Friday, March 31, 2006

sakura hanami

so i decided to take my own advice and went on a massive, 3 hour long hanami in search of the perfect blossoms. it was a lot of fun! it made for a good tour of downtown vancouver.

garth, the travel gnome

i finally got around to posting the pictures of garth's vacation. it took a really long time to do because he was being very picky as to which picture he wanted uploaded and even more about the captions. i mean, i don't mind typing for him but i do have better things to do!

anyhow, i created a mosaic of garth's travels today. i made it as a way to say sorry for getting short tempered with him yesterday... anyhow he doesn't know about it yet, but i'm sure he'll be quite pleased.

i rock!

since january 2005, garth has been to vegas, chicago, vegas again, quebec city, puerto vallarta, tokyo, beijing, x'ian, lijiang, luang prabang, hanoi, halong bay, perth, fremantle, tongariro and in queensland oz. unfortunately he was too tired to get his picture taken while in cambodia, thailand, malaysia, singapore and fiji. oh well! he's still the best traveled gnome i know!

you can see more pictures of garth on his very own flickr page!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

all quiet on the western front

well, there asn't been much going on in my life since my last post. i still haven't found a googlewhack. apparently my vocabulary and imagination are just not up to par. to compensate though i have been fattening my flickr account with tons of pictures and my itune with tons of new songs. and to top it all i have posted some reflections to some hiking i have done in asia on my other blog.

i have also been working on a set of my favourite pictures from my trip... trying to keep it at under 4 pictures per country. it's not easy at all! my set will need much editing, but hopefully it will get there. would be nice to have a sort of résumé of my pictures, make it easier to sum things up. i've also been toying with the idea of a set dedicated to the food i have consumed and looked at, as well as a set dedicated to the people of asia. and i still have garth's pictures to upload!

on the upside the sakura hanami in vancouver right now is simply incredible! there's a pretty example of this that can be found here. we have some 36,000 cherry trees in vancouver, so get out there and see them in full glory, people!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

damn googlewhack!

i recently (read, two days ago) purchased a new book, dave gorman's googlewhack adventure. i got the reading bug (again, finally!) while traveling and so i've been going through books pretty fast. i picked this book up because i was curious as to what "googlewhacking" was and because the book was about traveling.

and so, last night, i started reading. and found out what it was, which is actually pretty simple. according to,
A Googlewhack is a query consisting of two words (without quotation marks) entered into Google's search page that returns a single result. Googlewhacking or Googlewhackingoff is the pastime activity of finding such a result. A person attempting to find Googlewhacks is known as a Googlewhacker.
and the whole point of the book is that the author, dave gorman (a uk comedian), decides to travel the world in search of 10 googlewhack in a row, which have to be generated by the people he meets. well, that's a bad explanation and résumé on my part but it's pretty much it.

in the book though he makes finding a googlewhack look easy. basically, it's a chance to pinpoint one site that's completely different than the 3 billion + sites indexed by google. so in reality, it's not that easy.

so i was bored today and i tought i'd try to find my own wack. well, it's been over 3 hours and i have now given up (perhaps only temporarily). i came up with a lot of non-results. there are rules to follow and a few times i tought i had it but i didn't. sight. the closest i got was with repurposed spermatocytes: i got 2 results. but then again they were from word lists and wouldn't have counted. the closest second i got was spermatocyte deconstructionism, with 29 hits. my favourite combo was invaginating spermatocydes. can you tell i was obsessed with spermatocydes? haha! it's not my fault if marx wrote about inveterate lineament...

