Category Archives: 2009 Australia

AUS ‘09 – DAY 19 – HONG KONG

The final day of our holidays and another hot and steamy day in Hong Kong. We decided to spend the day away from the city and get a  bit of culture with a visit to the Po Lin Monastery & Big Buddha. This was a trip on the MTR (Hong Kong’s underground) followed by a bus journey up steep and windy roads.

I know that it is called the “Big Buddha” but I wasn’t prepared for just how big it actually is – it is huge. Just how they managed to get it to its position I have no idea. (A quick look at wikipedia shows that it was only built in 1993 so I can imagine plenty of heavy lifting gear being involved – also given that it cost $68M they had the money to put it there). It is reached up 260 steps and I made this trip (Helen sensibly elected to stay in the shade) at just about midday – talk about mad dogs and Englishmen. Around the base are a number of smaller statues. The setting is impressive set amongst the hills.

The monastery at the base of the Buddha was a beautiful and tranquil place with the shady areas providing some relief from the searing heat.

We had intended to get the cable car back down to the bottom and the train station but it was shut so it was back on the bus. Fortunately we didn’t have Michael Schumacher as our driver on the way back down.

Given our flight back to the UK wasn’t until midnight we had plenty of time to kill and so we took the ferry back to Kowloon to go to the Avenue of Stars. This had the handprints of a number of famous Asian stars. Not up on my Asian cinematography there were only a handful of people I actually recognised (Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee). There was a great statue of Lee in a pose from Enter the Dragon.

Then the trip to the airport and the long wait for the plane back home.


Click here for more pictures from Hong Kong Day Two

AUS ‘09 – DAY 18 – HONG KONG

The PeakWe seem to have found ourselves a great hotel here in Hong Kong, well I say “we” but the credit should go to Trailfinders if I am honest. Not only is it well positioned with a great room overlooking the harbour, it also has free wifi, breakfast included and a HK$100 allowance for the mini bar. I can’t remember what we paid now but it wasn’t a kings random.

After breakfast of omelette and fried rice we hit the city or more accurately the heat of the city hit us. I have no idea what the temperature is here but but I am guessing that it is similar to Sydney and Cairns but the difference here is that it is some much more humid.

We caught a bus to Central and then wandered through the heart of the city to the Peak Tram station. Most of the walk was on a high level walkway traversing the city from one high- class shopping centre to another. The air conditioned centres were a welcome break from the sweaty heat outside. We then caught a tram to The Peak which was an interesting experience as it was pretty steep. The top was full of tacky shops but there was a tourist free walk around the top along Laugard and Harlech Roads which had some fantastic views over the city below. Stupidly we convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t be too bad to walk back to the hotel. We were wrong.

In the evening we caught the Star ferry to Kowloon and then a taxi to the night markets. This was a few streets of stalls selling all sorts of knockoff goods and cheap “traditional” Chinese items – it was great! We found a restaurant for some dinner and ordered what would have have had a home. We were delighted to find that special fried rice and sweet and sour pork tastes the same no matter where you are.

We got back to the ferry terminal just as the nightly light show was starting. As you look across the harbour the lights on the skyscrapers opposite flash in time to the music playing – it is a great sight.


Click here for more pictures from Hong Kong Day One


Grant & Sharons HouseSo our final day in Melbourne and Australia was spent packing up all our stuff and making Grant and Sharon’s house look respectable before we left the country. We have had a great couple of weeks, seen some fantastic things and caught up with our best friends who we now won’t see again (other than on Skype) for a year. So it is with mixed feelings that we boarded the flight to Hong Kong this afternoon. Fortunately it is not straight back home as we have a couple of days to explore Hong Kong before making our way back to the UK.

I am composing this on the flight and the excitement of having a power point in my seat has now turned to disappointment as it does not seem to be delivering any power to my laptop adaptor. Therefore, with a battery life of only two and a half hours it looks like I won’t get anything significant done other than this post.

Arrived at HK late and crashed.


Cairns from the Esplanade

Another day of travelling (the first of a few coming up) this time making the return journey from Cairns to Melbourne. We left Grant & Sharon and the girls, who we have been with for the last couple of weeks, in Cairns to continue their holiday while we make our way back (to their) home.

A couple of interesting taxi rides (sorry, it’s a slow news day). The first to Cairns airport was in a Toyota Prius of great interest to car buffs and greens (when I say greens I mean those interested in the environment rather than cabbages). I wouldn’t have realised it was a Prius if it wasn’t for the large display set into the dashboard showing the energy recovery and battery usage.

We have made several “interesting” taxi journeys now between Melbourne airport and the house. Today, however, was different as we were making it alone. The service here is notable for two things – firstly they ask you which way you would like them to take you and secondly that unlike British cabbies they have little or no local knowledge and will ask you the way when close-ish to your destination!

The cabbie today duly asked me which way I wanted to go and I replied the “cheapest” (is there any other way?). He laughed and then proceeded to take us the most convoluted route to date which came to almost exactly the same cost as usual. Helen guided him in.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Aus and make our way to Hong Kong.


