Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Melbourne

Looking back on my 3 weeks in Melbourne I just feel there is a 3 week void in my travels. Suffering major post Asia blues, being in Melbourne seemed to be more of a problem for me than a joy. It was cold, everything was about 5 times more expensive and the prospect of having to get a job out here did not (and still does not) seem very appealing. That said I did have some good times while I was in Melbourne and it wasn't all bad. It's just all this time I have thought about how I would much rather be back in Asia where my money goes further, the days are warmer and does share about a million similarities with home. Actually the more I think about it the more I would probably rather be home right now, the only things keeping me out know is the fact I would not have a job to go back to... anyway that depressing bombshell aside here is my experience of Melbourne.


First night as you can see from the post below, I was freezing my arse off, coming from 3 and a half months of mid to high forties to then walk out of an airport into 8 degree blustery winds was not a nice experience. The hostel we stayed in was damp, had no heating in the rooms and was also a huge sterile place full of people I really did not want to get to know. My first night in Melbourne/Australia basically involved me being miserable. My own personal feelings aside I could see what people liked about Melbourne, St.Kildas where I stayed the first night was very picturesque, a coastal suburb with a old theme park and lots of little boutique shops. It would have been amazing in the summer and the more I saw the more I felt like I had made a huge mistake coming here in the winter as it was so obvious how much better the place is in the summer.

I thought it would be a good idea to not dwell to much how much I did not want to be here and take a tram to an area I had read a bit about which sounded pretty cool. I thought if I saw more of the place I wouldn't feel so lost and would slowly start to feel more settled. So we jumped on the tram to Fitzroy, a suburb to the north of the city about 40 minutes from where we were staying. Fitzroy was mint, full of awesome shops, graffiti bars and restaurants and was exactly the sort of places I like to go back home. The only downside was everywhere I went I was shivering. We stopped to get some dinner and Tommy and I discussed our first impressions of Melbourne. I don't Tommy was missing Asia as much as I was and I also think he wasn't being such a pussy like me about the cold but he also liked this area and was very much up for trying to find a place to stay in Fitzroy. We asked around a bit and eventually got the name of a hostel on the border of Fitzroy and Carlton called The Nunnery.

The Nunnery turned out to be a real lifesaver for me in terms of how I was feeling and what I thought about Melbourne. The minute I arrived at The Nunnery and looked through the window to see an open fire I knew I was going to like it there! We went in and asked if there was space and how much. There was but it was $30 a night for the cheapest rooms, not as expensive as Japan had been, but now we really didn't have that sort of money. Slightly disappointed I felt maybe just a couple of days comfort may help ease me into Australia so was prepared to pay the extra even if it was just for a few days. The Nunnery turned out to be my home for the next 3 weeks! It was pricey but done right it actually worked out cheaper than most hostels due to the saving that could be made. They had free towels - bonus, free breakfast - bonus and they also left food out such as bread and Vegemite which if desperate could be put towards a free lunch. As well as that they had free wine on a Friday! Free pancakes on a Sunday morning and free vegetarian meal night once a week. All these freebies really added up and all in all the $30 a night Nunnery experience didn't work out to be that much. The Nunnery was real homely and was just nice having a bit of comfort after several months and really helped me to cheer up and enjoy Melbourne. There was a real good crowd at the Nunnery, a lot more "older" people around the 30 something bracket but still had a nice chilled out vibe. Something else I liked about the place was the ironic way they ran the place, it was full of religious pictures and paintings, a few bibles and the staff refereed to themselves as "The Nuns" it was a nice little touch which at first I had to work out whether or not it was actually a joke or not but added to the character of the place for sure.

