Friday, 30 March 2012

the manly walk

13th March 2012

Sydney, Australia

                      While browsing through my lonely planet one morning it appeared that no excursion to Sydney would be complete until I had taken a trip to the beach at Manly. The suburb of Manly constitutes a peninsula of land with the Pacific ocean on one side while the Harbour occupies the other. The beaches which lie on either side of it's isthmus also signify the beginning of a chain of beaches, known as the 'northern beaches', that spread all the way up the coast to Broken Bay about 50km away. As an interesting, if quintessentially English aside, the name Manly was given to the area when the English admiral Arthur Phillip first came across it's people on his voyage to Australia in the late 18th century. After his encounter with the Aboriginal people who lived on the peninsula, his judgement of them was that they were a confident and, wait for it, 'manly' brand of people and it seems the absurd name stuck. Anyway, these days the suburb is now a large tourist destination that draws thousands upon thousands of beach bums to it's golden sands every year to partake in the endless amount of swimming, sailing, surfing and shopping that can all be done here. So one sunny morning I set off with Oli from his house in Surry Hills and headed for Circular Quay where it was possible to catch 'Sydney's Famous Manly Ferry' over to that sparkling stretch of golden land. Getting down to the ferry for 10am we bought our tickets and hopped on board the vessel that would transport us over to the iconic beach. Apparently more than 14 million people cross Sydney Harbour by ferry every year and after taking the spectacular cruise over to Manly I fully understand why. Taking a seat at the front of the boat we were faced by the glare of a sun that was developing at a nice rate in the azure sky overhead and as we powered through the sparkling sapphire waters of the Sydney Harbour, we passed the Harbour bridge to our left and the Sydney Opera House to our right whose iconic white shells glistened under the sun's savage stroke. Pulling into the Manly wharf half an hour later, after witnessing some staggeringly beautiful views from the wooden decks of the famous green-and-yellow ferry, we stepped back onto dry land ready to explore all that the area had to offer. Just as we had set off up the hill towards the beach, Oli got a call from his boss reminding him that he wasn't due in at 3pm like he thought, but about fifteen minutes ago which resulted in The Guy having to dash back to town leaving me alone to my own devices; a position I frequently find myself in and actually really enjoy. I always find that when I'm walking with others, there is always a feeling that we need to be someplace by sometime, whereas when I'm by myself I feel free to take things at my own pace and to stop when I please which usually results in something interesting happening and that's exactly what happened today.

              After leaving Oli, I had a brief wander along the Corso; the shopping strip that connects the main Manly ocean beach with the Harbour beaches. The long stretch of sand on the eastern side of the peninsula runs through three different sections, notably: Queenscliff, North Steyne and South Steyne and ambling along it's promenade I found that the sand was heavily populated by bronze 'Sydeneysiders' and pasty white (most probably British) tourists; both groups basking in the golden rays that came crashing down on the beach from a youthful sun above. After taking a quick dip in the refreshing waters, I retraced my steps back down the Corso to the pier as I had read about two scenic walkways that were possible in Manly: one which followed the West Esplanade inland and one that snaked all the way to the tip of the peninsula, apparently proffering some fairly spectacular views of the Sydney skyline from a panoramic platform at it's end. Hiking my way along the East Esplanade, I followed it round to the Manly yacht club until it joined Stuart Street which I proceeded to walk along all the way to a hidden cove known as Collins Beach; a charming little strip of white sand that was sheltered either side by dense bush and was only accessible by the muddy and slippery footpath I slid myself down. Intrepid sun worshippers had ambled along to this peaceful setting that had clear waters at it's feet while the Sydney skyline in the distance provided a gentle reminder that a heaving metropolis lay a mere 11km away. Carrying on with my mini adventure, I climbed up a pathway on the other side and walked for about 2km up to the area known as North Head which is home to the Sydney Harbour National Park. The protected park covers an area of approximately 156 hectares and shelters a variety of native animals and plants as well as containing historic buildings and structures that date back to the last century. Getting briefly lost, I was soon put on the right path by a helpful local jogger who told me that at the tip of the peninsula there is a small walking track that leads to Fairfax point, which I assumed was the viewing platform I had read about that gives incredible vistas of the South Pacific Ocean and the skyline of Sydney. Entering the national reserve I walked along narrow metal pathways that cut through the bush and dense foliage, observing the withering tree trunks which had become scorched due to a searing sun that on certain days, like today, turned the headland into a sea-facing frying pan. Drenched with sweat, I passed under large spider webs whose landlords guarded the paths, no doubt gazing down with amusement upon numerous lost-looking walkers like myself. After navigating through this labyrinthine maze having to occasionally trackback after reaching a few dead ends, I finally came across a small sign indicating the small pathway that would ultimately lead to Fairfax point. A brief stroll followed until I came across a most spectacular viewing platform which, as promised, offered up some truly breathtaking views. To the east lay the vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean and in the distance to the south, the staggered skyline of the city of Sydney cut through the horizon. From a distance, the skyscrapers soared towards a vast kingdom of white marshmallow clouds that hung in strips across a bright blue canvas in the sky. After about half an hour resting my weary legs and taking it all in, I began the long walk back to the ferry catching a ride into town late in the arvo (Aussie afternoon).


