Saturday, 5 July 2008

Lazy day in Sydney.

7/6 - I struggled out of bed this morning. I'm not used to these soft matresses. Had some breakfast at the hostel and decided to do some dhobi, even thought the sun is shining. Some of my clothes got ironed for the first time in months. It made me realise how badly stained my whites are. They look like I've been paint balling in them. I'd better get my hand in my pocket and get some fresh, non-white ones. I'm loath to ditch my "Red and White Stripes" T=shirt, but it is a mess. I might buy some stain remover at the next wash and see if I can revive it.

Out and about, heading in the opposite direction to yesterday. I had a plan until I remembered the Blues/Jazz festival., so change of plan to no specific plan. THe first part of the plan came off, I found Victoria park and sat in the sun to write up the blog, butthe sun is going down now, so I'm off to find the train station and perhaps a beer before the Blues fest. I pulled over after a quick visit aroud a market that looks to be a one off thing. Lots of home made stuff and hippie gear. I never bought any, I'll stick with my paint balling gear. Next pull over was a bar for a beer, then into town by train for the music. How about that for a plan working??? They were dismantling a set when I got to the fest, so I nipped off for some food, then came back. It was closed up, it must have beeen an afternoon affair. How about that for a plan working??? I guess that's it for today. I went back to pack and chill and this plan did work. When I left the hostel this morning, I had the 6 man room to myself. When I got back tonight all the beds were taken, but nobody in them. During the night there were 8 of us. Don't ask me!!! 2 lads tunred up at 5 a.m., went back out for a while, came back, picked up their bags and left. THey never slept in their beds. Perhaps they did someone else's. When they left a lad on the floor got up and climbed on to one of the beds. It made me smile to remember such times, when I was a jack the lad. Jack the lad in the best possible taste of course. "Good young Gil, he's the quiet one." They used to say. IT'S TRUE, ask Eddie. Anyway the day has moved on.

8/6 - I got up early, but the young lads never budged. THe old fella with the ear plugs and blanket over his head wasn't too happy. Loaded up my gear and off to the train, to the ferry, to Manly. The Sydney transport seems really good. Today it's misty and raining, so there's a cloud hovering over the top of the Sydney bridge. The ferry to Manly was not as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was raining. Sydney is hell of a harbour though. It makes Liverpool lok like a Dinky toy. Off the ferry and decided to test the legs and walk to a guesthouse, about 2 thirds of the way there I was thinking again, but I don't know why, it was easy and I wasn't dripping in sweat, like in Asia, only good old cold rain. I've got a room this time for 20 quid. It wont make the AA guide and probably only just the Alcoholic's Anonymous guide, but it is cosy. I took a stroll to the beach and the srufers are like ants on the water, all in wetsuits, it is cold. I'll come back here tomorrow. I'm off to see Manly rugby league team play the top of the table Sydney Roostersf. Catching the bus is hard work. I think you have to lie in the road to make them stop. None of this cram them in, move up, let these people in. It's follow the Nanny state rules on numbers and no more. The 3rd bus stopped. At the ground, it was easy to get a ticket. I was a bit surprised with it being the top of the table clash and only 13 quid, cheaper than the UK, by a long way and for a top match.. The ground is nowhere near gull AND there's only 24 minutes left on the clock when I get in, luckily it was for the U-20's game. I did initially flap a bit. The ground layout is good, 2 sides are stands and 2 hills, where you can park your bum until the match starts, then it is stand or miss it. I was surprised how small the crowd is, 18,000 +. The UK crowds are better by far. Iwas also surprised how crap the top of the table were, but they had 4 players away at the State of Origin games.. I was very surprised at the beer consumed. You couldn't see the ground for cans after the match. It was agood atmosphere, but the game was a bit one sided, 42-0. I mowzied on down the road looking for a bus stop and found a pub instead, those are the breaks folks. They had the match on the screens. From the cheering you'd think all the people hadn't been to the match and it was being shown live. They get into their port. It's all good fun though. Rooster and Eagles fans were mixed in the ground, no segragation necessary. I had a beer and then went to catch the bus. I'd have more chance of catching a great white down this road. It's abysmal. If I ever move to Aus, I'm going to live in Not In Service because most of the buses run there and they are all empty. Eventually my lottery ticket came up and I got a bus. There was a lot of well oiled banter going on. I keptout of it for a change. Off the bus and into a pizza restaurant over the road from the digs. I read a poster saying that anyone serving someone who is drunk is liable to prosecution. WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT GRANDAD????
That is serious Nanny State stuff. I am gobsmacked, almost speechless, which is a very big lie.
This is prime Grumpy old man stuff, but I decided to chill and ordered a carafe of wine to laugh into, then thought better of laughing in case they took it off me because I was drunk. "I don't believe it" as that well known grumpy old man said.
The wine was good and I was half cut, at least. I haven't had that much to drink for a while now.
I enjoyed the pizza too, but then with a carafe of wine, there is not much I wouldn't enjoy.
Sometimes I get to feeling sorry for myself. I know I should know better and sometimes I need a reminder of how lucky I am. A lad came in while I was eating, he was mid 20's and had a walking stick. It took hime a good w hile to walk across the restaurant, he didn't look well, but he just put his head down and made his way in his own way. It was a timely reminder for me. I hope I don't forget it too soon. The wine polished off, I headed for the guesthouse. I wasn't sure which of the 2 was the right one, so I took the one that wasn't moving so much. There's a Brit lad who has been staying here 4 months. He's working here at the moment, but has real wonder lust. He was planning a trip to Papua New Guinea, but is having second thoughts after finding it is one of the worst crime spots in the world in the town of Port Moresby. It says on the web not to go out after dark and to stay in your room during the day . That doesn't leave a lot of scope.
I left him to it and hit the sack. A pleasant day in Manly done.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

