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TigerMystery

TigerMystery
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Member since: 08.07.2009

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      19.11.2012 23:16
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      Very enjoyable, but would be worth reading other books to gain an accurate picture of life in Iran

      This autobiographical book by Azar Nafisi tells of her life in revolutionary Iran. The main premise is centred around a book group she starts for some of her female students, where they discuss books that they wouldn't be able to read elsewhere in Iran. The book is partly literary review, and part autobiography.

      The literary review element of the book is much stronger towards the start of the book, where Nafisi discusses Nabakov's Lolita in great detail. I found this part very interesting, despite having not read the book already. It did however inspire to read the book in the future (it also had the same effect with some of the other books covered, such as Daisy Miller). Towards the end, the book mainly focuses on life for Nafisi and her family and her decision to leave Iran. Books were still discussed throughout the later chapters, but I didn't feel that they were used as well as in the beginning of the book.

      Throughout the book, Nafisi discusses what life is like for her and her female students living in Iran from 1979 onwards. I didn't know much about the history of Iran before reading this book, and it did give a good picture of life as a woman in Iran. However, having read some reviews of the book on other sites, I do agree that the picture Nafisi paints of Iran is very negative, and I think it is important to read this book with an open mind. There are other books that cover life for women in a different light, and I will be certain to read some of these to gain a more overall picture of life in Iran.

      However, I did enjoy the book very much. Nafisi's literary criticisms are very interesting to read, and the backdrop of revolutionary Iran gives them context and makes the book much more readable than if it were just a text book about these books.

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      14.09.2009 18:46
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      Good if cheap is what you're after.

      Location:
      The hostel is located in Fortitude Valley, the entertainment district of Brisbane. The train station for the Valley is located just around the corner from this hostel, so you won't need to carry heavy bags very far.

      I got a taxi from the airport, which cost about $40.

      **********************************************************
      Rooms:
      Size varies from double rooms to 22-bed rooms. I actually stayed in this hostel on three separate occasions: first in a 4-bed dorm, then a 22-bed. The last time, I was planning on staying in a medium-sized one, but decided to go for the 22-bed dorm again as it was so cheap. It can be a little daunting, but actually in some ways you feel like you have more privacy than in smaller dorms because you can come and go without people really noticing.

      The price for dorms ranges from $22 to $30, but they have weekly rates available, which work out fairly cheap.

      **********************************************************
      Facilities:
      The bathrooms were pretty good standard, but it's pot luck as to whether you have one close to you. Otherwise you might have to walk upstairs and along a corridor to get there. There are also two laundry rooms, each with several machines in, and internet is available.

      There is a large common area, with tables, a pool table and television. I didn't really spend much time here because I found it a little intimidating if people were hanging around in groups. They also have vending machines and pay phones in here.

      **********************************************************
      Overall Recommendation:
      The reason I kept coming back to this hostel was because it was very cheap, and in a great location. Some people might prefer to be in the heart of Brisbane, but I loved being in the Valley.

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      14.09.2009 18:44
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      Nice atmosphere

      Location:
      Located in Southport, on the Gold Coast. It is about a 5-10 minute drive from Surfers Paradise. However, the hostel provides a free pick-up from the bus station in Surfers. They also drive the bus regularly between Surfers and the hostel, so there is always the opportunity to get a lift into Surfers. There are things to do in Southport, but most of the main attractions are located in Surfers Paradise.

      **********************************************************
      Rooms:
      Clean and spacious. Double, twins, triples and 4-6 bed dorms are available. The hostel is actually an old Queenslander (a large house), and it definitely has a homely feel to it, which extends to the rooms as well.

      If you look at the pictures on their leaflet or their website, the rooms look very nicely decorated and homely. Although my room was nice, it didn't look anything like these. I'm not accusing them of false advertising, but they definitely put the nicest-looking rooms on their leaflet!

      **********************************************************
      Facilities:
      There is a large dining area and kitchen. Other facilities include a lounge room, pool table, swimming pool and laundry. My room had an en suite which was shared with the people in the next room.

      Free breakfast is offered, although this just consists of cereal.

