Friday, 25 March 2011

Beaches, sun, surfing, dolphins, of course the party and Nimbin Kate!

G'day mates. I am finally in Australia, the country which inspired me to get out of England and see some of the world before settling here for a year of work and travel.
But let's back track a little and bring you up to speed with my last few days in SE Asia.

I was in Kuala Lumpur at the time of writing my last post and from there I jumped on the bus and travelled down to a town called Melaka. As soon as I got off of the bus I was accosted by some old dude from California who was just going back to his hostel and offered to show me the place. I had nothing booked so took a strole with him through the town to the hostel. No more than 5 minutes into the walk and he is telling me his life story. Highlights of the chat were:
1) he is from California but now travels the world full time, spends a month here and a few months there
2) he is very partial to SE Asian women. He took one woman out for the day into the jungle on his motorbike, and as they are sitting there kissing (he is in his 60's) the woman tells him that they should move away from that particular spot as there are wild tigers patrolling in the area

Anyway, we get to the hostel and the guy had delivered. The place was new, very clean and had a very homely atmosphere. Better still, the owner was a footy fan and told me to get back to the hostel at 9:30pm so we could watch Liverpool vs Man Utd followed by Wolves vs Spurs - my kind of hostel owner.

I went out to explore Melaka and I have to say that it was a really cool little town. It had a very European feel to it, but I guess it would as the Dutch and then the British had set up colonies here in the past. There was also a canal that ran through the middle of the town with boat trips going up and down.
I wondered around, took in the colonial architecture, walked up to Bukit (which means hill) St Paul's to watch the sunset and took a nightime ride from atop of the observation tower.
On my way back to the hostel I took a diversion through China Town and was treated to the biggest karioke session I have ever seen. There was a huge stage in the middle of the square and loads of old Chinese people would get up and sing traditional Chinese classics. That was entertaining enough but the cherry on this aural and visual delight was the fact that they had 2 backing dancers - an old bird and some old guy who was fantastic. He was wearing a skin tight silver all in one cat-suit with a yellow shirt and had the best wig ever. His dance moves were something else and for not the first time on my travels I looked around to see that I was the only one who found this guy really funny and was the only one laughing.

The evening was rounded off with the footy and I finally got to bed at about 2am - quite early really.

The next day saw me travel to my final Asian destination of Singapore. I stayed in Little India but the hostel was an odd gaff, full of African guys who were residents at the hostel and here for work.
I arrived late in the evening but as the guys in the hostel spoke very broken English and some looked a little scary I took myself off on a night time walk of Singapore.
I headed off in the direction of the city and past the famous Raffles Hotel, but did not venture in for a Singapore Sling. After viewing the skyline of the city from the harbour side, which was quite impressive, I headed back to my hostel and as I was walking down a desolate road I noticed that the corner of the road looked like the corner of a race track. Before I realised where I was I found myself walking down the starting grid of the Singapore Grand Prix and then there to my left were the drivers' garages. The first garage I saw was Michael Schumacher's and just up from his were Hamilton and Button's garages. I am not the biggest F1 fan but I still found myself very excited that I had just stumbled upon the place.

The morning brought more childlike excitement for my little brain - a trip to Singapore Zoo. I have been to some good Zoo's before (Latner do you remember getting stalked by a panther at Barcelona zoo?) but I have to put Singapore Zoo at joint top position with Australia Zoo.
My reasons for this are very simple:
1) there are no cages. The animals are enclosed in big areas with only a moat to keep them from getting out
2) the orangutan enclosure is anything but an enclosed area. The zoo has ingeniously created a series ropes and walkways so that the orangutans can basically travel around 1/4 of the zoo and only get down to the ground in their designated area. So you are walking around the zoo and an orangutan is about 3 metres above your head at some points.
I must've spent a total of 1.5 hrs just watching them. I could not get over how human-like they are in appearance and behaviour. When I made eye contact there was no doubt in my mind that this is where we came from in the distant past. Orangutan translates to Man of the Forest afterall! It also made my mind up that I will travel to Sumatra and do some volunteer work at the Orangutan sanctuary. I have to get up close and personal with them
3) you can also follow the guide in the map and walk around the zoo to catch feeding time. I got to watch Cheetah's, Jaguar's, Lion's, Rhino's, Giraffe's and White Tiger's get fed - bloody great.

The zoo also puts on some sort of show for the kids in a huge arena. As I am a kid I went to watch it. As I approached the arena I was running a little late for the start and there were 3 guys dressed in tribal outfits waiting to go in to conduct their part of the show. Being a sociable person I said hello to them all as I passed, but 5 minutes later I wished that I hadn't.
They came into the arena, bare chested with spears and shields making a right racket and headed straight for me. Next thing I am stood at the front of the arena in front of about 200 tourists and made to take my top off, do some tribal dancing and flex my muscles. Embarrassed does not quite do it justice but I got a big round of applause which was nice! Why does this always happen to me?

In the evening I met up with Dispesh, a guy from Bombay who lives in Singapore and one of the people I trekked with in Nepal. It was really really good to catch up with him and we had a great night chatting about random stuff. Dipesh is quite a spiritual person, but not in a wanky way. He dreams of achieving a Shiva god like status. As he has told me on numerous occasions, Shiva is the god of gods and he spends eternity meditiating in the mountains, smoking weed and making love to his wife - I can see why he aims so high; not a bad life at all.
He also told me about his travels after we separated in Nepal and how he spent 3 wks in a village in the mountains of north India. He has offered me the chance to go with him next time and experience it for myself. Hopefully I will be able to do it as it really is in the middle of nowhere and would allow me to live like an Indian villager for a few wks as well as do some more trekking - to good an offer to turn down.
How my life has changed since I left England - who would've thought that I would be wanting to live in an Indian village in the mountains and live a very basic lifestyle. I don't think living back in the UK full time is ever going to be an option for me any longer.

I also took in a visit to Sentosa Island whilst in Singapore. I can't say that I liked the place; it was far too commercial and American in feel. The island is a resort of sorts with hotels and also a Universal Studios on site. Highlights of Sentosa were:
1) getting off of the train and seeing Tom and Jacko - 2 lads I met in the rainforest in Malaysia and who were schduled to be on my flight to Oz
2) standing at the most southerly point of the Asian maninland

I spent the day with the lads and Nikki, a Brum girl staying at their hostel. The lads told me a great story of how they got to the hostel in Singapore and when Jacko took his shoes out of his bag to put them on there was a scorpion in one of them from the rainforest! Turns out is was a very rare specimen, Singapore zoo wanted it and if it had stung Jacko he would've only had 2 hours to get help.
In the afternoon, myself, Tom and Nikki went to the top of the Sky Park Skyscraper Hotel in the city. The reason for venturing up was that they had an infinity pool that looks out over the city skyline.
Now the pool is only open to hotel guests who are paying a lot of money for the privilege, but as skanky travellers we do not obey the rules. We were not able to get into the pool but there were a couple of unused jacuzzis, so we made a quick wardrobe change and got the hell in. I was so eager to get in that I missed the steps and fell in head first - clearly at that moment I looked like a composed, genuine paying guest to the security!
When one member of staff did approach us and ask if we were hotel guests we of course answered "Yes" and to prove it we ordered cocktails from him.

