29 July 2010

Oxford Comma

I visited Oxford earlier this week and it was everything I was expecting plus more.  It's a quaint little town filled with rich history, tradition and prestige.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend, Ken show me around.  He's graduating from a Bachelor of Civil Laws this week and his passion and enthusiasm for his University was something I had never seen before.  It is not difficult to fall in love with this place; with all the cosy cafes, ancient architecture, a myriad of museums and numerous plaques reminding us that many of the world's greatest academics walked those very same cobble-stoned streets we were on.  For instance, Boyle's law (which we all learned about in Physics and Chemistry in high school) was discovered by Robert Boyle in a lab off one of the main streets of Oxford.  Down the road from that lies a pub where JRR Tolkein and Lewis Carroll would share a drink regularly.

Because Ken is a student of Oxford, he is entitled to bring up to two visitors with him everywhere for free.  Most sites we visited generally cost between 3 and 5 pounds to visit for outside visitors so I would've saved a good 20 pounds.

We spent the afternoon punting, which is a pastime for both academics and students of Oxford.  Punting is a form of boating in small rivers in shallow waters.  We used a very long and heavy metal rod to help us steer and push us forward and it was something I really struggled with!


28 July 2010

All These Things That I've Londone

My first week in London has been jam-packed and I finally have some time to write a post.  I arrived at Stansted airport last Monday afternoon and had to:
  • catch three different tube lines to get to Lakey's place...
  • in the middle of rush hour....
  • laden with a big fat suitcase and carrybag. 
It was as fun as eating cereal for dinner.

Since then, my time in London has been smooth like smooth peanut butter.  The main thing I've noticed is that no-one seems to lift an eyebrow at the fact that I'm Australian.  I'm used to people saying "Ohhh coool you're from Orstrayliar!" when I travel overseas but I guess the fact that there are so many Australians here and that London is truly an international city makes me just another little fish in the big sea.

Fortunately Lakey's had some time off work to show me some amazing landmarks including Trafalgar Square (pictured), Oxford St and Richmond Park.

A few nights ago I caught up with Linda at the Embankment where she took us to a beautiful underground wine and cheese cellar (pictured).  I've only just started to appreciate wine and cheese this year so I thoroughly enjoyed the night of cheddar, brie, cranberry sauce, pickles and generous portions of red.

I had a big day out with Ben and Ellie over the weekend, feasting upon free samples of the finest cheese, bread, dips and fruits at the Borough Markets, located under an overpass for trains.  We burned off the calories from our cheese samples by going on a cultural adventure through the Natural History Museum (pictured), Science Museum and the V&A Museum, the latter being my favourite museum in recent memory. The V&A was huge, boasting several large artifacts (sculptures, paintings, parts of buildings) from all around the world.

I dined at an American diner and shared a drink with Maggie at a quaint little pub near Shoreditch on the weekend.  Eating chilli cheesy fries is the best way to start a weekend.

My favourite adventure so far has been my Sunday visit to Brick Lane (pictured).  I couldn't help but feel under-dressed at this hip precinct of laneways brimming with vintage and cutting-edge fashion shops and stalls.  It would've been shopping heaven for me had my wallet been filled with moolah.

It remains light here til at least 9pm which is nice as it means I can fit in so much in a day here.  The weather has been divine with plenty of sunshine.

I better pen off now as I'm actually heading out to Kemsing soon to go to a rasberry farm.

I don't know who or if anyone reads this, but if you're reading this, I hope you have an awesome day :)

25 July 2010

London // Unjust EnRichmond

I've been in London for a little under a week now and so far I've had a great time catching up with old friends and visiting places on the Monopoly Board (ie. Piccadilly, Oxford St, Whitehall etc).  My highlight so far was playing in Richmond Park with my oldest friend Nick Lake on Thursday (pictured).  Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London, with over 600 roaming deer, 2500 acres of land and five billion tonnes of fun.

I have to get up early tomorrow as I'm off to Oxford (about two hours from London by bus) to visit a friend who's just graduated from there.  I've just learnt that my bus has wi-fi so hopefully I'll be able to post an entry on my time in London during my ride there.

Hope everyone is well and swell :)

20 July 2010

Gimme a K, Gimme an L!

