Saturday, September 20, 2014

MONA day

Today was our designated MONA day, something we have been looking forward to for years. When we were in Australia in 2011 many people told us that we HAD to see this museum. There was also a profile article in the New Yorker magazine about its founder (aka God), David Walsh. So finally we got to cross this one off our bucket list!

Everyone said to be sure to arrive by ferry, so we did, chugging up the Derwent River for about 1/2 hour on a ferry boat decorated to the hilt with graffiti, a herd of fake sheep on the upper deck, a reclining Grecian couch slung across the front bow, and a life-size white cow near the sheep herd. One can opt for riding in the Posh Pit, where champagne flows freely along with tasty bites of lots of hors d'ouvres. We opted for traveling with the hoi polloi, minus all the frills.

The Derwent is a broad river with low hills on either side, and occasional golden sandstone rock cliffs. Arrival at the MONA begins with climbing 99 steps up a hillside, and then entering the ground level of this place. The museum is actually dug out of the rock and goes 4 floors underground into a cavernous space with golden stone walls and long passageways opening into various exhibition spaces. They encourage you to begin at the bottom level and slowly work your way up. We allowed all day to see this place, and mostly we needed it.

Everything is calculated for drama, shock value, and the unexpected. Even the bathrooms are works of art, small private rooms, each one different. One had movies projecting onto the floor. One had a set of mirrors set up to reflect your crotch area in startling display. One produced strange and unsettling sounds and noises. We wanted to explore them all, but could not manage it.

The whole place is the creation of David Walsh. The art work goes from the sublime to the ridiculous to the disgusting to the embarrassing to the inscrutable and many other places along the way. One of our favorites was a high stone wall with something like a long, horizontal shower fixture across the top. Water was released in continuous bursts and each time it spelled out a word in water drops. Magical.

There was a Fat Car, a Porsche, built to look fat all over including the seats. There were hundreds of plaster casts of vaginas, all different, lined up in rows along the walls. There was a room called the Cloaca where a row of tubes and glass beakers were simulating human digestion, getting fed human food at the beginning, then creating poop at the end of the process. The room smelled horrible, and the whole museum was full of unpleasant music and noise, played at big volume. It was fascinating and overwhelming. We had to take numerous breaks and then plunge back in. Fortunately there are caf├ęs, eateries, even a winery out there, and a glorious outdoor area for wandering and sitting to regroup.

We finally took the ferry back to Hobart, wandered around the city for awhile,and eventually ended walking all the way back to the cottage which took at least an hour, maybe more, but was great for warming up and getting exercise. Margaret has gone back to Bruny Island, generously leaving us alone in her house for a few days. We are very happy and comfortable and excited to be here!

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Location:MUseum of old and New Arts, Hobart, Tasmania

Exploring Tasmania

We're commencing our third day in Tasmania, mostly without any internet access. But I hopeful that somewhere in our wandering we will stumble on an Internet cafe! Hope springs eternal.

On the morning before we left Sydney we had one last hour-long walk through a neighborhood that featured a long, green gully with a creek racing through it, and many foot and bike trails along its length. It was a beautiful morning, and Anthea led us along this trail where we enjoyed flocks of wild parrots and beautiful gum trees and spring flowers. It was very sad to say goodby to her after so many wonderful days together, and we miss her keenly now.

Our friend Margaret met us at the tiny Hobart airport and drove us right to her town home in Hobart. She had described this place as a tiny cottage on the outskirts of town (a one-hour walk to downtown) and as rustic. Instead we are staying in a beautiful and artistic home in a lovely neighborhood in the Eastern part of the city. Buses operate all day long (we have yet to take one) and there are markets and restaurants within a couple of blocks of us. There are two fireplaces and the pantry is stocked with great things. We had lunch nearby and then M drove us into downtown Sydney for a walkabout near the waterfront, and to orient us to what is there. It's a beautiful small city, feels quite European, and it is dominated by the immense waterfront area, and then surround by hills and Mt. Wellington at the back of the city, swelling into the clouds. We look out the front door of our "cottage" and see the mountain, often wreathed in clouds, but once in awhile in full, sparkling view.

That evening we had a delicious Thai meal at a small cafe, Ivory, on Elizabeth St. and then fell into our cozy bed and slept like logs, in large part thanks to an electric blanket! It is chilly here, daytime temps in 50s and maybe low 60s in sunshine, and we have learned to "rug up" meaning wear very warm clothes!

We are appreciating the Tassie sense of humor. For example a huge sign around a construction site reads "Quiet please. Builders at work. Watch your language! Keep it clean now."

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Location:Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bye bye Sydney!

Today Daniella taught all day at Anthea's studio, a class of 7 women artists. As usual, they loved her and didn't want to stop working. Sadly this is our last day here. Tonight we pack up and tomorrow we fly to Hobart, Tasmania, for the next exciting part of our adventure.

Being in Sydney has been a total joy. We have such great friends here and the hospitality given to us has been above and beyond wonderful (Anthea you in particular!). We are already thinking about when we can come back.

