Thursday, 4 January 2018

National Gallery of Victoria Triennial 2018

"Manga Chairs" designed by Oki Sato

"Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana" by Xu Zhen

Yamagami Yukihiro’s installation "Shinjuku calling" Meticulously drawn in pencil, superimposed with moving image.

Ron Mueck's "Mass" Over 100 giant skulls hidden away on Level 3 amongst the European Masters Collection.
Melbourne's NGV free-entry blockbuster finishes April 15, 2018. Allow yourself at least 3 hours if you want to take in Virtual Reality installation and cinematic productions ("Incoming" and "Wilson Must Go").

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Queensland's cheap public transport - Go Card Senior

It even comes with a card wallet and instruction leaflet

Our Senior Go Cards just arrived in the mail. Couldn't have easier.
My wife and I are living in Melbourne, Victoria. We plan to use public transport in Brisbane when we visit next month. We applied online, citing our Victorian Seniors Card numbers. The system in Sydney is more complicated and your Opal Card (Senior) only last 2 months for interstate visitors.
The card is free (you pay $10, but the $5 deposit is refundable and the card comes with $5 of pre-stored value).
You can use the card for 50% off travel on trains, buses, light rail (new Gold Coast link) and Brisbane River ferries/Citycats. If you travel off-peak ( between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., after 7 p.m. on weekdays and all on weekends) it is a further 20% discount.
You can use the card in Queensland tourist areas (Sunshine Coast and Cairns). Once you get your card (posted to any state or territory in Australia within 10 business days,) you can register online for auto top-ups. Validity of the Go Card Senior is 10 years. Queensland is certainly tourist-friendly.

Go to
Comfortable train journey to Brisbane from Varsity Lakes (closest station to Gold Coast Airport). Easy bus transfer from airport (Route 760).

City Cat ferry - great way to explore Brisbane 
You can travel to all stops on the Brisbane River for around $1.30 (round trip, if you stay on board). The red "City Hopper" ferry (limited stops) is a free service.
City Cat interior

Friday, 10 November 2017

"Trigger Mortis" (2015) A James Bond tribute by Anthony Horowitz

Better known for teenage fiction "Stormbreaker" series, Horowitz has tried to stay true to the Ian Fleming books with his 2015 stand alone novel. 
It is 1957. Bond having just polished off Goldfinger and Oddjob, returns to London for a bit of R+R with, you guessed it, Pussy Galore. But things don't go as planned.
Horowitz takes some excepts from an unfinished Ian Fleming television script about Grand Prix racing and then moves the action from a Swiss castle to east coast U.S. The rocket launch sabotage plot pays homage to "Dr No". This time it's a Korean millionaire/psychopath/super villain (nicknamed Jason Sin). His backstory is just as interesting.
SMERSH rears its ugly head. Bond's new female companion/ally is the feisty Jeopardy Lane (also possessing a cool back story). Attention to 1950's detail - locales, social mores, transport, food, alcohol - is a delightful pastiche to Fleming.

"Solo" by William Boyd (2013) is also a cracking read and probably the best written of the James Bond spinoffs. Faithful to Ian Fleming's James Bond, it is less spectacular but more believable.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

"Doctor X" 1931 From the Video Vault

I have mixed feelings about this campy horror pic. It is bizarre, corny, tedious and confounding in equal doses. Its 77 minutes running time seems more like 107 minutes. The two-colour Technicolour adds to the the film's weirdness. Production design is very German Expressionist. The sets are the stars (seedy waterfronts, spooky manor, dark corridors, strange staircases), although Lionel Atwill ("Son of Frankenstein") has fun.
Forget the grating main hero's (Lee Tracy) vaudevillian antics. When the villain starts his "Synthetic flesh! Synthetic flesh" scene, your jaw will drop.
First National (Warner Bros) tried to jump on Universal's horror bandwagon (after the release of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein"), so we have mad scientists, a full-moon killer, rape and cannibalism. This film was made pre- Hays Censorship Code. But the film doesn't really work as a horror movie or a who-done-it.

