Just last night we returned from a couple of weeks in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Macau. Technically all of those places are in China.
Theary had never been to any of the places on the tour so it was great fun watching her eyes light up at each new experience. Even if you have been to a place before, when you go with someone for their first time, it’s really great fun. Mind you, I had only been to Hong Kong previously and on a day trip to mainland China and that was way back in 1997. So I was confident a lot had changed in China since then.
Our trip was from Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kong, Shanghai (China), Beijing (China), Macau, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh.
We hit the trail the 1st September 2017. We had an early morning flight out of Phnom Penh with Bangkok Airways to Bangkok. Always a nice airline with their own lounges which are free for their passengers. We chose to not go into Bangkok on this trip and so stayed in transit. The point of that is it means you don’t need to go through immigration, customs and baggage pick up.
It’s much easier and way less stressful which is a big thing when traveling as it can be very stressful and lead to a not so great time being had. So when planning a trip, try to look for the ways which will make it easier, also it’s less expensive to stay in transit than go into a city. Of course if you have not been to that city then sure, take a night or two out and explore.
The leg from Bangkok to Hong Kong was with Cathay Pacific who are based in Hong Kong. I organised this flight with points I had with Alaska Airlines. I only had to pay for the taxes. It was a 2.5 hours flight.
Hong Kong is an island which was under British Crown Rule from 18471 to 1997. It’s still very “English” especially when compared with mainland China.
The airport is absolutely huge and is built entirely upon a man made island. Super easy to grab a 24 minute train into either Kowloon or Hong Kong.
For this stay we decided to stay in Kowloon which is much more old school Chinese style than Hong Kong which is a bustling, frantic global financial center.
We grabbed a taxi from Kowloon station to the hotel and checked in. In this part of Asia it seems they always want a deposit to cover any expenses. They also don’t like or trust debit cards. I found it best to pay for the hotel stay online to avoid hassles at check in. I also found a way around paying the deposit. It’s really only to cover the bar fridge in your room. So tell them to empty it or to lock it. You never want to be buying snacks and drinks in your hotel room. Much better to go to the local 711.
Once we were settled in we went for a walk and found ourselves surrounded by a very lively neighborhood of local food shops, clothes, souvenirs. The food was fast, cheap and delicious.
The next day we got up pretty early and went for a walk to Nathan Road which is the big place in Kowloon. It’s a huge long road with about a billion shops on it. If shopping is your thing (it’s really not mine) then Nathan Road is a good place to start.
Along Nathan Road are literally hundreds of gold and jewelry shops. All displaying the same over the top golden necklaces and other assorted ugly pieces of gold.
We took the excellent underground rail system down to the harbor
The HK harbor is easily recognizable by its iconic skyline. One thing every visitor must do is take the Star Ferry across the harbor. Se we walked along the waterside and came to the star ferry. It’s super cheap (25 cents) and hardly any waiting. It’s a fairly quick trip taking about 10 minutes.
The harbor side area of Hong Kong island is all modern buildings, tons of public transport, tour buses. Elevated walkways make it easy to get around safely above all the traffic.
Now if you like big banks, finance corporations, high end brands, overpriced food and coffee then this area is for you. Me no likee. So we walked up to the ticket office for the Peak Tram The island is crowned by Victoria Peak named after Queen Victoria. To get to the peak one takes the Peak Tram which is a cable car. The ride up is a single track with a dual passing track about halfway as there are 2 trams running at all times.
The Peak Tram’s route from Central district to Victoria Peak covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometers (0.87 mi) and an elevation of just under 400 meters (1,312 ft).
From its opening in 1888 until 1926, the Peak Tram divided into three classes:
First Class: British colonial officials and residents of Victoria Peak
Second Class: British military and the Hong Kong Police Force personnel
Third Class: Other people and animals
Oh those old colonials and their rampant racism and bigotry, how colorful of them.
The ride is definitely worth it, the incline traveling the side of the mountain is mind-boggling. Some great photo opportunities.
When you reach the top you will be greeted by crowds and a maze of shops. I’m sure the greatest pleasure and pastime in China is shopping. Count me out. Mind you I did find a coffee shop among the madness which had an amazing view and the best sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted outside Australia.
We stayed for 2 nights. We stayed in a hotel in Kowloon for this visit so we could experience the more “Asian” feel and style of Kowloon. Lots of small, authentic cheap asian “restaurants” where you can get some amazing food in pretty cramped, hot shops. Lots of street food, color, lights and hustle and bustle. I do prefer Kowloon over Hong Kong.
We walked a lot as you can see by my steps image from my phone. A lot of HK is on some very steep hills so wear some good walking shoes, have plenty of water, a hat/umbrella and have fun.
For tourists, HK is all about sightseeing, shopping and partying. It’s a truly busy place. It’s crowded all the time, there are over 7 million people living on this island and probably a few hundred thousand visitors at any given time.
Its vibrant, densely populated urban center is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline. It was great fun for me to show Theary around as it was her very first time.
To be honest though, after the Peak Tram ride, the Star Ferry ride and a heck of a lot of walking I was happy to get going again.
The city has a population of only 200, 952 which is very small compared to Bangkoks 14, million. Even Phnom Penh, where I spend a lot of time is a touch over 2 million. This meant that Chiang Mai was a much quieter and more ordered city.
The weather was very hot for much of our visit reaching 38C / 100F nearly every day. Normally it’s not as hot as this.
The internet is very good, lots of cafes, restaurants, bars and co-working spaces have made the city a popular destination for “digital nomads”. There is a very large ex-pat community who do try to fit in and often learn a fair bit of the Thai language. Personally, I’m terrible at languages; I know 4 Thai words and about 20 Cambodian and I’ve been coming here for 5 years.
Anyway, last Saturday we decided to take a day trip which would take in the White Temple, the Village of the Long Neck Women and the infamous Golden Triangle. A trip covering 900 kilometers of road in a rather uncomfortable minibus.
We set off after meeting our guide at 07:30, a very uncivilized time on a Saturday.
The first stop was a crappy market with hot springs shooting up from the ground. Pity they were in a car park. Weird. I’m not even going to bother you with a photo.
After 10 minutes we all piled back into the bus and headed off to the White Temple
This bizarre-looking white temple located about five km south of Chiang Rai City is the brainchild of Chiang Rai-born visual artist and painter Chalermchai
Kositpipat. He brings an unconventional approach to temple architecture, fusing elements from his own imagination (white, not gold, as a pure colour to embody the sacredness of temples) with orthodox Buddhist teachings about heaven, hell, karma and earthly sins.
The temple is filled with Buddhist symbolisms, from its layout, architecture, all the way to the ornate reliefs and mirror decorations. You can only enter the ubosot (main chapel) from the front, via the narrow bridge that passes over a pool of upturned, beseeching hands representing suffering souls in hell.
From here, there’s no turning back, as the only way is to ascend ‘heavenwards’ to through the pathway guarded over by demons to the ubosot. Inside, two Buddha images seem to be floating on a lotus pedestal, set against elaborately painted murals in various hues of gold and other colours.
