Thursday, 19 July 2007

Ibiza Airport, Spain

Oh how laborious it is going through the motions of the airport check-in. I’ve not once seen James Bond nor Sidney Bristow fumble about with their baggage at the security check-in, struggling to stuff their 100ml toiletries into a transparent sandwich sized zip-lock bag, nor present their (most probably falsified) travel documents countless times before taking their seat aboard the aircraft. I also can’t quite envisage Bond taking a kip on a stretch of hard airport terminal seating to fill in the hours between his early hotel check-out and late flight. Something we have been doing for the past 3 hours. Ah, the follies of travel.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Barcelona, Spain

“Maybe it needs more coat-hangers?”

It had been about 5 hours since my $2’000 AUD Nikon D80 SLR Camera was accidentally knocked off the sixth story rooftop of our Barcelona apartment. The camera, I was quite positive, was a goner. I only hoped to salvage the memory card which had stored on it in a near infinite array of 1’s and 0’s the digital photos of the most spectacular Spanish sunrise over the rooftops of Barcelona city.

Our evening before through to the morning gone had been near perfect. New friends, drunken misbehaviour all topped off with a rooftop shindig and the rising sun. It’s crazy how in the shortest of seconds the elation felt from our night-gone could turn to absolute despair.

“That’ll do it,” declared Ryan as he attached 3 more coat-hangers to the television antenna, our crudely constructed ‘grabbling hook’, and lowered it into the shady terrace that held my shattered camera on a bed of rubbish 6 stories below. I was well dubious this far-out idea would end in success, and with 15 minutes left till we checked out things were looking very grim. After a few more failed attempts, I took over the Nikon-fishing. Repeating positive affirmation after positive affirmation, a few more passes and I snagged the bugger.

“Slowly, slowly,” Ryan exclaimed. Some advice I no doubt needed as my eagerness to hold the thing would have no doubt resulted in me dropping her again. The longest 30 or so seconds later and the prize was mine. A shattered mess of plastic, metal, electronics and glass, but with a perfectly intact memory card, complete with photos that are, I hope, testament to our most spectacular SLR-rescue ordeal.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Barcelona, Spain

A barmy Barcelona twilight, lounging about with friends on our sixth story rooftop terrace watching the pink clouds roll over the navy sky, morphing from bird, to skull, to old woman, and the sounds of restless Barcelona city echoing around us. A female operatic vocal drifts out over the array of staggered rooftops and antennae from some afar Spanish fiesta. Not a care in my head. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Barcelona, Spain

It was interesting to note chatting to the locals at the café outside our Barcelona apartment, the main item of conversation that bridged the language gap was the topic of the television series ‘Heroes’. My memory at once shifted to our room back in Phuket, Thailand, where the same show played, crudely dubbed in Thai, on our hotel television. No doubt a perfect example of the Americanisation of the entire planet.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Train from San Sebastian to Barcelona, Spain

Last night I experienced my first sleeper train. 10 hours from San Sebastian to Barcelona. We were crammed into our mini dorm-styled cabin at around 23:00 hours, six beds to each. I couldn’t help but feel my romantic notions of crossing a country overnight by rail were no doubt let down a little, although the room was clean and functional and it was definitely a boon to be horizontal rather than upright for such a lengthy journey. I could never understand why commercial airplanes weren’t designed in a similar manner, perhaps more akin to the Tokyo Capsule Hotel, or to Luc Besson’s not-so-far-out vision in ‘The Fifth Element’. It did not take long after putting my head down to be hypnotised by the carriage’s gentle rock and to drift off into a well deserved sleep. Buenas Noches. Awaking still in a state of motion to the warm glow of the Spanish sunrise was truly magnificent, and for the remainder of the trip I observed the spectacularly arid Catalonian countryside through our cabin window.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

San Sebastian, Spain

Trivial things that have interested me so far whilst in Spain:

  1. Hanging my clothes out to dry ‘European Style’ on the clothesline outside our kitchen apartment window and (struggling to) have a conversation with an old Spanish woman the apartment across.

  2. The fact that the light switches in our apartment alternate between up and down for on.

  3. The roll-down blinds in every apartment that completely block out the daylight for an always successful siesta.

  4. The neatness and absolute complete use of all space in regards to placement of drawers and cupboards, particularly in the kitchen.

  5. The monotony of colour selection in the lighting store (all the lamp-shades were off-white).

  6. The level of drama and sexual connotation in the advertisements on Spanish television (so many condom adverts).

Sunday, 8 July 2007

San Fermin, Spain

Spain is a haven. Of good tapas, cheap beer, smiles and of absolute chaos. San Fermin was no doubt the ultimate introduction to the Spanish party. No sooner had we arrived at our campsite in Pamplona were we indulging on Sangria and cervasa. After a 12 hour flight it was soon to bed, but not for too long; ‘Next bus to Pamps leaves in 20 minutes’ was my 6am wakeup call, shouted from somewhere outside our tent where I slept in a sleeping bag atop lumpy dirt partnered by a pillow of folded denim and a t-shirt. Ushered into the bus dressed in the San Fermin uniform of white and red I thought about what might lay ahead. All I had been warned was to bring little as there was a high chance I would be returning home drenched head to toe in Sangria. How right the bringer of this warning was. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a wine-fight could be so fulfilling. As soon as the first rocket sounded, and the chant of ‘Olé, Olé, Olé!’ echoed through the streets was my once-white San Fermin attire stained a deep burgundy. Getting Sangria in your eyes bloody hurts, but amidst the joyful chaos of San Fermin you let the pain go without little thought, dry your eyes and push on through the bedlam. The fun I experienced over the next few hours cannot be summed up with words, and only by visiting Pamplona yourself could you truly understand the complete uniqueness of this ridiculous festival. Let’s just say my day consisted primarily of Sangria, fountain-swimming, nude park-runs, tasty baguettes, tree-climbing and a little clubbing on the side. My first impressions of Spain are very high. To sum things up I will say, ‘Me encanta Espaňa’, literally meaning ‘I like Spain very much’ – a phrase that no doubt goes down beautifully with the devout locals. Bring on the rest of this wonderful country.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Full Moon Party, Ko Phangan

