Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Stumbling Across Macleen

Journey from Sydney to Yamba seams easy enough. Hop onto the Greyhound bus in Sydney and it drops right in front of the YHA Yamba hostel. The YHA hostel is quite good, I guess they have a standard to maintain unlike all those self-set up hostel. Still YHA hostel are not cheap and can get quite pricy.

Teddy Bear tied to a Tree .... Almost look like a Koala
So with any new place starts with walking exploring. Yamba is a really really small town. I was trying to walk to the outskirts area of Yamba …. really really far … almost 8miles I think when I gave up. On the way back I saw a public bus … WTF … did not see any bus for the last one hour and now I saw a bus.
Talking to the nice bus driver lady she told me that the bus goes all the way to Grafton through Macleen. I asked her which was the bigger town and she said Grafton. I was about to buy the ticket when she told me the price for a return ticket was AUD 23. Way too far away that was but the ticket to Macleen was AUD 12. Why not …. The blind bus explorer journey.
Macleen had a few nice knicks to it such as the teddy bears hanging on a tree from the folks that are trying to conserve part of what’s left of Macleen town. You would be lucky if you see one person that is not from Australia in Macleen. A traditional Australian fishing village is what Macleen is and a very cosy one as well. Some big shop are there such as Harvey Norman and a huge supermarket but other than that is pretty quiet.  

My luck of the day was going into the fish shop and got myself a nice fish and chips for AUD 9. The fish was a very delicious red snapper thick and fresh and a bunch of chips to go with it.

Visiting Sydney

Sydney was an a ok experience for me but it had the potential to be a good stop. Thing is, it was my first stop on my year long journey so I was naturally a little bit eager to move on and hit the road.

Hostel and Work
The hostel I stayed was at the summer house backpackers which was filled with Germans doing a work and travel holiday. Not much traveling but a lot of working from what I could tell. Common area conversation was almost asking about each other jobs and how much they get paid an hour. One guy was so proud that he got paid AUD 22 an hour and was basking in glory in it. The situation at the backpackers was changed in a sense since most travellers on a working visa was camping in Sydney since that’s where the better pay was in Australia and normally make a home out of the hostel. This sort of ruin the come and go traveller
Drugs
Drugs seemed to be plentiful in Sydney although I did not see it personally. Every night some other bloke would be high on drugs (the pill kind) and would go on to the wee hours partying. The other indicator was that there would be syringe disposal bins in the weirdest places you could imagine. One even told me that at another hostel they have it in the toilets. Somehow Australia did not feel so safe anymore but I am still hoping the dun bother and they won’t disturb you would be workable.
Sights and Touring ….
Lots of tours are available in Sydney that it could bog you down a little. Makes a person vary if he is getting ripped off. I surely did. Now if you want to go whale watching and would be traveling the east coast I recommend postponing that item on your list. I took the whale watching and Taronga Zoo ticket that cost AUD 99. I later found out when in surfers paradise you could get whale watching for AUD 20. Fuck the zoo and go to the kangaroo park or koala sanctuary as well if you go up north along the east coast …. Oh well still it was a nice experience … worth going if you are only going to be in Sydney.
Day trips to Blue Mountain and Hunters Valley and a bunch more which I did not feel like venturing. Sydney was too efficient for a traveller that it feels like somehow you are being ripped off even if all the tour agency that you been to spill out the same prices or close to it.
The free walking tour however is worth a go. I think I posted on it previously … LINK. Markets and boat rides and of course venturing and hopefully surving King Cross Red Light district. King Cross gets crazy at night for that’s is also where all the pubs are and lots of people goes to party. Funny thing is that if you go when the sun goes down you would think that King Cross is like any other party pub street and not a red light district for there are more party goes then the bongo bongo goers. Of course the bongo bongo is more discreet …. I’ll never know …. Too chicken to try it out I guess ...
Walk and Get Lost
Walking would be my favourite past time in Sydney. I could walk for hours and still see something new around each corner. Parks are abundance and lovely as well and each district has its own charm. Budget savvy this was the bulk of my visiting in Sydney. Tuck in one of the parks is also the Sydney art Gallery which house not much but still has an awesome collection of paintings.

