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Just a bit bent

UPCOMING TRIPS

2014: HNL, KOA 2015: LAX, IAD, AUH, MAD, BCN, SIN, PVG, LAX, MIA

TRAVEL DIARIES

Europe 14, Chicago 14, Miami 13, Seoul 13, Orlando 13, Malaysia 13, Miami 12, Europe 12, Cali 12, Perth 12, Chicago 11, Austria 11, Chicago 10, NOLA 10, Europe 09, US 08, Laos 08, Europe 07, Thailand 07, Malacca 07, Perak 06, Penang 06, NZ 05, Japan 05, Indochina 05, North America 04, Dubbo 04, Singapore 04, London 04, Melbourne 03, Adelaide 03, WA 03, Asia 03, FNQ 02, NZ 02, Japan 01

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I hate Bali lol

Since arriving in Denpasar and my forced layover as I am too sick to travel I have pretty much just attempted to rest and recuperate. I have had three total visits from different doctors who have had me on anti emetics, antipyretics, medication for constipation and a broad spectrum antibiotic. I have had laboratory tests and have actually not left the hotel room the whole time.

I have gradually started to feel better and I will actually be able to take my flight tonight and be able to get home. It is about time; but there are worse places than a 4-star resort on a tropical island to convalesce.

Convalescence home in Bali - Deluxe Suite #indonesia #bali #id

The people at both Virgin Australia and Patra Jasa have looked after me well so I cannot complain - but I am most definitely looking forward to being back in Australia early tomorrow morning.

Starting to head home (or am I)

Had the same issue sleeping again overnight with much tossing and turning to be had. This was not assisted by the arrival of the Express Checkout invoice which had me repaying for one of the nights I had prepaid as part of my stay at the Ritz-Carlton. That said they sorted it out pretty efficiently when I departed. While I thoroughly enjoyable stay and a gorgeous hotel, I really do not enjoy the overly attentive service that comes with this kind of place at times. It just doesn’t work for me unfortunately.

Persian garden at the Flower Dome #singapore #sg #marinabay

When I got up I headed to the Club Lounge to grab some breakfast before heading out for another walk to get myself sorted for the day. I headed back to Gardens by the Bay to check out the second of the conservatories - the Flower Dome. Now this is more my style with some fantastic succulents - the kind of plants that just about anyone can look after.

From there I headed back to the hotel and had a quick swim before a shower and preparing the check-out. The area outside the hotel had by this point started to resemble a war zone, with more rehearsals going on for the upcoming National Day Parade to be held at The Float. For the last couple of days I have been treated to many renditions of the Majulah Singapura as a result. Today they had all the emergency services and military vehicles practicing their manoeuvres. The tanks at the front of the hotel must really impress the Ritz Carlton.

So checked-out I headed to the airport in a taxi. Arriving at Changi just in time for the opening of check-in at the KLM counters. Bag deposited I headed to UOB to get the precise USD and IDR to enter and depart Indonesia in transit. I then grabbed some lunch and sat in the ridiculous KLM lounge - Skyview while waiting for time to board and filling out my arrival documentation for Indonesia.

By the time I got the plane though I was starting to feel really really shitty. The muscle pain I’ve had in my lower back was starting to flare up and I think I was febrile. On the flight I actually spent much of the time standing up as this was the most comfortable position to be in. By the time I arrived at DPS and made it through what seemed like tortuous immigration processes I was nauseous and had to make a difficult decision. Do I try to make the flight to BNE and then on to Sydney when I have just struggled to survive the two hour flight or do I try to find somewhere to contact a doctor.

I first rang Virgin Australia to see what my options were to move my flight back a day. They were very accommodating and even waived the change fee for me. Moved me to the direct DPS-SYD flight tomorrow night and then I set about finding a hotel fairly close. I settled on Patra Jasa on the outskirts of the airport but then struggled finding a taxi driver who wanted such a short fare. Offering double the normal rate was the way to get someone interested - because I was now desperate to get to bed.

I arrived at the hotel and the guy who checked me in was very helpful. He arranged for a doctor from the local clinic to come and visit me and I ended up with a total of five different medications to deal with my symptoms. I took them as prescribed and headed to bed, but basically found myself unable to sleep as my tummy was demanding far too much attention from me. It is going to be an awfully long night. Hopefully I’ll be better by tomorrow so I can fly.

Wandering the supertrees and clouds

I didn’t have a very good sleep overnight waking up about 4am with a bit of pain in my lower back. The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore has very soft beds and I’m used to sleeping on something a little firmer - so I don’t know if that contributed to it. I ended up lying on the couch and then the floor for a while until I could get a bit more sleep.

When I did wake up I decided to skip breakfast and head off to the Gardens by the Bay. With a bit of time to kill tomorrow as well I worked out that I would go for a wander around the precinct and then do one of the conservatories today and then will hit the Flower Dome tomorrow.