Boarding the Manly Ferry.
The view of the SOP (Sydney Opera House) from the ferry.
Arriving at Manly.
The main Manly beach.
What the deuce is a Wobbegong. Well, that is apparently.
The Manly yachts.
Walking along Stuart Street to North Head.
Better watch out for ol' crash bandicoot. He's a dying breed.
The metal walkways cut through the bush of North Head. Sydney Harbour National Park.
Finding the Fairfax trail.
The Sydney skyline.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

snapshots: sydney

11th - 21st March 2012

Sydney, Australia

Welcome to Australia!
The top of Sydney's Harbour Bridge. As you can see it's actually possible to do a walk to the top which would undoubtedly offer some spectacular views of the Sydney harbor. As you can see later though I got some nice views by just walking along the bridge.
The towering skyscrapers peer down at you from their thrones in the sky. That, in the middle of the shot is the Sydney Tower and is the second tallest observation tower in the southern hemisphere after  the Auckland sky tower in New Zealand. Which I've actually seen today seeing as I'm writing this in New Zealand!
The Sydney skyscrapers.
Mirror skyscraper.

Australian White Ibis birds. These peculiar looking birds roamed throughout the city. Bobbing their head back and forward in search of any scraps of food dropped by the masses of people that shuffle through the streets.
One morning, along with Oli, I headed over to Bondi beach where we strolled down the beach and went for a dip in the cool refreshing waters.
The famous Bondi beach.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Interestingly the bridge was built in 1932 and was built by the Middlesbrough based Dorman Long & Co. Ltd company who also built the Tyne bridge in Newcastle! Which can be seen here as it's a very similar style to the one in the Toon. 
Darling Harbour which rests just west of the central business district and the Opera House. Darling Harbour once used to be home to the grimy industrial docks however the area was redeveloped and reopened in 1988. It's now a pretty trendy area within the city and has a shopping mall, IMAX cinema, exhibition centre and a range of stylish restaurants and bars.
Just discovered the macro feature on my camera.
The skyline around Darling Harbour.
HOW did I take this picture?
Oh! What's this!
The Sydney Opera House taken from the harbour bridge.
An icon of Australia it was completed in 1973 taking sixteen years to build. The construction was not a smooth process though and it's development sparked great controversy. In the late 1950's an international competition was held to decide the architect suitable for creating an iconic and timeless structure that would become a world-wide known symbol for Australia. Quarrels and scandals plagued the construction of this remarkable looking building and Jorn Utzon, the chief architect and winner of the competition, was forced to resign in 1966. Seven years and three architects later, the Opera House we know today was finished.
Spent one morning admiring the Harbour Bridge, going for a stroll under it's vast and iconic concrete pylons.
Some barbed wire for you.
I've been CCTV'd on the Harbour Bridge.
How about THAT for a view! The Sydney Harbour from the far end of the bridge.