      **********************************************************
      Overall Recommendation:
      I really liked this hostel, especially the friendly atmosphere and homely feel. I stayed here a few days with friends, then when they left I moved into a hostel within Surfers because it was more convenient for me. But if you don't mind being a short drive out of Surfers, I would recommend Trekker's.

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      14.09.2009 18:42
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      Good holiday vibe

      Location:
      Mooloolaba is a small town located on the Sunshine Coast, about 100km north of Brisbane. The hostel is located on the main street, just a few minutes walk from the beach.

      Buses and trains all stop at nearby Maroochydore, which is also where the Sunshine Coast airport is located (domestic flights only). The hostel operates a free courtesy bus from the bus station.
      I had hired a car from Brisbane for the weekend (about an hour's drive). The hostel provides free parking, although space is limited.

      **********************************************************
      Rooms:
      4-bed or double rooms are available. They are around $30 for a dorm bed or $70 for a double room, although if you plan to stay longer there is a weekly rate available ($168/$420 as of writing). The rooms are fairly decent, pretty much your standard hostel dorms.

      **********************************************************
      Facilities:
      There are bathrooms on every floor. With this hostel being close to the beach, they can get a bit sandy, but are cleaned regularly so this isn't a major problem. Some rooms have en suites.

      Kayaks can be borrowed and taken to the creek, which is only a few minutes walk away. This was a really fun part of stay, although there were three of us and only two people could fit in, so we had to take turns. They also hire surfboards and bikes for free.

      There is a fairly decent sized swimming pool. I didn't actually use this, as I was at the beach most of the time. Kitchen, laundry and internet facilities are also available.

      They have a tour desk that specialises in Fraser Island tours, although I didn't use this as I was only there for one night. Other possible places to visit in the Sunshine Coast area are Australia Zoo, Eumundi Markets, Underwater World and the Glasshouse Mountains.

      **********************************************************
      Overall recommendation:
      I really liked the chilled-out vibe of the hostel. I was only in Mooloolaba for one night, as a weekend away from working in Brisbane, and the hostel definitely had a relaxed holiday feel to it. In the evening, we joined a bunch of people on the balcony for some cards and everyone was really friendly. Of course, you could be really unlucky and be surrounded by a load of [insert word for horrible people here], but I think most people come to stay at this hostel to make friends and have fun.
      They close the public areas at night (around 10), but the beach is very close so most people tend to head over there.

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      10.09.2009 18:37
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      The best Holiday Inn I have stayed in

      Location:
      Easily reached by taxi, but otherwise not the easiest to get to. On leaving I walked to the nearest train station to get to the airport. It was manageable, but only because I am used to walking long distances with my backpack. With a lot of luggage, a taxi would be a better idea.

      **********************************************************
      Rooms:
      The rooms are very nice. They have large windows, although the view will vary depending on whereabouts your room is located. Some people might have views of building sites! All rooms have TVs, which show a large amount of English-language programmes and films. The bathrooms are spacious and well-maintained.

      **********************************************************
      Facilities:
      There is a rooftop pool, which I went in everyday around 3 o clock and had it to myself most days. There was also a gym with treadmills and some other equipment, although I didn't use it so I can't actually remember what it was.

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      Dining:
      When booking, there were two price options: either with or without the breakfast. I opted to go for the breakfast, as having a buffet breakfast is one of my favourite things about staying in hotels. There was a very good selection of Western-style breakfast foods and some Asian foods. There were also some muffins and pastries, so I was able to sneak something out to have later for my lunch (I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this!).

      **********************************************************
      Overall Recommendation:
      I have stayed in a fair few Holiday Inns, and this was by far the best. The overall design of the lobby area was amazing, the rooms were a very good size, and I had a fairly good view (not fantastic during the day as I could mainly just see other hotels, but it looked a lot more impressive at night).

      There was also a free shuttle bus from the hotel which drops you off a couple of different locations in the area, which I found very handy.

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        03.09.2009 14:06
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        Recommended portable speakers

        This is the first review I have written in this category, so I have based it on information I think would be useful to know when purchasing speakers. If I have left anything out, please let me know.

        **********************************************************
        Ease of use:
        The speakers are very easy to use; they come with a lead to plug them into a socket, and that's all you have to do to get them set up. Most ipods will fit into the socket on top of the speakers; I have an ipod nano, so I use an attachment that came with the speakers to make the space smaller and therefore make it fit better. There is also a lead to attach other kind of mp3 players or other musical devices, such as CD players; it is just a generic output lead that will fit into any device.

