Playboy Wasteland

9 01 2016

As per usual with the job, the information had changed at the last minute.  A six day trip to Singapore with three (roughly) days of travel and an anticipated three days of work was always going to be painful. Especially just one day after returning to work in the new year.

Coming back to my opening line, they were never my strong point come to think of it. I arrived into Singapore and was told that I had around 24 hours to finish a three day job.  “Right, I do my best” was my pensive reply.

The more marine orientated of my readers will scoff and jeer at my next observation…

Pulling up on the workboat alongside my target ship..I saw a saucy rope ladder dangling 10m down from the deck,  just ripe for the pirate picking. Now there may be a romantic impression associated with pirates. Watch ‘Captain Phillips’ and your impression may change somewhat.  Although I would dearly love a parrot, mostly for the entertainment value to be honest…having a pirate experience was never high on my agenda. Factor in the 25kg backpack giving that extra sinking factor, my stomach was doing somersaults as the workboat pulled alongside . The rope ladder leered at me like yesterday’s curry in the morning.

I ventured down the deck, mindful of my colleagues watchful eyes. His eyes joined by the eyes of the ship’s crew. Joined by the eyes of the workboat skipper. Joined by the eyes of the sharks awaiting their English lunch.

One hand on the rope, iron grip.  First foot on the wood. Like a king I rose above my nemesis. Tentatively one wobbly step at a time. What happens when you feel like you have mastered a process? Of course life throws you a curveball. The damn ladder started wobbling and creaking, like it was going to snap. Delivering me to my watery grave thanks to the tools that I was carrying.

Ignoring the increasing sinking feeling in my stomach. Ignoring the hideous creaking noises emanating from the rope. Ignoring those watching eyes, my journey continued onwards and upwards…more eyes now peering over the edge of the ship.

Reaching the top eventually I felt like I had ran a marathon . Although I don’t have a fear of heights I didnt much want to verify my ascent. On with the abbreviated job…

Without providing too much information, at one point I did believe that I was going to be squashed under 150kg  of antenna. The pipe holding the antenna during it’s movement was perilously thin and actually began to bend and fracture. ..whilst I was under the antenna. Fortunately it ended well.

So the end result of the job was on the positive side, which left me with a little free time in Singapore. Now Singapore is my favourite city in the world,  closely followed by Seattle. I was not upset to have the extra time let’s say.

Choosing to eat amazing and cheap food in the food courts. Mastering the MRT system to get where I needed cheaply and easily,  I really enjoyed it – even feeling like a local ang moh.

However the hotel I am staying in is located in the CBD (Central Business District). Post 9pm there is almost nothing going on outside.  Feeling tired and a little jaded, I headed towards the hotel bar.

The bar was subdued apart from the generic pinoy band playing. To be fair they were pretty good, mostly acoustic songs. The band were drowned out by the multiple groups of very drunken prople. Screaming and shouting, throwing back expensive bottles  of Japanese whisky to almost Scottish proportions.  One poor guy had fallen asleep on the sofa, his friends trying their best to wake him to drink some more. I nearly suggested stacking things on him as a game.

My mind was cast back to what I had seen in the non touristy part of Chinatown today.  People who were very far from rich with severe health problems.  Selling napkins and other small things in order to get by. It was a terrible sight to see. I could use other words but they are not appropriate here.

Looking around the bar and listening to people screaming in drunken laughter, This really feels like the wastelands of the playboy and playgirl.

I actually dont know how to end this.

Oh yeah…don’t climb up rope ladders…

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Playboy Wasteland

9 01 2016

As per usual with the job, the information had changed at the last minute.  A six day trip to Singapore with three (roughly) days of travel and an anticipated three days of work was always going to be painful. Especially just one day after returning to work in the new year.

Coming back to my opening line, they were never my strong point come to think of it. I arrived into Singapore and was told that I had around 24 hours to finish a three day job.  “Right, I do my best” was my pensive reply.

The more marine orientated of my readers will scoff and jeer at my next observation…

Pulling up on the workboat alongside my target ship..I saw a saucy rope ladder dangling 10m down from the deck,  just ripe for the pirate picking. Now there may be a romantic impression associated with pirates. Watch ‘Captain Phillips’ and your impression may change somewhat.  Although I would dearly love a parrot, mostly for the entertainment value to be honest…having a pirate experience was never high on my agenda. Factor in the 25kg backpack giving that extra sinking factor, my stomach was doing somersaults as the workboat pulled alongside . The rope ladder leered at me like yesterday’s curry in the morning.

