Okay, so, I just realised I lied the other day when I said I was going to post a picture of the destination I was willing to endure an awful traffic jam for.

I've finally come good on my promise, and here it is. Honestly, it's not the best photograph of Bellingen, NSW, that I have on file, but I'm simply afraid to post a picture of this beautiful place in case too many people discover its perfection...

Bellingen is a town of about 2700 people in the hinterland on the central north coast of New South Wales. The reason Mr Moi and I are drawn there on so many occasions is because it's the town in which my brother, his wife, their daughter and their one on the way live.

Bellingen is one of Australia's most beautiful country towns. To prove this point, consider this - when flying to Brisbane from Sydney along the drought-gripped Australian coastline a few years back, I knew when we were flying over Bellingen because it was the only landscape that was green.

Bellingen is set in rolling green hills at the base of the Great Dividing Range. About 45 kms from Bellingen lies the township of Dorrigo, which is hundreds of metres higher than Bello. This means that the town is almost completely surrounded by striking, mysterious mountains, and yet is only 15 minutes drive from miles of secluded beaches.

Here are some other drawcards: outside of Bellingen is a remote area called 'The Promised Land', where the pianist, David Helfgott lives. Through the Promised Land runs 'Never Never Creek'. Add to this that hardly any traffic ever graces the backgrounds of this patch of bush, and you have paradise.

The above photo was taken in May 2004. The white dot you can see in the distance is Mr Moi riding off on his bicycle.

Ahhh, Bellingen. Maybe one day, when I'm in a less secretive mood, I'll post a better picture for you all...


Nothing beats Sydney on a perfect day.

I lived in Sydney for just over four years, and in many ways it feels as much 'home' as the place I grew up - Brisbane.

I was born in Gosford, which is an hour's drive north of Sydney, on the Central Coast. The Coast shares Sydney's beautiful coastal scenery - cilffs falling into the water, the expanse of the Tasman Sea and lovely golden beaches. I also have family on the Central Coast, so I never felt far from home when I lived in Sydney.

But back to this picture. This is the Sydney Opera House. The lovely green water you see in the foreground is the Sydney Harbour. This photo was taken from a ferry, which travels up the harbour, onto the Parramatta River (which is simply the harbour, renamed*), to the city of Parramatta (which is really just a suburb of Sydney*).

The perfect blue sky, the beautiful green water, the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Words can't do it justice, so I just won't try.

*In my thoughts


This photo was taken on the main highway leading north out of Sydney on the Anzac Day long weekend in April 2004.

To simply explain the Sydney city limits, imagine the city is bordered to the north, south and west by national parks, and to the east by the ocean. As a result, there aren't a lot of highways that lead out of town (nature preservation, drowning avoidance, etc).

Sydney is Australia's 'work hard, party hard' town. When there's an opportunity to take a long weekend break, people leave in droves. Including Mr Moi and me.

Usually people leave work at about 3pm to avoid the traffic. This photo was taken after about 2 hours of sitting in traffic on the F3 and three hours after leaving work. We're still in Sydney (technically). You can see the cars stretching into the distance, so there's no hope of repreive just yet....

But the sunset was beautiful.

Mr Moi and I love road trips. If we hadn't done the 48 hour Sydney to Melbourne dash for a rellie's birthday party in early 2005, we'd probably still be living in sin. Road trips are a real opportunity to talk to each other, usually after six months of working hard enough to stop functioning.

We used to get in the car (silver :o) with piles of CDs to fill the trip, but in the past few years, we haven't even brought CDs with us. It's like we know that road trips are our time to talk.

I'm a bit worried now that we don't have a car...

And where were we going? That's for the next photo.


In May 2004, Mr Moi and I went on a trip to Thailand. To be honest, I didn't really want to go to Thailand. I'd just finished a stint of working 16 days consecutively (these were in the days when I was a carny at fairs like the Royal Easter Show in Sydney).

I thought a trip to Thailand and Laos would be too much 'hard work'. I was angling for a trip to Sabah in Malaysia to relax in a resort and maybe pay someone to drag me up Kota Kinabalu.

I discovered that Thailand is a beautiful country. We visited a couple of the small beach towns down the gulf coast before we headed to the Krabi peninsular. This photo is a picture of the sun setting over Railay beach. It was taken with the point-and-shoot camera. We stayed at Railay for six days before heading to Koh Phi-Phi (which was rather touristy, so we fled to Laos).

