Thursday, September 3, 2015

london out and about in december

Traveling by myself in London meant ticking off a lot of famous museums and galleries - either because it was a way to temporarily escape the cold and wind, or my happiness of free things. Free things will never get old. Especially since London was very expensive against the weak Australian dollar. I spent an week internally debating whether I should spend forty dollars to go inside the Tower of London, but decided against it in the end. I'll leave it for the future when the exchange rate is a bit better. (Though this will probably be in the far future. My travel pockets are very saddened.) What I did do was walk along the Thames, cross many bridges, and museum and gallery hopped. Reaching each major attraction felt like I was on a Monopoly board and it made me entirely too happy. See: Trafalgar Square below. I am still in delusion that Trafalgar Square would be greatly improved if it became a glorious crimson.

While I did appreciate the large collection of history London's museums offered, my overall take remains that England really should return everything they stole through the British Empire stage. To start with, I really think Egypt wants the the Rosetta Stone back. And, y'know, I just don't think the physical evidence of colonialism is a good look, UK.

(Photos above: Trafalger Square and the National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace, Oxford St lit up by Christimas lights, and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

stonehenge and bath

This is my slowly crawling through my photos. I'm only about...nine months behind.

I started my eight months in London, which included a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath - as you do when you're caught between your love of history and your vice of romance novels. My heart had palpitations at the thought of being in the setting of many a regency novel. Just take my heart damn it! The English countryside was such a dream.

Despite traveling in a big tour bus (one of those day trip tours) - it was easier in the end - the countryside was so charming. The goal is to drive through it next time.

People told me it was just a pile of rocks aside, but hey, it was still nice to see this pile of rocks with my own eyes.

Bath being gorgeous with its Georgian architecture. I really regret not spending longer. We only had time to visit the Roman Baths and the Jane Austen Centre, including a quick scones and tea under the most watchful eye of Mr Darcy.

I did try the sulfur water of the baths, after standing next to it for ten minutes waiting for my friend, and it was...not pleasant.

Oh yes, yes we did. The Jane Austen Centre was worth going to just for this, otherwise unless you're a die hard Jane Austen fan, it's a very small place.

Bath: would go again. It was incredibly beautiful. I'd love to have a nice easy day to stroll around, which wasn't possible with the time constraints of the tour - it was mostly a transport service, the tour guide did minimum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

treat yo self

This the part where I twiddle my thumbs and admit how invested I was in this year's season of Masterchef, because I almost watched it religiously in China and Japan. Reynold was just really great, okay! (Let it be known how scripted and rigged reality television is - Julie winning over Poh in the first season of Masterchef Australia will never be okay. Never forget.)

Anyhow, skip my investment in making sure Reynold went through each round (television has never been so tense), skip the tears and outrage (come on, Jessie, you let down the bloody team), skip his elimination (why you no read instructions) - last Sunday he held his first pop-up in Sydney Dance Lounge. In the expected combination of I-am-always-online and too-much-social-media-in-my-life I managed to snag a table with my mates. Sunday night dinner were four glorious courses of dessert that had us begging for mercy by round three, where we repeated a mantra of, "Must. Finish. Paid. Eighty. Must. Eat."

The excitement to try the Forbidden Fruit was real. And it was glorious. Enough said. It was just a really fun night.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

back home in sydney!

(Godzilla appears! Shinjuku, Tokyo, July 2015)

It's been a little over two weeks since I got home after eight months overseas! My last stop was the incredible city that is Tokyo, and time has passed so quickly. Even though I never thought I'd say it, it's kind of really great to be home! It's been eight months of self-discovery, and since I got back, I've been really enjoying the things I took for granted: the crispness of winter air (even though it really should not be this cold in August), the stars as I walk home from the bus stop, amongst other things.

(Where I first learnt the lesson of how travel tests friendships. Paris, France, December 2014)

I started the eight months in Europe. The first experience of planning v. reality, where I planned a trip to a total of ten countries and sixteen cities in seven weeks. Looking back now, I don't know what I was thinking. I booked bus tickets in other languages, wandered around in numbing cold trying to find bus stops, booked trains with three minute transfer frames, planned to spend Christmas and New Years alone. I met incredible people whilst solo traveling and also learnt the difficulties of traveling with pre-existing friends. Sometimes I was lonely, and sometimes I wished I was alone. I ate a lot of chocolate and cheese and just a lot of bread. Mostly, I took a lot of photos.

(Lots of mulled wine was also consumed. Kutna Hora, Czech, January 2014)

And then I hopped over to North America. Long story short, I went to get my visa for China over there because it was cheaper than going anywhere else first.

(Exploring the many forests of Portland, Oregon, USA, February 2015.)

I stayed in Vancouver for a week before going to Portland for three weeks, and it was a much needed catch-my-breath period after Europe. I remain firmly in love with Trader Joe's because I irrationally enjoy grocery shopping in different countries a little too much.

(The red shoes cover to prevent sand from getting in was not entirely a fashion choice. Inner Mongolia, China, May 2015)

The next four months were spent on university exchange in Beijing, China, where I managed to do a fair amount of domestic traveling because I was grounded with only one visa entry. I met with relatives I have never seen or have not seen in almost twenty years. I took a sleeper train, bullet trains, and many, many buses. And while I am probably used to squat toilets, may I not have to use one again for a long, long time. I managed to plan the trip I've always dreamed of to the Danxia mountains in Zhangye, Gansu - or more tumblr noteworthy as the Rainbow Mountains, just minus the crazy saturation.

(The incredibly picturesque Biei, Hokkaido, Japan, July 2015)

I squeezed in one last trip to Japan before I had to come back home for university. Japan remains incredible in every season, and is still my favourite of all the countries I have been to. I actually can't wait to go back again, even after two trips in the past two years. It's such a beautiful country, with so much to offer between the modern and traditional.

(A sample of the incredibly fresh seafood on offer in Hokkaido. It was a party in mouth everyday. Utoro, Hokkaido, Japan, July 2015)

Despite Australia's problems, I've come to realise that Sydney is such a lovely place to call home. It's really good to be back.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

musings from beijing

In the five months since my last update, I've been adjusting. Adjusting to my choices. Adjusting to Beijing. Adjusting to my expectations.

I'll be blunt. Exchange has not been what I expected. I've spent the past few months lowering those expectations and treating the experience as a learning curve. Exchange at Tsinghua has managed to solidly stomp on my previous excitement and lulled it to constant thoughts of regret.

I entered China with an understanding of it - I interned in Beijing last year for two months. Somehow in the space of a year, China's changes has made the small things I take for granted difficult. Google has been blocked. I cannot access my email account without a VPN. I can't use Translate to help me translate Chinese. I can't access Maps. I can't access the Play Store on my phone.

I have to use Bing. (This is a game-changer.)

I've been getting over myself in the past few months. I spent too much time feeling sad or angry or a combination of the two. Maybe it's because I can see the end that I'm feeling more cheerful. Or maybe the weather's just been better.

These days I'm trying to enjoy the small experiences. Maybe I'll even go back to Wangfujing Snack Street and eat some scorpions. But probably not!