Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day Five - Not very exciting

Shopping, massage, and the trance-dance/fire show. 

The first two just as you'd think they would be, and then during lunch the power went out in Ubud. Inconvenient timing as I hadn't been to the bank, but up at the top of town there was a bank that was running on generator and somehow also had a satellite connection, so the ATM's could work - other places had generators, but were apparently reliant on local Internet relaying that was also down.

With money in hand, we watched the show, which was interesting, though not what we expected from a "fire dance", with a lot more narrative and chanting about the course of true love and the devil's interference with it. Again, cool dancing. Then a short but awesome segment of some dude in bare-feet kicking burning
coconut shells around and stomping on their embers.

Power finally came on, so a quick dinner, and then back to the hotel.

See.. not very exciting

I bet you wish you had that 3 minutes back.^^

Dinner by Torchlight

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tour-ette's Syndrome "Bali-Bali is NOT "bbali-bbali"!

Day 4 of full tourism was spent on a, tour, because if you don't put the 'tour' in 'tourism,' what do you have?

We got up for a pre-tour breakfast and the lovely fellows who run the hotel had made us something special to mark our anniversary, Balinesian pancakes, mangos, strawberries, and a scoop of ice-cream, all formed into the shape of a heart. Yvonne was entirely swoony about the breakfast, though not so much that she didn't despatch it with great vengeance and furious anger.

Then, into the shuttle bus (this time it was only the two of us), and off to a painting cooperative, wood-carving place, and silversmith. Here we bought a few things (no doubt earning our driver a bit of a kickback), and then piled back into the van to head to the Museum of Natural History (I think?) in Denpasar. On the way, it began to rain furiously, at points flooding the road. Snug in the van, we just enjoyed how it changed the scenery.

The Museum was pretty ordinary, and for the first time here we were kind of hounded by an artist/tout who wanted to sell us an Indonesian calendar for 20 dollars. What he thought I'd do with an Indonesian calendar was unclear, though he vigorously lobbied for it.

Then, the traffic jam from Hell and the decision to cut out the visit to "white sandy beach" in order to make sunset in a temple on the ocean, and then dinner on the beach. Even cutting the one destination, were were at least 2 hours in a traffic jam, part of which was caused by a police action that inexplicably stopped traffic on one of the main arteries downtown.

The temple was cool, if overrun by Chinese tourists, who make Korean queuing and walking behaviors seem highly civilized, and one stupid young woman even got into a threat/fight with one of the local monkeys, which the monkey won in resounding fashion, screeching and baring his teeth, which caused the girl to almost fall over in her retreat from the concrete path to the dirt.

We waited for a sunset that was pretty obscured by clouds, and then high-tailed it out ahead of the people watching the fire-dance (we have tickets to a local version for tonight) and off to the beach, which was quite nice. The tables were on the sand, there was traditional Indonesian mask-dancing, one of which was really awesome. It features super-scary music with a gamelan, drums, and some other instruments I couldn't name. There was a 5-6 note central riff that almost sounded like the tune to a children's sing along, but it was surrounded by menacing (think Sympathy for the Devil) drumming, and slightly off tone music surrounding it. The dancer was also wearing some amazing vibrating extend-fingernails, and the whole thing was quite chilling, though for all I know to Indonesians it was the innocent story of young love.

Tragically, no photos of that until I return to the homeland.. I took them with the iPhone, and can't find a decent software to get them on Yvonne's computer (and dare not call down roaming charges).  Instead, below, find pictures of three more monkeys.

It was a seafood restaurant, so Yvonne ordered steak and beef sate.^^

Back to the hood for one drink, exchange of gifts (all carved wood, since it was our wood anniversary) and then sleep, as we were both still pretty burnt from the previous day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lord of the Rings (of sweat)

Thursday was to be our toughest day in Bali. Together, we would climb grim Mount Doom Batur, and the day before my wedding anniversary I would toss the hideous gold ring I had been carrying for nearly 5 years into the oblivion of the pit. I would be free from the tyranny of the elder magicians (In this case John Fike) of our world!

Yvonne in the coffee shack
Because we wanted to take the 'Sunrise Tour' we had to get up at 1:40 AM and catch a small vehicle to to the eco-park which contains the volcano. On the way, we met our party, 4 savage warriors from the East (Ok, Chinese Singaporeans) and one pipe-smoking Hobbit (a Canadian, but I think I'm being accurate with the first description. We had to rather pile in to the van, since originally there had only been two Chinese Singaporeans expected but they had, as they do, multiplied over the night. As we got in to the van the driver whispered to us, conspiratorially, "don't talk price, they paid more," a notion I'm sure he passed along to the other two groups as well.

