some may ask, where are tom and joel these days? well here, you can find out.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

the end of an epic.

And so i'm back, tapping away on my lovely little ibook, munching on Mr Spuds delicious potatoes with more filling than potato, and gorging myself on all the music i've missed.

It's good to be back, in a way, being here makes me realise how much i missed certain people/places/foods (mainly foods).

Our last full day in L.A was exactly what we imagined it would be , the city of angels is everything i imagined in the stereotype thoughts i had had about it before. There's fast food restaurants everywhere, literally everywhere, and downtown is the most 'downtown' like place i've ever been. Riding the buses around is fun though, everyone has something to say and put forward, the bus drivers are super friendly and its all much much cheaper than england.

Joels one wish of america was to go to a diner, so we found one close by to our hotel (in Inglewood...), and again, it was exactly what we imagined. I ordered the country omlette and a chake, Joel the burger and root beer. We guessed my omlette must have been made up of at least 5 eggs, and the shake of pure ice cream with extra whipped cream on top for good measure. Perhaps tasty then, but for the first time in my life the next day i had a dairy hangover. It was worse than any alcohol hangover i've ever had. Seriously.

Anyway, we said we would put a few awesome photos up that we never managed to before.

dog with a sword! wahhhh

Well thats all thats needed, really.

And if i ever pay off my debt for traveling this time around, perhaps this blog will be alive next year...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Oh, Joel's right here.

So I finally reached LA, the last stop on our trip before heading back to England. In the most amazing timequake of my life thus far, I boarded the plane in Melbourne at the same time, on the same day, that I got off the plane in LA. That was cool.

The rest of the Melbourne Festival was very enjoyable. I averaged about 2 and a half films a day, and got to know some nice places to hang out in the city. Lots of animation, lots of documentaries, and one amazing animated documentary. Australia in general was very friendly and pleasant - and it was nice to have a summer in Byron and then a winter in Melbourne. I got a lot of use out of my woolly hat.

I won't be using it much here in Los Angeles, however. It's very hot and sunny here. Coming to the States for the first time is a pretty big deal for me, although I'm not really getting much of a look at it this time. Especially as the place I'm staying is practically in LAX. I'm just kind of waiting around now, pretty eager to get back home. Never mind, there's plenty of time to see the rest of it.

I guess this will be my last blog post, so thanks for reading. I might not come back any wiser, or even any older, but I had a whole lot of fun. Who needs attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion when you've got small dogs, big gods, electric towns, beautification enforcement areas, soundtracked landscapes, floating villages, Canadian pirates, trains, planes, automobiles, buses, coaches, taxis, bicycles, ferries, longboats and even the occassional tuk-tuk?

Knocked me sideways, anyway.


Saturday, 2 August 2008

Fiji is...

Hot. After the cold, cold, but great times in Sydney over the last few days its great to come back to somewhere with decent weather. But it's not overwhelmingly so, so i can still move around in the day without too much trouble. And everything is on a tab, so i end up getting a lot of drinks.

Couply. I've only been to two places with a family atmosphere on my travels, Railay and here. There's even more couples here, I've found. And lots of groups going on two week holidays. Not the best people to try and befriend when travelling alone. It was a lot easier in Nepal, as people were, well, better. Maybe it's me. Although i have befriended quite a few Japanese students, as they all seem to come down here for a working holiday or to study English. Seems like a great place to do it. Even though their English is slightly limited it's nice having some company.

Good for walks. With the lack of conversation being made I've been taking a few super long walks along the masses of road and beach there is here. Along the roads i passed through villages, where everyone stops to talk and all the children wave at you, at first it's a bit intimidating when a huge guy comes up to you with an even bigger cleaver, but all they want is a little chat. The beaches are just as friendly, in the distance you can see the waves crashing along the coral reef, and strewn across the beach is tons of bits of coral, all of it i want to take home.

Coco Loco. Not taking any beverage with me on these long walks was not much of a problem, as the entire beach is backed by hundreds of coconut trees, and after a few minutes of bashing their fruit against the rocks, i managed to split a few open and drink some of what was inside. The rest went all over down my hair, neck, arms and clothes. But it was definitely worth it, with the beach being as remote as it was, i felt like i was on a desert island. After some more time bashing, i broke them open and scraped out the inside with my nails. Tasty.