Rather than traditional characters, Chalermchai uses icons from modern culture, such as spaceships, superman, and even Neo from the Matrix movie to tell the stories of the Buddha’s life and his teachings on these murals, creating a rather striking – and lasting – impression upon visitors.
Once again we hit the road we traveled through Chiang Rai and out into the fields which were weaving themselves between hills. Soon we were off the very good highway and into some dirt roads on our way to the village of long neck women. I had seen a few photos of these women and heard stories of why they deform their bodies but was very unsure of how I was feeling about this whole thing.
On one hand it was very voyeuristic tourism at it’s worst and on the other it was a genuine desire to learn about another culture.
We arrived into a dusty, hot, dry parking area and walked a couple of hundred meters to where there were a few dozen thatched roof huts. Each was a primitive shop offering souvenirs of our visit. These items included hand made scarves, hand carved wooden sculptures of the long neck women and other nick knacks. Each shop had a long neck woman in attendance. Some sat just looking at the tourists gawking back at them. Others busied themselves weaving the scarves they offered for sale.
The women ranged in aged from early twenties to one who was 65.
Our guide had told us that from age 5 the females have rings wrapped around their necks. He said the rings were made from one piece of metal and each year they were removed and a new longer one was added as the girl grew. It’s not so much that they make the girls neck longer, but rather, the very heavy weight of the rings forces the body to not grow or maybe get stunted from the weight. Apparently this causes a great deal of medical problems in later life.
At one shop there was a set of rings which I lifted. Even having been forewarned they were heavy I
truthfully was not prepared for how heavy they really were. I would estimate they weighed 6 kilos and this set was of medium size.
The women are, as one would expect, quite incapacitated and cannot perform anything other than light duties.
The alleged reasoning for this terrible deforming of the women is to protect them from tigers. Tigers attack the neck of their prey. These days with the internet reaching even these villagers, less women are going along with this practice and it’s expected in the next 15 years it will have disappeared entirely. Good riddance I say.
We purchased some lovely scarves from one young woman who was very pleasant to speak with and had a lovely smile. I still felt very unhappy about what I had seen and very uneasy in my stomach. Overall I think we were all sad and wanted to get on our way. I’m kind of glad I’ve been there and seen the long neck women for myself but sad that tradition and uneducated superstition has forced these lovely women to have to endure this terrible hardship.
Whether or not anyone should visit the long neck women is debatable, however there is a good article on travelfish here
Funnily enough there were no stragglers when it was time to go. We were all very quiet as we headed north. It was a fair drive but finally we came to the part of the mighty Mekong River where three countries meet.
Most Australians are familiar with the golden triangle as much of the drugs which hit the streets of Australian cities has come from this region in the past. The golden triangle is where Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand meet in a wider context it also includes Vietnam and Cambodia. The area is notorious for opium and cannabis production in truly huge quantities.
A very remote, mountainous region it’s an easy trade to get involved with. Big money and plenty of corruption make it all very viable. The Governments have tried converting the farmers to more socially acceptable crops and there is evidence that has had some impact. There was no evidence to show the drug trade had truly been effected in anyway though
I had always wanted to go to the golden triangle, so now at least it’s off my bucket list. In recent years I read the biography of super dope smuggler Howard Marks called “Mr Nice”, that had fueled my desire to go there. Of course, one cannot see or do much on a one day 900 kilometer tour, so we didn’t see to much at all
opium smoking and campaigns to eradicate and substitute the crop. There’s even a tiny opium plantation inside! The Hall describes itself as “edutainment”, and indeed this is something of an opium theme park, with the latest in snazzy multimedia exhibits and lots of subtle hectoring about the evils of addiction. To their credit, though, they don’t whitewash Thailand’s own history at all and even the CIA’s exploits are covered in detail.
While we were there we took a boat ride over to Laos which was a bit of fun. Being a super hot day, we felt obligated to have a few bottles of the local brew.
Then on the way back a very courageous young Chinese girl sang a tune for us to keep us all entertained. Very nice.
Then before long it was time for the 450 kilometer ride back to the city of Chiang Mai
It’s been a really nice visit to Norther Thailand and one well worth doing for any traveler.
There is so much to do and see.
So much wonderful local food to taste.
Grab some friends and come on over, we will throw a couple of shrimp on the barbie for you…og wait, yeah that’s a different story.
I fell asleep about 2am and then was woken up at 3:45 after what seemed like just a few minutes. It was time to shower and dress and head off to the wedding venue for a 6am start.
It’s not unusual for Cambodian weddings to span 3 days. We opted for a more condensed version of one day. It was to be jam packed with traditional Buddhist ceremonies and culminating in a spectacular dinner party night. Mixed into this would be at least 12 costume changes that I remember.
We rented a venue which is dedicated to weddings. They provide everything you need, including the meals. Before getting underway we had a breakfast of rice porridge with pork. Turns out it’s much nicer than it sounds.?
After breakfast, we began the ceremonies. Luckily, we had a whole crew of young ladies who would do Theary’s hair, makeup and dress us both. I could get used to having women dressing me, it’s really pretty cool. At Cambodian weddings the women seem to really dig a very heavy dose of makeup. Personally, I’m not in favor but, of course, as everyone knows, Grooms have very little say in how weddings are conducted. Theary even shocked me by wearing contact lenses to change her eye color and make her eyes look considerably larger in photographs. It’s Asia, always weirdness in the air, if you have been here you will know that all personal products have whitening agents in them. So contact lenses for photos is pretty much par for the course.
Once we were dressed, myself, my son, Kris, my pretend parents and a bunch of others form a procession in the street to bring gifts to the Bride and her parents. It’s actually a very sweet tradition and serves to make one a little humble and show respect to your future wife and her family.
After presenting the gifts we are permitted to enter the wedding venue. We carry the gifts and make our way upstairs to the place where the ceremonies will take place
The morning is all about Buddhist ceremonies and blessings from the monks. Unfortunately for me, it also requires a lot of sitting on the floor, kneeling, lots of blessing with ones’ hands held in front of your face as in prayer (Sampeah) . The monks do lots of chanting, sprinkling everyone with water using a brush made from plant stems. Tons of flowers everywhere and lovely incense.
The monk in the above image and I made a real connection. He spoke some English, was very forgiving of my clumsy efforts at sitting and following Buddhist customs. I met with him 3 days later and gave him some gifts from Australia. We had a good chat and both really enjoyed the meeting.
The morning ceremonies are all very sweet. Sometimes I was given only a moment’s notice and a quick run through on some quite complex moves I was expected to make as tribute to the parents in law and the monks. That was a little stressful but I got through it by making everyone laugh when I screwed up.?
After lunch we were given some respite and so headed home for a quick nap. My head hit the pillow and immediately I fell asleep.
Theary left earlier than Kris and myself as, of course, she had to do makeup and hair again. Each costume change she made was accompanied with another hair styling.
