December 24, 2005

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays everybody! I wish I could be with you all right now, it would make this day so much better. I promise never to be on the opposite side of the world from everyone I know on Christmas Day ever, EVER again! Love you lots, be merry and cheery, and take care over the season :) Love Pam

December 20, 2005

Wellington

Windy Welly is definitely living up to it's name. On the South coast of the North Island, the city sits in between a narrow funnel that is created between the two islands. Also well known for having more cafes per person than New York, there are lots of smells to smell. Have spent a bit of time at the Film Archive, a basement full of NZ videos and dvds. Since it's free, it also attracts people with their own smells :( Watched "Heavenly Creatures" and "Rain", both great movies but end a little upsetting. Te Papa is the museum that I must go back to with a couple interesting terrace sculptures. Recovering from the puncture wounds of a badly behaved cat at the last woofers. P

December 13, 2005

Whanganui

And so I did get to go on the Whanganui River! Today I joined Fred in his little metal boat and we motored across the wide expanse of gray water. At the shore on the other side of the river, which is actually an island, the wet clay was exposed from the recent tide going down. It was slippery as I skated across or tried to pull my suctioned sandle if I stood a moment too long. Getting in was fun as the shore fell quickly and water was waist high before I climbed in the boat. While Fred chainsawed his wood, I amused myself by trying to throw mud into the entrances of holes the crabs had dug and then built towers out of rocks. Sometimes I must ask, is this really my life?! Wished I had brought my camera, but didn't, concerned the boat might tip and we'd be swimming. Instead, it rained, and then the water ran out and ended up dragging the boat to the other side and I tried to steer around the logs and repeating "right is left and left is right" all the way home.

Apparently there was an earthquake this morning. But not to be alarmed, it happens every few months! P

December 11, 2005

Blog Post Number 100!

And it continues to rain...

The Whanganui area is best known for it's canoe trips up the Whanganui River, which I have decided not to do since it will probably be very wet (in and out of the water). Instead, I can admire the wide water flow as it gets higher and lower with the tide, just outside Fred and Deb's window. Their home is comfortable with many ceramic mugs, large modern windows, lots of wood trim and delicious home made bread. Went to the community Christmas luncheon yesterday and ate some fresh salads and BBQ'd mutton. The chocolate brown dog ran around rubbing it's wet fur against our legs and the heavy rain fell. P

December 07, 2005

Tongariro National Park

Walked 17 kms across Tongariro Crossing, possibly NZ's best 1 day trek. Started off in a tshirt and sunshine with some threatening clouds. Passed piles of black pumice rock in interesting formations. Some covered with flourescent orange mosses which made me believe that colour is my main influence. It's so basic yet stands out and best describes everything I see. Climbed up the steep, rocky slope between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe. That's when the clouds turned to rain and the path turned to mud.

The fog looked very mystical, fading with each layer of rock and disappearing slightly to give us quick glimpses of what lay beyond. The second large accent gave me shivers from the harder winds and cold rain. Waited a few minutes and had a part in the clouds to see the enormous volcano that was looming above without us knowing. This is Mt. Ngauruhoe, also known as Mt. Doom! A very huge, dark volcano, perfect shape, snow capped and just BIG. The peak where we stood looked down into bright depths of red crator. Although, we could only see about 10 meters ahead and then total whiteness. A bit dissappointing but too cold to linger, slid rollerblade-style down the deep, black, sandy slope toward the Emerald Lakes.

The passing clouds gave way to magnificently green-blue pools below, unbelievable, especially under a gray sky. Walking forward but continually looking back, the sky began to clear and we could see the people still up top admiring a great view of Red Crater. Too bad for us, but already falling behind, had a quick stop sliding down a patch of snow, got a couple shots of a bit of red from afar and zig-zaged down through the tussock grasses towards the alpine forest. The grass is the only native grass of NZ, (the green stuff only came with the cattle) and it waves in soft clumps of green-gold-orange-yellow strands. I should have rolled in it, probably would have made the decent faster! To a great relief and achy joints, finally finished the walk after 7 hours, 20 minutes. P

December 06, 2005

Taupo

Today I walked up to the Whangari River and was glad not to be one of the screaming freaks on the bungi. The blue was so brilliant way up on the cliff looking down, I really didn't need to see it inches infront of my face. The water is so clean and clear that you can vividly see the rocks many meters down from the surface. Walking along, there was a hot river, more views and thunder crashing in the distance.

Passed by the falls again to get on the path to Craters in the Moon. Even though it started to downpour, and I cursed every car that passed and didn't even try to slow down and offer a ride (not that I'd accept anyway!) it was worth it. Up on the hill was a field of wet flourescent mosses and colourful shrubs that contrasted awesomely from the white smoke and gray sky. Up close and far away, hundreds of lines of steam rose from the horizon. It was amazing to see so much live growth in an area so acidic with burning hot steam. The air was filled with sounds of hissing from the built up pressure in the ground. Quite a weird sensation of cold wind and rain in between the warm waves of white air. The boardwalk winded around the restricted, keep off, danger zones of hot holes and deep craters. One had erupted only 4 years ago and another noisily spurted mud and pumice that I could not see from the smoky interior. And a very sweet, New Yorker, honeymoon couple offered a drive to anyone heading back to town, yay!

Oops, sorry, a couple mistakes in my last post, but don't feel like dwelling on that right now :) P

December 05, 2005

Rotorua

Sadly left my new friends from the past few weeks to get on another bus and move into the unknown with unfamiliar people. I soaked myself until I could stand it no more, in the volcanic thermal healing waters at the Polynesian Spa. Walked around Kuirau Park Hot Pools that has holes of steaming water and bubbling mud. The slopping sounds were like a huge cauldron of boiling porridge. One lake now too hot to swim in called Lobster Pool, was named after the white people who turn red!

This is a city based solely off of tourism, ever since 1886, the largest eruption in world history. Mt. Tarawera spouted red lava 9.5 km straight up into the sky! About 120 people died, almost everyone living in the area. 2 beautiful formations called the White and Pink Terraces were completely destroyed and no longer exist. 5 plates go straight through the length of NZ and make it an entire country made up of volcanoes and continuously shifting land. The hot liquid still moves below and another eruption is bound to happen in the near future. Just passed an area that is known to have at least 4 earthquakes a day!

Saw the Art and History Museum which used to be a world reknowned Bath House which people would travel to from far and wide. The waters would cure aches and pains, attracting many men injured in World War 1. Found out boot polish was the first product to use Kiwi as an identity and it flourished from there. There is a shop full of books I wanted to buy on Maori tattoing, Rodney Fumpston prints, landscape photos...

The white haired men in white clothes played Bowls on the lawn. Steam rose in various places. I cooked lamb for the very first time, much better than I remember! P

December 04, 2005

Australia to New Zealand Photos


IMGP0166
Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

Recent photos just uploaded on the rest of Australia and New Zealand! P

November 29, 2005

Picasso and Flax

Did you know Picasso came to NZ and visited a Maori village? He saw their wood engravings and got down on his knees and said "You are the masters of the curved line". He himself loved curves and lines in painting but was stunned to see something so beautiful on the other side of the world. The style are patterns comprised of no straight lines at all. They are intricate, sometimes reflected and amazingly suited to the shape they are set in. The tattoos traditionally (and painfully) etched into the faces of the head tribesmen, shape the mouth and lines around the eyes. Today, many have tattoos on their arms that flow so fluidly with the contours of the shoulders, biceps and elbow.

I tried out a workshop at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, a college in Te Awamutu just a few minutes away. With a lot of help, I made a purse, woven with flax leaves. The complicated process has been passed down for generations and was an essential skill to make everything the Maori's needed to find food (fishing), prepare food and contain food for serving. Looking at my final, clumsy bag, I definitely have a much higher appreciation for the people who can do this well! P

November 27, 2005

Movies

Deprived of movies over the past months, I just watched 2 really inspiring stories back to back. Whale Rider is a prized NZ film, starring a seven year old girl who had been a member of one of the art houses! I love these films portraying "power to women", even a child who can prove herself against her grandfathers strict principles of a male role. But she proves her worth and saves the whales and almost dies, but hey, now everybody loves her!

World's Fastest Indian, a new NZ film now in the theaters, is a true story about Burt, an old guy amazingly played by Anthony Hopkins. His character was so special, an honest man, using every scrap available to create the world's fastest record. And he did! Making the long journey, half way around the world, to a remote salt lake in the US, on a weak budget. Gliding by all the odds and peoples doubts and crazy obstacles, his positive and gratious attitude won him that one thing he had always wanted in his life. Including the honour of each and every person he met along the way. P

November 25, 2005

The Conference

I love to see how excited people get talking about their own country. Every time it happens, I realize there is never enough time anywhere to see everything.

The NZ sky has so many variations at once. Even though the landscape is so mountainous, everything above seems much more vast than anywhere else. It can start as a solid gray mass on one side and stretch into streaky, white brush strokes up high and a mass of dark mist raining below to the ground. Blue patches on the other side with puffy white clouds lined with a bright, sunlit lining.