        It also doubles as an ipod-charger, which is good for me as my ipod didn't come with one!

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        Sound quality:
        The sound quality is very good. There are buttons on the front of the speakers to adjust the volume. The sound can go quite loud; I would say it would be loud enough for a medium sized party.

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        Portability:
        These speakers are a very handy size for carrying around. They are long and thin in shape, and would fit into a medium-sized handbag or anything bigger. The fact that they are easy to set up also means you could move it from one room in the house to another without too much hassle. There is a battery compartment at the base, which takes 4 AAA batteries. I haven't used the speakers with batteries yet, but I will try that out when I get a chance and add that to this review.

        **********************************************************
        Appearance:
        They are black, so might not go with everybody's décor, but they are small enough to just sit in the background. They are cylindrical in shape, which I think is quite nice, and makes them look a bit different to your usual speakers.

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        26.08.2009 11:23
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        Good for a quick fix

        This review is based on the Bitter Chocolate shade.

        **********************************************************
        Contents:
        Gloves
        45ml conditioning hair colour
        45ml developing lotion
        75ml enriching after colour conditioner

        **********************************************************
        Application:
        The application process is fairly similar to most other hair dyes. Pour hair colour into the developing lotion, shake it up and your ready to go! (I have briefed this down for the purpose of the review - please read the instructions if you do use this product).

        The product is fairly easy to apply, although you have to be careful about it dripping as it is quite runny.

        I have long hair and the first time I used this I was dyeing over reddish hair, so I used two boxes to get a better result. Since then I have only used 1 box, and that gets a satisfactory result, although I think the colour would be more even overall if I used two boxes. The only reason why I can get away with one is because I am dyeing brown hair brown, so if you have a different colour hair I would recommend using two boxes to get even coverage.

        **********************************************************
        The colour:
        The colour is very nice, a chocolately brown. At first it is very dark, but within a couple of washes it will look more lilke the colour on the box. Obviously, everybody will get different results depending on their original hair colour, but I'd say the shade panel on the box is fairly acccurate so you can get a good idea from that.

        Although this is a permanent hair dye, it did fade after several washes.

        **********************************************************
        The conditioner:
        They give you a much larger tube of conditioner than I am used to with other dyes, and it is designed to last a few washes. This will depend on how much conditioner you use per wash, but usually you only get enough to use immediately after dyeing your hair. The conditioner contains grapeseed oil, which I'd said is the dominant smells, and it left my hair feeling very soft.

        **********************************************************
        Price and availibility:
        Botanics is a Boots brand, so is only available at Boots. It costs £4.29, but they frequently do 2 for 1 offers, so look out for those.

        **********************************************************
        Overall Recommendation:
        I was actually going to give a good recommendation, but now that I have written the review, I realise this dye is not as good as I thought. Firstly, a dye with a non-drip formula would be easier to use. Secondly, the colour does fade more quickly than other dyes.

        However, it being a Boots brand, it is cheaper than some other brands, and it gives a very nice colour. I would recommend it if your hair really needs dyeing, and you just want to buy something cheaper to tide you over until you can afford to spend more money!

        I would use it again because I liked the colour, but think I might try and few different ones first.

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        23.08.2009 19:42
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        Definitely a must-see, whatever the weather.

        There are already a few Uluru reviews up here, but thought I would contribute one anyway, because my experience was slightly differerent.

        Whilst I was there, it pretty much rained the whole time. Not what you'd expect in the middle of the outback, but apparently it is a semi-arid zone, so they do get some rainfall. However it is an extremely rare sight.

        One of the major differences between Aussies and Brits is in attitudes towards rain. Aussies understand that water is a precious commodity, and don't moan about it the rain like we tend to! They celebrate rain the way we rush outside in our shorts and vest tops when there is 5 minutes of sunshine!
        So in a place with an average rainfall of 308mm/ 12" rain a year, the locals really appreciate it when it does rain. Our tour guides kept telling us constantly how lucky we were because hardly anybody gets to see what Uluru looks like in the rain.