Kris and I headed to the reception venue and ran into terrible traffic. Afternoon traffic in Phnom Penh is always pretty bad but today it was too ridiculous. We decided to ditch the taxi and walk the last kilometer in the hot, sweaty, exhaust laden afternoon.
All good though. So yet another costume change and then time to meet and greet the guests. Each guest is welcomed , thanked with a sampeah and a small gift. This takes up some time, about 3 hours I think. During this time I had another 5 costume changes!!?
After all the guest have arrived and have eaten and drunk plenty of alcohol we changed once again into more western style bride and groom clothing. As is normal here, we then walked down an aisle between all our well-wishing and excited guests who showered us in flower petals. In Cambodia it’s traditional to stop the passage of the bride and groom and request them to perform some task. The first one involved some kissing.
The next one was a bit more serious and required skolling a glass of black label whisky. I did the right thing and downed mine and then rescued Theary by downing hers as well.?
After the inevitable speech, which I made sure to keep short and funny it was time to toss the bouquet to the eager crowd of singles. Theary threw it quite far so the lovely ladies in front had no chance as it sailed over their heads and into a group of guys at the back.
There was a desperate bid to be the winner and for a while it looked like the flowers would be destroyed by the guys attempts at claiming it. However, finally sense prevailed and a winner was congratulated.
Theary and I danced and enjoyed the time with all our friends and family until the party finished about midnight. A long day indeed, but not over yet. We decided to carry on at a favorite bar in Street 104 called Oscars. At 2am we finally called it a day. A day for us to truly remember.
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Whats your dream? Is it to have enough money to travel, to put your kids thru college, buy a new car, buy a bigger house?
There really are not a lot of jobs out there that provide enough time or money for you to live your dreams. You do know this by now surely?
The bad times are coming and you better be prepared. The stupid trade agreements most of the world just signed are going to be a stepping stone to making all workers slaves… no rights, no options, nothing… if you are still a worker, you will be doomed.
You need to get your finger out of your arse and make some money now. dont give up, do whatever it takes so you can escape what is coming down toward you at 100 miles per hour
Next year will be too late
Wow bet you never expected to read that from Don Reid Apache Leads but…I guarantee you its true
Once upon a time three blokes were going from Brisbane to Los Angeles. Now because this was in the olden days there were no direct flights so they had to go via Sydney.
This boring stopover gave them a lot of time to kill so they decided to also kill some brain cells with copious amounts of rum and cola. i have to say cola because coke didn’t pay me to use their name even though I was offering the sponsorship deal really quite cheaply.
Anyway I digress, in case you didn’t notice.
So there we were knocking back rums like they were going out of style when finally our flight is called.
Being three of us and being in Qantas economy we sat three abreast on the left hand side of the 747. As soon as everyone was settled and the hostie (political correct term is apparently, flight attendant like they have something to do with flying the plane) came by we ordered more rumbo!
I love those little bottles of booze, they make me feel like a giant.
In no time we were pressing the buzzer again for more rum.
Finally the hostie gets smart or really stupid or maybe just plain lazy and she starts just dropping off three bottles each every time we buzz her. We don’t even have to say anything to her anymore, which is pretty convenient because by now we can hardly talk anyway.
Eventually it becomes time for sleep. We’ve already kept everyone else awake with our drunken jibbering.
Now in the olden days when Qantas still gave economy passengers a few little freebies to make the journey a little more comfortable they included the eye mask. With this eye mask came a round sticker which you could place on the eye mask which read in large letters, DO NOT DISTURB
Now I didn’t want some rude bastard or misguided hostie waking me out of my alcohol induced coma by waking me so I made sure I had the do not disturb sticker prominently mounted on my eye patch for all the world to see. Well everyone around 45c anyway.
Once all snuggled up in my blue Qantas blanky I instantly dropped off into my rum fueled dream land, fully expecting not to be conscious again until LA was well and truly in sight.
Imagine my utter annoyance when I’m roused from my drunken slumber by just way too much noise from directly behind me. Groan. What the hell is going on. Bumping the back of my seat even, do these people have no sense of courtesy whatsoever!
This is simply just too much.
Having a brain the size of a planet (or is that plant) I figure that the best way to get back to my slumber is to not engage my giant brain in what is going on around me. I would be much better to leave it turned off. So without removing my sleep mask I peel off the sticker with the giant DO NOT DISTURB white on black lettering and stick it to my finger.
I then hold up my arm with said sticker attached to finger and wave it around prominently. Wow, what a brilliant idea that was, I could even hear a universal instant quiet and everyone even had an involuntary intake of air. Good! I thought smugly to myself, they’ve all realised, finally that they have been way too loud and were in peril of coming dangerously close to waking me up.
Without a further thought I plunged back into darkness.
Sometime later, presumably we were in sight of LA, I woke from my sleep and carefully, tentatively peeled off my sleep mask and blanky. After stretching and yawning like a well satisfied cat, I looked around and surveyed my surroundings.
One thing which I was noticing was the overtly hostile looks from the passengers across the aisle and even the hostie who walked by jobbing carelessly in the side of the head with her arm. I’m sure that was by accident.
I turned to my traveling companions who were always jolly company to find they too had very strange looks on their faces. Mind you, I should explain, these fellows pretty much always had strange looks on their faces, but on this ocassion they were not the friendly happy faces I expected to see.
No, indeed they were rather stern and decidedly unfriendly.
What has happened I wondered.
Let me see… everyone was happy and jolly when I last saw them, just as I was putting on my sleep mask and yet here they all are looking rather like a lynch mob.
I leaned over to my companions and said “Um.. whats up, what’s the problem?”
Now one of these guys is my cousin, David who is one of the easiest guys in the world to get along with and so when he’s showing signs of wanting to flush me down the nearest crapper, you know there is a problem.
David says “You remember last night when you were having your little beauty nap, all the noise and commotion behind us?”
“Yeah” I say “How rude was that? Nearly waking me up!”
“you remember how you put your little do not disturb sign on your finger and held it up for everyone to see?”
Rather proudly I reply, “Yeah that was a good idea wasn’t it, got everyone to shut up”
“Well arsehole” says David “The guy behind you was having a heart attack and the crew, including the pilot were trying to save his life”
Reporting to you from Paradise Island. The weather is not terrific but I guarantee you it’s a lot better than what’s going on in North America and Europe!
Last night we took a night off from partying and actually got up at a reasonable hour. Kris walked into town to buy a power cord and charger for his laptop because a certain Russian woman threw his away in Florida. When he got back we decided to go on the water slides here at Atlantis.
I have to tell you, these slides are legendary.
We went on a what could only be called an entry level one which twisted and turned in the dark and eventually spat you out into a clear tube which goes through a shark pool. It was really cool to be surrounded by sharks while floating in a tube. We were pretty amazed to see that some of the sharks had learnt to rest on top of the tube carrying us.