Cheap. Another use for coconuts here is in oil, which i found yesterday when i bought a twenty dollar (7 pounds) massage at the resort I'm staying in. Again, afterwards i was covered in coconut, my hair was super greasy, but smelt so good. And it was definitely worth it, unlike my massage back in 'Nam, the masseuse was hired for her skills, not her looks. Perhaps Fiji isn't quite as well priced as S.E.A, but what hides that is that everything here is put on a nice big fat tab for you, so it all seems free at first. Which i can deal with, until Wednesday anyway.

Chilled. The resort I'm staying in is about 45 minutes from then nearest town, which is one of the reasons they give you a tab, no-one bothers to ever get out of the resort, it has everything you need. So all people do here is lie around in hammocks and go for a swim occasionally, as long as the pool/beach is close by. I think the most I'm going to do today, as the weather is a bit cloudy, is attend a free coconut jewellery making workshop. It looks hard work.

Don't get too jealous, as I'll be back in a week, and have to find a job immediately and work off my wonderful adventures. Also, i haven't got everyone presents, so a lot of you may be receiving hugs, or bits of coral as your gift from afar...

The internet is being really bad at uploading photos, so i only have a few on there at the moment.






Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Best of the Fest

Hi everyone. I'm still at the festival in Melbourne, the town that was founded by Batman.
Here are some things I've been seeing:

Ploy - A new Thai film from auteur Pen-Ek Ratanaruang about a couple returning from the US to Bangkok for a funeral. Having been in the states for a decade, they no longer have a home in Thailand and check into a five-star hotel. There, the husband meets Ploy, a 19-year old waiting for her mother to arrive from Stockholm. He invites her to nap in his room, which upsets the wife and exposes a gap in their 7-year marriage. The talky scenes are a bit mundane, with the couple's complaints of married life sounding a bit too familiar from similar films. The quieter moments, though, are remarkable; this is the most jet-lagged film I've ever seen. There's even the occasional suggestion that the characters are dreaming each other along the narrative, and you're never quite sure what's really happening or who's awake.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is hosting some of the festival's screenings, and it's the kind of place that I wish was in every city. Among other things, there are a set of individual screens that offer hundreds of short films...for free! So I can watch animated shorts all day long, which is just about my favourite thing to do.

Animation (with dogs) - Of course, this is still a festival and there are still the expensive ways to do things. This was a set of short animated films, all linked by including a dog in there somewhere. Some were European and weird, some were Australian and normal, some were Australian and weird, some were European and normal. My favourite was 'KJFG No.5', which I can't find on the internet but I recommend. It proves that the less dialogue more funny animal noises you have the better the film.

Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet - When Nintendo released its home and hand-held consoles, such as the GameBoy, it was a revolutionary technology that changed video games forever. Now, the kids who played them obsessively have grown up...and they've learned a few things. 'Chiptunes' is the name given to music created using video game consoles, and it's the subject of this excellent concert documentary. The genre is compared to hip-hop for its hacking of corporate technology, and to punk for its attempt to strip an elaborate music form back to its bare bones. However, it belongs entirely to the geeks, and differs to these genres in its complete lack of anger or outward rebellion. These musicians are taking their most beloved childhood memories and pushing them further, using them to create; making them do more than they were meant to do, celebrating but transcending nostalgia. The live performances at New York's 'Blip Festival' are energetic and lively, backed by jaw-dropping live visuals. As someone who has placed so much in technological pop culture, it's inspiring to see a generation use their favourite hobbies to create something wonderful and new. A great film, and a great way to learn about this exciting, generous, global, honest, independent and totally unique scene.

The Night James Brown Saved Boston - Another (very different) concert documentary, looking at James Brown's performance at the Boston Garden on the 5th of April, 1968 - one night after Martin Luther King's assassination. Illuminating interviews are interspersed with remarkable live footage of Brown, which exists because of the controversial last-minute decision to televise the concert, over fears of riots in the city centre. As the night went on, trouble and violence hit the streets of Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Detroit - but Boston remained peaceful. The film then explores (too briefly) how this momentous performance turned Brown into black America's new spokesperson and leader, who as an entertainer rather than a politician or religious figure could reach younger generations with a powerful, immediate effect. Brown took on this role, and helped to stop the riots not because he disagreed with them but because it was detrimental to the memory of what King lived and died for.
Also, there's a great short film with James Brown here. Watch it.


Saturday, 26 July 2008

and what tom's doing...

Sorry i haven't blogged in such a while. I don't really have much of an excuse, except Joel always seems to get there much faster than me.

war memorial in Canberra. light was really nice. we found out after this that the whole hill this memorial is on is a huge museum, full of about every war Aus has been in.

