Travel Notes

Tue Apr 30 04:54:14 2002 (rr)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Penang

  • all the hotels have 'health centres' or 'fitness clubs'. I wonder what they call the real fitness clubs? gyms, I suppose.
  • our current hotel has huge rooms, with tall ceilings, western saloon swinging doors in front of real doors, bathtub w/ hot water but shower only cold, and a little courtyard downstairs that has an open ceiling so it gets the rain and is a strange sight but cool. British tourists drinking wine near the front entrance.
  • nathan's complaining that many establishments in penang are touristy. I think if this is touristy, wait till thailand. just a hunch. we ate lunch at the touristy Green Planet (wooden furniture, walls, huge notebooks full of traveller's notes (excellent resource) and smoothies).
  • saw Hart's war, combination of WWII and trial/crime drama. Left our Lonely Planet Malaysia there, and it was gone when we went back to look. do have Moon Guide though -- a lot less verbose than LP due to the need to include all of SE asia.
  • Lots of rain and lightning and thunder every afternoon. Hopefully we'll get to visit Penang Hill today before said storms.
  • head out on train for Thailand tomorrow. My first train with a sleeping berth, but our train gets in in the late evening, so it will perhaps be a gentle intro to sleeping on trains.
  • lots of cool sounding places in southern Thailand. I want to do some kayaking there . Probably visit Khao Sok Ntnl Park, maybe I will work out a kayaking trip near Trang if we're lucky, and perhaps a stop at Ko Tao on the eastern coast to do the island thing...
  • reading list -- recently read Middlemarch (excellent!)(G. Eliot), now into Tomcat in Love (Tim O'Brien) very different from The Things they Carried. Nathan's reading Round Ireland in Low Gear (Newby). And as always, extensively reading various guidebooks and last months Ntnl Geographic. Nathan is going through Economist withdrawal, since all the magazine stands here sell three-week old copies. So we read the New Straits Times.

Tue Apr 30 04:50:00 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Cameron
So before Penang we spent a few days in the Cameron Highlands. These are the mountains in the north central region of penisular malaysia [near ipoh]. It's what the Brits called a hill station, which basically meant a place to go to escape the heat. The tempuratures are in 70's when down here they are in the 90's. There are Tea plantations, which look like miles of hedgerows, and jungle trails, which since it is cool, it's fun to hike.
Also while there we tried Steamboat, also lamely called chinese fondue, but really its a communal soup that you cook on your table. It is about as much fun as findue thou. Recomended.

Tue Apr 30 04:33:41 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Penang
So Penang is a pretty cool place though our first day was not so good. We pulled in after a 6.5 hour bus trip from the Cameron Highlands. We were beat and headed to a 'nice' hotel that our books recommended. We got a good deal but a mildewing grotty room. Bad, not fun. Still we stayed that night 'cause we where very tired. We got out of the room though. Saw a very weird Bruice willis movie ( all that was showing) 'Hart's War', and had sushi at one of though conveyor belt sushi resturants.
That was new experience, and as it turns out is much fun. The basic set up is that there is a conveyor belt that circles the room, and you just lift youre sushi from it as it goes by. The plates are color coded so at the end you just tally up the plate of a color and mulitply by the plate cost. What is cool is you see everything go by, It's all impulse buying.
The next day we switched to a cheaper but much nicer old hotel with huge rooms, (we inspected before we paid). And then we wandered the streets for hours seeing much of Millionaires lane and china town. This city is very well preserved. Some really cool architecture. Deco/perinakan and everything else including a fort built in 1807.
Unfortunatly we are off the Thailand tommorrow. But then again, That should be fun.