Friday, March 24, 2006

i've been to 9% of the world's countries!

apparently i have visited 22 countries... yet somehow it felt like there was countries missing in the caribbeans? but maybe i'm crazy. the whole thing is pretty cool though, even though they lump the entire of canada together and the states too... makes it seem like you've been to a lot more places than in real life. sight. i still have so much left to see!

create your own visited countries map

they're having a big debate in the comment section of the website as to whether or not to include palestine as a country. obviously palestine "doesn't exist" any longer, but as one person posted: "Palestine is a country. It's under illegal foreign occupation, doesn't make it less of a country, racists." oh, the joy of this never ending debate.

out from hiding

yesterday was another one of those infamous vancouver gray days but i decided that this was going to be the day that i would step outside and face the world. see, since my return i've been staying inside, where it is warm, trying my best to avoid the unavoidable truth that i am no longer on vacation, no longer in a beautiful tropical country, no longer somewhere warm.

but for a spring day, it was warm yesterday. a beautiful 16C, with people outside playing in t-shirts and light sweaters. so i decided to get back to the old routine and do the sea wall walk. from my house back, it's about 20 km long and takes 2.5 hours to accomplish. i figured, heck, i'm in shape, so this will be a breeze.

well, it was hard regardless! my legs were hurting and my abs too... but especially my feet! i haven't worn runner or shoes even for the past 8 months + and my feet were just not used to it at all. i should have done it in my sandals, dammit!

the walk was fine though, and it being vancouver it got cold and windy along the wall. and it rained, of course. it always rains. anyhow, i got to take great blurry pictures of flowers (vancouver is in bloom!) and gray shots of north van.

demi cercle blurry blooms 1 blurry blooms 4 blurry blooms 5 quiet

on the way back home i saw a sign for the dine out vancouver and discovered that it was happening that very same day! dine out is a great concept where you pick a participating restaurant and go eat as you normally would, except that the restaurant gives a portion of the cost of your meal to AIDS charity. every year we try to go, because we both love eating and eating out for a good cause makes it a lot more fun.

while usually we go to cafe luxy (always good!) that's right beside our house, i suggested that we'd try lickerish further down the road. the place was quite nice and the atmosphere was great, but the food, well, wasn't spectacular. my scallops were nice but could have been tastier, and my rack of lamb could have been a lot tastier. perhaps it's because my tastebuds are asleep after my trip (it took me 5 licks of the sauce/coulis that came with the scallops to recognised that it tasted like white wine and butter ~ the taste of most mussel dishes. shame on me) and because i've been eating new zealand lamb and mutton which are both stronger... but the meal wasn't a wow (although i have to say that the wild mushroom sauce was fantastic). and david's tenderloin was not cooked to his specification... ah well! i might still venture there again to try their tikka massala mussels - intriguing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

more luxury

another advantage of being home is the liberty of cooking whatever i want to eat. for example, this morning i made myself an omelet stuffed with goat cheese and grilled red onions, orange pepper and cherry tomatoes. yum!

omlette stuffed with goat cheese, grilled onion, orange pepper and cherry tomatoes

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

the luxury of home

vancouver in the spring, new blooms.
clothing that i have not worn in the past 8 months.
new underwear. new clothing.
clothing that smell good.
goat's cheese.
good bread.
taking a bath.
keeping up with my flickr contacts.
being in my own things.

knowing what to expect.

"back to life, back to reality"

i am now home.

the "tour" has ended.

i thought that it would be much harder to come home, much harder to get back to real life and reality. while i was traveling, i'd think about it sometimes and feel trapped at the thought of being home. but now that i am here, everything is fine... even getting here was fine. it is all very surprising. in a good way, of course. but perhaps in a week from now, i will get anxious and want to get moving again. after all, i haven't stayed in the same place, in the same bed, in the same anything, for longer than a week for the past 7.5 months.

i am not sure how to reflect on these past months. it all seems surreal, really. time went by so fast. it's hard now to wrap my head around all that i have done and seen. i have been working on my pictures since my return and i just can't believe that *i* did all of that. went to all these places. and loved it all, the bad and the good. loved it.

so, until i can think of something clever to say to conclude my trip, here is a tally of random numbers, just for the heck of it.

2 continents.
11 countries.
12 currencies.
9 languages.
12 flights.
18 train rides.
33 long distance bus rides.
24 ferry / boat transports.
1 ride in an hired car.
1 rental van.
6 different subway systems.
16,525 (yes, that's right) pictures.

but here is truly how i feel... dedicated to all of those who have tasted the fruit.