One of the first things we got involved with was a trip to the the Etiade stadium to see a bit of Ozzy Rules football. There is nowhere else you can really watch Australian Rule Football (unsurprisingly) so thought it would be a great way to see a bit of what Australia was all about. We rocked up to the 50,000 seater stadium but unfortunately all the seats were full, but to our surprise they also had standing areas. This area was just behind all the seats on each level and meant you could just sort of hang around and watch the game for a slightly reduced price. We saw Carlton V St.Kilda, both Melbourne teams. Carlton up to this point had been undefeated this season which explained why the stadium was packed. Also after our night in St.Kildas we also felt we had some allegiance to one of the teams, better still for me it was the underdog who I always like to see do well. I had no idea what was going on at the start of the game, it just seemed like lots of men in vests, pushing each other around playing a weird version of rugby. By the end I had basically got the impression someone kicks the ball, if you then make a clean catch you basically have a free kick or pass, un-tackled, of the ball towards the goal or player near the goal. Other than that there didn't really seem like much to it. It was a quality night in the end, I was obviously cold, but I forgot about that and just stood back watching the game and but seemed to watch all the Australians around me even more. It was great to see the banter between them all and the main thing to note was that the fans are not separated into home and away aras, everyone just sits where ever they want. I left that night feeling pleased I caught some AFL as well a starting to feel a little bit more settled in Melbourne.

I also got up to a lot of picture taking while I was in Melbourne. But not of pretty things like the parks and the lakes or the skyline but of the Graffiti. I love graffiti, only when its done well though other wise its just a mess. Melbourne has a lot of great graffiti and Fitzroy especially seems to have a huge amount of it. So on a couple of days when I was bored but didn't want to spend anything I would head out with my camera and take some snaps of any of the graffiti which took my fancy. I also got a lot of use out of my new wide-angled lens which I think really suits graf photos as it gives them a pretty edgy look (Well I think so anyway). One day I will put a whole album either up on here or an facebook of all the snaps I took, I think I have 300 or so as I couldn't get enough of it, but for now I will just put a few up on here. It was a great way of passing the time though, especially when I am trying to save money.

Despite saying I was trying to save money I still seemed to have the available funds to go to the iMax cinema. Despite holding a degree in film I had never been to an iMax cinema back home mainly because there is not one in Norwich or York and never really been that bothered in seeing anything at one. However I was living right opposite the worlds 3rd biggest iMax cinema so thought it was about time I went to see what all this iMax shiz was about. I ended up going twice altogether firstly to see Star Trek (Awesome) and then Transformers (Dogshit!). The screen size blew me away and at times I actually felt a little ill but would definitely like to go again some time. Would have loved to have seen "Watchmen" on iMax would have been unreal.

As well as the iMax chipping away at my steadily depleting funds I also did go on a few nights out during my 3 weeks in Melbourne, none of them were anything major and none really broke the bank but if you really want to save money going out and drinking really isn't the way to do it! I've felt though one of the best ways of getting to know a city is by having a few beers and crawling round a few of the bars it has to offer, it is obviously more difficult the bigger the city is but you do get to see more and definitely another side to a city through its night life. There were 3 stand out worth mentioning while I was here. First night was my first night out in Melbourne with a few people from the hostel and my first experience of how Australia doesn't have pints. Instead a collections of various sizes all smaller than a pint such as a pot (?!) and a scooner (?!). I also went to a few bars and finished the night of with an Australasian Kebab, which was actually awesome. Then another night was a Dub step night at bar just round the corner from the hostel. The music there was mint but it being a Sunday night meant there were very few people there. One funny thing worth mentioning was that for some reason, as I was from England they all thought I was some sort of authority on Dub step. The Dj's and bar owner started showing me loads of pictures of sound systems and telling me how powerful it was etc etc. At one point one of them said "Obviously it doesn't compare with what you guys have back home...", I pretend to know what they were talking about and just tried to make friends. The other night me and Tommy went out at about 00:30am. It was a late one so just went out for one, the best bit about this was that everyone was wasted other than us and got in some very unusual conversations with people. There was also a lot of high drama going on around the place as Fitzroy has a very large concentration of people I like to call "Art Fags". So there were a lot of people who feel like they are carrying a great deal of emotional baggage and pent up creativity which all seems to explode out on a Saturday night the minute they get drunk. Causing lots of tears, arguments and people just generally being a mess. As a sober observer I loved it.

