Thursday, June 28, 2007

Everybody's getting a three piece together...

Anyone willing to take a guess at how many blog entries about visiting London are named after a particular Clash song? Approximately 283,553 on the search I just did (I'm not kidding, type "London calling" into and see what you get). So I'm avoiding that cliche by going after another one - I'm getting the band back together. Yep, a grand total of three days had passed since the break up of the band before there was a brief reunion tour of London. I went down to hang out with my old friends Claire, Lucy and Andy, and it just so happened Ruth was in town at the same time for a job interview. Brilliant, so here's a quick run down of the Teenage Rockin' Road Trip European Reunion Tour '07.

I went down to LDN (that's for you Lily Allen fans, youngsters) and met up with Ruth when she arrived from Nottingham. We wandered around for a while and were quite impressed that our hometown Sydney had not only stolen most of its names from London but also their character. For example, King's Cross in Sydney: kinda skanky. King's Cross in London: kinda skanky too. Ahh, it felt like a little piece of home. Anyhow, after we'd had our fix of crusty nostalgia, we went to the Tate Modern Gallery which had an exhibition on cities which I crudely photoed above (that's LA). We then headed back into town looking for alcohol so this is Ruth sprinting across the Millennium bridge toward St Paul's.

We hooked up with Claire who was ready to cash in on the beers you may remember I owed her (if you've read this blog before). It was brilliant to see Claire, who has been only been in blighty for a short time and was no doubt happy to see some familiar faces from home (well, really, I think she actually wanted the beers I owed her but we can pretend). So we hung out, drunk, ate, caught up with some of Claire's friends visiting from Oz and had a great time. Ruth and I ended up staying at a B'n'B in Golders Green which is famous as the resting place of Marc Bolan's and TS Eliot's ashes. I'd like to say I was excited about the TS Eliot thing but when I was supposed to read those poems in Uni, I skipped them because they were kind of boring. But Marc Bolan! Bang a gong! C'mon!

Anyhow, apart from seeing Claire, I also went to London to go to Andy and Lucy's Aussie BBQ engagement party. They didn't know Ruth and I were coming so it was nice to surprise them by crashing the party unannounced. It was a pretty dark and rainy day but as soon as Andy fired up the barbie, sunlight broke through the clouds and there was the sounds of angels singing and sausages sizzling. The BBQ was obviously divinely blessed and if you look closely, you can see Andy shutting his eyes and pretending he was cooking snags on his balcony back at Bronte.

A lot of Andy and Lucy's old mates from their England days showed up and there was a merry time had by all.

So sweet...

Congratulations Andy and Lucy on your engagement.

What's next? Well, I'm heading to Paris on Saturday to see my beloved Queens of the Stone Age and some other band called Sonic Youth (whatever). After that I'm going to make my way down to Barcelona to catch up with an old friend. After that, I don't actually know what I'm doing so send me an email if you've got any suggestions (or where I should go in France)...

PS sorry if you've emailed me and I haven't replied to you recently. I've been totally and utterly snowed under with laziness...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ruthie's Knocking

So, after all the drama of the last few weeks, we're at a point where Ruth is going to stay in England to work and I'm going to keep on travelling. This is pretty sad because a) she's basically been a constant in my life for the last few years both as my partner and friend, b) I'll probably head back to Australia when I run out of money so we'll be on the other side of the planet unless I mooch off her social worker salary in London and c) travelling by myself is scary because if it wasn't for Ruth, I'd probably still be walking around the backstreets of Chiang Mai looking for our hotel. So this is the blog to honour Ruth. I'm guessing everyone will stop reading the blog now because the beautiful eye candy part of it is leaving.

If you know Ruth she is incredibly picky about her clothes but being a fair skinned red head under the harsh SE Asian sun meant that practicality had to overcome fashion. Ruth ended up buying this red polo shirt which she hated but had to wear to protect her from sunburn. But you'll notice, even though she wore this a lot in Thailand, there's no photos of her wearing it on the blog until now. Why? She wouldn't let me put any photos of her up in a shirt that didn't meet her aesthetic standards haha!

Thailand is filled with a lot of oily fried food so when we stumbled across this vegan restaurant in Chiang Mai, Ruth had one of her favourite meals of our trip, some sort of brown rice/eggpplant dish which came in a close second to her other favourite Asian dish...

...waffles with chocolate sauce.

A couple of shots around Mae Hong Son, our favourite place in Thailand.

This photo is just to reassure Ruth's old housemates that she did actually read the book you bought for her.

This photo is taken in Siem Reap on top of a temple as we watched the sunset which sounds great but it was after an exhausting day of looking at wats in bullshit hot weather. Just when we wanted to go home, our guide made us walk up the only hill in Siem Reap with literally thousands of people to watch the sunset. I was pretty grumpy about it but Ruth was serene as ever.

Ruth wearing her Cambodian krami and I think she looks kinda cool. When I wore mine like that, people (particularly children) laughed hysterically while Ruth pulled it off with style.

Hanging at a roof top bar in Saigon.

This was from the beach section of the holiday at Mui Ne in Vietnam. Ruth and I aren't really beach people but we were that week. It was a part of the trip where we kind of did nothing except swim (well, I waded), watch the ocean and drink cocktails. Ahh good times...

Ruth and our new friend Mumtaz went for a day trip around Dalat with some easyriders, local motorbike tour guides. This was one of the most special and enjoyable days of Ruth's trip as I think she felt truly free and liberated being a bikie chick. Nah, the tour was incredible as her guides really engaged with them and gave them a real taste of local life. It was one of Ruth's favourite part of the Vietnam trip.

That night, the guides took us all out for buffalo (three different dishes, one suspicously groin like) and local rice wine. We then went for coffees with the tour guide's family. Ruth had baileys in coffee, a drink she hasn't stopped talking about since.