Whilst in Singapore I had a phone conversation with an ex-colleague who lives and works there. He gave me to opportunity to visit the office and talk about a role based in Melbourne which would then relocate me to Singapore in the future. The cold sweat that I felt talking about serious work ensured that I kindly declined what could've turned out to be a great opportunity.

The following day was 'travel to Oz' day. I needed to be at the airport for 7:30am, but before that there was the little diversion of needing to get up at 3am to watch Spurs triumph over AC Milan in the Champions League.
I jumped into a cab and got the driver to take me to the nearest place to watch the game. After much fannying around he decided on taking me to the red light district and I have to confess that for the first time in my life I didn't care about the 'sexy' spots he was pointing out. I just wanted to see the game, which had just kicked off and I was still 10 mins away.
I got the watch the game alongside 50 or so Chinese men at some Chinese eatery where we all sat out on the street - it was good fun.
From there it was straight to the airport to meet up with Tom and Jacko and head out to Oz.

I landed at 8pm and I am not lying when I tell you that 'The Locomotion' by Kylie Minogue was playing over the tannoy in the Arrivals lounge. What a way to enter Oz! I was greeted by Shahn and Nadia, 2 of my 4 homegirls from Nepal. We went to the pub for a couple and then back to Shahn's place (my home for my first weekend in Oz) for some wine in the garden. A very civilised first night in Sydney for me.

My first full day saw me hanging with Nadia whilst Shahn was at work and we waited for Arancha and Josie to arrive in the evening from Melbourne.
It was a nice day; we went for breakfast at Bondi Junction, then for coffee with one of her friends Sunita, followed by a couple of pints with some other friends, the fantastically named Mandy and Andy.

Arancha and Josie made their grand entrance at ab out 9:30pm and I have to say that they were sh*tfaced. Their flight was delayed so they had decided to get on it early. Still it was great to be back in the company of my 4 favourite Australians. (Rolf Harris and Joe Mangel are my real favourites but I do not know them personally, although I have stood next to Rolf and his wife in front on the paparazzi on a red carpet in London, but that's another story and it is true!).
Out we went into Sydney to meet up with some other friends of theirs and to get drunk as a load of skunks.
Myself, Arancha and Josie headed back to Shahn's at about 3am (Shahn was already in bed after chucking up earlier).
We couldn't figure out how to open the front door so we all climbed over a wall to get in via the back door. Josie got stuck half way over so I had to climb back and give her a shove. The funniest thing was that her trousers had sort of fallen down a litte by then, so I had to be careful where I put my hands!!! Sorry Josie, but it was a good story.

On the Saturday I went with Arancha and Josie to the airport to pick up their hire car - the one that they were too smashed to pick up the night before.
Saturday night was out for one of the girls' friends leaving do's. The girl who is leaving is moving to London to become the partner of some billionaire. He owns a safari park in South Africa and she told me about all of the places she will be travelling to this year - sounds pretty amazing, but not my sort of thing any more.
It was a good night out and finished in some gay bar on Oxford Street.

I had the Sunday to myself so I took the 30 minute walk to Bondi Beach. There was an international surfing competition on so I hung around and watched that, as well as taking in my surroundings - hundreds of amazing birds in bikinis. I have to love Australia for that reason alone.
The evening was back out with Arancha and Josie to meet up with some other friends around The Rocks area of Sydney. The Rocks area, next to Circular Quay is the first place that the English arrived at 200 or so years ago with the convicts - that is 1 of only 2 bits of history that you will get in this post!
Again it was a good night out and I got to hang out with one of the girls' sons. We talked about computer games, footy, roller coasters and animals - he was only 10yrs old but we easily found a mutual mental level to work on.

My final day with the girls took me to Manly via the ferry and lunch with yet more friends of the girls. Not much to say about the day, except that we missed the ferry back so had to make a quick dash in a cab back to the centre so that the girls could get to the airport to fly back to Melbourne.

I just want to say thanks again girls for a great weekend. I appreciate you making the time for me and Shahn cheers for the bed and the use of your place.

So I was then alone in Sydney, but only for about 2 hours. I had arranged to the move on to stay with another friend - Lauren Greenall (or just Greenall to me) who I used to work with in London.
Greenall is one of my best girl mates and loves a random conversation like myself. We once had an hour long chat in the office about shoes made out of meat and how would be the best way to make them - obviously I worked very hard during my time in London!

I got to Greenall's place at 6:30pm and we got straight into the wine. That night was like all of the others, out with some of her friends, got drunk, and Greenall threw up when we got home.
The next couple of days were spent hanging around, visiting the harbour, falling asleep under the sun in the botanical gardens, going for my first run in 5 months and getting mutilated by some crap hairdresser. I am over the haircut now but I cannot tell you how much I miss the locks, I want them back; so lesson learnt from that experience was you get what you pay for.

By the Thursday I had spent one week in Sydney and had to get out. I like Sydney but it is too expensive (as is the rest of Oz) and a little sterile, especially after travelling through SE Asia, so I decided that a visit to the Blue Mountains was in order.
I jumped on a train, headed inland, and within 2 hours was in the cool, crisp air of the mountains and rainforest.
The first thing I did when I got to Katoomba, my home for the next 2 days, was head straight to the sights. I saw the 'Three Sisters', a rocky outcrop which is the most famous sight within the Blue Mountains. The legend is that a tribal leader, fearful of the oncoming attack from the enemy, changed his 3 daughters into stone to protect them from the savages that may abuse them should they be defeated. Unfortunately, he was killed and never got the chance to change them back. How annoying would that be?
(Part 2 of 2 history lesson)

From there I did some more exploring in the forests and viewed various waterfalls. After that I decided it would be best to actually find a place to stay.
I found a nice little hostel, really relaxed and a nice homely feel. That night was St Patrick's night and for the first time that I can remember I actually went out to celebrate it. I never go out for it as I am English, so there is no need for me to do it, but if you are in a hostel and people offer you a chance to go out and socialise you take it.
It soon became apparent that Katoomba was a slightly strange place. Not sure if it is the mountain air or the thick and persistent rain, but the travellers that were here were not my sort of people. For one thing, they were resident here; they had found jobs and were quite content to hang out day to day and not really do a lot apart from work. They hadn't even really explored the mountains or rainforests.
The next thing that struck me was that they had a few issues and were far too complex for me.
For example, I am talking to an English guy, about 28 yrs old, and bearing in mind that we had only met maybe 20 mins earlier launches into a 30 minute rant about his parent's divorce, how it was messing him up and also some ex-bird that he was escaping from. Now I do not want to sound harsh, but a) you are 28 yrs old, get a grip  b) just man-up a little  c) you are in an amazing country, go and explore and see that there are a few other million girls here
Another example was a young English lad who was obviously from a very wealthy background and was stuck in some vicious cycle of booze and drugs. His issue, apart from the aforementioned, was if he talked to a girl and he didn't get the right response he would go AWOL and we wouldn't see him until we walked into a different bar and he might've been there.