        So what does Uluru look like in the rain? Well, several waterfalls form on the rock, which are pretty amazing. Due to the sky being very cloudy, the rock was generally a dark red colour, and it was interesting to see it looking different to the way it doesn on postcards.

        Obviously, there were some downsides to this, as our tour guides had to completely restructure the whole tour. We were supposed to go to Kings Canyon, but couldn't because it was closed off. We were also supposed to sleep in swags under the stars. Firstly, the stars werent visible because of the clouds, and secondly I didn't fancy being rained on in my sleep! The amazing sunrise/ sunset views of the rock were pretty disappointing as the sky was so cloudy
        I hadn't prepared for cold weather at all, so when we did the base walk around Uluru, I was wearing shorts, a vest top and a cardigan. However, this didn't really matter as the walk is fairly long, and I was pretty much warmed up by the time we finished.

        These disadvantages were certainly outweighed by the fact that I was lucky enough to experience something that hardly anybody gets to.

        One of the biggest dilemmas faced when visiting Uluru is whether to climb it or not. The locals prefer that you don't, but give you the option to decide for yourself. I had already decided not to, but this didn't really matter as the climb was closed off due to the rain anyway.

        On a further note, the cultural centre is definitely worth a visit. Here you can learn about Anangu culture and see some arts and crafts. The building itself resembles two snakes, Kuniya and Liru, whose stories are based around Uluru.

        I saw Uluru as part of 3 day tour with Outback Safaris. There are several tours going to Uluru from Alice Springs, and to be honest they all seem to be fairly similar in terms of itineraries. They differ slightly in budget which will affect what sort of transport (small bus vs air-conditioned coach) you'll be on and where you'll stay (tent, hostel, hotel). I would recommend going with one where you can sleep in swags under the stars, as this was the one thing I was most disappointed about missing out on.

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          20.08.2009 23:54
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          A must-read

          I have decided to start writing book reviews, and in the future I plan to focus more on books that don't already have reviews on the site. However, I thought I'd do this as my first one, because I felt I could review it easily. Feedback welcome!

          ************************************************************
          Introduction:
          "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was written in 1968 by Philip K Dick. The book was used as the basis for the movie 'Blade Runner', which was released in 1982, only weeks after Dick's death.

          The book is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and deals with themes of technology and human nature.

          ************************************************************
          Plot Summary:
          In the near future, the planet has been decimated by World War Terminus and is being taken over by toxic dust. Most of the population have emigrated to Mars, with the incentive of being given an android as a slave.

          The events of the novel all take place in the same day. It follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, as he sets out to track down and 'retire' i.e. kill six advanced model 'andys' (androids escaped from their owners in Mars).

          A secondary storyline follows J.R. Isidore, a 'special', i.e. someone of a low IQ deemed not to be a suitable candidate for emigration to Mars). Isidore befriends one of the escaped andys who moves into his abandoned apartment complex.

          ************************************************************
          My thoughts:
          It didn't take me long to get absorbed in the book and I found that I was compelled to keep reading to find out what would happen next. The book gives a brief insight into what life could be like, and raises some interesting questions about the nature of humanity and the use of technology.

          At the very beginning of the book, we are introduced to the Penfield Mood Organ, a device that allows the user to induce a particular mood or feeling by dialling the appropriate number. This perfectly demonstrates the idea of society becoming more machine-like by being overly dependent on technology.
          Towards the start of the book, Deckard uses an empathy test to determine whether or not someone is an android, as this is supposedly what makes humans differ from androids. However, the reliability of this test is questioned several times throughout the book.
          As the books progresses, the line between humans and androids starts to blur, and it leaves you wondering what it really is that makes us human.

          ************************************************************
          Further Recommendations:
          Wicked by Gregory Maguire - a very different book, but also explores themes of human nature (well, Munchkin nature technically) and particularly the nature of evil.

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            15.08.2009 19:43
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            A good place to find work, but the cost of the hostel will eat up a lot of your wages.

            This is a working hostel. Most people who stay here are working in local farms and packing sheds in the local area. I stayed here in June 2008.

            ************************************************************
            Location:
            In the centre of Bundaberg. Within walking distance of most places in the city centre, or a bus ride to the local shopping centre or beaches.
            It was a bit of a trek from the bus station. They do offer a pick-up service, but you need to let them know in advance.

