Adventures of Frangipan

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Walking Tours


Free breakfast in this hostel. Nothing special - just cornflakes and toast, but it is free. You have to pay a deposit for a mug here, so I paid and was able to make myself a coffee, also free. After breakfast, I planned out my day.

American Pie was just starting when I went downstairs after getting ready, so I watched some of that, then finally got out around 1pm. I'd picked up leaflets about self-guided walking tours you could do around the city, so I started with the "Community" walk. It took me from the Town Hall and St Andrew's Cathedral, past some old warehouses, the Trades Hall, Chinatown, Paddy's Market, Aaron's Hotel, Capitol Theatre, Cyril's Fine Foods, Mark Foy's Emporium, Hyde Park, the ANZAC Memorial, Archibald Fountain and St Mary's Cathedral.

Most of it wasn't that exciting, but it was good to see some of the city. The ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Memorial was good (what is it with me and war memorials?!). Very informative display. There is a central statue that you can view from above and the side. It is of three women, one carrying a child, all bearing a dead man on their shoulders. It is meant to symbolise the forgotten casualties of war, being the mothers, wives, children and sisters left behind. Apparently it's quite controversial.

St Mary's was amazing. A very kind Christian opened the door for me after crossing himself. I hate going into churches as a tourist, since people do occasionally go there for quiet solitude! Luckily, I followed a Japanese tour group in, so no-one noticed the two photos I took, especially as the flash was off.

So then I walked up Macquarie Street to reach the start of my second walking tour. This is where a lot of the old civic and public buildings are located. I saw St James's Church, the Barracks Museum, Mint Building, Sydney Hospital and the State Library.

I got a coffee by Circular Quay while I looked over the "Colony" tour. This one started at Customs' House, then went past Macquarie Place with the anchor, cannon and obelisk, past the Education Building, Land Department, Burns Philip Headquarters, Stock Exchange, St Patrick's Church, St Philip's Church, up some old steps to Susannah Place, along Cumberland Street, through the subway under the Harbour Bridge, up to Observatory Park, along Kent Street, past Lord Nelson Hotel, along Argyle Place and Lower Fort Street, and back to George Street and Circular Quay.

This walk basically stayed in the area called The Rocks, where the original penal colony started. It's full of beautiful, small streets and terraced houses. There's also some old factory and warehouse buildings. From the observatory, you can see Darling Harbour, the wharves and Harbour Bridge, and the old colony houses just below. The Lord Nelson Hotel is a landmark because it's the oldest pub in Sydney.

There is a lot of old late 1700s and 1800s buildings here, mixed with buildings and skyscrapers up to the present day. The older buildings are totoally dwarfed by the huge number of skyscrapers, even though some of the old civic buildings aren't exactly small!

So I reckon I covered about 12km today, which is about 7-8 miles. No wonder my legs ached so much!

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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Sydney


The coach got to Sydney around 8.30am. After feeling as though we were literally dumped outside the train station, I decided a taxi would be the best way to get to the hostel, since I didn't really know where it was, or how far. So I got a coffee and muffin in the station, then got a taxi.

I don't think the driver knew exactly where I was going. I saw us drive past the hostel and pull in, and he was pointing to somewhere up ahead of us. So I said, "OK, thanks", got out, and walked back to where I'd already seen it. The girl at the front desk was so nice. She gave me my key, then I went to shower and change, then collected my map and discount vouchers on my way back down. It's nothing plush, but it's fairly close to the city centre, comfortable and cheap. And I can see the Harbour Bridge from my window.

So I walked along William Street for a few blocks west until I reached George Street, and then I walked north towards Circular Quay and The Rocks, the historical part of the city. Got my obligatory photos of the Bridge and Opera House, then went to Tourist Information and picked up leaflets on everything I wanted I wanted to see.

I felt totally overwhelmed when I got a coffee after and sorted through them. There was so much I wanted to do, and I just didn't know what to do first. Eventually decided to head over to Darling Harbour to go to the Aquarium, Wildlife World and Chinese Garden of Friendship.

Wildlife World was nice: all native Australian animals. Quite a small place, but they pack a lot in. Insects, which I wasn't too bothered about. Reptiles, which I couldn't get out of fast enough. Birds, hiding in their trees. Nocturnal, so it was dark, and some woman was taking flash photos in there. Koalas, which could've come over to you if they really wanted. Kangaroos and wallabies. I think that was about it.