We are not sure when we will have wifi access again. If there is a gap in our communication, don't be too surprised. But we will catch up with you!

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Location:Ernest Lane,Crows Nest,Australia

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blue Mountains, Day 2

A blissful night in the little love-nest (Sweet Pea Cottage) warmed by a wood fire in the pot-belly stove, and by a hot soak in the jacuzzi tub. This morning we leaped out of bed at the crack of dawn to get out walking and see what wildlife might be outside. Sure enough, two kangaroos crossed the road a few yards ahead of us, looking over their shoulders at us as they disappeared into the bush. Thrilling! We walked back out to the cliffs and followed some trails. It was magical being in the Bush alone, with the sights, sounds and smells all new to us. Then the wind kicked up and a sudden icy rain shower drove us back inside.

We sat with Richard and Anthea by the fire and had a long, juicy conversation about art and music and life, and heard a little of Richard's heart-wrenchingly lovely music. Then we drove to the city of Katoomba to see the famous Three Sisters rock formation.

After a yummy lunch in a Korean restaurant, and a quick stop at a mountaineering store to buy merino wool undershirts (preparation for Tasmania) we drove back to Sydney. It was a thoroughly fabulous 2 day adventure in a part of Australia new to us.

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Location:Mount Victoria, Australia

Blue Mountains, Day 1

It's about a 2 hour drive from Sydney to get to where we are now, in the spectacular Blue Mountains. I've heard about them for years, but today was our first glimpse of why they are so famous and beloved here. Anthea's friend, Richard, lives up here in a beautiful home with a detached guest cottage which he kindly offered to us. Sweet! Just the view from the cottage is heart-stopping.

I had no idea, but this area is Australia's equivalent to the Grand Canyon. There are canyons and gorges and rolling valleys everywhere. Richard took us on several astounding short hikes throughout the day: Pulpit Rock, Zig Zag Trail, Faeries Lookdown, and another name I can't remember. Several involved walking down narrow, zig-zag trails along the cliff faces. My adrenaline was surging as I clung to the walls and prayed not to slip! The views were phenomenal, and the lovely gum tree vegetation was too. The air is filled with fresh herbal aromas. Birds everywhere, calling loudly from treetops. I think that photos say it all. What an amazing day!

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Location:Mount Victoria, Australia

Girls On the Loose in Sydney

Sunday was a day off so we went exploring. Anthea dropped us at the Neutral Bay ferry stop and we went across the sparkling, sunny harbor into downtown Sydney. We discovered a free shuttle bus and rode it up George Street to The Strand and Westfield Mall, a swarming shopping center where we needed to buy some walking shoes for Daniella. This was an area with no cars, hundreds of shops, and thousands of Aussies out shopping. We wandered in and out of stores looking at everything. Eventually we came to David Jones department store which seemed equivalent to Macys in New York. To celebrate the arrival of spring they were having their annual flower show, with massive fresh flower arrangements throughout the store.

We also discovered their mouth-watering food court where we had a wonderful lunch to fortify ourselves for the afternoon: green curry chicken and stir-fried asparagus & snow peas.

We wandered out into Hyde Park, full of families out relaxing. There were street entertainers there, including a Beatles tribute band of 4 young guys who looked about 14 (The Brothers) and sounded great. We drifted into the Botanical Gardens and walked back towards the harbor. Spring is bursting out everywhere here. One long pathway was called the spring garden walk and it was fully blooming along both sides. Exotic bird life everywhere, including bright parrots who were quite up afraid of humans, and lots of ibis.

We went into the National Gallery of New South Wales and saw the Archibald Prize show (portraits) and then our favorite part, the Aboriginal art -so gorgeous and inspiring.

The best part of this magical day was yet to come. At 6 pm we met five of our dearest friends here for dinner at a notorious restaurant, Mr. Wong's. Never mind that we had to sign over our first-born child to get a reservation (sorry Annie! You'll love life as a slave in Australia, don't worry). The Chinese food here is some of the best we've ever eaten. The atmosphere is electric and artistic. And seeing Derek and Celia and Verity and Phil was priceless and joyful fun. I hope to soon have a photo of our little gang to post up here. Tomorrow we are going up to the Blue Mountains. Excited!!

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Location:Sydney, Australia

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kookaburras in Crows Nest

We are staying this week at the home of our dear friend, Anthea, in Crows Nest, an area in North Sydney. One of my favorite things about Australia is the ringing, lusty sound of birds calling from the gum trees. The bird voices are loud and melodic and unlike any bird I've ever heard in the States. The magpies are particularly musical. Wild cockatoos are screeching all around us. And last night we arrived home and a gang of three laughing kookaburras were having a raucous time in a tree just outside. I love all this bird sound and look forward to much more as we travel.

Crows Nest is the name of the high basket on the mast of ships where sailors in times past climbed up to keep watch. This suburb sits up at the top of Sydney, actually has some hills, and is a very charming and lively neighborhood. We love the stylish simplicity of Anthea's home, a little Japanese-feeling in style with beautiful stone walls around her garden.

