Saturday, May 27, 2006

Malaysia photos

The water was so amazingly clear and calm! Even very close to the shoreline there were schools of fish. One of them bit my bottom (twice) and it hurt.

Our bungalow came complete with wildlife - bats, big lizards, rats and squirrels.

At a cafe on Long Beach, Perhentian Island. My first meal (and time out of the bungalow) in two days. I was both hungry and nervous.

Audience participation in the fire dancing held on the beach each night. Anyone recognise the man in the photo?

Every beach should have one of these - a massage hut with comfortable beds and incredibly uncomfortable massages. It was my first Thai massage and just a bit surprising. I had no idea bones moved like that!

Friday, May 26, 2006

It turns out London does get sun!

Ah, its funny because its true.

On a related note, yesterday was the first fine day we've had since we arrived. I got a bit excited when I saw the sun. (You can see from the photo that the term "fine" is relative, but I was excited none the less.)

We decided to make the most of the weather and went sightseeing around Soho Hyde Park. I think this photo is suitably Londonesque. Red buses and Selfridges (Its the name of a shop - I assume they sell white goods.)
One of the stranger things we saw was a giant statue of Warnie being errected in the middle of Soho. No, there weren't any statues of other, English Cricketers being erected. Just Warnie. No explanation provided. The workman we spoke to who was involved in raising the statue was Australian, so I guess its possible that there was some sort of Australian expat conspiracy to create a giant idol of Shane Warne to worship, and that the authorities were none the wiser. I'm prepared to admit though that the chances of this actually being true are fairly slim. Whatever the reason, at least I got to tick "tweaking the nipple of a 20ft tall Shane Warne" off my to do list.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A postcard from the big grumpy wet gherkin (No, I'm not talking about me)

So as Margie said already, here we are in London. And so far so good - we've found ourselves accommodation in a nice place, with nice people, and now we just need to find ourselves nice jobs, so that we can keep up our nice lifestyle. We're doing our best to be frugal in the mean time, but frugal seems to be a bit difficult to do sometimes, because although at first glance everything seems quite reasonably priced, it tends to only be after we've actually handed over our money that we realise the symbol £ infront of the marked price is actually a good 3 times more powerful than the measly $ symbol that comes before all the money in our savings account...

None the less, we're having a good time. It's true that the weather hasn't been fantastic. Unless you like drizzle and overcast skies, in which case it has been absolutely flawless. There has been rain of one variety or another pretty constantly since we arrived here (I only just realised yesterday that it's almost summer - I had just been assuming that it was still the very beginning of spring and that although its wasn't that warm, things would no doubt be warming up some time soon!) Perhaps the thing that had been throwing me most with the weather was that we kept reading everywhere that London is apparently experiencing massive water shortages. (One of the tabloids here used the comparison that there is less water per person here than in Sudan - I'm going to assume they didn't mean clean readily accessible drinking water because I know I haven't had any problems getting out drinking water when I turn on the tap.) The thing that threw me the most was that London was apparently experiencing huge water shortages in the midst of, as far as I could see, non stop drizzle. I wondered how they could possibly hope for more water than we've been getting, but then I found out that it only started raining about a week ago - coincinding pretty well with our arrival in the country.

So I guess my overall impression of London so far is that it is constantly wet and grey. And big. The sheer size of London is only really starting to dawn on me. As it doesn't have much in the way of sky scrapers (save for the giant gherkin- see the pic) the size of the city doesn't slap you in the face upon arrival the way some cities do. The size kind of just creeps up on you gradually after you've been to a number of totally different areas as you begin to realise that every area is just as busy, jam packed and noisy as every other place you've been to.

