Archive | March, 2012

Blast from the vast (continent of Asia)

28 Mar

Today’s post is a retrospective. A “Retro Cut” if I were in radio. I do this only because being a self-proclaimed travel blog, I feel it’s necessary to write about actual travel at least once every financial year. It’s the blogging equivalent of paying your car registration on time so you don’t need a new roadworthy certificate.

My blast from the past sees us travelling all the way back to January 2012. Ahhh, those were heady days. Toto had released their latest phonograph cylinder, the latest top-of-the-range wireless cost two shillings and sixpence, and people were heard to utter the phrase “I give this two and a half men show three weeks, tops.” It was also the month I spent on a slow horse-drawn carriage through Vietnam.

I say horse-drawn carriage because when you are actually travelling by bus in Vietnam, the two are similar enough in speed to be called the same. That being said, it’s cheap, it usually gets you where you want to go, and it obligingly pulls over when you’re hungover and need to “toss a sidewalk pizza”. Curiously enough, I’m told most Melbourne cab companies fail all three of these elementary aspects of transport.

Raucously hilarious transport satire aside, Vietnam has climbed on to (and stubbornly remains on) my list of favourite places to visit. Without wanting to bore you in to rereading some of my earlier funnier work, I present you with a list of reasons why Vietnam deserves such a lofty post (from where it can look down it’s nose at places like Bali*):

  1. It’s cheap, like WAY cheap. My prime example is that in Hoi An you can get draught beer for 3000VND = AUD $0.14
  2. The currency conversion means you can drop lines such as “let’s put 20 Gs on it” when playing pool (AUD $1)
  3. You can get literally anything tailor-made for you. This is also in Hoi An. I had the shoes below made, but I’ve since sent away to Hoi An for this outfit.
  4. The haggling culture. This basically means you can assume everyone is out to rip you off. This is common knowledge though, so it is your fault if you don’t know, leading to you not haggling and getting ripped off. Get the best deal you can, but assume you will pay at least 200% more than the locals. This guy drove a hard bargain, but in the end I got a good price for my novelty cone hat.
  5. The food. Anywhere you can get street food for $1 or less with only moderate bowel disruptions has got to be good.
  6. Clearly this place is the capital of inter-species harmony.

Let’s just hope when our alien visitors inevitably arrive, they land in Hoi An.

Safe travels. J

*No offence Bali, the fried rice in your breakfast buffets is still as good as anywhere I’ve been.

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“Stop the world, I’m getting off” – Ian Brown

26 Mar

I find starting any piece of writing with a quote has a few advantages. For one, it implies you’ve done some real research (I’m told this is something writers do). For another, it makes you sound deep and insightful. However telling you this quote comes from a Stone Roses song I just happened to be listening to will probably spoil this illusion a little. Live and learn.

Nevertheless now that I am a writer (in the sense that anyone/anything with thoughts and fingers can call themselves a writer), I intend to take full advantage of all the douchy cliches that come with the territory:

  1. Having a notebook I carry EVERYWHERE, just in case my vanilla latte inspires me to write the next Macbeth
  2. Sitting in a park to muse on the world
  3. Starting with quotes
  4. Dressing like this

I think I’ve been in London long enough to call myself a local. I say this because with much effort I now only emit a muffled titter when I hear: “this is a Picadilly line train to Cockfosters”, as opposed to convulsing on the floor with laughter. As such, and because I am now a purveyor of fine home-made words, I’ve started to notice things. The first is that left to natural selection, Pug dogs would almost certainly be extinct by now. The second is that London is THE place to congregate if you want to postpone life.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, that is why I’m here after all. Some of us just need a little time out. Cue excruciating analogy.

Think of life as a West End musical (if you want to be specific, Les Miserables has your perfect mix of romance, revolution, action and theft of candlesticks). While fantastic from start to end, Les Miserables (a tour de force, five stars – boiledblogsyndrome) is quite long. That is why you get ice-cream time, or “intermission” as it’s known in “the biz”. While some can, we can’t all be expected to sit through 3+ hours of only singing for dialogue. Just as not everyone can sit through their own lives without a bit of a break.

So I guess my analogy concludes with labeling London the theatre foyer of the world, where people come to enjoy their ice-cream before returning for the second half. It sort-of works. In other news I have booked flights to Hamburg for a few weeks time, so I will actually be able to bring you some travel stuff soon.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to continue work on Taming of the Brew: Hamlet becomes a barista.

Thanks for reading. J

Musical Chairs: No light at the end of the tube

21 Mar

First of all, I’m sorry. Sort of. Not really. I didn’t want my first bonafide foray into the glamourous world of amateur blogging to be me whining about something. But something has been bugging me ever since I came to London. Like most of us I take the tube to and from my place of employment. I’ll take a moment now so you can pause, stare wistfully in to the middle distance and longingly remember the bliss that was your last tube ride. If you’ve never been to London, imagine if you will:

  • The warm smell of diesel fumes mixed with crotch sweat billowing on to the platform as a train approaches (TFL has managed to achieve this despite the trains being electric, the crotch sweat is less of a mystery)
  • Being crammed in to a square-foot space with 13 other people, and no possible way of removing your jacket without goosing someone
  • Sweating profusely (particularly from your crotch) because of the inability to remove said jacket
  • Being goosed by the man next to you who attempts and fails to solve the jacket removal/goosing conundrum
  • Ploughing  your way through the crowd to get off at your stop, only to switch lines and do it all again (though hopefully you’ve remembered to take your jacket off before getting on the next train.

I realise public transport goosing exploits are nothing new to anyone. So why write about it? Because I’m scared. I’m scared that long enough in this city (wonderful though it is) will turn me in to a rude, intolerant muse for some idiot to write a blog about. Despite my poor attempts at humour and bad dandruff, I’m usually a pretty nice person.

Something I saw the other day really pushed me over the edge. My instant flash of white-hot anger presented a few problems as I had to wait until I got off the train, then several more days before I decided to start a blog when I could vent this anger. I know we all like our personal space, and rarely will someone choose to sit next to a stranger when other seats are available with nobody next to them. Which brings us to the holy grail of tube seats…the end seat. The end seat is so sought after because it carries the potential to be sat next to by 50 per cent less human beings. Happily, once you are safely in the end seat, you only need to ignore the human on one side and concentrate on the plexi-glass pressed ham by a standing commuter on the other. And all you had to do was dispatch of a blind, disabled pensioner.

The main source of my anger came the other day when I saw someone move from a regular seat to the end seat. I should clarify that the seat they moved from had no one on either side. It was a preemptive move just in case the carriage suddenly filled with sweaty, groping commuters before she had a chance to bring out her can of mace. Why the need to ensure as little human contact as possible? As much as it sickens me, I see it as a gap in the market. If you can no longer stand the thought of accidentally striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know, or having their newspaper brush innocently against you faux denim jeggings and having to mutter niceties, inquire about the latest sensation in commuting.

Until next time, mind the gap. J

Welcome: This is about travel, not puns…

18 Mar

…but any puns used are most certainly intended. First and foremost, I am writing this to keep record of my thoughts while I travel. Since anyone with a computer and access to an electrical supply can keep a web log these days, “why not me?” I said. So after plugging my computer in I set about thinking up titles that involved a pun on the word ‘blog’. After literally MINUTES of intermittent thought I came up with Boiled Blog Syndrome.

This is not only humourous, it is a metaphor for me (and some other people as well). You see, ‘boiled fr(bl)og syndrome’ is a phenomenon where a frog is placed in a pot of water. If the water is already hot, the frog jumps straight out. If the water is cool and gradually heated, the frog doesn’t realise and is boiled alive (please don’t try this, it’s just a flimsy pun that I used for my blog title). See dramatisation

In any case I, and others around me who I must thank, came to the conclusion that if you don’t get yourself out of your comfort zone and shake things up a bit, you can quickly lose precious time. I know everyone is different, and travel (or moving to the other side of the world) isn’t for everybody. But in my case, one day I realised that if I didn’t give my life a swift shot of wasabi, I knew exactly where I’d be in five, ten, twenty years time….and that scared the shit out of me.

This is my metaphorical soapbox for varying thoughts about travel, life in London, and who cares what else.

Thanks for reading, don’t take it too seriously. J