Thursday, May 22, 2008

The IRONY of it all....

Leaving Canberra was a big change. A very big change. I was saying goodbye to what I had known for along time. I was also confident that I was saying goodbye to certain people for the last time. After all, as much as you promise yourself that you will keep in touch with people when you move, the realities are that in many if not most cases the goodbyes you make will be the final ones.

Even with this in mind, when I left Canberra, I felt nothing but a sense of relief and happiness. I didn't want to be in Canberra any more. I wanted to start exploring new places and creating new experiences. As far as I was concerned, it was time for a new chapter in my life. I reasoned in my mind that my trip to Europe and the Middle East would be a way for me to create a clean break with the past.

However, nagging at the back of my thoughts was Lawrence of Arabia.

I wanted to go across to the other side of the world to see the places that Lawrence had travelled through, to see the places that he changed and that changed him.

.... and to a large extent, I felt I did much of what I had hoped to do.

I had gone to Damascus, I had sat in Baron's Hotel in Aleppo, I walked the streets of Jerusalem, I climbed to the top of Krak de Chivaliers, I wandered through the deserts in Wadi Rum, I had sat and drank mint tea in Aqaba.

So with all of this in mind, I was quite shocked when my brother told me of the exhibition that had been unveiled back in Canberra not too long after I had left.


Yes, that's correct.

Back in the place that I had run away from was exactly what I had run in search of.

My brother went to the exhibition and the reports he emailed me were glowing in praise.

It was with a slightly heavy heart that I found myself on the bus from Sydney to Canberra.

I couldn't miss this. TE Lawrence had been my hero since I was a child and in this exhibition were some of the artefacts most closely associated with him.

Early on Saturday morning, Tim and I drove out to the Australian War Memorial and I began to walk through this amazing exhibition.

Tim was correct. I was not to be disappointed at all.
Lawrence's robes were on full display.
As was his GUN!!! His name was even etched into the butt of the rifle.
And then my jaw nearly fell off in awe as I found myself standing in front of his ceremonial dagger. His famous golden ceremonial dagger that was presented to him by the Bedouin sheiks.

The sound of Peter O'Toole's voice circled through my head with the screams of "NO PRISONERS!" I could almost imagine seeing the dagger being used as the Turkish column outside of Dera'a was massacred.

I walked into the exhibition with a smile on my face.

And I definitely walked out with a smile on face.
Tim and I decided to walk through some of the other parts of the War Memorial as well. Major refurbishments had been completed since I last visited.

The place looked great.

The tributes to the soldiers who had fought in the post-WWII conflicts were sharp and well done.

Tim decided he wanted to have a bit of fun in the hands on section, re-enacting some soldiers dismounting off of a helicopter used in the Vietnam War.
So.... Canberra.... I found myself in the city once more.

It was a good lesson to me that plans never seem to last very long when they are subjected to the light of reality.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neighbours that just don't care

I came home from work tired and hungry.

I walked into the apartment and closed the door. Whilst dropping my bags and taking off my jacket, my housemate Pete walked in after me.

He had a nice big grin on his face as he asked me to come outside to have a look at what he had discovered.
It seems our neighbours had left some important things in their door.

.... Pete told me it wasn't the first time it had happened either.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Duchesses!

I hadn't seen my friend Kristine in a long time.

Living in Sydney gave me the opportunity to see her and her band play.

I headed to Kings Cross one night with Phil to see her at one of her gigs.

She's the one on the bass! Her band is called "The Duchesses".


They've got an interesting array of songs.

I got to meet her boyfriend for the first time which was nice.
And just generally have a nice laze about at a gig with Phil.
Sydney still seems new and foreign to me. But I'm starting to appreciate the quirks and benefits that makes this city an interesting place to live in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sigh..... work.....



It's a horrible thing. I can't believe I have to start working. The travels are still fresh in my mind and the thought of a desk and a computer and having to wear a suit and being in an office and.....

It's just too much to think about really.

The one saving grace was that I wasn't going straight into work itself. I was being given a nice induction with all of the other starters as well.

So, I found myself in the Grace Hotel in the middle of Sydney for the three day induction with 23 other starters from across Australia.

The room was nice. But it felt far too opulent for my liking. I was still very much used to the hostels and guest houses. This room was much nicer than anywhere that I had stayed in over the previous few months, that cannot be denied.

But it also felt cold and sterile.

