CAN: Vancouver Island; A Private Garden a

I have visited Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, several times. On those visits I spent much time, both day and evening, in the famed Butchard Gardens near to the town of Victoria. But this time, we visited the private garden of our friends; a garden lovingly carved from a bare block of land; a garden of peace and the joy of plants.

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The central feature of this garden is a Lily Pond. Most rooms of the house look out across this peaceful pond to a landscape of an inlet of water and to the mountains beyond.

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While I wandered in the garden, camera in hand, David talked to our friend about the plants in her garden and how they had designed the garden from a bare field.

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A hand hewn stream lent a gentle, bubbling sound to the ambience.

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A wide variety of well known flowers gave colour and shape to the design.

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I won’t attempt to name them all… I’d like you to just wander with me, taking our time to really see them individually and enjoy their beauty.

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We’ll wander in the gardens and woodlands behind the house next time.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 3

One morning, we left the MV Mahabaahu before dawn for a jeep drive to the Kaziranga National Park.  Apart from a track accident on the road which slowed us down, the trip in the dark was uneventful – in fact most of the occupants in my vehicle dozed some/most of the way.  Not far from our destination the dawn broke, so the drive became a little more interesting as we could see the landscape and villages we were passing.

P1010316  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010316 © DY of jtdytravels

We eventually stopped by the roadside, seemingly nowhere.  But before long, some elephants came lumbering down the road.  The excitement levels began to rise.  We climbed back into our vehicles and drove a short distance along a levee to a staging point.  Some staging point !  It turned out to be just a wash-away surrounding a culvert, but at least it provided a place where we could get onto our elephant – elephant in the culvert, passengers on top of the culvert.  All very simple but very effective!

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P1010318  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010318 © DY of jtdytravels

Love those eyelashes – no mascara needed.

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P1010324  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010324 © DY of jtdytravels

We were already on our elephants by the time the sun peeped above the horizon.

 A ground fog hung around creating an eerie atmosphere.

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P1010325  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010325 © DY of jtdytravels

The elephants walked along interconnecting levees at their slow lumbering pace while their passengers, perched high on their backs, were pitched from side to side .  The mahouts needed to do little.  These elephants had walked this track many times before and more than knew the way.

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P1010331  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010331 © DY of jtdytravels

As the sun rose slowly, nearby vegetation was silhouetted against the fog.

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P1010355  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010355 © DY of jtdytravels

After the elephant ride, we stopped at a resort type place in the park for our breakfast. Here, in the grounds, I saw a Spice Finch or Scaley-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) hanging on the roots of an epiphytic orchid.  These birds are endemic to Asia and live in flocks.  They generally like open grasslands where they eat seeds, fruits and small insects.  They build their dome-shaped nests in grass clumps and bamboo thickets.

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P1010357  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010357 © DY of jtdytravels

A brilliant red hibiscus contrasted against a blue, blue Indian sky.

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P1010358  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010358 DY of jtdytravels

A small spider, the same colour as the petals of this flower, hid in its centre.

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P1010362  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010362 © DY of jtdytravels

These ridiculously tall coconut trunks appear to be far too thin to support their leafy tops.  I’ll bet they whip around in a high wind, but obviously survive as they have grown so tall.

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P1010365  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010365 © DY of jtdytravels

As we drove back out of the park, I was able to take photos from the bus window.

A newspaper seller squatted on a shop verandah preparing papers for sale.

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P1010367  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010367 © DY of jtdytravels

Water lily flowers sitting above the water surface.  The level of the water must have dropped as water lilies usually float on the surface.  Lotus flowers are held high above the surface.

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P1010402  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010402 © DY of jtdytravels

Three down, one to go!

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P1010410  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010410 © DY of jtdytravels

Thre was great excitement when we spotted an Indian rhinocerus (Rhinoceros unicornis). These lumbering animals once roamed over the whole of the Indo-Gangetic Plain.  Numbers of rhinos have been drastically reduced by hunting.  They have also been very much affected by dwindling habitat due to increasing agriculture and forestry needs.  Today only an estimated 3000 individuals exist in the wild, 2000 of those in Assam. The rest are in the Terai in lowland Nepal.

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P1010411  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010411 © DY of jtdytravels

The single horn of the Indian rhinoceros is found on both males and females.  The warty lumps and bumps typical of this species of rhinoceros can be seen on the front legs and neck.  They are even more pronounced on the hind legs.  A fully grown male can weigh as much as 4000kg (8818lb).

