A Travellerspoint blog

Australia Part I

Sydney, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Jimboomba

sunny 28 °C

G'Day Mate

You knew it had to be done, I couldn't just say hello like normal.... Well I hope you're all fit well and happy.

The flight to Sydney was great. I checked in quite early so was given an emergency seat with nothing infront of me apart from a bit to put my feet on hurrah!! and the rest of the plane obviously. I watched a few films, I love you man, Crank II and The Time Travellers Wife, ate some food, drank tea and orange juice and generally had a lovely flight apart from when I got a whiff of the mans breath sitting next to me, he must have eaten a dead animal for his breakfast. When the plane was coming into land I looked out the window and noticed the ground looked like green brains and all the houses looked like ramsey street with red roofs and perfect gardens. We landed and I started to remember all the customs TV programmes I'd watched and how difficult it is to get into Australia. I'd filled in my card as best I could ticking boxes to say I had wood with me, dirt on my flip flops and a bag full of chocolate and about 4 coconut caramels, got my bag and headed to the control bit... nothing, not a suspicious arching of an eyebrow or rubber glove put on. My wooden necklace wasn't a problem in fact it was commented on as being rather lovely, the dirt on my flip flops wasn't cared about and the sweets in my bag weren't given a second glance. A little disappointed off I went to catch a bus and get a mobile number. Paid $29 for the sim card and got $150 in credit, wicked. The bus dropped me off at the YHA Central at about 9am and was told that I couldn't check in till after 12noon. Knackered, hungry and cold, yes cold, it was blowing a gale and raining when I got to Sydney, not quite what I was expecting... I went for food. The fruit in SE Asia is amazingly fresh and juicy and lush, in sydney I got tinned pineapple and sour apples for about 7 dollars - welcome to australia. I knew Oz would be more expensive than Asia but I have spent more time at the hole in the wall than I've been to the laundrette, it's horrendously expensive. You're talking 20 - 30 dollars a night for a dorm room with shared bathroom, doesn't include breakfast and you have to make the bed yourself and take the sheets down to reception when you check out again. Isn't that a job for the woman with the hoover? Anyway, I went for a wonder and found Paddys Market so had a mooch about there for a while taking in the slutty outfits, hair pieces and dried fruits. Checked into the YHA, had a shower and went off on a walk again in the rain and wind. Australian summer...?
I found a street called Oxford street which I think might be a gay or fetish kind of place with shops and pubs called 'Tool Bar', 'Hum & Saddle Bar', 'In and Out' and a booze shop called 'Lick Her Shop' very tasteful. The Saddle Bar does a weekly raffle for wine and meat... I went down to the Opera House and thought how mad it was that it was right in front of me. I've seen it many times on the TV but there is was in all it's off white glory. The opera house was pretty cool, as was the harbour bridge. It wasn't till I went back to Sydney to fly to NZ that I went on a boat in the harbour. Yes I'm that far behind on my blog I'm not even in the same country anymore. There are a lot of asians in sydney which means pho bo yeah!! love my beef noodle and tom yam soup and just about on every street in the city there's a sushi shop. Sushi rolls are sooo popular and quite cheap, love a bit of sushi.
Anyway, I didn't stay long in Sydney, I think it was 3 nights in total including a night in Wagamama Mmmm lush food, abuse from an aboriginal bloke for being white and not giving him my spare change, I think I tried on every high heeled shoe in the city before buying a gorgeous pair as my secret santa to myself and I met up with Ben and Jenny before heading up the coast to Byron Bay on a train which was cool apart from the load of bogans (chavs) that got on and waited till the lights went out and everyone was trying to goto sleep to talk and giggle and swap tracksuit robbing stories. I had to get off at Casino and get on a bus which took about an hour to get to Byron where I hung about a bus shelter then a milk bar till 8am. I couldn't get an ordinary backpackers room as unbeknownst to me, I arrived on the first day of schoolies!!! Scary mary mother of brad and kylie. Schoolies is the first day of the summer holidays when all the kids go to the sunshine coast, byron etc... a bit like spring break in America, talk about feeling like the oldest hippie in town... anyway I stayed in a motel (hotel, holiday innnn, I hate that song) just for 2 nights then escaped to surfers paradise, there were more schoolies there but I was staying outside at sanctury cove so didnt have to dodge pukey pavements on the way home with my woolies shopping. Byron Bay is beautiful, the sand is white, the sea is blue and the food shops are healthy organic types with gluten and dairy free anything hurrah!!
When I got to Surfers I met up with my scottish partying buddy from Spain, Angela (yes Dad, the celtic supporter..) we hadn't seen each other in about 6 years but just fell back into it like we'd seen each other the weekend before. She's so nice, even gave up her converted garage space so I could have my own room bless her. We sat on the terrace and drank tinto verano which we'd made ourselves and previously decorated the kitchen with after putting it in the blender to chop up fresh lime and checked out some angel cards. Apparently new love is imminent for me... Anyway, next day we went up Tambourine mountain which I keep calling a hill after first picking up a pair of K-Mart trainers for me as I'd chucked out my scabby vans before leaving asia. I reckon they could probably have escaped on their own. Did me proud for a good while, the vans not the k-mart ones, got shot of them the other day. The views from Tambourine were great but the walk that the trainers were bought for didn't happen that day, instead I bought home made fudge after trying a few flavours. Lasted ages, like eating condensed milk out of the tin. We went a 5.6km walk the next day at Daisy Hill, me moaning and dragging my feet while Ang skipped away, wasn't till near the end I started to like it as usual. Not a walker really, esp up hill although I always love it eventually. Didn't see a single Koala and couldn't find the Koala sanctury so went home and popped on our bikinis and went to the Hyatt pretend beach pool thing. It's for residents only but if you just swan in looking like you own the place no one says anything. A cocktail by the pool, bit of a swim and sunbathing then back to the house. Ang went to a Green Day concert and I took her place at bootcamp circuit training... why? I laughed nearly the whole hour, it was that or cry. My muscles ached for 3 days after and I vowed never to do lunge walking again. Another day of sunbathing this time on burleigh beach then went to Ang's mate Kates and I cooked them all dinner before we went mooching about the surfers night market. Before I knew it the week was gone and I was on the move again to Brisbane to meet up with Dino and Charlotte. Ang gave me a lift and we said her bon voyages ( I was back for New Year)
Brisbane itself is really nice. It's not as grey and mean as Sydney. I like Sydney but I don't think I'd really fancy living there for very long. Dino's apartment is really nice, even has a pool and spa bit and a communal BBQ area for the residents. We had dinner and went out to the drag queen bar below the flats for a few cheeky vino's then to this backpacker place for a few more and a bit of a boogie. When you go out in Australia it's much like the USA, you must have ID on you. They guy almost didn't let me in and it's not cos I look under 18 or whatever, not with these crows feet, it's just the rules. Anyway I have managed to persuade all bouncers so far that I'm nearer 40 than I am 18 so have always been let in, thats scary isn't it? nearer 40 than I am 18... pause for thought... One woman did ask me once if I was under 26, it was daylight too bless her. So, back to the story, we hired a car and went to Noosa. It's gorgeous there, really lovely wee sea side town. Like north berwick or something, all wee boutique shops and restaurants, parks and lakes and beaches, really nice. Bit windy for sunbathing tho, we tried but it wasn't happening. We drove around a bit then walked along this massive deserted beach. You can excercise your dog to the left but not to the right. Saw loads of wee blue jelly fish on the sand and a red crab that we crept up on. When it heard us it whipped round to face us claws in the air as if to say 'come on then, oooze havin it?!' very funny. Next up was a place called Coolum just in time to see the christmas lights being put on, made the tree look like one of those sparkly squid things at the bottom on the sea. I bought an acid free pineapple at the market which I forgot to eat and noticed that a lot of the women in the town had buns in the oven, like every second woman. I stayed away from the tap water after that and stuck to the juice shop. The next night was Dino's neices 18th birthday party. I'd like to know when I graduated from the young party in the garage doing jelly vodka shots and dancing about, to the old persons party in the back garden with chairs and wine? What's happening to me?? Oh yeah, I'm nearer 40 than I am 18... Perhaps my imminant new love is with botox? Charlotte is a hairdresser so did the kids hair for them and later on in the week gave mine a trim. The party was good fun, I spoke to Lorna, Mum and Granny that night too. We left the party and headed out to a bar for drink and dancing. It lashed it down so we hid in the flat for a bit before venturing out. When we got to the bar I got chatted up by a so called algerian footballer, a boy from saudi arabia studying to be a helicopter engineer and a big burly bloke from botswana. Not really my cup of tea... there was nearly a fight and we left. Not over me I hasten to add, some idiot with a chip on his shoulder who had his drink spilled. However did that happen in an overcrowded dancefloor..? eeeeediot. Charlotte had a job interview to go to so Dino and I took the hire car back. He can't drive so I drove. It's so annoying in Australia, the indicators are on the wrong side of the steering wheel. Why? I turned on the window wipers more times that I care to remember. It's bad enough that the car is on the wrong side of the road. Saw a street called 'Gillian Street' and later on 'Anderson street' little was I to know that 'Anderson' is very popular in Victoria, will tell you about that in part II. Hmmm I seem to have missed a few days in my written blog. One minute its the 13th dec and I'm chatting to Kate then the next it's the 16th and I'm throwing a ball for Roy in Jimboomba... Hmmm perhaps I was taken my aliens in those 3 days.. Ok so from what I can remember Charlotte got the job as of course we knew she would, we went shopping at a discount mall place like the Factory in Los Barrios, we drank boxes of wine and I cooked some fajitas. Perhaps the boxes of wine has something to do with my memory loss... Met Carmen in the Myer Centre and said cheerio to Dino and Charlotte.