My men went on and presently met the Lotus-Eaters nor did these Lotus-Eaters have any thought of destroying our companions, but they only gave them lotus to taste of. But any of them who ate the honey-sweet fruit of lotus was unwilling to take any message back, or to go away, but they wanted to stay there with the lotus eating people, feeding on lotus, and forget their way home.
- The Odyssey


Monday, March 20, 2006

welcome to the usa - please surrender your rights

our flight to fiji brought us to honolulu hawaii before taking us home to vancouver. having a stop over in the united states means having to go through customs, and so we were handed out the regular paper work you get to fill in when you enter a country. except that this time we were given an extra sheet: the i-94w nonimmigrant visa waiver arrival/departure form. now i was pretty sure that as canadians we didn't have to fill this baby out but the staff gave it to us knowing our nationality so we filled it out just in case.

we were both shocked and appalled by what the form asked and what it said. the usa are such a paranoid freak nation, forms like this really doesn't make you want to ever visit again. talk about invasion of privacy, crazy questions and requests. the cold war is over, is it not? i can't believe that people actually have to fill this shit out. and then, on top of it all, have their picture and prints taken as well while entering the country. such bullshit! and i thought china was bad...

american insanity

american insanity

Saturday, March 18, 2006

doing fiji the wrong way... still good

fiji is an absolutely beautiful country, with islands of sand and islands from volcanic activity. the scenery is stunning. the water is incredible. the reefs are everywhere. the sand is white. the vegetation is lush and in a perfect shade of green. and the resorts are quiet, the beaches are deserted and it is just so easy to relax.

but i did fiji the wrong way. the wrong way for me, that is. i've always imagined fiji as this romantic, special destination where you get luxury for the cash you put down. but we did fiji the backpacker's way, in dorm rooms in nadi and in basic bure on the islands. and i felt like i was in asia, with a slightly better landscape. i felt like i was paying more than 10 times more for the accommodation than i should, than i would have in asia for the same deal. and so fiji was nice, but i was disappointed to be doing it the wrong way.

we spent our first night in nadi, in a very, very basic dorm room. we then booked ourselves in a package that included the boat rides, 3 night stays in 2 islands and the food. it was cheaper and easier to do it that way.

our first island was naviti, a big volcanic island with 3 resorts on the same beach. when i say that, it is important to understand that the beach was still deserted and that in our daily walks we'd hardly even cross someone on the beach. our resort was really quiet, we were only 7 guests in the entire resort... and so we had about 20 staff members to ourselves! our beach was beautiful and long, but the big fallout of the resort is that we couldn't really swim in the water as the reef came right to the beach. we did find a few spots deep enough to squat ourselves in and a couple places were we could go in but we were always afraid of getting into the reef, of hurting ourselves or the reef. so, we mostly walked on the beach and at low tide, we'd explore the reef by walking it in spots where there was nothing to damage. we saw plenty of sea cucumbers, sea stars, sea snakes (to which a staff member asked with a really concerned face where we'd seen them - all over - only to say after that they are harmless - which i doubt) fish and crabs. we also saw a couple feet long shark and i spotted a small ray. not too bad for no water!

our last island was kuata, a smaller but still quite big volcanic island. we were at the only resort on it, a "nature resort" which we found out meant you got the entire bug population in your room at night due to the lack of screens in the windows - thank god for mossie nets. the resort was quite nice though, and so was the beach and the view: we were facing another island. here we got to snorkel and i really enjoyed it there, and for some crazy reason liked the snorkeling here better than on the barrier reef in oz. maybe it was because it was sunny in fiji and i could see more colours in the corrals. maybe it was because i wasn't being assaulted by jellyfish. but i saw tons of fish, quite colourful, and i even got trapped in a school of what looked like sardines. what looked like 20 thousand sardines decided that i was worthy of a visit and they proceeded to encircle me. it was really cool, to be surrounded by a wall of fish but it also meant that i could no longer see where i was going and i was afraid i'd hit the wall of the reef at any moment. it was so cool though. it's such an incredible sight.

