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Pi - Squaring the Circle

The mysterious and wonderful pi is reduced to a gargle that helps computing machines clear their throats.
Philip J. Davis, The Love of Large Numbers

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3.141592653...

Draw a circle of any radius on a piece of paper. Now draw a square whose area exactly matches that of the circle you've just drawn. Whilst your attempting this I'll ramble on a bit about the mystery of pi.

What is pi?

As we all learnt at school pi is what you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter and the area of a circle is given by computing the square of its radius and multiplying by pi. But can any of us actually give the exact value of pi? Some might remember it to four decimal places - 3.1415, others might remember nine (3.141592653) although I would guess most of us would have difficulty remembering it to two digits. Of course, it is impossible to give the exact value, since its digits after the decimal place do not repeat in any form - that is they are completely random. Getting back to the problem mentioned above, if you have solved it then you have found the exact value of pi, more likely though you won't have. This is because in order to do this you would need to know the exact value of pi. Something nobody has achieved yet, not even with the help of the most powerful super computers. And this is something I find amazing. We have put a man on the moon, we communicate with mobile phones smaller than our palms, we clone sheep, we have deciphered the genetic code - Christ - I've just read we are on the verge recreating a black hole (not the best thing to be attempting...) but we can't determine pi. To put this more bluntly, it is impossible to calculate the exact area of the circle you drew above. It's a finite object - how on earth can we not be able to determine its exact area?

In Quest of digits

The record for caculating the digits of pi stands at 51 billion digits (Kanada and Takahashim, 1997). Probably the most interesting characters in determining pi are the Chudnovsky brother, who became so obsessed with this number, that they have built their own supercomputer in their apartment. They correctly calculated pi to over 8 billion digits on this computer in 1996. Another interesting person in this never ending quest is Srinivasa Ramanujan. Ramanujan was born in southern India in 1887 and whilst at school it quickly became apparent he was a prodigy at maths. Eventualy he came into contact with an english professor, G.H. Hardy (having been rejected by two others as a crackpot). Hardy reasoned that the equations he had been sent were so bizzare that they must be true, since nobody could have invented them! Ramanujan then travelled to England to study, but sadly soon became chronically ill and finally died in 1920, back in India. Even today, mathematicians are still unravelling the equations Ramanujan wrote down and are using them to generate algorithms for calculaitng pi.

Want to find out more? Go to "The Joy of Pi" at www.joyofpi.com or buy the book of the same title by David Blatner.

Camden Town

Here are were some photos of Camden, the area I lived in for the best part of two years. A more bizzare, interesting, diverse and touristy place all wrapped in one is not known to me anywhere on earth. It is unique.

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There is something here for everybody - as long as you like things to be different. The highstreet is packed with tourists and locals alike on weekends, especially on sunny summer sundays, but even on cold wet days in winter this place is bursting to the brim. The attraction is obvious, the brightly coloured shops with their huge signs attached to the walls are equally strange as the somehwat run down Stables Market area full of little stalls selling anything from Cheap CDs to 60s clothing, from authentic american indian artefacts to the latest and coolest in techno clothing, from PVC to fetish and bondage gear! Beer, food and drinks are also available freely here, as are drugs (if you know where to look - not that I would advise anybody to try them) and other illegal goods. This place sells pretty much anything there is demand for. Other places worth seeing here are the Roundhouse (always hosting interesting shows) and the Chalk Farm Art Gallery, easily my favourite art gallery due to its consistently high quality and original displays. Two shops you have to enter are Cybderdog (for all things techno) and Cyber Goth (for all things fetish!).

Nightlife in Camden (and also Kentish Town to the north) is equally lively. I won't go through listing all the pubs, but particular favourites of mine are the Oxford Arms (for it unassuming atmosphere and the fact that it contains a theatre), the Lock Tavern (near the main entrance to the Stables Market) and the Enterprise (near Chalk Farm tube station). Foodwise the local Wagamama is always a good option, but a special recommendation has to go to a small lebanese takeaway on Parkway (about 5 minutes from Camden tube on the left hand side) for its fantastic shish kebabs. Clubbing depends on your tastes, for 70s and 80s cheese go to the Electric Ballroom just next to Camden tube station. If you like things to be more hard rock go to the Underworld (opposite Camden tube station) and if you like techno then the Camden Palace is the place to be (near Mornington Crescent). Finally the Forum in Kentish Town is also worth a visit.

I have included some pictures below, but they do not do the place justice. Camden is a place you have to be in order appreciate the atmosphere - it cannot be experienced over the internet.
Unfortunately these have been lost on the interwebs!

Spain

Madrid and Toledo

The first thing that struck me on arrival in Madrid was the relaxed nature of everything, especially for a capital city (compare London!). The second thing was the amount of people on the streets at midnight - it was a Tuesday! I knew I was going to like this place.

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Madrid is a strange place, very lively and plenty to do, but somehow there are few things that are outstandingly beautiful. Certainly the Palacio Real is impressive in its size and the Plaza Mayor (and surroundings) is great for cafes and relaxing, but the beauty of Madrid lies in its way of life - busy, but still relaxed. The small alleys and roads around Puerto del Sol are great for wandering around in the evenings and the area around Lavapies contains a curious mix of Africans, Arabs, Asians and Caribbeans.

ToledoA nice day trip from Madrid is Toledo, a beautiful medieval town full of tiny alleys and cafes as well as an interesting castle (Alcazar) and Cathedral. There are also some nice bridges leading to the old town centre.

Backstreets of ToledoWould I recommend visiting Madrid? Just about - mainly for the attraction around it, Madrid not being particularly touristy. Could I see myself living there? Absolutely. Madrid appears to be more easily appreciated as local than a tourist.

Segovia and Avila

Segovia CastleMy plan was to head to Segovia for a day and then continue on to Avila, as they are just next to each other on the map. So on arrival I checked for buses from Segovia to Avila and found that the only bus that day was at 19.45! What sort of a time is that? Surely there ought to be one in the morning as well? So much for that idea. Anyway the things most worth seeing in Segovia (and you can hardly miss them) are the aquaduct and the fairy tale like castle. The aquaduct is noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly it is 2000 years old and secondly it it was built without mortar - just brick upon brick. 2000 years old and still standing - they don't build things like that anymore. The castle on the otherhand is a largely rebuilt structure after a fire destroyed the original. A fair bit of artisitic licence was used in the rebuild and whilst it looks extremely pretty, it is not exactly authentic. It does however afford nice views of Segovia and its surroundings.

Segovia AquaductAn interesting walk goes round the edge of the town (just follow the green route on the free tourist map) and winds through a nice park. It also gives interesting views of the castle. For fantastic views of Segovia take a stroll up the road to the bizzarly named village of Zamarramala(!). This is also a nice place to catch a glimpse of spanish village life.

AvilaThe next day I headed back to Madrid in order to get to Avila, due to the rediculous bus times mentioned above. The striking thing about Avila are its completely intact city walls. Also the interior of the cathedral is interesting and slightly dazzling, due to the red limestone in the bricks.

Burgos

BurgosAfter Avila, my plan was to head north to Bilbao, changing in Burgos, but again this went horribly wrong. I arrived in Burgos and went to buy a ticket to Bilbao on an express train, but the train was fully booked. This is something unknown in England (trains are never fully booked, they just cram you in even tighter). So I ended up staying two nights in Burgos.

Initially Burgos struck me as rather dull, but this was probably due to the fact that it was Monday lunchtime and nobody was around. In fact there are a couple of nice monastries either side of the town. Both can be reached along interesting walks through parks along the river. There is also an interesting cathedral (as in all spanish towns) and there are nice views from the hilltop view point behind the cathedral. In the end I really enjoyed my stay here and it turned out to be a really lively city in the evenings. Next I headed back to Madrid for two days, checking out the Prado, before heading home.

To me the Prado is a very boring museum. Row after row of portrait paintings - unless you have a degree in "History of Spanish Art" you won't see much sense in all of this (well I didn't anyway). I spent 90 minutes walking around the place and only found four interesting paintings. There were the "El dos de Mayo" and "El tres de Mayo" by Goya, a painting of a woman squirting her breast milk into a priests mouth and a painting which included a man with a flower up his arse by Bosch, a flemish artist (which explains it all!).

Round the world trip diary

You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts that you wouldn't have lost if you hadn't left home in the first place.
Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There

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Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. California
  3. Hawaii
  4. Fiji
  5. New Zealand
  6. Australia
  7. Indonesia
  8. Malaysia
  9. Singapore
  10. Thailand
  11. Hong Kong
  12. Expenditure
  13. Hostels and Guesthouses

1. Introduction 

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Here you will find a copy of my complete diary that I wrote whilst away. I am not an English student so don't expect any works of art, but I do hope you find it interesting. It basically reflects the mood I was in and my thoughts at the time. A lot of it is probably a tad boring, especially in "western" countries such as the USA and New Zealand. If you have any queries or comments, just get in touch.

2. California

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Los Angeles. Wednesday, 15th October 1997

Arrived in LA from Frankfurt. Flight Ok. Good service - Air New Zealand. Didn't sleep much though. Found the shuttle bus to YH in Santa Monica no problem. An older lady was also on the bus and stayed in the in the YH too.
Met one of the people in my room of 6. He's actually living in LA, but is in the middle of moving house and so is staying here for a month. Weather is very warm and fairly humid.
They are in the middle of a heat wave. Hostel is well equipped, but pricey ($20 inc tax). They seem to organise plenty of stuff.

Thursday, 16th October

Walked around Santa Monica beach. Quite empty, but should fill up on weekend. SM pier is quite interesting/pretty. It's got a big wheel on it. Plenty of well trained and bronzed bodies
around. Went to the BBQ organised by the hostel in the evening. It was eat as much as you can for 5 bucks - but I only had two burgers and some pasta.

Friday, 17th October

Went to "Norms" for breakfast - a couple of blocks away, with Howard (the guy I met yesterday). I had the "All American" dish - which turned out to be a typical European breakfast. As opposed to the European breakfast that
Howard ate - which looked pretty American! The place was what I would described as typical sort of US diner for the lower class and therefore me. Went to Venice Beach, but it was foggy, so I couldn't see much. The beach walk has
got some funny vendors, eg photos with an alien family. Some bloke goes around SM collecting tins from bins and makes them into puppies and then sells them. He's everywhere. The chess corner in SM is quite interesting. Some
very shady people here, all playing chess!

Saturday, 18th October

The YH messed up my reservation so I didn't have a bed for Saturday and Sunday. The same thing happened to a bloke from NZ. So we went to the Share-tel-apts in Venice Beach, 20 Brooks. It's only $15 and seems Ok. Walked around
a bit and watched people play chess. There was a Russian grand master giving lessons for $100. He taught Kasparov and some other guys (apparently). The bloke who seems to run the place is quite funny and speaks about 4 languages,
including German so I spoke to him a bit as well as this other German bloke who was there. Went out in Venice in the evening with the guy from NZ.

Sunday, 19th October

Walked around SM and Venice. Venice is quite something on a Sunday. The things people do to make money!! Bloke on roller blades with guitar singing songs to passers by, the bloke from the Chess corner playing 5 at once
(and beating them all), one man band imitating Michael Jackson, fire artist guy and loads more. SM also had an "off ice hockey" (=hockey on roller blades) and beach volleyball tournaments.

Monday, 20th October

Checked out of Share-tel-apts. Walked down to SM. Venice on Monday morning is so quiet compared to Sunday afternoon. Saw lifeguard in action (for real) just by the pier. Some bloke had apparently almost drowned. A baby seal also
came ashore a few minutes later - apparently also wanting some attention. The guy who was going to drive me to San Francisco couldn't find me and is coming again tomorrow. He'll refund my night in Share-tel-apts.

San Francisco. Tuesday, 21st October

Saw a filming of some US series on the Venice Beach walk. Got lift with Holger to SF and arrived at 3am at the Globe Inn.

Wednesday, 22nd October

Went to Coit tower, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and Crookedest Street. Saw some people gambling near the wharf (which hat's the ball under) for $500!

Thursday, 23rd October

Saw Golden Gate Bridge. Went out in the evening in Folsom (Hostel area in SoMa). I later found out this is a gay area, which explains why I didn't see many girls about.

Friday, 24th October

Checked out the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown and the Civic Centre. They were also filming Nash Bridges (I think) on Pier 41. Chinatown is interesting although more authentic if you're not on Grant Ave. Bus 30 goes through Stockton
and is quite a nice ride. The bloke in the camera shop wants an Everton flag from me and in return gave me a free film.

Saturday, 25th October

Got the bus to Golden Gate Park. There was an interesting discussion on the bus. People were having a go at the driver for the poor transportation system. Buses don't turn up and get cancelled without reason (Hello British Rail).
Typical conversation:

Tourist: How do I get to Market Street and 27th - is it Bus #9?

Driver: Yeah, or Bus #27, maybe bus #49.

Passenger 1: No, Bus #15, Bus #49 don't run no more!

Passenger 2: Yeah, but Bus #9 is best.

Driver: #49 don't run? Oh!

Passenger 1: Since about 2 years.

Driver: Take Bus #9 or #27 then. Are you a tourist, then take #9.

Tourist: No, I am trying to get home!

This then leads to a discussion on Politics and Muni (the transport system). Bloke/Woman (couldn't tell) next to me slagged off Muni no end. Saying how drivers have run over 3 pedestrians and didn't notice. People also die on buses as
they are trying to get to hospital, but can't afford an ambulance. Got of the Golden Gate Park and visited the California Museum of Science. One of the guards there was originally from Germany (Münster) and came to the US via Canada in
the 50s. He doesn't like all the technological gizmos coming in now. Said an average US citizen earns about $20 per hour. He gets $14. He got me a free entry to the Laserium (laser show). Met some German blokes back at the hostel and stayed
up till about 5am.

Sunday, 26th October

Got up, went down, had a coke and met one of the German blokes again. He was promptly accused of sexually harassing a girl last night. I had to translate between him and hostel owner. I feel they got the wrong guy, since I was playing
chess with him till 5am. But then what do I know? Having walked around town a bit and thought about it, I think he's probably guilty. He said my room (308) and 306 were open all night and he's in 307. He did go upstairs a couple of times for
longer than necessary I thought. He could say he went into the wrong room once, but it happened at least twice. So I reckon he's guilty. Went to Cow Palace to see what's going on. It's the Grand Rodeo National. It was $22 to get in, so I
couldn't afford it. There were plenty of people in cowboy hats, checked shirts and boots there. Spent evening chatting to some people. There was Dave, who's a business man who's stopped working and is 'learning and travelling' at the moment.
He seems to have seen the 'light' - whatever that is. Paul a laid back bloke, quite funny though. Dave a Frenchman who's your stereotypical charming French bloke ("I love trying to understand women"). A German bloke from Stuttgart, Georgina
and boyfriend Simon who had both been travelling for a year and played on their didgeridoo. And some very strongly opinionated Danish guy.

Monday, 27th October

Went to Twin Peaks. Excellent view of SF and GGB. Stayed until sunset. This made me realise why getting a tour bus can really suck. Get off. Look for 5 minutes. Get on. Go. The sunset was beautiful and they all missed it. Then went to Sky
Deck for great views of SF by night. Talked to Georgina and Simon again and went to Cassidy's for a few hours. Talked to Phionna and Sonia from NZ. They're off to Las Vegas tomorrow. They're a good laugh. Then talked to Dave and some Danish
bloke about Northern Ireland/England problem, different cultures merging etc. This place should be called Philosophers Corner or something.

Tuesday, 28th October

Went to SF Maritime Museum and didn't do much else.

Wednesday, 29th October

Saw Japantown, which wasn't very interesting. Simply had a tower and a shopping center. Also went to Alcatraz, which was very good. Had an interesting audio tour. Apparently most of what Hollywood shows with respect to Alcatraz is crap
(hardly surprising). "The Great Escape" is about the most realistic (with Clint Eastwood).

Thursday, 30th October

Decided to stay a few more days. Went to Museum of Modern Arts. Quite interesting and had a good display of police photographic evidence. Went out in the evening with Anita and friends to Cassidy's and Blue Lamp(?) on Geary St.

Friday, 31st October

Halloween!! Went to Mission Dolores during the day, which was very pretty. The Latino area seems OK, quite pretty. Halloween was good. Didn't drink much though, but partied all night. The party was at the Civic Centre for $5. Various
costumes were spotted including "Wicked Witch of the WWW", "Thing 1 and 2", a table lamp, rubbish bin, plenty of other witches, draculas, people bleeding, princesses, fairies and all sorts of other I couldn't figure out. A couple of fights
started on Falsom. Idiots. The whole thing wasn't quite as far out as I was expecting, but it was fun.

Saturday, 1st November

Didn't do much. Walked around town a bit and went to bed early, as I have to get up at 9am.

Los Angeles. Sunday, 2nd November

Going to LA again. Don't have accommodation yet, lets see how that works out. Going with Hostelling Express (Holger) again. Could actually see some of the country side this time. It's quite pretty. Staying at Banana Bungalows for 2 nights.
It's well equipped although a bit shabby, especially the toilets. Went to a Keg party for $5. Not very good. Played pool all night. A word on pool: You can always tell a British player playing pool, as he's the only one who knows how to hold
the cue! Kiwis and Aussies have a good go. The others use all sorts of different contortions to hold it straight. Met a nice a German couple and a big German lady who never seemed to stop eating.

Monday, 3rd November

Walked around Hollywood. Saw Hollywood sign from afar. Wow. Not. Basically Hollywood sucks. The stars are boring and Mann's Theatre only has a few interesting handprints (eg Darth Vader, R2D2 and C3PO). Getting the bus back to my Hostel I
missed the stop and ended up 1km up the road. Walking back was a bitch. No pavement. LA was not built for pedestrians. It's extremely hot here (99F - a new record in LA for this time of year). Apparently El Nino's not responsible this time.

San Diego. Tuesday, 4th November

Took the Greyhound bus to San Diego, which took 2h30 and met two nice English girls on the bus. Don't know if I could sit on one of these buses for more than an 8 hours though.
Having arrived in San Diego, I discovered I lost some of my travellers cheques. Some git must have nicked them out of my bag in Banana Bungalows. Anyway, I went to the American Express office in SD, phoned the main office from there and
got them refunded no problem. Walked around the Gas Lamp Quarter, which is the main touristy area of SD. Relaxed in the evening, watching various US tv shows which I finally had the chance of viewing in the original language (i.e. not dubbed
into German). The place I am staying is quite nice (Grand Pacific Hostel). Just a bit load due to the roadworks outside.

Wednesday, 5th November

Had a free breakfast at the hostel, which was OK. The only European news in the paper was of strikes in France. They sure know how to put socialism in a bad light. Walked along the Embarcadero and saw the "Star of India", a sailing ship
built in the UK in the 1800's. It used to sail emigrants to New Zealand and Australia and was originally called Eustre (or similar). The cabins (for the wealthier travellers) had 4 bunks in them. 2 wide and 2 thin ones. I thought the wide
ones for adults and the thin ones for children. In fact they were both slept two people! By this ratio my bed at home would sleep about 4 people quite comfortably! Met the two girls from the bus walking along the sea front. They are now
staying with friends.

Thursday, 6th November

Went to SD Zoo. It was quite interesting. The Orang Utans were cool! Also learned that Koalas have the best life. They can only eat eucalyptus leaves. These however don't provide enough nutrition, so they have to sleep for the rest of
the day. Result: Koalas sleep for 20 hours a day and spend the remaining 4hrs eating leaves.

Friday, 7th November

Got transport to the Old Town. This was typical American commercialism I guess. Everything was meant to look old, but none of it actually was. About the oldest thing there was an old cart out the back of the museum. The museum itself was
actually quite interesting, although I was about the only in it. But it's a nice area to eat Mexican food and buy Mexican goods - even if all this stuff probably costs about a tenth the price across the border in Mexico. Then went on to Presidio
Park. They were excavating an old Spanish mission. Two ladies behind wondered why they hadn't got very deep. What are they expecting, a skyscraper? From what I could learn in the park (which had quite a nice museum) the Spanish started settling
in California because they feared the Russians might get it otherwise. That could have changed history somewhat. They first settled in the 1750's, so it's not even 250 years old by western counting. And it's not until the mid 1800's that people
actually started coming here in crowds. Not much history round this part of the world me thinks. Went to the cinema (saw Starship Troopers) and got to bed quite early. I've been quite tired since arriving in SD, must be in the air.

Saturday, 8th November

Checked out Coronado Island. It's pretty, well kept and is definitely for rich people only. Also saw an aircraft carrier there, since this is a big US Navy base. The thing was absolutely massive. Walked around Hotel Coronado, where they filmed
"Some like it hot" with Marilyn Monroe as well as other famous film (which I can't remember now...). Bumped into Phionna and Sonia (from the Globe Hostel, SF). It's a small world. They'd been to Las Vegas and Phoenix. Went out for a couple of
beers with them. I also watched "I know what you did last Summer" in the afternoon in the cinema. This was an experience, not so much for the film (which was good though), but for the audience. In Europe audiences are generally reserved and calm.
Not so over here. Their screaming scared me more than the actual film!

Los Angeles. Sunday, 9th November

Got bus back to LA and am now staying in Hollywood Hostel, right on Hollywood Blvd and near Mann's Theatre. Met a guy I knew from Venice Beach in my room and bought a ticket to Universal Studios with him for tomorrow. Watched the file "Casino"
in the evening, which had a couple of really brutal scenes. I don't want to sound prude, but do they really need to be that graphic. I am not so sure.

Monday, 10th November

Went to Universal Studios for the day. It was chucking it down all day. This meant that whilst the queues were small we still got soaked. The guided tram tour around the back lot hasn't changed in about 15 years. The rides have though.
"Back to the Future" was excellent. "Jurassic Park" was wet (not that it mattered much) and "Backdraft" was OK. We spent half hour time in Backdraft in order to dry up from the rain!!

Tuesday, 11th November

Went to see "Devils Advocate" at Mann's Theatre. Film was OK. Then got the shuttle bus to the airport and flew to Hawaii.

3. Hawaii

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Honolulu. Wednesday, 12th November

Arrived at about midnight last night at the hostel, which seems OK (Interclub Waikiki). Sunbathed most of the afternoon and bought some swimming shorts. Waikiki beach is full of surfers. There appears to be hundred of them bobbing up and
down in the sea waiting for a wave. Seems like a social thing, a place to hang out, out on the sea. The weather is quite weird here too. Within about 30 min you get sun, partly clouded, covered, rain, drizzle etc. Basically all types of weather.
This then continues all day. But it's always warm. The beach is actually quite small and always packed. Walked up to Diamond Hill with Tim, a bloke I met in my room. We walked around the wrong side of the crater and then got a taxi to the entrance,
since we were tired. You were supposed to bring a flashlight to get to the top, but we didn't have one and thought sod it and went anyway. Half way up you have to walk through some sort of cave structure where it is pitch black. Now we know for next
time. The hike up took about 20mins, but was pretty exhausting and we didn't have much water with us. In the evening I went out to some pubs with the guys from my room and got quite drunk. There's quite a few hookers around here. Must be for all the
rich Japanese business men. They seem quite high class anyway. The other guys in my room are Chris (Welsh), Mark (South Africa) and Todd (Cape Cod, US) and all seem OK.

Thursday, 13th November

Spent the day in the beach again and I appear to have the flu now. Damn. Bought my ticket to Hilo (Big Island) for tomorrow.

Hilo. Friday, 14th November

Flew to Hilo and am staying at Arnott's Lodge. They do loads of relatively cheap trips ($36). Feeling a bit better today, hopefully I'll be OK again tomorrow. Have decided to go on two trips (Waterfall and Volcano tours). There's also a nice little
black sand beach round the corner from here.

Saturday, 15th November

Went on the Waterfall trip with Butch, July, Ken and Debbie (the guide). The first waterfall was quite a hike up a small river canyon full of rocks and boulders. Quite tiring, especially as I am still slightly ill! But there was a nice pool in
front of the waterfall where you could swim in. The 2nd waterfall was similar to the first one, but easier to get to and we arrived at the top and so had a nice view down. The last two waterfalls were more touristy and easy to get to (Kakuna and Akaka).
They were both nice and quite large though. Also saw Onomea Bay which is pretty and the house of an ex-astronaut who appears to have gone mad and painted his house and walls all funny colours. Had a BBQ in the evening and watched Gecko's eat insects all
evening in the lounge area. Met Thomas, Holger and this other guy all from Germany and all staying in my dorm.