I got into rainy Sydney about 15 minutes ago, although warmer than the south, it's much more wet. Down south we've been doing the nature part of our travels, with lots of bird spotting, wombat cuddling and kanga feeding. I didn't realise how tame some of the animals here are, on a walk with Meredith we saw kangaroos that came right up to you, and multicoloured birds that landed on my shoulder. Which was just lovely.

koala! kawaii!

hmm. i've forgotten what this is called. but the others didn't look like this one...


Because of Joel having to go to his stinking film festival on time, and me having to get back to sydney to find another drinking partner and in a few days depart for fiji, we only got to stay one night at Merediths, which i've been wanting to visit since i was about 10. But it was still a lovely evening, her home is all you could ever want in the middle of the "bush", with lots of wood and comfy chairs around a fire. Its so lovely to stay in a home, instead of sharing a room with some bunks in. So thanks, Meredith!

The "bush" around Merediths house

Merediths house. Very cosy.

Travelling is getting worryingly closer and closer to not being travelling, and being home. With money being how it is i'm starting to dread the idea of a routine, but at least every time i think about it i stop taking this amazing holiday for granted, and enjoy every little thing about it.

Tonight i meet Cat, a Sydneyer I met the first time i was here, who's putting me up for the last few nights in Aus. Pictures should be up, a few days after the blog is published, of course.



Being urban, trying to be urbane.

So here's what's what and who's where: I'm in Melbourne, arrived this morning at 6am (it's now 10.15pm here). Tom's in Bateman's Bay, on the East coast, with Meredith and no internet access. We parted after feeding kangaroos and seeing some stunning Australian countryside (although I get told off unless I call it 'bush').

Soon after arriving in Melbourne I adopted 'festival mode': a map of the city in one pocket, a scribbled schedule of films in the other, and, thanks to the cold weather, I'm wearing 4 layers. Yessss. The Melbourne International Film Festival (yes, that would make MIFF) is one of the biggest and longest-running film festivals in the world, and shows a very wide range of films from all over the world. Unfortunately, it's plagued by bureaucracy based on suspicion and elitism, but we won't go into that. Today I saw my first film, Idiots and Angels, a dark animation about a lonely miser who one day sprouts wings, which try to turn him good. It was pretty good, but bleak.

Right now I'm waiting for a midnight screening of George A Romero's Day of the Dead, one of my favourite zombie films. Romero's actually doing a Q&A, but I think I'll miss it as his last film was really, really, really bad. I wouldn't want to start an argument. I plan to book for 17 more screenings, and then stop myself there, for the sake of my wallet. But there are some very interesting-looking things in the program.

As for Melbourne, I've only been here one sleep-deprived day, but I love it. It's exciting to be part of such an old festival in such a culturally wealthy place, not to mention varied. This place has everything that I love about big cities - activity, life, generosity, diversity, trams. It even has neon lights and rain. Brill. No photos from me, I'm afraid, as I don't have a camera. But hopefully I'll develop into such a master storyteller that you'll feel as if you're here anyway.

On the dessert front, something has happened. Something surprising...embarrassing...even upsetting. I threw away some cake. A fair amount of cake. I'm ashamed. But baklava is deadly stuff and should come with a warning. I couldn't even manage half before I had to get rid of it. Tasty, yes. Easy, no. Anyone wanting to lose weight should just have a piece of that on Monday, and you won't feel like eating for a week.

Maybe it's just the baklava talking, but I'm pretty excited about the next ten days.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Oh, and the Pope says hi.

We're back in Sydney for one night only, stopping off on our way down to Canberra.
Frankly, it's a little strange. Yesterday was World Youth Day, and the Pope was down under to greet the masses. Today everyone who came to see him is leaving Sydney, but for some reason everybody has matching rucksacks and calls each other 'pilgrim'. It feels like we've come back to some weird future Sydney from a sci-fi novel, but it's still a nice city and friendly.

We spent the last 10 days in Byron Bay doing...well, not doing much at all. If that sounds lazy, then it's because you've never been to Byron; it's a place that's pretty well suited to doing not much at all.

IMG_6865It has sunsets like this every day.

Not only was our hostel rather nice, but they gave us free bike rental, so we spent a large portion of our time pedaling. Also, the beach is very pretty there, perfect for lounging around or going into the sea when you feel like braving the cold, and the waves (I got hit by a very big one). Byron is a lovely, friendly town, so it was always nice to walk around. Not to mention the huge selection of cake shops.

