Around the World 14 Australia

January 26th-29th
In Sydney, staying with a friend whose home is in a lovely area, very green and tropical although she says it seldom rains here. In the mornings you can hear all sorts of bird calls, including parakeets and parrots squaking.
Sydney is on the ocean with many bays and coves and she show us many little parks over-looking some of them. Her daughter and her boyfriend took us to Bondi Beach where Maurice tried surfing. It’s a great beach but very crowded and popular. We went into Sydney and wanted to climb the Harbor Bridge but balked at the price of $185 each so walked around the Opera House and took a couple of ferries out to see Sydney from the water. After walking around the area we then took a bus, ferry and another bus back to our friend’s place, feeling lucky to actually find it again. We didn’t have a cell phone or the address so I don’t know what we would have done if we had gotten lost. After talking to a friend we got some good ideas of what to see north of Sydney and decided to fly to New Zealand from Brisbane instead of driving all the way back to Sydney after going up the coast. This way we could see more of what should be really beautiful country.
January 30th
Rented a car and set off north up the coast. A friend gave us a good itinerary for 6 days, the time we have. We first drove through Hunter Valley, a wine growing region, and stopped at the Tyrrell Winery for a wine tasting. We were surprised to find that they were already harvesting the grapes due to the higher heat here. I tasted a good white wine but their Pinot Noir which has received many awards tasted too smoky to me. We had gone inland earlier on a tourist route and saw heavily forested land, mostly with eucalyptus trees but also passing banana plantations and macademia plantations. There was a very bad auto accident later and we had to go inland again which takes alot of time so decided not to see a couple of places that had been recommended but went on to Port Macquarie to our hotel. Most of the town is high above the ocean and there were beaches in beautiful setting but the town wasn’t at all lively. By 5:30 all the shops were closed. We did have a nice drink and dinner at a cafe on a harbor.

On the way to Bondi Beach to surf.

One of those pictures that you instantly know the location of.

A close-up to the tile. This building was apparantly a nightmare to build and there was so much disagreement on what to do and so many changes, that the archetect quit before it was finished.

A view of the beach below at Port Macquarie.

A sail boat reflected in the quiet waters of the harbor.

Around the World 13 Australia

January 22nd and 23rd
We took the 14 hour flight to Melbourne starting in Langkawi, flying to KL then on to Hong Kong where we only had an hour to change planes but made it and finally landed in Melbourne at 7 AM.
Taking a bus and then a van to our hotel, we arrived at the Novotel-nothing fancy but in a great location. Melbourne is a lovely city with a river running through it. There are many exquisite buildings left from colonial days but most of it seems very new. We took the free tram to the Australian Open Tennis grounds after having dropped off our luggage at the hotel and watched tennis all day, feeling a little blurry with jet lag. The main stadium has a huge retractable roof in case of rain, which happens often during this time of year, and also in case of extreme heat but it wasn’t needed. In fact, it was rather cool. What a difference in food at the Australian Open when compared to the French Open. There are only sandwiches for the most part in France but here there was everything you could think of including some Chinese food, salads, great looking beef sandwiches, just a really great variety of food. Afterwards, we walked from our hotel to the very nice river side area and had a good Italian dinner. Early to bed after such a bad night before on the plane.
January 24th and 25th
Yesterday, more tennis. It is really well organized from the people helping everyone boarding the tram with someone on a loud speaker telling you where to go as you arrive, to very helpful people everywhere at the stadium and even on the street corners wearing red vests. We had a nice dinner at an old hotel. I’ve been drinking alot of Australian white wines which are very good. We discovered a neat little alley heading back to our hotel lined with little places to eat and had breakfast at one the next day much more cheaply than we could have at our hotel. Later, as we walked around, we saw many alleys set up the same way. It is a very nice city for walking around. The weather was on the cool side but the heat is back today and I think it will be very hot in Sydney. Melbourne, while very English, has a strong American feel. It is very casual and full of friendly, talkative people. Very expensive, though.

One of the alleys lined with places to eat.

The famous tennis court, just like on TV.

The giant retractable roof which takes about 30 minutes to close and open. The summers can be really hot in Australia and players need the shade to prevent heat exhaustion.

The Melbourne train station, very colonial in style.

Spring in Paris

Spring has arrived in Paris. There are the usual showers and blustery winds but the temperature has gotten up into the 50’s which makes it all bearable. Whether it will stay warmer is, of course, the question as the weather is always up and down in the Spring in Paris. Here are a few photos I took around the Marais and the Left Bank yesterday in between showers.

Some great looking bread in the window of a patisserie on Rue du Rosiers in the Marais. I always want to go in and try their desserts. These places also have great sandwiches.