Saturday, 16th November

Went on the Volcanoes National Park tour. Stan, the driver was a complete anti-ranger, anti-US sort of guy who never stopped talking about his run-ins with the law. He's an 8th Hawaiian (or so), so feels the land is his. Saw all sorts of craters,
smoking pots, pit-craters, ex lava flows, broken/fallen roads, trees, lava shapes etc. All the guys on the trip seemed to be German. There was Petra, Holger, Christoph, Stephan (all German), Simon (from New Zealand) and Audrie and Mark (both Scottish). So
I have travelled half way round the world and met 7 German speakers in about 2 days. Hmm. I might as well have stayed at home. Anyway, one story the guide told was of this couple who were sitting by the side of a steam pit. They lost their balance and
fell in. The guy was able to climb out and ran for help. But nobody could do anything and the poor girl got steamed to death. This, you can imagine, is an awful way to die as it takes a while. So be careful should you ever fancy wandering too close to
these steam pits. They are very dangerous. Also bumped into some native Hawaiians performing a ritual around one of these steam pits. We just walked straight past as Stan didn't want to disturb them. You can actually see the paths left by various lava
flows in the mountain. Hawaii is one big volcanic piece of land. This makes it very porous and thus if it doesn't rain for about 5 days, there's a drought. The Hawaiian islands are formed through volcanic activity, since the islands are over what is called
a hot spot. They are not on a plate ridge. Thus as the plate moves a new island starts to form as the old one moves further away from the hot spot. This is actually clearly visible on a map. The Big Island is the newest of the lot and is still active. All
the other islands are sinking back into the ocean.

Monday, 17th November

Walked into Hilo. But there wasn't much to do there so I came back to the hostel. They had also cancelled the lava trip due to bad visibility or something and I was just getting ready for a quiet afternoon/evening when Tim (from Honolulu, who arrived
yesterday) comes in and says he's going to drive down to the lava, do I want to come? So I join him. We drive as close as is possible in a normal car and then decide to walk the rest of it, seeing the smoke plumes in the distance. About 30 mins into the
hike we meet a couple coming back and they inform us that it is still 2 hours to walk, but there's jeeps there who drive you back in the dark. So we continue walking. It soon starts to get dark and after 2 hours it's almost pitch black and we bump into
a sign saying Danger, blah blah. After another half an hour it is pitch black and the plumes still appear to be way off and decide to walk back. Of course by this point we had lost the path which was carved into lava field, which we were walking over.
This was actually getting quite dangerous, since the lava field does tend have rather large holes and gaps in it. At this point we are thinking, "if only we had taken some flashlights with us, as is required for the guided tour." Anyway after about another
hour, having found the road again and heading back a jeep comes past and gives us a lift - for 10 bucks each of course. One thing which amazed me was just how black it was. There was no moon to be seen and since lava fields are black anyway, not much in the
way of reflected light. What this basically meant was that I couldn't see my own feet and therefore had no idea what I was treading on!!!

Tuesday, 18th November

Went to Mauna Kea and saw the Keck Observatories. The minibus was full of Germans, except for a Canadian bloke, poor guy. So far, everywhere I have been in Hawaii as been packed with them. Nothing against Germans, I live there, but I go on holiday to
meet people of other nationalities... Anyway, Mauna Kea was nice, quite a weird countryside. Looks a bit like Mars. I wonder if that little buggy they sent to Mars (Pathfinder?) didn't actually drive round here. It was also freezing and so windy, you could
barely stand up. The path to the very top of the mountain was off limits due to the wind. The guide was in a hurry to get off the top of the mountain. I was thinking, surely it can't be that bad. Well, I was wrong. Two hours later they had a few feet of
snow up there. Always listen to the guide.... Also walked down a 200m lava tube.

Wednesday, 19th November

Did the South Tour trip with 2 Swiss girls, an Australian and 4 English. Went to a black sand beach and swam with turtles there. Wow. It's really impressive snorkelling within reach of turtles. Great. Then went on to a green sand beach in a small bay and
went for a swim there. The water was unbelievably warm and the waves were fairly big. Great fun. I think the place was also a nudist beach since we seemed to scare a couple of them away when we arrived. Finally went to Southpoint. Quite nice. There's a point
where you can jump 40ft into the sea and climb up using a ladder. But the guide advised us not to, since the sea was very rough. In the evening I finally got to see 'live' lava. Went to back to the same place as I was a few days back - in a jeep this time.
Only had to walk for 15 mins. You could see the lava flow into the sea below and also trickle down the hillside up above. Quite an experience. I had to keep reminding myself that this is real and not some Hollywood special effect trick.

Honolulu. Thursday, 20th November

Got flight back to O'ahu. This took all day, because I had to hang around at the airport for three hours due to a defect on hour plane. Eventually we flew with another plane.

Friday, 21st November

Got a bus to Pearl Harbour, but arrived too late to actually visit the memorial proper. But you could see it from the shore. Checked out a shopping mall in the evening for some books.

Saturday, 22nd November

Did a 'local bus' tour of the island with a German bloke from my room. Went to Haleiwa. This took about 2 hours and lies on the north shore of O'ahu. The town was quite quaint and the waves were impressive. Continued round to the east coast and saw Chinaman's
Hat from the bus. The bus driver had a short temper. Some guy kept on pulling the "stop" cord, but nobody was getting off. So the driver got off and refused to get back in until the responsible person got off. Eventually he was persuaded to drive on, but then he
stopped half an hour later to make a phone call and then made us all get on the bus in front!! Saw Susan from Arnott's Lodge at Burger Kings. She's going on to Invercargil in New Zealand to work in a hospital for a year. Who knows I might meet her down there. She's
also on the same flight as me to Fiji.

Sunday, 23rd November

Snorkelled at Hanauma Bay. It's a very nice beach but you have to pay $3 to get in. This is OK though, because the reason they charge is to protect the coral. The coral was pretty dead, but the fish were awesome. All sorts of colours, shapes and sizes (Note:
these were probably the best fish I saw snorkelling anywhere on my trip). Walked to the same shopping centre as on Friday. This was actually quicker than getting the bus. Went past a few big hotels which was interesting. The Hilton Hawaiian Village just had their
daily flag changing ceremony. I didn't know whether to think this was interesting or just plain sad. Probably the latter.

Monday, 24th November

It rained all day, so I didn't do much. But I am flying out at 0040 on Tuesday morning so it doesn't matter. I had to translate between a German and the stewardesses, because the guy didn't have an onward ticket from Samoa and thus they wouldn't let him on the
plane. They seemed happy I could help. Maybe I should have asked for an upgrade.

4. Fiji

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Nadi, Fiji. Tuesday, 25th November

Flew to Fiji. This was the shortest day in my life. It lasted all of about 3 hours. I crossed the international date line and therefore lost a day.

Wednesday, 26th November

Walked into Nadi and got quite a culture shock. Seemed to look more like India (Fiji has a huge Indian population). People trying to sell you stuff everywhere and they are persistent. (In hindsight they were as bad here as anywhere else I have been, except for
maybe Bali). I was talked into buying two necklaces. At first the guy wanted F$28 for one. Eventually I got two for F$20. At one point he said pick out things that you like and we'll discuss the price later. So there I was picking out a few things I liked with him
always trying to get me to pick out the expensive looking stuff. I showed him 4 or 5 pieces and he said "Oh, fine that'll be F$135 after putting in some dodgy numbers into his calculator. Anyway I just laughed and said no thanks, then bought the two necklaces. Walking
down the street I then saw them being sold at about $7 each in a shop so I didn't do too bad. Talked to two Norwegian girls (Irene and Eva) in the evening. They are flying on to Australia and doing a 4 month RTW. Seems to be the standard length for Norwegians. They
spoke extremely good English as well (well they all do I suppose). Also spoke to Neil and Violetta in the evening.

Waya Sewa. Thursday, 27th November

Got boat to Waya Sewa. First they dropped me off (by car) in Lautoka, where I had to wait for 2 hours. Would have been pretty dull, but I met two Kiwis also going to the same island (Kim and Joe) so it wasn't that bad. The boat was small, but at least covered and the
ride was smooth, taking about 2 hours. On arrival we were greeted by a small band! Lazed around a bit and went snorkelling in the afternoon. It's nice and peaceful, slow pace of life. There's a village just around the corner. You can see the kids jumping off rocks into
the water. The locals are friendly and the visitors as well (quite a nice mixture from Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand). Drunk some Kava, which tastes funny and looks like muddy water. The sunset was beautiful. There's an even smaller island just south of here,
just close enough to swim to. Sounds interesting. The place works on a tally system and you pay for everything when you leave.

Friday, 28th November

Went reef snorkelling in the morning. The reef was much nicer than Hanauma Bay, but the fish weren't as good. I think I've been spoilt in that respect. Watched a traditional Fiji ceremony (Kava Drinking!) and some dancing. That was brilliant. The villagers are so friendly.
Having seen Nadi, where they all just want your money, it's hard to get used to the idea, that these guys are just friendly with no ulterior motive. Had some Kava at the ceremony, which was performed by Fiji men. The dancing was done by both and was funny. The families all sat
to the side and just cracked up laughing half the time. I think this was because one of the performers didn't have a clue what was going on. They didn't take it too seriously which was nice. Joined in some of the dancing, at which I was quite rubbish, even though it was fairly
easy. Played Volleyball with the locals. Again they were very friendly. i.e. they didn't mind that I was useless, but they still wanted to win - competitive but friendly. In the evening I went down to the beach for a drink with Oli, Joe and Kim until about 11pm. When all the
lights go out (the place runs on a generator at night, from 8 till 10 or so), the view of the stars is simply breathtaking.

Saturday, 29th November

Basically did nothing all day. Great! Went snorkelling to the north of the beach and saw some more coral and a weird long thing which was probably a sea cucumber. In the evening we just sat around talking and listening to Fijian music. Robin and another guy were drinking
Kava all night. I had a couple of cups and did some dancing. Quote of the day comes from Oli:

"Why do I have to be born in England, when you can get born here? They must have done something good in their previous life."

Sunday, 30th November

Was due to go to church in the village nearby. But this was cancelled because one of the elders had died a week ago and most of the villagers were still on the mainland. Watched TV instead in the village with all the locals. They were interested in Rugby, since Fiji had
just won the Sevens in Hong Kong that year. The village is quite funny. Spread out, animals roaming around everywhere, children hanging out of the windows and so on. Everybody is so friendly it's great. Had the Lovo feast in the evening. They cook the meat on the ground under
some leaves for a couple of hours. The food has a distinct 'tangy' taste and takes some getting used to. The meat was cooked really well though. In the evening we sat around listening to some "western" music and drinking a few beers and talking. I'll be sad to leave. Could
easily stay here for a couple of weeks. A great big centipede cam to visit, which scared everybody. It was about 20cm long. Even the locals tried to kill it, which is always a bad sign.

Nadi. Monday, 1st December

Go the boat back to the main land and am staying in the Sunseekers Hotel again. Met Violetta again and Stuart from England who's been round Bolivia and Peru.

Navala. Tuesday, 2nd December

Violetta persuaded me to go to Navala Village today. Got the bus with her to Lautoka where she had to find something out about Waya island. Bought half a kilo of Kava roots as a sevu sevu (gift) for the village chief and then got the bus to Ba. From here I then got another
Bus to Navala and met Kurt (from Germany) who was going there too. The ride was slow but fun. It stopped for somebody to get off and look for some sunglasses he had hidden under a pile of rocks. But he couldn't find them! On arrival we were greeted by the "Tourist Officer" who
brought us to the chief's Bure (house, the biggest in the village). Here we gave our sevu sevu (the Kava root) to the chief and paid him the F$15 entry fee. In the evening I got a nice meal. Rice and tea would turn out to be the staple diet. The tea tastes nice, but in the
mornings they put milk in as well. And the milk doesn't taste too nice. But since milk appears to be a luxury here, you can't really refuse it. They have no electricity here and so use Kerosene and Benzene lamps. Everybody sleeps and lives in the same room which is quite funny.
The family I am staying with (Suli - grandfather, Teresa - mother, Philipo - toddler) are really friendly. The Bures are very basic, but provide everything you need to live. No tables or chairs. Everybody sits and lies on the floor. I slept on some straw mats on the floor which
were actually quite comfortable. The village is set out in lines of Bures. Each line is one family, but they all seem to be inter-related anyway. And the whole village is arranged such that two main "roads" form a cross in the middle of the village. They are Catholic here.
They also have a school and a church. The teachers live just outside the village in stone houses. Elesias,one of the teachers, is really chatty. During the day the animals all laze about, but after sunset, they wake up for half an hour and then go back to sleep. There are about
700 people living in the village, which was built around 1958 when three surrounding villages were moved together by the government. They are fairly self-sufficient, selling what they farm on the market. There is no direct concept of individuals owning land. You can farm as much
as you want (or can be bothered to harvest). Fijians generally seem to quite like the British (which is a change), because unlike most other colonies, they let the Fijians keep their land.

Wednesday, 3rd December

Had breakfast (rice) and walked halfway up the surrounding hill for a fantastic view of the village. In the afternoon I went for a swim in the river with just about all the kids from the village. That was a laugh. The games they play are similar to the ones I used to play as a kid.
They were all curious about me, asking me my name, where I was from etc. The girls were doing the washing in the river. They gave me some Mango. The kids could all dive for ages. They played games like diving for stones and tig in the water. Had a great time, spending about 4 hours in
the river and promptly missed afternoon tea. This was then served at 6 and not 4pm. In the evening it was time for the Kava drinking. There are strict rules to this. The visitor (me) and his spokesman (host,Suli) sit at the head of the mat. Then the hosts family members sit around the
tanua (the big bowl) in decreasing order of importance. Finally anybody else present sits behind the family members, as do the wives (although normally I think this a men only event). The visitor may only be spoken to through his spokesperson. The whole round has to sit crossed legged
until the host uncrosses his legs. This is kind of an endurance test and to show respect. Sitting crossed legged when this is not normal to you is quite difficult for longer periods of time. My legs really started to hurt at the end of my visit from all the cross legged sitting. Finally
once the Kava has been prepared, before accepting the bowl you have to say "Bula" and clap once. Whilst you are drinking everybody else claps three times. I had about 5 or 6 bowls and then went to sleep. Kava is mildly narcotic and thus has this effect on you after a while.

Thursday, 4th December

In the morning I went with a group of kids to get Breadfruit. These things grow on high trees and the kids climbed up with long bamboo poles to knock them off the branches. The kids are right posers and wanted photos all the time! I used up a whole film in about 30 minutes. They
are good climbers though and their soles of their feet must be as thick as leather. They were walking barefoot over sharp rocks etc. I had big boots on and felt like a right wuss. I got the bus at 1.30pm to Nadi. Before I left they gave me a couple of Christmas cards and I gave them a
crappy card of Darmstadt (that's all I had). I am writing this from the airport waiting for my plane. It's 8pm, the plane leaves at 7am and the seats are designed such that it's impossible to lie down and sleep.

5. New Zealand

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Auckland, New Zealand. Friday, 5th December

Managed to get on an earlier flight (5.30am) to Auckland. Then go bus to Auckland Central Backpackers. Had a walk round and went for a few beers in the evening in the roof top bar with Rachel and Sonia.

Saturday, 6th December

Decided to go on the Kiwi experience tour, which starts on Monday. Didn't do too much otherwise and watched some videos in the evening.

Sunday, 7th December

Woke up at 11.30 am. Again didn't get up to much. I think I am still stuck in the Fiji way of life and have yet to get used to 'hectic' culture over here. There was a fire alarm today in the Backpackers. This was about the most exciting thing of the evening.

Whittianga. Monday, 8th December

First day of Kiwi experience. Stopped off at Thames, Hakei (also called Cathedral Cove), One Tree Hill and Whittianga (for the night). Here we went to pub called Hookers for a few beers in the evening. Trip seems to be a good laugh.

Rotorua. Tuesday, 9th December

Went to Tauranga to see Mt Maunganui. Also saw a gold mine, before heading to Rotorua. This place is full of boiling pots and steam holes. Therefore it smells of sulphur. Went to Maori performance in the evening. We had to nominate a chief (Kevin) who had to greet their chief after he
had made a funny dance (we had to stop our selves from cracking up, since it was hilarious, but wasn't supposed to be - or maybe it was, who knows). Then we went into the meeting room and had to sing a song for the chief. Our group chose Jingle Bells since it was almost Christmas. Thing is
the group in there with us did the same! We greeted the other Maoris by rubbing noses (hongy). Then there was a meal afterwards, a hangy which is cooked on the ground much like in Fiji, except they used more modern tin foil instead of leaves! Finally they performed the Haka for us and we
tried to join in. Had a couple of beers in the lava bar after all this.

Taupo. Wednesday, 10th December

Saw the Huka Falls. They impressive firstly because of the way the water kind of shoots out instead of just falling down and secondly because of the very light blue colour of the waterfall. This is completely natural and is due to the clearness of the water apparently. Also saw some
Glow Worm caves and the Aranui Caves both if which were impressive. Staying in Taupo for two nights.

Thursday, 11th December

Walked to the Huka Falls this time. Quite strenuous, but worth it, since you have much more time. Also went sailing on Lake Taupo with a skipper called Bill Dawson on his boat. This is called Barbary and was once owned by Errol Flynn. The skipper was a funny chap. Watched Martin do a
Bungy Jump. The girl before him didn't jump. Had some beers in the pub in the evening and bumped into Bill Dawson again. He said he'd been to Darmstadt and stayed in the YHA by the "Woog". Just round the corner from me!!!

River Valley Lodge. Friday, 12th December

Went to River Valley Lodge, passing by Taranaki Falls (Tongarino National Park) the way. A place run by Fritz in a beautiful setting. They have all sorts of activities, but I can't really afford any. The only one I might want to do is river rafting, but it'll have to wait. To get across the river you have to pull yourself over on a sort of hanging
trolley type thing. In the evening we went to a Christmas party organised by all the local farmers. This was quite a laugh. Father Christmas was wearing sunglasses and arrived in a rubber dinghy on the back of pick up truck. What happened to the rein deer and the sleigh? There was a load of
Food there, which all got devoured by us backpackers once the locals had got their bit.

Wellington. Saturday, 13th December

Left River Valley and said goodbye to Chloe and Luc and co. Drove to Wellington. It seems like a nice city, has a nice feel to it. Went out to Molly Malones for a few beer sin the evening.

Sunday, 14th December

Walked around Wellington a bit and did some shopping etc.

Monday, 15th December

Did some sightseeing. The Beehive (parliament), Old St Paul's Cathedral (only 130 years and not very big), the national library and the financial district. Finally walked up to Mt Victoria look out which offered quite a nice view, but it was a bit cloudy.

Tuesday, 16th December

It rained all morning so I didn't get up to much. In the afternoon I did a bit of the Southern Walk. Wellington is also known as the Windy City. This is too true. In the three days I have been here, there hasn't been more than a few minutes when there wasn't what appeared to be a gale force
wind blowing.

Nelson. Wednesday, 17th December

Took the ferry to the South Island and cruised through the Marlborough sounds which was very pretty. Then got the Kiwi Experience bus to Nelson. Met the Canadians (Mark, Chloe etc.) again and had a big BBQ in the evening.

Thursday, 18th December

Decided to walk to the 'Center of New Zealand'. New Zealand being the hyperactive centre of the world, this would have to be up a great big hill. On the way I back I walked past Walters Bluff and Founders Park. The whole thing took about 2hrs30. Quite a nice little walk.

Friday, 19th December

Did a small hike along the Maitai river valley for about 4 hours. Beautiful - well everything in this country is I suppose.

Saturday, 20th December

It rained most of the day, so I didn't get up to much. Just got a message from home saying that I had a received a Merit in my Masters of Aeronautics Degree. This had to be celebrated, so I went out with some Canadians and a couple of German girls (Veronica and Stephanie). Went to Sharks Club,
which was more a billiard club than a proper pub.

Westport. Sunday, 21st December

Drove to Westport, past some pretty nice scenery. Buller River is apparently the 2nd biggest river, by volume, in the world after the Nile. Sounds a bit iffy, but could be right. Watched "Once were Warriors", an excellent film about modern day Maori life. Our bus driver's a Maori so he gave
some pretty interesting info on the situation at the moment.

No idea where! Monday, 22nd December

Drove to the Pancake Rocks (stunning) and stopped off at Cape Foulwind on the way, for trip to the seal colony. Had a dress-up party at the place we stayed at and got happily drunk.

Franz-Joseph Glacier. Tuesday, 23rd December

It was raining all day, so we stopped off at the Bushman's Centre. They showed us a possum and a great big boar. Also we had a go at archery, paintballing, knife throwing and axe throwing.

Wednesday, 24th December

Did the full day glacier hike. At least it felt a bit like home on Christmas Eve with all the ice, snow and old! Excellent experience but quite tough and I was only in the medium group. Walked through crevasses, caves, on steep ridges and past great big holes. It's very scary, especially if, like me
you are not an experienced hiker. I slipped at one point and grazed my hand. I think we were the doomed group since just about everybody in the group came away with some sort of injury. Also saw the remains of an aircraft which crashed here about 4 years ago. Some of the holed in the ice are over 100m
deep. So if you slip, you'd better hope that the stream at the bottom comes out at the end of glacier. The ropes of the guide are only 50m long! Once we came down from the glacier, walking through the woods on the way back I twisted my right ankle quite badly. This was a real bummer because I had
twisted my left ankles very badly two months before leaving on this trip. So now I have two weak ankles. Anyway, the whole day was an adventure and I swear I am not doing that again anytime soon. In the evening we had a few beers in the local pub on Christmas eve.

Makarora. Thursday, 25th December

Christmas Day. Drove to Makarora, passed Lake Matheson. This wasn't very interesting due to all the clouds. So you couldn't see crystal clear reflection of the Mountains. My ankle was quite bad this morning, but at least I can walk on it. We all pitched in for a couple of kegs of beer and had a big
piss up in the evening. Excellent!

Queenstown. Friday, 26th December

Drove from Makarora to Queenstown. Stopped off at Lake Hawea, Wanaka and Karawua Bungy - the original A.J. Hackett site. This part of New Zealand is absolutely beautiful. Queenstown is exactly as everybody says, "Adrenaline Capital of the World". Went to Abbey Road pub for a few beers and then on to
Casbah's for the night (NZ$1/beer). Here's my claim to fame: "took a piss next to Chuck Norris". Sad or what...

Saturday, 27th December

Did a day trip to Milford Sound. Beautiful. The sound was really impressive with all the waterfalls (it was raining all day - Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world). Saw loads of seals and the boat went right up to one of the waterfalls. Which was, surprisingly, wet. Went out to
Abbey Road, Casbah's, The World and Red Rock in the evening.

Sunday, 28th December

Got up late and walked around town with Margrett. Had dinner in Abbey Road and that was it for the day.

Dunedin. Monday, 29th December

The hostel I was staying at was booked up for New Years (Black Sheep Hostel), so I had decided to go to Dunedin. Just as I was leaving, the hostel got about 20 cancellations. Damn!! Anyway, the Manor House in Dunedin also seems ok, but not so lively.

Tuesday, 30th December

Walked around Dunedin. There's not much going on since it's more of a Student town and I guess they are all away during the holidays. Hopefully I am wrong. Dunedin is apparently the Celtic name for Edinburgh. It doesn't quite live up to it's name though.

Wednesday, 31st December

New Years Eve. Walked to Baldwin Street, the steepest road in the world. It certainly looked it and so I decided not to walk up it. Went out with the Danish lady I had met on the bus a few days back for a meal and she even paid, which was nice, since it was quite expensive. Then went to a couple of
pubs and ended up at the Octagon for the countdown. It was OK, but not that happening.

Thursday, 1st January 1998

Did nothing all day, except for relax.

Queenstown. Friday, 2nd January

Got the Atomic Shuttle back to Queenstown. I decided not to do a bungy jump, which I had been planning.

Mt Cook Village. Saturday, 3rd January

Got the Kiwi Experience bus to Mt Cook. Walked along Hooker Valley, but we, unknowingly, stopped just short of the "beautiful lake" (to quote Lonely Planet). Damn. The bus is not very full, but still a good laugh. People on bus include Patrick (Irish), Ken (English), Kurt (Fisherman from Alaska),
Michelle and Karin (Swiss), Samantha (Israeli) and Marti the driver.

Christchurch. Sunday, 4th January

Drove to Christchurch. Cooked a meal with Patrick, Kurt and Ken. Went downstairs to Baileys in the evening.

Monday, 5th January

Went for Breakfast with Kurt, Becky and Josie. Also bumped into Luc and Joel and the Danish lot. The walked around town. Saw the Botanical Gardens and the Wizard of Christchurch. The weathers pretty bad right now. Cold and wet. I thought it was supposed be summer here. In the evening I went to a cafe
with Pat, Karin and Samantha.

Tuesday, 6th January

Did some arrangements for my flight on Saturday and bought some books to read.

Wednesday, 7th January

Listened to the Wizard for a couple of hours. He's quite interesting and even has a website. Some ideas of his (NOT mine!!): "Socialists don't love the poor as much as they hate the rich" (agree), "Humanists think Jesus was a poor sod" (huh?), "Feminists, in wanting to be equal to Men actually
envy them" (no comment!). He also loves the Church of England and British things and thinks New Zealand's independence was a bad thing! Also claims the CoE saved the Pope three times in history (1066??, Napoleon and World War 2). Watched the film "The Full Monty", which was excellent.

Thursday, 8th January

Went up the Cathedral Spire. Wasn't really worth though, as Christchurch is not a particularly pretty city. Also went up the Gondola for views of Banks Peninsula. A bit hazy, but nice.

Friday, 9th January

Didn't do much of interest. Basically just getting ready for the flight to Sydney tomorrow morning.

6. Australia

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Sydney. Saturday, 10th January

Flew to Sydney and met Olaf at the airport, who I knew from Nelson. Checked into Globe Backpackers in Kings Cross. Walked around town, saw Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Didn't look as nice as in the photos, probably because it wasn't sunny. Sydney seems like 'cool' place. Bumped into the Spice Girls who were promoting "Spiceworld". Not bad for first day in Sydney. Went out to Mansions and Rhinos for a few beers. the street is bloody noisy all night and full of strip joints. Bikers go up and down the street all night, lights are flashing etc.

Sunday, 11th January

Buy some trainers. Found a pair for A$50, but the shop was closed when I got back. Walked around town today. It was bloody hot, but good for sightseeing. The Opera House and Bridge look completely different in the sun, i.e. beautiful. Took part in a street performers show. He jumped over me and 5 others on BMX bike. Went up Sydney Tower. The view from up there was amazing. Absolutely beautiful. Hopefully the photos will be good. Could see myself living here for a couple of years. Now that's a statement and I've only been here 2 days. Went out to Mansions and an Irish pub with a live girl band, who were quite good.

Monday, 12th January

Sorted out some stuff for changing my itinerary. It cost me A$20 just for STA to ask the German office if it is possible to change my tickets. F**kers. They said in Germany this would be free. Then it will cost a further A$40. It will also cost me A$50 to change my internal flights through Qantas. Bought a pair of shoes and a cap. Found out that the Indonesian Rupiah has fallen 20% against the dollar and that there's something of a food shortage there now! But it should make it cheaper for me.

Tuesday, 13th January

Went to Bondi beach with Olaf. Quite a nice beach. Not as big as I thought it might be, but a nice setting. Plenty of fit (and topless!) beach babes strutting their stuff here. Ought to come back here before I leave!

Wednesday, 14th January

Went to Australian Museum, which wasn't very interesting. But it did have a brilliant exhibition on wildlife photos. Got information on the GP at last. It's going to cost between 300 and 350 A$ to buy a grandstand seat, or A$75 for a general admission ticket.

Thursday, 15th January

Bought a Greyhound Pass (A$178), F1 ticket (A$123) and changed my flights (A$90). Expensive day!!! Saw "The Rocks", the oldest part of Sydney. It's a tad touristy and even had a "Löwenbräu Keller". How sad. The oldest house in Sydney dates back to 1814. Wow. Not.

Friday, 16th January

Went to Mrs. Macqueries point. Good view of the Harbour. They even carved a chair into the rocks here for that lady. Went to Darling Harbour, via the Monorail. Booked ticket for the Blue Mountains. The people I am staying with in my room all seem ok. There's Brice, Jason (both Kiwis), Marie (Irish) and Gemma (English). Didn't do much tonight. Another boring evening in front of the TV.

Saturday, 17th January

Booked seat on bus to Byron Bay for Monday 10pm. Went up the Harbour bridge lookout. Good view of Opera House. Building the bridge was quite interesting. Luckily the 2 halves met in the middle. When they opened the bridge, the New South Wales Prime Minister was due to cut the ribbon himself. He didn't invite any royalty. Some guy who didn't like this rode in on a horse and cut the ribbon before the PM managed to!! Got a ferry to Manly Beach. A bit like Bondi, except the beach is much bigger. Watched a Volleyball competition there and did half an hour of the Manly scenic walk. Got the last ferry back fir a beautiful sunset over the harbour. Nice Skyline.

Sunday, 18th January

Went to the Blue Mountains. Saw wild Kangaroos and Kakadoos. Whilst I was feeding the Kakadoos, one flew down, pinched the biscuit out of my hand and flew up to the highest branch. Cheeky! Some of the Eucalyptus trees had funny squiggles on them. This is due to worms on the inside of the bark making burrows. As the tree sheds it's bark, the squiggles become visible. Thus the trees are called "Squiggly Gum". Saw a 300m high waterfall. Not as spectacular as the ones in Hawaii or NZ, but very scenic. Then went on to Katoomba, for a view of the three sisters (rock formations). They are amazing, especially the view into Jamieson Valley. Also saw a "Boar's Head". Went on the world's steepest the railway (52° incline) after a long walk down to 3 sister's look out. Finally stopped off at Echo Point for the best view of the 3 sisters. Watched amazing cloud formations and a 'battle' between low and high pressure systems (the low pressure won). This produced some wicked thunderbolts. The scenery was awesome (Grose Valley). The Blue Mountains blue because of the gas given off by Eucalyptus trees, which are blue in the sun. Also saw Mt Victoria. There was an interesting mix on the shuttle bus, meeting a nice Dutch girl called Monica, and the day out was fun.

Monday, 19th January

Walked around and bumped into Luc + Joel in Kings Cross station (I met them on the Kiwi Experience bus). Then bumped into Monica in Travellers contact point! Watched "The Rainmaker", a Grisham film. Ok, but I think he's getting to commercial. Got the bus to Byron Bay.

Byron Bay. Tuesday, 20th January

Staying in Belongil Beachhouse, a bit out of town, but quiet. Went swimming and got stung by a Blue Bottle jellyfish. It's bloody annoying. Not to painful, but it stings. It's OK now (Wednesday morning) but my neck is still very red. It also makes shaving impossible.

Wednesday, 21st January

Walked into Byron Bay. The place is an alternative life-style Mecca. Surfer dudes, hippies (although apparently they aren't according to some bloke last night) etc. Lazed around and basically did sod all!

Thursday, 22nd January

Went swimming in the morning. The waves were big. Got battered quite a bit. One wave dumped me on the ocean bed and I did my shoulder in. The walked around Byron Bay and went for another swim in the late afternoon. The waves were even bigger. Didn't dare to do any body surfing for fear of getting crushed. As one guy out there said: "You're just trying not to get killed".

Friday, 23rd January

Walked around Cape Byron. Good view of Tallow Beach and the main beach. Bloody exhausting as it was so steep. I can't remember the last time I was so knackered - probably climbing that river bed in Hawaii. There was also a good view of the mountain ranges behind Main Beach and onto Mt Warning.

Surfers Paradise. Saturday, 24th January

Go to Surfers Paradise. Queensland is one hour behind NSW due to daylight saving time. Weird. The beach here is quite nice, fairly empty. There's a nice view of SP from Coollangtanga. It looks like 100 skyscrapers on a small island. Impressive. SP is really just a built up holiday resort like Mallorca or Ibiza. One thing I've noticed is that street performers crack the same jokes all over the world. There must be a joke book for street performers which they all learn off by heart. There's quite a few shopping plazas here. Met an Israeli bloke at the bus station, he's in my room too. Quite an interesting guy. He's just shaved his hair off. Maybe I should do that too.

Sunday, 25th January

Lost my watch. More like some git nicked it after I left it in the shower. Asked at reception, but they didn't have it. Didn't do a lot, went to the beach.

Monday, 26th January

Australia Day. The day they became independent. Or "Invasion Day", as the Aborigines prefer to call it. That's more like it.

Aerlie Beach. Tuesday, 27th January

Arrived in Aerlie Beach at 11am. After a 20 hour drive.It was OK though. It's very humid here, but the place seems OK.

Wednesday, 28th January

Booked a cruise on the "Great Eagle". It leaves Friday 9.30am. Aerlie Beach is actually pretty dull - unless you go out an party all night and sleep all day. Which is exactly what I did. They have a lot of adverts for gardening and lawnmowers here. Just as well since they have such bloody big gardens. The major industry round here is sugar cane, stretching from Mackay all the way to Townsville. Went out and got hammered. Big hangover!

Thursday, 29th January

Didn't wake up until 3pm. Did nothing.

Friday, 30th January

Boarded the "Great Eagle". We cruised around the Whitsunday Islands. Not really sailing much sadly, due to lack of wind. Saw some nice beaches. The Skipper is OK, but a bit rude. People on the boat: Sally, Caroline, Fru and 3 guys and a girl from Sweden, whose names I can't remember. The food is very good and the stars at night are brilliant - nearly as good as Fiji. Saw plenty of shooting stars. Hard tog et to sleep, since the boat rocks quite a bit. Beds are just long enough, but thin, especially at the feet end. Toilets are of the "pump-action" type. Have to pump about 10 times, to flush IT down.

Saturday, 31st January

Woke up at 6am, by motor starting, although didn't sleep very well. Kind of stuffy down there as well. Go to Whitehaven beach about 7.30am. Beautiful white sand, almost like flour. Also saw a nice rainbow. An 8km beach all to ourselves! Went snorkelling at another island, nice coral and fish, water was a bit murky. Went to a nice resort island later. Visited "Rogue I and II", who were hooked up together for the evening. Rogue I is humungous (85ft). The deck was big enough for a party. The skippers are all the same, quite chauvinistic. Caroline got thrown overboard a few times. We anchored in a cove so the sea was calm and the boat didn't rock at all. Had a good nights sleep.

Sunday, 1st February

Did some more snorkelling. Coral was nicer - better visibility than yesterday. If you hover over the coral and search, you can see some really wicked fish after a while. They are well camouflaged though. Went on to Daydream Island resort. That place is beautiful, swimming pool with bar, Jacuzzi, fake waterfall etc. Saw some weird fish, they like toast. On Whitehaven beach we saw a swarm of fish so compact it looked like a stingray so everybody took a huge step back, before realising its just a swarm of tiny fish! Just cruised along for about an hour after the resort. Due to lack of wind, this meant we didn't get very far at all. But it was quite nice just sitting there and watching the world (or the sea) go by and doing not a lot. The 3 musketeers kept me occupied I suppose. We are going out to Magnums for some free beer courtesy of "Great Eagle" crew. Said goodbye to the others on the boat. They were a good laugh.

Cairns. Monday, 2nd February

Drove to Cairns. Saw Great Dividing Range. No fruit is allowed out of Cairns due to fruit flies. They have check stations on the motorway on the way out. Met an Irish (Jeraldine) and an English girl (Andrea) who lives in Nepal - working for the British Embassy. Walked around Cairns together. Quite touristy on the Esplanade. Bumped into the two girls from Fiji.

Tuesday, 3rd February

Went snorkelling on the "Passions of Paradise". First stop was Paradise Reef. I did an introductory scuba dive. Wow! It's so easy. Weird feeling though - breathing under water. There was a big fish called "Rasmus", which was kind of like a pet dog in that it followed you everywhere. Went down to about 7m. No problems with my ears, thank god. Held a black sea cucumber (they breathe through their arse - bad breath) and a red/orange one later on snorkelling. Touched some really soft coral, just like a sponge type thing. Did a somersault underwater. It's weird seeing the sun underwater. Also did a guided snorkel tour. Got a bit crowded and you couldn't really see what he was pointing at. But the coral was nice. Although not really better than other places I've seen (eg Fiji + Whitsundays). Fish were probably the best yet - although maybe Hanauma Bay was better. This might be because it was the first time I saw so many colourful fish. Saw some flying fish on the way back. Met 3 nice friendly sisters on board the boat (Caitlin, Elisabeth and Louise). Caitlin's flying to Darwin on Thursday afternoon as well. So I'll meet her again there I guess. An Irish guy, Colin, was interesting too. Went out to Beach's and met Colin again. As well as Caitlin and Elisabeth. Then went on to the Woolshed. Quite a party in there.

Wednesday, 4th February

Woke up 12pm and did nothing.

Darwin. Thursday, 5th February

Flew to Darwin with Caitlin. Didn't do much otherwise. Saw a beautiful sunset though. pastel blue and orange clouds. Like in a film or something out of Kings Quest 7. It was chucking it down when I arrived though. The streets are fairly empty, which makes the place seem a bit strange and there are some weird looking people about.

Friday, 6th February

Booked trip to Kakadu, Ayers Rock and the buses. This is going to be hectic. Kakadu tour leaves Sunday, returns Tuesday. Thursday its down to Alice Springs. Ayres Rock tour leaves Saturday and returns Monday. Tuesday I go back to Darwin and get straight onto a bus Melbourne!! Not feeling too well at the moment. Hopefully it'll be better by Sunday.

Saturday, 7th February

Sat in the park for a while. Some bloke came and asked whether I was staying here. Did he mean the park? Did he think I was homeless? He seemed a bit strange, so I didn't really say much. Saw a big lizard in the park, just when I was thinking "so much for their being loads of insects and spiders in this area". The lizard was about 40cm long and quite impressive.

Sunday, 8th February

Left about 7am on the Kakadu safari. First stop was the Alligator river (wrongly named so by the English thinking the crocs were alligators and saw some crocodiles. Quite impressive and they were small... The river was quite flooded., but has gone down a couple of meters since about 2 weeks ago. Then drove to entrance of the Kakadu park. Scenery quite boring, but impressive in its vastness. Saw a couple of wallabies (small kangaroos) and an iguana, as well as a kingfisher and other pretty birds. Went to Nourlangie Rock which had some rather impressive aboriginal rock carvings. One included the "lightning man". Saw plenty of quite big (and small) termite mounds on the side. Stopped off at a pub where all the road train (lorries with up to 6 carriages) drivers stop. Saw an Emu there. The guide (Mel) pointed out an ant nest made out of leaves in a tree. Very well made. You can eat the butt of the ants, which apparently tastes like lemonade. Walked up to a couple of scenic lookouts. The view is impressive. Goes on for miles and only stopped by mountain ridges and rocks. Walked up to a beautiful lookout (Nawurlandja). Just like out of some epic wildlife/environment/native people (eg "Dances with Wolves"). So serene and peaceful. Even saw a couple wallabies, which is unusual. A bit of aboriginal culture: They think of themselves as belonging to the land and not the land belonging to them (as the "Whitefella" does). This creates big problems on land ownership. Further the aborigines believe it to be their duty to preserve that land for their future generations and to keep it intact. Nor do they have the same concept of time as we do. They don't count years, but seasons i.e. now its the wet season again. Kids become adults, not when they are 18, but when their bodies become adult like. Aborigines don't go to work from 9-5, but when they have to. This creates problems at school when kids just leave school for a term to attend a ceremony and come back the next term as if nothing's happened. Saw a dingo on way back.
Had a decent lunch and dinner. My feet got bitten to shit though at dinner. Place we're staying at is pretty posh. Nice swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Decent dorms. Tour people: Mel (guide), Gordon and Ruff, Brian (all English) and Cindy and Barbara (US). We'll be doing some proper camping tomorrow though. Had an emu steak for dinner. Tasted very nice.

Monday, 9th February

Set off in the morning and went for a walk "somewhere in kakadu". Climbed up the "Castle" - a huge rock formation. Nice views. There were quite a few aborigine art drawings here, none of which were really accessible to tourists. These were in a sense more spectacular, since they were bit more informal and prove that aborigines also drew for fun, not just to tell a story. There were a whole load of handshapes here, which the guide reckoned an aborigine drew when he was bored out of his mind sheltering from the rain. Visited the aboriginal cultural centre. Very interesting. Aborigines don't like to be looked at in the face - this is impolite. You should look at the floor or sky or a bird or god knows what, but don't look at him and don't look him in the eye! Also saw some Leichhardt grasshoppers (red/blue things) and some Lion insects. Had lunch at a waterfall pool and did a bit of jumping off the rocks. Saw a humungous termite mound. It was about 5 or 6m high and estimated to contain about 3 million termites. The mounds are rock solid as well. This one was about 70-80 years old. Spent the night at Hunters (the tour group) very own "camp site". This was a shed with a tin roof, netted walls, fold up sort of beds and a big spider as well as loads of annoying mossies. Good tucker. Included some Barramundi fish meat. Slept all right. Woken up by mossies at sunrise.

Tuesday, 10th February

Went to Yurmikmik in the morning. Swam in some plunge pools and did some jumping off the walls again. Had a competition as to who can create the biggest splash. Gordon won. Ruff nearly killed himself jumping from a higher point. Missed the rocks by a few centimetres. Had lunch by another plunge pool. Hard to swim up to the waterfall. Almost managed it though. There were some surprisingly large fish in such a small pool. Lost tourists perhaps? Walked up to yet another scenic lookout in the area. Bloody hot! has a fairly long drive home, via Pine Creek and Mary River. We couldn't go to Jim Jim falls due to flooding (normal for this time of year). Got back about 6,30pm. Went for a cheap and good meal with Ruff and Gordon.

Wednesday, 11th February

Interesting story: An aborigine went out to Melville island one day to do some research or something. He found a spot he liked so much that he stayed there for 3 months. Living off the land. It took him 3 days to walk home. When he got back he got a bit of a bollocking because there had been a full on search for him with helicopters and all, as they he had died or got lost! Went to Darwin museum to look at a crocodile 5.1m long and saw some pictures of Darwin after cyclone Tracey (1974?) It was devastated and reminded a bit of photos of Darmstadt after the war!

Alice Springs. Thursday, 12th February

Arrived only one hour late in Alice, despite the bus having a blown tyre in the middle of nowhere. It was changed very quickly. Well done guys!

Friday, 13th February

Walked into town and up ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corporation) hill for a nice views of Alice and surroundings and a pretty sunset, behind McDonnell ranges. Nature did a good job in putting the end of the hill right in the middle of the path of the sunset. Once again there is not a lot to do here. Glad I am off tomorrow on my 3 day Ayres Rock safari.

Saturday, 14th February

Set off on the tour to Ayers Rock. Stopped at a Camel farm outside of Alice Springs. Australia has the only and biggest (by default) wild camel population (about 250000). It also now has the purest breed of Camels and exports them back to Afghanistan - where they came from originally. Then stopped off at Mt Ebenezer and Mt Conner (a perfectly square hill) and saw the Amadeus salt lakes. These stretch for about 500km from Western Australia. Had lunch here. Picked up some guy (Dave) from the resort (Yukarta) and drove on to Ayers Rock. Had a bit of a cultural walk around the base. Parts of it aren't allowed to be photographed due to the Aboriginal culture. Looked at the start of the climb for tomorrow. It's steep! Two cracks and a snake like mark on the rock have a story where two aboriginal beings fought, one with a spear, the other having a shield. There's even a water hole or two in the area. The first European (Gosse) to camp here couldn't figure out why the aborigines didn't drink from it. This was so that they could trap the animals for food (it also had spiritual reasons). There's also a dolphin's nose, wallabies pouch (sacred) and Mick Jagger's lips!! Had champagne for the sunset from the "Sunset Lookout". Bush camped out in the wild under the stars in swags. No flies after sunset and deadly silent. Nice stars too. Some more aboriginal culture: Bo aborigine knows all the aboriginal laws and culture as there's women's and men's business, Men can't know women's business and vice versa. If they interrupt each other during meetings, they get killed.

Sunday, 15th February

Woke up to the best view in the world - Ayers rock by sunrise. Got to Ayres Rock by 7.30am. We were about the last ones to start the climb. Everybody else was coming down! Met that girl from Fiji again! She was coming down the steep part, just as I was going up it. The steep part is bloody steep. No, in fact it's very bloody steep. And extremely exhausting. Took loads of water with. The climb shuts at 8am. This means the steep part is still in the shade. The top part was just getting some sun though. The rest of walk is quite easy. Views from the top, of the desert and the Olgas are amazing. The Olgas were first named the Ferdinands, after the German botanist. But he didn't want this and named them after the German Queen (or similar) - Olga. Coming down was easier than I thought. Some parts had to be done backwards, hanging onto the rail. But otherwise OK. Writing this in the picnic area, near the Olgas. Surrounded by loads of little, but annoyingly persistent, flies! Went on for a walk to the Olgas. These are not even allowed to be climbed, due to aboriginal stuff. They are quite impressive and are over 500m tall (Ayers Rock = 384m). The walk was only 1km return, but exhausting in the midday heat. Driving away from the Olgas and looking back on them, they look just like Homer Simpson lying on his down. You just can't get away from him! Who came first, the Olgas or Homer? Drove to camp site near Kings Canyon. It's pretty much the same as the 1st one, but no Ayers Rock - although nice sunset from the dunes. The sand dunes are quite impressive here and are much overlooked by tourists. I also learnt how to find South. I'll never be lost again, at least not in the southern hemisphere. Had some damper in the morning (flour and water). Tasted quite good considering what it is.

Monday, 16th February

Saw Kings Canyon - beautiful. Even more impressive than Ayers Rock or the Olgas. Nice views. Garden of Eden is pretty - went swimming here. That was nice and refreshing. 3 days without a shower makes you feel quite dirty and smelly. Interesting rock formations. The whole place was under an ocean a few hundred million years ago - or so. Cracks formed in the Ocean floor and water slowly seeped in creating the dome shapes. On the last tour the guide did, a girl collapsed with heat exhaustion and had to be helicoptered out. It's not hard to see why. Three days in 40°C does get to you. Also saw some beautiful red sand dunes, as well as the amphitheatre and the lost city in Kings Canyon. Drove back to Alice on Giles Road - unsealed. That was quite bumpy. The Land Cruiser took a battering! Went out for a meal with the group and had some Kangaroo meat when we got back to Alice. Tastes quite nice - just like steak really. The group: Craig (guide), Miwa (Japanese), Dave (US), Philip and Lara (Belgian).

Tuesday, 17th February

Drove back to Darwin with Greyhound. Saw the Devils Marbles from the bus. They weren't spectacular, so its just as well I didn't get the Plus Bus down to Alice. I have a free seat next to me. Space! Yippee!

Melbourne. Wednesday, 18th February

Go to Melbourne alright. It was all smooth as babies bottom! Seems OK place. Saw an advert for Oasis playing here on the 1st March. If this is correct I should try and go.

Thursday, 19th February

Walked around a bit. Phoned Pei and Shoal. They'll meet me tomorrow, 10am.

Friday, 20th February

Met up with Shoal and Pei. Walked around Victoria Markets and got City circle tram (free). It's a sort of tourist tram. Got to their house - nice place. I am camping out in the garden! Bought them a Bockwurst in return for dinner! Walked around Box Hill.

Saturday, 21st February

Went to Yarra River with Shoal and his mate Nick. They went "ski-surfing" and went for a bicycle ride to Heidelberg! Nice area, the river. Pei cooked a lovely Chinese meal in the evening.

Sunday, 22nd February

Went for a drive to Arthur's Seat and to the ferry place. Didn't do much else.