Sat Apr 27 04:51:16 2002 (rr)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Kuala Lumpur
KL notes:
We watched an amazing lightning storm from the 14th floor of our hotel in KL. The storm passed overhead as we counted the seconds between lightning and thunder. The motorcycles and scooters disappeared from the streets.
Pedestrians in KL need to be brave and fast. There are never crosswalks when you need them, and when there are, the cars still don't stop for you. There was also a lack of sidewalks and an abundance of construction sites (forcing one to walk in the road).
KL has some nice malls, especially the KLCC which lies at the base of the shiny silvery Petronas towers. There is a nice view of the towers from the top floor of the mall. The bookstore in the mall, Kinokuniya, has a cafe with excellent view of a huge curvy reflecting pool and people sitting on the steps around it.
We wanted to see an Indian movie, Aankhen, but unfortunately it was only subtitled in Malay. Bummer. (or perhaps a chance to learn Malay?)
Bangsar - a suburb of KL. Lonely Planet wasn't too useful except for telling us about this place (bad travel instructions). Filled with trendy restaurants serving a variety of cuisines and lots of night clubs. More western food available than usual there. We chose The Red Chamber. Walls were dark pinkish red, gauzy curtains gave a sense of privacy, and cool chandeliers added to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, five minutes into dinner the music began to suck (and be played at loud decibels.) THe menu was fusion Asian noodles/rice dishes. I had chicken char siew ramen, Nathan something Japanese with rice. ALso, two memorable drinks. I wanted Kumquat juice, which wasn't available, so I ordered Green Boy. It tasted not unlike cough syrup (but more watered down). Nathan got BHS. Banana, Honey, and Soy Milk. It was very good.

Sat Apr 27 04:38:57 2002 (rr)
Book: Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei LP
After a few days in KL, we hopped on a bus north to the town of Tapah, where we ate some curry and caught a taxi up the winding roads to Tanah Rata. The taxi was an old Benz, which seems a popular choice for cabs around here, and slowly worked its way up the mountains into the Cameron Highlands. Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia's hill stations, where the Brits used to come to cool off. The temperature here is much cooler than KL's 90-something degrees. It even gets cool at night. The general scenery is the "mountain jungle" look. Lots of colorful flowering bushes and trees. The fuschia bougainvilla is especially nice. Clouds obscure the peaks of the mountains. The highlands are known for their tea, which is sold and served everywhere around here. Tea plants look like fuzzy hedges from a distance. At night, walking home from dinner in the nearby town of Brinchang, we could see purple flashes of lightning off miles away.

Tue Apr 23 09:44:29 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei LP
Location: KL, Maylasia
This is just a list of cool/weird little things about KL and Maylasia:

  • Muslim women walking with chinese freinds, headcoverings and fairly provacative clothing.
  • Amazing, attentive service even at the local starbuck equivalent.
  • Manchester United, a UK soccer team, is everywhere many many MU stores and even a magazine.
  • Huge video screens, amazing skyscrapers and horrid, horrid traffic and sidewalks. Above street level this city is like 21st century. Street level is not so good.
  • Open sewers in malacca grow not only rats, but very cool in my opinion, giant iguanas.

Sat Apr 20 03:21:25 2002 (rr)
Book: Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei LP
Location: Malacca
In Malacca, where we are working on our drawing skills, inspired by the beautiful and varied architecture. The food is a melange of different influences. Last night we ate some Nyonyan (peranakan, or Straits Chinese) food, including some incredibily spicy Devil Chicken and some flavorful (but not spicy) fried chicken and a plateful of chop Chai, a cabbage and tree fungus dish that cooled down one's mouth after some Devil chicken. Also, some Tiger beer. Most of the restaurant was occupied by a large group of people who had maybe just played an intra-company bowling tournament? We're not sure, but they were from two different locations and were having a great time.
At night, the fancifully decorated trishaws light up with strands of Christmas lights. The street near our hotel came alive with a night market that was a blend of hot snacks, chinese cafes, and knick-knack stalls.

Thu Apr 18 04:09:05 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Singapore
Today we leave for malaysia, malacca in particular which I am greatly looking forward to.But the week in singapore has been much much fun, and we shall have to come back some time to go shopping.

In particular the food has been insanely great. We've eating mainly at the hawkers stalls and had some amazing food. The local singaporian food has perhaps been my favorite as it borrows from western, and all the local cusines, indian, chinese, malay and Straights Chinese. We've had some excelent meals from all of these groups, my favorite things so far being, fried sweet potatoe balls, fresh fruit juice, Bubble Tea which is iced tea with sweetened milk and usually served with gummy 'pearls', and the generic indian roti (flatbread) and curry dishes. All of them are amazing, a great town to eat in.