The Aquarium was great. Loads of people were crowding around the platypus though, so I didn't bother. The penguins were cute. I got a great photo of the moon jellyfish, which glow blue and pink. The seals were being playful. You could watch them from above or from the two submerged walkways. Two were chasing each other and one was posing for photos. the sharks and rays were great. They had this calming music on in the background in the tunnels, and the rays, turtles and larger sharks moved around slowly, gliding. It was all very serene and calming. And they had a reef section, with some very bright fish, and some weird-looking ones too.

Then I got an ice cream and walked along Pyrmont Bridge, which goes across the Harbour. Then I got a Boost juice and answered a survey, and finally went over to the Chinese Garden. Very tranquil, even though you could still hear the sounds of rush-hour traffic not far away. Then I watched a bit of the cricket on the big screen TV nearby, walked back past the hostel to the supermarket, and then to the hostel. Had noodles for supper, watched NCIS and The OC, then went to bed around 10.30pm.

I'm feeling much better about Sydney than Melbourne. The hostel certainly helps, and I'm not letting money be an issue, so I'm actually doing stuff. But I think I just prefer Sydney anyway.

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Monday, 29 January 2007

Wasting Time Till My Coach

So, last day in Melbourne. Checked out of the hostel at 10am, but still had some milk and juice to use up, so ended up sticking around watching TV until about 11.30am. I got the tram up to Bourke Street (couple of stops further than Federation Square, my usual stop), to then change to another to get to the station. However, I started walking in the opposite direction to the nearest tram stop, and ended up walking a whole block with my heavy rucksack. It's so heavy now that I almost completely lose my balance when I'm trying to get in on my back.

So, eventually get to the station and manage - after much struggling - to push my rucksack into one of the lockers. Very glad to see the back of it for a few hours. walked back up Bourke Street because I noticed some of the shops looked nice. Ended up buying a new pair of sunglasses since the frame of my green ones broke a few days ago. Then I got a smoothie from "Boost" - it's like the Starbucks of the juice/smoothie generation.

Then I wandered around Birrarung Marr, the city's newest park area. Not that impressive, but at least it's green space. Got photos of the Federation Bells, Rod Laver Arena and cricket ground. Sat by the river for a while. Then walked back up to Federation Square and got a coffee. Still four hours to go until I was leaving.

I wanted to go to the Melbourne Observation Deck at Rialto Towers today. 360 degree views of the city, all the way to the sea, the Dandenongs, and around. But it's cloudy, so I won't waste my money. So I wandered around the shops for a bit, then went on the internet. I really will miss this internet cafe. Great coffee and muffins, souvenirs, and of course, internet. "Cafe on Flinders", right near the main entrance to Flinders Street Station, if any of you go to Melbourne.

Got back to Southern Cross Station around 7pm, and rearranged my rucksack for a bit, to try and make it more comfortable. Amazing what a bit of tweaking with the straps can do! Then the coach left just after 8pm.

So, relatively uneventful coach trip. Twelve hours on a plane gets you from Frankfurt to Singapore, but twelve hours on a coach gets you from Melbourne to Sydney. They showed a couple of films. "Bringing Down the House", with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, and "The Shawshank Redemption". The first was OK I suppose. Comedy about racial differences. A few funny moments. Steve Martin and Eugene Levy saved it. Obviously loved Shawshank. Cried when Brooks died though, as always!

Listening to: Take That - Greatest Hits

Watching: Bringing Down The House
The Shawshank Redemption

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I'm writing loads aren't I? Just checked it was all loading OK, and realised how much I'm putting. Do you guys want a weekly summary, telling you just the more interesting points, or do you actually like reading all my junk?

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Sunday, 28 January 2007

St Kilda


Started my day by walking along the promenade to St Kilda. It's about a 20 minute walk, which was fine, but would've been better if the weather had been nicer. There were people kiteboarding at one of the beaches, and offering lessons, but alas, I had no suitable attire with me. I walked through Catani Park, where there were people having picnics under trees and children getting pony rides on shetlands. Got to St Kilda and took a walk along the pier. Nothing special - I preferred the one near the hostel.

Then I walked along the Esplanade. There was a handicrafts market - all handmade products apparently. I probably would've spent longer there if I'd have wanted to spend money - lots of nice stuff - jewellry, arts and crafts, woodwork, natural cosmetic products, allsorts. A couple of the stalls smelt like Lush, only not as overpowering!

I passed by Luna Park - kinda the Blackpool Pleasure Beach of the southern hemisphere. Then I walked alog Acland Street. I can see why people like it too. Cafes, bars and cake shops line the street, with indoor and outdoor seating. And some shops and juice bars squeezed in between. I got a coffee and strawberry tart at a cake shop on one side, then a smoothie on the other side on my way back.

