Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I have just said goodbye to the boys and gone CD shopping.  What a mistake.  30 CDs later ... thankfully mum sent me birthday money.  They are not real CDs, but hopefully most of them work and are not of too bad quality!
I have finally managed to upload some of the photos from this trip so far ... Just a hundred or so of the best ones, anyway.
You'll have to sign in to see them, but that shouldn't be a big deal ...
For pictures of the few weeks in China/Hong Kong, go to:
For some pictures of the saddest food we had and the most hilarious signs I saw (Chinglish abounds), go to:
Going to go and enjoy the quietude of my balcony now.  I have to leave at 5am to go to Phuket in the morning!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Omens for the new year

Yesterday was Chinese New Year, and though I had hoped to spend it in a more Chinese country, I have met quite a few people here on holidays who are escaping Taiwan and China because the Spring Festival is just too insane. 
There are some things which you're traditionally not supposed to do on the day (for example, washing your hair means you will wash away good fortune (I think) for the year).  So I didn't wash my hair, avoided using scissors etc, even though this has never bothered me before.  I gave the boys hong bao (red envelopes) with the minimal amount of Baht I could spare in them. 
We hired some little automatic scooters and took them off on a trip around the island.  It was definitely one of the scariest things I've done in a long time.  I have never ridden a motorised bike before, and the roads here are gravel, dirt, potholed and extremely steep.  After a story the boys told me about falling off because of dodgy steering around corners, I was petrified and wobbly when I started thinking too much about it.  At one point we were coming down a hill to a beautiful beach, but all I could concentrate on was the fact that the hill was way too steep for me.  The back tyre was spinning out on the gravel, and I had to stop at one point and Martyn had to come and rescue me.  I walked down while he drove my bike.  We had a swim at the beach, and then on the way back up I managed to totally freak out, stopped my bike half way up the first hill, and basically fell over into the bushes.  I have some impressive bruises on one leg, and a scrape or two on the other.  Otherwise I'm fine (and they did provide helmets).  I learned pretty quickly that you just have to gun it up the steep slopes, or you're screwed, as I was the first time.  There were a lot more awful slopes and even scarier traffic around the island, but no more casualties thankfully.  I wonder what bruises on new year mean?
Last night we headed out to the black moon party on the south side of the island.  There was a lot of psy trance, black light and fluoro body paint.  Surprisingly there was only one other pair of poi (and the twirler was nae good), although I met a couple of twirlers after I took mine out for a while.  I've never had them out under black light before and they look awesome, if I do say so myself.  We ran into some girls we met in Bangkok and I had a really good time chatting with them and some Irish boys for most of the night.  I didn't get home til after 6am because of the interesting taxi system (shared to cut down the costs) and managed to see the sunrise before I went to bed. 
I had to get up to return the dreaded bike today, and after that went back to sleep for most of the day.  I managed to catch the sunset, and now I think I will head into town for another Muy Thai boxing match ...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bungalow living

I arrived at my own little bungalow on a beach on the west side of Koh Pha Ngan today after a 17 hour journey from Bangkok via bus, bus, ferry and taxi.  It wasn't the best way to spend my birthday, but at least I ended up somewhere beautiful!
We haven't done much today but eat and have a little wander around.  I had a nap and watched the sunset.  I think that's about all I could have handled anyway.
Tomorrow we are thinking about hiring some bikes/scooters and motoring around the island.  I am more than a little hesitant about that since I have never ever driven one, and the roads here are somewhat low quality.  And they don't supply helmets.  Oh well, we shall see what happens.  There's also a dark moon party somewhere on the island tomorrow night, which I hope we can find.  I am fully expecting to steal someone's fire poi for a little while and come home tired and smelling of kerosene.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

I know updates and emails have been few and far between lately and my apologies.

I have been in Bangkok since Sunday and leave tonight on a night bus down to Ko Pha Ngan to spend a few nights in a beach bungalow on an island and not do much. Not the best way to spend the night of my 25th birthday, but these things happen sometimes. I went out for a drink last night in an outside bar that used to be a petrol station. The bars were between the pumps and on the back of an old lorry. A daiquiri turned out to be served in a 1L jug, and the boys had buckets of vodka and red bull. Needless to say I only needed the one drink! Oh, and I had ice cream before that at Swensen's, an American ice cream shop we used to have at home. It was random but cool.