heading down under - from bangkok to sydney

11th March 2012

Sydney, Australia

                  If you've read my previous post concerning the infamous full moon party of Koh Phangan you will know that my time in Asia ended with a tumultuous bang as those final days saw me falling through several layers of consciousness to the bottom of a bucket of whiskey. Sat in the waiting lounge of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, waiting for Thai Airways to whisk me down under and attempting to piece my mind back together after those lawless days on the island of Gomorrah, it occurred to me that I had spent around five months in Asia and that the next leg of the journey in Australia would drastically shift the focus of the trip to familiar home-like territory. To a certain extent this thought was reassuring as it would be nice to go back to an English speaking country, but it also made me slightly depressed as I was sad to be leaving the beautifully chaotic Asian lifestyle that I had come to embrace during my time there. From that anxious first week in Delhi where I questioned what the hell I was getting myself into and whether I was up to the challenge, I have sunk further and further into a wonderfully hectic world filled by a plethora of beautiful sights, people and experiences that will all stay in my memory for a very long time. In addition to this, I am now starting to appreciate the value of this blog as I recently scanned back through the fifty odd posts I've now accumulated and was reminded of all the things I've been blessed enough to experience during these past five months and it seems I've not been alone in my adventures as I recently hit 3,000 views on this website and so I just want to say thank you for following me and my ramblings!

              The flight from Bangkok to Australia took about seven hours and after getting some sleep across three unoccupied seats, I awoke to find that the rough hustle and bustle of Bangkok's streets had been replaced by the refined cosmopolitan stylings of Sydney. Touching down around 9pm, I was greeted at Sydney's international airport by my friend Mr. Oliver Guy who I first met in the toon, a.k.a. Newcastle while studying there for three years between 2007-2010. 'The Guy' had left England's fair shores after graduating and has been living life down under for well over a year now, first in Perth and now Sydney and I was happy to see that things are going well for him after making the leap. It was really great to catch up with him again as I haven't really spoken to anyone from back home since I have been away, so the familiar face was hugely welcomed after so many fleeting friendships on the road. Although it has been nearly two years since I had last seen him we slipped back into the same old jokes and banter that had made my time spent in Newcastle so memorable and it was comforting to know that although much time has passed, nothing had really changed between us which is always the sign of a worthwhile friendship. Seeing him again also made me realise how much I miss the Lilly/Manor gang and that while I was in England I was pretty poor at keeping in touch with them all. The only thing I can say in my defense is that this trip has consumed my thoughts and efforts ever since graduating and working/saving money at Direct Line's call centre (how this trip was funded) resulted in me leaving Bristol very infrequently. Still that will all change when I get back and as soon as I have some money Earthworm Jim will be heading all 'owa the parish to see them all again. Back to Sydney, Oli was renting a room in the Surry Hills area which, fortunately for me, was very central so my days in Sydney were spent walking around this fascinating city and catching up with the Guy when he wasn't working.

                So, initial thoughts on Australia? Well, I was hugely impressed by Sydney, although not impressed by the exorbitant price of everything. Spending $32 on a taxi from the airport was a shock to the system as over in Asia I had become a little too familiar with paying rock bottom prices for everything and $32 would have covered my total living expenses for a couple of days! That was all about to change though but staying with Oli did mean that I thankfully avoided splashing out $30 on a dorm room every night. I remembered back to Cambodia when I was getting my own room for $3! Remarkable how the other half lives eh! I now realise how ambitious (and naive) I had been in the planning stages of this trip as initially, I had planned to be in Australia for six weeks. I soon saw, however, that my funds would make this an impossibility and so I changed my flights, extending my time in South East Asia by another month which meant me and my bank account only had to survive two weeks in Aussie land. Although on a very tight budget I cooked dinner at Oli's house every night and made sandwiches for during the day which in addition to no accommodation expenses meant I was able to do Sydney very cheaply. Although there are obviously many great activities to partake in while in Sydney - which all cost an arm and a leg - it's also just a great city to stroll around and there's a lot you can do without spending much money. Wandering around the beautiful Sydney harbor with it's dazzling Opera House and Harbour bridge, mooching through Darling Harbor, lazing on the grasses of the Botanical gardens reading a book, gazing admiringly upwards at the dominating skyscrapers, hopping on the ferry to the Manly and Bondi beaches all consumed my time spent in Sydney and I never felt bored even though I couldn't really afford to do a great deal. Still, learning how to enjoy yourself with very little money is an inevitable part of travelling for as long as I am, and I really enjoyed myself here and who knows maybe I'll be back again one day!

