Monday, February 23, 2009

Au Revoir Melbourne...

So our last morning in Melbourne. We leave in an hour to pick up our little campervan
We've had a fantastic time in Melbourne with our superstar friend Meg. She lives pretty much downtown so we've had easy access to everything.
We got to catch up with our friends Gary and Yvonne from Dublin last week which was awesome. I think the phrase 'salt of the earth' would describe them best. So great to spend time with them, even if it was only an evening.
The last few days we spent with her sister in a quaint town called Warnambol, It's really gorgeous, right beside the coast about a four hour drive from Melbourne.
The wonderful thing about staying there apart from the company - she's really lovely as is her husband, is that we got to go driving on the Great Ocean Road. Amazing. The most beautiful views of the Ocean and the cliff formations and so on. It was a pretty cold and windy day which made for better viewing as the ocean was quite choppy with some great waves. Great Ocean Road, not just a clever name.
Saturday we went walking in the bush, loved that. Got to see some Koala's, Emu's, Lizards and a snake. Yep, a snake. A red bellied black snake to be precise; quite poisonous I later found out on wikipedia which is the source of all known knowledge. My brother probably would have ran away screaming into the forest to then actually be eaten by one but for some reason I was quite mesmorised by the evil little thing and was trying to get closer to it when I was advised that it would be a bad idea.

The koala was asking to be pushed out of the tree; I wasn't quite so tempted to do that. Apparently there is a near mild sedative in eucalyptus leaves that make them sleep a lot and also when they walk they look like there are stoned off their heads. That would have been amusing to see but they were asleep the whole time. The Emu's were entertaining in that they just kindof skulk past eyeing you as they go. It's like they're on rollerskates going very slowly as they glide on by. I was waiting for Rod Hull to pass by as well but he was no where to be seen. I think I saw Grottbags somewhere in the distance but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure how much time I'll get on the net when we're traveling in our little van, hopefully we'll be able to keep you as updated as often as I'd like to. I'm also hoping to get to see the Ireland England game this weekend. Should be a cracker. I'm now not so keen on catching up with the premiership after staying up on Saturday to watch matches that all had disappointing results and also to be dismayed this morning as I got up at 7 to see that Liverpool had failed me yet again. Muppets. Anyways, till we meet again; and thanks for all the nice comments. It's really nice to see that people are reading about our travels. Blessings...

Struth a snake...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gotta love church signs in America

Incase any of you have had your head in the sand for the last couple of months it's a sign in response to Katie Perry's song of the same name as the first line in the above sign. (Rhyming was unintentional)


Have been in Australia just over a week and a half now. Thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We flew into Sydney but we heard our friend Meg calling from the distance in Melbourne so we jumped on a plane straight away and headed to see her. Good times.
We stayed in a little hostel in a place called south yarra, a really nice part of town. Quite bohemian and you can tell that people try way to hard to look like they just rolled out of bed, but cool nonetheless.
Melbourne is a really nice city. Although we kindof realise that a lot of cities look the same. Purely cause they're full of people and the same shops that most other cities have. Good coffee is hard to find which is a shame and wireless even harder to find. Starbucks and McDonalds charge for wireless; pesky capitalist pigs. Mind you, some of the coffee we've gotten should have been given away for free; dreadful stuff.
We've frequented a nice town called St. Kilda which is beside the sea and is full of nice places to eat. The tastiest garlic bread lives in a pub there.
We stayed in the hostel about a week and sine then we've been staying with Meg which has been exceptionally generous of her and her parents. A great place to stay with a bonus of free wi-fi. sweet. Meg has been our superstar tour guide and has been so much fun to hang out with. She has a wealth of knowledge of all things and a vast array of very nice friends. We gatecrashed one of her friends engagement parties. This guy is pretty big in Australia, he has written and is currently starring in a musical about the life of Mr. Cricket; Shane Warne. He is a pretty talented musician and he had possibly the coolest band playing at his party. They were all professional musicians and they pretty much played their favourite cover songs and mezmerised us all till the wee hours of the morning. I loved it, as did Jane. Check out the get up on the guitarist. It was a flamingo night so I actually got to wear that pink shirt I bought in Thailand. Not such a sucker after all!!
One of the highlights so far was getting to go to church after two weeks of not getting to go. We did a double whammy last Sunday, going to one church in the morning and another church in the evening. It was interesting especially at the the Sunday morning service as in some way it felt like we were eaves dropping on a whole community grieving. As most of you know the bushfires have devastated the surrounding areas of Melbourne with about 300 people dying and thousands left homeless. The service was a special service about the bushfires and the guy preached a sermon on hope in the midst of despair. He was good, although it was difficult to take in a lot of what he was saying as he was of the view point that these fires were the will of God, yet he is there to comfort those affected. I won't go into a theological muse here but let's just say it got me thinking again, as I usually do about the practical implications of peoples theology. Some of the stories that have come out of what people suffered in the fires is awful. Hopefully they do find genuine comfort in the only one who can genuinely bring it to them.
It was nice to chat to people after the evening service; we're looking forward to wherever we end up in church the next few weeks. It's interesting how people do things differently to worship the same God.
I'll post some more photo's and other musings tomorrow, time to put some shrimps on the barbie and open a few tinies after a days hard yaka....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ko Phi Phi

