Friday, September 30, 2011

Gunung Merapi

I managed to persuade Nev to do a trek up Gunung Merapi the same night, although I don’t think he knew what he was letting himself in for.  Gunung Merapi as I previously mentioned is an active volcano, in fact it had its last eruption just a few months beforehand with thousands of villagers being evacuated, but we were assured that it would be dormant for our climb.  It stands tall at over 2900m, we would start the climb at about 1400m, so it was the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis.  We set off at 10pm to the small village of Selo where we would start the accent at around 1am.  This is so we would reach the summit for dawn. 

The driver was over 40 minutes late, and we were immediately aware that something wasn’t quite right about his demeanour.   There were only three of us on the trek, we were joined by a Swiss guy called Chris.  Chris and Nev were in the back seat of the car, while I opted for the front seat.  While leaving town we noticed the drivers driving was becoming more erratic.  At first I thought he was avoiding pot holes until at one point he swerved onto the wrong side of the road.  We shouted at him until he made corrective measures.  At this point we knew that he was very drunk, and I said to Nev, “this guy’s steamboats”.  We then made the decision to get the driver to stop immediately and we would then try and get a taxi back to town.  He stopped the car and we got out.  We went to a nearby restaurant and asked some locals if they knew how we could get a taxi.  One of them said that he could go and get a car and drive us back himself.  During this time the drunk driver was on the phone arranging for one of his mates to take us to Selo instead.  He negotiated with us that if his sober mate would take us that we could still do the trip.  I was super keen as if we didn’t do it that night, we wouldn’t do it at all and I managed to persuade the others to carry on.  So we waited for the alternative driver, and when he did turn up he was sober.

We arrived in Selo at a guesthouse had a cup of tea and met our guide.  He was quiet and a slightly built chap.  He was dressed for the occasion with a jumper, warm jacket, beanie, scarf and gloves.  Myself and Nev then realised that were totally unprepared for the weather up top, with just a t-shirt and summer jacket to shield us from the cold.  We set off at around 1am, the immediate start of the climb was up a long steep paved road.  It then started to get a lot more tough, the path was made up of sandy dusty mud which gave very little grip and it was extremely easy to lose your footing.   Added to this that it was pitch black it made for a difficult accent.  When we were approaching the top it started to get very windy and very cold.  Our guide said it was too dangerous to proceed in the dark, and he knew somewhere we could go to rest until dawn.  He steered us to a wicked cave that was sheltered from the wind.  We then tried to get a bit of rest.  It was around 4am at this point and we were all rather tired.  My clothes were soaking with sweat and as we’d stopped walking, I started to get very cold indeed.  I curled up in a ball with me hands under my armpits to try and preserve my body heat. 

The Cave
We lay there for an hour, I maybe got about 5 minutes sleep whilst shivering constantly.  Then something marvellous happened.   I felt as if someone was shining a light in my face, I opened my eyes and the cave was no longer in complete darkness.  I stood up and noticed the beginning of the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen.  I left the cave stepping over Nev and Chris and looked out into the distance.  From our vantage point you could see for hundreds of miles in each direction, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  The sun was just below the horizon casting off magnificent colours of red and crimson.  I woke up the rest of the group and we watched as the crest of the sun eventually came into view.  It was still rather windy and very cold, but we could now feel growing warmth with the ever rising sun.  In the dawn light the stunning location of Gunung Merapi became evident.  On our climb up we were aware of the silhouettes of some volcanoes.  Now in daylight we could see how many there were and how cool they looked.  They all had the classic pyramid volcano shape and we were surrounded by them. 

The Surrounding Volcanoes

Myself and Nev at the Summit

Sunrise at the Summit
 Our guide said it was time to proceed, I was quite eager to start climbing again to get my body heat up.  It got windier the higher we got, we crossed a plateau and the summit was now in view.  Due to the recent eruption there was no easy path to the summit.  There was loose shale all the way to the peak, and as it was blowing a gale, our guide refused to go to the top as it wouldn’t be safe.  I tried to work on him, but he wouldn’t budge.  We instead climbed a smaller peak just below the summit and stood there a while taking in the breath taking scenery.  We then decided it was time for our decent.