In a simalar vein the architecture has been very cool with hindi temples, peranakan (Straights Chinese) houses done up in ornate shutters, high rise apartment building and colonial governement building all thrown up next to each up and next to the sky scrapers. The juxtapostion make the indivdual part so much cool.

And my final favorite thing here was probabaly and attraction the zoo, which claims to be the world most open. There where practically no bars, they used water barriers exensively and it make for a much cooler zoo. They also let certian monkey roam pretty much free, and they have an amzing ammount of primate species, which is very much fun. The newest exhibit, baboons of ethiopia, whas particularly weird/cool 'cause it was half zooalogical and half anthropolgical, with much about the native peoples of the area. Odd.

Wed Apr 17 02:37:49 2002 (rr)
Book: Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei LP
Location: Singapore
Went out and ate some Southern Indian food at a place called Komala Vilas. The dhal was especially good, and Nathan loved the yogurt and the sweet mango lassis. My dinner was arrayed on the traditional banana leaf. There were also thin crackery breads (looked kind of like poppadum) that tasted like unsalted potato chips. Little India at night is a happening place -- floodlit produce stands, men milling about the streets, corner cafes, loud music blaring from stores...After dinner we took the MRT to Orchard Rd and saw The Count of Monte Cristo. I swear the book has a different ending, but I can't really remember, its been so long since I read the book. Guy Pearce made an excellent villain. Post-movie, we caught the very last MRT back home and had a sip of port before bed. We've just confirmed our reservations online for a place in Malacca, and tomorrow we take the Sinaran Petang Express to Malaysia. Now we are off to the botanic gardens.

Tue Apr 16 09:48:18 2002 (rr)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: singapore
our internet cafe du jour
We hauled our gear across town to Perak Lodge in Little India. No bathrobes, but otherwise a very nice room.
Searched for Singapore Noodles for lunch, but couldn't find them.
Nathan's new shirt (shown only in tan, Nathan got blue)

Tue Apr 16 09:33:26 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei LP
Location: Singapore
So singapore has been cool, so cool, we've signed up for a couple of more days in what is undoubtedly an expensive city.

Lodging is universally expensive as the guide books attest (though rachel did get us an amazing deal at our last place, it was very nice, not very cheap.)

Dining can be cheap but you have to eat at the Hawker Stalls. These are amazing serving toast with coconut egg jam or roti and curry for breakfast and much much weirder stuff for lunch and dinner. Today we had fresh squeezed pineapple juice, and traditional Malay soup (named after the thais, Mee Siam) heavy in rice vermicelli and shrimp paste, and Roti John a fried omelette in toast with a mild chilly sauce for 9 bucks, Singapore. However if you want to be able to read the menu, have non-plastic silverwear or A/C it can easily cost 10 times (though so far we have managed to keep it under that) that particularly if you order alchohol.

And finally there is the shopping. This place is chock a block full of shopping centres and just about any other veriety of retail outlets. The subway stations are malls as are the large hotels, banks, and absolutely everything on Orchard Rd. And we have been sucked in. I have replaced my shirts that where getting too old, and I have a new Singapore Zoo hat to keep my head from getting burned. (this is my 3rd hat, having lost my AdRelevance hat in Tonga and my 'Tonga Cool Look' hat ( which was none too cool) in Australia.

[ Just a bit more on the malls, they have whole malls devoted to one subject, for instance 'The Hunan, the IT mall' , that is 4 stories of electrical wonderland. From stores that specilize in selling Fujitsu or Compaq computers, to white box stores (generics built inhouse) and stores that sell nearly every brand of box, network gear, and/or periperal. Also there was a huge computer book store, unfortunatly organized primarily by publisher, that was by far the largest I'd ever seen. ]

In spite of the cost it has been amazing, with the food, architecture, and Zoo all being highlights. And all to be mentioned in a future blog.

