Around the World in 82 Days


Winter Escape – June 14 - September 4, 2011

For our "escape" from the southern winter in 2011 we were lucky enough to piece together several separate holidays into one around the world trip. We started with a reunion of our "old" Caltech friends in California, then spent July 4 with the Rogers/Tereshko/Doherty families in New England. Next up was 6 weeks in Scotland touring in a camper van, then off to Thailand to connect with Jill's brother Malcolm and his wife Nang and son James. John did an excursion from Bangkok to Cambodia to visit the historic site of Angkor Wat, and we wrapped it up with a few days in Brisbane to see the rest of the Camerons and celebrate Mal's 50th.

Some photos have captions that you can see by placing your mouse cursor on them - or at least it works this way in Internet Explorer. I tried viewing it on our iPad with crappy results, and heard from a friend that the captions did not appear when using Google Chrome, so I can't predict exactly how it will look for you. The captions are useful, so IE may be your best bet if you can stand it. Also, I will warn you that there is a fair amount here, so you might want to make a cuppa if you intend to check to out.

 Ricketts circa 73 reunion

A wonderful time was had by all.


July 4th with the family

There was eating and drinking and talking and laughing and a terrific fireworks display too.

The nieces and nephews  Somebody must be getting older - but still movng fast enough to blur the photo!


We flew in and out of Edinburgh but spent most of our time outside of the cities touring in a campervan rented from Paul and Hazel of Compact Campers in York, England (see: - they will treat you right).


This was our second campervan holiday, having toured the USA in a VW Westphalia, Arnold, some time ago. We looked for a name for this camper too - and decided on Tempo - after all it was our Tempo-rary home, and finding the right Tempo is important on a holiday, oh, and it had Tempo written on the side...

Tempo was self contained with a bed, kitchen, toilet and shower. We seldom stayed in campgrounds, but rather would find quiet spots along side roads, or loch-sides, or overlooking a golf course.

First night  Tempo also makes a convenient windbreak

At a quiet layby with a view of Stirling castle - we had 2 nights here and called it Stirling View camp  In the Outer Hebrides

Many of the roads were only just wide enough for Tempo - but had passing bays  Kildalton was a magic spot at the end of one such road

No neighbors on the loch-side on Islay  and this is Jill looking out at the Islay loch

Tempo just can't wait to get off for the next adventure  A nice cuppa by the Clan Cameron museum


Scotland is well stocked with a variety of amazing castles. We visited a few and learned about the battles and history connected with them.

Edinburgh castle dominates the city - and is the venue for the milirary tattoo  Castle Stalker was used in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail

Castle Eilean Donan is on every Scotland calendar  with good reason

This one gives Castlebay on Barra Island its name. Barra in in the Outer Hebrides, so note the stark landscape with no trees   We were vary taken with DooCots

Fresh pigeon for dinner  and fresh eggs from the nesting boxes too

Tantallon castle is on the Firth of Forth overlooking Bass rock  Bass rock is home to huge seabird colonies

Direlton castle is an impressive ediface  Care to keep the home fires burning in this kitchen?

Direlton has wonderful gardens 


Stirling Castle was probably our favorite 

Stirling is well restored inside and out. This is a replaced ceiling panel  and one of the original carvings from the ceiling

They are woking to reweave huge wall tapestries as cpies of the originals. This is one.  Originally the whole caslte would have been plastered in this golden color

My sister taught me that it is a good idea to photgraph the signs.  We caught Stirling Bridge on a calm and peaceful afternoon that belied the violent history. It gives pause to walk across it and imagine the scene in 1297.

Clan Cameron

We camped overnight at the Clan Cameron museum (Jill Rogers nee Cameron), then spent a fun morning learning clan history and seeing the manor house that is Jill's legacy. In 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie came back from France to try to unite Scotland against England the Camerons fought on his side - which turned out to be a mistake. When they lost, all the lands were confiscated and the people evicted as one of the early highland clearances (see: A later Laird was able to restore some of the lands to Cameron ownership.

When do we move in?  Tartans for different occasions

The Water of Life

The word whisky is derived from the Scotish Gaelic: uisge beatha literally the "water of life". Scotland has hundreds of working distilleries. We visited several, mostly on the Isle of Islay. We happened to be there for my birthday, so during the visits, when I would casually mention this fact, I was gifted with several wee drams as birthday presents - notably the Laphroaig 25 year old. Jill did the driving.

