Posted: September 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Tags: cologne, history, Roman, travelling, WW2
I’ve taken a while to write this post because Cologne was complicated. It was the city we spent the most time in, and the city that I pretty much explored on my own (as James was busy being at Gamescom). When I travel I tend to do a lot of reading about the place I’m in, or certain landmarks as they take my fancy – and even notable people (well statues to them).
There is a lot of history in Cologne, not to say that there wasn’t in Paris or Amsterdam, I just got to experience a lot more history in Cologne. From it’s Roman occupation in 50AD (I’m sure the local Germanic Celts were really happy with that), to the modern day, Cologne has an incredibly wealth of history that I could go and touch, and see, and marvel at. Really in Cologne I did history, and a lot of it.
Posted: August 13, 2012 at 7:12 am | Tags: Amsterdam, Travel
I’m on my last night in Amsterdam, and it’s a much different city to Paris. I think that’s partly because we approached it in a different way (we were exhausted after Paris and wanted to be more relaxed), and because we chose possibly one of the busiest spots in Amsterdam to stay in. That and Paris is mostly on holidays in August, and Amsterdam is not.
Getting around in Amsterdam is again easy, though road crossing are perilous – bikes and scooters (which are treated like bikes apparently) show little regard for red lights, or pedestrian lights, and so a constant watch has to be kept out for them, or you may be collected – they are good at using their bells/horns though, so there is warning (provided you can hear them).
Transport around the city is mostly on foot (or bike if you want to hire one, we didn’t), or tram. The trams are more accessible than Paris’s Metro, but still not great. That said, I’ve seen far more people using mobility aids getting around Amsterdam than I did in Paris.
Posted: August 8, 2012 at 5:03 am | Tags: holiday, paris, travelling
I am in Paris, I have successfully communicated in French (though not well), and I have explored this fine city (which must suck for those who require mobility aids), and taken a stack of photos.
I’ve had some odd and funny moments while here, which I shall share because leaving that hanging would be a bit unfair.
The first was when we were being shown how to take better photos and use our cameras better as part of Randy Harris’s Photo Tours. Our guide, Rachael, was born in the US and moved to Paris a few years ago, and now as well as being a photographic artist, she shows people how to take better photos for a living. She was a great teacher, thought that James and I were weird and funny (which we are), and we had a really great time.
James mentioned at some point late in the lessons/tour, something to do with violent crime. Rachael replied that Paris is a safe city, and has very little violent crime (which was nice to hear), but the violent crime that does exists is mainly in the immigrant communities. I almost said, “What, like you?” but didn’t and the moment passed. I wish I had though.
The other funny thing happened today when James and I were wandering Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, we had stopped at a grave for someone from Guatemala, who clearly was important (though we’d not heard of him and didn’t take his name down so can’t look him up now), and James and I both said “Guatemala” several times. I then overheard a girl of about 10 or so correct us with “Guatemaya”, and her dad hushed her. I told James, who hadn’t heard it, and he thought it was the funniest thing he’d heard all day.
Posted: August 5, 2011 at 12:26 am | Tags: Malaysia, Religion, travelling
Today we wandered off to the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple north of Kuala Lumpur. At the station waiting for the train, we met a Sri Lankan man who was in Malaysia for a Hillsong Conference, as he’s training to be a Priest. We spent the journey chatting to him on the way to the Caves, then ended up travelling back to KL Sentral with him.
A cement staircase that is very steep
The temple was interesting, beautiful and oh god the stairs. It was also hot and very humid so I quickly soaked all my clothes. We climbed and climbed and climbed and eventually made it to the top of the stairs.
The cave complex was absolutely amazing. Monkeys everywhere being a nuisance, pigeons being pigeons (including crapping on me) and gods and shrines aplenty.
I took plenty of photos, which are in my Malaysian set of photos.
After we’d finished descending all the steps, we hurried off to the station to go and sit in an air conditioned train and to attempt to dry out a bit.
On return to the hotel Scot looked through his photos and then I fell asleep. I woke up when he returned from the pool saying that it was raining and there was a thunderstorm.
We waited out the thunderstorm in the hotel lounge with a high afternoon tea (and didn’t have any dinner as a result), and then decided to wander off to Central Market, a tourist market of arts and crafts.
I picked up a couple of things for me, and a couple of gifts for other people and then we returned again to our room.
On the way to the Central Market we had an interesting conversation with the taxi driver about the interconnectedness of religions and how all religions were essentially one. Scott forgot that answering the “Are you a Christian” question with “yes” was far easier than explaining “no, actually I’m an atheist”. So we talked about the similarities between Hinduism and Islam, and how Christians fast (or not) versus Ramadan for Muslims. He was a nice guy, and very chatty.
Tomorrow is my last full day in Kuala Lumpur. I can’t quite decide whether I go and explore more of the places I only saw bits of, or whether I lounge around at the pool all day and just relax before I return home. Decisions decisions.
Posted: August 4, 2011 at 12:57 am | Tags: feet, Malaysia, shopping, travelling
I’m losing track of the days, which is nice, but the start to the day was not. I woke up this morning after having two nightmares, which is part of my brain accepting that I can relax. Annoyingly one of the dreams involved my parents, so I woke up being rather annoyed with them – even though it was just a dream. I hate the way dreams do that. I know it wasn’t real, but it doesn’t change the initial emotional response.
After waking up to the alarm – the curtains in the room as so good it is difficult to tell the difference between 8am and midnight – we went and had breakfast in the hotel before wandering up to the Petronas Towers to buy tickets to go and see the view from the Sky Bridge. As it was 11am, and our trip up to the Skybridge was at 3pm, we wandered off to see the KL Aquarium.
We got to see otters! Oh and some fish. And my feet decided that they didn’t like me. So we had some icecream and waited for my feet to stop hurting, before we wandered through the KLCC gardens back to the Suriya KLCC shopping centre (KLCC = Kuala Lumpur City Centre), listening to the prayers and sermon being broadcast from the mosque. We took photos at the fountain, and then went and found somewhere in the air conditioning to sit down.
Once my poor feet had recovered we went shopping in Marks and Spencer (which I wish was in Australia) and bought clothes. I surprised James by calling him on my mobile and asking him what size shirt I should buy him, after I’d found some really nice shirts that I thought would suit him. It was nice to be able to call him to say hello.
We then went up to the Petronas Twin Towers, travelled up to the 41st floor and then walked out onto the Sky Bridge. The towers themselves are a remarkable feat of engineering, and the view from the Sky Bridge was amazing. We grabbed a bite to eat and then returned to the hotel. My feet were incredibly unhappy with me (no new blisters), so we went down to the pool area to lounge I read my book, and after we ordered some flourless chocolate cake (omg so good), slowly ate that, lunged some more as the temperature and humidity had dropped as storms were rolling in. We heard one loud crack of thunder, but nothing more.
We ate at the hotel to rest my poor feet, and tomorrow will go to the Batu Caves to see the Hindu temple there, and then off to Chinatown for eating and even more shopping.
Posted: August 3, 2011 at 12:33 am | Tags: Malaysia, thoughts, travelling
Thanks to blistered feet we changed our plans for today and thought we’d planned to have less walking (we were wrong – but thankfully that wasn’t an issue for my feet overly). On Philip Theil’s recommendation we went to the Islamic Arts Museum via taxi and strolled around there, enjoying the cool and the beautiful museum that they had put together. Photos are here in my Malaysian set.
My feet weren’t happy with the standing so much, so I took lots of sitting down breaks. As it was Ramadan the restaurant was closed, so we thought we’d go to the cafe at the Bird Avairy. We also thought we’d walk – this was not the wisest decision we made. It took about 30 minutes to walk there, which isn’t all that long really – but 30C+ and 90% humidity proved to me that I really can sweat (I don’t sweat very well in dry heat and tend towards heat stroke really easily – clearly not the same problem in humid climes). We went to the cafe and ate some great (and cheap) Malaysian food and then wandered off to the avairy – the world’s largest free flight avairy as it turns out – it is HUGE.
Earlier in the day, from the museum, we saw Silver Leaf monkeys walking over the top of the avairy, clearly on their way somewhere. We also glimpsed a squirrel… SQUIRREL… in the foliage, but not well enough to take photos of. The birds were pretty, clearly used to humans feeding them (we were stalked by several Cattle Egrets), and desperate for it to rain (which it hasn’t done since Sunday morning).
When the heat got too much, we came back to the hotel, cooled down a little and then wandered out to dinner. I decided against the Hakka restaurant I had initially thought would be a good idea after seeing that their menu was mostly offal, and we went to another Chinese restaurant instead. Tomorrow perhaps Hawker food – the lack of eating implements makes Hawker style food difficult unless you can bring your own – and I have a plan.
Other things of note – traffic signals are guides, motor cycles are everywhere, and weave through the traffic in interesting ways, traffic follows rules of which I am unfamiliar (though no one seems to get hurt), and signs expressly forbidding haggling are a suggestion for taxi drivers.
Given the amount of traffic noise whenever I step outside, I am hugely grateful that my hotel is very soundproof. I can’t even hear the building demolition that is happening next door when I’m in my room. Kuala Lumpur has an amazing amount of development going on at the moment Many buildings are in the process of being torn down or built. There are many beautiful buildings going up, and the city is going through a big change. It still surprises me how small the city is though, compared to Melbourne. Melbourne spread outwards, KL has gone up. So much is within walking distance as a result.
Tomorrow the Petronas Twin Towers, the aquarium that is near there, and then the KL tower. More photos will be uploaded tomorrow.
Posted: August 2, 2011 at 1:14 am | Tags: Malaysia, privilege, thoughts, travelling
Things I have learnt about Malaysia today:
Stairs – oh god the stairs. All train and monorail stations have stairs. If you can’t climb stairs in many cases you can’t access the station. I don’t know how people who are unable to walk unassisted manage (I’m guessing they use taxis a lot). So my new years resolution of climbing more stairs has had several extra months of stairs tacked on, and we’re only in day 2 of the trip.
Lonely Planet and I don’t necessarily agree on what is interesting. Scott and I followed the Little India walking tour from their guide to KL, Penang and Meleka. It wasn’t boring (it was hot), but it wasn’t as interesting as I thought it could be. Next time Little India and myself will just wander around together and I’ll spend more time in the heart of the district versus skipping along the outside.
The Police Department has a mosque. We heard the Azan while walking through Little India and then came across a beautiful blue and white mosque, attached to a beautiful blue and white building.
Ibu Pejabat Polis Daerah Dang Wangi Mosque (and office)
I felt really guilty when absolutely starving at 6:30pm, wander into a restaurant (and making decisions when surrounded by choice is quite difficult also), and order food and eat… then I notice the restaurant slowly filling up and people sitting at the table patiently waiting, not touching the food or drinks in front of them, even when their meals arrive, because the prayer and the end of the fasting period (7:30pm here) has not been made. They were more likely hungrier than I.
The more tired I am, the more unable I am to divide by 3 – which makes my ability to compare prices from RM to AUD additionally difficult.
Compared to Australia there are so few people smoking. Most enclosed shopping centres and buildings are smoke free, but even on the street there are so few people smoking.
I’ve spotted a very small number of people sleeping on the street, and no beggars. I’m guessing the police move them on, away from the areas I’ve been to so far.
A full body massage is a lovely thing, and now, I’m going to go and sleep the effects of it off so I can function tomorrow. We hope to go to the Petronas Towers observation deck and bridge, and then perhaps China Town, since much of that was closed tonight (goddamn Mondays).
Posted: August 1, 2011 at 12:51 am | Tags: being somewhere else, differences, Language, tourist, travelling
I don’t know if I will do daily updates of my trip here to KL, but since I have the night done, and we’re waiting now to be tired enough to go to sleep (we mega napped this afternoon), I thought I’d upload my photos to Flickr and quickly write up today.
Though now with attempting to sort out phone dramas (I can connect to our pre-paid provider with no problems – Scott is having issues), I might not get the photos uploaded until later.
Anyway, things I’ve learnt – I’m too short. This wasn’t something I’ve ever had an issue with when flying before, usually the shorter the better, but the Emirates seats were too high for me, meaning that I could not rest my feet on the ground. When I was awake, this wasn’t too much of an issue, but when I slept (and our flight left Melbourne at 2:30am, so I was hoping to sleep), I would wake up in pain from my knees… or from gritting my teeth in my sleep against the knee pain. I need a massage to recover from the flight, so that is something I have planned for tomorrow… vaguely.
Malaysia is as warm and humid as I could possibly want. Cold is a slightly distant memory and being warm is a nice change, sweating is a novel experience.
It is beautiful, the food so far has been amazing, the being in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language nor understand the signage (though a lot of it is also in English) is interesting (mostly from the analysing my own internal responses to this) and things are much closer than they generally appear.
Tomorrow, apart from the massage, Scott and I hope to go to Little India and then towards evening head over to China town to soak up the magnificence as well as the crowds. We’re also planning to go to the top of the Petronas towers, see the museum, art gallery, bird park, butterfly house and everything else this week. Oh and eating, we’re planning on doing a lot of eating.
[Quick edit - photos are now here]