Monday, April 14, 2008

Happy New Year!

Songkran 2008, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

I'm back in Bangkok, and what a change it is from Australia. It's very hot, about 40 degrees during the day, 30 at night. And after 2 months of being confronted with severe water shortages I seem to have arrived at the biggest water fight in the world. Yes, it's Songkran, Thai New Year, and people celebrate it by splashing water at each other.It's bigger and crazier than I could ever have imagined, especially in and around Kao San Road. Yesterday there were thousands of people there, all armed with giant water guns, drenched, covered completely with talcum powder and hardly able to move. In other parts of the city celebrations are a bit more gentile. Groups of children, teenagers and the odd granny are on the streets, dancing around on loud music or in trucks driving around and trying to get as many people wet as possible, shooting water at passers by, cars and into the open windows of buses. Even the bus drivers are joining in and are shooting into the buses of their fellow bus drivers.

Songkran 2008, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Last days in Sydney

Harbour Bridge view, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

I'm back in Sydney for my last days in Australia before I fly back to Bangkok. And unfortunately it has been raining a lot since yesterday. Today I managed to walk across the Harbour Bridge while it was dry, but I had to take the train back to the hostel because it started raining again. Hopefully the weather will be better for the next 2 days as I'd really like to visit some of Sydney's beaches...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

This was on my list of must-sees before I leave Australia. The blue mountains are amazing!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Pictures and more news!

Harbour Bridge, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

I've just uploaded a whole load of new pictures as you can see in the slideshow on the right hand side.
And I've got some big news! Some of you already know it, others knew I was thinking about it and for others it's probably a complete surprise. I've booked a flight back home. On the 11th of april I will fly from Sydney to Bangkok so I can celebrate Songkran, Thai new year there. And on the 4th of May I have my flight back home.
So my adventure here in Australia is coming to an end very quickly. I thought I was going to stay here for a long time, maybe even forever, but things worked out differently. I'm very happy that I came to Australia. I've learned a lot. But I think I underestimated a few things before I came here. My money didn't go as far as I hoped it would, and getting a nice job here is not as easy as they advertise on the internet. And I have to say that I haven't found that perfect place I want to live either.
But god knows, maybe I'll come back some day, but then I'll be fully prepared...


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends

Before I came to Australia I accumulated a handful of addresses of friends and friends of friends living in Australia, who invited me to stay for a while. And it's been absolutely wonderful to be able to stay with them.
Backpacking in Australia is definitely very different from backpacking in Asia. Here most backpackers are between 18 and 22 years old, like partying a lot, go to the beach during the day and don't do much else and that's not exactly my style. Of course these kind of backpackers exist in Asia too, but there are also a lot of older people who enjoy some more interesting things.
Budget accommodation is usually in the form of hostels with dorms ranging from 3 to 30 beds. Generally they are extremely messy, smelly and noisy (even though on the websites they look clean and modern). Exceptions have been the YHA in Murwillumbah and Bellingen. So you can probably understand that it's quite nice to stay at a friends house for a few days, where I don't always have my own room, but at least it's clean and quiet.
So far I've stayed with Georgia, Sarah, Emma, Steffi and Wim & Hilde. And I can't thank them enough for opening their doors to me. Last week I stayed with Wim & Hilde in their house in Wamuran. After an exhausting week of running around looking for accommodation everywhere, it was like arriving in a sanctuary. I had my own room in their beautiful house with big tropical garden and swimming pool. It was interesting to talk to them about their experiences as Belgians living in Australia and they took me on a walk in the area and showed me Maroochiadore and Mooloolaba on the sunshine coast.

On thursday I left them and returned to Brisbane to pick up some things I left at Sarah's place and then I moved onward to Bellingen. When I was doing the yoga course in the beginning of my trip somebody recommended Bellingen to me and I can see why. Bellingen is probably Australia's best kept secret. The hostel is probably the best hostel in Australia, small, friendly, quiet and clean. The town is very relaxed, with lots of little cafes, a view of the Bellinger river with a backdrop of the Great Dividing Ranges. At night hundreds of flying foxes come out and fly over the hostel. And yesterday we made a trip to the rain forrest and waterfalls in the Dorrigo National Park. I could easily stay a lot longer, just relaxing, but my train ticket to Sydney for today is booked. Tonight I'll be there...

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Cape Byron Lighthouse panorama, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

I spent a few days in Byron Bay last week. Byron is a nice little town with a beautiful beach but I had to leave because it was too busy, for Easter and the Bluesfest. Because I didn't really knew where to go next I went to back to Brisbane as I thought it would be a bit quieter. But I was wrong, it was just as busy. The first night I was lucky to get a bed in a 30 bed dorm (horrible as you can see on the picture (in the slideshow)), but every single hostel was full for the next day. But thanks to Steffi, a Belgian girl living in Brisbane I didn't have to sleep on the streets :-))
I'll have to remember next time to book a hostel ahead...

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Monday, March 17, 2008


Mt Burrell, originally uploaded by ibeepix.

Last monday I started my first wwoof experience. My hosts Rico and Tomo live on a beautiful piece of land with superb views of Mt Warning, Mt Burrell and the Border Ranges. On this big pice of land they have a house and 2 separate dwellings, a vegetable garden, a lush subtropical garden, a large piece of rain forrest and a few meadows for cows and horses. I stayed in one of the separate dwellings, 'the studio' and had my own balcony and hammock with ever changing views of Mt Burrell. As a wwoofer I was expected to work 4-5 hours a day and my work there was mainly pulling out weeds. Weeding here is on a totally different level from weeding at home though. It seems that almost every single plant that was introduced by the white man in Australia, like morning glory and blackberry bushes, has adjusted to this climate so well that it is growing like some kind of monster plant. Many of these plants look beautiful but threaten the survival of local plants. But I have to admit, working in a garden like this, even for only 4-5 hours a day is quite exhausting.
And as enchanting as this place may look, it is obviously not easy to live here. The area around here is known as a place with lots of alternative communities, many of them professing right livelihood, love and peace, but according to my hosts in reality it is more like a war zone. Apparently under the surface a lot of power games are being played. And it has disappointed my hosts so much they are considering to sell everything and move somewhere else.
The centre of the whole area is Nimbin, and that's where I am right now. Nimbin is a small village, a few hundred people live here. After Byron Bay, which used to be the alternative capital of Australia, turned more and more mainstream, commercial and touristy, a lot of the alternative people moved into the hinterland and some declared Nimbin to be the real alternative capital. My wwoof hosts called Nimbin the centre of the circus and compared it to a wild west town, and I can understand why. Nimbin is a very colorful little town, all the facades of the shops have these flower power murals and many of the people here are freaks and low lives (I'm sure there are some really nice people here too, but it seems that these communities with lots of freedom and no rules attract a lot of weird people) . They look like they are stuck in the 60's with their rainbow colored clothes and bare feet and for some reason it's very fashionable not to wash your hair for at least 2 months. It only takes 3 minutes to walk through the town, but you'll definitely be offered to buy weed at least 4 times. When the receptionist of the hostel I'm staying at showed me around the property he told me that 'off course people are going to smoke weed here, but we have a little space in the back where non-smokers can sit', which somehow sounded so surreal and completely wrong to me.
Anyway I'll be out of here as soon as possible as this is not really my scene. I was kind of stuck in Nimbin for 2 days because there was no public transport to Murwillumbah in the weekend, but tomorrow I'll be heading back to normality. It was interesting seeing Nimbin, but it has left me wondering if it is impossible to have an alternative community that is not stuck in the 60's or 70's, but lives in the now.

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