IMG_7039It also has moonrises like this at the same time every day.

Today we arrived in Sydney at 6am after a bus journey for which we packed cheese and avocado sandwiches, chocolate bars, fruit and double chocolate and pecan brownies (a selection representative of our stay in Byron). We tried checking into our suspiciously cheap hostel twice, then went to see a free break dancing performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We had a stroll around Sydney, then finally made our way into our room, before having more cake and tea.
You'll notice that that's the third mention of cake in this post, and well...most people know how much cake I eat in England. And I'll tell you what...Australia has done nothing to assuage this obsession. I've had to separate my money into 'accommodation budget', 'travel budget', 'food budget' and then 'cake budget'. Don't worry though guys, I'm on top of it.
Tomorrow we get the bus down to the suspiciously expensive hostel in Canberra, then meet up with Meredith (Tom's aunt) in a couple of days. I'm trying at the moment to change my ticket so that I can stay in Melbourne for the film festival instead of going to Fiji.
More as it comes.

IMG_7023The best part of Byron, though, has to be how whenever Tom went to the beach he turned into a giant, and then danced around like a huge Michael Jackson.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Byron Update

Hello everyone, I'm okay now.

We've finally made it to Byron Bay, a small beach town at the top of New South Wales that's big on surfers and things like that.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "But wait! Isn't it winter in Australia right now? How could that possibly lead Tom and Joel to the beach AGAIN?" Well, Australian winter isn't actual winter. It's just fake winter, like in England we have fake summer that's actually just a monsoon season. I don't know why these facades are carried up so heartily, but it happens. Anyway, it means that the beach is pretty pleasant. Already we've been to the most Easternly point on mainland Australia, I tried my hand at body boarding, and we're even cooking. That's right. You should all be very proud of us. We cooked a Thai noodle curry, tortilla wraps... well, Tom does most of the cooking. But I make an extremely effective potwash.

Our hostel gives us free pancakes, as well as free body board and bike rental, and free movies and games. So yeah, we have it pretty good right now. We'll probably stay to the end of the week, and then make our way down to Braidwood, while at some point I'm going to Melbourne for the film festival. There's a definite 'last leg' feeling to being in Australia, probably because we're coming home in FOUR WEEKS. Are you excited? You should be.

Update-within-an-update: some lovely photographs.

IMG_6955God gives Tom what for.

IMG_6875 Probably the best sandcastle you'll ever see.

IMG_6767 Me at the most Easterly point in Australia, being all forlorn and romantic.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

tom and joel Are in australia

and its rather nice.

After approx 15 hours in Singapore Airport, we got our last singapore airlines flight (boohoo) to Sydney. It was one of the brand new double decker airbuses, and all beige and clean. Finally finished watching No Country for Old Men, which, of course, was fantastic.

Took a while to get out of Sydney Airport, partly because of customs (They searched through our entire bags ("What's this wood?" "That's a photo frame from Ikea with a picture of me and my sister" "Yes well it's going to have to be checked over. What's this?" "That's some mud on my sandals" "Yes well if you want to bring soil into the country you should have checked the 'Are you bringing in any soil or plants into the country' box on the arrival card")) and partly because it was 6am in the morning and we probably didn't have a room until 2 that afternoon.



Sydney is beautiful, visually, and nasally. Although Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok were fascinating places, its nice being in a city that doesn't smell of crap half the time. Sorry south east asia. There's even an Aroma Festival being held here in a week or so. The skyline is beautiful at night, its like the clip they use for the beginging of films made by Miramax.

Today, poor old Joels been ill, so I spent most of the day on my own, and used it browsing lots and lots of clothes shops, as i figured i better use the day doing something Joel wouldnt want to do. In the end, i only bought one top, as i realised i don't actually have any money of my own, just the banks money, and i'm not in S.E.A anymore, so things cost real amounts of money.

No photos up yet, as i left a whole bottle of water open in my waterproof bag. Although a waterproof bag doesn't let water in, it also doesn't let any out, so my cameras helpfully soaked it all up for me. Thankfully the big one is working now, and i'll go recon up some photos tonight.
-obviously, photos are up now.




Thursday, 26 June 2008

Tom and Joel are not in Australia

Okay, so here's what happened...

After arriving in Bangkok we eventually met up with Kaare and Angie, the Canadians who Sam, Bernie, Oonagh and Ed met in Kuala Lumpur. They were only part of a hulking mass of Canadians who also happened to be in Bangkok. While the Canadians went down to Ko Tao, we stayed in Bangkok perhaps a little too long (Khao San road is not a pleasant place) and then Sam flew back to England, with a whole suitcase full of stuff we wanted to send back with him. Sad faces all round.


