Friends from the last 12 years in Beijing descended on the Serbian capital for a week of catching up culminating in the wedding of Ivan & Valeriya at St. Michael's Church and a reception in the Belgrade Fortress. It was a hell of a party - in the words of Charles Peace it truly was like "getting the band back together."
We arrived at the village of Ping'an in the dark and then had a half hour climb by flashlight to our guesthouse, Longji One Hotel, up in the terraces. It wasn't until the following morning that we awoke to see where we were, and what a view. It was apparently the first clear day in weeks!
After breakfast we set off on our 6 hour hike to Dazhai. I wasn't feeling great due to being poisoned by street food the day before, but even that couldn't dampen my spirits too much when looking at at the view.
The hike took us out of Ping'an and, with the odd wrong turn, to the village of Zhongliu, where we met a Yao woman who insisted on walking with us as a "guide". Time was tight so we pushed on without lunch to finally arrive in the village of Dazhai.
Our flight from Guilin was that evening, and we were running so late that we didn't even have time for a shower! Pity the person in the seat next to us on the flight back to Beijing...
On 15th November, Emily and I flew to the US for Thanksgiving with her family.
We awoke early on our first day with terrible jetlag. To blast away the cobwebs, we went for a walk with Carmen up to Woodstock Tower for an amazing view over the Shenandoah valley. On our return, we then had a delicious brunch prepared by Leah. In the evening we went down to Joe's Steakhouse in Woodstock and ate at the bar (great steak) chatting with the staff. After one too many drinks we stumbled home to bed. ;)
On the second evening we headed into Arlington where we stopped in to see Emily's grandfather, Sid, at his retirement community. We then went for dinner at an excellent Salvadorian restaurant with Jane. The next morning, E took me into D.C. to the Smithsonian where we did a quick high-speed tour to look at the Washington Monument & WW2 Memorial, before going back to meet everyone at Sid's, and then driving in convoy back to Woodstock. We then had a great pork roast at the cabin prepared by Leah. The following morning E&I set off in the Honda Hybrid to South Carolina.
On arriving in Menorca we headed to a bay that dad had last visited in the 60s which he kept banging on about! Amazingly, four decades later, Cala en Turqueta (Turquoise Bay) was as unspoilt as he remembered, and I managed to get some nice shots whilst running around the bay.
The following day we headed down the south coast to Cala en Porter. On the way we got in touch with Jeff and Jane Sweetman who have a house on the Island, and shamelessly invited ourselves to dinner! The house, Santa Monica, is a beautiful Menorcan farmhouse and we spent a lovely evening there which was sadly cut short by a monster thunderstorm that blew up out of nowhere. We were forced to hightail it back to the boat to batten down the hatches!
Our final day was spent in Port Mahon where James Tree and Spencer Wigley joined us from their flight. We stocked up on food and drink, and had a delicious evening meal at Latitud 40, an amazing restaurant on the quay side. The following morning we set out on the epic crossing to Sardinia...
After a night crossing from the mainland, our first day in Port Soller, Majorca was spent exploring the port. We then went for a fantastic dinner up the mountain at Ca's Xorc.
The next day we took the train into Soller town for lunch and in the evening had a great dinner with the Marx's at their villa in Fornalutx.
On the following morning, Gav left us, and we sailed on around the island to Cala de Sa Colobra where we had a dip in the sea which was pretty cold in May. We also went ashore to look at Torrent de Pareis. After lunching there we headed on to spend our final night in Cala Figuera, a beautiful remote bay to the north.
On our final morning on Majorca, I did an amazing run out of the bay to get some great photos of the boat from above. We then headed on to Menorca...
Dad, Mum, Gav & I started our sailing trip on the Spanish mainlaind, in the small seaside town of Sant Carles de la Rapita. The boat had wintered there and when we arrived was still out of the water so we had a couple of days to prepare. We finally left on 8th May with an uneventful night crossing to Port de Sóller, Majorca.
After the morning dive, instructor John kindly lent me his camera so I could spend the afternoon practicing taking photos underwater. I then spent several happy hours in Tanote Bay getting these shots. The light while snorkeling was much better since I wasn't swimming that deep (less blue!), but the constant diving down to get the shot was exhausting! Great fun though!