Our Decent with Gunung Merapi in the Distance

The decent was probably more challenging than the climb, Nev spent most of the time sliding down on his arse.  We eventually got down had a rather tasty breakfast of some Indonesia style pancakes and then got our ride back to Yogyakarta.

As we’d been up all night we had a good rest and arranged to meet Chris for dinner.  The previous day we pre-ordered some snake for a curry.  It was tasty but the shear amount of bones made eating it to become a bit of a chore.  We had a couple of drinks and got an early night.

Our final destination in Indonesia was to be Bali from where we would catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur.  We didn’t know exactly how we were going to get there.   We noticed a tour advertised which would take us to Kuta door to door and bag a couple of famous Java sights enroute.  It was cheap and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011



We didn’t stay in Jakarta for long, it was a bit too chaotic and too big a city to want to linger in.  We decided to move onto Yogyakarta, a much smaller city and Java’s cultural capital.  It’s also very close to some ancient temple sights, Prambanan and Borobudur. 

Much like Jakarta, Yogyakarta had a back packer district a stones through away from all the action.  We took the train from Jakarta which was a pleasant enough journey.  When we arrived we were a bit late in finding a Guesthouse or Losmen as they are called in Indonesia, and most were fully booked.  We ended up settling for a really cheap Losmen for £1.50 a night each, with the view to moving somewhere the next day.  This never happened as Anda Losmen although being a bit grim, had a nice family atmosphere and it was super cheap.  It was so cheap in fact that when we visited Borobudur we effectively used the room as baggage storage. 

The next day we had an adventurous journey to Borobudur.  We had to get a couple of buses from near our Losmen to the main bus station.  We left our big rucksacks behind and travelled with a little day bag.  This turned out to be a good decision as the buses were jam packed.  It was quite a novelty for the locals to see a westerner on a local bus.  When the bus was a bit quieter and we got a seat I looked towards the back and every single person was looking at us at the same time with great interest.  It was relatively easy getting our onward bus to Borobudur, the minibus had the destination displayed on the windscreen.  We hopped on and immediately got chatting to some Indonesians  who invited us to join them fishing.  Again we had to pass on another chance to mix with the locals as we had a bit of a schedule top keep. 

We hadn’t booked any accommodation for our first night in Borobudur, so when we arrived we went for a wee wander.  We eventually found one guesthouse with an extremely friendly and helpful owner. 

Borobudur is a small town, probably about the size of my home town of Dingwall which has a population of around 6000.  Most people come to Borobudur on a day trip from Yogyakarta as it’s fairly close, so there aren’t that many guest houses or restaurants around.  We settled in and then decided to make our first visit to the Borobudur temple.

Borobudur is an ancient temple that was lost for hundreds of years and only recently discovered in the early 19th century.  It’s an extraordinary temple, there is no other building like it on earth.  It has a square base and an almost step pyramid design with nine levels.  It’s a Buddhist/Hindu temple, the bottom six levels have incredibly ornate carvings telling the story of Buddha and his predecessors.  Our guide on our second day had a very good way of describing it as “the biggest story book on earth”.  You can imagine before paper and parchment, and with the low level of literacy, that the common people could come and walk round Borobudur reading it like a Tripitaka (Buddhist bible) picture book.  The top 3 levels have lots of stupas, each containing a Buddha, with a final grand stupa at the peak.  It really is some building.

Myself and Nev Going Native
The location is spectacular, surrounded by palm trees with an active volcano, Gunung Merapi, in the distance.  The temple is impressive both by its sheer size and by the exquisite nature of the sculpture work.  It also has a great story.  It was lost for centuries surviving many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the power of the jungle.  Standing at the top of Borobudur I liked to try to imagine what it would have been like for the Raffles expedition hacking through the wilderness with their machetes and stumbling upon this magnificent temple.  It really is the stuff of an Indiana Jones movie.  