Mon Apr 15 08:06:33 2002 (rr)
Book: South-East Asia Rough Guide
Location: Singapore
We're staying in a hotel in Chinatown, across the street from multiple karaoke joints and a traditional Thai massage parlor. A few blocks away is a street that exemplifies Straits Chinese neighborhoods of the past -- two-storied buildings with narrow fronts lined up next to each other. Each house has two or more doors (but really just windows now) on the second story and often similar down below. Each building is painted in different colors, all bright, often pastels. I can't seem to describe it too well here, so I'll try and find a picture. There's a small picture as well as a paragraph on Straits Chinese architecture at this link. They call the style Chinese Baroque.
Downtown Singapore and Orchard Road is a consumer's paradise. Malls upon mall. All brands seem to do well here, especially the expensive Italian and French ones. American brands also seem popular. There was also a mall devoted entirely to all things computer. Most stores sold the usual PDAs, laptops and digital cameras, but others were more specialized -- for example, one store only sold memory.
Singapore has strict litter laws, and the city is very clean, though not litter free. But it certainly seems to be cleaner than most places I've ever been to. The landscaping is very neat and pleasant -- pedestrian sky-bridges have a clinging flower growing over them, and beautiful canopied trees line the streets. The public parks are also quite nice.
Earlier today, we rode the subway (MRT) out to the zoo. We transferred on to a bus to complete the ride, which featured air-con and live TV. The zoo was great, the first I've ever visited which rivals or may even surpass the San Diego Zoo. The enclosures hardly seemed as such -- monkeys would wander across the footpaths elsewhere, but somehow they still seem to know where home is and how to keep out of the white tiger enclosure.
Out of internet time! More later...

Mon Apr 15 08:02:19 2002 (rr)
Book: Moon SE Asia
Location: Singapore
Food in Singapore!
Here's a couple of highlights

  • Bubble tea -- milky green tea with pearls variety
    This is a cold, sweet, and yes milky drink that tasted more of jasmine tea than green, and has little round brown colored "pearls" that are sweet and chewy and gelatinous. Delicious!
  • Peranakan food. The Peranakan, or Straits Chinese, was the intermarriage of Chinese men and Malaysian women a long time ago. We tried a few different dishes at a restaurant called Blue Ginger in Chinatown. They included chicken with Indonesian black nuts. The black nuts are indeed black, kind of like plumper mussel shells in appearance, and you scrape out the pasty nut interior. Weird taste. We had problems trying to describe it. Nathan (who enjoyed this dish more) said it was "nutty", slightly "burnt." It reminded me of wet plaster or paint somewhat (but that makes it sound like I hated it. I didn't.)
    Another dish was tamarind prawns. Spicy is an understatement. I ended up eating this one mostly by myself. The tamarind was evident in spite of the chili overload. We also tried a spring roll which wasn't too memorable, although I liked the use of chinese five-spice in the filling. The fish cakes were excellent. They came wrapped up in green pandan leaves with toothpicks holding the package closed at both ends. Inside was the cake, which tasted perfectly of fish (not too much, but not too little) and lemongrass. Lots of lemongrass flavor. For dessert, we passed on the Chendol Durian, and tried something that I can't even remember -- sago something. It was great. Sago is a sweet fruit that they refrigerated and tastes similar to coffee ice cream. It came in a coconut milk sauce.

McDonald's here sells chicken porridge, popular for breakfast. They also offer Durian cones. For those who haven't heard, the durian is a fruit that most find revolting in both smell and flavor. The others find it divine. I'm still working up the nerve to try it.
My only food complaint is that Tiger Beer is expensive. I'm guessing they have some steep liquor taxes.

Mon Apr 15 07:45:45 2002 (rr)
Book: South-East Asia Rough Guide
Location: Singapore
Just a note:
You may have noticed that books are listed next to all of the blog entries. This is leftover from our pre-trip planning days when we reported on what we had read in various books. As it turns out, I couldn't stand this particular Rough Guide, so we ditched it in favor of the Moon Guide South-East Asia, and more recently, supplemented it with the Lonely Planet Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei book.