The trip up was dark and on a road that was largely unpopulated except for an amazing number of unconcerned dogs, who lollygagged, slept, fought, and ambled, always in the dead center of the road. At about 3 we stopped off for a quick breakfast of coffee and Balinesian pancakes. For some reason we were the first tour group to the spot, but also the last to leave. This gave us, I suppose, a chance to get to know each other.

Then it was up and over, to the base of the volcano, and for some a trip to one of the most odoriferous toilets in South East Asia. Nicely done, Bali!

Sun breaks free
Then, mustering and  a handing out of flashlights, one of which Yvonne touched, so it instantly went dead. She got to walk about half the way up the volcano without a light. I tried to walk behind her and illuminate for both of us, which kind of worked. The walk started out flattish, but quickly picked up angle as it went and the oldest of our group, a Chinese grandfather, quit early on when he spotted a bench near the side of the trail. His wife, who was probably a few years younger than he was, was surprisingly spry, and clambered up the trail like a spider, particularly rocking out on the way down. By the end of the trip up, on of our guides was practically carrying Yvonne, whose legs wore out and whose height was a problem on some of the bigger steps/steeper pitches. The volcanic rock was sharp, so you had to be careful using it for handholds, and by the time we got down we saw a lot of people with bloody finger and knuckles, among which Yvonne was one.

Still, the view of the top (at a hair under 6,000 feet) was pretty spectacular (and I'm glad I brought as sweatshirt as I was soaked in sweat and it was pretty windy). You can look out for about 270 degrees with the top of the volcano behind you, and as you are above the clouds, you get to watch the sun ascend from them. You are also looking down to the lake, which is an amazing view even before the sun rises as it reflects the lights on the shore all the way up to the top of them mountain.  Many of the tours prepare a small breakfast for their customers, and enterprising children are at the peak selling Cokes to weary trekkers - in fact, two of the guides were quite young, one probably barely 12 years old. Once the breakfasts start being prepared our old friends the monkeys show up, and they are well behaved to humans, but fight with each other and are quite intimidated by the free-range dogs that also live on peak and beg for scraps. They are
also fearless, quite content to take food directly out of your hands.

Indonesian rural
The trip down was quicker, though no less fraught, and again the tour guide was aces helping Yvonne - actually holding her hand most of the way down. The middle of the walk out is through various fields of crops, insolent chickens, random dogs, and trees.  Then a long, flat walk out to the parking lot, and a trip back leapfrogging scores of sand-trucks which are attending to the massive construction (alas) taking place in the area.

When all is said and done, you are back at your hotel by about 10 in the morning, feeling you have accomplished about two days of things, so we spent the rest of the day wandering about town, coffee, lunch, beer, and a relatively early sleep after splitting up to shop for anniversary gifts.

The volcano trek was certainly worth every Rupiah we paid, though I think it is one of those, "They told me it was fun, but I think I'd only do it once" events.^^

Having survived that trial by fire? Tomorrow is my 5-year wedding anniversary...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A flea-bit peanut monkey, and other thrills of the road..

Tuesday began with a breakfast on our lovely veranda. Then it was off to explore greater upper UBUD. This
"They killed Kenny! Bastards!"
actually took a lot longer than we expected, partly because there are quite a few stores, and also because Yvonne insisted in going in each one, inflaming the hopes of shopkeepers by having them pull down clothes until the pile or rejected clothes towered above her, and then smiling, thanking the shopkeeper, and saying "today we're just window shopping" (pointing at me, in an attempt to include me in her behavior) and sailing out the door like the Duchess of Windsor into a high tea.

We succeeded in getting all the way up the street and then back down to the Monkey Forest. There was a very small used bookstore, and because the hotel has no TV, and the weather report called for rain, we each bought a big book. Eventually, we also did buy some clothes, Yvonne getting a pair of traditional-ish pants and a shirt, and me a batik shirt. We also had coffee and drinks along the way, and for lunch suckling pig and Chicken-rice. The previous night Yvonne had ordered Crispy Duck, which turned out to be crisped in some horrible fish-oil, but the lunch was quite good and the restaurant overlooked a rice field ringed by scenic farm buildings/wreckage

Then, as it was the absolute middle of the day, we headed to the hotel for an hour or two, to cool off.