So London is big, wet and grey. And grumpy. Londoners don't seem to be the happiest people on earth (not that you could blame them after a life time of being exposed to this weather.) Although everyone I've spoken to has been quite helpful and friendly to me, it seems Londoners are quite grumpy to one another. A fair bit of swearing and complaining can be heard on the streets (admittedly all in an accent that I find amusing, so it doesn't really bother me). Perhaps the moment epitomising this fact was when Margie and I were catching a bus and one gentleman, in a quite loud and displeased fashion, accused two other people in the bus of being pickpockets. Profanities, accusations and denials flew back and forth, and then the rest of the bus decided to weigh in on the dispute too. People started calling for the alleged pickpockets to be kicked off the bus. With a smirk, one of the two accused claimed, fairly unconvincingly to "No speak English." Then some other randoms on the bus decided they wanted to get more intimately involved in the dispute and began inquiring as to whether the accused "liked hospital food." It was at about this stage that Margie and I thought it best to take our leave. (Ok, so we were totally disoriented and accidentally got off at the wrong bus stop, but still, it would have been hard to chose a better moment to get off the bus than we opted for.)

In other news, in the type of random event that seems to follow me to nearly every country on the earth, I bumped into a friend from college at a train station about a week ago. It really is a small, small world.

Also, I am driving Margie totally insane in my constant attempt to pick up an English accent, as to me "English accent" means "East London accent". But don' worry guv'. I' ain't 'alf bad.

Thanks to for the pic of the giant gherkin

Sunday, May 21, 2006

London in my nose

Several people told us before we left Australia about the black snot of London, and I was skeptical. I admit it, I thought at best it was a great exaggeration, and more likely one of those things that people make up to poke fun of what I like to think of as my trusting nature and others think of as gullibility. And I was wrong. It really is black. London is in my nose.

We arrived Saturday a weekend a bit ago, and spent the first day sightseeing and enjoying being outside and not in a plane. Even the cold was exhilarating after Malaysia. Now we half-laugh at ourselves for needing to rug up so much in Spring, and half-dread what Winter will bring if this is the warm, sunny time of year.

All week we've been marvelling at how much there is to see here and how much is going on. And how GREEN everything is, even in drought. In our walk through St James, Green (above) and Hyde Parks last week we wandered past the palace and saw the changing of the guard, saw a performance of the same uniformed men in a band, playing theme songs from various movies, and saw the Combined Cavalry Parade (below) in Hyde Park, which apparently happens every year and was more men in uniforms playing songs and hundreds of young and old service men and ex-service men from lots of different cavalries.

We also saw the monument to the Australian services for WWI and WWII, which was really amazing. We found lots of names of places we'd been, including both Mount Tamborine and Tamborine Mountain!

Much of the rest of the week has been spent house and job hunting - successfully on one of those counts. We've found somewhere to live! We moved in on Saturday to a lovely, ground floor 2 bedroom flat in Islington, which we share with a Polish couple, Ela and Pawel. This was the first sharehouse we saw, less than 24 hours after we arrived, and we were lucky that E & P didn't find anyone else they wanted to live with in the time we took to say yes and get ourselves organised.

By London standards our room is large (about 1/2 the size of our room in Canberra) and very clean. There's loads of natural light, a gas stove (hooray!) and a real fireplace in the living room. And if today's temperature is usual for Spring, I just know that fireplace is going to get a work out come Winter! There's also a very nice cat in the complex, which makes me happy.

So we've still got plenty to organise (jobs, for example), but one week in we've found somewhere to live and had some very positive meetings with recruitment agencies, so I'm optimistic that everything will work out well. I've been told by a couple of agencies that I'll definitely have work in a month's time but that it may take a month. In the meantime, we'll buy bikes and see the sights of London in our rainjackets.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Freckles and tans

Who'd have thought it possible? After a week at the beach I've got a tan (possibly not compared to anyone else, but let's leave that aside) and Vaughn found room for more freckles!

We spent last week in Kuala Lumpur, sightseeing, sweating and shopping. Vaughn might try to tell you that most of the time was spent with me shopping, but you should ask him about his drum. And t shirts. And CDs. And the many, many bags we looked at. For him. And of course I did my little bit to help the Malaysian economy :)

We arrived in KL after an early flight from Kuala Terengganu where we spent a night after our time at the Perhentians, and were met at the train station by one of the guys from the hostel we had decided to stay at. He was there touting for business (for the hostel), and since we'd already decided we wanted to stay there it seemed a fortuitous start. The hostel was awesome - by far the best I've stayed at. There was a really nice communal area with lots of paintings (they had two resident painters), rugs and couches, where the backpackers and staff sat around chatting, playing music and smoking.

