Travel In The Age of COVID

By: muttler
In-N-Out Burgers

Tastes Like the US!



Wow. It has actually happened. We have left Australia.

I obviously don’t need to bang on about this, but after 2 years of pseudo house arrest, as soon as we had a window of opportunity to escape, we took it. We were strategic… we thought what would be as safe a holiday as we could do that was still a little adventurous and felt like an escape. So we landed on flights to LA, then grabbing a car and visiting a bunch of National Parks.

Then Omicron came and we thought, “ugh… what do we do”. Well, we have decided to brave it. We are triple vaxxed, taking every precaution… and here we are!



I have to say, the travel was actually quite smooth, easy, and felt safe. We had our PCR tests on the morning of our flight (the most nerve wracking bit), kept masked the whole time, and were on a 80% full, but smaller, QANTAS flight to LAX. The flight was smooth, but the most joyous part came at LAX. Used to immigration and baggage often taking 2 hours, we were through in under 20 minutes. Yep. Literal 5 minutes for immigration, and then just the wait for the bags to arrive. LAX International was a fair ghost town, but I tell you… this whole travel made us definitely think we had done the right thing. I can’t imagine having this luxury in LAX again anytime soon!





We arrived in in the evening, so really only had time to get the car, drive to our hotel (the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood) and have a late dinner before trying to rest. I took the opportunity to enjoy the nearby In-N-Out for their tasty double cheeseburger. I really do LOVE these burgers. Plus, it reminded me that after 2+ years, we weren’t stuck in our house anymore.


8 Year Old Me Loses His Mind (So Does 40-Something Me)

By: muttler

Tuesday (5/11/2019):

I didn’t really say that this trip really came about because of my work trip landing me in the US, and that Kate had not had a chance for a holiday all year. After all the work with our renovations, Kate deserved a trip to her happy place so a few days at Disneyland were in order!

It also worked out well, as what new addition was there to Disneyland? Galaxy’s Edge (i.e Star Wars Land)! I was SO excited for this. I had probably done a little too much reading about it, but that was OK… I had to be prepared. And what were the main orders of the day? Well, a trip on to the Millennium Falcon ride “Smugglers Run”, enjoying some Blue Milk, dropping in to Oga’s Cantina (full of scum and villainy), and… BUILDING A FREAKIN’ LIGHTSABER!! Indeed.

I’m not go into all the details for the Disney adventures. I have written about the parks a bunch. So it will be mostly photos (plus that gets me doing these entries quicker!). I will also go a little light on the build a lightsaber experience as I think the less you know the better the experience for that one. Needless to say I was a grinning idiot the whole time 🙂

We also did ride on some of our favourites, especially Haunted Mansion. But today was about taking it easy and exploring the new land.




















Mid Century Modern

By: muttler

And now the holidays begin! I had flown back from Pittsburgh to LA and spent the night there ready to begin more adventures…


Saturday (2/11/2019):

Kate arrived on her overnight flight from Melbourne tired. But that was OK… I had fairly much adjusted to the time zone and was doing OK. So I met her at LAX, and we went and grabbed a car ready for a few days of driving into the California Desert. First destination was Palm Springs! We had always wanted to go and finally we were going to make it.

After some stops to freshen up and eat and outlet shop, we made it to Cabazon, just out of Palm Springs. It is home to a fairly dodgy looking Dinosaur tourist park. We didn’t go in, but stopped to see the dinosaurs out front like everyone else.

Mid arvo we arrived in Palm Springs and checked in to our hotel, the suitably 50’s Orbit-In. It was great. The owner was a fantastic guy who made us feel very much at home. The hotel was a time capsule to 50s vibe and was a blast. We even had “Orbitini Hour” at 5pm… drinks on the house by the pool. Ah, this is the life.

We didn’t know before we booked but it was actually Pride Weekend in Palm Springs! It meant the main street was going crazy with all kinds of pride events and festivities. It was great fun seeing everyone out for a good time.

We had good times of our own planned. As luck would have it, one of our absolute favourite artists, Shag, was having a print launch at his downtown gallery space! YES!!! So after some tasty Mexican food, we went to have cocktails and chat with the great man himself. We even treated ourselves to a couple of prints.











It was Pride parade day, but sadly we had already planned our day to check a bucket list item off… visiting Joshua Tree National Park. So we disappeared out of town before it got too crazy and made it to the National Park. It was a glorious day, not too hot, so we began our drive from South to North West.

First we weaved through the Colorado Desert, which is quite barren and mostly very furry cactii. Highlight is the Cactus garden where you can explore amongst hundreds/thousands of medium sized cactus plants.







