Balloons over Bagan

I’ve decided to put some order into my videoclips and have been making short videos less than 2.5 minutes and have been putting them on Facebook. I thought I would try and post one here and find out what you think.

My wife and I visited Myanmar in early 2017 and were fortunate to make a Hot Air Balloon ride at sunrise. Here it is!

Tired of Waiting?

Tired of waiting?


Long distance flights reached their peak in the second half of the twenty-first century.

Security checks took hours in long, tortuous queues; airport authorities attempted to employ theme park techniques to distract passengers as it often took longer to check-in and board your plane than to make the flight.

In the end, queues gradually became an integral part of Airport life. They each got their name and their special place in the airport, much like terminals and lounges. At Heathrow, for example, it was called the Queen Victoria Queue and in Madrid, the Pedro Almodóvar Queue.

Each queue was specially designed, and the queues were rated and graded by an international body.

Queue Architecture became a popular branch of architecture and
Architectural queue designers were highly paid professionals and Airport authorities were prepared to pay substantial bonuses for the best queue designs.

There was minute attention to detail. Colours and forms, music and a rich variety of odours were incorporated into each design while Behavioural Psychologists were engaged to ensure that each passenger’s mood was successfully managed.

One major preoccupation was boredom and frustration, so the focus of each design was to entertain and distract passengers by all available means.

Seating and rest nooks were tastefully provided at reasonable distances, and parallel to the walking area there were ambulant play areas for children and restaurants and snack bars advanced at the same pace alongside the other queue passengers.

As expected, the UK took queueing in its stride, but elsewhere there were scuffles and skirmishes, heated tempers and a lot of antisocial behaviour.

Entertaining the queue was seen as a priority and passengers in the line could download games to play and music to listen to, at very reasonable prices. The moving Virtual Reality experience was sought-after but you had to book well in advance.

The management, initially the airport’s responsibility, was eventually outsourced to international queue management companies and they added their branding and ethos to each queue they managed.

Although queues were costly to build and maintain, the actual fees for using them were relatively modest. Even the waiting time to book a place in the queue was reduced from months to a matter of weeks.

Booking structures for air travel were harmonised as well, and after a few initial hiccups, you could book your place in the queue, your seat on the plane, and your parking space, all at the same time.

The primary focus of the queue, of course, was to manage passenger’s expectations. Designers had to ensure that the head of the queue was only discovered at the very last minute and came as an agreeable surprise.

At the end of some queues, musicians played fanfares while other queues employed Robot A-List Personality Lookalikes to greet passengers. Photographers were also at hand, for a modest supplement, to immortalise the event.

If your flight was delayed or cancelled or in the unfortunate eventuality that your flight had already departed you could expect a 50% no quibble rebate on your next queue.

Queues could also be purchased in multipacks and from time to time there were the occasional buy two, get one free offer.

Then, one Monday in July 2062, Rapid Personal International Travel was invented, and it became possible to travel long distances without airplanes, trains or buses.

It rivalled with Air Travel for a few years but eventually there was no further need for airports, terminals or queues and the bottom fell out of the market.

The other day I heard that there are plans to transform airports into theme parks, but that might just be a rumour.

my500words : day 30 : The Tracy Arm Surprise

The Tracy Arm Surprise

Going to Alaska felt as if we were we going on an adventure. A bit like the Wild West of the North, I suppose.

We boarded the Norwegian Jewel in Seattle and set sail to the North leaving that fabulous city behind. The Space Needle was visible on the skyline long after we’d left the port.


Life on board was excellent, like on most cruise ships whatever the company, but Norwegian ships just seems to have that extra fun factor.

The cabin was well equipped; the bed was comfortable, and the cabin had a balcony, although we didn’t expect to use it a lot the farther north we cruised.

After a day at sea and some fabulous fresh salmon on the first evening, we arrived in Ketchikan, and it was indeed like being on the frontier. We were embarking on an adventure.


The adventure continued because we had arranged a flight on a float plane, our very first experience, in a small amphibian aeroplane.

There were just the pilot and the two of us, which made the flight even more agreeable. Before we’d had a chance to experience any stress, the plane was taxiing along the water picking up speed for take-off.

The water was calm, and before we knew it we were in the air and speeding towards our destination.

It was grey, cloudy and misty but this added, rather than subtracted, to the experience. Somehow it would have felt a bit strange if the sky had been blue with bright sunshine.

We flew for about an hour watching the forests and lakes below, taking pictures and chatting with the pilot. Then, too soon, we were on our descent back to the port of Ketchikan and landed softly like a big bird.

The sensations in a float plane are different than in a helicopter, and the vintage feel of the cockpit added yet another dimension to our escapade.

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The next port was Juneau and another full day ahead of us.

We made a short hike through the temperate rainforest, eleven kilometres from Juneau, with a naturalist photographer as our guide. She gave us information on the fauna and flora and tips on aperture and shutter speeds.

Although it wasn’t raining, we were glad to have our waterproof ponchos as we advanced through the forest towards our first destination.

We were on our way to the Mendenhall Glacier, but we had no idea of what we were going to see. Sometimes you try to lower your expectations to avoid disappointments, and seeing a glacier was one of these occasions.

