The McMasterdonian Travel Blog

Discussion in 'Blogs' started by mcmasterdonia, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    The McMasterdonian Travel Blog

    I thought this would be fun :-)

    I'll share stories about the places I've been and maybe some photos as well. You may find it interesting and hopefully it'll encourage everyone to go on long holidays and see as much of the world as they can.

    I've started out with a few of the obvious places, I'll add more in later. Feel free to add some of your own if you like :)


    Australia

    I'll start with the obvious one, Australia. Unfortunately, I have't seen a lot of Australia. My parents did all their road trips and working holidays before I was five and honestly all I can remember is hating the car rides :P

    Perth

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    Perth is the capital of Western Australia and it is where I am lucky to call home.
    Perth is a beautiful city, very clean, beautiful beaches, nice weather and friendly people. It has heaps of trees and parks which is great for a capital city. There are so many things for tourists to do when visiting Perth.

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    Kings Park is a must for those visiting Perth. It has beautiful sprawling parkland, botantical gardens, a tree top walk and the Anzac memorial. Kings Park hosts a dawn service every year to honour the fallen ANZAC soldiers.

    The South West

    The South West of Western Australia is where I grew up. If you have time to head down that way you certainly won't regret it. You will find even more beautiful beaches, privately owned breweries, thousands of wineries, fantastic restaurants and world class scenery.

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    One of the many beautiful beaches of Western Australia, this one is located in Esperance


    Cambodia
    When I was in Year 12, I was part of a group of volunteers who went to Cambodia to work with various charities and organizations. There were 10 of us in the group and together we were able to fundraise $26,000 for those charities and people we were supporting. We funded our own trip and none of money that was donated to us went towards our own expenses.

    We worked with the organisation Hagar with their program House of Smiles which involved working with disabled children. Those supported by this group had disabilities of varying levels of seriousness. We would work with them, teach them English as much as possible and most of all have fun. Some of these children had been abandoned by their parents or sold into the sex or circus industry. Disabilities are not well understood in Cambodia and many parents are unwilling to support their disabled children.

    We took them on a beach trip to Sihanoukville. These children were very trusting and would literally put their life in your hands when you would take them out for a swim. They would keep insisting that we take them out deeper and deeper. It was quite an experience.

    The organisation also ran a program to get work for the individuals they support. They own restaurants and other facilities that give these previously abandoned children an opportunity to achieve independence and to work to support themselves.

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    We also worked with an American-run organisation called New Hope for Cambodian Children. This organisation worked specifically with children infected by HIV aids. In Cambodia it is well-known that the women are the hard working members of the family. Husbands would sometimes go off and have intercourse with a prostitute and become HIV positive. They then return home and spread the disease to their wife, who then passes it on to their children. When the wife and child are diagnosed, the husband leaves them. Hew Hope for Cambodian Children works to provide adequate medication to these children and their mothers and to help them receive a proper education and support. The Mothers are also given opportunities to better themselves and support is given for them to open their own businesses. Kathy Tucker (one of the founders of this organisation) said that it was common for the men to return to their wives once their wife was in a strong position financially.

    Lastly we also visited Lavalla which is a marist brother school that helps physically disabled children to receive appropriate education. They don't allow their disabilities to bother them and they whooped our asses at a game of volleyball.

    Phnom Penh
    A classic example of massive rich-poor divide. On the one street you will have government buildings dripping in gold as a clear sign of excessive wealth and waste and then you will see the truly poor and destitute. There are thousands of beggars in Phnom Penh, some maim themselves in an attempt to gain more sympathy and money from tourists.

    You can see some of the remaining damage from the terrible communist regime led by Pol Pot. One such thing is the S21 or Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was a convenant, turned school, turned torture centre and prison. I also visited the killing fields (not too far out of Phnom Penh) where children and babies were bashed against trees in order to "save" bullets. There is also a tower that is filled with skulls from those who perished there. An eye-opening experience that's for sure.
     
  2. Gladio

    Gladio TNPer - -

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    Very Nice.
     
  3. Tomb

    Tomb TNPer

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    I think that this is a great idea!

    And the pictures of the places you have been to are very nice.

    ~Tomb.
     
  4. Egalotir

    Egalotir TNPer

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    I'm so jealous. I'm from Romania so I only know my home town there, and the cities I've been to in the U.S./currently live in. It's my dream to travel after college.
     
  5. Lord Nwahs

    Lord Nwahs TNPer

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    Cool, I'd really like to go to Cambodia someday.
     
  6. Romanoffia

    Romanoffia Garde à l'eau!