next stop Jimboomba... Animal rescue, baby chickens, christmas play, outback experience, christmas day, cane toad catching and avatar.
It was sooo nice to see Carmen again, she's such a lovely lady I could have stayed there forever. It was also really nice to unpack my rucksack into a real wardrobe.
Carmen has 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 goats, loads of chickens a husband and a son. They live on a big piece of land in Jimboomba which is like farm country,some people laughed when I said I was going there but two fingers to them, I loved it. You have to drive about 15 mins to get to the nearest shop, it's so quiet and reminded me of when I grew up at Marfield. I even had a chicken named after me as when it was born it was all blonde.. aaaah very cute. She's doing very well so I hear, hoping for a photo update soon.. nudge nudge... I hadn't seen Carmens son Sam since he was about 9, he's now 17 and very tall and very talented on the guitar. I'd met her husband Hugh a couple of times I think but not really to chat to, he's really kind and lovely, I felt totally at home. Poor Hugh tho, one night I was doing the dishes while he was putting some fruit and icecream in a bowl. The draining board thing fell over and made Hugh jump so much he threw raspberries up in the air and all over the floor, was hilarious, I thought Carmen and I were going to burst with laughter. I was banned from doing any christmas day dishes after that one.
As I was saying before, I was throwing the ball for Roy. He's a collie dog and the ball is his favourite thing in the whole world. All he wants to do, all he is interested in, is running for the ball, I love him. I did a lot of singstar with carmen in my 2 weeks, was brilliant, esp after santa bought her the motown disc yay!! Bit disappointed that the rock disc wouldn't work tho, was dying to sing a country love tune, she's ace. We also played band hero which was loads of fun. I helped cook the Christmas breakfast and dinner and generally had a fabulous time. For Christmas Carmen got me a ticket to the Australian Outback Experience. It was brilliant. You get a 3 course meal, a cowboy hat and a show. Mum, you would have loved it, all the horses and tricks and games. I really enjoyed it, thanks again Carmen. They even have a helicopter in the show that floats along the ceiling. It was ace yeeeehaaaa!! ride em cowboy. I also really enjoyed the kids christmas play 'when santa got stuck up the chimney' Carmen works at a pre school so she took me along and I helped set everything up then sat back and watched. It was brilliant, the kids are so cute and when it came time to pull santa out of the chimney they actually did. He's supposed to come out the side of the chimney but they wouldn't let go so he had to slither off the chair and out the wee hole at the bottom of the cloth lumb. It was class!! Afterwards a little girl told me all about the fat guinea pig they have while we tidied up the chairs. Carmen put so much time and effort into the costumes and props but didn't even get a thank you at the end, miserable gits.
Next day we went to the natural history museum in Brisbane and pretended to be bats in this weird contraption and listened to the sounds of frogs which was hilarious. It might come across as a 'had to be there' moment but it was class, we were looking at fake frogs in a case. When you pressed the buttons each frog lit up individually and the noise of that frog came out of the speaker. The last button was pushed and the frog lit up then a man started talking, he said this frog is extinct but may have sounded a bit like this... eeep eeep eeep... I thought I was going to wet myself. When we were on the bus to Brisbane I noticed a sign that said if you spat anywhere on the bus they''d take a DNA sample, identify the culprit and track you down, after that, I'm not sure what happens.. anyway, thought it was pretty mad and wondered how it would go down in SE Asia where the local past time is to phlegm and hack and spit anywhere, anytime. After the museum we went to a place called Logan for the carol singing and a massive bag of chips with chicken salt on them. That stuff is amazing, chips aren't chips without chicken salt. I swear that must be why people crave KFC fortnightly, it's the chicken salt. Wish I'd bought some to bring home now. I'm sure you can prob get it in sainsburys but would it be the same? Anyone in Oz reading this should immediately put some in a jiffi back for me. Anyhooo the carol singing was really good. Carmen and I wore santa hats and I clapped with glee as Santa arrived in a helicopter then got on a fire engine and waved at everyone as he did a circuit of the playing field we were all in.
Some people really do go all out with the christmas lights. Some of the garden efforts were truly amazing so we followed a sort of tour bus and went to see a few. I'd hate to think what the leccy bill was for some of them.
On the 19th December 2009 a baby chicken was born and named after me cos it was fluffy and blonde bless her. Did I say that already? I've not even had a drink. I went into the run to see baby GG and got covered in wee mite things that bite, I should have known better being that I used to have chickens when I was a child so had a shower and went off to the animal rescue place to play/walk puppies. It's a really nice shelter, they have lots of room outside to walk the dogs round and it's great to see when they a new home. Hugh has been a volunteer for a while now, I think I'd have a hard job not getting too attached. Like the wee puppies, how cute are they?? they always get homes, it's the bigger dogs I feel sorry for bless them. I must have a look on the website and see if any of the dogs I walked are still there.
This blog is a whopper, are you all still with me? Got another 8 pages of written journal to get through, I'll try and condense it a bit...
So, We all went to Lone Pine which is where you can get a photo taken with a Koala and where you can feed Kangeroos among other things.. The first koala didn't like the look of me and tried everything to get away from me so they brought in another but the photo didn't come out so I had to have another one taken. Got my money's worth there. Wonder if the Pope or Marilyn Manson had the same problem? Did you know that Koala's can jump? I can't jump that high but a Koala can jump from branch to branch if he can see food on it's way!! They're super cute. It rained really heavily that day. We went to see the sheep dog show, poor dogs were soaked and hiding in a hollow tree stump. They couldn't show us the sheep shearing show cos of the rain but lets face, I've seen plenty of that in my time and have even been paid in the past to roll up fleeces after first clipping the poo off the stinky end - nice. So we get home and go over to the neighbours house to check on the pet fish and budgie only to find disaster had struck under our watch and the budgie had fallen off it's perch and died, I think it died before it fell. I tried to take it out of the cage so we could bury him but his beak got caught on the bars at the bottom, it was all very traumatic. Sorry if you're reading this Deanna. I got him unhooked and we put him in the garden all the while I kept thinking of the monty python sketch with the dead parrot... poor thing
Australian people are a bit obsessed with not going out in the sun, esp in the likes of Queensland where a lot of people get skin cancer. They have signs and adverts that say 'there's nothing healthy about a tan' yet they sell packets of 25 cigarettes and even do deals on them in the 7/11 if you buy 2 packets... There's since been a thing on the news saying that you can over do the whole slip slap slop or whatever it is and get a vitamin D deficiency which isn't healthy either. I dunno, I like having a tan and I don;t care what the add says, people do look healthier with a tan. Don't tell me you've never said to a mate who's just back from their holidays 'Oh you look so healthy' and it's not just cos you don't want to say they're fatter than when they went away...
I saw Avatar and The Lovely Bones at the cinema which were both brilliant in different ways. Avatar was my first ever 3D experience, loved it. I got taken to a place called Sizzler after the cinema which now has CCTV round the salad counter since a woman was caught sprinkling rat poison over the lettuce and such like. Food was lovely.
Christmas was ace. I even got a tube of jelly tots just like at home. A parcel from my granny and one from my parents arrived on christmas eve which was great. I helped Carmen cook the massive lush breakfast we had with Hugh's family then helped again with the dinner later with their neighbours and a girl from the animal rescue place. We then played a music game called buzz which Hugh is a master of and watched the cats rip the tail off a gecko then play with both halves of still moving lizard till it was dead and eaten behind the sofa. Not very festive but cats will be cats.
I don't know how but I totally forgot I went to sea world. It rained like a burst water main again but when you're on flume rides getting wet anyway, what does it matter? The dolphin show was wicked, they didn't have a killer whale so all the trainers were quite safe. Why do they always pick kids to go up to the front and pet the dolphins? I had my hand up too!! it's not fair (stamp stamp) The pirate show was a bit lame but still entertaining, the chocolate dipped strawberries on the other hand were delish. Have you ever touched a sea cucumber? no? well they're weird, kind of slimy and squidgy and hairy all at once, almost warm too.. very odd. They had a tank full of sealife you could touch like rays and starfish etc. I don't suppose they really like being poked.
It's safe to say that I had a wicked time with Carmen in Jimboomba and I'll be back again soon, I promise. She dropped me off with Angela and Kate on the last day if the year where I put on my sparkly dress and high heels and off we went to a New Years Pool Party. I forgot my bikini so went swimming in my dress, I'm all class me.