At about 2:30 off to the Monkey Temple, where Yvonne must have taken the opportunity to smear banana creme in her drawers, because she became the immediate interest of every monkey in the place. This meant being mugged for a banana just as she bought it from the vendor and  jumped on and stolen from by a monkey in the temple area. But this was merely a case of saving the best for last, as when we were about 2/3 of the way through the place, and unfortunately I was a bit ahead, so could not photograph it. Yvonne stopped and got jumped and pickpocketed by a monkey who she let unzip her purse and steal all her Indonesian Rupiah! Fortunately, the monkey quickly determined it was not edible and dropped it on the ground. But, that action had alerted all the other monkeys to the possibility that there was something good going on, and as Yvonne scurried around trying to pick up the loose bills, she found herself in the middle of a bunch of monkeys hurrying towards her to get in on the alleged bonanza. After scooping up all the money she could see, Yvonne scurried off to catch up with me and wonder why I didn't stay to take pictures of her attempted donation.

We left and Yvonne, over a calming gelato, counted her money, which seemed to all be back in her purse.
One kind of cock
Then it was off to another cafe which overlooked yet another rice-field which was alternately filled with cavorting chickens and dogs, although the dogs never went after the chickens as we (well, I) hoped. On the way out the help came hollering down the stairs waving my hat, which I had tried to leave behind. We immediately headed off in the wrong direction, which I quickly realized when I spotted an enormous liquor store that I had never seen before. I fought back the urge to spend a lot of money there^^ and we walked back to the cafe across from our hotel.  There, I realized I didn't have my reading glasses. A short moment of panic, and then I asked Yvonne to order mea daquiri because, well, why not? and ran back to the first cafe to see if I had left my glasses there. No luck, and on the way back I stopped in a drug-store where they did not have reading glasses, and could not produce the name of a single store that they thought might have reading glasses. Ooops.

Another kind
Got back to the cafe where Yvonne was sitting, received a daquiri that tasted exactly like the margarita I had got the night before, and noticed that my glasses were sitting on the table. Yvonne shrugged, "They were in my purse." And watched with interest as I drank my margarita. It was happy hour, so I finished it and ordered again, this time making sure the waiter knew I wanted a daquiri, and, when my margarita came, I drank it anyway. Then, off to an overpriced dinner of Nasi Goreng and the Indonesian version of beef-stew, and back to the hotel, as usual.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Journey of 1000 miles begins with

Yvonne messing shit up (though it used to be a hangover)

This time, off to Bali and Yvonne insisting we get on the 7:20 bus from the Hyatt, and so waking up at 5:30 to ensure we do, and making damn sure to wake me up as well even though I had showered and packed the evening before.

But Yvonne wanted to make SURE we were prepared, and despite the fact I had been up slightly past midnight finishing some editing jobs, there I was awake.

And walking towards the bus stop.

When my lovely middle-aged bride yelled, "Oh I forgot my (pharmaceutical name redacted, but necessary for a 5th year wedding anniversary) and ran back to the house.  Then, came trundling back up the hill about 100 yards behind me until the time I got to the front of the Hyatt and could see the bus at the stoplight, waiting to make the turn, and then the final turn, into the Hyatt... from 100 yards behind me, Yvonne managed to turn her arrival into 5 minutes later (i.e. 5 minutes after the bus had left), shrugged and said, "Oh well, we'll catch the 7:45."

I refrained from killing her, as I was too tired.

Incheon Airport being what it is, we sped through everything, and it did not end up leaving us in Korea, but it was a inkling of what was to come.

The flight was not noteworthy, except an Asian Airline did not crash, and we picked up a cab and headed out to Ubud, which had been recommended to us, which turned out to be an epic journey through Denpassar and some version of 1.5 lane motorbike and lorry Hell, and to the hotel.

Where they asked us, "did you see your driver?"

Us: "Driver?"

Them: "Driver."

Us: "What Driver?"

Them: "Your Driver!"

Us: "Eh?"

Them: "The Driver you requested"

(Note: Driver is capitalized because it seemed such an important word)

Turns out that our initial request for airport service (in the little box in Agoda) had been covered, but no one had got back to us. So, in the scrum of 50 drivers with little signs at the airport, there had actually been one for us.

Oh well... we paid a fortune (only in Indonesia terms) for a cab.

Then, it was out to get a bite to eat, and to wait for what the morrow would bring.

NEXT: Yvonne is mugged (twice!) by monkeys, and in one case is actually pickpocketed. Then there's the reading glasses thing.. heck, there may even be photos..

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More good, more fun

After my last semi-whine I must note.. I went to my super-local for some crackers and beer, and the halabogee was hanging with another dude drinking some beer and eating something scabrous from a tin.

I aplogized to the storekeep that my backpack was full (except I couldn't remember the word for "full") and asked if the guys were chinan chingu?
They were... the other dude IMMEDIATELY poured me a glass of beer, handed me some horrible sea-thing on a toothpick and started chatting as best we could....

