Archive for August, 2012

31 Aug 2012

Into the Mistral

3 Comments France


You may have noticed there was no mention of the food in Frankfurt and I should stop there …. how come we can catch a train eight hours from Frankfurt, wind up in Marseille and order a salad and it tastes a million times better than anything we ate in Frankfurt? Period. Go figure. There's more than one way to slice a potato, not to mention spell it. Are you listening Germany?

So we are in Marseille.

Nice the place, nice as in pleasant as it is, got the last minute chop.

We arrived late at night and caught the dingy Metro into Vieux Port and felt the grimy edginess of the place. I had been reading online about the routine muggings, the daily torchings of cars and buses. Even last week demonstrators wearing balaclavas were arrested in Marseille protesting against the Pussy Riot imprisonment. Luckily we have neither car, nor bus — nor balaclavas — but we hope to have another bicycle soon.

We awoke this morning. Our hotel is a mere fifty steps from the port. It was a beautiful blue-skied day and Marseille was nice as in pleasant; the slapping of hulls against the water; fishermen with their stands out vending their daily catch. It was all a bit disappointing — not even a single smouldering car body. We climbed a viewpoint and spied the famous Château d'If (maybe that's where they keep all the car-body torchers nowadays?), looked back across a buzzing port, even visited the monstrous cathedral armed with only an iPhone for a camera after fear of said muggings — and we survived. We suspect the whole danger element rumour was a fraud … perpetrated by Frankfurters to keep people there.

Then everything started to get a bit blowy. Signs crashing over, people walking at 45 degrees; that sort of thing. The mighty Mistral had arrived, famed in these parts for the clarity and clean air it brings to the Provence region and feared (for its 50-100 km/h NW routine gusts) by cyclists about to embark on a big adventure directly into the Mistral. Merde!

Fingers crossed it will be gone by tomorrow and Paul will procure his bicycle. And pigs will fly!


30 Aug 2012

The forest is anything but black

2 Comments Germany

We are staying in a small apartment on the outskirts of Frankfurt. It is nice and bright and has a large picture window with commanding views of another apartment block. Only a hundred metres away there is a river, a forest, lovely parks, gardens and running/cycling tracks. Everything is different shade of green — I'm envious.

Catch a train into Frankfurt and it gets more colourful, practically physcodelic. We are not the only big names in town it seems. Jeff Koons got here first. We saw his giant Puppy (“el poopy”) back in Bilbao some years back and now we get to see his paintings and sculptures en masse in all their glory and in some cases gory. The paintings were a bit ho hum, but the sculptures were something else. In a beautiful rather palacial building amongst a large collection of antiquities and some baroque and renaissance art – a real mixed bag if ever I saw one – they have managed to squeeze a Jeff Koons or two. Picture Michael Jackson and his pet monkey Bubbles, gold and gaudy, in a room of Egyptian antiquities ….. or try a wet/dry electric vacuum cleaner in a surrounding of medieval urns. Fotografieren ist verboten. The Incredible Hulk, a giant shiny metallic Popeye (pumped on spinach). Use your imagination — it all sounds a bit kitsch, and it probably is, but it kind of works, I guess … maybe … well it helps if you are chewing some Coca leaf at the time — its an Alpaca thing!

Okay we're out here …. auf wiedersehen.




28 Aug 2012

Something is fishy in Sai Wan

Comments Off on Something is fishy in Sai Wan Hong Kong, Photography
Photos: Chow Karhoo

Stepping out from my apartment I am affronted by the strong smell of fish. For several hundred metres in either direction, shop after shop of vendors selling nothing but dried fish of all descriptions; and then as if there is a sign saying “ENOUGH” the street transforms and becomes vendors selling nothing but insence. Now if they would just get together and intersperse the insence and the fish we could all breathe a lot easier.

You wouldn't be in Hong Kong if you didn't do a bit of shopping. The Lomography shop is way too cool — hundreds of different colourful retro plastic cameras with quirky designs and lovely soft plastic lenses. Guaranteed to take softly focused, poorly exposed pictures every time. And you have to load film. But they are fun, cheap and all the rage. I'll stick to digital!