Image: courtesy of

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Bagan accommodation Unbeatable location and value - Thande Hotel in Old Bagan

View from outdoor bar - sunset 

Buffet breakfast under the giant Acacia trees - river views

5 minutes' walk from the hotel, climb a temple for the sunrise

Pool and spa area - perfect for cooling off after morning touring

We stayed in a very comfortable Superior Bungalow (Garden view). No need to pay double the rate for a River view room (they face west so you cannot sit outside - too hot in the afernoon). The killer view is in the outdoor bar and restaurant under shady trees. Agoda price was lower than hotel website.
Rooms spotless, comfy beds, excellent toiletries for a 3 star hotel, even gowns in the room. The location is unbeatable. Free wifi.
Buffet breakfast catered for all. Dinner meals around from US$10. Five minutes walk to Uncle Lay's Restaurant (Delicious meals from $AUD2.50, $1 Rum Sour, $2 beer!). A torch is available at Reception for night walks.
You can hire e-bikes from hotel or down the road (a bit cheaper). ATM on site. You can pay in US$ (no change given so do your maths) or kyat or credit card. Great to relax by the attractive pool after a morning of touring. Loved watching the squirrels from our private verandah.
Just be wary of the foot of the bed. My wife and I knocked our feet on the exposed wooden edges.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Climbing the temples of Bagan and other travel tips

We thought the Myanmar Government had cracked down on climbing temples but as of October 2017, tourists can still climb numerous temples in Bagan.  Many temples have access to upper levels via internal stairways (watch your head and bring a torch). Souvenir sellers are only too pleased to lead you in the right direction (just look at their wares afterwards). No pressure, though.

Remove shoes (climbing is easier anyway), no shorts, no socks, no singlets. Wear long pants or sarongs.

This temple (5 mins walk from Bagan Thande Hotel) is perfect for sunrise viewing

The 13 storey viewing tower on the edge of the historical area is an alternative. Views are comparable to views from balloons (a Bagan bargain at $US5 admission vs $US 350) Balloons can not fly over temple area.

Go to the Bagan Viewing Tower (near Nyaung-U Airport) before 9 a.m. so the sun is behind you for best view of the temple area.

Waiting for sunrise

Bring a torch and mind your head.

Follow the e-bikes for the best view

e-bike hire is cheap , top speed 40km/h, easy to ride

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

New Sofitel City Centre, Singapore - Review

Accor's newest hotel in Singapore opened in October 2017. Singapore now has three Sofitels: the funky, boutique style Sofitel So; Sofitel Sentosa (resort style) and now the 20 floor Sofitel City Centre, sitting half in the business district and half in Chinatown.

* The hotel is located above Tanjong Pagar MRT (which has direct access to Changi Airport rail line).
* Interesting locale - heritage area
* Adjoining huge Virgin Active Gym

* Lacks the wow-factor that Sofitel is renowned for.
* Small Club Lounge, seems cramped. Self-serve wine gizmo dispenses room temperature white wine???
* Many of the staff are overly friendly rather than professional.

Magnificently restored shophouses, 2 minutes walk from the hotel

Expansive pool/spa area. Rooftop 30 metre infinity pool. Limited shaded areas.

Old meets new

Opt for the Chinatown shophouses view (rather than pool/skyscaper view), no direct sunlight in your room throughout the day.
Barrel-aged cocktails in 1864 Bar

Racines restaurant
Every room gets a Smartphone with free calls and data. Great for ordering sightseeing tickets at discounted prices.

Club Lounge (Club Millesime) adjoints the pool area. The lounge is quite small compared to other hotel lounges.
Afternoon Tea at Club Millesime

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Forget Sydney's Bondi Beach, Manly Beach is the place to go

Only 30 minutes from Sydney, Manly is a unique destination. A world class beach with consistent waves, towering Norfolk pines and two kilometres of white sand. Surf Lifesaving has its origin on Manly Beach.
Once off the ferry, stroll down The Corso (pedestrian mall) to the surf beach. Manly's plazas and laneway give it a village atmosphere, unlike Bondi's rather tawdry and touristy environs.
Manly Beach 1900
Source: Powerhouse Museum

Only a few minutes walk from the bustling Manly Beach is Shelly Beach. You could be on a deserted island, not suburban Sydney. Great snorkelling spot.
The view from Queenscliff, looking back towards Manly Beach
The best way to get to Manly is by the ferry (30 minutes from Circular Quay - adjoining Sydney Opera House and the International Passenger Terminal. A perfect day trip if you only have one day in Sydney.

The historic quarantine station on North Head is a 40 minute walk or a 5 minute bus ride from Manly Village (featuring colourful plazas and interconnecting laneways)
Sunset, looking back across the harbour to Sydney.