I had to leave before I was forced to eat all the sea-things and drink all the beer.

Whatever the opposite of the "microagression" is? This was that thing.

Live in Korea as a friendly person?

Watch TFO as it will come back to you in waves...^^

With luck, in  a few days I'll post some stuff from the kTO tour Yvonne and I were comped...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hobbitual Expansion..

I always get a certain frisson (I have no idea what it means?) when I search for something and can't find it on facebook. Here for the world... "Hobbitual Expansion" as a term that refers to a director blowing so much air into a plot, novel, or story, that it expands beyond its capacity to hold meaning..

Friday, December 06, 2013

I crap ornaments and piss tinsel

Oh yeah... Xmas is coming to the land of tomorrow, and with December reached I simply can't be cranky about how many lights are up, and how ubiquitous the xmas songs are...

I believe, tomorrow night, I will go out and take pictures of the neonstrous awesomeness of this city as Santa Day gets closer.^^

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I have a pain in my Sydney...

Monday July 29th, from KL to Melbourne Int. (Some evil portents are seen!)

You ask how far the farthest star is
To go by bus or to go by car?
Is the way too far? you couldn't say
You won't get there anyway
He says it takes a private plane

Tuesday was a travel day.. just off to the airport by shuttle-car and a nearly 8 hour flight to Melbourne, where we were waiting to travel to Sydney, because a professor at Dongguk was supposed to be in Sydney. We had jiggered our schedule so that even though we landed in Melbourne we would immediately go to Sydney. That professor then bailed on Australia, leaving us with slightly odd travel plans.

In Melbourne, because we arrived at 11:30 pm, we’d taken a hotel that was close to the airport.  At the airport, my bank card was declined by the ATM. I was a bit concerned, because sometimes Korean bank/credit cards don’t travel as well as they should. When I asked a man at an exchange kiosk, however, he laughed and said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just that VISA isn’t working on our machines.”
So, like, half the credit cards in the world, and the only ones I have? Yep!

Then I went to the bathroom and saw what I took to be a poor marketing approach:

Er... really?  "Minimum Size?"

We got to the hotel just as the restaurant closed, discovered no mini-bar, water, or food of any kind, and headed down to the reception to discuss options. I said I wanted to exchange some money and find a store, and the nice woman there said there was a 7-11 about 15 minutes down the road.

We walked down there, Yvonne gibbering all the way about how dark it was, and when we finally found it, to my dismay they did not sell beer (this was my first introduction to the BS, “London circa 1970” alcohol rules in Australia).  Fortunately, however, my VISA card did work here, so we had some scratch.

A quick walk back and we micro-waved the entirely artificial potato and mash concoction that Yvonne had purchased, and while she took a shower I tried the Internet.

Which, was pay by the minute, and also had to be set up by the women at the desk, and since they were already asleep (probably had a champagne room set up for personal use after work!) it couldn’t be done.

Still, there was one epic feature to the Internet plan that made me think that the Australian Internet Scheme was not a plan so cunning that it would make a weasel stand up and salute (oh, c’mon, if you don’t recognize that reference… uh.. likely you have a life?).

You could buy 15 minutes for $2AUD or and hour for $10AUD. I was tired, out of sorts, and sober, but even I could do the math on that one. I wanted to march down to the front-desk, plop down my ten and when they started to ring it up, say… oh…. Wait.. and pull out the $2 coin and say.. nah.. 15 minutes… And then do that until the first hour was over.

Alas, my plan for a ridiculous and petty revenge could not be put into effect as the staff were in the Champagne Room.

I went to sleep hissing, and planning to take revenge on Australia as a whole.

Tuesday July 30 Travel to Geelong

In the morning it was back to the airport to catch a bus to something like a City Center and then a train to Geelong.

This took longer than expected.

Then, there was one of those moments that makes no sense to me. Yvonne and I got our train tickets, and they were for the un-reserved first two cars of the train. We sat opposite each other in a four-seat cluster of two facing benches. The train continued to fill up, and never quite did, with a sprinkling of seats throughout the car.

Just as the train was about to pull out of the station, our train car titled downwards behind me, and a fellow who might have been Mr. Creosote, lumbered in.

Now, it’s a reasonable assumption that as jelly-filled fat fuck (a phrase for which I will always be grateful to my Brother-in-Law for bringing to my attention^^) myself, I  might at any time be the chubbiest fellow in any particular overseas train car, and it’s possible that this was the case here.

Which is why it is bizarre, completely beyond bizarre actually, that Rotundo The Wonder Beast immediately slumped down beside me.

By which I actually mean, half on me.

The dude had enough spare ham on his thigh to feed an entire Saudi Arabian (non-Muslim, I guess) village. And that massive ham was now spread across the lower half of my body.

