Mouth of the Pacific

13 Aug

I just completed a 9 and a half hour flight from Melbourne to Honolulu on Jetstar’s 787 Dreamliner. Great modern plane, plenty of personal space and a very quiet ride… except for Danielle.

Danielle was the morbidly rotund girl sitting in the row behind me conducting a loud and animated conversation with her unfortunate co-traveller (not sure if the companion was previously known to Danielle or was just an unfortunate victim of circumstance). I initially thought Danielle was talking to someone who was hearing impaired because there could be no other reason for her to be speaking so loud.

I’ve never understood people who conduct public conversations as if they are the only people in the room – and as if the person they are talking to is clear on the other side of a very large room!

This verbal assault on everyone within a ten-passenger radius began even before the plane had pushed back from the terminal. I thought that a) she’ll shut her fat trap soon, and b) my noise cancelling headphones will cancel Danielle.

Wrong on both counts.

Her mouth was all-conquering and the inane prattle that came out of it went on for the entire flight, even when she was stuffing it with food. This girl can multi-task. I could track Danielle’s monologuing even over the movie soundtracks coming through my Bose headphones (damn you Bose).

To add to the pain, Danielle’s mum and dad (no doubt putting to use years of experience) were sitting separate from Danielle in the ROW IN FRONT OF ME. When Danielle wasn’t haranguing her neighbour she was calling out to mum to ask if she wanted a refreshing grapefruit face wipe or asking if she should have the muffin or the banana bread – so much easier than using that new-fangled in-seat messaging system on all the seat-back screens.

This continued long after the lights went down and most of the plane was trying to sleep. Over the course of the flight I got to know Danielle a lot better than I ever really wanted to. I know where she works, I know what she had for lunch yesterday, I know her Asian boss’s name, I know her favourite foods (she has a lot of favourite foods), I know that she didn’t like the broccoli in her in-flight meal which is funny because she normally likes broccoli so she’s not sure what they did to this broccoli, I know that she doesn’t eat bread (surprising), I know her favourite TV shows, movies and personalities and perhaps most disturbingly I now know her bra size.

As if this wasn’t aggravation enough, each time she got up to go to the bathroom she would thrust her generously proportioned lower torso into my personal space as she reached to get her backpack from the overhead locker, and then proceed to bash it into people left and right as she lolloped down the passageway.

I had a strong urge to KILL Danielle and feed a small Polynesian island for a year.

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An Open Letter to Julia Gillard

9 Dec

An Open Letter to Julia Gillard.

It’s Time

1 Dec
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I'm here to be Represented

Last weekend I attended my partner’s brother’s wedding. In another country I might be able to say that I attended my brother-in-law’s wedding.

And then on Monday I took my daughter to Canberra for a National Gymnastics competition. I swam in the AIS pool. I entered Parliament House through the same doors as everyone else. No problem there.

But I’m gay, so Australian Law says I can’t marry my partner. A silly analogy? Ok, so gays don’t suffer segregation in Australia, but every time we go to a wedding and have to listen to that compulsory Section 46 claptrap “marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman” we are reminded of our sub-class status.

Sure, we can have a civil union (in some states) or register our relationships… Screw that. Rosa Parkes refused to sit at the back of the bus and neither should gays be treated as second class citizens.

Marriage already takes so many different forms in Australia – Christian, Muslim, non-denominational, arranged, marriages of convenience for immigration – surely we are mature and tolerant enough to afford the same basic human rights to same sex couples.

And what the fuck is the downside? Will society as we know it really collapse? Every opponent of gay marriage I’ve heard sounds like a Henny Penny alarmist. Every argument is as idiotic as climate change denial.

If Julia Gillard had been ‘at work’ this week I would have liked to ask her if she truly believes that same sex relationships are less worthy than straight ones, or is her position merely one of political safety? I don’t think I would bother asking Tony Abbott the same question: I expect his prejudices are genuinely heart-felt.

And so gay Australians and their friends and families who care about ending discrimination are left with a demoralizing choice between the politically gutless on one side and right wing bigotry on the other.

It’s all going to change eventually. Just like women’s voting rights and White Australia and laws that prevented inter-racial marriage. And one day we’ll look back on all of these things with a similar sense of shame and incredulity. Even though I know marriage law will change, it frankly sickens me that we should have to beg, argue, lobby, protest and campaign for what should be an inalienable human right.

So Prime Minister, you can go down as one of the vision impaired politicians who opposed the inevitable (or put less charitably, ‘supported human rights violations’) or you can lead this country into a new era of equality. It’s a no-brainer really. You back-flipped on carbon tax so why not same sex marriage?

Julia, you can’t legislate love and you’re an idiot if you think you can. It’s time, if I may borrow a forgotten Labor motto. Fix this thing, move on, then get on with the business of running the country.