Great Barrier ReefJust got time for a short post today having had a long day at the Barrier Reef and what an amazing day it was. The Reef is undoubtedly one of the natural wonders of the world and it was wonderful to experience it first hand. Unfortunately this meant having to get my feet wet. In fact I needed to get way more than my feet wet – I needed to snorkel which for someone who is not the worlds greatest swimmer was a real challenge.

After donning my flippers, goggles and snorkel Helen and I gingerly made our way to the edge of the platform and we were off. I could hear my deep, heavy breathing as I put my head down into the water for the first time and boy was it worth it. The waters were crystal clear and the view was just great. Fishes everywhere and coral just a few feet below the surface.

We spent maybe 30 – 45 minutes in our first session before taking a break. Our second date with the waters was less successful as I got a bit panicked as water came first into my goggles and consequently my nose and then my mouth. In reality there couldn’t have been more than a tea spoonful of water but it was enough to put me off. So after another 30 minute session I was ready to make my way back to the pontoon.

Although I had taken some disposable cameras with me I had also hired a digital, underwater, camera and this meant that I could get some really fantastic shots. Haven’t sorted them all yet but click through below for a sneak preview.

Despite my lack of liking for water today was one of the highlights of the holiday.


Click here for more pictures of the Great Barrier Reef


Skyrail & Kuranda RailwayOur first full day in Cairns was spent amongst the rainforest bordering the city. This involved a trip on Skyrail which is a cable car system that runs above the canopy of the forest. Once over the peak of the first hill you could no longer see Cairns and ahead was nothing but green forest and some spectacular views. You could hear the noise of the forest below you and see the Cockatoos flying from tree to tree.

There were a couple of stops on the way up that allowed us to walk around the rainforest and get some views over a waterfall. The final stop was in a place called Kuranda, a pleasant town catering for those arriving on Skyrail or the Kuranda railway. We spent a couple of hours here having lunch and doing some present shopping. I bought a new hat and have convinced myself that I now look like Crocodile Dundee, although I am not sure that is a great look and certainly will be unique around Reading!

We then boarded the Kuranda Scenic Railway for the journey back to Cairns. This takes a winding route back down taking in many spectacular views of the Barren Falls, the rainforest and the gorge.

The weather was perfect and it was a great day out. Now I’m off to wrestle a croc in my new hat!


Click here to see more pictures from Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway

AUS ‘09 – DAY 13 – CAIRNS

P1020464 Today was a day spent travelling, so not much to report.

It is easy to forget just how big Australia is. To get from Melbourne to Cairns it took us 3 1/2 hours flying time – I could cover a good part of Europe in that time. The in-flight movie was “Angels and Demons” so I was glad that I had my laptop with me and could watch what I wanted – a few old episodes of Doctor Who.

On arrival in Cairns and after checking into our hotel, we took a walk along the front and into the shopping district. It seems that there are only three types of shops in Cairns – they are either a) a cafe/restaurant, b) a place selling trips to the Great Barrier Reef and other local attractions or c) somewhere to get cheap hats, tee shirts and flip flops. We made use of both the former and bought all three from the latter. It seems Cairns fulfils only purpose and that is to satisfy the needs of every tourist.

Tomorrow we are the tourist.


National Gallery of VictoriaAfter the rush of the last few days we had a quieter one today, closer to home. We had decided to go into Melbourne for one last time to take in the Dali exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, followed by some shopping and finally a trip to the aquarium. In the end we ran out of time and could only manage the first two.

The Dali exhibition only served to prove to me that he was a mad genius. His earlier works showing a real skill for paint work before the surrealism worked its way through.

In Brunswick Street were a number of eclectic shops selling all manner of things from bespoke jewellery to second hand books. Helen and I wandered along the street before heading back to the centre and a browse around more traditional shops.

Tonight we will be packing for our trip to Cairns. Looking at the temperature there all we will be needing are shorts and “thongs”.

National Gallery of Victoria


Puffing BillyOur penultimate day in Melbourne was spent in an area called the Dandenongs, a local national park. One of the best ways to see the Dandenongs is from the Puffing Billy steam train which runs from Belgrave up into the park. Once the only reliable means of getting around the area it is now a popular tourist attraction. Even today, which was pretty wet, the train was full. It was a great shame that the weather was as wet as it was because we couldn’t really make the most of the views. Nevertheless the train going over the wooden bridge, above, still made for a fantastic shot.

Click here to see more pictures from Puffing Billy and the Dandenongs


Great Ocean Road

A second day on the Great Ocean Road starting with breakfast overlooking Apollo Bay. The panoramic picture above was taken from our hotel balcony. We then drove on to the twelve apostles which are eight (previously nine) rock formations just offshore. Just a short drive on from the apostles was the Loch Ard Gorge which reminded me very much of the setting of the book The Beach. Both were, just like yesterday, fabulous.

Our final stop was to the Triple Falls which was back inland and a change from the ocean views of the rest of the trip. It’s amazing how small an amount of water can create such spectacular waterfalls.

Then the dull drive back to Melbourne.


Click here for yet more pictures from the Great Ocean Road