Then we too made our way down to Ko Tao, a really lovely island right near Ko Pha Ngan. We met up with the Canadians again, and spent the days with them snorkelling, boulder climbing and doing some very suspect karaoke. We also got the boat over to Ko Pha Ngan for this month's full moon party, then danced into the morning and got the first boat back. Our intention was to leave straight for Singapore, for our flight to Australia on the 23rd. However, the hulking mass of Canadians convinced us otherwise and we went to Ton Sai with them. No worries, we thought, we'll just change our flights to the 29th instead.

sunrise at the full moon

Ton Sai (remember Railay? That's right next door) is also a really great place, much smaller and friendlier than Railay (it also has limited electricity, accounting for the blogging lack). The centrepiece of this stay was the much-fabled 'Pirate Party', now on its 3rd year running. What this consists of is everybody dressing up like pirates, and Kaare and Angie setting us a long list of pirate-related challenges to complete in and around the peninsula. The costumes looked great, the challenges were tough, the accents were terrible - we were 'Team English', and we were all ready to go, when...

the saddest face in the world.


The 25th of June 2008 suddenly became THE WETTEST DAY OF ANYBODY'S LIFE EVER.
The monsoon lasted all day, but does a little rain stop a bunch of pirates?
Of course not!
We hiked a very steep jungle treck, navigated some slippery boulders and made a sea monster out of sand. Because we refused/were unable to get a boat back to the very inaccessible Ton Sai beach, we came back to the party a few hours later than the others, and considerably wetter. HOWEVER! We had completed most of the challenges. I'd say it was a success, anyway.

So remember how we changed our flights to Australia? Well, that didn't quite happen the way we planned. In fact, nothing happened at all because we were unable to reach Sanjay, our helpful travel agent.
Well, we thought, new flights will cost us a few hundred pounds, but who can put a price on this kind of fun? We've made a lot of great friends and memories. Oh well.
So today we got a boat back to the mainland with all our stuff, and while Bernie, Oonagh and the Canadians are waiting for a bus back up to Bangkok, we're killing time and putting off teary farewells.
So to kill my time, I go into the nearest internet cafe and sit down at this computer to check my email, and read this:

Hi Joel,

All changed to the 29th of June 08



And so, to that end, see you in Australia.

(This post is dedicated to Kaare, Angie, Jesse, Juanita, Carly, Jake, Haley, Scott, Adam and Steph for being good Canadians)

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Tom and Joel are still alive

They say all good things come to those who wait, and we waited...and the good things came!
Four of them, to be precise. Ed, Bernie, Sam and Oonagh eventually found their way to Langkawi, leaving us to chill out on the island for a few days, during which we saw monkeys, eagles, lakes, mountains and the whole island from the top of a very tall cable car.



In a rather drastic change of plan, we're back in Bangkok, after getting the sleeper train up from Hat Yai (sleeper trains are awesome). We're staying here for a few days to meet Kaare and Angie (some guys the other guys met in Kuala Lumpur), and then maybe heading BACK to Ko Pha Ngan, maybe for another full moon party. There are a many maybes in the equation. Ed's flown back to Singapore on his way home, after seeing us for a shamefully short amount of time.

As it stands, the only certain place we're going after this is Singapore, en route to Australia. Our friends are just too much fun, it's hard to leave them. Pesky things. Anyway, I believe a pancake is in order so I'll leave you until next time.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

A series of events ending in a reggae bar on a duty free island

In the last week we've been all over the place, after nakkkon se thammart we got a bus across to the west, and then a boat to the beaches of Railay, with towering cliff tops cutting into the horizon in the middle of the sea. Makes great sunsets. Even though i most definitely couldn't afford it, i spent a bit of money on scaling these rocks for half a day. The most exercise I've done, probably since the bike ride in Nepal. Sweat was literally dripping off the end of my nose, and i had a sweaty little moustache too. But certainly worth it, as always when i do exercise, felt really happy for the rest of the day. And the views 25m up are much better.

actually, to get this photo, i had to do a rather dangerous and stupid freeclimb

The next day we left for Hat Yai, the border town for people crossing into Malaysia. Good for shopping, but as that's something i shouldn't be doing, we escaped into the national park nearby for a climb up another waterfall, this one with perhaps even more spectacular views than the last. After descending, i found another 4 fat leeches all over my feet. Peeled them off, but two of the wounds wouldn't stop bleeding...for about 30 minutes. I think you're meant to burn them off.