Postings from Phi Phi

25 Sep

Departed our luxurious Katathani abode (reluctantly) on Friday morning, bound via a combination of car, ferry, and longtail boat, for the Holiday Inn, Phi Phi Island. It’s about a two hour boat so Evan double dosed on his travel sickness pills in anticipation.

Arrived at Phi Phi and transferred from ferry to a longtail boat to go ashore at Holiday Inn. I can’t begin to describe the paradisiacal (yes, it’s a word, I looked it up) quality of this place. Just try to picture the clear turquoise water, white sands, palm trees, traditional thai boats, makeshift beach bars, a lush jungle backdrop… Got that? Now imagine that the sun is shimmering on the swimming pool, its about 30c, only a little bit cooler in the water, there’s a gentle sea breeze and you’ve got a welcome cocktail in your hand as you await check-in. (This may be beyond your imagination if you are reading this in Victoria)

Sadly by this time it had become apparent that Evan had taken one too many sea sickness pills and he was passed out on a poolside lounge. I would only get about six words out of him over the course of the next four hours. I’ve suggested he put up with sea sickness for the return journey – it doesn’t last as long.

Lunch was at the resort. Pineapple baked Thai rice. Delicious. Food, drinks and other services at the resort are fairly expensive, but soon discovered there is a little beach village nearby where prices are very reasonable and you can barter for things like longtail boat trips to other islands and the town of Tonsai on Phi Phi.

Spent the afternoon swimming in the lagoon (schools of inquisitive fish come up to you, even to have a nibble), lounging in or by the pool, and watching Evan sleep.

Ventured outside the resort to the Jasmine Restaurant (Evan now speaking again) and enjoyed an excellent Pad Thai, and a punchy Som Tam (green papaya salad with prawns), and green chicken curry. Their Tom Yum Goong is pretty good too, with loads of plump prawns. Drinks included, this came to about $24. Retired for an early night.

Today (Saturday) we were up early (Evan in particular being well rested) to check out the latest breakfast buffet. We ate on the deck looking out to the water. According to someone  it is auspicious when a bird craps on you. Well a bird crapped in Evan’s fruit compote this morning… does that count? It probably does, because it splattered all over him.

We headed down to the beach (sans myna faeces) to negotiate a boat trip to Tonsai. An earnest young man asked where we wanted to go and how long we wanted to stay, thought for a moment and then drew his price in the sand with a gnarly brown toe. We agreed and were soon motoring down the east side of Phi Phi Don. Our man had us in port in about 40 minutes. Tonsai Bay is a deep port that accommodates ferries and yachts and other medium sized vessels. But across the island, only about 250 metres over the sand is its shallow twin. We set out some towels and waded in for a cooling dip. Even at high tide the water is only waist deep – you can walk out for hundreds of metres and it is still only waist deep!

Refueled with a hot mango roti (even better than banana and nutella) and set off to climb to one of several viewing points above Tonsai. The view of the twin bays is spectacular at VP1 (View Point 1) so we continued climbing to VP2. Also impressive. Despite the track and the signs becoming progressively more primitive I insisted on going to VP3 and then to VP4. By this time I’d got us pretty well lost but I figured if we could get down to a beach we’d be able to get a taxi boat back to Tonsai. So we kept walking, occasionally meeting a local worker or villager along the way who would ask where we were going and shake their head or look perplexed. After nearly two hours of hiking (in thongs – flip flops for any North Americans reading this) we finally arrived at a beach. Unfortunately it had been deserted by everything, including the tide. Nobody and no taxi boats to be seen. Back to the jungle. Eventually we came out on to a resort beach and haggled with a longtail boatman to take us back to Tonsai. When we put out to sea we could see that we had nearly walked all the way back to our resort!

Did some shopping in Tonsai and rendezvoused with our original boat for the return to our resort. Stopped at a small reef along the way for a swim and a quick snorkel. Gave our young captain a generous tip upon return.

By this time I knew that the Geelong vs West Coast prelim final was complete so I was itching to get look up the scores on the net. My hands were actually shaking as I waited for AFL.com.au to load. I was pretty happy about the result though!

Climbed up to the Sunset Bar above our resort to sit and drink and watch the sun settling slowly over the Andaman sea. The perfect end to a perfect day in paradise! Maybe we should thank the Myna bird of happiness from breakfast.

Phuket Patter

22 Sep

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Arrived at Phuket airport yesterday and transferred to the Katathani Resort, about an hours drive from Phuket Airport. Not exactly a picturesque drive down the centre of the island, and greeted by a tropical downpour not far from the resort. Treated like royalty on check in and made our way to the room: idyllic views from the bathroom bedroom and balcony across the gardens and pools and out to the beach and the rolling Andaman sea. Already starting to forget the frantic pace of Bangkok.

