Adelaide : Central Markets

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Adelaide has got a great feel to it, we should like to go back one day.

 

Check out my other Adelaide photo’s here!

 

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We Are Here: Sydney city art projects.

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One of my favourite things about Sydney is it’s vibrant arts scene. There’s loads of galleries, a great graffiti movement and a progressive program for public art provided by Cityart.

‘We Are Here’ is mixed media installation art, based on Foley street, Darlinghurst off Oxford street.

The curator states

The WE ARE HERE mural transforms Foley Street into a time-travelling, rambunctious romp through the complex history of the local area. Taking its cue from the hundreds of celebratory and solemn parades that have travelled up Oxford Street, the work turns the façade into a topographical map to create the WE ARE HERE parade route.

Deeply connected to the location this parade is filled with a motley crew of heroes, villains, musicians, bohemians and gangsters. Imbued with the ghosts of those who’ve come before; the prancers and preeners; bakers; brewers and street workers. This is a celebration of the folk who’ve made Darlinghurst their home or the source of their bread and butter.  

The work  – collaboratively executed by artists Sarah Howell, Dylan Demarchi, byrd, The Dirt & Gui Andrade  – revives lost fragments of the area’s history and brings it firmly to the present. Using paint, collage, mixed media, photography and stencil, the mixed and contrasting mediums employed by the artists play with the inherent polarities of the Darlinghurst and Oxford Street narrative. 

The often dark and gruesome history is melded with times of celebration. The work rejoices in the swinging pendulum of its fortunes, from cultural backwater to creative epicentre, from slum to designer living, a place of protest to a place of celebration, from the six o’clock swill to sophisticated cocktail culture, criminal to respectable, addict-ridden to health-driven. This is an area that has seen and been it all.

Check it out for your daily dose of colour and art!

Whats your view on street-art? Can it be productive artwork, or is always vandalism? All opinions respected.

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Kuang Si Waterfalls : Luang Prabang

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We had such a great time in Laos, it surprised us in every way.

We expected it to be a lesser event surrounded by Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia but we were so happy to discover Laos, and especially Luang Prabang.  The food was delicious and apart from getting REALLY bored with people relentlessly trying to sell me drugs in Luang Prabang, Laos people were friendly.

We spent four days in Luang Prabang, and could easily have spent ten more. I loved the pace of life, the fact there is little to do and mostly that you don’t have to worry about being run over by a moped every five seconds like the rest of South East Asia. The population is only 50’000 and they’re all too busy running guest houses and awesome restaurants to be playing Carmageddon (I really hope someone else played this game!) on the streets.

One of the highlights of our trip to Luang Prabang was an afternoon at Kuang Si waterfalls. 

Firstly, it’s beautiful and its relaxing and superfun, but if anyone thinks you’re headed off to your own private little hideaway you’re going to quite disappointed, It’s pretty busy!

The water is so clean, so blue and also so cold! It’s also full of little bitey fish  which took great interest in my scabby knees from when I fell down off the kerb outside Chiang Mai train station the week before.

It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and there’s even a rope swing  which always makes for a great spectator sport.

** Top Tips : Watch out for the moss around the busy pool with the rope swing, it is so slippery and don’t put your towel down, or sit on anything or you’ll end up with slimey mess all over your lovely stuff. We learn’t the hard way, twice.

We arranged for a shared minibus, it worked out pretty cheap, only downside was prearranged arrival and leaving times. we found two hours at the waterfalls to be plenty. You can also get there by tuk-tuk, hiring a moped or cycling. It’s a fairly long way, and anybody who cycles is pretty much crazy in my opinion.

You can also see my Luang Prabang gallery here.

Sydney : Dusk, the perfect excuse not to get up for sunrise.

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Sydney : Carriageworks

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Sydney has a fantastic arts scene with loads of great galleries and art projects. We’ve been working our way around a few, and wandered down to Eveleigh to check out Carriageworks.

The site is a converted railway workshop complex built in 1880 and employed thousands of people in Sydney during its peak. It has since been decommissioned and the area has that fantastic inner city urban wasteland feel to it. As we wandered down from Redfern train station we couldn’t help but to notice the similarities between the terrace housing and converted factory buildings to London streets. The grey skies and wet weather only helped to reinforce the comparison

 

The Carriageworks site is awesome; both literally, and in a modern sense. It has retained so much of the industrial and mechanical history, with battered old wooden doors, vast open spaces and high ceilings whilst also beautifully modern. I’m a sucker for regeneration, and here the old and the new are happily co-existing.

‘Waste not’

We actually went to see Song Dong’s exhibition ‘Waste Not’ a conceptual exhibition of over 10’000 domestic items left by his mother. It’s a hoarders treasure chest and an organisers wet dream. It seems a little bizarre to catalogue a dead womans possessions and neatly arrange them for people in another country to look at. We like many others had a curious muse at cardboard boxes and far too many bowls for one person and then wandered next door to Eveleigh Markets for a coffee and some breakfast.

