The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

image

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

image

Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

image

The Taj Mahal

image

Sydney Harbour

image image

The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

image

Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

image

Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

image

Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

image

So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

A week in Krabi

So for the first time in my trip I have chosen to spend a week near a beach doing very little….

I flew from Bangkok to Krabi international Airport which is about an hour away by plane. Krabi is 800 km south of Bangkok towards Malaysia. I have been based at a delightful hotel, the Centara Anda Dhevi Resort and Spa in Ao Nang. Just down the road there are two beaches which I refer to as the quiet beach (Nopparat Thara beach) and the busy beach (Ao Nang Beach). Ao Nang itself is a busy bustling resort with loads of bars, restaurants, massage parlours, tailors (no I don’t want to buy a suit thank you!), small supermarkets, a bewildering multitude of “tourist information places” (basically they are on commission for getting you on a trip) and souvenir shops. Street food is in abundance and I have enjoyed consuming fresh banana pancakes cooked in front of me in seconds.

The quiet beach

The quiet beach

Long tailed boats lined up at the busy beach

Long tailed boats lined up at the busy beach

My banana pancake being cooked

My banana pancake being cooked

Ao Nang is an incredibly relaxing place although more geared up to couples and families than the single traveller. The Thai people I have met in the hotels or in restaurants have been in virtually all cases delightful although there grasp of English often makes communication difficult. So what have I done here other than lounge by the pool, go down to the beach and read books?

Well I have had two hour long Thai full body massages. Incredibly relaxing and an absolute bargain at £6 a go. It’s so cheap here….

I have found the most incredible beach bar next to the quiet beach where I have watched the sun go down whilst drinking a beer or a cocktail.

The view from the beach bar

The view from the beach bar

i have taken a long tail boat, a wooden boat shaped a bit like a canoe with an engine at the back, from the busy beach to the beautiful Railay beach a little further down the coast.

Railay beach

Railay beach

Yesterday I went on a 4 Island boat trip on a 30 seater long-tailed boat. It’s a trip I booked the previous day from one of the “tourist information” places. It was a great day seeing some stunningly beautiful islands and beaches. One of the islands looked like a chicken! All for the bargain price of £8 including lunch!

Chicken Island

Chicken Island

Sandbank by Tup Island

Sandbank by Tup Island

Lovely beach at Poda Island where we had lunch

Lovely beach at Poda Island where we had lunch

Temperature wise at this time of the year, the Thai winter, it’s been in the high 20’s to low 30’s and although humid is not uncomfortably so. The main issue I have had here is insect bites. My legs are absolutely covered in them and they are itching like mad. I will spare you a photo. I am not sure why they are picking on me as I have been checking out other holiday makers’ legs and they do not seem to be similarly afflicted. Perhaps the Mosquitos here like Yorkshire meat?

I am now embarking on a 2 day journey to reach New Delhi to start the next leg of my trip. Delhi is where I join a Golden Triangle tour. I am excited and I am sure it will be an experience never to forget. I am sure that India will be unlike anywhere I have ever visited before. I hope to be able to blog regularly from India but I understand getting an Indian SIM card for by iPad may be a challenge. So watch this space…

Book Review – The Ashes According to Bumble (David Lloyd)

So my next book review goes back to the cricketing theme of many of my earlier blog posts. It feels a little weird to be reading a book about cricket and the Ashes after the series in Australia has been completed. But anyway…

The book is a funny and entertaining read in typical Bumble style. There are many amusing stories and anecdotes. It’s an easy read.

I have two favourite stories in the book.

The first involved a sledging incident between the Aussie batsmen Mark Waugh, one of the famous Waugh brothers.  A number of years ago England selected a bowler called Jimmy Ormond to play against Australia. When Ormond came out to bat Mark Waugh shouted over.  “**** me. Look who it is. Mate what are you doing out here? There’s no way your good enough to play for England.” Ormond replied “maybe not but at least I’m the best player in my family”.