Sat Apr 13 05:55:09 2002 (bchandler)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Victoria
As a guest on the Australian leg of the journey, I was able to see many new and interesting things with my good friends. Since those two have covered well the highlights of the trip, I present:

Random things Australian that were strange/beautiful/freaky

- The contrast of stately Victorian cathedrals with stark, elegant modernism - pulled off with remarkable ease. Especially in the ANZ building where they appear to have completely engulfed a classic structure with their skyscraper.
- One lone Venice-style gondola gracefully skimming down the Yarra river in the dusky evening.
- Early but splendid fall foliage in what would have normally been spring to me. Especially apparent due to the wonderful saturation of the country with parks, gardens, courtyards and tree-lined avenues.
- Walking down the streets and back alleys late at night in Melbourne and feeling little to no threat of physical harm.
- Seeing a blazing fistfight break out in of all places a *supermarket*. Apparently the Aussies really do like their fightin'. Also in St. Kilda: reading an exquisitely designed book on the area concluding with the fact that 50,000 needles are exchanged there every month. This neighborhood would probably be the exception to the rule above, had I ventured there after dark...
- The undisputedly most modern, geometric children's play area I've ever seen, behind the sleek new Melbourne Museum. No kids were on it, though.
- Dodging hyper-aggressive restaurant hockers in the otherwise brilliant Italian cuisine area, Lygon street.
- Lush urban sanctuary outside the Royal Botanic Gardens that took tranquility to another level.
- Getting harassed by the waitstaff in Fitzroy for not finishing my salmon pile.
- Inexplicably stylish, contemporary arm of the "Y" featuring a design store as well as cafe and hotel.
- Seeing vibrant Aussie film Lantana at an art-house cinema in the city where they played Bjork in the lobby.
- Sculpture of almost-buried library colonadde, ruined civilisation style, directly in front of the public library.
- The almost universal proliferation of hip, European style cafe culture in even the tiniest towns. This applied to all but the most far-flung corners of our journey.
- Visiting an innocuos-looking scenic waterfall to discover a placard anouncing that "it was an act of god one windless morning" that squashed five youths to death with a falling tree. Definitely something of a damper on one's spirits.
- Giant Brolga bird at the Healesville sanctuary evincing an inexplicable and instantaneous hatred for Rachel (sorry Rach, it was pretty funny). Thank goodness for fences. Also at the sanctuary/zoo: watching portly german tourists try to wrangle runaway wallabies.
- Rounding a blind harpin on a midnight drive to discover a gaggle of 30 or so teenagers choosing the middle of the road as thier hangout. Thanks goodness for anti-lock brakes!
- The mostly incredibly crappy but occasionally brilliant Australian radio programming. Example of the latter: the majestic, sweeping strains of Icelandic group Sigur Ros greeting me with my first real ocean views on our driving tour. Example of the former: Aussie band "Crazy Penis".
- Vicariously feeling like one was a part of the yearly Easter holiday tradition at the Erskine hotel.
- Driving up to an average looking English style teahouse only to discover that it had a breathtaking, panoramic view of sweeping hills and valleys. Plus the best focaccia sandwich I've ever had and cool purple and red birds.
- Anti-pirate cannon batteries at Port Fairy. OK so I'm not sure that's what they were for but it's my best theory.
- The sunset in Seville. At least as stunning as those in the Spanish namesake, I figure.
- Too many things to mention at the Alpine Retreat ( which I dubbed the Hotel California) but for starters potted plants and stuffed taxidermical animal heads with flowery hats and nametags, and the room at the very end of the purple hallway whose window is covered over in yellowed newspaper (which I remain convinced houses a demented grandma). The place was spooky I swear, but in a fun way.
- Indescribable, dreamlike atmospherics in the town of Ballarat where the main avenue has a different statue at every intersection - all of which are lit up in weird colors at night.
- After one scotch-and-philoshophy filled evening, awaking to discover the book "Mysteries of Life and Death" in our cottage amongst the fashion magazines and coffee table books. Should anyone ever find this volume in their travels, be advised - it turns out to be much more fixated on the death portion of "life and death". Trust me.
- Historical display featuring incredibly freaky fake stuffed cat at the Heide modern art museum (which was more a tribute to the life and times of its founders than to the art).
- Peaceful, zen-like water fountain pillars in front of the enormous Crown casino complex that are transformed for a minute each hour into fire belching pyrotechnics.

Mostly unrelated to the above, my general closing thought would be that in Oz I found a culture of people who by all appearances simply know how to live. My thanks go out to my fine travel companions, and I wish them the best in the rest of their journey!