 

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Little Misfortune While Traveling

It’s been 5 days now in Sydney. So far things was not fantastic nor boring so I guess I have to be contented. Day 1 was spend with free walking tour, Day 2 as get lost day in Sydney and somehow started venturing Casino …. Knew it was a bad idea but I guess it’s in the blood. Luckily I won AUD 80 which is a plus. However lost it all on day 4 and a bit more. Day 3 was spent at the Taronga zoo … seeing all the animals that I never seen before. Penguin, Seal, Kangaroo, Koala, Tasmanian devil, and some others. It was an awesome zoo which could have took the whole day but due to me trying to catch the whale watching boat had to skip most parts of the zoo. Worst part … miss the whale watching boat. Luckily they allow me to catch the next day …. So Day 4 was whale watching.
A photo of the Poor Box ... since I was feeling down

Start of problem I had so far which is annoying like hell is the refusal to believe that my body has been too lazy for the last two years. Just by walking 3 days in a row my right knee somehow became twisted (I know that now since it healed). Must be from the way I walked carrying the backpack on the first day. Now I am more careful but still that was a sudden scare for me …. What if it was permanent and I would have to travel the whole year with a bad knee … would it get worse and what if it needs medical attention.
Good thing I did not panic and decided to rest most of day 3 and never left the bed for nearly 18 hours other than food and toilet. A little self-massage and a deep heat ailment bought on day 4 did the trick so I am back as good as new.
Second headache was motion sickness. When they say travel young while you can … it also applied to travel young while you don’t have that motion sickness. I used to be quite ok during my younger days but as the years pass it slowly creep in. Starting by getting giddy, then totally affected by the motion. Partially its mental issue I suspect since I have seen my fair share of people with motion sickness. See someone sickness and it becomes yours slowly. It totally got out of control during the whale watching and I was so dead sick by the end of the trip I don’t know if the whale experience was a good one or a lousy one. Still seeing a whale teaches her cub how to swim and smack that pectoral fin and do a body flip was so cool (that’s all I saw before becoming too see sick to move). So I now have a backup motion sickness pills in my backpack.
My charging cable died. How in the world can a USB charging cable decide to not work anymore is beyond me. No indication of damage cuts or abuse yet during the night it would charge and when Iwoke up it was no longer charging. Gave me a fucking scare since I thought my phone was not working instead since it would not start up (No Batteries). Luckily again I somehow decided last minute before leaving the house in Malaysia to chuck a spare cable. That worked well but now I dun have a data cable …. For the cable that spoilt was the one that allows data transfer between phone and lappy. The spare can only charge batteries.  DUH !

These are not serious trouble I guess but still annoying as hell …

Well beyond that all seem fine.

 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Sydney Free Walking Tour

Day one started out well enough with me finding the cheap way to the city without taking the airport express followed by a check in and immediate walkabout joining the free walking tour. Of course the free walking tour is never free anyway unless your guilty conscious would allow you not to tip them after a splendid 3 hours walk around Sydney with plenty of information stuff and recommendation.

