Friday, October 4, 2013

Over a year

I'm surprised that I actually remembered I had a blog, considering it's been about 7 months since I published anything. I guess I decided today would be a good day to write about where I've been and what I've done. Depending on how long this post is might depend on how mug you find out.

Now I don't know where I ended, but I'll start with leaving Melbourne.

After 4 months, and 3 months of work, I headed out to Byron Bay for their famous Bluesfest. This year's headliners included Paul Simon, Robert Plante, Rufus Wainwright and smaller acts were Xavier Rudd, The Dropkick Murphys and VT's own Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Needless to say it was an amazing 5 days and money couldn't have been spent better. I was with my old co-worker Stevie and we slept in his van for 5 days; ate and cooked from his camping stove, and washed ourselves in the ocean and sometimes the showers at the beach. For those of you who don't know, Byron Bay is a magical place, honestly! The Aboriginals used to go there for healing ceremonies. There's something about the place that makes you feel amazing.

After spending an extra week there, I moved up to Surfers Paradise on my own. I spent a few nights and lots of money. I met some amazing Brits, including two gals who I would meet again at my next stop.

And then I made it to Brisbane. After the British lads in Surfers told me to stay at Brisbane City Backpackers, well, my 4 night stay became a 10 week stay. For the first 2 weeks, I tried to find a job, dropping off over 30 applications to different restaurants. In the end, I got a job at the hostel working as their cook. It was me and another English lad working there- 50 hours a week at 371$ plus free accommodation. I wouldn't call it slave labor, but it was pretty close. In the six bed dorm I lived in, there was me, the other English cook, two English night managers, and a Canadian bartender named Kayla. We had two bartenders flow through, but the second one was a Irish gal named Sarah Jane. Kayla, Sarah Jane and I got on really well, and would always try to hang out when possible. Sarah Jane traveled with a few other girls, including one who would replace me. I also made friends in my original 14 bed all girls en-suite room- Patricia, Janie, Lindsey, Claire and Amy. Patty and Janie ended up moving into a house which we would go to when we needed to get away, Amy and Claire moved and worked in the outback and lindsey stayed at the hostel. She also helped me find my other job at a place called Riverbar and Kitchen. I found it ironic since my first job was at Riverland Bar and Cafe. Brisbane was good to me, but like always, I was getting bored. Sarah Jane, Kayla and I decided to do an east coast tour, starting in Noosa and working our way up to Cairns. Unfortunately, Sarah Jane could only join us to Rainbow beach as she had succeeded in getting a social work job in Sydney!

But we had a good time anyways, and we got to go to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo- where I got to hold a koala and see all sort of cool and unique animals. And then we went to Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the largest sand only island in the world and is a world heritage site. I got to drive on the sand and in the woods, but in our group of 8, we mainly let the boys drive. It was a fun time and the site had the best showers I've used in a long time (including other hostels and where I am now). Rainbow Beach's Pippies Hostel was fabulous and we met one of my now good friends Jess there. She manages the place and gave us good deals for staying. We also hung out with her outside of the hostel and she and her friend Lisa showed us around! It was a really great time and it was sad when Kayla and I had to leave. But Kayla and I had our next adventure- a few days stranded on a desert island (kinda).

Well it's lunch time. Maybe I'll post some more soon, we shall see! Joya

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cute animals! And more!


Oh and to anyone who has seen the Rescuers Down Under, you know how the bad guy has a giant lizard as a pet named Joanna? Well it's because a Goanna is a giant lizard in Australia!!!

The girl is Vicky, she's one of my favorite people in the world and she wanted fairy floss! (Cotton Candy to us Americans)

And then a pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream since I couldn't drink.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Australian photos

Sorry there are no cute kolas and such but I will hopefully see them soon!

So the pictures are:
My friend Yichi looking out from the Eureka sky tower, the Bryan brothers in their quarter final game at the AU open, Vampire Weekend playing at Big Day Out Melbourne, Merry Xmas on Flinders St Station, the beach, my birthday tequila shot with a sparkler, and Magic Hat #9 at Dan Murphys liquor store- 6 pk for 17.99!


So, I'm sorry that I never finished up Thailand, let alone any of Australia.

