Follow Amanda & Rob around the world for a year. From 30 September 2005!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Easy Tiger....

We've been in Asia for ten days and we are loving it. Not only is everything nice and cheap and I can eat curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner - worry not for indigestion tablets are also reasonably priced - but everything is much more difficult to do than in Oz or NZ. We like the feeling of not really knowing whether a bus will or won't turn up, or what exactly it is you are eating. Makes everything that much more interesting. The frequency of random, amusing events also greatly increases. Here are just a couple.

We flew into Singapore and stayed for a few days with Kate and Johan (Kate being a fellow ex-Bradfordian - we performed handstands on the FND dancefloor together on numerous occasions). On the almost empty flight over to Singapore, I rediscovered the delights of Tiger Beer whilst playing 1980's Nintendo games - the first swig brought memories flooding back of curry houses all over England. Then when we arrived Johan asked us whether we fancied appearing in an advert for Tiger beer. Apparently they were looking for European looking people, so on the Saturday we all piled down to the local stadium for the photo shoot. The concept was a group of England fans sat together with two empty seats in the middle to advertise a competition to win two seats to a game at the new Wembley stadium. At the rate the builders are working, this will be some time in 2013, but this promotion is to run from August 1st in Singapore. Sounded like an opportunity not to be missed.

Firstly make-up was necessary. Despite my protestations that blue and white quarters are what all England fans wear, I ended up with a face painted red on one half and white on the other. Thankfully more like Feyenoord (that'll please Erwin and Teun) than Bristol City. Johan ended up with a Union Jack on his face and, ironically, the only German on the shoot got made up with a St George's Cross. Sweet.

Then we sat and had our picture taken about three thousand times in our cheering pose. Myself and Kate are right at the front so will be hard to miss on all 6 and 8 packs of Tiger beer, bus shelters and newspapers in Singapore from August. It'll also be on the web so I'll post the link when I have it. What's more they paid me 100 quid for doing it. Easiest 2 hours work I have ever done, and after two days in Singapore, I was already a star. Unfortunately there were too many girls so Amanda didn't get in the photo, but in the end they needed people to sit at the back so you will probably see her torso, but alas no head.

Then on to Kuala Lumpur where, after an hour, I bumped into two middle-aged English ladies in the hotel lift. Turned out they were just looking for a toilet and were staying somewhere else. 'Where?', I ventured to ask, to which they replied that their hotel was half an hour out of town and that they were with a group of 360 people. And they were all Avon Ladies. That's right, it must have been some Avon Lady convention in Kuala Lumpur where they refine their doorbell ringing technique or something. I was heartily relieved that we didn't end up in their hotel.

In Singapore and KL we met up with Kevin again (that is the 5th and 6th countries now that we have seen him). In KL myself and Kevin reverted to twelve year olds and went to a theme park / waterpark. Imagine a cross between Alton Towers and the Weston-Super-Mare Tropicana with absolutely no queues and where entry costs 6 pounds. Needless to say, we were in heaven. Spent most of our time on the slides with the lifeguards seemingly playing a game of trying to kill the Westerners by giving us big pushes down each slide. Ooh it was fun.

We are now in the cooler climate of the Cameron Highlands and had a fascinating visit to a tea plantation today. The scenery of rolling, green, soft hills was stunning and when we went into the factory it actually smelt like a very strong cup of tea. They make enough tea there for 820,000 cups a day, but I was surprised to find no statue of Amanda there as she seems to drink over 50% of that output.

Next stop is a leech-infested rainforest and then on to the Perhentian Islands for a spot more diving. Looking forward to the World Cup - SE Asia seems to be going mad about it without having any teams in it so I am confident I won't have any problems catching any of the games. I'll just have to lead a bit of a nocturnal life for a few weeks. At least the beer will be cheap though....

Over and out.

RM Speake (Famous in Singapore)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The last bit of the East Coast....

Mandarins and horse poo are long behind us now, and we only have another four days left in Australia before we head to Singapore on Thursday. We have crammed in a great deal over the last couple of weeks, mainly centred around three organised tours.