Sydney Town Hall

How I knew there was a free walking tour … well hostel map are always the best after all, even better than all the free maps dish out at the hotel or even at the airport or tourist information centre. I found lunch at a Pizza and Kebab shop. AUD 4.50 for a slice of pizza. Definitely sufficient to stuff an Asian stomach. The tour started at town hall smack in the centre of Sydney at 2.30pm and the little lady brought us for a 3 hours ride. 
Few of the highlights I remembered for I think after the lil lady found out I was from Malaysia she did her best to include Malaysian influence on Sydney into the tour talk.  The very very old building next to town hall called Queen Victoria Building (I think 100+ years) had a history where at one point in time they almost demolish it. It was supposed to be a market but ended up a wasted building/slump. Salvage by a Malaysian company (I have no idea why … and I think she might have made that bit up) it was revamp into the now modern high class shopping centre …
In the building there are two significant huge square cuckoo clock hanging down. As you can guess every hour a display of mechanism featuring the key symbolic times in regards with Australia. One of them is a beheading of a British King I think …. Couldn’t really tell ..
Standard highlight such as the Sydney tower was shown … apparently you need to pay to go up, not surprising but apparently if you say you want to go to the rotating restaurant you can go up for free as long as you have a purchase of at least AUD 20 a head. The guide said beer was AUD 8 for a glass up there …. I’ve been up enough towers now to forgo this particular one.
Guide Explaning the Pig at Rum Hospital
Rum Hospital where the hospital was built by the funding of rum trading. Australian History … The guide did give the impression that Auzzie was a laid back country with lots of sense of humour regarding their so called convict ancestry. Still I did sense a bit of backlash towards the U.K. Still I always belie if you can’t even about sensitive stuff …. You have a long way to go …. 
The guide also showed us some pubs and bars which are hidden in Sydney. Apparently it has the feeling that if you can find it then you have the right to enter and enjoy it. I mentally took note of one and headed back for a drink after the tour ended.
Palmer & Co
Palmer & Co was the name of the pub with its entrance an antique wooded door with a classic 1800 yellow street lamp over it. It was situated along a back alley too. Entering the door brings you to a narrow stairwell down to the basement where the lighting are yellowish dim, and entering another large door you will see bars left and rights in the style of a James Bond Gentlemen. All the waitress and bartenders are dress in that manner too and better yet … behave like they were from that time.
My my … how marvellous indeed …. If only I was not in T-Shirts and Jeans - My thoughts at that time
The guide was very proud of the Australian money printing building as emphasized that Australia is the first and one of very few places to make plastic money. Australia, Malaysia (She emphasised this one for my sake), Singapore currency and one more I could not recall is all made in Australia. She was proud of the plastic money stating that you could throw it into the washing machine and it would come out fine. I later told her that if you threw the Malaysia plastic money into the washing machine you may never see it again. 50/50 chance that is since I have known some people to actually see their plastic paper decolorized after washing it.

I tipped her a bit at the end plus a Plastic 1 Ringgit note for her to run her own test J

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Walking from Sydney Airport to Wolli Creek Station

As I pass the immigration checkpoint into the airport lounge I remembered how nervous and excited I was back in 2011 during my first departure to Greece Athens. This time the nervous part seamed to calm down but the excitement seem to follow as well.
To pick up the challenge I decided to google cheap way to the city from the airport. 2km walk to the nearest local subway instead of taking the airport express train. Weather was beautiful on a Thursday morning with sun up at about 15 degrees Celsius. I can do that walk, I thought … backpack was 8.4 kg while the side pack was 4.4kg.
It’s good to be back to a colder climate country … people like me from the tropics are always boiling … I don’t particularly like too cold but ‘teens’ weather was always the best. Walk walk walk … boy is that 2km really far … I was not lost since I ask many locals the way to the train station every 100 meters. Australian folk’s first impression was good. They actually help guide me to the train station … problem was … every time I ask I get another sets of instructions that doesn’t match the previous one.
Guide :
When you exit the international airport after collecting luggage go out the front door. The shuttle bus or busses should be on the right side and directly in front there is a huge ass multi-story car park which also serve as a pick up point at the ground level. Cross the road and head towards the car park and skirt towards the right side of the car park towards Marsh St. Problem is you won’t know its Marsh St. Look out for a small sign on the red building behind the car park indicating the direction to March St. All these are on pedestrian foot path only.
Here is the tough one … once you have cleared the big car park and one red building you would see a highway … walk straight under it then make a right turn and climb the stairs onto the bridge-highway. U-Turn and walk over the bridge –highway. There is a proper large footpath so it’s good to walk. In fact lots of people jog and cycle there.
At the end of the bridge you will need to turn right onto the park that is adjacent to the large ass pond. Go into the park and just walk along the pond till the end.
Another tricky part now … when at the end of the pond … turn LEFT … you should be walking along with the traffic flow not against. First traffic light and turn right and you are now on the road to the train station. You should also be able to see trains passing by but not the station which is just round the corner of the building.
Good Luck Hunting 
About 1 hour walk since I was doing it slowly due to the long-time of unused muscle carrying that backpack … I finally manage to get to the train station – Wolli Creek. Ticket to the city was AUD 4.60.

