The Honey Badger, ‘Where the bloody hell are’ we going and a final snapshot of Georgetown Penang……

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What a week this has been in Australia.   Our farmers are continuing to battle through horrific drought conditions, our cost of living is on a perpetual trajectory and power prices (at an all time high) continue to soar.  Our indigenous population are still dying at alarming rates from very treatable and preventable conditions such as diabetes and our aged pensioners are treated with equal contempt.  We have a less than impressive report card when it comes to homelessness, unemployment, suicide rates, environmental and human rights issues, poverty, deaths in custody, housing affordability and healthcare yet what happens as our nation continues along in crisis?  Well, our elected representatives choose to ignore these issues and seize yet again upon another opportunity to demonstrate their indignant lack of grace with apocalyptic antics more cringe worthy than an episode of The Bachelor Australia!

While the Liberal party went about punching kittens and themselves, the Labor party trotted out snarky Little Back Door Bill and his handy side-kick Fibbersek.  With the warring escalating among the Libs, Back Door Bill and Fibber-Mac-Fib-Face toured the nation handing out sample bags (he’s not known as Showbag Shorten for nothing) filled with just as many false promises of a fair go for all Australians as the Liberals once did.  Cluster bombed with images of Bill and Fibber kissing babies, massaging the feet of Carmelite nuns and manically smiling while tucking into sausage sandwich’s – and why is it politicians always seem to grapple with the very simple act of consuming food – it was enough for any of us to wonder why we were ‘sweatin like a bag of cats at a greyhound meet’ because quite frankly, none of these pollies can get their shit together!

Due to a lower than low Judas act against one of their very own, it came down to a two rat race.  As the rolfing continued under Labor Party policy, the two remaining Liberal party heavy weights simultaneously hatched more devious Janus faced plans all while applying a little acupressure of their own – apparently in the Liberal Party, acupressure is also known as bullying!  Dutton, the scurrilous dirt-bag who opposed same sex marriage, who encouraged a boycott of the very long over-due apology to the Stolen Generation and a climate change skeptic along with Morrison, the evangelical conservative who also voted against same sex marriage and who opposed a banking royal commission were left to battle it out.

Ultra-conservative-far-right Scott, who happily claims to the creation of Lara Bingle with his backing of the ‘Where the bloody hell are you’ ad campaign, eventually won the leadership. He also lists his interests as ‘the church’ and please note.  The Church he refers too should not be confused with that amazing indie/new wave Sydney band of the 80’s who produced the playlist of peoples’ lives with songs such as The Unguarded Moment and Under The Milky Way.  I guess I missed the bit where his interests involve the welfare of the nation so it does beg the question, where the bloody hell are (is) Australia headed ScoMo!

Now if you thought another leadership spill wasn’t enough to further anoint us as a laughing stock on the worlds’ political stage, ScoMo’s first undertaking as Prime Minister was to invite Trump to our shores.  Nice one!  Actually, that was second thing he did.  The first was to mansplain while pointing through the lens of a camera to deliver those well rehearsed words ‘we are on your side’ .  He also declared former Prime Minister Turnbull to be ‘a dear friend’.  Really! Like that shits going to fly so let me clamsplain it to you Scott because believe me, we have all had that ScoMo friend in our lives and asking us to think you are on our side does not instill confidence in you and nor does it fix our nations problems!

Australians are pretty weary with the rabble who inhabit Canberra and five Prime Ministers in five years should be a very sobering wakeup call to anyone. It would also be safe to say most of us are now more interested in whether Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins uses Redkins Curvaceous Ringlet Anti-frizz Curl Perfecting Lotion on his locks or whether he was referring to Julie Bishop when he said ‘You’re as tough as woodpecker lips’.

And just for the record, my hopes rested on the woman with one of the most fabulous earring collections of the nation rivaled only by Michael Hill himself.  Julie Bishop, tough as woodpecker lips, would have been the perfect model of PM grace, decency and decorum not only because she has an impressive earring collection but because she bloody well deserved it.  How was it the peoples choice was over looked as PM!  Perhaps, like the sweetly natured Cass on Bachelor Australia, Julie was also cruelly and sorely duped by the master manipulators and bullies who surround her.  I have a feeling however, their outcome is going to be no where near as bad as ours and if Australians aren’t ‘Sweatin’ like a gypsy with a mortgage’ then something is seriously wrong.

In a beautifully gracious moment, Julie Bishop resigns in killer red heels…….

This was never about our country and its people!  This shambolic spill, despite decades of multiculturalism, an increasing presence of women and Indigenous people to politics and the rise of an egalitarian challenge was entirely about those segregating self-indulgent privileged male Anglos of a certain age looking after themselves and the bastardry they have created.  And all said and done, if their actions over the past few weeks do not further highlight their discriminatory, ageist and sexist views of our ever evolving Australia, then nothing will.