Next stop Cairns...

Posted by blondesock 16:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Thailand again Macau & Hong Kong

Koh San Road, Flashing Buildings & Window Shopping

overcast 28 °C


So, more buckets, pool and pad thai in Thailand followed by towers, tours, a food festival, flashing sky scrapers and shopping centres in Macau and Hong Kong.

Well, as my visa was running out for Cambodia and my flight to Macau was out of Bangkok I went back to Thailand on a bus with Fabio. I meant to do more while I was there including going outside of Bangkok but it didn't quite happen like that... Macau and Hong Kong are mad places, not sure I'd go back to either one again without a serious amount of cash in my sky rocket.

The bus trip back to Bangkok was long, 13 hours long. I told you about the first bit already, now onto the 4 hours from the border to bangkok, four hours my arse, my sore and numb arse. We got there eventually even tho the driver was speeding like a bat out of hell at about 8pm (3 or 4 hours after we thought we would be there, found a nice place to live with aircon and a TV no less - much cheapness too and met up with Fabio's mate Engelbert and went out on the town.

Ok, I'm just going to get it over with and write it down... I had a tattoo done. Eeek..!! waits for Dad to calm down.... I totally love it. It's Thai script about 2.5 inches up the back of my leg from the ankle and is very subtle and can be covered with socks, tights, leggings (not that I wear them, ok so I bought a pair in Australia, they're tartan) jeans, bandage etc if need be. I'm not going to tell you what it says as it's a secret and anyway, the woman in the shop that translated it for me laughed a lot, I don't think she quite got the deep and meanfulness of it all. I read two chapters of my book and sucked a chupa chup till it was gone then chewed the stick till it was flat all over, in a bid to distract myself not that it hurt that much really. At least I managed not to faint this time and it was sort of amusing watching my foot twitch when he was doing the bit nearest my heel haha

ok, now that that's over with I'll get on with my story...

It was nice to be back in Thailand and esp nice to have people to play with this time. The three of us went to the cinema to watch 2012. It's total pap. A typical american disaster movie, we can save the world drivel with plenty of heart string pulling, crazy special effects and dramatic near death experiences. It wasn't the worst film I've seen. That would be Lawnmower Man II which I watched till the end just to see if the lead character was related to Mel Gibson (he isn't) Before the film starts you have to stand up and pay respect to the King of Thailand. They even have a wee short film of him waving and stuff, it's mad esp when you're used to a cartoon or a lecture on video piracy which they don't show in Thailand. I wonder why...? We also went ten pin bowling which was class, can you believe I actually won the first game?!! ok so maybe Engelbert was using his good arm which isn't the one he'd normally use (remember he ripped all the tendons in the other...) and well Fabio just wasn't playing very well but still, I won and thats all there is to it. The next day I had a facial and my eyebrows and eyelashes tinted then was taken upstairs for a bikini wax. Dad keeps telling me I put too much info in this sometimes so I'm not going to get too into it. I was a bit dubious after the last one I had in Thailand but I thought no, it's Bangkok, ladyboys must come and have it done all the time so off I went and watched as she put on a pinny and turned the hob on in the kitchen then put a pot of wax over the heat. Here we go I thought, be brave... To my relief she was very professional and nothing terrible happened I left happy and pain free although my eyebrows were a tad on the dark side for my liking... We went to the Brick Bar that night on koh san road, it's wicked in there, they had a local Ska band on and I bopped about like I did at Dave Ridleys birthday. It was class, onto a night club next called Le Club which was a bit mad but good all the same, I ended up with a crowd of thai girls who were loads of fun. I forgot to mention Larry Duff in Cambodia, he was a short sleeveless t-shirt and shorts wearing Israeli who danced all the time, he was class and taught me how to spin round a pole on the dance floor, I never could get it right so not much in the way of job prospects there... anyway, I bumped into him again in Koh San road, madness, went for coffee and we went for a walk, so long a walk I hailed a taxi back (I'm so lazy) he was on his way back to Israel for some kind of political thing, I didn't really understand it but it sounded interesting.
The next day was a total right off. We did nothing all day then stayed up to watch Ireland being robbed of a place in the world cup by cheating hand balling France. The boys then went off to Krabi on a bus and I hung around bangkok for a few more days. I had to change room as Fabio my roommate was gone so I got a cheaper room and got eaten alive by bed bugs that night. It was minging, I have a photo of the bites all over my legs and shoulder, so itchy. I went down to the reception and asked for a new room, my old room but for the same price I was paying to which they replied.... eh no. I was like hello, look at the state of me?? eh no. So I paid the extra and stayed in the bugless room. I did do a search in other places for a room but most of them were expensive or complete dives so I was stuck, ah well at least I had TV and air con. I discovered that the internet shop down the road was free between 1am and 4am so went there and added Fabio to skype only to find it wasn't him, just the same name and place that he's from. Fabio 2 was fairly amusing for a while, I have no idea who he is. Didn't do too much more in Bangkok before flying to Macau apart from hand in some laundry. The woman charged me 150 baht!! 150 baht OMG what a rip off but needs must so I sucked it up and paid.