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    Australia is one of my favourite travel destinations. Back in the 80's I spent about year there (mostly in NSW) working with horses. It was a hoot.
     
  7. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    Thanks guys. As I said feel free to post in this thread about your own travels and the places you have been to.
     
  8. sanmartin

    sanmartin TNPer

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    Peru​



    Peru is my home away from home. Although I currently live in the U.S, I still love going to peru as much as possible. About 90% of my family still lives here. I recommend going to Peru to anyone that's up for a big adventure. Theres so many places to go and so many cool things to see.


    Lima.

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    I was born in this beautiful city. I recently traveled back last year. This city went through many problems in the 90's, but after about 20 years, people have made Lima one of the best places to travel in South America. The picture above is of the Presidential Palace. President Ollanta Humala lives here. My house in Peru is about 20-30 minutes from where this picture was taken. Traffic is a major problem around there or else I could drive there in about 10 minutes from m house.

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    Machu Picchu.

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    This is one of the most mysterious, magical places ive ever been. Its so big and incredible. Machu Picchu is located at the top of the Andes Mountains. It took a while to get here. Some people can't walk the trails or, they take a long time to get there. But once you get to the top, its impossible to want to come back down. Ive only visited once. I hope to go back real soon.
     
  9. Great Bights Mum

    Great Bights Mum Grande Dame - - - -

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    Spectacular. I have to go there sometime in my life.

    Great thread McM! Australia looks awesome.

    @Egalotir - Romania is a beautiful country - the mountains, the castles. We'd love to see pics.
     
  10. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    In 2011 I went on a Euro trip for my gap year with a friend. It was a brilliant experience for an 18 year old to take on. I funded the trip entirely myself and off I went. Many people thought we were too young to go travelling the world at 18 on our own, so we were fortunately spoiled rotten by a great deal of people who we came across in our travels.

    I'll probably cover one or two of these at a time and will upload more photos later.

    London

    The first stop off for the Europe Trip was London, England! We figured that we should stop off in an English speaking country first and what better than the motherland itself. I took more than 300 photos during our two weeks in London, half of them were sideways or of random things that I couldn't remember what they were. We also had an odd fascination with squirrels, because they are not around in Australia. The novelty of squirrels soon faded when they tried to steal our food while picnicking at Hyde Park.

    We had arrived in London about a week after the terrible protests and riots of 2011. My parents were rather worried about us going to this terribly dangerous city! But it turned out to be all for nothing and we had a brilliant time taking in the sites.

    These photos aren't mine - but still good enough.
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    London is a culturally and historically amazing city. I am a major history & art nerd, so I really enjoyed visiting london and the numerous museums and galleries that they had on offer. Unfortunately we were unable to see the Queen of Australia during our visit to the city. Maybe next time!

    Obviously we have some people from London & other areas of Britain on this very forum and it is easy to not appreciate your own home. Who else has been to London and what did you think of it?
     
  11. Ravenna

    Ravenna TNPer

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    Great blog! You've seen so many places :D

    I actually envy you a little :P I used to travel a lot before 2012, mostly in Europe and the Mediterranean. And then a big break. Luckily this summer I've been again to Berlin, this time for real (previously just passing by). It's nice city with fine Italian restaurants and several big hotspots but weather could be better. It didn't seem that different from Warsaw on street level. And KaDeWe looks gorgeous, so many shops, often high-end (Luxury Boulevard)! The Pergamon Museum is great, especially the famous gate and altar (the latter it was renovated though). It was hot and humid there so after 2 hours I got tired.
     
  12. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    Wow Alicia! Long time no see :)

    I agree with you about Warsaw and Berlin - relatively similar.
     
  13. Scumshire

    Scumshire TNPer

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    Great stuff McM! You've certainly been around, and kudos for your work in Cambodia.

    I've been to Canberra a few times back when I was a PhD student in Philosophy, going to ANU (Australian National University for those who may be unaware of the acronym). Canberra really grew on me, and the campus of ANU was really nice. The Philosophy department I went to (there are at least 3 if I recall) was based in the Coombs building, which was a confusing structure of 3 hexagons connected together in strange ways. Hard to describe, but it's probably as close to an Escher picture as I've ever experienced in real life.

    Other than that, I've been to Japan a few times - back in 1998 my brother and I went to Gunma prefecture to teach English as part of a UNESCO program, and then again for the year 2000 celebrations and a stint teaching for NOVA (the brand survives, though the company infamously went under in the late 2000s if I recall). Most of my time in Japan was spent in the Kansai area, especially around the cities of Kobe and Osaka.

    I'll have to dig around for any photos I might have and post them at some point.

