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British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Riding the Japanese bullet train

We ended up riding the Japanese bullet train (or Shinkansen) by accident. Typhoon Phanfone meant we had… [more]

Riding the Japanese bullet train Riding the Japanese bullet train

My top 5 things to do in Tokyo

We fell totally in love with Tokyo and it was a real wrench to leave it behind. Everything just works… [more]

My top 5 things to do in Tokyo My top 5 things to do in Tokyo

The Killing Fields and the amazing Cambodian people

It may seem strange that the Cambodian Government encourages tourists to visit the Killing Fields; but… [more]

The Killing Fields and the amazing Cambodian people The Killing Fields and the amazing Cambodian people

Win Rio 2 on DVD

  It's time for a party! Rio 2 is out on DVD. We really enjoyed the first Rio film and the sequel… [more]

Win Rio 2 on DVD Win Rio 2 on DVD

Mekong skies

      I'm a huge fan of sky and cloud porn, and so I'll often stand for ages… [more]

Mekong skies Mekong skies

Hanoi rocks

I know, I know it's been over two weeks since I blogged, but if you follow me on twitter and instagram… [more]

Hanoi rocks Hanoi rocks

Hudl 2 review

When we were asked if we'd like to review a Hudl2 I was a bit skeptical; it seemed unlikely that a budget… [more]

Hudl 2 review Hudl 2 review

Off to Vietnam and Cambodia

I've wanted to return to Vietnam ever since visiting Ho Chi Minh city a couple of years ago; it's such… [more]

Off to Vietnam and Cambodia Off to Vietnam and Cambodia

Riding the Japanese bullet train

Japanese Shinkansen Gran Class

We ended up riding the Japanese bullet train (or Shinkansen) by accident. Typhoon Phanfone meant we had to disembark Diamond Princess early and head back to Tokyo from Aomori – and the only way to do that was by the Tokyo Shinkansen.

It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable train rides I’ve ever been on (and that includes riding Amtrak coast to coast in the US and Eurostar across Europe).

Japanese bullet train first class seats

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, as it’s Japan, you expect the Shinkansen to run on time and be spotlessly clean. But we were in ‘Gran Class’, and Oh. My. God. The first thing we noticed was the size of the seats (which reclined)…

Shinkansen slippers

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and that there were slippers in little bags to put on and pillows and eye masks if we wanted them. Plus hot towels, and foot rests and personal lamps.

Tokyo Shinkansen #selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole set-up was like flying in the front of the bus on a plane, only the scenery is constantly changing. This is my Very Smug About Being On The Tokyo Shinkansen #selfie. #notevensorry

Tokyo Shinkansen bento box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drinks (alcoholic and soft) were complimentary, and there was a choice of light meals, either Western-style or Japanese. Both Harriet and I opted for Japanese and were given our own very cute bento boxes, and it was delicious…

Tokyo Shinkansen Gran Class attendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…the Gran Class carriage attendant was ADORABLE and bowed every time she entered the carriage or left it. She was constantly smiling at us. And bowing. Honestly, loved her.

Japanese Shinkansen seat controls

 

 

 

 

These were the seat controls. Hours of fun.

Japanese Shinkansen second class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to go and have a look at the regular (second?) class train carriage and discovered that while not quite as special as Gran Class it was still very nice and spacious and the seats looked super comfy in there, too. Basically, it puts our trains to shame.

Looking out the window on the Japanese bullet train

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thing I really liked was that even though the Japanese bullet train does of course go super fast (up to 200mph) it doesn’t actually feel as though you’re going that fast; it’s incredibly smooth. It doesn’t tilt so you don’t feel sick, and you do get a good view of the scenery (although it was raining and misty a lot of the time, thanks to the rain caused by the incoming Typhoon.)

Riding the bullet train

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Tokyo after the four-hour train journey feeling completely refreshed and ready to explore some more, and wishing we could have stayed on a little bit longer. How often can you say that about a journey? Now I really want to take No 1 Son on the Shinkansen because I know he’d love it. I’m thinking next year… ;)

I’m just going to share with you what it said on the back of our menu, because it’s so sweet:

“Though merely a brief interlude on route to your destination, we are honored to make your travels a highpoint in your journey.”

I mean, it’s like a haiku, right? Love Japan.

My top 5 things to do in Tokyo

We fell totally in love with Tokyo and it was a real wrench to leave it behind. Everything just works and it’s totally fabulous: the architecture, the style, the shops, the food, the atmosphere. It’s like they’ve taken the best elements of all the coolest cities in the world and put them in once place, but it’s all gorgeous and clean (those weird and wonderful loo controls and heated seats are just the start), without being remotely clinical.

