Category Archives: London

BANUE

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In the morning we were picked up by a guide and a driver to go look at some rice terraces and hike to a hot spring. 

The rice terraces were pretty amazing to behold. The farmers live almost totally off the land selling very little of their produce. They grow loads of other stuff, such garlic, onions, sweet potato, avocado and fruit in and around the rice terraces. They also have tilapia swimming in the actual terraces and all keep chickens which seem to run around everywhere.

The hot spring was awesome despite the hot weather. You could control the temperature by moving a rock in a channel of cold water that cools down the geothermally heated water.

On the way back we saw 3 menacing looking youths, one sporting a shotgun? Had a slight flash of panic as there’s not much to shoot at except people and chickens and shooting a chicken with a shotgun might defeat the point if you planned on eating it. They just passed us by, with mean looks.

The 15 minute journey back to the hotel was petrifying. The roads are notorious there for being perilous when wet and it was bucketing down. Going along narrow roads between a waterfall and a mud slide. It was more like rivers than roads.  We had to get out and push once because the bike got stuck.

During all of this, our driver hadn’t batted an eyelid. That might have been because he was off his head on betel nuts, the local psychotropic stimulant that comes in the form of a nut that you chew. It makes your mouth red which looks stupid when you smile, which is all the time for the driver because he was high as a kite.

WELCOME TO THE PHILIPPINES

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After a restless night of food poisoning, we jumped into a tricycle to El Nido airport, saving another 6 hour bus journey to Puerto Princessa. 

Our driver had to negotiate some serious off road to get us there and when we did get there it was a couple of straw huts and a air traffic control tower that looked as if it was made from meccano.

No X-ray machine, they checked our bags manually. As they put us on the bus to the plane, a chorus of employees serenaded us with a lamentful farewell song.

Landed in Manila and got culture shocked. Or poverty shock. Everything was run down and broken. There were children begging, I saw an old granny hunched over looking through piles of rubbish, people selling any old shit on the side of the road.

The bustle was insane. The streets were bursting with honking and revving, filling the air with smog. Pedestrians constantly weaved through the traffic with admirable confidence.

Most of the buildings were caked in soot, peeling cracked and dilapidated. The only fix would be to demolish and rebuild most of Manila.

The place definitely had charm, but I was struggling to see the good part with my head still swimming and stomach whirring from the prawn incident.

We crossed most of manila by public transport and foot to the bus station which you could barely breathe in from the smog and hopped on a night bus to the mountains up north.

We got to the town of “Banue” early the next morning having barely slept, took a tricycle to our new lodgings – a traditional stilted thatched hut on a mountain top, overlooking some ancient rice terraces. It was a bit like sleeping outside.

Still spaced out from the food poisoning we just lounged for the whole day napping, taking in the magnificent views.

The place we were staying was owned by an English guy so you could get a proper cup of tea which did wonders for my gastrointestinal disaster.

EL NIDO

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El Nido is like a beach resort from Mad Max in the middle of the jungle. There’s a main road parallel to the beach just wide enough for motorbikes with sidecars (“tricycles”) careen up and down it. Which the locals do with great vigor. 

The buildings either side are a mix of shantytown shacks and recently built shops, all very touristy, dive schools, overpriced groceries, western food restaurants etc.

We came here to learn to dive, so we headed off in a boat to do our “PADI open water diver” course. It was easier than I thought, just weird breathing under water.

The corals and fish were pretty cool but I just loved flying around the endless underwater landscape.

We did this for 2 days then spent a day on an incredible beach. That night on the way to dinner we came across a woman trying to trap a giant scorpion (big as a hand) in a tupperware box. The scorpion was attacking the box. Another thing to watch out for in the Philippines.

The next day we went island hopping, snorkelling in different bays and having a picnic lunch on another island. We shared a boat with a few other people including a creepy old american guy with filipina “wife” a quarter of his age.

That night I ordered the prawns. I should have learnt my lesson by now about eating seafood in places like the Philippines, but my greed overcame my common sense again.

I woke up in the middle of the night shivering in the tropical heat. I was totally freezing and couldn’t warm up. I put all my clothes on and huddled to Annette to get me warmed up. Very strange prawns those were.

world’s largest jacuzzi

We borrowed complementary rickety chinese bicycles from our hotel and set of towards the gargantuan complex of temples known as Angkor. Even at 8am it was sweltering. We speed off at a Street food stalk for some breakfast not knowing what we ordered, which when it arrived turned or to be noodle soup with assorted blood vessels. I ate all of it except the pipes.