Today was the beginning of the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education and the children had their imaginative creations displayed in the Town Hall. Artwork came from various art houses in the county. Children were awarded for thier special talents. Some spoke about themselves as an artist and how art and children are so important for creativity in the community and for the future. I am completely astounded at how capable these kids are and what they have accomplished with these art houses. Being involved with the dedicated people who have made and continue to make it happen has opened my eyes up to a whole other world I had ignored as I focused on my own personal goals. More important is to see where other people can move forward and helping them will help me in the process. P

November 16, 2005

Hamilton

Met Jenny who is the talented River Weaver in Hamilton. Her house has a sunlit corner window that looks over the river. She weaves colourful combinations of New Zealand wools into scarves and shalls. She excitedly explained all the different grasses and leaves and roots she used to make baskets out of these extrodinary dead materials she found on her travels. Made spontaneously on the spot, their organic forms were non symmetrical and took on the shapes of birds, tents and bowls. Sometimes a bit of greenery hung from the woven branches, or the rough edges sprouted in a spiral around the rim. The grated sinues of the flax looked like a bird's nest of feathers. The three of us walked by the river in the cool afternoon, keeping warm wrapped in her garments. We heard the chants of a Waka rowing down and I got a quick video. A wonderful, stimulating evening and I am inspired. P

November 13, 2005

Kihikihi

The bus dropped me off on the side of the road in one of the tiniest towns I've ever been and one of the guys who had no idea what I was doing asked "You're getting off HERE?". Yup, and here I am woofing for Shona who is the most amazing woman in the world. I can't believe her energy at 60, I'm having troubles keeping up with her speed (at exactly half her age to the month!). She has started up 30 Art Houses around the whole country for children to do their art for therapy. So far we have pulled marigolds from her garden, replanted them in Bob's garden, pulled weeds from his garden and from the garden around the Children's House. I have finally seen Kiwi birds and they are so cute, right there with the Koala. A nocturnal bird with no tail or wings, the longest bird's beak and feathers that look as soft as fur. Their large (as big as a chicken!) bulbous bodies wobble around curiously.

We live in a cute little cottage in the middle of pure country side. There are tonnes of photos from all the places she's travelled, each piece of artwork with a unique story behind it, the largest and brightest roses ever, tea cups with flowers and face cloths with lace. Cole the cat is black with green eyes that match the lawn. A large, orange, run-away rabbit with a cotton-white tail is slowly befriending me. I have my own little 1 room guesthouse in the back which is pure luxury. We drink tea about 10 times a day and eat delicious veges from the garden on a table of roses from the front yard. Noisy chooks live next door and are always in the middle of the road when we drive through. Cows moo from across the street and the entire herd stops to eye me with worry when I stop to take their photo. The sheep baa with various noises and pitches that could be laughing or booing. There are mountains over there and a volcano down there, farmland all around and the cleanest, clearest, freshest air you couldn't find anywhere else on earth. This is apparently the reason I have noticed all the colours being so much brighter. The horses trot up to say hello and I really can't believe I'm here. P

Haiei & Raglan, one of my best days ever

Left Auckland for one last time with a brief stop at Mount Eden, another volcano that surrounds the city. New Zealand lies along a fault line which means the entire country is basically made up of volcanos and their lava that is the beautiful grass-covered rolling hills I constantly see around me. Eden attracted the cows into the bottom of it's crator to eat the dark, nutrient rich greens inside. Drove towards the beach through Thames and saw a twister forming straight ahead! The long dark cloud was far from the ground and disappeared--into thin air :) Took a walk along the coastline to Cathedral Cove but ran out of time and didn't quite make it. Glanced at a couple girl's digital pics who had just been there, ooed and awed at the gorgeous scenery we would not see and ran back to catch the bus to Hot Water Beach. Dug some holes in the sand and sat down in the holes filled with really hot water warmed from a volcano. Very exciting to have our top parts cold from the spring weather, bottom parts red hot from the thermal water, and watching the cold tides slowly come towards us just on the other side of our little pool's wall.

Onto Raglan, right on the West coast of the Northland where Lion's Tail grass sways by the coastline and the setting light casts them aglow. I am really loving the late afternoon light when every colour gets brighter and richer. The shadows become more contrasted against the objects and I feel extra inspired and warm this time of day. My walk along the beach from the city back to the hostel took the whole afternoon (although it should only take a couple hours!). I savoured every second and had one of the happiest days of my entire life. I don't know what brought it on, if it was the perfect glass like water on the beach, or the tunes I was listening too, or being completely on my own on this huge beach on this tiny, isolated country. Maybe I needed a really good day to make up for the last couple of weeks of displacement. But I felt like I was in love with the land! I skipped and walked backwards and smiled and sang and did all my taekwondo forms in the sand... oh and there was a revelation there... the marks from the forms created patterns that looked like Chinese characters! I was so amazed to see these tracks for the first time after making them for so long. Anyway, that was my day and I celebrated with a bottle of $5 NZ Shiraz. P

November 06, 2005

Paihia

Took a couple days to be as far North as I will be going in NZ. The landscape was totally green with sheep and cows nibbling away on the smooth, rounded hills. The pine trees have a very tall centre peice which makes them look very spiky from a distance. They pointed into the bright blue sky that reflected into the bright blue water.

Paihia is across the bay from Russell which was the original capital of this country. Not exactly central, but it sits amoung the 144 Bay Islands which make for some pretty scenery and the waters are filled with dolphins. The top of the string of islands is Hole in the Rock, which is a rock, with a hole in it. Our boat sailed right through it and I got it all on video, along with the fault line showing where it will eventually break and collapse one day.

Pia and I took advantage of the hostel's free bikes and slowly biked quite a few kilometers. Slowly, because it only had 3 speeds and the front wheel wasn't great at going straight. As well, we seemed to only go uphill to get to Haruru Falls. After Mount Bledislow, the scenery got even better and the hills started sloping down which was a pleasant reward after all that pedalling. Riding down, wind through the hair, camera in one hand to take a pic of Pia ahead of me, green golf course around us, looking down on the blue ocean below, I felt like I was in the Butterfield and Robinson catalogue!

My 2 green watercolour pencil crayons (these seem to work better than paints for travel sketching) are getting used up REALLY fast :)

6 months done, 6 to go! P

November 03, 2005

New Zealand!

Wow, so here I am in Auckland. Not the most special city ever but that's ok for spending a bit to get in touch with wwoofers and sort out plans for the next few months. I went over to Devonport to check out the trendy gallery/cafe atmosphere. They turned out to be crafty shops for grandparents so I focused on taking many pictures of the enlarged mushrooms on top of Mt. Victoria. It is a volcanic cone which is cool.

The Auckland Art Gallery had a display on Michael Smither's who did well from painting rocks. He painted lots of rocks. Whole square canvases covered in big rocks to small rocks. I liked his screened prints the best, but there were no postcards of these, just the rocks.

Oh Oh Oh!!! Just had my Australia pics after Alice Springs burned, so that's exciting! P

November 01, 2005

The Eve before I Leave

If anything does happen for Halloween in Australia, it was over ridden anyway by being the eve of the Melbourne Cup. All week, events and parties and elaborate outfits made me feel I was in 1920's England. And the people who found out I was leaving were in disbelief that I wouldn't be around for this holiday. I've never paid much attention to horse racing before and I wasn't about to start!

I did get to enjoy a relaxing evening with an artistic couple I met back in Sarawak. Mr. J. and Mrs. V, I think they wanted to be referred by!? It was so refreshing to be with great company, delicious home made laksa soup and 1 or 2 or 3 glasses of South Australian wine. We discussed his art and her art and my art and the art they've collected. Watched Bako wildlife on video which I missed in real life. Looked at various tribal carvings from the exciting countries they have traveled. Admired white painted figures on cow-dung-coloured paper by an admired artist they tracked down in India.

Half done, half to go, I have started to feel something I would call people-sickness. It's not home sickness but my friends and family who I want to see right now. And this amazing unexpected happening came along to occur at just the right time. Thanks V and J, you were the perfect company! P

October 30, 2005

Christmas is coming?

I left Canadian Spring and arrived in full-force Asian Summer and started over again in Spring when I arrived in Australia. Looking forward to Summer in New Zealand, but all the Christmas decorations that are up in the stores are really confusing me!

Nicola makes really cool hand bags made of fabric, plastic and clear pvc. Her patterns are based on endangered flora and fauna and a percentage of her sales go to a tree project.

The Ian Potter NGV had a whole room of Fred Williams which was really exciting. I re-lived the red landscapes all over again. And then I realized I forgot to tell you that I was in a Fred painting on our bus tour from Adelaide to Melbourne. In daylight we walked on the beach among clumps and lines of seaweed that had been washed up. On closer inspection, the dark masses were more than leafy greens, but also what looked like coiled, flat rubber and reds and yellows. His flat, sandy coloured canvas also contained random sized, thick paint blobs of these exact colours. At sunset, we watched the cute Little Penguins wash up on shore and then throw themselves back in. A few would start the trek towards shelter and then turn around to change their mind and follow the others that continued to play. They were so amazing, such funny creatures! P

Earth's Colours


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

The different colours of ochre depend on the amount of iron oxide. P

October 29, 2005

October 28, 2005

Sun!

The Melbourne Cup is on and everyone is going crazy buying their fancy dresses and feathered hats and singing at the top of their lungs in the streets. Yesterday I was taking too many photos of the tram cables and skyscrapers when a group of green t-shirted guys gathered together for me to photograph them! Very funny and suddenly I was in the middle of their swarm to take another pic. It was probably the warmest day I've had in Australia so far so I avoided the galleries and absorbed as much sun in as many parks as I could :) P

October 27, 2005

Melbourne

Fitzroy is a cool part of town with trendy little cafes, clothing stores, galleries and great grafitti. Beautifully printed linens and cute alien-bird finger puppets (Laura!) at Printroom. A display of hand bound books at Port Jackson Press. One was a storybook about someone asking a blob what it will be today? My favourite bookstore of all time was small, but filled completely with books on Chinese fabric patterns, Japanese fashion, sewing, embroidery, beading (Kym!) collage materials, book binding, colour... so I bought a postcard! It is an aerial photo of white birds with their shadows cast onto organic shapes in the ground below. Reminded me of the seagulls and other birds that tried to steal my lunch today. Too bad I see all this amazing stuff but can't really buy it. Actually I also bought a couple peices of lovely gift wrap. Oh and I cannot forget Terri Brooks' display "Painting Forever and Ever". She uses mostly white as a base with some black spray painted lines. The textures mimic corrugated metal, with the drips and scratched lines the works are like grafitti and found art themselves. See, no colour is in! P

October 22, 2005

Adelaide

Checked out the Art Gallery of South Australia that showed mostly older English and Australian paintings. Although there was a room on William Morris who was popular in Adelaide at the time (the special ex. in Sydney was better!) and a couple rooms of contemporary art. One by Brett Whitely who is still my favorite Australian painter. Fred Williams caught my eye as some of his etchings and guaches are so minimal, landscapes represented just as coloured paint dabs on a flat background. I think this is the perfect solution for me, I feel I ruin my work whenever I add full colour to a drawing!