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            Hostel:
            The hostel used to be a police station, and the dorms are old cells. They have very high ceilings, but other than this (and the fact that it still says 'police station' on the outside) it's not different to any other hostel.

            Dorms vary in size from single to 4-bed. As it is mainly for longer-term stays, the rooms have large storage drawers underneath the beds and everybody is provided with a box of crockery and cutlery when they arrive to keep in their room. You also get a spare to store food in the large walk-in-fridge.

            There is a pool and a large bar area next to it. The bar is usually busy in the evenings, and is frequented by some locals as well as hostellers.

            I found that the staff were not rude, but not particularly helpful either.

            ************************************************************
            Work:
            Work is in local farms/ packing sheds doing fruit-picking/ packing.

            When you arrive at the hostel, you have to speak to 'Dave' (can't remember his real name), who is responsible for sorting out all the work. He will make a note of your experience (in most people's case, this will be none) and how long you plan to stay for. He has a number of local farms/ packing sheds that he liaises with daily to find out how many people they need to do what, and then works out who to send to which farm. We waited 3 days before we were given work, which is pretty good; some people have to wait longer.

            He then publishes a list of who is going where on the notice board and what time you need to leave. It is your responsibility to check the board every night. When you first arrive, you will most likely be given single-day jobs, but if the place likes you and know they need help for longer they will ask 'Dave' to send you regularly for a set amount of time. However, you still have to check the list every night, which doesn't go up on the board until about between 8.30 and 9. I found this a problem, because you had to wait until then to know if you were working, then make your lunch, before going to bed. If I have to be up at 4.30am, I'd much rather be in bed earlier than this.

            The hostel has 2 or 3 buses that they use to transport people to work. You basically need to go to the waiting area in time and they will take you to your workplace (if you are not there in time, they will come into your room and yell at you to wake you up - regardless of whether your roommates are still asleep or not), then pick you up after work. The places vary as to what time they like people to start, and obviously if they are farther away, you have to leave earlier; some people get a lie in and don't have to leave until 7am! Finish time also varies from place to place. Some people would work a normal working day of 7-8 hours, whereas others had to work much longer. In the packing shed I worked at, we started at 6am and finished about 6.30pm. Now, I've done 12 hour shifts before, but this is extremely boring work. The main thing I found difficult is that I had to travel 45 minutes to get to work, so virtually had no free time - I was on a working holiday, emphasis on the *holiday*!

            ************************************************************
            Overall Recommendation:
            My overall gripe with this hostel was mainly to do with cost. Most working hostels are relatively cheap, especially as you are charged weekly rather than nightly. However this is one of the more expensive hostels ($26-30/ night) and works out quite expensive over time, which eats up a lot of your wages. On top of this, there are lots of extra costs. For example:
            1) You are not allowed to wash your sheets in the laundry room, so you have to get new ones from reception. This will cost you £3.
            2) If you want to change the air con setting in your room, you have to pay to borrow the remote from reception to do so.

            Another problem was noise. Even though most people were working, and had to get up extremely early, the fact that there was a bar in the hostel meant that people were up drinking til all hours of the morning.

            However, this hostel has very high standards of cleanliness and good facilities. If you are going to be doing farm work for a while, Bundaberg has more to offer than some places in the middle of nowhere. There are a lot of farms/ packing sheds in the area, and you can potentially make good money, especially in the packing sheds which pay by the hour. I got paid £16/ hour for packing vegetables, which is a fairly good rate. Most of the fruit-picking is paid at piece-rates, so you have to work really hard to make some money. However, as there are a number of different places to work locally, you might start off with one of the worst jobs, but then can be moved to somewhere better.

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              04.08.2009 21:42
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              An amazing meal with a fun show thrown in for free!

              Dracula's is a themed cabaret restaurant. They are two in Australia: one on the Gold Coast and one in Melbourne. This review concerns the one in Melbourne, although from what I've heard, they are fairly similar (except that the Melbourne one is cheaper!)

              When you first enter, you go into a cocktail bar, then onto a ghost train to the actual restaurant. This was very novel, and gets you in the right mood for the evening.

