Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Reader

It began with a story between a boy and a matured lady twice his age… fell in love despite the gap. Michael Berg read her stories before making love, Hanna requested so. She was ashamed of her illiteracy and given up chances to be promoted, she changed jobs and eventually worked as a guard in Nazi camp.

Michael was confused and heartbroken when Hanna disappeared suddenly. It was years later when he, a law student then, attended a war crime trial, Hannah was the defendant. Afraid to disclose her illiteracy, she admitted the war crime and was sentenced life prison… Michael’s tears dropped, but he chose to stay in the dark.

Undecidedly, Michael came to the prison when he was informed she would be discharged soon. The grey haired Hanna was overjoyed to see the “kid”, she grabbed his hand, but Michael responded coldly. Probably she thought their love had vanished and was worrying about the uncertainties in the future, she hanged herself in the prison by stepping on the books, left Michael regretful and sorrow…

A wonderful movie…

p/s: my opinion... It was Hanna’s initiation to seduce Michael. She said she wouldn’t look at Michael’s naked body but she was staring. And she stripped herself off for Michael. He was the victim.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Photos - Australia

The photos of my recent trip to Australia are now available in my Travelogue.

Australia – Canberra

I had only allocated 2 days in Canberra. The weather was pretty sunshine but windy and chilly.

After checking in at hostel, I rushed to the National Gallery of Australia immediately. Just on time to join the free informative guided tour. The collections were broad and great, she explained how to appreciate the beauty of different types of art pieces - the impressionist paintings of Monet, abstract painting of Picaso, indigenous arts, modern arts, sculptures… too bad photographing is not allowed.

The next day, I spent most of my time in the National Museum of Australia. The building itself is a beautiful art piece. The design is complex and colourful. The museum has integrated high tech and entertaining elements to present the history and exhibits. It was an enjoyable venue.

Obviously Canberra has been neglected by many tourists, but both museum and gallery mentioned above are worth for a visit.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was “camped” in front of the Old Parliament House, established on Australia Day, 26-Jan-1972, as a protest against the denial of land rights and self determination of the aborigines. It tends to remind the world that Australia still has much to do in regard to reconciliation, land rights and fair treatment of its indigenous people.

Australia – Wollongong & Kiama

Wollongong, had only been to the Nan Tien Temple, said to be the largest Buddhist Temple in the south hemisphere. It’s new and can’t compare with the great historical temples in China. The decorations and workmanships are modern.

Kiama, is famous for it’s blow hole. The view from the cliff (not so high) to the ocean is beautiful.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Australia - Tasmania

I teamed up with Farzad to rent a car in Tasmania, it saved lots of time to travel on this island. It was almost fully booked at the airport, we were lucky to have our small Hyundai at last. Should have booked a car online earlier, would be cheaper.

The Port Arthur, a prison to keep 12500 convicts from England and Ireland between 1830 – 1877, has most of the buildings restored. Clean and tidy, hardly traced any physical remnant or somber haunting atmosphere of once brutal prison. The guide said it was purposely set up this way in order not to trigger sad memories of some people. My opinion was contrary, the prison should present the feel of originally served function so to understand the situation as it was, like The Killing Field and WWII prisons do.

Hobart, the largest city in Tasmania, was not really attractive, the Salamanca Place and Battery Point were OK… the waterfront Victoria Dock was the most scenic part particularly during sunset and sunrise. I watched a local Play at Salamanca Place… just so-so.

Visiting National Parks seem to be the main reason of most tourists, especially to the nature lovers.
- The Wineglass Bay at Freycinet NP (pronounced Fray-sin-ay) was beautiful, but not accessible by car. The 1.5hr trekking to this beach would be too long for our schedule. Instead we only walked up to the higher ground to have an overview.
- The trekking around Dove Lake at Cradle Mt. NP (World Heritage) was unforgettable, not because of the scenery. The guide said 300 days out of a year are rainy in this NP. We didn’t have better luck. We were soaked in the shower for 2 hrs and my camera was doused (damaged). We didn’t trek to the Cradle Mt. as the climate was too misty and foggy.
- On the 4th day, we visited Lake St.Claire NP (Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake, 167m), was no longer exciting.

Frankly our trekking in these NPs was very superficial. We only walked and snapped photos, but didn’t pay much attention on the fauna and flora species. My opinion, the trekking in Malaysia’s Taman Negara is more exciting.

We drove about 1500km within 4 days. The sceneries from the coast to the farms and rainforests were truly relaxing. We spent a night respectively at Delorine and Strahan (pronounced Strawn), not worth to make a note here.

Australia – Melbourne

My original plan to travel by train from Ayers Rock (Alice Springs) to Adelaide was changed due to the unmatched train schedule. I flew to Melbourne instead.

Melbourne is smaller, quieter than Sydney. The coastal water is colder, uncomfortable for swimming. The 2 National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) are good. The Immigration Museum is interesting but the ACMI is a little bit bored. Crown Casino - the largest in the south hemisphere is located here.

There are many fauna conservation parks around Australia, displaying unique animals only found on this continental, like wallaby (the smaller type of kangaroo), kangaroo, wombat, koala, dingo and Tasmanian devil. Admission fee is not cheap. Kangaroo feeding cheered up the tourists gladly.

A trip to Phillip Island is recommended, though it’s a boring 3 hr drive (one-way) from Melbourne. The beaches are good but the wind was too chilly and strong. The extreme southwestern tip of the island is the Nobbies, sceneries are unbeatable. Seal Rocks is a short distance offshore, inhabited by Australia’s largest colony of fur seals. Through the telescope thousands of seals were seen scattered on the rocks, but too far for a detail look. The tour guide said boat trip is possible to get close to the seals but tourists are not allowed to get on the Rocks.