Other than that I just spent my time in Melbourne casually looking for employment, catching up on the blog, enjoying the chilled out vibe of Fitzroy going in bookshops and coffee shops, trying not to spend anything of course and just taking advantage of the huge amount of time I had to think about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. It was nice completely slowing down and spending several weeks in one place, although it meant I really didn't feel like I was traveling any more which sucked.

One great thing about writing my blog is that it gives me a chance to think about and reflect about all the stuff I am doing while I am away and allowing me to gain a greater understanding of what I am up to and how it is effecting me. Well normally that's the case but after writing all this Melbourne confuse me. I think I really like the place, everything about it is cool. It is just the bloody weather that has ruined it for me! Everything I see and do all I think about is how much better it would be in the summer! I did have a great time here and I will be sorry to say goodbye to it but at the same time I cannot wait to get up north and get some sun. I thoroughly recommend Melbourne but wait till the Summer if you do come.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Great Ocean Road



The organising of the great ocean road, road trip took just about the same amount of effort as the actual road trip itself. It was Wednesday evening and I was enjoying a rather stale bowl of cereal in the hostel kitchen when Tommy came up to me and said a random French dude was looking for some people to do the Great Ocean Road with. At this point I had never even heard of it and therefore was not really going to jump at the opportunity to go on a day trip with some random 40 year old French man. However some other random American then jumped in and highly recommended doing it. I had a small ponder and then deiced why the heck not, it would be a mini adventure and a chance to get out of Melbourne for a few days. So myself, Tommy, his German friend Julie and the Random French guy whose name I do not even know set about planning the route. This planning only took about 5 minutes as French man could not speak much English so mainly involved pointing at a road on a map and saying "oui" a lot. I went to bed that night not really sure what I thought of the prospects of doing the Great Ocean Road with this French guy so thought I would sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning

I woke up the next day to find the plans for the trip had completely changed, it was now a 2 day trip and Julie, Tommy's English speaking German friend had been replaced by a French women with minimal English. Errr oooo. Julie was not aware she had been replaced so she turned up at 8am expecting a good days road trip ahead of her. It all got very confusing and awkward, especially with the language barrier. Julie tried to explain that she still wanted to come but the fact it was now a 2 day trip caused some complications regarding work and there now wasn't really room for the 5 of us in a car. The French guy then disappeared for about 45 minutes and was gone long after his 8.30 deadline he had set for us to leave. I now thought he had ditched us, which I was taking as a blessing in disguise if he had. As at this point I had decided I really did not want to go with him. I told this to the guys and eventually they agreed and we decided we would just do it ourselves the next day and maybe get someone else from the hostel along to keep costs down and just for a bit more banter. Typically the second this new (and better) plan form, Le Frenchy appeared all ready and rearing to go. Not only that but he had forked out for a slightly bigger car to fit us all in. Errr oooh. The next 60 seconds was possibly the most awkward minute of my travels so far. Tommy got up to go with him, but I thought "Fuck this, I am here to enjoy myself and I will not enjoy it with him", so explained that sorry I was know out and would not be going. "But why?" the Frenchy said shocked, I thought it would be a bit harsh telling him it was because I thought he was a boring bastard so managed to quickly make up the excuse that it was because 2 days was too long. Shocked and obviously very annoyed there was nothing he could do and he stormed out followed by the other French women and off they went on their Great Ocean Road adventure. I felt so bad, so so bad that we had messed him around, especially as he had got a bigger card to accommodate us all. I thought that karma was going to come back and bite us in the arse for messing him around by giving us bad weather for our trip. But once the dust had settled I didn't really care, it would have been a lot worse had I done it with him so it was definitely going to work out for the better.