So let's start with the end of Thailand. When I left off, I was on my way to Bangkok. I ended up meeting a kid from Melbourne, (where I was going), on my last day/ night and we spent some time together so I could figure out the city. It's crazy to think now how I had no idea of what to expect from Melbourne. People were telling me different suburbs to live in, but they didn't explain that they were suburbs, so as I was trying to find a house, I was getting very confused. Not only that, but rent was configured per week, not per month. And then I had to figure out if there was a bed included or not. Needless to say I was pretty confused to start. But luckily I got to Couchsurf in the beginning. Also, while Tom was traveling to Cambodia, he met a girl who was looking for a subletter in Melbourne (pronounce Mel burn, not Mel born). Millie was going to be traveling till the end of the month, so I at least had a place to stay for a bit.

I couch surfed in an area called Footscray, a poorer community with a large and diverse group of people. "Similar to Queens" I told my parents. Not sure if that comforted them. But anyways, after my interesting couch surfing experience, including heaps of dumpster dive food, I moved to Brighton. I got to know the south east part of Melbourne and really enjoyed it. I had a coffee shop right by the train station where I got my morning coffee for free.

I pretty much blew through the 2 grand I had saved up for. I didn't want to get back into work, bit once I realized I had no money, I finally got a job at a cafe/bar called Riverland Bar and Cafe. I've been there since December, and well, it's just ehh. I make $20 an hour, which covers bills and rent and other expenses, but I kinda hate it at times. I think that I'm getting over the restaurant business, the daily grind of being on your legs for 5+ hours takes it's toll, and with it being an outdoor venue, the elements can make it unbearable at times too. But I really enjoy the people and I'm kinda learning how to make proper cappuccinos and lattes, unlike American versions. Melbourites are very peculiar with their coffees. It can't be too hot or you burn the milk, it has to be the right creaminess, the ratio of foam has to be just right, the bubbles in the milk can't be too big, etc etc. It's alway funny when American customers come in and want a black coffee, or even better, a light beer. Light beer in AU means light alcohol content, not less calories. So when someone, who has a distinct American accent comes along and asks, I always point them to our lights in taste beer. Especially when they want a Budweiser. They do have Bud heavy here, but it's much sweeter and quite disgusting. I usually point them to Tasmanian Pale Ale which is more of a lager beer.

Anyways, I'm in Elsternwick now, which is right next to Brighton and I still go to my favorite coffee shop!

As for what I'm doing with my social life, well, not a whole lot. I stay in most nights to save money, I like to watch TV, I go out for dinners and drinks occasionally, I like to go to the nice parks, the beaches, and yea. I eat sleep and work.

Since coming to Australia, I've discovered a lot more about myself and continue to do so each day. I've had some moments where I think I want to come home or move back stateside. I have moments where I want an office job. I have moments where I want to tell my chef to fuck off and get that pointed, jagged stick out of his ass for being such a c***. And no, not used as a nice term (friends here sometimes uses the word cunt and mate as a diss). But when I talk to people about what's next in my adventure, I get nervous and excited to travel once again. And that's the problem with my life right now. I feel stuck, but now that I have most of my bills paid off, I am able to start saving once again and look for my next adventure!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thailand. The land of smiles

During this entire time, I have really been wanting to go to Thailand. Why you may ask? Well ask anyone who has been here. It's a beautiful place with wonderful people. Sure you get some scamming schmucks once and a while, but that usually in Bangkok. It's a major metropolitan, of course there are gonna be some, but what major city doesn't have them?

We started our journey there, in Bangkok. After arriving to the airport and catching a taxi from departures (no taxi fee!), we headed to Phaya Thaisky train station. Our driver was kind enough to drop us off right on front of the road we needed, not just the station. We would have been completely lost if he hadn't. So we walked down the road and looking like two lost backpackers (again) some woman laughed when she saw us and told us "go that way, turn left, you will see it." Obviously we weren't the first lost looking backpackers to be seen in these parts.

We found our hostel relatively quickly after and were greeted warmly by a very enthusiastic Thai girl named Geng. She helps run the place. She showed us the place (it's 3 floors. A bottom common room, toilets/showers rooms, and a fridge; middle is the sleeping room (10beds total), third has her room and the volunteers rooms plus a small outdoor patio).