It seemed to me that there were too many people brooding in the mountains and too many of them were English - a reason why I try to avoid English travellers where I can. Afterall, if I wanted to meet English people with issues I would've stayed in England.

Anyway, the next day I set out to explore for real. I was told about 2 sights that I could visit that were a 30km there and back trek. I set out in pouring rain with poor visibility, got myself a packed lunch and got on with it. I loved it!
In the Oz rainforests / outback it is quite apparent that you are out there alone. If things go tits up, you are in trouble and it is up to yourself to get out of it. It is odd, in the Himalayas you always felt safe because you knew that a village would be relatively close and people were always passing the trails, whether it be trekkers or local tradesmen / porters. On this trek I only saw 1 person to say hello to in 6 hrs of trekking.
My first risky situation of the day was the navigate over the Golden Steps - a golden coloured rocky formation on the side of a steep incline that you need to scramble / climb / fall over for about 10 minutes, following some poles sticking out of the ground to show you the correct way to go.
I headed for a rocky outcrop called the 'Ruined Castle' that should have given nice views of the surrounding wilderness, but the weather was appalling and I seriously could only see to a distance of about 10 metres.
With the Ruined Castle being a disapointment I decided to carry on and attempt to reach the summit of Mount Solitary, hoping that the height might afford me a better view.
Climbing Mt Solitary was brilliant. There were signs that said that there was no track and that it was for experienced climbers only, so of course I paid no attention.
The climb wasn't too tough but there were moments where I would have to rely on my arms to support my whole body, moments where my legs were at the same level of my head and moments where I was hanging very closely to open space below. Only one word describes it and that word would be 'precarious'.
Even being constantly aware of how much Suzie AKA Ma Lambert would be fretting if she knew what I was doing, I can't tell you how much fun I had on my own in the rain on the side of a mountain. Being responsible for your own life, knowing that one wrong footstep could be a serious problem was invigorating. I mean it wasn't all that difficult a climb, and real mountaineers would scoff at me, but it still made me feel alive.
When I made it to the top I was greeted with the most wonderous sight - more thick mist.
I was hungry by now and wanted to tuck into my amazing picnic, but before I could do that I had to burn off the 5 leeches that had somehow attached themselves to me. Of course, before I could remove them I had to take photos.
The worse thing was watching the 8 or so other leeches making their way up my boots towards the heat source that was my bare leg.
So that was my trek into the rainforest. Only one other thing to mention was that I did fall down some rocks on the mountain upon my descent. The reason for this is that as I was in a crab position trying to get down a tricky point when I saw a leech right under my bum trying to fasten onto me. Now a leech on your leg is one thing, but on your bum or around that area is not for me, so whilst keeping an eye on it's movements I missed a place to put my hand and slipped down the rocks. I will admit that I was scared, but I did laugh too.

When I made it back to the hostel I took off my soaking boots to discover 2 more leeches on my feet. I burned them off and chucked them into the gardens.
Later that evening one of the girls from the hostel was in a restaurant when she noticed a lot of blood on the floor and a fat leech crawling away from her foot - I got the blame for this! Still, in the end she was happy that she got to experience a leech attack.
To celebrate my trek I went out that night and got very drunk with the hostel crew.

Next day was Saturday so I headed back to Sydney and went out with Greenall, her best mate Sharon, who I also know from London, and her partner Jon. I do not need to tell you that I got drunk.
Good thing about the evening is that Jon, who was a bloody good lad, works for an events company and they need workers all of the time to help get the events ready, so as soon as I get back to a big city, I hope to finally have a job, as the prices here are crippling me.
Oh, as I got off of the train in Sydney some religious guy came up to me for a 'chat' and we talked for a few minutes. He then asked if he could say a prayer for me. You all know my religious beliefs, or hatred for them, but I liked the guy so said he could do it. Before I knew it, my eyes were closed, one of his hands on my forehead the other around the back of my neck and off he goes. You have to bear in my mind that this outside of Sydney's Central Station ie. it is really busy.
I started to giggle but he didn't seem to notice. When he ended, he gave me a hug and proclaimed 'Less drugs, more hugs', and walked off.
AMEN brother!!!!

The weather in Sydney that weekend was crap, rainy and grey so I decided that enough was enough and that I needed to get to beaches.
And so began my time in Byron Bay, a small but busy surfer town - I am still here 8 days later.
I took an overnight train to Byron and arrived at 5:30am - too early to check in anywhere. As I was up early I thought it best to take advantage of the sunrise over the beach - which was very nice indeed.
Sitting there watching the sun rise a very old hippy approached me (there are a lot in Byron and the surrounding areas).
We chatted for a while and then he proclaimed the following:
"Adam, you are great, God is great, Buddha is great and so are you. You must never leave Byron. Ring up your mum, tell her you love her and put the phone down. That will be enough for her to know that you are happy here".
I told him that I would think about it, and off he trotted with the flower garland around his neck, wishing me a good day. I liked him.

I checked into the Cape Byron YHA and that was that, I am still here. It is like being on campus at uni, I can walk in and know about 20 people, it's great.
One of my favourite people here is Madu, a French African 24 yr old. He is great and in his broken English says "Adam, my best English friend". We have become quite close over the past few days and watching him on at night out is so funny. He never gives up with the women, if one says no, he is straight onto the next and then the next. We keep going to place called Cheeky Monkeys - a shabby place where everyone dances on the tables, but it is good fun.
My first night at Cheeky's saw me dancing on a table and at the other end was Jacko and Tom who I met in Malaysia. Byron is quite small, so I keep seeing them about as well which is cool.

The other guys at the hostel who are part of my close 'group' are JB and Oliver, both French but sound as a pound (or Euro), Nils and Thilo, 2 Germans who I went on a road trip with which we will shortly come onto, and Anthony, a 36yr old from Holland.
Anthony is a legend. He comes to Byron every year for 3mths and stays at the YHA. He has his daily rountine which consists of getting up and taking a walk up to the lighthouse, then he gets the papers and reads them, this is followed by a walk around the town to see all of the locals that he now knows, back to the hostel for a few beers until 11pm (in 'Anthony's chair' as we have named it) and then finally to the 'Great Northern' pub for 1 pint before bed.
Next day will be the same and so will the day after that apart from Mondays when it is cheap at the local cinema.
We love it, because if you are out on your own, you know that you can come home any time after 4pm and Anthony will be there. As he reads the papers daily he is also our internet source and gives us a daily weather report.