As some of you may know, I’ve recently left my beautiful hometown of Brisbane to begin the next exciting chapter of my life.  I’ve chosen to zigzag through Asia, the UK and Europe on my way to an exchange semester in Copenhagen.

The first stop of my journey was Kuala Lumpur.  The weather was warm and humid which was a stark contrast to Brisbane’s somewhat chilly and dry winter.  I stayed at a hostel in the heart of Bukit Bintang; a vibrant precinct lined with bars, restaurants, shops and markets.  Upon finding my hostel, I was greeted by a number of prostitutes (one of them was definitely a ladyboy!) who worked for the massage parlour in the same building as my hostel.

That night I caught up with Samira and her friends at a spaceship-shaped nightclub named Zouk.  It was an amazing club, like one of those you see in RnB videos.  After taking advantage of their 2-for-1 jugs of basic spirits, we had a loose time dancing away to the likes of Salt n Peppa, Cindy Lauper and even a song from Glee! I remember getting kicked off the dancing podium for being a guy which was rather embarrassing!

Despite suffering a hangover and jetlag the next day, I trekked over to the awe-inspiring Batu Caves (pictured) where I was greeted by a large golden statue of the Hindu deity, Murugan.  Once in the limestone cave, I witnessed bats, chickens (I don’t know how they ended up there), and some fangin’ evil monkeys.  The monkeys were about as cute as the ones in the Wizard of Oz.  The caves were littered with many tacky tourist shops and I thought this over-commercialisation of such a sacred place was disappointing.

That evening I bumped into a Canadian girl I’d met on the bus from the airport. I decided to join her for dinner, with her Malay friend, Mac, who ran a well-known hostel in KL.  Mac drove us out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere to an Indian Restaurant named Raju.  Gigantic banana leaves were used in favour of plates and our hands were our cutlery of choice! The curries, breads, garnishes and meats we tried were literally finger-lickin’ awesome.  One of the things I like most about KL is that it’s a melting pot of several ethnicities and cultures.  Everywhere you look there are Muslim Malays, as well as Malays of Indian and Chinese origin (just to name a few).  The food on offer in this city reflects this multiculturalism providing a very refreshing experience.

On Friday, Samira spoilt me with some VIP treatment! We had a chauffeur drive us around the sights of KL and Sam did a wonderful job as my personal tour-guide, even providing me with a personalised itinerary!  I was particularly impressed with the National Monument (pictured) and the Islamic Art Museum.  We lunched inside the Petronas Towers, where Sam showed me Malaysia’s best kept secret: 100 Plus.  It was a citrus soft drink with more bite than an anaconda.  I can't wait to get my hands on it again to experiment with some mixed drinks.

That night I ate at Jalan Alor (pictured). Jalan Alor become a favourite place of mine in KL, with plenty of cheap street-food and drinks (I'm talking AUD2 a meal!).  We were serenaded by the hippest and most laid-back busker ever.  I invited him to sit with us and before we knew it, we’d been singing along together to his acoustic guitar for two hours.  By day he was a Tesco slave and by night he was a young mohawked wannabe rockstar.  It was fascinating to hear his perspective on politics, society, work, and romance in Malaysia.  His wife had divorced him because she believed he was too passionate about following his musical dreams. He plays music each night in tourist hot spots to continue to support her and his son.

Later on, we crashed a birthday party at Zouk courtesy of Mac.  It was pretty sweet. The party host and his friends treated me like a long-lost brother and ensured my glass of whisky was never less than full!

On Saturday, a group of us ventured up to one of the tallest towers in the world, the KL Tower.  I’d wanted to go up the tower earlier in the week, but KL was constantly victim to some bad haze.  We were blessed with a clear view of the city’s great landmarks like the Petronas Towers (pictured) and the Batu Caves.

We also visited the KL Cultural Village at the base of the tower, and received a private tour of the Bukit Nanas Reserve, an ancient (over 3 million years old) rainforest (pictured) on the same hill as the KL Tower.

That night we had a few drinks at the hostel’s rooftop overlooking the city (pictured).  We later went out to a karaoke bar in BB Plaza (one of the greatest shopping centres I’ve ever been to) for one last hurrah before going our separate ways.  On our way there we were highly entertained by public capoeira battles.  It was a super fun evening to end my time in KL, filled with old songs, new friends and unlimited food and slushies.

17 July 2010

Cute Kids Keeping it Real in KL