Visiting Thailand in May - which is the hottest month - was great. This is true low season in Thailand, so we didn't book anything except the first night of accommodation in Bangkok. Railay was rather quiet, and being mostly a mountain-climber haunt, there weren't too many backpackers in search of full moon parties and mind numbing substances.

Although the peninsular, being a peninsular, is part of the mainland, it's impossible to drive to Railay because of the impassibility of the limestone range that separates it from the mainland (good lord, what a bad sentence. I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself that I write bad sentences). Longtail boats, like the ones in the picture, take people to and from the island - just find a boat driver, and he'll take you there when his boat is full.

Railay was a great place to holiday. There's lots to do, no cars and comparatively few people there. It's a top spot to unwind.


This photo was taken at the Chateau at Chiverney, in the Loire Valley in September 2006.

The day we chose to visit was a day that we were camping, and thus, it was raining, which made it difficult to explore the gardens and park.

The rain did let up enough at one point for us to explore the garden outside the old servants quarters where i snapped some pics of the flowers and vegetables that were growing there.

I have a small obsession with taking close-up images of flowers and the like. This is despite the fact that I don't know anything about flowers. I like this photo because the colours stand out against green, and, because my camera is so darn good at taking pics, I even got the raindrops on the leaves.


Almaty in Kazakhstan. Travelling to Kazakhstan at the time Borat was released was surprising, because it turned out to be a very civilised place.

Arriving at the airport was the first surprise. All of a sudden, you're in an Asian country. People are quite friendly - as long as they're not Russkis. And, to top it off, it's minus 15.

Kazakhstan reminded me a lot of Thailand - it's a multicultural Asian country. Just really really cold, and very Russian-esque.

This photo shows one of the main streets - Akhmatova - at peak hour. This view looks south over the Tien Shien mountains, which surround half the city. The town itself is quite flat, so the mountains dominate the town to the extent that they have permeated the psyche of the people.

"How do I get to blah?" "Head uptown towards the mountains."

On the weekend, the Kazakhs in Almaty dress up in their ski gear and go up to Chimbaluk, the ski resort about half an hour out of town. Up that way, there's also an ice-skating rink, the highest Olympic sized skating rink in the world.

Almaty is very beautiful, and has cheap skiing. It should become an Asian travel hub, because the tenge converts very well to the Australian dollar.

Probably the only currency to do so.


This is the view outside the kitchen window in Kyiv.

There are a number of reasons why this view is observed a number of times per day.

Firstly, the water bottle is on the window sill. Filling the water bottle necessitates gazing at this view.

Secondly, the kitchen in Kyiv is small. Taking two steps through the kitchen, one will reach the window. Reaching the window necessitates gazing at this view.

And so, day after day, this view forces itself through the window, to the inside of the flat. To eyes inside the house.

There's not really much about this view that changes. Sometimes, there's snow. Other times, there's not. Sometimes, when it has snowed, the babushkas come and sweep the path in the middle of the road you see in the photo.

But they only come when the snow has stopped. Or, almost stopped. When it snows, there are always big, melted patches on the path in the middle of the road. This is where the manholes cover the big tunnels that take heat to every apartment in the city.

The path in the middle of the road is where the people who own dogs walk their dogs. They do this, rain hail snow or shine. I think the babushkas who sweep the path of snow may also pick up the dog poo.
In summer, the view will change. There won't be any snow on the ground. There will be green leaves on the trees. The sun will be shining.

No one really lives in the building across the street. They're really offices. So they open up during the day, but there's no prying eyes at night. Even so, there are curtains as a precaution.

This isn't a beautiful view. Looking at a beautiful view once will be enough to imprint in the mind. But looking at an everyday view hundreds of times will create a stronger emotional attachment, like a smell you smell in a place that you like.

A no brainer photo, really

In September 2006, Mr Moi and I stopped in London on our way to Kyiv. We visited the British Museum, which neither of us had visited before, and played with our, then, very new camera.

The weather was absolutely wonderful for autumn, and in this photo, the sun is shining into the atrium. From the viewing balcony above, this photo is a real no brainer. In fact, I think they set up this hall, and etched these words into the ground, so people like me can feel like a decent photographer.

I particularly love the long shadows in this picture, because it lends gravity to the words of Tennyson on the ground. The black and white adds to the overall effect.