 

Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. 

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Sydney : Balls Head Reserve

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I’ve been coming to Sydney for years, riding the North Shore Line into the city and always passing through Waverton, wondering about Balls head. They have  this lovely Victorian signage “Alight here for beautiful Balls Head”.

It’s one of those things when, you have plenty of time in a place, and you know you’ll come back regularly that you think ‘I’ll go there one day’ Five years later, we actually got off the train at Waverton to take a look.

Once you’ve meandered down through gentile Waverton, you’re surrounded by Nine square hectares of urban bushland.

Sydney is full of surprises, and having an area of harbour fronted land, with an enormous real estate value as this small urban hideaway is pretty special. It’s incredible to think you’re just a mile or so from the CBD and North Sydneys business district. The area also has a rich Aboriginal history.

Beautiful bushland and great city views. Get away from the city without travelling too far.

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Sydney : Australia Day celebrations!

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I know, Australia Day was a few days back. I would like to say I’ve been crazy busy, working too much, or job hunting, but I’ve mostly just been procrastinating. Although, we did spend a couple of days this week getting certified as capable servers of alcohol  and apparently, We’re  now qualified to make coffee.

Anyway, Australia Day fell over the weekend which meant the bank holiday rolled over to Monday!

Three day party!? We went into the city on the 26th (Saturday & ‘Australia Day’) to see what was going on, and ventured to Windsor on the Sunday to check out a sand art competition. Monday, in true bank holiday style was a washout. Biblical rains poured down all day, and meteorologists were predicting up to three hundred millilitres. Big rain.

 

There was so much going on in the city. The areas around Hyde Park were all closed to traffic and awash with people. There were more classic cars than I  think I’ve ever seen in one place,  stretching from Hyde Park  to the State Library. Old fashioned buses were also brought out for one day only. There were some beautiful machines and curiously, some cars you wouldn’t consider classic, or even unusual in the UK. Lots of Mini’s and VW Beetles, Morris Minors and 2CV’s! Perhaps my childhood was scared with my Dad driving knackered old cars around. I remember he had a Morris Minor where all the wood was rotten, and a 2CV with holes in the floor. I instinctively lifted my feet up every time we drove near a puddle for years afterwards. I digress.

Both Darling Harbour and The Rocks had events on for the day, and we found Darling Harbour to have a bit more going on. We settled at the World Music stage just as the sun came out for the afternoon. We saw the tail end of a jazz band, who had a whole collection of old people dancing like that Rainbow Rhythms scene in Peep Show. Why is it all the crazy people come out to dance on bank holidays? One sweaty old man switched seamlessly between ballroom dancing with an imaginary partner and doing the Macarena.  Impressive.

After all the unbalanced folk were danced out an amazing Irish band, Hermitage Green played with a full compliment of unusual instruments and they were absolutely brilliant, I would happily pay to see them again. There was also a Soca band afterwards, who were also pretty good.

Darling Harbour had fireworks planned for the evening, but we headed home to  indulge in the very Australian activity of barbecuing  – Sorry Sam Kekovich, we didn’t have lamb.

 

 

On the Sunday we drove up to Windsor, to check out the sand sculpture competition. It  was pretty good, and an incredible amount of detail goes into the sculptures. The theme was fairy tales and a special mention must go to Baldrick Buckle one of the artists, for having the best name ever.

Windsor is also a nice little suburb. It’s one of the first colonial settlements in all of Australia, rich with old Australian architecture and interestingly, a guy shop selling sports items, car bits and stuff to do with killing animals.

Good weekend had by all.

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South Adelaide : Snorkelling, kayaking, and the Nude Olympics.

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We headed down to Adelaide for ten days to meet some of Jess’s rellies. They live in one of them most picturesque areas of southern Adelaide, in Maslin Beach.

Maslin beach, is most famous for being the first nudey beach in all of Australia, and still hosts the annual Maslin Beach Nude Olympicswhich happened to be scheduled during our visit. Great success!

Adelaide seems to get a pretty bad rep in the Australian media and whilst it’s a small city, the surrounding areas are beautiful.

During our stay we made the most of being two minutes walk from a beautiful beach (not the nudey end…) We also Snorkelled at Port Noarlunga, Kayaked on the Onkaparinga river, got up close with kangaroos at Deep Creek conservation park. we also saw wild koalas. Maslin Beach is also our unofficial home of sunsets. In ten days, we probably saw five or six spectacular skies of fire which we took great enthusiasm oversharing with our Facebook friends. Every day.

Beautiful beaches, wineries, the Adelaide hills, and National parks all readily accessible and ‘Mad March’ when festival season kicks in. We’re looking forward to coming back!

