Monthly Archives: February 2011

CYCLING SYDNEY’S WILD WEST – poetry in stop-start motion

Steven the poet and I discovered a common interest in cycling. He lives in the Blue Mountains, I’m in Sydney’s Inner West. So we decided to meet in the middle. I thought if I couldn’t quite match Steven on the wheels (and I can’t), I’d try to emulate his achievements in blank verse. Here goes…

Go west, old man, said Steve, so west I went.
Toting bike by train
Dressed in lycra, unflattering,
Though my stomach in
I sucked.
Then disembarked at the station known
with a smirk
as ‘Rooty Hill’.

A cycleway there lies, wide and newish
stretching down beside Westlink M7,
40 kilometres, gleaming smugly.
I cost 30 million dollars, it boasts, so share me
with tax-paying pedestrians.

It all looked so easy...but...

Yet, just as two kilometres southwards we did ride,
Nay, maybe not so far, we found
The gates against us closed.

...but not locked...

We are writers.
Free spirits are we, not bound by
Rules that may apply
To other folk.
So… Continue reading

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Filed under Cycling

SATURDAY PHOTO #1

Fishermen make an early start at Telunas Beach, Indonesia


I’m going to try a little experiment to see if it improves my photography. I’ll undertake to post a new photo each Saturday and hope I can come up with something acceptable on a weekly basis. If anyone knows more about photography than I do (and nearly everyone with a camera does), feel free to suggest ways I could do it better. Otherwise click on ‘SHARE’, pass it on to everyone you know, and/or send me unconditional praise, encouragement and pats on the head.

Okay, the pressure is on, the bullet has been bitten and the nettle grasped, so here’s offering number one.

For the record, this was shot with a Canon 500D, with 17-85mm lens. You probably don’t need to know that, but it sounds more professional if I tell you.

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Filed under travel photography

KILLING TIME WITH BUTTERFLIES – Changi Airport, Singapore

Time flutters when you're having fun.


I was early for my flight. Dropping off my bag took less than a minute.

‘Excuse me, Sir.’ A group of five young people approached me. ‘Are you a tourist here? We are hospitality students doing an assignment survey. Do you have some time to be interviewed by us?’

I checked my watch ostentatiously. I wanted them to understand they were stealing precious moments from the time of a busy man.

‘Will it take more than an hour and a half?’

‘No, Sir. Two minutes.’

‘Fine. Go for it.’

Two microphones and a mobile phone were shoved in front of me and a video camera pointed up my nostrils. Continue reading

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Filed under Singapore

TELUNAS WRITERS’ CAMP, INDONESIA – village visits

We don’t speak much Indonesian, but we hope we’ll get by with ‘good morning’ (‘selamat pagi’), and ‘thank you’ (‘terima kasi’). It’s always a good start.

One of the highlights of a Telunas Writers’ Camp in the Riau Islands is the day we go with our students to visit one of the local fishing villages. Telunas staff have established relations with local people and contribute to their neighbours through community development projects, helping to build schools and sport facilities, digging wells or drains, even building a mosque in one village.

Just as important is the cultural exchange. These villages have no tourist industry and see few Westerners, so our arrival always causes great curiosity, some wariness and finally much excitement.
Continue reading

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Filed under Indonesia

MARINA BAY SANDS, SINGAPORE – pulling punters with the WOW factor

In a city full of fine dining, shopping and hotels, the new Marina Bay Sands complex may just be Singapore/Asia/the world’s best. That’s certainly their aim.

I ought to hate this place. I’m not a great swimmer and I’m afraid of heights. Why would I be impressed by an infinity pool 200 metres above a very hard road? Five star hotels generally remind me of my status as a 2-3 star person. Shopping and gambling are among my least favourite activities because I’ve already got everything (ask anyone who tries to buy me a birthday present) and, as I understand it, punters in casinos are meant to lose.

Yet in spite of myself, I have to admire Marina Bay Sands (‘MBS’ to its friends). Singapore’s newest hotel/casino/shopping mall/science museum/convention centre/gallery/eat street/skating rink/theatre complex and practically everything else is just so much of so much. Here more is more and OTT is never OTT enough.

Kids, don't play too close to the edge!

Love it or loathe it, Singaporeans can’t ignore MBS. It dominates the city skyline between the CBD and the harbour. The SkyPark is a mighty cigar-shaped rocket, perched on a three-towered launchpad which houses the hotel suites. Continue reading

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Filed under Art, Singapore

TELUNAS JUNGLE HIKE – Riau Islands, Indonesia

This hike is only 50km from Singapore, but it is remote.

My Garmin Edge 500 GPS made the little red line across the map okay, but it’s not following any known road or marked river and even the island itself doesn’t rate a name on Google Maps. The local people call it Sugi, and I was taken there with students from the Swiss School of Singapore, on a trip organised from Telunas Beach Resort. I’ve included the downloadable map below, and to keep you happy till you scroll down to it…here’s the trip in pictures:

As the Riau Island fishermen set out for the morning...


...we zipped past them in rather faster boats.


We turned up the wide river where the locals hunt for crabs...

Continue reading

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Filed under Hiking, Indonesia

BATAM, INDONESIA – rolling down to Riau

Nongsa Village Beach, Batam


Motor scooters are in plague proportions, every taxi driver has one hand constantly pumping the horn, and roads that start as autobahns suddenly turn into pot-holed tracks. Hey, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Singapore any more.

But we are only 20km away, on Indonesia’s Batam Island, and it’s only taken us an hour to get here on the Penguin ferry from Singapore’s Harbourfront.

Regular ferries shuttle Singaporeans to Batam to buy cheap clothes, and bring Indonesians to Singapore to buy mobile phones that work. There are big, excited, chattering crowds, competing with the Indonesian music blared out by the onboard TV in the corner of the ferry. The trip itself is an experience. We escape onto the windswept deck to watch the cargo traffic in Singapore’s port, then the Singaporean city skyline fading into the distance as Batam looms ahead. Continue reading

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Filed under Indonesia, Singapore, Travel