Sunday, June 26, 2005

Land of Smiles

Well our overnight stay in Koh Samui was lengthened to err... umm.. two weeks!? Part of this was due to our fantastic spot at Moon Bungalows where we had a lovely beach 100 metres away. Part was due to our overload of shopping and our heavy bags. Part of it is just travel tiredness and the fact that we like to have some sense of permanency to a place. It was a wrench to leave especially having made some good friends in Claire and Mark (hi guys!).

But we did and we've now made our way to Phuket via the most backpacker-crowded ferry I've ever seen. As Martin said, it would be a big loss to the backpacking fraternity if the boat went down. We hadn't thought about our dates and were leaving on the same ferry as all the full moon party attendees. Listening to their conversations about the party, we didn't feel that we'd missed that much (eg. "I was so stoned Dude!"). We needed our witys about us to attend a quiz at an expat bar on Samui the next night... and lost by one point. Questions that are haunting us now include where the first winter olympics were held, the number of times Borg won Wimbledon before losing to McEnroe and the European country which has a white flag with a red cross on it.

Mark had been to Phuket before making it to Koh Samui and had recommended a nice hotel at bargain prices. We're now in unknown luxury land of air-conditioning, mini-bar, satellite TV and DVD players (though it doesn't seem to like some of our dodgy Chinese bought ones). We're here for about 5 days before we head to our penultimate country of the trip, Malaysia. I hear its national dish is satay - so I'm getting excited already.

In the meantime we're off for a big bowl of Tom Yum Gaeng (Banz's minus the prawns of course!).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

And finally...

Good news gallery fans! We have finally, after a fair amount of slaving away, prepared a couple of new galleries for your perusal.

Beijing
The Great Wall

Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Seven Nights in Bangkok

After waving a sad farewell to Lisa in Delhi, we wasted no time in jumping on a flight to Bangkok. We definitely enjoyed India and will be back, but I think its a small dose country for us. Much respect to the six monthers out there.

The change upon hitting Thailand was sudden and welcome. Simple things like walking down the street and not having any hassle were commonplace.

As we've been to Bangkok a couple of times before we were quite content to primarily catch up on emails, shop, catch up with our friends Anthony and Tu, oh and did I mention shop! Our first morning after arrival was spent in Chatachak weekend market. I love Chatachak as there's a huge amount of stuff there, quite a bit of variety and because a lot of Thais shopt there is not the silly prices that you get at the more touristy markets like Patpong. My alarming (to Banz) shoe fetish has continued here and we are now at shoe critical mass of 11 pairs of shoes. I've never been a shoe person, but the cheap prices and styles (mainly sandals) available in India and Thailand have sent me on a buying frenzy. I did point out that the amount of paid for 11 pairs is equivalent to about 25 english pounds. I don't think he's convinced though...

We also found time to go to the cinema. Hooray for Thai subtitles! In two days we went three times and have managed to see

Sin City - we absolutely loved this film and are excited by the prospects of sequels in the next couple of years. If anyone has found a definition of what all the colours mean send it on to us. Viewing pleasure was increased by being the only two people in a "luxury" cinema with sofas and blankets (Thai air-conditioning is of the arctic standard).

Mr and Mrs Smith - great no brainer that we really enjoyed. Brad Pitt in suits - Jennifer Anniston are you nuts? Angelina Jolie kicked butt and can't really imagine Nicole Kidman (originally destined for the role) doing it as well.

Star Wars III - and then we went and spoiled it all by watching Revenge of the Sith. What a waste of time this film was. Anakin Skywalker is the one but somehow is the stupidest person ever. Definitely has sullied the memory of the original trio with this one. Worst moment - Anakin's first moments as a suited and booted Darth Vader and is informed of Padme's death. Darth lurches forward Frankenstein's monster style and lets out a James Earl Jones induced "Noooooooooooo" whilst holding his hands in the air.