The Penguin Parade was the highlight of the trip, was to see the world’s smallest penguin drifted ashore after sunset waddling from the sea to their land based nests. No photographing was permitted, said not to frighten the cuties. Tourists were sitting on the benches in front of the beach, exclaimed excitingly when the penguins appeared. Interestingly, when the 1st penguin was drifted ashore, it would stand facing the beach, waited till rest of the penguins gathered and queuing up in discipline before marching to their nests like an army troop.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Australia – Ayers Rock (Uluru)

Amazed what a manmade wonder was done on this barren desert. Various range of hotels are constructed in Yulara Resort, basic facilities are well established. Post office, bank, supermarket, restaurants and free shuttle buses are available, water supply is clean and power supply is stable.

The scorching heat is quite uncomfortable. We were welcomed by millions of flies since landing at the airport. It was disturbing and irritating. The China made head covering “fly net” was the most popular “souvenir”, costs AUD10!

The aerial view from the plane shows an immense arid flat area in the central Australia. The Ayers Rock (Uluru), the world’s largest piece of rock, emerged oddly and its ochre red is eyes catching. Acc’ to Lonely Planet, it’s believed that 2/3 of the rock is beneath the sand.

The main attraction Uluru is a holy place to the aboriginals. Tourists are advised not to remove any rock or sand in this area. The tour guide said lots of tourists sent back their “stolen souvenir” when they deemed being cursed as rumours go.

I joined the 10km Uluru base walk the next morning, circumnavigating the rocks. The guide narrated the mystic stories about Kuniya (a woma python) and Liru (a poisonous snake), the conflicts between tribes. Of course, legends were always exaggerated. We were advised not to photograph any holy places, I didn’t know if camera could capture spirits. In order to compromise the income of community and the curiosity of some tourists, the climb to the holy Uluru is allowed, though discouraged by the Anangu people, the Aboriginal traditional owners of Uluru. Some indigenous paintings could still be seen in the caves.

Adjacent was Kata Tjuta (means many heads), another few pieces of rocks emerged from the plain desert. Not really special indeed.

During my short stay in this outback, I didn’t see any 1.8m tall, weight 80kg kangaroo.

Australia - Cairns

This is a typical tourist town… pretty small. Surprisingly there is no beach in this town, the shore was a swampy muddy area. Better beaches could be found out of town.

I came here solely for the sake of diving in the renowned Great Barrier Reef, as most tourists did. My high expectation turned out disappointing. Large area of corals of the 3 dive spots were dead, the grayish and whitish underwater world was really ordinary. Probably the influx of scuba divers to the same area had ruined the eco-system. The global warming was blamed. The plus: we saw a couple of sharks and feeding turtle underwater.

This was the only place I had seen a small crowd of aborigines. Sorry to say… no hard feeling… their body hygiene should be slightly better taken care of.

I planned to visit the Tjapukai Cultural Center (indigenous culture and show biz), but the center was closed for special occasion… no luck… worse, I lost my favourite Adidas cap in the art gallery later.

We bought kangaroo steaks for dinner. Friends were reluctant to savour this Aussie specialty. The meat was OK… later I learned from a tour guide that a kind of parasite could be found in kangaroo meat, it should be well cooked.

Australia - Sydney

I was advised of possibly facing “interrogation” by the immigration officer upon arrival due to the strict immigration policy and control. Well I went through the procedure without hassle, though I was a little annoyed when she instructed me to go for baggage checking. Why the Caucasians queuing in front of me were exempted? … eventually my baggage was left uninspected.

I didn’t expect seeing so many Asians in Sydney. The Asian foods are authentic and delicious, more variety than in Malaysia.

I like Sydney though it’s lacking of great monument or centuries old historical buildings. Like the cozy atmosphere, like the views of both Sydney and Darling harbours, the breezy white-sand Bondi Beach, and I spent quite some time simmering in the art galleries and museums. The aquarium was not bad, was excited to get inch close to the sharks (of course separated by a glass shield). The section named “Great Barrier Reef” with colourful corals and fishes displayed affirming my decision to visit this world’s largest coral reefs next.

Coincidently the yearly Mardi Gras was held in Sydney on 07-Mar-09. It was a great street show, was fun to see the performers (majority gay and lesbian people) dressing flamboyantly and enjoying themselves. Friends said the parade is dwindling in size and less entertaining due to budget reduction.

Thanks to JK (ex-schoolmate), RC (friend) and Kuan (cousin), they were my guide in Sydney. Ha… was interesting.

Australia - General

After the 5 weeks journey in Australia, I start loving this country better. I told my friends, if I had any plan to migrate, this country would be my first choice (for now). The good infrastructure, government’s commitment to the public, relative low population, safe living environment, good civic consciousness etc impressed me. Occasionally I heard of racism comments against immigrants from Asian countries, mainly on employment subject, but this “sensitive” issue is not discussed openly. The living expenses are almost at a par with European standard.

The magnificent sceneries along the coastal lines and the good collections in the art galleries are my picks.

In Sydney I was advised to stay away from the area where the aborigines gathered for safety sake. Plenty of negative comments were put on these aborigines. The first glance on the indigenous arts was crude and dull, but the 2nd look changed my opinion. It’s unique indeed. Respective tribe has his own painting style and craftsmanship. Some of the paintings were really creative and finely drawn.