Supertrees - uniquely designed vertical gardens that light up at night #singapore #sg #marinabay

The Supertree Grove and the Cloud Forest certainly live up to the hype and its quite fun walking through the waterfall as you enter the conservatory (particularly if you are like me and not at all a fan of the humidity). The focus in on global warming and what we can do - so there is something to learn along the way too.

Afterwards I headed off to a more educational experience at the ArtScience Museum which is most notable for its design by Moshe Safdie (who also did Marina Bay Sands) in the shape of lotus flower. The building is about the most notable thing from my point of view with the collection really focussed on kids (and I have to say the primary school kids who were there during my visit seemed to be loving it). It did however have an interesting exhibition of Annie Leibovitz photography.

I headed back to the hotel and grabbed a bite to eat and drink by the pool - recovering from the bloody heat (and as usual I think I always get the impression that I am the only one who is sweating). After a swim I headed back to the room and had a nap before I visited the Club Lounge for a drink this afternoon before heading off to grab some dinner. I arrived back to find my laundry in the room which means I can pack knowing I have some clothes to wear to work next week. All in all productive (but boy have I spent a fortune on this stay).

All in all a productive day and I have something to get done tomorrow before I head back to Changi tomorrow for the cheap but indirect ride home.

Back in my region again

The Turkish Airlines flight to Singapore took off from IST something like 30 minutes late after sitting on a taxiway for what seemed an eternity without explanation. I was dead tired before we even got off the group but decided I would have something light from the Do & Co menu that often gets raved about. I settled on the potato and leak soup and an Efes which I figured would be enough to send me off to sleep. The whole song and dance about the flight attendant in the chefs hat for the food service was a bit of a wank though and the food was fairly average.

5K on a Turkish Airlines A330 - home for the next 10 or so hours #istanbul #ist #tk #tk66

The girl sitting next to me in 5J was asleep as soon as her bum hit the seat and she was a messy little thing - taking over just about every spare inch of space available. A real pain in the arse but because I was tired it wasn’t worth making any kind of commotion. While TK seem to have a very variable hard product

Because of gate to gate IFE, I had finished watching Nebraska even before my tray got taken away. It’s a fairly sweet story of a kind of reconciliation between a son and his now dementing alcoholic father as they set out to claim the $1m dad thinks he has won in a magazine sweepstakes. There are some brilliant performances amongst the seemingly inbred citizens of Hawthorne Nebraska including one by June Squibb as the wife/mother of our two heroes. A classic scene with her showing off her privates to a gravestone to show the resident what they missed out on.

I then settled in to watch Black Nativity which was a little less endearing despite being a musical. The story, based on the play by Langston Hughes, of a black teenage boy who along with his single mum is being evicted at Christmas. He gets sent to live with his grandparents and of course learns many life lessons along the way (all while singing). It reminded me a little of Bran Nue Dae in it’s message of rising above adversity and reconciliation at least on the personal level - but without any of the laughs.

I then managed a good couple of hours sleep - of the quality that you normally get on a plane. But at least the A330 had lie flat beds - pity they are a bit short - so it made things a bit easier.

About midday Singapore time I woke up and after clambering over my seat mate to go to the toilet I settled in to watch The Book Thief - based on the novel by Australian author Markus Zusak - which takes a very interesting - but still often visited - look at the experience of a German family during the Nazi period. It is a fairy touching story but it really is told like a fairy tale which isn’t necessarily a good look for holocaust stories. I then finished out the flight with the progress map and watching the occasional sitcom.

We arrived in Singapore about 20 minutes late and while the administrative procedures were a little longer than usual on arrival - I was still left looking for luggage for the longest time. I eventually headed out and grabbed some SGD and then headed into a taxi to Marina Bay to the Ritz-Carlton Millennia. I was greeted at the taxi by a cute young panda (asian bear type - almost undoubtedly gay) guest attendant who - despite my protestations - took my bag and radioed the front desk that he was bringing me in (I am assuming he read my name of my luggage because I did not give it to him).

They checked me in and upgraded me to a Club Room, so I have ended up with a fantastic view over the marina and access to the lounge for breakfast tomorrow. I settled in and got myself a little sorted before heading for a walk around the neighbourhood (only to kill myself with the humidity) before heading back for a shower, getting my laundry ready for tomorrow and then ordering some room service (I can see how an upgrade is feasible - the cost of the room service and the laundry will more than make up for any benefits I get out of an upgraded room.

This is to be a short break with absolutely nothing to do and no one to see as I really need to get myself recentred before heading back to work on Monday. A stay in a top hotel will surely help.

Time to rest.

Last day in Istanbul

Woke up yet again a bit stuffy but as the last day in Istanbul I needed to get out and check out some more of Sultanahmet before hitting the road.

I started the day with a visit to one of the most famous sites of the city - Topkapi Palace which was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for most of their reign. It was the setting for most state occasions and royal entertainment and was named a piece of World Heritage in 1985.