The Jam Factory had some really interesting ideas for glass, ceramics, fabrics and jewelery. Sewing around a detail in the dyed fabric to connect two layers together. Using Klimt's paintings as inspiration to compose a pendant. Many artists are using the subject CHANGE as a concept in their works, whether it's time or politics or the environment. I want to use a version of this idea for some paintings myself. Maybe change in artwork reoccurs because our generation lives in a fast evolving society, maybe it's us who don't want or do want to change frequently, maybe it's the only constant in everyone and our only link to eachother?

I went for a ride along the twisted Torrens River yesterday. The sunny weather worked for me until it rained. It was the first time I have been on a bike since leaving home and it felt so great! I really miss my bike. I really miss being fit. I really miss the routine I left because I was sick of routine. It was the first time I really looked forward to being back home. P

October 20, 2005

South Australia

The rain is definitely following me, but it has been an unusually large amount of rain that has brought about some not so ordinary circumstances in the middle of this hot, dry desert that I have only seen as cold and wet. South Australia is the driest area in the world, but not these days! The high Todd River running past our hostel is usually a dry river bed. Some said they haven't seen this much water for years. We had a delay in our trip when there was a slight obstacle in the road... a 3 foot high river! Our driver swore he had never seen anything like this and was hesitant to cross in case water got inside the engine and killed our bus. Then we'd be another of those gutted, dead cars on the side of the road! Everyone who had to stop got out to take photos of all the trucks passing through. After enough had survived, we crossed with a tarp across the front and made it safely, yay!

It was a 2 day, 1500km drive from Alice Springs, down a long, straight road to Adelaide. The landscape seemed to change every couple of hours, starting with the rugged mountains to flat areas of grass clumps in red sand. Suddenly there were green bushes, which then turned into a forest of trees and then back to absolutely nothing for miles. Past a shimery white salt lake where the light blue water matched the sky exactly. Soft rolling hills with divided farmland into squares of golden yellows, lime greens and deep green bushes lining the borders.

Our Stop for the night was in Coober Pedy, the Opal capital in the world where half the population lives in dugouts cut out of the side of the hills. This area gets so hot during the day and so cold during the night, these hideaways are perfect for protection against the harsh weather. Surrounding us where small mounds with pointed peaks... all dirt that had been dug out searching for the precious stones. Opal had been created from the sands beneath the sea. The layers had compressed back into stone which I thought was unusual. I had always thought of stone only turning into sand, thinking eventually there would be no rock. P

October 17, 2005

Alice Springs

I pictured the middle of Australia being a really hot desert... WRONG! I happen to arrive durring day-after-day of clouds and downpours. Although it has prevented me from seeing the best sunsets and made my decision not to rent a bike today, the gray skies still bring out the luminosity of the brilliant red earth and bright lime greens in the grass.

This is the place to buy Aboriginal artwork, there are so many galleries. One woman named Minnie Pwerle is 95 years old but produces really attractive paintings. She mostly uses body art patterns mixed with bush melons in bright orange and yellows or blue and purples or pink and oranges. Colours very different from the traditional ochres that are found all over this area.

Part of the trip yesterday was to Ochre Gorge, a huge, long wall of colours from white-light yellow-deep yellow-orange-green-red-purple... it was amazing! The softest colour was the yellow that worked just like chalk pastel. I want to say ochre, but this word describes this whole variety of colours that all contain iron oxide. The more iron, the redder and darker the colour. I quickly snapped a million pics as we only had a few minutes to look around. I could have stayed all day using these natural pigments for my paintings!

The landscape was truely amazing and you could easily spend a week seeing all the formations in this transit town that people usually only stay for a night or two. Australia broke off of Antartica and South East Asia and New Zealand broke off of Australia. A huge sea used to sit within the middle of this country which formed the mountain ranges and strange rocks of mixed sand and stone. Along with the rain and wind and moving earth, the ground has shifted upwards and carved through by the main river systems. What remains now are huge flat valleys surrounded by lines of mountains and rolling hills, gorges and gaps, cliffs and waterholes. The cross sections of earth are revealed so you can see the way the land has rose and fallen. Slats of rock point in diagonals, layers form curved arches and caves and everything is mish-mashed together at odd angles. Sometimes the earth moved an entire 90 degrees, showing vertical wedges, like at Ochre Gorge.

And some beautiful wildlife: a Rainbow Bee Eater bird (so colourful!), a Comorant (maybe?) duck (all black with a white beak), a Rock Wallaby (like a miniture kangaroo) so cute and furry, but can apparently rip through your flesh if it's cornered, yikes! No snake or spider sightings yet, yay! P

The Centre of the Outback

Oh, woh, a lot to catch up on! The cost of everything was ginormous at Ayers Rock so I sadly had to avoid internet. So here I am in Alice Springs, but first I have to describe the 2 wonders 6 hours from here.

Ayers Rock is Uluru and is a fascinating rock that changes colours throughout the entire day. My first glimpse of it close up was a huge black silhouette as we drove towards it in the very early morning. The sky was already light before the sun appeared above the horizon. Uluru gradually lightened into a brown and dark long shadows, showing the tall clumps of rock. Soon, circular holes appeared and gradually more detail was seen within them. Suddenly, the sun hit it and the emmense rock glowed bright vertical stripes of orange and black. It popped out of the sky, hundreds of cameras clicked, and moments later everyone hopped back into their cars to leave. Can we ever have enough sunrises and sunsets? No! Because I saw them several times within those few days and each one was completely different.

More exciting was the Olgas, known as Kata Tjuta, which is a group of several rocks. Their bulby roundness and strange angles make them so unique, I felt I was walking on a different planet! The highest rock is 200m higher than Uluru and has a "Magrite" surreal composition with the bright red walls on each side and the perfect flat sky behind and a white moon pasted in the middle of the gorge. I really don't think I was on earth!

Our very informative driver Simon, used to be a traveling journalist and has taken photos all over the world. I showed him the cute, furry catapillar I saved on a stick from being trampled on in the middle of a path. He said, when threatened, they shoot out their long hairs like daggers at the enemy! I'm glad the catapillar and I are friends. P

October 10, 2005

Bondi Beach

I'm still in a bit of shock being in such cold weather... today was the highest so far, 23 C's! Nice for spring temperatures I suppose but quite the contrast from living in the sticky humidity of Asia to wearing all 2 of my sweaters at the same time :)

A few of us headed over to Bondi and lay on the white sand watching the surfers disappear into the high crashing waves. Their wetsuits making them look like a bunch of seals, a Christine observation. There is a scenic walk that takes you along the coast of white water splashing against the cliffs. It was just as hypnotising as the water at Uluwatu in Bali. From deep down, the splashes would come half way up, and then fall slowly, in what seemed like light droplets, until they pounded back down on the water's surface. I want to paint the group of seagulls flying against the wind, lifting and falling from it's power, with the lines of white caps and deep blue water behind them.

Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Maybe someone can save some turkey for me?! P

October 09, 2005

How many more artists can there be?!

There are some great displays up at the Powerhouse that had everything from the first wooden-canvas plane to fly from Sydney to Melbourne to a display of leading Japanese fashion designers, including Yohji Yamamoto. The fashion show was exciting too, using found fabrics and existing clothing and recycling them into a new garment. Also, an exhibition on the master of repeat patterns, William Morris. He strived for the best quality and must have had an awesome home: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Wandering around Paddington I glimpsed through a few more galleries, but a little late in the day for a Sunday. I think I'm galleried out now! It will be good to pass through different scenery at the big red rock of Uluru before heading to Melbourne. Coming up in only 2 days! P

October 08, 2005

Blue Mountains, Wildlife, Art

Every night, when the sky is still darkening, just before it is completely black, thousands of fruit bats fly directly above our rooftop from the Botanical Gardens to someplace South of us. The large soaring mass lasts about 5 minutes and is a hynotic display.

The Blue Mountains were not as blue as I had thought but there was still a blueness filling the valley. An hour and 20 minute trek led us down steep stairs that took us into the gorge. We passed 3 rock formations called the 3 Sisters that stood out as layered piles of different colours of rock sticking out from the other cliffs. Wentworth Falls (300 meters!) was built the same way. Also a couple of red parrots with brilliant blue wings. And fortunately, none of the poisonous snakes or spiders we read about on the drive up. Most exciting was the ride back up, claiming to be the steepest train in the world. Like a Wonderland ride, we shot up the mountain with the rock wall cut close on either side of us. Going up, the walls gradually came in closer, the light becoming narrower, until we were in complete darkness... and then it was over. Fun!

And then were the hopping kangaroos and white feathered cocatoos! The hind leg and foot on Roo was so big, quite amazing to see in real life. And the birds with a green tuft waving on top of it's head. They looked like angels when they flew away.

Today was great too, saw some young talent in the Museum of Contemporary Art and a display of clothing, the designers being as young as 16. One girl silkscreens and uses a paintbrush directly onto suit jackets, describing "I use garments as my canvas". The Ken Done Gallery was so playful... bright bold colours with objects just splashed on the page, but still great compositions. He had actually started as an art director, and at 40 gave up the advertising world to use his marketing skills to produce tshirts. They were so successful with the tourists, he got rich (this is the key!) and was able to paint. Still living in Sydney, he has an entire gallery of his own work that changes with new paintings every couple of months. So I scrapped my patient detailed sketching habits and quickly scribbled a representation of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Done-style. P

October 06, 2005

Sydney

Sydney has so many galleries that I'm going crazy trying to choose which ones to visit. But from what I'm reading, Melbourne sounds even better! My first day was at the New South Wales Gallery which had a few contemporary aboriginal paintings. The main floor displayed some great modern peices... I have my photo beside Brett Whiteley's giant "The Balcony 2" which I absolutely love. One of Whistler's gray landscapes made me remember to not forget the older artists. Then there was a special exhibition on Margaret Preston, the most famous female Australian artist. Her work morphed from still life paintings to pottery and woodblock prints (my favourite phase) and then back to painting, but with a much more Aboriginal style she gained when discovering rock drawings later in her life. I really started to relate to this woman's work, especially when I saw a book full of Japanese patterns she had used as colour reference. Also her interest in flat patterns, flower subjects, and even her published illustration used to map out new rock paintings as they were discovered way back in the (30-40's?).

