Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Well.. not much to tell really. My flight to London was via Singapore so I decided to tick the box and spend some time here just to say "I've done it..". Well, I've done it. Not much to tell really. It's a pleasant enough place to visit, but really for my money, not worth the 4 days I spent here - maybe 2 days would be enough? Three points to share.. Singapore is:

  1. Wet - like, really wet,
  2. Humid,
  3. Tiny! You can walk end to end it seems, in a day..

Check out some pics if you like (the rest are here):

1 - Me in Chinatown (I love that every city has it's very own...)



2 - Now that's rain!



3 - My lil buddy KMR wearing his new hat.. (yep, got bored...)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The calm before the storm part 2 - Thailand_

So we left Bruce Lee and co. and made our way to the train to Kansai Airport... so we thought. There may have been a brief moment where we thought we were on the wrong train.. well, right train, but wrong direction!! We nearly jumped off in a panic, and gave a small Japanese grandpa a heart attack in the process, but thankfully realised just at the last minute that we were in fact AOK and eventually arrived at Kansai.. 5 hours early!! No complaints though, it gave us a great excuse to sit around doing not much at all and not feel even a hint of guilt about it!

After chilling out for a bit we got our butts up and went through customs etc where, oddly enough - in stark contrast to everywhere else in Japan where there seems to be an overabundance of staff (from police that guide traffic even when the lights are working, to a woman watching the woman cleaning the train and we of course can't forget the man pointing to the man pointing to the other man giving traffic directions!!!) - there were only 2 customs officers on duty.. bah, how annoying! Nevertheless, we got through quite quickly and had some more chill out time to contemplate our next and final destination - Koh Samui, Thailand.

14/06/2010 4:00am Welcome to Thailand.. Tough start to the day today.. we arrived at 3:40am only to find that the security check that you have to go through to get into the transit lounge didn't open til 5am and we were stuck in a thoroughfare with literally one bench to sit on for an entire flight of people!! We ended up sleeping on the hard, cold, tiled floor until our backs ached.. thankfully around the same time the security gate opened! Another punishing few hours in the transit lounge waiting for our 9am flight.. the sounds in an airport really do get repetitive after a while. In particular this time on the travelator, a whiny voice kept reminding us that the "End of the waaaalkway" was approaching.. this, along with two loud "BeepBeep! BeepBeep!" could be heard through the whole f%^&*ing airport!! It's difficult to strike the balance of arriving at an airport too early and having to put up with this stuff while you wait, or cutting it too fine and having to rush. Thankfully I won't be spending too much time in airports over the coming year!!

14/06/2010 9:00am Come on Koh Samui.. Finally on the plane.. hopefully we make it to Koh Samui on this tiny little old rattly 70 seat plane!! Oh well, if not, at least I get to enjoy a aeroplane flavoured devon roll in my last hours.. mmmmm, yum!

14/06/2010 11:30am Hello Koh Samui.. Please will you show us to our bags.. yes, our bags please.. can we have them. Our Bags? You know, the place in which our entire lives currently exist?! Umm, where are our bags!? A scary start to our beachside holiday, but thankfully our bags did in fact arrive.. it's just that we didn't have a sticker.. what sticker you ask? We still don't know...

My first impressions of this place are that it's still very old, run down, and not at all as established as I thought it would be. I had images of 100% beautiful island resort style everything! Not quite the case!! Our arrival at the haven amongst the dilapidation that is our Bandara Resort is a welcomed contrast. This place is absolutely gorgeous. (And to think, we paid A$50 per person per night here, compared with about A$30 for hostel living in Japan!!). Off to the pewl!!






15/06/2010 9:00am hmmm.. I'm not sure if last night was just a horrible dream, or if the streets of Koh Samui really are that bad! On advice from the hotel we made our way to Chaweng which is where the tourists generally go. What a horrible place. We were both so overwhelmed and honestly, disappointed and wondering if we made a bad call to come to Koh Samui. The place was just teaming with seediness! From the guy who forced a handshake and had what may have been leprosy (eww.. I'm glad I didn't take his hand with me!! ;o) ).. to the man who tried to sell us "Aussie Beef" and even gave us a taste test - we can't help but think it may have been some other meat (vomit!) and move quickly on until we find a reasonable looking place that serves pizza and beer. The beer was very good... the pizza.. mmm, not so much. Another round of beers thanks.