I looked across the aisle to Yvonne who was trying, about 50% successfully, to stifle an enormous grin.

My guess is that Elephant Man chose the seat he did because it was closest to the entrance, and trust me that’s a lesson learned.

His Expansiveness also talked continuously on his cellphone (example witticism - “that dude is a douchebag!”) and had managed to lose his ticket in the 30 meters from the station to the train. I presume he lost the ticket into some fold of his own flesh, from which he would later pick it, rancid and moldy, and then surreptitiously eat it. Or, since the dude was big enough to have gravity along the lines of a Black Hole, the poor flighty ticket had been sucked into his gravitational field, and instantly destroyed.

That was all good, because it gave him an excuse to get up, pat himself in a process that disconnected his shirt from its tuck-in and revealed his underwear, and then WWF fashion, drop 300 pounds of right leg onto me again.

Geelong was nice enough. Pretty in that clapboard (that might not be the word I’m looking for…. Gingerbread? Artificial?) way that much of Australia is, and we wandered about it, mainly trying to adapt to Australian accents.

We quickly hit the three bookstores on the map and then, while I shopped for drugs and alcohol, Yvonne went back to the best one.

Then, rain threatening, we headed back to the hotel.

As we had to wake early, rocket-scientist, international planner, and my wife, Yvonne?  She came up with a plan… We would go to bed at 9 and this would give us a restful 6.5 hours of sleep.

Which never works with me. If I go to sleep that early I always wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep.

Combine that with the “night before Xmas” feeling of being about to go to a new place and I slept about 15 minutes all that night.

Wednesday July 31 – to Sydney

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

On Tuesday we woke early (like 3:30 AM) and got a ride to the airport from a particularly garrulous lorry-driver who really, REALLY liked sports. The transport company insisted on picking us up at 4:00 for a 6:10 flight. When we got there we were the only non-employees in the airport, and the flight had already been delayed. So.. a lot of waiting.

Then a quick flight (slowed slightly by a delay through which we circled over Canberra, so now I’m going to claim I’ve ‘visited’ the place) to Sydney and an equally quick ride (The multipass deal in Sydney is just brilliant) on the public transport to Double Bay, at which we arrived about 5 hours before our scheduled check-in with our airbnb host. So, we hung around on the beach, dodged some rain, and eventually settled in at a coffee shop for a slow cup of coffee. At the coffee shop I was introduced to an evil truth about Sydney – it is VERY wireless unfriendly. I could see the router of the coffee shop, but when Yvonne went to ask for a password, the man mumbled something from between his beak of a nose and landslide of a chin (a very Australian look) about “downloads” and claimed there was no Internet available.  Oh well.  Many places don’t have wireless at all, and those that do are tightly locked down and you stand a reasonable chance of being denied access if you have the temerity to ask. Nonetheless, it was remarkable to see that someone, some dastardly bastard, had created a network with the exact same name as the coffee shop!  Will the temerity of these internet imposters never cease?

Then it was back to the beach to watch the ferries to roll in and out.

After stalling til about noon, Yvonne was getting super-antsy, so we picked up the keys (among three other sets under the gnomes in front of the building!) and dropped off our luggage, quickly went shopping for some food, and then headed downtown to check out a bookstore.

This short trip revealed to me that Sydney is a REALLY beautiful town, and I can only blame my mother for not having taken me there as a youth, so I would have known.

Lots of brick buildings and intricate ironworks, in some ways it reminds me of New Orleans, and every so often a lovely park, or a stunning view of the harbor.  We ended up in Hyde Park, watching old men (including a really irascible and mouthy old asian dude) playing chess on one of those on-ground, laid-out chessboards.

After a bus trip back, we finally met our host, and whiled away the evening over a bottle of red wine and a series of his amusingly escalating (in proportion to wine consumed) jibes at Australians and their culture.

At just about midnight, exhausted from lack of sleep, we turned in.

Thursday Aug 1

It’s just another story of love that’s turned into a tragedy
What am I supposed to do, you want a toast from the man who’s lost
The man who was double-crossed?
From cover to cover?
Baby, you and me were just book lovers.

As always, the first full day is bookstores. We spent considerable time on busses and found about three of them, all pretty cool. On the way back, and partly because I needed to find a bathroom (really, bookstores WITHOUT bathrooms? Sydney, what are you thinking?) we headed into Sydney University and found a young lad playing simultaneous chess with about 10 challengers.

