Friday, 19 February 2010

The end?

When i last posted i was in Phuket, with only about a week left. The last couple of days went by, the day before i left Donnarie was finally leaving so i walked with her to the bus station with some food. Hopefully I'm going to do some editing work for her in the future, if i get round to getting a copy of final cut pro that isn't going to cost me a house. One thing I had decided on while traveling was that, as much as I enjoy video editing, i don't think i want to do it as a career, as it wouldn't be fun to do anymore. So I've made a few contacts who have some footage/will have, and will let me play with it and put it together. Anyways, me and donnarie had this really nice seafood/coconut soup and rice, but didn't really have any way of eating it. Once we got to the place that she had booked a ticket, they brought out a table, plates and cutlery, so we were eating beside this road. A little bit surreal.

The next day i was flying to Penang from Phuket, so after packing up my stuff and saying goodbye, i walked towards the bus station. About a minute after i left, i was walking along the pavement when a bunch of people were coming the other way, so i stepped onto the road to walk. After several months in Asia i was quite happy that i had managed to avoid falling over/walking into things, because there is plenty of opportunity to do just this. Well, somehow, i didn't see the little hole in the road that i managed to put my foot in, and so stumbled, and fell over onto my knee, with the weight of my backpack coming down on me as well. I'm sure it looked pretty funny, but i was on the ground going 'ow.' A lot. It was hilarious. So a bunch of locals crowded around to help me. One woman was keen to drag me off to the hospital, but that wasn't i was so keen on, them giving me a big bill just to say it's fine. So i couldn't stand on it straight away. Another woman started rubbing tiger balm on my knee, which helped. If you don't know what tiger balm is, it's basically unicorn tears. It cures all ailments it seems. Mythical. I managed to stand up, but it was hurting a fair bit. I felt a bit better because another local had shown me a huge scar on his leg from where he had fallen over, so i felt a bit less stupid. But not much.

I was half tempted to walk back to the hostel, because i definitely needed to ice it and rest it. Only problem was, i had a flight to catch, and it was important i started wandering down in the direction of Singapore. So i tried to walked it off, walked to the bus station. Got on the bus. Ahhhh, sitting down. Then of course, 'oh, actually we're gonna take this other bus to the airport', so i limp off and switch buses. About an hour to the airport. Huge queues just to get into the place, as every bag has to be scanned before you go in for some bizarre reason. Somehow i managed to spot a sneaky opportunity to jump ahead a bit. Well, i wasn't in England, the usual queuing rules don't apply :D. Even despite my sneaky-ness, it was still pretty painful to stand on. Get inside, eventually check in. I was flying with firefly, who are a subsidiary of Malaysia airways. For some reason, after my fall, i was thinking, maybe it was a sign! Maybe I'm not supposed to be on this plane! Haha. Well, when i saw the plane, i was a little more worried. It's the smallest plane i've been on, it had proper propellers and everything! There were only two seats either side of the aisle. But yeah, surprisingly, i didn't die, and this blog isn't being written by a ghost, although i think that would be an interesting twist.

So into Penang airport. Apparantly there was a free bus into Georgetown which was about half an hour away. I met three English girls but they didn't seem to have any idea where they were going. So they followed me hoping to find this free bus. It seemed nobody knew anything about it, so the girls went off to change some money, then i managed to find the one guy who did know about the free bus, and there was one leaving right then, so i jumped on and off i went. Had to get off at komplex komtar, then walk about 15 minutes to the place i was staying. I'd booked my hostels in Penang and kl because everything was a lot busier with Chinese new year coming around, and it made life a whole lot easier. Anyway, the place i booked, i walked up to it, and it looked incredibly regal and posh from the outside, so i was thinking, have i got the right place? Penang is cool because the east India trading company rocked up to it one day and said 'right, this is our island'. It's a small island just off the west coast of Malaysia. So a lot of the building have a definite colonial/british feel to them. And when all this was happening, people came from all around because there was lots of opportunities for work etc, so all these cultures came together and mixed. Penang is without a doubt the greatest place for food that i went to.

It has the usual Chinatown and little India, but there's another culture, particularly focused around the food, called 'baba nonya'. It's the mixture of Chinese and Malay culture, and it meant they had some of the craziest, amazing food. Lots of street vendors making tasty, spicy, sweet, salty awesomeness. Mmmmmmm. I ate so much food while i was in Penang. Incredible. Highlight would be the most amazing satay sauce i've ever had. I walked into a bit of a grimy looking place, out it came, just so tasty. Mmm.

