I’ve been told before I should start travel blogging, and there might be some logic in that but likewise well…I haven’t, but here’s a summary of 2 months in Asia.

Upfront experiences may not be typical for everyone; the trip was done on a strict budget using discount airlines (Asian discount airlines are AMAZINGLY CHEAP) although I did have some leeway during the time, and fortunately I was still working on the road and getting paid. Traveling alone also is different to traveling as a couple or in a group; there were definitely places I visited that would have been a lot more fun if I hadn’t been doing it alone.

It’s amazing how much you can save when all your bills for a month (phone, utilities, accommodation, internet) all cost for a month in Chiang Mai what it would cost less than one week in Melbourne, and that’s the rent alone, if you added the other bills you’d be lucky to pay for 2 days in Melbourne.

But I digress…the Grand Tour of Asia

2015-07-03 19.22.11Japan

Perhaps I had far too high expectations of Japan as it’s a country I’ve adored since I was young, even to the point of spending three years learning Japanese in high school, because of all the places I visited during the trip it was the biggest disappointment. I didn’t hate it, I could see myself going back again, but I’d do it differently this time.

Probably my favourite part of the trip was catching the Shinkansen, which I used to travel to Hiroshima from Tokyo, then back up to Osaka. I can’t recommend the JR Rail pass enough, it doesn’t just cover the Shinkansen it covers all JR Rail trains, and while you pay for the subway trains, just about everything else is covered by it.

Tokyo

It’s a mind fuck in terms of how big the place is, and various parts of it didn’t disappoint. Akihabara and the people dressed as Anime characters, the bright lights, the atmosphere in places. Trains that are amazing.

I saw various other things, visit markets, palace grounds, and other things, but maybe I had a bad run there for two reasons: it rained all but the last day I was there and it was cold (never went past 21c..in the middle of summer) and where I booked on Airbnb was very handy for transport, but it was a quieter part of town (very central, as in walking distance to Ginza, three stops to Akihabara, one stop to Tokyo’s main station) and it just made me feel a bit isolated even if there were various convenience stores and the odd eating place spitting distance away.

On the trains Tokyo is so big it just looks like the same scenery going on forever as well…probably a place I would have enjoyed more if I wasn’t by myself.

Of note, and this applies for all of Japan, English with the locals is extraordinary poor. The counter to that is that well, it’s their country, they shouldn’t have to speak English, and that’s fine, but English has become the linga franca globally when it comes to tourism and Japan is hosting the Olympics in 2020; they’re going to struggle with it because about the only thing you’d find in English is train signs.

2015-07-11 15.14.45Hiroshima

My highlight of the places I visited in Japan.

Perhaps it’s because it’s not so big (1.9m people for memory)  it’s more manageable, but unlike the big cities of Japan it also had a soul and a feeling about it as well that you could feel being there.

The history around where the atomic bomb dropped is something I will never forget, and it’s done extremely well.

Tram system in town dead easy and cheap to use, and compared to other places in Japan accommodation was really cheap as well.

My only regret with Hiroshima is that I was only there 3 nights, I’d wish I’d spent a week or two.

Osaka/ Kyoto

Osaka is theonly place I have no interest in ever visiting again in Japan.

It’s a smaller version of Tokyo with next to no soul. Bland mid-high rises as far as the eye can see, shitty subway where none of the stations match up when you change trains, and the “tourist” attractions did nothing for me.

I only did a day trip to Kyoto and the little I saw was pretty and I should have spent a week there instead of Osaka.

2015-07-22 18.35.41Taiwan

I spent the week in Taipei and it remains the biggest surprise of the trip. I don’t know if it’s because I knew little about the country other than they made tech stuff, and I wasn’t even going to go originally but I saw some posts about it on Facebook and the flight from Japan was $70 so I thought bugger it.

For anyone who has been to Asia I’d describe it as Bangkok 20-30 years into the future, for others it’s a modern, up and coming city. Nice relaxed vibe to it yet everything you could ever want.

Cheap….so cheap for everything, basically Thailand prices. Brilliant subway system that was like $1 a trip, interesting things to see, English was reasonably well spoken, and the weather and people nice.

