Rain check

October 14, 2011

This is probably going to come as a shock to all of you, probably most of all to us, but we have decided to cut our trip short by a month and head to Australia. We spent days in Hanoi checking every single weather forecast for the whole of South East Asia, but unfortunately everywhere had everything from bad floods in Thailand to terrorist threats in Indonesia to Tropical Storms in Vietnam. It seems we couldn’t get away from the monsoon season. So we decided with a great reluctance that we’d rather cut it short, save our money and return in better weather than hang around not being able to do the things we wanted while the skies poured with no guarantee for when it would stop. We know luck will have it that in two, three, four weeks time it will be amazing, sun lounging, trekking, boating weather, but we just couldn’t find anywhere to go while we waited. So now we’re on a plane bound for Adelaide with mixed emotions. We’ve had the most amazing time away. We got engaged, got lost too many times to mention, saw the biggest balls in the world and realised that after spending everyday together for the past five months, we’re in pretty good stead for our life to come. But this isn’t the end of the blog so we hope you stick around and see what Australia has in store for us.

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Hanoi

October 14, 2011

We arrived in Hanoi pre warned about unscrupulous airport taxi drivers and their many scams. So when we found ours, I was expecting the worst. It’s always a little unnerving when someone speaks in a different language in front of you, as you’re paranoid they’re calling you horsedick to your face. So when our driver made a phonecall as soon as we got in the car, I was pretty sure he was calling his mafia boss to inform him that fresh, Western meat was in the car and that we’d be delivered to his whorehouse in 20 minutes. During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I flitted between worrying about us being kidney-less sex slaves and looking out of the window, completely mesmerised by the utter chaos on the streets. The Vietnamese practically live most of their life on the street as this is where they cook, eat, socialise, sell and do their crazy-ass driving. Their traffic system is pretty much non existent. As we drove down the main freeway, people were randomly walking on the road as the traffic whizzed by them. No one believes in lanes, stopping or indicating. In fact, our driver indicated at the most random, unnecessary times, leading me to believe he was just doing it because he thought Western people liked the ticking noise. Cars drive on the line that separates the two sides of oncoming traffic and motorbikes weave like drunkards between cars, trucks, people and buses, carrying everything from the village’s supply of toilet paper, multiple family members and trees. People were burning rubbish by the side of the road, eating and walking around with their bamboo shoulder baskets trying to make the last sell of the day. All these sights while listening to Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply. Surreal, right?

Our first day was spent at a cooking school which was one of the best things we’ve done on our trip. We started with a local student taking us around the neighborhood markets. These markets are called frog markets, as the ‘vendors’ are illegally selling things they’ve bought at a wholesale market and are just selling it on trying to make a buck. So when the police come, they have to jump up and bring all of their wares indoors, hence the name, frog market. Everyone at these markets sell something different. There’s fruit, meat, vegetables, shoes, noodles, rice and herbs. Oh yeah, and there’s also dog, which is probably the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Wholly roasted and weirdly crispy, this is one sight I will never forget. Although having said that, I don’t think it’s right for Westerners to judge what other cultures eat and have been eating for hundreds of years. At the cooking class, which ended up being a private lesson for Luke and I, we learnt about how Vietnamese food is all about balancing the flavours, like ying and yang and how Vietnamese people love eating close to the ground and actually, just eating in general. They eat and spend much of their time outdoors to maintain relations with their neighbors and to spend time with their families and one meal a day should always be eaten at home. After we’d finished preparing our bun cha soup (BBQ pork noodles) we had the best meal of our whole trip.

But it wasn’t just food and culture we learnt about. We also learnt that Luke has the most vomit inducing man smell when put in humid, sweating, non deodorant wearing conditions. He was fascinated with this new smell, kind of like when babies discover poo in their nappies and smear it all over themselves. He found ‘intriguing’. Upon smelling it, I, on the other hand, wondered if this was going to be the moment in our relationship when I was going to projectile vomit over his feet. After letting him reveal in this new smell for half a day, I made him shower and soap twice. Yes, it was that powerful.

Hanoi is one of those places you enjoy for a couple of days and then get the hell out. While fearing for your life when crossing the road is fun for a while, it’s just not sustainable. Nor are the tiny baby stools that street food vendors put out when you’re Luke and extremely unflexible when faced with having to basically squat while eating. And it’s not sustainable for someone like me who pretty much gets the shits just looking at bug infected chicken that’s been sitting on the street all day. So we stayed, we enjoyed and then we got the hell out.

