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Irish Trip New Year 2016/17

Giants Causeway Nigel & MiMi at Giants CausewayIreland was great: everyone was as friendly and helpful as an old mate, food all fresh, even the weather was good. Although dark at 4pm as expected this time of year.

Highlight has to be the Giants Causeway – very dramatic with giant waves and glistening light. Almost looks manmade with most rocks hexagonal, but down to millions of year’s waves and weather.

C08Mw1sXgAAF50SCarrick-a-Rede Bridge was worth a visit – but even this time of year on a Monday, had to queue a short while. Donaghadee is a beautiful coastal village 19-miles from Belfast with one of Ireland’s oldest pubs. Pier36 Hotel there was our best room – especially after a free upgrade. Picture below shows the harbour.

 

Donaghadee

Temple Bar, DublinDublin is very European – cosmopolitan with Eastern Europeans and coffee everywhere. A pint in the trendy Temple Bar area costs €7, worth it, but most Irish bars only charge €5. And of course the Republic’s been Euros and kilometres since 2002. Fantastic modern train there from Belfast.

Co Donegal was too quiet this time of year, better to visit when the days are longer. Great log-fire pubs, but many attractions closed like the castle in Glenveagh National Park. Roads a little bumpy.

1. Thursday 29th Dec: Taxi to airport at 5.30am for EasyJet 181 leaves Luton 7.00am. Arrives Belfast 8.15am

2. Catch Express 300 bus to last stop and collect car from Enterprise Rent-a-Car at 157 Cromac Street, Belfast, BT2 8JE (tel: 028 9031 6151).

3. Drive to Carrick-a-Rede Bridge BT54 6LS (last entry at 14.45pm), Giants Causeway – BT57 8SU & Ballycastle for Kinbane Castle.

4. Stay at Ashlea House B&B, 52 Mark Street, Portrush, BT56 8BU (tel: 07740872810),

5. Friday 30th: Mussenden Temple, Londonderry, then Glenveagh National Park Centre, Letterkenny, Co Donegal – and onto Careys Viking House B&B, Kincasslough (tel: 0749543295). From Portrush only 2 1/2-hours / 94-miles direct.

6. Sat 31st: Drive along N56 into very-scenic Glengesh Pass to Seawinds B&B, Main Street, Killybegs (booked) – large fishing village. From Viking only 1-hour / 54-miles.

7. Sun 1st Jan: Visit Donegal, then to B&B pub Pier36 at coastal village of Donaghadee, BT21 0HE (£50 paid – £20 bal due) – From Donegal 2 3/4-hours / 129-miles on M1.

8. Mon 2nd: Return car, then 10-mins walk towards river to collect train ticket at noon in Belfast Central Rail Station for 12.35pm (arrives 14.40pm) train to Dublin. Stay Travel Lodge, Lower Mercer Street, Dublin. Book a tour round Guinness Store House online €16 – very good, but not the actual brewery next door (closed to the public).

9. Tue 3rd Jan: Catch 18.50pm Train back to Belfast and stay Belfast Central Travelodge, Brunswick Street, BT2 7GE. Afternoon around the excellent Titanic Exhibition where they show dramatic real footage of the ship, now 2 1/2-miles beneath the waves.

10. Wed 4th Jan: EasyJet 188 leaves 20.10 to Luton.

Approximate cost:
Return flight: £62
B&Bs: £50 to £70
Travelodge: £40 Belfast, £70 Dublin
Enterprise Car hire for 4-days – £89 + £20 extra for Republic
Train Belfast to Dublin: £27.50 return each – booked online

Ireland Map

 

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Northern England & Scotland August 2016

St Marys Lighthouse, Whitley Bay This year, between Harrogate Bead Fair and the Perth Show, we decided to travel east for a change. We spent 3-nights camping and 7-nights B&B or hotel – itinerary below.

Felt a little rushed over 10-days covering about 1,500-miles, but good fun! Weather and camping was great, although chilly at night.

Scenic highlights were:

St Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay
The lighthouse, built in 1898 on a tiny island, is surrounding by a nature reserve of rock-pools, cliff top grassland, and a beach. Accessible by foot when the tide is out.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland Coast
• Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland Coast Dunstanburgh

 

 

 

 

“The finest castle anywhere in this country” says Time Out. Dramatically located overlooking the sea in a beautiful village, build before 1095.

Not too far away is the remains of another castle on the cliff at the fishing village of Dunstanburgh, where we brought a couple of dressed crab from a little smoke-house (second picture is the harbour).

Lindisfarne Holy Island, a tidal island off the Northumberland Coast
• Lindisfarne Holy IslandIn 635AD Saint Aidan came from the island of Iona in Scotland and built his monastery there.

The name ‘Lindisfarne’ is a mystery, but ‘Lindis’ may refer to people from the Kingdom of Lindis in Lincolnshire.

Reached by a causeway which is open at low tide – we just go off on time! A fascinating place, with a priory, castle, shops, restaurants, two-pubs, and much more.

Crove Bay and Pennan Village, Northern Aberdeenshire
Pennan Village, AberdeenshireCrove Bay originates from a time when the sea was the main mode of transport in this part of Scotland. A tiny fishing village with a small harbour and just enough room between the cliff and the sea for a single row of dwellings. Although you can drive down a steep narrow lane, there are no roads between the cottages.

Pennan Village is a similar habitat with one pub, built at the base of high north-facing cliffs. Both places are extremely dramatic.

Dunnattar Castle, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
Dunnattar Castle, Stonehaven, AberdeenshireA breathtaking medieval fortress boasting of Mary Queen of Scots presence, perched on rocky headland, close to Stonehaven, half an hour south of Aberdeen.

Once seen, never forgotten.

 

Itinerary:

1. August 13th & 14th – Show at Great Yorkshire Showground, HG2 8NZ. After show to Newquay Lodge Hotel, South Parade, Whitley bay, NE26 2RQ – about 2-hours away. B&B in evening.
2. 15th – Visit St Mary’s Lighthouse on island first thing after breakfast (tide OK then). Then Dunstanburgh Castle and Bambra Castle, NE69 7DF and on coast – NE66 3TT. Then past Lindisfarne Holy Island to Berwick Upon Tweed. Evening – Camp.
3. 16th – Edinburgh to checkout halls. Then onto Killin by Loch Tay in the Trossachs (north east of Loch Loman) – near KF21 8TP. Camp in evening.
4. Wednesday 17th – Up through Highlands, past Aviemore to Crove coastal village near Banff (just to see) AB45 3JQ. Then onto Pennan nearly village on coast too. Evening B&B.
5. Thursday 18th – Peterhead – Camp.
6. Friday 19th – Central Aberdeen Travel Lodge – 21-23 Justice Mill Lane, AB11 6EQ .
7. Sat 20th Aug – Perth SYHA, Perth College UHI, Crieff Road, Perth PH1 2GA
8. Sun 21st Aug – Scottish Bead fair – Perth Concert Hall, Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ. After show to The Village Inn, Kirlebridge DG11 3LZ – about 2-hours.
9. Mon 22nd Aug – To York Lorry Park, Auction Centre, Murton YO19 5GF – 2.20-hours / 147-miles. Then to Farm Café, Lincs – 124-miles / 2 ¼-hours, and on to Norwich. Total 299-miles / 5 ½-hours.