Got the tram from St Kilda into the city. Some radio station were interviewing the junior tennis champions in Federation Square so I stuck around to listen to that. Then I went on the internet for a while, uploading photos and emailing Mum - still an hour to go until the mixed doubles final, and the mens singles didn't start until 7.30pm.

Got back to Federation Square in time to see the end of the mixed doubles. Then I decided to check out the bus station, so I knew where I would be going tomorrow. Lonely Planet says the Greyhound stop is on Franklin Street, and the Greyhound website is pretty vague. So I get a tram up to Franklin Street, and there is the Greyhound sign. I wander in, even though everything looks pretty shut, to see if there are lockers for me to put my luggage in for the day. And there is a poster: "Urgent Notice: All Greyhound buses now depart from Southern Cross Station". Glad I found this out before I trundled all the way up here with my luggage!

So I get a tram back to Federation Square to get one to Southern Cross Station, only to find out that none go from there to the station. So I walked there. It's pretty far. But, I fund where I need to be, lockers, and how to get there, so all is good.

Walked down to Flinders Street to get a tram back to Federation Square, and then back to the hostel. Treated myself to chips and onion rings from the chippy next door. Way too much food! And apparently, you have have to specify that you don't want salt, or you end up with a year's intake on one portion of chips. This applies to restaurants too.

Then I watched the tennis. Federer won 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Gonzalez played well and made all the Chileans happy, but Federer is just magic.

Packed my stuff up before I went to bed. I thought I'd be the only one in the dorm for the night, as the two German girls left last night, but there was a new guy, Dave. Nice guy. Spent a while travelling, and is now starting work in Oz (he's a plumber), and working on getting a permanent residency. He's kinda like Stuart Jones, if he developed some muscle and spoke with a Mancunian accent.

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Photos

Check out the photo site guys - managed to upload some of the better ones from Singapore and Melbourne. Follow the link in the left-hand column, or the one below:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/frangipan

And feel free to comment on any photos there or postings here.

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Saturday, 27 January 2007

Ho Hum

Did very little to tell of today. Wandered around. Bought a long-sleeved top. Got a coffee and muffin from the internet cafe - my new favourite place. Went to watch some of the womens singles final, but it was all over by the time I got there, because Serena Williams demolished Maria Sharapova. Watched a bit of the mens doubles final instead. Then it started to rain.

Have I mentioned problems with my lenses? Well, I switched to these 30-day continuous wear lenses (the ones designed for you to leave in for ages, not the dailies that I usually can't be bothered taking out). And I've been having a few problems being able to see. They go a bit cloudy and everything goes fuzzy. It's been taking me ages to focus on anything. So, this evening, I decide to take them out and put them back in. It appears they had make-up or something on them. So I'll have to take more care when I removing my make-up.

Bean and 2 Fast 2 Furious were on TV tonight. Neither were particularly good. One of the guys in the hostel was saying the original and #3 Fast and Furious were good, but not #2. I had to bite my lip rather than get into a big debate about how they're all basically rubbish.

Finished my chick lit. Hurray! Predictable ending - you know, it's all over between the prospective couple, but then, in the 11th hour, he comes back with some big romantic gesture, and they live happily ever after. Oh, and all her friends are coupled up too. Ugh. Bought a new second-hand book - The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. Not chick lit. Found in the "literature" aisle rather than "fiction" too.

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Friday, 26 January 2007

Australia Day


National Holiday. Lots of celebrations. I'm not really sure what it's all about though, to be perfectly honest.

I had my little guide to what was going on in Melbourne today, to mark the occasion. So off I went on the tram, but had to get off early because the parade runs down Swanston Street and past Federation Square. As I was getting off the tram I noticed Luke, also from my dorm. He was moving to a new hostel in the city today and had all his stuff. So I helped him by carrying his guitar. I thought I travelled with too much stuff, but Luke was definitely making life difficult for himself!

So I watched a bit of the parade. Different ethnic groups from Melbourne/Victoria by the looks of it. The Asians always seem to do best at this kinda stuff, making lots of noise, singing , dancing and banging drums. Then everyone dissipated and I decided to take the tram over to the Docklands. They were quite boring. There's obviously some initiative to develop that area, but at the moment it's just restaurants and a dock. And the view ism't enough to draw you in. They could do with a designated cycle track though!

So I got the tram back to Federation Square, watched a street performer finish, and then went over to the Australian Centre of Moving Image, and watched short films for a while. These are films made by film students, independent filmmakers, and amateurs. Some of them were really good, especially the animation. There was one about 'the complexities of life' or something, which I enjoyed, aside the sign off. The overall winner of some award however, was a load of rubbish. Something about nature and religion that I didn't understand.

So, then I went to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia (gallery of Australian art). That was ok. Had some good photographic pieces. And then I went for some food and coffee in a cafe in Federation Square (same one as Tuesday). And now I'm here, updating my blog. And later I'll probably watch some tennis, read, watch the sunset and then the fireworks.

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Thursday, 25 January 2007

Gardens


Usual morning scenario. Woke up early. Lay awake for a while. Eventually got up, went to the kitchen for breakfast and did some puzzles. Ready and into town by 11.30am.

Gardens today. All the best ones are apparently south of the river. I got off the tram at Federation Square and walked back over Princes Bridge and into Alexandra Gardens. These are pretty small and run right alongside the river. Lots of small marquees going up in preparation for Australia Day celebrations tomorrow. So after moseying through there, I crossed the road into Queen Victoria Gardens, just south. Big statue of the lady herself, and a few sculptures of random other stuff. And a big statue of King Edward VII on a horse. I might've crossed over into Kings Domain by then - I'm a bit hazy on where one gardens ended and the next began.

Anyway, then I walked along the Tan, the joggers track, with helpful distance markers along it. Felt quite lazy as one of the only people walking! So this part was definitely Kings Domain. I wandered around doing my best Ansel Adams for a while (photos of trees!), and visited the very nice Pioneer Womens' Memorial Garden, and then crossed into the Botanic Gardens.

I wandered around trying to take an interest in the plantlife (who am I trying to kid?!) until I came across the lake, and then sat beside it and read for ages. Moved along, then found another spot to stop and read at. Then went to the visitors centre and had a coffee and ice cream.

Around 4pm I went over to the Shrine of Remembrance. Its huge. Very impressive. There's a massive forecourt with flags flying on one side, and the Eternal Flame and a WW2 memorial on the opposite side. And directly in front of you is the giant WW1 shrine. It looks somewhere between a pyramid and an ancient Greek structure from the outside. Anyway, so you go in through the visitors centre, where there are displays on various war memorabilia. Then you walk up some steps to the crypt, where there are plaques commemorating lost battleships and batallions and such like. Then you walk up more steps, and they have the register of all those killed, spanning about 20-30 books, set out around the outside of the room. In the middle of the room is where people go to pay their respects. There's also something to do with the sun shining on the aperture, through a whole in the roof, at 11am on the 11th of November. Then you walk up more steps and get out to the balcony. Its about two-thirds of the way up the building, and the highest point visitors can go to. You can walk all the way around the outside and see all of Melbourne. I really liked the place, and would've spent longer there, but they shut at 5pm. Hopefully I'll make it back before I leave on Monday.

I walked up St Kilda Rd, back to Federation Square, and had a quick look in a second hand bookshop for Dan Brown's Deception Point. It wasn't there. Then I went on the internet for an hour, and then the tram back to the hostel.

I noticed a building on the journey home, with 'AD 1993' engraved above the door. Did they think we'd be confused if they just put '1993'? Like we might think the building was 4000 years old rather than 14 years old? Or are they just really hopeful about how long it'll be standing for?

Watched the tennis when I got back to the hostel. Federer vs Roddick. Think I was the only Federer fan, so stayed quiet. He won 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

I'm peeling loads today. Huge pieces of skin! Urgh! It's so gross!

Reading: Single White E-Mail. My God I hate chick lit. Obsessing over The One. It always men, work, and hanging out with friends talking about men. Apparently life is not complete if you're single. You have to devote your time to at least thinking about finding your soulmate, if not doing something about it as well.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Southbank


If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit, join our club! Going round and round and round in my head for no reason.

I get lots of thinking time in the morning at the moment. I wake up around 7am but don't want to disturb anyone in the room, so I lay awake til around 8.30am. I'm considering changing my flights. I'm bored. I thought I was made for travelling, but turns out, all this relaxing just isn't me. I'm filled with dread at the idea of being in North America for twelve weeks, alone, relaxing. Of course it doesn't help that I have little money, but I knew that anyway. So I think I might stay working in New Zealand until the end of July, then have my week in Tahiti, then get to New York by August, and have five weeks by myself before Cameron and Alex join me for our two week road trip. At least that way I'll be doing something, rather than just relaxing.

So I eventually went into town around 12ish. I went to the NGV International to check out the Manga exhibition. Except, what they don't tell you is that you have to pay for that. So I wandered around the rest of the gallery/museum instead. Took a good few hours. Did you know Nike was the Greek ( I think) goddess of winning (or glory, or something to that effect)? Apparently trainers are now art too. Huge display of about 200 pairs of different designs. Some of them were cool, but most were just, well, trainers.