The distilleries are along the coast and make use of both the peaty water and the peat to fire the kilns to install that distinctive Islay taste.

The kiln chimneys traditionally have this pagoda shape. No one I asked could explain why.  Did you know that scotch whisky is aged in used casks - mostly American bourbon and Spanish sherry? I didn't.

Ardbeg 10 year old was my favorite discovery of the tastings.  It was fun to see where my bottles of Laphraig are created.

On the bay by Lagavulin are the ruins of a fortification used by the Lord of the Isles in the middle ages.   Just think of all the casks in a warehouse this big!

The grain is traditionally malted, or sprouted, by being layed out on warehouse floors.  The mash tuns are where the grain is fermented

The huge stills have a different shape at each distillery and that helps to give each a different flavor.  The distilled spirit

... is aged for a number of years in casks  The tasting at Bowmore was very well presented.

Neolithic history

Scotland has many historic sites dating from as early as 3000 B.C. It seems crazy to think of people having the whole of the underpopulated earth to choose from and heading for the coldest and windiest part. But, apparently it was 5 degrees or so warmer then, and they were following the animals as the ice sheets retreated.

Some of these sites are stone circles. We visited several. They are interesting, but one struggles to understand the hows and whys of their building, and there is always the sneaking suspicion that some farmer some time ago just decided to set up a few stones to attract the tourists. Notwithstanding that, there is a fascination about standing amidst the artifacts from this ancient age and trying to put yourself there and then.

This group is on the mainland south of Oban at Kilmartin Glen 

The Callanish stone circle on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is among the largest and most complete in the UK. We parked Tempo nearby and had the place to ourselves in the evening.


The Orkney Islands have the largest collection of sites, many grouped together on the island that the Orkadians call Mainland. Perhaps the most remarkable is a the very well preserved village of Skara Brae which was exposed from under a sand dune in a huge storm in the late 1800s (see: It has several separate dwellings and workshops. the houses have stone furniture, including beds that would have been packed with hay and skins, display cases for pottery and other treasures, and even stone pools next to the firepit to store shellfish in lieu of refrigeration.

Skara Brae 

bed on the left, dresser on the right  spot the square stone pool/fridge between the dresser and fire pit

Just down the road are 2 stone circles (Stenness and Brogdar) with an archeological dig in progress between them.

The standing stones of Stenness  The ring o' Brodgar

Brodgar  A cold and windy afternon for the tour of the dig

A shallow but large excavation is being made in a farmer's backyard  And the walls of the farmer's houses from thousands of years ago are emerging

Other history

Discovery, the ship used by Scott for his first expedition to Antarctica is docked in Dundee, with a nice museum attached.

  Scott's cabin

"Blackhouses" were the standard accommodation on the Isle of Lewis and other treeless outer islands. The peat smoke inside was thick.

These were last inhabited in the 1960s  A restored mill and kiln

The Lords of the Isles met at Finlaggan on Islay for centuries (see:


The broch at Dun Carloway dates from about the time the Vikings left.

Brochs were built in commanding positions with double walls and were multi-story. 

The Falkirk Wheel isn't really historical itself. It is a sort of elevator for canal boats. It links 2 canals that were separated when the locks that connected them were ripped out to allow for "progress". Now that calans are back in use, it is a creative engineering solution, and by visiting it we were able to see a bit of the old industrial heart of Scotland.

One boat goes up while another comes down  The boats are a popular holiday option

The industry is gone, but the Union Inn remains - people must drink!Some locks are still there

The canals are lined with easy, pleasant walking tracks  We got a nice sunset - seen from the extension of the top canal toward the wheel

The airport on Barra makes history every day as the world's only beach airport with regularly scheduled flights - which are planned for the low tides.


We made history by sighting the monster in Loch Ness.

Loch Ness  Nessie alert!

St. Andrews

We ended up spending more time at St. Andrews than any other single place in Scotland. We really liked it. We stayed in Tempo parked just back from "the best beach in Scotland", and along side the St. Andrews links golf courses - including the Old Course. The village of St. Andrews was 30 minutes walk, and the medical staff at a local clinic gave John exceptional treatment (but that is another story).