What else did i do in Penang? Well, i went to the museum, which was pretty interesting, mostly focused around the east india trading company taking over the island. There was a lighthouse on the seafront (suprisingly) which i climbed up. Incredible views for miles around (again, shocking. Who'd think to put a lighthouse where it could be seen from everywhere?) There was a big mall, the place where i had got off the bus originally. It's just insane walking around these places. One moment you are walking down some tiny little street, with quaint/old school architecture, bustling street markets, great smells wafting around, it all feels very real. And then you can go into some huge 7 story mall, a proper cathedral of consumption, with hundreds of people buzzing around, and it feels like this place is more capitalist than we are. Crazy world.

I also met a Canadian guy who had been on an Outward Bound course, but he'd gone to the west coast one, so it wasn't as surreal as it could have been. Following Penang i bussed down to Kuala Lumpur, which took about 5 hours. Conmfiest coach seats ever. Oh wow. Didn't really want to get off. Partially because i was intimidated by the big crazyness of the city, or at least i was at first. Anyway, we got dropped off somewhere, so i set off in search of the nearest MRT or monorail station, as my accomodation was right next to a monorail stop. Well, i wandered past the bus station, found a MRT station, had to go back to KL Sentral so i could hop off and jump on the monorail. So back to KL Sentral, stopped for a KFC. This was one of these days where i spent a rather long time walking around with my 14kg backpack on in the hot, sweaty heat. And so my entire back, and so therefore my tshirt, was covered in sweat. Fun times. But luckily the back was just solidly covered in sweat. So it sorta looked like the back of my tshirt was a much darker shade of the front. Genius.

So i wandered over to the Monorail, and rode the monorail, and got off the monorail. Amazing fun. Got off at bukit bintang. Apparantly my place was right opposite the stop. So i went down the stairs, and the area felt quite times square/piccadilly circus. I was thinking, no way can my hostel be here?! But it was. Next door to a mcdonalds. Up two flights of stairs. On the first floor was a massage place. I walked in there originally, they looked like this happened quite a lot. But i got into the hostel, nice place. Have a much needed shower. I figured it would be wise to go and buy a bus ticket for when i go to Singapore, seeing as it's chinese new year in a few days, so it'll probably be pretty busy. So i ask where the bus station is, same place i got dropped off at pretty much. The guy at the hostel tells me it's just a 15 minute walk away. Curses. I wandered around and rode two different transit systems to get to the place, when i could have just walked for 15 minutes. My way was way more fun though. Terrifying locals with my intense sweatyness. Mmmm.

Had a bit of a wander in the evening. There was a really awesome drum circle going on in the middle of Bukit Bintang. They knew what they were doing. A few people wandered into the middle and started dancing, one of them was actually doing the 'disco dancing' you see at the beginning of Borat. It was great. But yeah, that was good fun. Back at the hostel, the guy in the bunk beneath mine was this older american guy, who had the hilarious habit of narrating everything he did. Funny for about 30 seconds, not so much after that.

Next day i wandered. Oh boy did i wander. Twas the day before chinese new year, so there was plenty going on in keeping with that. I was wandering around chinatown, found a market area, the usual crap but in a different place. Handbags, watches, sunglasses etc. Then up a sidestreet I stumbled upon a dragon show. Awesome stuff. Basically this long rectangular base with about 15 poles sticking up, different heights, with a small bit of space to stand on. Then the dragon, with one person on another's shoulders inside, did all these crazy moves, jumping around from platform to platform. That was good stuff. I remember being a bit of a let down at lunchtime, i saw a nando's and thought why the hell not. Oh it was good. After this i wandered over to merdeka square where they declared independance in the 1950's. It's pretty much just a big field, and a giant flagpole, and a fountain. It's a nice city just to wander around. Cool sights and smells, great transit system. For dinner i went to a massive food court in the bottom of a mall, but it was a good food court, lots of good regional food. It was pretty entertaining at the entrance of the mall, there's just a big huge fountain, with a whole load of kids just standing around in groups, trying to look cool. Made me chuckle.

Met a few people in the evening in the hostel, including a guy who was on the same flight from singapore to london as me on monday. He was flying from KL to Singapore, so we decided we were racing each other to see who would get to Singappore airport first. My money was on him. Midnight rolled around and we got some fireworks for the start of chinese new year. Year of the tiger! Grrr. It was cool wondering past some shops, they would have the usual torso's with clothes on, but they'd have the head of a tiger. I'm wandering if they do the same for the year of the rat. Not so much.

The next day was cool. I wandered over to the petronas towers, which were once the tallest skyscraper in the world (of course there is two of them). You can get up crazy early to go get a ticket for the skybridge, but i didn't have a great desire to do this as i've seen a fair few cities from up high before. But anyway, it was great to wander around them. The first few levels is just another huge mall. Kuala Lumpur loves them. Looking at clothes and stuff, they were as expensive or more so most of the time. Pah.