Yesterday I went to Manly beach, but before heading out with a few new Dutch friends, I met an old man. Steven saw me taking photos of the funny Ibis birds in Hyde Park and when I told him I'm a graphic designer he got all excited and showed me his membership card to a Poets Society. He said, "I must give you some advice that you should never forget... (long pause)... There are not bad things in the world, there is only bad thinking." I'm not sure if he wrote this himself but as he walked away shaking his finger at me very seriously, and as much as I really like the quote, I wondered why he had to tell ME this? P

October 04, 2005

Indonesia Photos


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

It's been 5 months already! More photos up of Bali and the trip to Java. See you! P

October 02, 2005

Bali October 1st

My condolances to those who lost friends or loved ones in the Bali bombings last night. I was shocked to hear it happened again and only a few days after I was there. But more important, are the people who are still there... my heart is with you. I can't imagine why anyone would want to destroy anything or anyone so beautiful. P

Singapore for the 2nd time!

Feel like I'm retracing my steps now! But Singapore just happened to have a children's day at the Esplanade and managed to get me inspired all over again. I revisited the Jendela Gallery that had an exhibition called Boxed Out. All the paintings were produced by 10 children involved with the Haroobee Studio art classes. From ages 6-11, these kids created amazing works of art! Some in only black and white outlines, others using pallette knives, fingers, squeezing paint directly from the bottle onto the canvas. I was stunned at the realistic animals by Kasia, and Zihnang's professional looking brushstrokes, using long drips of paint as rain. The best were abstracts by Daniel, the youngest! One titled "Heavenly Food, Chocolate Chip" was so good, I'll post the photo later. And I was allowed to take photos so I went crazy.

Watching the video of them working in progress made me think, why do I need to think so hard about my art? I calculate what materials and colours I'll use, plan the composition, build it around a concept, have reference material, all before I even make 1 brush stroke! And these kids would just go, drawing confident lines non-stop. It all came from the mind as a continuous flow of concentration and enjoyment, which resulted in fabulous peices. P

October 01, 2005

Tioman

Maybe because Tioman Island is so tiny on the flat map, that I didn't expect the grandeur of it's tall profile. The entire length was made up of overlapping mountains that suceedingly became fainter, the further they were. The tops of the peaks disappeared behind huge white puffy clouds that reflected into the smooth, blue, wavy sea.

I had the best snorkling yet! A tiny Rengis Island is really just a pile of a few rocks with some trees growing on top. But underneath the water was a carpet of the most colourful coral I've ever seen. I couldn't believe my eyes at how much there was and how far I could see in the clear water. If anyone else had been around, they would have heard my muffled snorkle saying "oh, it's so beautiful, oh my god, wow...". Actually, maybe that's why the barracudas were eyeing me so strangely! And they were big, their thin, white bodies almost 3 feet in length. They came so close I could see dozen's of teeth pointing out of their long mouths. There were so many of them circling around me, and a couple were not so far away on either side as they followed me swim around the island. I think they wanted to be my guide! Thousands in schools flickered from the sun in blues and yellows. Ooo, and there was a jelly fish which glided over my shoulder like a small plastic bag. That made me decide to get out of the water. I sat on the dock waiting for my boat and watching the skinny "tom" fish fly out of the water.

Closer to my end of the beach was a pier, with no coral, but amazing big fish. The parrots were bright green, pink and blue. Brilliant orange spotted guys, a white sting ray, and these small shark-like fish, that were the thickness of an eel. They were black and white with a flat circled head and slithered around my legs which made me shrieeeeeek! The water was so deep, I could only see the fish swimming metres up from the dark hole below. Wow. P

September 28, 2005

Back in KL for the 4th Time!

The Islamic Arts Museum was exhaustingly full of finely executed details, I could have spent several more hours examining it all. The influence of Arabic arts was brought over to Malaysia and is evident in everything from fabrics to jewelry to metal weapons and boxes to wooden doors to dishes. My favourites being the illuminated Qurans and the various fabrics that were batik, woven or embroidered.

In Chinatown I found some adorable wrapping paper illustrated with tiny cows watching concerts and watching "Gone with the Peanut"! Not sure what peanuts have to do with anything, but Yvonne and I did try some freshly pulled peanuts from the ground in Borobudur... they tasted like peas, imagine that! Must check out their website: www.aeiou.com.my. P

Love and Hate

I love Bali but I hate Air Asia. They will not help you in the slightest to get on a flight that still has 25 minutes before departure. So I sit here in the airport fuming about the airline rules, having to pay for another ticket, having to wait 6 more hours, to be arriving really late in KL and the fact it really couldn't have been that hard to get me on that plane.

Ok, good thoughts, I want to stop being mad now! A couple days ago, Yvonne and Claire drove me up to Ubud to have a drink on a terrace looking down on a luscious ravine of green rice fields. After playing with the frog ash tray and watching the herons fly in flocks, we watched a Kecak fire and trance show of 100 chanting men in checkered sarongs! I wanted to witness this ever since I watched the scene in Baraka. And although the movie displayed the seated circles of men in a grassy green valley with high mystical mountains all around, our show was still exciting. The music is made with the voices and the dance happens with the sychronized movements. The leader shouts out "A!" and the rest follow with different tones of "Kecak-kecak-kecak-kecak..." repeated really quickly. They tell their story while making patterns with their black and white bodies swaying, standing and lying down. The finale ends with a man on a hobby horse, running through a blazing fire of coconut shells. He stomps back and forth until the burning embers die out and then he shows off his black feet! P

September 25, 2005

Java

Borobudur was just like it was described in the hotel's pamphlet, "High curiousity makes people come to deepen or they just taking a look merely to experience the memorable values behind the gloriousity of the 8th century monument." Walking clockwise, there are stepping terraces that are lined with reliefs telling the story of Buddha's life and other legends. At the top are 3 circles of 72 buddahs in stuppahs that look out to the mountain range around. If you do the pilgrims walk, it would be 5km of meditation along these pictures. One, explained the story of a 2 headed bird. The top head ate the delicious berries from the branches but the lower head could not reach them. The top head asked "Why do you need to eat the berries if we have the same stomach?" The lower head in despair, ate the mushrooms he found on the ground. They turned out to be poisonous and so both heads died. The moral: being greedy does not get you more.

Yogyakarta is a city still run by a Sultan and is swamped in Batik. Traditional batik is a handpainted style of print that is made by a process of drawing patterns with wax and then dying the fabric. Almost everyone wears it either as a tied head peice, a sarong or a shirt. And every becak (bike) driver knew a batik store he would try to drop you off at to get a commission. A second job is common, even for the 2000 employees who work for the Sultan in the Kraton where he lives. One of the security men told us of the approaching tea ceremony which consisted of his mother, the head tea maker and her procession of 4 other batik'd women carrying an umbrella and kettle. His father is the secretary of the Sultan, and of course, does batik on the side.

The intricate details I saw throughout Bali were also prominant here, in these batiks and also the puppets. Wayang makers spend there days hammering tiny holes into water buffalo leather that make up a lattice of spirals and dots. The flat characters are finely painted on both sides and have arms that move at the joints. Our treat one evening was to see a wayang show. The black silhouettes of the puppets are seen behind a back-lit sheet of fabric. The story of the Abduction of Shinta was 2 hours of still figures in Indonesian conversation with their double jointed arms bending periodically. Once in a while something dramatic would happen and the shadows quickly flew across the screen, colliding, singing, and loud, crashing gamelan music enhancing the effects. The full story runs all night and morning, 8 hours long! Very interesting! P

September 19, 2005

Blog Bog

I have neglected my posts for a while and now I'm bogged as to what to focus on today. Thanks for all the great comments and emails, sorry if it takes a while to get back, but I am working on it... on Bali time :)

One of those days last week we drove to the south-western part of Bali in Bukit Penninsula. The attraction there is Uluwatu, a temple built on top of a limestone cliff, hundreds of feet above the Indian Ocean. Sacred monkeys walk along the walls pretending to go about their own business and shyly look up at you with those round little eyes as you pass by. And as you concentrate on taking a well compositioned photo, one of the buggers will snatch and try to take your silver earrings right out of your ear. Damn monkeys! I used to think they were so cute.

The best thing though, was the view of miles of ocean below. Not even one island or boat obstucted the emmense blue flatness of water. I have never seen waves roll in so evenly, each one was predictably the same but facinatingly beautiful in their perfection. The contrast of bright dark blue water against the gleaming white caps crashed together in a soupy mixture before touching the cliff. I really could have watched it all day!

Another one of those days last week, I tagged along with Rod for the day, a Canadian artist living down the road here. Between finding a new sketchbook and shopping for everything else, Rod explained how knowing your market is important to becoming a successful artist. Of course this is true in graphic design as well, but instead of having different projects for different clients with different markets, I have to identify my own work as a product and find out who the market would be. Hm, who would buy my work? P

September 15, 2005

Bali Sketches


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

On to sketchbook number 3! Some more photos up of Sarawak markets and Bali colours. P

September 09, 2005

Three Oh... My God!

Ever since I turned 29, I kept thinking I'm going to be 30. So after a year of this repeating thought, I may have got used to the idea. It doesn't feel different, but now it's official! Does this mean I'm really an adult now? Mm, I think I'll wait until I'm back home! Until then...

