Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Bram" journal:
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2011-12-15, Leusden, NL
Right, back home again (yesterday), got a good nights sleep, et cetera. Smooth flights back here, made a tight connection in Paris and so did my luggage. Amazing, really. Spent yesterday doing the usual after-holiday things - laundry, catch up with people, refill the fridge. Today a bit of driving around, picked up my new laptop from Utrecht, couple of customers who called, and an agency who called me for a 3 month position. Downside: the Hague. Upside: not too much unpaid time between gigs. And vaguely related to something I've done before, so might actually give me some bonus points. Otherwise I'll be sending out resumes next week or so, should get them to the top of the queue when people get back from xmas.
Just why does the weather have to be so shit? 2 days ago I was still in Singapore enjoying 34 degree weather! Now it's 6 degrees and actually saw some hail on the ground. Should see if I can get a job back there...
2011-12-13 Singapore airport, Rainforest lounge, SG
Interesting place. quite livable for a big city, and wouldn't mind spending some more time here exploring. As it is, yesterday I mostly wandered about the city on foot, and today took the tour bus, went to chinatown, to the botanical gardens, and generally enjoyed the better (sunnier) weather. 30s and quite a lot of humidity. Still pretty English, more so than the Hong Kong pics I saw from Harri's trip a few years ago. Then again, this is my first time in a major asian city so don't really have much to compare it to.
Didn't buy much, most of the stuff that is (a bit, not even that much) cheaper here is still cheaper for me if I buy it in the Netherlands and write it off as a company expense. I did get a couple of shirts made, probably (well, almost certainly) overpaid but hey, it was close to the hotel so I could pick them up on my way back in to shower and pick up my luggage. And they seem to fit reasonably well, most off-the-rack stuff that fits around my gut has ridiculously long sleeves.
Right, hotel. Hilton on Orchard, highly recommended. Nice rooms, close to Orchard - though I suppose it depends on where you want to be - plenty of hotels closer to Chinatown/Sun City/Marina/Convenstion center as well. Pretty good breakfast, enjoyed the afternoon "tea" before leaving for the airport, and friendly service. The only thing that's less is the view - it's got some sort of balconies you can't access, so the view from the 19th floor down is somewhat limited. Then again, I suppose it does cut down on noise.
Ground transportation here is insanely cheap. SG$9 for the van ride from the airport to here. Took a taxi back (no need to book in advance) - SG$25. SG$8 for a day pass on public transport. Taxis are SG$3.20 for flag drop plus first km, and approx SG$0.70 for every next km. yeah, right. Can't really mess about with rentals for that, though from what I saw parking was also pretty cheap everywhere, and easily available. Food - you've got the full price range here, but if you're just hungry you can eat pretty well at the food courts for not very much.
Back at the airport now, waiting for the flight. Wondering where and how efficient security screening is going to be - apart from running my carry-on through a scanner (no need to take the laptop out!) I haven't seen much thereof yet, so expecting a queue at the gate.
2011-12-11 Sydney int'l airport, AU
15:55 local time, so flight will probably start boarding in another 20 minutes or so. So far it looks to be on time, at least no delay signs on the board. Free wifi is also nice to pass the time.
Did the walking tour of The Rocks this morning. That is pretty much where the colonization of Australia started, landing point for the first convict ships, etc. Interesting to see, and how it survived through decades of decay and slums in the middle of the 20th century. It's now quite gentrified and touristy, but nice to see. Nice and sunny while we were walking, bit of rain as I walked back to the car.
2011-12-10 Sydney, AU
Blue mountains yesterday. Nice drive, very pretty area. Unfortunately cloudy and occasionally rainy, so pics may look a bit grey. Still a fun day, definitely should go back there again at some point.
Today Sydney. Slept through alarm, went to town, booked myself onto the sightseeing bus. Good way to see the city without too much walking in the morning. Then on to the opera house for lunch at one of the cafes and the 1 hour "essentials" tour - the big "behind the scenes" tour is expensive and only runs at 7AM before real work starts. A nice overview of the building. Apparently we weren't supposed to take pictures inside the actual halls, but somehow I found some on my camera. Guess I must've been resting my hand on the shutter button, hehe... pics at the usual location.
Another look at Sydney tomorrow, and then onwards to Singapore!
So sad, last day in NZ already... Lovely country, if it wasn't so bloody far from the rest of the world I could see myself living here. Would make a good lifestyle change if I could figure out how to make enough while having enough free time to fly around back to Europe and the US frequently. Wondering if Weta has any suitable openings, either in IT or mechanics
Oh well, Auckland. Bit unstable weather... The day started pretty bright, so first stop was to admire the view from Mount Eden. Then as the weather had turned foul a stop in at the Auckland Museum to see some Maori culture (hey, when in NZ), and a nice drive along Takuni Dr. This is pretty much the waterfront road, and quite nice it is. On the way back a stop at the - quite nice - Michael Joseph Savage Memorial dedicated to one of their prime ministers. Shame you can't enjoy it when you're watching the daisies from below, but definitely a killer view. A bit further back towards the city Kelly Tarlton's arctic encounter and aquarium. It's a clever thing to do with the old sewage holding tanks, and has 2 main attractions: A fully functional penguin (emperor and gentoo) colony that has a "snowcat" ride around it, and what was then one of the worlds first acrylic tunnels under an aquarium, seeing the fish swim overhead and next to you. With a conveyor belt running through it so you can even just stand and see the scenery pass before your eyes. Unfortunately its namesake founder expired 2 months after opening in 1985, but it seems he was an "interesting character".
After that I drove into town, quick walk around the CBD (entirely forgettable) and dinner in a Mediterranean restaurant a block off Queen st.