After this i took the MRT back down to Chinatown, wandered around for a bit, then took the monorail towards the KL towers. Apparently the views were much better than from the petronas towers. It's perched on a hill, so i walked up a windy road to get to the entrance. Cue more sweatyness. Get inside. Annoyed. Lonely planet said it was 20 ringitt two years ago. I have 40 ringitt left, and wouldn't mind eating tonight. Now, you can pick option a, which includes going up the viewpoint, a pony ride, some jungle thing, and some other rubbish. Or option b, which includes going up to the viewpoint, and a whole load of other rubbish i don't want to do. Both options cost 38 ringitt. Annoying. I just want to go up! I ask, how much just to go up? It will still be 38 ringitt. I just want to go up and have a look! I don't want to ride a sodding pony! Why would i come to a big tower and think, hmmm, you know what? This is great and everything, but it would be better if i could ride a pony. Screw you KL tower. Screw you and your sodding ponies.

So yeah, i chose to eat instead. Always a good call. It was my last night of travels, but i didn't really have any money to go and blow on ponies and beer, which is a bit pricy in malaysia. Well, i have more money, but i would have had to get it out from a bank, which would of charge me, etc. And plus i had a 24+ journey ahead of me the next day. So i watched the road with a couple of English guys. And some other crappy stuff. But it was all good. I went to sleep, dreaming of throwing ponies off the KL tower. I might pay 38 ringitt for that.

Up at 7am. Quick breakfast. Walk to bus station without falling over (go me!). 8.45am bus to Singapore. Hop off and do customs stuff at exit and entry. Into Singapore at about 2pm. Find the MRT. Ride for about half an hour, hop off and switch trains to get to Changi airport. Now, my adoring fans will remember i slept in Changi airport about 5 weeks ago. Pretty rubbish night. I flew into terminal 1, so that's where i slept. And there was nothing out the front, no food places or anything. Well, the train took me in to terminal 2, and this was where everything had been hiding. Have burger king, take 'skytrain' (trying to make a monorail sound more cool than it already is) to terminal 1. There about 3pm. Flight isn't till 11.30pm. Crap.

Why did i come over to terminal 1? Skytrain it back over to terminal 2. Coffee coffee coffee. Wander. Back to terminal 1. Sit down and just people watch for about 1 1/2 hours. Funny stuff. Of course, ipod was lost several weeks ago, and book was a bit heavy. So i watched. Haha. Lost a marble or two. Went and saw if i could check in ridiculously early, turns out i could. So then i had about 4 hours to kill on the other side. Changi airport is fun though. Got to know it quite well. Felt a little like Tom Hanks in the Terminal. There's a bar upstairs somewhere with a pool, that was cool. TV area. Free internet. Bought a copy of Q magazine. Yeeaaahhh. Went to the gate and sat down. Bumped into the guy i mentioned earlier, who'se name is also Dave. I think i won the race, although in reality, i was the biggest loser, as i'd spent 10 hours in an airport. Get on the plane. Airbus 380. YES. Much better than the boeing 740. I really hate flying now. Used to love it, but this trip well and truely sucked the fun out of it. BUT, i was in the middle, with an aisle seat, with an empty one next to me. YES.

Shockingly, i didn't want to see any of the movies. Watched flight of the concordes etc, listened to some music, slept for about 30 minutes. And 14 hours later, boom. 5.30am. London. Drizzle. Grey. Um.

The end

I feel like there are a few tracks that completely remind me of awesome times on the trip. So here goes.

Faithless - We come one: Me and Hamish and our horrific attempt at dj'ing at the Irish bar in Phuket. This was one of the songs i remember massacring.

I am giant - City Limits - Crusing round in Kiwi Dave's car in Christchurch, this song seemed to be on the radio all the time, but twas awesome. Whether we were driving over to the mini golf place, or driving over to the mini golf place (it was closed the first time), good times were had.

Flight of the Concordes - Albi the racist dragon - Somehow Dave hadn't heard this song, so when i burst out with it at the ballroom overhang on an overnighter, it became a bit of anthem. And of course, once Dave knew the lyrics, we wouldn't shut up. Sorry Laura. Dave even drew a special picture.!/photo.php?pid=2904455&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=243024743101&aid=-1&id=514099893

Mogwai - Auto Rock - Very strang this. Just got into Mogwai before i left, and then i find myself in Number 9 guesthouse in Phnom Penh, watching an amazing sunset over the lake, having a beer with splash and some sporadic Italian's, and it came on. Half of me was shocked it wasn't another Akon song, and half of me was shocked that i was hearing a slightly obscure song by a slightly obscure band in Phnom Penh.