Scottish Trip August 2016

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Six-weeks Fun In The UK

Bridlington HarbourSome say Britain is boring, but I love the diverse culture and rural activities. MiMi and I have now been here six weeks. What have we done? Well, quite a lot! Apart from usual work, highlights are:

Five weekends selling at Bead Fairs
Wetherby Bead Fair1) Norwich in Norfolk.
2) Haydock in Lancashire.
3) Kentish Town in London.
4) Bath Rock n Gem in Somerset.
5) Wetherby in North Yorkshire.

All went well. Norwich was the most profitable, and Wetherby the most fun as we stayed an extra day by the coast at Bridlingham. Click for our next 16 bead fairs.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – Royal Albert Hall
Mark Knopler at BBC Radio 2 Folk AwardsApril 27th. Great night with Joan Armatrading, Mark Knopler and the Unthanks playing.

Lucky I ordered an interval beer in advance – but was a long walk in the rain to the nearest underground station.

Horning Boat Show
Horning Boat Show 2016April 30th. Nice day by the river in Norfolk. Horning is such a beautiful village with three great pubs.

One day I’ll take Rosey to the show. Tasty homemade open-air food and real cider.

Stay nearby at my Wroxham Cottage: Bure Cottage

Bircham Windmill and Burnham Overy Coastal Walk
Bircham WindmillMay 1st. Rural North Norfolk is unspoilt, remaining as it used to be centuries before: winding lanes and flint cottages, some still thatched.

Not far from the Queen’s Sandringham estate and where Kate & William live is Bircham Windmill, rebuilt in 1846. I was there visiting a craft fair and enjoying a cream tea from their own Royal-Warranted bakery.

Bircham Windmill: birchamwindmill.co.uk

Burnham OveryA few miles north is where Horatio Nelson was born at Burnham Thorpe in 1758. Wonderful coastal walks start there near the harbour.

I followed the footpath from the car-park, with the river to the left, about a mile, then over the sand dunes to the beach. However, don’t walk along the beach to try to make it a round trip as I did – because a tributary blocks your access back.

Details of the full walk at Burnham Overy Walk

Stotfold Mill Steam Fair
Stotfold Mill Steam Fair 2016May 8th Not just another mill with cream teas, but a full-blown country show and steam fair with motorcycle stunts, air display, and a band in the beer tent. Mum loved it!

Full details at Stotfold Mill Steam Fair

Bridlington to Flamborough Cliff Walk
Flamborough Cliffs
We strolled from Bridlingham Promenade along Framborough Head and Dane’s Dyke to Framborough Village (about 6-miles), and took the bus back.

Further along is a lighthouse and nature reserve. Birdwatchers flock to Bempton Cliffs there to see hundreds-of-thousands of puffins.

Large picture at top of blog is Bridlingham Harbour.

The Ship, FlamboroughFor details of the full walk click Bridlington to Flamborough

 

Back in Norfolk
Next weekend we’re taking Rosey out to Thorne Regatta. She loves it there, despite Thorne Dyke being very narrow. We use the wind to turn her round on ropes.

Thorne WindmillThe windmill looks beautiful at sunset from a riverside BBQ, and the 1970s rock band in the marquee goes great with barrels of real ale. Hope the weather’s good.

A couple of weeks latter we’re camping at Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival – click to see the past blog. Then back to Hong Kong and to empty our Guangzhou flat.

England Spring Trip Map

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The Lads in Malta

Valletta Grand Harbour, MaltaMalta was one of those trips were everything worked.

Nigel & the Lads in MaltaReal Value For Money Fun!
Six mates having a great time for under £250 each. All I spent: flight from Luton, 4-nights hotel, food, drink, transport and everything else.

Location & History
Malta is the largest island of a tiny archipelago country about the size of Wales in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Italy, opposite Tunisia in North Africa.

The Romans arrived around 2,000 years ago, but today Malta remains very British, despite independence since 1964 from 150-years of London rule. They still drive on the left, red telephone boxes, and everyone speaks English. However, the country is stuffed with EU cash, banks everywhere and up-to-date slick.

Valletta, MaltaMediterranean Culture
A church for every day of the year, cobbled streets, stone steps, domes, old shuttered-windows, outdoor seafood, pasta and pizza everywhere. The people are friendly and helpful, and views of Valletta Harbour are almost as good as Venice.

 

Highlights
Malta HarbourValletta, MaltaThe Grand Harbour ferry from Sliema to Valletta, then walking the allyways there. St Paul’s 300-year-old Cathedral. Take a ferry to Gozo Island to see Azure Window. Eat at the Sunday fish market at Marsaxlokk – go early and leave early to avoid the rush.

Make time to relax eating seafood outside with a few drinks, and If you think you’re seen everything, there’s even daily ferries to Sicily.

The Pub, MaltaOliver Reed’s Last Order
Don’t miss a few beers on Valletta at The Pub where Oliver Reed died taking a break filming Gladiators – after a 4-hour drinking session immortalized on t-shirts. Apparently the whole round came to £270.

I’m sure Ollie would approve of a selfie on his final bench!

 

Malta HorseLocal Transport
Get out on the sea as often as you can – many craft from Sliema. The new buses are cheap, but island roads are slow and don’t rely on the timetable. If you’re staying more than a few days, get an Oyster-style electronic ticket. Car hire is easy, but parking’s a problem.

 

Nigel in MaltaWeather
A little rain and only 20c was usual this early in the year, but still some sun. I hear in the summer it’s hotter than hell, but I guess the best time is spring or late season when beaching and swimming is good.

Cost
Full board and drinks at Blue Sea St George’s Park, St Julian’s: 4-nights for just £57.01. Ryanair return: £45.98.  All booked through the excellent website: LowCost Holidays. Note: peak season prices will be much more. Beer and wine from €2 and simple happy hour cocktails at €6.

Malta MapMap courtesy of Malta Tourism Authority

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Chinese Year of the Monkey – 2016

Chinese Year of the Monkey - 2016The high-spirited Year of the Monkey begins on 8th February 2016. Each animal in the Chinese zodiac is divided into elements with slightly different characteristics – this new year is a Red Fire Monkey. Fire brings more energy to the animal, so magnifying its behavior.

Monkey People
monkey faceMonkeys are popular, naughty, very competitive, forceful, and control freaks. They’re playful, clever, imaginative, crafty, witty, and have a magnetic personality. As well as emotionally truthful, engrossed in the opposite sex, and intrusive at finding unconventional solutions to old problems. Their self assurance makes them fast learners and determined leaders. However, monkeys are also reckless, stubborn, aggressive and selfish.

If you are a Monkey
Chinese Year of the MonkeyYou should be lucky in everything except health this year. Improve your lifestyle and well-being, especially in finance where you enjoy a competitive edge. Wealth and career are positive, but be cautious when investing.

Your perfect partner is a rat or an ox, although you flourish with a rabbit or a dragon – you are least harmonious with a tiger or pig person. Your ambition and drive will do you well in finance, with a career in sales, marketing or advertising. Monkeys also prosper in law, medicine, writing, and many are famous movie stars.

Predictions for this Year of the Monkey
This will be a year of optimism and adventure. Anything can happen. Everything
will be fast, including settlement of conflicts. Although people will be more
boisterous, they also become more docile and open to change.