I took a lot of photos on this day at the British Museum but I like this one the best. It's just a cool pic, really.


Land ahoy...

While not a great photo, I love this view. This photo shows the northern limit of Sydney, Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River, and the southern limit of the Central Coast.

This was taken during a camping trip in July 2004 (yes, it is possible to camp in the bush in Sydney). Mr Moi and I invested in a tent in order to undertake such adventures as city camping. But everytime we chose to camp, the rain chose to come.

Rather bad luck, considering we lived in a city that has been in drought for years. This was our third camping trip, and the clouds you see in the photo ended up bearing rather a lot of rain.

Having lived in the northern suburbs during our time in Sydney, Mr Moi and I would often drive up to the northern beaches to unwind and relax. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city proper, it's possible to look at this view and feel as though no-one has ever been here before. Except for those mansions, of course...


Perfect place for a picnic

In September 2006, Mr Moi and I spent a month driving around France. It was a little hair-raising for the first week or so, as we're Australian, which means we drive on the left side of the road. In France they drive on the right.

As a result of my fear, I encouraged Mr Moi to deviate from the main roads as much as possible. So we could 'enjoy the countryside', but really, so I didn't get any grey hairs.

That's how we found this picnic spot in Normandy. Driving along one day, we wanted to stop and have lunch. At a small town, we found a lane and decided to follow it, and we came across one single table by a creek, and on the other side of the road was this lovely green hill.

It's a total country-side picturesque. I was enchanted - the grass doesn't get this green in the places I've lived in Australia.

There were a couple of fat dairy cows watching us eat our lunch. It was great.


A beer by the Mekong

Another photo brought to you NOT from Ukraine!

In May 2004, Mr Moi and I managed to get a month off from both our places of employment - at the same time! This is a miracle in the modern Australian workplace.

We embarked on a trip to Thailand, where we planned to meander around and unwind. The problem was that all the other tourists in Thailand did not help us unwind. They made us wound up.

So we escaped Thailand, and went to the serene town of Luang Prabang in Laos, on the banks of the mighty Mekong River.

Luang Prabang is beautiful - filled with French colonial architecture, glittering white and gold temples, and lots of cute little monks in their saffron robes. As a UNESCO world heritage listed city, the look and feel of the place won't be changing anytime soon.

But the best thing about it was the other tourists were generally nice people. They weren't druggies, they weren't thugs. They just wanted to visit a beautiful place like us and unwind. We even had a beer with a rather adventurous 50-something Aussie couple (adventurous because they flew Lao Aviation).

This photo was taken from one of the plastic-chair-and-table stalls some enterprising folk set up on the banks of the Mekong. I love this photo because it depicts all things tropical - sunset, water, palm trees - but it's nowhere near a beach.

Our ritual every afternoon was to buy a bottle of BeerLao, share it quickly, then light a mozzie coil and pop it in the empty bottle under the table. And we enjoyed a couple more beers with this view... and no mosquito bites.


Blessings to you my friend

Mr Moi took this rather amusing photo at the Todaiji Temple at Nara. With my basic knowledge of Japanese, I would guess that 'dai' means big, 'ji' usually means time, and 'To' may be the same 'To' that's in 'To'kyo, and Kyo'to'. The two kanjis used in Tokyo mean eastern capital (I think), and Kyoto, may mean old capital. Not sure.

But based on my rudimentary translation, the name of this temple is 'capital big time', and that's what these guys look like they're having.

The Todaiji Temple is located in the city of Nara. This town was probably the most 'touristy' I have been to in Japan, with lots of shops and alleyways, and even a hint of the touting that is standard fare everywhere else in the Asian world except Japan.

The temple is surrounded by parkland where deer roam free. While this sounds nice, the hoards of tourists who frequent the temple have a bad habit of feeding the deer. The deer almost overrun the whole town, and are dirty, sick, smelly and aggressive.

This pic was taken on a trip with Mr Moi and Mama Moi in December 2004. We missed Aussie Christmas that year, but we visited a temple instead.

New blog

There are a number of things I don't want this blog to necessarily be:
- Funny
- Mean
- Sarcastic.

But I'm sure it will happen in time.

The reason I started this blog is to force myself to get out of the flat and take some pics of Kyiv with the super expensive camera we bought for that specific purpose.

BUT... I do have about a million pics to fall back on if I'm too lazy to trudge through the snow, preferring to watch DVDs...

Enjoy, LMM.
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