As part of my PADI A.O.W. course done at Mantalay Bay resort on Koh Tao last week, I got the chance to do a night dive and also do some underwater photography. I had always wanted to do these, particularly the latter. We did the night dive, where my instructor John had the camera, just off Tanote Bay. The following day I got to do it myself whilst diving at Haad Rin. John was full of great advice and useful tips. Shame about the annoying smudge on the lense but that can't be helped... Not bad for a first attempt though. :)
After finally getting my Chinese driving license last weekend, it was time to actually drive in China! Rob, Suz and I drove up to the Baoshan grasslands for the long weekend and had good time exploring the countryside on quad bikes. Beautiful scenery, with an epic carbon foot print!
After spending the night in Ka Law, we rose early and visited the old railway station as well as a Christian church (nice change from all the Buddhist temples!). We then drove to Inle Lake, stopping at a teaching monastery on the way, and visited the local market in Naungshwe town, where people from the surrounding hill tribes had come to sell their goods. From there we took one of the long boats to our hotel at Inle Princess Resort. After dumping our bags, we crossed the lake for lunch, and in the afternoon visited a silver smiths workshop, and saw the Karen "long necked" women, and finished with a boat ride through the floating gardens and stilted houses, stopping briefly at the "jumping cat" monastery, before heading back across the lake to the hotel.
Another early flight from Mandalay brought us to Heho airport, from where we drove for a couple of hours to the Pindaya caves, limestone caverns full of thousands of carved Buddhas. We then visited a handicraft shop where they made paper and beautiful parasols by hand. From there we drove to the hill fort of Ka Law, which was frequented by the British in Colonial times, to escape the heat of the plains.
Day two in Mandalay started with a boat trip up the Ayeyarwady River to Mingun, where we visited to 87 ton Mingun bell, the Hsimbuye Paya and unfinished Mingun Paya. In the afternoon we drove to Sagaing Hill, the living centre of Buddhist faith in Burma today. Finally on our return drive to Mandalay, we stopped at the U Bein teak bridge, built in 1851.
After Bagan, we took an early flight to Myanmar. The day started with a visit to a Buddha that was continually beiing veneered with gold leaf, followed by marble carving market, tapestry workshop, rickshaw tour, more stupas (!), a climb up Mandalay hill, and finally a trip to a monastery at dusk to watch the monks go into prayer.
Day one in Myanmar, not the easiest given the circumstances of my recent breakup but some fantastic sites all the same. A trip to the market, a few stupas, reclining buddha and a finish at Shwedogan pagoda.
Pauline and I spent Boxing Day in Nimes with Carole Richard wandering the streets, visiting the Roman amphitheatre (now the bullring) and finishing with a trip out of town to visit the Pont du Gare aqueduct.
Everyone put their best fooot forward for the 2007 Beijing Caledonian society Ball. Except, of course, for Halla who spent the entire time between the starter and dessert out in the lobby causing havoc....
I spent the afternoon first visiting the Presidio where I stopped by the Letterman Digital Arts Center (home of Industrial Light & Magic & Lucasarts) and then the Palace of fine Art. From there I walked down to Fisherman's Wharf before walking back to North Beach over Russian Hill (which I began to regret about half way up!)
Andrey & I decied to hire a Ford Mustang (because it seemed like the only way to do it!) and spent a day visiting vineyards in and around Sonoma tasting the local Vino. The drive back was interesting... ;)
I spent the day with Andree walking from the Haight into Golden Gate park and on to the De Young where we spent several hours looking at all the art on display. A fantastic place and well worth a visit.
After leaving LA I drove down the PCH as the sun was setting in time to meet Matt and his aunt and uncle for dinner near Santa Barbara. They then kindly offered me a bed for the night and the following day I walked around the Mission and lunched in town, and walked down the pier before heading into wine country.
After getting lost for several hours trying to find the damn place, I eventually found it and spent several happy hours wandering through Getty's extensive collection in the amazing building built to house it. If anyone can fill me in on the names of the pieces please let me know in the comments.