The second involves a game of golf between David Lloyd (Bumble), Mike Selvey and Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ). The game took place, in Queenstown, when England were touring in New Zealand. CMJ, who is sadly no longer with us, had a reputation as a delightful eccentric. As they were warming up before the round he remarked. “Marvellous place this, isn’t it? Did you know it was designed by Ray Charles. You know the famous New Zealand golfer”. Selvey, carried on the conversation. “Yes and I believe there are a number of blind holes on this course”. “So I understand” replied CMJ who was totally oblivious to the gag. The famous Kiwi golfer is Bob Charles…

The book was written before the series in the English summer. There is a section where Lloyd is castigating of the Aussies and some of their players which he may now regret writing… “They’re not very good it’s as simple as that. They’ve got one batter in Michael Clarke, they haven’t got a spinner and this lauded pace attack I keep hearing about must be a drastically different one to the one I’ve witnessed over the last couple of years because it’s not much cop”. Having just witnessed the 5 nil whitewash I beg to differ…

Another book to be donated to the hotel library. Not sure what they will make of it in Thailand…

image

 

Book Review – SHUNT The Story of James Hunt by Tom Rubython

Probably not the next blog that my followers were expecting…. Much earlier in this trip, back in Australia, I referenced the amount of reading material I had brought with me. By the time I arrive in India I need to have significantly reduced the weight of my luggage. So now I have arrived in Krabi in Thailand, the most relaxing place I could possibly imagine, it has given me the opportunity to catch up on some reading…

When I left Manchester back in mid November I spent a lot of the flight over to Australia reading SHUNT – The Story of James Hunt. I finally finished it this week – nearly two months later. It’s an epic amounting to 624 pages. Last week sitting by my hotel pool in Bangkok the American guy next to me, on seeing the size of this book, asked if I had heard of the Kindle Fire!!!

So why the interest in James Hunt? Well I have always had a fascination in him but not totally sure why. Is it because we share the same surname? It is because I remember when I was a young kid growing up watching Formula 1 and the rivalry he had with Niki Lauda? Or is it that he was an incredibly complex character? Was the fascination rekindled by the recent film “Rush” which chronicled Hunt and Lauda duelling for the Formula 1 title in 1976. I am not a Formula 1 fan. I rarely watch it on the tv. It definitely held more of an interest for me in my youth when it seemed less predictable and had amazing characters.

So to the book. Yes it’s long. At times I found it hard going. I think the editing could have been tighter – I found a number of contradictions, errors and repetitions along the way. Perhaps it could have been a little shorter. But I doubt for anyone wanting to get a real insight into James Hunt there is anything better out there.

Hunt was undoubtedly a complicated and often troubled individual. Bernie Ecclestone summed him up as “He had more facets than a diamond, which, combined with an irresistible charm, made him the most remarkable character in Formula One ever”

James Hunt died in 1993. I can’t believe its over 20 years ago. At the time of his death he was working as a Formula 1 co-commentator, alongside Murray Walker, for the BBC. He died after a massive heart attack. His heart muscles had been fatally weakened by hard drinking, smoking and recreational drug use. At the time of his death it is said he was at his happiest. He had largely gone on the straight and narrow, stopped womanising, and had a steady girlfriend called Helen Dyson. One of the saddest aspects of the story is that James had proposed marriage to Helen just before his untimely death. She is quoted as saying “I shrieked with joy when he proposed to me over the phone, and I accepted. It was the last time I ever spoke to him”,

The book is filled with some amazing stories, some of which are shocking, but nevertheless are important to understand the real James Hunt.

Some that stuck with me were…

Hunt was a womaniser. He was not faithful to any of the women that he had long term relationships with. He married his first wife, Suzy Miller, in 1974. Soon after the marriage he realised he had made a mistake and it was with considerable relief in 1976 when he discovered that Miller had begun an affair with Richard Burton whom she subsequently married.