They Seem to Like their Chess, some, in Sydney

I headed off to find the bathroom, slowly listening to Yvonne’s voice dissapear into the background, muttering things to onlookers like “That’s a Yahtzee! That’s gotta be a Yahtzee” and “well, he certainly trumped the wicket on that play. Fair dinkum down the old dijideroo on that one, I do say!”
I fear her efforts to fit in did not work out.

Then, off to two more bookstores and the shocking realization that Sydney is not a first-world city – it does not have nearly comprehensive nor in any way speedy, Internet. It’s an AOL world here, and it’s one of the things I really disliked about an otherwise beautiful city.

Then it was out to the Circular Quay for a trip to Double Bay. Returning home our landlord(?) warned us that he would be in late the following evening, as his company was having a 휘식 (work drink-along) to reward salesmen for good performance.  The original bar tab was set at $400 comprehensively, but as a performance bonus some good salesmen (electricity contracts) would get an extra $40 bar tab each. 

Our host warned us not to expect him in early.

Friday Aug 2

There was no one all around
There was no one there but me
I was staring out a window
I was standing by the sea
The waves kept on repeating
Each one crashing to the shore
And my footprints nowhere leading
As they disappeared once more

We managed to get up before 11 – I’m not sure what kind of laziness assails us on vacation, but it is a profound one. We hung out for a while then headed out.

There was one more bookstore to hit, and it was about three blocks from Bondi Beach, which is also the start of a brief (3 KM) beach walk, so we grabbed a bus there. After a water and coffee (I’m sure it’s obvious which of us had which), we went to the bookstore and then down to the beach.
As a California guy I’m pretty proud of our beaches, but Australian beaches crush US beaches into the sand (pretty appropriate, I think).

We sat on the beach for an hour or two and then headed out on the coastal walk there. It is very short, just over three kilometers, but manages to include three beaches, two of which have “seafront” swimming pools, both of which were being pummelled by the surf.

At the second one Yvonne (pace Jennifer!) made the mistake of turning her back to the sea, and while I was filming excellent shots of the waves pounding the beach?

 Yvonne was busy getting drenched:

After getting drenched, while taking this picture of me -

she decided to get filthy, and so she stepped into a mud-pit that grabbed her left leg just about to the knee. So then it was off to the beach, where she removed her sock and shoe, rolled up her pants, and tried to clean the sock and shoe. Which wouldn’t work, because she stood facing the sea bending over to dunk her dirty clothes, but as soon as a wave came in, she quickly ran away from it. After this happened a few times I became cross, and when the next wave came I pushed her into the sea.

Awesome!  Everything clean.

A buss ride brought us to Harbour, where we walked around amongst other tourists, by the Maritime Museum, a boat show, and several other things that didn’t interest me in the least, and then we finally found the ferry stop. So we took the ferry to Circular, then another to Double Bay. This was the only time we actually crossed under the bridge (and by the alarmingly lunatic gate to Luna park) on our way past the Opera House, and it was grand.

We went home, certain that we would go to sleep and hear our host crash in, knocking various things to the ground as he entered.

Instead the innkeeper came in at about 10:45, retreated to his room where he apparently undressed to his shorts and t-shirt and then opened the door and asked how he looked.

I said, "ok," and ran for the safety of our bedroom.

About 5 minutes later, as we lay in bed, we heard him rush to the bathroom and be briefly but noisily sick.

We laughed in a sympathetic way (well, maybe not Yvonne?) and went to bed our badselves…

Saturday Aug 3

Hey Mr. Bartender, won’t you give some wine?
I gotta get outta town meet my lady on time.
Put 5 gallons in my petrol tank
You know we just about made it but my breath sure stank.

The Internet in the pad is broken, which has required me to entertain myself in unusual ways. So it is that at 7:30 in the evening I am sitting on the back lawn of the lodging, with the sea, less than twenty metres away, pounding at the sand in its ongoing battle to reduce it. Every now and then a ferry boat comes in, or a a pleasure boat docks for the evening. But, primarily, it is me and the sound of tide thumping against the land.

Oh, well, that and a couple of beers and the noble sounds of Mott the Hoople thrashing from the iPhone (all you youngsters should look that stuff up).

Today, we awoke reasonably early and attendant to the fact that our host was likely living in world of regret, we trod lightly and exited early. We made some breakfast, packed some lunch, and headed to the ferry to catch a boat to Circular Quay.  Then we spent about 4 hours walking from hither to thither, and yon beyond. This included the Sydney Opera House, which is as cool as pictures suggest.

Next death march was through the adjacent Botanical Gardens (with a stop at the Governor’s House), which were absolutely brilliant. While I continue to have some kind of reaction to the looks of the Australian people, the city of Sydney is nothing other than drop-dead gorgeous.  Next it was out to MacQuarrie’s Bench  - or some equally unbelievable name which describes a brilliant folly of empire – a governor wasting money on a road and a bench carved into rock on the beach. And why?  So his wife could go out there conveniently and have a place to sit.