Sooo still about 24 hours away from setting off we then set about organising the trip ourselves, at this point there wasn't really much to do other than read a few Lonely Planet guides, a hour of team googling at the museum and then trudging around the city looking for a good deal on a rental car. As well as this there was also the task of having to find a possible 4th person to join our team. This turned out to be the easiest and best thing to happen to the adventure and someone who believed in fate may have described it so. But Passenger number 4 turned out to be Panter. Panter is a guy who I had met for no more than an hour on 2 separate occasions in Bangkok but I had taken a shine to due to his including of "Lolz" in normal conversation and huge repertoire of one liners and jokes about things such as dead pets and the holocaust. It just so happened Panter was also in Melbourne the same time we were and also happened to be on Facebook the exact same time I was. I dropped him a causal "What you doing tomorrow?" on the private chat and BANG he was in. This news also pleased Tommy immensely as we knew this would take the trip from a fun factor of 8 to a full 10/10. Once this was confirmed we went out to get the car, a lovely yellow Hyundai Getz and then chill out safe in the knowledge that the next few days were going to be awesome.

We got up early the next day and waited for Panter to arrive. Tommy and Julie went off to get supplies, such as biscuits and red bulls and also met up with Panter. Finally after a day and a bit of sorting out we were all set and ready to do the Great Ocean Road and see a bit more of Australia.

The trip itself was great fun, there wasn't really much to it apart from driving between towns along the road and stopping every so often at one of the many points of interest along the way. Some people do it in a day but as we decided to do it over 2 it allowed us to do the road at a lot more leisurely pace and stop for stupid things like the penis's scribbled onto the road. Tommy and Julie couldn't drive so Panter and I could split the driving if we needed to. Unfortunately Panter was too big to fit behind the wheel comfortably so out of the 800km driven over those 2 days Panter managed to fit in a cheeky 16km leg. Other than that I did the other 884km. Not that I am complaining though, I love driving and The Great Ocean Road was a brilliant road to drive on.

The main draw for the road is the scenery that you see a long the way but there are also some points of interest to stop as well. We stopped at a light house, which Panter thought was the one used in the TV show "Round the Twist". We also saw a whale here but it was just a black smudge on the horizon to me, but the guide who was there insisted it was.

So far the driving had been fine, I had never driven on a motorway back in the UK but adapted fairly well to driving on them here mainly as they drive on the same side. The only real issue was that the bloody indicator and the windscreen wipers are on different sides. So every time I went to turn a corner I would switch the windscreen wipers on. It was so annoying and took some serious getting used to. It also meant I would miss quite a few turnings as I was unable to sort myself out in time. Right mission!

There are about 8 or 9 towns along the road and we tried to stop at a few of them. One of the first places you come to driving to the road from Melbourne is Geelong, however somehow I managed to completely drive around it, I think it was the Sat Navs fault so we missed that and instead the first place we came to was "Torquay". This was described at the gateway to the "Great Ocean Road" so thought that Geelong was probably ok to miss really. We got out here and took our first few pictures excited that we had made it to the road in one piece and that we had a great 2 days a head of us.

We just slowly made out way down the road stopping at anything that caught our eye. I thought it would be a good idea to dive down a slope which was at some ridiculous incline just to see what was at the bottom. I went down and then realised it went no where. I then had to spend the next 10 minutes trying to reverse up and then do a 3 point turn to get us out of there. It was not a nice experience at all I think I even broke into a sweat it was so such hard work.

We stopped off briefly at "Lorne" and "Apollo bay" to see a bit of some towns along the road and spent a bit of time on the beach at "Apollo Bay" enjoying the views. The day was drawing to a close and it was about time we made our way to get some food somewhere. We decided we would head out as far as we could and stop at the next town. We ended up stopping at "Port Campbell". I regretted stopping here for food instead of "Apollo bay" instantly when I saw the prices of the food and realised we had got stuck in tourist trap and were going to have to pay silly prices for the food. Begrudgingly we stopped in a little Italian and had some pizzas. I think I got a meat feast or something like that.

