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Matt & Collette’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Location: Byron Bay, Australia

MapG'day, and hello from Down Under! Firstly can we thank everyone for all our messages, and confirm that we are all in one piece after the China earthquake!

Since our last blog we have moved around a fair bit, our last couple of days in Bangkok were spent relaxing, enjoying Kho San Road and a day in the city's largest park where the lake is home to large fish, turtles and giant lizard / dragon things! Which we got to experience first hand when we went feeding them on a pedalo!

Next stop was Singapore where we treated ourselves to a nice Hotel for the 3days we were there. We were determined to fit in as much as we could so we grabbed dinner in China Town on the first night, then the next morning we headed for Sentosa Island which is just south of Singapore and is a popular retreat for locals and tourists alike with loads to do. We started off with the Aqaurium where we could feed and touch stingrays, starfish and many other underwater creatures. Next Matt managed to tempt Collette into doing the downhill Luge course - a cross between a toboggan and a gokart - which was very fast and very fun. It turned out to be Collette who was dragging Matt on for a second go! Next was Fort Siloso which was built as part of the islands defences during WW2, an odd fact is that its guns were never fired sea-ward; they were turned around and fired inland when enemy troops invaded from land rather than sea!

Before heading back to the mainland via cablecar we snapped a few photos on the most southernly point of Conitental Asia. We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant recommended by Collette's friend Roya (as were most of our other activities!) which was also voted as one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the World! The next day started with a tour of the Tiger Beer Brewery, Singapore's national beer! Next stop was Singapore Zoo which was amazing and very different to any zoo we've ever been to before, as animals have much more freedom and there were hardly any cages! This was followed by Singapore's famed Night Safari which lived up to its reuptation, it was fascinating to see the animals at night while walking through unlit paths. A quick look round Raffles Hotel Plaza and the Musuem hidden upstairs finished up our hectic exploration of Singapore and we headed for the airport which was an attraction in itself. Their new Termainal 3 has everything a seasoned traveller could possibly ask for- a giant 'grass wall', free internet, free movies and enough shops to keep Collette happy for a month!

Overall Singapore is an amazing little country that neither of us knew much about but we left there amazed by the cleanliness and politeness of it, as well as the smoothness of which everything operates

Next was China! Due to only having a week we didnt venture far from Beijing. We explored The Forbidden City and Tiannamen Sqaure which were both huge! The Forbidden City was like walking into the past with all the Emporer's different buildings and ancient architecture. The only downside was, as with alot of Beijing, parts were being built/restored in time for the upcomming olympic games. We journied out to The Great Wall and trekked along it for 10km, (there were easier 5km walks, with nicely restored bits of wall, but obviously that wasnt enough of a challenge for a certain someone!) It certainly is great and like the Taj Mahal, no picture does the size and scale justice. It is incomprehensible to imagine how they managed to build such a magnificent structure all those years ago! We finished off the last bit of the trek taking a zip-wire (flying fox) down from the wall. Matt even managed to convince Collette to have a go, and is sure he'll have her skydiving by the end of their trip!! We had wanted to go to Xi'an to visit the Tericotta Warriors but it was a bit further from Beijing than we had thought so we added to our list of things to come back and do - a list that is getting rather big!

We visited the 'Birds nest' Olympic Stadium which was very impressive but has quite a way to go to be finished before the games start! We explored the Summer Palace which was huge and filled with ancient buldings. The rest of our time was spent either exploring the old 'Hutongs' or alleys and expereincing real chinese food - on one occasion we ordered Chicken noodles only to find they put bits of the chicken in that we would rather they had left out!

Overall Beijing is an amazing place, it is in the middle of a huge building boom which has left a lot of its old parts flattened and replaced with sky-scrappers. It is definitely somewhere we want to come and explore with more time. It is, however, a city that seems remarkably unprepared for the upcoming olympic games it will be hosting in less than 80days time- building work occurs 24hours throughout the city and a constant cloud of pollution still hovers over Beijing- a day in Beijing is the equivalent of smoking 70 cigarettes a day!

We moved on from China to Sydney where we spent to first few days exploring the city and organising ourselves for the month ahead. Within 24hours of landing Matt had Collette walking in Mountains again, this time the Blue Mountains 2hrs outside Sydeny that form part of the Great Dividing Range. We explored the many bushwalks and waterfalls while gazing over the seemingly endless canyons, a very enjoyable day.
We spent a day exploring the Opera House and Harbour Bridge area, both fascinating icons of australia, and also looked around local markets and spent a day at Bondi Beach. Up until now, we have been eating out every night, but as Australia's prices are similar to those at home, life for us now involves living in hostels and cooking our own food, a completely different yet also fantastic experience.

We have now started making our way up the East Coast, currently in our first stop, Byron Bay. We are slowly heading upto Cairns before flying down to Melbourne and returning to Sydney in time to fly off to New Zealand. We hope you are all well and enjoying the beginnings of summer!