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P1010423  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010423 © DY of jtdytravels

A water buffalo made a good photographic subject amongst some water hyacinths. There are two extant types of water buffalo recognised – the river buffalo of the Indian sub-Continent and the swamp buffalo found in Assam through to SE Asia.  It has been suggested that the Swamp buffalo may have originated in China and was domesticated some 4000 years ago while the River buffalo originated in India and was domesticated 5000 years ago.  It is estimated that there are 130 million domesticated water buffalo and that more human beings depend on them than any other domesticated animal.

Swamp buffalo are heavy bodied.  They have a short body and large belly and have 48 chromosomes whereas the River buffalo has 50 chromosomes.  Fertile offspring between the two have occurred but are not common.  A large male can weigh as much as 1000kg (2200lb).

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P1010434  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010434 © DY of jtdytravels

Back again on the river, one of our boatmen skilfully manoeuvred the lighter around, over, across and through the numerous and ever-changing sand bars of the Brahmaputra River.

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P1010440  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010440 © DY of jtdytravels

The MV Mahabaahu.  She was purpose built in India for plying the Brahmaputra River.  She is 55m. (180½ft.) long and 10.25m. (33½ft.) wide.  She can accommodate 46 passengers, all in outside cabins, and has a crew of 34.

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P1010443  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010443 © DY of jtdytravels

We had started the day with the sun rising and we finished the day with it setting.

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P1010447  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010447 © DY of jtdytravels

Still lower with  a clump of water hyacinth silhouetted against the fading rays of the sun.

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P1010456  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010456 © DY of jtdytravels

The last of another wonderful day on the Brahmaputra River.

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more anon

David

Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

more of our travel stories can be found on

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Fiji # 1: Denarau, Sheraton Hotel

Come with us on an armchair ride to to Fiji – a great holiday destination especially for Australians and New Zealanders.  It’s also not too difficult to get to for those from USA and Canada. In March, we flew there from Sydney to Nadi on Air Pacific. Our first few days were spent enjoying time unwinding and relaxing at the Sheraton Hotel / Resort at Denarau, close to Nadi.

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P1130521 © JT of jtdytravels

The Sheraton is a lovely resort spread out across many acres of gardens and lawns.

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P1130630 © JT of jtdytravels

All guests here can use the pools and restaurants of three adjoining hotels, The Sheraton, Sheraton Villas (above) and the Westin.

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P1130628 © JT of jtdytravels

A lily pond separates the Sheraton from the Sheraton Villas.

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P1130627 © JT of jtdytravels

And of course, what would a lily pond be without waterlilies!

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P1130519  © JT of jtdytravels

It’s a cash free environment across all three resorts, all charges being made back to your room. Breakfast is included with a wonderful choice of foods on offer.  Our room was one of the furthest from the dining room so we had a good walk to and from eating – and time to enjoy the gardens.

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P1130514  © JT of jtdytravels

Much use is made in these gardens of the delicate spider lilies

Hymenocallis littoralis

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P1130556  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This delightful flower was planted by our small patio.

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P1130510  © JT of jtdytravels

These hotels are a great place for families to have a relaxing holiday. There’s a free kid’s club and plenty of wonderful Fijian ladies who will baby sit the littlest ones to give parents a break for an hour or two or three. Many family groups were of three generations with grandparents having time with their families in a relaxing environment. We really enjoyed seeing everyone having a good time and I didn’t see one grizzly kid the whole time we were there.

For those who want it, there’s an excellent golf course and tennis courts.  A thatch covered free ‘bula bus’ does a continual loop around this area of hotels and another more conventional bus will take you, for a small fee, to Nadi shopping area. You can use your ticket to ‘hop on hop off’ all day.  Yes it is hot – it’s tropical – but their are plenty of pools to cool down in.

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P1130599  ©  JT of jtdytravels

 I found that a good book to read in a cool spot in the mid day heat was a good idea!   This was our small shaded patio.

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P1130526  ©  JT of jtdytravels

There was always company around the patio from these tiny finches, not much bigger than a blade of grass.

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P1040913  ©  DY of jtdytravels

These Fiji Parrot Finches move about quite quickly so it was a little difficult to get a sharp closeup shot, but David managed this one.

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P1130640  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Mushrooms grew in the grass nearby. Edible? I don’t know but I don’t think so and I wouldn’t like to try.