From there you go over a ridge and into the Mojave Desert where the landscape instantly changes. We saw lots of rock and boulder formations, and the Joshua Trees start. Skull Rock is a stopping point and I couldn’t help but climb into the eyeball. Getting down was the hard part 🙂





We also went to the top of the main ridge and looked down on Palm Springs. It was quite hazy but still spectacular.



But it is the Joshua trees that take the cake. People say they are Seussian in their appearance and they definitely are. They are a sight to behold.











Sunset was very early so around 5pm the colours changed a little and the sun set on what is an absolutely gorgeous place.

We were given the tip for place to visit for dinner, a place called Pappy and Harriett’s. We had no idea what it was but went anyway! It turned out to be a cowboy bar of sorts in a place called Pioneertown, not far from Joshua Tree. Turns out it was a movie set in the 40s! The place was packed and a buzz. We had some great burgers and drinks and made our way back to Palm Springs.




Alas it was time to say goodbye to Palm Springs already. We definitely did not have enough time there and both vowed to go back.

On the way out of town we visited the Aerial Tramway, to go to the biggest ridge above Palm Springs (not back in Joshua Tree). It is close to 3000m altitude and often has snow on it! We caught the tramway up and looked out over the area.








We also had time for some sneaky “Welcome To Palm Springs” type pics 🙂



When we entered Palm Springs a few days earlier, a couple of billboards caught my eye which I revisited. They had the legacy of some early Shepard Fairey (i.e. Obey) pasters on them that I had to stop and get pics of.




We fought the traffic back toward LA and arrived at our home for the coming days in Anaheim. After dropping the car off, we rested for a little bit and then decided it was time for a drink to wind down. Where did we go? Trader Sams of course!







We couldn’t resist getting a few tiki mugs and drinks to cap off the day and get ready for some Disney action.


Go Steelers!

By: muttler

Hello from the United States!

I know plenty of you know I’m away and I haven’t written anything. How rude of me! As it turned out, it has been a fairly busy time so far, and especially the first week when in Pittsburgh.

I was in Pittsburgh to attend the ASSETS conference, the primary international conference for assistive technologies. I travelled over with my colleagues Leona and Chatai, where we spent three days at the conference, as well as a day visiting the University of Pittsburgh. But luckily for us we did get to spend our Sunday to explore Pittsburgh. I also got up to some extra things 🙂

Saturday (26/10/2019):

Leona and I arrived on the Saturday evening after an epic journey from Oz, where during that time we had to run to our transfer in Dallas where we made it but alas our bags did not. Thankfully they did get delivered later that night… at 1:45am. Hhhmmm. At least I got to sample some local speciality cuisine in the form of a pastrami sandwich full of fries 🙂





We spent our Sunday exploring a bunch of weird and wonderful things around Pittsburgh. We started the day with waffles! I opted for ones filled with jalapeños! of course I did…



Next up was a walk to the base of Mount Washington and a trip up the funicular. Great views over the three rivers and all the main parts of town. While up there we saw the houses getting ready for halloween!






Our main destination for the day was a strange place that Leona had read about. Randyland! What is Randyland? Well, a guy called Randy has decided to collect A LOT of random things, paint them day-glo, and then put them in his yard for people to visit! Ha! It was so great. Pictures can’t do justice for just how weird the place was.






We then hot footed it to the Bicycle Museum, again a strange place. What is ostensibly a bike store, the upstairs is an incredible museum of vintage bikes, with the centrepiece being one of the 4 original bikes from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure! So cool.





While we were full of Pittsburghian culture, we decided to do it a little more formally and visit the Pittsburgh Heritage Museum to get some local history. Did you know Heinz originated here? And did you know I ate a chocolate covered pickle? Of course I did 🙂







It was dinner time by the end of this, so we discovered some Tacos and then back to the apartment.




Monday was day one of the conference. I won’t report on that but will fill you in on my evening fun… my first NFL game!!! I was so excited. I don’t really have a team, but I guess I do now. Go Steelers!

It was Monday Night Football and Heinz Field was close to full for the game against Miami. I had am absolute blast. Everyone was so friendly and seeing it live, I now understand why football is so huge in the States. The atmosphere was something else. After a slow start the Steelers got the business done. What a great night.






Day Two of the conference was our presentation and it went well… we got lots of nice compliments and had some great discussion throughout the day.

But the night was where the fun times were had. The conference reception was at the Andy Warhol museum! We knew this so purposefully didn’t go on Sunday. We got to explore much of the museum with hardly a soul around. The museum was great… it is quite large and actually very spacious. It was nice that we even found some tactile versions of some of the work!

