Monday, August 28, 2006

Always russian somewhere new

There never seems to be enough time to write even a smidgen of what we have been getting up to!

Crossing the border from Mongolia to Russia was a trippy experience. The whole trip took 30+ hours and the border crossing took 12 hours! Why? weeeell.. we arrived at the border at 4am and the customs officials only start work at 9am... so we sit and wait.. and we can't leave the bloody train and you can't use the toilet at a station! So much bladder fun!

Once across the border (where angry russian big-hats demand you fill out the forms in russian and ONLY RUSSIAN (Or ELSE!)) the cabin stewardesses (plural of stewaredess?) try to scam you 5 rubles everytime you want to use the FREE hot water... they also try and tell you that coffee and tea costs 200 rubles as well! When crossing the border you get the excitement of watcing people trying to smuggle goods (shoes, toys etc) across the border. Things are cheap in Mongolia and expensive in Russia. They hide the stuff everywhere... they even try and push it in your cabin when you are not looking. I ruined Austro-Mongolian relations by refusing adamantly :) The biggest crooks on the train where the cabin attendents. They had boxes of DVDs, shoes, jackets and everything else in hidey holes under the floor.. they even locked one of the toilets and stuffed it full of contraband. When the officials came on board they were openly bribed to ignire it all... it was scary.. and then funny as hell.. especially when we started taking photos of people (hehehe). All in all a real 'travel' experience!

We alighted at Irkutsk in the early hours and then took a bus out to Lake Baikal. It is the biggest fresh water lake in the world. It holds 20% of the worlds fresh water.. queensland should run a pipe up here! It is also very cold even in the summer sun. I went for a dip (actually a double dip) in the 5C water... ye gods! frozen goolies ahoy! Supposedly I will live an extra 25 years now i have bathed in the waters.. but i wa taking the chance of dropping dead from shock as soon as i hit the water!

We had a authentic siberian sauna last night. we all had to get nude and wrap ourselves in a sheet. Then we had a dry sauna until the first sweat. We all jumped out of the sauna and threw freezing water over ourselves and jumped back into the sauna... then the real heat and humidity began. 110C! bloody hell! When you cant take the heat anymore you jump out and some mad russian bastard throws more freezing water on you.. then you go back in the sauna... rinse and repeat until dizzy. Costya (our young russian guide) offered to beat us with birch leaves.. when in russia!. It was very relaxing.. Funny thing is you haver to do it one on one in the sauna. You lie there.. he beats you. When he kicked everyone out of the sauna he turned to me and in his best Bond villain russian accent (and being russian he could do it well) he growled "and now... we talk" I giggled for ages... as he beat me :)

We walked along the lake (Nat and I.. not Costya and I.. though he was there too :) ). It is amazingly beautiful place. 600 km long and 60 km across and growing 2cm every year due to tectonic action. We had amazing hots chocolates and i even bought a local knife (yes yes.. i am blade obsessed) It has a jade blade and a blue Chirite (the local semi precious mineral) handle.. gorgeous. Costya was very impressed i knew who Baba Yaga was.. not many tourists (in fact.. i am the first he said) know russian faerie tales.

Russia (or at least the far east of russia) is a interesting mix of 19th, 20th and 21rst century technology. You can walk down a muddy lane and watch women bring the cows home and then go inside to there satellite television. madness!

We have a 4 day train ride to Moscow.. so send happy thoughts our way :)

From Russia With Love! (yay.. i managed to fit that in somewhere!)

Travel Wah

Thursday, August 24, 2006


San Bain uu from Mongolia

Girlclumsy and I are back from the Ger-camp experience. Wow! Mongolia is a beautiful vibrant country and i can rcommend it to anyone that loves the outdoors

We lived in Ger camps (a big nomadic tent)

We rode mongolian horses (badly.. i called my brian)

we drank fermented mare milk and a zillion other milk based products

We walked many kilometres to buddhist temples through beautiful mountainous hills

We drank vodka until i was very messily ill... and had a great time :)

more later.. time is short until the train!


P.s Belated Happy Birthday to my sister Jacky!


