Thursday, 29 September 2011

Day 26: Two Days In Jakarta

It's all been pretty easy so far. Sydney and Singapore, two modern and attractive metropolises, that speak English and are designed for convenience. Well, it's time to being properly travelling. Hello Jakarta.

When reading some descriptions of Jakarta, I began to fear the worst. Smoggy, overcrowded, aggressive, congested, chaotic - it sounded just like a description of many of the African cities I've been to. And perhaps that's why, as it turns out, Jakarta actually seems like a pleasure. After having experienced, albeit within the bubble of being with an oil company to hold my hand, cities such as Lagos, Luanda and Port Harcourt, to experience Jakarta seems like a breeze.

Alright, it still takes a bit of effort, but upon arriving on Monday everything seemed to go remarkably smoothly. We arrived by air from Singapore, after deciding it was the best route given pressing time issues and a host of Wonders still to visit. The ancient temple of Borodudur in central Java in Indonesia was supposed to be the second Wonder on my travels, but due to the Singapore Grand Prix this order was shuffled, thereby creating the necessity for flights, which the purist in me had hoped to avoid. Jakarta seemed like the obvious starting point, and the flight from Singapore was less than £35, so it seemed a no-brainer.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Day 23: The Singapore Grand Prix

Singapore has a night-time street race for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the interests of cultural research Burness and I decided to attend.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Day 16 & 17: Arrival Into Singapore

"I want tell story," he said, in very broken English, taking out a plastic bag stuffed full of clothes. "I have this for fifteen years. It from my mother." He takes out various garments - they are covered in blood. "This from me." It's also covered in blood.

This was our introduction to Singapore, upon arriving in our Chinatown hostel, and speaking to one of the guys in our 12-man room. Chinese, with very very broken English and a nervous manner. Upon establishing where we were from, he launched straight into his "story", complete with bloody props, which we never quite fully got to the bottom of, but sounded grim, and connected with Chinese law, or lack of it. The good news is that his family live very near one of the Wonders on my list, the Spring Temple Buddha, and we have exchanged email addresses, so I hope to hear more of this story.

Burness has already stated he does not wish to be present.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Day 15: Goodbye Sydney

So, goodbye Sydney, and I will miss you.

Upon arriving back in Sydney after the entertaining, but ill-fated, road trip from Sydney to Melbourne with Matt, I had four more days in Australia's biggest city before flying away to Singapore. After spending the previous week-and-a-half with Matt, Emma and Xavier in Bondi, with a room to myself, and often a toasted breakfast placed on my lap, this last gasp in Sydney was in some ways the beginning of my actual backpacking experience. No more luxury, now it will be cheap hostels and guesthouses, and the joys of sharing rooms with multiple strangers, and lamenting how old I am compared to the hoards of horrifying youth around me.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Day 11: Matt and Nev's Road Trip - Day 2

And the road trip went wrong...

As per plan, we were up sharp and in the car for a 7am drive. We got in, Matt started the car and reversed out of the parking space, and began to move up the drive. And then the car stopped.

At first I thought Matt had just stalled the car, and internally shrugged, assuming Matt to be an idiot, which is pretty much my default state. He restarted the car - and it wouldn't start. It seemed almost get going, but would never quite manage. Matt looked very concerned. "This is bad," he said.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Day 10: Matt and Nev's Road Trip - Day 1

"Don't worry Emma, the keys are absolutely safe with me."