              ************************************************************
              The Show:

              They change the show every few months, but it is generally always a cabaret-esque show with a vampire/ horror theme. The show I saw was called Vampirates (vampire pirates). I don't really remember whether there was an actual storyline (think there might have been a very vague one); it was more about the singing and dancing. There was also some comedy thrown in and some audience participation. The whole thing was fairly camp, but a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously.

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              Food:

              A three-course meal is included in the ticket price, and dinner is served in the gaps between segments of the show. The food was amazing. The menu was not extensive; there were only a few options for each course, but I am a fussy eater and I found something I liked! The dessert was a particular highlight: a mascarpone mousse in a dark chocolate case shaped like a coffin! The current menu can be seen on the website, so you can have a look before you book your ticket..

              A large selection of drinks is available, including a range of cocktails. They were all a bit pricey, but I had managed to find a voucher (look in tourist information centres and hostels for voucher booklets) for a free cocktail, and drank water after that, so the price was kept down!

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              Suitability for Children:

              There were a few children in the audience when I was there, but they also do special sessions ("Drax 4 Kids") for children aged 8 to 13 . I would recommend taking your children to one of these as the main show is really aimed for adults, and there is strong language.

              ************************************************************
              Photographs:

              You are not allowed to use your camera anywhere in the restaurant, but they take souvenir photographs with the cast that you can purchase. I had the audacity to ask to see the photograph before committing to purchasing, which obviously does not happen very often, and the lady looked very shocked about this! As with most souvenir photographs, they were quite overpriced, and the fact that you couldn't take your own pictures was the one downside to the place.

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                04.08.2009 21:05
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                A good hostel for long-term guests.

                Location:

                Right in the heart of Glebe, a suburb within Sydney. Glebe has a Bohemian feel to it. It is full of cafes, restaurants, second-hand book stores and there is a market on every Saturday. You can get a bus straight to Sydney from outside the hostel, which takes about 10 minutes, so it's a handy location.

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                The Hostel:

                This hostel is most suitable for long-term guests. They charge weekly rates, which are cheaper the longer you stay, for example, if you are staying for six weeks they charge you a different weekly rate than if you are only staying for two weeks. They ask for a week's rent as a deposit, or you can leave your passport at reception, which they keep in the safe.

                One problem with some of the other long-term hostels I looked at in Sydney was that you had to rent the room, so you needed three other people to share with. However, this hostel only charges rent per bed, so it doesn't matter if you don't have enough friends!

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                Rooms:

                They are all four-bed dorms. Single sex dorms are available on request. Each room has an en suite, a fridge and a small kitchen area, which contains cupboards for food storage, a toaster, a kettle and a sink. There is also a television and computer with free internet access in each room. There is a wardrobe and drawers for clothes storage.

                The rooms were definitely the reason I chose to stay in this hostel was because of the rooms, as it was really handy having these conveniences in the room. My room-mates worked at various times, so it was pretty easy to get on the computer. However, I can see how this could be a difficult situation, and you might possibly have to come up with some sort of system to ensure equal access. It was also great having a TV in the room as it is a nice home comfort that can be missed when travelling for a long period of time. I also liked being able to leave all my toiletries in the bathroom - something I took for granted before I started travelling!

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                Facilities:

                There is a large kitchen on the top floor, and a rooftop area with a free barbeque. There is an amazing view of Sydney from the rooftop, especially at night. The kitchen is very spacious, and has several different sinks, cookers, kettles and microwaves so several people can be cooking at the same time. Cooking equipment is provided, although it is kept in the rooms, as every room is given a certain amount of items for use. There is seating within the kitchen, as well as a large amount of seating on the rooftop. They close the kitchen and rooftop after a certain time (10 o clock if I remember correctly), mainly because of noise complaints from neighbours.

                There is a laundry room at the bottom of the hostel, which is free to use. However, it was constantly in use and several times I ended up taking my washing to the laundrette next door because I couldn't wait any longer. The biggest problem was people putting their washing in the machine, then going off and leaving it. Also the dryers took longer than the washers, so often it was easy to find a free washer, but then there would be a build-up of people waiting for a dryer.

