A sunken jungle – Ascog Hall Fernery

After a day in Victorian Rothesay, we decided to visit one of the island’s attraction, Ascog Hall Fernery, which is located a couple of miles South, along the coast. We weren’t exactly sure of what to expect after reading the words “Victorian” and “sunken”, but got pleasantly intrigued after getting a glimpse of it for…

A glimpse of Victorian Scotland

A change of scene (and country) for my next posts, which will be taking you to Scotland. The first stop on our trip is the Isle of Bute, a tiny piece of land located 30 miles West of Glasgow. Bute is usually reached by a ferry which arrives in the delightful town of Rothesay. This is the…

Ten days in Vietnam part 9: a glimpse of the Mekong Delta

The Mekong river, which rises in Tibet, ends its 4350km course in the South China Sea via a large delta covering over 39000 km², close to Vietnam’s largest city Ho Chi Minh. This means a boat trip to the delta is a very popular day trip for tourists, and we obviously got tempted. The view we…

Ten days in Vietnam part 8: Last day in Halong Bay

Our next trip in the National Park was the village of Viet Hai, which seems to be a forced stop for tourists who land on Cat Ba Island during their boat tours of the bay. The view, especially around sunset time is pretty: The village in itself has little charm, with its shops selling overpriced fruits and…

Ten days in Vietnam part 7: Cat Ba National Park

I have been ignoring the blog lately, but I think it is now time to finish my little Vietnamese adventure tales. After a night on the boat in Lan Ha Bay, we stopped the next morning on Cat Ba island to visit the 160 km² National Park. We opted for the walking option, which gently followed…

Ten days in Vietnam part 6: from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay

We leave Sapa in the afternoon, and head back to Lao Cai for the return overnight train journey to Hanoi. After a 2 hour train journey to Hai Phong, and an hour boat journey, we arrive on Cat Ba island, one of the two starting points to explore the very famous Ha Long Bay (think James Bond beach…

Ten days in Vietnam part 5: Mount Fansipan, 2800m to 1940m

After a good night sleep on the camp, we woke up to the smell of banana and (local) honey pancakes, ad were greeted by a nice blue sky. A few nice plants around the camp include a Viburnum with striking berries, and a Gentiana: Soon however, we are back to clouds, and scrambling mode: Many Scheffleras…

Ten days in Vietnam part 4: Mount Fansipan, 2250m to 2800m

After at light lunch at the first camp, we set back towards the second camp where we will spend the night. The sun comes out, and makes the mountain look magnificent: In open areas, we start noticing more and more bamboo species, some compact and shrubby, others much larger and spreading. Trees include large Magnolia, red-petioled Daphniphyllum…

Ten days in Vietnam part 3: Mount Fansipan, 1940m to 2250m

The next morning, we get up early to a sunny mountain view: After a short car journey, we reach the permit office of Mount Fansipan National Park, Tram Ton, at an altitude of 1940m and meet with the porters who will carry our water, food and bags. Note the guide carving a bamboo stem –…

Ten days in Vietnam part 2: Off to Sapa

While Hanoi is almost always hot and humid, the North Western parts of Vietnam, close to the borders with China are mountainous, offering a temperate climate with occasional snow and frosts. To visit the small and touristy town of Sapa, the commonest way (but not easiest way, as we learned… afterwards!) is to take a night train…

Ten days in Vietnam part 1: Hanoi

Our last long-haul and almost disastrous holiday was in 2011 in Indonesia. This year, we spent a lot of of time trying to determine what would be the best destination. Vietnam sounded like a reasonably good choice: tasty food, decent climate and interesting plants (many of which are being grown in UK gardens). We spent…

An island of flowers – Part 9 (the end): By the mountain and the sea

Thanks to our absolutely wonderful host in Madeira (no publicity intended, but someone might need it one day :D), we did get a second tour of the island, this time without German grannies. This was also a more adventurous one, taking local routes with spectacular views. Not sure the car enjoyed them as much as we…

An island of flowers – Part 8: The West (well, actually mostly the North!)

As car rentals on-the-spot proved to be extremely expensive, and local buses rather impractical on a limited amount of time, we decided to go with one of the hundreds of minibuses that tour the island every day carrying German grannies from one viewpoint to the other…never mind the German grannies, the “West Tour” that we chose…

An island of flowers – Part 7: Marine treasures

As promised, this post won’t be dedicated to terrestrial, but marine creatures. We’ll start with a nice little cruise off the Southern coast of Madeira: Very popular with tourists, these 3-4 hour cruises on catamarans offer the visitor a chance to catch a glimpse of Madeira’s marine fauna. There are 10 species of whales that can…

An island of flowers – Part 6: The Levadas

Madeira’s landscape is dotted with over 2000 km of levadas, which are unique irrigation channels bringing water down from the mountains to fields and coastal towns. Started in the 15th century, the network of levadas has been extended and improved (the first ones were built in wood!). These narrow (20-100cm wide) channels following the contours of the landscape…