After a long absence from the blog scene I’m back. My only excuse for this slackness is that it has been a very busy time for us in Thailand culminating in our one month visit to Australia, the topic of this posting. I have a number of catch-up subjects to cover at a later time but thought that I would tackle the return to my homeland as it unfolds. This will be split into two posts as we have covered a lot of ground in the three weeks we’ve been here. This is part one which covers our first two weeks in Australia.
The central theme to the entry is Gaun’s experience of Australia, her first overseas trip. Much of my enjoyment from this visit has been seeing my own country through her eyes. Sights that I took for granted take on a new freshness when shared with someone who has no experience of life outside their own country.
The planning for the trip started some time ago as I put on my bureaucratic hat, gave thanks to my public service training and tackled the multi page Australian visa form complete with a four page supporting letter, fifty photos and over twenty pages of documentation. The goal of all of this effort was to get a one month holiday visa and prove that Gaun was motivated to return to Thailand. As a tribute to my talents as a form filler the visa was approved in record time. Why any Thai would go through this process just for an Australian holiday is beyond me. We’re not THAT special guys.
We left Chiang Mai early afternoon on the 26 Feb heading to Phuket, where we were to pick up a Jetstar flight leaving late evening for an overnight trip direct to Sydney. We were travelling with my brother Richard and his wife Sam, who had spent a couple of weeks with us in Isaan and Chiang Mai. We had a seven hour break between flights which provided us with an excuse to hire a taxi and visit a lovely beach close to the airport for something to eat, a few cocktails and a massage for me before the flight:
I had booked a window seat for Gaun so she could have a sunny Sydney harbour welcome, one of the great entry sights to any country in the world. Needless to say the clouds were at knee level, it was raining and cold! Oh well, our return flight is at 3.00 pm so maybe we’ll get a sunny farewell.
We stayed overnight at Richard and Sam’s home in the Blue Mountains before borrowing one of their cars and driving to Canberra on the 28th as we had a wedding to attend on the 1st March. Gaun had already made a few day one observations about the differences between home and Australia. Filling the car oneself was a new one to her. Self-service petrol just doesn’t happen in Thailand that I’ve seen. Very often if you buy more than a certain amount you also get a free big bottle of water. Not much free at an Aussie petrol station.
The absence of motor bikes was another difference. In a country where bikes outnumber cars it is a slightly strange experience not to be constantly checking wing mirrors for entire Thai families motoring past on the left and right and of course the flotilla of bikes that gathers around the car every time one stops at traffic lights.
The lack of food stalls might worry a Thai person too. The whole trip from Sydney to Canberra allows for only half a dozen eating options and this would be enough to panic a lesser person than Gaun. In Thailand there would be a dozen stalls just in the equivalent of my brother’s street catering to the Thai’s need to be constantly grazing.
Safely in Canberra having beaten dying of boredom on the Hume highway trying to keep to the speed limit we settled into our home for the week in Kingston. A friend of mine Phillip had very kindly offered his two bedroom unit to us for the duration of the stay, which was immensely appreciated. The unit was beautiful and only a few steps to Kingston shops with its cafes and restaurants. I spent more on setting up for breakfast provisions here than I would in two weeks of living in Chiang Mai.
We can recommend the Chiang Rai Thai restaurant! It was so funny seeing the name having spent ten weeks living in Chiang Rai and then re-visiting again with Richard and Sam for a couple of days the week before we flew to Sydney. Kingston was also the place where Gaun had her first pedestrian crossing experience. She was amazed that cars actually stopped to let people use them!
My main reason for an extended stay in Canberra was to sort through my storage unit in Hume and decide what was shipped to Thailand and what was sold/given away. When I left Australia in June last year I was planning on coming back and maybe setting up a home again, so I had a house-load of stuff tucked away. I was dreading the process but it ended up being a lot less stressful than I had imagined. I have just received an email that tells me my processions are on their way back home. We will see them again in Si Bun Ruang, where they are being stored in Gaun’s family home until we build.
I also wanted to do the social rounds and catch-up with as many of my friends as I could during this period, which I was able to do. A BIG thank you for all of you who hosted us for dinners, lunches and drinks. It was a very special way to see you all again after an eight month break. I was particularly encouraged by the number of people who are following this blog. It has motivated me to get the writing started again. Some of you we will see in Thailand. There will always be accommodation for you or local insider’s advice available if you do choose to visit our way.
We also managed to fit in some tourist activities in between the packing. Roo spotting was the first priority and luckily it’s hard not to see them around the outskirts of Canberra at the moment. Our first sighting was at Cameron Park although they were pretty nervous so it was from a distance.
Parrots made an appearance at the right moment and were appreciated:
Black Mountain tower is always a must do for us tourists and Telstra thanks us for our contribution to profits. I was particularly moved by the $3.80 cost for a small bottle of water. It’s $0.25 in Thailand but not from such a technological temple as the Telstra Tower of course.
We had a police photo opportunity at Commonwealth gardens on another occasion. Nothing that 200 baht couldn’t fix back home. Thai police utes, which are a drab maroon colour, are a poor comparison to the lively, moving works of art that comprise our police “safety” vehicles.
Gaun also got to have a closer roo encounter in the gardens. We were lucky it stayed around for the photo:
I missed a kangaroo photo opportunity driving back from Hume one day with the Canberra prison in the background. I kicked myself afterwards as it would have been a great caption – humans locked up and the animals running free! This was the closest I could get:
Flower displays are a bit absent at this time of year so I took my garden loving lady to Pialligo and Rodney’s nursery.
Garden centres are more about cafes and garden decoration than flowers these days. Rodneys is no different with a collection of non-Thai type statues:
Shortly after Gaun called out “Look this one really” – in Thinglish “really” means something for real. She had come across this “real” garden ornament:
I would have loved to take this sheep back to our garden in Isaan but had to make do with a smaller plastic koala, which I’m sure will be a hit with the locals back home.
Later that day another new sight for Gaun – an automatic car wash. Never seen before. The last car wash I had in Thailand cost me $3.80 for a hand wash, an interior clean and air filter/engine clean. Three people involved.
No Australian visit is complete without a BBQ. I asked all my friends NOT to provide Thai food and I have eaten more steak than I have for months. Thank you all – you know who you are!
We also went to Canberra’s Enlighten festival on an unusually warm evening. For me the highlight were these horses. It was good to see Canberra out in numbers enjoying themselves with food and live music.
Our final early morning in Canberra was spent at the balloon festival just down the road from our Kingston unit. Once again a new visual feast for Gaun. Many photos were taken!
We left Canberra on Sunday 9th March and drove to the coast to spend two nights with my sister in Milton and then a night with a close friend in Nowra. However our first priority was to find Gaun a kangaroo up close. Easily accomplished at Murramarang Resort just North of Batemans Bay. Cross that off the list:
I have to say that our beaches on the South coast must rival the best in the world and certainly comprehensively beat anything I have yet seen in Thailand. Gaun keeps saying how beautiful everything is in Australia and asks the question of why we flock to Thailand. On a day like this one it is a hard one to explain:
The only downside I can see is that Thai beaches have recliners and umbrellas you can rent and then people come round to sell you beer and ice creams. If I could combine that, the Thai water temperature and this beach my dream would be complete.
And finally for this blog entry no visit to the coast would be complete without a feed of fish and chips shared with the local bird life:
The next blog entry will cover our stay at the coast and then the three wonderful days spent on and around Sydney harbour on my brother’s boat. A taste below:
The last Gaun Thai/Australian difference – twist top beer bottles.
Thanks for reading and hanging in there during my writer’s block period!