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Border jumping, Cambodia to Thailand: Siem Reap to Bangkok/ Aranyapathet to Poipet

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We arranged via our hotel to travel back to Bangkok on the bus, we didn’t really ask too many questions so it came to no surprise to us that we had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Will it be one bus? Will we drive straight through?

The bus cost $16 US dollars through our hotel, it may have been a little cheaper if we had booked direct, but we didn’t know where we needed to go, and our hotel had been excellent so we were happy to pay them a commission.

We were offered three different times, six or eight in the morning and midday. We took the eight o’ clock bus as we thought it would be the most convenient time to leave, and also arrive.

The bus left sort of on time, and we drove towards the border. We stopped an hour into the journey for provisions and a toilet break, as is customary at these places everything is massively overpriced. There is a mini-mart opposite where the bus left from in Siem Reap which would has more choices and probably cheaper too.

We ended up stopping again in Poi Pet for some still unknown reason; we sat in a car park for about half an hour. After that the bus took us about a kilometre down the road to the border. It was very much a waste of time. The total journey from Siem Reap to Poi Pet took around three hours.

We were then taken off the bus, took back our luggage and given a red sticker! Hardly a ticket, and didn’t fill me with confidence if I’m honest.

So now were walking across to get stamped out of Cambodia. It’s getting on for midday and theres a lot of people around and plenty trying to get across the border. After you’re stamped out you have to walk across to the Thai side around two hundred metres and join the immigration queue here.

Again, the queue was long, and it did not move very fast at all. Literally hundreds of people walked straight past, out of the midday sun and into the air conditioned building. According to an employee we talked to you could go straight through if you got a visa on arrival! It’s a pretty great system that I pay for a multiple entry visa and have to stand in the midday sun for two hours whilst probably five hundred people  queue jump for a free visa on arrival. We spent over two hours waiting to get stamped out.

When we FINALLY get through, a man is waiting on the other side picking up lost looking people with red stickers. You now get assigned a number, and told to wait around.

A short while later a succession of vans turn up to ferry people to a restaurant around a kilometre up the road, where you’re invited to eat. It’s shit and it’s overpriced, but by this point I, and many others are pretty hungry. Sneaky.

You’re then ferried in mini vans to Bangkok, according to your red badge number (I guess to avoid queue jumping and suchlike) They jam you in and stuff all the luggage around you, it’s hot and stuffy and if you try to open the window the guy stops the car and gets out to tell you off. It takes about four hours and they drop you near Khao San Road.

Perhaps on other days the queue is shorter, or they are better organised. Maybe we went on a good day! If I did it again, I would get the six ‘o’clock bus to try to arrive at the border when the sun isn’t so strong.

The bus arrived into Bangkok around seven in the evening, taking eleven hours total.  I’ve read online about scams involving bus companies at Khao San Road, but nobody seemed to be missing anything in the buses we travelled in. Perhaps the night bus would be a more likely place to lose things.

How much does it cost to travel in India? Budgeting Delhi, Rajasthan & Agra.

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We spent three weeks travelling around Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra, an extension of the golden triangle. We flew into Delhi, travelled by train to Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur and then flew to Udaipur as there is no direct train link. We continued our journey onto Ranthambore national park, Jaipur and got a bus to Agra, as all trains were fully booked for our dates of travel. Lastly, we took the train back to Delhi.

Travel

Most people travel one of two ways, by bus or by train. We had quite a long wish list for India, and essentially a short period of time, so we booked (almost) all of our travel from the UK via Cleartrip, an English language version of the IRCTC for a small booking fee. Generally, I prefer not to book everything in advance, but being our first time in India, and after reading all about trying to book at the stations we decided it was the best way. It worked out perfectly for us, even after doing our best to miss our first train by going to the wrong station.

Generally, we looked to book trains in the ‘AC’ classes.  AC2 & AC3 offer good value for money.  AC2 specifies Air conditioned, two tiers and AC3 specifies, unsurprisingly, Air conditioned with three tiers. There is also the cheaper ‘sleeper’ class for the more adventurous. For all things train related check the train god Mark Smith’s website seat61.com.

Delhi to Jaisalmer was our longest journey, seventeen hours; and around 480 miles. We travelled in AC2. The tickets cost 1’384 rupees (£15/$25) per person. By comparison, one of our cheapest journeys from Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambore National park station) to Jaipur, was little over two hours, around one hundred miles and 300 Rupees (£3.50/$5.50) per person. Basically, the trains are very good value for money.

Travelling by train is a cheap, comfortable and enjoyable experience, as you get to meet Indian families also travelling the railways. The trains we took all left on time, and only one arrived late They are also clean and well organised. My tip would be if you’re travelling as a pair, book AC2 side upper and side lower. You get a window seat, usually with a power point and can be a little bit removed for the main area of the berth if you don’t feel like being sociable, or just want to sleep.

