The island’s name is Bond, shaken not stirred

James Bond would be proud. Because his name is used to name an island. We are so ashamed….that we mixed up the movies which led to the fame of this island. You see, we had this image of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini and a gun diving knife strapped on her you know where. And we thought – ah this must be it in Phuket. You see we had some confirmation bias – because we saw some tourists (ladies) posing knee deep in the clear waters, seductive pose not withstanding.

Nooooooo! Ursula starred in “Dr No”. Did you know that the white bikini she wore in that movie was sold at an auction for more than £41,000 in 2011? Sorry we digressed again.

The movie that actually inspired folks to name this island after Ian Fleming’s written character is “The Man with the Golden Gun”. You see the island in the story of the movie was the hideout of the villain Scaramanga. That island is supposedly in ‘Red China’, which in the 1970s was still out-of-bounds least of all to film producers of the west (this film was released in 1974). An alternative had to be found and it fell to Ko Khao Phing Kan.

So….no bikini clad lady emerging from the sea here!

Ok, what then is there to see here then? Read it all in our little story!

PS: Did you folks heard of Bangkok’s plan to “clean” up street food vendors? Seems like they are doing it in the name of ‘reclaiming’ the side walk. In the process, many vendors will likely not have space to operate… Oh no! On the other hand, they could be housed like food centers that look familiar with what we have here in the little red dot!

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea

Snorkeling is such a fun way to interact with the fishes and corals in the sea. We mean, you see but don’t touch. Interact we hear your puzzling response. How does one interact with fishes and corals? By the way, all you sea lovers out there remember not to touch and take anything from the waters ok? Look, can. Touch, take or damage – a big NO NO.

So begins our short Thailand series.

Well, you don’t. Interact with the fishes that is. But that first paragraph was to introduce you to fun ways you can enjoy yourself when in Krabi. That is, being in the water and not just on land.

We had found this really good deal that included flights and 3 nights’ stay at the Sofitel in Krabi. Not one to pass up on a deal, we found the nearest long weekend and flew away…only to discover that it was the wet season! Sigh. That’s why it was so cheap…though the good thing is – there were hardly any other visitors staying at the hotel. Why? Because it was raining torrents for much during those days!

Well, that was also what we expected when we signed up on a snorkeling tour to the islands. Islands devoid of tourists. But hell no! There were soooo many people on the boat (and so many boats too) jostling for a piece of the ocean. Now, September is the shoulder season and the waters can be churning a little making it murky. Not quite the Maldives! Fortunately for us the day was not rainy, merely cloudy – so it was not a total loss.

Take a look at this essay and re-live the days we spent with the denizens of the sea. Do you enjoy snorkeling?

Oh Toyama!

To be honest Mel was a sceptic when Suan first crafted the 5-day itinerary to Toyama (富山).

Not East nor West…

Afterall, where IS this place anyway? Located on the northern stretch of Honshu (本州), this coastal plain is buffeted by the Tateyama mountains on the east, where we had seen the famed ice walls. We took a Shinkansen that hurtled us 300km away from a sunny Tokyo in order to get there (Toyama we mean).

If one peruse web literature about the city and provincial area, it is a story about how this rich agricultural plain was once a battlefield many a time. You know a prized asset is always fought over right? Well, that’s the story of how royalty and nobility have been treating plebian folks like their property over the ages…

The city of Toyama was flattened at the end of WWII because it was an industrial center. But as a provincial area it re-emerged quickly in the post war years. In fact, Takaoka (one of the cities of Toyama perfecture) was a medieval seat of the metal casting industry, so that tradition has carried on and over into other technological areas as well.

What did we do while in Toyama?

We picked up a rental car near Toyama city train station and made a mini road trip. The drive took us to various historic centers, stopping invariably at roadside seafood markets and enjoying the scenic views along the way. It was also a time to do some hot naked baths again in the Ryokan Onsens (Japanese traditional inns). You have to try it some day too!