I walked outside to find a trail of square offerings leading to a huge sign of colourful petals saying HAPPY BDAY PAM. Yvonne and Putu told me to go away while they finished it off, so I just watched and took photos of them! Y. and I drank coconuts in the sun and splashed in the sea. Claire made a delicious coconut shake and I was decked out with a thick crown of fragrant Frangipani flowers. It later loosened and fell off to become a necklace, which worked too. We played with the lovebirds and they jumped and ate the petals that matched their own colours exactly. Then took off to eat at Mezzanine, a classy restaurant with a piano player. I missed Phad Thai, so ordered that and we sipped a bottle of red wine. The pianist pleasantly played Happy Birthday and a decadant chocolate mousse with a blue lagoon appeared infront of me. One of the transport guys called across the patio, "How old are you?". "30". "So am I!" "Really?" "You look young." "Great!" I said and we were very merry.

Thank you for all the ecards and wishes! Miss you all lots. P

September 08, 2005

Borneo Photos


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

Here we are in the rice field, grains just planted on this day. Click here to see more photos of Borneo and the great adventure into Sarawak!

September 07, 2005

Ubud

Ubud is the centre of artwork and handicrafts. Independent galleries line the narrow streets with their colourful displays of paintings. Markets were packed with row upon rows of sarongs, baskets and carved masks. Face sculptures vary from lacey wooden goddesses to smiling stone elephants with a red hybiscus behind each ear. Carvings of fanged demon masks with wide open mouths and strange contorted human heads with buck teeth and bulgy eyes.

The Neka Art Museum showed some Arie Smit's, there was a gallery of female artists, and another exhibiting funny drawings by a 7 year old. The 75 cent lattes and $3 massages have added to the abundance of inspiration to keep me drawing for the rest of my life and afterwards. The cute little love birds are keeping me busy at the moment! P

September 02, 2005

South of the Equator

My first glimpse of Bali was Yvonne and Claire jumping outside the airport window calling my name as I was about to go through customs. I am so happy to see them, it's the first time I've seen someone familiar in 4 months! I get to stay in their little paradise of the speak-hear-see-no-evil statue pouring water into the pool and buddah watching over the walkway surrounded by a pond of water lilies and fish.

Bali is also so beautiful! Everything is so intricate from the hundreds of stone carvings on the temples and the wooden frames and souvenirs. And so colourful from the small flower offerings on each doorstep to the freshly painted boats on the beach. Kites fly everywhere in the sky throughout the day and people smile all the time. The moon is upside down and the toilet water flushes the other way. P

Malaysia Day

I flew back to KL just in time (although unplanned) for Malaysia's 48th Independance Day. I pretty much avoided the crowded streets of perfumed spray string and watched the view from the hostel's roof top patio. The fireworks started at midnight on the 30th and were sychronized in 4 different parts of the city. From the rooftop, we stood pretty much in the centre of the 4 points. Sometimes the crackles could only be heard behind the skyscrapers. And most of the time I saw only half of the display. But the effect was the other half reflecting in the towers of mirrored windows across the city. The colours flickering and the noises bouncing back and forth made for a great surround-fireworks display!

I discovered laksa in Kutching which is so delicious. I was on a mission to eat it again before I left Malaysia. I found it in Chinatown... a curry, coconut soup with noodles, bean sprouts, chicken and shrimp... mmm, so good! P

August 29, 2005

Kutching

The trip down to Kutching was much longer than I had thought. Had an unexpected stopover in Sibu when my bus arrival was later than the only boat departure of the day. Sibu is a port town with a Chinese temple. But it really didn't make up for the day I lost that could have been spent in Bako, the park everyone has been raving about since I arrived in Borneo. Like everywhere else, I'll just have to go on my next trip! Seems the places I want to visit are adding to my list and not being scratched off! Had an exciting stop by the Polis (the Malay-English spelling is great!) who were looking for illegal immigrants.

Kutching is a peaceful, relaxed city on the Sarawak river. So relaxed that I seemed to have a problem keeping my eyes open. Could it be 4 months of travel is tiring me out? Or maybe it was all the food I ate. Ramsay (the artist I met a couple months ago in KL) just happened to be at his Kutching gallery when I arrived. He invited me to join his brother and wife to see the outskirts of the city. We drove to a Malay village on the other side of the river and ate seafood... my favorite being the salty, crispy, muscle omelette! After my 3rd attempt at eating crabs, I think I'm starting to get the grasp of the whole process. Jungle ferns, ochre and lady's fingers, we had a feast. Then got in the car to find an ais dessert--what is this name? Shaved ice on top of red beans (and an option of green jellies), sitting in coconut milk. Not bad but I was about to burst. P

August 27, 2005

Kenyah Longhouse Part 2

It's been a few days now, I'm starting to forget the details! I must include the second night of festivities. Olong Ulu means "upriver people" and Kenyahs are one of these groups. One of their traditional dances has each person performing individually as either a warrior (men) or a hornbill (women). My past never included flying or dancing, never mind being graceful! I think I would have been much better suited to the warrior capturing dinner with a few taekwondo kicks. So the men with a sword in one hand and the sheild in another, with a few shaking stomps on the floor, captured their prey in their hornbill coat. And the women with upright feathers on the head and feather pom poms in the hands, slowly turned, bending closer to the ground and up again, arms flying away.

Once the dance has been danced, someone else offers them (not that you have a choice) a shot of rice wine called tuak. It's simple ingredients are sugar, yeast and rice. White rice makes white tuak and burnt rice makes red. For some reason I was offered 2 glasses, one of each kind. There was only one older man to refuse the wine because of heart conditions. It just so happened I was the offerer which meant I had to drink his shot! A few of us had personalized songs sung to us. It was completely not in English, but the beaming smile of the singer, the interested audience around, sitting on a wooden longhouse veranda with a few candles glowing our only light, in the middle of the jungle, made for a deeply moving experience. It ended with a glass of tuak. Yes, another drunk night.

The morning started with some unstraight walking and a chicken ceremony. Which included (you guessed it), a glass of tuak. Back upstream the river we had come down 2 nights ago, we collected a couple durian on the way and headed for Long San. The larger town was not as traditional as Long Moh, but contained so many beautiful murals. Flowered pictures above the hotel room doors, black and white mirror images, the Malaysian flags of each state. Children played football and hung in trees and waved hello. There was an electric orange sunset over the river. The evenings plan was to party at a longhouse, however a recent death in the village meant 2 weeks without ceremony.

Back to Miri, the last couple days already seemed so far away. This was a glimpse at a fading culture as the younger generations prefer to study and work in the cities. Hopefully the future will bring more tourism to keep their tribes alive. But will tourism make the dances less genuine and their lives more dependable on the modern world? I suppose no matter how many animal species and tribes that become extinct, the world will continue to go through it's metamorphosis. Hope lies in the people who don't want change and put effort towards preserving what we still have. P

August 25, 2005

Niah National Park

A 4km trek to see the two caves was much easier than it could have been, not having to touch the natural ground. A raised wooden boardwalk had black lizards racing across it, beautiful mosses growing between the planks and long red millipedes that I first noticed when I was about to grab the rail, and then decided against it. A procession of 5 men passed by with heavy bags of gauno on their backs. It can be used for fertilizer, the other uses I'm not sure of. Niah is also well known for nests, that harvesters collect for the Oriental restaurants to make their special birds nest soup. Yum, I've always wanted to eat noodley strands of bird saliva!

The great cave was grand, a huge cavern, the rock surface covered in greens and reds. This is where a human skull was found aged 40,000 years old! Further inside was a narrow tunnel that led to the interior of the massive cave. Intensely white holes above let streams of sun pour through. Bats screetched and flickered as they circled in and out of the light. It was pitch black, I'm glad the fading batteries of my rental flashlight held out! Dark shadows whipped by infront of me, the indented ceiling only a few feet above my head had bats hanging upside down. How they hold onto such a smooth surface amazes me. I searched for paintings hidden within the darkness, but the only markings were white scratchings trying to cover up the "W.K. heart P.L." (haha!) graffiti. The real drawings were at the next cave over, proof cave men had lived there so many years ago. It was exciting, even though the reddish paint had faded, and the cave was quite dark, and the barbed wire and chain link fence were infront, AND it was 10m away! But still fascinating.

I have just been inspired by an Australian artist. John showed me his travel sketchbook and has made the effort (I had intended to make myself!), of making 1 painting each day. P

August 23, 2005

Kenyah Longhouse Part 1

I just came back from an incredible excursion within the interior jungle of Sarawak. So much has happened, I'm filled with so many thoughts and events, I'm not sure it will all fit into this entry.

I was gratiously accepted to join a group that had arranged a trip to visit a traditional Kenyah tribe. A dozen of us packed into three 4x4's to drive a full day along the rough, twisting, mountainous, dirt road. Beautiful black and green Rajah Brooks fluttered past (Malaysia's national butterfly). The perfectly straight, tall Tualang trees (I think I got this right!) loomed above the main forest canopy. A man posed for our photographs with his freshly hunted wild boar. A happy couple stood with one of his arms around her and the other holding a blow pipe. The smiling woman sentimentally shook my hand and motioned "from my heart to yours".

The main highway deviates from all rules of driving. Left and right applies when the hand painted arrows direct which side of the road you need to drive on when ascending a hill or turning a bend. Sometimes there is only one track when the mud is too slippery. Or a stop to wait for a logging truck to pass by. The ends of the bridges had stacked tires on each side to bump into if the car happens to sway. Fortunately the road were in good condition (considering) for us!

After an evening longboat ride from Long San to Long Moh, we arrived in the small village Usun grew up in. We entered her longhouse that she had not seen in six years. We were greeted with introductions, delicious food, traditional songs and dances, and A LOT of highly alcoholic rice wine! The girls were invited to wrap rice in banana leaves which is so much harder then it looks. Everyone went to bed drunk and slept soundly until the early cockling of the screetching chickens.