I wrote about our one bus journey from Jaipur to Agra in this post.

Our flight was the only transport we took that left late, and cost 3000Rupees (£35/$55) for the hour journey, which is still cheap for a flight.

Accommodation

Generally, we stayed in double rooms with en-suite. The standard of cleanliness in India, can quite often be a long way from European expectations, but It’s one of those things with India, you accept it and get on with it or you hate it. Kind of like the country I suppose.  We booked everything online the day or so before we arrived in a new city with Hostelbookers. Personally, I prefer to just book something and turn up, I don’t want to waste my time wandering around for deals. It might work out more expensive some times, but what price to you put on your leisure time in a location? Especially when we’re trying to cram as much in as we did.

With the exception of Ranthambore National Park, we found accommodation to be affordable, and fairly abundant. We generally paid around 500-700Rupees (£6-8/$9-13) per night for a double, with fan and an en-suite.

Food and drink

Food in India, is incredibly good value. I’m still wondering to myself how they make the bread, so light, crispy and not oily!?

Street food stalls, will sell tasty snacks, although almost always fried for between 10-50Rupees, (£0.10-0.60/$0.20-0.90) depending on how substantial it is. A simple sit down meal for two with a couple of vegetable mains, and some bread would cost between 100- 300Rupees (£1.20-£3.40/$1.70-5.50) A thali, for example would cost, on average around 200Rupees (£2.20/$3.60)

We ate out for ‘Fancy dinner’ three times in India, in Delhi we wanted to go to a restaurant we had seen on TV, famous for its chicken dishes. In Udaipur we wanted to spoil ourselves in the surroundings and in Agra, we were just quite weary and needed the peace and quiet. In all three we took advantage of the professional kitchens and refrigeration to indulge in meat! They were all around 1500-2000Rupees (£17-22/$27-36) for an amazing meal, and especially in Udaipur, a dinner experience unlikely to be matched any time soon.

Drinks in India are generally quite cheap, although alcoholic drinks in restaurants can be relatively expensive, especially spirits or cocktails. A large bottle of water usually cost around 15Rupees(£0.20/$0.30), a can of Coke, around 20Rupees (£0.25/0.40), and a large bottle of Kingfisher beer was around 150Rupees (£1.70/$2.75).

Experiences

India ticket prices can vary for historic attractions. They have a system whereby they have tourist prices, and local prices. The archaeological survey of India sites, including The Red Fort and Humayuns tomb in Delhi, and Fatehpur Sikri near Agra are all 250Rupees (£2.80/$4.50) entry for  a tourist. The Taj Mahal, is however 750Rupees. (£8.50/$13.50) Other historic sites such as Mehrangarth Fort in Jodhpur, or Jag Mandir in Udaipur are around the 300Rupee mark.

Other experiences included going on the tiger safari in Ranthambore national park, desert safari in Jaisalmer and visiting the famous Raj Mandir cinema in Jaipur.

Ranthambore, does not work out to be cheap, especially not compared with the rest of Rajasthan. Currently, (and I think the rules and prices in Ranthambore change regularly) a safari lasts around three hours and costs  555-600Rupees depending on whether you’re in a gypsy (15 seats)  or canter (4 seats) . For accommodation we paid around 1300rupees (£14.80/$24), for nothing extraordinary. It’s a small town next to Ranthambore national park and as such prices are inflated for food as well as accommodation. We spent in the region of 10’000Rupees, (£115/$185) for two safaris each, three nights accommodation and all meals and drinks. We did see tigers, so it was totally worth it.

The town of Jaisalmer was averagely priced for Rajasthan, and we wanted to take an excursion to the Thar Desert to see the sand dunes and generally adventure. It was great, we went with a small company, ate good food and didn’t see another safari group, litter or the other things we had read bad reviews of. The rate for our tour was 1300Rupees (£14.80/$24) per person, but we paid extra to go out on our own.

Numbers.                                                                                                                                                       

We travelled for twenty one days, visiting three states.

Our transport, from city to city amounted to 6’800Rupees (£78/$125) per person, for three weeks and around 1500 miles total. we travelled in the region of 1’150 miles, spending approximately thirty five hours on the train tracks. We also spent around three hundred miles travelling via bus or train. Travel in India is exceptionally good value.

Aside from the above mentioned excursions, we reckon we travelled around India, eating well (although cheaply), but drinking sparingly; sleeping in private double rooms, travelling in AC2 or AC3 carriages and doing activities, or sightseeing most days for around about 1200Rupees (£13.70/$22) per person, per day.

All prices listed are in rupees, pound sterling and US dollars. I have not included our flights in, and out of the country as they are part of a multi-flight ticket. We travelled between October and November 2012.

Since leaving India, I have written this summarising post, which also may be of interest. Any views, or opinions welcomed.

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