Travel accidents or catastrophic events are probable. Many will die. However, its a time to investigate, discover, create and take risks. Luck can strike any time. Seize opportunity and go for it!  Break the routine. However, monkeys can be unpredictable
and jealous.

Wealth will reward risk takers because of energy from the fire element. People and money will whiz around the globe even faster with business prospering, yet political upheaval will slow. Courage and originality will succeed – but you need to be able to hang onto the ride even if you have to bluff your way through. Keep fit.

Monkey Years
Monkey year 2016If you were born during these dates, then you are a Monkey:
20/02/1920 to 07/02/1921, 06/02/1932 to 25/01/1933, 25/01/1944 to 12/02/1945, 12/02/1956 to 30/01/1957, 30/01/1968 to 16/02/1969, 16/02/1980 to 04/02/1981, 04/02/1992 to 22/01/1993, 22/01/2004 to 08/02/2005, 08/02/2016 to 27/01/2017.

Famous Monkey People
Bette Davis, Charles Dickens, Danny De Vito, Diana Ross, Jeff Beck, Elizabeth
Taylor, Leonardo da Vinci, Pope John Paul II, Harry Truman, Ian Fleming, Joan
Crawford, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Page, Mel Gibson, Mick Jagger, Nelson
Rockefeller, Peter O’Toole, Little Richard, Rod Stewart, Will Smith.

Monkey Likes
Colours: white, blue & gold.
Birthstone: Peridot.
Western zodiac equivalent: Leo.
Lucky numbers: 4, 9,1, 7, 8.

Click to get your Lucky Chinese Jade Monkey Pendant
For a lucky jade pendant of Other Chinese New Years Jade Pendant
See my video of a wild Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

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Berney Arms to Great Yarmouth Riverside Walk

Three Ways Meeting Point, Great YarmouthI love walking in the English countryside – nowhere else is so quaint. Especially Norfolk, with rivers and lakes everywhere, and dotted with windmills, thatched cottages and medieval stone churches.

Now I have a FitBit I have to do 10,000 steps every day. That’s about 35-miles a week. So far I’m keeping up, but it’s hard work! You can follow my progress at https://www.fitbit.com/user/3WW7LR. If you have a wristband too, please join as a friend, so we can motivate each other.

Great Yarmouth Train StationThis rural walk is along the Wheaver’s Way around Brayden Water.  I’ve crossed this estuary to the River Yare many times on the boat, but never before on foot.

Picture at top is Three Ways Meeting Point, the start of this walk. Where the 70-mile Wheaver’s, Angles, and the Wherryman’s Way footpaths join. Right behind Great Yarmouth Railway Station.

Burney Arms Train StationI caught the 10:17am train from Great Yarmouth arriving at Barney Arms in just 7-minutes. Some say this is the most remote rail stop in the country – no station, just a short platform in the middle of grazing fields. Stops are only by request, so you must inform the conductor, and then only one door of one carriage will open.

Footpath Sign to Great Yarmouth

Burney Arms WindpumpCross the style towards Burney Windpump. Looks like a windmill, but in Norfolk most of these were used to draw water from the marshes before electric pumps. Then head towards the river and follow the footpath signed towards Great Yarmouth. The beautiful village of Reedham is also 5-miles to the right, but that’s another walk.

 

Berney Arms Public HousePass the Barney Arms Public House, only accessible by boat, train, or foot – open Easter to October. Like all pubs out of the way, it oozes atmosphere.

From there keep walking around the banks of Brayden Water until you reach Asda in Yarmouth – the train station is just behind.

Breydon Water Natural Reserve

Brayden WaterKeen nature spotters use this walk to view the thousands of wading birds and pink-footed geese on Burney Marshes.

Although a simple stroll, it is of grander, since Brayden Water is on a largish scale for Norfolk.  Being very-tidal it resembles a Scottish sea loch, but with Norfolk reeds and wildlife in abundance.

This walk took me just under 2-hours – but I continued through Yarmouth to the beach and back to the railway station car park, a total of almost 9 miles.

Breydon Water Walk Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Download This Walk Click Wherrymans Way
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Sometimes trips don’t workout – Singapore & Malaysia

You can’t win them all – travel is what you make it!

Don't Fly JetStarThis holiday should have been Singapore and relaxation in Bali. Jetstar spoilt the fun by cancelling our flight to Bali – because of ‘volcanic activity’ they said. Yet other planes got through. Budget airlines are at the bottom of priority in a backlog.

Rather than risk getting stuck (return cancelled too), we visited Malaysia instead. Picture: Jura Beach, Pulau Tioman.

Jura Beach, Pulau Tioman Island, Mayalsia

Singapore Night7th November 2015: Hong Kong to Singapore. Great evening dining open-air in China Town. Despite looking like Hong Kong, food at double the price, slow cooked, and beer three-times more.

These days Singapore is horribly expensive, but the palms and flora everywhere is beautiful. If you’re on a budget, one night is enough. More western than Hong Kong, with everyone speaking English.

Singapore Toilet SignSingapore, along with South Korea and Japan, is the cleanest country in the world. The Government controls everything. Mao Zedong said “water too pure, breads no fish” – but the tiny City State does OK.

Marina Bay Sands Bar, Singapore

8th Nov: Singapore’s excellent and free Botanical Gardens, a £12 pint at Marina Bay Sands Bar, the new Gardens By the Bay followed by a river cruise in the evening. The Sands Bar is one of the highest in Singapore, and just above the public viewing platform which costs about the same as one drink to enter.

Malaysian FlagMalicca9th Nov: To Malacca in Malaysia. Bus to border and another 2-hours to Johor Bahru bus station for the 4-hour ride to Malacca. Malacca is very-Portuguese and well worth a visit.

River Song Residence, Malicca10th: Another river cruse late afternoon. Heavy rain closed restaurants at 9pm, but we found a late drink. Malacca is for relaxing and watching boats.

We considered catching the daily ferry to Sumatra in the hope of joining our friends in Indonesia, but the port there is so out-of-the-way.

Tioman Island Ferry11th: Therefore we took the 4-hour bus to Mersing for the ferry to Tioman Island, called Pula Tioman, for a Bali substitute. Tioman is the largest of the east coast islands at 20kl  long. However, during monsoon-season most businesses on the island are closed, with only one daily ferry.

12th: Clambered off the 10am 2-hour boat at Salang, only a few rundown eating shacks opened and we run out of ringgits. Not only were most hotels closed, but all public transport.

Boat at Pula TiomanSo we hired a boat to Kampung Teke, the Island’s capital with the only ATM. Lucky, because it’s one of the few villages with alcohol – available at duty free shops and Chinese restaurants.

 

 

Jo - Turtle at Tioman Island, Malaysia13th: Hired a man with 4-wheel drive to take us across the island to beautiful Juara Village where we visited the turtle rehabilitation centre.  There they collect the hundreds of eggs each turtle hides in the sand and manage to hatch over half.

Best beach on the island – 2 km of powdery white sand.

MersingPicture: River at Mersing

14th – 15th: Ferry and bus back to Singapore and flight to Hong Kong. I thought the bus from Mersing to JB was too cheap at £2 for the 100-miles: in heavy rain it broke down, so had to catch a taxi for £30.  Pleased to reach the airport early.