Despite all the beautiful scenery and look out points a long the way I am sad to say my favourite bit of the whole road was the gigantic penis that had been spray painted on the road. No idea why or by who as it was in the middle of no where but when I saw it I had to do a U-turn so that we could get some photos of it. I think we spent more time at the big penis than we did anything else along the road. God knows how many photos we got of it but it was definitely far too many.

We made one last push to the next town of "Warrnambool". It was dark by this time and it is not recommend driving in Australia at night due to all the Kangaroos jumping out in front of cars as they are dazzled by the headlights. When you are driving a tiny Hyundai getz as well it really isn't recommend as the Getz would definitely would come off work if we hit a Roo. So cautiously we made our way to Warrnambool. Warrnambool Wasn't anything special a fairly built up town but had a few hostels so we checked into Warrnambool Backpackers and spent the night there with a 16 man dorm all to ourselves.

Day 2 we realised we had taken the day before a bit too slow and therefore had to pretty much do the rest of the road without stopping. However we had missed out 2 of the main attractions a long the road, The 12 Apostles and the London Bridge. We jumped into the car early and made our way to them. They were both worth the extra effort to get there and one we had seen them jumped back in the car, stopped briefly to re-fuel then made the long journey home back to Melbourne so we could get there car back to return the car at 6pm.

When we eventually got back we found out from the rental company that we didn't actually have to bring the car back today and could have kept it till the morning which was well annoying as it we could have done the trip home at a far more leisurely pace. Oh wells. We had made it back safe and sound to my surprise and karma obviously doesn't exist as despite messing the French guy around we had awesome weather and just generally an awesome time.

Anyway here is a (fairly lame) video and some snaps from my first ever actual road trip ever...





















Thursday, 18 June 2009

Dunk's In Melbourne

Well guess who else is in Melbourne! Only Duncan bloody Whitlam!! I had not been in Melbourne more than a few days when Dunk made the journey over from Shepperton a few hours north to see me. It was so good to see a mate from home after not seeing anyone for so long. Although it was a little strange as I had hardly got to know Melbourne in the few days I was here and felt it my responsibility to show Dunk around. Not knowing anything about Melbourne other than the fact it was easy to scam free trams made this rather difficult. I had decided not to worry about my slowly vanishing funds while Dunk was here and just enjoy a few days with him.

Dunk didn't arrive till about 3pm and once we had got him and his mates Andy and Quinny checked in there wasn't really much time to do anything. Part of me wishes I was staying somewhere else while Dunk and that were here as The Nunnery doesn't really have the best party vibe, its a real nice hostel but in terms of the fun I've had in some of the other during my travels it didn't really compare. I think they still liked it none the less.

Quinny was hungry so our first port of call that day was KFC. We jumped on the tram, got a bite to eat and then went for a cheeky pint over the road. As I had already made the decision not to worry about money I grabbed a bottle of "Asahi" which set me back 8 bucks but was definitely worth it. By that point there wasn't really much time left to do anything so we jumped back on the tram to the hostel to quickly change into something a bit more presentable for a night out around Melbourne.

That night we didn't really venture into the CBD but spent all our time around the Fitzroy area where we were staying. We had a few drinks in Gertrude's Brown Couch but it was pretty dead as it was a Tuesday night. After that we made our was down Brunswick Street stopping off at any bars that took our fancy. After a while we heard that a few other people from the hostel were now back at Gertrude's so we made our way back to the Brown couch. It perked the night up a bit when we got a few more people involved and stayed there another hour or so. We then headed back to Brunswick street and tried to find anywhere that was still open. Eventually found somewhere and I went off to grab a kebab as at this point was fairly hungry. Not long after that we headed back to the hostel. It was a strange night that never really went anywhere but I really liked it obviously as Dunk was about.



On day 2, slightly hungover the first thing we did was a trip to Melbourne aquarium. This was my second trip to an aquarium during travels after my trip to Osaka's back in February, so really could have missed it out. Was still good though, saw some penguins and tropical fish and as usual was freaked out by the jelly fish on display. I really don't understand them, they are just slimy bits of nothing, its crazy! It was a bit of a whistle stop tour of the Aquarium as we made our why through each tank fairly quickly. After that we made our first of 2 stops to the Melbourne Casino. I had never been to a Casino before and was surprised at 2 things, firstly how big it was and secondly how many people there were gambling their lives away at 1pm in the afternoon! A surprising majority of these people seemed to be middle aged Asians as well! I didn't put any money on anything on my first time at the casino, especially after Dunk lost $10 in the blink of an eye. After that we headed to the Eureka Sky tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere to see the views from the top. When we got there though the ticket man at the bottom said that visibility was pretty shite so was probably worth coming back tomorrow if we could, so we did. The rest of the day we just spent pottering round the shops while Dunk and his mates brought things, while we killed time before the Australia vs Japan world cup qualifier that was being held a the MCG that night.

After the game we went back to the casino. This time round I actually put some money down and tried my hand at the roulette table. It started off badly and I lost $10 almost as quickly as Dunk had earlier that day. I decided to whack on a bit more and chase my loses which is always a bad idea. However it must have been beginners luck as eventually I pulled it back and left the casino $20 up! It was great it was almost a free night accommodations had I won another $10 which I was very tempted to try and do. In the end I thought it was probably best to call it a day there and be happy with my $20. My first ever casino experience made me realise how easy someone could become addicted to gambling so I thought it was probably a good idea not to go back again anytime soon.

The next day we went back to see if the visibility today was any better than the day before. Thankfully it was so for the slightly extortionate fee of $16 we got in the lift and shot up 300 meters to the very top of the building for some awesome views of Melbourne. Been up a lot of towers so far and I think I liked this one the best due to all the little telescopes at the top pointing at various locations around the city. It meant I could work out what the hell i was looking at from the top of the towers. Not long after we had been up the tower we had to head back to the station and I had to wave good by to Dunk and he 2 mates.

It was great to see Dunk after all this time as I don't think I had seen him since Christmas, neither of us could remember the last time we saw each other. I am not sure when but at some point I am sure we will meet again, I may even make the 2 hour journey to see him in Shepparton at some point.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Australia vs Japan

On one of my nights in Melbourne we all headed off to the MCG stadium as the Australian and Japanese football teams were in town for the final world cup qualifier of their group. I had never seen international football before so was looking forward to seeing some, even though it was just Australia and Japan hardly football heavy weights.

At this point I had spent more time in Japan than I had in Australia and liked Japan a lot more than I do Australia so I rooting for Japan. I was sitting next to a lone Japan fan who was very excited to find out I was supporting her home country as well as the fact I had been there also.

Just like the AFL my Favourite part of the whole night was just sitting back and watching the crowd. The Ozzy’s were fairly vocal and there was a large amount of banter flying about all over the place. I wasn’t too far from the Japanese corner of the stadium and they seemed to be enjoying themselves although there really wasn’t very many of them unsurprisingly. There was also the ocational Mexican wave keeping things interesting.

Japan took the lead and held it for most of the game but the game finished Australia 2, Japan 1. Both teams had already qualified for the world cup so there wasn’t really much to play for other than who would go to the easier group in the finals.
I had a great night at the footy and it made me one day really want to go see an England international, preferably one that meant something rather than a friendly or a qualifier. I would especially love to see a game as an away supporter one day in the not so distant future. Trip to South Africa anyone?



Friday, 12 June 2009

First Night In Melbourne


I am in Australia in bed with a woolly hat on. It never looked this cold in Crocodile Dundee 2. Whats going on! I think a flight up to the north needs to be booked post-haste!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Australia


I have made it to the southern hemisphere and I am currently in a very cold Melbourne. You would think I would be buzzing but it is oooooh sooooo cold and I am oooooh sooooo missing Asia. Not sure how I am going to go about blogging now as I am going to be in Melbourne 2 months maybe, weekly updateds maybe?! Not sure.