I ventured down the deck, mindful of my colleagues watchful eyes. His eyes joined by the eyes of the ship’s crew. Joined by the eyes of the workboat skipper. Joined by the eyes of the sharks awaiting their English lunch.

One hand on the rope, iron grip.  First foot on the wood. Like a king I rose above my nemesis. Tentatively one wobbly step at a time. What happens when you feel like you have mastered a process? Of course life throws you a curveball. The damn ladder started wobbling and creaking, like it was going to snap. Delivering me to my watery grave thanks to the tools that I was carrying.

Ignoring the increasing sinking feeling in my stomach. Ignoring the hideous creaking noises emanating from the rope. Ignoring those watching eyes, my journey continued onwards and upwards…more eyes now peering over the edge of the ship.

Reaching the top eventually I felt like I had ran a marathon . Although I don’t have a fear of heights I didnt much want to verify my ascent. On with the abbreviated job…

Without providing too much information, at one point I did believe that I was going to be squashed under 150kg  of antenna. The pipe holding the antenna during it’s movement was perilously thin and actually began to bend and fracture. ..whilst I was under the antenna. Fortunately it ended well.

So the end result of the job was on the positive side, which left me with a little free time in Singapore. Now Singapore is my favourite city in the world,  closely followed by Seattle. I was not upset to have the extra time let’s say.

Choosing to eat amazing and cheap food in the food courts. Mastering the MRT system to get where I needed cheaply and easily,  I really enjoyed it – even feeling like a local ang moh.

However the hotel I am staying in is located in the CBD (Central Business District). Post 9pm there is almost nothing going on outside.  Feeling tired and a little jaded, I headed towards the hotel bar.

The bar was subdued apart from the generic pinoy band playing. To be fair they were pretty good, mostly acoustic songs. The band were drowned out by the multiple groups of very drunken prople. Screaming and shouting, throwing back expensive bottles  of Japanese whisky to almost Scottish proportions.  One poor guy had fallen asleep on the sofa, his friends trying their best to wake him to drink some more. I nearly suggested stacking things on him as a game.

My mind was cast back to what I had seen in the non touristy part of Chinatown today.  People who were very far from rich with severe health problems.  Selling napkins and other small things in order to get by. It was a terrible sight to see. I could use other words but they are not appropriate here.

Looking around the bar and listening to people screaming in drunken laughter, I actually dont know how to end this.

Don’t climb up rope ladders…

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The luxury of height

28 04 2015

As an average sized guy I relish the opportunity to look over people. Feeling dwarfed pretty much whatever European country I travel to, including feeling like an ant in The Netherlands! Actually people are freakishly tall in Holland. Like they were fed a steady diet of Human Growth Hormone and stretched on a Medieval torture rack tall. My 5’8″/175cm is challenged by their insane height.

Yet when visiting the sprawling and deprived metropolis of Manila in the Philippines, height takes on a different meaning. Height abstracts you from the heat and dirt, unpleasant smells and removes you from those sights such as people sleeping under cardboard.

Height gives a feeling of luxury. Cast almost Godlike, these hotels of glass and steel tower above the middern. Five star luxury in a land of zero star poverty. Sipping my beer in the open air bar, listening to the cacophony of noise…it’s worlds apart,

My last visit to Manila gave me a clear view of the ‘Have’s’ and ‘Have Not’s’. Roughly one year later I would like to annouce that change is rapid and prevalent. Sadly that is not the case. Accosted by pimps and prostitutes, eyed up by thieves and with deperate looking children.begging for money – I dare not venture out of my luxury prison at night alone, although I would love to see the underbelly of this city.

Words jumped into my head during breakfast. A poetic moment of clarity.

Gazing out from the 21st floor, I thought :-  From great heights the poverty of mankind appears invisible

Never a truer word spoken.





A case of mistaken identity – Part One – Belgrade

20 12 2013

Tell someone that you are visiting Eastern Europe as a tourist. Instantly they will think of Budapest, Prague or Krakow. Fantastic architecture, culture and cheap beer springs to their mind. However take their mind in a more southeasterly direction towards the Balkans and the perception changes. Mention that you are going to Serbia, their expression will change and you are rewarded with ‘Why the hell are you going there‘!

To most westerners Serbia is still a dangerous country. Images of terrible atrocities committed during the Balkans conflict are still fresh in peoples minds. More recently the impression has changed to hardened criminal gangs who will steal your kidneys, then murder you until you are dead. The media certainly hasn’t helped with this perception, only solidifying the preconceptions deeper.