Monday, 23rd February

Said goodbye to Shoal and Pei. Got train to Flinders St. and tram to St. Kilda. Had walk around Albert Park and the race track. Quite a nice setting - plenty of joggers, but I don't know how good the viewing will be. Walked to St. Kilda pier. The place reminds a bit of Santa Monica.

Tuesday, 24th February

Didn't do much.

Wednesday, 25th February

Walked into town - quite a walk. Went out at night, with the guys in my room. They are all really friendly.

Thursday, 26th February

Woke up late. Relaxed.

Friday, 27th February

Saw the shrine of remembrance, near the botanical gardens. Went to Babba, a nightclub below the hostel.

Saturday, 28th February

Australians have funny TV adverts. HBA (private health) has one of a bloke getting his pants ripped off by a bull. There's one for milk (Legendary Stuff) about how it's never the postman or the plumber, but always the milkman.

Sunday, 1st March

Bought some presents around Victoria Markets.

Monday, 2nd March

Did some general preparation for Asia, such as getting the correct malaria tablets and mosquito nets etc. Went to Prince of Wales for A$1 a beer (that's 40p for half a pint!!).

Tuesday, 3rd March

Lazed around. Went for a meal in the evening with some guys from the hostel.

Wednesday, 4th March

Did the Great Ocean Road tour. Saw 12 Apostles, Lock Ard Gorge and London Bridge - all rock formations in the sea. Weather didn't play the part though. Half of London Bridge collapsed in Jan 1990 with two Germans stranded on the other side! Luckily no one was killed or injured. Saw wild Koala bears. Went to a couple of local pubs in the area, which was quite interesting. Got back quite late at 11.30pm.

Thursday, 5th March

Formula One is in town. The first day was interesting, although no actual F1 cars driving. Mainly practice sessions. There was an interesting Lamborghini race though.

Friday, 6th March

First day of F1 practice. Schumacher top, then Hakkinnen and Villeneuve. They kept the best till last though. Formula Ford! Great close racing, screeching tyres, position changes, it had it all. Also saw super touring and TAC V8s racing. F1 needs the following changes. Take away front and rear wings and replace by FIA defined and shaped board (for the adverts), that produce no downforce and have no positive effect on the car. Next increase the tyre size by an amount to make up for the lost downforce and, hey presto, close racing is back.

Saturday, 7th March

Qualifying Day. Top six: Hakkinnen, Coulthard, Schumacher, Villeneuve, Herbert and Frentzen. Quite exciting. McLarens pissed all over the rest though. Formula Ford was once again the most exciting. Damon, Johnny and David were on stage for the after race party. Herbert's quite witty. On being asked why, given all the technology in F1, they still had to open the doors by hand, he answered: "Well, we're in Australia, mate!".

Sunday, 8th March

Race Day. McLaren blitzed the field. Hakkinnen and Coulthard lapped every one. Frentzen 3rd, then Irvine, Villeneuve and an excellent 6th for Herbert. Coulthard let Hakkinnen through on the penultimate lap, due to an agreement they had on winning the start. This is the only time I can remember someone letting his teammate win when the WC was as yet undecided. Good on ya David. Nice to see there are still some Gentlemen racing in the World. Walked around the pit area, saw Eddie Irvine, Ruben Barichelo, Mika Hakkinnen and David Coulthard. One of the photographers got annoyed with all the flags ruining the light. The crowd had a go at him (paparazzi) and Mika cottoned on to hit, punching his fist into his hand, saying "lets get him!".

Monday, 9th March

Labour Day. But everything is open, except for the banks - and I need some cash. Shit!

Tuesday, 10th March

Happy Birthday. I am now 23. Didn't actually do much though, since I was preparing to got to Bali.

Wednesday, 11th March

Bought some stuff for Asia and got a good night's sleep.

7. Indonesia

Top

Kuta, Bali. Thursday, 12th March

Arrived in Bali. Met a German girl at the airport (Melanie) and am sharing a room with her now. 15000 rp each. That's about US$2. It's quite clean and in a fairly quiet location. Walked around Kuta a bit. There's plenty of stalls and hawkers trying to sell everything from watches to lighters to sarongs to steering wheels(!). Bought a Sarong for 17500rp. The beach was quite nice - big waves! Had nasi goreng (basic fried rice dish) from a street side cart. Hopefully I am not ill tomorrow. It tasted very nice.

Friday, 13th March

Didn't sleep too well. Have to get used to the humidity. Walked into Kuta with Melanie. I bought two shirts, a pair of sandals and some basic necessities (eg toilet paper). Had a quick swim at the beach. The water is more than warm, it was almost too hot. Waves were OK, but not as big here as they looked further up the beach. Probably going to Ubud tomorrow. Checked out Kuta at night, but it was a bit empty. I guess I was there too early (i.e. 10pm).

Ubud. Saturday, 14th March

Staying at "Sania's House". Quite a bit nicer than the place yesterday. Rented a bike and went to the Monkey Forest. Load of monkeys mainly wanting food from you. Like man, like monkey. The ones want money, the others food. Then cycled down south for about 3km, past some awesome views of rice paddies, with the locals working in them. Saw some school kids finish school. Lush green rice fields. People are quite friendly, but whether this is because they want my money or are genuinely friendly - I have yet to find out. Continued on to Sayan and then around to the Neka museum (an art gallery). This was quite interesting. It had some nice paintings with hundreds of little figures all depicting something (eg photographers, cock fights and para-sailing!). There were some good ones on Bali myths. Such as the one of the two female neighbours (one rich one poor). The poor one found a deer one day and it told here there were treasures up its bum! So she picked them out. She told this to her rich neighbour who never shared anything. The rich neighbour then caught the deer and tried sticking her hand up its arse, but only got shit out. The poor lady now shared her new found wealth with her rich (now poor) neighbour. This is a lesson in the importance of sharing. We then cycled on back to Ubud, stopping off at a road side cafe, where Melanie got a fresh coconut drink - straight from the tree! Melanie bargained a car rental for 40000rp for a day. Well done - but it was quite hard.

Sunday, 15th March

Had a car for the day, so drove to round Bali. Started with Goa Gaia, a temple with a cave opening through the mouth of a statue. Not brilliant. Went on to Gunung Kawi, which had some big stone carvings, an old temple (cut into the rocks) and a new one (very pretty). Some brilliant view of rice paddies and a couple of nice waterfalls. Then went on to Lake Batur to see Mt Batur, but couldn't see anything due to the fog. Drove up to the north shore. Saw a nice fishing village with kids playing on the beach and then stopped off for some Nasi Campur and bought some fruit (eg Salak, Rambutan, Mangosteen and Amarillo). Drove round to Amlapura and up to Pura Besakih (Mother Temple). This is a beautiful temple. Then drove back to Ubud, getting lost along the way a few times. Had some excellent views of sprawling rice terraces and nice reflections of the sky in the (rice fields) water. The most annoying thing about visiting things is that you have to pay for everything. If somebody asks to help or guide (or do so without asking) out come his hand wanting money. At the Mother Temple you paid to get into the site. Then you get to the bottom of the temple and can't enter because of religious reasons, unless you pay someone to guide you of course. It's not much they ask for, but it gets very annoying. You even had to pay to use the toilet and I have never seen so many toilet signs on one street in my life. Anyway, at least I am getting used to ignoring the people completely now.

Senggigi, Lombok. Monday, 16th March

Got the ferry to Lombok. Had to hang around at Padangbai for a couple of hours because the 10am ferry was cancelled, so got the midday one instead. Nice ferry ride (although the ferry looked a bit battered, but survived). Excellent views of Lombok and Bali as well as Nusa Penuda. Walked around Lembar trying to get a cheap ride to Senggigi, where we were going to have to stop off on our way to the Gilli Isles. Eventually got a bemo. At one point it was packed full with 14 people plus luggage, live stocks, produce and other stuff. But it was fun. Until the driver decided he didn't want to go to Senggigi anymore and made up some bullshit story about the police. Anyway, he dropped us off at Ampenan and arranged another bemo for us all for free (or at least no extra cost). Eventually got to Senggigi and staying at the Pendok Senggigi. A very nice place with swimming pool, reasonably priced restaurant and good room, with a decent fan for 40000rp for the 2 of us. Went for a meal in the evening where they had a live band playing all sorts of western music. It was a nice evening out.

Tuesday, 17th March

Didn't get up till quite late for once. Did some email, they even have that here. But the power cut, so I had to retype everything. Then walked along the beach and met Melanie chatting to a group of local boys. The older one seemed really well educated, he even spoke some German and was learning Japanese. He also knew quite a bit about English soccer (more than me!). They see the matches here every Sunday. He showed us around the Batu Bolong temple, which was quite small, but reasonably interesting. You can't just sit and relax on the beach here, because every 5 minutes (on a good day) you get people trying to sell you something. And whilst not being rude, they don't go away very easily. Had a beer on the beach with Melanie in the evening, which was nice.

Gilli Trawangan. Wednesday, 18th March

Got a boat from Senggigi to Gilli Trawangan. Nice ride up the coast. Looks a lot like the big island on Hawaii. Got a becomo (horse and cart) to the hotel (Dewi Sri Bungalows, 10000rp/night for 2!!!) The beach is not all that nice here though. In fact it's shit! Walked around the island. There's some really nice light green fields in the center. None of the beaches are particularly nice though. Spoke to an Austrian geezer who was looking for coral on the beach. Had a brilliant nasi goreng especially made for us at the hotel. The owner (Abdul), his Wife (Jamilla) and kid (Ridian) are really friendly and helpful. Excellent place. But I am not so sure about the island. Having already been to Waya Sewa in Fiji, this place is not actually that amazingly beautiful. Just nice. Had a beer on the beach with Karen, Anne-Marie (two Danish girls we met on the boat ride) and Melanie.

Thursday, 19th March

Did a half day snorkelling trip with Karen and Anne-Marie. Went around all the islands (Trawangan, Meno and Air). The reef is very nice, some good blue coral. It's quite sprawling, especially the white coral. But maybe not as (visually) diverse as elsewhere. Saw a sea snake about 1m long. It had a fight with a fish. They are poisonous apparently, so lucky I didn't touch it. Starting to get the hang of diving now (i.e. pressure equalisation) when snorkelling. Managed to get quite deep, Probably about 4-5m. Stopped off at Gilli Air for lunch and had Gado-Gado (fried vegetables and peanut sauce). Strange mixture. Saw a nice sunset and the kids were having fun outside our bungalow with toy cars. Had a very nice meal in the evening. I had tuna steak, which was gorgeous and tried a bit of Melanie's snapper, which was also gorgeous. All for one dollar!

Friday, 20th March

Feeling slightly funny in the tummy. I hope this is due to having eaten too much and not some onset of malaria, since I have been bitten quite a bit in the last two days. Had a banana pancake again (my staple breakfast diet since arriving in Bali). Went snorkelling on the beach, which was nice. Threw up in the evening. I think it had something to do with that meal last night, probably the fish.

Ubud, Bali. Saturday, 21st March

Said goodbye to Melanie and Abdula and his family. Got stung by the cidomo driver for 3000rp, but I wasn't in the mood for arguing. The route from Bangsal to Mataram was exceptionally scenic. A good view of what I think was Gilli Air. Along the way I saw a bridge being built, but nobody seemed to be doing a lot. If I come back in five years time it probably still won't be finished. They didn't seem to be working to a deadline. The boat trip was nice and the weather was reasonably clear giving fantastic views of Lombok and Bali. The boat had to hang around for an hour outside Padangbai port because there is only one "docking station" and it was occupied! Go to Ubud about 6pm and am staying slightly outside of town (about 10 in walk) for 12000rp/night. It's pretty similar to Sania's House, so well worth it. The sink is funny though. It has no pipe, but simply splashes straight onto the below and then runs flows to the drain. I am alone in a room for the first time in about 5 months (not including the tent in Melbourne)! Fantastic!!!

Sunday, 22nd March

I slept a dead man sleep! Excellent. Although I feel I am almost definitely ill with something. But I have no fever, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle pain or abdominal pain - all signs of Malaria, Dengue Fever and other dangerous stuff. I just feel quite tired and have a slight rash on both my wrists as well as my back I think. Got up too late to go to Mt Batur today and it was cloudy by midday anyway. Went out to a reasonably cheap restaurant (12000 for large beer and Balinese style chicken. Spoke to a kid on the street who lives in Mas, where his brother is into Woodcarving. He knew a lot about English football (somehow they all do), I feel a bit ashamed sometimes at how willing they all are to learn and how much they try to remember stuff compared to your average European teenager. We're all spoilt in Europe. We arranged to meet up again the next day.

Monday, 23rd March

Got picked up by Lamyuk and he drove to his house on the bake of his moped - no helmet! But he gave me one once we arrived there. Had a look at his art carvings which were excellent and quite pricey. A cheaper one would have cost around 20,000rp, a big one 450,000rp (quite cheap I guess compared to Europe, but way out of my price range!). We then drove with Injoman to a nice waterfall, where they even had a Bungy jumping site. I bought them a coke, after Injoman had bought me one at his house. I later found out they had to pay 1000rp. This is also what I paid, so I felt rather guilty, since 1000rp must be a fortune for them. Injoman knows a lot more about European music than I do (not hard, I know!) and Lamyuk knows more about football than I do (this IS quite hard!). I promised him a Liverpool shirt and Injoman a cassette of Elton John's 'Candle in the wind'. He says he cried when he heard of Diana's death. They then invited me for a traditional Balinese meal, called Lavar. First we drove to a friends house (Gusti's) who seemed to be a bit richer than the others, judging by his house and the fact that he had a stereo. They quite liked my tape of the Chemical Brothers!! They then showed me the (living) Duck we were going to eat and then slit its throat, drained the blood and threw it behind a bush for a couple of minutes and then started plucking it after drowning the poor thing in boiling water. Next they went to buy some ingredients from the market and then we drove further up the hill this small farm (with chicken, pigs, ducks, geese etc.). Here they cooked and prepared the food. I offered to buy them some beer, so me and Injoman whizzed down to Ubud, bought 5 beers and when we got back I was asked to taste the Lavar, to see if it was OK. It tasted excellent. So we all digged in and drank the beer. They were all really friendly and happy, always trying to please me. They treated me like deity and called me "The Boss". If only I could invite them all to England and return the favour. By the end of the evening there was a whole group there. Sadly, I can't remember all their names. I've just remembered one, slightly shocking thing. At the house of Lamyuk and Injoman, there was this girl, about 12 years old with some sort of disease which seemed to affect her limbs/body. She was just lying on the floor with stuff dribbling out of her mouth. The two boys didn't seem to take any notice of her (I don't know if she was their sister). Nobody else looked after her in the time I was there. But she was smiling and quite happy to see a new face I think. It must be really tough for people with disabilities in countries like this. Not because people don't take care of them (because I am sure they do), but because they don't the resources for proper help.

Bedugul. Tuesday, 24th March

Walked around Ubud for 2 hours trying to find a decent exchange rate, but the best I got was 8000rp. The rate went down quite sharply overnight. Yesterday it was 8800rp. Shit! Hopefully it goes up again next time. Met that girl (Monica) from the blue mountains again, in Ubud!! Got the bus to Bedugul. Met a German girl (Camilla) getting of the bus and we both wanted to go to the Strawbali Losmen (i.e. Strawberry Hotel). So we got the bemo there. Its 22000rp/night for a very average room. But it has hot water, which is a change. Since it rained most of the afternoon, I sat in the restaurant talking to her for most of it. There's no mosquito netting, so I'll have to try out my own one for the first time.

Wednesday, 25th March

Went to Pura Ulun Danu on the side of Lake Bratan. Got there about 8.30am and they hadn't really opened yet. Even the market wasn't even open yet when I walked passed there, that's how early I was! So it was completely empty apart from me and Camilla (who got there even earlier). It really is beautiful and in a wonderful setting. Next, I walked up Gunung Catur to see the temple at the top. But sadly I never quite made it. It got very steep at the end. You really had to "climb" up rather than walk. And it was very muddy and I was scared of something happening to me up there - all alone! It also looked as though it was going to start chucking it down pretty soon. And sure enough, it started raining pretty much the moment I stepped inside the hotel.

Thursday, 26th March

Got a bemo to Mengui (2000) and then to Tabanan (500). Cheaper than the 10000 to Ubud with Perama and not much slower. Plus we had the Bemo all to ourselves. A lot of people are dressed up nicely all over up nicely all over the place and taking offerings to temples. Some come in truck loads, others walk and occasionally you see what must be whole village by mopeds. They are preparing for "Niap" on Sunday, which is some important religious festival, when they can't do anything and the whole place grinds to a halt. I checked into Hotel Suderhana in the morning and hired a bemo for 15000rp to take me to Tanah Lot and back. The drive first wanted 20000rp, but by the reaction I got when I offered 15000rp, I guess I still gave him a months salary or something in that region! Tanah Lot is very nice, but somehow not as impressive as in the photos, because you can walk around the rock, so the temple is not really in the sea. Got back after a couple of hours and seeing hundreds or thousands of Balinese walking to various temples. Because there is not much else to do round here I changed my bus ticket (which I had bought earlier) so that I get to Probolingo today and not tomorrow. I offered to pay the Hotel owner 3000rp if I could just relax and rest in the room until about 5 or 6pm and then get the bemo to the bus station, and that is what I am doing now. Go to Probolingo alright. The bus was good. Not far off Greyhound Australia standards. The seats were slightly awkward though. The onboard film was in Japanese and had English, Japanese and Indonesian subtitles all on top of each other! They even provided free dinner at a road side diner. On the ferry crossing between Bali and Java, I spoke to a friendly Balinese woman. She's started her own company. She gave me her address and wanted me to meet her daughter!! I arrived at (what I thought was) Probolingo bus terminal at 3am. There was a tourist office there, but the bloke wouldn't give me any decent information, except trying to get me to go to Solo and not Malang. Nor would he provide any info on cheap buses to Malang. The cheapest was supposedly 21000rp, even though in LP it says 2100rp. This one took 5 hours, the AC express one took 2 hours and cost 45000 because I have to pay all the way from Denpassar. I finally took this one as he claimed there are no bus ticket shops in Cremoro Lawang. Somehow I didn't believe him, but if he was right I would have to spend another night in Probolingo which would also be a waste of time and money. I then got a bemo to up the mountain and finally arrived in Cemoro Lawang. The guy at the shop said it would cost 15000rp to go straight up. Whilst I knew this was a rip-off I thought I was chartering the bemo and would thus not have to hang around for too long. However the bemo driver didn't seem to understand this and hung around until about 6am in order to get the bemo full. The place I am staying in (Lava View Cafe, 7000rp/night) is OK and very friendly. It's very cold up in the mountains.

Cemoro Lawang. Friday, 27th March

Slept for about an hour and then went and looked at Mt. Bromo. It's quite impressive. Mt Bromo itself is "just" another steaming caldera. I actually found Mt. Batok and the surrounding sand-sea much more interesting. I've been half asleep all day and there's not a lot to do in this place. It's pretty dull. Tomorrow I have to get up at 4am and walk up the hillside to see the sunrise over this spectacular setting.

Saturday, 28th March

The lady in the hotel said to go up Gunung Penanjakan for sunrise as this is nicer. So I got up at 3am and walked to the viewpoint. Got there about 4.15am, an hour early, as the spectacle didn't begin before 5am. But at least I had the place to myself for the first bit of the sunrise. It was really beautiful. Clouds sweeping over the hills. Gunung Semeru "exploding" once every 30 minutes in the background, Gunung Bromo smouldering away, fields covered in mist and clouds, the sun (finally!) popping out, clouds shaded purple/pink. Perfect. Walking down I caught some more nice views of Batok (the mountain encapsuled in a thin film of clouds - amazing). Walking back I also bumped into all the locals going working and a load of dogs. Three old lady wanted me to take photo of them, but I tried to explain that I have no more film. They didn't understand, so I pretended to take a photo. They then wanted some money, so I left. Got back to the hotel about 6.30am and slept for about 4 hours, then walked to Gunung Bromo. You walk across the sand-sea, which is impressive. Then you walk up about 249 steps and you're at the top. People try to sell you flowers to throw over the edge. Why? The whole thing is not that impressive. I guess if you've seen been to Hawaii and seen Kiluaea there, this is disappointing. But the view from the top is nice.

Malang. Sunday, 29th March

Talked to friendly Indonesian bloke (who works in a travel agency). He asked me about how much I paid for my Malang bus and the bemo up here. As soon as I showed him my ticket, he went "Ah, that one. Yeah you were overcharged, I won't even ask how much!". He gave me a story about how they can get really aggressive as well. So just as well I paid. I only paid 3000rp for the bemo down the mountain (and that included the fare for this bloke as well). Once at the "fake" bus stop again, they wanted me to pay "tax" on top of the rip off fare I have already paid. I argued and argued, but they weren't going to stop the correct bus if I didn't pay, so I had to fork out another 3000rp. Once on the bus, it pulled into the correct bus stop about a mile down the road and the whole scam became clear to me. The busses from Bali, arriving at 3am, drop of all the tourists at this "Travel Information" place, collect the commission from the fake tourist guys and then drive on to the proper bus station. The tourists who haven't been here before doesn't have a clue and can't see because it is pitch black. He then get ripped off completely, because he's stuck in the "middle of nowhere" (some apparently paid 40000rp just to get to Mt Bromo). Also on the bus to Malang I saw what the locals were paying, 4500rp as it should be and what I knew the correct price was! Anyway I got Malang OK. It seems like a reasonable place, for an Indonesian city. It's got a couple of big shopping centres, so I can do some shopping. There's a Dutch girl (Linda) staying in the room next to me. She seems to have a similar itiniary to me. Maybe we can travel together to Yogya. We went for a meal in a nice restaurant in the evening with her.

Monday, 30th March

Went to Candi Singosari and Candi Sumberawan by numerous bemo. Singosari was quite nice. Sumberawan was closed, but didn't look very interesting. The walk through the rice fields was much more interesting. Seeing the locals wash in the river etc. The bemo stop at Singosari was quite funny. It took us 10min to find the right bemo. Then we sat in the back for about 15min waiting for it to fill up and whilst the bemo was manoeuvred out of the jam packed parking lot. Then the driver had to fill the tank up, but couldn't open the fuel tank on the bemo because the bemo next to it was so close. Finally when the thing was tanked up, it took us another 10 min get out of the place. By this time we were sweating and boiling in the back. As were all the locals who had since got in as well. On the way back from Sumberawan, the driver stopped outside the school. All the kids coming out laughed at us foreigners, making funny comments, most of which didn't seem all too complimentary! Then in the bemo from Singosari to Arjosari we got in a bemo full of Muslim school girls who all started cracking up and covering their faces. Most of these comments didn't seem to be of the friendly sort either. In European culture would never laugh in your face so openly, because they are trained not too. On the other hand they would think the same, so the Indonesians are maybe more natural. Also I think they don't just laugh at foreigners, but openly take the piss out of anybody doing something stupid. I found an internet cafe for 7000rp/hr. This is ridiculously cheap. In the evening we went to the Toko Oen to eat and stayed for about three hours because it was raining (and still is). I am now sitting outside on the terrace, watching the rain pour down, eating some snack food called "Serena". Tastes a bit like cheese monster munchies!

Tuesday, 31st March

Checked out Panataran, President Soekarno's grave and his house. Panataran was quite nice, but at the end of the day just another temple complex. Soekarno's grave was OK and his house was quite interesting, still looking fairly colonial. It was raining all day making walking around a bit of a bitch. The roads looked more like rivers at times. Again in the bemo the kids looked at us as if we were a tourist attraction. They touched Linda's arm to feel the difference in the skin and compared arm "colours". We set off at about 9.30am and got back at 7pm. It's been a long day and I am tired and have got a cold. We went to a really posh restaurant and had a nice meal (nasi goreng + shrimp, chicken satang) all for 16000rp.

Solo. Wednesday, 1st April

Took the shuttle bus to Solo. It took about 5-6 hours. Quite a comfy A/C minibus, but the seats are always reclining too much, as with night busses. Staying in the "Westerners". Met a Sumatran bloke called Howdy(!), who works as a massage guy in England for six months. Had dinner at a road side warung and had ayam bakar (bbq chicken). I think I have the flu.