After the dinner Leona and I went to find some food and ended up at a Pittsburgh burger institution. And yes I chose the burger with peanut butter in it 🙂








This was the last day of the conference. After we wound up, Leona, Chatai and I went for a wander to the “point”… where the 3 rivers meet. I was quite liking Pittsburgh by this time. The people were lovely and there were some nice parks and spots to wander. And the sentiment on the street signs was on point too.








This was our last day before heading off. Leona had teed up a visit to visit a colleague at the Uni of Pittsburgh which was great. We also did a visit to the “Cathedral of Learning”… a literal cathedral that was used for classes. What was amazing was that there were over 30 class rooms that were all themed to different countries! Apparently the local community of that country get together and raise funds and design a room. It means there were 30+ incredibly ornate and gorgeous rooms of all kinds. You really have to see it to understand.

After that Leona and I wandered back downtown (through a couple of run down neighbourhoods) to try and find some Halloween action. Unfortunately the weather was so bad most trick or treating was cancelled. But we did find som up top of Mount Washington where we went to an amazing vegan restaurant called Onion Maiden. Yep, a play on Iron Maiden. It was delicious! I had a great Halloween dessert too.

And with that it was then leaving the next day! As mentioned, I became quite fond of Pittsburgh. A city I never really thought to visit, but can see how locals are quite fond of it. Best do a return visit to the Uni of Pittsburgh one day again 🙂
















Record Store Day Adventures… Flightless Edition!

By: muttler



Hi all.

Just a super quick update with some of my record store day adventures. This is the Flightless Records edition!

You all know about my obsession with King Gizzard and Flightless Records in general. I feel remarkably lucky to live in the same city as the label and band, as it means that on occasion I get to indulge in something unique and amazing. Gizzfest… midnight record launches… regular tour warm up shows. And for Record Store Day it was no exception! Eric opened up the Flightless doors and let a bunch of us nutjobs in to indulge in some record buying and best of all chatting with the lads and seeing much of the amazing original artwork by 8th member Jason used for the album art.

So here are some quick snaps I took. And yes, that is a Test Pressing of Willoughby’s Beach that I managed to score for all you vinyl nerds 🙂


















Cycling Vietnam and Cambodia! (Summary Post with Links)

By: muttler


Xin Chào and Sou Sdey!

I have finally got to typing up some quick notes and stories about my recent cycling trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Mostly I went to visit Angkor, but I had 10 days of great fun on a cycling tour. Below are links to each of the days. Hope you enjoy!

Day One: *Insert Good Morning Vietnam Cliche Here*

Day Two: The Cycling Commences

Day Three: Exploring The Mekong

Day Four: Pineapple, Pho, Frog and Ice Cream (one of those things is not like the other)

Day Five: Border Crossing

Day Six: Monkeys and Muay Thai

Day Seven: Spiderlicious

Day Eight: Siem Reap FC

Day Nine: Sunrise at Angkor

Day Ten: The Grand Circuit



The Grand Circuit

By: muttler


29/01/2019 – Angkor

My last day 🙁

I had one last day to explore Angkor before I would be heading home. While I *should* have been out in it from early, I did have a bit of a sleep in, as the reality was that every day was quite long and we rode around 400km in the end. So combine the activity with moderate sleep and lots of heat (and beer!), and I thought I had earned a little lie in. Plus I wanted to enjoy the day, so having a sleep in for a couple of hours was a good idea I thought.

I had plans to mostly walk for the day in Angkor, but I wanted to see some of the slightly more fringe temples, so the hotel staff strongly advised me to get a tuk tuk out to angkor, and have the driver hang out with me. For $18 for the day, I couldn’t say no.



I did what is called “The Grand Circuit”. It is the ring of temples that is slightly outside the typical ones (i.e. the ones we did the day before). They are all quite different and typically have less tourists so I was excited to see them.

I won’t go into much detail for them, except to say that if you go to Angkor you MUST ensure you have at least a couple of days up your sleeve to visit more temples outside the main ones. While Angkor Wat, Bayon, etc are undeniably stunning, the scale and number of tourists can get a little overwhelming. But those on the Grand Circuit are still fascinating and gorgeous, with the benefit of much less tourists.

So where did I go?









Preah Khan was first on this list… a medium sized temple with lots to explore. I just love clambering over ruins!



Neak Peak is a little shrine in the middle of small lake. Interesting, although could be skipped if short on time.







