Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas time

Festivities have come and gone since I last updated this.  And lots have happened.

I had one final day in Tokyo before I got my late night flight to Brisbane.  I'm not awfully good at these travelling days, i just want to get going, but my flight wasn't until 9pm so I had to fill my hours with something.  So guss what, I went to a park.  But this was a proper park with activties such as a zoo.  Now I know that in theory I disapprove of zoo's but I also disapprove of eating meat and I'm the biggest carnivore out (meat just tastes so good!).  So I paid my 600 yen and prepared myself for seeing a giant panda.

Now, to be honest if you had asked me a week ago would I like to see a giant panda, I probably would have said yes, but enthusiasim wouldn't have been overwhelming.  I eman they are just black and white fluffy things tat refuse to breed.  However, thinking I was about to see such a creature, I became quite excited.

Unfortunately, unbeknown to me (but very clearly sign posted in English around the zoo, but I don't look at anything properly) poor old Ling Ling passed on in April of this year.  Imagine my disappointment, rushing (well walking with purpose) toward the panda enclosure to find a little photo of the bear next to a sign describing her demise from heart failure several months previously.  But fear not, there was a substitute- two huge stuffed giant pandas you could sit on and pose for a photo.  How lovely.  Oh and jut to point out, they weren't real stuffed bears, more large soft toys.

Anyway so after that crushing disappointment, I made my way to the airport.  I found myself terribly excited to get to Australia and see Maggie that the flight could not go quick enough.  This wasn't helped by the fact the in flight entertainment was exactly the same as my previous insomniac journey and id finished my book.  Grr.

Anyway I finally arrived, rushed to passport control, sweating with all my documents ready for an interrorgation after the visa fiasco- would i be let in?  What questions will I get asked?  Will I get searched?  And I was waved through with barely a grunt from the passport control officer.  I was almost offended- I mean I could have been coming to steal babies for all they enquired.

So I waited for about 45 minutes for my bag which typically was last off (I was getting to the oh god oh god it's been lost stage when it finally poked it's little head out of the luggage window) then joined a massive queue for customs in which they take away your chocolate and make children cry.

So finally made it through and for the first time in months I had someone waiting for me at an airport.  I felt loved.  But there were so many people, I didn't know where to look so when Maggie presented herself in front of me, it took me a few seconds to realise she was there! 
Duncan, Maggie's partner, was also there to greet me and they took me back to their lovely house in a place called New farm they share with an equally lovely chap called Ryan (who i have met when he lived in Edinburgh, but like Duncan is an authentic Aussie).

The next few days were very lovely and domesticated.  Walks around the local area to orientate me, book shopping, cooking, baking for Christmas and just general catching up.  And then Christmas.  Duncan's mother and aunt live about 2 hours away in New South Wales in a little town called Pottsville and that is where the family clan were to congregate for the festive period.  Duncan has 3 siblings 92 brothers and one siser) and all bar one had their partners coming.  Add in Zack another UK waife and stray, a family friend and the aunt's partner and son, it was a busy affair!

Christmas eve is the focus at the Taylor household and it was so Australian it is going to sound cliched, but its the truth!  We arrived and instantly the beers started flowing, barbeque was started and there was even a sing song ariund the piano.  We went across the creek and swam in the sea before dinner then managed to squeeze about 14 people, a one eyed dog and a grumpy cat around Duncan's mother's dining room table to have barbequed fish, prawns and other fabulous trimmings.   Then presents were opened, the beers kept flowing and by the time I went to bed it was 3 and I was no where near the last to drop!

Christmas day was sightly more low key as several people had to go to other family meals, but still a good few people left for an early morning swim (a great way to get rid of a hangover) before the barbie was stoked up again and more food consumed.  After a bit of confusion I also got a lovely phonecall from my family who at the end of my Christmas day were just starting theirs.

So boxing day followed the same pattern and then in the evening Maggie (who had to work the next day), Zack and myself drove back to Brisbane.  Although we had a sightly scary moment when the 'I'm too hot light' went on and  strange smell started wafting through the vechicle.  We stopped, let the man in our party lift the bonnet and scratch his head then phone Duncan who's advice was 'to keep drving whilst i join th RAC'.  However, on returning to the car to follow this advice we found that if the air conditioning was switched off then the 'hot' light remained off and the car drove well.  So apart from some slight sweatyness on our part, the car managed to get us all safely home.

