Monday, April 24, 2006

The slide spectacular

Ed got some of his slides back the other day from the trip - they are really quite amazing. And there I was being a bit scathing about him carrying his antiquated bloody lump of a giant camera about and having to buy slide film all the time while I just popped my tiny digital in my handbag - well now I stand corrected. They are so much better. Here is a random selection of my favourites - I give them the big thumbs up.

A monk hitches a ride on a trishaw in Burma

An important call in Peru

Little Peruvian Beauty Queen - Llangoden Peru
Peruvian Schoolgirls dressed up for a fiesta - Huaraz Peru

Chom, Lek and Jeff race our trishaw in Burma

Ed and I in a giants doorway at Sacsayuman - Cuzco Peru

Pestering a Llama in Peru

Little boy on the floating islands of Titicaca - Peru

Me and our spanish teachers Fanny and Liz - Cuzco Peru

Beautiful, bitey Leonsio - Villa Tunari Bolivia

Bathtime for Mums and babies - Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Strange car - Burma

A Moai who has fainted with fright - Easter Island Chile

Covered in food, wee and monkeys and very happy - Villa Tunari Bolivia

Lake Titicaca - Peru

Edward James Holmes - world traveller and Puma walker - Villa Tunari Boliva

Hans and Martin the monkey have a bite of each other - Villa Tunari Bolivia

Ed teaches Martin some bad food habits - Villa Tunari Bolivia

Trying a on a Bolivian ladies hat - Tarabucco Boliva

Everyone is dressed up for market day - Tarabucco Boliva

Ed buys another table cloth - Tarabucco Bolivia

Potato lady - Ollantaytambo Peru

Playing with the baby - Thailand

Golden Inca ruins at Pisac - Peru

Middle of nowhere - salar in Bolivia

Baby Hope gives one of the volunteers a cuddle - Thailand

Old lady elephant eavesdrops on Park manager Michelle when she talks to the tourists - Thailand

The train cemetery in Uyuni - Bolivia

Sunday, April 23, 2006

White Teeth

Since we've been back I have been indulging in a spot of good old Aussie TV watching. Christ, what a heap of crap it is, syncophantic chat show hosts slavering over a 5 minute interview with freak man Tom Cruise, scary reality remakes of shows from the US and UK, like Dancing with the stars and The Biggest Loser, and then there is the news. What is it about Australian newsreaders? Why do they like to read things like "A child was badly burned to death to day in Newcastle" in the same robot like jolly voice that they use for the last piece of news of the night "and now a clever cat that can count" - these tv people are like replicants.

Actually I think they are. Since I've been back it appears that anyone who appears on the telly in Australia seems to be tanned to perfection and sporting a set of rather unaturally bright white teeth. Has everyone been indulging in teeth whitening in my absence? I know it is rather popular with tourists in Thailand, has the same phenomena occured here in OZ? Or is it because I have spent a year in 3rd world countries where even having teeth seems to be a spot of luck on the looks scale?

Watching all these almost fluroescent white choppers gnashing on the screen is unsettling - I mean a little bit white is nice but to have teeth that are whiter than your eyes? Whiter than the shirt you are wearing? It scares me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's a worry

Having only been back in Australia for about 10 days it is a worry that my latest choice of reading matter lying next to my bed is: Lonely Planet - Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botwswana.

Help! I have an incurable addiction.

Having said that, I have to say there is one really great thing about Australia (well there are a few great things, nice beaches, good weather, nice people as long as you don't count John Howard, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones or any Cronulla surfie gangs..) is that when you tell people that you have been travelling for a year the response is always positive. Even in my job interview it was seen as a positive about me - in fact my new boss even said "wow - you must have learned so much over there, I think it's great that you did that." It's not always the case in other countries as I know plenty of people from Europe and the US have said if they went for a job and said they had been travelling for a year they would be worried that they would be perceived as being a bit unstable or lazy.

So hurrah for Australian bosses - wonder how they will feel when I ask if I can go to Africa for a while next year?????

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ring Ring

I just realised that in the last year of travelling the world I used a telephone exactly 5 times in 12 months. Twice to ring my Mum for her birthday and for Christmas, once to ring my sister, and once each to ring the bank and to book a restaurant.

Today I have made over 13 phone calls, and since I've been home I've blown 70 bucks on mobile phone calls.

No wonder I'm having culture shock.

In other news, I have a broken toe. It appears that moving house is a hazard to little toes as I smacked mine on an unpacked box the other day, it's turning a nice blackish colour and I have taken to wearing my slippers out in public - stylish. I told a friend this who moved house last month and he informed me that he broke his toe too on a random piece of furniture whilst moving - apparently he is only just back to wearing normal shoes again. I am doomed to slipperdom for a few weeks it seems, lucky I'm too busy to see anyone.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A hard landing

Ouch - definately had a rather fast re-entry into Sydney life. I envisaged reunions with friends, family, all the people I love and missed. I imagined unpacking our lovely flat in a leisurely fashion whilst gently pondering what I would do for a crust now I am back.

Instead this happened: the day I arrived home I was contacted by an old Editor of mine who wanted to headhunt me to write for a hot new mag that is being launched later in the year - music to a freelancers ears, of course, yes I would do it. The catch? They need the article in one week and Easter falls right in the middle. Ah bugger it, I will do it, I said.

Then later....another editor contacted me about a huge article I was writing that didn't have any deadline so I had been taking the leisurely approach. Suddenly they want to fast-track it - ohhhhkay......whens it due? "We need it in a week" and suprise suprsie Easter falls right in the middle making my interviewees out of action for four days of that week. So of course I said "Sure no problem" quietly hyperventillating to myself.

I then check my email regarding a job I applied for, I didn't hold out much hope for it as over 100 folk had applied, but there was an email asking me "Can you come in for a job interview" Sure, when? "In two days?" of course my ever more stressed answer was "no problem."

In the meantime I had no mobile number, no home phone, no internet, Eds car was being fixed and our flat is filled with dusty boxes, lights that don't work, the washingmachine is broken and I don't even know where my shoes are to wear to the interview.

In a space of five days I have run back and forth to net cafes, mobile phone shops, queued in banks, sat on the phone abusing Optus cause they still couldn't sort out our home phone or net, I vacummed, cleaned, shopped for food, unpacked and collapsed each night into bed each night in a neurotic heap.

I have seen no-one apart from my Mum and Eds sisters - I haven't even seen my new niece which makes me wracked with guilt. It has been madness. In the space of a week I have become one of those stressed city people who strides down the street shouting into their mobile phone - juggling a diary and lugging shopping all at the same time, it's a bloody long way from my beloved hammock in Thailand.

But if I survive this coming week, file my stories on Friday and collapse into a deep sleep I will be ready to start all over again. There will be reunions, wine, good food, good friends, funny stories and all the things I have been looking forward to for so, so long. I just hope I can hang on for this week or I will already need another holiday!

Ps: The good news is, I got the job I interviewed for! Come May 15th I will officially be 'employed' person- hurrah.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Less Tiger More Teapot

Home again, home again jiggy jig jig. First impressions, Sydney looks so orderly, placid and so clean I swear someone gets up in the night and gives it a spit polish. I laughed at the traffic jam Ed and I got caught in on the Anzac Bridge yesterday, I used to think it had to be one of the worst bits of gridlock ever, but we were moving after a ten minute wait, a positive breeze compared to sitting in Bangkok traffic not moving for an hour and a half.

Other things......... people here look so tall, making me feel like a shortarse. In Australia I'm a very average 5ft 7 but in Asia and South America I was like an Amazon, towering over most of the locals. I also feel like a bit of an alien, not sure what music or films are cool, what clothes are in fashion and how people live day to day lives when they are not roaming the world with a bag on their back, it's weird - just like being in another foreign country really.

Ed is struggling too, he managed to thank the supermarket lady in Thai yesterday much to her bemusement.

On the brighter side of the fence, soft beds, powerful showers with hot water that doesn't run out, being able to drink the water out of the tap and the best thing of all - Australian wine.....ahhhh so delicious after the paint stripper we have been partaking in over the last 12 months. (Not so good for the post detox though I have to admit.)

So dear readers, I'm happy to report this is not the end of the blog or my journey....... though I can't promise too many tigers in the next couple of months I still have some good pics and travel stories that never made it onto the blog while I was on the road and there might even be a bit of day to day life in Sydney storytelling too. I've always been of the opinion the everyday can make rather exotic reading too, depending on how you choose to see it.

So stay tuned....if you dare.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Where the air is rareified

One night in Bangkok and the worlds your Oyster - or so Benny and Bjorn from Abba wrote for that crappy Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. For Eddie and me it was the LAST night in Bangkok and indeed the LAST night of the trip - arghhh!