Ta Som I LOVED! There were heads like Bayon which endlessly fascinated me, but had a bit more to explore and even had a cool tree growing out of a head at the rear entrance!





East Mebon was next. This was a little run down, with some small towers and elephant statues. You could walk around some of the inside walls and explore the buildings and ruins within. I loved getting into these kind of temples!




Pre Rup was last on the list for the day. It was in good condition and was similar to East Mebon. I could climb up a number of steep steps and get amongst lots of towers with small bricks. Another great one and hardly anyone there!






So with that it was getting on in the day and I was done! There were MANY more temples I could explore but that would mean getting out further from the complex, and sadly that would have to wait for another visit. I did want to do another quick stop by Angkor Wat as it dawned on me that I never did the classic walk in from the front. So the driver let me do a quick stop by to wander in. Yes, it was the classic touristy view, but it really is stunning.

With that it was back to the hotel. I was exhausted and a little templed out, and probably ready to head home. So a quiet night to myself with some dinner and my Cambodian adventure had come to an end.


Sunrise at Angkor

By: muttler


28/01/2019 – Angkor (32km riding)

The day had finally arrived. ANGKOR! The main reason for my whole trip really.

We had an early start… 4am to be exact. You can’t come to Angkor and not do a sunrise really, especially given that part of the design of the temple is to be stunning for sunrise and sunset. So up we got and went to get our park tickets. Entry is quite tightly controlled now, with tickets with your photo to be kept on you at al times. We got those nice and early and headed into the temple complex to get a spot for sunrise.



Cham took us to a quieter spot… not the typical spot close to the front. We had a little bit of distance, and while it was quieter there was still certainly a lot of people there by sunrise. I was quite overwhelmed by it all. It had been many years that I had wanted to get to Angkor, so to see Angkor Wat in its glory was quite something. We sat and watched the sun come up and soaked it all in.

Given it was still quite early, we made our way back to the hotel for breakfast and to get our bikes. No point exploring Angkor on foot or tuk tuk when you have bikes!

So we geared up and did the cycle to Angkor , starting back at Angkor Wat. Rather than go in the front, we went in the back entrance which was more quiet. We got to wander in with a little more serenity before exploring the temple fully with Cham and 1000s of other tourists.

I can’t really say too much except that I found my whole time at Angkor pretty magical. I instantly regretted only allowing 2 days to explore, but oh well. I guess I would come back. I just enjoyed the time I had.










So we spent about 2hr in Angkor Wat, marvelling at the structure and the carvings.

We then jumped back on the bikes to cycle to Angkor Thom. The Angkor complex is quite massive, so on foot is quite daunting. But bikes made it so much fun, as we could scoot around in the woods and then also along the outer wall of Angkor Thom which was great. It is about 1.5km on each side, so to cycle rather than trek in the heat was a great way to do it.





Bayon exists within Angkor Thom and was my favourite of the day. Many hundreds of stone heads graced the temple and it was absolutely stunning and fascinating.



Back on the bikes again to cycle to the next most popular temple, and within close proximity to the others, Ta Prom. Outside of Angkor Wat itself, this is the most recognisable, being the temple with the trees growing out of it. Yep, the Tomb Raider temple. I found this one the least compelling, but it was indeed quite visually striking.

We had some time to explore and then have a very late lunch before we cycled back to Siem Reap. We were hot from our riding and exploring, so what better thing to do than jump in the pool with a drink?! We did some relaxing and then out for dinner. Sadly it was the farewell dinner, as the tour was technically all done. Much of the group was disappearing the next day, so it was unlikely I was going to see many the next day. The make up of this group was quite a bit different to other G Adventures groups I had been part of in the past, but it was a great group. Everyone was a great cyclist meaning when you ride a few hundred kilometres and need everyone to be on it, we were always riding strong and everyone was looking out for each other. So it really was quite a perfect group.

Cham was a top tour leader too, which I now expect from G Adventures. Fun, super knowledgable, and always looking after us… we could not have had better.



Our night was like most… dinner followed by more cheeky drinks before we said our farewells this time. I would have one more day of adventure ahead.


Siem Reap FC

By: muttler


27/01/2019 – Siem Reap (52km riding)

Today was quite a different day. We were going to be based in Siem Reap for the next few days, so it was about a little bit of cycling, stopping to look at something, repeat.




We got out of the centre of Siem Reap quite quickly, making our way through rice fields and lots of veggies. In no time we found ourselves in a local market, where not only were there lots of things to buy, but lots of food to eat too! We first of all jumped on to the waffles and the group couldn’t get enough! My favourites were the fried banana and especially the banana sticky rice. Yum! I could have stayed there all day eating.