So what have I done in Byron? I have hung out at the beach, of course been out clubbing every night, and taken nightly bike rides up to the lighthouse to see the sunset which is so different and equally beautiful each evening.
The lighthouse is also home to the most easterly point on the Australian mainland and also affords views of the ocean on both sides where you can see dolphins, sharks, sting rays and turtles - none of which I have been lucky enough to see yet, but all of the other lads have.
I also took my first surfing lessons here (I have been in Newquay but that doesn't count). I have had 2 lessons and I know that this is something that I want to pursue, but it is not easy. I stood up on my first attempt but not for long.
Both lessons were great fun and the groups were full of really nice people. The tutors were quality as well. As they say, how can they not be happy when this is their office - desolate beaches, sun, blue skies, big waves.
Surfing is cool though - I got wiped out a number of times, swollowed lots of sea water, took a surf board to the face, but it is all worth it when you catch the right wave or you see dolphins surfing in the waves as well!
Our second surf lesson was at Lennox beach - rated in the top 10 surf spots in the world.
Apparently I need to go the surf in Indonesia though as I am a 'goofy' surfer and not a natural surfer! This means that I stand with my left foot at the back of the board and not the right foot like most people. Indonesia has waves that fall to the side that would make surfing best for me - when I am a pro of course.

One thing I forgot about Oz is that you can be on an amazing beach on your own quite easily. It is easy to forget that I am on a continent with a population of only 22 million people - easily enough quality beach for everyone.

Now onto my Anglo-Deutsch road trip.
Myself, Thilo and Nils are all 31 and we all have the same sense of humour. We are also here for the same reasons of being bored with our lives and looking for something else. They are stereotypical pure race Germans - 6 foot plus, blonde hair and blue eyes - so it must look funny when we walk down the street with me in between them.
They are also 2 of the most gracious people that I have ever met, they are generous and always polite enough to speak in English when I am around them.
Thilo has his own car and he knew that I was keen to visit Nimbin, so they lads invited me along. The next 2 days turned out to be a great laugh.
Nimbin is Australia's version of Amsterdam I guess. A festival was held there 30 yrs ago and some of the hippies that attended never left and made the town into what it is today - one small street where anything goes. All of the locals on the streets are alcoholics, drug addicts and they are all dealers as well.

We took a walk through the town (one street) and visited the Nimbin Museum, which is where we met Kate. Kate would be the topic of conversation for the next 2 days.
The museum itself is just 3 rooms full of crap. In the second room there is a TV screen showing a Nimbin festival from yesteryear. We were watching the TV when we first met Kate. She swayed over and the first thing she said, pointing at the TV screen was -
"I know him, he is a dickhead"
And then it continued...."I know her, she is nice, oh him, he still lives here, that guy is dead now, he was a dickhead too, god rest his soul, but he was a dickhead..."
She then stopped mid-sentence, leant over some display and produced a half full bottle of Vodka. Off comes the top and after 5 big gulps puts the vodka back and continues with the TV commentary -
"see him there, that's my husband..." (I am telling you the absolute truth here)
Next thing she grabs a bewildered couple and stands them next to us. We all share looks and giggles.
At this point we are all told to be quiet to listen to the next bit of the film. Because the next bit was important she tried to turn the volume up but couldn't focus enough to see the actual button, so I did it for her.
"Shhh, shhh, listen to this......"
An old dear in a soup kitchen was being interviewed and when asked if she happily serves soup to drugs addicts as well as clean people she says of course she does, we are all people afterall.  At this 'revelation' Kate turns to us all and applauds the women.
Then a kid of about 11yrs old is on the TV smoking a joint - again this brings massive applause from Kate.

We carried on looking around the museum but just laughing rather than focusing on anything.
As we were about to leave, Kate materialises out of a thick Vodka mist and goes straight for Nils. She guides him to the boot of a car in the museum and says to watch this. With great anticipation myself and Nils watched her open the boot. That was it!
When we asked her if that was it she said "No! Now try and close it"
So Nils walked over and with 2 fingers closed the boot. So we asked again what the deal was?
This time she opened the boot, turned the volume up to full on the radio and then looked at us as if to say - "What do you think of that?"
We had no time to reply as someone came in from outside and told her to "F*cking turn it down".
We left - in fits of laughter.

The night was spent in a Tee-pee at one of the hostels in Nimbin. It was amazing - a tee-pee with disco lights, set apart on its own near to some hammocks with a view out across rolling green hills.
We hung out there all afternoon and were treated to wild wallabies, possums, toads and spiders at nightime.

The next day we only had one thing on our minds - a visit to the Nimbin Museum to see Nimbin Kate. We don't even know if that is her name, we just think we heard her say it.
So back to the museum to get some video footage of Kate herself. She wasn't on top form but still funny.
Whilst filming Kate we met 3 girls, 2 Germans and a Danish girl. We had decided that we would camp in a national park that night and asked if they wanted to join us, which they did.
So that day and night was spent in a national park, barbecuing kangaroo steaks and playing drinking games in pitch black apart from candlelight. Again, another good night to add to all of the rest.
This road trip also signified the importance of getting my own vehicle. This weekend would not have been what is was without a car. It gives you the freedom to really explore places at your own pace and places you would otherwise miss out on.
It also acts as a place to sleep so will save my $ in the long term.
I have a dream of parking up next to an empty beach, cooking my evening meal on a BBQ and then waking up early the next morning to take my surf board out into the waves with nobody else about apart from the wildlife.
That is the dream which will become reality once I get a job.

In the morning I awoke to find a fat leech for company in my tent. I picked it up and could tell it was fully fed as it didn't even try and latch onto me. I looked down and saw a lot of blood in between the toes of my left foot. Yum yum for the leech, but I bet it is pretty drunk right now.

On the way back to Byron we stopped off at a waterfall / swimming hole and did some rock jumping. It was scary and there was not much room for error with the rocks below, but I did it and was happy once I got out even if I was shaking with adrenaline.

So that brings you all up to date. I will heading south soon to meet up with some friends and then onto Melbourne to settle for a while - after hopefully climbing Australia's largest mountain first.
I always do things the wrong way around and should be heading north to chase the sun. However, I do not mind some winter in Melbourne as that is where I have a lot of mates, so if I am going to settle and work, better to do it with some good friends around me.
I have also applied for a job at Australia's top ski resort, so hopefully that will come off and I can get some serious ski action in.

No idea what the next couple of weeks will bring, but be sure that out there somewhere I will meet some more interesting characters as I always seem to do, but maybe none as endearing as Nimbin Kate.

Right it is 16:15pm - I am off to sit with Anthony and find out what is going on in the world.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

I've been to Full Moon, to follow the mushroom, Full Moooon, Full Moooon...

Bloggers, how goes it?
I don't know why but lately I have been singing the theme tune to Button Moon a lot - odd - but it has leant itself well to the title of this post.

I have only been back from the rainforest for literally 1 hour but I can't be responsible for what Sharon Bromley may do with a dose of Blog cold turkey, so this is for you Shazza.