On the streets again, I'm a right old slapper.

6/6 - Up sharp, breakfast and walking the streets touting for gigalo business. Surprisingly, no joy!! The big cities are not friendly places. There's no Hello's and big smiles, well, there was one. She laughed at my touting. I miandered in the direction of I know not where and found Paddy Market, a tourist tatt place in an old building. Strangely enough full of tourists and one gigalo. Bought nowt and kept miandering, passed the Powerhouse museum, it was shut, so I continued over a bridge and down to Darling Harbour. This is a real yuppy place with big big yachts and bistros with big, big glasses, so I'm right at home. Now watch me gigalo. There's a Blues/Jazz festival starting tomorrow, so I"ll stay another night and check it out. I was going to head over to Manly and get a ticket for the rugby on SUnday, but I'll chance my arm and go on Sunday. The lad at reception said I should be OK to pick up a ticket at the gate. As I walked along Darling Harbour the bistros transformed into museums and aquarium and I-Max with lots of school kids buzzing around and making me smile. Darling harbour is partly what I expected, but mstly not. I expected an old place, it's still a good place to stroll. I headed for the Botanical gardens next, I hope. I did a bit of shopping along the way, as I passed Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Cartier etc. Window shopping that is. I did a bit of artful dodging as I passed the Law courts in fear ofmy sisters wrath, not the judges strolling by in their wigs, what's that all about Grandad. Then I did a bit of plonking on a bench at the top of Hyde park. It's nice around here, very Victorian like. Lots of old buildings, so long as I don't look over my shoulder to the law courts. I think I'd get asked to leave a city if I stayed over a week for fear of wearing out the cities benches. I have lost count of how many benches I've shined today. This is a nice part of town, a good people watching spot too.
I bought some tangerine/clementines/satsuma/orange things and headed for the gardens, passing a barracks museum, several registeries and a couple of libraries on my side of the road, all very olde worlde and skyscrapers on the other side of the road, very contrasting. The old knee is giving some grief, it must be the damp and cold. I popped a couple of paracetamols, well, I hope they were, I'm floating through the botanical gardens now. This is a lovely place to stroll lots of open grass, big old fig trees that look perfect for a bit of tree hugging, if you haven't treid it you should, lots of cockatoos toos, lots of all sorts, but still no gigalo business. There is a small rose garden, that I smelled before I saw, it is one of my favourite smells, roses. I got my first glance of the Harbour bridge, since arriving and then the top of the Opera house. I spotted a nice bench, near the Government building, still in the gardensssss, so I couldn't resist it and nodded off for a few seconds, the sun went down quick. Only jesting. I think I am more tired than I realised, mind you I have been up hill and down dale bench hopping for about 4 hours, not to mention window shopping. You can tell it's lunch time, the jolly joggers are everywhere. This is a prime spot for it. I rolled on down to the harbour, passing several joggers, I might add, going in the opposite direction. I found an irreststible bench overlooking the harbour, so watched the joggers rush hour while I ate an orange thing. And so to the Opera House. It is a magnificent building. It's a bit weird close up, sort of not very posh tiles, but still magnificent and the steps up to it are great, shallow and long. I don't need the bannister and ALMOST look normal going up them. THat is something I've noticed, I don't get the constant stares at my gait, as in S.E. Asia. People look, but not so many and not so obviously. It's a n ice change.
Strolled around the Opera House, then sat on the lovely steps for some nuts and an orange thingy to show my step appreciation. Onward but not too far, at last I've found what I've been looking for a few hours now, a toilet. I've been dying for a wazz. Now I can have a brew and a very nice sausage roll. The last time I hada asausage roll was with Paige. This cafe is below the Opera house and looks out onto the Harbour Bridge. I sat and scrutinised the walkers going up to the top. I think I may be able to do that, I'll have a think. On again, around the Circular Quay. This is my favourite part of Sydney, that I've seen. There's the bridge, the OPera House and ferries coming and going. I checked out the Manly ferry for when I leave on Sunday. Every 30 minutes, $6, can't be bad. Out onto the streets from the Quay. I've given up touting, so headed for the hill to the Rocks. I like this part of town. Lots of pubs and old harbour buildings. I was close to the Harbour Bridge now, so perched on a bench and watched the walkers. It is steeper than I thought, but I reckon it's a go. Not this time though, next time I'm in Sydney. The knees throbbing now, it needs some sunshine, or perhaps a Guiness and low ad behold there's a pub with some seats outside. The beer in Sydney is sold in schooners, less than a pint and just about right. I got a table of looks here, as I did my John Wayne roll up the hill. The pub is opposite an old ware house type of building and when I sat I noticed the tennant is Saachi and Saachi. I thought they were bosh not refurbished warehouse material. What do I know?
I enjoyed the Guiness, the knee is much better now, so I rolled down the hill to catch the train back to Central, without stopping at any passing benches, the arse of my jeans is getting a bit threadbare. A quick e-fix back at the hostel and then a power nap. I'm nearly caught up on the kip now. I was going to stroll into town for some snap, but when I walked outside I noticed the cafe attached to the hostel is doing what looks like decent nosh. I must have made a bad choice, but it filled the hole. The brew was smashing. Decided to give the booze a miss and did some research on swimming with the whale sharks at Ningaloo reef. It's very expensive, but there may be mantas there too. I think this has to be done, although it is coming to the end of the whale shark season and I am off to NZ for the rugby first. A brew and a natter with one of the lads in the dorm, Kevin, he is a bit weird, but nice enough. He probably thinks the same about me.

