Instagram, our week in pictures 18-24th May.

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This morning, whilst I was taking the dog for a spin I took some pictures of Autumn, I noted to myself (and the dog) about what wonderful photos I had taken this week and as such declared (again, to the dog) I should create a slot in this little online place for a weekly Instagram update. We both love Instagram (Jess and I; not the dog), it’s fun disposable photography. I don’t have to carry a camera around everywhere and a don’t have to faff about on Photoshop, I can just put a cool little treatment on it and instantly it’s out there in the hipster world…

So partly as a way to make sure we create a post at least once a week (I’ve been very slack in Australia) and as a bit of a ‘here’s what we’ve been upto this week’ kind of thing, mostly for ourselves because it’s nice to look back at photos. Also, I’ve not been writing my travel diary in Australia either; page after page of ‘I got up went to work, ate a sandwich and came home to look a memes and watch re-runs of Criminal Minds’ is really quite uninteresting.

Here is my compromise.

'Extreme Gelato'

‘Extreme Gelato’

So last weekend like typical tourists we went for ice cream in (nearly) winter. Went went to N2, to eat ‘extreme gelato’. It’s a pretty crazy science themed place in Chinatown where the staff were lab coats, and all the ingredients are stored in conical flasks. The ice cream is made to order using kitchenaid’s and some sort of nitrogen – it’s quite the spectacle when the nitrogen is poured in and it looks like some fifities b-movies with fog everywhere; or a Top Of The Pops in the nineties when they had so much dry ice you could never see below anyones knees. The flavours are pretty left field too. We had earl grey caramel & buttered popcorn (with actual popcorn in it!) basically, I can’t recommend this place highly enough. Nomnomnom.

We’ve been very pleased to (finally) find one of our favourite Asian snacks in Sydney. Tao Kai Noi, spicy seaweed snacks are unfortuantely not 20 Baht. Weep.

Lastly very pleased to announce Jessica, the future Helen Levitt of Sydney has had one of her photos featured on the City of Sydneys Facebook page. Riches and awards are to be bestowed upon her forthwith.

The money shot

The money shot

Come join us on instagram, our usernames are @jessica__smart & @btone6seven.

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Chiang Mai : Muay Thai experience.

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I had been to Thailand before, but never gotten around to seeing any Muay Thai. It’s a particularly touristy thing to do, especially in the bigger cities but nonetheless I wanted to experience a Thai boxing event.

As expected it was a tourist heavy crowd, the air thick with cigarette smoke and humidity. Promotions girls teetered around selling beer, and Thai men stood ringside in the betting area.

The fighters enter the ring, and begin their pre-fight rituals involving Wai Khru Ram Muay and this fantastically hypnotic music. The fighters will bow and pray in respect to their teachers and Buddha.

It’s quite an experience to see the Wai Khru Ram Muay, when you think how many centuries it’s been performed and is still being performed in modern times. To the untrained eye it looks a bit like showboating and flexing, but after a quick read up it’s an entirely respectful traditional dance.

Muay Thai is brutal, it’s not like boxing where big guys can just smash down their opponents, it’s incredibly technical, involving a range of techniques. Fighters use, elbows, knees, kicks, punches and grapples to land hits on their opponents and they all seem to be incredibly lean, muscular men.

It’s a really enjoyable, if slightly violent spectator sport. It doesn’t have the gaudy fanfare of boxing, The fighters seem very respectful of each other and their sport.

One small, but quite essentially Thai thing to point out is to be aware of ‘toilet massages’. A quick Google search has informed me it’s fairly commonplace in Thai nightclubs and sporting events, but as a westerner it’s a bit strange that one, possibly even two or three teenage Thai boys will start massaging your legs, back and neck whilst you’re relieving yourself. Most peculiar.

Please feel free to share your ‘toilet massage’ based anecdotes!

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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 : 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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Sydney : The Queen Victoria Building.

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The QVB is probably one of my most favourite places in Sydney. Not because it’s full of expensive shops, and not because it links directly into yet more shops via the basement.

I love it because it’s an beautifully restored old building. Not old on an English scale, obviously…  It’s classy and blends the old with the new seamlessly. Plus, it has some really posh public toilets.

It was originally completed in 1898, and performed many functions. Standing on the site of the original market, it was built to house a concert hall. It became the city library, offices, and other tenants including piano tuners.

I’m pretty much in awe of any beautiful architecture, I can quite happily spend time sitting and staring at all the intricacies and detailing. Stay classy QVB…

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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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