Tag Archives: On The Road

Tioman Jungle Trek

At the North end of Salang Beach the footpath winds up past an impressive abandoned bungalow complex. I say impressive becuase the bungalows cling to the steep slopes teetering on high thin legs and actually blend into the hillside quite well.

The path quickly turns to a winding jungle camino that follows the electricity cables that come from the islands capital.

My T-shirt was soon turned into a sopping rag as the humidity and the heat took their toll, but after a good hike up and down you come to the deserted white sand beach of Monkey Bay.

At Monkey Bay I stripped my sopping clothes and skinny dipped in the cooler waters of the sea, floating around I could look back at the jungle wrapped around the bay like a shawl.

Continuing on was an easier walk even if the distance was farther as the slopes became kinder. Monkeys followed me in the trees making sure I wasn’t up to no good, monitor lizards scurried out of my way and I teased tree snakes with sticks as butterflies flapped dreamily around as if in an opium den. The noise is hypnotic in the jungle, a constant rythm that has kept us entertained for all time, before the electronic rythms this was our melody and it has stayed fresh.

Eventually the path reaches habitation again and after another set of stairs and a hill reaches the long arc of a bay that the small airport sits on. I came across a fellow I knew was from Salang and hitched a ride back in his boat along with his son that he was accompanying from school. Perfect timing for the perfect day.

Jungle with gorgeous beaches

I love the fact that Tioman has a heart of solid jungle that can be explored, but must be respected. I spent a long time on Koh Tao in Thailand but found the fact that it had evolved from one vast coconut plantation had left it featureless in it’s interior, but Tioman still has the monkeys, monitor lizards, butterflies snakes and everything that goes with this hemisphere and location.

Little India

One thing about Singapore is that you can transport yourself to different parts of the world in theme park style by going to a few of the little enclaves dotted about.

Right now I am in Little India. Little India is like a sanotised microcosm of the mother country where you can absorb the sights and sounds in a few hundres square metres, music shops, shrines, them smell of incense misxed with spicy food. Tonight I chowed down on a mutton byriani and cold iced tea.

I almost didn’t stay through the day though. For a while this morning I missed my lady and felt somehow as if I were negligent in not being in the UK with my brethren for the bad weather and knee deep snow, so much so that I rang Qantas and asked them to change my flight. But just before I gave them my credit card info for the surcharge I realised that I had better finish what I had started and make it through my last week for this winters trip, so I have booked a bus to take me to Mersing where I’ll catch a ferry to Tioman tomorrow.

for tonight I have the treat of the six nations starting so I’ll pop on over to a local bar and catch the game in 20 minutes time.

Singapore Slings

I’m getting too lazy to shift my arse out of Singapore – It;s comfy here, not as expensive as you’d think if you stck to the food halls where you can buy any food from China, India, Malaysia with even fish and chips on the menu for those missing home. So why move – I have heard the weather is still awful on the island of Tioman so perhaps diving is out of the question so we’ll see – it’s raining here now so maybe this muggy weather will lighten up a wee bit.

Anyhow, later on I persuade a few lovely souls staying in the hostel that  it would be a good idea to try a Singapore Sling at Raffles. It’s the only thing I had on my agenda here so we have some food and meander over to the iconic hotel in the late evening. I didn’t actually think we’d get in, believe it or not I looked about the tidiest of the bunch in my cotton shirt and strides, but my old tatty trainers, a lovely young French girl who was wearing a pair of rubber thongs and an American feller that looked like he should be playing in the Red Hot Chillies all added up to a refusal at the first hurdle in my books but no, they allowed us to sit in an outside bar in the centre of the hotel and sup on a few slings we did. They tasted a bit like an over enthusiastic half pint of strong grenadine, but hell, they were invented here and we had one at the source.

Job done, now what Captain Kirk?

Singapore

I remember once standing on a Thai raliway station with my daughter in my arms as life went on around us. Lady boys flirted on the night time tracks and people milled around until they all started to buzz about like stirred up bees shouting ‘Singapore Singapore’. It was the orient express travelling on it’s way south with it’s carriages full of luxury. A little nest of people sat on a balcony at the back of the train with a waiter poised to fill up glasses with more champagne and for a moment I saw the difference between the life we had chosen to live and the opulence of this little island sat like a jewel in the sea.

And here I am, sweltering in the humidity that marks so many months in this part of the world thinking that the only way to really get to know this place is to take out a bank loan and spend until increasingly chubby fingers are spent.

But no, one will simply nip into Raffles and have a Singapore Sling, anything else would be showing off. How vulgar.

David Byrne and goodbyes

The friends I am staying with in Perth bought me a ticket to see David Byrne play at the city zoo so we ambled over there via some nachos and a pint and settled in for what turned out to be a wonderful night.

