Bangkok, In Transit

Ungodly hour of 3 AM in Sydney, but it’s nearing midnight here. Managed to catch a few winks. 

Bangkok airport is huuuuge. Like, massive.

Business class travel is… ok… eheheh, that may sound a little like a bit of a cop-out, but I think I may have built up an image in my head which far exceeds expectations. Sure, there’s acres of leg room and you don’t have to contend with people leaning back, but the “pods” that BA has are.. strange. You sit either facing front or back – I was back – and are almost facing someone going the other way. Think of an S – you’re sitting in the “blanks” of the S. There’s so much storage room and places to move around though, and the service is excellent – the only place it fails is living up to my deluded (first-class?) expectations I guess =) I was on the upper deck! Surprisingly smaller than I thought. But none the less, wow!

It has also totally spoilt the idea that I could ever return to economy for anything other than… well, economic reasons. *le sigh* And ever aspirational, I now look forward once more… =/

Also, the night sky is even more gorgeous from the air on a darkened aircraft. Not to mention the patchwork of lights – a vertiable constellation in itself – below when flying over populated areas.

Going now

I’m going to miss… juice bars. Seriously. There’s nothing like Boost there. Indeed, the places to eat for lunch all suck over there. Australia is surprisingly awesome about those things.

I’d say I’m going to miss y’all too but that would just be weak. So. I’m not. We’ll keep in touch.

Europe Review

Most Expensive City: London, hands down. Accommodation in Venice? 55 Euros. Almost equivalent accommodation in London? 55 Pounds.

Most Overrated City: Milan. It’s not that bloody special, and the shopping district is pretty average actually. City felt dirty, unsafe and just out-and-out sucky.

Most Overrated Museum/Monument/Art Gallery: The Louvre. The Mona Lisa specifically. Honourable Mention: Buckingham Palace.

Most Overrated Attraction: The Changing of the Guards. So very pointless.

Worst Restaurant Service: Paris. Rude French waiters are not a rule – some of the best service I had was in Nice – but Paris seems to have a very distinct style.

Coffee So Good You’ll Never Want To Leave: Rome. My oh my was it good coffee – grungy little cafe just behind the Colosseum.

Hello Vertigo: Top of the Leaning Tower. Honourable Mention: La Saguardia Familia, Barcelona, and The Eiffel Tower.

I Ate Too Much: Florence. But the food was sooooo gooood.

Sunsets to Silence Even Obnoxious American Tourists: Nice. Sunsets to make your inner artist cry at their beauty.

Great Value Award: Spain/Barcelona. Cheapest place in Europe that I went to.

You Know We Ain’t In Kansas Anymore: Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Bass That Makes Your Stomach Hurt: Ministry of Sound.

Most Bizarre Pub Name: The Snail and Cabbage.

Rollicking Good Time: Revolution bar, Soho. 6 shots of flavoured vodka for 10 pounds: Excellent Value.

Most Maddening Place in the History of Humanity: London Heathrow. There was an hour’s wait to get through security after check-in. If this place doesn’t get on your goat…

I Never Want to Eat It Again: Pizza. Honourable Mention: Ham. What is it with all the ham love?

I Need To Come Back Here Award: Monaco. Preferably with a Lamborghini underneath me.

(I’ll add more if I can think of any)

I think it’s me

The suitcase was put away today, the contents having found their way to the spin cycle. I’m still not out of the traveller mindset completely, with many things scattered across my bedroom awaiting proper organisation of some sort. Jet lag appears to have waited for a day, finally catching up yesterday and delivering a right thumping to my ability to stay awake at work.

So much has happened over the last 10 weeks at work; while it’s not totally unfamiliar, it’s certainly something of a reset from the comfortable groove I had found myself in before I left for London. I’m re-learning all those little shortcuts that you invariably pick up over time. A couple of faces have gone in the (relatively) short time I was away, which is a little sad. The sun is still up when I leave work, which is awesome, but feels somehow wrong.

Home is no less different. Dad’s been living up here in Sydney for the most part, and he’s brought his touch to the place. The whole house has been painted afresh, the garden is suddenly looking a lot healthier, and things are slightly moved or reordered. It’s home, but then again it’s not quite, which puts me back in that traveller’s mind. I’m flying to Melbourne on Thursday night, for the weekend and the party, which also reinforces that.

My boss more-or-less said, first thing when I came in, that I can probably drop plans to go to New York for work next year – a more useful and challenging position is likely, and that’s in London from April. I almost wanted to walk out the door and start packing again, rather than getting used to home for another 6 months.

The sense of not-quite-being-there is also evidenced by this post, which has taken nearly 3 days to write anything marginally cohesive and/or coherent. William Gibson once described the condition of jetlag as “soul-lag”, that basically your ‘soul’ doesn’t travel at the speed of an aeroplane, and so it’ll take a long time for your soul to catch up. I find that particularly insightful at times. Being stuck in a metal tube for nearly a whole day which is seemingly forever static and forever awash in white noise makes a person more inclined to believing such things as ‘soul-lag’.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Speaking too Soon

Perhaps it was the cold, or my friends having left, or maybe it was just one of those days, but it seems like the previous post was an age ago, none of its words entirely relevant anymore…

As my train came down on Saturday night from the heights of Milan, I made my first attempt at broken Italian small-talk with the lady in the same cabin as me. She’d talked for most of the journey to another passenger in the cabin, but now that it was just us, for the next hour, I couldn’t well bury my head in my book and ignore everything else. She spoke not a word of English, and I only spoke some phrasebook sentences, concoctions of words that work on paper but never quite roll off your tongue the same way when speaking. Still, I managed to extract that she was from Milan, on vacation and heading to Cannes for a week, explaining that I myself was from Australia, had seen much of Italy over the previous week and from Nice I would be heading to Barcelona. And then the train turned, and the sea appeared out the window.