We decided today that we'd hire a car and go for a drive around the island at our own pace and in air conditioned comfort.. it's so damn hot here that the A/C temperature control only has various levels of cold - no hot! Our little Honda did a great job getting us on the road and handle the crazy traffic really well. We weaved our way through the traffic and stopped for some markets and bits and pieces here and there and finally stopped for lunch at a great spot with a gorgeous view overlooking the water. When we hit the road again after lunch we decided to wing it a little and take a few turn-offs here and there. Seemed like a great idea until we appeared to be driving on private property with signs in red Thai writing that we decided said "Trespassers will be shot!". Needless to say... we kept going. The guards must have been out of bullets that day...









I didn't realise until the end of the day when I was so exhausted, how much hard work it was to concentrate on the scooters, trucks, dogs, children, chickens, farmers, water buffalo, cats, oh and of course cars that were on the road.. it didn't stop there though. After a rest and a freshen up back at Bandara, we decided to head to a restaurant called Orgasmic. Well it certainly was!! The food - Modern Thai - was so good. Our experience tainted only by the fact that we had not a lot of cash on us, and the restaurants credit card facilities were out of order! We cut it fine, but some covert notes and calculations got us well fed, suitably boozed, and under budget!! Back to resort for some cocktails on the beach. Sadly, we were the only ones there.. well, aside of course from the WATER BUFFALO being taken for a walk by its owner down the beach!! Couldn't believe it!! Only in Asia..




16/06/2010 7:00pm Sunburnt and satisfied in the Samui of Koh.. Peeeeow!! What a day!! Up at 7am today for an 8am pick up to go snorkelling. I was super excited, but very disappointed to see lots of yuck clouds in the sky. In fact, there wasn't even a touch of blue and it was as far as the eye could see. Thunderstorms were the forecast of the day.. But we pushed on through and went for it, boardies, towel, sunnies and suncream in tow hoping for the best. Well, initially we didn't exactly get what we had hoped for. The 1½ boat trip north to Koh Tao took us deep into the eye of a rainstorm but mercifully spat us straight back out the other side into glorious, skin-searing, paint-peeling, sand-scorching, mood-lifting sunshine!! And so it remained for the entire day. We snorkelled at two spots around Koh Tao before moving on for lunch a great little place called Buddys for what turned out to be a really surprisingly nice Thai meal. YUM!

After lunch we were back on the boat to Koh Nangyan for some more snorkelling, and the piece de resistance, when our guide took just Beth and I out past the roped off section and to some really impressive coral. It was great being with him as he was showing us some really cool things, and even pointed out what was OK to touch and not. We enjoyed that for a good hour or more and then made our way back to the boat to head home from 3. It was around this time we realised how burnt we were.. well, more Beth on the backs of her legs and neck. The boat trip home was spent sheltering from the sun, enjoying cold water and coke, and then some fresh cut pineapple and cold hand towels! Just what the doctor ordered! Turns out we were even more burnt than first thought.. ah well, nothing a hot shower, some aloe gel, and say.. 102 Singha beers couldn't fix!!

The following is documented - letter for letter, dot for dot - the contents of my notebook which evidently came out with us that night. Please don't judge us.

""She" might be a man."

"I think she's serious."

"I don't like Mondays."

"Tell me why!!"

"The whole day long"

"do doo do dooo"

"Love you long time"

"She has man hands..."

"They are as soft as heaven."


Needles to say, it was a big night. Matched only by the hangover the next day! Oh look we even wrote our names on the wall..



18/06/2010 5:00pm Fisherman's Village Bo Phut - Walking Street.. turns out it really is a walking street.. on Friday nights only, and even then there's no guarantees there'll be cars or scooters screaming up behind you! Lots of fun, markets and stalls and people and cars and dogs and just.. stuff happening!! Knowing this is how good it gets, I wish I was able to stay longer, but alas this is the last night before having to head home to Sydney to prepare for Europe!

20/06/2010 6:30am 45 minutes from landing in Sydney.. the sky above the clouds is absolutely incredible. A view of Sydney you just don't get to see that often! The bluest of blue sky graduates to the deepest of deep orange as the sun tries to light up the sky.. gorgeous! We eventually land, and as we hit the ground realise just how lucky we've been with the warm weather as we're met by 11ºC! Quite a different from the 30+ we've been having! Back to reality for a short moment, but now straight into Europe prep.. next post will be Singapore methinks.. until then...


More Thailand photos


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The calm before the storm part 1 - Japanland_

A whirlwind account of 9 days in Japan, and 5 in Thailand before the European adventure begins..