Ornate dome in one of the pavilions at Topkapi #istanbul #tr

It is made up of four main courtyards and you can also visit the onsite Eastern Orthodox church (Hagia Irene) and the Imperial Harem which housed the wives, servants, female relatives and concubines of the Ottoman Household. There is even a Courtyard of the Favourites.

This has to be my favourite space in Istanbul and its a pity the crowds are so huge as it would be the kind of place I’d like to sit and just enjoy. A treat had to be the Mehteran band. Ottoman military marching bands are supposedly amongst the oldest in the world. Some fantastic uniforms on them as well.

From there I headed down the hill to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. I have to admit that my viewing was cursory as I really don’t have a lot of appreciation of this kind of thing - but it is yet another example of how Turkey is such a complex and ancient civilisation. It has been at the centre of changing geopolitics in the region for centuries. Amazing.

In the mid afternoon I headed back down to Gülhane Park and had a bite to eat while uploading some photos to Instagram before heading back to Hotel Sultania to make final arrangements before checking out. I had negotiated a 7pm checkout time so that I could take my time in getting to the airport and the hotel also arranged a transfer to Atatürk when it was time.

I arrived at the airport around 8pm for my Turkish Airlines flight to Singapore. I was very early but decided to find a quiet spot to camp in the TK lounge while I killed time. It is easily the biggest lounge I have ever been in - over two levels with food and wine galore and even a bloody golf trainer and slot car racing track. Eventually I got sick of that and now I’m heading down to the gate to wait until it is time to leave.

Will miss Istanbul (except for the heat).

Getting my worship on - multi-denomination style

Another night where my throat got worse and worse as the night went on. I feel sorry for Jason having to share the room with me as I’m sure I’m not particularly good in the sleep department right now. 

Woke up reasonable early and while he had decided to head off shopping today, I wanted to head out and check out a few of the churches on the fringe of the old city. I headed down to Eminönü with a little more knowledge under my belt and managed to catch the right ferry along the Golden Horn to check out the Greek Orthodox Church at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinope and the Church of St George which was built in over many centuries but most recently largely restored in 1991. It had to be one of the most high security churches I have ever been to.

From there I headed down the hill to find the St Stephan Bulgarian Orthodox church covered in scaffolding. The Iron Church as it is known was built using steel shipped in from Austria in 1898.

Chora Church Museum is a gorgeous Byzantine church on the outskirts of Sultanahmet - in the 17th century it was converted to a mosque #istanbul #tr

I jumped back on the ferry at Fener and headed north to Ayvansaray for what ended up being an exceptionally long trek to Chora Church. I guess it is a sign of the progress of Istanbul that so many monuments are under renovation - and that is what was happening here with probably only half of the building open for viewing. The frescos were amazing however and it tells you a lot about the city and its history that this was built as part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople in the early 5th century and was later converted to a mosque before becoming a museum in the middle of the last century.

From there I recked back to the Metro and connected to a Tram to get back to the hotel for a much needed shower. I found Jason hadn’t left yet and had stayed for a sleep (probably compensating for my unsettledness overnight). I ended up uploading photos, grabbing that shower and heading out again - this time in long pants so I could do some of those venues that required some ‘modesty’.

Before leaving the hotel I organised a very late checkout for tomorrow to make sure that I could get a shower before heading to the airport and also a transfer given the winding streets of this part of the city. That sorted, I cheated, given the heat, and caught a tram the one stop to the Hippodrome and then joined the queue to get into Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka the Blue Mosque). The queue moves quickly and the place was teaming with people, but it was well worth the visit with the beautiful ceiling and as opposed to other large mosques I have been to you really get a sense of people using the building.

I then headed across the square and queued again to get into the Hagia Sophia which dates back to 537 and was the seat of the Eastern Orthodox church until 1453 (except when the Roman’s briefly turned it into a Catholic Cathedral for 60 or so years in the 13th century). It then became a mosque until it was secularised following the Turkish War of Independence and then opened as a museum. Yet again it was under construction for part of the building but it is a fairly impressive space and a great example of Byzantine architecture.

I made my last stop the Basilica Cistern which is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns under the city. It was built in the 6th century and apparently 7000 slaves were used in the construction of it and it was used to provide water the Topkapi Palace through to modern times.

I headed back to the hotel and cleaned up photos from today before getting changed yet again and heading off to the Hodjapasha which is an old bath house now turned into a performing arts space to watch a performance of Whirling Dervishes - no trip to Turkey would be complete without this. It wasn’t quite as spiritual as I would as expected for something that is a remembrance to God.

Afterwards we grabbed dinner. Words were said, regrettable ones on my behalf because I had the shits with what I (quite possibly incorrectly) perceived as being told my opinion didn’t matter - but what I said went well beyond what could be defined as a reasonable response and was beyond the pale. Very regrettable. It lead to a very uncomfortable rest of the evening in which Jason understandably didn’t feel comfortable being around me. I really should have apologised earlier, but what is done is done and can’t be taken back. 

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