One thing I would note is that they don’t get a lot of Western tourists, and it was rare to even see another white person in Taiwan. Indeed customs at the airport questioned me as to why I was visiting because I doubt they see many Australian passports come through.

I’d happily visit again tomorrow, although it would appear to get fairly cold there during winter. Two regrets: I didn’t stay there long enough, and I would have liked to (given the extra time) explore the Island some more.

If you’re looking for somewhere different to visit in Asia where not many people have gone before I can’t recommend Taiwan enough.

2015-08-06 18.20.21Hong Kong

I had been to Hong Kong before, be it on two long stopovers (one overnight) so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Caught up with some good people while I was there, and later found out I missed some other people I know as well; amazing how many Aussie expats base themselves in Hong Kong.

Putting aside that I made the mistake of booking into a “hotel” (the word is used reservedly) in Hong Kong’s only slum Chung King Mansions (rectified after I walked out of the booking two days in) the whole place is vibrant, interesting, busy (but not as mad as Japan), rich…I could go on. If you’ve never been there before I’d highly recommend it.

My only possible gripe is the cost: accommodation was significantly higher than even Tokyo (which is considered expensive, I didn’t find it was particularly) and everything else isn’t on the cheap side, although like anywhere on the planet, it was cheaper than Australia.

I could see myself living there, but I don’t think as a humble tech journalist I could afford to, or if I did it would be a struggle watching budgets etc..

No question as to whether I’d return

Macau

A day trip on the ferry, visited some casinos.

Pleasent enough place but there were parts you could have fired a cannon along a street and not hit anyone. The rumours that the city is in trouble post Chinese corruption crackdown are true, very, very quiet. Wouldn’t mind going back though for a longer stay.

2015-08-09 13.52.24Vietnam

Hanoi

Third world developing shit hole comes close. This is a town where garbage disposal consists of throwing rubbish onto the street, there are no traffic lights so crossing the road is the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced (you kind of get use to it, but it’s still nuts) and you’ve got to make sure people aren’t trying to rip you off.

That said, OMG the food.

Fresh, delightfully cooked meals for peanuts. I was ordering fresh Barramundi (Asian Sea Bass, it’s the same fish) never been frozen, presented on a plate with some vegetables and a sauce, for $4. In Australia fresh barra (not the frozen crap you get most places) would start at $50 a plate if you’re lucky, and head towards $100.

Suffice as to say I ate at the same place and ordered the same dish 3 nights while I was there :)

Other food as well, Pho, Bahn Min, you name it: next to nothing in cost.

The only possible way I could recommend Hanoi though is that you’d go for the food ONLY if you could handle the fact that the place is terrible.

20150816_131605Ha Long Bay

A day trip well worth it. Gorgeous place, decent enough boat tour in around the rocks in the bay, and I’ll forgive the scum bags at my hotel for charging me US$45 for a tour that costs US$25.

Possibly the only reason I could see that you’d ever want to travel to northern Vietnam.

HCMC (Saigon)

I’m actually writing this from Saigon on my last full day in Vietnam after 2 weeks in the city, and I’m still not 100% how I feel about it.

Compared to Hanoi it’s literlaly like being in a different country. Streets are fairly clean, footpaths, beautiful colonial architecture, traffic lights (but you have to be careful for bikes who ignore them), great eating although with the note that it’s no where as cheap as Hanoi but still cheap in the scheme of things.

There’s a lot to like about the place, let alone me discovering my favourite Australian bar in Asia, and I think I could live here, certainly there would be no problems cost wise in doing so, but the reason I’m not 100% is that there’s a couple of little things: street touts, noisy traffic (everyone constantly uses their horn,) and like Hanoi you have to watch for rip offs particularly with change that has happened 3 times since I’ve been here where they try to short change you by confusing you with smaller denominations of notes; you could live with it but more so than other places I’ve been people aren’t honest.

It sort of reminds me of Brisbane: parts of it are modern, somewhat relaxed vibe, but there’s boring parts as well.

And now back to Chiang Mai until the end of the year to plot further adventures for 2016.

Declan,

Another year and this year you’re a teenager.

I can still remember when you were so small, the first time I held you in my arms, the first time I bathed you.