As we cornered the bend to the viewing area, the sight before us made us catch our breaths and we looked at each other speechless taking in the beautiful icy panorama before us.



The glacier was full of shades of blue and several pieces had detached and were floating on the water. The ice field extended towards the horizon majestically. I hadn’t dared to imagine such a spectacular sight.

We took as many photos as we could and walked back to the coach that had taken an alternative route to pick us up and it transported us back to the port where a small boat was waiting for us.

Now it was time to do some Whale watching. Once again, to avoid disappointment our expectations about actually seeing whales were low. Due to the unpredictability of wildlife we were warned that sightings were a possibility, but couldn’t be guaranteed.

Modern boats, however, are well equipped to detect shoals of marine life, and after only twenty minutes or so several Orca emerged from the water.

I was so excited that several of my photos missed their targets, but my wife took photos effortlessly and captured each opportunity like a professional.

After seeing the Orcas, we continued farther from the shore making large circles, and the captain kept in touch with other vessels by radio.

Fairly soon we saw the telltale signs of a whale, as a spout of water erupted from the sea, followed by the arch of the whale and then the enormous tail as it dived back under. It wouldn’t reappear for several minutes, if at all, so it was a waiting game of scrutinising the horizon for further sightings.

We saw and took photos of many whales, and once again were not disappointed by the generous Alaskan nature.

Unfortunately, it was time to head back to the cruise ship. I could have stayed for hours more.

The captain had remained discreet, probably from experience, about our next destination and it was only late in the evening, that he made an announcement. We would be cruising into the Tracy Arm Fjord, seventy-two kilometres south of Juneau, the next morning. Bad weather had prevented ships from entering the fjord over the previous few days, but he was confident that he could navigate the ship into the fjord safely.

After a hurried breakfast, I was early on deck, as far forward as I could, wrapped up as warmly as possible because it was bitterly cold and windy.

My camera was tucked inside my jacket to keep warm and free from distractions; I was able to drink in the panorama that unfolded before me.

Before long the deck was crowded, and passengers were jostling for position to get the best views.

The Norwegian Jewel almost touched the sides of the fjord as it advanced, edging it’s way in slow motion to our destination at the head of the fjord.

We were twisting this way and that with no clear view of where we were going.

Each bend in the fjord held its own surprise.


Then, around the very last bend, we arrived at one of the greatest sights I have ever seen; The majestic Sawyer Glacier.



IMG_3490.jpgI didn’t think I would see such a panorama one day, and I was excited and elated, just like when I was a little kid discovering a toy with my favourite sweets at the bottom of a lucky bag.*

I took photo after photo, before returning to our cabin, and I still have the image in my mind of opening those cabin doors onto the balcony, to see the Sawyer Glacier just a few metres away.



What a surprise and what memories to treasure.

(*) There were girls and boys lucky bags containing sweets and a surprise toy in each packet. I used to buy one with my pocket money when I was a kid.

This is the third part of a series of travel tales.

  1. How I went to Brazil

2. Flight over Table Mountain

3. The Tracey Arm Surprise

4. The Lone Piper

5. My Vanuatu Swim

6. Breakdown in Peru

7. It Takes Two to Tango

8. The Bali Run

9. Almost the Northern Lights

10. I’ll Love You To the End of the World

This is day 30 of the my500words 31 day challenge. Tomorrow is the last day and I will deliver my conclusions.

my500words : day 29 : Flight Over Table Mountain

Flight Over Table Mountain

It’s strange.

Many of my adventures seem to happen when I’m tired.

My wife and I were bound for a twenty-two-night cruise from Cape Town to Sydney on the Queen Mary 2 and had taken a flight from Heathrow to Cape-Town.

We arrived early in the morning and transferred from the airport to the hotel and caught a brief glimpse of Table Top Mountain behind a shanty town on the outskirts of Cape Town.

The coach, with forty-odd other passengers, dropped us off at the Hotel, and we all fought to claim and transport our suitcases  for the check-in.

Harbor Bridge Hotel.jpg

Hotel Foyer.jpg

The fatigue from the flight led to frayed tempers, and the foyer was alive with irate passengers most of whom just wanted to find their beds for a few hours sleep.

We weren’t boarding the Queen Mary until the next day so theoretically the day was free to do whatever we wanted.

Check in was delayed as the rooms wouldn’t be ready for an hour or so and we took a seat and waited.

It was a beautiful day. The air was clear and the sun was shining. It’s rays illuminated the foyer, and a warm breeze wafted through the open doors. It was such a welcome change from the cold murkiness of the late January day we had left behind us in London.

I didn’t want to stay seated too long because I was afraid of falling asleep. It would be better to wait until we could go up to our room, shower and then slumber.

I got up and walked around the foyer, trying to shake the sleep away.

Then I spied a brochure advertising helicopter rides over Cape Town, the coast and of course Table Mountain.

I grabbed it to take a look. The photos were, of course, fantastic and when I looked out again from the foyer at the cloudless sky outside, I thought as we only in Cape Town for the day it would be such a shame not to seize the occasion.

