Travel Tales: Hell in paradise

Sure it looks deceptive...but really this place was hell in paradise

Look closely at the picture above. Doesn’t it look beautiful? It’s an island in Thailand for fuck’s sake…what’s not to like? White sand, a glimpse of turquoise water and brilliant blue sky!

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I ain't afraid of no ghosts

I am however terrified of the dark.

And serial killers.

And regular single-homicide type killers.

And stalkers.

And open windows.

And open stretches of windows that aren’t covered by blinds. Especially when it’s dark outside.

And sharks.

And waves.

And swimming in pools by myself. Especially putting my head under if I’m alone. Especially in the dark. Especially if I have seen a shark-related movie in the recent past.

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Travel Thursdays: zorbing

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a sense of adventure. She didn’t cry when climbing down cliffs, but rather embraced life and new experiences.

This girl convinced her boyfriend that it would be brilliant fun to strap themselves into a giant plastic ball and throw themselves down a steep hill. The boyfriend was a little sceptical, but the girl was determined. Continue reading

Trouble with taxi drivers

Never do I feel like more of a guest in this country than when I have a run in with a taxi driver and need to have someone else speak for me.

Taxi drivers are the bane of my existence.  I could list for you the multitude of reasons why I usually hate them, but I won’t.

Instead I will tell you the most recent reason that I hate them…and how I ended up an indignant, quivering and slightly ashamed mess. Continue reading

Rice Terraces and a terrifying ride

So after the excitement of Sagada we headed to Banaue and Batad to check out the famous rice terraces and finish off our North Luzon adventure.

The road from Sagada to Banaue was mostly paved (a lovely change from the last few days) but it was still a hellish ride. The highway is BARELY two way and is carved into the side of the mountains, so one side drops perilously into a 100 metre sheer cliff face. Added to this are long sections where the road has fallen away due to landslides and is being rebuilt. I swear, there was more than one occassion where I saw the state of the road up ahead and shut my eyes hoping and praying that we would make it across the section in one piece.

Just a small snapshot of the highway...

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Coffins and caves

Heading north from the mummies at Kabayan our next point of call on our North Luzon adventure was the sleepy rural town of Sagada.

Sagada is known for its hanging coffins and caves and being that I am oddly obsessed with death and how it is treated by cultures, the excitement of seeing coffins hanging from cliff faces was more than I could stand. It’s also the place where I did my first actual hiking of the trip…and I gleefully swallow my words.

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Off to see the mummies

So recently I went away up north, it was a pretty cool trip, though a lot more “rustic” than I expected.

Our first stop was Kabayan, home of the Timbac Mummies. I love mummies, I think they are fascinating and the process around mummification is fascinating as well. The Timbac mummies are different from other mummies in that the internal organs were not removed and they were smoke dried with tobacco smoke to preserve them.

It’s a  bloody good thing I like mummies because the only way to reach Kabayan is 2 1/2 hours over a single lane unpaved road carved into the side of a cliff. At least the bumpy road keeps the traffic going slowly, which means the trucks coming the other way are less likely to kill you.

The town of Kabayan is very small and located along one strip of road. Mobile phone reception is patchy at best, there is no hot water and the town literally goes to bed around 7pm every night.

The mummy caves are at the top of a massive mountain. The guide book says that the hike takes between 4 and 6 hours to reach the top. This is the mountain I thought I would tackle in my first attempt to become a hiker.

What was I thinking! I took one look at that big boy and said “no way!” So we took the cheat’s way up in our 4WD and I started to reconsider my life as a hiker.

Our guide was Ramon and he was absolutely hilarious. He accompanied us up the mountain and was a wealth of knowledge, talking about the area and the mummification process.

It was also his job to unearth the mummies, opening coffins and unwrapping them for us to view. We later found out that he was supposed to offer a prayer of thanks to the mummies to keep their spirits happy. In true Filipino style, our guide, in his lispy voice, sang to the mummies.

Here’s me…braving the suspension bridge.

If you want to see more photos you can check out my facebook album
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=188961&id=565144918&l=b7702bf25e

It's like I'm growing as a person right in front of your eyes

Sumo Sam – the restaurant where I gave the slightly bad review on the customer feedback card – has become one of our favourite restaurants.