So as mentioned previously, telling my family that I was going to spend five days in Serbia visiting friends was not received well. I was not particularly worried about the journey, but I did check that my travel insurance covered me.

The plan was simple. Fly into Belgrade and meet my friends, then stay in Novi Sad. That was the sum and total of the itinerary. Although I did have one request to my friends ‘show me Serbian life‘. It sounds easier than it actually is.

Belgrade was a typically busy city, but with very nice architecture. I did feel very far away from my roots in Liverpool though. This feeling was exacerbated by the Cyrillic text everywhere. They pointed out a couple of former government buildings that had been bombed by NATO. It is insane to see the extent of the damage caused by the bombs. You could see that the bomb had dropped into the centre of the building, carving through the concrete spine and blowing out every window. However these were the only signs of any conflict.

We visited the Saborna Crkva Sv Arhangela (Holy Archangel Michael Church), with huge fresco’s adorning the walls. This was my first visit to an Orthodox church. Then to a really small but interesting cafe called Kafana Pavle Korcagin celebrating the former Yugoslavian dictator/leader (delete as appropriate) Tito and communist life. Lots of original propaganda posters and artifacts from the communist era adorned the walls whilst people of all ages drunk rakija and beer chatting away. This was a very impressive place, like taking a beer inside a museum. Maybe the best cafe that I have ever visited the world over? My hosts (Marko & Mirjana) and their friends were informative and keen to tell me about how Tito was revered by the people of Yugoslavia. Again a completely different picture was painted by western media of Tito. It made me wonder who was actually correct. Western media with a hidden agenda, or the people living under his leadership?

Onwards to walk around Belgrade’s expensive shopping areas, which felt rather sterile given the vibrant atmosphere on a Saturday evening. Serbian’s certainly know how to party! We visited Belgrade’s oldest cafe, literally called ‘?’. Cafe ? made a very bohemian impression on me. I imagined long discussions between men with beards and small glasses on how Slavic artistic style was influenced by rakija!

The hour was getting late, and Marko still had to drive to Novi Sad from Belgrade. So bidding farewell to Belgrade, it’s amazing cultural secrets and it’s incredibly cold winds…we drove into the night.





Night Mail

14 07 2012

My latest journey took me from Amsterdam to deepest darkest Antwerp. My destination was a 90,000 tonne vessel discharging coal, which I surmised was for the power station over yonder. I have visited Antwerp a couple of times before, but never really explored the city. Despite dusk swiftly approaching and a light rain, we began to walk around.

It has to be said, Antwerp old city is beautiful. Bohemian bars and cafes surround the streets leading from the amazing Antwerpen Centraal train station. Subtle lighting and discrete neon painting the darkening sodden pavements. An occasional flash as someone rides past on a pedal cycle, silently moving save for a ‘ting ting’ on the bell. It was a living collage, made more vivid by strong Belgian beers ! By the way, look closely at the STOP sign.

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Once the dirty job was finished on board, and coal dust had rained upon me from above…we needed to get back to Amsterdam Schiphol. Driven by the worlds most miserable taxi driver, who uttered virtually nothing for the 30 minute journey except to sometimes growl at another driver. We arrived back into the splendor of Antwerpen Centraal Station, it was truly breath taking.

The obvious choice for the journey was the Thalys high speed service. For the rather expensive sum of EU70, I got to cover the 115KM distance between Antwerp and Schiphol Airport in just under an hour. The speed of the train was deceptive, as it was traveling without rocking or shaking. It was only when we overtook cars on the high speed roads that I grew curious as to our speed. Checking on the GPS Status app, it displayed our speed as 295KPH (185MPH) !!

As mentioned on my previous post, this thought began it’s usual tsunami of notions. It rested upon an old poem written by WH Auden called ‘Night Mail‘. It tells the story of the night mail train, winding it’s steam driven path through the Scottish hills. The poem indicates the importance that the Mail Train played in society, delivering all manner of communication. It talks of how the environment either interacts or observes the train during it’s journey.

It was narrated by John Grierson, and dubbed over the mail train film. Released in 1936, it was one of the first documentaries to grace the junior screens. Even now, in this digital modern age, the melodic rhythmic opening verses are haunting. Blended with the stark grey images of a steam train, it’s breathtaking.

Firstly read the poem itself –Night Mail

Watch it yourself and feel the flow of the versus – Night Mail

I wonder how Auden would have written about train travel in this era ?





