"My idea of VT." planxty's Profile

A word to new (and not so new) members.


Just a short note to let readers know that I have changed my blog site for my forthcoming trip to Sri Lanka which is imminent and which I am really looking forward to. I have moved from Blogspot which was really starting to annoy me to Travelpod and the link is goven just below my profile picture. I'll let you know how I get on with it and obviously, I'll be writing tips and travelogues as I go along.


Hello and thanks for visiting my homepage. I admit I am not as good at keeping it current as I should be, but a short walk from my home today has prompted me to re-do my first paragraph here. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic but it is not intended to be. If you bear with me and read through, you will hopefully see what I mean.

The main photo is an image of me lounging in a hammock on an island in the Mekong River in Southern Lao, a place literally on the other side of the world from where I live. It is here because it makes me smile and it is a great memory of what was the biggest trip I have undertaken yet. Hopefully, I can do further long trips like this. I love travelling to faraway places and will continue as long as health and finances permit. All of which will make what I am about to say sound a little strange but please read on and I will hopefully explain.

I have been on VT for a little over five years now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have used VT members pages to make travel guides, in fact I use VT exclusively now for short trips. Obviously for longer trips a mainstream guidebook is more practical. I have been lucky enough to meet several members personally, all of whom have proved to be delightful. I met two members a couple of days ago including a VT staffer, and tomorrow I will meet several more, some for a small meet. Later this month I am going to Eastern Europe for the annual Euromeet to meet many other members. I am also possibly going to the Philippines next year for yet another meet. Having used several other large travellers internet sites, I am convinced that VT best suits my needs.

All well and good but back to my point about today's walk. I walked no more than two miles and I passed about five places I have already written VT tips for and about another ten I am going to write tips for shortly, and this is my point. I regularly correspond with new or relatively new VT members, and many of them say that “I don't travel to exotic places, I've got nothing to write about”. With the greatest respect, this is nonsense.

Think about it logically. You may go on holiday or away for business and stay in a particular place for a day or two. By all means write tips about it, these are useful, but to say you have nothing to write about even if you do not travel is, frankly, wrong. You know about where you live. You know the best coffee shop, the best cheap restaurant, you may know the history of the local Church or Museum, you will undoubtedly know a local saying or custom or whatever, you know where you live. All these things are of interest to VT readers and members. OK, so it may take a while for people to look at your pages but it is up there and available if anyone wants to use it. Wouldn't that be great, if someone from far away was coming to your town and using your information to decide what to do? Let me give you a great example. VT member wise23girl was very rightly awarded the Local Intelligence Award in the VT Barney awards for 2010 (the VT internal awards, if you are new to the site). She lives in a smallish place in Australia, certainly not Paris or Rome or New York or Bangkok, yet she has wonderfully covered her home town. This is what I am talking about.

A lifetime ambition realised.

I mentioned meeting other members and it is great fun although absolutely NOT necessary. I know many people would be uncomfortable with that and that is not a problem, there is no pressure to do so. VT is whatever you want it to be for you. As I write this (May 2011), we are heading towards 60,000 locations covered on VT. This is undoubtedly impressive but when you think that there are about two million locations, we have a long way to go. OK, so I sound a bit evangelical and I really don't mean to be but I really love VT and the more people that contribute, the better it is. Yes, I know it takes a while to write a decent tip but please take the time. You never know, I might just want to visit your town sometime!

So here is the story of the big trip that I alluded to in the previous paragraph.

I had always promised myself that when I retired I would travel much more and specifically around my beloved Southeast Asia. Up until then, I had only ever been able to travel for a maximum of about six weeks due to work commitments but now, with time no longer an obstacle, I embarked on an extended trip scheduled to last about six months. My itinerary? I hadn't a clue, isn't that wonderful?

If any of you are vaguely interested in my travels, I was persuaded against my better judgement to keep a blog which you can see at my trip blog. Give it a look if you are really bored sometime.

I spent almost five months visiting Thailand, PDR Lao and Cambodia and I had a wonderful time. I celebrated my 50th birthday whilst on the road and had always decided that I would mark that milestone by doing something a little crazy. Almost accidentally I managed to sign myself up for a scuba diving course on the beautiful Thai island of Ko Tao and am now a qualified diver, if only to a very basic level. Here is a rather frightening photo to prove the point.

Unfortunately, my trip was prematurely cut short as I received news that my mother, who had been fightling cancer for some years, had fallen ill. I flew home to Northern Ireland immediately and my Mother made a partial recovery but infortunately lost her battle in September 2010 and was buried in our local churchyard. She was a wonderful woman who always encouraged me to do my own thing and I know she loved to follow my travels. For her support, I will be eternally grateful.

How to look at London on VT.

As you may have guessed, I live in London and have done for well over 20 years. I love it here. There are, however, some problems on VT with making tips about this wonderful city, although I know they are being addressed. If you want to see my information on London you may want to also look at my Bethnal Green, Eltham, Greenwich, Hampstead, Highbury, Holborn Mile End, and Stepney tips.

For something slightly further afield but still within Greater London, perhaps Richmond might be of interest to you.

The photo is probably my favourite of London showing the Canary Wharf complex from the West.

Nice to see you.

As well as my exotic travels, I love to explore closer to home as well, and find much to delight me in the UK. apart from the big cities and obvious tourist areas (Lake District, Stratford-upon-Avon, Stonehenge etc.) there are so many little out of the way locations just waiting to be discovered.

By way of illustration, I offer you Grove Ferry and Westbere two adjoining picturesque villages on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. The lovely butterfly photogaphed here was spotted there.

