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

Pematang Siantar

I spent two nights in the town of Pematang Siantar, staying with an English teacher and a few of his students.

Pematang Siantar

During this time I visited all the students' houses, several of the teacher's relatives, the local secondary school, and a small village away from the main town. I went in to five different classes at the school and had conversations with several of the students who were learning English. They were always quite formulaic and well-rehearsed ("What's your name?" "Where do you live?" "What is your hobby?" "Are you single?"), followed by the obligatory round of photos with all the students and teachers.

Pematang Siantar - YPK school

When we visited the village where Banda, one of the students, lived, his relatives prepared some fish they had caught that morning on a woodfire. I also got to try a few different tropical fruits from their trees, including Rambutan and Duku.

Pematang Siantar - Lunch at Banda's village

One of the students' cousins was a professional musician, so after they cooked a great Nasi Goreng for dinner one night we visited that cousin's house and had a big singalong session. Red Hot Chili Peppers haven't quite broken through yet in Siantar so I was a bit out of my depth on the guitar, but I played along to the Indonesian songs and had a go at playing bass as well.

Pematang Siantar - Jam session at Ipin's cousin's house


Finished Reading: Screw it, Let's do it by Richard Branson

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Lake Toba

Lake Toba is an enormous volcanic lake, with an island in the middle. The lake is warmed by the volcano, which regulates it to perfect swimming pool temperature. The fertile volcanic soil makes for beautiful scenery all around, and it's certainly one of the most beautiful places I've visited on this trip.

Lake Toba

I decided not to visit any more places on Sumatra and just spend a week walking, swimming, and reading by the lake. Alex and I went for a bike ride around part of the island on day 1, followed by a walk on day 2 where we got to the top of a hill to find a small cemetery inhabited by grazing buffalo.

Lake Toba

One of the restaurants on the island, Samuel's, has especially nice Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and a friendly owner. After going there a few times and ordering exactly the same thing, I asked her if she could show me how to make it, which she did. It was delicious.

Lake Toba - Nasi Goreng

As all the friends I'd accumulated gradually left to go to other places, I was finally left to read in peace. Yesterday, as I was reading in a small sandwich bar during lunch, I was approached by an Indonesian man who asked me to join him and his friends at their table. I talked to them for a while, and it turned out they were students from a nearby town and had come to Lake Toba for the day to practise their English on tourists. They invited me to visit their town, which I initially declined, but after a while I agreed to stay in their town for two nights. They would show me around and I would speak English to them.

Lake Toba

Their English was fairly average, but their knowledge of English culture very fragmented. A few amusing things they said:

  "You are very handsome. Like Westlife." 


  "Are your eyes real?" 


  "What is the name of your university?" 
  "Cambridge."
  "Ok. Do you know Oxford University? I think it is very good."

Lake Toba - School Bus

Finished Reading: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, 1984 by George Orwell, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Beat The Market by Edward Thorp
Now Reading: On The Road by Jack Kerouac, The Misbehaviour of Markets by Benoit Mandelbrot, Speed Mathematics by Bill Handley, Screw it, Let's do it by Richard Branson
Listening To: Curtains by John Frusciante, Endgame by Rise Against