Life on the road – a pictoral travel history

22 05 2012

I have been travelling for work for nearly 18 years. To put that into context, that is half of my life. Half of my life spent in the air, hotels, ships, and cars. I have no idea what my lifetime mileage must be. To some this may be a curse, to some a blessing. Regardless of the individuals viewpoint, it is both a blessing and a curse. I have been fortunate to have travelled to some of the most remote places on this rock that we call Earth. Places such as the Antarctic Peninsula,  the Arctic and the Galapagos Islands. I have also missed life changing events, such as my Father falling seriously ill and breakdowns of several relationships due to my absenteeism. Again, it’s a blessing and a curse – just a question of perception.

I always see the positive in any situation. I always regard each experience whether good, bad or indifferent as just that, an experience.

Whilst I have travelled I have gathered some wonderful pictures that need airing. Time to shake the digital dust from them. These are some of the highlights.

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There are 63 images, and they should be in date order.

To those who are thinking about exploring the world, why are you only thinking about it ? Don’t get to 65 saying “I wish” or “I regret”.

There is a whole world of life, culture and experience waiting for you. Explore it





A Sense of Adventure

13 04 2012

As I have said many times in the past, I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the around the world with my employment. Whilst at times I may moan about “being away again”, I never take the travel for granted.

Tomorrow I will step out of my comfort zone. Let me rephrase that somewhat. Imagine my comfort zone is a seat in First Class. Tomorrow I will stand up from my comfort zone, clear my throat, then leap out of the Emergency Exit at 10000m ! Let me explain more…

I don’t do Back Packing, camping or roughing it travel in anyway shape or form. I like my travel and vacation arrangements to be fluffy, well organized and comfortable. Quietly efficient is another way of putting it. Often airlines try their best to cause issues with my “Quietly Efficient” plans, such as sending my luggage on a different plane to me. However I try not to let such trivialities phase me and adopt a Zen Buddhist approach to their shenanigans !

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I accept the flight cancellation to overcome it...

I am traveling to Vietnam tomorrow to embark on a 16 day motorcycle tour. Departing from Hoi Chi Minh City (Saigon) and meandering up to Ha Noi. Vietnam is one of the most stunning countries in the world, and I have always felt a draw there. I have visited most of Asia, but South East remains unexplored for me.Originally I had booked a 4 day tour over there, in amongst more traditional tourist travels but circumstances changed those plans somewhat. Now this trip is very much outside of my comfort zone. I am a keen biker, but have never embarked on more than a 1/2 day tour before. I think that the bumps on my head need feeling ! Not only will I be living out of a bag, but staying at “rustic” hotels and/or home-stays. “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We are cruising at an altitude of 10000m/33000ft. If you look to the left of the aircraft you will see the lunatic speeding towards Earth” !

All joking aside, this is going to be an amazing experience. I hope to follow a similar route to Top Gear’s wonderful Vietnam trip. If you haven’t viewed that episode, please do. Who could forget Hammond’s pink Russian motorcycle, repleat with Spanish Galleon parked on the rear:

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So, this will be my itinerary for the next 16 days. I am traveling with Easy Riders Vietnam

  • Day 1: Saigon – Mui Ne ( 200 km – 6 hour ride )
  • Day 2: Mui Ne – Dalat ( 160 km – 5 hour ride)
  • Day 3: Dalat – Lak ( 165 km – 5 hour ride)
  • Day 4: Lak – Cu Jut ( 100 km – 3 hour ride)
  • Day 5: Cu Jut – Kon Tum ( 230 km – 8 hour ride)
  • Day 6: Kon Tum – Kham Duc ( 170 km – 6 hour ride)
  • Day 7: Kham Duc – Hoi An ( 130 km – 4,5 hour ride)
  • Day 8: Hoi An – Hue ( 175 km – 6 hour ride)
  • Day 9: Hue – A Luoi ( around 130 km – 4 hour ride)
  • Day 10: A Luoi – Khe Sanh (140 km – 4 hour ride)
  • Day 11: Khe Sanh – Phong Nha (200 km – 7 hour ride)
  • Day 12: Phong Nha – Ky Anh ( 180 km – 6 hour ride)
  • Day 13: Ky Anh – Vinh ( 120 km – 4 hour ride)
  • Day 14: Vinh – Thanh Hoa (224 km – 7 hour ride)
  • Day 15: Thank Hoa – Ninh Binh ( 150 km – 5 hour ride)
  • Day 16: Ninh Binh – Ha Noi ( 220 km – 7 hour ride)

This will be an amazing an eye-opening experience for me. I am already considering biking holidays across Norway and America.

I will be keeping my WordPress as up to date as possible during the trip. Now if you will excuse me, I have to trim my luggage down a little…

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Wish me luck…








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