Then I walked past the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall to Southgate. This is the Southbank shopping and restaurant complex. Not overly exciting. A few nice gift shops, but looked like pricey stuff. Lots of 'Australian art' and vases and stuff. So I walked through there and then along Southbank Promenade as far as the casino, crossed a bridge with lots of sculptures on to the north bank, walked back the way I'd come, crossed another bridge back to Southbank, then crossed Princes Bridge (the main one) back to the north. I finally ended up in Federation Square watching some tennis on the big screen.

I got back to the hostel around 6pm and watched tennis on the regular-sized TV. Later I went out to watch the sunset again, but just sat on the beach reading and waiting for it, rather than walking again.

Reading: Single White E-Mail.

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Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Melbourne: Day 1 (Well, Day 2 Really, But I Was Asleep For The Real Day 1)


So, feeling better today. I knew I would. Two very nice Canadian dorm mates took me under their wing, and took me on the tram to Federation Square. I thought I was coming from bad weather: they're from Edmonton, and it was -37 degrees Celcius when they left home!

I got off the tram and picked up loads of leaflets in the Visitor Information Centre. I went for a coffee near the racing museum while I sifted through them. Don't think I'll bother going to the racing museum - don't know of any Oz racehorses (sorry Dad!).

Is every city in the world constructing something for a temporary event, or just the ones I'm going to? Trying to enjoy a coffee in Federation Square and watch a bit of the tennis on the big screen TV. According to the commentators, this week is better weather for the tennis. It's still boiling hot though.

Federation Square is strangely appealing. It seems like awkwardly pieced-together glass and steel. But it is quite pleasant, and reminds me of Millenium Square in Leeds when they actually do something there.

So after my coffee I wandered up Swanston Street, which is 'the people's street' apparently. Don't know what that means - just a tourist/marketing term I think. Nothing special about it as far as I could see. Just a shopping street. There was a trapeze though. And a crowd of people watching cheered as a girl made a catch. I went into the State Library, which wasn't hugely interesting. I did learn a bit about Ned Kelly though.

Then I wandered back down the other side of the street and to a little side street called Degraves Street, for lunch. It was only small but had cafes on either side, all with tables out on the street.

I'd been told there was a supermarket on Elizabeth Street so walked up, but couldn't find it. Then I walked back down, and it was about two doors down from where I'd started! After getting some basics I sat in Federation Square and watched a bit more tennis before getting the tram back to the hostel.

There wasn't anything particularly interesting going on in the hostel, so I read for a while, then decided, around 7.45pm, to go out to the beach and watch the sunset. The hostel is right on the beachfront, so I crossed the road and walked left (towards St Kilda) until I reached a pier. I watched the windsurfers and fishermen and a lone surfer trying to catch a wave for a few minutes, then walked back past the hostel for ages in the other direction. I passed the life saving clubhouse, where there was a group of people about to do tai chi or something. I was really hoping they'd break into a Fatboy Slim "Praise You" routine right in front of me, but alas, they did not. I managed to get all the way along the prom and back to outside the hostel before the sun was near setting. I sat on the beach to watch the last few minutes. Took way too many photos!

I think seven days is a long time to have here, especially with little money to spend. But I'm still in the mindset of getting up early and seeing everything, which isn't necessary. I'm in a better mindset than yesterday. This hostel isn't all bad. Just cheap. Can't argue too much for 6 quid a night.

I imagine this is a nice place to live. I'm in the inner suburb of Albert Park, which is between Melbourne city centre and the inlet of sea just south. It's about a 20min tram ride to the centre. The hostel is right on the beach, which is a fantastic location. Most of Albert Park that I see on the tram ride is coffee shops and boutiques. Places you imagine people run just as a hobby, rather than to earn a living.

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Monday, 22 January 2007

Arriving in Oz

The flight to Melbourne was pretty rubbish. The entertainment system wasn't working, so we were limited to watching The Scoop with no sound, listening to one of three radio channels, playing the games, or watching the flight map. I was kinda rubbish at the games, so mostly read, watched the map, and chatted to the lady next to me. The food was kinda crap too.

Then we arrive in Australia at 6.30am. One of the questions on the immigration card is something like "are you carrying any soil, or anything with soil on?" Erm...My boots (that I was wearing) still had mud from Honduras and Guatemala on. I said "no". And no-one stopped me, thankfully.

So I get into the arrivals lounge, and there's a shuttle that can take me to my hostel. Great. Except it was the wrong hostel. However, the guy in the wrong hostel very kindly drove me to the right hostel. I couldn't check in because it was still only 9am, but I sat in the common room for a while.