You’ve grown so big, and yet I’m going to miss most of it.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, but some 4 years on when it comes to you, time never flies, and I continue to count each day until I am able to see you once again and tell you in person how much your father loves you, and has always loved you.

There’s 1,826 days to go until I can see you again today, be it put more simply 5 years flat.

The things I would have loved to have shared with you in the coming 5 years I will never get to, things such as a love of good philosophy, the works of John Stuart Mill, and appreciation of the lessons that history teaches us in avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Always remember those good days when your father took you to school and picked you up, where now your nanny does. When your father made your favourite pizza and cooked meals for you every night, where now your nanny cooks you food. Remember that despite the lies said, I always tried to be there for you every day where others in your new family are unable to, and today I’m not legally allowed to be…

I’m not religious, but should you choose to be I will support you in that, as any father would their child, but as much as I hate to use a Bible quote, it’s one I want you to think about always as you grow older and you reflect on your childhood and the fact your father wasn’t allowed to be there for half of it:

John 8:32: the truth shall set you free

Embrace thinking for yourself as you grow older Declan, question everything and everyone, take nothing sold, pitched or lied to you about without giving it independent thought, and unlike when I was your age, you’ve got Google on your side where all I had was a library; you’re half me Dec, surely some of those genes will be in there somewhere.

Until 14 August 2020 in person, or whenever next your mother grows a sympathetic bone and allows you to talk to me on Skye again next.

Adieu.

Love

Dad.

On approaching 40

April 28, 2015 — 2 Comments

Got asked today whether I’d hooked up with anyone or found a partner yet in Thailand.

Oddly I remember several people (some who I can name but won’t) saying to me that you’ll never know yourself until you can live with yourself being single, something most of my adult life I couldn’t live with, and didn’t.

I think today that I can, but I’d lie if I didn’t admit there were times where I didn’t like being alone.

I reinvented myself at 30. Through risk, occasional misadventure and amazing ups, and sadly some downs (sometimes obviously serious) in between, not many people can say they spent 10 years working for themselves (or via contract from home, same sort of thing,) and in my case, I’ve never had to wear a suit to work in 10 years. Oddly the formal 10 year anniversary is 10 years come early December.

Shit has happened, but I remain grateful today that I have a writing gig that I love, friends, be it most of them far away, and I can wake up in the morning and occasionally inspire others to do better.

But for all that: I still don’t have a plan for the next 10 years, besides being able to legally see my own flesh and blood, Declan Riley, come August 2020.

I really should come up with a plan though, I’d love to be rich in the next 5 years and be able to put my son through University for example, but at this stage, given but once again his mother has cut off all access (legally, sadly) who knows.

I’ve got about 4 and a bit months to work out a plan.

Wish me luck, I need it :)

I’m self-aware enough to understand the difference between causality and correlation in the statistical analysis of market economics and marketplaces, and within that I get what I see or percive doesn’t equal an entire marketplace, but I still wonder: is there a real market out there for smart watches?

It’s 2015, my phone tells me the time, like it did in 2005, and 1995 before it.

I’m not anti-watch, and I grew up loving the latest (in 80s terms) “smart” watches out of Japan. I can still remember the arguments my parents had in around 86 or 87, when I desired the latest Casio smart watch out of Japan at Paddy’s Markets in Sydney, my father saying I didn’t need it and my mother pointing out that $40 wasn’t much (mind you the average wage at the time was all of $200 a week.)

I always had the best watches in primary school, and I owned many watches well into my late 20’s, even early 30s. I even owned a fake Rolex at one stage I paid something like $30 in Hong Kong for in 2006 when I was off to Toronto to sign the paperwork that gave b5media $2million Series A, and saw as part of the deal me being sacked and paid out roughly $250k as part of the deal.

I’m pretty sure that’s the last watch I owned, and I only owned that one because it was a classic case of being ostentatious; by that stage I’d long since used my mobile to tell the time.

It’s not hard to be impressed by smart watches, although I’m still surprised by the lack of Dick Tracey references every time they’re written about.

But while the smart watches of the 80’s offered something that otherwise didn’t have an alternative, the smart watches of 2015 have an alternative, and it’s called the smartphone.

