The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Friday, 25 April 2014

"You got a fast car, is it fast enough so we can fly away ?...." *

I'm staring at a photo I'm about to have issued for my international drivers licence and  it's awful. Why is it that passport and licence photos always show the person as looking like a escaped  con, deranged stalker or in my instance, with the stunned mullet look.  My eyes are bulging as if I've been asked to do something hideous and the worried frown across my brow is so furrowed it looks like it needs major horse-size syringes of botox to uncrease it!.  If truth be told, I'm hesitant of even getting an international licence.  Where we're going has a notorious reputation for bad drivers, where no-one has right of way, there is only one driver on the road - HIM -, traffic lights are a waste of money, indicators don't have a purpose and only confuse other drivers if used, and if the driver knows the other driver coming towards him, he has every right to stop (smack bang in the middle of the road) and have a chat about how the family is going and did he see the latest olive-oil wrestling match.  And of course everyone drives super fast.    
Fair enough this is nothing new when travelling in many countries and for M it's something he eagerly looks forward to - jumping into a car in a foreign land and not having to repress his race driver fantasy, one of his favourite times was when we borrowed a friend's Audi in France and he took it on the Autoroute .  He was happy. No he was ecstatic!  I on the other hand was freaked out, if not a little un-glued and in need of great drops of 'rescue remedy'.  

Thinking of France and race drivers has me fondly reminiscing once again about a trips past.  This time the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix where the drivers were the ultimate speed demons and the great drops I indulged in were of champagne. Below is an article I wrote for a local daily:

A different Running of the Bulls.

A large black SUV inches past. Catching a glimpse of its driver, I can hardly believe my eyes. It's the twice voted, sexiest man alive. Beside him sits his son Pax, or is it Madox, I can never tell the two boys apart.  He flashes a smile at me, or, is it to the four dark hared beauties signing autographs with the words "Monaco India" emblazed across their breasts.

Elegance and beauty surrounds me. Ornate black lace balconies frame pastel belle époque buildings fringed with art nouveau frescos. Tiny cobbled stone streets brimming in spring blooms and elaborate chandelier style lamps wind towards a backdrop of granite cliffs jutting into cloudless blue skies. The stone ramparts of a castle peak out from lush walled gardens.

Crowds of elegant women in pearls and espadrilles, short skirts and long legs, and men of all ages touting impressive cameras promenade the cobblestones, all heading in the same direction, gathering me and my travelling companions into their excited wake.

We are all here to watch the "race of glamour" - the Monaco Grand Prix. Once famously described by Nelson Piquet as like "riding a bicycle around your living room", it is the ultimate jewel of the racing crown for any Formula1 driver.

Our grandstand seating affords us some of the best viewing of Monaco. An azure blue harbour encased with gleaming white yachts stretches towards the sparkling Mediterranean. Aboard, tanned lithe bodies laze sipping champagne, oblivious to the frenzied noise echoing off the steep incline of nearby Rocher Hill.  
Clinging to its ridged sides, crowds wave enormous banners and flags bearing the faces and names of gladiator-like drivers, the  colourful vibrancy in stark contrast to the candy pink palace that sits above it all.

A cavalcade of celebrities stroll along Pit Lane - Naomi, Paris, Jaylo and Marc Anthony, Mick Jagger with all his wrinkles and Richard Branson flashing his white smile and golden mane.
A roar explodes from the crowds as the drivers, race suit sleeves casually tied around their waists, saunter by waving and blowing kisses.

Then he appears. Jumping to our feet, we cheer and manically wave the Australian flag as the tall statuesque figure of Mark Webber comes into view. The day before we had proudly unfurled the flag when Webber qualified for pole. It had already fluttered this day when another Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo won the formula Renault3.5 support race and we pray it'll only be a matter of hours before we wield our national pride again.

The high powered machines hurl around tight narrow streets, pass the baroque fortress of the Monte Carlo Casino and the elegant society of Café de Paris, where the night before we had sipped cocktails and watched a passing parade of Ferraris, Maseratis and Bentleys.  Catapulting into the tunnel, where any slight error could mean certain death, the anticipation heightens as they scream past the sparkling Albert 1 dock and swimming pool. Each tense filled lap brings Australia's hope for a Monaco Grand Prix win closer as Webber inches away from his opponents.  One hour and thirteen minutes later and fifty one years after the great Sir Jack Brabham's 1959 win, the Australia Flag and National Anthem is again herald in this glamorous city, the Garden of Happiness.