The day started with a trip to the newly cleared rice paddy. The trees are burned down which left the steep slope covered in fallen, charred logs. The men start at the bottom poking holes in the ground with their sticks and the women follow, baskets of rice on their backs, precisely throwing several grains into each hole. The sun was hot, the bees swarmed and we were accidently and purposefully covered black in soot. After a well deserved wash in the rapids, roasted chicken scewered and set upon on a BBQ constructed with slats of bamboo, and boar steamed inside a hollow section of bamboo, we were happily content and satisfied! To be continued... P

August 22, 2005

Into Sarawak

"The first real sight of the Borneo kingfishers was equally startling. Brighter than any illustration could ever be, apparently radiating blue and orange from its back and stomach all around itself into the background of green..." Into the Heart of Borneo, Redmond O'Hanlon

I have started reading this book at the same time I am actually seeing and relating to these amazing things he writes about. P

August 15, 2005

Warning about the youth hostel in Brunei

Arhugh!!! Of all places, I was the victim of a theif in Brunei! Even Lonely Planet states it is comparably safe to the rest of Asia because most people are wealthy enough to not need a backpackers old stuff. I'm going to write them not to reccommend this place anymore. The one budget accommodation in the city is a youth hostel dormitory. The dorms were strictly separated into women and men rooms. However something is going ary where the men in charge freely roam into the women's side to request fees or whatever. One girl caught a couple of them peering through into her shower! And our room had been rummaged through by someone and all my belongings were scattered across my bed. One girl had a shirt missing that was replaced with one of the theives. I had a change purse (Lisa, the one the matches yours!) stolen, but even more maddening, all my photo cd's. Those are the most important possessions I have of this trip and they have been taken by someone who will get no value from them at all. He has taken all my memories! I made copies of each and sent them home, I just hope they make it. P

August 13, 2005

Thailand to Borneo Photos


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Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

More new photos! From a green snake in Thailand to the beautiful flora, fauna and friends in Sabah. P

August 12, 2005

Boat, Mosque, Museum

Kampung Ayer (means 'water village') edged the shores and also had a cluster of houses in the middle of the river, creating an island. Laura (Italian, living in Holland, also 29) and I proudly bargained down the boat driver from $20 BND for 1 hour down to $10. But this isn't Malaysia anymore and the consequence was a really fast drive-by view in half an hour! Maybe the photos will not be great but it was great to see a whole community of homes, stores and schools for 30,000 (half of the city!) people built on stilts. Plus driving through the natural AC was relieving on this really humid day.

Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (had to check that name!) is the largest in the country and is expensively beautiful. Intricately carved wooden doors, mosaic tiled fountains, the circular stained glass above... and then we were told we should not enter until after 5pm. Which actually worked out since these two quick glimpses gave us the opportunity to see the museum as well. The Islamic Arts section was full of illuminated Qurans and decorated sabers, ceramics and fabrics. There was the oil gallery and others too but at that point they had already closed and we were told to leave yet again. So that was my whirl-wind tour of Bandar Seri Begawan! P

August 11, 2005

Brunei

The first thing I saw pulling up into the harbour were all the oil rigs. The mark of Brunei, the wealth it is known for and the main industry many survives on. I spoke with Ramil, Philipino, on the bus ride to Bandar. He is trying to find a job here and was returning from KK to have a medical exam for applications. The second thing I saw, as he pointed out, were all the huge, extravagant houses lining the highway and the shiny new cars on the road. Apparently the rich own a couple cars each and build all these houses, many of which remain empty because there are not enough people to fill them. He asks, "Why do they need all of this?! 2 or 3 is good, but 12 is too much!" My expectation of the capital, BSB, was to see a busy, crowded city with a downtown core of high skyscrapers. However, it turns out, the population is only just over 60,000 and the high percentage of Muslims make it a non-alcoholic, cafe-drinking, safe, quiet and pleasant atmosphere. All the young people drive to Labaun or KK in Sabah or Miri in Sarawak to have a night life! I am excited to see the mosques and (another) stilt village tomorrow. P

August 10, 2005

Pulau Labuan

The museum had an excellent miniture creation of the Patau-Patau Water Village. All of the houses are built on stilts with raised, wooden pathways connecting them all together above the water. I went this morning to explore and discovered all the wooden planks were replaced with concrete walkways, which even had railings! It seemed very unfortunate for my aesthetic tastes, however, it is much more practical for the residents who live there. One man told me it took them 6 months to build and it's an improvement from before. Almost every house had dozens of plants lining their property. The man was very proud to point out his small mango and apple tree that beared no fruit. I wanted to ask him more questions but he kept responding with a "Yes" which meant he didn't really understand what I was saying. In such a small village, there were so many children and each one either jumped to say hello or just laughed at me hysterically! P

August 08, 2005

Sukau

Well the homestay wasn't what I expected (it's a B&B), but still had a great time. Was immersed among avid insect-bird-animal watchers and I love nature even more than before. There was so much to see, including some rare animals that are unique only to Borneo. My first glimpse of a truly wild orang-utan was a dark clump in a tree about 100 metres away. At 6am it was just waking up with the sun rise and for a few seconds I saw it swing from it's nest and climb down the trunk. Our guide on the night boat cruise was excellent and would quickly scan the dense forest with his flood light and suddenly stopped when he found animals that took me sometimes a long moment to spot once the light was on it! There were a couple owls who looked back at us with wide, round yellow eyes. A beautiful blue eared kingfisher sleeping on a branch. The flying fox hanging in a tree, walking, and then flew away. The gulping, fat frog that took me the longest to spot as he looked like one of the stones he sat on. The reflection of 2 tiny lights on an aligator in the river, the reason most animals and humans do not swim in the murky water. Groups of dancing fireflies. And an evil giant, black bee that stung me on the neck. It was so painful for the rest of the evening, as though it kept stinging me over and over again. My whole neck was stiff the next day but it's fine now. I realized there's no way I'd survive in the jungle!!

The morning cruise was even more spectacular which included a long monitor lizard, a curled mangrove snake in a tree, a couple swimming otters, and numerous birds. In the sunlight, the kingfisher has a brilliant shiny blue back and bright orange tummy. The monkeys were exciting to watch, within a small area we saw 3 species of probosis, gibbons, long tailed and pig tailed macaques. The male probosis is so unusual with it's long nose. I think it must have been inspiration for the creation of the muppets! I saw 3 out of the 8 species of hornbill birds. The best was the rhinoseros hornbill, which can grow to 1 metre in length and has a red-orange horn on top of it's beak. They are so huge, they rock an entire tree when they land in it. 4 oriental pied hornbills landed in the tree only metres from us and gorged themselves on the papayas. A butterfly later landed on the open fruit to taste some of the leftovers. The cycle of life! Unfortunately my camera is terrible at long distance shots as most of the wildlife I had to view through binoculars. But it was so amazing to spy in and watch nature go about it's daily routine.

The small peice of primary jungle I saw was packed with life. But everyday, acres of land are being burned down and cleared to plant palms for palm oil. The plantations are everywhere and are taking away one of the only places you will find virgin forest. Like everywhere else, animals are decreasing, but as the forest gets smaller, the space left for them to go on this island is limited. P

August 03, 2005

Sandakan

In the afternoon I have been here I have seen the least number of tourists than in any of the other cities I have been in Malaysia. About 5. I ate roti serat (vegetable pancake with 2 types of curries), but not until almost every person in the restaurant had a chat or at least a look at me. Ana is Philapino and was my waitress and took a good interest in my hand sanitizer. Fadila has 3 children and makes an effort to welcome all of the foreigners to her town. The girl cleaning the glass next to my table, wasn't really looking at the window. Every mouthful I ate was watched by whoever could see. It was funny! Or I had to think that so as not to let myself get too self conscious.

I have signed up for a homestay in a village on the Sungai Kinabatangan (the longest river in Sabah). Tomorrow I will live a couple days with a family in the jungle! I don't expect there will be internet? P

Mt. K. Close Up & Poring

Wow! Kinabalu was very moving. Well, it itself did not move, but the clouds around quickly swept towards it from below in Crockers Range and totally engolfed the mountain. One moment it was this cold, hovering rock in clear view and the next it was invisible. Helena and I walked a trail that led us to a view point of the tall waterfall pouring down one side. Right before sunset, the light turned the leaves, flowers and clouds a warm orange. We were high enough to see some clouds almost skim our heads as they sped by quickly above us. The rest of the clouds rolled in giving me loads of options for so many photos and videos! Truely spectacular. I am satisfied even after not seeing the view from the very top.

Next was Poring Hot Springs which had some outdoor sulphur baths. Not exactly what I anticipated but the warm water felt great. The tropical and orchid gardens were filled with colourful insects, exotic flowers, interesting pitcher plants and curling vines around twisted trees. Every branch on the canopy walk made me paranoid thinking it could be a tree snake. The only thing I saw in the trees was a guy swinging from one of the vines. And I think the ape sounds made by the tourist group behind me would have scared them away anyway! Jackie the orang-utan, didn't even make a noise. She was lonely and just had her mind set on the male a few hundred metres away. She swiftly climbed up a trunk, hung with one arm from a branch to get a better view, and then swung tree to tree towards him. There was a huge variety of bugs and moths (and 1 bat) in the hostel's kitchen, which was many more species than the 3 I saw in the butterfly garden.

I'm so glad to be on the internet again, I almost died, it's been more than 4 days!