It's a bit out of the way, but it's cheap at least. No internet access though.

Get a key and a bed after 10am, and sleep. For the whole day. Don't know why I'm so tired. Maybe its a lack of caffiene. Averaging around 3-4 cups of coffee a day when I'd usually have about 10.

The fun seems to have stopped. Feeling deflated. I know it'll be different when I get out and see Melbourne, but lacklustre at present. Keep feeling like I'm ready to go home already. After one week! Of eight months!

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Sunday, 21 January 2007

Leaving Singapore

The problem with sleeping all day is that you don't sleep at night. Not that the noisy Japanese girls helped, coming in at 3am, then back and forth to the bathroom from 5am to 7am. I went for breakfast at 7.45am, then went to see if I could log into Blogger. Still couldn't. Decided to Google myself, since Gavin said he'd found my site. So I typed in "frangipan" and "adventures". My Flickr profile was the second hit, but my Blogger profile didn't come up till the third page. Might have to see if there's a way I can change that.

So then I showered, changed (delicately) and packed. I checked out by 9.30am, and decided to have a wander over to Little India to look at the temples. But it smelled weird and I was a bit worried about being the only white person. So I went to Chinatown instead. A few more tourists over there. There was a huge street market, and I saw a couple of temples and the decorations going up ready for Chinese New Year.

After that I walked past the Fullerton Hotel to the Merlion statue. Don't know what this guy has to do with Singapore, but they seem to like him. Can't figure out why. However, there was a very welcome breeze, so I stayed a few minutes.

Then I walked along Boat Quay and decided to stop for lunch. I was conned I tell you. $15 for my meal (about 5 quid, ok), but $12 for 2 orange juices?! And they charge you for a towel (wet wipe in a fancy wrapper) which I didn't even use!

Got the MRT back to Dhoby Ghaut, picked up my luggage and got a taxi to the airport. I was there by about 3.30pm, and checked in by 4pm. I drank all my water before checking in, only to find that they're not bothered by liquids in your hand luggage over here.

Actually glad I went so early, because they have free internet access, but you're limited to 15mins a time. And since I had three hours til my gate opened, I had plenty of time to update my blog.

So, to summarise Singapore. Its very clean. Very well-organised. Multi-cultural. And safe. I reckon I would've been OK in Little India too, if I hadn't been alone. I could've spent ages in a coffee shop on Orchard Road people-watching. Sentosa is beautiful, but they take the whole commercial-touristy thing a bit far. And I think four days was long enough. After all, if I hadn't slept for a day, I could've got to Singapore Zoo and East Coast Park

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Saturday, 20 January 2007

Bedridden

Amazingly, my skin felt quite cool when I woke up this morning. But it was still really sore and I didn't feel like doing anything, so I slept and read. All day.

Finally got out of bed to get a coffee, some chocolate and check emails. Then I decided to update my blog, but the computers wouldn't let me into Blogger. It might be free internet, but it ain't fast.

Listening to: Wolfmother, We Are Scientists - With Love And Squalor

Reading: Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

Feeling: Sore still

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Friday, 19 January 2007

Sentosa


Woke up around 10am - too late for breakfast. Took the MRT to Harbourfront, and from there the cable car to Sentosa Island. Apparently the views from the cable car are worth the extra expense. I disagree. The fastest lift in the world up the cable car however, was probably worth it. OK, so it wasn't really all that fast, but it was 15 floors and made of glass, so you could the ground disappearing.

So I get to Sentosa and have a coffee while I get my bearings. It's totally touristy around the cable car station. Carlsberg Sky Tower to give you a view over to Singapore and across the sea. Gift shops, McDonalds, Subway, etc. I wasn't interested in any of this though - I wanted to go to the beach. I had two options: I could go by luge, or I could take the nature trail. In the interest of saving money, I took the latter. It was through secondary rainforest and very pleasant, but as seems to be the norm with Sentosa, it was commercialised and cheesy. There was this random dragon theme to it, with a few random fake dragons (as opposed to the real kind!) and a couple of manmade waterfalls.

So I reached Siloso Beach after about 10-15mins walking. Imported sand. Palm trees. Volleyball. Beach-side restaurants and bars. Fake, but in a good way. So I found a section of beach all to myself and read and sunbathed. Then I went for a swim. And then I realised how burnt I was. So I got dressed and went for some food. Then I went back along the nature trail to the cable car station. My legs burned every time I stood still.

