The Tassie trip

We went to Tasmania because we couldn’t afford to go anywhere else. I know that sounds terrible but it’s true. I booked the flights in January when I was staring down my last few days of leave from work and was desperate for a reason to go back and earn money. (The mortgage and bills don’t seem to motivate me as much as they should.)

But in a plot twist that I would have enjoyed much more in a book, I found out that I wasn’t going to have a job by July.

It meant that our Tassie trip wasn’t as relaxing as I’d imagined and I couldn’t shut down my phone and internet access like I’d planned to do. Though the time away from grey partitioned walls and fluoro lighting really helped me remember what I really enjoy.

Like being surrounded by trees, going for long walks and being among our native wildlife at Cradle Mountain.

Or learning about our history at the Port Arthur Historic Site and creating stories in my head about what it was like to live there.

And, of course, wandering around MONA and being totally in awe of the creativity, history and madness on display in the museum. Then going back to the hotel to remind myself that I’m creative too.

I’ve been back for a few weeks now and am still working out my next steps. Though after watching that Neil Gaiman speech that has been doing the rounds, I have come back quite determined to make some changes.

Whether that means working more in the Arts industry or having the flexibility to go for a walk in the sunshine on a Tuesday, I’ve promised myself to create the life I want now instead of listening to other people’s opinions (which I have been doing far too much of lately).

If my self-portrait sketch from my Tassie trip is any indication, then things could be looking up!

 

On Vietnam

I’ve been calling my experience in Vietnam an experience rather than a holiday. The travel guides claim that there’s a lot of development going on in the country but this is more from overseas investors building exclusive hotels and golf courses rather than the country itself moving forward.

There were plenty of times when I was sick of being hassled by street sellers, dodging traffic and trying to get served in restaurants. In hindsight, travelling from Siem Reap with the Buddhist and Hindu temples to Saigon with it’s infamous traffic and war memorials probably wasn’t great planning.

Still, I have some great memories from Vietnam and these were my top three.

1. Hoi An.

Even though I was really ill at this stage in the trip, I loved everything about Hoi An. It’s like a little artisan town with great shopping and restaurants nestled in to old French Colonial buildings. There’s also a lot of Japanese architecture to see and every night the place is lit by coloured lanterns which is really beautiful.

Earth Hour in Hoi An was heralded in with the sound of an air-raid siren, which is something I’ll never forget. I have to admit, there was a little part of me that wanted to bolt to an underground shelter when the siren began and the lights shut down.

2. Ha Long Bay.

It’s stunning. I only saw about thirty minutes of sunshine the entire time but it was still beautiful even in the fog and gloom. The water is quite shallow and a really incredible green colour. I also got to walk through one of the caves, go kayaking and visit the local fishing village which was a great experience.

3. Temple of Literature.

Yep, I saved this one ’til last. You have to dodge traffic to get to the temple but once you’re inside the walls block out most of the noise and it’s really peaceful. The temple is dedicated to Confucius and local students pray at the temple for good marks in their exams. I had a rejection the day before I visited the temple (the nasty things even follow you overseas!) so it felt timely to be there.

So I’m back to routine and reality until I’ve saved enough for my next trip. I’m not sure where yet but I think an English-speaking country could be a nice change.

Tuk-tuks, temples and one massive thunderstorm

I’ve returned home to enjoy driving with road rules, walking on foot paths and cleaning my teeth with tap water. Yay! And now I can post a few of my travel photos for you. Double yay!

Now, I’ve wanted to visit Angkor Wat for a few years so I was a little nervous that Siem Reap might not be as amazing as I hoped it would.

I don’t know why I worry so much. Visiting ruins and temples is my idea of a perfect holiday, so I really enjoyed my time in Siem Reap. All up (and in order), the temples I saw were: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (which is made up of Bayon, Baphron, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants), Ta Prohm (affectionately known as ‘Tomb Raider’ for obvious reasons), Banteay Srey, Pre Rup and Banteay Kdei.