Monday, 13 October 2014

A Backpacker’s Packing List …

I know now that everything is replaceable and anything can be obtained on the road. The thing about packing list is that it’s a chance to set and prepare everything as best as you can before hitting the road. The more you prepare the less hiccup and minor hassle it would be or at least for the first leg of the journey.

To Over Pack or to Under Pack …. That is the question …

I cursed that I did not jolt down my first RTW packing list … how easy it would be to copy and paste and improve from experience instead of reinventing the wheel. One thing that I knew … there is no right nor wrong answer to what kinda gear one would put in a packing list ..
So simply put …. Below is the list of thing I packed for the 2nd RTW travel … for traveling along autumn and spring seasons

Shirt
 
1
T-shirt (short)
 
4
Heat Tag Shirt (long)
 
1
T-shirt (long)
 
3
Jacket (optional)
 
1
Long pants jeans
 
1
Long Pants
 
1
Heat Tag Pants
 
1
Short pants
 
3
Bermuda shorts
 
1
Socks
 
6
Underwear
 
9
Bandana
 
2
Micro fibre towel
 
1
Slippers
 
1
Shoes
 
1
Belt
 
1
Spectacles x 2
 
1

Cloths Compression bag
 
4
Hydroflask Water bottle
 
1
Karabiner
 
2
A5 Travel Journal
 
1
Shoe bag
 
1
Number Lock
 
1
Nail clippers
 
1
Swiss army knife
 
1
Lighter
 
1
Disposable Shaver
 
3
Tooth brush
 
1
Tooth paste
 
1
Toiletries pouch
 
1

Two items that I been considering very very hard if I should bring along but decided to leave it at home thou is the chopstick & airtight container .... I'll see if I regret the decision

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Preparation for an Extended Long Trip

Unlike a holiday, extended trip takes up a lot of planning. To those whom says I just drop everything one day and decided to travel and leave it all behind … well ask a bit more and most likely you will see an intricate live changing procedure that undergoes before a big trip. Those that actually just drop everything and go either will find setbacks such as unable to get money although it’s all there in the bank or worst yet come home to a bigger problem.

In any case these are the few things that I had to go through in preparation for a long trip … a check list in a way
 
Money, ATM Withdrawal Worldwide
Without a doubt money was the first thing in mind. Do I have enough to travel? How long can I last? But more importantly will I be able to get the money out of the ATM machine half way across the world? The final moment before departure it was more crucial that one could access his own reserved ; … else …. a u-turn is bound to happen
Some might give advice on which bank to use for lower fees and better exchange rate which is all good but remember to make sure it works. So a short trip to the border and test that ATM card … pay that small painful fee … at lease you know it’s working
Also just bringing 1 card is a big no-no … always bring two from two different bank so if one fails the other has a chance. I usually bring a combination of ATM card + DEBIT/ATM card. Also ensure that both bank that are in use are able to transfer money from one to another using internet banking or phone banking, this is in the case one card is lost/spoilt/eaten you will still be able to access money though the other card by transfer …. Nothing feels worse than knowing you have the money but no way to access it … a u-turn is bound to happen halfway since half the money is inaccessible J
A third party – such as friends / parents / siblings can further expend the money accessibility issue and a lot more below but I’ll be sticking to self-sustain post for that is what I intend to do for this trip.
 