My last post came on the eve of my departure from Laos, and this one comes from Malaysia with 2 weeks spent in Thailand sandwhiced in between.
My travel from Laos to Thailand is nothing worth talking about. It was a long journey, approximately 16 hours but it was relaxing enough as I had a bed on the overnight train. Trains in Thailand are very similar to those in India except for 2 main differences. Thai trains have a dining carriage where you can get drunk and they also have a man who makes your bed for you - no such luxuries in India where you find yourself sprawled out over a sheet trying to tuck all of the corners in without falling off of the bunk bed.

I got to Bangkok early on a Saturday morning and set about finding a decent place to stay as my good Norwegian friend, Unni, would be arriving later that day to spend 2 weeks with me travelling around the islands of south Thailand.
For those of you who have been reading my blog from the start, I met Unni in Varkala, south India, back in November. She is one of the people responsible for me eating so many chillies due to my losses at cards and in part as a result of this suffering horrific, yes horrific, burns at the hands of the sun.

I got a nice hotel at my first attempt on the famous Khoa San Road and then hung out at the park by the river reading until Unni arrived. Guess what happened during this time? Yes, that's right, I got sunburnt! For the next day or 2 I was wearing a white vest on my skin. Every time!! Why?!

We both had no intention of hanging around in Bangkok as we wanted sea, sand and general partying so we booked our travel to the island of Phi Phi straight away, which would depart the following evening.
That night we took in the joys of Khoa San Road - booze and a 1am feast of fried insects.
I sampled silk worms, crickets and scorpions. I have to say that they were really nice. They were fried up so that they were crispy and nothing gooey was left inside and then covered in salt. No lie, I would recommend them to anyone, but there was no way I was going to eat a cockroach that was the size of the palm of my hand!

The next day was a non-event and just a case of hanging around until our 6pm departure to Phi Phi. The journey was to take 19 hours all in all, but I am used to this sort of thing now after hours and hours of travel over the last 4.5 months, plus I actually had somone travelling with me for the first time so all was good. Saying that, the overnight coach to Krabi was very uncomfortable and I only got about 2 - 3 hours sleep.
From Krabi it was then a 2 hours boat ride to the island - a good chance to relax, sit in the sun and read - something I would do a lot of over the next 2 weeks.
So we eventually got to Phi Phi at 1pm with only one task left - find a place to stay. It was recommeded that the nicest place was at Long Beach, about a 25 minute walk from the main town, or a 10 minute taxi ride. Phi Phi has no roads, so a taxi ride is by means of jumping onto a 'taxi' boat. A very nice way to travel, I can tell you.
So at Long Beach we got a room which was precisely 10 seconds walk from our door onto the beach, and the beach had white sand with a view of a turquoise sea and in the near distance the island of Phi Phi Lay, which is home of Maya beach from the film 'The Beach'.
For the rest of the day we sat on the beach, swan in a warm sea where the tropical fish just hang around with you and the had a beer watching the sunset.
We were keen to carry on our relaxing daytime, hectic nightlife programme that we had set ourselves so in the evening we went to explore Phi Phi town centre - travelling by taxi boat of course!
One thing to note about south Thailand in general is their love of a 'fire show' - Thai men dancing and whirling fire around on all sort of sticks and chains and these shows generally always start at 10pm in the evening. So we took in a show and then hit the bars not really knowing what the town had to offer.
It just so happened that the 4 girls from Oz who I had travelled on the slow boat in Laos with were on the island too, so we met up with them and let them guide us around. To be fair it was all good as it turns out that apart from a bustling town there is also a nightly beach party to keep you entertained, so I wasted no time in intoducing Unni to the virtues of a vodka, red bull and sprite bucket.
We took a very late taxi back to Long Beach and thought it would be an ideal time to take a night time swim. For reasons unknown to me a Norwegian girl found the sea too cold to swim in so that was that. I ran up the beach to my hotel and managed to kick a tree stump along the way leaving me with a nice mark and bruise along the top of my foot.
I have to say that I am happy Unni has now left as I have never known myself to be so clumsy as I have in the 2 weeks spent in her company.

The next day followed the pattern of the last. Up late, chilled at the beach and then walked this time into town. As I said the walk takes about 25 minutes and the route takes you around the coast through forest and small coves of hidden beach. There are also parts that have no lighting and are great for tripping over in your flip flops!
So we hit the town again but this time we had (well I had) an objective. Spurs vs AC Milan in the Champions Lge, local kick off time 2:45am. Fortunately for me, Unni plays and watches football - so all good.
Before the game we found a great rock bar which has a great live band. There are not many live bands that I have seen where they stand there and let you shout out what song you want to hear and then they just play it, and play it well. They even played some Muse for me - I was well impressed.
Even better was the drummer, the coolest drummer I have ever seen and I had to have a photo with him as his hair was all Lamby, but far superior.
So onto the Irish Bar (why is there an Irish bar everywhere in the world?) to watch the match. I am still buzzing over the fact that we beat AC Milan and in the San Siro, but by the time the game was over, 5am, I was ready for my sleep.
We had watched the game with a Swedish / Norwegian couple and we all got a taxi back to Long Beach. When we arrived everyone jumped off of the boat except me as I was trying sort out my fare. I took so long that the other couple has disappeared by the time I had paid and I was very pleased about this. The reason for my pleasure was that as I disembarked the boat in some sort of cool jump I realised that I was still sort of sideways as I approached the sea. I tried to correct myself but to no avail, I landed on one drunken leg and then fell backwards into the sea much to Unni's and the boat driver's amusement. To add to my misfortune I somehow hit the heel of my foot on the way down and it split open and has only just healed now. (because I managed to trip and split it again about a week ago)

As we got in so late the night before we did not surface the next day until 2pm and I wish I hadn't got up at all. We took the oh so long walk to the beach and whilst lying there I saw the worst pair of tits I have ever seen. If you have seen the film 'There's something about Mary' then you will know what I saw that day - jesus love, just put them away, do you own a mirror?!
Out again that night to the Rolling Stoned Rock bar and then took the walk home as we were not so drunk that night and it was fairly early as we had a boat trip booked for the next day.

As we walked along the beach we noticed that there were dozens of little crabs scampering about to get out of our way and down to the ocean and then I noticed a fairly large one. It was moving fast and I could see in the wrong direction and my exact words were "Unni, look at the size of..." before there was a very loud crunch and the big crab has run directly underneath Unni's foot and she had stepped forward.
She spun around with a look of horror on her face which only served in making laugh even more, even though I did feel sorry for the victim.
I have photos of the crab murderer and the crab itself which I will get up onto Facebook as soon as I can.

Up bright and early for our boat trip which would take in the all important Maya Beach. We got a taxi over to the main pier and I have to say that I have never seen a sea so amazingly coloured as it was that day. With the backdrop of the strange half-oval shaped mountains it was just exquisite - yes exquisite I say.