Oh what a vista. Observing Ko Phangan through psilocybe-fuelled eyes is like nothing I could have ever imagined. Oh what a disappointment it was to review my photos the next day, only to discover they captured none of the visions I had experienced on the previous evening.

The entire evening was a delight, beginning on the beach outside our Ko Samui bungalow where B and I were abruptly ushered into a 300 horsepower speed-boat and delivered at high-speed to the glory of the once-a-month Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach. We immediately made our way to the neon-sign-advertised haven known as ‘Mushroom Mountain.’ After the first wing of stairs we decided to hold-up; B decided it was time for a smoke-o (of which we had, none), so I queried a passing couple on their cigarette situation. They succumbed and delivered with no adversity and no sooner did we strike up a perfectly flowing conversation. Almost immediately we had obtained two new travel companions. After a couple of shakes we made our way down to the pristine beach and claimed our position for the next few hours. We had arrived on our magic carpet, and for the remainder of the night it contained us, engulfed us and protected us from the unabridged surrounding chaos of the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party. A few Red-Bull-buckets later, we uncertainly decided it was time to head back to the bungalow. Here was the thing; when you make the decision to tackle the Full Moon you obtain a ticket, a ticket that has imprinted on it your passage home. Just like us, the other ten thousand punters who had decided to take on Haad Rin had also decided to wade through the chest-deep ocean on the mad search for their speed boat home. The ensuing pandemonium was a mixture of fun and frustration. After numerous failed attempts to find the boat that was ours we all, without discussion, ploughed back to the beach, threw down our flip-flops and proceeded to dance to the psychedelic trance pumping from the crudely erected sound system. Anxieties evaporated, responsibility non-existent and with the most positive outlook on the horizon, I truly lost myself in the moment. Complete abandon, only concentrating on the here and now, I look back now at the moment with envy. When again will I experience such absolute absence of thought? Not long enough lived, reality set back in and we once again ensued discussion as to how we were going to get home yet still retain our newly found friends. We decided to split, the girls going home together, with the boys following not far behind. After we let them go, a revelation occurred; ‘Oh shit, I hope they found the boat.’ We both scanned the shore to find our lost companions with no avail, until our concern was dissolved with a desire to purchase another round. In no-time we were trekking our way back up Mushroom Mountain to fulfil our desires for another batch of fungus. About now the sun was beginning to rise, casting new light on all of Haad Rin. What I witnessed over the next few hours was without doubt the most visually stunning sunrise my eyes have ever seen. Apricot hues slowly crept up the sand, then the rock, then finally the jungle of Ko Phangan, highlighting the contrasts of the landscape and emphasizing the beauty of the island. There were fifty or so speed boats lined up along the beach with a good thousand punters drifting amongst them, desperately seeking their passage home. Once-drenched with alcohol, drugs and bad behaviour, the sunrise seemed to dissolve the atrocities of the night before, re-instating the islands descriptionless beauty. Tom and I both stood with jaws agape and without words at the exquisiteness that confronted us. Not soon after, the realisation of the time came like a slap to the face – it was less than a half hour till our last boat home. We reluctantly made our way to the shore to proceed the mad search for our speed-boat. Thankfully the Gods were on our side on this magnificent morning and about the third boat we queried happened to be our ticket home. Ignoring the winging heathen on-board, the trip home was a rotoscope of colour, detail, texture, rock, greenery, sky, cloud, wave, bird, fish, beer, petrol and feeling. Hitting the shore of our bungalow brought about a sentiment of ambivalence. Relief to be back, yet sad that the full-moon had set and the party was over.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Khao Sok National Park

A 5 hour bus and Hilux ride later, we finally arrived at Khao Sok National Park, a welcome contrast to the tacky tourist saturated beach of Patong (which you’ll notice I have chosen not to even write about). The vista beyond our bungalow balcony was quite simply one of the most unbelievable I had ever seen; sharp inclining limestone cliffs streaked with steel grey, milky white and peach tones, draped majestically with a gamut of green. Clouds of steam drifted up and over the peaks and graduated evenly into the white overcast sky. The rain fell consistent and light, soaking me slowly, cooling my face. A light breeze blew through the valley. It was relieving to finally escape the swelter of the rest of Thailand.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Patong Beach, Phuket

The poor translation of Thai to English is most amusing. Favourite examples include:

  1. Pina Corrada
  2. Australianan & Thai management (yeah, right)
  3. The Thai chap at the rooftop bar in Khao San singing, ‘She was wij anuva man’
  4. Happy Nice Place Restaurant
  5. Tourris information booth
  6. Brid of Paradice
  7. Corrage Charge