Fri Apr 12 04:17:21 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Trip
So today we take off on a belated flight to Singapore, and I thought it'd be a good time to mention other trip changes. We are considering skipping Bali, which is in Indonesia not a good country for Americans right now (though Bali itself is said to be cool), in favour of some more time in SE Asia. We shall see.

Fri Apr 12 03:04:00 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Photos!
My mom, the web wizard, has optimized some of our photos and put them up on the web. I've moved them from to our site here at The new link is: here. As a bonus if you mouse over a picture you get the desciption.

Thu Apr 11 07:42:45 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Fitzroy
Fitzroy is the funkadelic quarter of Melbourne. Fitzroy has the retro clothes, the Retro Cafe, sex shop mannequins wearing gas masks and leather, and an awesome internet laundrette.
One morning the Aussie Trio (Nathan, Rachel, Brandon) ate breakfast at a cafe in Fitzroy. Brandon and I ordered the oh-so-tasty Salmon Tower. The Salmon Tower truly lived up to its name. Layers of english muffin, fresh lox, scrambled eggs with green onion, sour cream, and tidbits of smoked salmon (and whatever else would make it taste good but now I can't recall exactly what) were artfully and carefully piled up to form a tower. Unfortunately food is a temporary work of art, and soon became a leaning tower of salmon, then collapsed into what should be termed "Heap of Salmon". Eventually only a few scattered ruins remained. It was damn good. (you know something is good when you remember it 2 weeks later).

Thu Apr 11 07:03:21 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: melbourne
Today we explored the back alleys of Melbourne, which are filled with Italian-esque* cafes and the occasional hair salon, where Nathan and I got hot new dos. We also found the block of outdoor stores, where we each picked up a pair of shorts. (Yea, shorts! I haven't had any shorts this whole trip...) I also got a new bright red shirt (from Mooks, Brandon), sure to liven up any photograph. Nathan has yet to find the perfect pair of sunglasses and the perfect new shirt. We'll save that for Singapore. A very consumer-y day all in all.
*the cafes are italianesque because they serve things like Tandoori Chicken Risotto.

Wed Apr 10 04:34:28 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Melbourne, still
So we blogged quickly yesterday then we went out to a nice greek dinner and then drove to the airport to catch our 1 am flight.

But we had been lax in our preperation and hadn't called ahead and reconfirmed. Luckily we were not bumped, unluckily Gulf Air has stopped flying from Austrilia. So we stayed at a rather nice airport Hilton, and took a cab to town and the Gulf Air office, where they booked us on Fridays Quantas flight to Singapore. So 3 more days in Melbourne for us.

We'll probably take a little down time and see a few movies, write postcards etc.

Tue Apr 9 08:28:22 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Brandon
So we met Brandon for 2 weeks here in austrialia. This is a little break between his last job with Openwave, formerly (where I worked with him) and his new job with a wireless company Wildseed .

Brandon is a designer and Rachel and I know him through James of the crowd. He worked for Openwave because of the heavy DCOM infulence during the AtMobile days ( the ones even before name).

Brandon chooses his restaraunts based on their looks, so we ate at some stylish places. Some of the choices where very cool, and one night we ended going out late one night to a jazz club and listening to some live music. It was good idea and one we never would thought of.

He is also a bit of a driving enthusist, and thus the expensive rental cars. I must say that they where fun. I truly got into motoring about in the speedster. And it was motoring, not a driving the country nor getting from a to b. Much fun and I recomend it. ?

Tue Apr 9 07:58:23 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: Victoria
A quick rundown on our australia trip before we leave the southern hemishere and start our South-East Asia segment tonight at 1 am.

On the first day we landed late ( mechanical difficulties on Air Vanuatu had us grounded for an hour in brisbane before we resumed service to Melbourne), but brandon was still waiting. As a side note the Austrialian quaritine office was both efficient and polite, a good experience.

That night we went out to dinner on the fashionable south bank of the Yarra river which flows through melbourne. The dining district was bustling at 10pm on an unseasonably warm sunday night. This experience was so nice that we did it again 2 weeks later when brandon left.

The next day was all errands and shopping in the end I got new glassess and contacts ( though that took like 3 trips down to St. Kilda a shopping district south of the CBD (central business district) annoying. But they are very good glasses. Rachel also got some very nice, very lux gucci sunglasses.