So the boat trip:
First thing I noticed was a French couple who were on our boat. I noticed them for 3 reasons:
1) her hairy arm pits
2) his Speedos
3) I couldn't figure out if he was her lover, her son or both!
They did provide some entertainment later on which I will get to.

There were also 2 English couples on the boat. Did you know that in Norway that they have a perception that most English people are just stupid. Admittedly this comes from their early experiences of holidays to places such as Magaluf and Ibiza, but with my clumsiness growing by the day and talking to one couple in particular we did nothing to dispell this.
I will defend you Unni in saying that you did say it with a smile on your face!

First stop on the trip: Monkey Island.
We got to snorkel over a coral reef as we made our way to a small beach which housed, yes that's right, loads of monkeys. Nothing more to say.

Second stop:
Snorkelling in a bay that leads into a lovely lagoon. Unfortunately we couldn't get to the lagoon as it was low tide and the coral would rip your feet up. So we had to contend with more snorkelling and jumping into the sea from the top of the boat. It was only about 5 mtrs but it seems a lot higher when you are up there.

I said that it was impossible to get to the lagoon and it was for us mere mortals, but the French couple ignored everything we were told and took one of the boat's kayaks over to it. They got there ok but by the time they came back the tide had gone even further out. We had to leave about 20 mins later than planned whilst we watched them paddle, drag, paddle some more and fall over the kayak as they tried to make their way back over the coral to the boat.
Not even an apology when they got back!!!

Third stop: Maya beach
Jumped off of the boat and swam over a part of the island that would enable us to take a short forest walk to emerge onto 'the beach' as Decaprio once did.
I have to say that I was disappointed. It was busy and there were far too many boats in the bay to really take in how stunning it actually was.
I am still happy that I have seen it, but maybe next time I will do the overnight camp which is supposed to be quite good. We would've done it but we were to move on to another island the next day.

So that was the end of the trip, as we sailed back to Phi Phi we got to watch the sunset over the sea and the have a nice meal by the beach back on dry land.

We were up early the next day as we had a day's travel ahead to make it over to the islands on the other side of Thailand. The reason for travelling over that way was that the day after it was the night of the infamous Full Moon party on Koh Phanghan.
We were to stay on Koh Samui and would just get a boat to and from Koh Phanghan for the party.
Our journey that day consisted of 2 boats and a bus journey (the first boat was with the Oz girls and was a goodbye as they were heading back home but I hope to see them again in Brisbane) and we got to Koh Samui by 4pm that afternoon.
As seems to happen with everybody that travels, on the second boat I ran into a girl that I had sat next to part of the way on the train from Laos to Thailand. Still, that happens to so many people travelling that I shouldn't be surprised any more.

We stayed in a little and quiet town called Big Buddha on the island and we found a very reasonably priced bunglow which was this time about 15 seconds walk from the beach.
Koh Samui is famous in part for the 'Koh Samui tatoo' ie. lots and lots of people have motorcycle accidents on the sandy roads and have the marks (tatoos) to show for it. On our first night we saw this with our own eyes.
We went out for some dinner and then all of a sudden an Indian couple hobbled past us and they looked in a very bad way. The guy had an arm in plaster and sling, a bandage over his nose and they both had bandages around their knees! As they slowly meandered past us we couldn't help but snigger, they just looked rediculous as they inched their way back to their room near to the restaurant somehow managing not to bend their legs.

After dinner there was only one choice of what to do - have a few beers. To my dismay there only seemed to be old man English pubs about, which I did not expect. Anyway, we went to the 'Premier Sports Bar' and before I knew it I was with a group of English men playing killer pool for money whilst Karioke was on in the background. I think this was Unni's first experience of an old man type pub but she seemed to enjoy it.

A little while later, for unknown reasons and adding to the 'stupid English' Norwegian view, a fat, topless man from the pub stumbled drunkenly out into the road and before we knew it 3 more Koh Samui tatoos were created. I didn't see the actual collision but I heard it - it was loud. I turned around to see 3 people and a moped lying in the middle of the road; the fat man and male driver were just lying unconcious and the female passenger was writhing around. Lots of people from the pub ran out to assist but I just sat there drinking my beer - what could I do? I am not trained in first aid and besides it was my shot next at killer pool - it was for money so I needed to concentrate.
An ambulance was called but everyone concerned (once they had regained conciousness) declined to go to hospital. The reason for this was that it costs a small fortune to receive treatment if collected by the ambulance so you are better off making your own way to A&E - mental.

The next day was 'Full Moon' day. The first task of the day was to get the boat tickets for our travel over to Koh Phangan and with that done we had the rest of the day to fill.
It was decided to visit Hin Ta and Hin La; 2 rock formations that look a lot like a cock and fanny and they so did.
A taxi was required to get over to the rocks at Lamai Beach and I was blessed that my driver turned out to be Mr Chung - a legend. He talked for the entire journey about everything and everyone from every country, his general knowledge was immnese. Still, I only fell in love with him when he said "Tiger Woods and Mr Chung, same same", referring to his love of women, and "Camilla Parker Bowles and horse, same same".

After taking in the delights of the stone formations and getting photos to look like we were licking the penis (I will upload onto facebook soon) we took a slow walk down Lamai Beach for about 2 / 3 kms. I have to say that it was lovely; white sand, blue sea and palm trees hanging over the beach. Apparently there are over 3 million palms on Koh Samui - no idea how they reached this number but I am just sharing the info with you.
From Lamai beach it was a communal taxi back to Big Buddha and unfortunately we had to share it with a man that smelled of p*ss. He looked completely wasted, his eyes were wide open like he had taken something very strong and all of his movements were laboured to the point of some serious slow motion action. The unneriving thing for me is that he had curly hair and could pass for an older Lamby. If I do not return from my travels it is very possible that you will find me fulfilling the role of my new doppleganger!

And so we come to Full Moon. The boat was booked for 10pm - no point getting there too early as I definitely had to see the sun rise over the beach and the festivities.
The speed boat took only 20 mins to get to our destination and as we disembarked you could actually feel the energy of the place. It was a 15 minute walk to the actual party beach but the walk took in many bars, shops and market stalls selling lots of flourescent goods and paints. I already had my bright yellow swim shorts on but I couldn't resist purchasing a luminous yellow head band to make me look even more like a fool - it's all good!
As we descended onto the beach I knew it would be a good night - 30,000 people, fire and blaring music. The night was spent on buckets of vodka, redbull and sprite with the odd beer, and I have to say that I was a little drunk, but also drunk on the atmosphere of it all, honest.
Along the beach there were multiple bars / clubs, fire shows, fire skipping ropes where revellers would attempt to skip over the high flames coming off of the rope - some not very successfully it must be said. We spent the first 3 or 4 hours walking up and down the beach taking it all in and then took a visit up to Mushroom Mountain, a bar famous for mushrooms of course, but also a good place to chill out and watch the party from up high. I can assure that I did not take any substance except from alcohol; if I was ever going to risk taking something like that (which I know I never would) it would not be with 30,000 people where I could freak out or possibly think that I could actually wrap the burning fire rope around myself and wear it in some fashion.
When we were up there some guy approached me and looked at me. I said "Alright?", he replied in a very paranoid voice "Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" and then turned around and stormed off - mushroom freak!