Akon - Beautiful - I hate that this is here. Hate hate hate. Most of the time, as a rule, if a place was playing an Akon song, like a restaurant, i wouldn't go in as a matter of principle. But one of the few blurry memories of an insane night on Patong beach with a crew of randomers is this song. I feel dirty. Bleurgh.

And so, perhaps, one day this blog will be resurrected. Who knows how soon. But yeah, that's it. Laters taters.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Little bit more of Indonesia...and a lot more of Phuket

Last time i wrote, i was in Lovina, going snorkeling the next day. And so i did! Wasn't really too sure what to expect, i just kinda got talked into it, figuring it would be something to do as there wasn't a whole lot going on in Lovina. So i got picked up early in the morning from my place, jumped in a minibus as we picked up 9 other people. A bunch of swedish people, two swiss girls and a couple of aussies. We got flippers and snorkels then drove for about an hour to a little harbour, where we jumped onto a boat and travelled for about 20 minutes to the tiny little island we were heading to. It's near gilimanuk if you just happen to be looking at a map of indonesia right now.....So we parked the boat and jumped in, and straight away I was thinking 'wow...all this coral reef.....crazy looking fish swimming around....'and then i stuck my head up out of the water and one of the swiss girls was going 'magnifique!!' or however you spell it, so i swam across with the other swiss girl and there was this sudden huge drop-off, where the coral just stops and descends into nothingness....and all the big crazy fish were just down in the darkness...looking slightly evil. And so we swam along this ledge, amongst hundreds and hundreds of fish, huge shoals that you'd swim straight through....crazy colours....crazy was just....crazy.

So after about an hour and a half of just going wow, we swam to the beach and had some lunch. Then dived back in again. It was just completely insane. It makes me want to do my PADI though and learn to dive, so i can go and check out the deep places, without the slight drawback of drowning....

So then i spent about another 4 nights in Lovina...and looking back at it, i can't really think of anything else all that exciting that happened! I just relaxed, had some great food, swimming, met a few people here and there....but nothing all that exciting really. I was just enjoying my $6 a night watch tower!

So next up i went to Ubud, which is in the middle of Bali. It's a bit like Chiang Mai, kinda artsy and cultural, but i had some really amazing food there. There was a monkey sanctuary there, so of course i wandered over to see that. Tha t was really fun, it had been raining for a couple of hours before i went, and there was this concrete channel that ran through part of it, talking water away. Well, the monkeys were having a fun time running and jumping in and out of that, and playfighting. It's just funny as walking round watching monkeys being monkeys...i want a pet monkey now....that would be pretty sweet :D

Good old lonely planet said there were some good walking trails around on the outskirts, but it wasn't exactly obvious where they started or finished. So i wandered off to try and find one. So i'm pretty sure i was on the right road, and it said the trail started somewhere on the right hand side. So i'm walking along, pretty much to the middle of nowhere it seems, and i reach a river, which means i've gone too far. So i turn back and start following every little trail that leads off to the right hand side. So, i end up at someone's house, then at a spa, then i'm just wandering through a paddy field, figuring the trail has been made by the people that work in them. And eventually the trail stops. Plus the guys working in the fields were looking kinda pissed off. So i walked back pretty quick, and gave up.

After Ubud i went to Padangbai, thinking that i was going to go across to the Gili Islands, which are just off of Lombok. I tried to book transport to the gili islands from Ubud, but apparantly it was too choppy, so i decided to just got to Padangbai and hope the weather situation improves. Everyone i asked in Padangbai either didn't want to take me to the Gili's because it was too choppy, or they wanted to charge me a bucketload to get there. So i spent three nights in Padangbai, it had an ok beach but it mostly seemed to be a place for old europeans to come on holiday. So not all that exciting.....

So i was getting a bit fustrated with Indonesia. After the awesomeness of the previous 4 months, it was all a bit slow. There weren't really all that many backpackers around, and there wasn't really anything that i was desperate to go and do. I sorta wanted to go see Borobodour on Java, but that would mean flying out of Jakarta, which would mean going to Jakarta, which was something i really wasn't keen on. Like most of this trip, nothing was really all that researched before i came, but i wasn't really enjoying my time in Indo. And i still had about 3 weeks decided to go do something else. I fancied going back to Phuket in Thailand, and so booked a flight first to Kuala Lumpur and then up to Phuket. And so then, the next day, off i went. The beauty of Cheap flights, and always space available.