Empires are AWESOME!

And as I type those words it all makes sense – he wanted the ball-and-chain out of the house and had the particular means to accomplish it, even if it meant wasting municipal funds. The guy built a road and stone chair with British Imperail money, just to get his wife out of the damned house.
Now THAT allows a British fellow a means by which to maintain his stiff upper lip!

Then a walk back to the NSW Art Museum which is free and pretty vast. The museum has its share of modern ‘art’ nonsense. I don’t think I will ever be impressed by a ‘painting’ that is 9 square meters of a single color on rough canvas, even if the notes are relentlessly inventive in imploring us to see its “roughness, varied strokes, and alterations in depth.”  Honestly, that sounds like the description of a gay porno, and ever since the Internet has become ubiquitous, I won’t pay for that, either.

Tuckered, we headed back to Hyde Park and watched a bit more chess on the “walk-on” chess board. On the way there a friendly guy in a park saw me looking for my map and asked where we were going. He agreed with our assessment that it was on the other side of the church we were looking at, but added that if we walked to the stairs of the nearby carpark we could go to its lowest level and take an automated walkway to Hyde Park. He was correct, it was excellent, and the moron that I am, I filmed most of it.

Then it was back to Double Bay, a short trip to the store, one pint at the pub, and a return to home to eat some pizza and be very quiet as our landlord (judging by what was in the sink) had risen only to make some pasta, and was back asleep in his room.

Then, out to this backyard. A bit brisk, but in clear Australian air, and drop-dead scenic.

And, beer.

And Mott the Hoople.

Sunday August 4th

I come from London town
I'm just an ordinary guy
Fridays I go painting in the Louvre
I'm bound to be proposing on a Saturday night
There he goes again
I'll be lazing on a Sunday lazing on a Sunday
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

A cup of coffee and a quick bite at a local café – not the one that denied us internet access on our first day, but one that, true to Sydney’s lame form, simply did not have internet access at all.
Then, Yvonne style, it was off to look for even more bookstores and we kind of lucked out.
The Ampersand café lied to me that it shut its internet down on weekends, but I tried the password and it worked. Duplicitous Aussie weasels! At the same time, the attached bookstore was awesome  - several floors with overstuffed chairs and couches to sit on, food could be served in the bookstore, and a wide range of books though, predictably for this trip, nothing that served me. Across the street and down was the BerkouW bookstore, which was also pretty cool, and we wasted a few more minutes there, before walking downtown to the Australian Naitonal Museum, which had some cool things in it, the coolest of which were unrelated to the main goals of the museum. The first was a wildlife photography contest winners exhibition. There were many pictures of cute, cute animals, several instances of nature red in tooth and claw, and every one with some little bromide about the responsibility mankind has to nature. I was so overwhelmed by this message, that when we finally did leave the museum I went up to the first obese pigeon I could find and tried to punt the bugger into next week.   The other exhibit was a Charles Addams exhibit. I’m guessing this means he was born in Australia, but couldn’t be bothered to look beyond the cartoons themselves, some of which were as funny as I remembered, and the remainder had to do with the Adams Family, which I suspect was his largest paycheck.

When we returned home our publican had returned to the land of the living and we had an excellent conversation while he was cooking his curry (for the second night straight we were on take-and-bake pizza as we had brought two home the previous night, suspecting our landlord would be in no condition to cook, not that he would still be locked in his bedroom).

Monday August 5th

We grabbed a ferry to the Circular Quay and headed to the Museum of Sydney. This was kind of cool, with a history of the city, some decent stuff on the Aboriginal experience (a phrase that pretty much means “Aboriginal genocide”), and an exhaustive exploration of the development of the Sydney Opera House.

Then a short walk to the Sydney Barracks, which we toured the outside of before Yvonne decided to go inside. At $10 it didn’t really interest me as much as a glass of wine at the adjoining café, so Yvonne went in and I sat down for a glass of wine. Which, I was quickly informed I couldn’t have unless I ordered something to eat (Did I mention that, for a nation of laddish drunks, Australia has some very bizarre licensing codes?). I had coffee instead. Then, as the sun dropped behind the buildings of Sydney, I waited in the courtyard for Yvonne. Because I was not inside the museum, Yvonne found it very interesting and consequently refused to leave. I sat in the sandy, now dark, courtyard contemplating the rise and fall of empires, the inexorable passage of glaciers, and the eventual heat-death of the universe.

Here is where All Time Ends...