I always order the beef teppan with a side of teriyaki sauce and a coke zero. I know, I know, my creativity astounds even myself. So our waitress (yes we have a waitress) pretty much knows what I am going to order.

Reece on the other hand is a wild card, ordering all sorts of crazy things off the menu, which inevitably never work out and leave him eyeing off my juicy beef teppan with envy. And without fail I always mock him for his choices and tell him to just order the same thing as me.

So when we went for dinner last night, I could happily descibe our waitress as cocky. Which is not a typical trait in a Filipino.

She didn’t listen because she was so busy showing off that she knew my order and she completely fucked up Reece’s order. Poor Reece, after weeks of me berating him for not ordering the delicious beef teppan he ordered it, but didn’t get to eat it, because she only brought him his entree.

The most amazing part is that I remained calm throughout the whole meal, didn’t lose my shit once and remembered where I was.

I’m growing.

Tara's got a brand new set of bangs

So earlier this week I booked in for a trim and regrowth touch up. And then in a fit of whimsy I decided at 3pm this afternoon that I was going in for a big change.

I vascillated between excited and nervous all afternoon…seeking advice from Reece, my mother and then Reece again while I contemplated a life with a blunt fringe.

Then Reece threw me a curve ball…”If you are going for the fringe I think it will look better shorter”.

Hmmm…well up until now shorter wasn’t really in the equation. But he got me thinking and well, it’s nigh impossible to pull me back once you get me started.

So this is the end result…I now have hair that is way too edgy for me, will most probably be hideous when left curly and necessitated the rushed purchase of special equipment to maintain, namely a brush and straightening iron.

Despite the warning signs, I LOVE it. I’m in that phase of new hair when you keep finding shiny surfaces to stare at yourself in. I pout, and then grin, and then pout all over again. Pullling my “perfect” model pout…because really, hair this good deserves a model pout. It probably also deserves a model body but let’s not take things too far…

Example A of poorly executed model pout

The funniest part though was my hairdresser Mary. She was a little stunned when I asked for a radical change, particularly cos last time I told her that more than 1cm cut off the ends was simply too much.

What bothered her the most though was that my husband married me with long hair and in her opinion I was moving the goal posts. “But won;t he be so disappointed. Men love long hair, they don’t love women with short hair.”

Somehow I think Reece will still keep me. Even though I am clearly breaking my marriage covenant.

The noughties

Let me say first up that this is a retrospective…it is going to be a long self indulgent post about the last ten years of my life…so if that kind of thing bothers you then its probably best that you turn away now.

So clearly I am now writing for myself.

On my recent trip back to Australia I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for ages. It was a great catch up and in the course of the conversation she casually mentioned that this time 10 years ago we were in Germany.

Well that little fact has blown my mind to the point where I haven’t stopped mentioning it to people for the past 10 days (sorry Reece). Though it was Reece who said “think of all of the things you have been through in the last 10 years” and got me all serious and sentimental so really it is all his fault.

In the summer of 1999/2000 I travelled to Germany on an exchange program with my school. I was only 15 years old and it was truly a life changing experience. It whetted my appetite for travelling and I think made me a very self reliant person. We were basically treated as adults and were expected to act accordingly (with a few notable exceptions).

Never in a million years when I was traipsing around in the snow in Nuremburg or Munich or Berlin would I have imagined that in 10 years time I would be married and living in a different country!

So here’s my snapshot of the last 10 years

Grew up fast
Had knee surgery
Finished high school
Fell in love (mostly unrequited)
Started (but never finished) university
Saw my parents through divorce
Lost my grandmother
Lost my marbles
Lost some weight (put some on as well)
Travelled to crazy foreign lands for 6 months
Gained some amazing friends
Lost a couple along the way as well
Moved out of home…and then moved back home again
Learnt some valuable life lessons
Got up close and personal with depression
Started an amazing career
Fell in love again (this time for good)
Got married
Moved to another crazy foreign land

And somehow found the confidence to be myself along the way.

So sorry for being serious and self indulgent, and if you have made it this far I would love to know what your highlights were for the past 10 years.

Happy New Year to all! xx