So began my road trip with Matt, Emma's gift to me, as she handed me the spare keys - which cost $600 to replace - to her car. With Emma and baby Xavier flying on the Monday from Sydney to Melbourne, Matt and I were to take the long way there, by road. The car had been recently serviced to avoid any possibility of breakdown, and was loaded up to bursting point with their possessions as I was to accompany Matt on the 14-hour drive. Being such a long drive, we had decided to split it into two smaller bite-size chunks, and take the scenic route, the Princes Highway hugging the coast between Australia's two most significant cities. Such a road trip, with beautiful scenery, numerous little towns to stop over in, and the small sense of adventure as a new stage in life begun, was obviously an appealing one that Emma herself fancied, but she appreciated that my visits to Australia are few and far between, and this was a golden opportunity for me and Matt to have our own little adventure. Thus, she sacrificed her own place in the car for me, so that I could experience the joys of the open road. And how she would regret it...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Day 7: Obsolesence, St James' Church and Manly

Not far from the Sydney Opera House, on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens are some scattered stones. I saw them first during the bus tour, thinking they looked like gravestones but that the location was too unusual for there to be a small patch of graves, not to mention the layout irregular. And so I decided to take a closer look when next in the area.

It turns out something a little more esoteric is in place. The stones appear to be from an old building, and seem to have been deliberately placed, sometimes embedded into the ground, to give the impression of ruins. One stone is a plaque and reads "This building was opened by her Excellency Lady Stonehaven 1926" and a little probing reveals that Lady Stonehaven was the wife of the Governor-General of Australia during that time.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Days 3 & 4: Bus Rides With Bruce

With some days at leisure before Burness arrives, and thus some days before I want to start exploring the object and purpose of my visit, the Sydney Opera House, it seemed a good idea to explore a little more of this city. As with my recent holiday to Barcelona, a good way of doing this is to use one of these open-topped tourist buses. In the last decade, these hop-on hop-off buses seem to have begun spreading across the world, including back home in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where I would often witness tourists huddled under umbrellas bravely listening to audio commentary in what surely must be the only open-topped vehicles in the country. My recent holiday in Barcelona saw me use one, in somewhat sunnier conditions. They're a good way of getting an overview of a city, and can give ideas for further exploration. The ticket too lasts for 24 hours, so can stretch across two days.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Day 2: Reacquaintance With Handsome Matt

Almost eight years ago I went to live in Korea. Arriving by bus into the city of Daegu (where the recent Athletics World Championships were held) following a flight into Seoul, the very first person I met was a cheesy, wholesome-looking American. He shared the same agent as me and had been asked to meet me from the bus station. The same person met me from Sydney airport yesterday morning, following an 8-hour flight from Singapore, which followed a 5-hour train from Glasgow to London, a 13-hour flight from London to Singapore, then a 6-hour wait in Singapore airport.

That person is Handsome Matt, and he is neither wholesome or American (he can still be a little cheesy though). Despite my misjudged first impression of him all these years ago, we became great friends for the duration of our time in Korea and even though we've been living on opposite sides of the world since then, have always kept in touch. And he was the reason that Sydney is my very first stop in my Wonder tour: the original travel plans had Matt as my "travel-sidekick" and so Sydney seemed a logical place to kick off.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day 1: Off And Away

It's over. A quick look out of my window tells me - the summer's over. Time to travel.

It has been a lovely summer, if not exactly in terms of weather then at least in terms of enjoyment. After having left work at the start of June, it was the first opportunity for me in years to plan ahead, and to catch up with various friends scattered around the country that I hadn't seen in ages. Friendships are like washing machines, and need to be given a decent spin every now and again otherwise they fall into disrepair and your clothes start to smell. An empty washing machine sits in silence, but a working washing machine rocks the entire kitchen, And so just as I would put washing powder into the hatch of the machine, likewise I have put beers and wine down the throats of my friends. Terrible analogy, isn't it?

Friday, 2 September 2011

Predictions For The Seven World Wonders

The main objective to all this travelling is not to enrich my soul, participate in cultural experiences, "find myself" (I already know my dark soul), broaden my horizons or celebrate the wondrous diversity of mankind's puffed plumage. God no. At the heart of all this is my intention to come out of the other side with a list: a list of the Seven World Wonders.

The final list will be made after having visited each location, studied it, and having previously researched it. Then, after having written about it, possibly some discussion about it and some reflection, I will come up with what I believe the Seven World Wonders to be. Others may disagree, but until they visit all these places I will stubbornly ignore them.