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.comments closed
My 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.
- Do not miss out on New Zealand, in natural beauty it far surpasses Australia, it is just as easy to travel in, has lots of things to do and see, and you will not have to spend full days on the road in order to get from one interesting place to the next, like in Australia. New Zealand was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. But do go there in the summer (it is freezing cold in winter), and expect bad weather even then. Unfortunately the weather gods do not like New Zealand very much. But you will be stunned by the beautiful scenery, even when the weather is bad. 6 weeks is the minimum recommended time to get a good impression of both islands.
- If you have the chance, make stopovers in Asia on the way to Australia. It breaks up the long journey (22 hours of flight time between Amsterdam and Sydney), and it is great to experience Asian culture and hectic cities for a few days. It does not really matter where your stopover is: Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur are all great places to shop and taste Asian food. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, travelling through Malaysia, Thailand (most recommended) or China for a few weeks gives a good impression of South-East Asia and will make you consider a longer trip to this part of the world.
- Try not to split up your visit to Australia like I did (i.e. 7 weeks Australia, 6,5 weeks in New Zealand, another 7 months in Australia). It will severely limit the way you can travel around, since you are missing a lot of flexibility.
- There is always a trade-off between flexibility and price, especially when it comes to flying. You can save a lot of money by booking flights early, especially in the holiday season (instead of paying A$240 for a one-way ticket from Sydney to Tasmania, I could have paid less for a return ticket, if only I had booked it earlier). On the other hand, having flights booked in advance limits your choices when you are travelling. Always try to get tickets that allow free changes of flight dates, especially for the intercontinental flights.
- Do buy a car if you want to experience Australia properly, and potentially save lots of money on expensive tours. It will also give you a lot more flexibility and the possibility to avoid the backpacker crowds (I did not see any other individual backpackers in the Kimberley, probably because there are not many backpackers with a 4WD to get there).
- Do not buy a car if you are not prepared for a bit of hassle with it (breakdowns, servicing, selling it at the end). As a rule, you always spend more money on a car than you would like.
- Do visit Western Australia, my best travel memories were of this part of the country, with long stretches of empty highway, and the odd phenomenon of natural beauty. My favourite parts of Australia were Karijini National Park and the Kimberley, both in North-West W.A.
- Do visit Tasmania, the state with the best natural scenery, and too often bypassed by backpackers. Just book your flight a bit in advance to avoid paying lots of money for it. The only good excuse for not going to Tasmania is having little time and visiting New Zealand instead.
- Sydney is the only city in Australia where you can spend a week and not get bored, all the other major cities are less interesting from a sightseeing perspective. This is not to say that they should be avoided altogether. If you can find some work in a major city, each one of them is a good place to settle down for a while, and you can always do the odd day of sightseeing.
- Christmas and New Year in Sydney seems to be almost every backpacker’s dream, and it puzzles me why. You have to book accommodation in Sydney for this period months in advance, pay higher rates, or arrive half a month before to secure accommodation. And for what? I think New Year’s eve in Sydney is highly overrated; it is terribly crowded, you are not allowed to drink in public, and the fireworks over the Harbour Bridge are just as good on Australia Day (26 January). I really enjoyed spending New Year’s eve in Hobart, and can recommend it to anyone; the atmosphere was very relaxed, no one made a fuss about drinking in the park, and of course there were fireworks at the waterfront as well. Besides, the end of December is the best time of year to be in Hobart with a Tasmanian food festival, arrival of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and good weather.
- Do not get an RSA certificate before getting a job in a bar. Getting the certificate is a formality, but it is a waste of A$85 when you get one without ever getting a job in a bar!
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).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.