next stop Macau

Macau is China, I didn't actually know that... before I got on the plane I bought a huge box of coconut candy to take to Carmen in Jimboomba, Oz but it accidentally fell into my mouth over and over again till they were all gone. Sorry Carmen... The landing in Macau was bizarre. It was dark as in pitch black when the plane started to go down and I didn't see any lights whatsoever, not even when the plane hit the tarmac, totally bizarre, like bermuda triangle stuff, well, till I looked over the other side of the plane and saw the whole brightly lit island then the plane turned at the end of the runway and I saw the most amazing bridges and neon flashing skyscrapers like fireworks, it was brilliant. Same same on the plane, they all want off first. We got into a bus and were taken round the corner and let off again, literally 100 yards round the corner, it was hilarious. Onto immigration where we were serinaded with christmas carols, noel noel noel noel, born is the king of Issssriiiiaaaeeeeel. The passport stamper was very serious indeed, I think a smile might have cracked her face. Booked a hotel and hopped in a taxi. The door opened and closed itself just like in Japan. When I changed up some money at the airpoert the woman behind the desk must have counted it about 10 times, forwards, backwards, upside down and over again, not a smile in sight. I went for dinner in the chinese resturant in the hotel. It was ok but I felt a bit like I was being stared at and to be honest was treated a bit like a pleb so I didn't eat there again. The next day I caught a free shuttle down to Macau itself as my hotel was on Taipia and went on a tour. I have a strong suspicion that my status as foreign holiday maker resulted in me being done as the tour bloke said I wouldn't be able to get a bus as it was too late so better going with him. Like I said, I had my suspicions but there weren't any tour buses about so I went with him. The tour was good tho, I saw a big golden flower that was given to Macau from China I think, it's a lotus flower. I then went to see a statue of Kun Lam who has a portuguese face apparently. I'm glad I wrote her name down cos I didn't remember it. It was nice to look at. Next I got dropped off at the Macau Tower. The view was wicked but the best bit was watching a man jump off the 61st floor and flying passed everyone, including me, on the 58th floor!! How mad is that?? don't worry, it wasn't a terrible accident or someone commiting sideyways, he had a bungy rope tied to his ankles. The saying is 'why live life on the edge when you can jump off' or words to that effect. The weather was good for once, I haven't had much luck with that on other tower tours. The view was great and I spotted a food festival from the top hurrah!! After the tower I went to see the oldest chinese temple in Macau. I've seen my fair share of temples so it was ok but one thing I did notice was the size of the incense sticks and coils. You could gas out a honey farm with one of them, huge they were and a bit over powering really. An odd thing happened there. I was hanging out by a furnace as you do when a bloke came towards me and said 'hello' followed by 'I need to speak english' then carried on walking right into the toilets... weird, the other odd thing was my next stop on the tour outside the ruins of St Pauls. I'm assuming that there's loads of St Pauls catherdrals in the world. I had a mug at Granny and Grandpa P's that said on it, 'st pauls cathedral, designed by sir christopher wren after the destruction of the cathedral in 1666' now I don't know if it's the same cathedral cos I was on a anneka rice time schedule of 15 mins which was enough time for a few pics front and back and into as many other peoples photos as I could before the 500 yard dash back to the car. I wonder what happened to that mug come to think of it... I have a fav mug at my Granny A's as well, it's got a fish on it. I was then dropped off in Senado Square (oh I have been a good girl writing down the names for once) map in hand after begging for a discount on the trip pleading poverty and no money for food blah blah blah I ended up getting very lost indeed. Why don't I have any sense of direction? Is it possible to use a car navigator thing when you're just walking? I eventually came across some shops one of which was a mall for 'Trendy Ladies Wear' Not my thing at all but I went in anyway hehe After asking for my size in a pair of wicked shoes and being laughed out the door I gave up and found the sweet shop on the top floor for all those people who realise that nothing is ever going to fit unless you are short and built like a whippet so I left and turned into a reeking street that had fish all over it drying out in the sun Mmmm nice. I had to ask a man where the tower was so I could go to the food festival and he pointed me to a bus stop cos it was very far away so I got on the bus and waited and waited and waited but we didn't go to the tower, I ended up in the bus station with the driver looking at me like I was mental. I had caught the bus on the wrong side of the street so he let me stay on and I finally arrived at the festival about half an hour later. It was brilliant. As you know I love food so it was like heaven. I didn't know where to start so I ordered some clams from one of the stalls but didn't know you have to buy food ticket voucher things so I got 50HKD worth which is about 4 quid I think and munched my way through the stalls. I had the clams which were ace then fried won ton with sweet chilli sauce then a bowl of fried rice with snails and spring onion then finally a local dessert speciality called serra something, I can't remember but it was kind of moussey. I also tried lots of wee free bits here and there and saw a famous person. I have no idea who it was but the paps were following him about so I took a photo of him. He looked a bit like bernard linares, a politician from Gibraltar. I then had to get home so I got a bus to the Grand Lisboa flashing casino and marvelled at the lights and colours and stuff, it was mad, I can't imagine what Vegas must be like. I'm happy to say I can still shock the locals and mesmorise small children with my western ways. A man banged his thumb with a hammer and a wee girl waved at me through most of her dinner bless her. Some of the men are bit letchy tho like they've never seen a woman before let alone a western one yuck!! Next stop Hong Kong where I met the most lecherous man yet... ewww!