The next day i toddled off to Kata beach on the bus, it was a whole lot busier than it was back in October, as it's now high season, and now the sea is just like a big bathtub, as opposed to crazy waves and bodyboarding that happened in October. So i was sat on the beach and a thai girl who was on the bus wondered over and sat next to me. Turns out she had just finished her third year of med school and was taking a holiday but didn't really know too much about the south as she is from the north east. So we sat around and went for a swim, she asked me if i wanted to come with her to Krabi and Ko Phi Phi, she was going to be staying at her brothers place in Krabi then probably just day tripping to Ko Phi Phi. I was up for it but then we realised that there was no way to contact each other once we got off the bus as she had no access to internet where she was staying. But it was all good because i ended up staying longer in Phuket town and having a bit of a crazy time..

So the next day i was sat outside in the garden for a bit, reading the chronicles of narnia (yeah i'm cool) and then met hamish, from brisbane and donnery from the states somewhere. Watched some movies in the evenings. Then the next day me and hamish set off to try and find this mythical irish bar. We weren't entirely sure where it was so we were wondering around for a fair old while, we ended up asking a bunch of people but none of them had a clue what 'irish' or 'bar' was, so we attempted to act out being 'irish', which was a bit harder than acting out 'bar'. So then we walked into a ford dealership and tried to get directions. One girl came running out and drew a pretty descriptive map, and then also told us about a place called timber hut, which sounds like a really crappy version of pizza hut, but gave us her number for no apparant reason. So we'd been wondering around in the hot sun for a fair old while, and finally we saw it. Success.

We origninally went there because we wanted to watch the tennis, which we can do at the hostel but we just wanted a change of venue, so we got in there....and watched the tennis. And then.....we ended up staying the whole night. It was some guys birthday, there were a bunch of people who lived/worked in phuket town as english teachers etc....well at some point me and hamish ended up on the dj decks. That was entertaining. Of course, at the time we thought we were amazing, but we went back the next day for a few more beers, and found out how rubbish we thought we were. But it was all good fun!

The next few days was just spent not doing a whole lot really. One day i went to patong beach with hamish and pascal, and in the evenings we would just sit outside, drink beer, eat food and meet whoever turned up. There wasn't a whole lot going on in Phuket town, so at one point we decided we should head down to patong beach and stay at the backpackers there. It's where the majority of holidaymakers go, so there's hundreds of bars/clubs etc. So me, hamish, two norweigen guys called eirik and stefan who had been travelling together and two swiss guys called marco and pascal who hadn't been travelling together, headed down. We sorta had some issues with the booking, so three of us had dorm beds and the other three had to sleep in the common area. Although ultimately, when we came back from our first night out at 6am, the sleeping issues wern't really such a massive problem!

So after we arrived, we went down to the beach for a bit. There was this awesome inflatable assault course type thing in the sea, so we went in that. It had inflatable climbing walls, and this one thing called the moonwalker, which was inflatable trampoline platforms with this long inflatable round tube between the two, and the task was to run across without falling off, as it would spin as you ran on it. Well, i went at it for a fair old while, drank a whole lot of salt water and occasionally wiped out just short of the platform, but didn't make it all the way across once. Curses.

In the evening we had some drinks before we went out, then just had a bit of a crazy time really! And then again the next night. But at this point, me and hamish had been drinking every night for about 8 or 9 days, and we'd just been eating crappy food and lying around watching movies during the day, trying to feel better. So the next night i just chilled out at the hostel, and then left the next day.

I was planning on getting a bus, first to hat yai on the border of thailand/malaysia, then down to butterworth and hop on a ferry to penang, but i came back to phuket backpackers, and i'm still here. Whoops. It's just so easy to spend time here. Great food everywhere, so laid back. However, i have booked a flight to penang for wednesday, then i'll go to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, and then i fly home from singapore a week today! Arg!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Last couple of days in Oz and beginning of indonesia

So my last few days in Australia were really good. On the thursday we drove inland to Baural, which is famous because it is where the legend, Don Bradman, first started playing cricket. If you don't know who he is, well, you probably won't be so interested! But there was a really good museum there about him and the evolution of cricket, so that was good stuff. In the evening we went to the italian place we went to the night that i arrived, i had some tasty pasta.

The next day we drove inland to the blue mountains, the reason they are blue is because of the millions of gum trees giving off eucalyptus, which makes everything look blue! So that was cool, we did a couple of smallish walks, saw a couple of waterfalls. In the evening we were back in Sydney, and went to Doyles for fish and chips (the place is famous worldwide...apparently, but i'd never heard of it!). So after we ate that we sat on the top deck with some beers and watched the sun set over Sydney, looked very beautiful!