So, here are my top 5 things to do in Tokyo. You’ll notice I haven’t included any bars – this is because I was travelling with Harriet, who is too young to drink alcohol in Japan. But honestly, there is so much to do and see it really didn’t matter.

Meiji shrine entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Visit the Meiji Shrine. Built in 1920, this is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, and it’s the most beautiful, peaceful place. It’s located in a fabulous forest which gives it an ethereal feel and it’s perfect for strolling around in the morning sunshine, before it gets too hot.

Wedding party Meiji Shrine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you time it just right, say at about 11am, you’ll also be treated to the sight of wedding parties in traditional dress, like this couple with their priest and guests.

Meiji Shrine

 

 

 

Write a little prayer on one of the scrolls for whatever you like and walk around enjoying the lake and trees. Meiji shrine lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then if you’re in the need for some retail therapy afterwards the Meiji Shrine is close to Harajuku, with its cool boutiques, home to the Harajuku-girls.

Shibuya Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Go to Shibuya Crossing. OK, Shibuya is one of the most touristy places in Tokyo – a bit like Piccadilly Circus – but it’s also utterly fascinating and a great spot for people-watching. You’ll probably remember it from Lost in Translation. And when the sky darkens, it really is like something out of Bladerunner. All those neon signs – insane.

Hachiko statue Shibuya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shibuya is also where you’l find the statue dedicated to Hachiko, most devoted dog in the world, immortalised in the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Bless him.

shoes Tokyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close by you’ll find the fabulous Shibuya 109 shopping mall, where they sell crazy shoes like this…

crazy Japanese shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this (actually, I could quite easily have bought these)…

 

conveyor belt sushi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and conveyor belt restaurants, where you pay for what you eat.

conveyor belt sushi

 

 

Including of course yummy sushi and sashimi. So cheap, and delicious. And good for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Ride the Tokyo subway. At first it can appear incredibly confusing, particularly as you’re trying to get your head round the place names, and buying tickets can be a bit of a challenge. But it’s actually very simple; we mastered it after our first few trips, and if you get lost everyone will try to help you. Plus, it’s a great place to people-watch (we particularly enjoyed seeing Harajuku-girls putting on their false eyelashes without even glancing in a mirror); and the really fabulous thing about the Tokyo subway is all the underground shops and restaurants.

baby carriage Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Go to Asakusa. Again, it’s touristy, but my goodness you’ll see some amazing stuff here. (I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this pram, have you ever seen anything more OTT in your life?)…

Asakusa and Senso-ji temple

 

 

 

 

 

…including the Senso-ji temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asakusa ShrineAnd at the end you reach the Asakusa Shrine, where everyone is rushing to wash in the holy water and light incense and pray. It’s total chaos.

Tokyo shopping mall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Shop ’till you drop. I’ve shopped all over the world but my goodness the Japanese know how to do it in style. Everything is just SO divine and beautifully packaged. Our favourite places included Kitte (which is a great place to pick up the fluffiest pork buns in the world) and the Marunouchi mall; also Ginza, with its upmarket stores, although all we could really do there was window-shop.

gyoza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then of course after all that shopping you have to eat. In our case as many gyoza as we could stuff in our faces at one sitting.

And there you have them, my top 5 things to do in Tokyo. And a few more besides. Wish we were there.

Autumn in Japan

autumn in Japan

 

 

 

OK, a bit of a confession: I’m actually a secret leaf-peeper. It started when No 1 Son and I went to Washington for my birthday one November, and since then, every excuse I get to look at beautiful autumn leaves and take photos of them, I take.

autumn leaves in Korsakov Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course autumn in Japan is known for it’s fabulous fall colours.

Oriase Japan

 

 

 

 

 

There’s even a word for autumn leaves in Japanese, ‘koyo’ (isn’t it gorgeous?).

autumn leaves Lake TowadaHakkoda Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we were there at exactly the right time last week, as the leaves were starting to turn ruby and copper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For real leaf-peeping thrills, you can’t beat a ride in the cable car (the Hakkoda ropeway) over the tops of the trees in the Hakkoda Mountains near Aomori; they’re just so BIG.

 

 

autumn in Hakkoda Mountains Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see lots of maples and ginkgo and it’s absolutely stunning, even on a misty autumn day.