we left the resort at 4pm and headed back to nadi for some food and our flight back home. for some reason i was quite fine about all of that, about flying out, about this trip ending. i guess i had gotten used to the idea. and so, there were no panic attacks this time. just surrender to what you cannot change, i guess.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

goodbye oz, hello fiji!

yesterday was our last night in oz, at a camper park near the wicked van depo. we made our way from byron bay to sydney quite well, with a near running out of gaz incident and some sugar can robbery... hehe! makes for good mojitos.

today we said goodbye to sydney and said bula to fiji. we are now in nadi, it is warm and humid and even worst in the dorms! but tomorrow we're heading out to smaller islands and boat tours, which will be quite nice.

country #11... last country. 4 full days left. sight.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

cairns to byron bay

before leaving cairns we picked up travis at the airport, a texan we met while in sydney. and so, our duo is now a trio, filled with great stories and amazing food since he's a cook! hehe. we have been heading back towards sydney pretty fast, but have made some stops along the way to check out more waterfalls in the atherton tableland region (where i got attacked by leaches), as well as a repeat visit to agnes water (the best beach in oz for swimming i think) and byron bay. we were supposed to skip byron on our way back and stay in surfer's paradise instead but when we arrived in surfers yesterday, we were quite disappointed with the place and dubbed it mini miami. tall buildings, quite touristic, you can even see downtown brisbane from there. so we decided to leave it right away and go to beautiful byron instead. and so we did, and really treated ourselves to something nice at the same time: a nice really motel room and a fantastic dinner. it was so worth it!

today we get back on the road, and we have just over 900km left to drive in two days before getting back to sydney. we have no planned stops remaining, so these next days might not be so exciting, but whatever! i still think that it will be hard to leave oz and the van behind, although leaving them for fiji is making things much better. i guess i just know that everything is coming to an end... it's pretty hard to face.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

the great barrier reef

today we went on a trip to the unesco protected great barrier reef, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. this reef is huge, over 1000 km long and filled with some really amazing fish, corrals and mamals. our small boat (we spent more to be with a smaller group, we were 19 and it was really nice!) took us to two reefs for some serious snorkeling. we got to put on a pretty wet suit (not because the water is cold, but because of the sun and the jellyfish) and i even got to lick a sea concombre for a picture op. the first swim was wonderful, although there was a lot of stingers and i got stung more than a few times. i saw a white tip shark (not a great white!!!) of about 1.5 meter long which was quite impressive. we also did see a turtle but it wasn't around us when we were in.

on the second dive we got in and the reef wall was simply spectacular. we saw some really big fish and just as the wall, corrals and fish were getting really cool i got stung - bad. the burn was much worst than the ones i got the first time around and i was confused because i couldn't see any jellyfish around. i tried to get away but i just kept getting stung, so i went to a different area of the reef where it was fine before. earlier on the burning went away really fast but because this was not going away and i could see the bits stuck on my skin, i decided to get back on the boat for a breather. sadly they didn't have stingers suits left, and since i had gotten burned on my hand, arm, leg and neck i didn't feel like getting back in. within 5 minutes, most of the boat was back in, all with some pretty nasty stingers burns. david stayed in regardless, taking in the sights. but he got stung pretty bad, and i was still finding bits of tentacles in his beard hours later!

it was all worth it though, really! simply amazing stuff.

cape tribulation

our first day in cairns was spent... driving away from cairns! haha. the real ultimate destination of this trip was cape tribulation, about 140 km north from cairns. basically, to go up to where the road stops, unless you have a really good 4x4. so we drove up, taking in some of the most (read: the only nice bit) scenic strech of highway the eastern coast has to offer. beaches after beaches and jungle, there are actually things to look at up there instead of the usual sugar cane fields (we drove past some 1000 km worth of them). we took a lot of pictures along the way, because it was so damn beautiful, even under dark gray clouds and heavy rain. i got quite upset though about the weather... you see, it seems that almost every time i'm somewhere near the water i get shit weather and i never get the picture perfect blue sky, lots of sun, great shades of water deal. and here, following some of the most beautiful water in the world along the great barrier reef, i got crap shades of sea. ok, maybe not crap but just not nearly as good.