The next day, i was flying, but not until the evening. So we drove over to bronte beach and walked across to Bondi, where i went for a quick swim, just so i could say that i had! We wandered back, i packed up my stuff and we headed off to the airport. Said my goodbye's to Gaye and Phil, i remember Gaye saying 'look after yourself.....but you've been to Cambodia so i'm sure you'll be fine!' Made me chuckle. Now, i was wearing a tshirt that had stuff written on it in Thai, and i swear i have never felt more like a terrorist than i did with that tshirt on. Everybody kept giving me shifty looks. At least my big ginger beard was gone so i didn't look quite so crazy.

Anyways, when checking in, (first i was flying with qantas from sydney to singapore, then the next day from singapore to bali with air asia, not a logical route, but apparantly it was cheaper) the woman told me that they wouldn't let me get an indonesian visa unless i have proof that im leaving the country....and i said, 'yeah, i'm flying home from singapore on the date shown on this document. But she said that wouldn't be enough. Well, she checked me in and decided to let someone else have to deal with it in Singapore. The flight was fine, landed at about midnight singapore time. Picked up my bag, out through customs.....aaaand sat down on some seats. My next flight wasn't til 10, no point going to a hotel, so i tried to get some sleep in the airport. Not the easiest thing to do in the world. The seats weren't all that comfy, so i gave the floor a go. Plus the place was brightly lit, and then there was a cluster of singaporian girls wandering around staring at me and this other guy. There were a few of us sleeping in the airport. Well, i got about 20 minutes sleep, but that's all i could manage. Not something i'd really recommend!

Once the air asia ticket office opened at 6am, i wandered across and asked about this visa problem. The guy said yeah yeah you have to book a flight. The only problem is, i didn't know when or where i would be leaving indonesia, or where i would want to go to. The indo visa would expire in 30 days, and then 7 days later i'd fly out of singapore, but i didn't want to spend the whole time in singapore. Arg. So i booked a flight from jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on the 10th of feb. Only once i got my indo visa several hours later i bali airport, it said i had to be out of the country by the 9th. Arg. And they get really fiddly about people overstaying. Arg. And once i took my flight to bali and got my visa, they didn't even ask if i had any onward plans. Arg. That's not cool.

So anyways, i landed, took a taxi to Kuta. Originally i wasn't too sure where i was going to go from the airport, and i hadn't really heard too many good things about Kuta from talking to other people that had been there, but i was mucho tired, and it was the closet place to the airport. I wandered up and down poppies gang 1 and 2 trying to find a place to stay, in the end i had a choice between a pretty groggy room for 80,000 ($8) or a much nicer place with a pool but 125,000 + 10% which is something they seem to sneak onto everything. Anyway, i ended up going to the nicer place. So worth it. But as for Kuta itself....well...i didn't think i would like it....and i didn't. It was pretty much as everyone had desctribed it to me. Lots of australians, pretty much all wearing bintang beer vests, wandering around drunkenly.

Essentially it's a place for aussie holiday makers, so you'd get families, couples, groups of guys or girls. But i really didn't see what the place had going for it. If you didn't surf, the beach was out of the question, go for a swim and you'll probably get sucked out by the i was there one morning and high tide had washed up a whole load of dead fish, as well as lots of other get hassled like you're back walking down kao san road, except you don't really expect that when you are walking down a beach. The streets are all narrow and really overcrowded. Well, as you can see, i wasn't such a fan! But i wasn't expecting to be, so it was ok. I stayed for 2 nights before i got a bus to Lovina. I say bus, it was a minibus.....which seemed to double as a mobile swimming pool. It was raining hard when we left and the water came flying in from everywhere, through the ceiling fan, through the sides, but luckily i found it all rather entertaining.

So we picked up and dropped off people on the way, until about 4 hours later we made it to Lovina. The journey itself was cool because i had the chance to see what Bali really looked like, away from Kuta, and it looked amazing. It was mountainous, dense greenery, which reminded me a lot of the road to Pai in Thailand. After the usual attempts by the driver to get us to stay where he wanted us to, i found the place i wanted to stay, called the angsoka. The only problem i'd been having is that the prices lonely planet would say something is would be sometimes nearly 50% less than they are now. So i got to Angsoka, they showed me the list of accommodation, everything was 110,000 or more....except.....except....for a 'rice barn'. Sign me up!!!

Well, i was shown it, and for 60,000 i really wasn't expecting much. But it was awesome! It was this perched little barn, which only really had space for the bed in it, and a little balcony bit attached with a chair and table. It was like a watch tower, and for some reason, i was really rather happy with it. So i dumped my stuff, and went for a swim in the pool. The pool was great, big, and had one of those sunken bars attached to it. Anyways, just after jumping in i got talking to a dutch girl who'se name i'm not even going to attempt to spell, but it's quite dutch, and then shortly after met her friend Fiona who was from Bristol. They'd pretty much done most of SE asia, and were both pretty close to the end of their journeys. Anyway, i asked them about Lovina, and they said it was pretty much a ghost town, even though they only arrived yesterday, they went out to eat and there didn't seem to be anybody else around! So i travelled in a mobile swimming pool for a ghost town? Yes.