    Also, great to hear about the places other people have been to - thanks!
     
  14. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    Thanks Scumshire. I'm not ever a quarter of a way through the places I've been yet.. But we will get there eventually.

    Love to see some photos of your trip. I went to Canberra when I was in year 9 for a school trip. I really enjoyed it & in particular liked how clean and well designed the city was. One of the few cities in the country that was planned so far in advance. The War Memorial is great as well.
     
  15. Scumshire

    Scumshire TNPer

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    Certainly a lovely city, though I never liked the gift the Americans gave to Canberra - a large pillar with what was supposed to be an eagle on the top. It was pot-bellied, making it look more like a turkey from a distance. :/
     
  16. Andrew

    Andrew TNPer

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    You're all making me soo jealous
     
  17. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    I've been really thinking about saving up to go on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Has anyone done that before or knows someone who has/what they thought about it?
     
  18. Ravenna

    Ravenna TNPer

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    You know, I missed you ^_^
     
  19. monsovila

    monsovila TNPer

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    I agree with you. I've been to London before and it was an amazing experience. I loved to visit those museums and galleries there. The streets and buildings there are also very beautiful! :agree:
     
  20. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    Hey guys, I thought i'd bump this thread a little to talk about my experiences in Indonesia. I'll include a few photos and you are welcome to ask me questions.

    Where I studied, Universitas Islam Indonesia:

    I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study at a private Islamic University. As an individual of a Western and predominantly Catholic/Jewish family background this was incredibly interesting for me. The University itself requires students to make a direct application and demonstrate how they have shown islamic values in their daily life. It obviously requires decent grades and it requires student fees to be paid up front.

    Here is a photo of my transportation, the red sticker on the front said something too inappropriate for this board. Took me a month to read what it said, and I quickly removed it.<photo removed>

    The University was spread out across multiple campuses throughout the city. I studied at two campuses, the Law Faculty and the Economics Faculty. One located in the North of the city and one located in the South of the city. The law campus in particular was very difficult to get to due to the busy traffic. It could take as little as 20 minutes up to an hour to get there. Often I would be riding through the rain, or through the heat, but I still enjoyed the transit in a strange way. It was mainly when I would get soaked from head to toe thaht I would get more frustrated with the travel involved. I often made the journey with a friend, so that made things a bit more fun, and sometimes we would race each other to University.

    <photo removed>
    Even at the University, I felt like a celebrity at first. Everyone would stare at me or shout "BULE!" which roughly translates to albino, but is normally used to mean foreigner. But the people at University were really genuine, it was very easy to make friends, and I had never before been invited to so many coffee shops in my life. Awesome journey.

    The City of Yogyakarta

    First Impressions
    My first impression was largely to do with the smell of the place. Most people who have travelled around Asia will tell you that there is a distinct smell about the places. You can smell pollution, food cooking, raw fruit, everything is just raw and busy/active. It was incredible.

    When I first landed I walked down the stairs of the plane and across the tarmac into this small building that was the airport. I was a little bit suprised by how small and old-school everything was. Eventually I prepaid for a taxi to take me to the first hotel we stayed in, that cost me about $6.50 AUD but took more than 25 minutes by cab.

    The Locals
    The locals were really friendly and genuine. Occassionally you would have requests for photos, especially by restaurant or food stall owners who wanted to advertise that even a bule would eat there. It was described to me by an Indonesian friend as positive discrimination. They put white people on such a pedestal and believe that they are so much better than they are. It's quite a strange thing to experience. I was concerned that I could return to a cafe and find my face plastered on the walls, but fortunately that hadn't happened as far as I know.

    [<photo removed>

    It was really easy to make friends. People are keen to practice their english, and I was keen to practice my Indonesian. It works well. I learnt the most about the culture and the country simply by talking to whoever I could - taxi drivers, wait stuff, old ladies cooking soup on the side of the road. Awesome.

    The Food
    The food... Wow.. Where to even start. The food was just incredible. I don't think I actually tried anything that I didn't enjoy, and I certainly didn't just eat at western places or refuse the opportunity to try something.

    My favourite food was a chicken soup that they cook normally for breakfast, called Soto Ayam. So delicious and very filling. I couldn't help but wonder what on earth have we been doing all this time by eating cereal and crap for breakfast? Asian countries have the best food for breakfast. It's completely acceptable to have beef and chilli if you like. But everything should have rice in it, or the old lady or man who runs the little food place will be concerned that you'll be hungry or sick without eating it. In the spoiler below is some of the food I actually remebered to take photos of.

    The last photo was my attempt at recreating the soto ayam when I got home. Turned out pretty damn well.