Anyway can't believe I am in Oz and well eventually (give it a day maybe) be looking forward to experiencing this awesome country!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Singapore



Singapore is pretty special and it should be for the amount of money that seems to be thrown at the place. I am not sure where they get their money from but they have a lot of it and the country seems to have no problem spending it. The place was perfect, almost a little too perfect in places. For example I saw only one homeless person during my time here and I wasn't even sure if he was homeless or not as he was asleep on a park bench in a full 3 piece suit! The only explanation for this other than he wasn't actually a homeless guy was that the Singapore government give their homeless a clothing allowance.

I had heard so many stories about how Singapore was a "fine city" and how you would get a $1000 fine there for pretty much anything. Spitting, chewing gum, jay walking, smoking and littering to name but a few. However you would think to enforce all these laws there would be police everywhere but there really wasn't! I think I saw even less police here than I did in Japan. No idea why it was, maybe it was the places I was going but I think I must have seen only 2 police cars during my entire stay in Singapore.

We had travelled from KL to Singapore by bus with Becky making are tally of countries with her a big fat 5. She knew of a good hostel in Little India, which was only a few minutes’ walk out of the city centre. So jumped in a taxi with her and headed over to the hostel. Little India was cool full of Indians obviously, as well as curry houses and other Indian shops. The place smell amazing thanks to the constant smell of curry wafting into the streets. The hostel we stayed in reminded me of the ones I had stayed in, in Japan, clean, modern and full of little extras like plugs on every bed. It was nice to have a little bit of luxury again after the hostels through most of South East Asia and gave me a bit of an impression what life was going to be like for the next few months in Australia.

Day one in Singapore involved a rather extensive walking tour which would take us past most of the main sights in the city in a very logical order almost asking us in a perfect loop around the city eventually leading us back to the hostel. First thing we did was take a bus out to the far west of the city to the Botanic Gardens. Singapore is the only city in the world (I think) which actually has a real rain forest growing within it. So first stop was a quick walk around there followed by the botanic gardens themselves. We walked around here for a bit took some photos and enjoyed the baking heat. This then led us round to the bottom of the famous Orchard Road which has almost as many giant shopping centres as New York has Starbucks. We spent a good few hours down here seeing what was on offer and then stopping for some lunch in one of the many gigantic food halls. Once we had walked all the way along Orchard road we came out at the top a few hundred metres from Fort Canning Park. We walked around here for an hour or so enjoying another little green retreat from the mayhem of the city. It was really strange though as we were the only 3 people in the whole place, the park was pretty massive but no one seemed to use it was very strange. This then brought us around perfectly to the Singapore National Museum which after 6pm was free to enter. Taking full advantage of this we made a quick stop there only to find there really wasn't that much on display. So after that we made the short 20 minute walk back to the hostel to work out our plans for that evening. Was a great but exhausting day, allowing us to see a lot of what Singapore had to offer in a very well planned out manner. I would love to know how far I walked that day.

That night as we were staying in little India felt it was a must that we went for a curry. We looked around for a bit as there really was a huge amount to choose from and eventually settled on one which looked half decent. I can't remember what I ordered but it was well nice and I had one of the nicest cheese nams I had ever had. Typically though, almost the second I finished the last mouthful of my meal I sat back looking at the plate I had just demolished thinking how much I had enjoyed it when out of the corner of my eye a little mouse ran past me! Brilliant!

After the curry Becky and I really wanted to head out into the city centre to see what the night life was like. I had heard so many rumours of the price of things being through the roof I really wanted to check it out for myself as well as see what this “perfect” city had to offer night life wise. I can’t remember what the area was called but we got a taxi to an area where the majority of the clubs and bars were and it was pretty sweet. The drink prices were out of control but managed to find a bar that did 2 for one on cocktails. Tommy wasn’t drinking due to his feet so me and Becky went half on a 2 moitoes. We sat in this Latin America themed restraint and enjoyed our drinks watching Singapore go by. While we were there they were shooting for a film so there were films crews and actors and extras running about all over the place, it was great to watch, I think they were shooting a Bolloywood film so imagine I saw some Bollywood mega star that night without even realising. We walked up and down the bar area for a bit seeing what was going on and there seemed like a lot of cool stuff there. Just all out of out price range. We had another drink along the river and then jumped in a taxi and headed back to the hostel.