Ironically because I don’t own a watch I couldn’t accurately time it but I’d guess it takes me 2-3 seconds to get my phone out of my pocket to check the time, and all of 0.5 seconds extra to unlock it to do further things.

So it might be a second quicker to flick my wrist to see what the time is.

Whoopdy doo.

So let’s just play out the smart watch scenario, because apparently it’s too hard to get your phone out of your pocket given it takes like a second longer: you get a shitty little screen, limited apps, and at least in the case of the Apple Watch, a watch if you use it with any regularity that you’ll need to charge 2-3 times EVERY DAY. Not joking: heavy use on an Apple Watch is 2.5 hours battery life, regular use 3.5 hours, and if you don’t actually use it to do anything other than tell the time you’ll still have to charge it every day anyway.

Better still is the price: the bog standard Apple “sports” model is US$350 (AU$425??) and they haven’t released the prices on the other models; speculation is US$500-600 on the mid-level one, and as much a US$5k on the top level one.

For a shitty little screen which if you use more than once a day for anything other than seeing what time it is you’ll have to charge at least once in the middle of the day, multiple times if you give it a work out.

Causality and correlation? ROFL. It doesn’t matter how much I can’t see the benefits of a smart watch, those stats are beyond surreal.

There was a report today that said that the Apple Smart Watch will sell 15 million units, and don’t get me wrong, I do love me some Apple tech, I’m typing this post on a Macbook Pro, and I was once of the first people in Australia to own an iPhone, but here’s the thing: it’s still 2015, and people don’t need a watch to know what the time is, let alone check their emails.

If anyone can find me a bookmaker to put money on it, I’ll happily bet against Apple selling 15m units, my bet is 3m max, and it will be regarded within 1-2 years as a major flop, because at the end of the day, who needs a watch to do what your phone already does anyway.

sanity

They saying that life wasn’t meant to be easy.

But life does test us.

I loved my time in Thailand, but towards the last week it became a challenge. I’m not going to go into all the details, other than to say fuck, and all at the last minute.

But I will share this; after a week of where I had magical highs and lows (I still can’t lift stuff with my right arm, and have possibly inflamed my arm injury again, falling on the steps of the BKK Sky Train..) so I, after a 12 hour layover in KUL, which was horrible, not because I couldn’t find a place to sleep on a bench, but because of the very rude people who make up 50% of those who do that (I’m not mentioning where they are from on the subcontinent and their unbelievable rudeness,) I got on the KUL-PER flight. Got to say Malaysia Airways was amazing in terms of quality and flight.

Would fly them again tomorrow: and in perspective, their cost was half of that than Air Asia/ Air AsiaX…which were supposed to be their cheap alt.

Except:…well, it’s probably not their fault vs the airports, but they lost my bag.

Nearly every single piece of clothing I own is in that bag. I did the purge couple of years back.

It turned up this morning (2 days later) via Courier: I can’t put in words how much it made me feel amazing again. Anyhow..

I will sleep tonight…and know I have my bag back in the morning.

Also touch wood worked :)

 

Australia Network was supposed to close down 18 September 2014. SMH back in June.

I started seeing ads on Australia Network saying they’re going to cover every part of the AFL finals series.

But wait, the Grand Final is 27 September 2014.

Turns out magically that the Australia Network will now close September 29.

In late August this turned up on Mumbrella:

Mumbrella understands that the Australia Network will continue its broadcast into Asia until around mid September. It will also fulfil its commitment to the AFL to offer a transitional schedule that will see it broadcast the Grand Final in Asia and the Pacific on September 29.

This despite a lack of funding following the withdrawal of the money from DFAT.

Now for those who have never seen Australia Network, it shows both the AFL Channel 7 coverage AND the Fox Sports coverage. Usually 6 games a week…for free, across the Asia-Pacific.

I don’t for one minute seriously believe that Australia Network was paying for the right to show AFL. It doesn’t show NRL, although there is a weekly Asia soccer show they show which is shown back in Australia anyway on the ABC.

My theory: the AFL was paying Australia Network to show the games as part of their expansion plans, and the extension of the channel for roughly an extra 2 weeks was due to the AFL making a payment to keep the channel on air.

