Friday, 26 June 2009

Broken Laptop :-((

Okay - so it's not as bad as the one above but I get a cryptic message about a missing or corrupt file and the mother sucker just hangs in limbo. There ain't too many laptop repair shops in the remote corners I'm traveling so normal service will hopefully resume shortly.

I'm starting to wonder what we all did before computers, internet, skype, facebook etc.

Thankfully the beer is cold, cheap and plentiful...oh wait that's what we did (drrrink!) before technology arrived. Now we just do it at the same time!

Tags: ..Broken Laptop..

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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Indonesia - Java

Friendly locals

We arrived in Yogyakarta at 3:30am and haggled outside the train station for a taxi (u$d 2) to our pre-booked accomo - Prambanan guest house (u$d 22 ). As we got to the room there was a chorus of prayers and chanting from a nearby building. I used to hate the 7:30am early mass in my days as an altar boy but these people get up way too damn early! We collapsed into bed exhausted with the faint waft of puke as a reminder of our journey.

Thankfully Yogyakarta was much more laid back than its big brother Jakarta. So laid back in fact, the driver of a public bus I was on just pulled over and hopped off for a dump, coffee and cigarette (not necessarily in that order) leaving the passengers to endure some awful wannabe musician to hopped on to give us a rendition of stairway to heaven – a prime candidate for X-factor out-takes if ever there was one.

We visited the royal enclave known as Kraton which is a Vatican-esque area where the current Sultan of Java lives. We navigated the local public transport to get us to Prambanan, 17kms north of Yogya, which is an impressive complex of some 50 Hindu temples. The following day we explored Borobudur which is massive Buddhist temple, 42km northwest of Yogya. There are numerous school trips from outlying regions to these temple sights and the kids cornered us on several occasions for group photos with the ‘outsiders’.


- Train travel in Indonesia can be expensive and not always worth it.
- The locals here are among the friendliest I’ve encountered anywhere and you are engaged frequently by strangers who want to practice their English.

Tags: ..Indonesia - Java..

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

24 hours in Indonesia - Part 2

I found my future job (see photo above) - We took the airport Damri Bus (50 minutes u$d 2) to Gambir (central train station) and then hopped into a tuk tuk (7 minutes u$d 1) to Jalan Jaksa which is the backpacker area. We had booked ahead and splurged u$d 22 for a room with AC at Hotel Margot for our first night. We popped downstairs to the hotel bar for a badly needed beer to recount our recent visa saga.

We quickly observed there were some strange shenanigans going on both outside and in the building directly opposite. Ladies with very tight short skirts and very little else were parading up and down and every now and then they would disappear with a newly acquainted male friend for about 15 minutes. There were some male on male shenanigans going on too. It turned out the bar we were drinking in was the hook up spot or should that be ‘hooker up’ spot for the love hotel across the road.

There seemed to be a pimp orchestrating all the business and writing entries in a notebook. The toilet in the bar seemed to be a half way station for both customer and vendor to inspect their bits n’ pieces and exchange money before heading across the road to do the nasty. A thoroughly entertaining evening was had by one and all.

The next day we checked out and headed back to Gambir train station to buy tickets for the so called luxury Argu Lawa train from Gambir to Yogyakarta (7.25 hours u$d 22) scheduled at 8pm that evening.

Check the fangs on this fishy!

To bide our time before the evening departure we left our bags in a locker and hopped on a bus (20 minutes u$d 0.30) to the old town section of Jakarta called Kota and had a drink at the highly recommended Café Batavia where everyone who is anyone goes when they visit Jakarta.
The bus to Kota was midday and went without a hitch but the journey from Kota back to the train station an experience I’ll never forget.

The bus transport in Jakarta is extremely well organized with dedicated bus lanes and special platforms for boarding and offloading passengers and transport security men on each bus and platform to help organize the ensuing chaos. It was 6pm rush hour and I have never seen so many people queuing for a bus.

We could have just hopped in a taxi but we had time to kill and as I saw the sea of hundreds of people ahead of me I grew curious as to what it would be like to have to do this everyday – maybe twice a day. It was ridiculously hot and humid and the beads of perspiration trickling from me were more like rapid rivers of sweat. After queueing (shove, push, jostle) for 30 minutes we were finally on the bus.

Finally we boarded our 8pm train to Yogyakarta but wen we sat in our allotted seats there was a pungent smell of puke and after further investigation I realized someone had emptied their stomach on my seat very recently. The train was full so no chance of switching seats so as I type this I am literally sitting in vomit. Only 7 more hours of this vomit comet to go. An interesting 24 hours is just coming to an end.


- Jakarta is a polluted chaotic city with little appeal for this traveler.
- The queue for the bus would give the Tokyo subway a run for its money any day

Tags: ..24 hours in Indonesia - Part 2..

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Friday, 12 June 2009

24 hours in Indonesia - Part 1

Where the hell is Indonesia?