Hunt had a lifelong fascination with budgerigars. Following his retirement from Formula 1 he took up this passion and began breeding prize budgies. There was a rather bizarre incident on a visit to a budgerigar show in Doncaster in 1989. After the show when one of Hunt’s budgies won first prize he and some of his budgerigar enthusiast friends decided to go out to a nightclub. Hunt often dressed very casually. Often he would wear jeans and no shoes for formal events and because of who he was normally got away with it. So James turned up to the nightclub wearing jeans and trainers. He was refused entry because of the club’s dress policy. An argument ensued with the doorman. A cup of coffee which the doorman was holding was flicked over him by Hunt. It could have been an accident or deliberate. The police were called and Hunt was arrested and taken to Doncaster police station. Goodness knows what the police thought about about an ex Formula 1 world champion being in Doncaster attending a budgerigar show! Well after a couple of hours he was released and not charged as the CCTV evidence was inconclusive. Hunt made a point of going to the night club to apologise. Many  years later, after Hunt’s death, the CCTV footage was shown on a Channel 4 documentary about him. This caused much anguish to Hunt’s family.

After his retirement from Formula 1 Hunt began a career commentating on Formula 1 alongside Murray Walker. The two of them to begin with didn’t get on particularly well. Walker thought that Hunt was there to replace him. Over time the relationship much improved and Walker gave a very moving tribute to Hunt in a celebration of his life held 3 months after his death. Shortly before his BBC debut Hunt had a skiing accident and had his leg in plaster. At his first broadcast, in Monaco, he arrived worse for wear from drink and deeply upset Murray by resting his plaster cast on Walker’s lap for the full two hours of the broadcast. Despite all this, Hunt put on a brilliant performance in front of the microphone. Typically he would arrive for these commentaries with seconds to spare and holding a bottle of rose wine.

Several more stories I could recite but are probably not suitable for a family blog. If you want to know more buy the book or to avoid the space issues I have download it! I will be donating my copy to the library in the lounge in my Krabi hotel.

image

 

 

 

Floating Markets and Bridge on the River Kwai

The tour mini-bus picked me up from my Bangkok hotel lobby at 6.10am. It felt ridiculously early. The city was still dark and there were the signs of the transition from nightlife Bangkok to morning rush hour as we moved through the city to pick up other members of the tour party. It was a small group. 9 in total including the driver and tour guide. The other members of the party were a couple from Melbourne who were on a cruise which had docked at Bangkok, a Welsh couple who had been living and working in Australia for the last 4 years and a British mother and son who were travelling through the Far East for 4 Weeks.

From Bangkok we were driven in a South Westerly direction towards the Damnoen Saduak floating markets. We passed salt fields and rice paddies on the way. There was a stop on the way which transpired to be a roadside market which seemed to cater exclusively for tour buses. After a couple of hours we had nearly reached the floating market. We boarded a long tail speed boat and sped along canals for an exciting 10 minutes before reaching the market. We disembarked but were then given the option of boarding a more leisurely craft to explore the market. This bit was fascinating as we were taken to stalls at the side of the canal where the locals tried to sell you all manner of wares including fruit, vegetables, sweets, spices, souvenirs and freshly cooked food. Some of the traders were selling from their own boats. After disembarking the boat we had time to explore the “non floating part” of the market. I bought a couple of T-shirts for the beach. I get little pleasure from wearing my England cricket t shirts at the moment for obvious reasons….

image image image image image

After the market we drove for a couple of hours, North West, to the Bridge on the River Kwai. I remember watching the film about the building of the bridge when I was a kid. There were 3 elements to the Bridge part of the day. It started with a visit to the JEATH war museum. The museum is contained within a reconstruction of a prisoner of war hut. The museum is so named as the abbreviation of the six countries involved in the building of the railway from Thailand to Burma during World War 2. Japan, England, America and Australia, Thailand and Holland. The railway constructed was 415km long (303km in Thailand and 112km in Burma). Construction began in September 1942 and involved 30,000 prisoners of war and 200,000 forced labourers from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma and Thailand. Of these 16,000 POW’s and 100,000 impressed labourers died of abuse, disease, starvation and lack of medical facilities. There were photos in the museum which showed some POW’s in an awful states of emaciation or with skin diseases. The temperatures and humidity they worked in must have been really high. It was in the low 30’s the day I visited and that was on a winter’s day. The Japanese originally expected it to take 5 years to complete the railway but because of how hard they got the labourers to work it was completed in 16 months.