Hotels
Singapore – 5Footway Project Chinatown 1: S$83 = £38 a night.
Mayalsia – River Song Residence, by the river in Malicca: RM155 = £23 a night.
Bluewater Hotel, Mersing: : RM 95 = £14 a night.
Tioman Island – Babura Seaview Resort at Kampung Tekek: RM 155 = £23 a night.

Beer in a Muslim country

Tiger BeerCheap Singapore restaurant: £4.50. 7-11: £1.40 large can.

Cheap mainland Malaysia restaurant: £2.50 large bottle. 7:11: £0.90 large can.

Malaysian duty free island: £0.90 large bottle. Duty free shop: £0.50 can of Tiger.

Flight
Jetstar 3 1/2 hours Hong Kong to Singapore: about £100 return. Very cramped seats and only a voucher promised for the cancelled connecting flight to Bali.

Best time to go: April to September.  Not when we visited – November to March!

Malaysia Map

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Norfolk Walk from Horsey Mere To See The Grey Seals

Horsey Windmill, NorfolkHorsey Windpump is a must-see on any trip to Norfolk. Built over a hundred years ago and now owned by the National Trust on Horsey Staithe, 22-miles east of Norwich.

Norfolk Grey SealsThe whole area is Horsey Mere Nature Reserve, connected to Hickling Broad and the River Thurne. The eastern edge of the Norfolk Broads. A maritime fen, surrounded by reedbeds and grazing marsh.

There you can see marsh harriers, sedge warblers, cranes, swallowtail butterflies, and an abundance of wild geese, ducks and dragonflies. And rare grey seals sunning themselves on the desolate beaches. About half the world’s grey seals are in Britain.

Horsey Mere StyleHorsey Sand Dunes, NorfolkPark in the National Trust carpark, enjoy a cup of tea at the thatched cafe, and walk to the coast only a mile away.  Start across the road along the footpath. At the stile, turn left and head towards the distant gap in the sand dunes.

Grey Seals, Horsey Beach, Norfolk

Seals at Horsey BeachThe seal colony is on the right of the windswept beach and best seen October to January.  Pups are white, females light-grey, and males dark grey. Grey seals mate and give birth on land and can live as long as 46-years.

 

Horsey Sandunes and Beach, NorfolkFacing the sea, stroll left along the beach and back over the dunes.  There are footpaths among the tall grass on the sand dunes and behind them.

Or for a longer 8-mile round-trip, walk right, along the beach to the unspoiled fishing village of Winterton-On-Sea.

 

Nelson Head Pub, HorseyIf you return back through the gap in the dunes, follow the path and keep right for the Nelson Head – a traditional country freehouse, dog-friendly with a big log fire in the winter.  This is how pubs used to be before they were taken over by TV and piped music.

 

All Sants Chruch, Horsey, NorfolkFollow the road from the pub to Horsey Village with a population of about a hundred. There you can visit the thatched All Saints Church, originally built around 800-years ago.  Its Saxon round tower is rare in Britain, but common in East Anglia where about 180 survive.  Most are flint.

 

Horsey Mere Nature Reserve MapKeep on the verge along the road back to the car park. A round trip is about 4 to 5 miles and will take around 2 ½-hours site-seeing.

The longer 8-mile trip through Winterton-On-Sea will take about 4-hours.

Friends of Horsey Seals
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A Week in Scotland – August 2015

Tayvallich Harbour, ScotlandA Wild Land
Scotch ThistleI love Scotland. My dad comes from the fine granite City of Aberdeen, but I prefer the West Coast – wild mountains, long inland sea lochs and islands.

It almost feels like a different country to England, and there’s nothing like climbing over the heather on a rugged hillside with a distance sea breeze.

Scottish Food
Oban SeafoodI even like the food. Fresh mussels, crab, lobster, salmon, trout, black pudding, pies and haggis – not deep-fried Sneakers, a Munchy Box, or Rumbledethumps. Everything’s from oats: porridge, cakes, haggis and whisky.

Loch Eil, ScotlandIndependence
If I could vote, I’d go for independence. Not just to escape Westminster corruption and big-business control, but to get duel nationality. Then if England leaves Europe, I’d have the best of both worlds.  However, to my surprise most Scots want to stay in the UK. They don’t trust Edinburgh, and the whisky and oil can’t supply enough work. Picture is from the ferry across Loch Eil, near Fort William.

First Stop Dumfries – 17th August
River Esk, Dunfres, ScotlandI arrived from Scotch Corner Travel Lodge after the Harrowgate Rock ‘n’ Bead Show, staying in a little attic room at a £29 B&B. Just time for a fish & chip supper and a stroll along the River Esk.

Careful where you park in Dumfries, as most car-parks and on-street parking requires a special disc.

Tayvallich – Night 2 – 18th August
Camping at Tayvallich, ScotlandAfter collecting Dentist at Glasgow Railway Station we pitched tents at this tiny Argyll fishing hamlet, 2 3/4-hours away. Nice site with piping showers close to the harbour on Loch Sween.

I’ve found that if you wear a mask, you need a hat too, otherwise the mozzies still get you through the net.  Mosquito coils are the best though. Midges only appear around sunset and sunrise, and don’t like bright light or a breeze.

Picture at the start of this blog is Tayvallich Harbour.

Oban Youth Hostel  – Night 3 – 19th August
Oban Youth HostelAll-day rain forced us to stay indoors, but was fun chatting to the other guests – and great at the harbour-side Eeusk Restaurant with a seafood platter at only £21.

If you’re in Oban on a sunny day (there are many), get your oysters, mussels and lobster from the little cabin by the Ferry Terminal. Sit on their wooden benches by the harbour, there’s even a new Weatherspoons next-door!

Wild Camping by Kilmory Bay – Night 4 – 20th August
Scotland Camping 2015At a beautiful flat grassy spot on the tiny hamlet of Kilmory. Very out-of-the-way, along single-track off the B8007 – a left off the Road to the Isles from Fort William to Mallaig. All around this area is scenic with great costal walks and white powered sand.

The law is you can camp anywhere off private ground in Scotland – but bring drinking water and take your rubbish with you.

Pitlochry Youth Hostel -Night 5 – 21st August
Waterfall in Glen Coe, ScotlandGreat views along Glen Coe from Fort William with a tough walk along the Forgotten Valley – Dentist struggled clambering up the rocks!

Nice evening walk along the river at Pitlochry to the hydroelectric dam, followed by local beer and folk music at McKay’s. Picture below is the River Tummel, Pitlochry.

River Tummel, Pitlochry, ScotlandPerth Youth Hostel – Night 6 – 22nd August
A morning trip around the Bell’s Whisky Distillery at Pitlochry by a Spanish guide – BA will be taking on African stewards next!

Then onto Perth, which was not as nice as I expected, but the local collage Halls of Residence was excellent with a nice room with balcony.

Perth Bead Fair & a Great Evening at the Village Inn – 23rd August

Nigel & Dentist at Bell's Distillery, PitlochryLeaving the show at 6 pm we motored 2 ½-hours south to the little border village of Kirtlebridge. Very-hospitable B&B Scottish pub – and with only 28 village houses, the few locals made fascinating drinking partners.