It’s tough to pick favourites, so I’ll choose three memorable moments instead.

1. Sitting on the river bank to watch the sunset over Angkor Wat and being caught in a thunderstorm instead.

2. Visiting Ta Phrom so early in the morning that I was almost alone amongst the ruins.

3. Visiting Banteay Kdei which really feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie (especially when the other tourists are off having lunch).

IN THE BIG BLUE SEA…

I’ve just come back from a mini-break in Melbourne and I’m ready to get back into my writing.

Lately, I’ve been keeping a list of what I need to research or experience for the structural edits of my mermaid book. I’ve already got a few things that I’d like to do (attempt a surfing lesson and scuba diving etc) but after visiting the Melbourne zoo and aquarium my research list has doubled.

My trip reminded me how many gorgeous sea creatures there are, as well as how many hideous and dangerous ones are lurking in the depths. Below are a few favourites from my photo collection.

Hello, ugly.

Starfish: Tim Burton style.

I’m not sure if you can see it, but these fish are completely transparent so you can see their full skeletons.

I’ve always had a fascination for sea creatures that produce their own light.


I loved standing in the aquarium and watching the stingrays and sharks swim over my head (that’s probably the only time I’ll say that) and my visit reminded me just how much I hate eels (they are evil!). Just wandering around and looking at these creatures reminded me just how much of a struggle it is to stay alive undersea. Every species of fish or coral seems to have a mechanism to keep them alive, whether it’s a toxin, camouflage or spiked barbs.

I always wanted my mermaid world to be beautiful but deadly, and the aquarium has made me even more excited about that. I think there’s been a lot of children’s films and books where life undersea is great fun unless you swim into the bad guys – which are usually sharks – but this isn’t something I ever wanted in my story. I love the image of an elegant, ghost-like jellyfish that can kill a human within minutes and the small eyes of a stingray that has buried itself under the sand.

So, there will be no singing and dancing fish, crabs or merpeople in my book. It’s going to be a survival of the fittest and my characters are going to hate me for it.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNT FROM MY LAST TRIP TO JAPAN

I’m visiting Tokyo for Christmas/New Year and it’s going to be totally awesome!

While trying to organise myself for the trip, I’ve thought about what I learned from my previous holiday to Tokyo in 2008. Here are five realisations I had during my last visit:

1. My winter wardrobe is absolutely useless.
I’m a Brisbane girl and in my part of the world, winter exists for about a week rather than three months. Who knew thick socks and chuck taylors would not pass as snow shoes? If I had been anywhere else in the world I would have gone shopping and righted my winter wardrobe but unfortunately 99% of japanese women are a size ‘enviously thin’. I am size ‘normal’.

2. I look funny.
My sister and I were in the line up for a ride at Tokyo Disney when a little boy turned around and gawped at us. He pointed up at my face and screamed, “Gaijin!!!!”. That’s when everyone in the line up (all Japanese folk) looked at me and my sister and giggled. Yes. We foreigners are very amusing (but you guys are so adorable).

3. Japan loves carbs.
So I expected to go to Japan and lose weight from all that sushi and sashimi. Yeah. Didn’t happen. I ate so much rice I thought I was going to turn into a rice ball. Anything I thought to be a vegetable dish ended up being rice, sauce and three slivers of carrot. Also, Tokyo seems to have a french-style bakery on every corner which really surprised me.

4. I can’t afford the shiny, pretty things in Ginza…even on sale.
Ginza! So shiny! So pretty! Ginza is where all the upmarket stores are like Chanel and Minimoto pearls. It is heaven…or would be if I could fit into the clothes and uh, afford them.

5. The people are lovely.
I’ve never had such amazing customer service in shops or resturants as I did in Japan. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t speak Japanese or if I was in a shop in Ginza or a tiny souvenir shop on Myajima island, these people were proud of their job. Also, some of them wear really cute hats and outfits for their work uniform which is so cool.


Oh yeah. The countdown to Tokyo is on!