800 years of Mongolia. This is the big celebration> being held here in Mongolia this year. They are > very big on Ghengis Khan (though they do say he is> called Chenggis Khaan... and they would > know), pointing out he crushed the chinese and had> the biggest empire in the world. It ran from > the eastern edge of china to Hungary and went north> into what is now russia as well. In fact, they > say that 10% of the world's population have old> Khaan's genes running through them.. randy old > sod.> > The trip from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar was 30 hours> long. 7 of those hours were taken up by > chinese and mongolian officials in staggeringly> large military style hats checking and rechecking > our passports, crossing out our names on entry visas> and respelling them 'correctly', checking out > our ID photos and denying it was us in the> picture... typical self important military> shenanigans. > We were stuck on the train for the entire time and> the toilets have to be locked at the station.. > bladder explosions all round!> > The Gobi Desert (Gobi = Desert in Mongolian) was> featureless, sandy and flat flat flat. After many > hours it gave way to flat flat grasslands and then> we climbed the 1500 metres into slightly hillier > area that surrounds Ulaan Baatar (Ulaan Baatar means> Red Hero in Mongolian.> > Ulaan baatar is rather surprising. It is like a> Rockhampton but with a huge Russian and a sligh > chinese flavour. It is a modern city in a country> that is trying to urbanise as quickly as possible. > The Mongolians are a proud democratic people with a> strong sense of their own history. We went > out to the Great Mongolian restaurant and had heaps> and heaps of cheap filling food and then > watched a band called Altan Urag (Golden Destiny).> They are a bit like a Mongolian Tulipan using > traditional mongolian instruments in a modern 'rock'> manner. i was so impressed i bought their > CD!> > I have to go now as we leave soon to trek into the> hills and set up our Ger-camp. > > Riding horses, learning how to throat sing, eating> by a fire.. it is a hard life for some> > best wishes to you all

sorry about the weird paragraphs.. something screwy with this computer

Friday, August 18, 2006

Who put this bloody wall here?!

Greetings again.

We are not in Mongolia yet... somebody has blocked the access to the north with a bloody huge wall! We walked along it for kilometres but couldn't find a way across. I tried yelling for somebody to open a door but the only person to answer was Ghengis something and he didn't seem to have a key...

Sooooo.. aaaanyway. Yesterday Girlclumsy and I took a 6 hour bus ride out to a non-touristy part of the Great Wall of China.. and yes... it is Great. If somebody managed to build such an edifice today I would still be impressed. To think it was put up over 2000 years ago staggered me!

We didn't want to see the usual touristy great wall spot at Badaling (in fact if i went to The Great Wall of China and saw McDonalds and a bowling alley I would have been very very angry) so we made our way (by a very long and terrible bus ride) out to Simatai and took the cable car up the very very steep mountain to the wall. From there we trekked 10 kilometres along the wall..... holy *bleeping* hell! That was one mean trek! Imagine hiking along steep mountains and then add the fun fact of a huge bloody wall blocking your path! At some points we had to crawl up the near vertical steps. It took us about 4 1/2 hours to get to the bus pick up point. Along the way we we followed the badgered by chinese and mongolian people tryibng to sell us overpriced water, cola and beer.. yup .. beer.. and somehow they had managed to keep it all ice cold in 33C heat! Once again I have to point out how fantastic this wall is. (Anybody who knows me knows I have a thing for ancient walls eg Hadrian's Wall. Everytime i slipped or tripped I was able to catch myself before I was hurt. I felt so lucky that I came up with this saying "This wall and I.. we have an understanding" I think Girlclumsy was really sick of hearing it as she scraped and blooded her way along the top of the wall) It sits ontop of the steepest peaks and utterly dominates the surrounding landscape. How they managed to build this thing is totally beyond me but it proves how utterly terrified they must have been of the Mongolians. I was only scared of one mongolian.. she wanted me to buy water from her and became quite enraged when i bought it cheaper from a chinese man (i know he was chinese as he was wearing a yellow star on his military cap). I hope i didnt sour Sino-Mongolian relations ;)

At the end is the hike we did the tourist thing of taking a flying fox (trapeze... not the rodenty animal) down the mountain to the carpark.

If you ever get a chance to see the Great Wall... take it.. if you can survive the walk.. do it.. but even if you don't want the pain and suffering of walking the eighth wonder of the world you should still see it in person.


In other news.. went to a market with Girlclumsy and bought many cheap touristy knickknacks. Girlclumsy had a great time haggling with the locals while hung back looking bemused. I did weaken and buy myself a terribly cheap pair of black and white converse shoes.. why? Coz the new Doctor Who wears them... ;) Well his are brown.

Better run... best wishes to you all. Feel free to email and I will try and write back when i can


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chairman Wah VS The Cicada Suppository

Greetings Thrillseekers!

Welcome to another fun filled Wah Worldview. It will have to be a quick one as we only have a limited amount of time to write.

Yesterday Girlclumsy and I took a rickshaw from the hotel to the Forbidden City *cue spooky lightning effect *!

Rickshaws are great. There is no better feeling in the world than oppressing another human being and making them cycle your fat carcass across a really really huge city. Aaaaah. ;)

The Forbidden City is 750,000 square metres of eastern style castles, halls, gates, gardens and verandahs. With such fantastic names as “Gate of Solar Extract” and “Hall of the All Encompassing Universe” and “Verandah of Mental Cultivation” you can spend days just wandering around marveling (and giggling) at the names. Most of these places were made to house the emperor’s concubines… he either needed a lot of space for his women or they needed a lot of space to get away from him… probably both. One thing you should know about China.. it is full of Chinese tourists! I’m not kidding. They can very rarely get a visa to leave and it would costs a shite load for the visa to get out so millions of Chinese people visit their own country… and they were ALL at the Forbidden City! It would have been a tranquil, serene experience if it wasn’t for all the people! Bloody Tourists! ;). I kept stopping in my tracks ech time I walked through a little arch way and came across a another fantastic building or other… and they haven’t even opened it all up! Have saved loads of money not buying western food (thanks DAD!) and buying cheapy noodles from street vendors. $3 for a small lunch for 2 people? Yes please!

Last night had dinner at the hotel diner. Thought we would splash out (30 Yuan = $6 AUD) and bought three plates of food. (Rice, Vegetables and Mushrooms and Chicken (for the Girlclumsy carnivore)) SO MUCH FOOD WAS DELIVERED.. we couldn’t even make a dent in it!

Today we got up early and made our way back to Tienamen square (thanks Rickshaw!) and into the long cue for the Chairman Mao tomb. 1 hour later in the hot hot sun with a million Chinese people and Chinese guards yelling at us with their loudhailers we trooped into see Mao. His floor shw was incredible! Who would have thought the old guy could still breakdance?!? No no.. he is still dead. In fact he looked very waxy and under the weather. I think they must be having a hard time keeping the old boy together. And after the body of Mao room, where the leader of the modern china communism lies, iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis.. A GIFT SHOP! God help me… I love communism.. hehehe

WE also walked (oh god how we have walked!) to the White Pagoda in the Beihai Park This is a 39 hectare park that used to be the private domain of the emperors, but is now a fantastic garden for all to enjoy.

Hjmmm… Cicada suppositories.. argh! Across Beijing everyone seems to own these toys. They are actually called Rattlesnakes and they are two magnetized lozenge shape metal baubles you throw in the air. They make thjis terrible rattle/scream noise.. and it really gets to me.. especially when every Chinese person seems to own them and keeps throwing them near me! Argh!

Gotta go! One last thng. Everyone keeps looking at and photographing GirlClumsy! She is my White Ghost Woman!
It may be some tim til my next entry… MONGOLIA AWAITS!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Soft Server Cone in Tiananmen Square

Greetings from Beijing!

After a three hour delay (sitting in the small plane stuck on the tarmac eating peanuts and watching The Sentinel (god help us) we touched down in communist China. By the time we passed through immigration and took a very scary cab ride through Beijing (where we listened to a Chinese radio programme about… god knows what…. There were many kungfu battles.. that is all I could make out) we arrived at our hotel at 3am… we were meant to arrive at 10pm the night before. Much sleep was had!

Today, not speaking a word of Chinese and having no real idea where we were we head out into the streets.. to discover we were the only non Asians about.. and that they found Girlclumsy fascinating.. They couldn’t stop staring at her! We walked down long long streets past about a zillion people selling everything from little stores until we realised we were lost and asked for directions. We were trying to find the Temple of Heaven…. The nice man we asked told us (in dumb-show mime) that it was over the road. We had been walking next to the damn place for 10 minutes!

Inside is a ginormous park.. Absoluletly huge! You pay 35 Yuan (about $6-$7 AUS) and head through the West Gate. The first area respresents the earth and mortals. Inside that is another huge wall and through that lies the Celestial Gardens. It was all taken over for housing during the ‘glorious revolution’ but they have realised that tourists like a bit of bling and have cleaned the place up. We saw the Circular Mound Altar and the Divine Kitchens.. but the most amazing sight was the Imperial Vauilt of Heaven. If you think of a building in Beijing then this must be the one. A three tiered pagoda all red, gold and blue. A beautiful building made in the Ming Dynasty. Stunning and fantastic. Funny thing we realised was most of the buildings had been made into their current configuration around the time of the Battle of Agincourt or later during the Jacobite revoltsa. Gave us some historical perspective. Two people wanted their picture taken with Girlclumsy! We have no idea why but we think it is because she is very tall and very very pale. The men that wanted the picture taken the second time asked for my permission.. not hers! I was most amused… she was not so amused hehehe. I have started calling her my White Ghost Woman.

We found a map and decided to walk the ‘short distance’ to tianamen square. By Christ! The maps really don’t give Beijing the correct perspective! The place is huuuuuge! Short streets on the map are 6 lanes wide and take 15minutes to walk down! Crazy! The traffic in Beijing is manic. Cars weave in and out of non-existant lanes and beep like crazy. You cross by invoking whatever deity you believe in and just step out… fun!

We finally found Tianamen square… but not before we found TWO McDonalds and a KFC! Huzzah for Communism! *Snigger* We bought an ice cream each and headed onto the square. We were accosted by a million hawkers (sellers of tourist tack.. not guys carrying hunting birds) but we managed to fend them all off.. except for one very nice young artist named Micheal. He was a student at university and did English and calligraphy. He wanted to take us to the museum next to the square and show us his universities calligraphy . Reluctantly I agreed. He took us into the closed museum and killed us… no no.. that was what I thought was going to happen but he was actually on the level! Inside was a small exhibition of beautiful calligraphy. Yes.. we did buy something.. but it wasn’t expensive and if we were fleeced then it was the nicest friendliest fleece I have ever had J

Chariman Mao lies in a chamber just a block from here and the Squre is lit beautifully. Those Communists can really put on a show! Remember.. this is all Day One of Beijing!

Must run! All is well!

Exclamation marks are free!!!!!!

You can buy ANYTHING in Honkers!

Hong Kong… my first impression – Blade Runner! The massive skyscrapers towering over the markets below. Run down buses jockeying for position with the latest Porsche 4-wheel drive. One oneside of the street fruit, vegetables, whole roasted duck and fish gasping their lives away in tiny buckets. On the other side of the street is Louis Vouton, McDonalds and every other western convenience.

Actually, my first impression was of Mort City in SLA Industries but only a select group of geeks know what I am talking about!

Girlclumsys uncle and aunt (and cousin!) have been fanstastic to us. Her uncle Jan took us around Central (the main city areas) and showed us the Hong Kong that tourists see, The buildings, the shopping and the harbour. He then took us for a drive around the parts most people don’t see. Did you know that HK is 40% National Park? And I think Girlclumsy and I saw all of it J. We have taken a ferry out to Cheung Chau (an island that used to be a pirate hangout.. Villains!) and walked around probably the only place in HK that doesn’t allow cars.

HK is similar to Brisbane for temperature and humidity, so it was pretty nasty weather but nothing we haven’t experienced before every bloody summer. Actually.. I lie.. they do have something we don’t have.. smog to the ground! Only 30km away is Shen Zen (sp?), Here is where nearly every western item is made… and the pollution just rolls into Hong Kong! On a still day (like the day we arrived) the visibility was too about 250 metres! Amazingly awful! They have a pollution watch in the newspaper that said it was VERY HIGh and the worst smog they had seen in years.. lucky us. Next day however the Saomei Typhoon blew past (im not kidding). It missed HK by a very little and dashed itself ontop mainland China. This killed many Chinese but did clear the weather in Hong Kong for us… whee! HK also has pollution warnings on the beach. On the day we went to Cheung Chau it notified us that we had a 15/1000 of catching some awful E.Coli strain and die.. or at least be very very ill.. we decided not to swim!

HK is still very colonial. Fantastically so. We had dinner at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (members only!), and lunch on MI (Middle Island, donchaknow!) and had a Gunners (lemon, lime and bitters in a huge glass) in another yacht club up the coast.. also members only. It is a hard damn life! We had dinner at the FCC (Foreign Correspondent Club). Here Girlclumsy got to flash her journalist credentials to all and sundry.. she loved it but felt like a fraud.. for some reason.

HK would have to be the most amazing fusion of East and West. If you have the money to live or eveb go here.. it is worth it.

Must fly! Sorry for this to be so late and short.. and frankly unfunny!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Last Saturday was the final performance of 'Equus' at the Brisbane Arts Theatre.

I directed Equus and it was the hardest production i have ever been a part of. Like a wounded old soldier I could bore you silly with tales of horror, angst, pain and sweet, sweet triumph.

But not right now! No time! No Time! I have a flat to pack up and sundry other madness to quell before Girlclumsy and I wing our way abroad.

You can read an online review of Equus here.

The same time Equus started was the Brisbane Theatre Festival. This meant that reviewers could pick and choose what to go see and most decided to go where the food was nicest, even if the show itself was staid, boring and plain (rowr! saucer of milk to the Wah!). I suppose if you are goiong to Hob-Nob with the rich and powerful then you need to make sure the Nob you are Hobbing is the biggest around.

But i digress!

We did get one newspaper review and it was fantastic. I have copied it out below so you can all have a squiz.


Arts Riding High On A Winner

The Independent- 26 July 2006
Written by Peter Schaffer
Directed by Gregory Rowbotham
Brisbane Arts Theatre

Peter Schaffer's famous play, which is based on a true story, is now 30 years old but is just as potent, confronting and relevant for theatre audiences today. The Arts Theatre's production, skilfully directed by Gregory Rowbotham, uses costume, on-stage composition and passionate performances to bring this unsettling tale to full life.

I was utterly absorbed by the first act and was delighted to see John Boyce and his very "Film Noir" performance as Dr Martin Dysart, who has the inenviable task of treating Alan Strang, the teenage boy who is accused of blinding six horses.

Such serious allegations indicate that Strang has psychological complications but as the play progressed the blurred edge between patient and healer becomes obvious and the relationship between Dysart and Strang becomes an exercise in seeking the deep and often painfully private truthsabout each of us. Boyce and Peter Norton as Strang worked well together as compassionate and obsessed men locked in the therapeutic process, committed until the truth was revealed.

The staging of Equus was part of the success of the play. All actors remained on stage for the duration of the play, moving forward to present the returning to their seats. The semi-circular format created the impression of a "ring" where the onstage audience watched the horses as they performed. This created a tight performance space which was beautifully illuminated.
Shaun King, so bondaged and tethered as the horse, Nugget, was dignified in his role. His transformation into the mythical Equus was a high point in the play. His strength and focus enabled the sordid truth of Strang's obsessions to be revealed as a naked Norton rode on his back.

This is a stunning production, perhaps not for everyone, but the Arts Theatre cast and crew have created a first-class production

so there you have it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And begins!

Greetings to you all...

Let me start by pointing out that I really hate 'blogs'. I really really hate them. Seriously...

I have been fighting the inevitable Wah-Blog for years. The only reason I am doing this is because it is much much easier to write one blog-post and invite you all to read it than to bombard everyone with travel emails.

So join The Wah and his GirlClumsy on their 5 month World (sans the Americas.. and Antarctica) Tour!