Thursday, 2nd April

Didn't do much. Rested all day and ate ayam goreng at the street side warung again.

Friday, 3rd April

Went to Kraton Mangkuneyara. Wasn't that interesting. More of a museum really. It had loads of artefacts on exhibition. Some of the paintings bird shit on them! Even inside the building. Came back and rested all day. Starting to feel a bit better now.

Saturday, 4th April

Felt quite good in the morning, so went to Candi Sukuh (Temple of Sex). It's OK, but there's not much there in the way of erotic carvings, there were a couple phallic symbols though. The temple itself is fairly boring, but would have had good views, had it not been cloudy. Didn't do much else, but emailed for 5000rp/hr!

Yogyakarta. Sunday, 5th April

Got the minibus to Yogya. It seems very touristy here. I have seen more white people than anywhere else since Ubud. However they seem a different type of tourist, not the "3 week Bali" tourists. They are a lot scruffier, which means I look quite neat. Some of them seem a bit weird! Walked to the entrance of the Kraton and watched a local football match there. They played quite well and had quite a bit of discipline concerning positions. But the pitch was awful. In Europe it would be unplayable and in Germany, they wouldn't even use it to kick around on! I then watched a sort of changing of the guards (Sultans Soldiers) in front of the Kraton. This was quite interesting, but didn't look very professional (compared to the Queens Guards). Just as well these are the Sultan's soldiers, and not the President's! You wonder how they ever got independence from the Dutch. They didn't even seem to take it seriously themselves and some of them looked almost comical! Some bloke tried to get me to go to "his brother's" art store. Apparently he had an exhibition there, but only today as it was going to Singapore tomorrow. I almost cracked up laughing. This is the oldest trick in the book according to LP. Walking around the streets and through the shopping centre I am inclined to ask "What economic crisis?" The stores are full, the supermarkets well stocked and nicer than the German ones! I am sure they are feeling the pinch, but they really don't appear to be starving. They are showing the FA Cup semi-finals on TV everywhere, so I'll watch that whilst I am eating. Arsenal beat Wolves 1-0. Met Linda again. She's staying in Ghandi's place, for half what I pay. She was looking for Batik paintings, so I joined here and saw a nice tiger one. They wanted 100,000rp. In the next shop for basically the same thing it cost only 45000rp. Went for icecream in McDonalds!

Monday, 6th April

Went to Kraton with Sandrina. This was quite nice. Has museum of the Sultan's private collection. Saw a couple of "things" they carry royalty in. They also had a cage where they put babies aged 6 months, with a book and money. If the baby touches the book, it will become well educated. If it's the money it will be rich. I've just thought, apparently it can't be both! The entrance to the Kraton had two statues on the left and the right of the door. One was for good luck and one was for bad. They are identical though. Right = good, left = bad (or vice=-versa, can't remember). The office of the Sultan was very pretty, with golden decorated ceilings and a crystal lamp hanging from the roof. The bloke on the 10000rp is the Sultan's farther. Next I looked around the Water Castle, which is basically just a ruin. The pools were very pretty though and some of the gates were pretty too. Saw an Iguana which was about 1m long near the bird market. Here you get all sorts of animals. Dogs, cats, monkeys, guinea pigs, snakes, scorpions, bats, chickens, hens and of course loads of birds. I think European animal rights activists would have a field day here. In the afternoon I went to Prambanan, although beforehand I popped into McD's as I was getting sick and tired of eating rice. It cost 17500rp for a Big Mac, Med Drink and Med fries. That's 2.5 dollars, or about 2-3 nights accommodation here! How can any of them afford it? Prambanan was very nice. The main complex had about four medium temples, one big one (the Shiva Temple) and a couple of smaller ones. The whole place is surrounded by loads more fallen down temples. The Shiva Temple had some interesting statues in each of its four faces and told the Ramayana clockwise around the middle (at Candi Panataran it was anticlockwise, funny). Also saw Candi Seevu nearby. This was also very nice and was supposedly surrounded by 1000 smaller temples. They now lie in piles around it. The only gripe I have was the entrance fee of 10000rp. This is very steep. I drank some tap water by accident whilst showering today. My stomach did feel quite funny, but it's ok now.

Tuesday, 7th April

Most places are shut today, I think there is some sort of religious festival. Looked at some Batik paintings for a while and general just ambled around. An old lady decided to take a pee in the middle of the road, so she lifted her skirt and got on with it! I have also now figured out where all the French backpackers are. Having only met two in the last six months, I have since seen 10 here in two days. They obviously like this place. I don't really.

Wednesday, 8th April

Got mugged on the bus to Borobudur! Just like it says in LP, be careful on the local busses to Borobudur. Bollocks! They got my camera, but thankfully it only had one photo on it. I was sitting in the back corner of a bus, when five guys got on. One of them pretended to be sick and reach for the window behind. But he sort of jumped all over me! It took me about 2 seconds to figure out what was going on, but by then he had his hand in my bag. Since I had to use one hand to cover my wallet in my pocket, I couldn't really stop him from going through my bag with the other hand. All of a sudden he was gone like a flash and that was that. How he managed to get a crowded bus to stop and get off the thing within about 2 seconds I will never know. Nobody on the bus seemed to care. I don't know if they were so naive that they really thought he was yakking up over me (some were laughing), but I believe a few were together with the git and others were happy to see foreigner get robbed (I am probably being spiteful now, but I don't care). So I got of the bus afterwards and walked back down the road to a police station I had seen on the way. They didn't speak much English, but were very helpful and told me to go to the tourist police in the tourist office. They were shut and I was told to go to main police office. These guys were once again really helpful, spoke good English and sorted everything out in about half an hour. I should get it back on the insurance. This whole saga had finished by 9am, so I now had all day to sort out a few things. First I got myself a new camera for 35,000rp, then I organised a tour to Borobudur (safer than the public transport!) and booked myself a minibus to the Dieng Plateau. Spent the rest of the day looking at more Batik paintings. Sadly, the shop from which I really wanted to buy one was shut. I also bumped into Monica yet again (the girl from the Blue Mountains).

Thursday, 9th April

Got up at 4am to go on the Borobudur tour. Arrived there just before opening at 6am. The sunrise was really nice (bright red/orange sun), but this was at about 5.30am, so the place didn't open early enough to see it from the top of Borobudur. But the mist rising through the fields and trees was really impressive. It made the place look surreal and mystical. The whole aura was amazing. Borobudur is also very impressive. There are hundreds of Buddhas all around the temple, most with their heads knocked off though! The stupas at the top were nice too. I didn't notice they had Buddhas in them at first. There are a lot of carvings around the walls of the temples, some of which is very well preserved. It's a shame though, that there isn't a viewing platform to see the thing from the distance. Next we went to Candi Pawon, which means Kitchen Temple in Indonesian and is thus said to be Borobudur's Kitchen. Finally, we stopped off at Mendut Temple. This had a really nice statue of Buddha about 3m high and really well preserved. The position his hands were in means to teach. There were also two next to him, one meaning to discuss. The trip was a bit expensive for what it was though - a "safe" bus to Borobudur and back. I should take more heed of LP when they say something is really unsafe. I spent a couple more hours looking at paintings. I think I just enjoy asking them how much a painting costs. They will then say 100 US dollars. At which point you just laugh. Then they go "special student discount" and offer 60 bucks. So you pretend to leave and they go "OK, special morning student discount" and offer 100,000rp. Now you can start bargaining. However since I never ended up buying anything, I don't know how far down they'll go. But between 40,000 and 80,000rp for a fairly large painting seems to be average - although this doesn't mean "fair". Having said all that, they are still dirt cheap compared to what you would have to pay in Europe.

Wonosobo. Friday, 10th April

Took a minibus to Wonosobo, which took three hours. It was cloudy going up the hills and then started chucking it down and didn't stop until about 6pm. Ate at the Dieng Restaurant, which is a sort of self-service place. The food was OK, but not that warm. There were some nice photos of the Dieng Plateau though. Hopefully the weather will be nicer tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 11th April

Woke up at 6am and got to the Dieng Plateau for 7.30am. The bus ride was very scenic and I had great views of what I believe is Gunung Sumbing. There were also impressive views of rice paddies and fields (as always!). I walked to Telaga Warna (Coloured Lake). This was really quite beautiful. There are basically two lakes, one coloured a bluish green due to sulphur that lies beneath the water and the other (Telaga Pengilon) is coloured brown. You can smell the sulphur and see it bubbling through the water. Next I went on to Candi Bima (OK, but not that interesting though) and then on to Kawah Sikidang. This was quite nice. It is basically a crater which has got load steam holes in it, that you can walk around. It is interesting, but again nothing special once you've been to Hawaii. I guess you could call it quaint. After this I walked on to Candi Gatutkaea (uninteresting) and finally on to the Arjuna Temple Complex. This is really impressive from a distance. There are five temples standing in the middle of this big field (with sheep grazing around the them!). Up close a couple look OK, but the rest are boring. There were apparently 400 temples here and in the area at one point. This must have been a sight to behold. However most of them have since been destroyed. Got back to my hotel just before midday and it promptly started chucking it down all afternoon. I seem to have got the knack of knowing when it is about to start pissing it down, since I never seem to get caught up in it too much. It is really thundering at the moment. I just heard the loudest and deepest thunder in my life. It was the sort of boom most London might clubs would be proud to reproduce! I thought the house was going to collapse!

Bandung. Sunday, 12th April

Headed on to Bandung, which took 10 hours in all. Would have been a lot quicker had it not been for a traffic jam on the top of a hill somewhere between Banjar and the Garut turn off. There was a very nice looking place called Banjanegaru(?) between Wonosobo and Purwokerto. It looked like the nicest town I've seen in Indonesia. Saw a couple of really weird cars in the way. One was a lorry, but without its shell. The only thing left was the underbody, the drivers seat and a steering wheel! It looked like something out of a Sylvester Stalone action film, Rambo springs to mind. Then there was a lorry fully loaded with what was probably rice. Except that by fully loaded I mean the load was piled twice as high as the lorry itself! At the traffic jam on the steep hill, there were loads of kids carrying huge wedge blocks. I couldn't figure out what these were for, until I saw them placing the wedges behind the wheels of the cars, to stop them rolling back. For a fee of course! Eventually I realised what was causing the traffic jam. The hill was so steep, that loads of lorries had conked out trying to get up. This must be the most profitable place in Indonesia for a mechanic and service stations! Next we got onto a toll road. This is the first proper motorway I have seen in Indonesia and the quality is first class. At least as good as what you get in the UK or even Germany. As soon as this road ended though, the roads were back to their normal Indonesian state, i.e. full of pot holes. I think the wet season must be finishing slowly here, as I saw loads of farmers harvesting their rice, beating and cutting it etc. I am staying in a place called "By Moritz", which really is spotless.

Monday, 13th April

Got woken up by the mosque at 4am, which is just opposite. Walking into town a kid gave me a "high five" for no reason whatsoever! The some bloke started following me around everywhere. I think he meant no harm, but he was still annoying. Read in the Jakarta Post that 31 people have died in Jakarta of Dengue Fever. The mossies that transmit Dengue Fever live in stagnant water and only bite during the day it said. One of the guys at the hostel sorted out a bus ticket to Lahat for me. He wanted 120000rp for the bus and his "expenses". He claimed it was 80000rp for the Bus, and 30000rp for his taxi fares to and from the bus station and 10000rp for him. Its probably more like 30000rp for him, but it saves me the hassle of having to find the correct bus company on Jalan Soekarno Hatta. Another guy started following me around in the afternoon. But he was quite helpful and sorted me out with some internet access at the post office. There are quite a few locals hanging around at the hostel. They can all play the guitar and look the same. i.e. long hair, skinny and tight trousers. Must be the fashion in Bandung right now.

Lahat. Tuesday, 14th April

Boarded bus to Lahat, after seeing next to nothing of Bandung. The bus had better be good, since it is apparently a 25 hour bus ride! Drove through Jakarta. There are loads of big banks etc. dotted along the highway. The bus stop is enormous and look quite intimidating, so I remained on the bus for the hour or so we stayed there. The ferry crossing to Sumatra was quite nice, there were some nice little islands off the harbour at Sumatra and some impressive mountains, the top just peeking through the clouds. The sunset was pretty too. Once on the "Trans-Sumatran Highway", I saw the remains of two crashes. One older one, which had probably been left there as a reminder, the other must have just happened, since the lorry was still on the road and locals were standing around it. The cabin was completely mangled, so if the driver survived that he was a lucky man. Even the locals on the bus seemed to be a bit more apprehensive now and looked out for oncoming traffic. There is a pair of drivers. One drives the coach, the other leans out of the opposite passenger side window to see if there is any oncoming traffic around the corner. If it's all clear, the driver will over take slower vehicles around corners! Arrived in Lahat at 3am, not 8am, so had to hang around for 2hrs and then got a patas bus to Pagalarang, arriving there at 6am. The room's a bit shabby and the bed not very comfortable, i.e. the mattress is shit.

Pagarlarang. Wednesday, 15th April

Slept most of the morning and woke up just as it started pissing it down outside. Great! The thunder this time was even louder than mammoth thunder I mentioned in Wonosobo! I thought a bomb had exploded. Spoke to a Dutch couple in the evening. They were both biologists and PhD students. She was studying the imprints in brains of mammals, he was into plants and showed me a specimen of an amorphous phallus (shapeless penis!) plant. He once found a plant type, that had been recorded 100 years earlier, but had since not been found or recorded. He seems to have travelled a fair bit as a "plantologist". I was told to move rooms in the afternoon for some reason (something to do with poor water) and the new room is much nicer.

Thursday, 16th April

Ate "Kecepul" for breakfast, these are Wheat Balls fried in sugar. Hired a guide to show me round the megalithic sites for the day. The morning was beautiful, clear blue sky, like I have not seen since Bali, I guess. No smog! Walked through rice paddies to get to the first stone carving of a man riding a bull (Belumbai). I almost fell into a soaked rice paddie. I had to put my foot into the mud, which then sucked it in 30cm and I nearly lost my sandal trying to pull my foot out again! Saw four more carvings under a shelter. One was of a bloke carrying a basket, another of a bloke on an elephant (Tegurwangi). Next we walked to Kota Raya Lambak to see three stone tombs, each with different paintings in them. I could barely fit through the opening of the tombs. I couldn't really figure the paintings out, as the torch was crap and I was too close to the walls. I did see loads of huge spiders though. Their bodies were as big as golf balls and they had legs which thick and hairy and about 10cm long, not puny like the spiders in Europe. Most had red backs, others had yellow backs. Finally we went to see a couple more stone tombs and a carving of a man fighting a giant serpent (Tanjung Aro). All the stone carvings that day were nice, but I guess the impressive thing is their age, 2000 or more years old. Mt Dempu looked very nice in the morning. Ramlan, the guide, was good and new a fair bit. We had some Martabok(?) for lunch which tasted very nice. All in all the day cost me about 50000rp, which is a bit much and not necessarily worth it. But Ok, since I saw what I came to see. The people in Sumatra seem to be a lot friendlier and don't bother you as much as they do in places like Yogya. I am slowly getting tired of all the kids saying "Hello Mister" and "Good Morning" all the time. In one of the bemo's, the guide asked me if I liked the girl sitting next to me. I said yes and he replied that she liked me too!

Curup. Friday, 17th April

Headed on to Curup. On the bemo to the bus terminal a bloke grabbed my legs, pulling my hair. I guess he was curious about my white skin, but I didn't expect that from a grown up. The journey was quite interesting, through mountains and jungle. The rivers were all flooded. Half of one village seemed to have been washed away by flash floods. The road was badly damaged in parts and at one point the road had all but disappeared. Everybody had to get off the bus, whilst the driver drove the bus over the makeshift bridge, consisting of mud, stones and logs. At Kepatiang, I got a bemo to Curup. It seems like a very "posh" place. You can normally tell when you move from a poor district to a rich one, by the fact that the roads become really good all of a sudden, even in the middle of nowhere. I've now got a sore arse from all the bus journeys. The place I am staying in is Ok, once again it has been raining from about 3pm onwards. The manager of the hotel has been in 44 countries as a sailor.

Bengkulu. Saturday, 18th April

Curup seems like a nice place and doesn't look as grotty as some of the other towns I've seen. The people are really nice and genuine, makes a nice change to the cities on Java. I keep on saying this! Once again I got a barrage of "Hello Mister" from the kids leaving school. Got a bemo to Bengkulu for 3000rp and arrived there around 3pm. Seems like a nice place too. Might stay here a bit longer, especially since I have bumped into the local table tennis "club". They are shit hot at it too. Remembering that I wasn't so bad myself, I gave one of them a game. He beat me 21-15, 21-15. Not bad considering I haven't played in about two years. Got some friendly "abuse" from the school kids AGAIN!! All the houses around here seem to have fish tanks in them! No idea why. Probably cheaper than a cat or a dog, but not as effective.

Sunday, 19th April

A bloke called Allan talked to me at Breakfast and then showed me round town. He's the nephew of the owner of place I am staying in (who died a year ago and hence nobody speaks English here anymore - as it says in the LP). Allan really didn't like walking around. He always wanted to get a mikrolet. He showed his home. It looked nicer than many rooms I have seen for rent in London. But I guess he's quite well off by Indonesian standards. He's saving up for a house in Bengkulu (costs 2000 USD). He also thought I earned a million dollars! They have no idea about what we earn in Europe and assume that we are all filthy rich. In fact, despite that they don't earn much in absolute terms, their living standards are higher than what I was expecting, by quite a bit. Sure, the quality may not be as good as in Europe, but they all have a TV and even the smallest shack will have a great big satellite dish on the roof. If I were poor and had to choose between living in the US and Indonesia, I would 100% choose Indonesia. At least this country is set up for poor people. Had sum Es Timun (Cucumber drink) which tasted really nice. The bus to Sungapeinuh leaves at 10am and arrives at 2am. Non-AC. Can't be arsed with that, especially getting in at 2am. The ones to Padang leave at 1pm and arrive at 7am, which is much more convenient. It costs 30000rp AC, so I will get that one. Finished off reading "Around the world in 80 days" in two days. That is how much it has been raining here!

Monday, 20th April

It was raining in the morning this time, so didn't get up until 10am. Sorted out the bus ticket and did some shopping. In the afternoon I finally got round to do some sightseeing. Fort Marlborough is Ok, if not particularly interesting, nor was the view. It seems to be a "lovers" hang out, as there were young couples in all the "hidden" area. Next walked along past the Daerah monument, whatever that is and then along the coast to the extremely unimpressive Robert Hamilton Monument. The glimpses I caught of the beach weren't too inspiring either. Grey sand and grey water. Then I walked on to Soekarno's house (where he lived in exile) and also past a very nice mosque whose name I can't remember (Al-Aqua or something). Went for a meal at the Sari Rasa and got back just before it started raining.

Padang. Tuesday, 21st April

The bus to Padang turned out to be Non-AC, which they told me 10 min before it left. There apparently is no AC bus today. They refunded me the difference. The seats were actually more comfy than on the AC busses because they are cushioned properly - not this plastic arsed moulded stuff. So my rear end doesn't hurt this time. It was not too stuffy either with all the windows open, just a bit cramped. Bloody noisy and rackety though. The guy kid next to me kept on leaning, touching and lying on me all the time. In the first two hours they had to change a wheel and repair the bus about three times, but then it got better. The most annoying thing was that the bus went back to Curup and then on to Lubuklingau, using the trans-sumatran highway. Not along the coast, as I had thought. But the road was fairly straight and therefore quite quick going. The boy next to me tried talking to me, but we didn't really get very far, he was quite helpful nonetheless. The drive in the morning was quite scenic, saw those funny pointed roof houses quite a bit. Some of them are really impressive. The drive from Solok to Padang was very impressive. The mountains were covered in all sorts of exotic trees, some of which were very big. The bus terminal in Padang is quite far out (5km) and not "conveniently central" as mentioned in the LP. The bus ride took 19hrs in all. I was scared my backpack was going to be stolen for most of the ride, because I had to leave on the back bench, so anybody could have walked off with it. It just goes to show once again, that out here the people see tourists as an oddity, rather than a source of money. I have been quite lucky so far on my trip. No serious illness, only $500 Travellers Cheques (refunded) and a camera stolen (insured) and I have been ripped off a couple of times. I have therefore decided I must have a "protector" watching over me , who will go under the name of "Bob" until I have thought of a better one. So, cheers Bob!

Wednesday, 22nd April

Woke up around 11am. Walked around a bit and went to sleep again. Had a carrot juice for lunch and Simpang Raya for super. It tasted quite nice.

Thursday, 23rd April

Sorted out flights to Kuala Lumpur in order to visit Min. He's off to the US on the 2n May, so I have to be there before if I want to meet up with him. Spoke to some locals in the evening at the hotel and a French guy who's been here a few times. One of the locals is a student in Jakarta who is hiding here from the police, because he is so politically active. I felt really guilty when I said the politics wasn't really of that much interest to me and that I have never voted. Also talked about marriage. They all say you have to be rich in order to marry, so that you can support the family. Also couples can't live together unless they are married.

Friday, 24th April

A bloke called Eddie started talking to me, in order to proactive his English. We met up again later on and spoke for a couple of hours about all sorts of stuff, Soeharto, marriage, religion and the western world, I keep on trying to explain to them that just because we might be rich and free, doesn't mean that we are all eternally happy. Also tried to explain why I don't really believe in God, but I don't think he really understood me. I invited him for a meal later on, since he seemed like a nice bloke. We had Rendang, a traditional Padang meal. I can now say I have experienced real Padang, so he claimed. It tasted really nice too. This is going to be my last night in Indonesia. It really has been quite amazing!

8. Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur. Saturday, 25th April

My flight left at 9.15 am to KL. Pelangie (the airline) were really good and we flew in a Fokker 50, which is a comfortable propellor plane. It was a scenic flight too. The rivers looked really nice, winding a lot and doubling back all the time and the mountains were about as high as the place was flying. You could also see the logging etc. going on the ground. It's quite a depressing sight seeing a huge big square of jungle completely cleared. Flying into KL I there were loads of new housing estates being built. It all looked a bit like Sim City! Min later explained that all the houses were empty because nobody could afford to live in them! Min picked me up from the airport and we rove round KL all afternoon. The Petronas Towers were impressive and we went up the "Menera KL" a big radio tower. The views were OK, but the city was pretty smoggy. At the moment KL is one big building site. However due to the trouble in Asia all the work has stopped, which means that there all loads of unfinished tower blocks around the city! Ten years ago the family hotel of Min was about the tallest building in the city, now it is dwarfed by all these unfinished tower blocks. Checked out Chinatown and local market. Also went into three different shopping centres. The first was for the lower class (my sort of budget), the second was upper class (I recognised a few shop names) and the last was "luxury" class. Every fashion label in the world seemed to be there (from Armani to Versace). Had Curry Laksa for lunch, which tasted very nice and then ate at a typical Malaysian outdoor food market. Had chicken tandoori, a sort of pancake with curry sauce and chicken and ayam goreng. I was stuffed. Had a beer in the "expat area". Flash cars driving around, expats with oriental "mistresses" and the beer is more than in England. My hotel room is amazing, compared to what I have been living in for the last 6 months. The first hot shower in a month, only my second air conditioned room since leaving Australia. This is the life. This is what it is worth working for. The bed is the most comfortable one since leaving home. I was really awestruck when I first walked into the room. I didn't dare touch anything, it seemed so luxurious. Although looking bad it was a normal slightly upmarket tourist hotel! I have a couple of tours booked through the hotel and a complimentary breakfast. There is also a nice view of the Petronas Towers and and and!

Sunday, 26th April

Missed breakfast because I didn't realise there was a time difference between Malaysia and Indonesia! Went on the "Country Tour". First was the Pewter tin factory, where they showed us the machines for about 5 minutes and then tried to sell us stuff in the factory shop for about half an hour. Next we stopped at a rubber plantation and a scorpion farm, before heading on to the Batu Caves. There was some really nice scenery on the way, but the driver seemed more intent on showing us the rich and poor housing areas. The Batu caves were impressive, but infested with monkeys living off the tourists. They were really cheeky, nicking peoples hats and always turning away just before you took a photo. I swear they did this on purpose, especially if you didn't offer them some nuts beforehand! Some had even learned how to drink out of a can. Finally we stopped off at Batik center, which was interesting, because they explained how they created the paintings, but the paintings were about ten times the price of those in Yogya.