We hired bikes and cycled around the area visiting some smaller temples.  We cycled around Borobudur and it looked really great from every angle.  While cycling around we passed many school children and were greeted with many choruses of “Hello”.   It was a great day until Nev’s chain broke and he ended up having to push his bike home.

Cycling Round Borobudur
The Manohara Hotel has Borobudur on its doorstep.  You get free access to the temple and can also access it before the official opening time.  We stayed in the Hotel for one night and got up at 4:30am for the sunrise.  There was a bit too much cloud cover to see the sun but it was cool being there before the rest of the tourists as it can get pretty mobbed.  It was also great having the approach in the dark, using torches to check out the carvings.  We left the next day to go back to Yogyakarta.

We decided to hire bikes the next day and check out Prambanan, the Hindu Borobudur.  The route suggested by lonely planet was to go by the canal.  We thought it’d be a nice quiet route with only cyclists and walkers but we were wrong.  The canal route was used by motorbikes and any cars that could fit down the narrow road.  We eventually did get out into the countryside by accident and got a wee bit lost.  At one point we had to carry our bike over a bridge in a paddy field with lots of the workers giving us curious looks.  We then found the main road and decided to stick to it and put up with the traffic.  We arrived and Prambanan and parked the bikes. 

Prambanan is a lot more ruined than Borobudur but still as spectacular.  There are lots of different temples each one built for a different Hindu God.  Like Borobudur there are lots of carvings telling the Hindu scriptures but they aren’t quite as ornate.  The complex of Prambanan is huge the amount of construction is on a grand scale.  The outer compound contains the remains of an estimated 244 temples which are mostly just rubble now.  The central courtyard has the big 8 temples and 8 minor temples which have been restored and look great.  Prambanan looks amazing, if it was fully intact it would be mind blowing, it seems that Prambanan has suffered a lot more from earthquakes than its Buddhist equivalent.

The Main Temples of Prambanan
After spending the afternoon at Prambanan we cycled home in the rush hour traffic.  I love ducking in and out of cars, finding small gaps to squeeze into, and having motorbikes around to compete for space made it even more exciting.  Nev on the other hand didn’t have so much fun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I wasn’t eagerly anticipating our visit to Jakarta, I was expecting a sprawling urban mass with terrible traffic and a high level of pollution.  That’s kind of what it was like, but it had a bit of charm too.  We stayed in the Jalan Jaksa area, which was back packer central.  It was a cool place to stay with loads of cheap restaurants and Guesthouses, it was also very central, with most of the main sights within a short walking distance.

After being spoilt with modern cities with good roads and public transport infrastructure it was cool coming to somewhere completely different.  The traffic was totally mental, everybody was driving very quickly and very aggressively.  It can take ages to cross the road, and there aren’t any pedestrian crossings.  You have to cross lane by lane, it can be pretty scary at times when you’re stuck in the middle of the road for a while with cars and motor bikes whizzing by you in both directions.

We saw the main sights in a day, the only one worth mentioning was the National Museum.  It had a vast collection and was very informative.  It was also a great place to go to escape the afternoon sun and we ended up spending a couple of hours there. 

The hospitality in Indonesia was amazing, in fact it could be almost overwhelming at times.  We got chatting to a local guy over a Shisha in Jalan Jaksa.  He was recommending some places for us and he ended up inviting us to stay with him and his family.  I wish we took him up on his offer, but his hometown was too much of a detour for us.  The people in Indonesia are incredibly friendly, when you’re waiting at a train station or on a bus, people instantly try and start up a conversation sometimes with limited English and limited success but they always try.  We had numerous offers of people saying they’d show us around.  We also made about a dozen random photo friends.  Every man and his dog wanted a photo taken with us, it felt like being a minor celebrity.  It’s not that uncommon in Asia for people wanting to get a photo with you, but Indonesia was something else.

Monday, September 26, 2011


We had two main things planned for in Singapore.  One was the Singapore Grand Prix, and the other was a night’s stay in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, another one of Nev’s world wonders.  Due to the timing of the Grand Prix and our Hotel booking we ended up staying for a week, which seemed too long in my opinion, but we ended up making the most of it and we didn’t really get bored.