July 29, 2005

Mount Kinabalu From a Distance

Well, there was more rubbish than wildlife to see at the bird sanctuary, but there was an amazing view of Mt. Kinabalu! In the distance was a line of mountains and a cluster of white clouds above, which I thought included a darker cloud. The rented binoculars finally came in useful at that point when I realized it was the mountain peaking out and up from behind. It's the highest mountain in South East Asia standing at over 4,000 metres tall. It's shape doesn't ascend to a single peak like a regular mountain shape. It has several angled granite slabs cutting into the air. Almost every traveller who comes here is going to hike the 2 day climb. I hear it's much harder than the volcano I climbed in Nicaragua which I found difficult. I've decided to decline this once in a lifetime opportunity and admire it's beauty from below. Tomorrow I'll go, take a few pictures, maybe paint one too and think about what the exercise could have been like while skipping that part and going straight to the hot springs! Actually I would really like to do it but I had decompression sickness from diving and the effects are still lingering. If anyone was to get altitude sickness it would probably be me! I would also love to be diving as well as I am passing through the best diving sites in the world. However my body seems to prefer air pressure at ground level :) P

July 28, 2005

Kota Kinabalu

Lately there has not been too much to say because I've been in transport on many buses, taxis and a plane the last few days. Now I'm in Borneo! The amazing view from the short flight over looked like a painted map. The small islands were solid green with a sand coloured border outlining each shape. I'm in the capital, but still tiny city of Kota Kinabalu. I've already seen all the markets (lots of dried sea cucumbers that I have seen snorkling), museum (beautiful costumes of Sabah's tribes), art gallery (a bit uninspiring) and the clock tower. It is so refreshing to be back in Malaysia, the people are so friendly, they talk to me for no reason. I was crossing the street and a young guy passed and said "Have a good day mame". The waiter at the restaurant offered to show me around the handicraft market during his break between 2 shifts. A couple of the girls on a school trip at the museum saw me sketching a costume and said "HI!" When I replied with my hi, the rest of the class individually said hi to me and I ended up repeating the word as many times as there were children in the group. They were so excited and ended up doing the same thing when I approached the stairs to go down and was followed with a chorus of bye, bye, bye!!! That really made my day actually!

And more wildlife to report. I was a bit annoyed to be stuck on a top bunk, but was completely grateful this morning when I woke up to the entire bed trembling. I asked the girl down below if she was ok, and she said that a mouse just ran across her. On closer inspection there was a huge rat running amongst our stuff on the floor! He ran away once the door was opened, but hopefully will not return. Oh, and I still feel a mild guilt for the cleaner who will discover those 2 cockroaches under the pail in Koh Phangnan! P

July 26, 2005

awol_sqft


awol_sqft
Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

In Toronto, there will be 500 paintings by 500 different artists... check it out! P

July 21, 2005

It's war!

Last night I came home to discover a new cockroach, much bigger than the other, scurrying around the bathroom. There is a step down onto the tiles which made it run in circles unable to escape. There is a bucket of water with a smaller pail inside which is used to pour water down to flush the toilet. I grabbed the small pail and dropped it upside down to trap the thing inside. I heard it bump into the plastic a few times before it stopped, realizing there was no way out. Then another one came! It looked like the culprit that bit me the other day and he seemed to be in search of his friend. Tracing the familiar smell, he located the bucket and circled it. His slow pace gave me the opportunity to trap him inside too!!! So who knows if they're mating and making more, or fighting each other, dying of starvation, or just sleeping. I'd like to get the pail back to make flushing a bit easier but I think it's more important to teach those guys a lesson! AH HA!!! No more messing with me, I win, you lose, I'm in control, don't fight back or you will DIE!!! I have a plan that is "thoroughly thought through" (The Star's Tennis Balls, Stephen Fry). Ah ha ha haaaa... I think I'm losing it, the sun is getting to me or that book really messed with my mind. P

July 20, 2005

Beach Bums

I have decided that I cannot leave Koh Phangnan without experiencing the full moon party. So I will be living the beach life amoungst immature, drunk, drugged, early twenty-somethings for a week. Although there are a few who have surprised me by straying from the usual groups of girls who all wear the same frilly mini skirt or sarong wrapped exactly the same way. Or the boys who lie on their towels pretending to read, but really getting a long glimpse of the topless sunbathers. It's all so much funnier when you have someone to laugh about it with. Thank God for Angela who caught me wandering aimlessly and asked me to join her for drinks at her empty table. I've never agreed to anything so fast in my life! Finally another single traveller! I'm convinced all the girls make a pact with eachother to never be seen alone or to talk to girls outside their group. Angela and I like to believe it's because they don't want our competition. Haha, got to make yourself feel better somehow in difficult times! We took the Magic Reggae Boat Tour yesterday and found out Reggae wasn't referring to fun music on the boat, but some freshly rolled smokes passed around. I've heard there are tonnes of undercover cops looking to make arrests the night of the party, so I'm not risking anything.

I had planned to tell people I'm 24 if they happened to ask. Just so I can blend in a little more and avoid the "Oh my God, you're so old!" expressions. But the ones who know me a bit better have already seen my slightly older mannerisms. They even guess more than 18 to 22. More like 26 now! Is it possible I'm looking more my age? Oh no! P

July 18, 2005

More Ugly Creatures and a Thought

I had the nastiest wake-up call this morning at about 3am. There was a tiny pinch on my right side and I immediatetly searched in complete darkness for the light switch behind the mosquito net. Beside me twitched a brown cockroach, ew, yuk, ah! I yelped (been doing that a lot lately with all these crazy bugs and animals) and stood up and scared him away behind the bed. There was no use in getting him outside because the little bungalow huts always have gapping holes everywhere to the outside. Out came the electrical tape and I patched every little hole I could find. I was so freaked out from ugly sudden awakening that I tucked the net under the mattress just to be sure nothing could crawl inside. Drapping the net over the bed just isn't good enough anymore! I kept the light on for the rest of the night.

I have written a lot about my problems, scary events and negative situations on this trip. The only reason being, these are the most interesting things to tell! In retrospect it is usually funny (except cockroaches which are never amusing), or a learning experience. On the other hand, I wonder if I do not write enough about the amazing people I meet, the genuine acts of kindness or the beautiful landscapes in every city? I have found that traveling is not like a vacation. It's just like living at home except I'm in many places, where I cannot escape the personal ups and downs, goods and bads, satisfying and frustrating situations. I just do not want to give any of you the wrong impression of the countries I visit. This is only one opinion. I only hope to entertain you with my story of stories. P

July 16, 2005

Koh Phangan

Oppositely from Koh Tao, I placed myself in the middle of the most touristy places in Thailand. A beach town that has become famous from it's full moon parties that started as a birthday bash back in the 80's. I went to the beach where all the people lay and all the people kept to themselves. I am among many people but still have nobody to talk to :( Oh, except for the Thai guys handing out flyers for FREE LADIES NIGHT and a ROCKIN BOAT RIDE. I swam in the water and felt prickly all over. Heard there are some little bugs that swim in schools and bite you, I wonder if that was them calling on me? Then I started reading my new book which is really exciting! I drew some boats but got bored of that because I did that yesterday. My feet got figity and started playing around in the sand. The mound grew into a turtle and he turned out pretty cute. I hoped this was my chance for some charming young man to come over and distract me from my sand sculpture. No, but there were many women trying to sell grilled corn and a boy who passed by several times saying 'mango, watermelon, pineapple'. I think he started getting bored because later in the day he was making the perfect imitation of a motorcycle motor! P

July 15, 2005

Tsunami Photos


IMGP3030
Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

New photos to see! Here is an example of the destruction of the tsunami. Also some sketches...

July 14, 2005

The Lizards and I

I am jealous that the guesthouse next door is full. I'm in this strange situation where the owner, Pu, has decided to go to her hometown for a day and 2 nights. She made an appointment with the bank in Saran Thani. She even invited me to go with, to a temple and hot springs, but I will end up there eventually, and didn't want a repeat of the KL incident (I'm doubtful of that though). She said her lady-boy friend would come in the morning before my taxi arrived to take care of the place while she is gone. He never came. Either did my taxi. The free service is offered with the accommodation since it is so far out of the way of everything. But only until 5pm, which I discovered my first evening when I ended up having to pay 400 baht to get back. So I called her and she arranged for a new pick up, but it meant a 3 hour delay in my plans. Plus the water isn't working for the 2nd night in a row. I just had to wash off 2 days worth of sea salt, sun block and bug spray, so made the trek and used the neighbours shower.

So my only company are the lizards. I like them, they are cute. Pale little bodies stuck flat against the white walls. Four fingers on each leg, spread wide apart. Stone still figures in an elegant curl. This one behind the computer is fixed upon the small moth that buzzes past. The tail lifts up and stiffens like a cat about to pounce. The head is alert and quickly jerks back and forth. He got it! In the mouth, chew, chew, chew, savour, swallow. He's on the hunt for more, still hungry. The largest one I've seen so far is on the beam behind me, maybe more than a foot long with the tail. I was talking to him and asked if he could make a sound. He just stared back. I stared too. Then explained, "I am the only one here, there is nobody for me to talk to except you. Please make an indication that you understand." He walked a few inches away from me. "How do you sound?" Stare, walk, stare. "You're boring". I heard a small one, it's between a chirp and the sound your tongue makes against the inside of your front teeth. Are you doing it?! P

July 12, 2005

Koh Tao

I am the only guest at my guesthouse. I have my own cute hut on a cliff looking into the rocky bay below and there are steps leading up to it made of green, upside down beer bottles. I've already spotted a spider and am not looking forward to a night alone in there. It's a little bit at the edge of nowhere, it took me an hour to walk into town. Pu is the cook, cleaner and all the associated jobs with running the place. Sometimes it is so busy and then today there is just me. She liked my portrait of Conor and asked if I could teach her to draw. I'm going to try! Not really sure where to start but will see how it goes tonight. P

July 11, 2005

Visa Run in Ranong

A few bus trips lately, so not too much to report except for my exciting visa run. Decided to stay longer in Thailand. I've been avoiding the motorcycle taxis but ended up on my first ride when arriving in Ranong. The driver sensed my fear and gave me his helmet. Backpacks and everything, we were off. He drove safely so I'm ok with motorcycles now and even let him wear his own helmet again. From the police station to the pier, took a longtail boat to Thai immigration and further across the bay for about half an hour. I stepped onto Burma! Immediately I was greeted by a few smiling guys in long sarongs, including Ali, brother of the boat driver, who led me to get my passport stamped. Then said I am to be in Burma for 20 minutes. Naively, I follow them around the block while they try to get me to buy whiskey, cigarettes and viagra (the necessities!). I buy some water and go back to the pier to see my boat driver yelling at Ali. Thai immigration closes in 30 minutes! And then they tally my bill to 100 Baht for my 5 minute tour of convenience stores. I imagine myself sleeping on the dock by the small, stilted office for the night. We make it back to Thailand and my book was stamped at exactly 6pm.