I make this point again to encourage members, especially new members who seem to think that because they don't travel to "exotic" places they have nothing to offer VT. Of all the many images on my VT pages, this is one of my favourites and it was taken a mere two hours from my home on a wonderful day out with a dear friend.

Certainly travel to the furthest corners of the earth if you are able, and I will look forward to reading your pages but if that is not an option, write about places near to you. I will be equally happy reading about that. Remember, where you live is the far side of the world to someone.

My not so new hobby.

I initially wrote this paragraph some years ago. I had just bought a Minolta Dynax 5D, and was, and still am, really pleased with it, although it is getting a little dated now and may be in for an update shortly. The majority of the more recent photos on my travel pages (especially the Burma pages) were taken with it. This photo is one taken in Dallah, a suburb of Rangoon and is another favourite of mine.

After that, I started using a little Canon Ixus as it is just so portable. I used it exclusively on my last Asian trip, so all the Thailand, Cambodia and Lao photos were taken with that. OK, it is not as classy or versatile as the SLR but, at the size of a cigarette packet, it fits nicely in your trousers pocket, is less likely to be stolen, and still takes very good photos. I dread to think where technology will have taken cameras in twenty years from now.

Trawling through VT, it is obvious there are some great photographers here, so any suggestions would be welcomed.

You can see some other examples of my photos in the various albums on my travel pages and on this page. Hope you like them.

Music hath charms.....

I am lucky enough to play in a Celtic / country band and have been a semi-pro musician for many years (more than I care to remember really). Apart from ourselves, obviously ;-)), what music do I like? Well, my musical tastes are fairly eclectic. In my collection I have everything from Marlene Deitrich to Hendrix by way of South American panpipe music and Greek bozouki albums. Here are some of my favourites.

Rory Gallagher. The first gig I ever saw in January 1974 in Belfast. A great musician and sadly missed.

Fish. I absolutely loved (and still do) the older Marillion stuff, but he is now a superb solo artist. I took the photo at a gig in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, and a few of my photographic efforts are on his website now. I also contributed some photography for the last live album Communion, which made me more proud than you can possibly imagine. A really nice bloke, I've partied with him a few times.

It's probably to do with my age, but I love prog rock - Yes, early Genesis, ELP, Fruupp (very good Belfast band) and so on.

I love most 60's and 70's music - Hendrix, the Who, CSN, Neil Young (who just keeps on rocking), Moody Blues, Stones, Beatles Wishbone Ash.

Given my folk leanings, it's probably no surprise the I love folk and folk rock. Favoutrites in this category include Fairport Convention (obviously) , the late Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Battlefield Band, Wolfstone, Runrig, the Byrds.

I really must also extol the musical virtues of a good mate of mine whom I had the privelege of recording a CD with a while back. He's a guy called Tim Edey and he's one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists in Britain today. I'm not just saying that because he's a mate - it really is true. Check out his website.

Tim Edey

Of more modern artists, I like Coldplay and Travis, to name but two.

To be honest, I could go on and on, but I hope this has given you an idea of the types of things I'm into.

And more about music.

You will have read above about my musical tastes, and if you have read my pages you will know that I am a musician of sorts. In summer 2009 my band, the Northern Celts, was priveleged enough to share a stage with three musicians I greatly admire, namely Billy Bragg, Leon Rosselson and Martin Carthy. The whole day was a great pleasure, and Billy was extremely generous to us semi-pro musicians.

The photo shows us backstage during the concert. It really was a magical day, hope we can do it again sometime.

A few to look at.

If you have read this far, firstly, thank you, and secondly, you might want a few pointers as to what to look at on my VT pages, unless you have something specific to search for.

Update May 2011.

Whilst updating my homepage, I was re-reading this paragraph and saw that I had recommended (some time ago) a page by a member called Pure1942. This recommendation stands as his pages are excellent.

Now, I have long believed in the interconnectedness of all things as the wonderful author (now sadly deceased) Douglas Adams used to say. A short time ago, another member alerted me to a page on VT which was "owned" by a class of primary school children in Ireland. It is called Classroom Travels and I really do recommend it. I think it is a truly brilliant idea as it utilises the travel experiences of a class of young children and, through VT they have been sent postcards and small gifts from all over the world. I cannot think of a better geography lesson and certainly wish I had something like that as a youngster. Well, in my day we didn't have computers. It was the last century after all, so I suppose I had better stop now before I start to feel too geriatric.

Anyway, I sent a VT mail to the 1st class of the school, addressed to the teacher obviously, and got a wonderful reply from none other than Brian (Pure1942) who is the teacher of this lucky class. He was kind enough to say to me that my Burma pages had inspired him to visit that wonderful country and now that he had returned to his teaching vocation he had decided to involve his pupils in VT. I thought that was just great. Below is the original paragraph.

I always try to write unbiased and objective tips on VT, although sometimes my passion for a particular place perhaps clouds my judgement. I suppose this is only human nature. I greatly admire those VT members who obviously spend a huge amount of time researching before they write. A wonderful example of this is Pure 1942's pages on Bosnia. What a wonderful example of how travellers can help each other through this great site. I pick this as one example, there are so many others.

An update here as of February 2010. If you are travelling to parts of Southeast Asia, particularly Lao, you really should read picek's pages. She really has a feel for the place and has helped me a lot on my current trip. Another good start for this region is cachaseiro who I had the privelege of meeting on my travels here. Apart from Southeast Asia, he knows a lot about a lot of places.

Just a word about the image. I was trying to tidy up the images on my computer and happened upon this which I love. Obviously it is not my copyright but is used with permission.

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