the complex is through the restored medieval domes, originally housing the money changers, hat makers and jewellers.  Today you can shop for all sorts of local crafts, from puppets to pottery or textile, including Suzani embroidery, enhanced with decorative threads, and Ikat silk shimmering in rainbow colours.

Weaving Carpets in Bukhara ©Solange Hando

But especially prized are the lovely silk carpets, among them the 'magic' carpets, so called for they are double-sided so you get two for the price of one. Not cheap but quality guaranteed.

Designs range from Uzbek geometric patterns to Persian flowers and the more you walk on your silk carpet, the tighter the knots and the longer it will last.

Lyabi Hauz Complex ©Solange Hando

Shaded by mulberry trees, the square is set around an ancient reservoir, 42 metres long by 36 across, glistening with the reflections of  traditional buildings draped in blue tiles and wood.

It was once a focal point for merchants and entertainers but today this is a beautifully quiet place where you can relax by the water or sip a drink in the shade.

The Ark, Bukhara's Landmark ©Solange Hando

With its mud brick walls glowing in the sun, the fortress of the Ark is one of the city's top icons, first recorded in the 7th century and reconstructed many times.

What you see today mostly dates from the 16th century, partly restored after a major fire, Beyond the steep stone ramp and gate, you will find a couple of museums, calligraphy exhibits and spine-chilling stories from the past. 

Remembering the Silk Road in Bukhara ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Uzbekistan Samarkand on the Silk Road

Samarkand on the Silk Road ©Solange Hando

Samarkand dazzles you every step of the way with magnificent buildings restored with great dedication and fond memories of medieval merchants.

Once laden with exotic goods, they travelled from far and wide across Central Asia, marvelling, just as we do today, at the legendary wonders of this amazing city.

The Bibi Khanym Mosque ©Solange Hando

Among the top attractions is this 15th century mosque, commissioned by Bibi Khanym as a gift for Timur, her husband and victorious warrior, now a national hero. The mosque was rebuilt after an earthquake but still feels haunted by one of the saddest stories in the land.

Having fallen in love with Bibi, the architect kissed the lady on the cheek but when Timur returned from his campaign in India, he noticed the mark and executed his rival. Some say the lady suffered the same fate but no one is really sure. 

Shah-i Zinda Necropolis ©Solange Hando

Up on a hill on the edge of town, this necropolis includes a mausoleum honouring the 'Living King', cousin of the Prophet Mohammed and patron saint of Samarkand.

It is 35 steps to the top, a challenge on a hot day, but well worth the effort as you join worshippers making their way through the long alleyway of shrines, covered in blue and turquoise tiles.

Ulug Beg ©Solange Hando

Born in 1394, Timur's grandson was passionate about culture and science, especially astronomy for which he built the world's largest observatory at that time, on a hill but underground to protect it from earthquakes. He studied the sun and the moon and accurately positioned over 1000 stars.

Unfortunately, though widely remembered as an astronomer, Ulug Beg was not a strong ruler and he was eventually overthrown and executed by his son.

The Registan ©Solange Hando

Designed between the 15th and 17th century, Samarkand's central square claims three fabulous madrassas, fronted by a raised viewing platform for snap-happy tourists and wedding photos. The oldest building is the Ulug Beg Madrassa, on the left..

Enjoy the glowing towers and archways, ribbed minarets, restored mosaics, small souvenir shops and workshops and in the Tiger Madrassa on the right, free demonstrations of traditional music. Don't miss the stunning sound and light shows in season.

The golden ceiling in the central Tilla Kari Madrassa ©Solange Hando 

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Kerala in South India

Kochi Fishing Nets ©Solange Hando

Formerly known as Cochin, this is the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea', a fascinating city set on a peninsula and islands around a vast natural harbour.
The old district has a rich history and there's a lovely promenade along the waterfront lined with stalls and seafood restaurants, and a beach, best at the far end. But most iconic are the Chinese fishing nets, each one pulled in and out of the water every 15 minutes or so.

Kerala Backwaters ©Solange Hando

Then just inland are the Kerala backwaters, the highlight of any trip to southern India. There, for a few hours or overnight, you can explore the waterways as you sail across canals, lagoons and lakes in your traditional bamboo-covered boat. 
Banks are beautifully lush and green and it's a great place to see the local life as you pass a village or two or a Hindu temple glowing in the sun. The main waterways and big Lake Vembanad may bustle with tourists and local craft but there are some amazingly quiet areas, tucked in the greenery away from it all. 

Classical Kerala ©Solange Hando

Traditional culture is alive and well, not just for visitors but for anyone in Kerala, it's is a matter of pride and identity. Above is a main character in a Khatakali performance where after the opening rituals, a centuries-old story is performed, expressing every emotion through eye and face movements.
Heavy make up and large colourful costumes add to the drama, punctuated with the relentless beating of a drum. 

Up in the Western Ghats ©Solange Hando

A short drive east leads you to the hills of the Western Ghats, an entirely different world but still part of Kerala.The Periyar Wildlife sanctuary has tree top look-outs where you might spot elephants or a lone tiger, if you are really lucky, and myriad birds if you sail on the lake where the Mulla and Periya rivers meet.
Up there, at over 700 metres the nearest village is Kumily set among spice plantations, including cardamom, the most important, which gives its name to the nearby hills.

Tea Plantations in Western Ghats ©Solange Hando

The ride from the coast to the hills is spectacular, winding past tall rubber trees, coffee bushes, spice gardens and extensive tea plantations, rolling emerald green across the slopes. Best overall views are from the pilgrimage site of Pattumala on St Francis Mount.

Sunset on the Arabian Sea, Kochi Beach ©Solange Hando


Saturday, 27 July 2019

Want to be a Travel Writer / Part 2


Work sent, pictures sent
How long do you wait?
At least 2 or 3 weeks before you chase up politely

 'No thank you', no reason given?
Put your work aside for 2 or 3 days then look at it again
Be honest, did it fit 100% or maybe not quite?
Learn as you go and the future will be bright
Now remember the other markets you had in mind? Try again, one at a time

It's a 'yes'
If any changes are needed, don't argue, just do it
Then when all is ok, you may ask about 'usual' rates
Modest for a first piece but if they really like your work, may offer more next time round.

Brilliant, keep moving
Offer new ideas as soon as your work is published or even sooner if that takes a long time.
Meanwhile check new ideas, new markets and have several queries/features out at the same time 
The harder you work, the luckier you'll get

Blog or print, read lots of travel and learn from others
Join any relevant associations, attend travel shows and network as much as possible
Ask tourist boards and operators to put your name on their lists for any new information
Work on your profile, have a website and link everything you do to social media.

Flying High

Be a Travel Writer