this was the moment joel turned and looked at the view

Our hostel in Hat Yai was a classic. To get to our room you have to go down a long empty corridor with dim lights, which looked like something out of the shining. Our room itself had all the cliche 'crap hostel' features; cracked mirror, solid beds, strip light, dirty walls, squat toilet and a sink which just had a pipe which poured out onto the floor. Guests wake up early, and drink early. We saw someone enjoying a beer before 9am, and someone opening up a new bottle of Leon with 2 empty ones already on the table before 10. These arnt just regular size bottles either, 660ml...

Staying there two nights was fun, anymore and i might have resorted to the morning drink as well.

Right now we're on Langwai, in the very north of Malaysia. For some reason, the whole island is duty free, which makes everything very cheap, especially after the massive dent that commercial thailand made in my bank balance. Found a great place to stay, like Silvery Moon in KPN, it comes with an honesty beer fridge. Last night, down the road, we found an excellent reggae bar, with an even better live reggae band playing. Danced until about 3.

In about three days, Bernie, Oonagh, Sam and Ed come all the way from Kuala Lumpur to give us a hug.

more photos to come. soon, hopefully.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Jungle Boogie

[New photos are up...but no recent ones at the time of writing. Watch this space.] We finally managed to tear ourselves away from Ko Pha Ngan (no thanks to Koi & Beat at the Silvery Moon Bungalow, who supplied us with the best food, beach and hospitality we could ask for) and made our way to Nahkon Si Thammarat, a southern town near the east coast. We don't have long left in Thailand before we have the long-awaited meet-up with Oonagh, Bernie, Sam and Ed, who decided to buy a ticket out here because we're such good fun. This means, then, that we're leaving Nahkon tomorrow after a fairly action-packed two days. Yesterday we saw the most famous temple in south Thailand (it was all right) and then went to a shadow puppet museum, which was great. We had the place all to ourselves, but they still put on a show for us and showed us how they make the puppets. A brief but lovely experience.


Today we went a little out of town to the Khao Luang National Park, which is HU-UGE. We know it was huge because we spent the entire day looking at one waterfall. You'd need a year to explore it all. We climbed the hill up the waterfall, occasionally stepping onto the rocks or having a little swim. The jungle here is real, hardcore jungle. The trees go up so high you have to walk away from them a little bit to look at them, and the paths aren't really paths, they're just masses of tree roots and rocks that vaguely resemble steps. Needless to say, my shirt was drenched in sweat before long. We went as far up as we could before the path stopped altogether and we just got lost in some very thick jungle. On the way down we fell over a couple of times, because it's so darn steep. We didn't see any tigers, but that's probably for the best. We saw a leech. It was on Tom's foot.



Nahkon Si Thammarat is a pretty nice place - barely any tourists, which is nice after the craziness of Bangkok and the British Colony feel of Ko Pha Ngan. Tomorrow we hopefully go to Krabi (the other side), back to the beach and the possibility of rock climbing. We're not entirely sure how to get there, but I'm sure it'll be fine. Vague plans are forming for the aforementioned meet-up, possibly on an island off the west coast of Malaysia, but bringing together people from different corners of the globe at the same time is just as hard as it sounds.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

'Taxi?' no thanks... 'Person?' no tha...What?

One of the many reasons we escaped bangkok for ko pha ngan, an island populated with even more white people than Bangkok.

what we step out to in the morning

A typical day on the island involves waking up reasonably late in the morning, perhaps wandering the 10 metres down to the beach for a swim in the bath temperature clear sea before putting some manu chao on and sitting down to amazingly cooked pad thai for brunch. Might go for an explore on the rocks afterwards, picking up nice looking shells and then throwing them away again. Might go for lunch in Hat Rin, but its unlikely as although its quite a small town, after deserted beaches its a bit overwhelming. Down the beach the other way is a small restaurant/bar, so i might go down that way instead, see if new friends Hannah and Gretha are there.

i ordered this sandwich a lot. in english money its one pound. dont worry, i also had thai food. thai green curry is a close runner up on saag paneer

