Saturday, December 14, 2013
(After much delay)
Waiting to take off for Taipei on the same exact plane that broke down on me two weeks ago. Here's to hoping the technicians did a good job.
Fun day. We went to the Dreamworks amusement park in the morning, called Dreamworld. I got to pet some Australian animals, namely a wombat and a koala. Saw some kangaroos and, for some reason, tigers, but the platypus continues to elude me. No matter, I will live. Also rode two random roller coasters for the hell of it.
Wen to Skypoint, the second tallest residential building in world. The tallest is the Dubai, go figure. Had a coke on the observation deck. Good views, though the weather could certainly have been better.
Finished our tour with a trip to a duty free shop. I bought a boomerang.
Australia turned out to be less interesting than NZ. I had expected more from such a significantly larger country. If I were to come to Australia again, I think I will check out the central and western areas, where there should be more aborigine culture and landscapes.
I hope Thailand will be better when I go next week.
11/28/13 Gold Coast
Again, woke up early to catch a plane, this time to Brisbane. Mediocre domestic flight with equally mediocre entertainment, so I just closed my eyes. We reached Brisbane about noon, just in time for lunch, at the absolute worst sushi buffet I have ever had the misfortune and displeasure of sitting down at. The only reasonably Japanese thing about the place was the chopsticks. Not a single piece of fish to be found, nor proper sushi rice. Instead, all the rolls were of fruit, vegetables, and ground meat, all of dubious quality and freshness. The chow mien they offered had a powdery texture indicative of it's age. And the miso soup had little miso. I had two pieces of a crappy roll, before standing up and heading for the chicken sandwich place next door.
After this very disappointing meal, we took our new coach to a ferry stop. Brisbane is built on two banks of the Brisbane river, and thus public transportation is by ferry. It works just like any MRT system, with various docks, or stations, if you will, up and down on both side of the river. Sea cats go up and down the river stopping at each station, and passengers board the boats much as if they were to board a bus. Quite convenient. The ferry brought us from the suburbs to the Parklands, where we had a short walk before boarding the buss for a scenic lookout over the city.
Dinner was yet another revolving tower restaurant. There, I had my first cocktail in many weeks. Old Fashioned, of course, though with Jameson instead of bourbon. Odd that.
Our night time adventure was glow worm caves, much like Te Anau in New Zealand. I thought Te Anau was better, so won't bother to describe this adventure. Returned to the hotel about midnight for my last night in Australia.
Today was Thanksgiving in the States. I'm very sorry I wasn't there to celebrate with my friends back home. I always liked Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. I am particularly thankful this year, for everything that brought me happiness, for everything that I've been able to endure, and most importantly, that I will have another year to be thankful for.
A day involving lots of walking. After leaving the hotel late in the morning we went to visit yet another cathedral. I've been to a lot of these in the past few months, and this one was no different from the others. We then spent another couple hours in an outdoor mall, where I picked up another singbowl in a Nepalese curio shop, this one rather old. I wandered about the nearby marina, indulging in some gelato from a stand.
After, we took a free trolley to the Victoria Art Museum, fore some reason or another. Most art in the collection wasn't at all relevant to Australia, so this seemed a pointless stop.
Dinner was Thai food. I suppose all these different restaurants is indicative of how multicultural Melbourne is, but it is still odd.
Dinner was followed by a trip to a nearby casino. Being totally indifferent to gambling for money, I sat outside and slept by the river bank. Eventually, the rest of my tour emerged and we returned to hotel for the night.
Woke up early this morning to catch a plane to Melbourne. It turned a 16hr bus ride into a short 1hr plane hop. Oddly enough, the plane, and old 767, was probably one of the oldest aircraft I've ever set foot on, yet had the most advanced multimedia service I've ever used on a plane. Each seat was provided a iPad with on-board video streaming. An elegant solution to passenger boredom. When we alighted in Melbourne, we were met by a new bus which brought us to all things, Bavarian themed restaurant. Sure, the food was fine, the beer was delicious, and the accordionist passable, but still...I didn't fly to Australia to eat Bavarian food.
After lunch, we boarded a steam train on a short journey through the countryside before eventually making our way to Phillip Island(I'm still not sure if it's actually an island) and it's main attraction: Penguin Parade. A colony of blue penguins reside on the shoreline of the park, and every evening, groups of them make their way up the beach to their grassy burrows. We got to see the penguins cutely march up the sand, taking oft used corridors and trails into their hilly neighborhoods. Cute as hell. After this final activity of the day, we made our way to the our hotel two hours away, then retiring for the night.