Byrne built the evening up from low key to spectacular in a similar way to the ‘Stop making Sense’ gigs of the eighties, only this time it was subtle. He played a lot of the Byrne Eno songs and I think most people went home feeling like they had seen the best that Byrne could deliver – a few people were shouting for Psycho Killer at the end but I’m quite happy he didn’t do that song, It was always a song for opening the night, end the night on something a little less psychotic.

So here I am waiting to go to the airport. The hospitality I have recieved in Perth has been the best yet, but perhaps that’s because they are valuable old friends I am visiting and a few bridges have been mended. Life is short and we can’t afford to waste such beautiful people, so it is on a note of reconciliation and friendship that I leave this wonderful country on. I am also happy that such a warm welcome was afforded by people from back home, I had begun to think that it was an Australian cultural quirk to throw the doors open with such warmth, but no. Good.

So I am in love with this country, it took me a wee while to get my head around it’s warm and very big heart but I think I have an idea of it’s nature now and feel comfortable just being here.

I think we’ll be back.

Work

Just to show I haven’t forgotten that I am supposed to be writing a blog about work and travel I had better mention that I do work whilst on the hoof y’know.

Today I updated three websites and went half blind staring at my monitor until the early hours – it’s worth it though as when I put my laptop down the scenery is still stunning.

For this evening we went to one of those Ozzy restaurants where S.E.Asian food is given the reverence it deserves, then back home for a few cold beers. Life is good – only a few more days until I fly to Singapore and then Malaysia so I had better make the most of Australia now, I do hope to be back.

On The Road Again

It’s getting cold here in the UK so it’s time to pick up my laptop and head south. Qantas seem to be wanting to give tickets away at the moment so I picked up a four flight deal for just over a grand, Heathrow Bangkok, Hong Kong – Sydney, Perth – Singapore and then Singapore – London with a break in Tioman for some diving and Penang for a good curry.

I obviously have to make up the bits in between so I’ll be travelling overland from Bangkok to Hong kong and from Sydney to Perth. On top of this I have to co-ordinate work while I am away, but in this day and age that’ll be a doddle right?

Leaving things until the last minute as usual I have been sorting out things like visas this week. China and Vietnam need you to have a visa before considering entry into the country so my passport is at the Chinese Embassy right now. I can pick up a vietnamese visa in Camobodia, apparently without the hassles of getting it in London. The Australian visa was a a simple case of applying online – Thailand will simply give me a visa at the airport which is nice of them. Sorted.

This leaves the gear I will have to take with me to help me work and play on the road for three months.

I do enjoy this bit in a nerdy kind of way, as a kid I would collect camping gear to escape into the wild, even going so far as to shoplift kit from the local camping shops. So this isn’t drudgery to me. In fact this whole Cyber Gypsy thing is just an extension of that, carrying my whole universe around with me so that I can even run my business while I am away. It does take a little thought to be able to travel light though –

One of my First buys was a Jungle Hammock from a very nice fellow called Tom Claytor who just happens to be flying around the world in a light aircraft at the moment. I guess he is another kind of Cyber Gypsy. I like the idea of a jungle hammock because it makes me totally sefl sufficient for a place to spend the night – mosquito free. It has a rain cover and a mosquito net and can even be used as a kind of netted bivouac if needs be – all for a fraction of the weight of a tent. Done.

I didn’t get the camouflaged one.

For a rucksack I needed something with a laptop pocket that could take up to 40 litres but also get on a plane as hand luggage. After looking around the London camping shops I came up with the North Face Overhaul 40 a bag that can be expanded to a tardis like degree.

For mobile communication I changed mobile providers to ‘Three‘ and picked up a schpanking new Nokia E71. Now this was a canny move as ‘Three’ have networks in two of the countries I will be visiting (Hong Kong and Oz) meaning I can use my phone as I would at home with unlimited internet access and minutes. It also has a huge memory for all my MP3’s and an FM radio so it means that I don’t have to bother with any kind of MP3 player. Sorted.

Next was a camera that would take great pics but not take up too much real estate. I could have gotten hold of a nice Nikon but opted for a point and shoot with an 18x zoom lense – in my experience having a good analogue zoom is the killer point for a camera when you travel as it means you don’t have to get into peoples faces to take nice pictures, the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 seems to do it all. My onle issue with it is the battery life, but I’ll pick up a few spare batteries in Hong Kong while I am there which will sort that out.

Pop a super teeny weeny Storm Shield S660-D Sleeping bag (not made anymore I think) that has pure down in it meaning it will pack up small enough to fit into a sock and that’s it.