Performed the obligatory reconnaissance of the facilities and then wandered down to the beach: red flags up to signal no swimming but no one seemed to care when we wandered in for a dip. I suspect the red flags are more for the safety of the ‘lifeguards’, who really don’t look like they can swim.

Finished with a dip in the pool to get the sand out from cracks and crevices, then up to our balcony for Singhas at sunset.

More sumptuous Thai cuisine for dinner at one of the resort restaurants. Over dinner we discussed the serious dilemma of what to do the next day. There were some tough choices to be made. With so many different ways to do nothing you really need to plan your day carefully…

As it turned out: we started at the breakfast buffet, even better than in Bangkok. The sun was out and the clouds had cleared, and the Andaman waves were rolling into the beach, so we ignored the red flags again (so it seems did everyone else) and threw ourselves into the sea. It’s like getting into a tepid bath on a hot day, beautifully refreshing and even though the waves are strong, the motion of being lifted up and down is very relaxing. And the colour! Turquoise swells rise up above your head, lift you up off the sand and float you back down again, all under a blazing sun.

So our day of doing nothing consisted of swimming and sunbaking on the beach, swimming and sunbaking by the pool, reading in the sun (me), eating lunch by the pool, drinking Singhas and iced tea, eating banana and nutella roti bread fresh from a street seller’s cart (sensational) and having a deluxe 90 minute facial and massage at the Resort Spa! No wonder I’m exhausted and Evan is already asleep in bed as I write this!

Anyway I’ll put up some photos that are intended to make everyone as green as the Andaman sea.

brettjobling’s photostream

21 Sep
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first photos out of Bangkok, B&E 2011

Bangkok Blog

21 Sep

We’ve just completed four days in Bangkok, roughly dividing our time between sight seeing, shopping, eating and having Thai massages.

Arrived late on Saturday night – you know what to expect from the weather in Bangkok but the heat and humidity still get you just as soon as you step outside the airport. Checked into the Bel Air Princess, an ok hotel in a grimy part of town, but what the hell, Bangkok is built on grime.

Stuffed ourselves senseless at the breakfast buffet on Sunday morning then figured out the Skytrain (pretty simple really, just two lines to follow) and got stuck into exploring. First stop was the Chatuchak weekend markets – mile after mile of stalls and hawkers and thai crafts and food and locals and people and raw sewerage. There is a big section selling pets, from cats and dogs and fish to exotic birds and other probably prohibited wildlife. Some of the puppies looked like they were barely 4 weeks old. Their conditions were clean and the animals looked healthy but the cages were horribly small. Evan couldn’t bear to look so we had to get out of there.

Skytrained back to the retail centre of Bangkok. This city really is amazing. The megalithic concrete Skytrain structure slices through the city, looming over the major roads, looking grey and grungy and futuristic all at the same time. It is purely about function with zero concession to aesthetics. Imagine overhead walkways crisscrossing the city, connecting shopping centers at various levels, above the walkways is the Skytrain running in one direction, and above that is the Skytrain running in the other direction. And in the shadows at ground level street hawkers are cooking on the street, taxis jostle with tuktuks for right of way, motor bikes mount the pavements, and skeletal dogs are mating on street corners.

It’s a blast! Just have to watch your step.

Monday we took a river boat down the Chao Phraya river to the Grand Palace to see the spectacular Wats (temples) and Buddhist art. To enter the Grand Palace you have to wear long pants so we purchased some very fetching white thai house pants from a strategically located local vendor. Visited Wat Pho and Wat Arun where you can climb some very steep stairs (nervous moments for Evan) nearly to the top of the temple. Suitably exhausted after several hours of Wat-ing in our long white pants we headed back down the putrid Chao Phraya to rejoin the skytrain and seek airconditioned refuge in a shiny westernized shopping centre. Later in the day we went out to Silom and had a Thai massage. Evan is convinced he has scabies or some other communicable disease from the mattress or the sandals they make you wear or the masseur. I’m far less squeamish about these things and went back again the next day for another massage.

Evan also seems to think he has some food poisoning (should have seen his face when I told him he’d just eaten crab). At least that is the excuse he is using for some uncharacteristic flatulence.

On our last day in Bangkok we went to Prathunam Market. It’s not far from some of the big modern shopping centres but Prathunam is like stepping back 50 years into a chaotic crowded and noisy Bangkok, and a sense, for millions of thai’s at least, that this is the real Bangkok.  Ramshackle pavements, dark market alleyways, 5 lanes of taxis,buses and tuktuks, haggling and humidity, tailors, thai silk, woodcarvings, cheap electronics, mysterious hawker food… you can get anything here. You can only survive for so long out of airconditioning in Bangkok so we headed back to iced coffee and a nice sit down at a shopping centre Starbucks.

After some great food, fascinating sight seeing and excellent shopping (modest purchases only) we felt like we has used our time in Bangkok quite effectively. Next stop Phuket!