The night is somewhat different. Probably in the evening meet with H+G at their bar, lie around on the sloping rock with cushions all over it and have a few beers. A normal evening might end there, as doing nothing all day is pretty tiring, but yesterday stood out slightly, as the Full Moon Party was on. A monthly occasion, it drags thousands (literally, sometimes up to 30k) of whiteys covered in neon paint to one end of the island, with ten massive soundsystems, and tens of thousands of plastic buckets filled with whiskey, coke, red bull and ice. To get there, most people quite sensibly get a taxi, Joel and I decided to walk. Usually the walk is ok, but tonight, the tide was well in, at some parts up to our waist. My jeans were stuck to me for the rest of the night, but i danced it off. By the end of the night, or when we left at 5, the entire beach is covered in bottles, buckets and bombed out backpackers face down and mouth open in the sand. We ended up getting back and lying on cushion rock for another 2 hours, as the light turned from pitch black, to a blue sheen, to bright daylight. Wandered back home and slept.

was like this for the whole beach, about a 15 minute walk from one end to the other
as shown here...

i got a bit over excited by it all

but so did most people

Will try and upload pleasant day photos soon, but at 3 pounds an hour this internet is too expensive.

Big love, Tom.

Friday, 16 May 2008

On gods, and the trees strangling them

For our last day in Cambodia, we rose early to go to Angkor, the country's proud district of temples, towers and shrines. First was sunrise at Angkor Wat, one of the most famous landmarks in the world (it's even on the Cambodian flag, and counted as a 'Travel Wonder of the World'). The word 'ma-hoosive' is thrown around a lot these days, but believe me when I say that this temple is MA-HOOSIVE, and surrounded by all kinds of lesser tombs and structures, as well as a gigantic moat. Arriving early meant that there were huge sections which were entirely devoid of people, which was well worth getting out of bed for. Everywhere in this place there is something to be amazed by - you'll be hopping through a stone corridor and suddenly discover inscriptions in the walls, or incredibly long and intricate murals, or the huge amount of carved female figures covering the entire complex, each of which is unique. On arrival we separated, a camera each, and eventually found each other around four hours later (like I said, ma-hoosive).


For the rest of the day we traveled around beautiful Angkor to see the seemingly endless temples - there always seemed to be something astounding in any direction. There are so many that it's easy to get one all to yourself, so despite the heat I soon got accustomed to running and jumping all over the rubble and ruins, and climbing the frighteningly steep (and tall) tower steps. It felt like I was in a video game, in particular the video game 'Ico', and if anyone has played then they'll understand how amazing this place is. This probably wasn't the architects' intention, but video games and religion are pretty much the same thing anyway.


Some philosopher (I forget who) once said something along the lines of 'it's impossible to imagine a tree so tall that God could not create it, therefore God must exist as the most awesome power'. Well. He obviously never went to Angkor. Some of the temples are overshadowed - in every sense - by the trees growing alongside, within or on top of them. These trees tower to impossible heights, and their tentacle-like roots wrap themselves around entire walls or insinuate themselves into the stones of steps - literally crushing these monuments to rubble. Could it be a sign of the nihilism at the heart of the universe? Nature's disregard for the efforts of man? Or just bad gardening? Whatever the answer, Buddha's face is everywhere in the walls, always smiling, eyes always closed.


P.S. We're in Bangkok now.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Cambodia - with a tasty photo update

So, we haven't blogged in a while, but we've had much more important things to be doing, like nightclubbing in Phnom Penh with Shakira and Justin Timberlake, and chilling out on the beaches of Snookyville with a mango milkshake in one hand and a book in the other.


Before we arrived from Vietnam, people told us that Cambodia was pretty 'Same Same' to 'nam. But it seems pretty different to me, and almost reminds me of Nepal a bit. Everyones skin tone is much darker, and the laws are all much more laid back here. Which is nice. However, prices have gone slightly up since we've stopped moving from the beach. Speaking to a few people, we've found many have come here, and just not left. The french hippie who runs our beach bungalow says he's been here for a year now. It seems like a pretty good job, the only difference between the daily events of us and him is that he has to pour the beers.

russian market in phnom penh. not russian at all, but the locals dont call it this anyway. we expected lots of russians really drunk smashing glasses and selling only vodka, but Communism is pretty out in cambodia at the moment.

Weather hasn't been too fantastic in Cambodia yet, here at the beach its pretty stormy, but like all of south east asia so far, the rain never lasts more than about 20 minutes. And although there's a bit of a lack of sun, the humidity keeps us warm in the sea. Which is also warm enough to run straight into, something i could never really keep up with Lucy and Max in doing in England.