Next was the highest scariest slide ever. It’s from the top of the Inca temple in the picture. The scariest part, apart from the sheer angle is that once you start the slide you actually leave the slide and become airborne. Now that’s really scary, especially as you look down and see you have to go through a entry hole into a tube. I was just hoping that somehow I would go in the hole. I did.
Once again you slide throuh the shark tank but the speed this time is way to fast to notice anything except the needles of water smashing into your face.
I was pretty proud of having down this ride cause last time I was here I pussied out.
Guess having your son in line behind you gives you courage you didn’t know you had
That’s the slide in the middle of that temple type building
While I was in Riga I lost my blood glucose meter which was annoying because it was not that old. I bought it from Diabetes Australia and it cost at least $100 from memory plus all the test strips. It came in a nice little black carry case that made it very convenient to take pretty much anywhere. Mostly it would blend into the junk surrounding my laptop and become invisible so that I only irregularly took my glucose readings.
It was some time since I had tested myself and so while here in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, I figured I better look into replacing the meter. We went down to one of the two Wal Marts that service this small town. They both run 24/7 and are about as big as two Bunnings put together. On a side note it’s worth checking out the people of Wal Mart
If you are not familiar with Wal Mart they are gigantic and sell pretty much everything and at low low prices.
They of course had a huge range of meters and I could not believe that I found one exactly the same as the one I lost except for a different brand name on it. It cost $9!
So I went home and test myself. Pricked my finger, got a drop of blood and put it on the test strip and waited the 5 seconds. Up came the result! I totally freaked out at how high the level was. I was thinking my blood must be like syrup.
This was really bad, I didn’t want to start losing limbs so instantly I went into panic mode and prescribed myself a new dose of my medication. Clearly I had not been taking enough or for some reason it just wasn’t working as well anymore. Best to quadruple the daily dosage. Brilliant thinking!
For the last 3 days I’ve been taking four times the normal dose of Diabex trying to get the level down to what would be considered normal.
In addition I’ve not been eating in an attempt to also bring it down. I’ve only had a few meal replacement shakes and water.
Yesterday I was feeling really sick and threw up, which was not nice as my stomach was empty. I did feel a lot better and had a pasta meal for dinner.
When I tested myself first thing this morning it read 15.6 which is not good. This had me really concerned so I thought I should read the manual which came with the meter. I noticed that on the cover of the manual it had a picture of the meter showing a reading of 10.5 I thought, that’s not a very good reading either. It should be around 4 to 8 After I read the manual and found no further clue I searched on Google. I went to the American Diabetes Association site and it was talking about readings above 300! What the heck! Had I gone into one of those parallel universes…again?
Slowly it dawned on me.
Maybe, just maybe the US uses a different scale to Australia and no doubt the rest of the world.
I did some more quick googling and sure enough that was the case.
So rather than reading 15.6 the meter was really reading 156 The US uses a scale of mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter) the rest of the world uses a scale of mmol/l ( millimoles/litre)
I found a site that does the conversion. My blood sugar level is fine and I can stop freaking out and over dosing on the meds.
Thought I was gonna die there for a minute..
I’m thinking that I should have an “Only In America” series for the weird and amazing things one can see in the USa.
Today I happened to be in the parking lot of my gym and came across an old cadillac which the owner had apparently mistaken for either a garbage truck or a rubbish bin.
I kid you not, this thing was choc a bloc full of trash except for the drivers seat. I mean, who doesn’t love trash, but this is excessive don’t you think?
After the debacle at Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport it was nice to get through JFK Airport in New York without any dramas. The only hold up was most of us needed to have our fingerprints and photo taken. It’s nice to put a face to a database.
Travelling on a budget I headed to the shuttle desk rather than grabbing a stretch limo as I have done in the past for the ride into Manhattan.
While waiting for the shuttle to arrive I bought a gingerbread latte at Starbucks. Yes I know it’s gay and I only tell you as a warning not to get one, they suck.
Eventually the shuttle arrived and we were off…well we were off to the next terminal to pick up some more passengers and then we were off…to the next terminal..
Finally we we on our way and we went over the Queensboro Bridge which was interesting and my first time.
I was trying to figure out if I was going to be first or last on the drop offs. I was going to East 14th Street in Midtown to the Union Square Inn.
In Singapore I was the last to be dropped off and it had taken a couple of hours. I wasn’t keen on doing that again, so I was lobbying the driver to drop me first, which really impressed everyone else hahahaha
Amazingly, I was second and hustled into the small frontage “boutique hotel”. I’m fairly certain at sometime in it’s history this hotel would have been renting rooms by the hour.
I lugged my giant new suitcase up the steps and into the lobby. I gave the gal behind the counter my name and card. she told me my room was on the 5th floor and that there were no elevators. Great! The investment in this giant new suitcase was really beginning to pay off.
The next thing really floored me. She handed me an envelope addressed to me! I flipped it over to see who had sent it . The senders address was in New Zealand and I’m certain I would never give anyone in NZ my address. But I was confused how did this person know I was staying at this hotel in New York, hardly anyone knew.
I shoved the letter in my heavy winter coat pocket and grabbed my laptop and my giant new suitcase and struggled up to the 5th floor. Luckily Kris had made me walk so much over the last few months and luckily most buildings in eastern europe have no elevators so staggering up stairs is something I’m getting pretty ok with. but I tell you the giant new suitcase did make it tough and I had to buy some oxygen halfway up or was that cocaine?
Finally found the room and was amazed at how small it was. Smaller even than the one I stayed in when I was in Tokyo.
The letter was at the front of my mind so I opened it up and pulled out the contents. My mind went into meltdown when I realised what I was looking at. It was a letter from an obviously very young child and it started with Dear Daddy. About a million questions flooded into my brain!!
Who was this kid? Who did I know in NZ? More to the point who did I know in NZ that would have sex with me? How old was this kid? Did I have sex with someone in that time frame?
All night I tossed and turned wondering about all these questions. Standing in the shower the next morning I finally remembered… I had a vasectomy in 1996… why oh why hadn’t I thought of that before!!
I dressed quickly and went down to reception and asked the clerk to check the registry for another Don Reid. Bingo! He had been there a few weeks before me.
I’ve never even met someone with the same name as me so the odds he would stay in the same hotel as me in New York can only prove he’s a cheap bastard too!
My mate Alex organised a mini cab to take me to Heathrow Airport. I had booked a flight via the Qantas website using my frequent flyer points.
The flight was a code share on a British Airways plane. My flight was going from terminal 5 which is brand new and absolutely huge.
I figured that i would give the automatic check in machine a go so I whipped out my passport and my ticket info printout. I entered the relevant information and was promptly told by the computer that it could not help me in anyway and that I should go to the “Assistance” counter.
This is where my whole day went downhill.
When I think back it had started out so nicely; nice blue sky, a walk and a coffee and paper reading in Starbucks. A bit of a walk along Buckingham Palace Road
All the niceness of the day was dashed and kicked to the gutter when the woman behind the counter said there was something wrong with the ticket and I need to go up to section 13 and see them in ticketing.