As to have a bit of continuity I figure I'll do this chronologically. Despite being in Melbourne for a week now it's probably best if I tell you about our last week in Thailand before I fill you in on Australia.
After the ming of Patong, we were looking forward to the bliss of Ko Phi Phi. A former Muslim island of fishermen and coconut farmers; it was 'discovered' by tourists about 20 years ago. 9 years ago the film 'the beech' was recorded in the smaller of the Ko Phi Phi islands, this has led to an invasion of tourists to the small island.
It was devestated by the Tsunami on Stephens Day 2004 and the entire island had to be evacuated. Over 2000 people died and 70 percent of the islands buildings where destroyed. If you do some google-ing on the Tsunami it's a devastating read. Leviathan unleashed.
There aren't many reminders of the Tsunami, infact in only two places did I see any mention of it. One restaurant has a thank you to a Swedish company for the financial help and one newsagent has pictures of when it struck. I have read though that a lot of the original Phi Phi people have left the island never to come back and a lot of the businesses are run by Thai people from the mainland. It is still quite Muslim and you have to take your shoes off in a lot of places, but it is becoming increasingly Buddhist. I wonder do the Buddhists on the island believe that the Tsunami was Karma? I won't theologically muse on that here; I'm doing enough musing about the current bushfires in Australia. Anyways...
The first thing that struck me when on the island was how many young people there were. 18-23 year olds weighed down with giganormous backpacks, or walking through the streets with a beer in hand or hobbling on a crutch due to some adventure sport accident. It was like another scary movie called 'Revenge of the Backpackers'. The only problem is, we also had a lead role. It seems like the island has lost it's innocence and has now prostituted itself out at a great expense to itself.
Myself and Jane wondered a lot whether tourism was good or bad for the island. If anyone has some good social/economic insights, I'd love to know. We wondered would the people be happier out fishing away as they used to or however they kept themselves going with a much simpler life than there is now. Seven-11's, ATM's, internet cafe's and an Irish Bar jump out at you on the streets, even if there are only about 5 streets, if they can be called that. Things I'm sure are much more expensive for locals and it seems like money definitely talks in Phi Phi. They want it and we bring it.