I got the MRT back to Dhoby Ghaut and went back to the hostel. I had an incredibly welcome cold shower. Then I REALLY noticed how red I was. And I look extra daft because there is a white patch across my face where my sunglasses were.

Reading: Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

Feeling: Very very sore

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Thursday, 18 January 2007

British Singapore


Woke up later than I wanted, around 9am. Went down for breakfast. Hash browns and egg mayo anyone? Actually nicer than I expected.

Decided I needed to orient myself, since the taxi journey took me round one-way systems. So I walked down to Orchard Road, the shopping mecca here. I imagine it's fantastic if you're buying, because it's just mall after mall after mall. One designer, one electronics, one bargain stuff, one high street, the list goes on. And they put a lot of effort into their malls too. The mall housing the designer gear has a huge fountain and two sculptures outside. The department stores have lanterns and other decorations outside. I have photos, but no way of uploading them yet.

I got kinda bored about half way along, so turned around and came back. Stopped in Starbucks, and very glad I did because the heavens opened soon after, and everyone was running for shelter.

When the rain stopped, I decided to do a cultural tour. So I walked to Raffles Hotel and started from there. Obviously had to get the obligatory photo of the front of Raffles. Then I walked past St Andrew's Cathedral, City Hall, Supreme Court, the Padang, to Raffles Landing, the Dalhousie Obelisk, Victoria Theatre, Esplanade Park, Lim Bo Seng Memorial, the Cenotaph, Tan Kim Seng Fountain and the Civilian War Memorial.

My feet were blistered after all that walking, so I took the MRT back to Dhoby Ghaut (pronounced "Dobie Got", not "Goat" as I started!). Imagine the London Underground if it was clean, pleasant, and you actually felt like some effort had gone into it. A lot of the stations actually have malls in them. Dhoby Ghaut has 7 stories of mall above it!

There was a thunderstorm raging as I was getting off the MRT, so I stood and waited for the rain to stop for about half an hour. It didn't. So I walked the 10 mins back to the hostel in the rain. I chatted to the girls in my dorm for a while, then went to the restaurant downstairs for supper. Only one veggie choice, but it was nice.

So my initial thoughts on Singapore. It's really clean. Everywhere. It's so nice not to have to worry about stepping over something, or worry about what you just stepped in. I imagine the hefty fines help keep people in line, but there is very little police presence.

The heat is just about bearable, but the humidity is not. Air conditioning is everywhere. And I am very thankful for it.

In Singapore, you have to cross the streets at the crossings. Its against the law not to. So I spent the beginning of today worried I might accidentally step off the kerb and get arrested. But most of the roads are four lanes wide, and the traffic doesn't stick around. It makes sense to use the crossings, and there are plenty of them. Although there was a funny moment when there was about twenty of us ready to cross, and there were no cars coming. But the little red man was still showing, so we all stood there, unsure if we should just cross because it was clear, or wait for the little green man. We waited.

Reading: Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

Feeling: Cultured!

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Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Singapore: Day 1

So we're coming in to land in Singapore around 6pm. And the pilot tells us there's a small technical problem with one of the hydraulic something-or-others, so it'll take a little longer to get to the terminal, and if we see a couple of fire engines driving towards the plane, it's nothing to worry about, just a precaution. After about 5-10mins on the ground, he comes back to tell us we're going to be towed in rather than taxi, because of the circumstances, but still nothing to worry about. Thankfully, it really wasn't.

Changi Airport is huge. Clean. Well-organised. Nowhere near as big as Heathrow, but it is growing. Went through immigration and got my luggage, and decided I couldn't be bothered trying to figure out the public transport at the moment, so I got a taxi to the hostel. Really nice road from the airport: tree-lined, and you can see East Coast Park, the sea and ships not far off. It started raining, but didn't last long.

Got to the hostel, hot, tired and smelly. Dumped my stuff, showered and fell asleep reading around 10pm.

Reading: Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

Feeling: Achy and tired

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Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The Beginning

So I guess the best place to start is the airport. We get there at around 1pm, and it doesn't say anything about checking in next to my flight. So we try the self-check in which says my ticket isn't ready (?!). So we have a coffee and wait. Then the screens say 'go to self-check in', which is obviously useless. What it doesn't tell you is that if that doesn't work, you can check in at any desk. Ta.

So after queuing for a bit, I get checked in. Me and mum go for a wander, buy some earphones, and then head back for me to go through security. I take out my Vaseline and put it in a clear plastic bag (don't know how this would help if it really was explosives though). I go through the barrier and my bag goes through the x-ray machine. But they want to search it too. No problem, nothing to hide. So I get through no problem.