Nearby we popped out head into a crocodile farm and got to see a big bunch of crocodiles just hanging out in the sun.




But the best part of the day was just around the corner, and completely unplanned. As we were riding we saw a bunch of local kids (early/mid teens) playing football in a dusty field. Cham stopped and asked “so is anyone up for playing?!”. A bunch of us were super keen, so a match of G Adventures United versus Siem Reap FC was born! We took to the field in our cycling gear and in no time were running up and down. It was a really tight match and we ended up playing for close to half an hour in the heat! It was SO much fun! In the end we went down 2-1, but that gives you an idea of how intense and close it was. It really was a highlight of the trip





We kept riding until we arrived at lunch. I had some form of Siem Reap soup which was nice to fill the belly before having a little relax in the abundant hammocks.





With the legs feeling good, we then rode to the famous stilted village in Tonie Sap lake. Tonie Sap is the largest lake in south east Asia, and also is incredible for how much it changes over the year. It is so much so that all the houses in the area sit on massive stilts to deal with the near 6m of water that arrives in rainy season. So it was fascinating to ride into the village on a dusty trail that at another time of the year we could be many metres under water. We could see the water mark on the stilts of the houses and it was incredible to think that for half the year bikes are replaced by boats as the necessary transport.





Even though it was low season, the lake was still quite plentiful and there were several floating restaurants out there in the lake. We jumped on a boat and made our way out to look. I imagine in high season the immense water with villages within would be amazing. As it was it was cool to see but more a curiosity than anything, seeing houses on large stilts and the odd restaurant out in the water.

We rode back a little ways before taking our bus back to Siem Reap. We had a quick change of hotels to do due to a mix up (moving to a much nicer one!) and then had time to relax before dinner at a cheap local. 50 cent beers! Yes! I had a good simple meal of spring rolls and rice curry.

The usual crew went out exploring Siem Reap and discovered as craft beer bar which was great. Beers were a little more expensive, but was nice to have a full flavoured beer! We enjoyed a couple and then head to bed for a very early morning.



By: muttler


26/01/2019 – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (42km riding)

Today was our longest travel day… a bit of riding in there, but quite a bit of bus action as well to get us out of Phnom Penh and off to Siem Reap, our final destination on the trip.

It started with some bus travel for about 1.5hr out of the city, where we made our first real stop, and one I had been looking forward to all trip… the Spider Village at Skuon! This is fairly notorious for visitors to Cambodia. Where else will you get the chance to not just hold large furry spiders, but also eat one? The eating of spiders (and grubs and bugs) came not from novelty originally, but necessity, when food was scarce and the previous regime in full power.






So playing with and eating spiders? I was up for it! When you arrive many small children run up and will plonk spiders in your hands or on you. Most visitors shoo them away, but I was fine to hold a spider or two. We had a little time to wander the market. Cham looked after getting us some tasty treats for the bus, but it was fascinating to wander the market and see all the good eating on display!




When we got back in the bus, Cham offered up some goodies to whoever was keen. Most of us were willing to give it a go. The crickets were best for me… crunchy with some OK spice to them. The spider just tasted like deep fried something, and the grub was a little odd in texture. But all were fine. Not sure I would go back for much more though!

Another 1.5hr in the bus before we got a chance to get back on the bikes. When we started cycling it was very different countryside. The tracks were predominantly very dusty red roads, quite a contrast to Vietnam. It was some casual riding before stopping for a set lunch. Food in Cambodia was much more rice and curry than the soups in Vietnam. Nice to dive into some different cuisine.





The afternoon held more riding, with unfortunately a minor spill! One of our team came off her bike and managed to scrape up the knees pretty badly! Thankfully all was OK, and nothing that some antiseptic couldn’t get under control. After a bit more short riding (the roads were getting a bit too busy) it was on the bus for 2.5hrs to Siem Reap.

We arrived in Siem Reap, and instantly it felt very different. There were suddenly LOTS of tourists. While we had certainly seen our share in our travels thus far, clearly travel to Cambodia is all about Siem Reap and Angkor. As such, the city reflected that. It was quite pretty in places on the river, and wandering the streets certainly had a different buzz to them. But of course it also had a tourist area called Pub Street with lots of cheap drinking and food. That was fine, it was just the incessant people trying to get you into their bars that started to wear you out.




But for dinner Cham took us to a place that was a nice blend of good and cheap food and drink. Of course a 4.5 litre beer tower was in order! We chilled out there, playing some pool, before a few of us found a small bar to play some darts and then back to the hotel for the night.