Friday, 16 December 2011

Trip summary/advice for other travellers

While it's still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd do a post with some info for anyone thinking of doing a similar trip. Here are some things I've learnt:

  • There are certain things you should always have with you. Imodium, sick bags, painkillers and toilet paper (especially in countries where they don't tend to use it) can make a really big difference in some situations. You won't forget them twice. 
  • Shampoo and shower gel are basically the same thing. While there's some things which are indispensable, others can be redundant. When buying a cheap phone, try to get one which uses a type of charger you're already carrying. I managed to use the same USB charger for my phone, kindle and iPod. 
  • (Some) gadgets are cool. While you don't want to risk taking too many expensive things, a few things can make long journeys a lot more comfortable. I was grateful for having my iPod nano and Kindle 3g, especially on 10+ hour train journeys and flights. The kindle also allows you to take huge amounts of books without actually having to carry them. 
  • Sleep for free. Couchsurfing isn't just about a free bed, but that's just another advantage. You get to meet locals who know more about the place you're visiting than any other people you're likely to meet, and get a unique insight into life wherever you go. 
  • Travel in low season. Although not always possible or preferable (low season can mean terrible weather, in which case it might not be worth it), travelling in low season is cheaper, less stressful, and more flexible. You don't have to book things as far in advance (or at all, sometimes), and everywhere you go will be less busy. 
  • Don't plan everything. The best experiences I had were often things that were suggested by people I met, or just happened. Although sometimes it's good to book things in advance, leave yourself some time to do things you might not have thought of while planning your trip.

That's all I can think of for now, but I may add more things to this list later. Now here's a list of books I read on my trip, with the ones I enjoyed the most in bold
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  • The Game by Neil Strauss
  • The Quants by Scott Patterson
  • Booky Wook 2 by Russell Brand
  • Slash by Slash and Anthony Bozza
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The New Paradigm for Financial Markets by George Soros
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  • Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson
  • Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  • The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Beat The Market by Edward Thorp
  • Screw It, Let's Do It by Richard Branson
  • The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets by Benoit Mandelbrot
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • What Do You Care What Other People Think by Richard Feynman
  • The Great Crash by Selwyn Parker
  • Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Sydney

As the last destination on my trip, Sydney had a lot to offer. Among other things, I went surfing for a day,

Sydney - Manly Beach

visited the (in)famous Bondi Beach,

Sydney - Bondi Beach

went on a day trip to the Blue Mountains,

Sydney - Blue Mountains

and did a little jump in front of the Opera House.

Sydney - Opera House

Not a bad way to end a trip.

Finished Reading: The Great Crash by Selwyn Parker, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Started Reading: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Listening To: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Melbourne

After a night at a hostel and a day walking around the city, I couchsurfed at Katie-May's house for two nights. There were two German girls staying there as well. Katie-May showed us how we could travel along the Great Ocean Road by public transport, which we did the next day.

Great Ocean Road - Lorne

The girls were flying out at 7am on Saturday, so we decided to go out until they had to leave for their flight. We spent the first few hours sitting in the street with a busker and walked the long journey to the Night Cat, a club with a live band, where we spent the rest of the night.

Melbourne - Busker

Foo Fighters were playing on Saturday night, and I'd managed to get tickets. Along with a few other people.

Melbourne - Foo Fighters

A few small bands were on at first, followed by Tenacious D, and then a two and a half hour set by Foo Fighters.

Melbourne - Foo Fighters

Finished Reading: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, What Do You Care What Other People Think by Richard Feynman
Now Reading: The Great Crash by Selwyn Parker
Listening To: Foo Fighters, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Brisbane

Brisbane is slightly reminiscent of London, but there's almost constant nice weather and even a little beach by the river. After two nights in a hostel I managed to secure a mattress in a stranger's living room for two nights, through CouchSurfing. I stayed with three lovely girls who'd just finished studying in Brisbane, and had a great time. They had a tiny problem with some mice in their kitchen, so one afternoon we set up some mouse traps, grabbed a chair and a bottle of cider each and sat in the living room by the kitchen door, watching in silence.