We got to the entrance of the temples and my bike jammed and I almost came off. The deraileur had jammed itself into the spokes. luckily someoe had a pair of pliers so I bent it roughly back into place, snapping only a couple of teeth from the gears. so we continued on into the heat on our deathtrap bikes.

We spent the entire day roaming the magnificently complex ruins of these ancient temples, taking photos, being hassled by kids trying to sell us cold drinks for a dollar, sweating, getting burnt and exhausted.

Siem Reap, being the home of the ancient wonder that is Angkor, is a complete tourist trap. Everyone wants your money, you also have to bargain for everything. Most of the place is dirt roads lined with makeshift corrgugated steel huts seeking random stuff or just has sleeping locals in hammocks or 30 guys watching an 80s Hollywood blockbuster on a tiny screen. If you try to buy a can of coke, everyone will try to get $2 off you (USD, that is) but you can usually get them down to a quarter of the asking price very quickly. Whilst haggling, most people are quick to remind you that you are Western and rich and that they are cambodian and poor, so you should give them the asking price, which half the time is more than it is back home.

There was a sort of tourist centre in siem reap called pub Street, which was full of white people getting drunk, so naturally we headed down there for a cocktail and some over prices cambodian dinner. Was pretty good though. Then back to the hotel, do in the world’s largest jacuzzi, and then bed.

air china

woke up, went to some botanical garden and then the national museum which was ok. I’m biased because I’d the good air conditioning so maybe it wasn’t all that.

We headed to the airport only to find out that our cheap assed flights were so cheap they left from cheapo airport, so we panickedly got a bus there with a massive group of chinese touristds who all had so much stuff that they appeared to be moving home. The air-con in the bus was leaking on people’s heads.

We got to the cheapo airport and stuffed all our heavy stuff into our pockets to fit the baggage allowance, and had samples from a weird dried food shop for lunch. everything from Cola bottles to salted plums to dried cuttlefish (my favourite!)

after a not too unpleasant flight, we landed in siem reap, cambodia. stepping odd the plane was like going into a sauna, complete with the fragrant hot wood smell. customs was surprisingly easy as they had a production line of 7 or 8 people who you have your passport to and a minute later relieved it from the other end of the line with your new visa.

We got to our hotel quite late. It was a bit out of town. super cheap but comppete with tacky replicas of angkor wat statues draped in fairy lights, ornamental cap ponds and a huge swimming pool that, during the course of the achieving day, managed to warm itself up to a tepid bath temperature. Quite unrefreshing but we got in anyway.

Welcome to KL

 

DSC00904Got the redeye from brisbane to kuala lumpur.
We stayed in a hostel in a posh area, but in a backstreet with plenty of weird smells and potholes. in fact, there were potholes almost everywhere we went. as a city, KL is pretty clean and modern, at least in the centre, except for these holes in the pavement or drains with out a grille or other perilous features. We saw a few blind people around town and I was really surprised to see that they were braving these insane obstacles on these streets. You really have to watch where you’re waking.

Also to cross a road you have to play chicken with the motorists, and assert your presence in the middle of traffic. We participated as pedestrians in several traffic jams, moving with or around the cars, buses and scooters.

scooters are really popular here. Every time the lights change, a swarm of them bombs past ahead of the traffic.

also, it seems like the city is at war with the climate. All the noisy fans and droning air cons right up in the foreground of daily life.

People seem very friendly, and I couldn’t perceive any tension or separation between the different ethnic groups here.

We went out for dinner in a night market which was basically a dark Street with loads of open air restaurants. We found one we liked the look of and managed to order some food which was delicious, Blue rice and spicy chicken curry, which had loads of anchovy sauce in it. Someone passed me a chair over someone’s head so I could sit on it and I accidentally put it in the spinning fan overhead. It made a massive clunk and everyone in the restaurant starred at me for the rest of the meal. a little offputting but it didn’t ruin the meal.

We met a very charismatic 75 year old Indian guy in Little India who wanted to show us how strong his belly muscles were. He told me to poke my finger into his soft belly and then he instantly pushed it out. show off.

There was some sort of Chinese political rally in the street outside our hostel on our way back that ended in some horrendous karaoke. Didn’t matter. We were completely shattered. hit our pillows and woke up 11 hours later.

Instead of oyster cards they have little blue plastic oyster coins that look like poker chips.