Getting to Hong Kong was pretty easy, I bought my ticket for the turbo jet and watched as Macau vanished and an hour later Hong Kong appeared. It looks like Gibraltar from the sea except it's been taking super protein body building muscle enhancing steriods. The buildings are huuuuge. I saw about 5 low flying planes in the sky heading for landing which was cool. It's a shame they don't use the runway between the buildings anymore, I'd have flown in if they did for sure. I found somewhere to stay in Nathan Street where all the backpackers go. My room was on the 11th floor and couldn't have been more that 2x2m in fact, the whole room was about the same size as the bed I'd been sleepingon for the past 2 nights!! still it was cheap and comfy and I had a view of the brightly coloured road below. I went out for a wonder and noticed I was about the only girl in flip flops and looked really scruffy in comparison to the other women about. I found an amazing pair of shoes for a tenner but my feet are now sasquatch size so they didn't fit, not even the european size 41 fitted me eeek!! You know ages ago I said about Indian men being a bit odd in their questions and stuff in Malaysia? well, this indian chap got in the lift with me the next day and seemed fairly normal, bit on the thin side but hey ho, I'm only jealous. Anyway he's asking me if I'm from sweden of course and generally being nice. Said if I dont have anywhere to go to turn left outside the building and cross over for the avenue of stars and stuff so I said thanks and off I went. Then he starts to follow me asking if I want a manicure or massage, I was like no thanks thinking go away and he comes out with do I want a sexy massage!?! I looked him square in the face and said no I do not, please go away and never ask anyone that again!! I don't half attract some weirdos. You know, no offence to the entire nation of indian men but I haven't met one yet on my travels who hasn't either wanted sex, wanted to talk about sex, offered to make me a suit or tried to kiss me. I tell you, if it wasn't for the food I would have anything nice to say. Terrible isn't it?? but like I said before, they can't all be like that. Eventually he left after not being able to convince me that I would love it and I carried on to the avenue of stars which is a bit like the stars thing in America but these are chinese actors. I took a picture of the ones I recognised like Jet Li, Jackie Chan and of course Bruce Lee, they have a big bronze statue of him as well so I took a photo of that and went for a coffee. Was a lush day. I went into a 'local light refreshment' shop, yes it was actually called that and ordered myself a local light refreshment. It was gorgeous. It was black glutenous rice (sticky not glutenous as in bum squirts) mango and coconut juice with extra fresh mango on the top and it tasted so good. I then found the market by accident and got a replacement wallet for the one that got nicked in cambodia. After mooching about there I went for afoot massage which actually just included my feet and calves for a change. A few men came in and went straight through the back. I reckon 'happy finish' is on the menu there. A bowl of vietnamese seafood noodle soup later I went back to my room and wondered what Sydney would be like when I got there the next day. 35 degrees on the internet yay!! in actual fact is was cold wet and windy...

Talking about noodles, noodle soup or any other noodle thing or spaghetti just isn't first date food is it? It's more for enjoying in a slurpy sauce on your chin kind of way - who cares what you look like just get your face in the bowl.

Next stop Sydney... eeek Australia already

Posted by blondesock 23:58 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)


War, Temples and Mekong Whiskey Buckets

sunny 35 °C

Helloooooooo, sorry, I'm soooooooooooooooooooo behind with it all...

It's safe to say that I love Cambodia. I know I say this about most of not all the countries I've been to but Cambodia truely is a fabulous place, I had a wicked time there and my friend Alex finally managed to escape my clutches... till 2011 that is... Mmmwwaahahahhaahahahaaa (evil laugh)

The war muesums and orphange in Phnom Pehn were heart breaking, the temples in Siem Reap were incrediable and the buckets in Sihanoukville were downed with gusto!! What a place :) I even ate a deep fried tarantula leg eek!!