Mammoth carvings are also all the rage. They are made from the tusks of extinct (are there any other kind) woolly mammoths. The woman in the mammoth shop followed us around like a hawk, ensuring we didn't touch, photograph or break anything. Now where's the fun in that? They command big bucks in Mainland china and even a small piece, centimetres high will set you back thousands of dollars. Good mammoth carvers are in strong demand. Now there's a career opportunity Paul!

The galleries near Hollywood Road are also cool. We bumped into Chow Karhoo and chatted about his current and previous exhibitions. Now he is my superhero. You can check out more of his amazing photos here.


27 Aug 2012

Window to the World

Comments Off on Window to the World Shenzen, World

There was a moment where I thought it might be possible, but it was not to be. I was in the neutral zone between Hong Kong and China, standing in front of the Visa Applications officer when she looked down at me, frowned and slammed down my passport. No words were exchanged. Her meaning was crystal clear.

Oh well — Plan B — the backpack. Again! Just once I'd like to cross a border legally.

Paul's Visa was processed promptly (and with a smile). It seems Chinese-Aussie relations are at an all time high, which is not surprising given Australia, particularly Western Australia, is simply a veneer where everything below the topsoil has been dug up, railed to port, shipped overseas and stockpiled somewhere in China.

Boom times!

And it's evident.

Population growth from 350,000 citizens in 1982 to 14.5 million today. One of the shopping malls — we ventured inside for respite from the sickly sticky heat — has every imaginable shop from Armani to Zara, including an ice rink in the middle of the mall. The lines between capitalism and communism are clearly blurred. After a light lunch of exploding pork soup dumplings,where someone (old clumsy chopsticks himself) managed to splatter soy sauce across an entire table, we snuck out sheepishly to see the world.

Given Shenzen's rapid growth there is little to see culturally … so we opted for the next best thing — the world; miniaturised and rebuilt in the lush grounds of the Window to the World theme park. When you emerge from the underpass that connects the shopping mall, you rise up through the Louvre and are greeted with the Eiffel tower. Tacky comes to mind, and using the Eiffel tower as our yardstick we ventured in to see if it could get any better (tackier). And it did!



Well take your pick: Mt Fuji, the Easter Island monoliths, Mt Rushmore — they were all up there. And then there was a rather sad and neglected looking Sydney Opera House and right beside it (of course) was Uluru, complete with a No Climbing sign and people clambering all over it. Uluru had my vote so far. A little further on was Angkor Wat and an impressive Japanese Garden. Paul was quite taken by the pyramids. The Taj Mahal! Manhattan Island was a thing of beauty, however the Dutch Windmills complete with Tulips were no match for Guadi's wonderfull Park Guell. The Inca rock (climbing) wall was a contender. And then we oohed and aaahed at Niagara Falls and just around the corner we unanimously declared our winner … wait for it … the Venuzuelan Flash Flooding. We waited for what seemed like a long time and when the floods finally came and the skies opened (sprinklers strategically hidden behind the trees) and everyone squealed and pulled out their umbrellas; sheltering us from a major drenching — it was all worthwhile.



Did I mention the dinosaurs? Hmmmm, what a day!


25 Aug 2012

The high point thus far

5 Comments Hong Kong


There is no bad way to eat soft shell crab, but perched on a barstool at the narrow window's ledge counter in the funky open rooftop Ozone bar in Kowloon, 118 floors up and overlooking Hong Kong island, while sweating the equivalent of a beer every 10 minutes, takes some beating. With a tall drink in hand I was feeling positively high. The view is stupendous and the nightly laser light show between competing buildings, like duelling swordsmen, is also amazing.

Half a kilometre below, the Star Ferries all lit up, criss-cross dimly lit Sampans heading out for a catch.

Paul is feeling a little “Lost in Translation”, but to his dismay Scarlett Johannson is nowhere to be seen.