There’s no other logical explanation. Given the funding had well and truly stopped it’s a miracle Australia Network is still on air…let alone towards the end of September.

I’ll also make another tip: in the new “Australia Plus” deal the ABC is pumping out to Asia/ Pacific networks (allegedly 6 hours a day…and they’ve got a pile of broadcasters on board) the Friday to Sunday coverage will be primarily AFL…because the AFL wants the coverage across their key expansion area.

Food for thought.

XXXIX

September 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

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“The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions.”

Sage advice I should have followed in years gone by.

Marcus Tullius Cicero.

 

This comment today on this post at Mumbrella (not yet approved, I hope it is), comment following:

I’m really waiting for an explanation as to why Australia Network needed its own “Canberra bureau” (from reading Tweets today AN’s Canberra bureau was cut) unless of course it was another example of Mark Scott using the Australia Network funding to subsidise things that weren’t remotely related to the Australia Network proper.

As anyone who has ever watched the Australia Network itself, I can tell you that all their day time bulletins (from 3am TST) are from ABC 24 News with the exception of the 2:30 (Thai time) Australia Network News Bulletin which comes out of a Melbourne studio.

I’m gutted that Australia Network has been cut, but there needs to be a serious parliamentary, or bigger enquiry as to how the $20m odd a year from DFAT was used to subsidise correspondents and bureaus which actually weren’t all that related to the service at all, except for maybe the odd rare report.

Mark Scott scammed the funding to cross subsidise ABC’s general foreign coverage, and now the cost has been paid.

You can well argue that in the end Australia Network was an ideological cut, but using what 30-50% maybe even more of that money to subsidise services not related where it could have…lets see, not spent that money that way and shown Government that our voice in Australia could be far more affordable should be on the gravestone of Mark Scott.

Which reminds me as a parting comment on something Malcolm Turnbull once said on Mark Scott: he claimed that Scott says that ABC New 24 can’t go into Asia due to “rights issues” which is dubious at best. Given how many ABC News 24 programs appear on the network now. At a rough guess 8-10 hours worth a day, maybe more when you include the showing of the chat programs, and there then repeats (Lateline, The Business, The World etc etc…) And then maybe every 2 in 3 programs in between times is ABC content anyway.

“Rights issues” was always a bs argument.

I’m probably being polite there.

The count of “good” (and by that I mean reasonable fair and decent) foreign correspondents sacked by the ABC today is beyond a fucking joke.

The thing is, most of those folks were rarely if at all exclusive to Australia Network vs the ABC (and it’s various programs and channels) exclusively.

They SHOULD NEVER have been employed exclusively by the DFAT funded Australia Network contract.

EVER IN A BLIND FUCKING FIT.

Sure, Australia Network could have justified a correspondent to cover say remote Pacific Islands, Kirabit, Nauru, Tavalu and places like that. But it never has.

Instead the ABC used the money to cover main ABC network correspondents across SE Asia, India and places like that.

When I’m next back to Australia, I’m going to write to all and sundry and demand an enquiry.

As per what I wrote on Mumbrella above, you could have funded Australia Network for 50%, maybe 75% even less. $5m-$10m a year may have even been sellable.

Instead the ABC, headed by Mark Scott took that money and pumped it into people who were not primarily based around the network.

It’s not just a national disgrace, it’s a scam. No other two ways about it.

As I walked down the street from one of my 3 local 7-Elevens tonight I was nearly hit by a car.

This car came probably in under 1m away from me.

I never flinched once nor cared. I’m in Thailand. It was way close, but it was never going to hit me.thai bike

And if one thing Thailand has taught me is that caring less is freedom.

For those interested in the car story: it’s just usual here. Bikes often get closer as you’re walking up and down a street.

In Australia, I’d go completely and utterly spare. Every. Single. Time.

But somehow this wonderful country called Thailand has taught me not to care. To not get stressed. To not unduly worry.

Yes, Thailand has a horrible track record with road deaths, but likewise no one is going to run into you as you walk up the street.

I’ll walk up my street again tonight, and I won’t give a shit about being hit because I know that an average Thai on a bike, or in a car, doesn’t want to hit me.

And this conquers a lot of anxiety I ever had.

rik myallA man who inspired a generation of kids with your comedy.