After the museum we went to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery which contains the graves of 5,000 commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch POW’s. The cemetery is really well kept. I found the number of graves and the age of the men who died, typically in their early 20’s, very humbling.

The Kanchanburi War Cemetry

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetry

So finally to the Bridge on the River Kwai. There were 2 bridges built. A temporary wooden bridge followed by a steel and concrete bridge. Both bridges were bombed and destroyed by the RAF and US Air Forces towards the end of the war. The steel bridge was rebuilt by the Japanese after the war ended as part of war reparations and is still there today. Post war the railway line was in poor repair and was dismantled. However eventually part of the line, a 130km section etween Non Pla Duk and Nam Tok, reopened in 1958. According to the Thai Railway timetables only one passenger train a day operates on the line in each direction.

image image

The Bridge has become a tourist attraction and there are numerous souvenir stalls there and a train you can ride over the bridge on and for a short distance beyond the bridge. There was something unedifying about the Bridge being exploited for tourism. As I headed off to walk across the bridge one of the souvenir shops, selling CDs, was blaring out Boney M’s Painter Man. On my return the accompaniment was “Love me Love my dog”.

After time at the bridge we headed back to Bangkok. The journey was uneventful until we reached the city. It was rush hour on a Friday evenIng. So as well as lots of traffic leaving Bangkok there were lots of people coming in to take part in the nightlife. The result was total gridlock. The minibus moved about 100 yards in half an hour. Some members of the group bailed out to find a train back to their accommodation. I held tight not knowing where I was in the city in comparison to my hotel. Finally the traffic started moving. The tour guide said he would accompany me in a taxi back to the hotel. I noticed when he was sat in the taxi that he was coughing almost uncontrollably. It was gridlock again and the tour guide and I abandoned the taxi with the plan being to get the Sky Train. The guide was clearly unwell, sweating profusely and needing time to catch his breath. At this point I suggested he needed to go and recover and not worry about me. I asked him directions to the nearest sky train station to where we were and the station for my hotel. With this information and 50 baht (around £1) in my pocket I managed to negotiate the skytrain system back to Nana station which was a short walk to my hotel. The sky train is a bit like an elevated version of the London Underground and was an impressive way to get around the traffic locked city.

Bangkok City and Temples Tour

After an uneventful 8 hour flight from Sydney I landed in Bangkok. My first experience of a different culture was in arranging a taxi to take me to my hotel. On the way to the taxi queue I had already been approached by a number of guys offering what I presumed was non official transport to my hotel. I declined and took my place in one of a number of separate queues. At the head of the queue was a woman sat by a desk. When it was my turn I gave the name of my hotel. She then wrote something on a form which I was then to hand to the next available taxi driver. Soon he appeared and I was on my way. We headed away from the airport on a motorway. Because of the smog there was no sign of Bangkok ahead. After a while the driver, who clearly did not know much English, said to me “Expressway”? I had managed to glean from the form that there was an additional charge for using this toll motorway of 75 baht (around £1.50) so I gave him the go ahead. What I hadn’t appreciated was that he wanted me to pay it directly! Anyway the rest of the journey was uneventful. I was clearly staying in a busy part of town. The bill for the taxi journey which took around 45 minutes was the equivalent of about £7. Somewhat cheaper than Australia!

I settled into my hotel room. A much nicer room and hotel than the rather depressing one I had experienced in Sydney for the previous week….

The next morning I was up bright and early for a “City and Temples tour”. The local female tour guide wore a face mask which she explained was due to her having flu which she attributed to recent temperature swings. Currently it is winter in Bangkok although daily maximums were in the low 30’s. Apparently temperatures had been significantly lower in recent days and weeks. I did see a number of people in Bangkok wearing masks to avoid the smog. On the day of the tour the skies were clear. Certainly much clearer then when I arrived in town the previous evening.