I have seen temples, palaces, markets, thai fighting and ridiculous traffic in Bangkok over the last few days. No physically unlikely sex shows, I have left those to the boys for when they get back here again. It's been awesome, but the pollution is starting to get to me (exhaust is so much worse when you're on the back of a tuk-tuk or walking through the streets). Another prime example is the woman smoking at the computer next to me right now (ugh).

After Ko Pha Ngan the boys will head north again and I'll be going west to Phuket to (hopefully) meet up with some friends I know from Scotland. I'm not sure how long I'll be there but I'm looking forward to some more beach time.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me happy birthday emails and texts. I only wish I was in one place so I could get birthday cards too! I will try and get some more time to reply to everything soon ...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Singapore ...

I have given up on thinking of descriptive or witty names for my posts.  I have just been trying to get my photos online, to no avail.  I think my next plan of action is to buy a USB memory stick, I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier.  In the meantime, at least I got my laundry done (and should go get it out of the dryer).
I haven't done that much in Singapore except sleep, eat, shop, drink and dance (the five major activities of life!).  I have been to Chinatown, Little India, the Orchard Road shopping area, Clarke Quay, and to a couple of random Indian clubs.  I was dragged out last night by the manager of the hostel and didn't get back in til after 4am.  The Indian bars were a lot of fun, with dancing girls in saris being handed $10 notes by guys who would dance with them for a couple of minutes.  Met some great people, including a guy who was really stoked at how much geeky Harry Potter trivia I knew.
Might be going out to a club again tonight, but will see how early I have to get up in the morning!  Off to get some money changed and find some memory ... for my photos, not for me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Back to budget airlines and bunk beds

Just a short(ish) post since I have to go and meet some relatives for lunch before doing a last few errands and trying to lug all our luggage to the aiport.

I am henceforth giving up the somewhat-high-life that I have become accustomed to over the last three weeks. Four star hotels, bellboys carrying my bags, banquet lunches and dinners, guided tours and excessive shopping. I hope you understand I was sacrificing my reputation as a backpacker because I wanted to ease my brother into travelling a little easier. Yep.

The last week in HK has been awesome. Loads of shopping, sightseeing, eating and catching up with friends. There are too many markets and malls to cover, so I will see some more when I come back.

I have also been lucky enough to be able to meet some of my late grandmother's relatives. When my mum called us at 6.30 on Sunday morning, I wasn't too keen on the idea, especially since I really didn't know anything about them, and they couldn't speak any English. But on actually meeting my great aunts and cousins, everything was fine. They took us to a seafood restaurant and we tried a couple of new things, including some kind of whelk or hermit crab or something, which was fantastic. Despite the language barriers, we managed to communicate reasonably well, and they were all really lovely. We are meeting one more uncle and cousin for lunch today as well. I hope that my mum and aunt will get to come over and meet them all soon.

On Monday we did the ultimate cheesy Hong Kong tourist thing (asides from meeting Jackie himself) and went to Hong Kong Disneyland. We managed to spend about 10 hours there, and had a hilarious time. Some of the rides were pretty lame, but some of them were loads of fun (Space Mountain, the Buzz Lightyear ride and the 3D Philharmagic show, which included smells and water spraying). I tried a couple of new foods, a red bean popsicle (yech) and a char siu (BBQ) pork burger on a man tau (chinese bread) bun (really good actually). One of the most entertaining things about Disneyland was the hilarious English names that some of the staff had - Paper (female), Hilson (male), Selina (male). I wish I'd written them all down. Even funnier was this morning when we were checking out of the hotel - the receptionists' names were Elvis Wong and Dicky Chan. Love it so much.

Oh, also I got semi-stalked by a dude from the Congo on the way home from the internet cafe the other night. It was nothing too too creepy, but lucky there were a lot of people still on the street that late at night.

Better run, don't want to be late for yum char. Will write again from Singapore ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Jackie Chan and other things HK related

So here I am in Hong Kong, and I'm loving it so far. It's full of beautiful views, impressive architecture, bright lights, crowded streets and so many things to see. And cheesemeister Jackie Chan pictures all over the place (I heart you Jackie!).

Asides from having to sort out some annoyances from Beijing (having to buy a new plane ticket cause Cathay Pacific in Auckland screwed up (600NZD), being charged for a deposit I shouldn't have been charged for (220NZD), being served by a guy called Leona (priceless)), everything's been great. The weather is lovely and I don't have to wear three layers of clothing. The highrises are mad, and I've already spent too much money shopping (a pair of hiking boots and some Royal Elastics on the first day, but they were only about 160NZD for both!).