Having said that, the island is truly beautiful and the beach is amazing. It is a cliche holiday postcard paradise. The ride over on the boat is fantastic. We were greated by a nice kid who put our bags in a glorified wheel barrow and led us on our way to our accommodation. What a place. Possibly the worst living arrangements known to man. I won't go in to too many details for fear of boring you. But lets just say an obnoxious rude manager, a 200 meter climb up steps to our 'cottage', ming ming ming bathroom with cold water, dirty sheets and frogs, geckos and other creatures in our room. Not cool. We made it our goal to not let it ruin anything. We pretty much succeeded, apart from the severe lack of sleep due to the creatures exploring our room, and eating my Galaxy bar. Yes, they ate my last galaxy bar; how infuriating.
Anyways, we had a chilling time. I read a few Kellerman books and we chilled on the beach. Coffee was nice and there was good food. There were plenty of tours to do to such things as 'James Bond Island' and 'Monkey Island'; apparently monkey island has no inhabitants, but it when you go to visit it you see about 8 monkeys and 500 tourists. We left that option out.
On the Monday I got to see the Superbowl which was sweet. The only good purpose the Irish bar served us. Those pesky Steelers. Most nights we went to a wonderful bar that was on the beach with room for only about 14 people. It was really lovely just chilling on the beach.
We pretty stayed out from dawn till dusk as the place we were staying in was so horrible we just kicked it in the village. We enjoyed our time in Phi Phi, and like I said it is an incredibly beautiful island however it does feel a bit tainted and I fear for it's identity.
One thing I have to add is the music. Oh dear. First day on the beach I heard Oasis, U2 and Bob Marley. U2 I can definitely cope with but Oasis on a tropical island? and Bob Marley, talk about riding the cliche. I walked past a bar the second night there and turned to Jane and said 'What is the deal with all the Oasis on the island?"; a thick Irish brogue replied to me "Sorry buddy, my playlist - it'll be over soon". Most places abused our ears with James Blunt; is he the worst of our time? Quite possibly. The rest was a best of Shaggy, Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus and Pliers and that awful 'a la la la la long' song by inner circle. Seriously, the music was so awful everywhere we went. The only solus was Dire Straits and U2, doesn't say much does it!
We went back to Phuket and had an amazing time in the North of the island for an all too short one day. So beautiful, no tourists and possibly the nicest people who ran the cottage we stayed in. The nicest food of our time in Thailand was kept for the last two days, in north Phuket and also the last night in Bangkok. Nicest accommodation was most definitely North Phuket, check out the little bungalow we had.
A week ago we left Thailand to go to Australia where we currently are. I'll fill you in on Oz next time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Patong, Phuket

It's been too long my friends. Who would have thought broadband would be easier/cheaper to source in Thailand than Australia. We have left the fair land on Thailand and are now in Australia but we'll get to that later. For now I'll continue where I left off which was Phuket.
Patong, Phuket; otherwise known as Thailands Ibiza/Costa Del Sleeze or perhaps more simply 'cess pit central' (more 'cess pit south west' but you get my drift. Phuket is a lovely island with about 50 million mopeds per capita and great weather. We landed and went straight to our very lovely hotel, great first impressions. Then we went to the beach and realised that pretty much every person in the world who was on holidays at the very same time as us thought 'ooh let's go to a nice island off Thailand called Phuket and go to the beach that was recommended to us by our travel agent called Patong (the beach, not the agent)'.
The town of Patong is genuinely a den of iniquity! During the day it's not too bad, just full of McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks all those places that make you feel at home when you don't particularly want to feel at home cause you're half way round the world. At night it's just horrible, a gazillion people snaking through the streets looking for snake like things to do. We slid away to some quiet places which was quite nice. We came across a bar that was actually a tree house with what seemed to be just a family inside so we though we'd do the authentic Thai experience and join them. It was awesome. Really nice people playing really bad Thai music and strange cover versions of normal songs (I though copyright didn't apply in Thailand!) through a horrendous cd player. The owner caught site of me messing with Jane playing the air drums to 'Sweet Child O Mine' (I'm the best air drummer ever - seriously), he then brought me over a small bongo and encouraged me to play. I did, he loved it and then got be a big massive bongo or djemba or whatever those big drum things are called and handed it to me. Highly entertaining. So entertained was the owner in fact that he gave us free shots of Whiskey, which would be great if we were that way inclined, but we're not. Not to offend we took them and threw them over our shoulders as we all toasted each other and they necked them. I think we got away with it.
Most of our time in Phuket consisted of going to the beach, hiding form the midday sun in Starbuck, eh I mean some very authentic Thai place for coffee. more beach, sunning for Jane, reading for me. Then tasty food in the evening away from the main strip.
On the Sunday night the hotel allowed me to sit at their closed bar till 2am to watch the Liverpool Chelsea game, sweet times. Jane even joined me from the second half on, what a hero.
Overall in Patong we had great fun and the hotel was fantastic but the place itself is dreadful. Anyone reading this who is tempted to go, don't. After 4 nights in Patong we went to Ko Phi Phi an apparent 'paradise'; I'll write about that next.
Peace out blog friends...