What a heart warming Christmas ending.  

Friday, 19 December 2008

Last Tango in Tokyo

So after complaining about everyone going to bed early after the rainy day, that evening, the aforementioned Essex boy in my dorm returned from his touristyness and we went to the hostel bar where we met 3 Aussie boys and ended up playing some very strange, but compelling game on the Wii for about 3 hours. So all was not lost.

So what did I do on Thursday......Oh yeah, the rain stopped- yipee!!!! So I went to another part of Tokyo that I can neither pronounce or spell. And I went to another park. What can I say, I really like parks and they have lots here. I also saw a very big shrine which was nice, a statue of a Japanese dog with a story behind it not unlike Grey Friar's Bobbie and lots ofvery oddly dressed Japanese girls. You know the ones with massive shoes, fake hair and lots of Hello Kitty! accessories.

In the evening, I played chess against one of the Aussie boys. Any one who has ever played chess with me knows how that went (I lost a lot, but my boredom during the game caused me to give most of the pieces back stories and personalities- the saddest of which was the story of the 2 horse brothers, divided by political loyalities in opposing sides who ended up killing each other. Their poor mother).

Today, it was again sunny. Guess what I did. Yeap, park. Then more walking round shops with odd looking Japanese girls and very high buildings.

To be honest, nothing particularly funny or interesting has happened in the last couple of days so I apologise for the dullness of this entry.

Oh I will mention something I forgot to tell you about the rainy fake island day. One of the shopping centres was really fancy, the inside was made to look like an outside with a changing colour cloudy sky and a bench covered in fake flowers called 'the happy seat' (apparently you sit in it, take a photo and think of nice things). Well, particular shopping centre (called Venus Fort for anyone who cares) claimed to have the largest public toilet in Japan- 64 stalls in all, according to my book. Now I read this and thought- I know what will make my mother proud, if I could find this toilet (anyone who knows my mother will understand this). I went to every bloody toilet in the place and couldn't find it. I realised it needed a systematic approach so I went to the floor plan on the top floor and toilet by toilet, floor by floor I searched. And then, when I thought all hope was lost, I opened the final door and I saw it- 54 gleaming bowls (*the book was wrong- only 54 not 64).


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Drip, drip, drip, lots of Tokyo showers

It's raining. But that's today. Lets go back to happier times, yesterday.

So after my sleep marathon on Monday, I finally emerged on Tuesday, bright as a button, fresh as a daisy, bushy tailed and all that stuff. It helped that the sun was shiney, the frost had gone, life in short was good.

Tokyo is very big and confusing and surprisingly enough there's a lot of Japanese signage around that's not the easiest to decifer. However, they do have a very good metro system which I truely believe is the solo travellers best friend whatever country you are in. I decided on my first day to go to central Tokyo, see the imperial palace and all that jazz. As it was such a beatutiful day I bascially spent about 4 hours walking about the imperial gardens as just when you think there can be no more, you find yet another one. And I missed out about three because I just couldn't take anymore folioage. I also found an area of park that was called "Shelter for people who cannot go home again". I was intrigued when I saw this sign so walked through it, expecting to see a homeless shelter, but in fact it was just an expanse of grass with a bunch of homeless people sleeping under trees. I think it must be a place where homeless people are tolerated as I haven't really seen many homeless people around the city. It was a sad little piece of land.

After my greenery marathon, I headed to the main shopping street in central Tokyo. It was very stereotypical with the big plasma screens and giant 3D watches, it was like being an advert for Thomas Cook- look this girl is in Tokyo, cue me standing in street surrounded by all the technology and people wearing faces masks (lots of people here are very worried about breathing in pollution so wear masks a lot when outside). It was a bit surreal. So to counter balance this, I went to a toy shop. What better way to feel normal again than to surround yourself with 5 storeys of plastic toys and lego. The lego was ace.

Anyway after all that excitement, I went back to the hostel and ended up having a few drinks with my dorm mate in the bar downstairs. He, like me, did the uni and job thing then went huh? that it? Quit his job and has resorted to a year of travelling on savings with no clear idea what he is going to do years end. Thank goodness I'm not the only one.

Today it rained, rained, rained and then rained some more. And it was cold. So whats a girl to do, but go to a landfill thats been turned into a fake island where there is about a million shops, a rainbow bridge and a fake statue of liberty? It was the campest place I have ever been to. It was fab.

However, the rain has continued on and on into this evening and everyone here at the hostel is a bit fed up of it. Its just so relentless, you can't really go outside and the idea of going out and doing anything doesn't stir up the imagination. So it a quiet one here in Asakusa, lots of civilised conversations and book reading. No one even wants to have a drink. Damn them all! Fortunately, I bought myself a cake, so all is not lost!


Monday, 15 December 2008

Goodbye Sunshine, hello frost...

Nobody told me it was winter in Japan. More on that later...

So Singapore proved to be the country that didn't allow me to sleep between snorers, incredibly loud Americans shouting at each other outside my door and an Oriental couple coming in and out of my room deciding whether or not they wanted to stay at 4 in the morning, none of these factors were condusive to sleep for the 4 days I was there. However, the country itself I quite enjoyed.

After my shopping day (oh I forgot to mention the best bit about the Keanu movie was at one stage he speaks -or trys to- in chinese. As most of the population are chinese origin, his attempt at the language caused the cinema audience to roar with laughter everytime he opened his mouth. It was very amusing) I went for a bit more culture in the country that, to be honest, seems to orientate around shopping centres.

I wandered along in humidity and 30 degrees plus to the harbour front to see the big wheel (which of course I didn't go up- it was miles high!) and then the big Merlion (yes a fish/lion hybrid statue) at the river front which spits water from its mouth. It was then I realised why there are so many shopping centres- they have air conditioning. I was hot, hot, hot and had a kinda of sweaty residue all over me that made me feel icky. I realised then only by diving from one centre to another could I survive this tropical land. How on earth am I going to survive in Oz?!

I also saw the 'Fountain of Wealth' which according to my book was a splendivourous, fantabulous, magnificanty giant amazing thing. Not so much. Looked like a water feature in a shopping centre that occasionally sprayed you with tepid water.

On Saturday I went to Sentosa island which is an artifical island made basically for sh*ts and giggles at the south end of Singapore. Beaches, more giant Merlions, waxwork museums and of course giant shopping centre (the biggest in fact). Only I didn't check the weather before I went. All the other days, despite the heat, it had been fairly overcast so no danger of sun exposure. Not this day. Clear blue sky, sun, sun, sun. Now many of you that know me when exposed to sun I burn even with factor 40 hence the tyranical way I put it on. Alas, it was only when I was lounging (in the shade) on the beach did I remembered due to a high pressured explosion in my bag that destroyed my factor 40 on the flight back from Italy, I only had my factor 20 with me. I stuck to shade, I didn't let myself swim, I used my brolly as a parasol (I looked so so so cool) and yes you guessed it, I still became a lobster, but only my left shoulder so it could have been worse.

Anyway, sun dodging aside, it was a lovely day until suddenly without warning the rain began to pour like proper movie style rain so I hot footed it back to my hostel for a timely nap (remember no sleep at night). Then because I am so amazingly cultured I went to the ballet. The theatre in Singapore is massive and you guessed it, joined to a shopping centre and cost about 300 million pounds to build. What can I say, it was nice. I was in the major cheapo seats and it was still a good view and despite being in the gods (or Circle 3) I didn't feel the balcony was about to collapse like I do in HMT. The ballet was the Nutcracker - how festive- so full of children, but don't worry I ignored them. Now I've never been to ballet (gasp I hear you say, how can that be true what with me being so cultured and everyfink) and to be honest I'd forgotten they don't speak, it just classical music and dance with dimmed lights and comfy seats and I hadn't slept properly in 3 days...Yes I fell asleep. Only briefly in the first half, but I felt so guilty that for the rest of it I tried to sit bolt upright and be fascinated, but to be honest, even though I know the dancing was difficult and the costumes were lovely etcera ectera, I was sort bored. I know, hang my head in uncultured shame. Anyway, it was a good experience to have and despite ballet not being my thing, I'm glad I went.