There is talk of there being amphetamines within the red bull here and I am inclined to believe it. I was having a great time and at about 3am myself and Unni settled into the Mushroom Mountain to chill out for a bit; the next thing I knew is looking up and dawn approaching and we had been awake all of the time. I have no idea where I lost 3 hours but I did.
Still, the party was going strong so we descended and danced as the sun came up over the ocean. Daylight brought some funny sights:
1) a lonely guy straddling a stick on fire and trying to get his bum as close to it as possible before it got too hot
2) a guy who had fallen asleep with his towel around him. When we walked past him later he was surrounded by beer bottles, had a straw sticking up from out of his ass and a group of people just standing there watching him sleep taking the p*ss
3) some girl, completely off of her t*ts, walking out into the ocean to attempt to catch the rising sun whilst her boyfriend called out to her to come back

We caught the 8am boat back to Koh Samui with only 2 thoughts - breakfast and then sleep.
Nothing more to say about that day except Unni's omlette was in the perfect shape of a turd and we slept, taking in meals in between and we saw the original motorbike couple again, still shuffling around town on straight legs.

After a good day and night's kip we departed early morning to catch a boat to our final island of Koh Tao, which promised us a castaway feel. Whilst waiting for the boat I practised some of my crappy Norwegian (I have learnt a few words) and then found out that the English translation for a lollipop is 'love on a stick'. How could you possibly ever offer a child in Norway a lollipop?

After arriving on Koh Toa after a 2 hour boat ride we headed straight to the east side of the island, which was supposed to be the most remote. Remote it was, but we soon discovered it was far too remote for us and decided that the next morning we would move to the main beach and town on the island.
That night we went out into the town for a few drinks - as usual.
The main town is a really cool place and we found an excellent outdoor bar that played some good music for once.
(I must add that as I write this blog there is a massive thunder storm going on outside and to add to the volume there is a drunk old man drinking a bottle of whisky in reception just shouting out nonsense - he is doing my head in!)

Anyway, back to Koh Toa.
At 10pm everynight there is the joy that is the Queens Cabaret. A ladyboy cabaret show. We got placed at the very front and I have to say that it was really entertaining. My mum and sister would've have loved it - ladyboys dressed up, dancing and miming to artists such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga etc.
I also confess that 3 of the ladyboys were very attractive and one had a really great pair of boobs.
At the end of the show I went over to once of the dancers, a gay guy, and asked him what time the place stayed open until as if there was nowhere else then the disco here must be fun.
He told me it was open until very late but if I was to come back I must do alone and not with a girl - I didn't go back that night.

Next day we were up bright and early and went searching for a more suitable location to stay. We found it almost immediately, a bungalow with a view of the beach and the ocean and about a 9 second walk away from the beach this time. It was perfect and I could have lived there for a very long time, especially after we acquired a hammock as well, even though there were snakes and really loud cockerels about.
As our front garden was literally the beach we hung out there for the day. Night time brought much the same pattern as before and a return visit to the Queen Cabaret, as the show changes nightly.
Watching the show from the same seats was a different experience from the night before. Why? Well I will tell you:
1) when Lady Gaga came out, she had 4 male backing dancers. 2 of these MALE backing dancers were 2 of the ladyboys that I thought were hot. All of sudden they did not seem so attractive as before, especially with their female faces but all to obvious bare male torsos meaning they were gay men. Oh dear.
2) the guy who told me to come alone was the last act on that night. He did one of those routines where he was dressed half man and half woman.
When the show finished and Unni went to the toilet he was there at my side. You cannot imagine how disconcerting it is to have a gay man trying it on with you when he has 2 half faces!
When Unni came back and sat down he cotinued to talk directly to me and never even ackowledged Unni existed. Very funny.

After the cabaret we found another beach party and enjoyed another bucket. As I went for a wee in the sea (it is the done thing) this guy was really angry next to me. Apparently he had been taking a wee and a girl had walked right in front of him. After realising she was covered in his urine she pushed him into the sea. He was so angry because he had gotten his new trainers wet!

The day that followed was a boat journey around the island. Getting in at about 2am and very drunk was not ideal preparation especially as the sea was really rough that day. I am not talking a few big waves, I mean it felt like we were on a roller-coaster. I thought it was great fun even if I was regretting that last bucket from the previous night but others did not. Unni felt rough and had to lie down, one guy was spewing up over the side, and another girl looked so terrified I thought she was going to cry.
It was annoying because we couldn't snorkel at our first designated spot - Shark Bay, where we could've swam with Reef Sharks, which I wanted to do.
Still we were able to get into the water at the calmer Mango Bay and I was treated to a sight of a school of quite large fish numbering about 200 swimming around underneath me.
Later that day we stopped at some islands, Huan Bay, at the north of Koh Toa. They consist of 3 small islands linked by a sand causeway and once you scale the hill to the viewpoint you really are looking down on paradise.

The next 2 days were spent on the beach and in the sea. Only highlights were:
1) eating corn on the cobb from a man who walks up and down and BBQ's them in front of you
2) a goat visited the beach, checking out every bather only to be chased off by an old lady with white hair holding a handbag in one hand and a stick in the other

So it came to the time for Unni to leave and head to Bangkok and for me to head south to country number 5.
I must say that I had a great time in Thailand and the islands are all in their own unique way a version of paradise - so go there!

I was booked on a 9pm night boat to a town called Sarrathani which would arrive at 5am. From there is would be a bus journey to Penang across the border and into Malaysia and then another bus down to Kuala Lumpur.
This may sound like an exaggeration but I got to experience first hand what sleeping on a slave ship might have been like (if only 5% of it).
As we boarded the stench of sweat was overpowering and across the interior of the boat were over 100 matresses spread out. Seriously, I am not a big lad, but lying down on my back I had literally 1 inch of room either side of my shoulders before I touched the next person.
Everyone around me popped a valium and off they went to sleep. I got about 2 hours kip and it was not comfortable. I will usually deal with everything that I have to on my travels and afterall, I am not at work so life is fun; but I can assure that that was my last night boat - ever.
I got to the office to catch my bus to be informed that I would arrive at KL at 6am the next morning, it 5:45am!!
I got onto the bus hoping that this would not actually be the case.
It turns out that it wasn't, instead I would arrive at 3am - bonus.
On the bus (and it was a cramped minibus, not ideal) I met 2 Yank girls and a Brazillian lad. After passing through the border and getting to Penang at 6pm and having to change for our next bus we all looked at each other and decided to stay in Penang for the night and continue the next day.
Not much to say about Penang except:
1) quiet place but with good food
2) I shared a double bed with Tiago, who I had only met a few hours before
3) I bought a wicked Spiderman towel as mine went missing a few days before

So eventually I got to KL at 1pm the next day. 1 of the Yank girls decided to stay in Penang, so myself, Tiago and Muriella checked into a hotel in China Town.
The first day and night was spent hanging around before I went to explore the city for real the next day.