Back on the cobble streets, happiness reins as the party begins; music pulsates, people dance, champagne bubbles and the aromas of paella tease. Above, blue turns to mauve-grey as a pink hue licks the granite backdrop. Elegance abounds.

* Lyrics from Tracey Chapman "Fast Car"

Monday, 21 April 2014

Reminiscing of trips past as I eagerly anticipate the next big one....

Count down of days, hours and minutes has begun.... well it began nearly eight weeks ago when I clicked accept on the 'book and pay' button on the Scoot Airlines site... for our journey to one of the most cosmopolitan and ancient countries in the world, described as a repository of all the great civilizations and the cradle of humanity,  I try hard to quell my dromomania for just 12more days.  To help, I've pulled out some old travel snaps to reminisce over and thought I'd share a 'trips past' blogpost. The following was an article I wrote for a local daily back in 2010.

Emerald Dragons and Peacock Brides...

Grimacing, I brace myself for the sickening crunch about to be bestowed as I feel the little scooter slide, swerving towards the jeep. There’s no traction on the dusty gravel and as the attached canopied trailer I’m hanging-onto-for-dear-life in ricochets off a pothole, it flicks towards a woman zipping past on her chicken-bouquet scooter. I skim through a mental checklist of Cambodia’s must-sees and there’s zilch about a trip to Siem Reap’s hospital being on the itinerary!
It’s a visual-packed schedule with a melding of time: days, hours, minutes, seconds melt into the cosmos under a sweltering humidity thick as honey, tasting of musk. Trips to ethereal temples litter the list: the brooding Bayon with its two hundred enigmatic faces staring down at you from towering pillars, willing you to question their knowing smiles, refusing to let you in on their secrets. Our footsteps muffle against baking grey rock that transcends above us, whilst drumming of cicadas reverberates and bounces against the stone, colliding and smashing the peace filled energy. Below, monks in robes the colour of mandarins with smiles just as sweet sit under a foliage umbrella, whilst around them, swirls of butterflies flitter and dance with emerald dragonflies.
Then there’s bride day at Angkor Wat – a pallet of colour splashed across the mocha sandstone edifice that is the symbol of Khmer. They stand there, beautiful doll-like brides with chiselled grooms, vibrant in bejewelled silk, embroidered in gold, lined with pearls, sapphire, zircon and dripping exquisite floral adornments. No pure white here, they wear the lace of peacocks: amethyst, chartreuse, and Prussian blue. With the finesse of professional models, knowing this is their moment to shine against this ancient testimonial of time, the couples stand in the liquefying heat, posing, smiling, and embracing their future.


The jungles 287 temples with thousands of secretive faces gives way to a visit of the inland sea, Tonle Sap, and exploration of its floating villages. It’s a fast boat ride up an almost black oil-slicked river, past fisherman submerged to their waists, throwing nets into the boat’s wake in the hope of skimming shrimp. Past small floating classrooms filled with children in crisp white shirts, and past boat builders in ragged trousers, hammering, sawing and planning great planks of wood by hand; not a skerret of electricity. The open inland sea welcomes and the longboat zips across its glassy waters, then splashes into a village. A flotilla of boats line against a bobbing church, ‘What day is it? Sunday? The blending of days has become a blur in this vibrant country. Further along, a child’s delight: a carrousel bobbles behind a floating café along with its drifting garden.
A group children, each in their own silver bowl bobbing merrily upon the water row up to our boat, their joyful laughing in steep contrast to the hideous reality that afflicts this idyllic land. Landmines. And even out here, there is no escaping the truth. The ongoing legacies of wars past scream from the bodies of these beautiful children. Some are missing an arm or a leg but their audacious spirit shines through as they splash and bob and shriek playfully with wide eyes and cheeky grins.

No, there’s definitely no hospital visit on the list and as if reading my mind, the universe intervenes and brings to a halt the skidding madness. We stop inches away from the metal on metal, body on metal impact, and a sigh of relief is released. My driver turns around, a smile crosses his face, his eyes lit with exhilaration, ‘Lucky miss… now, we go to temple?’