4/6/2010 10:30am Departure day.. I finally get all packed up and out of my unit. I'm sad, but it feels great to have it done, and be moving onto my next big thing! I Can't believe I've been there for more than 2 years. Lots of fun was had there! Of course, while I am running around like a nut, Beth (my best friend and travel buddy for the next two weeks) is getting a pedicure!! "We're going to Japanland, we're going to Japanland!!"



4/6/2010 10:00pm Bangkok Airport, Thailand.. It's 31ºC. It's 10pm. 31ºC!! Our glasses fog as we get off the plane and dart across the tarmac to the shuttle bus. We had an OK flight, but this long distance travel thing really isn't that much fun at all! Whoever said it's all about the journey must be mad!! I sat opposite a cute girl the whole way though, so it wasn't all bad! Time for Japanese lessons from Bethy.. I think I learnt surprisingly well considering the flight, and that the time we were running to was 2am Sydney time...

5/6/2010 6:30am Kansai Airport, Osaka, Japan.. Touchdown! It's a gorgeous day, and had a great sleep on the plane. Straight on the train to Kyoto now for three days of head down, ass up temple hopping. So many beautiful temples and shrines to see (more than 1,600 in fact!) in Japan's former imperial capital city. My absolute favourite was the Fushimi-Inari shrine. Thousands of the Torii (gates) line the walkways for kilometres up and around and back down the side of a mountain. Such a beautiful peaceful place.



If ever you get a chance to visit, hire pushbikes whenever you can.. that way you'll be able to find the "real Kyoto"... you may however end up with a tainted taint.. ;o)



8/6/2010 6:00am Hiroshima bound.. We left Kyoto with heavy eye lids after an early start, but a bounce in our step bound for a day and night in Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped. The trip there on the Shinkansen (270km/h bullet train) was fantastic, and with our JR passes (these things are priceless) we strolled on through every gate like VIP's! Hiroshima is an amazing place. After being completely wiped out by the bombing, the place has truly grown back to life. Experts said it would be unlikely that anything would ever grow here again, but the greenest of green trees and grass prove them completely wrong. There is an obvious sense of defiance in the air as you wander through the peace park, just next to what's left of the last remaining building after the blast. A deeply emotional place that took me a little by surprise. It's worth spending a few un-rushed hours there and at the museum to absorb it all.




We also visited a pretty little island called Miyajima which is covered in dear, but is quite beautiful. Again, our JR passes did the trick - $18 ferry trip for free!




We stayed the night in a great little hostel called J-Hoppers. Absolutely recommended. The atmosphere and facilities here were fantastic!


9/6/2010 12:00pm Tokyo.. Ouch! Annoying and difficult from the moment we arrived! Whilst the JR passes are great, they only work on JR owned lines and most trains in Tokyo aren't JR! Got ourselves sorted, but what a punish! We spent the afternoon in Asakusa, then made our way to our friends Vinnie and Jo's place which was like an oasis! So nice to stay in western accommodation! Then of course, what else do you do in Tokyo of a night time? Karaoke!! Til 4am apparently..





The next morning was a slow start, but we spent a cruisy day making our way through the rest of Tokyo city, to Shinjuku, Shibuya etc. For me, I think Tokyo needs a lot more time to allow yourself to really enjoy it. On the surface it's a bit full on, a bit touristy, and not much depth.. but I suspect if you could spend a few weeks there, and better yet, with a Japanese local in the know, it would be even better! I will have to come back methinks!



11/6/2010 1:00pm Takayama.. What a gorgeous little town this is! Easily my favourite location of the whole trip. Located high in the mountains, this sleepy little village was just what we needed after a hectic couple of days and nights in Tokyo. So pretty and easy going. We hired bikes for the afternoon, night, and next morning thanks to the lovely bike shop owner who let us keep them overnight.



We ate like kings at the local Yaki Niku (translated means 'cooked meat') restaurant where we were served beautiful beef and the freshest vegies to cook ourselves on the hot plate. SO delicious. Then off for a few Asahi's with KMR.. a good night was had by all ;o)




A hungover and slow start to the next day as you might expect.. the perfect way to spend a morning in sleepy Takayama! Souvenir shopping and relaxing is the order of the day today. Back to Kyoto in the afternoon for one last night there, an afternoon in Osaka with Beth's friends (including Bruce Lee!), then off to Thailand tomorrow night!




More Japan photos