    <photo removed>

    The Traffic
    As one would expect, the traffic was a bit out of control. I had decided that I would need to hire a motorbike at a staggering cost of 650,000RP or $65 per month, because it would take too long and work out too expensive just to catch a taxi everywhere. The motorbike was such a good decision, gave me so much freedom and it really was a lot of fun. Excpet there was one time that a mate and I tried to take our motorbike up the local Volcano. Safe to say that did not go well.

    Some of the roads would also flood terribly. So your motorbike would basically have to function as a boat during the wet season. The only time I fell off was when I accidentally hit a curb due to flooding. I was fine though.

    The most important part about the traffic there though was that it was a moderated madness. People would drive on any side of the road, they wouldn't look when they changed lanes, and they were just generally pretty crazy. But the rule of thumb was that smallest vehicle wins. A truck must look ouut for a car, a car must watch for a bike, and a bike must watch for pedestrians, and so on. This worked pretty well considering everything. You also could turn left on a red light which i wasn't used to, and you could drive down the wrong side of the road whenever you wanted to. Even the police did it.

    The Social Life
    The social side of it was great. As I said, it was very easy to make friends. I'd like to think of myself as a fairly popular/funny guy normally, but in Indonesia I could basically do anything to make the girls laugh :blush:. One thing that was different was that they do not drink alcohol. They will stay up all night and be up well before you, but they will not drink alcohol. Most of my nights were spent exploring the city, hiring pedal cars, or sitting in awesome coffee shops. I must say, I really did prefer their method of going out. No headache the next day, and an awesome time.
    <photo removed>
    Other places I went to

    Bali
    Bali is the most popular tourist destinations for Australians. It is also the place where many Australians and other foreigners get caught drug smuggling. It has also had multiple terrorist attacks in which many people died.

    I wasn't a huge fan of bali. The culture seemed fake and just put on for the tourists. In addition, all the Australians and Americans just really put me off. Walking around with no shirts on and generally behaving terribly - with no cultural sensitivity. I was more than happy to return to Yogyakarta.

    Jakarta

    I went to Jakarta for the Java Jazz Festival. That was an awesome weekend and we had a lot of fun. We also were there for a quiet weekend, as most of the locals leave to their villages during this festival. So we didn't experience the madness of Jakarta as such, but I did almost miss my flight home!

    Jakarta has a population larger than the population of Australia. It is insane how that city manages to function at all.


    Balikpapan, Kalimantan

    I went to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan for the early semester break of about a week. It was a really cool place. Due to the vast amount of oil wealth, the city of Balikpapan is really well developed, very clean, and well planned. The downside of this though is that the local kids see Westerners and come up to us demanding money. Even if they are hooning around on an obviously expensive vespa.

    During this time we went to a Orangutan sanctuary. This was pretty awesome and we had the opportunity to take photos of some real show offs at the sanctuary:
    <photo removed>

    On our first day in the city we had decided to go slightly out of town to visit some mangroves. They were awesome, but when we tried to head back home it started to rain heavily. We decided to sit down in this little fried chicken shop while we waited for the rain to subside. It then rained for more than 5 hours. The two guys working in the shop were great, they called every person they could trying to get us a cab or a ride home, but they just couldn't find one. The roads had been so badly flooded that everyone was stranded.

    A bus pulled up out the front of the shop filled with elderly Indonesian ladies. The bus driver was clearly having trouble starting his bus, when suddenly, the engine burst into flames. The old women jumped out of the bus windows and we were concerned the bus was going to explode. This didn't stop one of the old ladies from hitting into the bus driver as he was in the way and preventing her from getting her suit case. She also dropped fried chicken all over the floor.

    This now meant we were stranded in a smalls hop with a bunch of old very exuberant Indonesian ladies. They all took photos of my nose and told me how beautiful and pointy it was. They also asked for my phone number. Photo below.

    <photo removed>

    Malang/Mount Bromo

    Mount Bromo was probably one of the best places I've ever visited in my travels. Just the vastness of it all. Multiple mountains to climb, a large sea of sand, just so much to take in. It was incredible. Photo below.
    <photo removed>
    Below are some more photos of other places I've visited. If there are any questions about them please feel free to ask. Hope you enjoyed reading.

    <photo removed>
     
  21. Nebula

    Nebula TNPer

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    That food looks delicious.
     
  22. mcmasterdonia

    mcmasterdonia TNPer - - - - -

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    It really was delicious! If I was one of those instagram mad people I may have remembered to photograph every meal that I ate, but those couple of photos will have to do.
     
  23. Nebula

    Nebula TNPer

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    :lol: