20.10.06 / London

New Website - http://www.jasontsui.blogspot.com



15.10.06 / London

All is a bit quiet on the travel front due to Home Office being useless and not processing my Work Permit. Its been 9 weeks already....not happy.



30.09.06 / Moving Flat, London W1

Have moved location!

New Address;

Flat 18
89 Gloucester Place
London
W1U 6JG

Finally the day has come!

I'm moving again - this time to North London into a small basement studio flat. From now on I can walk to town and the commute will only be 30mins to work! Rather than the 90mins it was from Putney Bridge.

I take an early morning bus ride on Saturday to Baker Street to pick up the keys and do the inventory check, then out to Heathrow to pick up a hire car. The traffic is very heavy, but I am excited. Its two full car loads before I am all done, including my bike and 5 backpacks.

Thanks Mus and Keith for helping me move stuff in, much appreciated!

The first night and the street is loud, a street party gaggle of students stays up to the wee hours before singing happy birthday...I have the ear plugs in...hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Its fantastic to have the luxury of my own place again, the feeling of freedom is energising and exciting.

Also a sad good bye to Victor, who is returning to work in Hong Kong and Nick who returns to Sydney after a month here.

The next day isnt so great, Mus and Joe come around for a days touring to the New Forest....The traffic is so stupidly heavy that I give up after 2.5 hrs crawling to the M25...The large invigorating coffee we have keeps me awake til 2am too...but I am still so happy to be independent again!


27.07.06 / Tony & Jo's Highland Wedding, Knoydart, Scotland

Never thought I would ever go back to Knoydart, Scotland... never say never.

Two years ago, Tony, Andy, Fe and I went walking in this remote and beautiful area of Far North West Scotland. This weekend Tony and Jo's wedding was to be an adventure up into this far off magical place.

I fly up to Edinburgh Thursday night. Its always a mini home coming touching down there. The weight of the big city leaves you suddenly and its back in the Olde town. On the bus in I smell the yeast from the nearby brewery and smile to myself, it will always be the smell of Edinburgh to me.

The crisp fresh night air is refreshing, as I hail a passing cab. At 4.50pounds its the cheapest and nicest cab ride of the year, I chat jovially with the cabbie about the festival and his upcoming holiday to Sydney.

Rory is there to meet me at the door. Its great to see him and Sarah again - and of course the cute Cameron, who is just starting to walk.

The long day ahead sees us drive up the 5 hours to Mallaig via Dalwhinnie and Fort William. The weather is stereotypically Scottish, chilly and misty with patch rain. After a fortifying cuppatea and chocolate crispy, we go on to Mallaig.

There to meet us is a Zodiac Rib Jet boat, which takes us to Inverie in a speedy 10mins. I bounce up and down on the inflatable tube clad in lifevest and hanging on tightly - loving every moment, taking in the superb Highland scenery, big smile on my face! Its raining as we arrive, Rory and I jump into the tity tray back of a tiny Kawasaki tractor quad bike ute thing. Rory with his umbrella half up and hunching his tall frame beneath the flimsy shelter, me getting a wet bum sitting knees up on the sodden tray, the hood of my jacket up, what a funny sight!

We arrive 5mins later, thankfully and roll into our lodgings, a recently converted house, now a hostel feeling bunkhouse. Comfortable, though thin walled and cold. (the floor heating wasnt on - how lush!)

Dinner is back in "town" if you call town a tiny street with 10 houses. I have fish and chips followed by a melt in the mouth cheesecake, lovely.

The Wedding Day itself was drizzly and overcast, helping people with their Scottish Kit has a tinge of irony for everyone, as I probably wear their national dress more than they ever will! Land Rovers ferry us over to a grand white house, which overlooks the back, mountains in the background. A big marque tent has been put up with the expectation of rain for the ceremony.

The Ceremony itself was lovely and intimate, it was also very short - which was a bonus! It was quickly followed by a Wedding Breakfast - which breaks the fast since they were single to now being married.

Next was the 30min 4WD trek in Land Rovers to the Reception, which was held in a restorated church about 5 miles away. The road was rough and bumpy, crossing two small streams. The scenery was spectacular.

The reception went for some time, with us all being very well fed - we were greeted by a pig on the spit slowly roasting for the midnight snack after a cheilh (scottish country dancing).

That night we were driving back to our accomodation by Land Rover, and caught in the headlights were about 30 deer, including large Stag, it felt like being on safari!

The next morning we were up at sparrows for the jet boat to take us away back to civilisation.

Congratulations Tony & Jo!



27.07.06 / Amsterdam, Nederlands

Back to Amsterdam to visit Maria for a cruisy weekend. I arrive at 1am, as my flight is delayed 2 hours. In the airport lounge I manage to finally decide on the book "Why do men have nipples", finished it in 40mins, and felt quite ripped off..."What Eats Wasps?" is much better.

Maria and I spend the weekend just hanging out, eating lots of Croquettes, I love those things! She shows me some funky shopping streets in town, and we just stroll around town well into the night. Its warm and pleasant, perfect strolling weather. My decision to wear my thongs and not my sandals was not a good one!

Sunday saw us at Rembrant's House, marvelling at his mastery of etching Copper, then onto Chinatown markets. Lots to see and do.

All too soon its time to say goodbye and return to London. Maria as always the perfect host! Thanks! Doei!



14.07.06 / Dordogne, France

14-18 July, Bordeaux - Dordogne - Lyon - Geneve.

I am visiting John, who is currently living in Souillac, a small village in the Dordogne region of France. I arrive Friday afternoon at Bordeaux, an hour late, its summer after all. John is there to greet me, and we drive in his big Audi to Souillac, some 3 hours away to the East.

It is middle summer and the days are scorcingly hot.



09.07.06 / Jacqui & Ant Visit London

Sis and Ant are visiting London as part of their Honeymoon. We go for Afternoon Tea at the Savoy. Very grand, lots of delicious finger food, and excellent tea. So good that I didnt have dinner! They are off to Toyko for a week now - then back home to Sydney.

We watch the World Cup Final madness...its a shame for Zizu and for France...what a boring World Cup. One to forget except for the introduction of the Socceroos!



30.06.06 / The Somme, France

This weekend I am off with the Bagpipe Band to play at the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in France. I have been there before, with Julian and Pierre last year. This time it is middle of warm summer, the temperature is 30C and perfectly clear skies.

We set off Friday morning, after meeting up with Doug from Sydney for a filling breakfast at Fortnum and Mason at Piccadilly. Great to see him and his mate Matt over hear, on a perfect London day.

At Horseferry Road, we load up the Coach and make for Dover. The ferry meal is my first and its a pleasant way to pass the ferry time. We reach Lille early evening and manage to catch the last 20mins and penalties of the Argentina V Germany game. The hotel is 4 stars, and luxury compared to the hostels and hotels I am normally used to!

After the game, we wander into town and to the pretty old town area, enjoying the perfect weather and the wafting smells of fine food in the air. The band meet up in the main square and we have a relaxing meal and sit down. Hayden has brought his pipes and everyone has a quick tune to pass the time and entertain the locals. Fantasic!

Early next morning we are out to Theipval, where the Battle of the Somme had commenced 1 July 1916, 90Yrs ago. The bloodiest day of British Army History. We moved on after the service to Delville Wood, where the SOuth African memorial is. Off to the side, in the wood are still trenches and the ground remains pockmarked with shell holes, and in parts the shell holes remain half filled with water. This is just past Pozieres where the Australian Memorials are located. Andy Morty plays SOuth African folk tunes at Delville wood, and we continue this with the Band forming up and playing at the Pipers' memorial at Longuval 5 minutes down the road.

Its a moving and powerful experience, playing the tunes of old at the Somme, and thinking of the men who gave their lives in this region.



28.06.06 / New Camera.

New Camera today! Or new Toy today! haha, either way, I'm excited by the prospect of increased megapixels 8, and a faster more stable camera body...The Canon 30D. Hopefully I will take it to many interesting places and share with you my visual experiences over here in Europe and about!


17.06.06 / Jacqui and Ant's Wedding

My baby sister is married! A perfect day - a beautiful wedding. Family so happy, such a special time at home.

Please click on Snaps>June 2006 to see the pics!

Wedding was at PLC Pymble Chapel, my sister's school, and the reception was held at the Sydney Opera House.

Congratulations Sis and Ant! They spend their honeymoon in Germany for the World Cup and then a week in Paris for Jacqui!



12.06.06 / Sunny Sydney

Hello!

Yes, I am just back in Sunny Sunny Sydney, after the 30hr flight, no jet lag! I was lucky to have 4 seats to myself on the Hong Kong to Sydney Leg and grabbed a much needed 6hrs snooze. Cathay Pacific, yummy food, great service.

Its great to be home, as always. First impressions are the clean clean crisp winter air, nothing quite like it. I have not been back for a Sydney winter since 2003 and I must say - its not bad at all! I missed all the weeks of rain and have come back for 20C sunny days, though cold 6C non central heating nights. Brrrr.

I'm in town for my sister Jacqui and her fiance Ant's wedding this Saturday. Its all quite exciting, she is very stressed out - running around talking at double speed and running everywhere, literally. Meanwhile, I've been catching up with a few mates and trying to enjoy being home. But the time is running down fast!

If i missed you this time - sorry! but only in town for 5 days! Will see you in December!


The Socceroos did it! Was up at home spending quality time with the folks, up at midnight willing the boys on. Seemed so dire we all were saying to each other, oh well, they did well to qualify after all. Then the 3 huge goals and you could hear the cheers from around the street! Very exciting times. Must have been amazing to be at the game.



28.05.06 / Left Hand Drive, Benelux.

Finally, after all the Passport dramas, I am back in Europe! I am visiting Maria and we have planned to hire a car from Amsterdam and go driving in the Low Countries Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands Luxemburg) Germany and France.

After a rushed Thursday afternoon at work - its straight on the tube for the 2hour ride out to heathrow. I arrive at Amsterdam late Thursday night, and the Budget rental people are just about to leave when I get to the desk. Luckily they have been waiting for me!

My first foray in a Left hand drive manual car..is interesting. As Matt R had told me, your left hand tends to go instinctively to hit the door when u want to change gears! So true! Everything is familiar but strange, I had to really concentrate. Especially in tunnels to make sure i was in the middle of the lane! But it does not take too long to adjust to it. Luckily it is late night and the roads are quite empty, we make it back to Maria's safely, me managing just to parallel park! after a few goes!

Early next morning we are on the road to Ghent, in Belgium only 2 hours away. It is grey and raining heavily, but we are on holiday! The town is lovely, not really that touristy, lots of nice modern shops to browse, yet lots of history to enjoy. We get lost naturally, but its great to just wander around. It reminds me of Ypres also, expecially the main square or Place, which is typically Belgium, but it is much more family feeling that Ypres. Normal people walking around doing the shopping and having a day out in town. Not so many tourists.

Next we head for Luxemburg. We are staying in the Ibis, which is cheap, clean and has parking! Definately more than adequate and pure luxury after using hostels! My TomTom satnav tells me its only 10mins to town, and it is, but it takes us about an hour to find the central underground car parking place...seriously, nightime, driving rain, poor signs...a nightmare! Finally we find it, and emerge greeted by a bandstand band playing classics in the town square!

Its very quiet in town, something to do with the closed shops and incessent rain I guess. Maria and I head for the nearest restaurant for dinner. And what a dinner, Steak and Chips! yummo!

The next day we are off to Strasbourg, via German Autobahns. I am always surprised by the quality of road, they are just as good as most Aussie highways - so - why do we only drive at 110 in Oz eh?? I also love the way people respect the lanes, if you want to potter about - thats fine, sit in the right lane - otherwise - the middle and left are for the fast cars! It just works. Strasbourgs attractions are, the new Canberra feeling EU Parliament buildings and contrasted by the old and very touristy Petite France area. I also had my first Quick Berger for lunch! Healthy eh...

The drive back to Amsterdam was about 6hours, and quite uneventful except that we heard the same Robbie Williams song once every hour...back near Schipol Airport and the sun decides to come out! Why couldn't have been like this all weekend? :) oh well...with extra time we visited the beach, which reminded me strangly of the snow...much have been something to do with with wearing my walking shoes on hard packed sand and my rain jacket. People wheeling prams on the beach was an interesting site too...late spring, the Netherlands.

All in all a great weekend touring Belgium, Luxemburg and France!



21.05.06 / First Bike Ride

I bought a new bicycle! Its a commuter type, with skinny tyres, grey paint and made by Giant. I need the exercise!

There is something special about the freedom of being on the cycle. The wind in your hair - the speed, the sights, smells and sounds. SUddenly you become detached from pedestrians in a way - as you sped on past.

This early morning I rode down the thames for half an hour or so, before the rains came. The new bike is excellent, hopefully lots of happy miles in the future!


20.05.06 / BBQ

Happy Birthday Sunny! The first BBQ of the "Summer", was conducted mainly indoors as the rain and grey clouds decided to turn up and force us indoors...but lots of great tuck (meat meat and meat) and excellent company.


1.05.06 / Mallaig, Scotland UK

Julian and I are off for another wee adventure. This time up north to Scotland.

As I am Passport-less, we are able to luckily re-route our original flights from Geneve to Edinburgh. Also, as it is domestic, all you require to board the aircraft is a drivers licence! (NB on BMI all u need is your credit card!). So early early Saturday morning we are off to Luton Airport by Greenline bus.

It's always great to come back to Edinburgh. This time particularly so as I was showing Julian around. Its his first trip to Scotland. The weather is perfect for a change, clear blue skies and pleasant temperature. We drive through the Borders along a route Rory has set out, through the lovely villges of Moffat, Kelso and Selkirk. We reach Edinburgh at 6pm, enough time to wander up Arthurs Seat and take in the twilight views from the top of Edinburgh.

We meet Rory, Sarah and Cameron (wee baby) for Indian Curry dinner. Tony and Jo arrive too and its a good catch up for all of us. Rory and Sarah kindly provide a bed, as all B&Bs and hotels had been booked solid for this Bank Holiday.

I awake to cries from the baby Cameron, who has the flu, but its the right time to get up. We have a long way to go. Julian and I set off in our little van for Mallaig, via Pitlochry, some 3 hours away. The scenery is magnificent though misty, as always through central Scotland.

The drive into Mallaig from Glenfinnan is particularly beautiful and further enhanced by its remoteness. We stop off at lonely beaches, taking in the rugged coastline, enjoying the fresh air. The sand is fine, the grass super green and the water grey clear. Its colder now, noticibly, but that all adds to the charm. We arrive in the small fishing port of Mallaig soon enough. Hardly anyone is about. Our lodgings are excellent and very homely. We take the opportunity to relax and even have an afternoon snooze!

Dinner is at the Fish Restaurant, and we are not disappointed. The meals are delicious, the best seafood I have had since Sydney. It is all just so fresh. A walking in the nearby hills in the drizzle during twilight caps off a cruisy touring day.

Monday sees us set off early again, after a hearty full cooked Scottish breakfast, we drive back down through Fort William and onto Glencoe. Our walking boots and raincoats are on today, so we spend an hour walking up to the misty Lost Valley in Glencoe, encountering Deer halfway up the hills. Its just great to be back in the Highlands! Off in the near distance we can see snow and when we round the corner to Rannock Moor, we see the hills are still heavy with snow from winter, and it makes for spectacular scenery. Pity about the traffic!

Late lunch is at Stirling, near the Castle, before the last few miles to the Airport. Its been a wonderful trip in Scotland, still in love with the place!


16.04.06 / Oxfordshire & Cambridgeshire, UK

My Passport has been stolen by some bastard at Royal Mail on route to the Australian High Commission. Suffice to say - my Easter and May plans have all been scuppered. However, the wonderful Maria has decided to come visit me and go touring around the countryside, together with her friend Arti, from Sydney.

We pick up a hire car from Heathrow, Good Friday and travel out to Oxfordshire, to visit Blenhiem, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Fascinating English history and a wonderful grand building to visit. The ice cream wasnt bad either! And the sun was out to announce the arrival of spring!

The next day saw Maria and I out to Stonehenge, then the New Forest, then to Brighton - no pics as it was just bucketing down with typical Easter rain!


Cambridge



31.03.06 / Work, London

I'm back in the routine of things in London. New job at Morgan Stanley, product control again...This time I am based in Canary Wharf. Its a fairly new developement, a souless corporate feel about the place. Its massive, clean and stark. A complete contrast to the City.

I've met back up with Keith from school days which is excellent, he and other friends from school are now in London, so it will be great to hang out with them!I find its these old stronger friendships which are most important to me over here...people you share childhoods with, just fantastic to have so much history and unspoken understanding. Lots of London weekends spent wandering markets, eating yum cha and generally chatting away the days! Nice!

Spring is finally here, the flowers are blooming, the days are longer, and the chill has left the air. I even had the windows open this week, and spring cleaning is on in earnest.

Flatmates are overseas in South Africa, so I took the opportunity to entertain. Including my first ever Beef Roast, complete with Mash, Peas and Gravy....yummo!!!!



Canary Wharf Tube Station



11.03.06 / Stonehenge & Bath, UK

Off on a 3 day road trip today! I've decided to get off my bum and do some more touring, see some of the countryside in winter, and basically try to enjoy my free time before I start work! I've hired a small car for three days, and purchased a wee satnav to make the driving easier and less stressful.

Friday, after a long interview in town, I rush back to pick up the car at midday from Heathrow Airport and set out for Oxfordshire. Its crisp and typically London weather, the countryside feels cold, its been a long winter. All the trees and hedges are bare of leaves, and the fields look damp and dreary.

But gloomy as the weather and the season make it - there is still a beauty to this region. The wee towns like Woodstock, (home of Blemheim Palace) hold some magic yet. The pretty stone cottages, neat and tidy, still hold the skeletons of rambling vines on thier walls, that hint of the glory of summer. The warm orangey glow of the stone is still welcoming as ever, it is a lovely part of the country.

The cotswalds is a very pleasant place to drive through, mile upon mile of gentle road interspersed with quaint small villages. The traffic crawl into Hammersmith on the other hand is stark contrast. 4 lane round about is madness, and I have timed my return home badly. I limp the last 5 miles in 1st gear...glad to have enjoyed the open road for most of the day.

Saturday I am joined by Annie, friend of my sister. We head out to Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury and Winchester. Finally Stonehenge, its a wonder of course. The mysteriousness of the site is amazing. To finally come here is more a relief than anything though - a must. Its the most prehistoric monument in all of Europe apparantly, or something...

Onwards to Bath. Famous for its Georgian architecture and the Roman Baths, the natural thermals are still bubbling away, and the allure hasnt diminished, if only you could have a bath!! It was freezing wandering around the town!

I had been to Bath previously, with Julian, but this time I was able to breath in a little more of the atmosphere and feel of the place. It certainly reminds me of Edinburgh, the lego like precision of the buildings never fails to draw you in. A great place to come to see another side of England if London is losing its appeal.

Sunday saw me back in solo mode, driving out to the New Forest. First stop was Lyndhurst for tea and scones, and the BEST scones I've had. I set the satnav on the long way round to wander around the area, and it took my down lovely narrow roads, through sweeping fields and tree clear plateaus, quite reminicient of the lakes region of central Tasmania...The region looks perfect for camping in the summer time, and I will be back for a wander then!

As a super surprise, and for those My Little Pony lovers out there, the New Forest sports many "wild" ponies, which freely roam around the area. Very cute, and tame...dont think brumby...think farm yard petting zoo...they also tend to meander and waddle across the roads frequently, so watch out! All in all a great weekend out touring!



Bath



24.02.06 / London

Back in London! Its 5am, and the temp is 2C.

Here's a tip folks, never arrive at London Heathrow on a Saturday or Sunday. Why? Cos there is nearly a 90% chance that there is some kind of Public Transport maintenance thing going on. That's right, I arrived on Saturday morning. It took me 2 1/2 hours to get home to Fulham, but it also allowed me to watch London wake up.

It is undeniably still winter, it snowed yesterday. All is uncharacteristically silent, calm, the place feels ghostly, the grey sky and morning mist shroud the landscape in a gloomy mask. Only bright yellow street lamps bring colour to the scene. The air is sharp and biting, it feels like Edinburgh winter.

At home its a hive of activity as flatmate Steve is out with netball team today, its good to be back!



23.02.06 / Hong Kong



The view from Victoria Peak.

Call me Mr Tourist. Lots seen and done today. Started out with some greasy Chinese bakery food, followed by a trip out to Hong Kond Island. Together with my Aunts Helen and Wendy, we visit the famous Stanley Markets, and a small Temple. Lots of interesting chinese wares on sale around the small market place, including bright silk clothing for adults and cute costumes for kids (yes I used to be dressed up in this stuff!), traditional dark wooden furniture, carved stone ink chops, silk sequin shoes, perfumed fans, insense/joss sticks, fine calligraphy, artworks and tea pots and cups. Everything for the tourist. Even fake Wallaby Jerseys...

The bus ride back to Central takes you through the narrow steep winding road, steep rainforest clad valleys is the antithesis of the concrete jungle on the Central side of the island. The bus winds through the impressive Repulse Bay, Hong Kong's very own Monaco. Soon enough we wind back to lunchtime in the hiustle and bustle of Central business district. Lunch is in an old fashioned and packed Noodle shop. I have the best Rice Congi ever!

Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong beckons. Its been years since I've been there, i think since I was 3. We wander up the long escalators to the Mid Levels, through the Zoo gardens to the Peak Tram. 10mins later the steep climb brings us to the Peak, where we wander along the track encircling the Peak. Magnificent views of Hong Kong, showcasing all the huge towers living in the deep haze. Its cool and refreshing to walk amoungst the rainforest. All in all a great days touristing. Dinner is with my Grandma and I am well and truly stuffed!



22.02.06 / On the road again, Hong Kong

Hello,

Am back on the long road to London, staying a couple nights in Hong Kong with relos, then onto Heathrow and winter. Brrrrr. The last couple of weeks has been just brilliant at home, soaking up the fresh air, sun, beach, seafood, good times with mates and family etc etc...Really missing it all already, summer really is a magical time to be Sydney. Even more so if you are not working!

Looking forward to getting back to London and getting on with it.



15.02.06 / "Holier-than-thou expats are a little on the nose", SMH, Australia

In this week's Sydney Morning Herald, Lisa Pryor has a few home truths to tell when she writes about Expats home for holidays. "Holier-than-thou expats are a little on the nose" 4-5 February.

She seems to have hit the bulls-eye with me, lets see...

"Over summer young expatriates return to our shores to catch up with friends, swim at the beach and pour shit on the country. Now that this annual ritual is drawing to a close and they are out of earshot, it is time to bitch behind their backs."

She is a darling isn't she, she calls it "our shores", in the possessive, oh really? And so right away the expat is deemed as persona non-grata, some unwanted foreign guest. This is a very Australian trait - its always a them and us attitude to the world. "pour shit on the country"...hmm...i think there is ample reason of late, where could I begin.... Again, a typical Australian way of saying, "if you don't like it here, piss off "home", we don't like criticism." The "bitch behind the backs" is lovely. Everyone loves to be wanted. How bitter and twisted is this woman! Let us continue.

"As lovely as it is to see these people, there is a certain type of expat who can be very very annoying. Like the Australian living in London who thinks she is a world citizen but has really just swapped one kind of parochialism for another...far from wanting to change the world or at least explore it, the top reasons for leaving the country are better job opportunities, professional developement and higher income according to the Hugo report on Australia diaspora."

Agree somewhat. Aussies living in London are not world citizens, and yes alot of them think they are. However the majority do travel (and travel alot) willing and wanting to open their minds and hearts to discovering exotic and bland places in the world, and it is one of the main reasons for living in London. I admit I have yet to meet an Aussie over there who has not wandered over to Europe. I hope I never do!

The author is not all spite and vitriol though - she does grasp the positives extremely well...Living away from these shores does give the discerning viewer a great insight into the failings of our country. Failings we would never see from the inside.

"...it can be hard to resist the urge to strangle these people during their two-week holidays back home....But the urge to maim and kill must be resisted. As painful as these people are, we should at least listen to what they have to say about the country. The disappointment about the dearth of public debate here. The exasperation at the pathetic state of public transport. The concern that our politicians get away with saying things that are only said by loonies like France's Jean-Marie Le Pen in Europe.

After all, loving your country does not mean believing eveything in it is good and right. It means caring about its destiny and working to improve it.

So we should travel widely, work overseas, be an ambassador for this country and consider ourselves citizens of the world. But lets not delude ourselves about the righteousness of pursuing our own self-interest overseas."

Here, here!



23.01.06 / Snowy Mountains, Australia

The car is packed and I am off to visit Ray and Will down south for some camping and relaxing out bush in the Snowy Mountains. Having met up in Canberra, we make our way further south to Thredbo and then finally to a quiet campsite at Tom Groggin, some 7 hours drive from Sydney.

We quickly settle into a lazy routine of lounging around under the tarp and having cooling dips in the gin clear flowing river at our doorstep. The days are very hot, averaging 35C, but we are under canvas, basking in the warmth. Grey Kangaroos approach often, curious to see their new neighbours.

Dan and Cat also make their way down for the weekend, and its nice to share the site with them. They bring the big rains and we huddle under the tarp to stay dry. The next day we are off to Thredbo to meet Paul, Bron and Alex Batten for a walk up on the Main Range at Kosiusko. Will, Ray and I decide to take an off circuit route to see a winter emergency shelter, the walk is harder but most rewarding.

The Snowies is truly my favourite getaway. The mountain air, the landscape, fauna and flora all make it such a magic place in Australia.






14.01.06 / Kattaning, Australia

Of course, the real reason Ab and I had travelled to Perth was to attend Rach's wedding. We had arranged to meet at the airport together with Rach's friend Jack, who had lived with them for a year as an exchange student from Thailand years ago. It was great to see Rach again, we were all quite excited for her. She drives us to Kattaning, a short 3.5hr drive south east of Perth.

The land is flat and wide, sparsely covered with trees and predominantly yellow fields of wheat stubble. For a change its started raining, a result of a cyclone up north. Its cool and breezy when we reach Kattaning. We make briskly for the house as its starting to rain. Inside we find a hive of activity, there is no doubt - a wedding is about to take place. No sooner are we in the house than we set ourselves jobs for the big day. Its lovely to meet the family who are very welcoming. Its also a shock to meet the 5 dogs and 2 cats of the household!

Our days are mixed with preparations for wedding, and even a road trip out to Margaret River some 3 hours away. The days start early in the country at about 5am when the dogs run into each room and jump all over the occupants til they are not only awake, but up and out of bed. Its hard to be angry at an 8 week pup trying to snuggle into your sleeping bag!

The wedding itself is small and cosy, we pack out the church with about 120 people. I feel very honoured to have been asked to play the bagpipes for Rachel and Tim, and I can say the pipes were working fine for me that day. Its a happy day, a lovely ceremony and a big bush BBQ at the homestead afterwards, complete with Sheep on the spit!



10.01.06 / Perth, Australia



18.01.06 / The Indian-Pacific Train, Australia

Soon enough we pack and leave for the Indian Pacific train to Perth. (Thanks Steve and Melanie for your wonderfully kind hospitality!) The train is full but we manage to wangle seats together, after some persuading and help from the staff. We soon settle into the 3 day trip. Ab has organised the much cheaper seated carriage...rather than the posh sleeper carriages...

But there is nothing quite like a long distance train journey. Time becomes different, the world slows down and a certain calm pervades from the knowledge of spending 3 days in the same seat... we spend the time enjoying the changing scenery, outside it is hot of course, the Adelaide urban-scape is soon replaced by bright sand coloured wheat fields, then stunted bush and of course the distinct red soil and saltbush of the Nullabor. All this is new to me - yet somehow familiar. A legacy from growing up in Oz no doubt.

We spend the days relaxing, reading, the odd game of scrabble, and chatting the days away. Its wonderfully peaceful. We have a stretch of the legs at Cook, a tiny outback refueling town, population 4. The seats are uncomfortable for sleeping and its the first place since the Portsmouth-Caen Ferry that I cant sleep...horrible! Though the next night I am fine.

In the spirit of being budget conscious we have brought along provisions from the Super market and we have planned so well, there is no need to visit the dining cart - bonus!

Our last stop is the mining town of Kalgoorlie in the evening. Nothing much is happening here and it just seems to be another country town. As we didnt think the tour bus would be a good option - we just strolled around the town, marvelling at the wide streets, the emptiness and the HUGE corner pubs.

In the morning, the landscape changes, and out of the flat emptiness is wheat again, then stunted bushland, then forest and finally suburbia. Our arrival into Perth is much anticipated and welcomed, its been a long journey, but one I have enjoyed. Now I look forward to climbing aboard "The Ghan" from Adelaide to Darwin one day soon.



05.01.06 / Adelaide, Australia

Backpack, bagpipes and kilt are all packed for my grand Oz adventure! The plan is to visit Ab in her home town of Adelaide, then take the Indian Pacific train for 3 days west across the vast 600km Nullabor (Aboriginal for "No Trees") to Perth. A short stay followed by a trip to country town Kattaning, 3 hours south east of Perth for Rach's wedding.

I am flying VirginBlue, its only a short 2.5hr flight to Adelaide. Ab meets me at the airport and soon we are driving into town. Ab's mum, Melanie acts tour guide and I learn abit about Adelaide from the eyes of a local. Its hot, flat and dry. It feels rural and small town already, especially after London, Hong Kong and Sydney with leafy suburbs and wide well planned streets. But its got a charming quiet calm and proximity to the vast stretches of beach which lures you with its simplicity and beauty.

The Neild's live in a grand house situated virtually on the beach, a mere 4 houses away to be exact. No sooner have we set my bags down, we are off for an hours walk along it. It is wonderfully relaxing to walk on the talcum powder warm soft sand - enjoying the cool breeze and catching up with Ab. So much has happened since we last met and its great to see her again. She tells me I have visited her now on 3 continents - so I guess its her turn to return the favour soon! My skin is peeling badly from being burnt in Sydney - but there is nothing quite like the joy of a beach walk, and a cool drink at the end of it.

My time in Adelaide is active and busy. We embark on an hours walk along the beach to ultra touristy beach suburb of Glenelg, where there is a beach volley ball tournament. We catch the old tram into town, and wander the wide quiet streets of the city, visiting the huge fresh food Markets and buying provisions for our train trip. We even fit in an afternoon nap in the Botanic Gardens!

Another day is spent driving out along the coast and seeing the sights of Victoria Harbour and searching for Penguins amoungst the rocks. Pelicans flock to us at a quiet beach cove. Another day we search in vain for Koalas in a nearby National Park. The nights are spent playing Carcasonne ( board game) and a night out to the movies for some French Film.



01.01.06 / Sydney, Australia

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Another quiet one spent with friends, and a short wander to the foreshore to see the fireworks. Wish you all the best for 2006!



28.12.05 / Sydney, Australia

HOME SWEET HOME at long long last!

Its been a long year, and I am very very happy to be finally back. Nick kindly picked me up from the Airport and we had coffee with the lads. Great to see them all again! The night is balmy, I'm hot quickly, and I can't wait for daylight!

Somehow I can't sleep well, and jet lag makes me stay up all night long. I catch up on the emails and watch with glee as the first rays of the sun come. I also spy some spiders on the desk and attack them with a bit of insect spray! One of the buggers even crawled up my leg...welcome home!

Early morning, the birds are singing, the air is fresh and silent. Ah its perfect. I take out the rubbish bins and soak in the familiar scene of the front yard, all the rich colours come alive, the rich greens, yellows and browns of the gun trees change as the sun becomes stronger. I am so so glad to be back.



24.12.05 / Hong Kong, China.

Hong Kong for Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone!


22.12.05 / Hong Kong

Finally, I'm on the way home, first stop, the family/ancesteral home in Hong Kong to see my Granny and relos. Its been 6 years since I have been here, and I am very glad to be back. For the first time in a year of travelling I get the first class treatment at immigration and breeze through the short queue for locals. Yay.

Mysteriously, I can still sort of communicate with Granny and the cantonese language is still in my memory, just. Its a warm 17C at 4pm, though everyone is calling it cold, they have had the coldest couple of December days for a long time. Though for me it is positively balmy.

The first thing I notice in HK is the pollution haze and fog, even though above it is blue cloudless sky, at the oblique and side angles are all dense foggy brown and you cant see much in the distance. Auntie Helen picks me up from the still new looking airport, which is clean and spacious, and we hussle along to a waiting cab. Inside all is business, the cab driver has three mobile phones and handsfree kits hanging off the rear view mirror, they ring frequently and he jumps between all three as he organises future jobs.

The ride into town is fast and flowing, all around us are giant blocks of estate apartment blocks buildings impossibly close and impossibly high, some 30 floors I guess, breeding in all directions. They are for now still surrounded by dark green hills, and water, but who knows how long that will survive. Its so different from the old days. My aunt talks to the cabbie of days when she was younger and how the region was rural and there were a handful of factories and a sparse population. These days are long gone of course.

We go for dinner in town, and my Uncle Steve picks us up and we drive in. This is the first time I have seen such an interesting car parking station, located in one of the busiest districts in town. It has a rotating floor, much like those at railway yards, this reverses the car and you then continue to reverse into a car lift, which takes u to a floor with available parking, no spiral ramps here. The attendants even select a spot for you and guide you all the way.

Its great to see the relos again, its been 6 yrs since I have been in HK and seen them all. The food is yummy too - just the thing! It truly is another home away from home.

Its funny what a little holiday will do for you - I finally feel like I am relaxing, the stress has oozed out of my skin and I am feeling human again.



18.12.05 / St Moritz & Zermatt, Switzerland

Julian and I travel to Swizterland for four days - magic!

The trip to switzerland (CH) has been long in the planning and much anticipated especially as the short depressing winter days in London tend to suck the life out of you. Julian and I have been talking about it for months and we had booked our tickets far in advance. The plan was to experience some snow, see the mountains and Christmas european wintertime before my return to Oz.

4am we are up and in a minicab, racing our way to London Luton Airport. We land in Basel, CH after a quick snooze on board the ever cheerful Easyjet. Being a border town you can choose to enter France or Switzerland. We choose Swiss of course. The Swiss offical didn't even look at our passports, he just smiled and there was no offer of an entry stamp!

The train to St Moritz is extremely comfortable. The trains of course run on time, are silent, super-smooth and swift. The cleanliness inside is refreshing, and it is sparsely filled. Outside its very cold (about -6C), it is snowing heavily as the city quickly makes way for countryside and then the mountains.

Ah the mountains! Such lovely scenery, the Swiss Alps are truly amazing to admire. The forests of pine trees are heavily covered in snow. The further into the country we go - the more Chalets populate the region. Everything is covered in a thick layer of snow, all is white, the cars, houses, plants, gardens and all the walking surfaces are covered. For me - its magic, a world away from dreary London.

After a 4 hour train journey we arrive in St Moritz. The bus ride out to the Youth Hostel is goes through town, and stops about a kilometre short. Julian and I walk the rest of the way - our boots scrunching loudly in the snow. All else is silent. One thing we do notice is the yellow snow made by the dogs on every corner! The white snow is powdery too, very fluffy and light, so much so that it is hard to make snowballs.

That night, after hostel Goulash & Mash for dinner, we trek into town, a good 30min walk in the drifting snow. This is exactly as I had hoped for. There is hardly anyone around. Those that are, are driving expensive off road vehicles. The shops display expensive Swiss products, watches and jewellery of course. But there are your top end high street shops also, Zenga and Hermes for instance. The displays are well lit, classy and the double glazing polished and the items gleam from behind while we blow clouds of air from out mouths standing in the snow. The shelves are fully stocked too, not like every other place in the world, everything is for show, including the price.

The next morning we walked back to town, the views and setting are spectacular. We make our way back to the Bahnhof (railway station) and onto the day long "Glacier Express" bound for Zermatt. The sun is out for most of the day and the scenery is breath-taking. At times we swing by down to the rivers through forest and long tunnels, sliding our way westward. we pass tiny rail stops and change engines with cog wheels in the centre to help the train climb the inclines. We fly through ski resorts and wave at the skiers enjoying their day on the slopes. The mountains continue to grow in size and grandure as we reach Zermatt.

There is no mistaking this as a tourist town. Horse-drawn carriages take the rich to their hotels and we wander along clutching a map. we pass countless ancient looking wooden chalets and walk along the semi iced river til we reach our hotel. Its -13C, luckily no wind chill. From the balcony, you can see the Matterhorn, dominating and imposing at its 4473m, looking much like a piramid in the distance. What a view.

Dinner is expensive and smelly Cheese Fondue, the famous swiss dish. The pot of cheese melts and keeps warm over a tiny kerosene stove and we dip chunks of bread with long forks into the melted cheese, together with peices of cured ham. Its warm and filling.

There are no cars allowed in Zermatt, only small electric carts. I for one think its excellent. The streets arent bloked with parked cars or the sounds of traffic.

With two days in Zermatt, we decide to walk up the hills and explore the ski slopes on foot away from town. Skiing is not on the agenda as I am no good and its very expensive. We meet and pass no one as we make our way up the various forest trails around Zermatt. Step upon step, up and up, then windy paths of packed snow we go, at altitude. Its hard work, but rewarding, the view of the Matterhorn gets better as we climb. Its my idea of walking heaven. We keep saying - "it doesnt get better than this". No wonder it is the playground of the rich.

Dinner is Raclette and Rosti. Both traditional to the region. Raclette cheese is melted and presented on a plate with ham, baked potato and pickled cucumber and onion. Rosti is baked sliced potatoes, cheese and ham.

The trains into the Swiss Alps is a wonderful way to visit for those wishing for a safe, simple journey into the mountains. It lets you get up close to the scenery but lets you relax and take it in. A great stress reliever for those in built up areas.



The Matterhorn, Switzerland



14.12.05 / Oxfordshire, England

Another very early morning, I feel like I have jet lag after only 4 hours sleep. Again I am on the bus and tube to Heathrow. This time its to pick up a hire car to visit Williams F1 factory. Most of you will know my love of F1 and motor racing. Nick had told me of a one off auction at Williams, and it was just perfect timing to allow me the luxury of a visit and to see these machines up close and personal. I couldnt say no to that opportunity!

Williams is located in country England, amid open green fields, a strange place to find a state of the art motorsport factory. They take their security seriously too, F1 is highly secretive and I felt special to be allowed in to have a glimpse of it. Funnily enough I was first to arrive and had the place all to myself for a while. On display were F1 cars from 70s to today, lovely machines, just amazing, given the history and the mystique of it all. I loved it and took too many pictures. I also indulged abit on the shopping, as they were flogging off lots of merchandise from the previous season. And it really feels like I am on holidays now!



For pre 2006 diary, please click on Archive