A massive 6 months!

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Starting around Sept 2013 I finished a 6 month rotation to Darwin, where I found a new found love of jogging and exercise.  I was lucky enough to meet great friends and go  to places I never would have the option of going to if it was not for work .

 

Read more about my time in Darwin here

Almost as soon as I arrived back in Canberra we were off again. Thanks to my  amazing partner lead me on a tour of his incredible country – Myanmar. We spent an unforgettable 3 weeks traveling the lengths and breadth of this nation. Even after all the sights and experiences his FAMILY was the true highlight for me. His mother’s warmth and care, his father’s intelligence and willingness to share and ask questions about my life too. 

A more in-depth write up of our time in Myanmar is here
 
Then the “ experience “ of meeting my parents in Kuala Lumpur and catching up with my good friend Ron who then joined the four of us traveling to Redang Island (Palau Redang) off the north east coast of Malaysia. It was the second time Frankie and I had been to the Lagoon Redang resort. After the ferry ride from Kuala Terraganu on the mainland over to the resort (where my father’s sea sickness came to a head) and check in, the island is really just a water sports playground. 
All expenses paid apart from alcohol and diving services. After snorkelling every day and also trying SCUBA I was HOOKED. The resort is a PADI accredited resort which means they have instructors and Dive Masters who can facilitate everything from the minimal training ‘Discover SCUBA’ right through to your ‘Dive Master’ qualification. Frankie, Ron and I decided finally we would try the ‘Discover SCUBA’ – which is essentially being kitted up and thrust under water. 
 
Frankie and Ron could not get get more than 10cm under the surface before pulling the pin. I managed to get all the way through the experience – roughly 15mins getting to a depth of 5.5m. I was so excited to be doing it I forgot to actually take my GoPro3 from the dive bag on the beach before getting in the water. 
 
Back in KL the ‘experience’ of travelling with my parents again reached crescendo with the all important family yelling match in an international airport. Don’t be shocked. Its rather common for my family. We get over it faster than our words echoing around departures. 
 
  
 
A more in-depth write up of our time in Malaysia is here
On return back to Canberra I started in a new role with a new team in the a new office. 
 
 Not long after our return from our big overseas adventure we decided to start thinking about buying a house. When I say thinking, we looked at one and brought it. A 2br, split level east facing townhouse. Requiring 5% down in Nov 13, and the rest in around Nov 2014. Perfectly suited for what we needed. Also keeps my NBN dry. 
 
 
 So because I am swimming in cash *COUGH COUGH* I then booked my PADI Open Water Dive Course. 
 
 I nearly didn’t get to do the course! 
 
The doctor was worried my lungs were almost not up to the minimum capacity. But don’t worry, I managed to get over the line. 
 
 The first weekend was half theory and half practising in the pool! I don’t know about you but I am never lucky when it comes to being partnered up in anything sporty, usually picked last. Well there was this one mega cutie on our group – and for once guess who I was partnered with!! JACKPOT! He was a great guy, sweet and innocent of the ways of the world. It wasn’t until the pool technique practising that my inner filter turned off. I couldn’t stop giggling when our instructor was inadvertently saying things with MASSIVE innuendo such as “ right team lets get under water, get on our knees and have some fun’ I looked at our assistant instructor with my ‘trying not to laugh’ face – which is hard in full mask and regulator in your mouth’ Sadly his mouth was level with the water and it caused him to inhale and cough with the biggest smile. The laughs only continued.. 
For those that are not divers, there is a requirement to learn how to tow your buddy should they become fatigued or injured, this cryptically is called the ’Tired Diver Tow’ which involves you laying on your back and your buddy laying between your legs face up, you hold their tank and kick – pushing you both forward. I simply said ‘ I don’t open my legs for every one this easy, buy a boy a drink first sailor’ He too could not control his giggles The second weekend was the in water component, unlike the current Australian government immigration policy, as it was under water rather than on water I can talk about it. The first day was 3 dives at 6m practicing skills we learnt in the pool. The second day was at a site called Toll Gates – read about that bit here
 
 
 

All was going well, a little too well.

 

I was getting ready to finally sell my maxi road scooter – 500cc – on consignment with a local dealer.
 
 
 
 
The fates intervened again. I was crossing an intersection with a green light, I stopped as a cyclist crossed my path and was collected right in-between my passenger front and rear doors. Causing $6000 worth of damage. I am insured however the insurance company is still ‘determining fault’ hmmmm. 
 
 
To top of a roller coaster of emotions. I was voted by an overwhelming majority to lead my employers Gay & Lesbian Network. A total of 1/2 of the overall votes came to me. A lot of pressure is now on me – some will say ‘its just a volunteer thing, no extra pay, why bother’ – It is important to make changes, drive the changes. You can’t do that from the outside.

 

If this was the last 6 months, I wonder what the next will bring.

Hopefully you will also see some changes on the site coming soon. I hope you will enjoy.  As always, please like, comment or subscribe.