Well Malcolm, you were correct to think Australians would be rightly appalled but we are also fed up because we know we and our country deserve so much better than we were handed last week.  And is just me or does anyone else think replacing Malcolm with someone who is about as popular as a dose of herpes really the right thing to do!

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‘Don’t worry Australia.  I can bloody well sack them all’………..

Final snapshot of Georgetown Penang…….

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Best travel tip:  You can always warm a croissant with a hotel supplied hair dryer.

Best political tip:  Educate yourself on all parties and make your vote count in the next federal election –  18 May 2019.

***Best tip for all refugees and asylum seekers:  List occupation as Au Pair and list your advocate/referee as Gillon McLachlan.

Footnote – Quotes in blog post by Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins:

  • sweatin’ like a bag of cats at a greyhound meet
  • you’re as tough as woodpecker lips
  • sweatin’ like a gypsy with a mortgage

 

Fact: There is monkey business in Penang…….

Winter has well and truly settled itself in around Newcastle.  Some days this city seems empty when the rawest of cold hits but I somehow like those often deserted and sunlit streets.  This is a city I love and have come to know well.  A city of unrestrained chaotic redevelopment both good and bad, of near perfect days and complicated nights and best of all, a place of infinite possibility.

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And with these wintery days came a bug which saw me struck down enough to seek the haven of my bed.  It seems it was one of those ‘take a breath and slow down’ bugs.  The sort of bug we sometimes catch which insists with its coming, take some time you got this.  Really you do. 

While hold up in bed sharing my comfy real estate with the little cat for good company I longed for the ocean, read a couple of pages of some old books, willed myself to feel better and sipped pale green teas.  I scribbled some notes, ran a little mantra through my head every now and then, slept, and slept, and slept some more.

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Fact:  I like monkeys.  I like them very much!

There was no reasoning for this but I woke early one morning and decided I wanted to see a monkey.  And that my friends, is not a statement you will hear me say often if I can help it.

I find monkeys incredibly endearing but years ago I had an encounter with a pretty scary monkey in Ubud which, not wanting sound too dramatic, is an encounter not easily forgotten (and that was well over 20 years ago).  And no, before anyone jumps to conclusions I did not feed, get too close, entice, smile at or do anything to elicit his very grumpy monkey attack.

But as I said, I like monkeys.  Not only are these charming creatures wildly photogenic, they are also complex and fascinating little souls of deep intelligence whose courage is only matched by their reverence.  And so very much like us, they too also experience a range of emotions from love and grief, happiness and compassion, trust and fear to surprise.  They are entertaining – NOT in an horrific circus way – and they are curious and mischievous.  They can also be, as anyone of us could, opportunistic, vain and a little aggressive……… as I was about to find out again.

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Adorably sweet…….x 

Hailing a cab, which is scandalously cheap in Malaysia, it was off to the Penang Botanic Gardens.  A stunningly beautiful and peaceful oasis and home to both the Long Tailed Macaques and the Dusky Leaf Monkey.

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I came across my first monkey within moments of alighting the cab.    It was a good start as the monkeys seemed mostly content to just sit about minding their own business, groom each other, look incredibly cute, snuggle their young (even more incredibly cute if that were possible) or eat what they had foraged from the trees.

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Unconditional love…….x

Serving as a big green lung for Penang, the Botanic Gardens are lovely with walking  tracks, trails and paths which take you through lush rain forests, around clusters of bamboo, past lily ponds and waterfalls, over old bridges and around topiary trees and the very peculiar Cannon Ball trees.  As it is also home to the monkeys, you get to see them in their natural environment, climbing trees and structures, playing, living in their family groups, interacting and being highly social.

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There are signs posted everywhere throughout the gardens requesting you DO NOT FEED the monkeys.  It’s not good for them and it is not good for us as it makes the monkeys trusting, dependent and in turn aggressive.  Remember, these are wild animals.

Fact:  It is my fate to have to occasionally spend time around stupid people!

It seems there will always be the one or two who completely ignore all rules or signage and case in point was the person who on this day who not only fed the monkeys (in a self-absorbed act to attract more monkeys around him for his #shit-for-brains photo opportunity), but then teased the monkeys by withholding the food to make them jump.

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Fact:  Monkeys do not tolerate stupid humans!

Now I had a couple of things to tick off my fabulous-to-do-list-for-the-day which also included Monkey Tree and Monkey Beach.  I know, call me theme predicable on this day but I never do things by halves, yet facing off against a small pack of very pissed off marauding monkeys led by the least jolliest of alpha males I had seen all day was certainly not one of them!  I somehow knew too I was about to re-experience a particular moment.  You know that moment.  It is the moment where you realise you are in a new, exciting and undiscovered place yet the experience you are about to have has an old familiar ring to it ……….and not in a good way!

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As a ranger approached #shit-for-brains, the monkeys legged it………in my direction.  Quietly, I stepped off my intended path and although I kept my eyes downcast I kept them well and truly on the wily old jackanapes who was leading them.  This alpha male wasn’t quite done with humans just yet as he did, after all, have a score to settle and he wasn’t about to lose face either with his dedicated band of monkey followers.  Plus he probably now viewed all humans as nasty food withholding, self centered pricks and thoughts of exacting a little monkey revenge would no doubt top off his morning.

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He changed direction and picked up a speed while heading right toward me.  Then, as expected, came the very familiar and not easily forgotten raucous screech.  A banshee like scream that will chill your blood followed by the baring of large, sharp yellow teeth.

Fact:  Monkeys are no longer cute once you see their teeth!

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I rest my case…….

This was going to be a make or break moment but I knew I had to be the one to decide the outcome of this confrontation.  Being 157cm I managed to pull myself up to an intimidating 160 cm, I know, super daunting to a monkey (I hoped) and just as impressive to me as I was wearing flats a the time.  I stood my ground and faced him down while unfurling my hands to show open palms, my years of watching David Attenborough doco’s finally paying off.

He showed his teeth again, loped forward then stopped.  We looked at each other for a moment almost considering our next moves then he slowly turned and stalked off leaving me with an impressive view of his monkey overlord arse.

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If this little dude had thumbs there would be serious snapping………

And me, well I owned it.  I walked off feeling pretty chuffed.  I think I may even have high fived myself or at the very least skipped.

I did actually skip……… and it was in the direction of the strongest cocktail available on the island of Penang!

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Truth:  GO SEE MONKEYS in the wild.  They are brilliantly amazing 🙂   Just don’t be a stupid, inconsiderate human jackass when you do…….x

Please note:  incredible ‘monkey baring teeth’ photograph taken by A. Wilcox.

By George!

I’m in George Town, that wonderful UNESCO World Heritage listed city in Penang where the very traditional and contemporary collide.  This stunningly cosmopolitan and energetic city is one of extremes from the frenetic modern pace of hipsters, street art and stylish cocktail bars to the rickety old trishaws parked in front of crumbling yet ornately lovely clan houses.  This city really is all about grit and glam as its intentional beauty sits oh so effortlessly right alongside the raw and the rough.726

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Now I love this city.  It is a maze of narrow alleyways, archways, lanes and streets that pulsate with colour, energy and community spirit.  There are grand town halls, mansions, antiquated merchant stores, clan jetties, colonial buildings of exceptional beauty (made even more lovely when floodlit) and unsurpassed history.

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The centuries old and wonderfully quaint clan jetties with their fish traps, old wood fishing boats, stilt houses and long winding planked wood walk-ways are the last of a once thriving Chinese settlement.   Do be respectful when visiting as these water communities are still home to many families who eat, pray and live there……...

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Penang itself is beautifully multicultural with three prominent religions.  I visited serene mosques, shrines with their garlands of fragrant blooms left by dedicated worshipers and temples where saffron robed Buddhists light huge joss sticks.

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It does get very hot here so it’s best to sight-see first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the stifling 95% plus humidity.  The good old foot falcon (just watch for the large open drains) is always my preferred mode of transport however do hire a trishaw for a couple of hours as it really is one of the best ways to truly appreciate this town.

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I really do admire the strength and bravery of the trishaw men and their ability to maneuver about in the heaviest of traffic.  Though lean and seemingly fit as a fiddle, these men are by no means young.   Always nut out your price before you go, which is negotiable, and these guys will fill your afternoon with history and all the little hidden gems you won’t find on your own so kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy………

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Although I have bestowed much love upon George Town, it does, as anywhere in the world, have its flaws.  It has been said of George Town ‘she was once a pretty woman who just hasn’t washed her face in a while’ and perhaps there is some truth in that statement.  For me, the absolute charm of this lovely city lies in its grimy time-worn soul however that grim extends to her deep-water sea harbour and water-ways which are polluted, murky and an outlet for raw sewage.  What a elegantly ironic moment though, when I photographed a heart floating among the rubbish strewn waters of the Penang Strait.  Please love our oceans.  They really are some of the most importantly beautiful places on earth…….x

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There are one hundred and one things to love about this graceful melting pot of a city and although the tourist numbers are growing, George Town holds firm its alluring and peaceful charm.  You can still take a leisurely stroll about the streets, wander past temples filled with faded paper lanterns, listen for the melodic call to prayer and explore lanes filled with water-marked terrace houses safely and without the intrusion of large tourist crowds.

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Part II, the amazing street art of Georgetown, coming soon………xx