After the long and weary boat ride we were squished into 2 minibuses. My face was almost pressed against the window of the door it was so full of people and rucksacks. Why any of us believe it when we're told the journey will only be an hour I'll never know. We never learn. Anyway we arrived at a hotel and I left Alex with the bags while I sprinted to the loo faster than the bloke who robbed me in Saigon, If only I'd have needed the loo then I might have caught him then he'd have known all about it. Right then so the mini bus pretty much drove into the reception of the hotel and everyone was harassed into staying there. We were promised a quality room for 10 USD and give the man his due, the room was lovely. It had a balcony which looked out over the street, a bathroom with bath and shower, 2 big beds, a TV and after a while a very strange smell which came from the bathroom and was cleverly disguised by orange air freshner when we first walked in but got stronger the longer we were in the room. Much like the smell in my flat in la linea from the first loo, a gassy kind of no trap smell you know? no? well it's not very nice. Neither is getting comfy on your bed to discover that you have to share it with a family of ants, a big family. So we stayed one night and got a cheaper guesthouse near the lake for the rest of the time which wasn't as nice to look at but did the job and neither smelled nor housed any ants.
All the cash points in Cambodia give you USD and the price for everything is in USD. When you get change it's generally in USD except when it gets below a dollar, then you get reil as well. It's really easy after a while. The only thing you have to remember is to spend or give away all your reil before you leave Cambodia cos no one wants it anywhere else, a bit like Scottish money really much to my disgust.
We went for a walk down by the river and to what we thought was the silver pagoda but in actual fact we found out later that it wasn't, ah well, it was nice enough and pretty silvery. It had weird statues outside it of people lying on tombstones with thier guts hauled out. We also went to the Wat in the middle of town, it was pretty cool and even had monks wandering about it and we saw an elephant in the park below, how cool is that? right in the middle of town. Central market was crazy madness, we came across a woman selling deep fried bugs, she was sat there pulling wings off toasted coakroches and munching them down, we declined the offer to try something but did stand on her scales to be horrified by the result. Spent the night trashing some lads at pool and decided to go to the S21 Prison the next day. Don't read this next bit if you're feeling in anyway down in the dumps, it's horrible...
OMG!! How horrific, shocking and down right mental with a big helping of depression this visit was, we followed it up with the Killing Fields which was terrible as well but not as bad as the prison, not for me anyway. The S21 Prison is where loads of Cambodian people were brought, beaten, tortured and killed. Men, women and children. There are pictures of most if not all of the victims, thier blood socked clothes are there as is the feeling of total fear and dispair. I couldn't do the whole place, I got half way through and gave up, there's only so many photos of dead people and torture you can look at. Whats even more shocking is it all happened in the last 30 odd years and is only now being brought to court. You have to go if you're in Cambodia but it sure isn't a pleasure trip. Like I said, we went to the Killing Fields after that where more innocent people were killed and dumped in mass graves. The most shocking part of that place was the killing tree. It was used to kill babies and young children by holding them by the ankles and smashing their wee bodies against the tree. Just horrific. There's a monument to the people that died in the form of a massive tomb which is full of skulls which were found when the graves were dug up. There's about 8000 inside it. The field itself isn't as shocking to look at like the prison but you can just feel the terrible things that went on, just awful.
Right, enough of that, onto minging food and shoogley bus rides. We were an hour and a half into the trip to Siem Reap (where we met batman, marvelled at temples and drank pink slushy drinks) when we had a squat and snack stop. It was here that I ate my first and might I say last spider leg, yes, a deep fried tarantula leg which had been kindly donated to me by a couple of canadian lads who ate the rest of it including the big squidgey bum bit - yuck!! It was a bit like the crispy bit of fat on a lamb chop after being marinaded in garlic and after I got over the fact that it was an 'S P ider' (as my Granny P used to say) leg, it was actually quite nice. Our next stop another hour and a half later was for lunch, I had a very nice bit of pork loin with rice but I could have had a boiled turtle which in all honesty didn't look that nice lying there on it's back newly boiled with stream rising from it's belly, poor wee soul. Anyway, we arrived in Siem Reap and were picked up by a bloke as previously arranged by our guesthouse bloke in Phenm Pehn. After wading through a very deep puddle we hopped into a tuk tuk and were taken to a guesthouse which from the outside looked quite nice but from the inside it was a different story. The first room we were shown smelled funny, the pillows smelled of dirty hair and the compliamentary towel smelled of sick. Not wanting to trapse about all night looking for a new home, we stayed one night then moved into a much nicer place in town for the rest of our stay. On the way round to the new guesthouse we bumped into Mr Batman the tuk tuk driver. I'd heard about him from Jenny and Ben and had emailed him but hadn't had a reply so bumping into him was fate for sure. His tuk tuk was all customised to look like the bat mobile, well, as much as a tuk tuk can be. Anyway, we booked him for the next 3 days of temple touring singing na na na na na na na naaa batman!!! at every given opertunity, well I did anyway. Looking at my journal I haven't said much about the temples really, they're all pretty amazing, some more than others like the Tomb Raiders one, it was crazy with trees dripping over the edge of the stones, really cool and my favorite which we went to at the end of the second day, was so amazing. I can't remember the name of it but could have spent most of the day in it, not just cos it was massive either honest. After that temple we walked up a hill with about half a million other tourists to watch the sun go down. It was really lovely looking out over the hills and trees as the sun went down. I took a photo of everyone else watching the sunset cos it looked like a rave with hands and arms in the air waving about (like they just don't care) taking photos.
Dinner in siem Reap can be as expensive as you want, we prefered the 1 dollar deal at the market but did treat ourselves to a resturant offering one night which was just as nice. On our second last night I went to a cello recital at the local hospital. The hospital is free for the locals to use which is great as otherwise they wouldn't be able to get the treatment they need for dengue fever and accidents and other run of the mill illnesses but they need donations so the guy that opened it and others like it in Cambodia puts on a cello recital every saturday night. Batman said he'd pick me up at the guesthouse and take me which he did but the bat mobile broke down about 5 mins into the journey. Fearing I would be late Mr Batman said he'd call his brother to pick me up and take me. Great I thought, thanks very much so I waited for about 10 mins then to my joy and hilarity who should come belting round the corner to save me....? SUPERMAN!! how fabulous is that?? you couldn't make it up... The concert was good but there was more talking and donation pleas than playing, still it was for a good cause. Met up with Alex and Richard for a quiet drink that turned into a 3am pink slushy cocktails dance-a-thon and no temples the next day. I obviously wanted to go and see temples for the third day in a row but Alex wasn't too well so I went to the shop and bought lots of supplies and we lay around watching films all day, was sheer bliss. Alex left for Laos the next day and I decided to go back to Phnom Pehn to volunteer at an orphanage but before I left I bought a few presents at the market where I noticed a lot of women wearing jammies which made me think of Asda in Liverpool. I also noticed a lot of people washing cows that day while I drove to Phnom Pehn... weird. I stayed in the same guesthouse and was warmed to my cockles with the welcome I got when I arrived. I wasn't however impressed with the angry child who cut my arm with his plastic box for carry books in just cos I didn't want to buy any, the evil little urchin. My plan to voluteer and stay at the orphange for a few days was quickly squashed by the people that were trying to organise it. I know the locals need money and they're poor etc but ripping off tourists and being mean to them just cos they think you have loads of money and should pay stupid amounts for things isn't the way to go about it so I visited and sat in class helping the kids with their english for a few hours taking 50 kilos of rice and 2 kilos of fruit with me then went back to the guesthouse to book my ticket to Sihanoukville on the coast. The orphange was class, the students at the school were brilliant and so good at english. I was very impressed. The school wasn't as full as usual due to flooding in the village but it was still good fun I wish I could have done more for them but I really was put off by the slimy wee toad from the guesthouse. Onto Sihanoukville...
Sihanoukville is on the coast and I'm sure has lots of things to see and do but all I saw was the beach during the day where I enjoyed fresh fruit and dips in the ocean while turning down offers of massage, pedicure, manicure, braclets, anklets, keyrings, threading and cruises on junk boats then at night I enjoyed the beach pubs and clubs through Mekong Whiskey tinted glasses. Well, at 2 dollars a bucket, who can say no...?
When I got off the bus I was whisked away on a motorbike with a fistfull of guesthouse and hotel leaflets. The first place I went to see was ok but something about it just didn't feel right so I went to see a place that was 2 dollars a night. OMG I think if I'd have stayed there I would have woken up with a missing kidney or in another country with a price tag on my head if I'd have managed to get to sleep at all, it was really scary. I ended up staying at Mick and Craigs which was nice but a bit pricey. As soon as a room became available at Monkey Republic next door I moved in there. There's a lot of woodworm in Sihanoukville. I could hear them eating my bed and door in both places I stayed. I spent halloween in Monkey Republic. Having not bought or brought a costume with me for the first time in years I raided my first aid box (cheers Jess & Mark) and wrapped a bandage round my head and face. There's one picture but it's in the camera of a scottish couple I met that night and spent the next 2 days with.
I bought some tiger balm. Have you ever read the instructions? well, I did. It says it's good for everything including insect bites, stuffy nose, sore muscles etc and "effective in relieving flatulance. Directions: apply tiger balm gently to affected areas.." how do you go about that then?
There a lot of kids on the beach trying to sell you things. I was well and truely hussled by Peter the fruit boy. I wanted to pay a dollar for the fruit, he wanted 2 dollars so he suggested we play a game of knots and crosses, if he won I would pay 2 dollars but if he lost, I would pay 50 cent. I paid 2 dollars... he knows that game inside out, we played 4 in the end and if he didn't win, no one won. I also made friends with Genna the braclet girl, both kids are very good at the poor me face bless them. I spent the next few days with 2 canadian guys Clint and Grant and Fabio the irishman. His name isn't really Fabio but women are like putty in his hand with his chat up lines so Fabio it is.. if you're reading this, you'll know who you are. Anyway, we also had Seema and Minnie in our enterage for a bit. our nights were spent at a beach bbq for fish then to the dolphin shack for 25cent beers followed by the place at the bottom of the hill for 2 dollar buckets then to utopia for vodka redbull ice luge, dancing, pool playing with the local girls and general hilarity sometimes going down to Chivas shack on the beach for a laugh. It's the kind of place old men to go to dance like dads at a wedding in the hope of going home with a local girl. At the end of the day they don't have to try very hard, there are loads of professional girlfriends about. One night we went to the Otres Fest at Otres beach which is about 4km away from the very busy beach and lovely during the day if you want to nurse a hangover without being plagued by people selling things. The fest was a bit pants but the kebabs were nice. I think we just got there a bit too late as it was kinda winding down, drunk and spaced out people sitting about or dancing to the 2 DJ'sand the acoustic bit inside. A man on the beach was doing the fire poi stuff which was pretty cool. Clint and I drove down on a motorbike, my first experience of driving one with gears, was pretty cool till we hit the sand, it's hard to control on sand. Do you go faster or slower?? I tried both and still near fell off a few times.
After 2 weeks of lying on the beach during the day and out drinking at night till stupid oclock it was time to leave and go back to Thailand. Fabio and I caught a bus to the border which started off ok but we were soon put on another bus and after about 10 mins the aircon broke down. 45 people on a bus with no aircon and no windows - it was horrendous. I went up to the front and asked if the foor could be opened as the wee hatch in the roof wasn't doing much good but he looked at me with a blank expression and nothing happened. Finally he opened the door after another woman went down to complain, I think if he'd left it any longer he'd of had a riot on his hands. We stopped a couple of times till we eventually got to the border. I rung out my ponytail, grabbed our bags and crossed the border. If you do the land crossing from Cambodia to Thailand and you don't have much money, take your own bags across, if you leave them on the trolley thing, you won't get your bag back till you give the bloke that wheeled them over some money. I was warned previously. It was only like a dollar or something, not a lot in the grand scheme of things but it's dinner for a night and I'd just rather know where my bag was...