Either way, we had some food then agreed to meet up later to go out for dinner. Which we did. We went back to a place where they ate at last night. Had some good food. Then we got chatting with an older aussie guy called Cameron who works with the coastguard over there, stoping drug trafficking and illegal immigrants coming across the ocean. And we were also talking with these two local guys, one of which owned the place we were eating in, and had a friend who ran the dolphin tours that the girls had signed up to do the next morning, so i signed up too.

So we had some more beers with these guys, and ended up wandering up the road to a bar/live music place that was pretty lively. The girls seemed really suprised by how many people were about! Anyway, plenty more beers, then not remembering too much and waking up in my watch tower. At 6 o'clock. From a knock on my door. Oh yeah, dolphin tour. Oops. I'm sure i had set my alarm but luckily jannaka (ok i gave spelling it a go) came and knocked on my door. So i ran down to reception where we were supposed to be getting picked up, at 6am. And waited. And waited. But no one came. Arg. A guy that worked at the hotel said it might be because it was too choppy. Who knows. So back to bed. But then up again, for 9.30, to go and meet the grandson of the last raja of Bali.

I think it was while we were in the restaurant last night that Cameron had told us that he used to be married to someone who used to be married to some kind of supreme being, someone who had been chosen as an enlightened one, and had been related to the last raja of Bali, but then he died, but somehow he ended up meeting this other guy who is the grandson of the last raja of bali, and goes to visit him in his palace every year or so. And he told us that he was going along the next day, and we were welcome to come. So we did.

Cameron picked us us in his rental car at 9.30 and we drove about 25 minutes down the road to singaraja, and eventually found the place/palace. We wandered in, and met the guy, and his wife. And then we sat down and had coffee and some sweet balinese snacks. Such as sticky rice that we had to unpeel from a banana leaf, and then top with coconut and a sweet sauce. And also some crazy fruits, one called a mangostin, i think. It was all a bit odd really, but pretty cool. The guy gave us a tour around, and then eventually it was time to go. We drove back to Lovina, the girls checked out and got some food, then they and Cameron left for Sanur! Shortly after this point i ended up booking a snorkelling day for the next day, then just didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nearly finished in Oz :/

So, going back before christmas, one night we went out with one of phil's old friends. We ended up going to this french bistro place, i had snails for the first time. They were actually pretty good!

For christmas we were staying with friends of phil's called kate and charlie, who live in newcastle which is about two hours north of sydney. They also have two kids called hamish and alexander who were 12 and 9 and proved to be prett entertaining. We went up there on the 23rd because they were having a big party in the evening. So we got to their house, which was really nice, and had a pool but it was empty because they were renovating it. Curses. Before the party, kate had told me that there wasn't really going to be anyone my age, apart someone's daughter. So halfway through the night kate wanders over to me with this girl in tow, and says 'dave, this is jackie, she's your age, ok bye!' Well that was amusing. She was pretty cool, had been to Bali so I picked her brains about that, she's planning some big road trip across the states with a friend as a well. So some time later she leaves with her parents, and so then it's just me with a bunch of drunk middle aged people. Fun times! Crashed at about half 3.

Next day myself, phil, jeremy and the two kids went down to the beach. We took the dog for a walk and went for a swim. Phil always calls me 'boy', and so suddenly everybody was too, even the kids. Although they would say 'boy, do you like being called boy?' In the evening we went out for dinner, which was pretty good. Soon enough twas past midnight, and phil accidently got out jeremy's 30 year old port. But it tasted good :D

Christmas morning, the kids got up early and opened their presents. I can hear hamish playing his electric guitar badly. Excellent. We get up and have some breakfast, and then open our presents. I had some stuff that was sent over from home which was cool, one thing i got was this hilarious tshirt with a picture of some of my family on saying 'we're with you down under!' Cheesy as, but very sweet.

As well as us lot who were already there, a whole bunch more people were coming for xmas dinner, there was 24 of us in total. And just as we sat down on the veranda to eat, the rain came, and didn't really go away for about 2 days. Felt just like home! But it was a great christmas day. Most of the people who came were expats, as are kate and charlie so that's not that much of a suprise really!

Boxing day, i can't really remember too much of. Not that i was drunk, i just can't remember! Remember taking the kids and the dog for a walk. Hamish and alexander were big fans of me, mostly because i was one of the few people who didn't tell them off! They were a bit spoilt and got away with quite a lot, but so do most kids. I remember when we went for a walk, i was walking the dog, while alex was on his longboard and hamish was on this other wiggly board thing. Anyways, i was just on the road and a car was coming, so i jumped off and accidently bumped into hamish who was flying past on the pavement on his board, and sent him flying onto the grass. Whoops. He was fine though!

