Archive for July, 2006

sitting, waiting, wishing, hoping

Monday, July 24th, 2006

… never to hear another jack johnson song ever again. talk about ubiquitous.

footloose and carefree (almost)

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

ahhh… the warm breezes and sun will put anyone’s heart and soul at ease.

we’re on “fiji time” now, as they say, and nothing much else seems important. even the fact that we foolishly (it turns out) arrived here during the peak of high season. and since fiji is more of a “holiday” destination than a traveller-friendly hangout, this is going to hurt the wallet a bit, it would seem.

no matter – we head for one of the offshore islands tomorrow, determined to capture our slice of the white sands and turquoise waters… even if we have to eat pb&j sarnies the whole two weeks.

(since the internet connections are not fabulous, the pics will have to wait for uploading… but soon, my pretties, soon…)

night gazing

Friday, July 21st, 2006

stars above, black sands below, and the dark fijian ocean lapping softly at your feet.


making the rounds

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

so we’ve been making the rounds of friends, dropping in to catch up with people as we explore the central and gold coasts.

it started out with meeting up with damian, j’s old work colleague in sydney. bar-hopping as his “guests” we severely overindulged until the wee hours, only to suffer the consequences the next day. reasons the partying and backpacker lifestyle don’t mix: a) there’s nothing like waking up and realising you’ve blown two day’s food budget in an evening b) it’s so not fun waking up 20 minutes after you were supposed to have checked out, crashing around the room packing in a blind panic while still drunk c) travelling while hungover is the worst kind of naseous misery known to man. we spent gruelling hours of distance driving in the pouring rain, stopping overnight in port macquarie (and watching the poor south african springboks team get slaughtered at the hands of the aussie wallabys).

the next day we continued up to brisbane, where we spent a lovely chilled evening of dining and drinks chatting with adam (unfortunately simone had left for perth the day before), and enjoying the hotel comforts of his corporate apartment – a beautifully hot and powerful shower, and an incredibly delicious bed. sometimes all you need is a good wash and sleep to feel completely restored.

leaving brisbane, we stopped off at a koala center (where i gave myself whiplash futilely scanning the treetops) and had lunch at surfer’s paradise before arriving at nicola and ben’s house. nick and i are old travel buddies from london so we spent some time comparing stories and catching up on her new baby/wedding/house plans while ben rustled up a fab spag bol, for the four of us, plus his bro and nephew. the next morning nick took us on the grand tour of the coolangatta area, with its resident surfers and unbelievable beaches, and completely sold me on the idea of moving to australia for a year.

we continued back south, and pulled over at byron’s bay – the most easterly point of oz. we sat and soaked up the spectacular views and watched the whales off the coast before continuing on to newcastle, where we were welcomed with open arms by london ex-pat leann (blair being in nz for work). she shared her adorable and comfortable cottage with us, and the next day, in spite of the rain, we took a mini tour, warmed up with some coffees, and spent the evening cooking and chatting and draining a few bottles of vino over great conversation and even more delicious food.

then, sadly, it was time to head off to the airport. all in all, we got to see more than we’d hoped, but not as much as we would have liked. we saw a nice chunk of australia over the course of a week-long roadtrip, and shared the warmth of reunions and friendship.

and hopefully we’ll see them all again very soon. ;)

beach baby

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

this is my earliest memory – slumbering cradled under the hull of the little “sunflower” to the lullaby of the sea. cool water and hot sun-sparkles in my eyes. sand in my sandwich. the insistent caw of circling gulls. the loughing sail against the sky.

and so the pull of the ocean is impossible to ignore, luring me with its siren call. as we meander along endless coastline, the blinding beauty of sea and shore is overwhelming, heartstopping.

the infinite expanses of blue feel like the edge of the world. the murmur and crash of licking crests is hypnotic in perfect rhythm. time slips by seamlessly watching whales breach just offshore, launching themselves airborne for the sheer joy. a salted breeze musses my hair playfully. dancing sands whorl beneath azure pools warmed lightly under a winter sun.

where else would i ever want to be? i am a beach baby, at heart.

we’re not in kansas any more…

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

so we’re south of the equator for the next few months, and aside from the anti-clockwise drains and inverted seasons, there’s something about being “down under” that lends itself to a more relaxed vibe, a more laidback and open feeling. people being nice for the sake of being nice. maybe it’s harder to be in a bad mood when you’re near all these beautiful beaches.

as i suspected before i even set foot in oz, i could easily grow to love this country, this city. it puts me in mind of some of my other favourite cities – with it’s palm trees, seashore, cleanliness, spaciousness, and mix of old and new, it reminds me a little bit of san diego, toronto, and even boston if you squint hard.