Inside, Yvonne minutely examined various scraps of cloth, and shards of broken pottery indistinguishable from the contents of the rubbish bin behind our rental.

Galaxies exploded into life, then imploded and disappeared.  Life forms evolved, took their days in the sun then faded into oblivion.

Some time later, Yvonne emerged from the barracks.

Then, because Yvonne wanted to see more of the bay, it was off to the Circular Quay to catch the big ferry to Manly. Manly is one of those pre-fab surfer towns (some old and cool architecture notwithstanding) which attempts to hover precariously between tattooed cool and naked merchandising, with the latter having the upper hand. The beaches were vastly inferior to those of Bondi, Coogee, etc, as they weren’t very dramatic. The main entertainments of the town came from the fact that everything was the “Manly this” and “Manly that” which sometimes made for amusing place names, such as the “Manly Olympian” and “Manly public Toilets.”  This is a joke I’m sure the residents of Manly found amusing for the first 13 minutes of their "Manly" (LOL! It NEVER gets old!) lives, and then found tedious beyond belief.

Yvonne insisted on staying until darkness fell, and when we got on the back of the ferry, which unaccountably turned out to be the front of the ferry (it doesn’t turn around.. apparently having five gears in reverse as well as forward). Consequently we were whipped by the frigid gales which blew over the harbor, or at least until we were nearly crushed by the horde of alarmed photographers who had rushed to the ‘front’ of the ferry, only to discover that it was now the back of the thing.

That realisation occasioned a mad rush to where we sat at the end (front? Back?) of the front/back of the ferry, and I was quite surprised we didn’t have a Marx Brothers moment where the entire ship listed towards the bow, prior to all of us being dumped into the water and drowning. As we approached the middle of the harbour, the photographers began snapping away in earnest, nearly a third of them with their flash-units fully engaged, despite the fact that the nearest object they could be photographing, unless it was my charming and photogenic bald spot, was 500 meters away.

Once home, I defrosted in a bath of beer, applied internally, and we went to sleep relatively early for the trip to Alice Springs.


We have plenty of extra photos of all this. But most of you refuse to come over to our house.

We'll have the slide-projector cued up, just in case.

But we're prepared to never have to use it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Malaysia Ends, MalAustralia Ensues

Day 7 26th - Into the Jungle /  Day 8 Saturday July 27th /  Day 9 Sunday July 28th?
I'm tryinna keep a date
with my little girl that was back in the states
I?m standing in the jungle
I?m afraid of it all?

On our last day we had a choice between Penang Hill and the National Forest at the end of the island. We opted for the latter, which required hopping a bus and riding out past Batu Ferringetti (however it's spelled), and near the end there was some confusion (I had some trouble with the guy's accent) about where to get off, which the bus driver finally ended by telling us we were"at the end of the world."  This we understood, and decamped. Outside the park there was a line of touts, each trying to sell a boat service to somewhere, and we decided to arrange it so that we could "trek" first, and then get picked up by a boat to return.

The "trek" actually turned out to be such a thing.. a walk through some densely overgrown jungle, scrambling up muddy bits, down roped bits, and across tangles of roots. The most exciting thing we saw as a gigantic, as in four-foot long, lizard, which I took an absolutely impenetrable picture of.

It's in there, and it's TERRIFYING!

After a bit more slogging we got to the beach. There was a little inlet we had to cross which turned out to be much deeper than it looked. It was a good thing I had shifted my iPhone to my backpack or it would have been drowned. The beach was named "Monkey Beach" and true to its name had a monkey, just the one, who was dispiritedly tearing old potato-chip bags apart and licking at the salt within.

Then there was the beach.

It was clearly off-season, so there was nothing to do but suck down a coke, watch the waves crash, and stare longingly at each boat that came ashore, hoping it was finally ours.
Finally, ours did come, and we were away across the water, which was nice and refreshing? Here is Yvonne enjoying the moment (Note the noble mien!).

Then, after a slogging and sweaty walk towards the tourist area of town, we stopped for a bite and were "befriended" by two cats who wanted our food. One of them was quite amusing -  it would swat with its claws if you were brave enough to try and touch it, but oh could it meow piteously if it thought you had food.

The next morning, we got up and got ready to catch the bus to the airport, but Yvonne made a command decision, so instead we got the hotel service, which left us at the airport about three hours early.

and there we waited. Generally speaking, a boring day.

The next day is no less boring, as I stayed in the hotel room working on blog posts and Yvonne meandered into town, this time managing to avoid gambling houses or friends in Itaewon (you?d have to be a mad reader of this irregular blog to understand those references, but so what? Reading is fundamental)

The big move is tomorrow!