Wednesday, 16 January 2008


I'm spending a few days in Canberra, back where it all started, a long 9 years ago, and it's nice to see that this place never changes. In fact the only change I have seen is that they are replacing some grass outside my old office with astro-turf, the facilities and services manager around here has never liked that patch of grass so he must be happy to have finally won his long-running battle.

The place seems like a country town now, with these massive roads and hardly any traffic, even at the absolute peak of rush-hour it felt like there were hardly any other cars on the road. The other thing that never changes here is that you go out to dinner and there is no-one else around, 8pm is late for dinner, which is strange because I would have thought public servants would have had a bit of money to spend on food. It is always reassuring to see that some things never change though.

I Am Legend

I saw this Will Smith movie the other night, and I had been really keen to see it, having just finished the book a week ago. I have to say though I was really disappointed, they shouldn't be allowed to call it I Am Legend if they are going to completely pervert the meaning of the title. At least the other two film adaptations of the book, Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth, had the decency to change their titles along with the plot and ending of the book. I don't want to give too much away as the book is awesome, all I will say is that if you didn't like the movie, read the book, in fact, read the book even if you did like the movie.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Hong Kong

On my way back to Sydney I passed through Hong Kong and decided to spend a night there, in the hope that perhaps the jet-lag wouldn't be as bad. It was a good thing I did too, as on my night flight from Paris to Hong Kong my seat was in the very last row of the plane, meaning that I was next to the galley and that my seat didn't recline all the way, resulting in a very sleepless night. I forced myself around Hong Kong once I landed though so that my sleeping patterns would hopefully adjust. I do recommend Cathay Pacific, their new planes are pretty good and they let me fly with 28kg of baggage on both my journeys with no excess baggage charges.

Hong Kong was an interesting place to spend 24 hours, it is the third most densely populated country in the world, and it certainly felt like that at some points. When standing in queues people were not happy unless they were touching you, if there was ever any space between you and them then they had to immediately crowd up behind you. I'm just glad I had the experience of public transport strikes in Paris to get me used to the lack of personal space, otherwise it may have been a bit overwhelming.

The public transport in Hong Kong seemed pretty good, what I used anyway, I restricted myself to the MTR (the mass transit rail) and it sure was mass transit. The idea of this transport was really to move the maximum number of people. It was the first train I've seen which didn't have any carriages, it was just one long tube with hardly any seats, just maximum standing room. These didn't have as many stations as the metro in Paris though, it seemed the buses were more popular for the in-between areas. The other thing I noticed in Hong Kong was that everyone seemed to be at least bilingual, if not tri-lingual. Everyone I spoke to had really good english and it seemed that people could all speak cantonese and mandarin as well. All the signs and messages were in all three languages at least. It was also weird being the minority for once, this was the first time, which I can remember, when being a tall white person definitely made me stand out, which was an unusual feeling for me.

Hong Kong sure is well organised, one thing I really loved is that they have a city centre check-in for most of the airlines. Airports are normally way out of the city and the public transport is always exhorbitantly priced to get out there. Hong Kong has realised that if people can check in their luggage in the centre of the city, they will then spend the rest of the day sight-seeing and spending their money rather than going out to the airport in the morning and not returning to the city. More cities should do this, it really makes for a much more relaxed travel experience.

Hong Kong was a surprisingly attractive city, for so many people and so many buildings, it is quite mountainous so there is a lot of (what looks to be) untouched forest on the hills which are surrounding the city. On the first afternoon I was there I took the tram up The Peak. This was a bit of a crazy journey, you have to stand in quite a long line to buy a ticket for the tram, and once you have done that it is then basically a free-for-all to get on this antique looking tram which takes you up this incredibly steep mountain, awesome views from the top though. Everyone is crowding onto this platform waiting for the next tram and you then have to try and force your way on, there is no respect for anyone either, old women elbow you along with everyone else. It is strange because this could very easily be organised well. Just let the number of people on the platform who are legally allowed to be on the tram, that wold certainly remove the flying elbows.

This picture is the view of Hong Kong and Kowloon Islands from the top of the peak, it was unfortunately a bit hazy the whole time I was there.

The next morning I had a stroll along the Avenue of Stars which is like Hollywood Boulevard, just here all the Asian stars have their handprints in the cement. They really seemed to love Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, they were easily the most popular stars along the walk. The avenue is alongside the harbour so I could see all the massive boats (and some not so massive) making their way into and out of Hong Kong.

Overall Hong Kong is a pretty cool place to have a stop-over and the shopping sure is good!


It's been a while since I last posted and once you haven't posted for a while all the stuff you want to write about gets a bit overwhelming so you end up not posting anything and the list of stuff to write about just gets longer. So there may end up being a lot of postings today as I try to clear the backlog. At the moment I am in Sydney for a 6 week holiday, I love the French public servant holidays. I came back via Hong Kong where I spent a day exploring the city, before arriving back here 2 days before Christmas with Christmas shopping still to complete. Sydney has been good, I've never spent so much time here before, only ever visiting for a weekend or so. It is a really pretty city what with its parks and beaches all over the place as well as the harbour, of course. It's just a pity that all the beaches are hard to get to, what with the pitiful public transport and really bad parking and driving. The buses are not too bad, so long as you only have to catch one, once there is a connection involved though it can get really painful.

It is certainly different from Canberra, there the emphasis was on outdoor sports, things like rogaining, triathlons, cross country races and Canberra was really awesome for that sort of thing. It's only when you leave that you realise just how great you had it. Sydney has different attractions, the beaches and the warmer weather sure is nice. It's just a shame that the long bike rides are going to be full of traffic and the mountain biking is going to be in short supply.

I've also found that Sydneysiders really are different from Canberrans and Darwinians, which are the only other 2 cities I have lived in. I've found them to be way more judgemental here, when you walk into a pub or if you are out shopping you can certainly feel everyone giving you the once over as to what you are wearing, which is a little disconcerting. You also can't help thinking of the stereotypical comparison of Sydney and Melbourne and Los Angeles and New York. Sydney feels like it is full of vain sun worshippers (like Los Angeles) whilst Melbourne gives the impression of black-wearing, artsy types (perhaps more like New York). Sydney sure has it's own sense of style which I wouldn't call classy, but I suppose it is too hot to worry about class and so people go for that skin bearing, beachy wear. I'm looking forward to exploring the place though and finding the good spots of Sydney as well as some good places to exercise.