 
 

Myanmar: Inle Lake

Inle Lake

During our visit to Inle Lake, a large freshwater lake in the Shan state, I say large because it can easily sustain a floating village with a population numbering in the thousands with a fishing industry and floating tomato beds and still provide vast amounts of water that Myanmar uses for irrigation and hydro power generation. After arriving on the shores of Inle Lake, we were settled into our private ‘long tail’ boat- extremely shallow propellers fitted on long handles in the water sending ‘tails’ of water into the air as they move along

The 45min boat ride to our hotel on a was extremely enjoyable after the plane and car rides usual of the travel we were doing. While our hotel wasn’t actually ‘floating’ it was built on stilts – not that it helped when boats went past as the whole room swayed with the waves – a very disconcerting feeling when you are in the bathroom or in the bath. However the location and facilities were amazing.

 

 

Before our trip to Inle Lake, I had no idea that you could use the fibre from the inner stem of the lotus flower as a material for weaving. Turns out for the people of Inle, it's a staple.

 

I was absolutely fascinated by the people of Inle and their lives, everything they do is associated with the water - they have to, their houses are built on it, they rely on it for transport.

 

 

Inle is one of the largest tomato producing regions of Myanmar, the floating beds are based on floating tuff cut on the banks and secured into position.

 

No trip to Inle Lake count be complete without seeing the iconic fishermen, who remarkably paddle their low profile fishing boats with their legs - leaving their hands free to net and set fish traps.

Sorry for the death by pictures - but the location was just so amazing.

 

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3 Days in Yangon

Early riser?

Our first full day in Yangon was Sunday; Sunday is donation day for the local Buddhist monasteries.

After being woken at an‘unholy hour’ by the 'donation truck’ - a van with speakers calling out for donations of money and food for the local Buddhist monasteries and temples, we were treated to  what would, I later discovered, was a daily procession of the local monks in their crimson robes. Walking house-to-house barefoot accepting donations of food in their earthenware pots held in a sling over their shoulders.

Frankie's family, his father in particular, are devout Buddhists, along with running the family business that has been selling religious supplies such as robes, incense and fans for over 120 years.

Frankie’s Parents always offer rice and drinks of cool water to the full robed monks in the rapidly heating Yangoon morning.

Some of the monks could not be older than 5 years old.

Young Burmese Buddhist Monks on donation day

Each Burmese child at some stage of their life is attached to a monastery where they undergo ‘live in’ religious instruction and teaching. This is usually only for 1 week.

Frankie was telling me that the reason you do not see people begging for food and money in the streets in Myanmar is that if you truly are in need, the Monks will share their food and lodging with you.

FOOD!

Today's food highlight was at a huge Chinese Dumpling House - we polished off 50 plates of dumplings between 5 of us - coming to a total of less than $50 aud.

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Quick Yangon tour by car

Frankie's parents took us on a short driving tour of Yangon including a drive past Aung San Suu Kyi's now famous residence that also served as her prison following her home detention.

The rest of the day was spent with Frankie's college friends eating, being massaged to a pulp and eating some more - massage cost less than 4 dollars for 2 hours.

Myanmar: Gay Scene

After traveling for close to 24 hours, the last thing I expected to be dragged off to was a gay bar! After unpacking, and sprucing ourselves up, one of Frankie's Facebook friends from Yangon invited us to a 'gay' night that is held once a month in Yangon at a local club. Let's just say fun was had by all. Less than 2 dollars a shot of vodka with unregulated Thai style redbull.

Home in bed by 3am local time, 30 hours after we started traveling oh and throw in a few timezone changes.

Myanmar: Getting there

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Leaving Australia

Departing Sydney at 2100hrs arriving Kuala Lumpur (KL) at 0400, flying flew both legs, SYD - KUL then KUL-RGN with Malaysian Airlines. I'm glad to see that most of their fleet now offer in seat USB to charge devices now. Their A330 and B737 that we have both had them with the standard inflight fit out entertainment wise.

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Transiting

Anyone who has been to Malaysia's KLIA knows that's it's a pleasant airport to spend time in, as airports go. Free wifi, air conditioned and these cool chairs that you can sleep in.

Since our longest leg of 8 hours was overnight, the traditional sleeping times it did make the longer legs more bearable.

Arriving in Yangon

 

Welcome to Yangon!

Initial impressions of Yangon reminded me of a cross between Bali's Denpasar Airport (DPS,  before their new renovation) and Bangkok's newly renovated DMK. Our B737 was the only plane that had an aerobridge attached. Air Bagan and Air KBZ (formerly Air Mandalay) both had ATR's sitting on the aprons ( sorry that's plane nerd stuff - basically they are flying very safe and new aircraft that are similar to the ones that Virgin Australia are now flying the Sydney - Canberra route along with the regional areas- the ones with the propellers).Air Bagan and Air KBZ mostly offer internal domestic flights.

Customs and entry requirements were easy to clear, as we had a pre-approved visa  ( issued by the embassy in Australia) prior to arriving. The usual stack of forms - customs declarations, quarantine, arrivals cards etc were all in English and easy to follow.

Frankie's parents also met us at the airport so the process was pretty stress free. No taxi arguments. Bags were collected and off we went.

The quick 30 min drive through the city to Frankie's parent's home looked like most developing countries (I say developing, actually it's exploding with development at the moment). Myanmar is wrestling with itself - maintaining it's cultural heritage and expanding to maintain need. Frankie pointed out a large plot of land that used to be a large cemetery that now happily had buildings on it. Like any city the past needs to be balanced with the future.