Some boxwood trimmed in an wonderful shape. This is in the garden at the Carnavelet Museum in the Marais.

This dog is a resident on the Hotel Vieux Marais. Her joy in life is to eat, as I was told by the nice man at the desk. This seems like a nice hotel on a quiet street. The people I met there said they liked it.

You can tell that Easter is coming when you see all the fabulous chocolate animals and shapes in the windows of patisseries. They usually are hollow and contain smaller chocolate pieces inside.

There isn’t much to show that it is Spring in the parks yet. This fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens usually has flowers in the urns. None of the trees have their leaves. It looks a little bleak until:

You come upon some crocuses blooming in the grass-always a nice surprise that gives you the feeling that winter and cold weather are now behind us.

Around the World 12Langkawi

The view of our resort from the beach. Great looking location.


January 18th

Off to Langkowi, an island off of the coast of Malaysia. Our flight would have been on time but one person was missing a boarding pass when they did a head count. It turned out to be a child in a large family. Those with children boarded first and one family had only one child but all eleven relatives boarded with it. Asia Air doesn’t assign seats and they charge for luggage over their very low weight limit. We’ve decided that we wouldn’t use Air Asia again. Many flights aren’t on time, we don’t like paying extra for our luggage and not getting seat assignments. Their fares are usually cheaper than everyone else but the luggage charge put it almost up to the price of other airlines.
Langkawi was very tropical and caribbean-like. The taxi fare was very low to our hotel. To say we were dissapointed in our room is an understatement. It was very tired and tacky, although I liked the hotel lobby which was open and airy. The rooms are each seperate bungaloes up a hill in a forest not on a beach as I had hoped. I got an immediate deja vu feeling of being in a camp in junior high except the bathroom was in in the room, not across a campground. Our room was very rustic to say the least and badly needed renovation. We had lunch in a cafe over looking the ocean and decided to see if we could get a better room. Indeed we could at about $40 more a night. If we had only been going to stay for only one night we would have stayed but with four nights we didn’t want to “suffer” so we moved to a much nicer, newer room. It requires a drive in a cart every time to get to our room but we have an incredible view and a modern, clean room. As the sun set we saw many boats out fishing and when it got dark they all lit lights and it looked like a reflection of stars on the water.
January 19th
Today, after a buffet breakfast, we decided to just hang out at the pool. We saved our loungers by the pool with towels before we ate just like people we hate who do thaat. From our place at the pool we can see jungle leading up to volcanic looking mountains. It’s a great pool with a ledge that the water flows over, a pool for children, boulders and large rocks all over and a jacuzzi type pool that bubbles although it wasn’t heated. There is also one of those bars with seats in the pool under a cabana.
The hotel has a real probelm with monkies and if you don’t lock windows and doors before you leave, they will enter the rooms and make a mess and perhaps take things. Monkies are trained in this part of the world to climb coconut trees and twist off the coconut and throw them to the ground.
We ordered hamburgers for for lunch and they were horrible. After being cooked they were still red and had a strange taste. I’m thinking maybe they were sort of like spam. I noticed that no place in Malaysia served pork of any kind probably due to the Muslim population. The island is 85 % Muslim.
January 20th
We rented a car today to drive around the island. After we left we noticed that the car was totally on empty and they hadn’t bothered to tell us. Luckily, we found a gas station. The island had an almost African vegetation and it looked like it origins are volcanic. I was reminded of Tahiti here and there. It doesn’t seem very prosperous on the island. I was very disappointed in the capitol, Kuah City. It is known for its duty free shopping but I didn’t see much of interest and could have kicked myself for not buying more in Thailand. I was a little disappointed in Malaysia on the whole and wish we had spent the time here in Thailand. It’s either very heavily Muslim which has no religious culture to see or ultra modern like KL. The people are very nice but I just wasn’t touched or charmed by them as in Thailand. The capitol did become more prosperous as we left the other side and we passed some much nicer homes. Then we went to a dead end road to a beach called Tanjung Rhu and it was so much nicer than our with wonderful little islands right off shore. There was a resort there which I wish we had stayed at.
January 21st.
Another day by the pool. It is amazing to me that I can spend the whole day just sitting, reading, looking at the scenery, people watching or taking an occasional dip in the pool. I walked along the beach a little and got a good view of our resort. It is in a fantastic situation despite the desparate need for renovation.

The view from my seat by the pool.

View from our room during the day.

View from our room at sunset. My favorite picture, I think.

A couple of photos on the beach there at the resort.