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                Overall Opinion:

                I would recommend this hostel, but I think it depend on what you are looking for. There are many hostels in Sydney, and people who are only there short-term might benefit from staying in a more central one. I loved the area of Glebe, but some people might prefer to be somewhere closer to bars and clubs. You can go for a viewing before you book, so you could go and see whether you like it before you decide.

                I was very lucky with my room-mates as a got along with them very well, but as this is a long-term hostel, it would not be as enjoyable if you didn't like the people you were sharing with. However, the reception staff were very friendly, and would have happily moved anybody to a different room if need be.

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              • Surf Camp Australia / More Travel / 27 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                31.07.2009 19:41
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                A great introduction to surfing

                Surf Camp is pretty much what it says on the tin. It is a camp where you learn how to surf. It is located a few hours outside of Sydney, and they pick you up from and drop you off at the YHA Central in Sydney.

                It is aimed at complete beginners, so you don't need to know anything about surfing before you go.

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                Location:
                7 Mile Beach, Gerroa. This beach is specifically chosen because it is very good for beginners i.e. there are waves, but not ones that are too big.

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                Packages:
                5 Day Surf Camp $675
                4 day Surf Camp $525
                Weekend Surf Camp $295
                2 day Surf Camp $275
                1 Day Surf Trip $145

                Prices include transport to the camp and meals; although how many meals you will be given depends on the time you are picked up/ dropped off. They'll let you know this when you book. All equipment is provided, including wetsuits.

                How to decide which package to choose:
                Obviously, your personal budget will be a big factor in deciding which package you would take. I would definitely recommend doing at least a 2 day camp. Firstly because I personally think you will need more than a day to actually learn how to surf and get some practice in. Secondly, this will include staying overnight at the camp and it is a great way to make some new friends.
                A friend of mine did the 4 day camp, and she said it was extremely tiring. She said it was basically the same as the two day camp but with two extra days of practice. She enjoyed it, but felt it wasn't necessary to do the two extra days. Of course, this is really up to the individual person, and some people might really benefit from these extra two days.

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                My Experience:
                I'll try to keep this as brief as possible, as this is a review not a journal, but hopefully give you an idea of what the surf camp entails. I did the weekend surf camp. (I am adding this now after having written the whole thing, and actually it is quite long, so if you're not interested in hearing all about it, you can skip to the end section: Would I recommend it?)

                Friday Evening:
                I was picked up about 6 o'clock, and we stopped off at a burger place on the way before arriving at the camp about 8 o'clock. We were allocated to rooms; I was sharing with 5 others, but you can pay extra for private rooms or twin shares. The camp is actually a small area in a larger holiday park. Camp doesn't literally mean you are camping, we stayed in cabins. There was a table area in the centre and the cabins were around it in a square. Bedding is provided. This first evening some of us sat around and chatted for a bit, but we went to bed fairly early as we had an early start in the morning.

                Saturday:
                Up at 7 for breakfast. After this, we got into our wetsuits (which by the way were still wet and it was extremely cold at 7 in the morning!). We then headed to the beach (walking distance from the camp) for our first lesson. We were allocated boards, which were larger than regular surfboards but easier for beginners (easier to stay on!). We were then put into groups of about 8-10 and each group was allocated an instructor. There were also two other floating instructors and a guy (I think his name was actually Guy) taking photographs.

                Firstly we did stretches then we were given a surf lesson on the beach, showing us the basics of how to paddle out and how to stand up on the board. We then went out into the sea to practise. The instructors were there to help out. They managed to give everybody in the group some one-on-one time, whilst keeping an eye on the whole group and cheering anyone who managed to stand up. I did not manage to stand up in the first lesson, but I had a lot of fun falling off! This lasted two hours then we headed back to the camp for some lunch.

                We headed back out for the second lesson about 1.30, which was basically practising what we had learnt earlier. It lasted two hours and I did actually managed to stand up this time! Very exciting, even if I fell off after about 5 seconds! After that, we had some free time before dinner. After dinner we were shown our pictures of the day. They had a screen at the front of the room so everyone could watch together, and Guy sorted them out into folders for each individual person as we went along. I was surprised that he managed to get pictures of every single time I stood up. He must have been very quick with the camera!