I wasn't able to update in Beijing because the rip-off hotel was charging 2.3RMB (about 50cNZ) per minute for internet. What a jip!

Beijing was awesome, asides from the few glitches that cost me a lot of money and time! We saw the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Panda House, Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, all the good touristy stuff. We also went to a cloisonne factory (copper frameworks with coloured enamel inlays) and a jade factory where the guide talked in a full on American accent. It was AWEsome. Unfortunately the food wasn't great on the tour, very western-oriented, and Chinese don't cook western so well. We did have street stall food though and it ranged from interesting to quite good. The night food market was buzzing, and there was everything from noodles, dumplings and candied fruit to skewered seahorse, snake, baby turtle and silk worm. I wasn't game enough to try the latter few ...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hotel life is becoming too much ...

So here I am in a hostel again checking my emails.
Actually it's not too much for me but just found myself here hanging with the Moose man and my bro and sis. 
Shanghai is treating us well so far and we've had some Shanghainese food (interesting but the good kind), cold weather (slight snow yesterday which was exciting for the folks who aren't used to it) and crazy traffic jams.
I've met up with a couple of my friends, one from home and one from Canada via Edinburgh, and it's been somewhat trippy to see them here, and impressive and annoying that they can communicate with the locals and I can't!
Meanwhile, we're heading to Beijing tomorrow and hopefully having some cocktails in some fancy places tonight before we leave.
Oh and m sister got an automatic birthday cake from the hotel yesterday.  It was weird and full of fake cream.  But a nice touch.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I arrived in Shanghai this afternoon with my brother and sister and several of my new family members from the Dongguan trip. The weather is a lot colder than it was down south (9 degrees as opposed to 25 yesterday) and it's raining. Haven't had a chance to do much more than settle into our hotel room so I will have to give my impressions of this very bustling city a little later.

I was sad to say goodbye to everyone from the tour today, but as it was all very rushed and seemingly unorganised, it went quickly and I didn't get to get too upset. I will see some of them in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, but for the others I'm not sure. I'll miss the reunions they're going to have where they'll break out the traditional dancing and kung fu (I'm sure you'll all want to buy our behind the scenes DVD).

The whole week in the Guangdong province was phenomenal. Although logistically the trip could have gone better (and you can't do much when you're being shown around), I had so much fun and made some wicked new friends. My speaking English in a Chinese accent is getting way better, and I've eaten a bunch of new and interesting pieces of plants and animals (I'm still avoiding faces and feet).

We went to the county (rough translation) that we all originated from yesterday. It was really interesting to see how close all our villages are and where we each came from. It turns out that the area is famous in China for producing jeans and a couple of my friends were offered them by relatives and friends of family living in the villages. I was struck by the level of pollution though - because there is no rubbish disposal, everything just goes in the river. The toilets are sometimes buildings suspended over the river so everything falls straight in. Hand sanitiser anyone? I was told that there used to be farmland and greenery everywhere between the villages, but it's very industrial looking now, in the middle of development. I also didn't pet any of the chickens that were running around!

My brother, sister and I found some old people to talk to in our grandfather's village. My mum's theory of finding the oldest people and asking them worked! Despite our terrible Cantonese, and with the help of some names written down by my dad, we managed to communicate and had someone take us to the house that my father was born in. It was amazing to finally see the tiny alleyway he had told us about. The house has been locked up for thirty years, nobody has a key. Amazingly, the village people (snigger) remembered my uncle and my father's names, even though their family left the village when my dad was only three years old. I can't describe the feeling of finally being there.

Our last night in the area was spent at the karaoke bar in the hotel. We rocked out to the best of the few English songs there, and a couple of the boys wowed us with their phenomenal Hong Kong pop renditions. Ah, I'm so asian now, la!

I can't forget the food either - we had the best food right near our villages. I don't know if it's because that's what tastes we like by nurture, or if their food is just better! The area is known for a special kind of choi sum (Chinese flowering cabbage), and also for their special kind of lychee (which we didn't try any of). A single lychee from a particular grove of trees can be auctioned for charity for 550,000RMB (about 100,000NZD)!

Have to run and see if I can scam this internet for free (the backpacker in me lives even though I'm in a four star hotel!). Will write when I can ...