Now in Thailand it was onto Bangkok in a minibus driven by a man in a major hurry...

Posted by blondesock 15:24 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

The Mekong Delta

A Very Strange Tour Indeed...


So we got on another bus... from HCMC and headed for Cambodia via the Mekong Delta enjoying some weird and wonderful stops along the way. It was almost as if the people running the tour were just making it up as they went along.

Tea tasting, snake holding, 15 minutes on a pushbike, a floating market we didn't stop at and some dodgy singing followed by a crocodile farm and a 7 hour boat ride to the Cambodian border...

Our first stop was at a coconut candy factory we had to get to on a boat, a bit of a scary boat really considering the weather. Coconut candy or caramel is amazing stuff, I totally love it and even bought a big bag of it the second time I went to Thailand to take with me to australia but it fell into my mouth while in Hong Kong and didn't even make the runway. Anyway, the women making it were like machines, in fact I don't think you could have gotten a machine to work as fast as they were, esp the ones wrapping the sweets seperatly in paper, it was astounding. I took some video it was so unbelievable. After that we got back onto the boat for a short while and taken to a tropical fruit farm where we were given 5 different fruits then told in which order we were to eat them in always starting with dragon fruit and ending with bananas with pineapple, melon and things that look like a cross between a lychee and an eyeball inbetween, we also got some local tea to drink then hurried off to the next 'must see' which was the same tea but drank with honey and lemon. This was where they got the python out for anyone to hold then the guy that gave us it disappeared leaving us with the snake. A family then rocked up and started singing, I have to say the music was great but the singing was terrible. We were then whipped away and put on 2 smaller boats for a ride up the canal. That's all it was, a canal with trees on either side, up the canal, down the canal and off the boat again onto the big boat for all of us - bizarre. We were supposed to be getting on very small rowing boats after that and taken up another canal but the weather turned nasty and we had to stay on the big boat and pray we didn't overturn in the Mekong River never to be seen again, it was a bit scary.
Lunchtime hurrah!! it had been ordered for us and cooked about 3 days ago then heated up using warm dog breath but first, you could get on an old bike and have a cycle round for 15 mins in the muck. I went for a walk instead and came across two young girls who tried to sell me a manky bit of honeycomb which looked like it had maggots wiggling about in it. Try it they said, eh no thanks, only 1 dollar they said, eh no thanks, but I need money to go to school, and to eat, eh eat the honey then and by the looks of your mate, no one's starving round here... lunch wasn't too bad really. We were then hearded off to the boat again and sailed passed a funny looking building which after asking our guide about it were told it was built by a mad man so that people would notice him. Seemed to have worked. Back onto the bus and dropped off at a hotel. Alex and I were spending our first night with a local family on the Mekong River itself so when a bloke and his mate turned up on two motorbikes we were told to go with them and come back to the hotel for 6am the next day. We were taken down dark alleys, across bridges, down windy roads and far far away from civilisation. I kept looking back to make sure Alex was behind me. Finally we got to the house. It was really big and right on the river. The family were very nice and thankfully spoke a bit of english. We saw loads of fireflies which was brilliant, they all sit around one tree, I can't remember the type of tree. Dinner was a very tasty elephant fish in 'make your own' fresh spring rolls, it was lush. You get your rice paper and put some rice noodles on it then lettuce, cucumber, cabbage and some of the fish then roll it up and dip it in fish sauce with lemon and chilli - lush. In the morning we were taken to a watermelon field. I can't tell you much more than that cos when we got there, our host said 'watermelons' and pointed then pointing into the distance said 'rice field' then we were escorted back to the house, got our stuff together and got taken by motorbike back to the hotel where we were herded to the riverside with the rest of the tour group and put on a boat to see the floating market. It was a proper market, not like the one in Bangkok but we didn't stop, we just sailed through it then turned round and went back through it then off to a wee house to see how rice roodles are made. The woman there gave me a sweet potato to eat and her husband gave me a starfruit from the tree in the garden which I gave to a wee girl nearby more cos it wasn't quite ripe and I didn't want to chuck it, than out of sheer niceness. Is that even a real word?
Back to the hotel again for lunch in the place next door. Some people had snake, others had deep fried rat, Alex and I went for fruit and yogurt. Some of the group went back to Saigon while the rest of us got back on the bus and taken to the next hotel via a crocodile farm of course. It was pretty cool, loads of crocs in there which were taken to different places for food and handbags mostly. Apparently it tastes like fish but has the texture of chicken. I haven't tried it yet. Onto the hotel which was ok and street food for dinner which was lush. We got up super early again and put onto another boat with a woman and we said goodbye to our tour guide who went back to Saigon with more of the group. The woman made us stop at a fish farm which was really just a house over water with a hole in the veranda which if you threw pellets into the fish came up to feed, not very exciting. The boat we were on was tiny, had no loo and if you didn't get on and sit on opposite sides of the boat in turn then it felt like it was going to capsize, I personally hated it. We then went to a floating village and taken to a house where you could buy things. There was a wee boy there playing with twi irons, not plugged in thankfully but he seemed to be enjoying it. Last cance for the loo and we had to get back on the teenie wee boat for 3 hours to the border with cambodia. The woman who took our passports got off the boat and zoomed off on a motorbike saying she'd meet up with us later. It's amazing who you trust with your passport after a while. Thankfully she kept her word and met us at the border bit where we waited for an hour before being put on another boat (a bigger one) which was loud and smelly but sold drinks and pringles and transported us to Cambodia. It only took about 5 hours... Cabin fever had almost set in when we finally came ashore.

Next stop Phnom Pehn

Posted by blondesock 02:55 Comments (1)

Vietnam Part III

Saigon HCMC


I tried to fit it all into 2 parts but it would have needed a pot of tea and whole packet of biscuits for you to get through it instead of maybe just the one cup and a jaffa cake or two.

