Sri Lanka

This year I travelled to Sri Lanka for the first time with my wife.

We went on a tour package which took us round the southern two thirds of the island country in high class hotels.

Its been a great experience and I would recommend it as a country well worth visiting.

I had heard about the beauty and the friendly people but war really impressed by the history of the places we visited.

Here are some thoughts about visiting;

Historic Sights

Although we visited many historic sights the one I enjoyed most was Sigiriya, the Lion Rock fortress.

Here is a photo early in the morning, which is the best and coolest time to climb.

Before I went I thought the main attraction was the view from the top.

In reality I was much more interested in the ruins of the fortress city that surrounds the rock.


There is no shortage of attractive scenery especially in the high country tea growing areas around Nuwara Eliya.

This is a view from the train doorway on the railway heading east from Nuwara Eliva


We had a couple of Jeep Safaris during our time.

Minneriya National Park where we saw many groups of wild elephants.

Yala National Park to see buffalo, boars, crocodiles, elephants and lots of native birds but not the elusive leopard.

Buffalo Calf with Mother


Although spicy a Sri Lankan curry isn’t usually as hot as an Indian curry.

With the whole country being a relatively small island fresh sea food is common at every restaurant.

Vegetarian and vegan options also seem to be readily available.

One local delicacy that is well worth a try are Hoppers.

These are made from a rice flour and coconut milk batter which is cooked in a special pan to form a bowl, especially good with an egg cooked in the bottom.


Average daily wage is in the range 1,200-1,400 (around $10 Australian or 6 Euro which means outside the international hotels prices are very reasonable.

Sri Lanka however does have a tipping culture so it’s worth doing a bit of research on what is appropriate.


Don’t expect to get anywhere fast.

Road. There are a couple of fast tollways for road travel but for general driving it seems an average speed in the county areas would be around 40-50km/hour, while in towns it will be less than 20km hour.

Rail There is quite an extensive rail network but again the speeds are around 40km on the flat but less than 20km on the railways in the mountains. Fares are really inexpensive. If travelling a long way its probably best to go for 1st class when available.

Poya Day

It worth finding out if there is a Poya (Full moon day) while you are there and plan accordingly;

On the Poya Day which is a public holiday:

  • A lot of the shops and museums will be closed.
  • No alcohol can be sold.
  • Lots of people visit their relatives (we had a 40 km rail journey in 2nd class and had to stand all the way in a packed train)


In addition to the typical International beers and spirits you can let the following local products:

  • Lion Beers. A good quality lager and a great stout. Normally comes in 600ml bottles.
  • Arrack Distilled from coconut flower sap, and aged in oak casks. Generally about half the cost of international spirits and a quite smooth drink.

Final Travel Hack

If you have a few days in Colombo and have any interest in planes the Sri Lankan Air Force Museum is well worth a look.

There are lots of things so see and you can get up close to most of the planes.

Here I am next to one of the MIG fighters.


Buda at night

The two original cities of Buda, and Pest, which lie either side of the Danube make up the spectacular modern city.

Pest from the Budapest Eye


The history of Hungary is one of being fought over for hundreds of years.

In spite of the destruction that has occured in the past that there are many interesting places to explore, many that have been restored several times.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Dohany Street Synagogue
  • Main Market Hall
  • Matthias Church
  • Hospital in the Rock
  • Hungarian Parliament (from the outside)


In the last couple of years of World War II over 500,000 Jewish people were murdered in Hungary.

They are remembered with several memorials; including this shoe sculpture on the banks of the Danube.

Check the Offbeat Budapest website for more information on this and other poignant memorials.


Budapest has a big bar scene particularly around the old ‘Jewish Quarter’ with bars every few metres in that area.

Ruin Bar before the crowds

One thing that I have never seen before, which are common in Budapest are ‘Ruin Bars’.

They are literally set up in partially ruined building with an eclectic range of furniture that looks as though it has been rescued from the dump.

The bar scene does mean that on weekends Budapest fills up with groups of men, and groups of women, from all over Europe on pre-wedding parties.


The currency in Hungary is the ‘Forint’ written HUF.

While in Budapest; most transaction can be carried out with a bank or debit card.

At many, but not all businesses, euros can be used although the change will be in forint. (some businesses will take euro notes, but not coins)

Turn ‘Lay Overs’ into ‘Stay Overs’

When you are travelling long haul you will normally need to stop at least once.

These ‘lay overs’ can be anything from an hour to 12+ hours.

Instead of hanging around the airport for hours why not book into a hotel for a couple of days and see a different city, or country.

Popular Stay Over Locations

Travelling from Australia to Europe I have had stay overs in :

Flying between Australia and North America I have stayed over at:

  • New Zealand
  • Hawaii
  • Los Angeles when flying from the East Coast of the USA.

Advantages of Stay Overs

  • An extra place to experience.
  • Helps reduce the effects of ‘Jet Lag’.
  • Two 8-10 hour flights with a couple of day rest in the middle are a lot easier on the body than 20 or more hours continuous travelling.
  • In some cases it can actually save you money.
  • Less stress about missing a connecting flight.