The rest of the trip was bascially nice (very short due to heat) walks in hilly parks, more shopping centres, random statue things and great amusement in finding Elgin road along with several other very Scottish sounding street names like Mackenzie Place and Edinburgh Road (me thinks Mr Raffles the British guy who founded Singapore may either have been a Scot or his town planner was).

I flew out late on Sunday night to Tokyo where I arrived early this morning to a 1 degree day. Nobody told me it would be winter here. I'd totally forgotten to look at the Japanese weather before I left. I was just thinking, Singapore hot, Oz hot, NZ hot, and generally hot, hot hot everywhere else I'm going. There was frost on the cars! However, it actually was a beautiful clear day and I put on all my jumpers at the airport so was fine, just a bit of a temperature change is all.

Of course with the overnight flight, I didn't sleep a wink and as I have mentioned, ooh about ten tines already, no sleep in Singapore so of course the instant I arrived in Tokyo I was overcome with a profound lethargy and fatigue. I got to my hostel about ten after all the faffing and the lovely girl at the reception gave me a cup of green tea, let me shower, use the internet (until it sponataneously broke- honest it wasn't me) until she let me into my room early. I also got chatting to an American guy who told me he was going home today to then move to the desert near LA and gave me lots of tips about the West coast. He also only had one eyebrow which was quite odd, but surprisingly not as noticable as you might think. Anyway, I had all these plans, but after a pot noodle thing and a bit of chocolate I thought, I'll just have a wee nap... Woke at about 6pm feeling so rubbish and guilty about my lack of activity. I then met a lovely French girl who has been in Tokyo for 5 days and likes it so much she is staying another 5 or so who told me not feel guilty, I must obey my body! Sleep, be rested and then you will be fine tomorrow. And she said it in a French accent so it sounded even better. So I stopped feeling guilty, had a brief walk, quick dinner, saw a temple/shrine and decided to have a quiet one tonight.

So bascially, tomorrow I'll see Tokyo, today I will rest my weary body and finish my book (true crime- I know you are proud mum).

I tell you this tourist malarky is a tiring one. How's work everyone?!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Singapore, the first step.

So I finally left after all that procastination. Not frought without complications of course- well concerns that worry me senseless, but actually come to nothing. Never use the company to get your Oz visa. They tell you it will take 10 working days, after 12 you enquire and they the say you never applied in the first place- this 7 working days before you are due to go down under. By this stage I was in Singpore, horrendously jet lagged and freaking out big style convinced I was going to be turned away at the border before my holiday even properly started. Add in the fact I couldn't find a phone and you have one stressed Mo.

And then this morning I get an email from the company (and one from the Australian embassy who I had cntated va email in a panic) to say oops soz actually yeah you did apply a it was granted on the 25th of Nov, just forgot to tell you. B***ards. Not the embassy, I must note, they replied within a few hours of my email with a very reasuring letter.

Anyway, that stress plus jet lag plus a very loud snorer in my room last night, left me for my first full day in Singapore, a bit weary. As such I went along the infamous shopping street Orchard lane, taking my time,accidently buying a sun dress an soaking in the atomsphere.
After a necessary nap, I felt more tired than ever and instead of being sociable I went to the movies. I saw the Keanu movie 'the Day the Earth stood still'. It was fine, didn't require much thought.

Tomorrow I promise to be cultural and then fill these pages with better stuff than a movie review.

Hope you are all well, feel free to leave a post, but you have to join to gmail first though.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Ah ha! Thanks to my kind eldest brother, I now have a blog. To all those I promised to emailed and didn't during my Europe tour, this blog is for you....and for me as this way my guilt is alleviated and I don't have to remember everyone's email address.

For those of you who know me from old, you will know for my year off (bad description, I know, as it implies I'm doing something producive on my return), I have already spent 3 months-ish touring Europe.

I will, I hope, summarise that time before (or during) my time away on my next sun filled leg of my grand World tour (well bits of it).

Alas, my sudden decension into utter disorganised chaos means I cannot start that process today as I have foreign money to buy, visas to acquire, but soon I hope to have my blog up and running and thus a way to keen you all informed (if you wish to be) on my new and hopefully exciting trip.