Battling the elements at Halong Bay wearing every warm item of clothing she owns.

More red faced shots after climbing an island hill in Halong Bay.

Ruth with the locals in Sapa who followed us everywhere we went and we just couldn't shake them.

One of the best things was the people we met on the trip. After doing the bike trip in Dalat with Mumtaz, Ruth and her became great friends so it was cool to meet up with her again in Sapa... and drink wine from the hugest wine glasses I've ever seen. Literally, they were the size of our heads.

Also, it was brilliant meeting up with my old friend Tim who Ruth hadn't really met before. The week we spent in Kunming was one of the most enjoyable of the trip and it made me happy to see two of my dearest friends get on so well.

One thing about China, their ice blocks have weird textures. Really weird but we still ate them.

These two old people are hustlers. Sure they look harmless but when we wandered by they latched onto Ruth and demanded we take a photo with them. Then they demanded money which is a pretty common thing in Asia but after I gave them some they started complaining that it wasn't enough even though I'd given them heaps. Funny thing was, as tourists all look alike, we walked past them the next day and they were beckoning us to come over again. They were hilarious in their shameless hustling octogenarian ways...

Chilling at a restaurant in Lijiang. This might be Ruth's least favourite place because she got food poisoning there... twice. Ahh China...

So this is the end of it. Its like the band is being slit up. I don't know who is Hall and who is Oates but it ain't Hall and Oates anymore. No more Beatles. No more Fugazi. No more Destiny's Child. The band is split up... for now. I guess we can do one of those shitty reunion shows in a few years that nobody wants to see when we run out of money (I'm talking 90's grunge bands here. Seriously does anyone want to see the Smashing Pumpkins reform? But I'll make an exception for Chris Cornell, now that abomination called Audioslave is done with, stop making crap solo albums and reform Soundgarden already). Seriously though, this trip wouldn't have happened without Ruth and its going to be hard to go on without her. I'm missing her already and she hasn't actually gone yet. So, Ruth fans, lament, the beautiful pictures quotiant is going to fall dramtically and it'll just be my ugly mug. Bummer.

Love you Ruth.

Sunset soon forgotten

Italy - Final Part

Cinque Terre is a bunch of seaside towns on the west coast of Italy. The water is as blue as my bag is heavy but that's the price you pay when you carry as much hair product as I do.

For a small fee, you can walk from town to town along the coast line and check out the towns. They all have that picturesque Mediterranean thing going on which is very pretty.

This is Ruth on one of the walks. How did she get so far ahead of me? Because I'm kinda slow.

If you look closely you can see a Soundgarden fan on the rocks far below. Why? Well, you know, they sung that song "Jesus Christ Pose." I know lame lame lame but Ruth also got a close up picture of this guy with her supersonic camera zoom and she reckons he was hot.

Cinque Terre was so beautiful it made me ache. I just wanted to stay there forever, live in a pastel house overlooking the ocean watching the waves roll in and laugh at tourists trying to avoid paying the fees to do the walk. Oh how they try...

This is our last sunset in Italy.

And then it all turned to shit. Ruth got ill, really ill, the kind of ill where you have to pack your bags at 5am in the morning and catch the first train to the nearest big city. So we rushed to Pisa where she was admitted to hospital. She was put on IV antibiotics and was injected with painkillers. She felt a bit better but in the Italian doctor's broken english he started talking about operations - maybe it was to do with the kidney, maybe he was going to chop off a leg - it really wasn't clear. At this point, I ran around trying to find flights back to the UK and got one an hour before it flew at a nice extortionist price (thanks Ryanair). We got back to the UK to discover the health system was worse than Italy. And we've been back in the UK ever since (note: Ruth's feeling a lot better but I'll get to that in the next blog entry).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chick flicks lie!

Italy Part 4 - Siena

Ahh Siena in the heart of Tuscany. The definition of rustic, the epitome of Italian beauty. We came here full of expectation based on the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. So, y'know, that involves buying a beautiful villa, handsome italian boys for Ruth and urm, Polish immigrant home renovators for me. But you know what? Ruth started to read the book and sorry ladies, it turns out its nothing like the movie so no hot Italian lovers, no lesbians, it rained a lot (Tuscan Sun my arse) and she's even married with a kid in the stupid book. I can't believe chick flicks lie... what better reason than that to hit the cocktail bar. None that I could think of.

This was the view from the bar, the Piazza del Campo. Very nice.

One of the whackiest sights in Siena is the church dedicated to St Catherine. Apparently they love her so much, they decided to put her head on a stake, preserve it and put in on public display. Now remember she died in 1380 so her head is only 627 years old. I'm sure its very moving for devotees but I thought the skull faced saint was a little creepy. Ok it was a more than a little creepy, it was exceptionaly creepy and weird.

On one particular day as we walked around Siena, we could hear the distant rumble of drums. It sounded like there was an approaching medieval army with guys in fruity costumes hurling flags followed by a procession of drummers. Turns out it looked exactly what it sounded like.

These tight wearing, flag twirlers seemed to inidicate something very important was happening that day. Then the Piazza del Campo filled up with thousands of people... very mysterious but no one seemed to be able to explain what was going on.

Then the drummers stopped in front of the main church in the square. Some trumpeters sounded off from the church windows and then a guy hung a flag off the building. Cue sections of the crowd going berserk. Some started climbing the grills on the windows of the church. There was much screaming, wailing, dancing, singing and chanting. We still had no idea what was going on.

Then more trumpets, more flags, more crowd, urm, berserkers but no explanation. Sure they were pretty flags but not sure they deserved all the adulation. Everyone was going nuts except the two confused tourists. I guess whatever floats your boat...

Oh well, back to drinking...