First off was a 3 day trip to Fraser Island in a funny looking off-road bus. We were with 15 others and had a thoroughly good time. Fraser is the biggest sand island in the world, and we pootled along the beach in our bus, went for walks in the rainforest (rainforest growing in sand is a tad unusual), and relaxed on the beach next to a huge freshwater lake. Amanda swam across the lake whilst I stayed behind and played water football and water rugby. We then had a big game of rounders, in which I was out for a duck in both innings. That evening we sat around a camp fire, listening to the howling dingoes and laughed heartily at one of our number who 'found' a huge, very realistic rubber spider next to his feet. I thought it was a very clever practical joke. One of the girls ran off and hyper-ventilated for a while though. She was not so keen on spiders. The next day, the joker got his comuppance when he broke his collar bone rolling down a very large sand dune. I am happy to say that I survived the trip with no injuries. Anyway, Fraser was a most spectacular place.

Then it was an overnight bus up to Airlie Beach for our 3 day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands. This is when our luck with the weather ran out, we had three days of cloud and the sun came out just as we came back into port. But it didn't spoil things too much. The wooden vessel, Schooner Friendship, was a beautiful all-wooden sailing boat and we had a cosy little cabin. The journey to the toilet in the middle of the night through the gally, up some stairs, over the sleeping skipper, along the deck, and down some other stairs, proved challenging, but I did not fall overboard. The food cooked by an Italian chef was great - even the swaying boat did not diminish my appetite, although I did regret the three bowls of pesto pasta and seven slices of bruschetta I devoured one lunch time when it came to snorkelling in the afternoon. We saw lots of fish while snorkelling including a huge Maori Wrasse. It was lovely to sail around for a few days though. Spent hours just looking out to sea.

From there we spent a couple of days on Magnetic Island where we saw koalas in the wild for the first time. Just chilled out there really in a cabin in the forest with wallabies, possums, and peacocks.

Then we dived the Great Barrier Reef. Or is it dove? Or dave? Anyway, we went diving on a live-aboard vessel for 3 days. Again the weather was not good, and I spent the 3 hour journey out to the reef staring out the back of the boat, trying to fix my gaze on the horizon whilst the boat pitched wildly from side-to-side and wondering why I keep signing up to go on boat journeys. Every one we have been on has been a nightmare. As a sign of how rough it was, I barely touched my lunch upon arrival at the reef. This was something that Amanda had never observed before. We did four dives on the first day, although I wimped out of one as I was so cold after my second dive. Had blue lips and was shivering like I used to as a five year old, so tucked myself up in bed for that one. The day ended with our first night dive and we all got in the dark, choppy, water clutching torches wondering why on earth we were doing this. Felt like some kind of surreal Hollywood film. Anyway, we went down and stuck together like glue and it was quite cool really. Saw very little on that dive apart from a little red fish thoroughly startled by six torches shining on him. He was probably changing into his pyjamas or something. Poor fella.

During the night dive the next night we saw Brian, a huge turtle (female one too, so I guess she is a little confused) and a shark circling above us. That's right, a shark. I am writing this entry with my three remaining fingers which is slow-going I can tell you.

We did a total of 10 dives and saw lots and lots of fish including pipefish, barracuda and quite a lot of Nemos. Our favourite creatures were, however, the turtles. They are such great lollopping things, with beautiful shells. To see one swimming a metre or so away from you was, as the turtles themselves would say in Finding Nemo, awesome.

The journey back yesterday was much calmer although we still have our sea legs and are wobbling around and feeling a little fuzzy still. Was a cracking experience, shame about the weather, but the sun did come out for our last dive which was nice. Made us so happy that Amanda even performed the Birdie Song dance underwater for me. Not a good idea - laughing underwater merely causes your mask to fill up with water. The day before, at the sandy dive site called the 'Tennis Court' I had done the same to her with some spectacular tennis playing miming. She thought I had got nitrogen narcosis before she finally twigged when I performed my overhead smash mime.

We are now in Cairns and I am having a great time going around the tacky souvenir shops. Tis a shame that we aren't coming straight home 'cos otherwise all my friends and family could expect some really attrocious gifts from me. The Kangaroo and Koala Bear furry tissue box cover is good although my favourite spot so far is the Kangaroo scrotum money pouch. A truly special gift.

So that's all from Oz. Amanda is publishing photos on flickr as I painstakingly type this, so take a look at that. Next stops are Singapore, Malaysia and the next update will be from Thailand.


PS For the first time in years I missed the FA Cup Final as the midnight kickoff on the day we returned from diving was just too late. I was however delighted to hear that the expert summariser on Australian TV was none other than former Manchester United player and star of the Panini Football 86 football sticker collection, Jesper Olsen. Have no idea where they dug him up from.