From there it’s only 2 1/2-hours to Stoke to drop Dentist home, and then on to Luton.

Total round-trip: Luton to Perth about 1,400-miles. Youth hostels £18 to £28 per person/night. B&B from £29 single or £40 for two.

Scotland Trip 2015

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Travel is Essential to a Full & Successful Life

Many philosophers and writers like Mark Twain see travel as essential for a balanced and full life.

Why is Travel So Important?
Marrakesh SquareThis is because travel balances your views by levelling ones perspective on life.

Difficult situations that arise while travelling, force the mind and body to heights you never knew you had. You can then draw on this enhanced thought in every-day situations or business problems.

Furthermore, the larger the obstacle you overcome on the road, the smaller your everyday problem will appear back home. Boosting your self confidence and making you feel more comfortable.

Travel Gets the Subconscious Mind Working
Slow Boat to BaganSometimes your imagination will be stimulated by something different you saw on the road.  Allowing you to reflect on the experience to achieve success in a different way.

This can have a dramatic effect on the rest of your life

Either emotionally: making you a better person – more understanding or sociable. Or materialistically: opening a new opportunity to make money.

A Change Makes a Difference
JapanA different way of living or the time to think freely is beneficial. I find business books at an airport pay for themselves many times over. If I wasn’t on the flight, I wouldn’t have brought the book, and defiantly wouldn’t have had the time to read it. Similarly, writing while flying, can be more creative because the mind thinks differently.

Capsule in Capsule Hotel, ToykoThe more contrary the type of travel or living is to your everyday life: the more benefit. Try camping, climbing, or living on a boat. Likewise, if you live a little rough usually: book a budget luxury room somewhere stimulating.

 

Go to a New Country
Typical Burma GirlVisit a country you haven’t been before. Somewhere totally different. Another religion, another culture. Where you have to think.

New Friends
I’ve met some of my best friends travelling. Interesting people I see decades latter, and would never have come across otherwise.

Extremely Important
In short: travel is essential to success in life. Greater than most realise. And the more adventurous the trip, the more benefit.

Forget boring package holidays where the mind has little to work. Research online or invest in a Lonely Planet book, and go it alone. The problems you overcome will enrich your everyday living on return. And the opportunities you come across…..

Impressions Last a Long Time
Essaouira Fishermen, MoroccoFurthermore, memories you generate travelling last a lifetime. The longer and more difficult the trip: the better and more-lasting the memory.

Look back at your life: do you regret doing more things, than you regret not doing?

Don’t miss out – organise an adventurous trip right now!

Life's Short

See My Personal Site: NigelHayMckay.com


Top 10 Tips On How To Get The Cheapest Airfare

Cheap TagHave you ever found the person sitting next to you on a flight has paid a lot less than you? Air tickets are like share prices: they can go up and down up to 50-times in a single day.

I always like to get the best deals on specific dates. I just booked Vietnam Air return London to Hong Kong for only £452, all in. However, some of my mates are more flexible and often get the same route for 10% less.

Waiting For Flight
Never rush booking: prices often go down! Beware of very-long waits changing planes – and double check everything as you can’t change anything on cheap deals without a whopping fee.

The secret is to compare deals early, but don’t book too soon – following these tips:

  1. Cheapest day to book is Tuesday.
  2. Cheapest day to fly is Tuesday and Wednesday.
  3. Cheapest time to fly is early morning.
  4. Cheapest period to book is 12 to 6 weeks before the flight, with around 50-days being the ‘sweet spot’.
  5. Cheaper to change at a regional hob on long haul flights.
  6. Always compare deals using sites like http://www.kayak.co.uk or http://www.skyscanner.net or https://www.hipmunk.com.
  7. Cheapest is not usually main airlines – check small carriers too.
  8. In Europe check http://www.easyjet.co.uk or http://www.ryanair.com. In East Asia, checkout http://www.airasia.com. In Hong Kong: http://travel.priceline.com.hk, or in Mainland China: http://ticket.9588.com
  9. Fly during a public holiday (when no one else wants to).
  10. Pay by debit card to save credit card fees.

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10 Reasons Why I Want To Live Back in Britain

People think I’m crazy – most I know would jump at the chance to exit Blighty.

Sunset On The Norfolk BraodsAbout 300,000 British citizens a year are emigrating for more money and a better life. Adding to the 4.7 million Brits already living abroad.

I’ve been in China for over 25-years. Now I’m trying to move back to the UK. There’s many personal reasons:

 

  1. Great real ale pubs
  2. Quaint countryside, architecture & seaside
  3. Still have lots of friends in the UK – but where I live, many are leaving
  4. Clean air & blue skies (a lot of the time!)
  5. I love driving to a slightly different culture in just a few hours
  6. Outdoor music and other festivals
  7. Cruising my boat on the Norfolk Broads
  8. Bigger rooms and a garden
  9. Almost everyone speaks English. Not anymore in Hong Kong
  10. I believe I can make more money. This one ain’t easy compared to a land of near-zero tax, but I’ll give it a go!

Middlewich Folk & Boat FestivalSome say I’ve developed rose tinted glasses. However, last year I spent 6-months in the UK, and although I haven’t experienced an entire winter, I’m not naive. I quite like the weather. It’s improved with global warming – whereas blues skies in Hong Kong and Guangdong are now a rarity. If you think feeling warm is good, read my Living In a Tropical Country blog.

 

Nigel  & Friends on RoseyOf course, I’m familiar with exorbitant travel costs with restricted public transport, bad food, limited mobile phone reception, early closing, and darkness most of winter. None of which are common in the Far East. But the UK feels comfortable and after all I am British! I’m even thinking of buying a TV license.

Despite my wife of 12-years having a hard time obtaining a UK residency visa, even after 20 trips to Britain. I’m voting UKIP because they don’t discriminate against non-Europeans!

See My Personal Site: NigelHayMckay.com


Macau for Backpackers

 

St Pauls Church, Macau

Where is Macau?
Macau is a Chinese territory near Hong Kong, composed of a peninsula and two small islands connected by bridges. It was Portuguese for about 400-years – the first and last foreign colony in China. The only place in China proper-gambling is allowed.

I’ve enjoyed the food, drink and Mediterranean aura there for over 20-years, before the Portuguese handover.

Macau Accommodation
Macau Hotel Backpacker’s accommodation used to be under US$10 a night. Now, finding a budget hotel is akin to getting a cut-price lobster dinner in London.

Since casino revenue exceeded four-times Las Vegas and Chinese mainlanders are allowed in their millions, the cheapest rooms are over US$60. Despite a clamp down on gambling government money.

Nevertheless, real bargains can be had online for plush 4-star hotels’ for around HK$800 off peak – about 1/3 walk in price.

Cheap Rooms
Backpackers have a harder time. With the cheaper rooms less value, grubby, with beds as hard as wooden doors. However, although a little more than Hong Kong’s Chung King Mansions, they’re easy to find in the right area.

Travessa Do Mastro - MacauAt the ferry terminal, collect a map and ask questions at the Tourist Information Office. Then backpackers should take a taxi (about HK$25 – use Hong Kong money) to the main square, called Senado Square, pronounced ‘San Marlo’. Walk five-minutes further down the main road and take a lane on the left called Travessa Do Mastro. Around there are the cheapest lodgings.