Our arrival down Granny Clark's Wynd  The 18th green, the 1st tee, and Tempo in the distance

The famous Swilcan bridge and not so famous golfer  Double green of the 7th and the treacherous 11th

  The putt-putt course is called The Himalayas

Cheers  From the ruins of the Cathedral overlooking the ruins of the castle and the sweep of the beach

Sandcastles anyone  From Tempo's window


John managed to ft in seven rounds of golf in the six weeks in Scotland - all but one on links courses. Two of these were at St. Andrews.

The most difficult of these was Askernish (see: which was originally designed by Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews fame, but lost and re-discovered and re-developed recently. Because of the requirement to preserve the wild environment of the dunes in which the course is set, the greenskeeper can't mow too much and any shot not on the fairway is swallowed in a rough composed of delightful wildflowers.

This gives you a good idea of the environment  We had a cool day - but not too cool for a picnic

The 7th is one of the signature holes - a very tight driving par 4.  A tricky second - or was it third?

The rough is as tough as it is beautiful  Rule 25 clearly allows for a free drop when your ball lies in a hole made by a burrowing animal - thank heavens.

On Barra the course is very rough-and ready - while on Harris we slept in Tempo overlooking the 3rd green.

A player checks the clubhouse and honesty box  What you can't see is the gale force wind.

Just another distracting view  I missed the birdie putt

More distracting views  I missed this birdie putt too - sigh.

At Fortrose and Rosemarkie we had Tempo ovelooking the first tee and I joined a group of mates who play on Saturday morning. They were most generous, sharing local knowledge, shouting me a cool beverage, and even covering my green fees. See

The first is not long, but very tight with gorse both sides and OB on the left  The lighthouse marks the end of the outward stretch of holes

But most fun of all was Brora (see Even though the course is grazed and has fences to protect the greens it is in excellent condition. It is a classic out-and-back layout along the coast and every hole has real character.

The cows are friendly  The greens are fast and true

The terrain is open and beautiful  You need to think about each shot

Towns and Cities

We didn't spend a lot of time in the population centers - but when we did they often looked different than the way things are back home.

Edinburgh is all stone all the time.  Most buildings everywhere are stone

And the streets are narrow - this one carrys 2 way traffic - really.  Stromness on Orkney

The fishing villages are built around enclosed harbors 

The round church in Bowmore has no corners in which the devil can hide  The outer islands were often very stark

John Knox founded the Church of Scotland - and contributed to the stereotypical dourness.Portree on the Isle of Skye is colorful.

We saw some flowers - but not as many as are needed to brighten the grey stones  This devil or angel was waiting for the fishermen to return home

Land and Sea

We spent most of our time in the countryside, and made 9 ferry crossings to/from/between islands.

The ferry to Islay gets an early morning start 

Near Finlaggan on Islay  The view from Tempo at Kildalton on Islay on my birthday

From the ferry to Barra 

Kilt Rock on the Isle of Skye  I think that we had zero thistle-free days

Great west coast beaches in many places  Near Brora

Some houses are still heated with peat  Peat needs to be dug and dried before use

In Thurso harbor  Thurso harbor

This busy village at harvest time was seen from Dun Carloway broch on the Isle of Lewis  Same village as on the left - note the ruined houses left empty at the time of the land clearances of the 19 century.

On Orkney the cows have the summer outside...  ...and the winter in barns

A good summer harvet is needed 

Small boats connect the land to the sea 


We came across some wildflowers not on golf courses too.

A field in bloom  heather



Highland Games

Our visit to Portree on the Isle of Skye coincided with the annual highland games - held in a small amphitheatre on "The Lump" behind the town. Included were running and field events for both locals and all comers, piping, dancing, and the marching pipe band. We had bagpipes ringing in our ears for days afterwards.

This section and the next are video links. Some of these are quite large, especially the ones of the tattoo in the next section. Click the caption below the photo to download and watch the video. Contact me if you have issues.

The Isle of Skye pipe band opens the proceddings

The Isle of Skye Pipe Band

This is the winning toss in the hammer throw

    Hammer throw

The highland dancers had their own competition underway

Highland dancers

It took 3 strong men to carry the caber back to the start point

Caber toss

This short clip gives a bit of a sense of the action that was happening simultaneously all afternoon.