We put our bags down and realized we were starving. A girl named Shannon was there and said she would show us food street and we could find food there. And boy did we find food! Stalls with fried corn balls, vegetarian galore, curries, BBQ meats, green papaya salad and more! Tom and I realized we hit the jackpot, big time.

We found a place that had food spread out, so we could see what she had, for 30 baht (about 1 USD) we had a full portion of rice and green curry. The food was so good that Tom and I came back later at the end of the night to get more food! And if you become a regular or if someone remembers you, expect to be treated well, our plates this tine around was 25 baht.

**Fast forward**

Just a side note, everything in Thailand is reliant on faith. I know people who don't believe in faith, but when you hand someone a ticket, you hope that they will bring you to the right place. You need faith when the taxi looks full and people are standing off the end that you won't die during your ride. Just now, a taxi was "full" so this couple did not want to get on. There would be no more taxis for the next hour but they said they would wait. With some shifting around, they both ending up joining the taxi and they were sitting. Sure the taxi was sinking in the back, almost dragging on the ground but these taxi drivers know why their doing and how many people it can hold. My ride was 2 seconds to the end of the pier since my minibus was there, but, still, you have to have a little faith.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

China part 3- Hong Kong and Macau

I was pretty excited to go to Hong Kong, we decided to do a little splurging and stay at a hotel on the beach. It was a big room, a grand view of the water and a comfy bed and out own shower! Oh and did I mention there was also a large swimming pool?

The arrival to the airport was a breeze and when we made it through, a gentleman in a suit greeted us in perfect English and asked which hotel we were staying at. Unsure of how to respond, ( we were used to scams by now in China) the man whipped out an iPad and started looking at all the hotels. We told him ours the gold coast, and he told us that although there is no direct route the easiest is to get to the bus station and pick up our shuttle there. He gave us some maps and sent us to the main express train queue. We bought our tickets using a credit card and realized we needed to exchange money. We asked the guy again and he told us that there was a exchange center through the doors. Ge also told us in case we miss our shuttle which bus to take.

When we went to exchange our money, the woman told us that she didn't take commisson and that she could exchange Czech money! I was so excited! I had a lot left over, so I quickly pulled it out. We then asked about Mongolian dollars and she was confused that theydidnt take RMBs, but they did not. She was also confused that Beijing couldn't exchange them either. We told her we were too.

But we got to our hotel via train and bus, and well it was super nice.

There was a shuttle to the main city from our hotel that left every hour, it was about 35 hkd or about 5usd one way. And it was usually a nice shuttle bus too. Once we had an older one, but compared to the bus we had to get from the train station to the hotel, it was still nicer.

Hong Kong city is a busy place filled with lots of people, hawkers, and fancy shopping areas, like Dolce & Gabbana, Coach, Prada etc on every rd. I bought some clothes at H&M, a cheaper fashion store.

We went to the river one night when they were doing an organized light show on the building to music. It was really remarkable and impressed many people. During our time there, we also took the tram up to Victoria peak, visited the Walk of Stars and relaxed.

We had dinner with one of Tom's old business worker and his friend and did we feast! We had a hot pot with spicy and clear broth and so much freaking food! It was so delicious and we were super full! Afterwards, we found a small store/shop where we had dessert- gelatinous turtle shell. You add a bit of honey on top and it was sweet, earthy, pungent, and a bit bitter. My stomach was overwhelmed but we survived.

Hong Kong was expensive though and we burned holes in our pickets without even knowing it. Dinner would usually end up 100 usd for both of us- including one night when we had 4 beers, fries, onion rings, wings, and a Caesar salad. And with guesthouses being expensive and in noisy locations, we opted for another hotel, closer in the city, to stay at. It was wonderful though, called the Mini Hotel, it was a tall building but with only 3 rooms to a floor. The rooms were large considering where we were. But you could tell we were in a nice area as the Bently car shop was across the street from us.

We also visited the botanical/zoological garden which had monkeys and birds, alligators and herbs all around the park. We also saw the big Buddha which was another tram ride to a different part of the area. It was really cool as you could see on the side of the mountains were grave sites.