Got bored in the departure lounge waiting for my gate number to appear. Sat for a bit, got a coffee, sat again, wandered around the duty free looking at expensive sunglasses, sat a bit more. Gate number finally appears and off I go. To the smallest plane in the airport. I want to say smallest plane in the world, but it wasn't quite. Rows of two seats on one side, rows of one seat on the other. Two 'flight attendants'. But, it was incredibly comfortable with a nice take-off and landing.

So we arrive in Frankfurt at 7pm. I already checked in for this flight back in Manchester, so I have 4 hours of waiting. I have no Euros to spend. Half the places are closed anyway. The only shop thats open smells weird (German food!). So I sit and listen to music for nearly four hours. Wander around the lounge a couple of times. And thats about it.

When we finally get through, I get my hand luggage searched again. Don't know if I look like a terrorist or a drug smuggler, but I don't have much luck with these guys.

The flight to Singapore was fine, except that I hate long haul flights through the night. I can never get comfortable enough to sleep!

Listening to: PJ Harvey - Uh Huh Her

Watching: The Departed

Feeling: Excited! Tried not to think about the goodbyes and that 8 months is actually a really long time!

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Monday, 15 January 2007

For those of you new to my blog

The long paragraph on the left is stuff about me, fairly obvious cuz of the title. You can click on my photo, or 'view my complete proile' to read about my likes and dislikes when you're really bored.

Underneath that are links to my previous postings, mostly from my last trip (Guatemala and Honduras 2005). Click on the year or month to view all my posts from then, in reverse order. Or click on the arrow next to the year or month to view the titles of all my posts from that time, and then you can select one to read.

Underneath my archive are links to some of my favourite websites. Firstly, my photo site where I'm hoping to post the majority of my photos as I travel. Next is Kris's article on trace fossils, for any of you who are interested in paleontology. Then my place of work. Then my favourite TV show and band, and a bunch of other stuff.

And last but certainly not least, some of my favourite photos.

Then over here, the main body of text, is my blog. It reads in reverse order, so the most recent stuff that I've written will appear at the top. You can leave comments that will be emailed to me by clicking on the 'comments' link. And you can email a posting to someone by clicking on the envelope next to it.

You can also leave comments on my photo site, but you have to be a Flickr member. To view my photos, just follow the link on the left and my most recently uploaded photos will appear at the top. Down the right hand side is a list of 'my sets', and you can select one of those if you just wanted to see my photos from Singapore, for example.

So I hope you enjoy reading my blog and viewing my photos.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, You're Only A Day Away!

(Don't laugh - I know you love Annie too, and were no doubt singing along!)

So the next journey starts tomorrow. An 8-month trip around the world, visiting Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, USA and Canada.

For a rough itinerary, I'll arrive in Singapore on 17th Jan, and stay until 21st Jan. I'll arrive in Melbourne on 22nd Jan and work up the east coast of Australia, leaving from Cairns on 24th Feb. I arrive in Auckland on 24th Feb, and am staying in New Zealand until 6th June. I fly to Tahiti on 6th June, but arrive on the 5th June since I'm crossing the international date line. I then fly from Tahiti on 12th June, arriving in New York on 13th June. Then Cameron and Alex will join me at the beginning of September, and we'll all fly back on 20th September, reaching Manchester by 21st September.

People keep asking if I'm excited, and telling me that they're going to miss me. Somehow it still doesn't seem real to me yet, but I think that's always been the case with my travels. I suppose I'm excited. But I've been planning it for a long time and I think I'm just ready to go now. I'm fed up of waiting. I never thought about missing people until I went down to Brookhouse to say my goodbyes, and then it hit me. That I'm going away for much longer than I have done before, and further. Although distance doesn't really matter too much, once you're into thousands of miles and start putting oceans in between yourself and home!

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

2007

I'll be back soon to write about my next trip, starting Tuesday 16th January. But since people are actually starting to look at my blog already, I thought it was best to write something more current than September 2006.

Google have apparently taken over Blogger, and made a few improvements, hence all the photos I've been able to upload (previously difficult because I can't speak html).

However, I wanted to add more links, so had to lose a few. For anyone who read Fred's China blog, that is no longer running. I've taken the least important off, but there was some funny stuff I didn't want you guys to miss out on seeing, so here are my favourites:


Top 25 Dumb Bumper Stickers
http://www.dumbbumpers.com/bumpers.php?sid=&a=top25

Bush vs Tic Tacs: Who Would Make a Better President?
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=tictacs

I Am Better Than Your Kids
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=irule

Crappy Childrens Artwork
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=irule2

How to Kill Yourself Like a Man
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=manly_suicide