Brisbane - City Hostel

After an impossibly short time one of the mice appeared, and walked over to the trap agonisingly slowly. Just before it got there one of us made the tiniest movement and the mice disappeared. A little over five minutes later it came back for another go. This time we saw it make its way over to the side of the trap, casually take the food out, and walk back to its hideout. 1-0. See if you can spot the mouse in the picture.

Brisbane - Couchsurfing

Before we'd had time to catch either of the mice, it was time for me to move on. I got a bus to Spot X, some 5 hours south of Brisbane, for a weekend of surfing. I managed to stand up on the board quite early on during the first lesson and progressed to a smaller board by the end of the weekend, despite a few bumps and bruises.


Spot X - Surfing

Finished Reading: On The Road by Jack Kerouac, How to Win friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Now Reading: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, What Do You Care What Other People Think by Richard Feynman, Getting Things Done by David Allen
Listening To: Red Hot Chili Peppers by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Freaky Styley by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cairns

After having my trainers cleaned for free, the rest of Cairns was a bit of a disappointment. Or it would've been, if I hadn't spent my first day on a boat going out to the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns - Great Barrier Reef


I did three dives, the last of which was my first ever unguided dive. I just buddied up with a girl I met on the boat, and we found some amazing types of coral I'd never seen before, two hawksbill turtles and a white tip reef shark.




After a few less eventful days I decided to go up to 14,000ft in a small propeller plane and jump out, attached to a man with a parachute. It was awesome.


Mission Beach

Finished Reading: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Now Reading: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
Listening To: Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Friday, 18 November 2011

Singapore

I spent one night in Singapore, mostly eating as much cheap Asian food as I could before leaving this continent for a rather more expensive one.

Anyone reading this will vividly remember my post from Bukit Lawang a few weeks ago, where I talked about a jungle trek I did to see some wild orang utans. I have one pair of flip flops with me, and one pair of trainers. I wore the trainers for the two day trek, and for the volcano trek a few days after that, which resulted in them being rather muddy. In fact, they were completely covered in mud and so dirty that I didn't really know where to begin cleaning them. So I didn't.

Aside from a misguided attempt at rinsing them in a lake (which left them wetter and smellier, rather than cleaner or less muddy), they pretty much stayed safely packed away in a plastic bag in my rucksack. After another week and a bit they still weren't getting any cleaner by themselves, so I still didn't feel like cleaning them. I considered just leaving them behind somewhere, since I might not even need them for the rest of my trip, and didn't feel like carrying unnecessary, muddy weight.

As I alighted at the airport in Cairns I admitted on an immigration form that I had been in contact with foreign forests/lakes in the past few weeks, which lead to them asking me if I was carrying any items which might have some mud/earth residue on them. "Yes..."

After a cursory glance at my clay clogs the customs official started saying "I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid..." - at this point I'd resigned myself to surrendering my trainers - "I'm going to have to clean these for you".

"Oh really... oh no... well that sure is a bit of a blow. But I'm not one to argue with an officer of the law, and I am confident that you will do all that is necessary to remove any remains of organic material from these shoes of mine. "

My shoes were thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and are now good as new.
Thank you, Australia. Thaustralia.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Kuala Lumpur

Three nights in Kuala Lumpur. First night I went to Reggae Bar in Chinatown with some people I'd just met, who were studying in KL. Second night I went for dinner with a girl I'd met in Penang, followed by Reggar Bar again.



On my last night one of the students I'd met drove a few of us up to Lookout Point, from where we could see the whole city in its flickering beauty.

Kuala Lumpur - Lookout Point

Finished Reading: The Misbehaviour of Markets by Benoit Mandelbrot
Now Reading: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell