Greetings from Cape Town and a slightly later-than-usual edition of Where I’m At; my monthly update of what I’ve been up to, site news, and where I’m going next.
I tip my hat to the bloggers who can blog and travel at the same time. I’ve been on the road all month and have barely had time to crack open the laptop, let alone think about blogging.
Where I’ve Been
I was in six countries in April (including one new country). Sounds kinda crazy but the month was bookended by leaving and entering places.
I started the month transiting from Hong Kong to KL and then onto Penang. I have ended up in Penang once a year for at least five years as I find it a good place to work.
I have a list of favourite places to eat that takes me a week to get through, but there is one meal that I always know will be the first meal I have when I get back; Penang Laksa. I’ve tried it at several places around the island but I always get it first from my favourite stall at Gurney Drive night market.
Penang has a growing hipster cafe scene so I will soon be updating the Penang cafes list.
My flight to London was from Singapore, so rather than transiting I took the opportunity to spend a day. I had another walk around the Supertree Grove, which I would describe as a futuristic botanical garden.
My hotel checkout was at midday and my flight was at 11.30pm so I spent half a day at Singapore Airport, which is a destination in itself. I didn’t fancy walking around in the heat and rain so I went to the airport nine hours before my flight and used the airport as an office.
Nine hours sounds like a ridiculous amount of time to spend at an airport voluntarily, but there is good wifi and a food court underneath departures at Terminal 3 that would put any food court in Australia to shame. Changi is like a giant co-working space with the added bonus of plane spotting.
One time I was transiting overnight in Singapore I was looking for these lounge seats but I couldn’t find them. This time I did so I set up camp there for a while.
Ever since arriving in London in 1999 to begin a two-year working holiday visa I have been back at least once a year. That now makes it 17 years in a row. I only had three days here but it was enough to get my London fix for the year.
I was worried that I was arrived too early in the year, but it turned out to be ideal spring weather. Who needs Tokyo when you can see cherry blossoms in Regents Park (note: I still want to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo).
From London I got the bus to Liverpool, which takes about six hours. Liverpool is best known for football and The Beatles. My trip was related to football, as was half the passengers on the bus, or so it seemed.
My original plan was to meet a friend who was going to take me to Goodison Park to see his beloved Everton. Unfortunately he had to attend to some last-minute business and couldn’t make it, so I didn’t go to the football.
With flights and accommodation already booked I went to Liverpool anyway. As it turned out it was good to go somewhere else in England other than London for a change.
Liverpool has a great collection of heritage buildings that survived The Blitz. On the waterfront are the buildings known as the Three Graces. If you have been to The Bund in Shanghai these may look familiar to you, as Shanghai’s riverfront was modelled on Liverpool.
It was freezing in Liverpool (3c at night was close enough to freezing) and I no longer have winter attire so it was tough going. I have spent winters in the UK but after years in the tropics I have gone soft when it comes to cold weather. I was amazed to see people going out on Friday night in this near-freezing weather wearing t-shirts. They breed them tough up north.
To escape the cold I visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It’s in the historic docks area and it’s well worth a visit to understand the story of Liverpool, whose history is so intertwined with its port.
It also put my being cold into perspective. The museum has an extensive display of Liverpool’s role in World War II and how the merchant navy kept Britain’s supply line open while being under constant attack from U-boats. Here I was complaining about the cold and these brave sailors were out in worse weather, with a high chance of not coming home.
Also on display is a floor dedicated to the Titanic. While the Titanic was built in Belfast the ship was registered in Liverpool, with the cities name on the back. It was running late on its maiden voyage so it never got to visit its home port.
After Liverpool I spent a day in Manchester. I have been twice before but it is a good city to revisit. I went because I found a better flight out of Manchester than Liverpool. The two cities are about 30 minutes apart by train, so when looking for flights search from both cities.
I’m glad I went back because a lot has changed since my last visit in 2006. It feels like more businesses are making use of the old warehouses in the city. I stayed in a hostel in an old warehouse and there are cool cafes and co-working spaces here.
Like my Penang trip I had about 10 days spare between two locked-in dates. Rather than go travelling I was just looking for a place that was warmer than the UK, so Barcelona was an easy choice. The great thing about revisiting old favourites is that there is no pressure to see the sites. The sites have been seen so now it is a matter of wandering and finding new places. As a bonus I got hang out with Dan from Tropicalmba while I was there.
I finished the month in Johannesburg. This is my first time in South Africa (transiting through airports doesn’t count) so it’s great to finally visit. My flight to South Africa was provided by South Africa Tourism Australia, who invited a small group of Australian and New Zealand writers and editors for a little tour.
Our first day in Joburg included a visit to Soweto to visit Nelson Mandela’s house. Mandela looms large in South Africa, and rightly so. Visiting his former house was a fitting first day in South Africa. I thought how amazing it was to be here in this unremarkable town that no one should have heard of. It was a regular name on the nightly news during my childhood in the 80’s, and now it is a pilgrimage site for people around the world.
I’ll have blog posts about the places I visit in South Africa, which (as usual) will be months behind my actual travels.
After traversing through six countries, this month I’m in two countries.
The South Africa media trip was tied in with the Indaba Travel Show in Durban. The trip didn’t include Cape Town so I extended the trip to add Cape Town to my plans. I’m in Cape Town for two weeks, mainly urban exploration and a few day trips as well.
After South Africa I return to Ho Chi Minh City at the end of the month. I will have been on the road for over three months by then so I’ll be ready to stay still for a while. I keep saying I will not be such long trips again so lets see if I can work out a better travel system.