Monday, 27th April

Did the Melaka tour, which was quite interesting. Compared to KL. Melaka is oozing with history and culture. Jonker Street, the oldest street in the town was interesting and had a couple of nice Chinese temples and mosques. The replica of the Portuguese boat used when they first landed here was nice, but very small. Then checked out the fort the Dutch built and British knocked down (this place seems to have been owned by every European country there is). Next we went on to walk round a traditional Malay house, similar to the ones in Bengkulu and the surrounding area. It was on stilts, not really for flooding, but for ventilation and then had a nice Chinese meal for lunch, in a completely empty "business district". Another of Malaysia's grand construction projects gone horribly wrong. Rows upon rows of empty office and shop space. In fact the whole of Malaysia seems to be an aborted construction site! They seemed to be trying to reach "Developed" status by force. But it has failed badly at the moment. Maybe in ten years time they will have succeeded. Had an excellent Chinese meal at a proper (no tourists) Chinese restaurant. It had no decoration to speak of, just blank walls, but was quite upmarket and the food tasted very nice indeed.

9. Singapore

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Tuesday, 28th April

Said goodbye to Min and got the train to Singapore, which took six hours, but the train was very spacious (2nd class). The aircon was a bit cold though. Singapore is so clean, it looks like it was built yesterday. paying S$23 for my own room, which is OK, especially for Singapore. Walked around the Orchard Rd area, which is full of shopping centres, some high class, others for the average citizen. But all are humungous! The glitz and the glamour is really quite amazing, especially when it is dark. It's all very well kept, but I can't help feeling that this is a place where you really have to be rich to appreciate. Unlike Fiji or Indonesia, for example. So I won't be staying too long.

Wednesday, 29th April

Walked around Arab St., which is OK. A couple of nice mosques and temples and some smallish alleyways with shops crammed into them. After this I drank a carrot juice and headed off to Little India, seeing yet more temples and then had a sugar cane juice, which tasted very nice and surprisingly(!) like sugar. I looked around for tapes, to replace the two I have, but nowhere in Singapore seems to sell tapes anymore!

Thursday, 30th April

Chinatown was nice, but much too modern and well kept to look authentic. Next I looked round Funcan IT Mall, a whole shopping centre dedicated to computers! They could do with stuff like this in Europe. Same goes for the big bookstores here and in the US. Caught the MRT (tube) to Orchard Rd, it is spotless and very efficient. London Underground should take a look.

Mersing (Malaysia). Friday, 1st May

Decided to go to Mersing in order to check out one of the islands in the area. On arrival I was told by hostel owner that due to national holiday, all the islands are full, so I decided to head back to Singapore again tomorrow. The bus journey to Mersing was pretty dull and somehow I am not enjoying the travelling anymore. Normally there is an air of expectation, but this time I was bored. Mersing seemed like a nice place and I may come back one day to finish off what I have missed, eg Malaysia and North Sumatra, but I have decided to head home. Met an interesting English bloke who works for the BBC and hung out with him for the afternoon.

Singapore. Saturday, 2nd May

Met a German bloke (Telerik) on the bus back to Singapore, he was doing a Praktikum in Singapore and offered me a place to stay at his place. He is staying just down the road from the Season Homestay I was in before, which is quite practical. Walked around Suntech City (the biggest shopping centre in Singapore). Then watched two films in the evening (US Marshals and Mercury Rising).

Sunday, 3rd May

Went to Changi Airport to inquire about flight changes. It was going to cost around 400DM so I have decided to get the bus to Hat Yai and maybe spend a few on Koh Samui before heading home, via Bangkok. Bought a bus Ticket to Thailand (Hat Yai) for tomorrow.

10. Thailand

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Hat Yai. Monday, 4th May

The bus to Hat Yai was excellent. It only had three seats to a row, so they were really spacious. They also reclined to an almost horizontal position. I got to Hat Yai quite relaxed for once.

Tuesday, 5th May

I am now in Thailand, sitting in a restaurant having breakfast (toast, tea and orange juice). The town seems OK, it looks a bit like a mix between Indonesia and Malaysia. Car ownership seems quite high here, but there are loads more bemos than in Malaysia. There are also plenty of really poor looking people around. I bought a bus ticket to Bangkok, which leaves at 5pm. It is now 9am! I decided not to go to Koh Samui, but to visit Roger in Hong Kong instead. Spent most of the day sleeping/relaxing in the food court of the only shopping centre I found. They were showing "Back to the Future" on the TV there, so I watched it in Thai.

Bangkok. Wednesday, 6th May

I arrived in Bangkok at 5.30am 12 hours after leaving Hat Yai. So I have travelled from Singapore to Bangkok in roughly 36 hours. Got a taxi to Orchid House on a street parallel to Kao San Road. This area is really lively and set up for Backpackers and there's plenty of them. Got up around midday and visited Wat Pho, the biggest temple complex in Thailand or something, containing the biggest reclining Buddha in Thailand (it was huge - about 20m long). The traffic in Bangkok is really awful. It takes ages to cross a road and it is quite dangerous at that!

Thursday, 7th May

All the cafes and restaurants here have videos on all day and night, a bit like on Gili Trawangan, just more of it. Walked around trying to find the STA travel agent to sort out flights home, but they have moved! The walk was interesting though, past where all the locals live and nothing like Kao San Road. Visited Wat Arun, on the other side of the river. Very impressive, would be even nicer if it wasn't being renovated. Bought a ticket to Hong Kong for 6800Baht (=$180). Watched "The Full Monty" and "Seven Years in Tibet". The first is excellent, typically brilliant English film. The second was OK, but I think this is sort of film you have to see in a cinema in order for the scenery to really work.

Friday, 8th May

Walked to Golden Mount, which as a good view of Bangkok. Not that it's a particularly nice one though! You can see little golden spikes and domes sticking out all over the place. Visited the Royal Barges, which are very nice, but the walk there was quite exhausting. Had to walk through the floating houses, i.e. whole suburbs built on stilts over the river. The river is absolutely filthy here. I guess they simply use it as rubbish tip/sewage system. Couldn't do much more harm if you nuked the place! Amazingly there were kids playing in this quagmire. They wanted 30B to enter the Museum or 100B with camera. So I paid 30B and bought a postcard for 5B. I took the ferry back, but they really can't speak a word of English around here (not that I am complaining, since I am in Thailand!). I pointed across the river saying "cross the river". They looked at me blankly and showed me a map. But since I didn't really know where I was and couldn't read their map, I got out the LP and showed them on that. They said "Ah, cross the river". God! That's what I said in the first place. Anyway, got there in the end and it only cost 1B!

11. Hong Kong

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Saturday, 9th May

The flight to Hong Kong was good, with Chinese Airlines. The landing was interesting, gliding in above all the tower blocks and then taxiing next to freighters in the sea. It's even more impressive watching the planes land from the Airport. Rog picked me up and we went out for the night to see Cream. Brilliant. Have I missed that sort of music in the last 7 months. Hong Kong seems to have a pretty wicked nightlife and no sign of communism due to Chinese rule.

Sunday, 10th May

Got back at 6am and slept until 2.30pm. The played FIFA 98 till 8.30pm and went for a Chinese meal with Roger. Watched Everton survive yet another relegation battle at a mate of Rog's. Got back at 1am and played FIFA until 3am. What a lazy day. Vegetable.

Monday, 11th May

Spent all day window shopping for electronic goods such as MD players, but ended up not buying anything.

Tuesday, 12th May

Went up to Victoria Peak. It's quite a steep bus journey up there. Excellent view of Hong Kong harbour. Then headed for Stanley by bus, on the other side of Hong Kong island. The other half (or nine tenth) of the island seem to be forest and jungle. Stanley is nice, with a market area and a beach. Also saw Repulse Bay (Hi Dickie!), which looked quite upmarket. Finally I headed to Kowloon. This is really lively,n especially Nathan St. The bit by the ferry terminal and harbour is well done and offers good views of Hong Kong Business District. Took the Star Ferry (the original Hong Kong ferry company) back to the island. The backs of the seats flipped over, so that you could always sit facing the direction of travel. Quite a neat idea!

Wednesday, 13th May

Visited the Space Museum. It was free and quite good. In the evening I went with Rog to the races. I lost around 40HKD in all, which is peanuts. But the evening was nice, even if I couldn't afford to do any serious gambling! In the evening we went to Carnegies. A very "lively" pub with people dancing on the bar.

Thursday, 14th May

Flew back to Hong Kong and got a stand by seat on to Germany. But they gave me the worst seat in the whole plane. Right at the back, I couldn't tip my backrest. The flight seemed very short, compared to some of the monster bus rides I have done recently, i.e. only 11 hours. A guy behind me had some sort of a heart attack and they had to call for a doctor through the PA and then got an ambulance when they landed. Sat next to girl from Munich who has just finished here travelling and was heading home. Had a few beers and quite a bit of champagne (for breakfast!). So, excitement right to the very end.

Thursday, 14th May

Arrived at 7am and got the train, then bus, then tram home to Seeheim. The one thing which really struck me, sitting at the Luisenplatz, was how quiet and peaceful it is!

12. Expenditure

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Total Costs.

I prepared my trip in Germany, using STA Travel. They were very friendly and efficient and new what they were talking about. I give the cost in USD here, since my Travellers Cheques were in USD and this is currency I "thought" in whilst travelling.

Round the World Ticket: 1450 USD
Flights in Australia: 280 USD
Insurance: 150 USD
Gear: 1300 USD
Expenditure: 7730 USD
Total: 10880 USD

By Country.

Country Cost Per Day Comments
United States US$48 California was cheaper than Hawaii, especially as I went on a lot of tours on the Big Island in Hawaii.
Fiji US$28 Quite cheap, if you don't get ripped off in the souvenir shops etc.
New Zealand US$41 Travelled with Kiwi Experience most of the time, which is quite expensive, but good for seeing New Zealand in a short space of time.
Australia US$43 Had two internal flights prebooked which are not included in these expenses.
Indonesia US$10 Dirt cheap. You can live like a king for not much more.
Singapore US$50 Two nights free accommodation. Cost slightly distorted because I got a whole load of photos developed here.
Malaysia US$25 Accommodation was free, as were the tours. Thanks to Min and family!
Thailand US$38 Stayed in a slightly posher guesthouse, since I didn't fancy staying in a dive. Had my own room. Can live for a lot less if necessary. Also includes flight to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong US$30 Accommodation was free and Roger bought most of my drinks and food! There is no way I could have afforded five days in Hong Kong without his hospitality.

13. Hostels and Guesthouses

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Here I list all the hotels, guesthouses and hostels I stayed in on my trip. I give a brief comment on what I thought of the place and rate the accommodation, giving it a mark out of ten. Note that the ratings are relative, so I am not only looking for absolute values such as air con or cost. A guesthouse in Sumatra is obviously not going to have the same facilities as a hostel in New Zealand. However this doesn't mean that it is a worse place to stay in.

10 Perfect
8-9 Excellent accommodation. Friendly service, clean rooms, good value.
6-7 Good accommodation. This is the sort of level I would expect from all hostels and is the minimum standard I would accept.
5 Average. Nothing special, but the basic facilities are there.
1-4 Poor. For accommodation severely lacking in a number of areas or which is just plain bad. Luckily I didn't experience very many of these.
Hostel Location Comments Score
California, USA
Santa Monica HI Santa Monica,
Los Angeles.
A little pricey, but very well equipped, although somewhat impersonal. 6/10
Share-tel-Apartements Venice,
Los Angeles.
Great location, friendly atmosphere. Excellent for Venice Beach. 8/10
Banana Bungalows Hollywood(ish),
Los Angeles.
Crap location on a highway. No way of getting away from the hostel by foot! OK rooms and equipment. One of the worse hostels I stayed in. 3/10
Hollywood Hostel Hollywood,
Los Angeles.
Good location for Hollywood, although Hollywood itself is pretty boring. Management, whilst helpful, seemed to be more concerned with making money than improving your stay. 6/10
Globe Hostel Falsom,
San Francisco.
Conveniently located for Market Street, OK area, decent rooms and reasonably friendly. However due to a couple of events that occurred whilst I was here (not to me) I cannot recommend it, even though it is in fact a really nice place. 5/10
Grand Pacific Hotel Gas Lamp Quarter,
San Diego.
Nice hostel and well located. Free breakfast and offers a good set of excursions. Friendly atmosphere. 7/10
Hawaii, USA
Interclub Waikiki Honolulu,
O'ahu.
Ok rooms. Easy going. Good location. Free Breakfast and good setup. 7/10
Arnott's Lodge Hilo,
Big Island.
Very well run. Excellent discounted tours for residents. Friendly and very active, engaged and helpful management. A example to all other hostel owners. 9/10
Fiji
Sunseekers Hotel Nadi. Good hotel. Management can be a bit pushy in trying to sell you trips and accommodation on other islands, but are generally helpful and I was very pleased with the trip to Waya Sewa I bought from them. Relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Not much to do in Nadi though. 7/10
Dive Trek Waya Sewa Waya Sewa. Paradise. 10/10
Navala Village Naval. Basic accommodation in traditional bures with the families. Very friendly people and great fun to stay for a few days. They try to make your stay as interesting as possible. 9/10
New Zealand
Auckland Central Backpackers Auckland. Probably the biggest hostel in the world. It has about 7 storeys and a rooftop pub and cafe. Well run and an excellent place to stay if you don't mind its size. 8/10
? Whittianga. Can't remember the name of this small hostel, run by a very friendly couple. Basically staying in their house. 8/10
Hot Rock Backpackers Rotorua. OK hostel with pub next door. Standard Kiwi hostel with all amenities. 7/10
Taupo Central Backpackers Taupo. Good hostel in an excellent location for the lake and hiking along the river, as well as for the bungy jump. 8/10
River Lodge Valley ? (on way to Wellington). A somewhat different hostel, sleeping about 15 to a room in huge bunks! But a nice place to stay and well run. The main reason for coming here though, would be for all sports activities on offer. 8/10
Rowena's Wellington. OK location, not too far from city centre. Reasonable rooms and quite friendly atmosphere. 7/10
Bumbles Nelson. Good hostel, conveniently located with nice rooms and all "mod-cons". Excellent cooking facilities. Good for having a big party! 7/10
Bazil's Westport(?). Good hostel, but not much to do in Westport. 7/10
? ?. Bizarre place run by a somewhat eccentric bloke. All I can remember is having a mad fancy dress party here and eating a steak the size of a cow. No idea where we stayed that night or what the place was called. 6/10
Black Sheep Franz-Joseph Glacier. Ok, hostel. Good for hiking the glacier. 7/10
? Makaroha(?). Again I don't really know where this place is, but we had an excellent Christmas party here! It had all the normal things hostels have. Like a bed! 7/10
Black Sheep Queenstown. Similar to the one by the glacier. Well run and helpful staff. Location Ok as well 8/10
Manor House Dunedin. Set in a nice building, but the atmosphere is a bit dull, I thought. Otherwise well equipped and friendly. 6/10
? Mount Cook. Good for visiting Mount Cook. As far as I remember, the management weren't that helpful. Dorms are OK though. 6/10
Backpacker Inn The Square Christchurch. Well located and equipped hostel. Friendly atmosphere and helpful staff. Just as well since Christchurch itself is not overly interesting, except for the Wizard. 7/10
Australia
Globe Hostel Kings Cross,
Sydney.
Located in extremely lively and noisy area, but if you can bare the noise and somewhat seedy (but fairly harmless) surroundings this is an excellent hostel. It might not offer all the mod-cons of the better hostels but is still well equipped, friendly and a great place to hang out and meet people. 9/10
Belongil Beach House Byron Bay. Located slightly out of town, stones throw from the (uncrowded) beach. A well organised and helpful hostel. Very relaxed and easy going, a huge change to the Globe Hostel in Sydney and exactly what I needed after Kings Cross. 8/10
Cheers Backpackers Surfers Paradise. Reasonable hostel with swimming pool. Nothing special though. Location alright. 6/10
Beaches Backpackers Aerlie Beach. Lively hostel with ok facilities. Aerlie Beach is basically one road lined with Backpackers, catering mainly for those learning to dive and those going on cruisers round Whitsunday Islands. The hostels all look pretty much the same, with all the usual equipment. 7/10
Caravellas Cairns. Your typical hostel, ok facilities, but nothing special. 6/10
Elke's Backpackers Darwin. Friendly hostel with swimming pool. The staff are helpful, but are very keen to sell you various tours and safaris round the national parks in the area. Be careful they don't sell you things you didn't come for, because they are excellent sales men and will arrange everything for you. They are friendly though and are not trying to con you. 7/10
Elke's Backpackers Alice Springs. This place is supposedly owned by the same people as the hostel in Darwin, but the service here is very average. Whilst the facilities are OK, the staff didn't make a very good impression on me and did not seem particularly interested in being helpful. 4/10
Hotel Bakpak Melbourne. Conveniently located for central Melbourne, this big and well equipped hostel is a bit dull and not that lively. Also downtown Melbourne is not the most exciting part of the city. 6/10
Ritz for Backpackers St.Kilda
Melbourne.
Lively hostel in a lively and interesting suburb of Melbourne. Facilities are good and the people friendly. 8/10
Bali, Indonesia
Sari Yasa Kuta. Reasonable accommodation in a nice setting, friendly and helpful owner. Location is convenient and in a quiet area. 6/10
Sania's House Ubud. Similar to Sari Yasa, but even nicer. Well located in central Ubud. Nice Breakfast! 8/10
Jaya Bungalows Ubud. Pretty much exactly the same as Sania's House. Possibly even nicer. In fact most guesthouses in Ubud seemed to be of a very high standard, which considering the price makes them the best value for money accommodation I saw on my whole trip! 8/10
Pondok Senggigi Senggigi. Nice hotel style accommodation with swimming pool. Pleasant setting and good restaurant. 7/10
Dewi Sri Gilli Trawangan. Very basic accommodation in pretty setting, with nice view from the individual huts. Located slightly further out than most of the other guesthouses on the island, the thing which really makes this an excellent place to stay is the very friendly owner and his wonderful family. They will bend over backwards to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. 9/10
Strawbali Hotel Pura Ulun Danau,
Bedugul.
Ok hotel with reasonable facilities. The rooms are quite basic and spartan, but there is warm water which is a major bonus in the mountains. Other than this, it is not such a nice place. 5/10
Java, Indonesia
Lava Cafe Hostel Mt. Bromo,
Cemoro Lawang.
Friendly guesthouse with decent rooms. Perfect for visiting Mt. Bromo. Bring warm clothing, since it gets very cold at night. No hot water! 7/10
Hotel Helios Malang. Ok rooms, my mattress was pretty rubbish though. Ok location, not too far from the town centre. Pleasant setting and covered "veranda" in front of room, which is handy for the wet season! 6/10
The Westerners Solo. Friendly guesthouse, centrally located. Rooms are Ok, the guestbook is full of compliments, most of which are valid. 7/10
Losmen Superman Yogyakarta. Nice guesthouse, with good cafe out the front. Rooms are good and facilities adequate. 7/10
Wisma Duta Homestay Wonosobo. Friendly and helpful owner, good sized rooms and convenient location. 8/10
By Moritz Bandung. Ok hostel, which seems to double up as hang out for the young locals. Friendly, helpful and very clean rooms. 7/10
Sumatra, Indonesia
Hotel Mirasa Pagaralam. Friendly, family run place, within a nice setting. Helpful owners and ok rooms. 7/10
Hotel Aman Jaya Curup. More of a business style hotel than for backpackers, but the owner was talkative and friendly. Fairly spartan place though. 6/10
Wisma Balai Bantar Bengkulu. Family run, although the head of the family passed away about a year ago. I think the place, whilst nice, has probably seen better times. Still, it is a relaxing place to stay. 7/10
Hotel Sriwijaya Padang. Reasonable hostel with friendly owner and ok rooms 7/10
Malaysia, Singapore and Bangkok
Grand Continental Kuala Lumpur. Unsurprisingly the best accommodation I had during my whole trip. Wonderful. Friendly staff, excellent food. Surely a great place to stay for tourists. It can't be faulted. 9/10
Season Homestay Singapore. Reasonable accommodation, very clean and well run guesthouse. Very helpful and friendly owner. Great location as well, close to tube and a great big shopping center. 20 minute or so walk to Orchard Road. 8/10
Omar Sheriff Mersing. Average guesthouse with a helpful English lady running the place. Good for tours to the islands in the area. 7/10
Orchid House Kao San Road,
Bangkok.
Slightly more expensive guesthouse, than the others in this area. But increased comfort is definitely worth the extra cost. Friendly staff who run the place very well. Nice "terrace" cafe to relax in. 8/10

Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong

Malaysia

Batu CavesReverse Culture Shock - I believe is the correct term. I arrived in KL and got picked up by my friend at the airport, who drove me to my accommodation. Now, it just so happens that my mates family own a very successful chain of hotels (Grand Continental) across Malaysia. So when I walked into my new room, I didn't walk into some drab room with insects crawling around the floor, as had been the norm for the last 6 weeks. Instead I couldn't believe my eyes when my mate showed me into one of the hotel's suites. I didn't even dare sit down. Eventually my mate convinced to take a seat, so I cautiously sat down on the edge of the bed. Wow!

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KL is a nice city, quite developed, it's one of the major shopping destinations in Asia for rich tourists. In view of this, I am hardly surprised at the number of shopping centres in this city. Buildingwise, the Petronas Towers are certainly very impressive, but there are (or were then) a plethora of half finished high rise buildings, a legacy of the Asian tiger economy gone bust. Personally, I thought KL was OK, but it wasn't exceptional and was not that interesting.

My mate kindly organised a couple of day trips to various historical towns. Melaka, on the west coast, south of KL, is very interesting, having been settled by the Portuguese, Dutch and English at various points in history. Also impressive are the Batu caves. These are vast caves with various Hindu shrines hewn into them. Plenty of monkeys around the place add to the peculiar atmosphere. Thanking Min for the wonderful time I had in KL, I got a train to Singapore, about 3 hours south.

Singapore

RaffelesiaSingapore is wonderful. The streets are clean, the buildings in perfect condition, the traffic calm and the whole city extremely organised. It makes a huge change to the other large Asian cities and they even have pedestrian crossings, a somewhat novel idea in most Asian cities. I stayed in a nice place called Season Homestay. The owner was friendly and helpful and there was a free breakfast.

Highlights of Singapore must be Orchard Street for the shopping, Arab St. with some nice mosques and little India for its small alleys full of shops. But the best thing must be the underground! I have never seen any transport system this clean and efficient. It certainly beats the pants off the London underground. Of historic interest is the Raffelesia Hotel, supposedly the finest hotel in the world - not that I could afford to go in and find out.

After spending the next two days yo-yoing between Malaysia and Singapore (hard to explain, but mainly due to all the places of interest to me being packed out due to a public holiday in Malaysia) and becoming good friends with the border guards, I decided to head to Thailand. It was also around about this time that I decided to start making my way home (which was Germany at the time). So I booked myself on a bus to Hat Yai, south Thailand, in the hope of catching a connecting bus on to Bangkok from there.

Thailand

I arrived in Hat Yai about 8 hours later after leaving Singapore and had to hang around there for 5 hours before my bus for Bangkok was due to leave. Being somewhat tired I sat myself down in a food hall and watched Back to Future in Thai.

Bangkok has it all. Culture, history, nightlife and all three vices. It is, I imagine, the latter which attracts a lot of the tourists. Kao San Road is possibly the most famous street on the backpacking trail. The vibrant mix between western and Asian culture makes this a great place to hang out. Some might complain about the increasing commercialisation of the street and the difference some 18 months later (see elsewhere) was definitively noticeable. But those who complain are being unfair. If you don't like the place, go elsewhere.