Caber toss and dancers

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Many of you will never have heard of the military tattoo, but, trust me it is a very big deal. For details see: or

Jill had done her homework and knew the date that the tickets went on sale, so we were up at midnight online and eventually on the phone to Edinburgh. We had great seats. It was the final event of our 6 weeks in Scotland, so we had a nice dinner in a restaurant near the Edinburgh Castle, and really enjoyed the show - and it was especially nice to finish the tour wth a rousing version of Scotland The Brave!

This was one of the final acts with many of the individual bands assembled. Note the light show on the castle walls behind the performers. This was a constant feature of the show.

Assembled bands

This was the grand finale with the exit of the pipe bands

Pipe bands final exit


We flew from Edinburgh to Bangkok via Frankfurt, arriving in the mid-afternoon. Jill chilled out and studied the Thai language with very friendly staff at the Bangkok Loft Inn (see - recommended if you are going to be in Bangkok). Meanwhile John caught a 4am bus for the trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia to visit the ancient runs of Angkor Wat. The trip was more of an adventure than planned. Due to a missed connection and a taxi breakdown the last 15 km were in a local taxi - a Toyota Camry which already held 10 people when it was flagged down. After a bit of shuffling the driver shared his bucket seat with a young man, I shared the passenger bucket seat with a young woman, and we had 3 adults plus 4 children in the back seat - for a total of 11. Happily the trip was short, we didn't stop to pick up anyone else, and the driver spoke a bit of English. I got him to teach me how to say "No worries" in Kampuchean, we had a few laughs, and a few minutes later I was at the hotel.

The hotel itself was very comfortable - in a well restored French colonial building. Air conditioning, swimming pool, and all the mod cons. It was in the heart of the old market area which is also the heart of the new backpacker area. Through the wonders of the Internet I had arranged for Bunleat Horng to be my guide for 2 days. He met me at the hotel and we discussed itinerary choices. Bunleat was an excellent choice - his English is perfect, his knowledge of the history is extensive, he knows how to plan the tours to avoid the worst of the crowds and maximize the enjoyment. His brother-in-law acts a driver in a very comfortable car. If you are planning to go to Siem Reap then contact him through - you will be glad that you did.

I won't try to describe the history here, except to say that Angkor Wat is only one of the many temples in the Angkor district - which is a World Heritage site enclosing hundreds of temples. The 5 temples that I visited were built between 1113 and 1200. Angkor Wat itself was built in about 30 years, requiring the efforts of an estimated 500,000 people and 200,000 elephants to move 3 billions tons of stone. It is still very well preserved, but many of the others have been overgrown with jungle and subject to looting. See: for more - but be warned that Bunleat told me that not all of the wikipedia entries are correct.

Day 1

We started with a drive to the temple of Beng Melea, one of the temples being claimed by the jungle. Bunleat calls it the best Indiana Jones temple in Cambdia. After lunch we did a boat trip down a narrow channel to the lake of Tonlé Sap. This lake swells with the rainy season floods, so the villages are built on high stilts, and the people trade morobikes for canoes, and earth gardens for floating ones. The day finished at the temple of Ta Prohm in the cool of the evening with the security men gently shooing us away. A great day.

Some of the stone work is still very well preserved  Most of the temple has tumbled down over the centuries

Much of the destruction is caused by the trees breaking apart the blocks 


  Most of the engravings are badly deteriorated

August is the rainy season - and tt rained hard while I was in the restarant for lunch - but this was the only time it rained in the 2 days  The lake is filling but not full - so the boat trip is dwn a narrow channel/river through the rice fields and scrub.

Village life goes on in the mddle of the lake - the market boat calls in.  Note the firewood piles in the trees

The garden gets tended  Main street was still a street - but not for much longer so it is time to get the boats and nets ready

Just passed the village the lake opens up - it was still, clam and beautiful  Yes - those specks are fishing boats

Ta Prohm is is a better state of preservation than Beng Meala, but many big trees are growing out of the walls. 

Ta Prohm 

The Indian goverment is helping to fund restoration and preservation  The will number and remove all these stones, shore up the foundation, and rebuild. A huge effort.

Despite the trees many of the wall engravings are well preserved  Note the gap where a buddha used to be. Over the years the temples switched from Buddhist to Hindu and back. During Hindu periods buddha figures were removed of altered to become Hindu gods.

Apparently this tree was used in the Tomb Raider film.   

Day 2

Day 2 started at the temple of Angkor Wat iitself - not at sunrise, but early enough to miss some of the crowds. This temple is impressive for its sheer size and has some nicely preserved details, but lacks the character and allure of the smaller, less well preserved, temples. The highlight of the day was a visit to the temple/city of Angkor Thom which includes the Bayon with towering faces and very well preserved engravings. After another hot/hard day of sightseeing, a cool beverage and excellent dinner were well deserved.

Angkor Wat  This state of Vishu is an orignal from the building of the temple

A panel from the engravings at Angkor Wat  Details from ne of the towers

There are moats around most temples  Again - note the missing buddhas

The Bayon is a complex of multi-faced towers and a beautiful set of engraved panels. 


The panels extend around the Bayon in the outer galleries. They represent scenes from everyday life and historical events  The scale is hord to show here - but the scene shown is perhaps 4ft by 6ft


This temple would have been fabulous and impressive when occupied by the royal families and decorated extravagently with flowers and fabrics.  This temple would have been fabulous and impressive when occupied by the royal families and decorated extravagently with flowers and fabrics.  This temple would have been fabulous and impressive when occupied by the royal families and decorated extravagently with flowers and fabrics.

It is also among the most popular sites and there is no escaping the crowds of tourists taking photos of themselves.

The elephant terrace overlooks a large field where the king would review the troops...  Stand on it and try to image 30,000 elephants in battle dress!

The last temple visited was the oldest, and presented nice views over the countryside  Making a nice spot to relax and enjoy the sunset

While the workers complete the harvest  A hard day of history makes you thirsty, and as a backpacker haven Siem Reap is well supplied with economical watering holes.


After a painless trip back to Bangkok we flew to Chaing Rai in the far north to meet Mal, Nang and James. From Chaing Rai we drove to Chaing Saen on the Mekong river to visit Nang's home village nearby. It was a great honor and pleasure to travel wth Nang into her past, and meet her family and friends.

We stayed in a hotel overlooking the river and made several excursions.

The Mekong s a big and busy river  It flows between Laos and Thailand and between the hills and the flats through very productive countryside. It is easy to understand why this land has seen many battles over the years.

The first excursions were to visit Nang's family and friends

Nang with her friend Paad  Father and daughter

Grandfather and grandson  Nang's auntiie

Next were were off for some tourist activities in the Golden Triangle. We crossed the river to Laos (no passports were stamped) and went for an elephant ride.

Off to Laos  Where the locals were friendly

I think I'll stick to Laphroaig 

On the elephant circuit through the rice fields 

The next day was our last and we were honored to be part of a ceremony to farewell Nang. The preparations involved the creation of offerings including local foods. The ceremony was heartfelt and emotional despite the language barrier.

Several chickens gave their alll  We all joined hands and made our feeling known.

  We were honored guests

It was a party as well as a ceremony  party time

party time  party timie

We visited the temple in Nang's village and were received and blessed by the monk - Nang's cousin. This temple was beautiful and ornate - an amazing find in a small rural village.


    The bus that brought the pilgrims didn't seem entirely in keeping

We left reluctantly and flew back to Bangkok. There we visited the Grand Palace, (Wat Phra Kaew) which is one of the most astounding human creations that I have ever experienced. Every square inch of every surface inside and out is hand crafted wth skill and care.







Most of the rest of our time in Bangkok was devoted to shopping or walking in the local neighborhood, so perhaps a few scenes from the local market makes a good way to close.





We called quickly through Brisbane to see the rest of Jill's family and help Mal celebrate his half century

Nang had organized a party with excellent food and a friend's young daughter to welcome us with a traditional Thai dance. Jill and Ross had organized a series of skits for the entertainment - and Mal's waterskiing and BBC buddies got right into the spirit(s) of the occasion.


Ross had made a boat to use in the skits. Here the waterskiers are showing off Mal's barefoot backwards exploits  The Brisbane Boys College boys prepare for a school war cry. Alumba kalumba by a duck oh...

Home Sweet Home

We flew to Christchurch the next day. Our housesitter, Phil, and done a great job, including fresh daffodils on the table, and the aftershocks and snow hadn't done any lasting damage while we were away.

Twelve weeks away is probably too many, so we were glad to get home and are busily trying to get back to normal.