So we thought we would go out in Style, with a capital S.

State Tower Bangkok - all 63 floors of it. They thought they would put a restaurant up there, like many a tall building in the world likes to do, but the folks at State Tower didn't stop there, there are no revolving bits, no carpeted floors and what the hell, no roof or walls either! Sirocco restaurant is the worlds highest Al Fresco restaurant.

You zoom away from the smog and other earthly cares in a lift that barely feels like it is moving, ears popping all the way. You step outside and are greeted by the sight of a huge golden dome and a golden staircase that takes you on a vertiginous decent into the dining area and bar. The glass bar juts out over the edge of the roof, and it also changes colour every few minutes just to complete the total over the topness of the place.

Dinner itself was a bit blah and the wine was outrageously overpriced but we threw caution to the wind gulped down more than our fair share and pranced about up there for hours - brilliant.

When we finally floated back down to earth, into a cab and back towards Khao San Rd who did we spy in the street - Mr Thailand! Mr Thailand is a crazy Thai guy who likes to wear full white military regalia, including Pith helmet and rides a rickshaw covered in disco balls and flowers, he has a massive stereo that pumps out crazy thai trance music and he takes you peddling through the streets saluted the gawping passersby.

Because we are such regular customers and it was our last night Mr Thailand pulled out all stops - we disappeared off the regular route, rode down a highway and materialised in a local thai night market where he proceeded to ride us up and down the streets for over an hour. The local police ran out to stop the traffic for us, little kids were dancing, a bunch of teenagers started breakdancing, shopgirls were covering their mouths and giggling, people were taking photos and even the group of soldiers standing near the Kings residence cracked up giggling and waving as Ed, Mr Thailand and I sailed past doing our best royal waves and salutes. By the end my face was aching from laughing so much and I was falling asleep in the rickshaw, but what a way to go.

Linga Longer

Excuse me, says Ed to the well dressed group of Thai business people on their way out to lunch. Do you know where the Penis Park is?

Well he didn't quite say that in English - he asked where the Linga Park is.......Linga in thai means penis, willy, whatever you want to call it, either way it guaranteed some nervous giggling from any local that we asked.

No, Ed and I aren't perverts - we were simply sussing out a little Bangkok oddity that I had heard about. In a small garden near the Raffles hotel is a buddhist shrine which somehow has gotten itself a reputation for granting fertility blessings. In other words if you want a family, get yourself down to the Linga Shrine and don't forget to take a little phallic something as an offering. The rule of thumb, or linga, seems to be the bigger the offering the kiddies that will come your way. There were wooden lingas, gigantic marble lingas, mosaic lingas, lingas with legs, homemade jobs and some rather professional looking ones. What I want to know is where on earth do you go to buy them?

Bangkok Days and Nights

Bangkok is a weird and wonderful city. Where else could you ride a electric pink taxi across town, jump on an ancient wooden river boat to float upstream passing tiny wooden houses and golden palaces before boarding an ultra modern skytrain to zip above the traffic to a hospital that has a Starbucks, McDonalds and an Italian fine dining restaurant in its foyer.

Then it's onto the streets where vendors can whip up any kind of Thai delicacy on a tiny open flame, racks of dried squid hanging like jewellery displays, pink, yellow and green fruit glistens in glass cases, mountains of t-shirts, shoes and bags are for sale on the ground outside shopping centres that are like marble palaces dedicated to every designer label on the planet. Then it is an agonizing choice for lunch, Thai, japanese, Indian - North and South, Italian, Egyptian, Greek, Arab or even Ethiopian.

As night falls there are dogs wearing t-shirts and necklaces, tourists getting fake dreadlocks and tidy teenage Thai punks who are smiley and polite, badass tuk tuk drivers burn around the streets all blue smoke and disco lights.

Everynight in Bangkok feels like a combination of New Years Eve and Mardi Gras - people are out and about everynight eating, drinking, dancing and shopping, shopping, shopping. There are night markets, whole streets filled with outdoor restaurants, karoke, bars, dance clubs all jostling for space with temples, shrines and the ever present traffic jams.

Back down in the tourist strip of Khao Sarn badly dressed tourists wander the streets scoffing banana pancakes, downing beers, chatting up the local girls and getting tattoos. The local bar girls bump and grind on the balconies of clubs and even the police like to stop and have a perv.

It is a dance that happens all over the city every night of the week.

Sydney is going to feel rather quiet after all this methinks.