Day 2 in Singapore was a lot different to the first as we made our way for a day of fun on Sentosa island, Singapore's "island of fun" just south of the city. I wasn't really planning on doing much while I was there as I thought the prices of things would be ridiculous and they were. So I did what I could on a budget and enjoy watching all the Singaporeans enjoy their little City getaway. I think the main vibe I got from the island which was also brilliantly pointed out by Becky was that the whole of Sentosa had an "Organised fun" vibe to it. I just felt that everything there was what the government thought to be good fun. It was basically on big theme park full of various attractions and things to do but without the rides. There were several fake beaches, one for families, one for the teenagers and one for the adults just wanting to relax. It was a weird experience Sentosa but the highlight was definitely just being able to observer how the people of Singapore kicked back and had fun. Tommy and Becky managed to Blag free tickets to the Dolphin show which meant I had to kill a few hours while they had fun. I walked around the island and bumped into a monkey hiding on a road sign I took a few pictures of him and headed back to meet the others. Not long after that we jumped on the monorail and headed back to the city.

One problem during my stay in Singapore was Tommy's feet and inability to walk anywhere. Somewhere along the line something had bitten Tommy on both of his feet and somewhere these bites had got infected. It took several days for the infection to show but by the time we got to Singapore his feet were in a ridiculous state. They looked funny as, like Grandma feet, all swelled up with cankels. It just meant that walking anywhere took about twice as long as he was finding it real hard to walk. He also had to go onto antibiotic so for the next week he would be unable to drink a thing which was a shame.

I made sure I found some time to go to the Singapore Night Safari. This was basically just a Zoo which opened hen the sun had set and would stay open till about 12 midnight. The set up was that you got to ride around the majority of the park on a pretend safari 4WD which would make the occasionally stop so that you could get off and explore some more of the park by foot. I was hoping to see a few animals I had never seen before, mainly any nocturnal ones, however I didn't. I enjoyed my trip to the Night Safari but felt it was more of a novelty rather than something that was necessary to show off a whole range of different animals. My favourite animal there had to be the flying squirrels whose cage you were allowed to go in as they flew around all over the place, was mint.

Singapore has a reputation for its cheap electronics and while I think Bangkok is equally competitive I thought I may keep my eye out for a bargain. I was walking around the whole tie with my SLR round my neck and people were trying to sell me wide angel lens left right and centre. At the time I wasn't planning on getting lens but eventually I decided if I found one for the right price I would get one. I had not spent any of the money I had got for my birthday on anything in particular other than food and hostels so thought it was only right I should by myself something with what I had left. I eventually found a decent enough lens for a fairly reasonable price of 30 quid. He started at the mental price of 200 but I don't think he even expected to sell it for that, it was just to make the deal seem sweeter I guess. So now I can make my pictures go from this -





To this -




I obviously also had to make the pilgrimage to see Raffles hotel. I am not really too sure about the history of the place or that much about raffles himself. All I knew was that I had heard of the hotel before and therefore should probably take a quick trip to see the hotel for myself. I decided it would be better to see the hotel illuminated at night so our very last stop before we had to get up early for our flight the next day was Raffles. It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be but impressive none the less. Got a few snaps of the outside peered through the window to see the sort of luxury I would never be able to afford then jumped into a taxi to take us back to our hostel with rooms for $15 rather than $2000.

I really liked Singapore and kept thinking how this way my last stop in Asia and it made me real sad. It was a strange place and I couldn’t really work out what it was. I think it had something to do with the fact the whole country was just having so much money thrown at it, it meant the place lacked a soul (maybe). I still liked it though and it concluded my tour of the South East Asian mega cities.
Goodbye Asia ) ;