anyhow, we did stop at great (deserted) beaches and at some stunning view points. we got to ride a cable ferry across a crocodile infested river. we got bitten to shit by mossies. we got stuck on the side of the road in mud and grass and had to have people push us back onto the road. we got to cross bridges covered in water. and we got to the cape!

on our way back down we picked up an irish guy living in australia whose car died while trying to cross one of those flooded bridges. it was cool to get some conversation and we got beer out of it in port douglas, a beautiful town 60km away from cairns.

that night we ate at red ochre grill, a restaurant that focuses on aussie produces. we had crocodile for apetiser, david ate some kangaroo and i had some emu. we drank good local wine and ate desserts made of local fruits and the likes. yummy!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

magnetic island to cairns

on our free day on magnetic island we had the pleasure of a lazy morning, chillin in the hammacks and lying by the pool. after lunch we headed out to the forts walk on the other side of the island to try our luck at spotting koalas. while the girl at the hostel said that she'd only seen one (in a tone that made it sound like it was a waste of time) we kept our spirits high and our heads as well while walking the track. at first i was more convinced that we'd only leave with a sore neck (from all that looking up into the trees) but after a while david spotted the "gray motionless lump" (as described on the government sign) and it did turn out to be a wild koala. so i hiked up the hill and got pretty close and managed to get some cool shots. the reat of the way up was only filled with lizzard, birds and huge spiders, and on our way back down our koala friend was having a feast, so david went up to grab more pictures. we also had the pleasure to see rock wallabies just before the end of the hike.

the next day was our final drive up in order to reach cairns, our ultimate destination. we mostly spent the day driving up there but we did take a side trip to the wallaman falls, australia's highest single drop falls (268m). pretty impressive stuff! and we got to see 5 wild boars. by 6pm we were in cairns, checking in our hostel - sorry, hotel. the backpackers we checked in is so freaking nice and fancy, i'm still not sure what to think of it! it has to be the best looking, coolest setup backpackers ever. ever!

wallaman falls

Saturday, March 04, 2006

hervey bay to magnetic island

our trip to frazer island ended up being a very, very wet one. the bad weather stayed in and so every time we had to exit the bus for some sightseeing we got drenched. it was all in good fun though, battleling the wind and downpour. we got to see one of many lakes that dots the island. this one though was set on a sand dune with sand that was the crazyest shade of white i've ever seen... so pure it could glow. the lake was also quite beautiful but the colours didn't quite turn out too stunning without the aid of the sun. afterwards we took a walk in the jungle and then drove up to some coloured sand - pinacle formations along the beach. it was good to see that since we had missed out on them at rainbow beach due to the high tide. we also checked out a wreck and a creek along the way. on our last outting i was wearing my shell, my nha trang raincoat and had my umbrella to try to stay dry... it kinda worked, thankfully. and we got to see dingos. well, david saw 5 or so, and i saw half of one, but still!

that night we ate a aussie burger, with all the works, in a small town alongside the highway (we didn't feel like cooking in the rain). it was funny because the restaurant closed at 6:50pm and kicked us out after giving us our food so we had to eat in the car. regardless, this burger had: beef patty, egg, bacon, cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomatoe and... beets. damn aussies! it was good though, but i have to admit that we both removed the beet.

the next day the weather clared and we got plenty of sunshine when we got to town of 1770 (yes, that's the name) and agnes water. a beautiful spot really, with great surf (david got to try his luck again) and wonderful water to swim in - warm, and no stigners too!

now my memory is really giving up on me and i can't recall where we slept or where we woke up, where we went... haha! regardless, it was our 6 year anniversary. it was only mentioned one and was quite different that last year's, where we stayed at the ritz and ate at the four season in whistler. we spent that day driving, of course... damn! i've forgotten everything about yesterday. right! we crossed the tropics of capricorn. we went grocery shopping in a small town where buildings were decorated with giant bulls and the customers of the store either had no teeth or those big aussie cowboy hats. gotta love small towns. we spent the night at a random rest area along the road, where i cooked us some steaks (what else should you buy from a cattle town?) and a salad. due to some freak of nature incident, i managed to cook the steaks to a perfect medium-rare. the new found secret: cooking in the dark.