I was lonely in this nice room. Sitting on the bed, I thought about my friends, about the other travellers I had met and the locals who had shown me kindness.
The induction seemed to go quickly.

The other starters all seemed nice. Really friendly people.

Most of them weren't from Sydney. They were keen to wander around and see the sights. As a new resident of Sydney. I decided to follow them around to get a view of things myself.
Sydney is a very attractive city. The harbour, the bridge, the Opera House. They all come together to give postcard views from virtually any angle.
It's just too bad this city will forever be associated with work for me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another new adventure

The travels are finished.

Completely finished.

All done.

No more.

Oh God that's depressing..... I now have to face actual reality and the fact that I need to work.

There was more than one point where I seriously considered sending in an email and quitting the job that was waiting for me before it I had even started. I reasoned to myself that the trip had cost me significantly less than I had anticipated and that I could have quite easily continued trekking through some cheaper companies for months more.

But alas, the realities set in that I needed to get back.

So, I now found myself in Sydney.

This was the beginning of a new chapter as well. I had never lived in this city before. It would be fun to explore the largest city in Australia, to get to know some of the locals and to see what it would be like just living and working here.

I even had a nice place to live!
My new room!

My old friend from high school and uni, Pete had bought himself an apartment in the middle of the city. He needed a housemate and I needed a room. What a perfect arrangement. Only a 15 minute walk to work as well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mixing Cultures

It's a short ride from Hong Kong to Macau. Less than an hour by hydrofoil.

Yet the difference between the two is far greater than you would expect.

Hong Kong is a modern metropolis. You have to go far into the New Territories to see any of the past these days. Within the city, most of the city's history has been developed away by a combination of steel, concrete and glass.

Macau is different.
The Portuguese history of the city is still very evident. The old buildings are merged with the new, giving the city a distinctly European feel in parts.

A European feel with a strong hint of the Cantonese anyway.
I like the place a great deal.

There isn't the commotion to the place that Hong Kong has. It feels calmer and more laid back.
Just a nice place to live really.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stop me from drooling

The food in Macau is ridiculously good.

The last time I wrote on Macanese food, I wrote about the beautiful mix of Chinese and Portuguese cultures to produce roasted meats, cabbage rices and other assorted delights.

This time, I concentrated more on the street food.

Almond biscuits being made fresh!
The famous Portuguese tarts. Sweetness matched by a rich caramalised flavour.
My extended family also took me to lunch at Wynn's Hotel one afternoon.
Nice service and nice food. Who can complain?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Bright Lights!

I go on about Macau alot.

But I love the place!

Everytime I go to Hong Kong, I make sure that I find some time to go to Macau as well.
The place is glowing with money and growth.

It had only been about a year since I last went to Macau and already the place was near unrecognisable. So many new casinos and developments had been completed or started that the skyline of the city itself had been changed.

That's before you begin talking about the "inside" of some of the new casinos as well.

The roof of the main shopping area inside the new Venetian was a faux sky. It was slightly disconcerting walking through this arcade with the artificial light and the sound of water from the fake canals.
Moving back towards the city centre, I found myself outside of the Casino Lisboa, where gambling in Macau began all those years ago.
Next to it is it's ENORMOUS baby sibling, the Grand Lisboa. A monster of a casino that imposes itself on the entire skyline with it's striking tower and glowing bulb of a casino.
Macau! This ever changing place grabs you! I love it!!!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Strange Timing

Arriving back in London was a depressing experience.

I love London. The place is full of life. It has the sights and sounds that I love. But I was only transiting through. There was no time to savour any of it.

I said my goodbyes to Maya and Adam and soon I was on a plane to Hong Kong.

The last leg of my trip.

The timing of it turned out to be strangely appropriate.

It was, it turned out, ten years since my grandfather had died.

In Hong Kong, there are so many people and there is so little land. Only some are lucky enough to be buried after death, with most merely being cremated immediately. However, in a bizarre ritual, most of those who are buried do not stay buried. Instead, they are only buried for ten years or so before there bodies are exhumed and their bones are cremated.

This time had come for my grandfather's bones.

Taking my old grandmother to the burial site, those of the family who could come stood silently as the coffin was lifted and his bones were removed.
The feeling was almost surreal. The surroundings were stunning, the breeze was cool, the sun was bright.

In the distance I could hear a Buddhist monk ringing some bells.
My grandmother wept quietly as I led her down the hill for the last time.