(Next up: Moscow in April)
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
(Next up: Moscow in April)
Monday, March 03, 2014
I'm not kidding though. First off, up at 0600 for parkrun. In Australia, due to the stupid weather, they do parkrun at 0700 instead of 0900. Thank fuck. We were going to leave at about 0615 to walk the 2km (one vertical) to the Spit reserve where the second inaugural Mosman parkrun was going to take place. It had one run back in October, and then got canned the week after, but now there was council approval and a new route and it just so happened to be taking place when I was there (originally we were going to do Curl Curl, a few km north).
In October there'd been either 99 or 102 runners - parkrun.com.au and Facebook were a bit unclear. But the weather was grotesque (of course, it didn't rain during the run itself, such is parkrun's meteorological power) so we drove and there ended up being just 34 runners. Reps from the council and an MP/minister for health were there for a bit of a speech, I was proudly in my 50 shirt and expecting to come last because all Australians are athletes and because Australia isn't flat. It was 3 laps of the reserve, flat apart from a short and brutal hill at one end. On the last lap I told the steward there that I wasn't being rude, but fuck me I was glad I'd not see him again.
The winner was this guy of Japanese heritage, who ran incredibly fast - like, 15:xx or summat - and Kevin came 5th at 19:16 or so. I'd run the very last bit of his last lap alongside, we split as I said "see you in 10 minutes" and sure enough I finished in 29:16. Considering I'd done no real exercise for 2 weeks, and the heat and humidity and course were all horrid, I was pretty chuffed - sub 30:00 is always my benchmark. And, actually, when I checked, it was my fastest time of any parkrun event that I've only done once. So, pretty cool. But Christ, I was wetter through sweating in the humidity than at any rainy run...
The Japanese guy had done two more laps by the time I left. STOP. I thought maybe he had an earpiece and it was some running version of Speed - "keep running or we blow your kids up" or whatever.
Home, shower and out - Saturday is gymnastics for Alex and swimming for both girls, though Alex's cold meant she couldn't do that part. So me and Kevin took Harry to the pool, where her half hour lesson was an enormous amount of fun for her even as she let loose the floods of tears during the crocodile song. She loved the instruction - jump! jump! jump! - but just not the song. Strange lass.
Home via a midday stop at a bakery somewhat posher than Gregg's, a popular place in Dee Why where I had a Mexican pie, having not had my fill of Mexican food on Friday with the lunch burrito and evening fajitas. Harry ordered sushi, which didn't really work, but there was sushi left for her at home - Alex agreed to share, and by doing so had space and agreement for a slice of lamington. Noms all round.
Lunchtime snooze for the girls went kinda badly. Which is to say it was exactly like all their attempts at sleeping. Harry never switches off! But once they were at least downstairs, me and Kevin went out to the pub. Specifically The Oaks in Neutral Bay, his local when he first moved here which was before I started visiting. It's a regular boozer in a non-touristy suburb. I freaked out when he said "I lost my driving licence after a night out in here", until he thankfully explained that he had literally misplaced it. No one drunk drove, no one got killed. Jesus, watch your words bro...
Guinness! And much better than PJ O'Brien's too. Kevin suggested another bar, by which he meant a different part of the same pub. Turns out the Oaks has about 9 different sections all with separate decor, features, etc. We started in the bit with the TVs and gambling terminals (in which I taught him the difference between -ism and mere description), went to the family bit, then upstairs to play pool. There were about 10 pool rooms, one of which was a single table in a kitchen. Odd. We failed dismally to make sure we had enough coins for an odd number of games and wound up 2-2 (though I thought Kevin won 3-1). A 2 ball play off gave the victory to him anyway. £2.25 a game!
Home, or kebab? Have a fucking guess. We walked to the kebab house, via a considerably worse pub and Guinness in Cremorne. Oh, I get it, so now everywhere sells Guinness. The kebab was decent, and we walked all the way back. That was a fair amount of km in the legs for the day tbh. Back home, we snacked like the post booze post kebab fools we were, lots of ice cream, and I watched Die Hard 4.0 while Kevin snoozed on the sofa. My god, what a shit film that is. I'd weighed myself on Thursday and was super happy to discover I'd not put on a single kg, but that might have changed by now. I am definitely a fat cat if not a fat fuck.
Sunday, my last day. On the way back from swimming on Saturday Qantas had called me, to see if I needed a porter and to book me in for a spa massage treatment. I'd picked my seat and the journey was all set. A chauffeur was coming to get me at 2pm, so I had plenty of time to spend with the girls. Having finally got my sleeping patterns into Sydney time I was up at 7am for the chaos of breakfast, and we did puzzles and chopping until time for the zoo. The fam have a season ticket but yours truly had to fork out. Sal was on a walk so only the Foremans went, at opening time. Jeez, the girls were SO EXCITED. Mind you, Taronga zoo is special. Last time I went I saw the New Year's Eve fireworks over Sydney harbour. Last time Harry went she saw an elephant do a poo from its bum bum, I was repeatedly told.
Lions and gorillas and orang-utangs and tree kangaroos and tigers and elephants and snakes and foxes and turkeys and so many animals. Also an energetic time in the lemur play park. Sal had walked to the zoo in pissing rain that we had mostly missed, and soon we all left via a quick detour for some top notch uncling at the shop where I totally stole Sal's idea for presents for the girls and bought them a pair of lemur tails to wear. They loved them, and gave themselves lemur names of Jasmine and Tiger. I got a cracking photo. But, it was time to go home and get them fed, after which my pocket of coins was my last present to them. Sal's birthday present had arrived on my first full day, a shipment of Marmite XO from the UK. I'm very good at missing birthdays, having previously left the country 2 days before Alex's and this time one day before Sal's. Alex and Harry were so so hard to get to go to bed, but it eventually happened, and then all that was left was to wait for my drive to the airport, the start of a long and nondescript journey back to the UK.
Nondescript apart from the whole first class thing, that is.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
UK weather had come to me, as the rain from Friday persisted and was forecast to last until I left. Foodwise the burrito place by Manly wharf was my aim, but the weather was shitty and I missed my bus, so instead I headed into the city. More than a week ago I'd spent some time in a mall in Kuala Lumpur which reminded me of Westfield, but in Sydney I found a mall which was even more reminiscent - largely because it was the same as the others, but called Westfield. There were loads of food places on the top floors - I'd use numbers, but I entered on a ground floor numbered 2, and left by a different ground floor exit numbered 3. What?
The burrito was pretty average. Unlike everywhere else I've bought burritos, you don't order subway style - I just said "spicy chicken burrito please" and got handed a receipt with a number, as if I was in Argos. 45 seconds later, here's my pretty average burrito. Ah well. I ate it wandering the streets towards Ultimo, a district of Sydney clearly named either after washing powder or a rubbish super hero. I only skirted it, as I was heading to Chippendale, a district of Sydney clearly named after a male stripper. In reality it was a district just south of the backpacker-student-hobo-bad architecture area which borders Chinatown. Even though the weather was rotten and I was inadvisably in a coat and hat, I was walking a good 3.5km in search of Guinness.
The internet - which had previously NEVER EVER LET ME DOWN EVER - told me a good pint of Guinness was to be found at the Duck Inn in Chippendale. It's nowhere near any tourists would ever go. I was double wet when I got there, from both sweat and rain. Walked in, perched at the bar, and asked for a Guinness. Which of course they didn't serve. This reminded me of my last trip to Oz, not because of an Australian experience but because on the same holiday me and Ellie walked a few km through awful parts of a Thai beach resort to the only Guinness vendor on Koh Chang Island only to arrive and be told the a Guinness was off. DAMN IT.
I had a dark ale, and walked back to the CBD. Kevin had told me days previously that PJ O'Brien's in the centre was a guaranteed Guinness hole, and 3km later so it proved.
That was a shit pint of Guinness. And a second shit pint of Guinness. But at least the surroundings had improved, and darts was on TV. There were 3 sets visible from the bar, all showing the same channel, yet one of them was around 2 seconds out of sync with the others. How can that possibly happen?
While in PJ O'Brien's I got a phone call, caller ID withheld. I refuse to answer calls like that normally, but since it was only 5am in the UK I figured it might be something worth answering, about my journey home. "Mr Foreman, I'm calling about your chauffeur service on Sunday...". Clearly I was on the home stretch now.
Started off listening to a couple of Steve Austin podcasts, he interviews current WWE stars without staying in character or storyline and it's super interesting. And then I went shopping. I needed to buy some running shoes because there wasn't enough space in my bags for mine, and I was due to do parkrun on Saturday. Naturally this meant I had to wear my RUNNING SUCKS nike t-shirt. Bought a pair, failed to buy a hat, and went down to neutral bay wharf for a boat to the city.
From there I was actually going to do something new and touristy - a trip to Cockatoo Island. You get there by public transport, but it's an old historic island full of convict stories and shipbuilding works and etc. It's great, a self guided non-audio tour around quarries and old shipyards and prison cells and officers' quarters, the lot. One of the convict stories is about an escape in 1863 about a guy who had been sentenced to 7 years in 1856. Are they sure he wasn't just y'know, let free?
Cockatoo island also has Sydney's only pub/bar on an island, which did not publish its opening hours on the pamphlet nor at the venue itself, but only on the website. Which told me it wasn't open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fail. And the boat had a replacement bus service schedule poster. It's an island. Bus?
A GIANT cruise ship had come in overnight. Took a few photos for Chris.
More shopping. It's all very well buying a new ipad but when it's a different size to your last one, you need a case. The girl behind the till asked me where I'd bought my shirt, and was about the 5th person to comment on it after the old woman who refused to run after her blown-away coke can, the school kids who'd said "running doesn't suck!" and the chugger who was so distraught that I wasn't local and fleeceable.
Back home after an ice cream, for more tea time and bedtime chaos followed by an argument about whether natural talent exists. It does. Kevin is wrong.
Another lazy day on Wednesday, another midday start. Kept racking up the boat rides with a trip to Watsons Bay, essentially an OAP day out just for fish and chips at Doyle's. Oh my god, they were so worth it. Had to wait 45 minutes for the return ferry as they seem to take a lunch break, and on the way back there was a pretty decent Red Arrows style display over the harbour. Popped round to Darling Harbour for the microbrewery which served a very decent stout, and realised I've never had a Guinness in Sydney, or at least not one I could recall.
Got the Manly Ferry back, and the free wifi forced you to fill out a poll before it activated. Did I support their application for a licence to serve booze? Would I be a likely purchaser of booze? Quickly checked that the pope still shits in the woods and bears are catholic, failed to find the OF FUCKING COURSE option.
Thursday, also not overly busy. The UK weather had kicked in now, so that when I left the house to walk to Manly the rain was hotter than the shower I'd just had. The wind was grim too, so my original plan to meet Kevin for external pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels suddenly turned into a solo jaunt to The Australian for kangaroo pizza and a beer made by a brewery younger than 12 months old, which was called Wayward Charmer and was DELICIOUS. This would, presumably, be my last day on the sauce, since I had a 6am start for a 5km run scheduled for Saturday, and flying on Sunday without wanting to be hungover. That probably explains why I had 2 gins and 2 whiskeys back at the house.
Friday, February 28, 2014
En route to Manly wharf I'd discovered that, contrary to my brother's assertion, something was different to two years ago: there are now readily available burritos without having to trek all the way to Bondi. Hurrah!
Had a slow wander around the CBD once off the boat, reacquainting myself with everything and lamenting the removal of the Sydney monorail. Heavy sigh. Stopped for a bit to do an official notification of travel to NatWest, in the hope that my card would start working the next day, and walked up to the Apple Store.
The AUD:GBP exchange rate got steadily and steeply worse every visit between 2006 and 2012, but in the last two years has got a bit more friendly for us Sterling wielders. While the effect on booze is that a pint in Sydney is now only in the £5-6 region, a much more pleasing and bizarre effect is that Apple kit is much cheaper than in the UK. So, I bought an iPad Air, 64gb wifi only slate grey, served up by the very happy smiley apple employee who was delighted I knew what I was on about. This model is £559 in the UK, and $799 here. According to my MBNA statement this has translated to £444, and what's more I'll get the GST (=VAT) back when I leave the country, which is another £40. So £150 saving, well worth it. What's more, this also was the catalyst for my plan to leave my existing iPad behind as a family hand me down present. Worked out nicely IMO.
Another thing I wanted to buy was a hat. As everyone knows, I have an enormous head and "one size fits all" is a lie where I'm concerned. I lost my Micky-from-Snatch trilby in Rome and wanted either a replacement, or a baseball cap, cos wandering around with a beanie on in 25°c+ every day was getting real old. In The Rocks, Sydney's historic bit near the bridge, there's a tat shop which has on two previous visits managed to stock caps which fit, but alas, not this time, So then I went to The Rocks Hattery, a hats only shop. And no, nothing fucking fit me.
All this had only taken me about 3.5 hours - Sydney centre is not big. I jumped on a boat, just for the hell of it, round to Darling Harbour, and as I approached Kevin called to see where I was. He came and met me, and we got the bus back home. The kids were there and chaos ensued. It's mealtime and bed time for a 2yo and 5yo, after all. Once the girls went to bed me, Kevin, and Rowlf the hound went walkies, first to retrieve the people carrier and second to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt around where the rich people live and discard perfectly good furniture, printers, paintings, antiques, etc by the roadside. The chair we were after had already gone to an earlier hunter, bah.
Top Gear came on the box, during which I claimed star in a reasonably priced car is done at Brooklands near where I live. In the course of proving myself wrong on the internet I discovered that Brooklands is a fantastic place I definitely want to visit, with an aerospace and bus museum, and a Concorde you can get in, and how the fuck have I lived in Surbiton for 13 years and not known this? So the day ended, my 10th away from home in my 4th different foreign country, with the realisation that my doorstep is awesome. DOING TOURISM RIGHT.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
"Hey, mate, how you going?" came the half London, half Aussie accent over my shoulder. Hurrah! Kevin! Hurrah! My nieces were there too! Dressed fantastically as the gruffalo and Spider-Man, like a golf matchplay score Harry and Alex have moved from 0&2 to 2&5 since I last saw them. Uncle Darren, uncle Darren! I did smile. Heeding the request made before I realised I'd be there first, Kevin bought me a diet coke and the four of us trekked back to his huge bus of a people carrier. It was about 7am but the girls were already dressed for, and excited about, their party at 1030 - but before that we had to break a toll booth attempting to leave the car park, and then go to Maisy's in Neutral Bay for some massive breakfasts, banana bread, and for Harriette to lock the door from the inside, taking us all hostage.
I couldn't finish the breakfast at all. The hangover was actually kinda gone and I rehydrated a lot, plus I was just excited to see everyone and be on the relaxing, familiar, chill part of the holiday for the next 8 days. Drove back to the house, said hello to Rowlf and Sal, and alternated between chatting and helping the girls do their puzzles. At 1030 all three lasses went off to the aforementioned party and I considered taking a bit of a nap, but ended up deciding to try and power through. Me and Kevin caught up about all kinds of stuff, spoke about running, my diet, etc. We hadn't moved by the time everyone else returned, and with the nieces off for their lunchtime snooze I felt pretty dead. It was about 1pm I think, so a truly terrible time to go to sleep.
We came up with a plan. I wanted to get some money out, a diet coke, and an ice cream. And just to be active. So we walked into Seaforth and the ATMs refused my card. Bastards. Bought a bus ticket and a diet coke, borrowed a load of cash from Kevin, and we got a bus into Manly. It's a sunny hot summer afternoon, so let's go drinking in a pub overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which brews on the premises. Hello, Yardarm Taphouse, Manly!
The first tasting paddle was a struggle. We had four 1/3rds of their darkest beers, which were none of them outstanding. Well they might have been nicer if I'd not been struggling SO MUCH. But after them I perked up.. a couple of wheat beers, then off to the Steyne for two or three more. A garbled conversation with Sal as we attempted to coordinate our attempt to get home, we refused a lift and said we'd make our own way, which given the rubbish Sunday bus services meant getting a cab. A proper, bonzer, fair dinkum "ah yeah?" bona fide Bruce Australian racist driver 'n all: after asking where we were going, his next sentence started with "now I don't mean this to be a race issue, but..." and proceeded to tell us about this girl of Indian descent who'd got in and asked him if he knew Balgowlah Heights. After he'd said "a bloody sight better than you!" she'd taken offence and got out, and into the next cab. HOW DARE SHE. These bloody foreigners, I tell you, they're so rude and ... then he said that of course, they're not all bad - his cab firm supervisor is an Indian guy y'know. But he's sensible and makes sure he only employs proper Aussies to drive for him.
Thank fuck the drive wasn't long.
Back at the house, Sal had pie ready for us. Personalised pie. Mine had a pastry DAZ on its lid. It was lovely. Then out came the gin, I had two .. er .. trebles, apologised for being a bad influence on my brother, and apparently went to bed. With a mixture of exhaustion and drunkenness, I honestly have no idea what time or anything. The next thing I remember is waking up feeling wretched, in a spare/guest child's bed upstairs, with all my stuff in the guest adult room I should have been in. My nieces were laughing at me, attacking my belly with a balloon sword, as the house was getting ready for daycare, school, and work. I hung around for breakfast, and to walk Alex to school at 0830, and then went back to the house. Sal was working from home and I said, y'know, I think I'll just grab another hour's sleep before I head into the city.
When I woke up it was 1pm, and I apparently was feeling human again.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Airport checkin opens 2 hours before my 1045 flight. We're leaving the hotel at 0845, though I am only 3km away. All the reviews from Australians on airlinequality.com still fresh in my mind, I know they exaggerated (to put it kindly) for the arrival process but departure sounded utterly dismal. So, deep breath as we turn the final corner to the terminal and...
Right. No chaos at kerbside. No queues, no one is doing security outside. Just inside the terminal building there's a queue of... one person for the x-ray. My bag is labelled as having been scanned and I'm through. There are a fair few people milling around at sundry checkin desks but no queues anything like as bad as, say, Paris, or Heathrow, or Kuala Lumpur, or, ...
Check-in for my flight is open and there's two desks, processing people plenty quickly enough. I get my boarding pass, as it seems my half-assed attempt to check in online hadn't scuppered anything. The next obstacle - the insanely hard to spot desk where you have to pay your departure fees - was right there, basically blocking the way to immigration. Paid my dues after being shunted around to an empty desk despite being happy to wait behind the one person in front of me. Got my receipt and handed it, my passport, and my departure card to an immigration official with whom I exchanged a tut and rolling of eyes, the both of us having been briefly delayed by the couple in front of me - the bloke hadn't filled out his departure form and they told him to piss off and fill it out. He insisted he didn't need to. I'm not sure arguing with the immigration officials about the immigration procedures was really too good an idea, but after they'd shooed him away three times and waved me forward I stepped up, only for him to block my way by jumping across to the next desk, cos he seemed convince THAT member of staff would be more likely to let him not abide by the fucking law. Arrogance and stupid alive and well in Denpasar airport.
Er, anyway, one more bag x-ray and... I'm through. I'm through. In fact, I've been to a deli counter and bought a diet coke, sat down, got my pad out, and looked at the time. From being dropped off in my cab to ensconced airside - after, it bears repeating: two security checks, check in, departure tax, and immigration - has taken me 18 minutes.
Dear reviewers on airlinequality.com: WHAT THE LIVING FUCK ARE YOU ON ABOUT?
Anyway. It's, like, 0910. I've ages to kill. There are two lounges but I'm not entitled to visit any of them, since I'm flying a *gasp* low cost carrier to Singapore. It's actually affiliated with, or owned by, Jetstar, who are themselves part of Qantas, but I don't fancy trying to explain that a Cathay Pacific gold card should let me in a shared lounge because I happen to understand the arcane corporate structure of the airline I am patronising. So I just wander, up and down, topping up my rage by checking out the other review facts, like there being not enough seats for customers in the departure area (there are, for the whole 90 minutes I'm there, easily plenty of seats for every departing aircraft, and more to spare). I walk around, stare at the electronics and do some currency arithmetic which brings a flutter to the heart as I find a MacBook Air for £600. But I don't need a MacBook Air. No, really.
Because data roaming was free in Indonesia I could also get embroiled in a late night (GMT) argument on a secret AFC Wimbledon messageboard about whether Wimbledon FC could possibly have played Manchester United in the FA cup in 2007, and whether Amazon are a profitable company or not. Huh.
The fact that there's a currency with the code PHP made me shiver, briefly. And, just as I was about to pull the trigger on a can of San Miguel, the "get thee to the gate" call came.
Tertiary security at the gate was even more of a joke than the chicken crossing the road on Friday, about as effective as the time I managed to get a full bottle of gin into a footy match despite having my bag searched. And then, boarding. Took my seat, which was just a regular one - being a budget airline I could have paid more for an exit row, or even more for a front row, but I hadn't bothered. Good move in the end, as the seat had more pitch than Malaysia Airlines economy. I had prebooked my meal though, and an attendant came up and addressed me by name, taking my order. More nasi lemak, please!
Take off was delayed a bit as they announced some paperwork was required to cope with the 8 people who hadn't shown up at checkin. And then there was some chaos and 8 people arrived, seemingly oblivious to their tardiness.
The nasi lemak gave me the hot food hiccups. That's pretty good going for budget airline food! And so, I crossed the equator south to north, again not bothering to do SCIENCE in the loos. And for the second flight of the trip I had no beer. Maybe I would arrive in Sydney feeling sober, alert, fresh...?
70% of the passengers were up on their feet, overhead bins open etc, way before the seatbelt sign was off. Rules schmules. I wasn't in a hurry - window seat, and 7 hours til my next flight, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, or what the possibilities were really. I grabbed some airport wifi and received a mail from kayak.co.uk telling me which carousel my flight's bags would be on, which I thought was superb service. Got my bag and the strap had broke. On my brand new "this is for travelling the world with" holdall. Sigh. I should have taken it off, but, still. Boo. BOO.
My flight to Australia was a completely separate booking, so I had to go landside. I'd filled out my landing card with "not applicable - in transit" for my address in Singapore, and once through customs - where I was explicitly told I had to go through the red "something to declare" channel - I headed straight to the departures level and looked for the BA desks. There was a sign saying that early check in is possible in a different aisle, from 1430. It was 1350, my flight was at 2000.
Found the early desks, with a bit of a queue and no one yet manning them, of course. Had a brief loiter, then out of boredom walked up to the printed out notice on a nearby desk to read it. It said what times and what flights the desks dealt with, but also, tantalisingly, "business and first class passengers should go to the premium check in lounge". Well, I happened to be stood right next to that, so I waltzed up. Got escorted to the BA desk, sat down, and given a sweet. Checked in by two people, had the lounge situation explained to me (namely, that they also weren't open yet) and waved through the super fast track lane. The folk in front of me were having their bags scanned so I waited behind them, or would have, but the guy just waved me past and straight to the staff and crew immigration line. An almost indiscernible eyebrow was raised as she searched for my entry stamp and saw it had today's date on it.