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P1130509  ©  JT of jtdytravels

The delightful small wedding chapel was close to our room but its not in operation at the moment.

Cyclone Evan blew away much of the thatch on the small side shade area.

Repairing rooms has been a higher priority for the management.

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P1040915  ©  DY of jtdytravels

Whilst in Nadi, we had the opportunity to catch up with Siti, a most delightful young man who has been a part of my life for almost ten years.

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P1130621  ©  DY of jtdytravels

It was amazing how cool Siti was whilst I sweltered in the mid day heat!

So how did this handsome young man come to be part of our lives?

In 2003, David and I visited the outer Yasawan islands in company with a group of Melbourne Rotarians. While they helped the village people on the island of Matacawa Levu to paint their church, I spent quite a bit of time in island schools and getting to know lots of the local children.

I soon came to realise that the children of these poor, far outer islands had very little chance of a good education beyond basic primary school. Most had never been to the main islands. They had never seen a car or traffic lights let alone had a secondary education. Their families survive on fishing and growing vegetables and coconuts. After discussion with the Rotary group, it was decided that we could set up an education program through Rotary to enable some of the brightest of these young people to have a secondary education on the main island. My Siti was the first of these young people and he has made the most of the opportunity that I was able to give him. He completed high school with flying colours. I then supported him through his tertiary education in IT. He’s now working in Lautoka and is a wonderful example of the power of education to change life chances. Other young students from the Yasawans have followed in his footsteps and are also gaining the benefits of an education.

Now come with me on my walks around Denarau – camera in hand of course.

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P1130636  © JT of jtdytravels

In the pre-dawn, the view from the breakwater at the end of Denarau peninsular takes on a mystical aura.

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P1130566  ©  JT of jtdytravels

There’s something very calming about the gentle ebb and flow of water on the beach in the early morning.

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P1130557  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This beach was much wider and longer before Cyclone Evan washed much of it away in December 2012..

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P1130567  ©  JT of jtdytravels

 Here was another photographic challenge.

Not only do these crabs disappear down their holes at the slightest movement, but they are almost transparent

and their camouflage against the sand is quite extraordinary.

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P1130562  ©  JT of jtdytravels

I just love looking for abstract patterns on the beach.

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P1130559  ©  JT of jtdytravels

And in the early morning there are lots of interesting footprints in the sand.

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P1130639  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This is the tropics! Sometimes a quiet walk turns into a run for cover as a rain shower descends over the scene.

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P1040917  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This rather ghoulish photo of a wasp attacking a caterpillar has an interesting story.  David and I were walking down to another resort late one afternoon when suddenly a caterpillar came swinging down to the ground on a long silken thread. Just as David drew my attention to it, this wasp wizzed in and attacked. It then proceeded to bite several holes in the poor old caterpillar in which, we guessed, to lay its eggs. Macabre!

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P1130548  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Late in the day is a magical time here on Denarau. It’s much cooler and the sun setting over the sea is a ‘must watch’ event.

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P1130553  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Each day the sunset scene is quite different, especially when viewed from different vantage points.

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P1040882  ©  DY of jtdytravels

Finally the sun goes down and a tranquil air of cool and calm descends on the place. It is idyllic.

But we didn’t stay here for the whole of our time in Fiji.

The purpose of the trip was to cruise to the Yasawan and Mamanuca Islands.

We’ll start that adventure in the next episode.

Jennie

All Photography © Jennie Thomas and David Young of jtdytravels

Burma – Myanmar # 14 Inle Lake Princess Resort

Inle lake Princess Resort is a special place right on the edge of a very peaceful arm of the lake. It was such a delightful place to just ‘be’ that I decided to forgo the next day of exploration in favour of a quiet day in the gardens of the hotel – and I had a massage!  So good.

View from Inle lake Princess Resort (P1100750

(P1100750 © JT of jtdytravels)

After long days of travel, this place offered peace and quiet.  It was somewhere just to have a lazy day!  David had time for a quiet walk with me before he set out on another day of exploring.

Individual cottages by the water (P1100822

(P1100822 © JT of jtdytravels)

Individual cottages are spread out along the waterfront. Ours was the very last cottage meaning that we were about a kilometre from the central area with reception and restaurant. But the walk was delightful with water on both sides of the long peninsular like dyke on which the cottages were built.