The first stop was at the Wat Traimat Temple to view the Golden Buddha that is displayed there. It is mightily impressive, solid gold, weighing 5.5 tons and is 16 feet high by 12 feet wide. It’s valued at £28.5million. It was held elsewhere until 1955 and was covered in plaster. It was only when transported to this temple in 1955 was it discovered to be golden. In visiting all temples here you have to remove shoes before entering.

Outside the Temple of the Golden Buddha

Outside the Temple of the Golden Buddha

The Golden Buddha and me!

The Golden Buddha and me!

After leaving this temple there was a stop to view roadside flower and fruit markets. The tour guide led us across a busy road with motor cycles, tuk tuks and cars all flying past. It felt a little hairy!

imageimageimage

The next temple was Wat Pho – The Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This was even more impressive than the Golden Buddha. The reclining Buddha is 46m long and 15m high. It’s modelled out of plaster around a brick core and is finished in gold leaf. The grounds to this temple were extensive and in side buildings there were golden Buddhas everywhere.

The reclining Buddha

The reclining Buddha

The back of the reclining Buddha's feet

The back of the reclining Buddha’s feet

More Buddhas

More Buddhas

In what the guide described as the "Ordination room"

In what the guide described as the “Ordination room”

That was the last of the temples. I had been expecting one more but when I queried this the guide explained that due to the political protests going in in Bangkok currently we would not be able to visit one temple. Political protests have been ongoing in Thailand since November 2013. They were triggered by an amnesty bill taken through parliament by the ruling Pheu Thai Party led by Yingluck Shinawatra. The law would have led to the potential return to Thailand of the former prime minister, and brother of Yingluck, Thaksin Shinawatra. He was a former prime minister of Thailand between 2001 and 2006 before being removed in a military coup. Since then he has lived in exile apart from a brief return in 2008. He has been convicted of abusing public power by helping his wife buy public land at an auction and was sentenced to two years in jail. The new amnesty bill, as I understand things, would mean this conviction would no longer be a barrier to Thaksin returning to Thailand. The Democracy movement who have organised the protests are unhappy about the amnesty bill and the perceived influence on Thailand politics of Thaksin. The protests so far, in Bangkok, have been relatively peaceful but appear to be growIng in size and intensity. There is a major protest going on in Bangkok on 13th January in a number of locations and seems to have brought the roads to a complete standstill. The protestors aim to indefinitely occupy Bangkok. In response to the protests the government has dissolved parliament and called a general election for next month. I saw no direct evidence of the protests when I was in Bangkok although it did appear to be exorcising the locals. There has been an impact in reduced tourist revenues in Thailand across Christmas and New Year compared to the previous year.

The last stop on the tour was unexpected and involved a trip to “The worlds largest jewelry store”. On arrival we were ushered into a small cinema for a 10 minute long film about jewelry. Following which we were taken into a huge room full of rings, necklaces etc… Any efforts to sell to me got short shrift and when it became clear that I was single I was left alone!

My Last 48 Hours in Sydney

So with the cricket finishing 2 days early this gave me an opportunity for extra sightseeing.

On the first spare day I fancied time at the beach but to begin with went to Darling Harbour for a spot of breakfast at one of the harbour front restaurants. This also gave me the opportunity to check out some of the boats moored there including the worlds largest operational steam ferry “South Steyne”. It used to operate as the Manly Ferry. There is also a full replica of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour at Darling Harbour as part of the maritime museum.

South Steyne

South Steyne

Replica of HMS Endeavour

Replica of HMS Endeavour

The famous Sydney beach is Bondi but another beach, Coogee, had been recommended to me. I travelled there by bus. The journey takes around half an hour and takes you past the Sydney Cricket Ground and through the suburb of Randwick. On the way through Randwick I spotted a racecourse, the University of New South Wales and Sydney Children’s Hospital.