And so to Aus.

5/6 - Got myself a SIM at the airport. It is a smashing airport, simple, easy and all very neat. Everything is obvious. Immigration took a while, but my electronic visa came good and it meant my bag was there and waiting, dizzy on the carousel. I hit the ATM and it told me to sod off. The Grumpy old man told me to keep my head, it is only the computerised bank showing no common sense again and blocking my card. It makes me angry to think they can't be arsed to think for themselves and check before letting the computer do what it wants. Never mind, my credit card came good. I'll sort Barclays out later. Time for the train to town. Into Sydney, out of Central Station and into a cafe. Registered my SIM and phoned our Bec in Canberra. She sounds in good fettle, but she did have a quick bitch about subject not to be told, in case Liam's Mam find her way to my blog. Had a brew and phoned a couple of hostel, to make sure I wasn't hiking around the streets for nothing. Loaded up and walked over the road from the station and there's a hostel. This will do, sack walking, next to the station, 17 quid a night for a dorm bed, it'll do. It was a bit of a REALITY check, back to the burn money world of 2 quid cups of tea. I have been Asia brainwashed. This is going to be expensive. Dumped my gear, loved the hot shower and hit the streets before I had chance to lie down and crash. It's like being back home, cold and wet. I'm going to have to buy a jumper. People wise, Sydney is a lot like London, 50 % non English speaking and mostly foreign looking with local accents. It's probably more th an 50%, but I'm, in Chinatown. I didn't know that until I passed the first 50 Chinese restaurants and 10,000 Chinese looking people, that was in about 400 yds of the hostel. The hostel, Central Hostel, has everything, is clean, but a bit pricey, just for a dorm bed. I could get a good hotel room for that over the past 4 months. STOP WHINGING YOU TIGHT GIT. You are starting to sound like Dickie. I decided to sort out my Vietnamese visa, I'm going back. Why? Work it out yourself. I hopped onto a train and bingo I'm at the consulate. Being by Central Station is a bonus. I went for broke and asked for a 6 month visa. THe lady said "No way." The bloke said " No problem Gil, how's the family? Keano's doing a good job, isn't he?" Ha Ha to the lady, Mackem power rules. He never really said that, I just got a bit carried away, but he is a really helpful bloke. The lady did say that. Headed back to Central and as I am supposed to be gaining weight went to Pizza Hut. I have been looking forward to a good pizza, so why did I go to Pizza Hut. DOH!!
It was 10 quid all you can eat, but it was shi@#$@#@ said that Grumpy bloke again, so I went for a beer to commiserate. My eyes were starting to droop, so I resisted a second beer and headed for bed, via the internet, if you know what I mean. It's been a long but full old day. Sydney is so far so good, but bloody cold.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Working the streets of Bangkok.