 

 

 

 

And the trees at Lake Towada were breathtaking, too (the blue skies really accentuated the autumn colours).

Lake TowadaI’d love to return in the spring, when the cherry blossom is out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This is my entry for The Gallery – the theme this week is ‘autumn’.

Big in Japan

Sunrise in TokyoActually this post could probably be called big ON Japan as well as big in Japan, because the fact is that our trip to Tokyo and cruise on Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess around the Japanese islands was one of the most memorable holidays of my life.

We got back last Tuesday and I still wish I was there; I’d wanted to go to Japan for years and it exceeded all my expectations. And I was very lucky to be able to take my niece, Harriet, with me – she had never been outside Europe before so her mind was properly blown by everything we saw and experienced and she even managed to learn some Japanese phrases.

I’ve been to Asia a few times now, most recently to Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, but Japan is really the most intriguing destination I’ve visited to so far; I just want to go back as soon as possible, and next time take No 1 Son as I know he’d love it too.

I’m going to blog about all the things we saw and places we visited in chronological order (and we ended up spending four days in Tokyo thanks to Typhoon Phanfone – no real hardship though, as it’s officially now one of my Favourite Cities in the World, and we also got to travel on the bullet train, which is a whole post in itself.) But to give you a little taster…

Lucky cat

 

 

 

…while we were in Japan (10 days) we encountered everything from the slightly weird to the absolutely wonderful and crazily cute. Like this little lucky cat and kitten outside a shop – with a saucer of salt…

Little girl in kimono

 

 

…the very traditional – we spotted this adorable little girl in Asakusa…

Disney's Frozen dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…the unexpected – like this shop assistant wearing a skater dress made from Disney’s Frozen material…

Aomori

 

 

 

…we saw lots of incredible natural beauty, waterfalls and streams and the wonderful Fall (autumn) colours…

Buddha asakusa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…temples and Buddhas – Japan is a very spiritual country despite all the commercialism…

Shibuya crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and Bladerunner-esque scenes, like Shibuya Crossing.

 

Asakusa

 

And yes we were big in Japan as two men said within earshot at Shibuya Crossing (I think they were trying to flatter rather than insult us) – partly because Harriet is nearly 6ft tall and partly because the Japanese eat so healthily (all that fish, rice and noodles) that they are very petite.

Japanese pork bun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, I lost weight while we were there – no mean feat when you’re stuffing your faces with nikuman – Japanese pork buns (soooo good) at every possible opportunity. You know that scene in Mulan? It was *exactly* like that #notevensorry.

To give you an idea of the *madness* that is Tokyo (more on this later in the week), here’s my time lapse video of Shibuya Crossing. Proper Bladerunner stuff, right?

Hudl 2 review

When we were asked if we’d like to review a Hudl2 I was a bit skeptical; it seemed unlikely that a budget tablet that costs only £129 could offer the same sort of quality/functionality as its more expensive rivals. But I was very pleasantly surprised. So, here’s our Hudl 2 review.

Hudl 2

 

First impressions: the Hudl2 looks great, really stylish and although it’s slim and sleek it feels substantial, durable and strong. The size is just right, too – not too big for a handbag or school bag, not so small you’d lose it easily. It takes about three hours to charge up to full power and then you’re good to go.

Hudl 2 homescreen

 

Usability: the Hudl2 is incredibly easy to set up and get started, and there’s a cool video tour to help you discover where everything is. The screen is a decent size at 8.3in, bright and colourful and simple to navigate. The camera is also simple to use.

Browsing: the Hudl2 is already set up so you can use google (and google +) and it responds instantly.

Breaking Bad on Blinkbox

 

Blinkbox: this is very cool – there’s a fantastic choice of movies, TV programmes and books, and I can finally get round to watching Breaking Bad (I know, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it yet either). And the Hudl2 comes with £25 free blinkbox credit (#win).

Hudl 2 buttons

 

Added attractions: as the Hudl 2 comes from Tesco it’s easy to set up to link up to your Clubcard account and do your shopping, plus it comes with some pretty cool offers including £10 off at F&F and Tesco Direct when you spend £50. It also has Adobe Reader which is fab if like me you have to look at a lot of documents/pdfs.

My only niggle: The USB cable is a little short, which means that if you want to simply plug in to charge (rather than using your computer) it’s a little bit of a stretch from desk to socket.