It was an absolutely glorious summers day with cloudless skies and a temperature in the high 20’s. On arrival at Coogee I headed to get a view of the beach. It’s a belter! Wide golden sands and crashing waves. Like other Aussie sea side resorts the early settlers tried to replicate what they were familiar with from England. So Coogee had at one time a pier, a tram, separate baths for gentlemen and ladies and a Palace Aquarium which featured a whole host of different entertainments. One thing quite different which you won’t find in Blackpool was a shark net. Now the only visible sign of these remaining that I could see was the Palace Aquarium which has now been redeveloped as the Beach Palace Hotel. The pier and shark net have long since been claimed by the sea.

Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach facing South

Coogee Beach facing South

The Coogee Bay Hotel sits just across the road from the beach. I had been told that it has the biggest bar in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m not sure about that but it does have the biggest beer garden in Sydney and certainly the biggest I have ever seen! The website says it has 7 bars and a 1,750 capacity venue where bands such as INXS and the Foo Fighters have played. Well I think I missed some of these bars and the venue but as well as the beer garden bar I saw a beach bar and a sports bar. The sports bar area in particular was massive and included an area for gambling on horses and greyhounds. There was also a separate “VIP lounge”. The “VIP lounge” is something I had not noticed in any other part of Australia so I am guessing it only applies in New South Wales. I was rather excited to discover that my hotel in Sydney had a VIP lounge and wondered who the VIP’s may be that frequented it. Kylie and Danni Minogue?  Shane Warne? Tony Abbott? On further investigation after checking into the Great Southern Hotel I rather disappointingly discovered that a VIP lounge is actually a room full of fruit machines. Every pub and hotel in Sydney seems to have one and suggests that this part of a Australia has a real gambling culture. So anyway back to the Coogee Bay hotel. I settled into the beach bar and enjoyed a Chaucer golden ale and a fish and chip lunch. Having done further research into the Coogee Bay Hotel for writing this blog I found a story from 2008 entitled the “Coogee Bay Hotel poo scandal”. I won’t go into the gory details here but google it and you can see what it’s about. Suffice to say had I read that before going to Coogee I am not sure I would have chosen to eat at the Coogee Bay Hotel…. The fish and chips were fine though.

Coogee Bay Hotel

Coogee Bay Hotel

Beer garden at Coogee Bay hotel

Beer garden at Coogee Bay hotel

I decided to walk off lunch and headed north on the coastal path and passed through Gordon’s Bay before stopping for a sunbathe and paddle at Clovelly Beach.

Gordon's Bay

Gordon’s Bay

Clovelly Beach

Clovelly Beach

On day 2 I spent some time on chores ahead of the next leg of my journey. Laundry, haircut and a bit of shopping. With that out of the way I headed for one last time to Sydney Harbour. This time I went a slightly different route which took in the Queen Victoria building which has been lovingly restored to include shopping and eating places. A bit like the Victoria Quarter in Leeds. I also visited briefly the St Mary’s (Catholic) Cathedral before heading for the mightily impressive Royal Botanical Gardens which stretch right down to the Opera House. Earlier that day the Aussie cricket team had been at the Opera House celebrating the 5 nil whitewash but thankfully by the time I arrived they were long gone.

Interior of Queen Victoria building

Interior of Queen Victoria building

St Mary's Cathedral

St Mary’s Cathedral

Royal Botanical Gardens

Royal Botanical Gardens

After getting more photos of the opera house and harbour bridge I headed for the Rocks area. This part of Sydney, which as it turned out where I had been to see the fireworks on New Years Eve, is the oldest part of Sydney and has recently been transformed into bars, restaurants and shops.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

image

The Rocks

The Rocks

So my time in Sydney and Australia had come to an end. I can’t believe it’s now 7 weeks since I arrived in Brisbane. My time in Australia has been fantastic and Sydney has been a fitting end to it. But now it’s time to move on. Next destination Thailand!