We had five days in KL and had planned to go to Malacca for a day and see all kinds of things around KL, but in the end lazing around and doing one or two things each day and skipping Malacca seemed a much better option. So we saw Merdeka Square where Malaysian independence was announced in 1957; the Petronas Twin Towers, now the tallest buildings in the world, and went up to the viewing deck, which was disappointingly only about a third of the way up; spent many hours in and only saw part of Petrosains, which is a lot like Questacon in Canberra or the Science Centre in Brisbane but really, really massive; visited the National Mosque and a wonderful Islamic Art Museum; went to the Batu Caves and saw the monkeys (monkeys!!); went to the Wesak (Buddha's birthday) festival at a Buddhist temple; and went to lots of markets, or at least a couple of markets lots of times, where Vaughn bought a drum from Sarawak and I bought one of those Indian patchwork wall hangings (and, yes, various other things too - when's the next time we'll be somewhere the Aussie dollar compares favourably?).

The more time we spent in KL the more we liked it. Probably not enough that I really wanted to spend the extra 2.5 hours sitting in the broken plane looking at the airport, but since they fixed the plane before we left and we didn't plummet to the ground midflight it all worked out ok.

Monday, May 08, 2006

South East Asia correspondent signing in

Hello party people.

We're currently sitting in an internet cafe in Kuala Lumpur. The first half of our trip was spent on Pulau Perhentian, an island off the north east coast of peninsula Malaysia.

Memorable (and mostly good) events from our time there include:
-a number of days snorkeling during which we saw some sharks, a huge variety of tropical fish, and swam with sea turtles;
-lazing about on the beach;
-going to a jam session which we were randomly invited to by some locals.

-living with all manner of wildlife in our cabin including giant geckos in our cabin which Margie was certain had a taste for human flesh, frogs which kept finding their way into our bags, bats which lived in the space in our ceiling, and something that sounded like rats scurrying about in our roof at night.

-Margie getting violently ill for a couple of days straight. Perhaps the crowning moment of this sickness was when, after doing nothing but trying to sleep and throwing up out the window of our cabin for the last 24 hours, she made a mad dash for toilet to throw up again, didn't make it at all, and ended up throwing up over all of our stuff. Of course, as the dutiful husband nursing my beloved wife back to health, the delightful job of cleaning up the mess fell to me. I guess the gist of this responsibility was covered in the whole "for better or for worse" promises we made to each other recently, but I would recommend that anyone looking to get married in the future consider including something about "for honeymooning on a tropical island, and for cleaning up your vomit when necessary" just so they really know what they are getting themselves in for.

We spent a day in Kuala Terenganu doing some sight seeing and while we were in a park in front of the Sultan's palace we walked past a middle aged couple dancing and being filmed by a couple of other people. At first we thought that maybe they were filming for a bollywood film (I know we're not in India, but it seemed possible) or a music video. They convinced us to come dance with them, much to the amusement of the palace guards and some random passersby in the park. They took us out for drinks afterwards and as far as we could figure out they were performers who do some sort of stage show, and I'm pretty sure there is now going to be a performance involving videos of us dancing in a park being shown somewhere in Malaysia. It was a bit hard trying to figure out exactly what they were really doing, seeing as their English was about as good as our Malay, and the phrase guide in the back of Lonely Planet is strangely lacking in Malay phrases to use when you want to find out why someone wants to film you dancing in a park.

We're just about to start exploring KL, so expect an update once our experience here amounts to more than visiting an internet cafe.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Here we go!

We've read plenty of blogs before, but this is our first blogging attempt. Fingers crossed it works and is not absolutely dead boring.

Tonight we leave Australia for a belated honeymoon in Malaysia before moving to the UK. After so much planning it's hard to believe we're actually going now. It's just a little terrifying. Of course there are two weeks sitting on a beach before the terrifying bit so I'm sure we can handle it! Mmm beaches...