Van Va Hotel, Cheap Macau HotelThe backpacker’s favourite is Van Va Hospedaria, up the steps from a doorway along a traditional street, left off Travessa Do Mastro. Bring your own towel or buy a cheap one in a supermarket. There’s a few similar hotels nearby.

Is It Worth It?
If you’re calling on Hong Kong, don’t miss Macau. Its different! Even a day-trip is worthwhile – the ferries are 24/7, taking just over an hour and about HK$175 each way.

You can also do a three-way thing: Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, mainland China. It’s just a short walk across the border from Macau to Zhuhai and high-speed trains connect to Guangzhou South Station.

Must See
Rua Da Felicidade, MacauGold shops and banks are everywhere, but there’s much heritage to explore. A short walk from the main square brings you to the Ruins of St Paul’s – what’s left of a 17th-century Portuguese cathedral, dramatically perched at the top of so-European steps.

Other sights not to miss are the Fort, built in 1626 – just behind St Paul’s (take the escalators up and walk down), and the 150-year old Guia Fort & Lighthouse.

Macau Food
Alies Curry House, MacauMacau is famous for its egg custard tarts, made from Portuguese pastry and served hot. Intruded by an Englishman, Andrew Stow in 1989 in a Coloane Village, but now available everywhere. A few years ago they were just HK$4 each, but now sell for $9.

Most restaurants serve a combination of Portuguese and Cantonese food. Best bargains are away from the main square. My favourite is Ali Curry House, opposite the tower, Avenida da Republica no 4-K. Great open-air location with fantastic quality Portuguese food and good wine, not just curries.

Macau

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Chinese New Year of the Goat – 2015

 

Chinese Year of the Goat - 2015The Year of the Goat, or Sheep, begins on 19th February 2015. The eighth of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and so believed to be lucky. Every animal is divided into elements with slightly different characteristics – this New Year is a Green Wood Goat. Wood Goat people are generous, very trustworthy and always help others.

Chinese new year of the goat - 2015Goat Characteristics
Goats can be loners, but prefer to be with others. They are meek, calm, curious, and intelligent, but also proud and possess a stubborn streak. They have fantastic balance and quickly learn from each other. If one finds a flaw in a fence, other goats will mimic the opportunity. Their harmonious yin energy explains why they represent peace.

Goat People
Are easy-going, intellectual, witty, loyal, thoughtful, but tender and worry a lot. However, it’s a lucky year for those born during this sign. Anything is possible, with relationships, wealth and career shining. Goat’s popularity is just as well, as they crave security for everything, so valuing love, friendship and their home. This makes them good partners – best with pig and rabbit people, but with the ox there is little harmony.

Goats like working with their hands, so best jobs are in caring, medicine, architecture or anything arty. They lack ambition, preferring to work with others. Alternate careers are an actor, teacher, writer, florist, musician or a hair dresser.

Predictions
Chinese New Year of the GoatGoats are creative animals that move forward, so this is the year to use your imagination without distraction.  Calm and tranquility will dominate 2015, balancing the international economy. The sheep’s nurturing will ensure wisdom and good will prevail global conflicts. Respect to alliances will encourage unity to combat evil. Everything will slow with a drive back to basics, compromise and healing.

Creativity and arts will flourish, as will all luxuries and holiday travel. However, although goats are un-materialistic, they like to spend on splendor and beauty prompting debt. Furthermore, beware of turmoil in the spring, and early-winter 2016.

Goat Years
If you were born during these dates, then you are a Goat: 17/02/1931 to 05/02/1932, 05/02/1943 to 24/01/1944, 24/01/1955 to 11/02/1956, 98/02/1967 to 29/01/1968, 28/01/1979 to 15/02/1980, 15/02/1991 to 03/02/1992, 01/02/2003 to 21/01/2004, 19/02/2015 to 07/02/2016

Famous Goat People
Andy Warhol, Bill Gates, Bruce Willis, Charles Dickens, Empress Dowager Cixi, George Burns, George Harrison, Jane Austen, John Denver, John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, Mark Twain, Michelangelo, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Pamela Anderson, Robert De Niro, Rudolph Valentino, Thomas Edison, Whoopi Goldberg

Goat Likes
Element: fire & earth, Colour: green & yellow. Birthstone: sapphire, jade & moonstone. Western zodiac equivalent: Cancer

For your lucky Chinese jade Year of the Goat Pendant click Year of the Goat Pendant – only US$3.99!  For other Chinese New Year animal pendants click here
For our oriental store click OnlineOriental
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What Will 2015 Bring? Predictions for the New Year

New Year - 2015

Old Moore’s Almanack
Old Moores AlmanackThe 348-year-old prophecies of this little book have been uncannily accurate. For 2015, it paints a rosy year.

Old Moore says 2015 will be in two parts. Life will be much easier on the surface, but behind the scenes there will be difficulty with more correction. Change is necessary because ‘the insiders have cheated the outsiders’.

In the UK there will be cries of anarchy, but latter in the year British creativity will flourish. Although inflation may return to the UK, Europe as a whole will finish the year more stable.

The mood of US citizens will ease, and globally 2015 will be a year of optimism and hope. This is especially so during the second half of the new year when planetary pressures will ease, bringing a feeling that a huge burden has lifted.

Chinese Year of the Goat
Chinese Year of the Goat - 2015The Year of the Goat (or Sheep) begins on 19th February 2015. The eighth of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and so believed to be lucky.

Calm and tranquility will dominate, balancing the international economy. Goat’s nurturing will ensure wisdom and good will prevail global conflicts. Respect to alliances will encourage unity to combat evil. Everything will slow with a drive back to basics, compromise and healing.

Year of the GoatGoats are creative animals that move forward, so this is the year for imagination. Creativity and arts will flourish, as will all luxuries and holiday travel. However, although goats are un-materialistic, they like to spend on splendour and beauty prompting debt.

 

For more on the Year of the Goat click Chinese New Year 2015
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Palawan Island, Philippines

Port Barton, Palawan Island, PhilippinesPalawan was recently voted best tropical beaches in the world. The crystal aqua-blue sea is always warm there, and every beach has white powdery sand with overhanging palm trees.

Last week was my second Palawan trip  – arriving in the capital, Puerto Princesa on a short flight from Manila. Then taking a van for 6-hours to El Nido.

El Nido
Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines“El Nido” is Spanish for “the nest” – ref to swifs that live in the karst cliffs. My favourite thing to do there is eat barbecued seafood by candlelight on the beach, with lots of iced beer. Island hopping is the best daytime pursuit. For US$16 per person a small outrigger will take you around all day, including  snorkeling, swimming, and a huge barbecued seafood lunch. The colourful coral there is spectacular.

Port Barton
Port Barton, Palawan Island, PhilippinesSeafood Lunch, Palawan, PhilippinesPort Barton is a remote west-coastal village about 5-hours from El Nido. It’s laid-back, friendly atmosphere is popular with backpackers seeking solitude and natural beauty.

There are no paved roads all the way there, no banks, no ATMs, doctors, or electricity before 6.30pm to midnight. Internet is limited to wi-fi dongles on Globe network.

Jambalaya Beach Resturant, Port Barton, Palawan, PhilippinesJambalaya Port Barton beachfront cafe owned by a Scotsman and his Filipino wife.