On the 27th we went to Nelson bay which is about an hour away further north, to see steve and oonagh. We went to a pub for a while, then came back to their place, as they have a bar in their basement. Awesome. That was a good day. The next day we came back to Newcastle, and went to see sherlock holmes in the evening which i was pretty happy about. I love the stories but was worried that they were going to ruin it, but it was pretty good! Next day we came back to Sydney. A couple of friends of phils fron england had flown in on boxing day and were staying at his place, so we came back and met them, and then went out for dinner. Can't think of much else that happened between then and new years. We were originally planning to just have i at phils place, as you can see the bridge from his place. But a couple of days before he went to see his friends new house which cost something crazy like 8 million dollars, and mostly its that expensive because of the view. It looks straight out over the harbour. Awesome. So we went round around 8ish. They have fireworks at 9pm for kids, which were awesome enough by themselves! Then from 11pm there would be a few random ones just to build up the tension, thn 12pm hits. Boom. Lots of boom. Fireworks are set off on the water as well as n the bridge. They were pretty epic. Went on for about 15 minutes altogether.

Some time later we went for a walk on the beach down below, and then eventually started walking back home. It was fun walking home, with people walking past and wishing you happy new year, as well as seeing all the people trying to get a taxi, which is pretty much impossible to do. I overheard one girl on the phone to a friend who said ' oh my god i hate everything right now'. I laughed. She didn't look amused. I offered her a piggy back service. She looked even less happy. I laughed some more. It was a good time :D

Next couple of days we didn't do too much, on the 3rd we went the scg to watch the cricket, aus vs pakistan! In the morning we went to the gym first (which is part of the cricket ground. We had some breakfast, and it started drizzling. So they called off the start. The food area filled up, and we ended up sharing with an old aussie guy, an old kiwi guy and his grandson. So we had some fun talking about cricket and rugby, mostly just phil and the older guys remeniscing about stuff before my time! Eventually the rain stopped and play started at 2pm. We were in the members section, which meant wearing long trousers and a collared shirt. But it was pretty cool because we had the two dressing rooms and balconies behind us! Anyway, the cricket was awesome, australia decided to bat for some criminal reason and ended up all out for 130. I did find myself cheering a bit too loudly when the aussies were getting out, especially as i was pretty much surrounded by aussies :D

I went again the next day, but by myself as phil had a rugby reunion. His gym membership meant we could get in for free which was pretty sweet. It was a pretty dull day though compared to the day before as pakistan batted pretty slowly. And of course, now that its several days later, even though the aussies were 200 behind after the first innings, they still managed to win. Bastards! Well, the day after the 2nd day i slept in as i'd been getting up early a fair bit, and going to the gym quite often too. So i just read and sat in the sun.

The next day, which was yesterday, i went to Wollongong to go and see Fi! I got up early and walked to sydney central station, bought a ticket ($13 for a return, two hours each way, that would cost bucket loads in england!). The journey was pretty scenic, then i hopped off at north wollongong and saw fi. She's a friend from the second time i went to canada when she was working as an instructor, but originally she had been a gap student like me, the year before i was there! So i was there for a year and heard about her loads, and it was cool that i got to meet her when i went back for the 2nd time! We had a pretty chilled day, lying on the beach, fish and chips and then had dinner at her place. It was really awesome to catch up with her, and hopefully it won't be too long til i see her again. She's keen to come over to the uk on a work visa at some point, particularly as her co gap student was a scot, and they are still close friends. It's been really good being able to catch up with old friends while on my travels, and hopefully one day they'll come through my neck of the woods when they are over!

I came back in the evening and there was a party going on, the couple that were staying at phils place as well were leaving the next day, the guy called nick used to play rugby over here at one point back in the 70's. So phil invited over a bunch of guys from those days, but by the time i came back they were well on their way to drunkville.

And so now i'm up to date. Yaaay. We're off the blue mountains tomorrow which should be good, then i fly on sunday to singapore, where i'll be sleeping in the airport (yay) and catching an early flight to bali! I've started reading up on indonesia to figure out what i'll do, and i think i'll start in kuta, which sounds pretty crazy, then head up to lovina, which sounds a bit more laid back. Then wonder westwards towards yogyartka, to see borobodur etc. And then beyond that i don't really know yet! Should be fun. I think it's going to be more of a challenge (once out of bali) to get around etc then the other places in asia i've been too, bt i'm looking forward to the challenge! And not even slightly jealous of the snow. :D