We arrived in Singapore quite late at night, Nev had made all the Hostel arrangements for Singapore, and in his usual quest to find the cheapest place to stay, he’d booked us in a 12 person dorm.  To be fair I think most of accommodation was fully booked due to the Grand Prix.  The Hostel had an amusing name, “The Beary Good Hostel”.  When we checked in we realised that the Beary Good Hostel played up to its name, there was a bizarre bear theme throughout.  In the reception and the communal areas, there were teddy bears everywhere of all different shapes and sizes.  The room wasn’t too bad, some of the beds were kind of segregated and it wasn’t just one big open space. 

We had a strange encounter with a Chinese guy who was one of our roomies.  His English was pretty appalling, but he was adamant that he wanted to tell us ‘his story’.  We got the kind of gist of what he was saying, he wasn’t happy with the Communist government and was trying to tell us that he and his family had been subject to beatings 15 years ago.  He was getting a bit frustrated that he couldn’t really get his point across so he reached for his rucksack.  He dug out what looked like some blood stained clothes, I looked at Nev and he looked back at me with the same perplexed expression.  The Chinese dude went onto explain that the items of clothing belonged to him and his mother and were from the time when they were beaten, 15 years ago.  I don’t know what’s weirder, carrying around blood stained clothes for 15 years, or launching into this story straight of the bat to a complete stranger.  We took his contact details and vowed that we’d meet up with him when we visited China.

The Beary Good Hostel was in China town, a cheap place to eat and drink.  Singapore is pretty expensive and as I’d spent an absolute fortune in America and Oz it was time to tighten the purse strings.  For most of our meals we ate around China Town and Little India we also ate some street food at various Hawker centres.  The food was good, with a wide variety of Asian food.  One particular highlight was when we visited the ultra posh Raffles Hotel, the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail.  Ofcourse we had to sample the famous drink and it was delicious.   

Supping a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel

The whole of Singapore was gearing up for the Grand Prix, it’s a night time street race, so loads of roads were closed while they set up the barriers and lighting which lead to traffic chaos.  The Grand Prix is a 3 day event, and it’s the biggest event in the Singapore calendar.  There’s a buzz about the city beforehand while the population of Singapore swells with Grand Prix fans from around the world.  It’s like a festival in some ways, a lot of bands and artists were playing in stages around the street circuit before and after the racing.  

We only had tickets for the main event but decided to be around for the warm up day, and for qualifying too.   We watched the cars spin round for warm up from a boat cruise.  We didn’t really have the best vantage point, the cars are very low to the ground and the barriers kind of blocked the view.  While we didn’t see the F1 cars, we could certainly hear them, the noise was deafening. 

For the qualifying day we decided to go up to the top of the Marina Bay Sands and watch from the viewing platform.  The view was pretty amazing, the Marina Bay Sands is opposite the street circuit and it looked spectacular lit up at night.  It was a cool way to watch the qualifying and we thought it would have been packed, but were surprised to find it relatively quiet.  You don’t know what’s going on though, and we accidently left before the qualifying had actually started.  The drivers had a few warm up laps each before qualifying and then had a break before the real thing.  This is what we saw, thinking it was all over when they went back to the pits.

For the main event we arrived a few hours before the start to get a good spot.  We got walkabout tickets, as the name suggests we could walk about the circuit area but weren’t entitled to a seat at any grand stands.  There were a few mini races and a procession lap before the Grand Prix.  The procession lap was mildly entertaining, the F1 drivers were driver round the track in a classic car while waving to the crowd. 