Hong Kong

October 10, 2011

Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. On the streets, you’re greeted with some of the most delicious, mouth watering aromas, but walk another step and the most putrid smell will shoot up your nose, enough to put you off eating for, oh, at least ten minutes. By night, you’re dazzled by neon, lost in a sea of black hair and surrounded by the childish tunes of some really bad advertising. Yet by day, bamboo scaffolding covers the city, tiny old women and led by their daughters to lunch and men balancing gas tanks on their bikes weave their way through the streets. It really is a pretty amazing city.

After a 15 hour flight with two hours sleep, we found ourselves eating a £10 Michelin star meal, we watched the most unassuming jazz group perform in a hairdresser salon, come gallery, come bar. We spoke with a crazy, cleaver wielding street vendor who told us all the English words he knew while the blood from recently hacked fish, frogs and god knows what else from his stall dripped into a bucket by our feet. We walked the Path of Wisdom yet didn’t understand a word and visited a fishing village whose people lived on stilted houses on the water and were so far removed from Hong Kong it was like we’d stepped back in time. We went to a market where the hearts of fish were still beating in their dissected bodies and bowls of freshly cut tripe were going for 15 cents. We watched men walk around the Bird Market with their pet songbirds, looking for a suitable mate. We went to the Goldfish Market, the Temple St Market, Ladies Market, pretty much every market in town. We ate a lot, sweated like bitches and really hope to come back again one day soon.

LA, LA, LA, LA, LA

October 6, 2011

Apart from being able to go back in time and morph into Michael J Fox’s body while filming Back to the Future, going to The Magic Castle is probably going to be the highlight of Luke’s life. Like losers, we went to the first dinner sitting at 6 O’NANNA CLOCK. At first, I was highly embarrassed by this. Now, I’m not pretending we are cool in any way, after all, we were at the Magic Castle, but the people around us were weird. Like a pedophile on a ‘date’, Midwestern housewives flirting with the ‘I fantastise having sex with my mom waiter’ and a group of friends who were talking about calculators in between awkward silences. However, I got over my embarrassment when I realised Luke was right, by eating early, we could see all the magic we wanted. And I’m not being sarcastic. The magic at the Magic Castle was top notch. I’d like to say that Luke was running around the place like a kid in a candy store with me having to pretend not to know him, but he wasn’t, I was. I even got to go up on stage during one of the shows to draw something. Now, I know what you’re thinking. She drew a cock. In my head I was thinking; ‘go on, draw a cock. Draw a cock. Luke wants you to draw a cock, you want to draw a cock. Just draw a bloody cock. Sure these uptight Americans won’t know what to do, but it will by funny. GO ON AND DRAW A COCK.’ So I drew a walking rock instead. I know, what a pussy.

But onto the rest of LA.

LA is awesome. It’s massive. It’s full of traffic and it’s kind of overwhelming. We stayed in Venice Beach which was odd but great. We rode cruisers up and down the promenade, watched the groups of homeless people arrange their trolleys around their sleeping areas and the leathered ex bodybuilders stay in shape on Muscle Beach. Because LA is so big, you have to drive everywhere. Luckily, it’s only taken Luke and I two months of driving to actually work out a system that doesn’t involved screechy voices. Prior to ‘the system’, when Luke drove, and the GPS flipped out, Luke immediately assumed it was because I didn’t know how to read a map. So he’d grab it off me. This is because he has magical man skills that can interpret a GPS that’s telling us to drive into a field better than me. Our new, improved system is now him pulling a face, trying to fight nature and the magical man skills coming to the surface and mine is to point out less regularly how great my behaviour is when faced with GPS meltdown.

We’re now off to Hong Kong to start the Asian leg of our journey. We can’t quite believe that our time in the US has drawn to an end. It has been truly great experience. Sure, we’ve forgotten most of it already, but that’s what the blog is for.

Santa Cruz and The Big Sur

October 4, 2011

We’ve stayed in some great and not so great places throughout our 4 months on the road. One of the best was probably our place in Santa Cruz. We stayed in a wooden shed in the garden of someone’s home, complete with a record player, huge record collection and outdoor bath surrounded by twinkly lights. It would have been romantic if either one of us actually knew how to be romantic.

We decided to drive down the Big Sur and stop at Pfeiffer Beach where the sand was supposedly purple. It was, and I was way more impressed with it than I thought I’d be. So much so, I kept on saying ‘purple, it’s purple’ like a tard. Although, probably more impressive was the sea garbage that looked like a gang bang of penises. Seeing cocks in most objects is probably number one reason why I can’t be romantic.

We decided to drive further along the coast when we were hit with the Californian fog. This stuff rolls in and then blocks the view of everything you drove an hour and a half to see. So we took the view we’d seen so far, multiplied it in our brains and then went home and waited for it to get dark so we could have another bath.