Right, pics from today.
Flying back to Sydney tomorrow. Already filled up the car and detrahsed it, so should be pretty smooth sailing tomorrow. Hope it won't rain too much there, seems a bit wet by the forecast. I'll ask my Australian friends to explain the exact difference between "a few showers" and "shower or two".
2011-12-06 Auckland, NZ
Hobbiton. What more need I say? Tour of the set location, and I got pretty lucky. All the guide books mentioned it was about half the hobbit holes, bit without the pretty facades. Guess what: They just wrapped up filming 4 weeks ago, and the set is still fully intact! Facades, props, the Prancing Pony and the watermill, everything. You really could see yourself walk through Hobbiton, the only thing not actually there were Hobbits. Truly, truly amazing.
Obviously this was used only for the outside shots, so there's not much actual hole behind the facades, no way to get into them. And the set is being maintained, wondering if they're keeping it to do additional footage if needed? The level of attention and detail that went into it just off the scale. I hope they get to keep it in this condition this time around.
Unfortunately we're not allowed to put pics up publically, rest assured I shot a lot of pics. Really a lot. At a quick count I'd say 115. I'll send out links privately once I have them up, or otherwise I'll be home in a week and we'll put them on the beamer or the laptop.
The plan after Hobbiton was to drive to Hamilton for a quick visit to the museum there. Along the way I find myself driving on Karapiro Rd. Huh, waitaminute?! Kiwi road naming isn't the most creative in the world, if something is called Karapiro road that would generally imply Karapiro is at one end or the other thereof. And indeed, as I got to the end of the road, there it was. I didn't have the address handy, but decided to drive into town (for what that word means over there) on good luck. Now Karapiro isn't very big, so I spotted the conference center right on the main road, and someone working there. Wim, regards from Pam. Unfortunately Nigel was off the premises and didn't return before I left. And just as a personal remark, you're a bloody idiot for not going there when they asked you to play the piano. Or at some other time. Very nice, spacious building, obviously from when the group was much bigger. Lovely grounds, too. It's about 2 hours south of Auckland.
Right, after looking around, tea, and a quick walk down to the reservoir, setting off again. The museum would've been closed by the time I got there, so went direct Auckland instead. Holiday Inn at the airport. Good room, will be convenient on Thursday, need to do some planning for tomorrow. Not very close to town, but who cares if I'm driving around anyway. They definitely understand one thing: lots of power ports all around the room. Can't have enough of those.
Drove into a suburb, , for dinner. Ended up with Thai, nice and tasty without quite burning out your nostrils.
I'd bought some dried Kiwi fruits fairly close to the beginning of my time in NZ, and as that's a discussion I don't want to have I decided on those for desert. Now I wish I could say they're wonderful and I need to import them by the containerload, but really, they're more an interesting thing. Quite chewy, they do taste of kiwi, so fun to try but not worth shipping loads of it back home.
OK, enough rambling for now.
2011-12-05 Rotorua, NZ
Uncertain weather, and a nice quiet hotel room with a comfy bed, so decided to make it a slow day. First slow day of this trip, really. No alarm, went into town for lunch (pancakes), then to Paradise Valley wild park. Highly recommended - lot of indigenous species, and they're quite proud of their lion pack. You get to pet and play with lion cubs, too! Awwww, they're just kittens, they want their belly scratched...
Right, anyway. Lots of indigenous species, some of the regions prime salmon spawning creeks in their property, nice location, go see it if you have a chance. Back to the hotel, dinner there to use up some of that hotel credit that was included with the room deal. Veggie filo, seems to be a mainstay of vegetarian choices in this country. Fairly decent actually, and was pretty much the same as I would've gotten in town probably. Then to Polynesian Spa, thermal pools. Soaked for a couple of hours, nice and relaxing.
Heading for Auckland tomorrow, and planning to visit Hobbiton (near Matamata) on the way.
2011-12-04 Rotorua, NZ
Rainy day. Drove from Wanganui to Rotorua via the ski area that was used for several scenes in LOTR. Past the pool where Gollum caught his fish, and on towards the ski village used for the last battle. Cold and rainy, ie. suitably gloomy though I'd always imagined Mordor as more of a fire and smoke kind of place. I'd again thought ahead and brought some lunch, nice place to eat at the gates of Mordor. I bet the Hobbits never said that!
On towards Rotorua where I'm staying at the Novotel, and had Indian for dinner. Decent enough. Weather for tomorrow is uncertain, "rain easing to showers", so not making any bookings yet. I'll have a look outside when I get up. Not much fun heading out in the rain and mud if I was going to do quad riding (which was sort of the original plan).
A little nothing town, but conveniently on the way. Hotel is decent but nothing special. I think the Tripadvisor review was a bit disingenious when it said "in a quiet suburb" - it has a relatively major road running past it, and the local ricer boys keep cruising past with their sewer pipe exhausts... Guess they think there's bugger all else to do here either. Pizza Hut, as there wasn't really anything that struck my fancy either on Tripadvisor or driving down the main street here. Some rain.
Anyway, Wellington. Still decent weather when I was there, so I first dropped by the Weta Cave (giftshop / museum / video presentation). Small but fun to see what they all worked on. Then on to Victoria Park, some of the movie locations near Upper Hutt, and on towards here. All in all a fun driving day, and still good weather until I was almost here. Brought some lunch and had that at the location where the Rivendell set used to be, unfortunately nothing of that remains now.
Tomorrow on towards Rotorua via the area that featured as Mordor.
Unrelated, Wellington also seems to have relatively a lot of Citroens. Spotted a couple of BX, a CX, an XM and even a C4. And a Fiat Croma, wonder who bothered to drag that over here.
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