The day after tomorrow, we (attempt to) get off the beach and head up to Siem Reap, do some more touristy things there for a day, then get into Thailand and meet old friends sam, bernie and oonagh. It seems like we havent spent enough time in Cambodia really, everyone is very smiley here and the beach is great place to meet people, as from 9am onwards we've seen great groups of people dancing outside their bungalows.

Will try and get some photos up soon. ish


Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Can Tho attitude

From Saigon to My Tho, and My Tho to Can Tho. Apart from some lovely islands, My Tho wasn't a very nice place. The people weren't very friendly and there wasn't much to see, so we left after two nights to come here to Can Tho, which is a very lovely place full of friendly people and quite a lot to see.

Today we woke up before dawn so that we could get a boat up the Mekong Delta. Going up the huge river as the sun was rising was pretty amazing, especially as we were given lots of little bananas. We stopped off for some tea and coffee on the way, and then continued further up the river until we reached the floating markets, something Can Tho is famous for. Merchants with boats packed full of fruit all meet in the centre of the river, bartering and trading across the water before the sun gets very hot. Their boats, some of which are also their homes, host a variety of pipes and mechanisms which provide a constant background of whirrs, splutters and putt-putts, making the whole place seem like some strange jungle steampunk dreamscape. After seeing the market we stopped off at a noodle farm, to see how noodles are made (we'll never give away the secret). We had some coconut and then continued up the long and pretty river to the second floating market, which was even nicer than the first as we climbed aboard someone else's boat and ate some pineapple.


After chilling out on their boat for a bit we travelled even further up the river, to a tiny little restaurant to get some lunch (or, rather, brunch). We ordered, and had massages while we waited for the food to arrive. Some more tiny bananas were had. This restaurant was, as well as massage parlour, a farm, so all of the food was fresh and tasty (although one of the pigs had severe mosquite bites, as a French man showed us when he noticed Tom's bites). We were in no rush so we lounged around in their hammocks for a while...and then the rain came. It's rained here almost everyday so far, and when it rains it pours. We just took shelter and then...well, lounged around in hammocks for a bit longer. Nice. Eventually the rain died down and we got the boat aaaaallll the way back to the hotel, having some more bananas on the way.


A good day then. Vietnamese food can't quite compare to Japanese as of yet. Tonight we went to a terrible restaurant where I ordered sauteed fish and received a sausage with raw mushrooms. However, I will say that Vietnam is very good for fruit. It's darn tasty, and people just give it away. This is good, as fruit is the one thing we didn't have enough of in Japan. We replaced that food group with Snickers bars instead.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Good Morning Vietnam! (now with bonus pictures!)

I know, the titles been done before...
vietcong tom/sammiad

Got into Ho Chi Minh last night in the pouring rain, and got charged the obligatory 1 time rip off rate for new tourists for the taxi into the city centre. Found our hotel, no air con, so went out into backpackers district for a little explore. Got lost pretty fast, but found a bar with deckchairs out front, so we just watched everything go by for a while.

After Japan, Vietnam, like with Dehli after London, is a massive smash in the face with a big ol' culture stick. What first hits you is the humidity, Joel and I are constantly sweating, and i think my jeans are going to remain at the bottom of the bag for the next two months. But it stops me from actually worrying about how sweaty i am, because everyone is in their own puddle of salt. Bikes are everywhere, more bikers (no leather) than pedestrians, recently the police have announced a crackdown on us walkers, which means if you get hit by something, you almost always get the blame. Especially when drunk. That hasnt happened yet.

our hotel

This morning we visited two of the biggest tourist hot spots, the Reunification Palace, and the War Remnants museum. The former was pretty drab, perhaps because we know nothing of Vietnam's history, and the tour guides all spoke no english, but even the building itself, sparsely furnished with dulling 60's/70's tables and chairs was increidbly repetitive, room after room exactly the same. Perhaps if you really knew what went on there, you could get more into it. Perhaps. We spent a lot longer in the remnants museum, where there was masses of excellent photographs taken in the Vietnam war, by photographers working with the Americans, South Vietnam and North Vietnam, so you could see each army without having a bias. Although some other parts of it were a bit more one sided, with a huge illustration of an American flag, cut up with barbed wire.

some bowls

Sorry for the lack of pictures, will try and get them up soon. ish. I feel much safer getting my fatty camera out in Japan, where everyone over 10 has one anyway.

Tomorrow, the water park just outside of town looks likely, and the day after, a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, to shoot off some AK's, and crawl through tiny underground holes. Typical Teenage Boys dream. Yay!

joel after 90m of PAIN (tunnels)