Nigel On Beach, El Nido, Palawan, PhilippinesAccommodation

Manila: Citadel Inn, Makati City – US$44

El Nido: The excellent Devayn’s Inn, Town Centre, but across road to beach – only US$22.  All new – A/C, balcony, and wi-fi. Best Restaurant: Spider Bar on the beach.

Port Barton: Besaga Resort: US$27. Basic, but on the beach with friendly and helpful owner.
Floral Villarosa Hotel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, PhilippinesPuerto Princesa: Floral Villarosa. Beautiful hotel with large pool owned by a Swiss guy and his Filipino wife – US$50. Close to airport.

Transport
Philippine Air Hong Kong to Manila US$194. Air Asia Manila to Puerto Princesa US$71. All round trips with tax.

Six-hours Puerto Princesa to El Nido. Private van for US$110 (6 people). 4-hours El Nido to Roxas – then 1 1/2 Jeepney to Port Barton, very rough road, not possible in rainy-season (private boat costs US$120)

1 1/2 hours back to Roxas jeepney, then 2-hours van to Puerto Princesa.

Palawan Island, Philippines

See the video of my previous trip to Palawan Island on YouTube

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Living in a Tropical Country

White Beach BoracayMany dream of relaxing in a warm land where the sun shines every day – especially those working in cold and wet countries, like the UK where it’s dark most of winter.

Understand the Weather
Tropical RainI’ve been living in the Far East for 22-years: believe me, the weather is not all honey.  You feel more positive when the sun shines and an outside lifestyle is nice.  People are more friendly and relaxed – however, most of the year the climate is extreme. Like summers when its hotter than hell and buckets down every day.

Humidity & the Heat
Take Hong Kong, it’s usually 95% humid. Feveringly sticky for eight-months of the year, and around 33c all day and night.  However, we have fierce air-con and winters can go lower than 10c – but this feels freezing without heating.

If you’re too hot, move higher up. Tropical climates tend to cool quicker with altitude. Temperatures at sea level are cooler than inland, but more humid.

Tropical Storms & Typhoons
These usually occur in latitudes of between about ten and thirty degrees, but Google the weather before you leave home as it changes rapidly. Peak typhoon time in South East Asia is in the autumn, but can occur in summer too. Big typhoons come several times a year and shut all transport, often for days.

Insects
cockroachBugs grow huge in warm climates. Cockroaches almost as large as small mobile phones are common in the kitchen and sometimes in other rooms. Mosquito bites are an everyday occurrence, and spiders and minute midges you can’t see make you itch. Ants and other creepy crawlies are also a worry if you’re messy.

Water
In poorer Asian countries pressure can be a problem, especially in high-rises where showers can be reduced to a trickle.  Hot kitchen taps are only in the most expensive apartments, but this is doesn’t matter outside winter. However, it’s usually advisable to boil drinking water if you don’t buy it in. Even in Hong Kong where its supposed to be safe from the tap, I’ve learnt boiling is best, especially in the New Territories.

Walking
Chinese Pavement in GuangzhouPavements aren’t in the same state of repair as they are back home. You need to be careful you don’t fall in open drains or other holes, especially at night where street lighting is on saver-mode.

In most Asian countries pavements are for parking motor-bikes and extending retail display. Sometimes it’s safer to walk in the road.

Telecommunications
Surprisingly, mobile phone coverage is usually much better than home.  Many Asian countries transmit 3G at the top of mountains or in remote areas like deserts.  And fast 4G is arriving in many large cities.  However, although internet is now common, speeds are inconsistent in poorer countries.

Transportation
Hong Kong TaxiPublic transport is another advantage of living in this part of the world. Unless you’re out of the way, taxes, busses, boats and trains will be more frequent and much cheaper than your home country. In large cities like Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hong Kong or Manila: only at peak-times do you wait more than a few minutes for a taxi.

Safety
Western rules don’t apply in Asia.  Busses drive with bald tyres and far too fast. Overcrowded ferries lack life jackets. Fires can be dangerous as exits are blocked, fire-doors jammed open, and smoke detectors don’t exist.

Food
FruitCheap fresh food is everywhere.  Imported and canned produce is expensive. Asian people appreciate freshness and shop every day.  All towns have bustling markets where locals haggle for the best deal. The selection will usually be more than you’re used to in the supermarket, with many exotic vegetables and fruits.  Fish and seafood is sold live, and meat exhibited like an abattoir.

Sleeping
It may not have occurred to you, but it can be problem getting to sleep at 33c and 90% humidity. Many of my friends prefer just a simple bedroom fan. This works well as long as it’s not directly blowing on you. I like air-con – as it dried the air too. However, unless meticulously adjusted it makes you go either hot or cold all night long. I find it best set to no colder than 26c, and doze under a sheet a thin duvet.

Conclusion – is it worth living in the heat?
If you’re staying in the countryside it will be basic and harsh. If you’re in the city there will be more amenities, but a tiny flat with no garden or car.

However, living in the tropics isn’t all bad. Little frustrations ease with time, and advantages of low prices, sun and swimming in warm water compensate. You do feel better: colds disappear, you mellow, and alfresco dining beats watching TV.

Nevertheless, before you throw in the job, visit for a holiday first to see if it’s for you. Talk to the locals and expats whose honesty is invaluable.  Visit when the weather is bad: it’ll be cheaper as well as giving you a feel of what you could be letting yourself into.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com


Hong Kong Beaches

Hap Mum Bay Hong KongPresumption
Most people view Hong Kong as a concrete metropolis with little green space.  Yet around 3/4 of the territory is rural – with many sandy beaches, rocky foreshores, hills and mountains.

Sai kung BBQ - Hong Kong BeachHong Kong Facilities
These areas are protected with National Park status and generously provided with footpaths, shelters, benches, barbecue pits, and litter bins. Most public beaches have lifeguards, toilets, showers, BBQs and shark nets. Not that sharks are common, but there were incidents 20-years ago.

Easy-Going
People squash in urban Hong Kong. Mongkok in Kowloon has almost double the population density of Manhattan, with 130,000 per square kilometer. However, few live in rural Hong Kong – although some beaches get crowded weekends.

Nigel on Stanley Beach, Hong KongThis makes Hong Kong ideal for beach hunters who appreciate conservation and scenic sub-tropical landscapes. Although the best beaches are a little remote, some are within 1/2-hour of the city.

Where Are the Beaches?
Popular Repulse Bay can be reached in a 20-minute bus ride from Central. This south side of Hong Kong Island has many sandy beaches.  My favourite here is cozy Deep Water Bay – because it faces soft tree-lined sand, rather than concrete high-rises.

Shak O Beach, Hong KongFurther east on Hong Kong Island has one of the best beaches in the region: Shek O.  This can be reached on the Island MTR line to Shau Kei Wan, then a bus for another 20-minutes.  Nearby is Big Wave Bay, popular with surfers.

Tai Long Wan, Si Kong, Hong KongSome of the most pristine beaches can take hours to get to like Tai Long Wan on the Sai Kung Peninsula.  My favorite there, and easier to reach, is Hap Mum Bay on Sharp Island – catch a sampan there from Sai Kung Town waterfront (HK$40 return weekends).