As far as attractions go, there's plenty to see. A great way of doing this, is to take the river boat services. They are cheaper, quicker and infinitely quieter than getting a tuk-tuk or taxi through the crowded Bangkok streets. Wat Pho is worth a visit, with its multitude of temples and stupas. It is also home to Thailand's largest reclining Buddha. On the other side of the river is Wat Arun, for me so most spectacular temple in Bangkok, especially at sunset. Another must see are the Royal Barges and, if you're interested, take a walk around the surrounding 'floating city' with houses on stilts above the river. It offers an interesting view into a more genuine Thai way of life.

Next I headed off to Hong Kong to visit a friend of mine from University.

I am afraid there's no photos from here on, since my camera screwed up somewhere in Kuala Lumpur and the photos didn't turn out. I have since been back to Bangkok and I will add some photos once I've scanned them in. I have no idea when I'll be back in Hong Kong, so if anybody wants to 'donate' some photos, just get in touch. :-)

Hong Kong

Flying into Hong Kong is a hair raising experience. Being able to look into peoples homes is not something I would normally want to do from a plane. But this is how close the planes get to the high rise flats when landing in HK. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it) this experience will be spared future passengers, due to the completion of the new airport, slightly further out.

Hong Kong is a big bustling 24 hours city. It is also, probably, the most capitalist city in the world, despite being Chinese. This means that with the right money you can get anything and everything here. As far as tourist attractions go, Victoria Peak offers great views of Hong Kong harbour. If you want to get away from it all the nearby islands are relaxing or, if you don't like boats, get a bus to Stanley on Hong Kong island. This is a nice place with some touristy markets, good for getting souvenirs and presents. Finally Kowloon is a must for shopping and if you go there from Hong Kong island, get the Star ferry, the first ferry company in Hong Kong.

Nightlife in Hong Kong is sorted too. I went to a Cream (the Liverpool nightclub) gig on my first night in Hong Kong, which was excellent. The other nights weren't bad either.... Also I had a go at the races but, as always with me, I lost. And that's it! I flew back to Bangkok, hung around the airport for half a day and then flew home.

Home sweet home

Arriving home was a strange feeling. The first thing which struck me was how calm, peaceful and quiet everything was, compared those mad Asian cities. Secondly it was great to see family and friends again. But within about 2 weeks all I could think was: "I wanna go again". I am writing this over two years since getting back and I still promise myself "I'll go next summer". But one day I will and I know that whatever it might be I have to give up to do so, it will be worth it.

Sumatra

Gunung DempuThe journey to Sumatra was ok, the ferry crossing giving particularly nice views of Sumatra. Travelling on the trans-summatran highway can however be quite a hair raising experience. The road is winding and difficult to see ahead, this however doesn't stop busses from overtaking round blind corners. The legacy of this was not hard to spot. We drove past at least two burnt out lorries, one of which must have been very recent, judging by the onlookers standing around. Eventually, I arrived safely in Lahat at around 3am and had to hang around until 8am for the bus on to Pagaralam in the Pasemah Highlands, my actual destination.

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Pagaralam

Pagaralam is a small town, which doesn't get that many tourists and thus I was somewhat of a stranger there, which of course I was. The main reason for stopping here is to see the megalithic sites - up to 3000 year old stone carvings. It is also a good base for exploring hiking up Mt Dempu. You can also see some nice examples of traditional sumatran houses in this area.

Traditional Sumatran HouseI met a nice Dutch couple here, who were biologist and exploring the area for examples of the famous Rafflesia flower. The lady was, however, the most unlucky person I have ever met. They had just been up Mt Dempu, but hot up in heavy rains on the way down, having to shelter for a few hours in a makeshift tent. In the evening, she then slipped and fell into the hotel pond cutting and bruising herself. The next day, the couple were hurrying along the pavement to catch a bus. The bloke jumped over a huge whole in the pavement (quite common in this country), but she couldn' t react in time and fell into the sewage flowing below, badly cutting her toe on some glass. But she was otherwise ok. I said goodbye to this couple, taking special care when walking on the pavement and got a bus to Curup.

Curup

The bus ride to Curup was quite an experience, since the road followed a major river, which had been hit by flash flooding. At one point we all had to get off the bus and cross a makeshift bridge where the road had been literally washed away. The bus then followed and thankfully made it across safely. A bit further up the road there was a somewhat more disturbing sight. The floods had apparently washed away half a village, the shock and grief of the locals was clearly visible. I was quite relieved when I got to Curup without any further problems.

I only stayed a day in Curup, a reasonably nice place with some hot springs and waterfalls in its surroundings. I then headed on to Bengkulu, an ex British army outpost and still has the fairly well preserved Fort Marlborough. You'll also find the house Soekarno lived in exile and a nice mosque in the town.

Walking around town I bumped into the local table-tennis club, who invited in for a game. Remembering the fun I used to have as a child playing table-tennis I kindly accepted. Needless to say, I didn't win a single game, but the guys were really friendly. I spent about 3 days in Bengkulu. This had more to do with the fact that I needed a rest, than that the place is especially interesting. But I enjoyed my time there. From Bengkulu I headed up to Padang, where I mainly organised a flight to Kuala Lumpur in order to meet up with a friend from school. So after six weeks of travelling through Indonesia, I was sad to be leaving this wonderful country, but also looking forward to a somewhat more developed country.

Looking back now, it really saddens me every time I hear of more violent clashes in yet another Indonesian province. From a travelling point of view, it would be a great shame if this hugely diverse country eventually breaks up into a multitude of small states. I wish them all the best in determining their country's future.

Java

Mount Bromo

Gunung BatokI arrived in Probbolingo, Java around 3am,after my first long distance public bus ride in Asia, which took about 5 hours. The bus was Ok and they even showed a film. Not that I could understand much, since it was Japanese, with what I figure were English, Indonesian and Chinese subtitles all on top of each other! Getting off the bus I became yet another victim of what is the best organised scam I came across. This I have documented elsewhere.

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From Probbolingo I headed up the Mt Bromo to Cemoro Lawang, where I stayed in the Lava View Cafe (admittedly not the most reassuring name for cafe in a region where live volcanoes come two a penny). But the place was nice and the staff friendly. The views across this spectacular volcanic landscape are very impressive. Personally though I preferred the near perfect symmetry of Mt Batok to smouldering Mt Bromo.

Sunrise - Gunung BromoThe next morning I rose at 3am in order to walk up the hillside to catch sun rise over this area. The effort was well worth it, as I witnessed the most awe inspiring scene I saw in Indonesia. The colour changes during the sunrise were beautiful, all against the backdrop of Mt Semeru spewing out clouds of ash every few minutes. If you enjoy hiking, this is an excellent area for extended hikes. Personally, I decided to head back to the lodge for some much needed sleep.

My next destination, Melang, is a nice town (by Indonesian standards), with a curious Dutch feel to it (Java used to be Dutch colony). There are some nice temples dotted around the area. The nicest being Panataran, near Blitar. Blitar is also where President Soekarno was buried and you can visit his home (handy if it's raining, which it did all day). After Melang I carried on to Solo, famous for Kraton Surakarta, a nice palace with a varied range of artefacts from different cultures and ages. Since I was ill for the next two days I didn't see much of this place, before heading on to Yogyakarta, also known as Yogya.

Yogya

BorobudurYogya is widely regarded as the cultural centre of Java and certainly there is plenty to do in and around this place. It is also a major centre for Batik artists and you can buy some really high quality paintings for not a lot of money (you can also pay hundreds of dollars if you wish!). The water temple is worth a visit. It's not in very good condition, but the various pools are quite nice. There is also the bird market nearby which is interesting, but not exactly animal friendly.

Really, there are two main reasons for visiting Yogya, Borobudur and Prambanan. The first is the biggest Buddhist complex in Indonesia, the latter being a very impressive Hindu site. Prambanan can be easily visited by public transport, but it is probably best to see Borobudur on a tour. Make sure you get there in time for the splendid sunrise. There are a few other temples on both of these sites, making either of them a nice day out.

PrambananAfter Yogya I headed on to Wonosobo and the Dieng Plateau for some wonderful Countryside. It is most famous for its Telaga Warna (Coloured Lakes). These are basically two lakes right next to each other, one coloured green, the other brown and it is definitely a sight worth seeing. There are also a few temples dotted around the area. The Arunja complex, in a wide open field, was the most impressive of the lot. After this brief excursion into the mountains, I subjected myself to a 10 hour bus ride in order to get to Bandung, just south-east of Jakarta. This is not a particularly nice place, being a large industrial city. However, it served as convenient place to stopover, before heading on to Sumatra, since I had no intention of visiting the huge urban sprawl that is Jakarta.

Bali

Kuta

Pura BesahkiI arrived on Bali and for about the only time on my trip I was lost. Not geographically, but in a 'what on earth am I going to do now' sort of way. Luckily, as always seemed to happen in these situations, I bumped into another backpacker at the tourist info stand. She seemed to have more of an idea than I did and we ended up sharing a room together in Kuta. She had also thought ahead and had not forgotten the most vital of items...toilet paper. Kuta itself is OK, but full of extremely persistent street hawkers (I got ripped off on a watch which started going backwards after a day). So we headed off to the cultural center of Bali, Ubud.

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Ubud is a very nice place, much more relaxed than Kuta and the Inns are probably the best value for money in the world. I paid about 15000 rupiah (=1.5USD at the time) for a lovely double bedroom and free breakfast (Banana pancake and tea - very nice).

Rice PaddiesThe next day we hired two bikes and cycled round the area. This is an excellent way to see the area, cycling past gorgeous lush green rice paddies and through lovely little villages. But it can be quite exhausting (well for me anyway). Wanting to relax a bit the following day, we decided on a motorised form of transport and hired a little jeep. This was another excellent day out and enabled us to see a lot Bali, driving round most of he eastern part of the island. One very impressive (if rather commercial) is Purah Besakih, on the foot of Gunung Agung. It is the biggest temple complex in Bali, comprising of 23 separate, but related temples.

At this point I would like to thank the girl I was travelling with for doing all the driving and organising most of the things whilst we travelled together. Somehow she managed to get the hang of this much quicker than me. So, thanks a lot Melanie. Not surprisingly, it was also her idea to go to the Gilli Isles and we thus headed off to Lombok.

Lombok

Sengigi BeachThe crossing from Padangbai (Bali) to Lembar (Lombok) is very nice, but takes about four hours for what can not be more than about 30km. From Lembar we made our way to Sengigi. Sengigi is a lovely little town on the west coast of Lombok. We stayed here for a couple of nights in a place with swimming pool. There's also a nice temple here called Batu Bolong.

Gilli TarawanganSo after a nice rest in Sengigi, we got a little boat to Gili Trawangan. This is one of 3 islands that form the Gili Islands (somewhat of a misnomer, since Gili simply means Island in Indonesian). The islands are nice for snorkelling or diving and generally having a good time. We stayed in a lovely place called the Dewi Sri Bungalows on the west coast of the island about 5 minutes walk from the main stretch of road. The owner was really happy to see us (we were the only customers he had in about a week) and his wife and kids were helpful and cooked us some really nice food. The interior of the island is also very nice, the tall grass being a strange shade of bright green, almost flourescent.

Four nice days later I decided it was time to leave Gili Trawangan, Lombok and Bali and to start to head off to Java and Summatra. This meant skipping my prebooked flight from Bali to Bangkok, but I felt I couldn't miss out on travelling through such a wonderful country. So I said goodbye to Melanie and made my way back to Bali.

Ubud

Kids in BaliI arrived back in Ubud the same day as leaving Gili Trawangan and stayed in an even more beautiful (and cheaper) Inn than the previous week. But more importantly, much more importantly, I had my own room for the first time in over 5 months. And I enjoyed every minute of it. I slept as if I hadn't done so in a month and woke up about 1pm the next day, which kind of ruined all my plans for that day!

When I did finally manage to get up I walked around town and met a local teenager and his brother who invited me to a meal that evening. I gladly accepted and they picked me up on a litlle scooter later in the evening and drove up the hill side a bit. Here they showed me the chicken we were going to eat and promptly killed the poor thing. I almost turned vegetarian that night. But the meal tasted lovely and so I bought them a round of beers. By this time most of their friends had also arrived and we a had a great party.

The next day they drove me round some of the local sights and showed me where they lived. The older brother was a wood sculptur and had made some truely amazing wood carvings. I had had a great time the last two days, however, I wanted to see Pura Ulun Danau, a Hindu-Budhist temple in central Bali, so I bade them farewell and headed off.

Pura Ulun DanauI was not dissapointed by the temple either. I got up really early in the morning in order to beat the tourists and had the whole temple site pretty much to myself. It was wonderfully serene and beautiful. I stayed for at least an hour, before the tourist crowd arrived and I decided to walk up the nearby hill.

Next I headed to Tabanan in order to see Tanah Lot, a pretty temple on a large bit of rock sticking out of the sea. I picked the right day too, since it was some sort of public holiday and there were processions all the way to the temple with people in wonderfull robes carrying well decorated gifts for the gods. A great way to finish off my time on Bali.

Australia Red Centre

Darwin

Aboriginal PaintingProbably the main reason for heading to Darwin is for the national parks. These include Litchfield, Nitmiluk and Kakadu. I decided on a three day tour of Kakadu National Park, by far the largest of the lot. First stop was a river tour to see wild alligators. Next we drove on to Nourlangie Rock to look at some aboriginal paintings. The one on this page is of an aboriginal "Bogey Man". It was meant to scare children away from areas they were not supposed to visit. We then headed on and walked up a hill to a lookout called Nawurlandja. This gave outstanding views of the park. And much like the Blue Mountains a few weeks earlier, the vastness of the place was quite remarkable.

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Termite MoundThe next day was basically more of the same, but with lots more walking. Walking is not to be recommended in this area as I found out. With temperatures above 30?C and humid near 100% even the shortest walk becomes a strenuous hike. But it's worth it for getting to some of the waterholes dotted around the area. These do however offer a welcome chance to cool down and practice your diving skills off the surrounding rocks. Finally we drove past some massive termite mounds, some of which were over 5m tall (that's about 15feet). Very impressive. Then we headed on to our next camp site for another night of mosquito bashing (they always win though).

The next day was mainly a long drive to get back to Darwin, but with plenty of breaks to go walking and swimming in more waterholes. Some of these holes contain surprisingly large fish for their size. You wonder what they feed on. Lost tourists maybe? I would recommend seeing Kakadu to everybody. The whole place is beautiful, extremely large and has plenty of wildlife to offer. But I had to head back to Darwin to catch a bus to Alice Springs in Australia's Red Centre.

Uluru

Uluru - Ayers RockThe bus ride to Alice Springs was Ok and quite exciting. First we had a puncture in the middle of nowhere and then we drove past Katherine, which had just been flooded by heavy rainfalls. Anyway, we got to Alice ok in the end and I booked myself onto a three day Ayers Rock tour for the next day. I then walked up ANZAC hill for a nice view of the town and stayed for the sun to set behind the McDonnell Ranges. Otherwise Alice has not that much to offer and I was glad to be heading on the next day.

First stop on the tour was a Camel farm, where I learnt that Australia has the only free roaming Camel herds left on Earth. Not only that, but it also has the purest breed of Camels and exports them back to Afghanistan, where they came from in the first place! We then drove on passed Mt Ebenezer, Mt Conner (an impressive flat top hill) and some salt lakes. We finally arrived at Ayers Rock and had a walk along the base - in preparation for the climb the next morning.

Camping by Ayers RockI woke up to the nicest view in the world (except maybe the one out of my dorm on Waya Sewa, Fiji) - Ayres Rock by sunrise and then drove to Ayers Rock. We arrived at about 7.30am, just in time to start the climb, since it shuts at 8am due to the heat. This meant that everyone else was coming down as we were going up. The climb is quite tough, but not too difficult. When we arrived at the top we found that everyone else had left and we had the whole place to ourselves. Nice. We then headed back down, checked out the nearby Olgas and headed off to our campsite stopping off at massive red sand dunes along the way.

The next day we had some Damper for breakfast, drove to the Garden of Eden for a beautiful walk around Kings Canyon and a refreshing swim in a large waterhole. We then headed back to Alice and where I caught a bus back to Darwin.

Melbourne

Twelve ApostlesAdmittedly heading to Darwin, when in fact I was trying to get to Melbourne on the other side of Australia seems a bit stupid. But this is how it worked out somehow. Mainly because I rearranged my prebooked flights in order to get to the opening Formula One Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne. So, about two hours after arriving in Darwin I was sitting on a plane to Melbourne.

Melbourne is a nice city. I stayed in the "Ritz for Backpackers" in St. Kilda a nice hostel, full of Dutch backpackers. St. Kilda is a very lively suburb about 2km to the south of Melbourne. I also met up with an Australian couple who were on the same bus as me in New Zealand. They kindly put me up for a few nights and showed me some of the sights including the Yarra River, which is nice.

Once back in the hostel I went on the Great Ocean Road tour, to see the 12 Apostles, London Bridge, Lock Ard Gorge and various forms of wildlife such as Kangaroos, Koalas and Kookaburra birds. The next four days it was time for the Grand Prix I had been waiting for and I wasn't disappointed. The event was well organised with plenty to do around the circuit. For those who are interested McLaren blitzed the field with Hakkinen winning ahead of Coulthard.

Good Bye AustraliaTwo months in Australia seemed to have passed much too quickly, but my ticket told me I was due to fly to Bali the next day. So I stocked up on various items, forgetting the most important thing of all - TP (toilet paper), before boarding the plane to yet another continent. But luck was on my side...

Australia East Coast

Sydney

Opera HouseSydney has a lot to offer. Whilst the city is not necessarily beautiful, it does have some fantastic views. Of course the Opera House is beautiful, as is Harbour Bridge and the whole of the Bay Area (best seen from Sydney Tower). There are plenty of beaches everywhere. Famous Bondi beach is nice and Manly Beach across the bay makes for a nice day out. If you want to cruise through the bay, save some money by not going on a tour and get the ferry to Manly. Then catch the last ferry back, just in time for a beautiful sunset view of the Sydney skyline.

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I stayed in a place called the Globe Backpackers, right in the middle of Kings Cross. This is a weird place. It has quite a seedy atmosphere with a number strip joints in the area, but it is also a very lively and exciting area. There is always something to do here. The only drawback were the bikers which decided to leave every morning at around 4am, on their Harleys. And they certainly had no mufflers on their exhausts. Amazingly I actually to sleep though this racket in the last few days of my stay here.

Blue MountainsA nice day trip is to the Blue Mountains. They really are a shade of blue, which is due to gases given off by the Eucalyptus trees. This was my first experience of the vastness of Australia and was very impressive. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but mountains and trees. In this area there is also the worlds steepest railway (incline of 52°), the Three Sisters (three big rock formations), Boars Head (another rock formation), Mt Victoria and a seemingly endless sprawl of Eucalyptus trees.

After almost two weeks in Sydney, I decided to head on to Byron Bay and then to Cairns, via the Whitsunday Islands.

East Coast

BeachI bought a one month Greyhound Bus ticket for the east coast and headed off to Byron Bay, a hippie style hang out for alternative lifestyle like people. Actually I was told off by some geezer for referring to the place as a hippie place. Apparently the people here are not. Funnily he didn't give me any other useful term for describing the area. It has a very nice relaxed atmosphere and some beautiful beaches - even if I did get stung by a Blue Bottle (jellyfish). There's also a nice walk round Cape Byron. I stayed in the very relaxed Belongil Beachhouse a little out of town and enjoyed a nice few days here, before going on to Surfers Paradise.

Surfers Paradise is for Australians what Ibiza or Mallorca is for us Europeans. A holiday resort living purely from tourists. The funniest thing about it is though that the town planners don't appear to have an IQ of more than 50 between them. You see, what they have done is to build a whole load of huge tower blocks right on the beach front. Great idea it would be, except after about 2pm the whole beach is covered in shade from the blocks. D'oh.

Boast called Great EagleSo having sunbathed in the shade for most of my time here I continued on to Aerlie Beach for a 3 day cruise of the Whitsunday Islands. Aerlie Beach is funny place. The only inhabitants appear to be backpackers. But the cruise was great, well it ought to be on the "Great Eagle". Sailing, that's a life I could get used to....shame I live right in the middle of Germany, about 500km from the nearest beach.

For the last stint of my Greyhound ticket, I got a bus to Cairns. I found Cairns to be a bit boring, but if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef it's a must. I did a one off dive on a boat called "Passions of Paradise" - beautiful. My next to stop was to be Darwin, but not wanting to spend over 24hrs on a bus I decided to fly.

New Zealand

Auckland

Kiwi ExperienceI had to hang around till 5.30 am at Nadi Airport for my flight out. Fiji might be the most gorgeous place on earth, but its airport sucks. I would strongly advise against trying to stay the night here, the chairs are awful and designed in such a way that it is impossible lie down across a row of them. The flight was Ok and I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand a few hours later. I checked into the Auckland Central Backpackers (ACB). This must be the biggest hostel in the world. The thing had about 10 floors, including a roof top cafe. I didn't get up to much in Auckland. It seemed like a nice place, but I was still in Fiji mode and couldn't get used to the 'busy' way of life. So I decided for the easy option for touring New Zealand and bought myself a Kiwi Experience ticket. Whilst it seemed a tad expensive, I had a great laugh for the month I used the ticket and would recommend this to anyone else wanting to see New Zealand in a relatively short space of time.

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Kiwi Experience

Waikato RiverThe first stop was Whittianga, then onto Rotorua, via Mt Maunganui. Rotorua is interesting for the steam holes. The whole town smells of sulphur! It also seems to be a centre of Maori culture. Next we drove to Taupo, stopping off to see Glow Worm caves and the Aranui caves. Taupo is a nice place and it is well worth going sailing on Lake Taupo with Bill Dawson and his boat "Barbary". Also the Huka falls are interesting, not so much for their size, but for the impressive colour of blue which is formed in the falls. Then it was on to Wellington, stopping off for a night at a place called River Valley Lodge. Here we went to a local Christmas party. This was fun, if only because I had never before seen Santa Clause arrive in a rubber dinghy wearing sunglasses!

In Wellington I stayed in a place called "Rowena's". A nice place place slightly up the hillside. I found Wellington to be the nicest town in New Zealand. It seemed to have some flair and culture (sadly, a rare thing round this part of the world). But be warned, Wellington is not called 'Windy Wellington' for nothing. The north island was interesting and I had great time with the friends I met on the bus, but now it was time to head for the South Island and discover New Zealand's true natural beauty.

South Island

Pancake RocksThe boat ride across to the south island is nice and leads through the delightful Marlborough Sounds. From here I then got another Kiwi Experience bus to Nelson, where I stayed for 3 days. Nelson is Ok, it has a Cathedral, allowing the place to call itself a city despite a population of around 150,000. The official centre of New Zealand is also near here. It's a nice walk there, albeit up a rather steep hill. Well it would be in New Zealand, wouldn't it! Next we drove to Westport and from there on to the pancake rocks. A rather peculiar rock formation, as can be seen on the picture.

From here we then drove to the Franz-Joseph-Glacier. The next day I opted for the full day glacier hike. Franz-Josef GlacierThis was an experience I shall never forget. I am not the greatest hiker in the world. In fact for me the definition of a hike is the 10 minute walk I have into work everyday. So walking on ice, with holes and ravens either side of you, is something quite different. My adrenaline was pumping I can assure you that. I think I was in the doomed group anyway, as everybody in our group had some kind of fall or scratch by the end of the day. But at least it made feel at home again, for it was Christmas Eve and white!

Christmas Day we drove to Makaroa, via Lake Mathieson. There should have been a perfect reflection of the mountains in this lake, but it was cloudy. Damn. I have been told though that the view is exactly like all the postcards show it. I'll have to go back one day. The Christmas day party was great in the evening and the next morning it was off to Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world.

Queenstown

Milford SoundHaving partially recovered from our hangovers, the bus drove on to Queenstown, passing Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Both very nice. We were due to stop in Wanaka, but decided to head straight for Queenstown since none of us were in a state for solving puzzles - which is what Wanaka is famous for. This was much to the dismay of a fellow backpacker I later met in Australia. She was waiting to be picked up in Wanaka that day and thus had to stay an extra night!