Bills – Phone Bills, Insurance,
Next up on the list is bills. How I wish I could travel without the worry of paying bills but unfortunately it is not the case. Whatever bill you have, phone, credit card, water, electric, insurance, etc try to minimize it by discontinuing the service. If it’s not possible such as for me (phone bills and insurance) then find a way to pay it online or auto deduction method. I personally don’t like the idea of auto deduction which can sometime be overcharge and then the troubles of calling up the bank from far far away will come in.
These days almost everything can be online … if the service is not available … find another that has it. Do remember to set up the online system few months in advance so you can test run the online payment system while you are still in the home country so troubleshooting can be done before departure.
Some bills allow you to pay them online using credit cards which can be handy. I do that for phone bills … check the bill, pay using credit card and then use the internet banking to pay the credit card. Check online banking bill payments availability as well for some will allow payment though internet banking when they tie the system into the banking services. I use this for the yearly life insurance payment
 
Mortgage – Loan
I am a big fan of selling everything and travel without worries yet at a young age it might not be possible. So I settle for traveling with loan and mortgage still in place. This time round I have one other item which is the house mortgage.
I choose auto – deduction for these items as the amount is pre-fixed hence I won’t have a sudden shocking deduction if it was bills. Pretty simple this one … one just have to set aside enough money for the traveling period for the auto-deduction. For example … student loan minimum payment of $100 a month … set aside $1200 for a 1 year travel
 
Income tax
This one is a pain in the arse. Depending on where you pay your taxes the rules will change drastically I guess. For those who pay Singapore Taxes like me this is how I manage it. Singapore taxation is accessible online through a tax portal which allows one to view check and verify his tax assessment for the year. As most of the declaration is done automatically by the employer one would just have to check how much he needs to pay. I could either pay in full or in instalment with free interest.
I use the instalment method which is tied to auto-deduction banking. Just have to set it up right and it will pay itself slowly over the 12 months … and it will also auto adjust the taxes for next year. Back-up plan if the deduction fail is to pay in full using online banking. Just stock up some money in the bank I guess …
 
Banking
Banking … although most of the money issue is solved as per above there is always a need to have access to your bank. Internet banking seems to be the best way as one could use Wi-Fi to connect which is free. Phone banking seems like a last resort as international call can be very costly trying to get through those annoying automated machines … PRESS 01 for English …
One of the hidden function of internet banking I have found is that you can do request via secure email though the internet banking. For example waiver of credit card subscription fees which usually the banks charges you first and the aftershock is that you call in and ask for a waiver … in this case look for the mailbox inside the internet banking and send a mail to the bank requesting for a waiver … a reply will be given within 2 working days though the same way and this way you can avoid international calls.
Alternative is of course the painful phone banking …. But I too have alternative to that which is SKYPE. www.skype.com. Purchase some pre amount of skype credits and use it to call the bank instead … as calls to landlines are normally cheaper in skype it’s a good alternative to using an international call …
 
Visa
Visa check …. No help here but just thought it’s worth mentioning. One of the main points is to check for Visa requirements. Where you go and whether a Visa is required. Luckily Malaysian passport requires very minimal visa for traveling the world. My only obstacle would be Australia, USA and India … but fortunately USA Visa was obtain on the previous RTW travels and Australia visa can be obtained from a travel agency instantly. India will be my one challenge in getting the VISA on the road …. Still always plan a re-route for uncertain Visa obtainability and you’ll be fine J

TIP: Get the VISA from the travel agency in Malaysia for RM30 instead of the AUD30 if you do it online. 

Airplane ticket
I won’t pretend to be an expert in this as there are many ways to do it from hardcore no flight all boats, bus and trains to only budget airlines or even buying singles journey as you go. Important thou is that one must either have a large enough reserve or a detour is bound to happen.
I’ll be flying with Oneworld this time instead of Star Alliance. I’ll be using the ONEWORLD RTW ticket … thou it seams easy on the internet getting a RTW ticket takes a bit of effort. Trust me on this … don’t take it for granted and go talk to the nearest airline agency for that big ticket. They don’t sell these kinda ticket much especially in Asia so chances are they have no idea what they are doing and would probably overcharge you.
I’ll probably write about buying RTW tickets in a separate post …. After completing the flight with OneWorld … BEST COMPARISON EVER J

Storage
No matter how much nomadic one gets … if you are going around the world chances are you will always have a small amount of personal belonging that would require storage. I call in favours with my parents … since its free … still I thought its worth mentioning as it’s quite a key item

ALL SET …. Good Luck
Well I am all set for this next journey … once the key stuff is out of the way the next one is the fun part … PACKING LIST