Key highlights:

  • Enjoyed Onsen baths with a quite a few having wonderful views
  • Ate Firefly squid and famed beef croquette from Japanese TV…
  • Took in a beautiful panorama of the Tateyama mountain range

Did Mel become the converted from this planned journey by Suan? Let’s read more about this road trip here!

Of Alsatians and Lorraineans

LOL. No, we are not Alsatians. Yeah it has been a “dogged” life but this sure isn’t the what the post is about. First, a little geography (which you can find out more out here in our essay). Nestled between France and Germany with the Rhine mostly as the border, you will read from our essay that this was a contested region.

Fortunately no more.

Today it is a place that teems with tourists coming through on the way between both countries. With pleasant country roads that seem to be paved with vineyards forever into the horizon, you can imagine us singing as we drove along! Yes we did sing…though you might not want to listen to it…

Have you heard of Quiche Lorraine? Bet you have! While true that quiche has been around for long and available elsewhere earlier, it is this variant named after the region that became really popular. And that’s because it is savoury instead of sweet, turning it from a dessert with custard filling to one with cheese and Lardon! So did we have some? Why oui! In the city of Metz.

And because this region is a little melange of French and German cultures and traditions, you will visit towns with German sounding names, eat “choucroute” instead of sauerkraut, though still with sausages. Or “tarte flambee” that seems to be glorified pizzas…hmmm. See beautiful village houses adorned in a spectacle of colours that can only be found in the rural parts of France.

Read about our little road trips to Alsace and Lorraine!

So this ends our French series.

Next up, Thailand! Home to our timeshare resort (on Phuket), it is the land of smiles. And indeed it is so. Look out for it!

Fortress Carcassonne

A fortress up on high standing the test of time. Witness to countless conflicts both blood and gore. This is the hilltop fortress of Carcassonne.

We were driving down south from Perigord, enroute to Provence.

And when you are in this part of France, you cannot miss out on this venerable old dame of fortresses. Did you know that this fortress hails back to Roman times? You see, this is a rather strategic spot and very early in history it was recognized as such. Built over and enlarged time and again by successive regimes, it has evolved to its current 53 barbicans! For those who do not know what a Barbican is – it is a fortified gateway/outpost. A sort of tower flanked by high walls.

You know in medieval times there was much political uncertainty. The nobility fought constantly amongst themselves, treating the common folks as their property to use – perhaps little different from livestock. So this fortress was the scene of many a siege that led to much widowing, orphaning and grief. But over the centuries it became derelict and abandoned.

We are so lucky that it was not demolished in the mid 1800s but salvaged by the local townspeople. Though not all restored to perfect and exact construction of the ancients and medieval times, it nevertheless left us with a monument that links us back to that time in history.

Today this fortress is still inhabited by a small number of folks that are descended from the original villagers. It is a unique experience to walk its cobbled stone streets and imagine how life was like during those sieges.

Explore this fortress with us! And tell us if this will motivate you to make your own journey to this amazing place.

What’s in Orange?

No, not the fruit. But the supposed catchy title just might capture your attention. We are referring to a city in the south of France.

We are sure you know that France was not where the Romans hail from (duh you don’t know? lol). In fact, reference to a Gallic culture should give a clue that France was the domain of the Gauls. Though defeated and subjucated by the Romans, they were by no means totally assimilated. Which means the Romans had to build enclaves – colonies for themselves in this newly won lands.

Orange was one of them colonies, and it was a large settlement area too for the Romans. Who migrated there you ask? Retired ex-military we are told, centurions who are no longer in active service being granted parcels of land to farm or rent out (for farming). That’s why in the town (le commune as the French say), you will find many vestiges of Roman power widely distributed all over. Some are said to be even older than ones in Rome!

According to antiquity studying folks, it has one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world (well the western world anyway), aside from the one in Aspendo (which we also touched). And this one is actively being used too. Because the excellent acoustics that were the requirements of the day when it was built still works today!

Now that you know a little about Orange, go on and read more here about our little traipsing all over this quaint town and tell us what do you like about it!