Blinkbox entertainment

 

Verdict: the Hudl2 would make a brilliant Christmas present for kids aged 8-14 who probably aren’t quite ready for a more expensive android tablet – it’s got everything they could possibly need (you can buy accessories like headphones) and is also ideal for when they need to look up facts quickly for their homework or if you want to entertain them on a long journey; you can set up parental controls for up to seven users, too, so you can tailor it according to age and suitability, plus you can set a time limit so they don’t spend too long staring at the screen when they’re supposed to be ASLEEP. And it comes in a choice of colours so you can get their favourite. It would also be perfect for anyone who wants a tablet but doesn’t want to spend a fortune to buy one, or for someone who has the habit of dropping phones and tablets and smashing the screen *cough*. I’m tempted to hang on to it, although everyone in the family is already asking if they can have it.

 

The guilty remnants

I’m a bit obsessed with new US series The Leftovers – in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite TV show since Lost. It focuses on a small town, after a rapture-like happening where 2% of the world’s population have disappeared. Anyway, there’s a sort of commune (or possibly a cult) in the show: they dress in white and smoke a lot and upset people. They’re called The Guilty Remnant.

Why am I telling you this? Well the theme of today’s Gallery is ‘family.’ Those of you who read my feature in The Guardian a while back will know that something I’ve always struggled with was knowing my younger sister and I had grown up with our much loved daddy, while the children from his first marriage didn’t really have any contact with him (not his or my mum’s choice).

My oldest sister

 

I’ve described my older siblings as the brother and sister I’ve never met. But over the years I have managed to glean some information about my older sister. I know that she had a son – a nephew I’ve never met, either – and that she was married at one point.

And I also know that she left her family when her son was very small and ran away to join a commune, or possibly a cult. Which is perhaps why The Leftovers has such resonance for me.

My big sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This crumpled newspaper cutting is a photo of my sister when she was a model. She looks so beautiful. We still have no idea where she is, or whether she’s alive or dead and it’s possible we’ll never know. When someone disappears, apparently off the face of the earth, the guilty remnants are the ones left behind.

 

The Killing Fields and the amazing Cambodian people

It may seem strange that the Cambodian Government encourages tourists to visit the Killing Fields; but it’s an essential element of any visit to the country, because the fact is that from 1975 to 1979 an estimated 3 million people – 30% of the population – were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Nearly everyone you meet in Cambodia was affected by what happened, in some way, whether that’s the legacy of growing up without a family member who was murdered by the brutal regime, or struggling to survive in a country that has been scarred by genocide.

Choeung Ek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek just as the sky was starting to darken and rain pour down; the suddenly bleak weather a fitting backdrop. We walked round silently as we were shown pits where victims had been buried alive; a tree where infants had been smashed to death; and inside the Buddhist stupa, the skulls, divided into age and sex, each with their own coloured sticker to indicate the way they’d died. You have to force yourself to look, and to read: you owe it to them all.

barbed wire Tuol Sleng

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here we moved on to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where 20,000 were tortured and killed. Many of their photos are on display and it’s impossible to tear yourself away from the harrowing images, so many faces, wondering if they could have known what terrible fate lay in store for them; some of them foreign tourists who were in the wrong place at the wrong time; some of them children. Most distressing is the photo of a woman holding a baby, knowing she’s about to be tortured.

Among the Khmer Rouge’s victims were intellectuals, those who wore glasses, the middle classes; a whole section of society was wiped out in their efforts to control the population and break their spirit.

Souk Cambodian schoolgirl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ensuring children get an education is now a major priority in Cambodia, and we visited a school and village sponsored by Viking Cruises where the kids used to have to walk two or three miles just to get clean water. Now, they have a water pump and fresh water, and they’re talking about going to university and returning to help their village: kids like Souk, who is 14, loves geography and is looking forward to what the future holds.

 

Water-borne disease is still an issue in many communities and we saw kids actually swimming in rainwater with cattle. There is a long way to go.

Phare Cambodian Circus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the people we met were warm and welcoming, so gentle, with wonderful smiles and an extraordinary generosity of spirit. The Killing Fields happened nearly 40 years ago, but there is still a long way to go until this incredible country is healed. There are huge issues with ‘orphanage tourism’ and exploitation; but there are also extremely positive things, like the fantastic Phare Cambodian Circus – a group of young acrobats who with the help of NGOs have come together to create something absolutely awesome.

These are some of the amazing people of Cambodia we met while we were there. Humbled, actually.