Around the World 11 Last day in KL

January 17th
We went to the KL Twin Towers in the morning. The tickets are free but only 26 at a time are allowed up to the bridge on the 44th floor-so we had a two hour wait during which we went into the mall and had breakfast. The towers are the tallest twin towers in the world at 88 stories. There was a great view from the bridge, built as an escape route should there be some sort of reason needed to evacuate one of the towers,when we finally got up there. The towers were designed by an American, and built by the Japanese and South Koreans. It has become a huge tourist destination. Afterwards, we stayed in the mall and saw a movie and then checked our emails. An interesting experience at the movies–when we bought our tickets they asked us where we wanted to sit and gave us tickets for a specific seat. There were some advertisements before the movie, one giving tips on smart buying ,such as buy good quality. The movie had subtitles in both Malaysian and Chinese. The movie was Pride and Predjudice something I wouldn’t think many people in Asia would be interested in, but there were Malaysians there along with us.
After we cooled down in the pool, we went down a street near our hotel that we hadn’t been down before further than our internet cafe (we used this rather shabby place as it was much cheaper than our hotel). It was very lively, packed with restaurants and shops and many foot reflexologists. I’d like to try it sometime but passed it up this time. I bought five DVDs with one free for about $5. I hope they work when we get back home. They were pirated films and openly sold. Back to the hotel for another early night. We are really frustrated that we can’t find a TV anywhere with the Australian Tennis Open showing. We did finally find a British Bar showing the highlights.

The bridge from inside. Notice how few people there are. We had a guide as well. Interesting but I’m not that into modern buildings I guess.

This is the lake area behind the mall complex. The fountains aren’t working but you can see how huge it was.

Around the World 10 Kuala Lumpur

January 15th.
Somehow breakfast was not included with our room this time but we had the buffet anyway. Then we took the elevated train to what was supposed to be an area with colonial archetecture but we didn’t find much. Nearby was Central Market which was air conditioned and felt great and which sold lots of tourist stuff that I enjoyed looking at. Petaling Street was another shopping area which they were smart enough to shade. I bought a pair of white Vans tennis shoes which cost $10 and which lasted only until the end of our trip. It was really hot so we came back to our hotel to sit by the pool. Sitting by the pool and looking at all of the buildings, I had the deja vu feeling of being in Las Calinas, a development in Texas near Irving as many of the buildings were in the same style.
When evening came we walked over to the famous nearby twin towers which soar high above. We discovered a huge mall underneath the tower packed with people. Dinner was actually from a Californa Pizza Kichen. Hard to believe how many American establishments are here. There was a wonderful area behind the twin towers complex with a lake, fountains and a light show with spouting water with steps around it to sit on.
Malaysia is very different from Thailand. I think the native people here originally came from Indonesia and so they don’t look like those from Thailand. There are many Indians and many women with head coverings being, I guess, hindu or muslim. We’ve seen some women all dressed in black robes with only their eyes showing.
January 16
We booked a tour to take us to some nearby caves. Inside are Hindu temples in which are wildly, brightly painted sculptures of hindu gods or fairy tale figures. The lime stone walls soar up to a hole up above. There were monkeys everywhere and it was very smelly in places as we climbed the 272 steps to get to the top. A huge giant yellow god is in the process of being built at the base of the stairs. The caves and stairs weren’t very clean which made us wonder why the holy men manning the temples didn’t spend some of their time cleaning up the place. Maurice thought it was a bad reflection on Hinduism and he really didn’t enjoy it although I found the brightly painted figures all around fascinating.
Our tour guide was a nice guy, a former banker who retired early and then got bored. We had to stop at several places, always parts of tours, where they expect tourists to buy things. I don’t like that part of it but I did like the Batik place and we bought a beautiful scarf to frame for a wall when we return. Our guide told us that he was Catholic-10% of Malaysia is, in fact. The Chinese were brought here by the English to work in the tin mines and the Indians to work on the rubber plantations which went out of business when synthetic rubber was invented. There seems to be a good relationship between the various nationalities although the paper told of some racial incidents. It is also a very religious society, much more in some ways than America. Any nudity on TV is not shown. I noticed this in a movie on TV we watched that I had seen before where a sex scene was cut out. There was a photo of a nude statue in the paper-from the back-and his bottom was shadowed over. It seems like Malaysia is about 20 years behind the States. I wonder if that will change in time?

Some of the lovely batik we saw, hand painted onto silk using wax outlines to control the flow.

The stairs we had to climb to get to the top where the temples were.

Some gods to great you on a gate at the entry to the cave.

The steps were numbered. I don’t know if this helped or not.

One of the colorful gods inside.

There were monkeys everywhere. They came for the food, mostly bananas and coconuts that were offered to the gods.

The twin towers from underneath showing the bridge between the two.

The Twin Towers at night all lit up in silver and gold.