I have to say that I do like KL and it is nothing like I expected; well in fact I did not know what to expect. It is so modern and stylish in places, especially downtown around the Patronus Towers and KL Tower. The shopping centres contain every shop you could ever want, even for the very rich (Versace, Prada, Harrods) and all in all it is very clean. China Town is cool, lots of cheap food and fake goods and I like the place. The only thing missing is history. You walk around London and it is everywhere in front of you, there is nothing from the past here that I have seen so it all seems a little stale in parts.
Still, a visit to the 41st and 86th floors of the Patronus Towers was good. Between 1996 - 2003 this was the tallest building the world and after dark the towers are worth a visit alone. For 2 evenings in a row I went to visit them just stand and look at them lit up - and then followed that up by going to the pub with Tiago.

I also visited the Batu Caves which are 12km north of KL. These caves, at the top of 200 or so steps contain a number of Hindu temples and are worth a visit. I missed the festival that takes place here by a few weeks which was a shame as Hindu's turn up and pierce themselves with hooks to carry various tributes to the gods and walk around on glass etc - supposed to be a good sight.

After 2.5 days in KL it was time to finally get myself over to the rainforest and Taman Negara national park.
On our bus there was an Oz girl, Karla, a Yank, Eli, and his German bird Sylvia who would all be my roomies.
I did like my roomies but I do need to make some comments:
1) Yank - as we all know Yanks are loud and obnoxious (except you Rachael - I love you!) - he was so so very loud but I have to say not obnoxious. But so loud.
2) Sylvia - really cool bird and liked her a lot
3) Karla - loves to contradict herself and even more annoying is her habit of listening to you and as you say the last word of your sentence she will nod her head and say the last word with you - aaaggghhhhh. Shut up!
She made out she was a fitness freak as well - no she was not. Each of her legs were as big as me. Then one day we are sitting outside chatting and she asked me what I was drinking. I told her it was an energy drink much like Lucozade back home. She looked at me, shook her head and told me it was full of suger and that you should only really drink one of these after doing something hardcore like a marathon.
In the next sentence she told me how she really likes her Powerade and Gatorade.
Are you serious? That is the same thing as I am drinking you fool.
All of this went on whilst she was eating a massive bag of crisps and some biscuits - honestly.

Then later we walked past some people from the Far East and they said hello to us. Karla commented how it was funny that the Chinese would say hello to us in English and I commented that I wasn't sure where they were from, they could be Japanese or South Korean for example. She looked at me and asked if there was a difference. I could no longer talk to this girl except for being polite.
Still, I have to go her some respect as she spent 2 months recently in Kenya at an orphanage looking after kids with HIV. I have no idea how she managed it, especially when she said that she has no knowledge of HIV and when she saw other kids touching anothers bloody knee she figured that it was safe for her to do so.

So the rainforest itself:
Great, but wish I had more time. We got to the park via a 4 hour bus ride and the a 3 hour boat ride down the river through the forest. You have to take a step back and remember that this is the oldest rainforest in the world and 130 million years old. This forest was here twice as long as the amount of time that we have had no dinosaurs on the planet.
As for where we stayed, the resturants and all floating on the river and we were in a really plush hostel - as hostels go.
That afternoon there was a wild boar right outside our door.
The first evening I went on a night time jungle walk. Try to picture walking through a 130 million year rainforest, it is dark and there is an electrical storm over head - bloody fantastic.
On the walk we saw lots of insects - stick insect mating, yes mating, crickets, slow worms, huntsman spider (big), we saw a fruit bat and best of all we saw a huge scorpion. It was even better glowing luminous under the UV torch of the guide.
We then went to an animal hide and look out into the pitch black. With the powerful torch of the guide we were able to see 3 deer, but when the lightning lit up the forest we were looking out over a grassy area with one solitary tree in the middle and the deer at a watering hole. It had a very spooky but awesome feel to it and I was sitting there waiting for a tiger or panther to strike during the lightning bolt to make the picture perfect for me.
Also on the walk were to guys from the UK who are actually on my flight to Oz and I am off out with them tonight after I finish this - so I had better get a move on.

One other thing that was funny on our walk was when we came across some Cane trees/plant. The guide said, "this is cane, yes cane, C-A-N-E, you know, used for furniture and punishment!"
Ok, if you say so.

Another thing about Malaysia is their love of American Idol ie. they know who Adam Lambert is!
Therefore, on a number of occasions, like checking into hotels for example, I was asked to sing a song and give an autograph.
Still, on the plus side of them taking the p*ss about me being a gay American singer the hotel staff never forgot me and always greeted me with a "Hello Mr Lambert."
Very nice indeed.

The next day in the rainforest was spent walking in the morning to the longest jungle canopy walkway in the world and then up to a viewpoint to look out over endless miles of rainforest and mountains. Again, another site that I will not forget in a hurry to add to all of the rest.
I spent the rest of the morning walking around various trails on my own - loved it. I saw 3 wild boar and some bizarre hen/peacock hydrid with a bright blue face.

In the afternoon I went on a boat to tackle some rapids. It is a motor boat and you actually got head on into them so needless to say that you get soaked. It was good fun but not long enough.
Halfway through we got to stop at a jungle village. The problem was that they were not where we thought they would be. Apparently someone had died in the village and when this happens they relocate the enitre group to somewhere where the spirit can not come back to haunt them.
Eventually we found them downstream and took in village life. It was interesting but best was learning to make fire and using a blow pipe. I hit the target with both of my efforts but not the bullseye unfortunately.
After that is was more rapids and then swimming in the river and using a very dangerous rope swing which was great fun.

That was it for my jungle adventures as I am running out of time before my flight to Oz and I returned to KL today. I will definitely go back though as there is a 7 day jungle trek to the highest mountain on the Malaysian penninsula which is supposed to be really tough and so I of course want to do it.

So that brings you up to date. I am going down to a place called Melaka tomorrow before my final stop in Singapore before I hit Oz. I can't believe that I am only 4 days short of 5 months of travelling, it has gone so quickly.
Asia has been amazing, from India and the Taj Mahal and wild tigers, Nepal and the Himilayas and wild rhinos, Thailand and the party, Laos and the party, Malaysia and the rainforests. So many great adventures but also so many things that I have missed along the way too!
I have a list of stuff that I need to come back and do. They include a visit to Everest, climbing 2 other mountains, 1 of them the highest in SE Asia, a visit to Cambodia as well as Indonesia, spending some time in Sumatra with the Orangutans; the list goes on and on.

Looks like 2 yrs travelling will not be enough. There is still South America to see as well.
No settling down for me for quite a while me thinks!