I took the brochure to my wife, and she read with a big smile.

There was no need to say more.

There was a contact number on the back of the brochure, and I asked at the desk if they could arrange a tour later in the day.

A few minutes later, all was arranged, and we would be picked up by car from the hotel and taken to the airport for our flight, and transferred back to the hotel afterwards.

There was just enough time to check in and spruce ourselves up before the car arrived.

I think I might have closed my eyes during the drive to the airport as I can’t recall the details.

We received a warm welcome from the staff at the airport who gave us the customary safety briefing and ushered us, a few minutes later, into the helicopter. It was perfect as there would be just the two of us with our pilot.


Helicopter Cockpit.jpg

We braced ourselves for take-off but it was so smooth that our bodies were unaware that anything had happened.

The air was clear; the colours were vibrant and with our headphones on, the sound of the rotors was muffled. Microphones enabled us to chat between ourselves and with the pilot. He told us that he was French, and as both of us are bilingual, we spent the rest of the flight ‘en français.’

I’ll let the photos describe our flight as I think that they convey the magic more than my words could describe.

Table Mountain.jpg

Table Mountain 2.jpg

Queen Mary 2.jpg

Flight 3.jpg

It would have been extremely difficult to have had a better experience than the one we enjoyed that day.

Later, after touchdown, we chatted some more with the pilot and crew back in the reception while we waited for the DVD of our flight, filmed in HD from several onboard cameras.

Rather than go straight back to the hotel we asked the driver to drop us off at the waterfront.


We shopped in the market to get some fancy dress for an upcoming African Ball on the ship. I took more photos, while we drunk a coffee on a shaded terrace. We listened to a local Zulu Band who were selling their music on handmade artisanal CDs.


Zulu Band.jpg

I even danced a little with them afterwards, Zulu style.

We were fabricating memories by the bucketload.

The cherry on the cake was the boat ride from the quay to the hotel, winding along the canal and up to the hotel.

Back at the Hotel, we just had the strength to sit out on the terrace and order dinner and a nice glass of South African white wine before going upstairs and falling into bed, totally exhausted.

On our way up to the room, we saw clouds rolling over Table Mountain like a stream.

What a day!

(813 words)

This is the second part of a series of travel tales.

  1. How I went to Brazil

2. Flight over Table Mountain

3. The Tracey Arm Surprise

4. The Lone Piper

5. My Vanuatu Swim

6. Breakdown in Peru

7. It Takes Two to Tango

8. The Bali Run

9. Almost the Northern Lights

10. I’ll Love You To the End of the World

Saturday in the Swiss Alps : Sunday Photo Fiction

Saturday in the Swiss Alps

It was a long winding drive up from the valley. As James and Claire negotiated the hair pin bends towards the summit, the mountain mist descended to meet them. They finally arrived safely at the ski station.

James bought his ticket and like the other passengers was instructed to wear safety gear before getting into the cabin.

There was a whirring mechanical sound as it shuddered to life and inched its way slowly toward the summit.

Claire waved unenthusiastically. After a moment the cabin had disappeared, engulfed by the mist.

James was strangely calm and expectant as they silently came to a halt in the middle of nowhere.

Someone opened the side door exposing everyone to the icy cold embrace of the clouds.

He heard a clunk and a click as a cord was attached firmly to his ankles.


“Yup!” James gulped but didn’t hesitate.

He jumped, opening his arms like a bird and dropped.


Free Fall.

Then the elastic caught the slack and he bounced back up before falling once again.

Claire caught her breath as she saw him slowly and safely descend to earth.

It was over.

What crazy stunt was he going to do next?


I didn’t feel as if I had a choice with this week’s photo prompt! Thanks ©A Mixed Bag, 2013.

I made my second bungee jump in 1996 from a tele-cabin at over 2K metres. I had tried a few weeks before but the wind was too strong. On the second attempt I was therefore ready and eager to jump and did so without hesitating. My poor wife and my two children waited below anxiously at the reception area.



Weight(less) : Daily Post Photo Challenge

For this weeks Daily Post Photo Challenge I’ve decided to portray my 2015 tandem jump which demonstrates that if you jump from a plane you’ll fall quite rapidly until the main parachute opens and then safely land a few minutes later (parachute permitting!)

It was a fabulous and unforgettable experience and I’m really happy to have accomplished it!

The Keys : Friday Fictioneers

PHOTO PROMPT © Melanie Greenwood.jpg
© Melanie Greenwood

The Keys

I’d always wanted my own private jet, so of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

The jet looked amazing in the photo, even bigger than I’d imagined.

Who cares if it’s a shared ownership!

To secure the purchase, I’d promptly transferred all the fees in advance of course.

I feverishly ripped open the envelope I’d just received. The keys were smaller and lighter than I’d expected.

‘Dear friend, Here are the keys to a safety deposit box in the Ecobank Kenya, in Nairobi, that holds the contract and keys for safekeeping. Thanks and God bless you. Dr Frank Kibaki.

(99 words)

Yay it’s the first Friday Fictioneers of 2016!

I’m off to a flying start (did you see what I did there?)