We chose our viewing position carefully.  They had small terraced stands positioned along a couple of the straights, we went for the stand that was right next one hairpin bend, thinking that we might get to see about 1 second of car as it whizzes past as opposed to 1/10th of a second if we stood along the straight.  It was an amazing experience witnessing the incredible speeds the cars are capable of but it’s not really a great spectator sport, unless you are in a helicopter.  The cars are in your viewing window for a few seconds max, if you’re very lucky you may witness an overtaking, a car skidding off the track or even a crash, but it’s only a small portion of the circuit that you can actually see.  It’s quite hard to tell what’s going on, who is winning etc.  Although there were big screens up but you couldn’t hear any of the commentary, due to the extreme noise.  It might not have been a good spectator sport, but it was an incredible experience.  The cars look amazing, they were gleaming in the floodlit light, watching these high tech machines zip around the track with awesome acceleration was simply jaw dropping.  It really was an experience for all the senses, the smell of the burning rubber, and did I mention the noise?  You definitely need earplugs. 

There was some entertainment afterwards but as Linkin Park were headlining we decided to give it a miss and headed back to our Hostel shortly after the race had finished.     

As I mentioned before the other reason we were in Singapore was to visit the Marina Bay Sands.  Our visit was to include one night’s stay.    As we’d been staying in 12 person dorms with shared bathrooms it was a welcome break and we were really looking forward to a bit of luxury.

The Marina Bay Sands is a luxury Hotel and casino resort overlooking the Marina Bay and the Singapore skyline.  It is a strange looking building consisting of three identical buildings which are connected with what looks like a giant boat sat on the very top.  It is a massive building, if you could imagine three Gherkins (famous London building) next to each other with an Eiffel Tower sat across them, that’s the kind of scale of the Hotel.  The boat like structure on top is the Skypark, and is by far the most prominent part of the building.  The Skypark is what makes the Marina Bay sands.  Up the top they have a bar, restaurant, infinity swimming pool, and a viewing platform for non-residents.  The view is something else.  The first day we say the Marina Bay Sands I wasn’t too impressed with the structure, the Hotel buildings are fairly nice to look at, they’re slick and ultra modern but on their own wouldn’t really stand out from the crowd.  Even during my stay I was definitely underwhelmed by the architecture, to me it was just another fancy Hotel and was surprised that Nev had included the building in his list. 

It was a grower though, unlike the Mega Hotels in Vegas it wasn’t at all tacky but rather elegant and it has a great position at Marina Bay as there are no other tall buildings around, although I think a few are in the post. As Singapore is a relatively small city the Marina Bay Sands did feature a fair amount during our visit.  It took me until the Grand Prix day before I really started to like.  The Skypark lights resembled the Grand Prix chequered flags and the end of Grand Prix fireworks display was next to the Hotel.   It was obvious that it was a main focal point in Singapore, and on this particular night it looked pretty damn cool.

The Marina Bay Sands at Night
Our stay lived up to our expectations.  After slumming it in Hostels for a month it was a fantastic treat.  We checked in and proceeded straight to the Skypark.  The view really is outstanding, and what’s more you can see it all while having a swim.  The infinity swimming pool, as the name so suggests, is a rooftop swimming pool with the illusion that the water is going over the side of the building.  We spent the whole afternoon there, swimming around taking photos and had a few drinks.  

The Infinity Pool
There was a club night on in a nightclub called Avalon which was part of the Marina Bay Sands Complex.  Simian Mobile Disco, Kele (from Bloc Party) and Digitalism were playing, it was part of the build up to the Grand Prix.  The tickets were £40 in advance or £60 on the door which isnae cheap, especially for travellers who are on a budget.  We asked at the front desk what the dress code was, and they girl told us it was dress to impress.  I showed her what I intended to wear, and she kind of laughed and told me I would have to buy some shoes if I really wanted to go.  I was super keen and I even managed to persuade Nev which was no mean feat, but didn’t want to fork out £40 with the chance of getting knocked back with no refund.  We decided to wait until opening time and then check the queue.  I borrowed one of Nev’s shirts and changed the white shoe laces in my best trainers for black ones.  Looking smarter than I had done for a long time we went to check out Avalon.  Half the people in the queue had trainers and a bunch were wearing t-shirts, so much for the dress code.  We bought our tickets then headed for the club. 