So off I hiked to the ticket people. I have a lifetime Qantas club membership which allows me to use business and first class check ins so i used them at the ticket section. Apparently the BA guy had a problem with this and was ranting and raving on about first class. I looked around and I was holding up exactly … no one.
I asked him to help me out rather than go on about the first class thing.
I showed him my Qantas card which seemed to appease him a little. He clicked a few things on the computer and then said that Qantas had not issued the ticket properly or that it was not complete. none of this made any sense to me because the printout Qantas had issued said it was confirmed.
Because he liked me so much he said “nothing I can do about it mate, you will have to talk to Qantas about it”
I asked him what their number was because I had no idea. He suggested I ring the number on the back of the qantas card … yeah..that was a 1300 number in Australia.
I let him know I had a prepaid phone with about 50 pence left on it
Finally he got off his fat arse and got a number for me.
off I went to call them and was promptly put on hold for 7 minutes. I hung up and sent a text to Alex asking him to put some credit on the phone for me. what a champ in a few minutes it had 10 quid on it!
I decided it would be better to try BA again. Nope, that was useless but they did suggest going around to Terminal 3 where Qantas was located.
So I went down to the basement and found the train station and boarded. nice modern train. Found a seat and dialed up Qantas as we had a few minutes before we were ready to go.
Soon as a human answered I asked him not to put me on hold. I went through the story of having booked online and using my points. He was ok. He found the problem, just as the train pulle dout of the station on its way to Terminal 3. No matter I felt much better cause this guy was going to sort it all out.
He told me that when Qantas had gone to process my debit card to pay for the taxes on the ticket it had been declined. Oh I said, gosh that’s never happened to me before! hahahahah
Anyway if I could give him a card number he would process it right now and get my ticket issued in time for me to catch the flight to New york.
Halfway through giving him my card number we hit a deep spot and the phone connection was lost…
I nearly cried like a little girl
I grabbed by incredibly heavy new big suitcase, laptop, and heavy winter coat and struggled to terminal 3 looking for Qantas.
Nowhere… I asked at the staff at an airline that I’ve never heard of. They had no idea. I went to BA and asked them. They directed me to BA ticketing at the end of the hall and said that BA ticketing handled all the Qantas tickets.
Can you feel my hatred of that jerk back at BA ticketing in Terminal 5?
By now I’m dragging all my stuff and am holding my phone to my ear talking to Qantas. I’m going through it all again with a new girl.
I’m talking to her and to the lady at the BA ticket counter. BA cannot help me, it’s all down to Qantas. Are they going to come good and issue the ticket cause time is running out fast.
YES! The ticket is issued and the BA gal even holds a seat for me on the flight.
At least the train ride back to terminal 5 was more relaxed.
The BA club was excellent and I used and abused it and the flight was excellent as well.
This all goes to show there is no way around paying taxes
My last day in riga was a cold grey rainy day.
Kris was not that pleased at having to escort me to the airport at such an early hour. It was around 8 am when we left the apartment. My last time that I would see Terbatas Street
A couple of days earlier I had ditched the expensive back pack I had bought in Australia except for the small day bag and it was packed away in my large new suitcase. I had upgraded because I can’t help myself, I’m always buying and collecting junk.
So I dragged this heavy thing all the way to the markets. Then it was a pain up and down stairs for use of the underpass pedestrian tunnels. Kris let me struggle with it, nice guy. He’s not a morning person.
Finally we reached the bus station and waited in the drizzle for the airport bus. when it arrived it was already quite full and it was a hell of a struggle to get the damn suitcase on board.
After about half an hour of being tossed around standing up in the isle holding a ten ton bag we finally arrived at the Riga International Airport.
Kris directed me to RyanAir while he went for a smoke.
RyanAir are the lowest priced airline in this and some other universes. I think the fare from Riga to London was about $10. By the time taxes were added it came to a pretty reasonable $90 or thereabouts. You would have to agree that for a 3 hour international flight that’s not bad.
The trick with RyanAir is to follow their instructions implicitly or you will pay very dearly indeed. For example if you fail to printout your boarding pass and bring it with you, it’s going to cost you $80!
They also have a very strict policy with regards to carry on and checked baggage. Both have weight restrictions. My concern was the check in baggage the limit is 15 kilos.
I carefully placed my big new suitcase on the scales hoping that this would magically make it weight less, cause dragging it around all morning had made me begin to think it may weight more than 15 kilos.
The woman behind the counter looked at the scales and involuntarily sucked in some air then turned to me with a look of pure disbelief. She stammered that my bag was overweight in broken English.
I tried to remain calm and smoothly asked, Oh by how much?
She looked at the scale again and then turned to me with what was now a rather white face, the blood had pretty much drained out. 8 kilos she whispered, probably not wanting to have any loud noises startle the clearly insane person standing in front of her.
I asked her how much it was going to cost me to put it on the plane. This must have been such a rare occurence that she needed to make a call. Apparently it was going to cost $250!
So I got out of the line and flipped open the big new suitcase near an unused scale.
The day pack from my discarded backpack was sitting on top so I started going thru my junk and putting as much as I could into the day bag.
After about 15 minutes I had gotten the weight down to 16 kilos and that was all I could figure to take out. Luckily they didn’t bat an eyelid this time and we were ready to fly
After a quick very manly goodbye to Kris I headed into the security line. It doesn’t matter how many times I go through this I always seem to get something wrong. After taking off my belt, shoes, coat and taking my coins out of my pocket, the laptop out of it’s bag I walked through the metal detector.
What could be making the noise. I’m patting myself down as a huge clearly Russian Gulag guard comes lumbering toward me.
Pat Pat, no coins, pat pat, nothing in the back pockets, pat pat, nothing in the breast pocket.
The giant guard tells me to spread my legs and stand with my arms out. That’s, of course, when I notice I left my stupid metal watch on! Damn!
Now most of us have probably had this situation and they wave a wand over you and let you go.
Nope, not in Riga.
The guard puts his hands on yours truly, and I mean all over. Jokingly I said he should buy me dinner first but that didn’t help so I suggested that maybe he could let his good looking female colleague take over. All this comments seemed to make him even more diligent in his search for a bomb cunningly hidden in some orifice.
By the end of it I was shaking and wanting a shower…
Just another example of how time effects us all 🙂
One cold night in Riga, Kris and I were down in “old Riga” having a beer. We were just shooting the breeze and people watching when we noticed some girls across the way in a bar looking at us. Being too lazy to go over we beckoned to them to come over to us.
Surprisingly, they left the warmth of the bar and came out into the cold and over to our table, where we invited them to take a seat. We all small talked for awhile and ordered some Long Island Ice Teas, as you probably know a rather powerful blend of white spirit nips.
The girls claimed they were Russians, from Moscow. Kris asked them a few questions about where exactly in Moscow they came from as he knows the town quite well. The reckoned they came from the circus area and we assumed they meant the Moscow Circus. Having a weekend in Riga was the reason they were there.