Then we did less errands and more exploring of gardens (all of them excellent) museums ( a little dispointing, but in weird ways).

That weekend Good Friday to Easter Monday ( a holiday some of the locals get, 'cause easter falls on sunday and they need to get some time off for it ( beyond good friday that is)), we rented sports cars. Brandon got a brand new red Mercedes benz SLK, we rented an old Porche convertible. Then we drove down the Great Ocean Road , Austrialias answer to the Pacific coast highway, up to the Grampians some very scenic mountains, and back to melbourne via the Gold Fields and Ballarat a very nice town.

Then we finished off brandons time in the dandendongs a mountian range just outside of melbourne. We hiked and did the wine tour thing, we also ate well and finally got to self cater. We also went to a very very good zoo and saw all the weird local animals.

After brandon took off on saturday we headed down to the Mornington peninsula, for two days of hikes in some amazing scenery. We saw emus in addition to the wallaby we'd seen when motoring, and the the sulfer crested cockatoos we saw in the dandendongs ( where we heard a cookaburra).

But before we left Melbourne we stopped at a local park and used the coin operated gas barbques that are in all the parks around here. A very cool experience, and a must do for any austrialia trip.

Today more chores and a bit of a canoe on the yarra.

On the whole a very cool leg of our trip, fairly expensive but we got what we paid for and it was much fun.

Tue Apr 9 07:23:07 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: melbourne
Today we zoomed back and forth across Melbourne doing errands and I sorely missed the Porsche. We picked up contacts for Nathan, ate some gelato, replaced a lost travellers check, sent a box of stuff home (goodbye tent, we'll miss you), picked up our photos that have been burned to CD (coming to a web page near you soon!) and canoed down the Yarra River. All in a days work. Tonight we are planning on catching a movie (Royal Tenenbaums we think) and some dinner before our 1 am flight to Singapore.

Sat Apr 6 02:57:21 2002 (nmcfarl)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
A little house keeping note here.
Onebox has started charging for there services, just about at the same time as they have started messing with the design, and cutting back the cool stuff. So I'm switching my onebox email to and our collective email to .
The messages from those accounts now have the new address as the reply to and for the next 15 days or so they will also forward to the new accounts.
The link on the side of this page has also been updated.

Sat Apr 6 02:47:46 2002 (rr)
Book: Australia Rough Guide
Location: VIctoria!
australian list:
a) looking for strange southern sky constellations on deserted wine-country roads.
b) motoring through the Grampians in the Porsche on a sunny day
c) hook turns in Melbourne at night
d) wandering through bat-infested (flying everywhere!) fern gullies in the Melbourne botanical garden
e) running along the beach in Lorne

I'm going to go into some more detail on a few of these.

a) looking for strange southern sky constellations on deserted wine-country roads.
We drove an hour or so out of Melbourne into the Yarra Valley, which is a famous wine region in Victoria. I really wish I could ship back lots of pinot noir to start my collection, because they are famous for it here. We stayed in the town of Warburton for a night at the Alpine Retreat hotel. The Alpine is an art-deco style hotel with the traditional pub attached. We were the only guests in the hotel. Nathan and Brandon found it somewhat scary. (perhaps they would say "freaky")
At 8 pm or so we decided to go find a winery with a restaurant. They weren't open. We did find a nice deserted road on the way to one winery where we parked the car and looked at the stars. I picked up a map of the southern skies earlier that week, so we could finally see things other than Orion and the Southern Cross. The Milky Way was magnificent. We learned to find Centaurus and the SOuthern Triangle as well. Plus a large Magellanic cloud. Afterwards we drove around for an hour looking for an open restaurant. SInce we were in such a rural area nothing was open. (THe general area reminds me of the Hudson Valley). Eventually we drove to the nearest large town, Lilydale, and found the MacDonalds. As we drove up they switched the lights off. We crossed the street to KFC, which was open for an additional five minutes. We dined on our Family meal in our hotel room.
c) hook turns in Melbourne at night
There are trams that run down the middle of streets in Melbourne. If you want to make a right-hand turn across the intersection, you have to pull all the way over to the left hand side of the intersection and wait for the light to turn red. At that point you make the turn. I got to perform two of those last night.

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April 2002
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