We spent most of the day getting our fill of Katoomba. I hadn't realized such a place existed in Australia, but apparently it's pretty well known among the other tourists. Also known as the Blue Mountains, Katoomba is basically the Grand Canyon of Australia. It certainly isn't as grand or impressive as the real Grand Canyon, but that's not to say it doesn't have its own spectacular views. There's even a mini theme park on the rim of the canyon to assist in taking full advantage of the view. Unlike our own Grand Canyon, Katooba is covered in in trees, not bare rock a la Arizona. The name of the theme park is descriptively unoriginal: Scenic World. It consists of three rides, a bunch of raised walkways green enough to be deemed nature walks, and a gift shop. The most interesting of all this is the ride on the steepest funicular in the world. It's really quite steep, some 64 degrees. Great fun.
Many pictures and some walking later, we headed to the town of Leura, where we checked into the hotel early in the afternoon. We had high tea in the hotel tea room before leaving to explore the downtown area. The town center clearly caters to tourists, with many boutiques and gift shops. It was amusing for an hour or so, maybe double that if one was of the female persuasion. I purchased for myself a bottle of Australian Shiraz, then choosing to retire back to the hotel with it. I spent the rest of the night playing billiards on the hotel's giant 12 ft tables, finishing the wine before bed.
A long day, if not all that exciting. Our first stop was the beach. What beach, I don't recall, but whatever it's called, I can say for certain it is better than any equivalent beach we could muster in the States. For one, the bikini babes were many. For the second, a good majority of them were of reasonable attractiveness, and not shy about it. For the last, topless, attractive bikini babes would trump anything we have to offer. I will state that besides the novelty of it all and the aesthetic qualities, I didn't find myself gibbering over all the boobies. Yes, it's true. I have become worldly enough to ignore hot, naked tits in favor of exploring the beach itself. I suppose my European adventures have helped me build up a certain tolerance to such things. I actually find that kind of a shame. It's hard for me to get excited for anything these days.
Our second stop was Sydney Tower, in the middle of the city, built on a Westfield Mall. The revolving restaurant on the top of the tower offers a spectacular view of the city, one that allowed me to get a grip on how large and sprawling the city actually is. Sure, it isn't near the size of my own “City of Angels,” but it still stretches out as far as the eye can see, and believe me, I could see quite far from up there.
Third stop of any interest was the artsy little flea market in Foundation Park. All sorts of interesting crafts and stuff. I picked up a pair of cufflinks made from a pair of Soviet era automatic watches, as well as a new production Nepalese Singing Bowl, and couldn't be more pleased with either purchase. We then walked to a nearby marina, boarded a boat, and went on a dinner tour of Sydney Harbor. Enjoyable enough, and 3g kept me amused with the ride went long.
Final stop of significance was the Aquarium. Fun, but not nearly as impressive as our very own Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. There was a platypus exhibit, but I was unable to find the duck-billed curiosity within. Unfortunate.
We finished off the day with meat pies before returning to the hotel, where I excused myself to the bar, where I write this now.
Another day, another airport, another city, another hotel, and another overpriced beer. I do believe I've been spoiled by the cheap, delicious beers of Europe(how I miss it so). Imagine, for the price of the bottled domestic brew in front on me, I could easily purchase six times that in Prague, five times that in Vienna, and even three times that in the USA. Ridiculous. I've not changed much money for this trip, thinking that it would be short, therefore cheap. Instead, I now believe I will need to find an exchange desk within the next four days or so, especially if the price of alcohol is indicative of the cost of basic goods in the country.
I left Taipei last night, taking the red-eye down to Sydney. The flight was not particularly taxing, except for the sad fact I've watched all the movies I had even a slight interest in, the unexpected consequence of flying so many times in such a short period. Sydney reminds me of Los Angeles, but a much cleaner, friendlier, infinitely less ghetto and slummin' Los Angeles. With a real river.
Didn't do much on this firrst day. We visited an Art Museum, St Mary's Cathedral, and had a small walkabout in Hyde Park. Really, the only stop of any real import was the Sydney Opera House. We went on a tour of that symbol of the city. I admit, it was smaller than I had thought it would be, but still quite impressive. The late afternoon sun shimmered in an unexpected manner on the tile covered exterior. I hadn't even known the exterior was tiled, nor had I known that said tiles were in two shades! The interior was mostly wood panel and bare concrete, and while interesting, didn't seem to match the awe the exterior provoked. I suppose I may have been expecting too much.
The hotel we're staying in tonight borders the old Olympic Park. I wonder if any city actually uses its Olympic facilities after said Olympics? In a cost effective manner?
I'm about to finish drink number 2, and lacking the financial resources to drink more at these prices, I'll wrap this up an head off to bed. A new, hopefully cheaper, adventure awaits tomorrow.