We managed to blag it into the VIP area, it was fairly small and no way worth the £120 they were charging for a ticket, mental.  There were no free drinks and it was a tenner a beer!  We knew it would be expensive though so we had a few voddies before we left.  It had a crazy layout, every table had a vast array of different glasses, wine glasses , champagne flutes, fancy cocktail glasses etc.  You couldn’t sit down at any of these tables unless you were to order a bottle of Vodka or Champagne or a cocktail jug.  Nobody was sitting down because of this, it was quite a surreal sight, loads of empty tables with hundreds of glasses on them.  Not a very good system.

We only caught a few tracks of Simian Mobile’s DJ set, Kele was rubbish, but Digitalism rocked the place.  The Singaporeans were loving it, they were really going for it, I can only presume that they don’t get big name DJs often as it really seemed like a big deal to some of them.  The venue was cool too, it just opened up a couple of weeks before, and it showed.  It was super modern, the club was a crazy diamond like shape made out of glass.  It was situated on the water and reminded me a bit of the Renfrew Ferry.  We stayed until the end then made the short walk home to our Hotel.

Nice Shirts
The next day we spent a few hours in the morning up on the Skypark then checked out and moved back into our usual budget accommodation. 

After a week in Singapore it was time to move on.  Next stop Jakarta.

Sunday, September 11, 2011



It was a long flight to Sydney, 16 and a half hours to be precise.  I managed to sleep through most of it which was a first for me.  I went through the date line when I flew to Sydney, I arrived +2 days after I departed.  I missed out on a complete day, and it was a Saturday, where does that day go?   I had a window seat and got a great view of Sydney and the harbour during landing.  It was my first view of the Sydney Opera house, there’s absolutely no mistaking it, even from my first glance it was completely obvious as to what it was. 

Wee Dave had done some travelling around Oz when he was 19 and he recommended the Funkhouse Hostel to me, so I made a reservation.  When I arrived it was very apparent as to the clientele they were aiming for, teenagers.  The name maybe should have given it away really.  The décor was incredibly in your face, bright colour schemes that didn’t match, and there were comic book characters painted on every door.  One thing I was a bit concerned about when I was travelling in Australia was that I was a bit old.  The typical back packer in Oz is on a gap year after finishing School, into their drinking games and just far too enthusiastic for a grumpy 30 something like myself.  So when I saw the state of the Funkhouse it didn’t fill me optimism.  The only saving grace was that I had nobody else was in my 4 bed dorm for the first few days. 

I dropped my bags off and then met up with Nev who was staying with one of his friends in Bondi.  We got the ferry from Rose bay to the harbour.  It was a good introduction to the main sights of Sydney and a great way to see the Opera House up close.  For those of you how don’t know, Nev is on a mission.  He’s made a shortlist of 90 odd world wonders, he’s going to visit them all and will eventually come up with his version of the 7 new world wonders, and probably write a book about it.  Well, Syndey Opera House was the first on his list, and for me it didn’t disappoint.  It’s like absolutely no other building I have ever seen before.  It’s almost alien like in its construction, it really is a crazy looking building.  The location is spot on too, in a central point of Sydney with great views of the Harbour Bridge and the downtown skyline, with the botanical gardens on its doorstep.  You can take a perfect picture post card photo with both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.  It’s incredibly iconic and exceptionally unique.  It has the wow factor in bucket loads, and on my first visit, took my breath away.  It seems that Sydney took a risky gamble in commissioning the project, it was way over budget, years behind schedule, and at one point it looked like it might not be possible to build it at all.  Well the gamble paid off, big time.  It looks amazing and I really liked it.

The opera house was a focal point in our time in Sydney, we saw it every day, we got a tour round it, and we watched a performance inside it.   The performance we opted for was a piano recital by some Russian dude, who was a child prodigy.  It was good, he was excellent on the piano, but our view wasn’t the best.  From where we were sitting you couldn’t see his fingers tickling the ivories, it would have made a big difference because the sheer speed he ran his fingers up and down the keyboard was incredible.  Instead we had to settle for his facial expressions, a mixture of extreme concentration and constipation.  He played two encores which I wasn’t really expecting. 