My night ended with an echoing scream in the bathroom as I unraveled some toilet paper and a thick, black spider the size of my hand, crawled out of the holder. AHHHHH-HHHH-HHH-HH-H...!! P

July 09, 2005

Khao Sok

I don't really mind the little lizards crawling on the walls of my room, or the occasional frog resting on the mosquito net. Even the moths are quite elegant and the ugly grasshoppers amusing. But today, a long, black snake about a metre long squiggled past my path. It appeared so suddenly and moved so quickly the only reaction was to run away backwards. But that is the path to my hut, which I must use several more times.

Yesterday, exploring Khao Sok National Park, we discovered the place infested with leeches. I thought they only existed in water! But these ones crawl somewhere among the damp leaves covering the dirt path. Like an inchworm, they grabbed onto my shoe (while I was walking) and moved up towards my ankle. The first little bugger was noticed when I felt large ants biting me. The next 2 didn't get a chance because I was watching my feet more than the jungle surrounding me.

But these are the things I see, how much is out there that has not caught my eye's attention? I have fished out tiny ants in my soup and dirt in my jam and avoided the honey jar with a layer of ants inside. What am I really eating? How true are the "CleanFood Good Meals" signs? How many puddles I step in are infested with waterborn parasites? How many mosquitos that don't mind my repelant and bite me have malaria? What lives in the river I went tubing in? Is the fish okay that came from the sea where so many lives were taken? What caused me to be ill in all ways a couple days ago? I will never know! P

July 06, 2005

Khao Lak

A couple hours north of Phuket are a string of beaches called Khao Lak. There is one road that runs through it with the beach off to the west. The land is very flat which made it the most effected place in Thailand by the tsunami. The wave washed in 1 or 2 km from the shore. Like PP, all the Thai's and a lot of volunteers are rebuilding and doing various projects. Unlike PP, there is no tourism at all. In a place that used to be as busy as the islands on the East side of the country, there are no boat trips, no diving, no vendors on each little side road and not one person on the beach. I thought my shock was wearing off, but it just happened all over again.

Through John, the person I met on my first day in PP, I had the pleasant opportunity to meet Chatchada. She is an art teacher running a camp that allows orphans to paint their thoughts of the tragedy onto canvas. Tomorrow I hope to meet more children, but today I worked with the women making purses they will sell for funds. There were square foot paintings hung all around us, each representing a different version of one event. Some of these will be made into other products. I tried a couple myself, and ended up with the most dramatic abstract painting I've ever made... actually haven't done many abstracts before :) I later noticed I had been in a trance, swashing large strokes up and down. Blue for all the water, green for the trees and everything in it's path, red for the lives it took and black for the grief that continues. With a white top and a sandy bottom, I created a huge wall of a wave which looked as powerful and mean as what I imagined it to look if I had been there on the beach that day, watching it come towards and down on me. P

June 30, 2005

Couldn't Risk It

I decided to try a smaller restaurant with just one local eating at one of the four tables. The vegetables on rice was really tastey, I enjoyed every mouthful until she brought over my glass of water. It was yellow. Almost the colour of apple juice, I'm not kidding. I decided to keep smiling, not drink the water, and believe if my food was made of that water, at least it's cooked. The other guy was eating what I had and he seemed fine. Then he asked how much Thai I knew. After I listed all 3 of my words, we all laughed and had a good broken conversation. He works security at the airport. She asked if I travel alone. Instead of the surprised looks I got in Malaysia, here I get thumbs up and "that's good!" responses. It was all fun until she came over and asked if I was going to drink my water. How do you indicate nicely that you don't want to drink yellow water? Automatically she turned away looking upset and pretended to be busy. I thanked her for the delicious food and she politely smiled, but I felt so bad... :( P

June 29, 2005

Kata and Karon

I had intended to go swimming today but the red flags were out on both Kata and Karon beach. Goh has a row of beach chairs that he rents out for 50 baht each. They had probably been full when he had been working on Dec 26th. He saw the water go out all the way to the small island in the middle of the bay which must be more than a km out. Thankfully he ran the other way and the wave was blocked from going any further than the road because the beach has a slope and is lined with trees. Karon wasn't as lucky and there were people and bulldozers out today restyling the beach and walkways. Today Goh had the time to sit with me on the sand, as the chairs were already swept off, but there was nobody to sit in them.

On Karon, I waded just to get a little bit wet. I was only in less than knee high and the force of the water pulling back into the sea was so strong I had to struggle for balance. The waves were about a metre high and the undertow about 1 foot. Imagine the waves 10 times as high with 10 times the strength coming in and then pulling back... I just started to understand how the water had been so powerful as to break through the concrete walls on PP.

I ate a delicous crispy catfish. It was cooked with fried basil leaves and sticks of peppercorns with a little bit of red chilies. This was at Natural Restaurant which is overloaded with plants and decorated with statues and violin clocks and goldfish in tanks inside a TV shell. A very romantic atmosphere for me and the mosquitos! P

June 28, 2005

Phuket Town

It was sad to leave what I had left behind, it's too easy to become attached to something you like and become comfortable with. As much as I love travelling and seeing new things, I think most people strive to find one place where they can stay put. Constant change and moving around is exhausting. Although, I think the stay on PP was just long enough for me to be in one place, but not too long that I regretted not leaving sooner. I left the little paradise-in-repair and had a not too rough ride West to Phuket. The sun was out, the ipod on, and I watched Phi Phi Ley get smaller and fainter into the sea and sky.

There is a market in Phuket Town where I bought 3 sticks of banana that had been sliced, grilled and then flattened. 1 was enough so I offered the other 2 to a couple of girls in uniform who had just come out of school. They hesitated at first, but when I passed them over, their eyes widened and the smiles stretched wide, they were so happy! I was so happy they were happy, it made me really happy :) P

June 27, 2005

Bye PP

I now have my Open Water certificate! Thank you, thank you everyone at Hippos!!! It was so comfortable being in your company over the past week and a half. It actually seems much longer than that, I feel this has been home for a while and it is strange to be taking off to a new city tomorrow. Pip and Jason, have a safe flight and best wishes back in England, Mr. Ha, thank you so much for your generosity, Mr. Ahn, the Japanese curry was great, Young Hee, good luck becoming a diving instructor, Dao, I'll remember the walk up the hill with the stunning sunset, and Bao, you are a fantastic painter! You made Phi Phi much more meaningful than I ever expected. Kup koon ka.

More sightings today: squid, blue sea stars, star fish, baracuda, sea urchins, bubble coral, red coral (name?), porcelain crab. P

June 26, 2005

Scuba

I went diving!!! After 6 days of painting, I started the Open Water course. Yesterday we spent in the pool practising assembling the equipment, putting it on, taking off the mask and regulator under water... still a little bit scary only a couple feet under the surface! Today went out on a boat to Phi Phi Lay (the island where The Beach was filmed!) and had 2 dives up to about 11 metres. Breathing under water became the least difficult thing to do, keeping my buoyancy at a constant level was another thing. Rose all the way up to the surface a couple times! Besides the awkwardness (everything is supposed to come much more naturally tomorrow on the 3rd dive, I hope this works for me), I got to see a leopard shark! It's actually in the mural. Also a scorpion fish, Nemo!, parrot fish, angel fish, baracudas, fan and table coral. There was a squid but I missed it, oops :) Sometimes we were surrounded by a school of what seemed like thousands, wow! Now I must do some reading and finish my homework... P

June 23, 2005

The Perfect Place

If you want to see the most amazing scenery you've ever seen, come to Phi Phi. There is a lot of construction and clearing still need to be done. But there are many options for food and accommodation. Yesterday I walked on a white sand beach and swam in a clear tourquoise blue lagoon with stunning lime stone cliffs around, almost all to myself. It was great to enjoy that perfect secluded beach that everyone searches for, but it was disturbing to think it didn't used to be this way that long ago. I imagined the resorts lining the beach. Peoples voices joining together into one continuous sound. Children laughing and splashing in the waves. Colourful blankets lying on the sand. And now it's all gone without a trace. Until I look behind me and see the scattered palm leaves, plastic bottles, broken glass, tiles.... All I want to say is come to PP! It needs the tourists to take the boat rides, do the scuba lessons, stay in the hotels, eat the pancakes and relax with a drink on the beach. This is my home for only a week, but home forever for those that live here. They remember how it was and I'm sure wish to see it that way again soon.

I was interviewed by ABC news the other day while painting the mural. I'm terrible at answering questions and hope it doesn't air. But if it does, you can look out for any documentaries on what is happening with the tsunami 6 months later. See you! P

June 21, 2005

The Mural

Three days of painting and the mural is going well. All of the Hippo Divers are fun to be around and are even helping out with the painting. I've got them all working hard so I can sit back and drink shakes all day (haha, just kidding). Hope to finish it off tomorrow and will take a final photo to show it off to you! Then I'm going to jump in the water. P

June 19, 2005

Hippos and Rain

Last night Hi Phi Phi had a meeting informing all interested volunteers the jobs that need to be done on the island. They put me to work using my "artistic skills" and I started painting a mural for the Hippo Divers shop. There is so much to do I have decided to stay longer, at least the rest of this week. It sounds like I may get to try a dive! Mr. Ha (I think, who's name means Hippo in English), the owner of the shop took a group of us out for a feast tonight, I'm soooooo full! But it was delicious and had the chance to try several Thai dishes from sweet chili fish, vegetables, chicken cashew, lemongrass seafood soup, greens (something like spinach) and a great watermelon shake. I haven't done much volunteer work in the past, and I have to say it is so rewarding to see how many people are grateful to have the extra help. It's the perfect job, except for the part that you don't get paid!!

I love the little things... everyone is so relaxed... this morning I was just about to step out of the Harmony Garden where I had a Thai pancake, when it suddenly poured with rain (this happens a lot). So I stayed under the roof, along with a few other people and the owner brought over some chairs for us to sit on while we waited. It was so communal. We didn't know each other but were laughing together at the fact we were just there. Instead of running through the rain to our scheduled destinations, we watched the rain and waited for it to stop. P