We put our horrific Revenge of the Sith moment behind us and had dinner with our friends' Anthony and Tu at a fabulous Italian place near their house. I've been craving pasta since being in India (craved curry whilst in Italy - no pleasing some people) so this was a great treat. It was also great to catch up with them and share some experiences of India together. They've had extensive business dealings there to which I hope their patience is one day rewarded.

Darth Vader was not the only one to be suited and booted during our Bangkok stay. On our first trip to Bangkok five years ago we (Banz, Spence and HiG) had some made to measure suits done. These suits looked great on the boys and Banz decided to get another made for job searching purposes. We journeyed back to our friends at Arena Fashions for a fitting and were warmly welcomed back. One pinstriped number later and Banz is looking dressed to kill. Well at least dressed to obtain a highly paid IT position (fingers crossed!).

We have now ventured south and are chilling out on Koh Samui for a while before continuing onto other islands and then further south through Malaysia and finally onto Singapore. The trip is coming to a definite end as we have booked our flight out of Singapore for July 20th. Our feelings are both of sadness and excitement.

We'll see how that changes as the final date approaches.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Things We've Learnt About India

1. You can have too much curry

2. Indian Salesmen are the most tenacious in the world. We mostly managed to shake them off.

3. Completely unrelated to No.2. We are now carrying a third bag full of shopping.

4. Cricketers are the real stars of India... well that and a couple of ubiquitous Bollywood Stars who to our untrained eyes just look smug. Download our favourite, the Oye Bubbly Video for Pepsi here (make sure you download the Music Video, not the TV Commercial). Sachin, Dravid et al appear at about the three minute mark. If anyone speaks Hindi we'd love a translation.

5. Praising the Indian top 6 increases your chances of getting money off in a shop.

6. Telling them that VVS Laxman broke Australian hearts in the series before the last one and you're even more likely to get a discount. Swings and roundabouts....

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cows, Crows & Crowds

Well, we are back in Delhi after our two week tour of Rajasthan for a last couple of days shopping before heading to Thailand on Saturday.

Our driver, Mr Goswami, dealt with all the problems the Indian roads could throw at him which comprised just about every permutation of 2, 3 and 4 wheels (taxis, crazy taxis, cars, carts, bikes, trikes, tractors and trucks) the combined with 2, 3 and 4 legs (men, women, kids (human), kids (goat), pigs, camels, cows, dogs and the occasional ox. In fact we soon learned that chicken and chipmunks are found on many Indian roads and not just in a monastery KFC.

The upside of the tarmac melting temperatures is that we have had a lot of forts, temples and palaces more or less to ourselves and this has been the best thing for us. The Sun Temple at Ranakpur, near Udaipur, is beautiful and airy, constructed as it is of white marble and dozens of columns but the two lesser temples were as memorable for being deserted and peaceful.

We have seen a number of forts in the last fortnight but none better than Meherangarh in Joghpur. The entrance fee was a bit more than usual but this included an excellent audio guide which was not only informative but meant the usual chancers offering to show you round, pointing out the bleeding obvious, were nowhere to be seen. Money well spent. The initial climb takes you past fortified, spiked gates, many studded with cannonball holes, and into the inner buildings. The courtyards were scorching but inside was cool thanks to the use of light-coloured marble and many carved screens which let breezes in while keeping out prying eyes. The views of the plain below were also stunning and we spent three hours exploring and refuelling on tea and cakes.

Fans of Globe Trekker may have seen the visit to the Rat Temple. We certainly had and were a bit nervous at the thought of hundreds of rats crawling over our feet. In the end the rats were suffering from the heat as much as we were and contented themselves for the most part in sleeping huddled in corners or drinking from the bin lid of milk. The odd one did scurry across our path causing our eyes to widen momentarily but I don't think the locals noticed. They might have heard our shreiks though.

And that was just about it for our road trip. The two weeks flew past in a whirl of temples, palaces, forts, fairly nice hotels and not enough swimming pools.

Thailand next. That's where we'll get the pictures uploaded.....I can feel it in my bones.