Queenstown is renowned for being the adrenaline centre of New Zealand. If it's dangerous, you can do it here. So I opted for the one day Milford Sound tour and save my adrenaline for another day. Milford Sound is beautiful. Actually it's a Fjord, but that doesn't seem to bother anybody here. It is also the wettest spot in New Zealand and thus rained all day. Actually this probably improved the sights, since the most impressive thing about it are the waterfalls gushing out of almost every nook and cranny in the rocks.

Mount CookThe only problem with Queenstown was that because it was almost New Years Eve and the place has good party reputation there were no beds free over the New Year. So I headed for Dunedin. A nice place it is and New Years was ok there. After New Year, it was time to head back to Queenstown and catch the Kiwi Experience bus on to Mt Cook for the night. Mt Cook is beautiful and for me the nicest sight in New Zealand (although there was also Franz-Joseph-Glacier, Milford Sound, Lake Wanaka, Marlborough Sounds and and and). Finally the bus took me to Christchurch. Except for rather eccentric 'official' Wizard of Christchurch, this is a pretty dull affair. My only real reason for stopping here was to catch my plane on to Australia. Well, what can I say about New Zealand, except that it must surely be the most beautifully diverse country on Earth.

Fiji

Waya SewaFlying to Fiji was a peculiar experience. I boarded the plane just 1am on Tuesday morning and arrived in Nadi, Fiji on Wednesday about 9am. A flight of more than 24 hours. What had happened? I crossed the international dateline and thereby lost a day of my life. In much the same way as Phileas Fogg and his sturdy companion Passepartout gained a day in Jules Vernes' "Around the World in 80 days", enabling them to win the bet. Except, of course, that I had more than 80 days in which to complete my trip and was much aided by the invention of the jet engine.

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Waya Sewa

Having landed in Nadi, I had no idea where to stay, so I went with some tout to a place called "Sunseekers Hotel". Here they then suggested I go to "Waya Sewa" an island about 2 hours boat ride from Kava DrinkLautoka, north of Nadi. The next day I got myself to Lautoka and boarded the little boat to Waya Sewa. I was not to be disappointed. This island is paradise. Accommodation was in a dorm in a little Burre and as you can see from the photo, the view was incredible and I had never before seen an ocean quite so beautifully blue. There was plenty to do (if you wanted), like snorkelling, fishing, diving, sunbathing and playing various sports with the locals. After 3 days in paradise, trying to come up with ways of never having to leave the island, I finally returned to the mainland. I went back to my old hotel and bumped into a girl who was there last time too. She had since been to Navala in the hills and urged me to check it out, for the experience of staying in a traditional Fijian village. So the next day I set out for Navala.

Navala

Navala VillageGetting to Navala was an experience in itself. First I had to get a bus to Lautoka, then another bus to Ba. Here I changed again and got the bus to Navala. The whole journey took about half a day. I was greeted by the "Head of Tourism" who introduced me to the Village Chief. After giving him a "sevu sevu" (gift), which was some kava roots I had bought in Ba, I was introduced to the family I was to stay with. They pointed me to the spot on the floor where I could sleep in their Burre and brought me some tea. This and rice was to be my staple diet for the next 3 days.

Fiji KidsNavala is located in a beautiful setting in the central hills of the Fijian mainland Viti Levu. It is pretty much a self sufficient village, which has a school and church (catholic). Nearby is a river for washing and for the kids (and me) to play in. The family I was staying with was very friendly and interesting. They had a little 2 year old son and a 6 month old baby. The Burres contain one room in which the whole family and guests lives, eats and sleeps. No tables or chairs. The floor is good enough. The night before leaving they organised a little ceremony for me. This mainly involved drinking Kava (this is where the sevu sevu came in handy) in a traditional way, respecting the various customs. Having drunk a few bowls I was tired and went to sleep whilst the rest partied on! (Kava is very mildly narcotic). After 3 more wonderful days in Fiji, playing in rivers, hiking and going fruit picking with the kids I had to head back to Nadi to catch my flight on to New Zealand.

Hawaii

O'ahu

Diamond HeadFlying in to Hawaii can be really beautiful, seeing those little green islands all alone in the pacific. You're not disappointed when you land either. Honolulu is Ok. It's got quite a good nightlife and plenty of beaches within walking distance. This makes it an ideal holiday destination and hence the place can be packed with tourists. On O'ahu itself there isn't quiet as much natural beauty as on the other islands. Diamond Head is an interesting crater of an exploded volcano, the North Shore is pretty and is the hang out area for the hundreds of surfers who swarm over Oahu in the main season. Judging by the waves I saw, I can understand why.

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O'ahu SunsetThere are other things to see of course. Pearl Harbour is a must for anybody interested in WW2. Also, Hanauma Bay is an absolute must for its marine life. The coral there is almost dead, but out of all the places I went snorkelling, Hanauma Bay had the most interesting and amazingly coloured fish. Well worth the couple of dollars to get into the beach area. A cheap way of touring the island is to go by public transport round the island. This is easily done in a day (including stops) and gives very nice views of the islands and its surroundings.

Having spent about 5 days on O'ahu I decided to check out the other islands and headed for the proper Hawaii, also known as the "Big Island" since it is about twice as big as all the other islands put together.

The Big Island

Kilauea Crater and Kilauea IkiThe journey across to The Big Island provides even more fantastic views of the islands than the previous flight. Try sitting on the left of the plane for great views of Maui. I stayed in a place called Arnott's Lodge, which is run by an Australian guy. They offer really good tours of the island and are trying to set up a mini version Kiwi and Oz Experience - known as "The Big Island Experience". I went on several tours to see waterfalls, volcanoes and mountains. All were interesting.

Here you see pictures of Kilauea volcano, which is still active and the tour of this volcano is particularly good. Probably enhanced by the fact that the guide is a native Hawaiian who won't miss an opportunity to slag off the government!! Needless to say the natives aren't too fond of their 'colonisers'. Within this great big crater is another crater known as Kilauea Iki. This has a diameter of a couple of km, so you can imagine the grandeur of this site. There are steam vents everywhere and rumour has it that if your steal any of the stones a Hawaiian goddess will bring much bad luck and disaster to you. Parcels to the local authorities containing 'borrowed' stones are not uncommon....

Olivine BeachThere are loads of beautiful waterfalls on the island and the general scenery is gorgeous. You can also go swimming with wild turtles on a black sand beach and there is even an olivine coloured beach with is a strange site. One thing that really struck me was how warm the water was. Coming from England I am used to the sea being about 15C. On Hawaii the water's so warm it doesn't actually cool you down!

Lava FormationsOne of the funny things on the volcano tour were the various lava formations that cropped up every now and then. One of the larger ones is on the left. Of course a big reason for going to Hawaii is the hope of seeing live lava flows. And you won't be disappointed. Kilauea is continuously erupting and lava is visible most nights. If you decide go it 'alone' to the main viewpoint be prepared for a long trek over rugged lava fields. Even 4x4's don't go much faster than walking speed. And whatever you do, take a good torch. Me and a friend went alone, but without a torch. After walking for about three hours it was getting dark and we were still 'miles' from the viewpoint. Eventually we turned back, stumbling across a sign saying for your own safety do not pass this point. Oops. Anyway it got pitch black and when you are walking on a lava field, the light from the stars (no moon since it was new moon) is not enough to even see your own feet. Believe me walking on a lava field is difficult enough in the daylight, but in the pitch black it gets a bit dangerous since there can be quite large holes and gaps. Anyway we got back safely eventually thanks to a passing 4x4 which charged us 10 bucks to stand on the back (sitting would have been impossible due to the bumpy ride). I went back the next evening on a tour. A lot more comfortable.

Mauna KeaAnother interesting, if inactive (I think) volcano is Mauna Kea. It is about 3800m which makes the air quite thin at the top. The summit looks a bit like Mars and the views are excellent, but the weather can change very quickly. It took about 2 minutes for the whole place to be covered in clouds. The guide said we had better get back down again very soon. Of course we all complained, saying it was just a bit of cloud. Well, an hour later it snowed up there and the place was covered in a quite a few inches of snow. Listen to your guide! After eight wonderful days on The Big Island, it was time to head back to Honolulu and catch a flight to Fiji.

California

Los Angeles

Santa Monica BeachLos Angeles, California was the first port of call on my trip. It is an enjoyable place to stay, especially if you're interested in the entertainment business or just want to relax on the beach. I stayed in Santa Monica and Venice Beach for about a week. Santa Monica is a bit more upmarket and has the famous pier with a Ferris wheel. Venice on the other hand is plain crazy. Especially on Sundays when there beach walk is full of entertainers. You can spend all day just watching performers and entertainers go about their business.

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The only gripe, quite a major one, is that public transport in the city sucks. Getting a bus for any great distance is out of the question. It takes roughly two hours to get to Downtown LA from Santa Monica. Also, the people you meet on the buses tend to be from the poorer portions of the populations. Whilst I never felt threatened the few times I did get a bus, it can be quite an intimidating experience. In LA, everybody drives. Having said that the Greyhound buses are ok and a cheap way of moving between cities.

Manns TheatreI also stayed a few days near Hollywood Boulevard. This is quite a let down. Apart from the stars on the pavement, the names of which were mostly unknown to me, and Mann's Theatre, there is not a lot to do here. It's quite run-down nowadays as well. Next it was on to San Francisco for a bit of cable car joy riding.

San Francisco

San Francisco SkylineI arrived in San Francisco about one in the morning and checked into the Globetrotters hostel in SoMa - South of Market Street. Great location, since it is only about 5 minutes walk from the centre. San Francisco is probably most famous for two things. The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Both are a must. Golden Gate Bridge simply because it's so impressive and Alcatraz because there is actually quite a good self guided audio tour to show and explain the various points of interest and also because it affords good views of San Francisco.

Golden Gate BridgeI was fortunate to be able to be in San Francisco for Halloween. In a city with such a good reputation for nightlife and partying, Halloween was excellent. It wasn't quite as far out as one might have expected, but there were plenty of 'characters' hanging around. San Francisco also has plenty of other attractions. Coit tower is interesting, as is the Latin quarter, Lombard Street ("Crookedest Street"), Golden Gate Park and Fisherman's Wharf. In fact I would go as far as to say that San Francisco is the most interesting city I visited in the US, if not anywhere on my trip. I was sad to have leave such a lively place, but I was heading back to LA briefly before heading on to San Diego for a few days.

San Diego

San Diego SkylineSan Diego is nice, but I found it a bit boring, especially if you come there almost directly from San Francisco. Whilst it certainly seemed to be quite an affluent area, there isn't that much to do really. The Gas Lamp quarter is interesting and looks quite attractive. Coronado Island is nice for a day out, as is the Old Town, but what I found nicest is the fact that it isn't congested with traffic and that it is close to Mexico, giving it a nice Latin flair.

San Diego ZooIf there is one thing you must go and see, then this is San Diego Zoo. I find zoo's interesting and have thus been to a few and I have to say San Diego Zoo is the best of the lot - by a mile. Even if you don't like zoo's, it's nice to go just for a day out. I had a relaxing few days in San Diego, before heading back to LA and then on to Hawaii.

So after one month's travelling, I was just getting the hang of this backpacking lark and having a great time at that. The people I met along the way were all interesting and friendly. Also I was just getting used to something that would happen over and over again. I would say goodbye to friends, not expecting to see them again and then bump into them three weeks later in another hostel or on the street in a completely different town or even country!

My Trip

Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R.Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

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What's this?

Here you'll find an easy to follow tour of my trip. Just follow the link below and go through the next few pages, country by country. I would advise you to go through the follow pages menu in linear order, this way you'll get a better feel for the trip.

An Overview:

Follow me as I experience Hallooween in San Francisco, get lost on a lava field in Hawaii, get drunk on Kava drink in Fiji and hike a glacier in New Zealand, narrowly escaping death. The tour continues as I go diving and sailing in Australia, have some Balinese kids prepare me a traditional meal, experience the biggest culture shock of my life in Kuala Lumpur and go to a Gig by Nick Warren (from Cream) in Hong Kong.

Ok, so the bit about me narrowly escaping death is exaggerated (no need to worry Mum!) but the rest is true.

Take the Tour here:

Start

Packing

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
An old Tibetian saying

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Packing Light

I am not going to go into great detail on the ins and out of travelling light. You'll probably have heard this a hundred times before, but it is important to travel light. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you are going to be lugging everything you take around with you for the next few weeks or months. You are likely going to have to do at least a fair bit of walking, to reach hostel, hotels, bus stops and train stations, possibly in a hurry. So the less you take the easier it will be to reach these places. Secondly, the less you take, the smaller your bag pack will be. For me this is actually more important than the first point. Travelling light is relative. Some people can lug 30kg or more around with them no probs. For others (like me!) 15kg is already too much. I met one guy in Christchurch, NZ, travelling with what appeared to be a wardrobe on his back. But then this guy could have taken on Arnie if you get what I mean. Actually he worked on fishing boats in Alaska for 6 months in the year (spending the rest of his time travelling). So he was a tough fellow. But if he ever has to get on a crowded bus in Asia, good luck to him. In these situations having a bag at all is a right pain. This, of course, can't be avoided. So try and keep your backpack to a reasonable size. I travelled with a "70 litre Travel Trekker" from "Lowe Alpine". This was (I say was because it got stolen on a boat, see Preparation page) a really good bag. Maybe already a tad too big, but well designed and thought out. For more info on travel gear see my links section.

Packing list

On the next page you'll find my packing list for my trip. I also indicate whether the item was of any use or not. We all make mistakes....
Total weight was about 18kg. Just about light enough. Oh, and don't forget your ticket and passport.

Item Usefullness/Comments
3 Shirts 2 long, 1 short.
3 T-shirts Ok, including 1 thermal type thing
1 Turtleneck Jumper Quite Handy when cold
2 Trowsers, 2 Shorts
1 Belt
OK, included one pair of swimming shorts.
1 Rain Coat I had a Gore-Tex one which you could squash into a little bag. It was really handy and a good wind breaker on occasions
4 pairs socks
4 pairs of underpants
OK, included 1 thermal underwear. Just in case.
1 Hiking Boots
1 light shoes
1 flip flops
Hiking boots were a bit heavy a lot of the time, but were very handy otherwise. I would take them again, depending on the type of place I go to. Bought some sandals in Asia, and threw away the shoes which were worn out. As for the flip flops. They were handy, but mine were a little big. Make sure they're light and small (depending on you're shoe size of course....).
2 Towel I had one for the beach and one small spungy one which can soak up something like ten times it own weight. Both were handy, but I exchanged the proper towel for a sarong once in Asia. A much better solution. Sarongs are excellent. They can be used as towels, bed covers, skirts (also for men!) and many other things that I am sure I don't know about....yet. Also they are extremely light and squashable.
1 Scarve
1 Hat, 1 Cap
1 Pair of gloves
OK, depends on where you're going.
Toiletries Standard stuff, which I am not going to go into in detail
Medical Items Make sure you bring any medicines that you need and that you might not be able get locally. Sometimes it's helpful to carry a doctors note as well. For customs clearance etc.
1 Sleep Sack
1 Sleep Bag
1 Sleeping Mat
Ok, I learnt the hard way here. I really only needed the sleep sack. On occasions the sleeping bag was usefull, but a couple of lairs of extra clothing would have done the job too. I also took a "Therm-a-rest" inflatable mat. Whilst these a really light and compact if you need them, mine was a complete waste of space and weight, since I didn't use it once. I think if I were to do the same trip again, I would only take the sleep sack. I had a cotton one. If you can afford it take a Silk one. They are really comfortable.
Torch, Camera,
Clock, Lock,
Moneybelt,
Journal, Guidebook,
Reading Books,
Some small bags,
Swiss Army Knife,
Walkman and tapes
All of these were usefull. The torch would have been more usefull if I had actually taken it with me on occasions that I really needed it.... see elsewhere. D'Oh. Taking a Journal is really handy for later, as you won't be able to remember everything in a few years time. I am writing this over a year after getting back and really enjoyed looking up things in my journal. It's also always handy to have a book for reading on rainy days or long bus trips. Although reading on buses is a bit of an Oxymoron(!) in most cases. You will find plenty of second hand book stores where you can buy cheap ones or exchange them. Of course, it's cheaper if you exchange with a fellow backpacker. The walkman was also handy on long bus rides.

Ripped Off

I was travelling to Gunung Bromo in Java, from Bali. This is an impressive crater and landscape at the top of a mountain in Java. The bus was an overnight trip and was due to arrive at the bottom of the mountain at about 3am. From here I wanted to get a "Bemo" (=minibus) to the top and was also due to travel on to Melang after my stay up there.

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Anyway, the bus I was on stopped at about 3am, in pitch black. The driver woke me up and said here's your stop. So I got off, thinking it was rather funny that everybody else (all locals) stayed on the bus. I saw a little hut with a light on and with words "Bis Terminal" above it, so I assumed this can't be too wrong. So I went over and the guy in the hut started talking to me. Foolishly I told him my whole plan, but it was 3am remember and all I wanted to do was get some kip. The dollar signs must have lit up in his eyes. Immediately he wanted to sell me tickets for all the bus trips I had to make. He started with the trip to Melang, saying this would cost 40,000 Rupees (= 4 USD). I was awake enough to know that this was a load of rubbish. The bus should only cost 4,000. Similarly he wanted to overcharge me for the trip up the mountain. After about half an hour of arguing I wanted to walk off, but realised, I didn't actually have a clue where I was and which direction to walk in. I was stuck. Either I pay this guy and he sorts me out with my bus tickets or I can start walking into nowhere. So I paid. Funnily he was really kind all of a sudden and even offered me a mat to sleep on.

In the morning I woke up and could finally see the situation. I was in the middle of nowhere. Anyway I got the bus up the mountain, thinking well at least that's over with. When I came back down, I went to the same place (since I had to get the bus from there) but there was another guy there saying I still had to pay tax, else he wouldn't stop my bus. Arrghh. They'd got me again. So I paid another 2000 Rupees or so and got on the bus. Here I then saw all the locals pay 4000 Rupees, the correct price! And five minutes later the bus pulled into the proper bus terminal, when I finally realised what was going on. The guys at the fake terminal had a deal with some drivers to drop off all tourists ahead of the real place. This was confirmed, when I read the guestbook of the place I stayed at in Melang. Just about every other entry was about being ripped off at this place. With some even speaking of the guy getting aggressive and physical if you don't pay. I had learnt my lesson (it was the first time I had to deal with this sort of thing) and it never happened again at that scale.

As I have already mentioned you have to keep a sense of proportion. Even 4 dollars is cheap. At home I would have paid 40 for a trip like that. And this is the thing. Because the people know that even 4 dollars is cheap for tourists and that they can afford to pay even ten fold, they will try to rip you off at this magnitude. If this would happen somewhere like Australia, I would have to say sorry but I don't have that much money. If you say that in Indonesia about 4 dollars they will just laugh at you, knowing you paid a few hundred just get to the country.

Preparation

A journey of a thousand miles, must begin with a single step.
Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

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Where to go?

This would appear to be the most important question concerning travelling. Although, actually, exactly where you go is not so important as what you make of being where you are. Choosing where you want to go depends on many things. Most importantly, how much time you have? Do you want to explore a country in detail, in which case somewhere small would be better. Or do you want visit the main attractions of a country, in which case size doesn't matter, but travel time and costs do. In preparing for my trip, I bought myself an atlas and mapped out a route including all countries I thought would be interesting. This ended up including just about everywhere! So I had to make trade-offs on price and what I then perceived as being difficult countries to travel in. I ended up doing th standard round-the-world trip, starting in California, going to Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and South-East Asia. Firstly this was the cheapest type of ticket, since it is so common. Secondly this way I started in countries where I knew the culture and worked myself round to countries I would find more taxing. For me this was important as I had never gone 'backpacking' before.

Who to go with?

Choosing who to travel with can be quite a difficult thing. Probably the easiest thing is to go alone... Seriously though, even your best friend could turn to be a complete stranger when have spend every minute with him or her on your travel. Many people say the chances of somebody making a good travel partner have nothing to do woth how well you know them. I met two german girls in New Zealand who were travelling together, after finishing school. They got along brilliantly, despite the fact that at school they hardly spoke to each other. If you travel with a partner, the important thing is for both to understand that you don't have to stick together everywhere you go. Split up sometimes and arrange to meet somewhere later on, if you have different interests. But don't force the other to see tings they aren't interested in. I traveled alone, mainly because most of my friends either didn't have the money, time or weren't that interested intravelling. Travelling alone has one main advantage, you are completely felxible and you tend to experienced other cultures better alone. Actually thats two advantages.....

Health Matters.

It really does. I am not going to go into a detailed discussion on health matters, as there are far better sources on the internet and elsewhere than me. Make sure check up on what jabs are needed for where you are going and consult your doctor about any major problems or quersies you may have. A good place to start on the internet is the CDC (Center for Diseas Control). Also check out my links section. Remember: good health is the absolutely most important thing whilst travelling. I can think of better places to spend my holidays than some dodgy hospital, that might do you more harm than good.

Safety and Scams.

This is what people tend to be most anxious about. You hear stories of one guy getting drugged and loosing all his belongins (probably because he accepted a drink from a stranger in a bar), but don't hear of the hundreds of people who had the time of their lives (probably in that same bar). You have to remember one thing, most people are honest. In my experience people don't want to mug or kill just for a few dollars, no matter how rich you are or appear to be. Sure there will always be some people who want to make a quick bob or two, but this is no more the case in some small town in Thailand than it is in your home town. Thankfully the greedy side of the great western invention, capitalism, has not reached everywhere. I'll be honest, I needed convincing myself and in fact continued to be amazed at how friendly even the poorest people were. In hindsight, it was actually exactly these poorer people who ended up worrying me the least. They tended to be the most honest. Tourism will always attract crooks, but this is true of all countries and not only the less developed ones. In fact, the chances of you being killed, would appear to be infinitely higher in the US or even Europe than poorer countries. If only for the simple reason, that people in these countries can't afford guns. Here are two little stories, both of which happened to me and are therefore true. I hope they show that firstly whilst scams do happen, they rarely ruin your hole trip and secondly that you are probably more likely of having something stolen in your own country than abroad.

Being Ripped Off in Java

Always keep a sense of reality. Don't start a fight over a couple of dollars. Even if you are being ripped off ten-fold. Is your life worth two dollars??

Having said all this, scams do happen and are annoying so always be as prepared as possible. As for the previous section, there plenty of pages on the internet about scams and how to minimise them. Have a look at my links section. The one golden rule is that vital documents and valuables (eg TC's or Credit Cards) should always be kept in a money belt under your clothing, on your skin. This should stop most thieves. If your life is threatned don't argue, just do as they say and worry about what to do later. Thankfully this happens extremely rarely. Finally, don't spend your whole trip being worried about being ripped off, it's part of the experience of travelling.

Reasons for Backpacking

He is able who thinks he is able.
Budha

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Why go backpacking?

There are many reasons for taking a few months off. Some people are trying to escape from their daily routine at home, trying to get away from it all, as the saying goes. Others have just finished School or University and have a mentality of "now or never" as far as travelling for longer periods of time is concerned. Some look upon it as an adventure, wanting find out more about the world, experiencing new countries and cultures. Many people hope to learn about themselves, looking for a new direction to life. It doesn't really matter why you travel, just make sure you enjoy it and that you get what you want out of it.

Why did I go?

I had just finished University, but hadn't decided yet on exactly what I want to do. I first thought about taking a few months off in my second year of University. Most of my friends went Inter-Railing through Europe about that time, but I had to do 2 ten week industrial placements for my Degree. So I didn't get much time off. Instead I decided to save the money I was earning then and hoped it would be enough to get me round the world. It was the probably the best decision I have ever taken and I have not once regretted it.

What did I gain from it?

Well if nothing else I have seen and experienced countries and cultures I never thought I would. But I have gained far more than that. I now know I will always be able to put on a backpack and do it all again, without being afraid or worried about what might happen. Of course, I am still a little nervous when going to new places, but that's part of the fun. Most of all though, I have seen some beautiful places, met some wonderful people and have made some amazing experiences.