The girls kept urging us to drink up and go with them to the dance club next door. Being famous for our awesome white guy dancing we agreed.
So we made our way into the Enigma Night Club and were surprised to be the only people apart from staff. The girls organized some vodkas shots right away. When they arrived there was two size shooters … two small and two tall. Kris and I were given the tall ones which we threw down our throats then hit the dance floor.
Man are we fabulous dancers (not) but this did not seem to phase these girls at all, in fact they seemed to become incredibly excited with us both. Now who could blame any normal girl for getting overwhelmingly hot while checking out the moves of the Reid boys! Normally it just takes a hell of a lot more alcohol to get even a little bit of this same response. So I’m beginning to wonder about it… because I do have a super fast brain as anyone can tell you.
While I’m jumping around like a fool with a tall Russian girl hanging on for dear life another round of shooters appears magically. Once again the two different sizes are shared out. Kris and I get the tall ones. Shoot shoot!
Back to dancing and groping.
Meanwhile my giant brain has been pondering the situation and has raised an alert. Listen you fool! What was that article you just read the other day, you know the one about clubs that way overcharge tourist for the drinks and force them to pay. Wasn’t it a pommie that got ripped for $5,000?
Hmmm… could it be that these girls really were not under our magical spell?
I spied the shooter glasses and could see a bill shoved into a glass. Maybe I better take a look at that, just in case my manly charms are not the real reason this girl is hanging on every word I utter.
I unravel the bill and look down at the total … can that be right… let me think… we had 8 shots of vodka, would that really come to the equivalent of $100?
I looked over at Kris who was doing his best white guy moves, well as good as you can with a girl draped all over you. I got his attention and showed him the bill. Funny how he can shrug and the girl drops like a coat to the floor.
“Screw them” or words to that effect says Kris “Let’s get out of here”
The girls get all excited cause their idiot marks are heading for the exit. All sorts of angriness starts emanating from them and even attempts to block our exit. I get confused and separated from Kris who has powered ahead. So I figure the best thing for me to do is pay so I pull out my wallet. Next thing Kris is back and grabbing my arm. We push through the crowd with him yelling at the bouncers “if you don’t like it call the cops!”
They don’t but they don’t make a move to call the cops, so we just leave.
We reach the old Riga night air and spot some cops. We tell them our story and they basically tell us to bugger off and they take their own advice.
We decide we need a beer so we head to a huge tent with a band playing and tons of people having a good time. Kris goes to the bar to order.
When he returns he finds me entertaining a table of a dozen women from Sweden. We’re all laughing because I’m such an accomplished story teller, apparently.
The night pretty much becomes a blur from this point on and both of us can only remember snatches of an entire night.
It was not until the next day we realized the Russian girls had drugged us with Rohypnol. We can only assume that the purpose was to get us so relaxed it would have been easy to rob us.
Lucky escape, plus we got free drugs 🙂
Kris and I climbed into the old Soviet built 3rd class rail carriage at Riga rail station. We were bound for St Petersburg, Russia at 18:00 Thursday 1st October, 2009.
We settled into our 3rd class cabin (see pictures). It was all new to me as I had not traveled by train since my time in the Royal Australian Navy. However, Kris is an old hand at rail travel especially in this type of carriage having crossed Siberia in one. The cabins are actually incredibly well designed and comfortably sleep 4 people. The bottom seats, which by the addition of a mattress become a bed, lift up to reveal a storage locker for the cabins inhabitants.
There is a communal table for playing cards, mixing vodka and filling out border crossing paperwork.
Each carriage or wagon as they are known in this part of the world sleeps 56 people. At each end is a toilet and sink. One end has the staff accommodation and a hot water system which passengers can make tea or soup from whenever they feel the need. The opposite end can be used by smokers.
Kris gave me a quick tour and then we settled down to complete the border crossing paperwork. I was too excited so he did it for both of us (see picture)
I was noticing that the cabin next to us had some girls in it which is always of interest to me. I needed to think of a plan to get them to invite us into their space.
So to help me with that I figured it was time for some vodka. I poured a couple of stiff ones into our juice bottles. Meanwhile Kris and I discussed all sorts of world problem solving situations . We got up to go to the smokers lounge which caught the girls eye so I said “please make sure you look after our stuff” one of them replied “We will if you give us a chocolate” Now quite by a rare chance I had bought a snickers at the station so I dived into my bag of goodies and dragged it out. I handed it over to her and loved the shocked look on her face. Kris and I then walked off to the smokers lounge.
The smokers lounge is not a nice place. It’s really a small compartment at the end of the wagon, it’s cold and stinks of smoke so I left.
Rather than waste the chocolate I walked back to the girls compartment and was invited to join them. Note to self: Carry chocolate at all times. They were both Russian girls and both spoke English one much better than the other. So it turned out to be a great opportunity for Kris to practice his Russian and to get some pointers.
After a couple of hours chatting we were out of Vodka so Kris went up to the restaurant wagon and bought some beers. I wasn’t really in the mood for beer so I wandered up and bought some more vodka. That was probably a mistake but not a much as going up again later and getting even more.
Lights out saw us kicked out of the girls compartment, damn waste of a good chocolate!
We were too wound up and vodka fueled to go to bed like a sensible person so we headed to the restaurant wagon in order not to disturb anyone with our bullshit.
So this is where things go crazy.
We’re sitting in the restaurant wagon minding our business crapping onto each other when out of nowhere one of the biggest scariest guys I’ve ever seen grabs Kris from behind and starts laying into him. This guy is huge, totally bald and ranting in Russian. Now this is a scary situation, here is a giant brute trying his darnedest to kill your kid. So I’m thinking, “Damn I have to do something or he’s gonna kill Kris” Now I’m not that big, 173 cm so what am I gonna do?
So I race over and jump on his back with all my weight behind my leap. My arms are around his neck doing my best to strangle and break his neck which happens to be about as thick as a reasonable size tree. This incredibly smart and brave action appears to have absolutely no effect on this man bear. So that only leaves me with one option. I’m have teeth and I’m not afraid to use them. I sunk them into this bastards bald head and bit as hard as I could.
The bear lets out a deep throated scream of agony, let’s go of Kris, ( whom I’m sure is rather relieved) and shakes me off as easily as a dog shaking water off it’s coat. He then races out of the wagon much to our relief.
We start hugging and rejoicing at having beaten the giant and survived relatively unscathed except for a couple of cuts and bruises.
So we begin to relax and figure we will call it a night when suddenly we see the giant and another guy wielding steel crowbars heading our way rapidly. Action stations!
We both dive at the door as they begin opening it. We both press up against it with all our might knowing full well that if these thugs get in they are going to kill us both.
They are screaming at us and we’re screaming back at them just as loudly. For some unknown reason I keep telling them that Kris is my son and to leave us alone. Kris is now pretty much holding the door by himself and I’m pleading with the giant to leave us alone and blow me down, they turned and walked away.