I’m not going to go down to the suntan lotion level of detail, so assume I’ll pack some swimming trunks and a pair of sunglasses.

I have six days to ponder the finer points of packing a bag and that’s it – my next post will be about some of the things I do to make sure I can still run my business even if my laptop is stolen.

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Toulouse, Biarritz and Rugby

I didn’t realise quite how much the French were into the founding spirit of rugby until I met Eric. He told joke after bawdy joke, in English,  as we sat eating Basque food in Biarritz with a couple of mutual friends. He then started relating back bits of monty python movies. It seems that to be a true rugby playing connoisseur in France you have to suck in a little bit of English university lads culture too and It it was very different to my memories of a France where people wouldn’t talk to you if you were from North of the Isle of Wight. Vive la France and Brian…Brian…go to your room…

I actually spent a little more than 2p getting flying to Toulouse (my last two flights cost me 2p and 4p to Newquay and Ireland) but it wasn’t a fortune. I was met at the Airport be a very talented photographer friend of mine called Rodolph who was nice enough to put me up. We teamed up with a girl he knows called Biata and hi tailed it (well, after some fine food and wine at the local restaurant) to Biarritz to watch a surfing competition.

Now I don’t know about you but I have always had trouble watching things like surfing. We have turned into a race of voyeurs who are happy enough to toast like ros bif on the beach to look a little more appealing for the plastic surgeon, but oh not me. I’m a man of action so in I went to the freezing Atlantic to dunk myself. It woke me up, cleared the remains of last nights beer from my system and reminded me why I haven’t done that since I returned from a three year stint in South East Asia ten years ago. It needed doing.

We decamped to the local restaurants that night and ate the fine Basque fare…cheeses you could frighten children with and lots of sea food, but the cider had to be the star turn. The locals swear by it but I did cheekily try to explain the merits of Strongbow…a bit like extolling the joys of a ginsters pasty in Cornwall, you’d expect an escort to the county line by a bunch or purse lipped lynch mobsters but no, I think they are going to come and try it.

I left my laptop in Toulouse as I didn’t plan on doing any work, but at one point, whilst back on the beach, I was sent a text by a customer saying they had no mail server. I had to sort it out so I went to the little surf village (it was the french leg of the world longboard tour so pretty well equipped) and voila, six laptops and wifi for the general public generously supplied by Orange mobile phones. So, from a beach in Northern France I managed to reboot a server in California that powers a website for a company in London, I may be getting nerdy but I love that stuff.

So, from the windy roads that are fit for Commander Bond, to the harbour of Arcachon where we managed to find an Irish pub on the way to stay at our friends place. Nowhere else was open and in this place we managed to catch them at last orders. ‘Non’ they said to our requests for ale. ‘But our guest is Irish and HAS to drink’ said Biata (our lovely sex starved Polish hostess). ‘Well of course we have to give him beer in that case’ was the reply so we feasted on yet more of the black stuff. My family is Irish but as for me I’m from London, but it’s good to pull out the family roots when needs are great.

Slauncha

Newquay

Ryanair occasionally have deals where they pay all taxes on 1 penny deals around Europe, so whenever they do this I snaffle up a few cheap deals. You have to be quick to get some of the more popular routes, but using this flight checker makes things a little simpler.

Cornwall

So I got my arse out of bed at 4am and drove up to Stanstead. At that time in the morning the trains weren’t running so I took the car and stuck it in medium term parking. To do this make sure that you get back within 24 hours or they’ll sting you for the extra days. Now one of the reasons I take journey’s like this is because I love flying, not because I have any special affinity with plane spotters but because it has to be one of the best things you can do for less than a quid. I mean they take you up to five miles, you get to hang out and drink coffee then you come back again with a landing to rival anything at Thorpe park. There is that whole romantic ‘age of travel’ stuff too, but I’d find it hard to justify a linen suit on the am journey to Newquay so I’ll leave it at that. It’s A LOT of fun.

But this time the plane doesn’t want to land at Newquay. We get to within 50 metres of the runway and the pilot decides he can’t see anything due to the thick dense fog rolling in from the Atlantic. This is true and it’s good that in this age of hi tech gadgetry he finds this out by giving it a go and sticking his foot on the throttle as the plane is about to dump itself on the runway. So we turn back and land on the teeny weeny runway at Bournmouth where we land with a thump because apparently the pilots prefer to do this than overshoot (I was told this by some bloke sitting next to me so don’t take his word for it). We got a bus to Newquay, we were dropped off at the airport where I made my way to the cliffs for some windswept hiking. You can see me being windswept here.

The plane managed to land for the journey back in the evening, making the only disappointment of my day out being the fact that it was virtually impossible to get a good Cornish pasty in Newquay…next stop Ireland.