So, yet another long bus trip, this time with a woman on board puking her ring almost all the way and another wee local girl sleeping with her head almost in my lap bless her. She woke up at one stage and apologised looking embarrassed then fell alseep again and resumed her position. The noise from the sick woman was like comedy vomitting, really loud and projectile into a plastic bag. I felt very sorry for the people sitting near her, thankfully Alex and I were at the back of the bus but you could still hear it. I had to take my earphone from Alex (we were sharing my ipod) and plug in with both cos I couldn't stand the noise, it's making me feel ill just thinking about it. The Irish lads were, unfortunately for them, sat directly opposite the puke-a-thon woman bless them.
Right so we got to Saigon in one piece. Norah Jones once said that there were 10 million bicycles in Beijing, well there's about 10 million motorbikes in Saigon, it's mental. We found a place to stay which was like the spareroom in someones house but very nice indeed then went out for some noodles. Did you know that the stock for noodle soup has star anise in it which apparently contains the tamiflu properties that help cure swine flu? well it's true. I wonder if there's been less cases in SE Asia than anywhere else in the world cos they eat it all the time. We went out after the soup and bumped into the irish lads, Robbie and Paul and went out for some drinks. We ended up in a night club called Apocolapse Now which was cheese central but good fun. At the end of the night they play 'The End' by The Doors which if you've seen the film Apocolapse Now, you'll know why. After that we went to another bar which served draft beer for 50p with free popcorn and a free neck and shoulder massage on the side. Random I know but lovely after a night on the dance floor not that I was doing any break dancing on my neck and shoulders. Said cheerio to the lads who were leaving the night after and promptly got robbed. When we got to the guesthouse road the lads asked if we wanted chummed down to the door cos the street looked dogey, nah we said, it'll be fine. We got to the gate to find it had been padlocked shut (well, it was 4:30am) but still, they could have said. Anyway Alex tried to climb over the wall to the door while I tried to use our door key to open the lock. There was a bloke hanging around trying to 'help' I told him to go away but he wouldn't. Looking back I know exactly what he was after but at the time we were distracted, I put my wallet which was in my hand into Alex's bag which was round my neck and as I bent down to try the lock again he grabbed my wallet and ran. Alex flung her flip flops to the wind, pushed me out the way and ran after him, I ran after her shouting all sorts of abuse (at the bloke, not Alex) but he knew the rabbit warren streets too well and was gone in a flash. I hope he spent my money on good things the short assed, dark haired, well practised at running in flip flops, light fingered, chain smoking little git. We spent the next day in and out of the police station doing my statement so I could get a report for the insurance company, what a waste of time, I was stupidly honest with said insurance company which meant it wasn't worth me claiming doh!! One good thing came out of it tho, we found a donut shop across for the station with donut costumes lying around upstairs begging to be put on so we did and had a local girl take photos of us, no one else in the shop even batted an eyelid... The police were so relaxed, even more so than the policia local in La Linea. While I was re-writing my statement there was actually a man dressed as a policeman lying sleeping on the bunker behind the bloke dealing with me who was either playing snake or sending text messages on his mobile probably to the woman at the front desk who translated my statement on our 2nd visit and giggling at texts coming in on her phone. In the end it took 3 men and 1 woman to take, translate and give me a copy of my statement over 3 visits and almost a full day. What a palava.
The next day we went on a tour to the Cao Lie temple and the cuchi tunnels which were really cool, the temple however was a bit weird. The religion is a mixture of buddism, christianity, catholic and a couple of others. They have a symbol of an eye and a man with a beard, it's in my photos if you want a better idea although I think I'll have to upload them... anyway, we watched a service which was all a bit medival, I like medival. All the chanting and stuff, men and women dressed in robes, kneeling on the floor, dragons and stuff on the walls, it was pretty amazing. They even had a live band? is that the right word? they were playing traditional instruments. It was all a bit bizarre but I suppose they sort of have the right idea, praise all, upset no one... After that and some lunch we went to the cuchi tunnels where the Vietnamese hid from the bombs and stuff during the wars, it was truely amazing. How they fitted into the wee tunnels is beyond me, I know the Vietnamese are smaller than us western folk and probably more so when the wars were going on but still. We watched a video first which was very anti american calling them 'the devil americans' and such like, very interesting. They made some of the tunnels bigger so western visitors could walk through them, they were still really small tho and I didn't get very far at all, bit scary. I did however get into a hole in the ground. You had to hold the lid above your head with arms straight then lower your body in so that the lid went on and you disappeared. The only thing was, I couldn't get out again. I tried but something made a loud popping sort of cracking sound in my chest and I wonder if I did a rib, still not sure. I couldn't use my arms to push myself up if you know what I mean for about 2 or so weeks. I'm fine now tho. and at the time I managed to fire 5 rounds off an M60 Machine Gun which was pure dead brilliant so it was, very loud but the earphones were something you'd get with your personal cassette player in the 80's and therefore not much cope but we got to keep a bullet and stuff, it was great. I thought more people would have wanted to do it but they didn't. We got back eventually doing about 85 km in 3 hours, went to the market for noodles and beef then to an ice cream shop called 'Fannys' for a sorbet. A very popular chain in Vietnam.
If you go to Saigon, don't bother going into the Reunification Palace unless you're really interested in that sort of thing, it was booooring. All there was to see really was velour curtains and upholstery, old retro phones and lots and lots of tables and chairs, proper yawn-a-rama. The outside of the building and the gardens were lovely tho. After that we went to the War Museum, again very anti american blaming them for the war and the disease and deformities of the people of Vietnam now due to gases they used etc, some of the photos are very disturbing.
Exercise is big in HCMC, people are out in the parks walking, jogging, bending, dancing, doing aerobics and playing this game with a shuttlecock. It's not like a shuttlecock you'd play batminton with (which is also very popular) it's more a long tube like thing, how they do it I just don't know, it's like keepy uppy and hacky sack mixed together but you play in 2's or more, if you hit it back 4 times in a row you have to hit it next time with your foot behind you throwing yourself on the floor, it's amazing to watch.
The next day we went to the post office to send off a parcel each full of presents and souvineers then we walked for miles and miles via the Jade Pagoda which was lovely and very old and housed terripins and turtles who i thought were vegitarian but are actually into cannibalism, a few of them were ripping into another dead ones head and legs, it was pretty gruesome to watch but I still took a photo. We went to a shop and ate 3 different naughty donut things which I personally think I should have gotten for free cos when I went to pay for mine the bit next to the till gave me an electric shock!! the guy behind the till was just about to say 'don't touch that' as I put my hand on it and got zapped. I said 'hello like? that was sore, shouldn't you have a sign up??' he laughed and said it doesn't happen all the time so I stood there looking at him for a while thinking any miniute now he's going to say sorry but alas no. It had been raining a lot that day, I don't know if that might have had something to do with it. Before we got to the electric donut shop (thinking of it now, prob a sign that I shouldn't be eating them) we had been stuck under a pagoda in the park with a vietnamese soap opera crew and some other people cos it was raining so hard. We actually stood there singing songs about rain for 2 hours. Not one person joined in with us, I dont know why. A massive bolt of lightening hit a lamp post fairly near us giving out a really loud BOOOOOM sound and lighting up the park, it was mad I tell you, never seen anything like that before.
Before I go, I'd just like to tell you about the many weird and wonderful things people carry on their scooters, I'd like to see anyone manage it let alone get away with it in Gibraltar... I've seen a bike with about 50 bags of water with a goldfish in each one, another with a fridge freezer, one with a man holding a dining table, loads with as many kids as you can fit on ranging in age and size and of course some carrying live animals like chickens or ducks - lots of them hanging off the bike all over the place. It's fab to see and I even found a book at the airport in Bangkok that was full of photos of these bikes - great stuff.

Right then, next stop the Mekong Delta and a very strange tour indeed...

Posted by blondesock 21:16 Comments (0)

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