Anyways enough about culture, let me write about Kings Cross.  Kings Cross is where most back packers in Sydney call home.  Most of the cheap hostels are situated in the vicinity, and they rub shoulders with strip joints, brothels and pubs.  Chuck in some homeless people, alcoholics and drug addicts and you’ve got one of the dodgiest neighbourhoods in Sydney.  I quite liked it though, it was cheap for accommodation and the best place for a $10 dollar steak. 

Most evenings we took advantage of any happy hours and then got a few tinnies to enjoy on the roof top terrace of the Hostel.  We had to check out of the funk house, it was just a bit too much, and found a much quieter refuge, in the name of Eva’s Backpackers.  It was much more our style, much more laid back, and had a fantastic roof top terrace with a couple of Barbeques.  Eating out was pretty expensive so we ended up having a lot of barbeques instead.  The people in Eva’s were a lot nicer, they were mostly of a continental persuasion with a considerable German contingent.  It was quite a relief as we were subject to some pretty horrendous chat in the Funkhouse from the mainly British rowdy drunken crowd.  We would spend hours cooking and eaten, drinking and trading travelling stories.  We barbequed some fairly exotic meats, with octopus, kangaroo steaks and crocodile tail making it onto the grill.    

BBQ Action

During the daytime we did a lot of walking.  We had great weather, blue skies every day and it never got too hot, about 20 degrees most days.  We did a walking tour on one of our first days, which was a good way to get our bearings.  We spent a lot of time walking around the botanic gardens and around the harbour.  We went on a great cliff top walk from Bondi to Bronte.  Sydney really is a scenic city with lots of great beaches, and this walk encapsulated it. 

Another notable excursion was the Sydney Marathon which we watched.  It was quite cool, but watching a marathon isn’t really a good spectator sport, besides nobody was dressed up in costume which was rather disappointing.  We also discovered a great revolving restaurant at the top of one of Sydney’s tallest buildings, you might notice revolving restaurants becoming a bit of a theme during our travels.  We enjoyed great views over an incredibly expensive beer.

Nev was helping his friend Matt move from Sydney to Melbourne.  I took the opportunity to go on a day trip to the Blue Mountains.  We visited some beauty spots and did a fair bit of walking which I enjoyed.  I wasn’t exactly blown away, the mountains aren’t really mountains, the Blue Mountains are like a plateau with some small canyons in them.  Out tour guide was a pretty funny, he had most of us in stitches, he had a good tried and tested routine.  We finished off by buying some beer from a bottle shop and drinking them at a beauty spot.

The Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains

After a week in Sydney I think we’d done it justice and I was ready to leave.  Apart from anything, Australia isn’t cheap, and the exchange rate was appalling when we were there.  It’d be ok if you were working, wages are great, but we weren’t and it was time to move onto to somewhere cheaper.  South East Asia was beckoning.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

I didn’t do much the first night in L.A.  I was feeling a bit rough from the previous night, and I wanted to have a full day of exploring the next day, as I only had the one day with my flight the next evening.  I woke up in the morning and decided the best way to see L.A. in my limited amount of time was to get an open top bus tour, how wrong I was.  Public transport in L.A. is diabolical, everybody drives cars, and because of this I spent most of my time in traffic.  I had a short stop at Venice beach where I hired a bike and had a wee cycle round.  I then went to the bus stop to wait for my return the bus.  The bus was 45 minutes late, and it broke down halfway.  We had to wait ages for another bus and the traffic was horrendous, I was getting rather concerned that I might miss my flight to Sydney.  I made it back in time, but I didn’t really enjoy L.A.  Seeing the Hollywood sign was cool, but apart from that I was really that impressed.  It’s a bit of a sprawling mass, with incredibly expensive shops, restaurants and nightclubs dubbed as highlights.  Not bad if you’ve got armfuls of cash.  The audio commentary on the bus kept mentioning best places to get off if you want to go celebrity spotting which definitely is not my cup of tea.  In fact there’s a milkshake café that has celebrity GPS.  An awful idea where a few celebrities carry a GPS device, and if you’re sad enough, can follow them around/stalk them.  I was kind of glad when I arrived at the airport.