We still have no idea what provoked the attack or maybe even more importantly what got them to eventually leave us alone.
This was much more adventure than I wanted and totally wore me out . The adrenaline rush mixed with alcohol was just too much so we both made our way back to our cabin and crashed out until we arrived in St Petersburg (safely) I’m pretty sure this is not a typical event on a train so do not blame me if your next train ride is nowhere near as exciting as ours
We arrived in Riga from Turkey on the afternoon of Wednesday 2nd September. We took a bus form the airport and made our way to “Old Riga”. The picture below gives a bit of a glimpse as well as Kris with a mustache, a hangover from Turkey I think.
On Thursday we began talking to real estate agents about getting an apartment in Riga for a couple of months. We could see from the internet that there were 3 or 4 which could be of interest.
Katy, who seems to know and have some influence over everyone in Riga spoke to an agent who promised to call us the next morning. After waiting until lunch time without a call we began to realise that agents in Riga are not that good at keeping promises. We would find this confirmed with another agent.
That is Katy, third from the left. Anyway, Kris called her and she did have an apartment which she described as two room. We were to learn this does not mean two bedrooms, it means it sleeps two but one of the beds is a fold out lounge in the lounge room. This was not really what we wanted but at least they were willing to rent it for only 2 months. The cost was $350 Lats. Because of the recommendation from Katy we would not have to kick in a security deposit. Things were looking good.
We went for a walk down to “Old Riga” and happened to see a large real estate agency so we wandered in and asked about rentals. They had some but the agent did not speak English so his mate, Maurice, would call us later. Next day, Friday we got tired of waiting and called Maurice. He said he had to check on a few things and would call us back in 5 minutes…
After an hour we called back to learn that he had a couple of apartments which were two bedroom and only 400 euros per month. Unfortunately the landlords were out of town and we would not be able to see them until monday. It seems the agents do not have keys.
Maurice would call us on Monday…
So after awhile we called him and eventually met him and the non english speaking agent outside the building we now live in.
The building is on a cobbled street parallel with the main street and only 2 blocks away. The building was completed in 1914 and is 5 floors high. It has an old style elevator in the centre of the wide stair case.
The apartment has wooden floors, three bedrooms, lounge, dining, kitchen, laundry and toilet off the main hall.
Everything is close by which is good because we walk everywhere. Scroll down to see the apartment PLUS a gratuitous picture I put in of myself and some girls we had dinner with recently
Hallway in the apartment
True story! We had dinner with these gals in old Riga.
We stayed in the small seaside town of Chanakakle (pronounced Shan-a-car-lay) for a couple of nights. The town has a very nice waterfront area with lots of cafes and restaurants near the ferry terminal. A big attraction is the horse from the movie “Troy”.
We took the ferry in the morning over to the peninsula where we engaged the services of a taxi driver who would also be our guide for the next 6 hours. There are plenty of tours but we wanted to be more in control of where and how much time we spent at various locations.
First stop was the beach where the Anzacs were meant to land. It was a long beach with a small strip of sand leading into scrub land. No cliffs, no big dunes, nothing. There may have been quite a different outcome had it not been for the currents which swept the landing boats 2 miles down the coast to what is now known as Anzac Cove.
This little beach is an entirely different proposition. The hills and sheer cliffs give a commanding view over this beach. There is no cover and once past the beach the sandy cliffs and ridges would be incredibly difficult to negotiate. When you consider these guys were also carrying a 25 kilo backpack and a heavy rifle it must have been terribly hard and the terror level of being machine gunned the whole time must have driven them mad.
Standing on the beach it made me wonder why they didn’t simply get back in the boats and row down to the correct landing place under the cover of night.
Up on the ridges there is a bitumen road which runs through what was no mans land. At one point there are remains of both Turkish and Australian trenches. The closeness to each other is chilling.
In fact looking over the entire battlefield from the vantage point of the Lone Pine Memorial it is immediately apparent exactly how small the entire area is. The Anzacs at most controlled a couple of hundred metres of ridges and gullies. The smallness of it all takes one by surprise as it is not at all apparent when filtering all ones knowledge of Gallipoli through old black and white newsreels.
Not all the big sacrifices were on the side of the allies. We went to the scene of a battle where the Turks had run out of ammunition and were under heavy attack form the Australians. The Turks were beginning to withdraw back toward Attaturks head quarters. Attaturk saw this happening and ran down to the fighting to see what was going on. When he learned they were out of ammo he gave them a rousing pep talk and told them he was not ordering them to fight, he was ordering them to die for their country.
They turned and went back to the battle with bayonets fixed and rejoined the fight. Over 300 died in the next hour.
They did hold the line and supplies and reinforcements arrived shortly after. Looking at their graves, I noted many of them were only 18.
Overall the experience of going to Gallipoli was well worth it in order to gain a better understanding and to see the scale of the area. It was emotional and I can imagine on Anzac Day it could be overwhelming. It is disappointing the amount of trash visitors leave, the roads built by the Turks also are irritating and more could have been done to preserve trenches.
On the other hand the cemeteries are pretty well cared for and the Turks do show a lot of respect. The experience did give me a feeling of having connected with my grandfather whom I never met and that was worth it for me.
I was tired from the night flight from Singapore as I stepped off the bus in Taskim, a downtown area of Istanbul. The foreign sights, sounds and smells were amazingly different from any I had experienced before. Right at the bus stop was a Turkish café where my kids were waiting for me with my first Turkish coffee. The beans and water are slowly boiled in a long process which produces a thick unfiltered coffee that is super strong. The more froth the better it tastes. That soon perked me up.
Taksim is a bustling centre with a huge statue of Attaturk. Attaturk means “father of turkey” as he is credited with moving them out of the old Ottoman Empire and establishing the country. He also changed many other things including the way they write, speak, pray and live. Turkey is quite progressive in some respects and has a liberal attitude to personal freedoms and religion. For example you can pretty much buy alcohol anywhere, dress reasonably casually and women have more freedom of dress than many other Muslim countries. Mind you, when I tried to upload some videos to YouTube I found that access is denied form Turkey so there are still some areas which need work.
After the coffee we left for the hostel. To get there we walked down the main street which is paved in stone and is made up nearly entirely of food shops, sprinkled with clothes and souvenir stores.
The streets become more and more narrow as you get further from the main streets. The buildings become more and more dilapidated and stranger in design and construction. I don’t know if they have any real sort of planning process and I note so many dangerous electrical fittings it’s positively scary. I’m assuming that people just make alterations and additions themselves.
We arrive at my first hostel in many a long year. The main “lobby” area is a largish room with a commercial soft drink fridge, a desk in a corner with an old time monitor, some tables, chairs and old sofas. A really small room off the back is a makeshift kitchen.
We took the bags up to our dormitory room which had 2 double decker bunks sleeping 4 people. It also had an ensuite. Turkish bathrooms and toilets are notoriously weird (in my mind). The designing is not good. Water seems to go everywhere for no reasons. The toilets in the western style have a bidet type outlet in them as well for those wishing to use the water and hand method of cleansing. Pass.