2/6 - Still a bit knackered, but breakfast put me right, probably because it was included in the price. Then I hit the streets. It's a tadge hot, so I went into a few malls, but the A/C sets my cold off, what a whimp, so I ducked and dived alnot the way, in and out of malls. This is shoppers heaven, similar to KL, crap for men. I gave up in the end and went for a coffee and a cake. It's a busy city, constant traffic and very modern. THe pavements are in a shocking state, but a lot of them have walkways above them and the Skytrain above those. It's a typical big city, so what am I doing here. Just passing through. I headed back to freshen up, as they say, then headed to Lambini park. THis is a laugh. There are hundreds of people doing aerobics to several different leaders and music. A complete mix of people too. There's a lot of other exercises going on too. It's like an open air gym and a great idea and setting, if the weather permits. I plonked on a bench to watch and was joined by a fella to practice his English. Sound familiar? I got hit for a quid. I couldn't be arsed to go through the multiple refusals, so I paid him off to get shut of him. A monitor lizard came swimming passed, but it's English must have been good enough as it didn't stop. Back towards the Wendy House and some snap. Ordered a spicey dish, the woman warned me, but I'm hard, so hard I had to order a second plate of rice to finish it, then it was beer and bed.
3/6 - Noodles for breakfst then off for a wander. I checked out the cheap markets with the copy designer stuff and then went to yet more shopping centres. I don't know why I rarely buy anything. I can't walk far enough to get out of the shops. My Asianmanbirdflu has got me a bit crocked too, so I'm not at full power. I think I need a week off this holiday lark. I wandered until I was knackered and stopped for an ice coffee and a couple of doughnuts in Dunkin Doughnuts, it's that kind of city, it has all the fast food chains and then the Thai eateries and food stalls. The coffee didn't rejuvinate me, so I wandered a bit more, then jumped on a moto back to the hotel for a kip. The moto driver was on some kind of commission I think, we broke the sound barrier twice and it was only a couple of miles. Refreshed, I hit the town again, well, I walked down the road for chicken ginger and a beer. A South African in there got talking to me. WHat a funny lad and not funny ha ha either. He was after going for a beer, but I ducked out. I think he was South Africas version of me, very opinionated, but not is such a nice way as me. (No comments from the family). I wandered back to the hotel for a beer and an early night, which didn't happen, I sat people watching and time drifted by.
4/6 - Off to Aus today, that should keep Yvonne happy. I've been really looking forward to going to Australia. I'm not flying u ntil this evening, so did some e-stuff, had some lunch then headed for the airport. I took a taxi for the easy life. I checked the meter at 197 Baht, when I got out, but asked the price. 800 Baht!!! He went a bit sheepish when I mentioned the meter. No wonder taxi drivers have a bad name. I'm early, but checked in, just in case there is something wrong with my electronic Aus visa. That's what 4 months backpacking in Asia does for you. All went well and I went through for some more food. I'm under orders to gain weight, which I don't think will be a problem when I get to Aus. More looking at stuff that I'm not going to buy. The airport is typically Bangkok, full of shops. I have not really done Bangkok justice. From what little I have seen, I like the place more than I thought I would. I was told 2 days is enough, by several people, but I think 4 or 5 are needed especially at my pace. THere was plenty I wanted to see, the the manflu put the mockers on it. The flight is delayed an hour, but now I am an expert waiter it is no problem. It's a jumbo, so there are a loads of people around. I am going to try to not watch more than 1 film. I usually end up getting no kip and knackered at the other end. I watched 2 and then nodded off. I was reclined when I woke up, so the Qantas people must have put me back, I never noticed.