               Sydney is a clinically cool city and holds huge importance within Australia's history as it was the first European settlement to be set up in the country when Arthur Phillip founded it as a British colony after arriving here in 1788. Sydney is therefore the largest and oldest city in Australia and walking around the central area gave me a glimpse of the forward-thinking and cosmopolitan lifestyles that people live here. The jungle of skyscrapers create a spectacular skyline which can be seen for miles around and serve as a testament to Australia's strong economy and it hugely impressed me. I really like big cities as I relish the chance to go and get lost wandering down streets and alleyways, having no idea what lies at the other end and unlike some, I absolutely loved the likes of Delhi, Bangkok, Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh and now I can add Sydney to that list. Now I can't really make too much of a judgement of Australia as a whole as I've seen very little of the country but one thing I noticed from the little I did see is that the place seems to be a nation being pulled in several different directions. As a country born out of immigration there are many, many influences working together in Sydney with a huge Asian population all popping south for new opportunities and possibilities but the thing that struck me was that the place also seemed to have become a hybrid entity created from obvious British influences, due to it's history under the crown, but American ones as well. British and American brand names have made it over here and the enthusiastic and glamorous side of the city reminded me of a miniature New York with it's central parks and dominating skyline whereas the architecture of some of the buildings in and around the city felt distinctly British. When I went over to Manly - a northern suburb in Sydney - I walked through North Head and wandering past houses with small white picket fences felt like being in middle America whilst arriving at Bondi felt like stepping into some sort of retro British seaside town minus the miserable weather. It's a hard thing to describe but considering the history of the city it comes as no surprise and it's a feeling generated by personal observation and letting it all wash over you.

Do you come from the land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.

Hello Australia.


Onwards! Tally Ho!
Location of Sydney within Australia.

Cruising at 35,000 feet.

Me and Oli. What a pair of happy chods.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

snapshots of haad rin - koh phangan pt.2

4th - 9th March 2012

Koh Phagnan, Thailand
The beach out front of Coral Bungalows.
Location of Koh Phagnan within Thailand.
Walking with Adam along the beach for about half an hour we came across secluded spots of pure paradise.
Me LOVING Koh Phangan.
The sunset view from Coral Bungalows.
Beer, Bucket & Bikinis. Mint.
Having a few beers with Daniel, Adam and Anselm.
The notorious Coral Bungalow pool where debauchery is bred.
Entering Haad Rin Beach, the location of the infamous full moon party.
I didn't want to bring my camera to the actual full moon party but here it is during the day.
Haad Rin Nok by day.
Mushroom Mountain by day.
Leading up to the mellowest of mountains.
The ultimate chill out spot.
The View of Haad Rin Nok from mellow mountain.
The Dj booth at mellow mountain where some seriously good tech-house went down at the full moon party. A few nights before the actual party I rocked down there with some Cd's and Biggles got his second outing in South East Asia! Played to about ten people all lying about on the cushions so wasn't a big thing but felt good to get behind the decks again especially on the full moon beach!
Lined up were small stalls that sold buckets of vodka or whisky and mixers to people every night which all had different graffiti in an attempt to stand out from their multiple rivals. Got well and truly gazebo'd here on the full moon party.
And here.