 

Boards and Bugs

today we went surfing for the first time since we were kids. We went to a part of town called surfer's paradise and got some lessons. The sea was toasty and it was unpleasant to get out.

Then we back to the house to bake a cake in the shape of a monkey for the christening party tomorrow and then went out for dinner at a posh seafood restaurant. All five of us ordered barbecued moreton bay bugs which are like mini lobsters or giant languistines depending on your disposition. delicious.

Anticyclones

Today I crossed the equator for the first time. That means that there's an entire half a planet's worth of places to explore. Not that i've seen many places in the northern hemisphere and only ever got to really know a small handful of those very well.

We flew from London to Brisbane via Kuala Lumpur, of which we only really saw a small part of the airport and its fairly standard array of duty free shops and overpriced eateries.

8 hours later we arrive in Brisbane and are met by Annette's brother, Seb,  who took us to his inlaws house in gold coast which commands a spectacular view of the city (shown in the pic). We've been up for a good 36 hours so nighty night over and out.

We slept with the windows open and got woken up by the most exotic bird calls i've ever heard.

ho hum.

Hello! It’s been a while, as usual. The only reason I wanted to write here is because I haven’t for ages.

This summer I went away a lot for work, but also went to Italy on a short holiday for a christening. It was in the vatican. Pretty bizarre experience. We were late (classic Roman traffic jam), and ended up running through st. peters cathederal suited/stilettoed frantically trying to find a christening. It was pretty a-religious which made it bareable. Then there was a posh vatican feast, they treated us pretty well.

Then we got the sleeper train from Rome to Venice, which I thought would be really fun, but in actual fact, the compartments are about a metre wide, no windows, and only a blue light to keep you company. To top it off, it’s not actually that long a journey, so we arrived in Venice at 5am with no sleep.

That said, Venice at dawn on a cloudless day must be the best time to see it. Everything was golden and empty. We spent one night there and had a good wander.

So, now it’s November. I had a birthday party on the day of my birthday. I decided to cook american themed food, and bought some fireworks (4th July-style) to entertain the guests. Some of them fell over. It’s a really small garden where we’re living, and there were about 10-15 people there, so it was like being in front of a firing squad. I saved the biggest firework for last – one of those cubes with loads of different fireworks in one. As soon as I lit it, it fell over, and everyone panicked, but they were like deer in headlights, I had to scream at them to get indoors. Wojtek stayed outside and got shot at quite a lot. I managed to get hit in the face with a bit of smouldering cardboard but nothing serious.

The instance that was over, I was standing in the garden speechless, coming to the realization that I’d just tried to kill all my closest friends, and they all came out with a birthday cake (that Yoon baked) and sung me happy birthday. It almost felt like “You’ve been framed”. Pretty bizarre experience. Surprise!

The best present I got was from my sister (although I actually asked for it when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday). It’s a waterproof iPad case so I can read my books in the bath!

Up until a few weeks ago, work has been crazy, and now, all of a sudden its totally stopped. I have a few bits and pieces, but really, I’m pretty free. I’ve been turning down jobs still, because none of them are what I really want to do. I just want to dick around for a while. I can afford it, until the end of the year or so, so I’ll probably do that, unless something cool comes along.

A couple of weeks ago, the last job I did was presenting myself to a bunch of people at a well known distillery of whiskey in the scottish highlands. It was totally a marketing event, but it was nice going there being treated to nice food (and whiskey, of course) chatting all day, to interesting people, exploring the distillery, and then getting paid for it at the end of it all. Of course I had to set up some interactive installations in the freezing cold, but that was fun to. More things like this please!

Back, again

Hello, again. Japan was amazing, see the photos on flickr:
here
and
more here if you can be bothered.

I got back from Japan, then I worked, then I had Christmas, then did some more work, then went Snowboarding (but that was for work) in Laax, which is in Switzerland. It’s a pretty awesome resort – it’s mostly for snowboarders, so there’s loads of jumps and stuff to slide on or grind or whatever. Didn’t get that much of a chance to have a go because we were working, but definitely enough to get my fix.

Then about a month later, I went again with Wojt and a few of his friends, to Les Arcs, which was great, we had great snow. It was the first time I’ve ever been to a catered chalet. The chalet girl who was supposed to be cooking for us was useless at cooking, we ended up asking if we could do it ourselves, which she didn’t seem to take too badly, and she would sit and watch TV whilst Claudia and Wojtek would be making dinner. Much tastier.