today we have made it to magnetic island, a beautiful island / koala reserve not too far from thne coast in the beautiful great barrier reef. we're staying at base, a hostel chain ranked by lonely planet's blue list as one of the top 10 hippest/coolest places to stay. we've only seen it in the dark so far, but it is quite nice!

tomorrow will be filled with a much needed break: lazy hours on the side of the ocean and the pool and a mid-day search for koalas. and on monday, it will be our final drive up to cairns!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


happy fall day!

today is the first day of fall in australia and new zealand. weird, no?

brisbane to hervey bay

so after all we skipped surfers paradise and went strait to brisbane, due to some surf board shopping obstacles (as in "you won't find that in byron bay") and a u-turn on the highway to go back to purchase a new board. yay for a new board! but anyhow...

got to brisbane, got to our hostel (bunk) and (wait for it...) took a shower!!! yes, that's right! the joy of staying in a van on the cheap means staying in rest stops along side the highway without shower facilities... so this was a good shower indeed. we then got ready and headed to garuva hidden tranquility restaurant and bar, a spot recommended by the bible (lonely planet) and it sounded so good that i decided to take david there for his birthday. the place, although it sounds very new age (granola, comme on dit en bon québecois), was probably one of the coolest places we'd ever been. through a jungle and indian wooden doors we were taken to a dark warehouse-like space that had been converted into labyrinth of sit on the floor spaces surrounded by white flowing fabric. basically it was like a japanese restaurant gone arabian, very sexy and comfortable, and very private. we started with drinks at the bar (again, where you sit on the floor) and the place was so dark it all became obvious why the waiter had asked for your mobile number in case we left something behind. then we went to our own white space for some food: chinese roast beef and some prawn-pumpkin-beansprout fritters. the food looked better than it tasted, and the fritters were about the size of a fist (ie, not easy to eat) but it was still quite a good time. afterwards we headed back to our hostel's sexy bar (read: seats are actual beds) for some more drinks and a pathetic game of pool (wet table and small balls don't help). then we retired to our freezing cold room for some much needed refrigeration (apparently).

the next day we headed for our wicked van check (see previous post) and afterwards the mechanic was nice enough to give us a bottle of sparkling australian wine... which turned out to be goun (how the hell do you spell that?) in the end. i had told myself that i would never drink that but only checked the bottle after the first sip - and then it was too late. for those who might now know, goun is wine made with egg and milk products... a scary idea really!

regardless, after brisbane we headed to noosa head for some surfing. david caught a few waves and i watched some kids do some wicked tricks and the likes. then we went swimming where noosa river meets the ocean, and that was heeps of fun. the current is very strong so you can let yourself flow into nearly the ocean, get up, walk back and do it all over again. the water was warm and we had a good laugh, as well as way too much sand in our baithing suits. that night we slept at a rest stop in the back of a store, which came with the added bonus of small barking dogs.

this morning we headed to rainbow beach to try to catch a tour into frazer island, the world's biggest sand island. unfortunately we arrived after the tour's departures but we managed to book ourselves in from tomorrow, leaving from hervey bay instead ~ where we now are. the bad thing though is that we're under a serious rain cloud and have been hammered all day by heavy rains and it might be the case for tomorrow as well... hopefully it won't make seeing frazer disappointing. though today we didn't really let it stand in our way, as we made our way to a giant sand dune and got sand blasted heavily (and drenched) while taking in the sights.

tonight we are staying in a camper site, where everyone owns a camper van or something fancier. kinda like a cult, a little scary... some couple is even traveling with their plants. it's a good spot though, right off the beach and under the paths of the flying fox (giant bats) in their evening outing. david estimated that we might have seen a million of them tonight, and somehow, that can't be far from the truth.

tomorrow, more sand!