Cheerful lady gardeners  (P1020618

(P1020618 © DY of jtdytravels)

Along the way there was always someone to stop and chat to – even in sign language. We stopped to say thank you to these lady gardeners who make the gardens a delight. Their wheelbarrow was a wooden dray they pulled along with them.

The inner pond (P1020598

(P1020598 ©  DY of jtdytravels)

Some larger cottages are built over an inner pool that’s filled with waterlilies.

Water lily reflections (P1020973

(P1020973  © DY of jtdytravels)

There was no shortage of water lily reflection photo opportunities.

Beautiful water lilies (P1020978

(P1020978 ©  DY of jtdytravels)

Beautiful water lilies are like a magnet to a photographer.

The gardeners keep the lily pond in good condition, using one of the local dug out boats to negotiate the weeds.

The weeds were taken out and added to the field that lay between the hotel and the village.  In this way, arable land is added to the village fields.  A stand of corn was growing in the field while we were there.  All the vegetables we tasted were really very good.

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(P1100768  ©   JT  of jtdytravels)

Cattle egrets found the newly added earth and weeds a good place to look for food.

Restaurant deck (P1100752

(P1100752 © JT of jtdytravels)

The deck of the restaurant was bedecked by flowers such bougainvillea in large pots.

Breakfast on the deck (P1100641

(P1100641 © JT of jtdytravels)

The long walk was rewarded by the pleasure of joining others to enjoy a delicious breakfast on the deck.

Watching a leg rower glide silently by (P1100776

(P1100776  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

The deck is a great place to watch boats go by and in the early morning the reflections were a delight.  No boats are permitted to use engines in this zone so it’s all very peaceful. This long tail boat was coming in to the hotel dock to pick up guests for a day out on the lake – hence the blue chairs.

A local dugout boat (P1100778

(P1100778  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

No engines, no noise on the local dugout boats – just ‘person power’.

There’s no rush or hurry for those using these boats.

This boat is bringing people who work at the hotel.  They come from the nearby village – no chairs for them.

Wood carved 'statues' (P1020952

(P1020952  ©  DY of jtdytravels)

The edge of the deck was decorated with a delightful array of wood carvings – something for which Burmese craftsmen in Mandalay are famous.

Another beautiful wooden carving (P1100784

(P1100784  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

Every few metres along the deck there’s another fascinating wood carving.

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(P1020958  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

 This wooden lady in a hammock looks as relaxed as I felt.

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(P1020986  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

The roofs were adorned with beautifully carved end pieces.

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(P1100690  ©   JT of jtdytravels)

Back near our cottage, a bridge crosses the lily pond.

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(P1100704  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

That bridge leads to the massage rooms. I did enjoy my massage later in the day.

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(P1100692  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

In the pond beside our cottage I found this beautiful lily surrounded by air bubbles. Perhaps a frog was nearby.

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(P1100724  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

I know there were frogs around. I heard them in the evenings and I found several clusters of eggs.

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(P1100739  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

Next to our cottage was a rather romantic fairy tale cottage covered in purple /pink Bougainvillaea.

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(P1100711  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

And finally – our cottage right at the end of the path.

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(P1100628  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

The deck with its tranquil view was most welcoming for a rest before that massage.

It was such a wonderful, restful day.

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(P1100735  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

Birds wandered around and foraged for food below the deck.

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(P1100681  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

Our cottage had an outdoor shower area, the privacy walls painted with yet more waterlily motifs.

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(P1020582    ©   DY of jtdytravels)

The bedroom, bamboo lined of course, was simple but very clean and comfortable.

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(P1100608  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

Before dinner at night, we enjoyed a wine tasting in the “wine cave”.  A long boat formed the table. The ceiling was painted with murals and the walls were just clay with holes to hold the wine bottles.

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(P1100615  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

The wine was kept cool in the walls of the “cave”.  A great idea.

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(P1100614  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

These marionette puppets were used as decorations in the wine cave.  We’ll talk more of the importance of puppets in Burmese culture later, but these puppets are just decorative because they have golden faces instead of white as in the traditional “working puppets”.

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(P1100627  ©  JT of jtdytravels)

And when we’d had a delicious dinner and wandered back to our room, there was the bed ready for us, draped in a mosquito net, even though we hadn’t seen any of those pesky little insects.  Still this is a malaria area so it was good not to take any risks.

And that was my day at the hotel. David’s day of exploring will be covered in the next episode of this armchair travelogue.

Jennie Thomas

for jtdytravels.com

All photographs © JT and DY of jtdytravels