Singapore airport does special 2 hour bus tours of the city throughout the day, but you have to secure your space at least an hour beforehand. This meant the only one I could possibly do was the 4pm. What's more, the desk for it is in terminal 3 and I was in terminal 1. So this meant a monorail trip, woohoo!
The 4pm trip was fully booked. Back on the monorail and a quick look at the closed lounges, then a wander. This airport is amazing. It has a free cinema, swimming pool, food market, cactus garden, rain forest, hotel, ... it's an astonishing place. I went to the rooftop cactus garden and bar, took a couple of photos but it was brutally hot, doubled as the smoking area, and the bar had some guy doing covers on a guitar, Too soon, too soon.
Back inside, the lounges were open. Plural. The BA and Qantas lounges are next to one another, and I know from flyertalk that the Qantas one is better. Nonetheless I wanted to try both, so went to the BA one first. Second person in there, I served myself some champagne and took a horrific pair of selfies to display just how out of place the scruffy bastard with a pub crawl t-shirt and shorts was in this place. Stuffed myself with a few munchies from the buffet too, and had a couple of energetic conversations on Facebook messenger. Kept loading up with various kinds of fuel: champers, cheese, electricity for the gadgets. I love spending time in empty airport lounges.
Headed off to the Qantas one after a while. Much more crowded since a Qantas flight was actually taking off fairly soon, right near the entrance is a bar. Not a self service fridge of beer, but a bar with a barman and with stools. So I took my position and stayed there for 3 beers and one bourbon - which he really was not happy about serving me - while not one single other person sat at the bar for any longer than it took for them to retrieve their drinks. Maybe I really was the only solo traveller that day? Some lads asked specifically for a stubby beer instead of having it in a glass, but the only stubbies were light beers.
Dear lord, the calorie count was getting so so high, way higher than any day so far. As was the drunkenness. Mind you I must've burnt a few calories too with the crazily long walk the monorail trip had involved.
Lester put a Wurzels song in my head when I told him what I was drinking. "I am a Tiger drinker, ..."
Went back to the BA lounge for more champagne, and so I could overhear 4 loud simultaneous skype conversations. Tried to remember when the last time I'd been this lounge was, even though by now I was struggling to remember what country I'd started the day in without consulting my pad (blogging my holidays involves living like I'm Guy Pearce in Memento, except without the self harm). I think it was 2008? Had a brief chat with James as I realised it was parkrun o'clock back home, and then went to the gate.
Was very early at the gate, but strolled on at my leisure thanks to the business class boarding pass. My seat was the first aisle seat in the cabin, as with Malaysia chosen specifically so I wouldn't have to clamber over anyone nor be clambered over myself. BA business class is so so much nicer since I last flew it, making it a bona fide shame that I'd got too pissed to really enjoy it. Had a champagne anyway, and started to watch Luther S3. The amenity kit was rubbish, the seat was good, I don't remember what I ate, ... the flight is a bit of a blur really. I crossed the equator for the third time and it's perfectly possible my head started to spin in the opposite direction.
The lights went off quite early - it's an 8pm departure, 7am arrival, taking only 8 hours so the best plan, and what most people do, is ignore the food and entertainment and just sleep. In my stupid haze I insisted on trying to watch stuff and stay awake, meaning in the end I had 2 hours of dreadful quality sleep, wolfed down the breakfast (pig bacon!), and arrived in Sydney feeling shattered, hungover, dehydrated, sweaty, and various other ropey adjectives. What's more, I know from experience rather than hearsay that early morning arrivals at Sydney really ARE chaos and take forever to process, as about a hundred long haul flights arrive within 10 minutes of one another. It felt like it was going to be a challenge just to not pass out while queuing for immigration/customs/quarantine, and if the Nothing To Declare camera crew were around I was not looking fit for my debut Aussie TV appearance...
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Spent the whole morning debating with myself whether I should leave the hotel that day, maybe do a tour. I was already way too late for a full day tour, but there were a lot of half day tours available which start any time between 2pm and 3pm, in particular ones which involve going to see spectacular sunsets. And, I had a shitload of currency I could have done with spending especially as it wasn't enough to bother changing back to Aussie dollars or British shekels. There was a half day tour to a monkey forest, a temple, and then one more temple for sunset - so at 2pm I went down to reception and said, am I too late to geta driver to take me to see monkeys and the sunset? They said no, it would be fine, go get a beer while they sort it out.
He was gonna turn up at 1530, which seemed fair enough since I was only doing 2 out of 3 attractions. And I had no clue about where these things were, and trusted them. The bloke ended up arriving a bit late, but off we went. Chatted a bit about football, cos he was a Liverpool fan. But he didn't seem very chatty and it got a bit quiet as we drove. And drove. And drove. And drove. Turns out it was a bloody long way.
I got to see a fair bit of Bali's internals. The residential areas were littered by temples, which seemed to be at the start of little gated areas. There were massive amounts of craft shops, mostly stuff made of wood, which confused me - I've seen enough episodes of Nothing To Declare/Border Security to know you can't take wood into Australia, and since every tourist here is Aussie...
Also, it's election season, by which I mean every 20 yards there was a giant billboard with a picture of a man displaying fine millinery, asking for the vote. Like those ham faced David Cameron photos from 2010, only these guys hopefully aren't total cunts.
Eventually got to the monkey forest at 5pm. Sunset is about 6.40pm and an hour or 90 minutes to drive. Eek. Thankfully I probably couldn't have lasted the heat and mosquitoes much longer than 20 minutes anyway, and I was very happy with how much I saw - it's not a big place, the monkey forest, just a pretty small complex of trees and temples with free roaming macaques all over the place, from big angry adults to tiny ickle baby ones who wouldn't stay still for a photo. I didn't feed them but if you do, they crawl over you. Very cool. Less angry or outright thieving than the ones on Gibraltar.
So, back in the car for a race against the sun to Tanah Lot, a temple complex on the coast with the main temple actually built on a rock you can only get to at low tide. The driver took a few short cuts off the main roads to try and get there quicker, so we went through some seriously non-tourist areas, full of animals all over and kids playing with fires. Had to slam the brakes on at one point so as not to kill a bird. Why did that chicken cross the road? What a joke.
We just, and only just, lost the race, largely due to being stuck for 10 minutes behind a tourist who couldn't cope overly well with the driving on the ropey roads. We tried very hard to overtake him, on blind hills and corners with liberal use of the "I'm here and doing stuff" horn. The sun was obviously setting and the views across fields of extraordinarily vivid blues and greens and yellows were decent, but the brightness was just disappearing at Tanah Lot. I got one decent photo which I was very happy with, and it was a pretty cool place to explore but everything was shutting and I was swimming against a huge crowd of people leaving. At least I was late enough that the entry fee booth was closed...
Drove back to the hotel, another hour or so. I have no idea how you are meant to fit three attractions into one afternoon, even starting at 1400. Apparently this wasn't even bad traffic, and it's definitely low season. Still never mind - I did see what I wanted, just not for very long. Still hadn't seen a beach though.
Back at the Vira, Friday night was in full swing. This meant a really, really poor cover band covering Australian music like Men At Work and AC/DC, presumably to fix the homesickness all the Aussie tourists must be suffering in this alien environment. And they covered it badly. Very, very badly. But the worst was their version of Nothing Else Matters, which for some reason they played twice. I was almost out off music for life. Jesus.
Had a nasi goreng and a couple of beers. Thought about wandering down the road to the Irish pub just to get a Guinness, but apparently it was some kind of comedy night, and besides I had a long Saturday ahead of me starting with an early flight in the morning - and as I already knew, leaving Bali airport is a truly terrible experience, even worse than arriving. I'd tried to check in for both of Saturday's flights on my phone and had a bit of grief with each, so I figured, y'know, just go to bed, Arranged a cab for 0830, and fell asleep to the dulcet sounds of CNBC.