There was also a giant freaking spider that was eating a butterfly. When we came back 45 minutes later it was eaten. Gahhhhhhhh! Gross.

We took the ferry to Macau, an hour by speedboat. We waited for our shuttle for about 45 minutes- as we had just missed the previous one- and got to our next hotel. It wasn't the cleanest, but it got the job done. We walked around, ate egg tarts, drank cheap portugese wine, saw a broken down cathedral, watched live international music, got drunk with phillipininos, walked around some more and of course gambled. I lost all my money, but Tom was winning, then losing, then he won again! Needless to say he bought dinner that night.

But that's all I'm gonna write about for these two places. We spent a LOT of money, but enjoyed ourselves. I really liked Hong Kong and wouldn't mind trying to get an expat job there. :)

Next up Thailand, the land of smiles!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

China pt 2: Shanghai and cheap eats and jewelry

We took one of the bullet trains from Beijing to Shanghai, in business class as the economy seats were all full from everyone going home from National Day week holiday. But we got a free lunch pack, which included some tasty and interesting things. One was some peanuts, a rice crispy treat but not, and dried spicy fish which were actually pretty good! They had a speedometer which told us our exact speed which was 306km/hr or 307. Either way, we were zooming past everything!

Getting off the train in Shanghai was much easier that in Beijing and people there knew English! It might make me sound like a stupid, ignorant American, but getting help in a language you know is much easier than trying to mime it out to someone who doesn't.

We again got off the subway fine, but we managed to get lost, yet again. Even asking for directions multiple times. We ended up going to a hotel to see if they knew, and the guy at reception told us the info we had wasn't Chinese.... And it was off Tom's tablet from their website. He was kind to us and wrote the adress an name down in Chinese and told us a cab would get us there easily. We walked outside, flagged a cab and showed the driver. Shaking his head, we were lost again as he drove away. Finally, we asked a well dressed Chinese couple and the boyfriend, who knew English, was determined to help us find the spot. After walking another 20 minutes with them, we made it!! We thanked them graciously and he gave his card to Tom.

Rock & Wood hostel is a very new hostel, with outdoor seating, a koi pond, a bar/restaurant and many beds. Our first night we ate there, met a kid named Simon from Cape Town, S. Africa and Raphael from Germany. Tom met some musicians from Costa Rica and I met some young men from China as well.

Tom and Simon went out for some street food that night, and I went to bed early. The street food where they went ended up being our go to food stop, and they gave us some good discounts in the end. It was an open barbecue, and you could choose what you wanted. So they had sticks of raw meats, vegetables, tofu, bread, seafood including squid and whole fishes. It was sooo good! And next to it was a noodle cart where I got lo mein for 5 RMB which is about a buck.

We ate very well, very cheaply there, I don't have photos from it but I'll steal some from Tom.

In Shanghai, we didn't do too much, but we also found the Pearl Market, where they have EVERYTHING YOU NEED CHEAP! Tom and I bought some jewelry, me for my mom, my sister, and myself (2 pair of earrings, one jade, one grey pearls), and Tom bought a really unique pearl pendant for his mom. The woman was SaSa I believe and she was very nice, straight forward, and very pregnant. I will definitely go back to her and if any of you go to Shanghai, buy jewelry from her too, she's the best.

We also walked around their version of Time square and went to the Bund which is a walk along the water. It was really beautiful and they would synchronize the lights on the building with other buildings. Also the wall on the side were covered in flowers. This very English influenced city also had many old European styled building as well, and with the contrast of the modern and the old style Chinese buildings, it was quite unique.

The only day we got up early to explore was when we went to see the World Expo from 2010. And unlike the Olympic area in Beijing from 2008, this place was a ghost town. Seriously creepy. Everything was gated or fenced up, grass and weeds were over running plots of old parking lots and even construction crews were snoozing. It was the only place in Shanghai where you could cross the street without having to look either way. We walked around, found the Polish building and left. We also triend to get into an art museum that was the only thing that looked alive but it was closed that day to the public.

On the other side of the river is the Chinese building which they are making into "the Tate of China" but that won't be til 2014.

I think that my favorite parts of China was actually the ROCs- Hong Kong and Macau.