The last two days Daniella taught a class for 9 lucky women at a place called Reverse Garbage. This is part of a large community center and includes a huge store where things are brought from the dump (and donated too) to be recycled and reused. It is the Goodwill Bargain Barn rolled in with Recycled Construction, on steroids. The idea was that students would shop there for inspiring bits and pieces to then incorporate into art. This can be a fun undertaking.

The first day of class was challenging for a variety of reasons.
But yesterday, the second day of class, was free of kinks. Everyone had success, loved the class, and made interesting work. The weather was lovely. We got to know some fantastic women! And, we cleaned up and were out of there in record time, then home to some well-earned wine and scrumptious nibbles with Anthea and another beloved friend, Verity.

Today is Sunday in Oz (you slackers in the US are still in Saturday!). It is a day off to rest, regroup, and explore. Tonight we have a party planned with some of our favorite Sydney people at the famous Mr. Wong's.

More soon!

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Location:Ernest Lane,Crows Nest,Australia

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Cremorne Point stroll in Sydney

We flew in to Sydney this morning (Wednesday here already -so weird to miss an entire day by crossing datelines.). Our Air New Zealand flight was comfortable and easy. We actually slept for a lot of the flight in part because it was a red-eye and also thanks to a the wonder of drugs, in this case an over-the-counter sleeping pill that knocks us out cold.

Our friend Anthea met us at the airport and has been taking us around all day. This afternoon we got a long walk in the Cremorne Point reserve, a walking loop that wraps around a lovely cove with stunning views back to the city skyline.

The Opera House and harbor Bridge sparkled in the afternoon sunlight.

Our pathway was lined with magical trees

Great harbor views

And the beautiful sounds of bird calls that we never hear at home.

Now we are trying to stay awake until 9 pm so we can get onto something of a normal schedule on Australian time.

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Location:Sydney, AU

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

South East Asia, Postcript

We are home, safe, now, and trying to digest it, so grateful for this journey.  Our group was  the most cohesive, fun-loving, and happy bunch of friends that we could have imagined.  Our guide, Lada, was simply outstanding in every way, and we felt like family with her by the end of the trip.  The same was true for our local guides who added immensely to the experience with their fun-loving, informative, and musical contributions to our time together.  We had perfect weather every day, not a drop of rain and more often we were chilly instead of hot.  For the most part, we stayed healthy and full of energy. We learned so much, saw so many amazing places, and some days felt as if our heads were going to explode from all the stimulation!   Now it is necessary to recover a bit, slow down, sleep, and dream some phantasmagorical travel dreams - many of us are having them, super colorful and rich and detailed.  Jet lag is slowly lifting. 

With the exception of today, most of my posts from SE Asia were made using only my iPhone for both photographs and writing (see above!).  It was often technically challenging and I've struggled with getting the photos to be bigger, and so many other issues. But I am happy that I took many of you along as we experienced this fantastic new world.   I hope you will have the actual pleasure of traveling in SE Asia too!  And now, for another little nap .......

Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Day of our Journey

This is it. By this time tomorrow we will be flying home. There were no special plans today other than to fly back to Bangkok and have a farewell banquet tonight. But we had a mid day flight. Why waste a perfectly good morning? We went onto the old, walled city of Chiang Mai. First a humdinger of a food market, then some of the best shopping of our trip, then all of a sudden a parade arrived to celebrate Chinese New Year! It was a blinding sea of red and gold for the most part. Bands played, giant dragons paraded into each shop to bring good fortune for the year ahead. Everything wildly colorful and joyful, a great way to leave Asia with a bang!


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Location:Chiang Mai to.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

But Wait, There's More!

Ha ha, and you thought our day was over. Not so fast! I have to tell you that dinner tonight was "on our own ", meaning not covered on the tour. Lada asked around and we walked out from our hotel, which seems to be in East Chiang Mai, an East End working class neighborhood. Daniella and I checked it out this morning on our walk. Tonight we went to "a new barbecue place"about a 10 minute walk away. Here was a huge, crowded open air buffet style place.

Each table had a hole in the middle where a bucket of hot coals was inserted. On top of that was a domed brazier with a moat around it, basically.

In the center of the room was a long buffet line, and everything was raw. First raw veggies , then raw meats and seafood and things we have no idea about , organ meats, chicken feet, tripe, some very bloody meat, and huge lumps of pork fat to grease the grill.

How it worked was that all meals cost 159 baht (about $5). You walk around and pick out plates full of raw food and then come cook it at the table, meat on the raised grill and veggies and noodles in broth in the moat. It was definitely "the Real Deal", not another tourist in sight. And it was delicious, a little scary, and worth the risk!

So now to sleep, tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Bangkok, and then our journey will end. Sad!!
But still time for a few more adventures!

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Location:Soi Ku Tao 1,Chiang Mai,Thailand