I was entranced.

The sun setting over the Bay of Genoa dropped my jaw, and instantly all thoughts of throwing in the towel were forgotten (thoughts harboured even after buying tickets to Barcelona and booking accomodation, €420 total). The lady chuckled, and the only word I understood from the remainder of her babble was “bella”, beautiful. I continued to repeat this word over the next half hour or so as we went from Genoa to Nice, along some of the most spectacular coastline I have seen. When I reached my hotel that night, I dropped my bags and ran to the shore, a minute away, walking along the Promendade de Anglais at 9pm, loving the sea breeze and the lap of the gentle waves. It was twice as nice the next morning, the gorgeous blue Mediterranean touching the blue, blue sky.

I have a theory going on this sudden reversal of mood – you can’t take me away from the sea for too long, or at least the idea of an Australian seaside. Venice was by the sea, true, but this was much more like what I was used to – sweeping bay, open water, lovely sun. Sure, the beach was rocks instead of sand, and there were parts of it sectioned off (sacrilege!), and there weren’t really waves as such (much more like Port Phillip Bay).

I have another theory which basically follows the idea that I’m a sun & summer lover, and Milan was too cold and cloudy, so my mood dropped through the floor. Plus I posted at night after wandering empty streets alone, and that could only detract further. Nice is nice, no other way to put it.

Either way, this place is gorgeous beyond doubt. I could well live here if I learnt a little french, and if I found a decent bloody restaurant somewhere around here. It’s gorgeous.

Onwards, to Barecelona! Olé!

Onwards, Alone

Today, I left Venice and the people I was travelling with for the last week – a fun week. Rome was pleasantly historic, much along the lines of everything I expected it to be. Florence was beautiful, and Pisa pleasant, a sleepy seaside town that just so happened to have one of the iconic monuments of the world. Venice, while living up to nearly every stereotype about it you can imagine, was filled to the brim with tourists; it hardly feels like there’s anything else in the city – I’m at a loss to imagine who actually lives there that isn’t there to serve the tourism industry. Milan is probably the most instantly “modern” city I’ve seen in Italy, and it pleases me in a little way to find ‘modern’ buildings aren’t the exclusive preserve of the American or Asian cities.

Now… to the bit which probably sounds a bit worrying to Mum, most especially.

I was thinking, reconsidering so many times during my flight out to Rome whether I should stay the extra week or not. Within a day, I had firmly decided I would stay the extra week, travelling by myself, seeing things at my own pace.

Ah, the decisions made on the fly. I remember Studds lecturing me in Japan last year that I wasn’t open enough to leaving things open; now I’ve swung almost completely the other way, still not having a booking for Barcelona, not knowing how I’ll get from Nice to Barcelona, considering an expensive last-minute flight, only knowing that I have a flight booked from Barcelona on the morning of the 10th, and it terrifies me.

I’m still not sure if it was the right decision. I sit here in Milan, and I reconsider whether it’s wise to bother continuing to travel. I’ve made bookings for the train tomorrow to Nice, and the hotel as well, but I still wonder if I shouldn’t hop it back to London for a few days, consider my flight from Barcelona to London a sunk cost and just be done with the whole thing. Perhaps even make a few days in London on company expense by arranging a few days at work.

I don’t know. I felt this instantly when I parted with the others this morning, on a bridge in Venice, but then, when actually sight-seeing in Milan, or indeed even just travelling from Venice to Milan, I was enthralled. It’s the evenings that are the worst, I suppose, because there’s only so much you can do alone at night. Winter by my definition is definitely here in Milan, and that only makes it worse for feeling that keen sense of being alone.

But… but I don’t want to abandon this trip. It’s a telling experience, and I think it will be a valuable one. Going on experience, everything will work out just fine, and this is just my paranoia talking. I’m a Grown Up and I have to show it.

I’m ok, Mum, and I’m just about to call you. I’m ok, guys, I’ll survive this and keep in touch.

Somehow, I’ll turn up at that airport in London on the 11th of November, at 11:30 GMT, bags in hand, hop on that Qantas plane and get home. It’ll be awesome, and something worth talking about. Thumbs up.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Ciao from Florence!

So I wanted to write a “Last Day in London” post, but things got so hectic that I barely had enough time to check that I had money in my account & leave. The post would have started with something along the lines of

The chill of winter is setting in, and the grey ceiling of clouds has all but settled in. I am out of here.

which would give you something of an idea of how ready I was then to just go home and sleep the next two weeks through (and let my poor liver recover from the many nights that lead up to that final day). I was considering calling Qantas, having my flight moved, and just slogging through the next week in Italy because I had already payed for the flight there…

And then I actually arrived in Italy, to 24 degrees of sunshine, blue skies and pleasant evenings. To historical buildings that up until now seemed just that little bit unreal, to delicious dinners to make your mouth water just looking at the menu. That was Rome – and that was disappointing compared to Florence, to long lazy lunches under the Tuscan sun. There really is the hint that the beautiful life, la dolce vita, is just out of sight, around the corner somewhere. I could live here, most definitely. (though occasionally I have reason to doubt the Romans invented plumbing)

I can say that today I woke up in Florence, had lunch in sight of the Leaning Tower in Pisa, and will finish the day in Venice. And that next week I will pass through Milan, stop for a day or two in Monaco, spend days in Barcelona, finish the week in London before finally, finally arriving home in Sydney to rest. And have my 21st at the end of the week after in Melbourne. Wow.