Elderly Cambodian woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met this elderly lady when we were walking round a village. When I asked if I could take her photograph she put down the very big knife she’d been carrying and insisted on removing her headscarf…

Elderly Cambodian man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…this charming elderly man invited us into his home…

Little girl CambodiaCambodian schoolboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..this little girl was just delightful…

 

 

…this little boy goes to the same school as Souk. So cheeky, fantastic character…

Mother and daughter Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…this mum and child were very relaxed on their hammock,next to their cattle…

Mother and baby Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this mum and her baby had such great smiles…
Cambodian kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this group of kids kept wanting me to take their photos and show them the results. Very funny. Just like a group of kids anywhere in the world, in fact.

Chased by monkeys and blessed by a monk

Phnom ProsThere are  A LOT of temples in Cambodia, some ruins, some beautifully kept and still used regularly. It was on our excursion to Kampong Cham, to the Twin Holy Mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei, that we encountered some spectacular temples and Buddhas.

But what caught our attention first of all were the monkeys running wild everywhere. They’re macaques, and as you can see they’re rather gorgeous…

macaque monkey Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I loved the expression on this one’s face…

monkey sticking his tongue out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then he stuck his tongue out…

sitting monkey Phnom Pros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this one…

sleepy monkey Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this sleepy one…

steps at Phnom Pros Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but they’re utterly fearless. If they cotton on to the fact that you’re watching them, they will leap on top of you or even chase you… which is why we found ourselves running down these rather steep steps…

monk with reclining Buddha Phnom SreiSo safely away from the monkeys we found ourselves surrounded by giant – and I do mean giant – Buddhas…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this photo puts the size in perspective…

Temple at Phnom Srei

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not remotely religious, and I find it difficult to see lots of gold and jewels when there are people living hand to mouth and begging within spitting distance. I like the idea of Buddhism but I can’t really get past that. But inside this beautiful temple, there was a shrine and the sobering sight of hundreds of skulls, victims of the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields. So maybe it’s about what helps you to get through whatever cards life deals you, and I do respect that.

Udon temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our visit to Udon, a monastery near Kampong Trolach, we saw the most astonishing temples, all glittering in the sunshine against the azure blue sky…

Children on the steps of Udon temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…these kids were sitting on the steps, trying to take our shoes for a few dollars (giving money like this is really discouraged, and I couldn’t possibly inflict my smelly Birkis on them)…

ceiling Udon temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then inside (this is the spectacular ceiling) we were invited to sit in the lotus position (well, cross-legged at least) on the floor and close our eyes while two monks chanted at us, apparently something about long life and happiness…

monks Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…at one point we were pelted with what I thought was water but turned out to be lotus flowers. And then when that was over we were invited (after we’d given over a few dollars, of course) to receive our amulets – red wool bracelets, blessed by the monks. Of course the monks aren’t allowed to touch women and both my monk and I found it funny as he tried to tie the knot without touching my wrist.

But… I still haven’t taken it off. I’m not sure if there’s anything in it but I’ll take all the help I can get.

monks Udon monastery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we were free to explore the monastery. We saw this procession of monks, off to get the food offerings from the neighbouring villages – they have to eat before midday every day.

elderly monk Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was an old monk…

baby monk Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and a young monk. Apparently boys/young men can try being a monk for a week if they fancy it and then go back to their everyday lives when they’ve had enough. No, me either.

Monks sheltering from the sun Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I love this shot of the monks sheltering from the sun – they’re almost camouflaged..

Nuns at Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and we also saw nuns…

nun's house Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…this is a nun’s house.

children playing Udon

 

 

 

 

 

…and kids playing hopscotch and climbing trees.

Buddha at Udon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our visit to Udon was a fascinating glimpse into a world that had been, until then, totally alien to me. Did it make me more centred, or calmer? Oh, for about five minutes.

amulet and a Strawberry Daiquiri

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Here’s my amulet. And a Strawberry Daiquiri, natch.)

 

 

Visit to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Angkor Wat

 

 

 

If you get up really early (say, 4am) you can get to Angkor Wat in time to see the sun rise; you and thousands of other travellers. We didn’t do this. Instead we arrived at a more civilised 8.30am, when the moat and temples seemed to be the same bronze colour…

Lotus bud temple Angkor Wat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and the ruins were bathed in hazy sunshine.

Boy selling hats and postcards Angkor Wat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we made our way across the bridge which runs over the moat surrounding the temple we were accosted by this cheeky little boy, who was selling postcards and hats. I bought a packet of postcards (I didn’t haggle, I’m rubbish at haggling, and besides, he was just a kid) and he put on all his hats and gave me a big smile.