Monday, 30 June 2008

On to An Bing and off to Bangkok.

30, 31/5 - This new place is smashing, in amongst the dykes and greenery, I just don't know where amongst them. This is not a huge island, but it is a maze. Vietnamese breakfast and lovely, then took a bike out for a slow miander. I stopped at the internet, but it was a waste of time, between leaving the digs and the internet shop, the island power is off, so a short miander and back to the hammock then lunch. More good food, but too much. The power came back, so nipped along to the internet place then believe it or not I dossed until dinner time. Too much food again.
Next day, the penulitmate one in Vietnam/Asia. I don't really want to head off, especially to Bangkok, but it may be a good thing for a while. We'll see.
Breakfast and out on the bike again. I've been feeling a bit gimpy, but the bike put me right. A good old sweat sorts lots of things out. It was good to be on the bike wandering and collecting the Hellos and smiles. I hope it sees this cold off too. Back for a shower and a laze in the hammock. It seems to cure the cold, well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Sadly packed some gear. More food, fresh spring rolls, the roll them yourself kind. They are very tasty, but I am not a dab hand at rolling them. The family that own this place are smashing. The 2 daughters speak a bit of English, but the rest of the people don't. We still get along famously. They are really friendly. I asked if they did laundry and they pointed to the bowl. I thought they meant get stuck in, but when I went to it, the father donned his marigolds and took over laughing.
Dung and Anh Bai have sorted out transport to HCM for tomorrow. I got offered a bus at 04.00 or 10.00. Guess which one I took.
Off to bed for the last time in Asia.
Up for breakfast, noodles, sticky rice cake and fruit. The arrangements to get to HCM are not as I thought last night, after a word with the daughter. I have to get a moto to the bus company back in Vinh Long then a bus to HCM. Sometimes I think the Vietnamese don't understand each other. I can chose my own moto time, so I got myself sorted and left for Vinh Long. I have really enjoyed staying here. It is a relaxing place. The moto turns up on time and is to take me to the bus station. I have been told buses don't run to HCM from the station, but we're on our way. The buses don't run from the bus station, I got dropped at a shop in town, but it did the job. Nearly everytime I travel in Vietnam it is different to arrange. The buses run hourly, but I only had to wait 10 minutes for the next one. They are definitely designed for Vietnamese stature. There was some chuckling when I was coaxing myself to the back seat. I was glad when we stopped so I could unwind my legs. I was sat next to a nice couple and their kid. The lady did her best to strike up a conversation with me and was very impressed I knew about 20 words of Vietnamese, so much so, she asked if I had a Vietnamese girlfriend. You can't put one passed women and the Vietnamese don't beat about the bush. I got the 20 questions again. After that I intorduced the kid to "round and round the garden like a teddy bear" and " this little piggy" which impressed the parents as much as the kid. I was offered food along the way, as usual. They are a friendly people. Not only do the buses to HCM from Vinh Long not go from the bus station, this one does not drop you at a bus station either. It is at the company office somewhere in HCM. WHere? I don't have a clue. However there are always moto men or taxis lurking, well nearly always, today is a first, NOTHING so I set off down the road to nowhere in particular, when I'd loaded up. I 0nly did about 50 metres and a taxi slowd up. I had no idea where I was in this sprawling city, but it wasnt too far from the airport, the fare was cheap.
I havent been looking forward to Bangkok, but now I am here. The ATM rejected my first card, but the 2nd got me the taxi fare. I got done there too, but only a quid or so. I agreed a price, but they should go on the metre, I later read. I wonder if I'll ever learn. Straight to the hotel, even though I only had the address. How could I forget a name like "The Wendy House"? It's OK too and I'm beat, so had a brew and hit the sack. WHilst I was sorting a room out in reception an Aussie lad and lass walk in " Hello Mate". I'd stayed at the same place as them in Kep, Cambodia. Unbelievable? Obviously not. They were off to Northern Thailand to do a bit of plumbing on an elephant place. This is the couple who have left Australia with not timetable, just going with the flow. We had a good natter then I got that brew.