Saving Money

When you are planning a long haul flight don’t just look at direct flights look at flights that may take in another city close to the route.

Its not impossible on some routes to make up to a 40% saving, which could pay for a couple of nights hotel stay!

My Personal Stay Over Travel Hack

Having been caught out several times with immigration delays on entering the USA I now always arrange to stay over at least one day at the city that I fly into.


Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a fascinating country to visit, with the most spectacular scenery of any of the countries I have visited.

Although it is a developing country, poverty is not in your face compared with many other adjacent countries.


Less than 10 years ago the country was an absolute monarchy under King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

In 2008 the King, as part of his desire to reform Bhutan, transferred administrative power to a council of ministers and parliamentary elections were held.

One of the other reforms of the King was the introduction of Surveys of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an important measure of progress in the country.

Around the same time the king transferred power he also abdicated in favour of his son, the current Dragon King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Although the new King is now a constitutional monarch he is much loved and you will see pictures of the royal family everywhere you go.

Culture and Religion

Preserving the Culture is a priority which is emphasised by the requirement that traditional clothes have to be worn by locals for all official business and even attendance at school.

Although Bhutan is Buddhist religion is so closely interwoven into the everyday culture that a local told me she didn’t realise she was Buddhist until.she left Bhutan to study,


The Bhutan tourism policy is high-value, low-volume which means to get a visa you need to demonstrate a minimum daily spend.

The normal procedure is to book your holiday through a local tourist operator who will organise your visa, accommodation, vehicle, driver and english speaking guide.

Travelling around Bhutan without a tourist operator would be extremely difficult as you need a permit to cross district boundaries.

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (BTN) which has the same value as the Indian rupee (also legal in Bhutan)

Travel Hack 1

Even in the valleys Bhutan is 2,000m above sea level.

Tigers Nest Temple

You may be keen to visit the iconic Tiger’s Nest Temple but its a climb of around another 1,000m above the valley.

If, like me, you normally live at sea level don’t attempt it on the first few days, but allow yourself time to acclimatise and go at the end of your holiday.

Travel Hack 2

Like to see Bhutan and help the Bhutanese people? . . . . Disaster Aid Australia has a project to provide safe drinking water to all 120 central schools.

You can have a holiday in Bhutan and give a water filter to a school.

Find out more at Bhutan 2020

Disclosure: The author, and owner of this website, volunteers for Disaster Aid Australia.

Niagara Falls

Niagara is certainly one of those iconic tourist destinations that doesn’t disappoint.

American Falls

We were very pleased to have allowed a full day for our trip to Niagara, and that we had booked both day and evening tours.

There is lots to see and the tours manage to fit in all the key elements, including many great viewing areas, without feeling too rushed.

The Falls

Horseshoe Falls

I am sure I’m not the only one who didn’t realise there were three waterfalls.

As well as the Horseshoe and American Falls there is the smaller but still impressive Wedding Veil Falls.

A must is a trip on one of the Maid of the Mist boats.

At Night

The falls look different again at night as they are illuminated by coloured floodlights.

There is also an impressive firework display during the main tourist season.

Niagara Travel Hack

Bridal Veil Falls

If you have got a good rain jacket wear that rather than those cheap ponchos that get handed out.

You can spot me in the Bridal Veil photo because I am the one wearing the red raincoat rather than an anonymous poncho.

I also noticed that the poncho wasn’t much use when you got on the Hurricane Deck as the polythene rips easily.

Meanwhile I stayed completely dry.

Buffalo, New York State

My # 1 Under-Rated Destination

Hotel Lafayette

Back in 2017 we went on an eleven week world tour for our 40th wedding Anniversary, and one of our stops was Buffalo.

Most Americans we talked to said “WTF are you going there?”

I must admit we originally only considered Buffalo as a destination because it had an Airport close to Niagara Falls.

When we checked into the Hotel Lafayette and saw the Art Deco lobby, including the Elevators, we started to think there was more to this town than we first thought!

Martin House Complex

Martin House, Buffalo

Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most iconic American Architect and I am a big fan, so when we found that one of his major houses could be seen that became a second reason to visit.

When we got there we found it’s actually the main house plus two smaller houses.

A local restoration society looks after the Martin House complex and runs regular informative tours.

Naval and Military Park

At Canalside there is an impressive museum.

You can look over three WW2 vessels; A cruiser, destroyer, and a submarine.

In the museum building I was also interested to find a model of USS Wolverine one of only two Fresh Water Paddle Steamer Aircraft Carriers.

You can also take a pleasant boat tour from Canal Side, which takes you along the canal, and around the only Marina that is shaped like a Buffalo (Don’t believe me then search Google Maps for ‘Erie Basin Marina’)

Some Things We Missed

Buffalo City Hall

It was only as we were in the Taxi on the way back to the airport we were told not only could we visit this impressive city hall; we could get a free lift to an observation deck on the top floor.

Exploring the many other Art Deco Buildings in the city

Visiting the Anchor Bar, where the world famous Buffalo Wings were invented in 1964.