We took a late morning JetStar Asia flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta (u$d 160 oneway) with a connection in Singapore which was relatively uneventful. Budget airlines are plentiful and cheap in Asia and you can usually get a good deal even at the last minute. Herself managed to squeeze all her stuff into one backpack – no small accomplishment believe me!

I’d checked the visa requirements for Indonesia online and was informed we could get a V.O.A (Visa on Arrival) for u$d25. Sure enough when we arrived there was a VOA desk so we first went to one counter and paid in cash (no problems) to immigration official #1 and then went to another counter where you presented your receipt and immigration official #2 issued a visa sticker to put in your passport.

This is where the fiasco began as immigration official #2 asked to see a return or onward flight ticket. This is a requirement in many countries but rarely enforced. After explaining we had very loose plans i.e. no set itinerary we were escorted to yet another counter of immigration official #3 who gave us a hard time but after a verbal slap on the wrist he agreed to give us the visa. PHEW! End of Fiasco…….NOT!

When we made our way to yet another, but supposedly final immigration counter where they actually stamp your passport, immigration official #4 asked “Can I see your return ticket?” This felt like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ where you take 3 steps forward and all of a sudden you’re back to where you started.

After trying to re-explain everything two more times immigration official #4 said he had a solution. We could either buy a return ticket now on the spot or “if you help me – I’ll help you” aka he wanted a bribe to turn a blind eye. He then directed us back to a side counter where immigration official #5 acted as arbitrator for the haggle. I offered u$d 20 but he wanted u$d 50 and we eventually settled on u$d 40 which had to be placed in one of the passports and back we went to the counter for our stamps. WELCOME to Indonesia!


- There are more immigration officials than passengers in Jakarta airport (best bribed job in town)
- Sometimes being a bum with no set itinerary is a handicap (at least in Indonesia)

...To be continued...

Tags: ..Indonesia immigration here..

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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cost of Living in Buenos Aires, Argentina


People are always asking me "What's the cost of living over there?" - The answer depends on whether you're living 'La Vida Loca' expat life or trying to blend in as a local or something in between. Our goal coming down here was to use BA as a base from which to travel and that has worked out very well. Here are my observations on cost of living here. If you disagree pls let me know and if you have other ideas or questions on prices, post a comment here (anonymous if you like) and I'll do my best to find out.

Note: According to the government here, inflation is running at below 10% but independent estimates calculate it is more than 30%

Use the scroll bars below to see the entire list or click here


Disagree with prices? Getting a better price? Want to know the price of something else?
Let me know please! - I will continue to update this with updated FX rates and reader feedback.

Tags: ..Cost of Living in Argentina, Expat Cost of living Buenos aires Argentina 2009 , how much money do I need?, what does it cost to live?, cost of living, standard of living index,Cost of living Argentina?, Cost of living Buenos Aires?..

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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Bum

Which would you like first? - ok the bad news first.

I am still an unemployed Irish bum. The job market is still very slow and employers here (as everywhere) are hesitant to hire - period. Even more so to hire an expat when they can hire a local for less $$$ and avoid having to process visa paperwork where they need to justify why a local can't do the same job.

The good news is the missus has landed a job and assuming the visa paperwork goes thru smoothly she'll be gainfully employed as of end of next month. As her 'dependent' I also qualify for a work visa so I'll be more marketable (he said optimistically) for prospective employers since they won't need to go thru the visa paperwork headache.

So what can we do to pass the time before at least one of us rejoins the rat race?

Save money? Lay low? Enter politics? - HELL NO! We're off on another backpacking extravaganza starting in Indonesia and seeing how long we can drag it out i.e. stretch the budget.

So stay tuned and travel vicariously with nomadic Paddy in B.A. as he tries to notch up a few more countries and push the envelope and maybe break a few records for how long you can bum around the planet.Tags: ..Good News Bad News..

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Monday, 1 June 2009

The Maids Day Off - Hong Kong

It's very common in Hong Kong for people to have a maid. Before you ask - No - we don't have one...yet. Given my current job prospects, I'm considering being one but I hate cleaning, babysitting and general house duties so I'm not sure I'm cut out for it or it's highly probable I won't advance very quickly up the maid career ladder.

Usually they are from the Philipines, Indonesia or Malaysia and often leave their family including husband and kids to work extremely hard to send a portion of the little money they make home.

The current maid monthly salary is approx HKD$3,500 (u$d450, 270GBP, 315Euros) for 6 long days a week as a live in 12-14 hour a day nanny, cleaner, chef, dog walker, car washer and in some cases comfort companion - nudge nudge -wink wink - frown!

Often they are asked to sleep in a storage room instead of a bedroom and frequently over worked and underpaid.

Many of them head to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay here in the centre of Hong Kong for their one day a week off work (Sunday), to meet up wth friends. They gather in huge groups which in itself turns into a bit of a spectacle.

Some might call it exploitation. Others might say market price. What's your thoughts?

Tags: .The Maids Day Off - Hong Kong..

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