Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pistol squatting all over the world

Pistol on Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

Crossfit. I am obsessed. For me it is not a fad, it has become a calling and one that I love to pieces and wish I had discovered many years ago.
One of the most easily recognisable crossfit exercises is the pistol squat. A one legged squat with the other leg shooting out like a pistol's barrel. Hense the name!
Recognisable in almost any attire and even in silhouette. It is also an easy exercise to do while travelling as you need no equipment whatsoever.
I am not sure why but it seems to be a great one to take a photo of when you are overseas or in a random location.
This is what I have been doing over the past few months and finally have enough to write a little piece about it.

Festival of San Fermin pistol. Just after the bull run, Spain.
I am not too sure where I was when I did my first overseas pistol. But that one suddenly opened the flood gates and many photos followed.
After running with the Bulls in the Festival of San Fermin I managed to get a cheeky pistol in the arena just before a young steer was released. I was utterly buzzing by this point and am quite amazed I remembered at all to get this photo. It’s amazing how much adrenaline courses through your veins when you do something incredibly dangerous.


Riot battered and edgy Kiev was the next pistol location. What made this one harder was it was in jeans.
Pistol at Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine

Banners were draped over Maidan Square and the campsite or freedom fighters were noisily singing and chanting and smoking and generally looking menacing just in front of me.

However I managed to pull a pistol squat off at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant the next day.
In the background you can see the reactor number 4 hidden underneath its aging and crumbling sarcophagus and the new one being painfully slowly built.

Away from danger and places of dark tourism the pistols squats have come out at places of utter beauty.

Koh Tao in Thailand up the top of a hill overlooking the waves hit the rocky shore and also in front of one of the most beautiful mind blowing things I have ever seen. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
Pistol at Chernobyl powerplant, Ukraine. Reactor number 4 can be seen int he background


In India I may have become a little pistol carried away and got photos at Fatepur Sikri. The abandoned city, many are not sure why it was abandoned but Akbar the Magnificent who built it was rumoured to have 500 concubines!

A pistol was seen at the Holiest city on the River Ganges, Varanasi. Although It had to be done quickly before another person tried to sell me a boat trip.

Pistols even popped up in Delhi and at tombs.

Taj Mahal Pistol
The lesser known Humayun’s tomb in Delhi was one such place. A beautiful tomb which inspired the Taj Mahal.
Pistol outside Humayuns tomb, Delhi

After posing for that photo I turned round to look at the tomb. There standing maybe 200 meters from me was a guy with a long beard. We wore robes and a head scarf but was in a t shirt. He looked local but also traveller and I couldn’t tell where we was from. What made me look at him was he was busting out a couple of pistols and waving at me. Then he simply stopped and disappeared, so I will never know who the tomb pistol photo bomber ever was.


I look back at my travels and wish I had known this move so I could have done it at places such as Petra, the Serengeti, Victoria Falls, Stonehenge, Uluru, Table Mountain, Angkor Wat, and On the River Nile or in front of the Sphinx and the Pyramids.

Although maybe if I had would the novelty have worn off?Maybe it has and may I have pistol squatted the novelty photo to death. I recently went to Milan and didn’t do one there. So maybe I am all pistol squatted out?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime it back to crossfit……….
Pistol on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi, India

Pistol at Fatepur Sikri abandoned city, Uttar Pradesh, India

Cheeky work pistol

Monday, 20 October 2014

A monument to love

Can you imagine loving someone so much that grief inspired you to build something so monumental, timeless, beautiful and lasting.

Imagine if your grief inspired a wonder of the world.

Well the Taj Mahal is evidence that true love has existed in this world.

In 1631 third wife of Mughal Emperor Shan Jahan, Mumtaz Mahal passed away giving birth to her 14th child.

Her husband was so grief stricken that he was inspired to build a monument to true love.

This 240 foot tall monument took 20,000 people to build over a period of 21 years. It was a monument and mausoleum of love to his wife.

A dedication of love that would see him deposed from power.

Shan Jahan was obsessed with this monument and historians argue how much it would have costs all those years ago in today's money. Obviously it was a monumental amount which was one of the factors leading to the Shan being deposed by his son Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb put the Shan basically under house arrest across the Yamuna river in the Agra Fort. There everyday he could view his monument to love and loss.

Looking at the Taj now from Agra Fort the view is ruined by roads, pollution and rubbish strewn on the floor. But back then it would have been a majestic sight without the honking of car horns.

Even now the car horns seem to dull a little when you look across at it. It really does look otherworldly from afar and as if it has somehow descended from the stars.

When the Shah finally died his son moved his body to the Taj and buried him beside his wife where love can be reunited after looking on her from afar for many years.

Today millions visit this world heritage site every year.

Hundreds queue for a bench where Diana Princess of Wales once sat while others try and pose with their finger looking like it is on the top of the dome.

We arrived at 5.30am, the darkness still covered the city of Agra. Dogs barked and the occasional cock crowed and cows sat sleepily on the road.

We managed to get there just in time and get to the front of the queue. At six am the sun rose and we were in.

It was relatively uncrowded and we walked to the main gates and walls that surround the Taj Mahal.

These obscure your view until you go through the large gateway.

There in front of you shining in the early morning light; as the mist is starting to burn off stands one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen.

A monument to love and a shrine to beauty.

A sight that will live in my mind for many years to come.

The sounds of the bustling city beyond the walls fall away and birdsong fills your ears as you gaze open mouthed at what can only be described as a feast for the eyes.

My first thought was that it is much bigger than I ever thought. Much, much bigger. As I gazed for what seemed an eternity people started to file passe me so I knew it was time to get closer.

You can explore everywhere and I duly did. Every so often I would stand and stare taking it all in. It was as if I was basking in its beauty and refilling my batteries by absorbing the idyllic scene before me.

Its hard to imagine this amazing structure covered in protective scaffolding. This they did during the war and it is equally as hard to imagine the building process. It must have been on a monumental scale.

A truly epic scale.

Even when you think of the logistics about how they made it; it doesn't distract from how utter transfixed you are. You don't even notice you are breathing as you stare. Simply staring at the beauty in front of you.

I could have spent longer there as the sun rose and the heat intensified. But the tranquility is broken as you look behind you realising you have been there for two hours and the South gate entrance has opened. Hundreds upon hundreds of people pour through the gate.

There is only one thing for it. To retreat from the crowds and remember this monument to love as a peaceful and wondrous place.

That evening sipping a kingfisher beer on the roof of a bar looking out over the city and the Taj it was a fitting end to my stay in Agra.

The sun slowly retreated and the shadows swallowed up her white dome for the night.

I raised my bottle to her beauty and took a long cold sip of Indian Kingfisher beer.

Would I ever see this sight again I wondered and that is a thought that is still rattling around my brain.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

I bloody love Bangkok



Bangkok. The city that never sleeps; or even seems to rest at all.




A place where you can be excited, scared, amazed, surprised and party all night and not realise the sun has come up.
The sun raises its head over the skyscrapers and you feel its warmth caress your skin that is sticky and wet from the sweat that has accumulated during the night.


In your hand is a drink you have been sipping or a bucket full of Thai whiskey you have been stirring the ice with a straw.

The first time I visited was in 2007, then again in 2009. Not much had changed and it was still a hotbed of silliness, filth and fun.

Then five long years passed and I recently returned.



Oh Bangkok, how I have missed you and your hot sweaty embrace.




As soon as I arrived in the fabled backpacker Ghetto of Khoa San Road I knew I would have fun again.

Street raves, all night party’s huge stereos on the street right next to chilled out massages on the road. Places selling very strong buckets of Thai whiskey and Red Bull that pumps your heart up to level 11.

A warm smile crept across my sweaty face as I arrived after some island hopping with the little lady.