A great benefit we have really enjoyed is the company of Owmz, my daughter’s fiancée who speaks Turkish. He was born here but grew up in Australia. Owmz took control of the day’s events. We headed back up to the Taksim main drag and caught a cable train. Then we jumped on a street train. Fantastic public transport in Istanbul. Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. Of course any places I mention can be googled for much more detail than I am going to give you. It really is an amazing building which was constructed between 1606 and 1616. Istanbul is very hot in summer so it was nice to walk inside, barefooted, into the cool dappled light of this huge place of worship. It is entirely tiled by what must amount to hundreds of thousands of individual tiles. Most women had to wear a scarf although the guard at the door waved Jacqui through without one.
Next we went to the most amazing Christian church in this regiaon and possible the world, Aya Sofya. Built in 537 it took 5 years, 10 months and 4 days. A huge domed church used by the Byzantine. We hired a very interesting and informative guide to show us around. Money well spent as we all leanred a lot and thoroughtly enjoyed the experience.
Next Day we went to the Topkaki Palace. If you ever go there, bring water with you. The palace is on an amazing piece of real estate with beautiful views of the city and the river. We saw a wide range of religious artifacts including the beard of the prophet. Now I feel entitled to use that old curse I remember seeing in old matinee movies “ By the beard of the prophet..” In the treasury we saw untold wealth. The biggest diamonds and jewel encrusted swords, medals, clothes etc. We even saw 2 solid gold candle sticks which weigh 100 kilos each!
I tried to upload this video to youtube but found out its banned by the turkish government
When I was 17 I had really had enough of school. My relationship with the teachers was not real good; in fact my last day at school involved my science teacher punching me in the face. I wish I knew where he was, I might be able to take him by now!
A mate and I decided to leave Brisbane and drive to Canberra for an adventure. We packed a bag and jumped in his VW Bug and set off on the 800 mile journey to the strains of “Eagle rock” by Daddy Cool.
Garth and I got jobs as “Landscape Laborers’” which paid $10 per day. That seemed like good pay considering the best paying job I had had up until that point paid $25 per week. Basically the job entailed hanging off a jack hammer that broke up the rock hard ground at a doctors house while be yelled at by a foreman.
Garth turned out not to be a fan of this work or Canberra and left for Adelaide, South Australia.
I moved into Barton House which was a hostel that provided a shared room and 3 meals per day for $14 a week. I shared a room with a guy that had a habit of waking me up every night with the noise of him and a different girl nearly every night. He was my hero. He also had an amazing record collection which I ended up buying from him. I only recently gave them away.
Not long after moving into Barton House I walked onto a building site beside Lake Burley Griffin and ask some random guy for a job. He sent me to their office in the city. I did a 5 minute interview and started work the next morning.
I was now installing elevators for a company called Johns & Waygood. The project was about 22 floors of hotel to be called The Lakeside Hotel. The foreman wasa huge bear like guy who took us up to about the 10th floor.
Most of us looked new. The idea was that one guy would be in a small seat hanging from a rope inside the elevator shaft. The rest of us would manhandle big heavy tracks similar to railway tracks into the shaft. One end would be secured to a hook also hanging from a rope inside the shaft.
We would wrestle these rails into the shaft and lower them down to the guy in the chair swinging around in the shaft. The guy in the chair seemed to all of us to be quite deranged. He was constantly yelling at us, we called him Crazy Larry but not so loud he could hear us because he looked a real scary psycho dude. He had heart tattoos all up his arms but most of them had a scar where the name used to be. That can’t be a good sign of a healthy mind.
Then the rails needed to be bolted to the wall of the shaft. The foreman got a few guys to do that. I had to stay out on the floor and fit the rail to the hook. Apparently there was a right way and a wrong way to do this.. The hook had to go through the hole on the end of the rail and then you had t loop some of the rope around the hook to prevent the rail coming off the hook. I practiced this a couple of times and was then put in charge of this part of the job. I’m happy because already I’m making progress in the job and I am out here on the floor instead of in an elevator shaft. Maybe I can always be out here where it’s safe and relatively secure.
I hooked up the next rail and did the rope wrap around thing. So we pulled on the ropes and dragged this really heavy rail into the shaft which promptly came off the hook, it seems there is a right way and a wrong way to do that hook securing thing. The rail, hung in the air for a little while and then decided it was tired and would succumb to the forces of gravity after all and speared down the shaft. Crazy Larry, on the little rope hanging seat saw this huge piece of steel heading directly for his head. Now I don’t care how good your hardhat is, it’s not gonna stop a couple of tons of steel rail from penetrating even the hardest of hard hats.
Frantically he swung as hard as he could and managed to swing out of the way of this steel death spear by the skin of his teeth.
Now you would think someone would be just plain happy that they escaped a terrible death, but no, some people are just plain ungrateful. Crazy Larry is furious and wants to kill someone, the way everyone around me is backing away from me; I’m beginning to suspect it’s me he is going to want to dispatch from mother earth.
We can all him cursing as he climbs out of the shaft a couple of floors down and comes screaming up the fire escape steps swearing blue murder. I’m not feeling that good right now and wonder if the $46 a week this job pays is worth it.
Suddenly Crazy Larry bursts onto the floor looking around for the dead man walking who nearly turned him into a gigantic shish-ka-bob. The other guys were great, they pointed me out right away to this enraged psycho. Luckily the foreman was bigger than Crazy Larry and managed to hold him off me while he calmed him down enough to have my life spared. I had a new hero, I loved that foreman.
But then he goes and smashes my dreams of starting a foreman fan club by declaring that as it was me who screwed up, it was my turn in the swinging seat. This didn’t seem like a particularly good idea to me but no argument or whining would sway him. So as the psycho smiled nastily at me which did not make me feel real confident of ever seeing my mum again I climbed into the elevator shaft. Pretty quickly I could see it was a long way down.
That’s not a good time to discover a fear of heights.
I hope you will follow along as my adventure unfolds. Watch the video and I’m sure you will see this could be a recipe for disaster!
The first post on my new blog site. Really it’s just a post so I have something there to test the widgets, plugins and subscriber box.
Years ago I set up this site to focus on home business type information along the lines of search engine optimisation, affiliate marketing and mlm or network marketing. It was all good solid information which took me weeks to build into a fairly decent website.
The problem with doing that is once completed it gives one a sense of achievement, however the information begins to decay like last weeks bread. So for years the site languished in disrepair as I focused on other projects. Funny thing is Google still seemed to like it thus we enjoy a page rank 3 (at the time of writing) That of course could change at anytime.
I intend to post items which I find interesting and hope you will as well. but if no one even comes and reads them that’s fine too. It will be a bit of a writing outlet for me.
Subscribe if you have not, I promise not to bombard you with emails. Mostly I’ll just let you know when I’ve got a post that might interest you.