I somehow, in a moment of weakness, gave into Halla and wound up being in the TB photoshoot for the Halloween issue. These are the photos I took at the photo shoot which involved allot of beer and even more laughter. The last four images are the result. I never imagined my moment in the limelight would involve being dressed as an airing cupboard! Haha.
Over the weekend I spend a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday wandering around the Nanluoguxiang street festival taking photos. The event was initiated by Dominic Johnson-Hill of Plastered T-Shirts fame and as far as I know was the first event of its kind in Beijing.
Will & Tom got roped in to playing live at Club Tango for the launch party of the Abba musical "Mamma Mia" in Beijing. This would have been business as usual if it hadn't involved them being requested to insert song samples from the Abba back-catalogue into their mix...
On the night before the night of my birthday party, we saw in my 30th with a nice bottle of Champagne supplied by guest of honor David Wilder. Ben was on hand to act as concierge and silent tribute was paid to the passing of my twenties.
Jacque threw a party for Nienke's birthday at their new courtyard they which they recently moved into. A lovely dinner of Chinese classiscs was enhanced by the fantastic nocturnal views of the drum and bell tower from their rooftop terrace.
Chivas Regal threw a lavish party which I went to on wednesday night. Definitely an example of "only in China" where huge amounts of money had been spent to make the most, garish, soulless, so-bad-it's-good event I have been to in a while...
While I was in England last week we took my parents new boat, Salamander, over to France for a long weekend with Daniel, Mary, Vicky and James. A great way to catch up with everyone and test drive the yacht. Lot's of healthy imbibing and mini dramas.
It's hard to believe that just under a year after my last trip there, I found myself back in Phuket. This time Robbie and I flew to Thailand to meet up with his parents to spend Chinese New Year sailing on their yacht.
Over the October holiday Robbie and I flew to Chengdu to meet his cousin, Roger and girlfriend, who were travelling in China. These photos cover Sichuan Opera, Panda Breeding Program, LeShan Buddha and Emei Shan.
Robbie and myself coerced Charles into taking us into the countryside in his new Land Rover. After lunch at the Bagel restaurant in Shunyi, we drove to Hei Long Tan scenic spot in Miyun county where we wheezed our way up the steep gully passing clear pools and waterfalls.
For the second time this year Chaoyang park was was once again host to a music festival. Headlining this time was former Stone Rones front-man Ian Brown and hiphop artist Common. We headed down there for another fun evening of live music.
After a trip to the camera market in west Beijing where I purchased a new lense (50MM F1.4), we headed out to celebrate Tom's Birthday. Dinner at a new yunnan restaurant in HouHai, drinks in The Tree and finally somewhat drunken stumblings in Poachers concluded an excellent night
Two days trecking in the mountains three hours west of Beijing for the I.T. UNITED annual office outing. We started on Saturday by trecking along Longmenjian Gully and finished on Sunday at Lingshan Mountain, with a nights camping in a valley along the way.
Ivan, Slobodan, Robbie, Kendall and myself went for lunch at the Orchard restaurant outside Beijing and then drove to the so-called "Intelligence Valley" (Zhi Hui Gu) where we relaxed at a guest house in the mountains for the afternoon.
On our first day in Xi'an we spent the morning visiting the obligatory Terracotta army, followed by a few hours in the Shaanxi History Museum (fascinating) before finishing the day wandering the markets to the Grand Mosque where we watched the starlings fishing for mosquitoes at dusk.
Our first stop in the morning was the "City of Ghosts" (Fengdu), a city to be abandoned due to the rising water levels of the Yangtze behind the dam. We also climber the hill behind to visit Henha temple after ditching our "guide" and the hundreds of other people in our group.
We started our China tour with a day in Guilin before taking the boat ride down the river to Yangshuo. We spent the day walking around the twon and visiting some amazing (if v touristy) limestone caves.
In October 2007 I flew to L.A. to visit my friend Gerlee and then hired a car to drive north along Highway 1 to San Fransisco where I spent a week hanging out with my friend Siska and seeing the sights.