I arrived and immediately knew that I  would party and drink and be silly and shop, as everything here was dirt cheap and really good.
The t shirts seemed to fit like a glove and the vests were the same. Colour prints and fake sunglasses and even shoes were of great quality. I remember back in 2007 buying some fake levi jeans. They lasted for years until I out grew them in my old age!
Fake Haviana's flip flops are hard wearing and I still own a few pairs.
When arriving I literally travel with an almost empty bag and fill it wiht Bangkok goodies.











Getting away from the mentalness of Khoa san road there is so much more to see.
Explore ina  tuk tuk and take in the sights. Or visit the famous  temples of Wat Arun and Wat Pho.



During previous visit I think I must have visited them all but really wanted to return to Wat Pho to see the beautiful golden giant reclining Buddha. His golden body shines in the light that creeps through the windows as he ascends in to Nirvana.
I stood staring at his mother of pearl feet and there is always soenthing appealing to me about a Buddha. His eyes seem to relax you and calms the soul. Msaybe that is why I have so many dotted around my house.
Bnagkok has so much to offer. If it is your first time take in the sights. If you have been there many times do your favourite things like sip a drinka nd watch the world go by.
BUt as this was probably the 7th or so time back in the Thai capital I wanted to experience soething new.
This I found in the form of a roof top pool and bar over lookign the city.
I could dip my feet in the cool waters and hear all the noises of life.
The beeps or taxis, the wooden clickign nises of carved frog sellers and the shouts of tuk tuk.
Also from this vantage point you can laugh more freely at sex tourists who prowl the street looking for trade!
I know its harsh to laugh at them but I just cant help it.
As I watched the sun set over the towering skyline of Bangkok I wondered if it is this city that I am in love with or the fact that this city for me is the gateway and entry point to Asia and another travellign experience?




Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mud, mud glorius mud!

The return of the muddy run season is upon us. Dirty, Dozen, Survival of the fittest, Rat Race, Spartan race, Nuclear races you name it there is a race for it.

I think I did my first one of these way back in 2007 or 2008. It was in Nottingham and the trend of these races was just beginning to start.

Splashing through rivers, crawling chest deep in  mud and under barbed wire is great fun and you can really push yourself.

The first ones I did ranged from 10 km to 12 miles and I always ended up running on my own after losing who ever I was running with or setting off by myself in the first place.

I enjoyed pushing myself and trying to get around in as fastest a possible time as I could.

Then one year came the Spartan beast at Brands hatch and I ran with four other people. We kept up with each other and really pushed ourselves. My competitive nature took hold and I wanted to finish higher and higher up the field.

I even did one such race with my hand heavily strapped and in a plastic bags I had broken fingers at the time. Ironically that race is still my highest finish!

Then one day a guy from my crossfit box suggested that we all enter a team into our local muddy race. Little did he know that that suggestion would start a trend.

For the first time in one of these races we ran together, every step of the way. I didn't run off like I have in the past and we each helped one another over and under obstacles and encouraged each other on. We did this with the intention of finishing as a team and not going for a time to beat.

The camaraderie and silliness was at breaking point and each one ran with smile.

I thought I wouldn't like running as a team and would want to tear off into the distance and better my time.

I was proved wrong as we ran together giggling and being silly all the way.

Any excess energy that I still had I spent launching into obstacles and muddy pits full of water. Splashing about and being silly.

Basically  was making a nuisance of my self. I am sure to the utter horror of most of the girls in our team.

To be honest if you run as a team chatting and laughing the entire experience is far more rewarding and much better. Yes time and podium places are important but enjoyment and fun and finishing with a smile on your face tops that.

Running as a team which is a mixture of all sorts of people is the best way forward and how I aim to continue running all of these.

Next up was the electro Dash and a music filled laser bean infested disco run! No mud this time but we had an even bigger obstacle to over come. Running drunk!

Long may these runs continue.......