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Down UnderLast Down Under Posting

On 16 November 2004 from Reuver, NL | comments closed

Since I completed my 11,5-month journey through South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, this website no longer serves the purpose of online travel diary. Thus I have decided that oz.claessen.ca: Guido’s Down Under Experiences will no longer be updated. However, I plan to keep this website available for as long as possible. In the not-so-near future it should be merged with claessen.ca: Guido’s Website. This is also the place for contact information and my latest news and photos.

I would like to thank you for visiting my site, and hope you enjoyed your time here.

Down UnderSite of the Week!

On 9 November 2004 from Reuver, NL | comments closed

site v/d weekMy site has been selected as Australian Backpackers site of the week! Feeling very honoured, I took up the opportunity to write down some tips for future backpackers in Australia. I hope someone can use them to his/hers advantage.

Down UnderLast Photos Online

On 6 November 2004 from Reuver, NL | comments closed

Today I put the best photos of my last month in Australia (Sydney, Canberra & Blue Mountains), as well as those of Hong Kong online.

In total I have made more than 2500 photos during the last year, almost all digital (only 2 films of underwater photos are not). In harddisk space it amounts to almost 3 GB, so I can put the photographic memories of my entire trip on just one DVD. Although that is the most convenient way to view them, I did decide to start the project of making a physical album with a selection of the photos, my diary entries and some souvenirs, just to have something tangible. However, completion might take a while, considering the fact that I still have not completed any album of a trip in the last 10 years…

And just to assure you, yesterday as well as today I have been driving without the urge to move to the left side of the road. I did operate the windscreen wipers instead of the directional indicators a few times though. The narrow roads in Europe will also take some time to get used to, unlike not hearing the engine anymore (unlike my 4WD in Australia, my parents’ car is really quiet).

Down UnderSafely Back Home

On 4 November 2004 from Reuver, The Netherlands | comments closed

Tuesday evening I made my way to the new airport in Hong Kong, built on an island that was literally flattened and extended through land reclamation. For the last time on this trip Cathay Pacific made sure I had an excellent flight back home. In between watching ‘Collateral’ and ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ I had some short light sleeps, but I was still pretty tired when I arrived at Schiphol early Wednesday morning. After customs (luckily I did not get checked, as I was slightly over the spirits limit) my parents were already waiting, and it was really good to see them again. Trying to avoid the traffic jams we had some coffee at the airport, but still ended up in one and only arrived home at 11.30 (the plane landed at 6.30).

I spent the rest of the day unpacking and having some of the Dutch foods I missed most: “rijstevlaai” (rice pastry of a local bakery) and “verwenjoghurt” (delicious thick fat yoghurt, unlikely the tasteless 99%-fat-free yoghurt dominating the Australian supermarket’s shelves). In the evening we watched the video my dad has made in New Zealand, but I fell asleep halfway through it, still tired from the flight and slightly jet-lagged. At least I did have a really good sleep in my own bed last night.

Down UnderShopper’s Paradise

On 2 November 2004 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR | comments closed

After dinner on Sunday evening I walked along the waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui, looking at the amazing skyline of Hong Kong Island. It was quite busy with lots of people in weird Haloween costumes, which was fun to watch.

On Monday I took the Star Ferry to Central, where I walked around among the skyscrapers for a while, before catching a ferry to Lantau Island. Hong Kong’s largest island also has the largest bronze outdoor seated Buddha statue, and that was where I was headed. From the island’s ferry terminal it took another 45 minutes or so to Po Lin, the monastery and temple complex. With a height of over 26 metres and located on top of a hill, the Tian Tan Buddha statue is quite impressive indeed. After wandering around the temple complex and statue, I took the bus and MTR to Mong Kok. However, I could not find the shops I was looking for there, and went back to Tsim Sha Tsui.

In the evening I took the Star Ferry to Central, and the bus up to The Peak for the last time. The skyline looked really impressive from there, even though it seemed a bit foggy during the day. But that was probably smog, although there are not as many cars as I thought there would be. Lots of busses and taxis, and every other car seems to be Mercedes, BMW or Jaguar.

Today I planned to visit some museums in Tsim Sha Tsui, but I had forgotten to check their opening days, and it turned out that all the interesting museums close on Tuesdays. My impromptu alternative was to take the train to Sha Tin, where the 10.000 Buddhas monastery is located. I did not count them, but reliable sources conveyed to me that there are actually more than 12.000 Buddhas in the monastery, and I had no trouble believing that. After seeing enough Buddhas for the day (week, month, year…) I took the train and bus to Kam Tin. There are two walled/fortified villages in this area, and I visited them both, but somehow the villages completely failed to impress. I could have saved myself quite some time here, since the villages were in the New Territories, quite a distance from Tsim Sha Tsui.

I decided to spend the rest of the day doing what Hong Kong is most renowned for: shopping. Hong Kong is really a shopper’s paradise, from small Chinese shops to large luxurious malls, the city’s favourite pastime is definitely shopping. I am pretty sure clothing is a lot cheaper than back home, but I just could not be bothered getting any (it would not fit in my backpack anyway, but I would be rich now if I got 20 eurocents for every time a tailor’s businesscard was offered to me). However, for electronics the city does not always compare favourably with Dutch internet shops. The new watch I want is not available in Asia (presumably because there are no time calibration radio signals broadcasted). Mobile phones are only slightly cheaper, but the contract discounts in the Netherlands do not make it worthwhile to buy a new mobile phone elsewhere. I did get an Apple iPod mini though, since they were some 20% cheaper than back home.

This is the last post I am writing from abroad (I hope to be back in the Netherlands Wednesday 06.30 CET). I will probably write some more things once I get back home, but for now there is only one thing I still want to mention. Recently I realised that one common element of all the countries I have visited in the last 11,5 months (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau) is the fact that in all of these places people were driving on the left hand side of the road, and I got completely used to that. You may want to remember this when I hit the road some time next week…