Other nice Hong Kong beaches are on islands accessible by regular boats from the Central Ferry Pier. Like Lamma Island (don’t be put off by the nearby power station), Cheung Chau, and Cheung Sha Beaches on Lantau Island.

What to do on the Beach?
Hong Kong Beach FunI’m not one for lying around – I can’t relax sprawled on the sand. Not even reading or listening to music. I’m fearless of the “Not Allowed” signs, but it’s usually too hot for me on the sand to do more than gulp iced beer.

I like to swim and play in the water. The sea’s warm all year. The coldest at 18c is in February, and hottest in September, around 29c. Hong Kong’s good for this as there’s no coral or rocks, and beaches are clean and picturesque.

Hong Kong Beach SignHong Kong No Smoking Beach SignSigns
Although these warnings are not for fun, anyone who has seen a Mainland China beach will appreciate the reserve!

Conclusion
Hong Kong’s not a destination just for beach holidays – but lounging on the sand and swimming in clear water never cooler than 24c, makes a busy business or shopping trip more civilized.

Hong Kong Map

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Coastal Walking in Dunwich & Southwold

Dunwich HeathLast month MiMi and I were in Suffolk on the East Coast of England, looking for sea-breeze walks and rural culture.  We stayed at the Ship Inn, Dunwich – about 8-miles from Southwold.

Walk from Southwold to Walberswick & back, via the foot ferry – about 1 1/2-hours

From Southwold
Southwold FerryWe parked opposite the seafood restaurant shacks along the end of Ferry Road, Southwold-side of the River Blythe, and crossed the river mouth to Walberswick. This little 12-seater ferry is rowed by a burley Scot and licensed as a regular service.  At Walberswick, footpaths run along the river bank to an old footbridge about half-an hour away. If you have time call in at the nearby Bell Inn. The Southwold path on the way back passes the Sailing Club Pub, and I’d recommend local seafood at one of the little eateries further along.

Southwold
Sole Bay Inn, SouthwoldSouthwold itself is a magical little town I used to visit regularly. Slightly spoilt by affluent Londoners seeking romance by the sea. Prices there have gone through the roof with beach huts selling for over £50,000 and the cheapest B&Bs charging £90 a night.

However, £3.40 for a pint of Adnams at the Sole Bay Inn, below the lighthouse and right opposite the brewery, is well worth it.  If you’re sick of pub food, take fish & chips from the shop on the main road to a bench in the nearby churchyard. Careful feeding the seagulls though, as they’re over-tame.

Circular Walk from the ancient city of Dunwich to Minsmere & back – about 4 1/2-hours

Dunwich
The Ship DunwichDunwich is a tiny coastal village, all that remains of the capital of the East Angles Kingdom. The  Domesday Book of 1086 records it as one of the tenth largest cities in England with a population of  around 3,000. It became a thriving international port, similar in size to 14th-century London, where it sent two members to parliament.

Its decline began in 1286 when a storm hit the East Anglian coast bringing the sea inland, with further winter erosion gradually reducing the population to under 100 today.  Only one church remains, moved inland in the early 20-centry. A popular local legend tells of bells that can still be heard from the other seven churches lost beneath the waves. Don’t miss the excellent Dunwich Museum with a model of how the city once was, and the car park beach cafe serves home-made food all year.

Start from Dunwich
Nigel at Dunwich HeathFrom Dunwich’s 17th-century Ship Inn, follow the footpath on the left just past the bend on the Minsmere Road (by the pub) to the cliff top. Thirty-five-years ago I used to drive up this trail and camp on the cliff.  It’s impossible to get any vehicle up now.  Several yards of the cliff have been lost to erosion, but there’s still space to safely pitch a small tent.

Turn right past the remains of a 13th-century Franciscan priory, and follow the trail inland onto Dunwich Heath. It’s hard to avoid country roads part of the way, but at least the majority of the route is along footpaths.

Dunwich Heath
Dunwich Deer and wildlifeThe heath is a serene and wild habitat of sandy heather crisscrossed by bridleways. Home to rare wildlife like the Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark, ant-lion, adders and herds of native deer.

With the help of National Trust signs and maps at major junctions, you should be able to reach a wooden wildlife viewing platform – where it’s sign-posted to the RSPB Discovery Centre at Minsmere with a cafe, shop, nature trails, and guides.

RSPB Discovery Centre at Minsmire The exhibition here shows how birds migrate 3,000-miles onto the nearby cliff face, from North America and the Antartic.  Otters can be seen in the island meres and birds like Bitterns only found in East Anglia – along with an abundance of dragonflies, mash harriers, and other rare birds.

If the hike from Dunwich is too much for you, it’s only 20-minutes along the beach from Dunwich Heath NT car park or Sizewell Beach.

Way Back
Minsmere Coast, SuffolkTo return, walk behind the cafe and follow signs through the nature reserve towards the sea.  Walk along the headland.  It’s about a mile to the National Trust Dunwich Heath Cafe, and then over an hour back to the Ship Inn. Don’t walk along the beach as it’s hard work on the shingle.  Follow the footpath as close to the coast as you can, then cut inland partly along the road.

Useful Sites
Ferry Website:
http://www.explorewalberswick.co.uk/ferry.php

A PDF detailing1,000-years of Dunwich can be downloaded at http://www.dunwichmuseum.org.uk/reslib/PDF/20111208143602Sear%20Workshop%20talk.pdf

Combine a holiday at the Norfolk Broads – a great riverside cottage only an hour from these walks: Bure Cottage

Dunwich & Southwold Map

See my personal site: NigelHayMckay.com

 


Move To a Cheaper Country

Most of us can live anywhere in the world, despite what you think. It’s just a matter of imagination and desire.

Why move?
Tropical BeachOf course you need a reason to move. It could be better weather or opportunity – to feel wealthier, eat better, culture, or to live healthier.

Weather
However, few countries have ideal weather.  I’ve lived in China 22-years, but it’s comfortable only a short time in spring and autumn. Summer’s too hot and wet, and winter can be surprisingly cold with no heating.

Opportunity
MoneyOpportunity is a good reason to relocate – but if you want more spending power, you could work longer. Apply for more new jobs or work hard for yourself. Don’t become a hermit and stop buying things (like some of my friends) – just move!

Optimistic
Think positive. There’s always ways around restrictions – wherever it’s visas, money or talent. Research online for answers, visit your desired location to check it out. If it looks possible, go for it.

Complacently wastes lives. So does betting on odds like the lottery. Be positive and plan.

Where to go?
Hong KongThis depends of why you want to move. However, where living costs less is a good start. Unless you can fix a job in places like Switzerland or Japan, and then you may not be able to save much because everything costs so much.

Asia
You can live cheaply in India, Thailand, Philippines, China, Vietnam, or Cambodia for under US$50 a day. Twenty-years ago I backpacked for $10, but everything goes up. You can earn in these places too – teaching English or online.

Western Europe
Appealing if you’re holding a European passport. No visa hassles and budget internal flights.  Awesome culture and cheap repossessed holiday homes are attractive too – but expensive if you plan not working.

Eastern Europe
HungaryHungary and Budapest ooze culture – yet are as cheap as Poland and Romania, where a mass exodus to Britain has lowered property prices.

My next blog will look at other countries worth living.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com