and there’s something about aussies (god help me, but i *cannot* bring myself to say “oz-zies” because, dammit, there’s no zed in that word!) that’s just more familiar to me than other nationalities. they may drive on the left and (gah!) even play cricket, but there’s a certain scrappy go-getter mentality, an eager enthusiasm, and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ethic, which seems more akin to north america than the u.k. I’m wildly overgeneralising here, of course, but perhaps it’s the youthfulness as a country, or coming from pioneer stock which generates a feeling of commonality. i can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but it’s definitely there.

and if it weren’t so damn far away from everyone i love, i could easily see myself living here.

so sydney is a welcomely warm city – even if it’s chilly as hell out. we’ve hired a car to head up the coast for a few days and try to catch up with some friends, so if we don’t update for a few, it’s coz’ we’re at the pub :)

(and since rugby’s tri-nations tournament is getting underway and the south africa v. australia matchup is on saturday… go springboks!)

more photos here


Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

34C in singapore… to 14C in sydney.

goodbye flip flops, hello fleecy jumpers. *that’s* culture shock.

singing the praises of singapore

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

so in speaking with singaporeans, they are justifiably proud of their city/state/nation. it’s a multicultural, 21st century city which is safe as houses, pristine, successful. singaporeans are multilingual, well-educated, and tolerant people. many singaporeans are also incredibly grateful to the british. for when they pulled out of singapore in 71, they left behind a strong infrastructure and booming international economy. singaporeans know only too well what could have become of their beloved city – they’ve seen what happened in much of the rest of post-colonial southeast asia. laos, vietnam, cambodia are all prime examples of the shambles that were left behind like so much rubbish. they know they’re lucky. they love where they live and they love their lifestyles. so if i sounded a bit derisory about singapore being “soulless” in my previous post… well, i stand corrected. they know all too well what the alternative might have been – and that gives them a unique appreciation for their standard of living that few of us can understand. and that speaks straight to the heart.

personally, i would kill for their public metro. i recently read that per kilometre, taking the tube is more expensive than flying – something i can all too readily believe. and yet for not even half the price, you can ride the gleaming, quiet, efficient, and modern SMRT.

so where the hell did the brits get it wrong?

sanitised singapore

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

so we’re here in singapore. a lovely, sparkling city. full of shopping. and restaurants. in fact, the whole city is pretty much like a gigantic outdoor shopping mall. nothing particularly wrong with that. we’re staying in the “little india” section of the city, which is basically like being back at home in tooting, london. except pristine and quiet and safe. nothing wrong with that.

there are lots of banks. and “body shop” stores. and “starbucks”. (which i usually call “four bucks”, except here it’s more like “eleven bucks”. even in singaporean dollars, that’s friggin’ expensive.) there are lots of tall buildings. there is a beautiful metro system. there are nice comfy cinemas – we saw “thank you for smoking”, (which i highly recommend, especially because i adore william h. macy). everyone speaks perfect english. customer service is a dream. even chinatown is squeaky clean. nothing wrong with any of that.

i can get my favourite american deodorant. there’s hot water in the shower. my feet are not blackened at the end of the day, and my face is not grimy with dirt/dust/soot. there is air-conditioning and clean public toilets in abundance. i can get a high speed internet connection – amazing.

nothing wrong with any of that.

it’s all a very welcome respite from the hectic, slap-dash, bare-bones, gritty existence we’ve experienced the past 6 weeks. in fact, i can hardly believe that just three days ago i was tromping through mud with my pack crossing jerry-rigged wood planks over a major bridge which had given up the ghost in the rains, only to have the bus require an impromptu clutch replacement, followed by spending a final 5 hours of the most cramped and spine-jarring ride i’ve ever experienced. it’s like being on a different planet.

so why does it feel like there’s something missing?

a new phase

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

we leave for singapore tomorrow, signifying the end of the south east asia phase of our journey, and the halfway mark of our trip.

not really sure how to characterise my feelings at this point. i will miss these countries terribly. they’re on the cusp of becoming something truly unique and vital. while on the one hand i wish everyone could get to experience the customs and cultures of this corner of the world, i also worry for the preservation of them. places like cambodia which are on the edge of a tourism boom – yet not perhaps strong enough just yet to withstand the impact that accompanies it. and places like vietnam and laos – which are so close to shaking off the economic fetters of socialism that hold them back from the larger stage, yet not stable enough to avoid leaving so many behind in the wave of capitalism (such as has happened in russia).

things are changing so quickly, it makes your head spin.

so i would say i am anxious. and hopeful.

and grateful.

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