Angkor Wat ruins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then it was in to Angkor Wat, which was built as a Hindu temple but later became a Buddhist temple. As you walk along past the ancient stone you can’t help noticing all the bullet holes, remnants of the Khmer Rouge occupation – a poignant reminder of Cambodia’s troubled past. Once inside it’s straight into Indiana Jones territory.

horse angkor wat

 

 

 

 

 

I met this horse dressed in traditional costume, who was very happy to have his forehead stroked. And then tried to eat my top (which was green).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge at Angkor Wat is to climb as many levels as you possibly can. A few of us decided to force ourselves to climb the very narrow steps to the highest level – not easy in the blistering heat, we’d all run out of water by that point and although many scenes for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed in and around Angkor we couldn’t have looked less like Angelina Jolie if we’d tried. Coming down was even worse, because the steps were shaky, the rail narrow and the whole time you’re focused on not slipping. Glad I did it, wouldn’t do it again.

View from the highest level Angkor Wat

 

 

 

But the views from the top were absolutely stunning.

Siem Reap river

 

 

 

 

 

That afternoon we drove to Angkor Thom. The entrance is located on the banks of the Siem Reap river, which is wonderfully peaceful…

four-leaf clover Cambodia

 

 

 

 

and it’s here where we found actual four-leaf clovers. All my times to Ireland and I’ve never seen a four-leaf clover before, and there were just loads of them growing by the river, amazing. There MUST be something in that, right?

giant statues Angkor Thom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance is lined with giant statues…

temple angkor thom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and there was a temple with a monk inside…

Bayon temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then it was in to the ruins of the Bayon Temple. It really is stunning…

children playing Angkor Thom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I spotted these two girls playing in the ruins….

Woman recycling Angkor Thom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and outside this elderly lady, who collects bottles for recyling for a living. She has the most fabulous, dignified face, doesn’t she? She is half-smiling for the camera, which I love.

Our day at Angkor had been exhausting physically (I don’t think I’ve walked so far or climbed so many steps in my life) and full of unforgettable experiences. But it was only the start of our extraordinary journey through Cambodia.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review and day at Thorpe Park

So this summer as part of their #100daysoffamily campaign the lovely people at Samsung sent us a Galaxy K Zoom phone to review; and they also treated us to a day out at Thorpe Park, known for its water rides, the idea being that we’d use the new phone to film a lovely sunny family day out, with us getting a bit wet, hah hah.

Thorpe Park in the rainUnfortunately we chose the wettest day of the summer. It was so wet the rain was coming off our eyelashes and we a) had to invest in disposable electric blue cagoules and b) we could barely see through the rain to photograph or film anything. Still, being British of course we battled through, and oh how we laughed.

Angry birdsI couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for these very wet Angry Birds or whatever they are, although frankly, we were soggier.

Anyhoo, No 1 Son has fallen completely in love with the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom – particulary the camera – and nabbed it for himself, so when you’ve finished watching this (very) brief video of Saw at Thorpe Park then do read his rather comprehensive review of the phone. And remember, if you’re planning a day out at a British theme park in the middle of August, even if it looks perfectly fine when you leave the house, for goodness sake take cagoules ;)

https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=GPgMzfzR9gs

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom cameraThe Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is Samsung’s effort to combine a proper functioning digital camera with all the features of an android smartphone. It arrives in a well packed wood-themed box which deceives you as to the size of the phone. It is massive – the camera at the back dominates and makes it very uneven (though it does retract when switched off). It can be a bit too big for pockets and quite heavy, but you’ll never misplace it.

Samsung Galaxy K ZoomHowever this does mean it has a massive screen (4.8”) so you’ll never have issues with tapping the wrong thing or squinting to read something. Its size might strike you as a battery drainer but the opposite is true, with up to three days of life and exceptionally fast charging. It runs very quickly and smoothly with two processors totalling six cores – more than you’ll find on some notebooks.

The camera is the main feature and clearly what the phone is designed towards. Samsung provide an impressive studio and a shop for more features, but the wealth of options at your disposal are enormous anyway. The camera can zoom to 10x with perfect quality, operating at a staggering 20.7 megapixels, with an additional 2 megapixel front camera for facetime and similar apps. You can take superb quality pictures and video and edit them to your heart’s desire – making this the perfect phone for the budding photographer, and even professionals will love it.

All of the features of an android phone are on here too, every app you could ask for. It comes in a variety of colours and looks very stylish despite its size, making this a great choice for those who want a big, powerful smartphone – and a digital camera all in one.

 

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