                In the evening, we went to the fisherman's club for a few drinks (there weren't any pubs locally), but didn't stay for long as we had another early start the next day...well some people stayed for a while, but severely regretted in the next day!

                Sunday:
                I had hurt my back the previous day, but was determined to keep going, and I managed to catch some good waves in the first lesson of the day. We learnt about how to catch green waves, rather than white ones which we'd been doing the day before. Again, this was two hours, after which we headed in for lunch. After lunch my back started to really hurt and I nearly fainted, so I sat out the second lesson this day. From what I gathered though it wasn't a great session as it was windy and this made the waves difficult to surf. Back at camp, everyone was also given a lesson on surfing etiquette (basically about not getting in each other's way and things like that).

                We left about 4.30, stopping in a small town to get some food. Here we were also given our surfing photos. We were given them on CDs and you could either get one for $30 or all of them for $50. Obviously this is a really easy opportunity for them to make money as you can't take the pictures yourself, but it is definitely worth getting, and he managed to get some good shots of everybody. This CD also included some generic shots of the beach and surrounding area. We were also given a free surf camp t-shirt and bag and a surf DVD.

                We were dropped off in Sydney outside the YHA, and everyone was invited into Scubar (the bar next door) for some free pizza.

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                Meals:
                Meals were very good, and were cooked by separate kitchen staff (they kept themselves to themselves so I don't really know much about them). Lunches were usually sandwiches or burgers, and dinner was pasta bake. There was plenty of food to go around, and vegetarian options were available. I had a couple of friends do surfing lessons somewhere else, they had been told lunch would be provided, and it turned out to be just an orange! Believe you will need more than just that as surfing is a lot of hard work, but we were well fed on this camp.

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                The instructors:
                All the instructors were fantastic. They were really good at teaching, and very supportive and encouraging. They were also very enthusiastic about surfing, and it was great to be around people who love what they do for a living. My instructor also took really good care of me when I hurt my back, so I felt especially grateful to him.

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                Would I recommend it?:
                I would definitely recommend this surf camp. It was one of the highlights of my trip. It is a great introduction to surfing. It teaches you enough of the basics to be able to go hire a surfboard and practise yourself. Or you could also do top-up lessons at a later point if you wanted to learn more. I think that the lessons combined with the camp element created a really great experience, and is a good opportunity to make new friends.

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                • More +
                  24.07.2009 14:31
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                  Great place to get a steak!

                  Location:
                  East coast of Australia, sits right on the Tropic of Capricorn.

                  Getting there:
                  Easily accessible by car from the Bruce Highway.
                  Can also be reached by bus, train and plane.

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                  Things to do:

                  Eat a steak: Rockhampton is the beef capital of Queensland. They like to remind you of this by placing lots of random cow statues around the city. I had a nice one at O'Dowd's, an Irish pub on William Street.

                  Rockhampton Art Gallery: free entry. Holds permanent and temporary exhibitions, and showcases a range of Australian artists.

                  Botanic Gardens: free entry. Includes a Japanese garden, lagoons and a small koala sanctuary.

                  Kershaw Gardens: a large botanical park area, with some pretty waterfalls and a scented garden. There is also a good play area, which I thought looked fun (even at 25 I still enjoy them, but unfortunately have to give priority to kids). My friend and I got a bit lost on the way back through the park, and didn't realised that they locked the gates at a certain time, so we had to climb over the fence to get out!

                  Dreamtime Cultural Centre: actually situated north of the city, on the Bruce Highway. Here you can learn about Aboriginal culture via walking trails and guided tours. Also features an art gallery.

                  Capricorn Caves: not actually in Rockhampton, but only a short drive away. Like you would imagine, these are caves. It was very interesting. We took a guided tour from a very knowledgable guide, who told us all about how the caves were formed. We were also shown into a particularly large cave where they sometimes have weddings. We were shown what the place is like when lit by candles and with music playing; it was pretty spectacular. The tour took an hour.

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                  Where to stay:
                  I was travelling up the East Coast in a campervan, so I stayed in a holiday park, but there are several hotels and hostels in Rockhampton.
                  There is an information centre (208 Quay St) who can give up-to-date information about accomodation as well as any other information you may require.

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                  • More +
                    18.07.2009 11:48
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                    Worth coming just for the seafood!

                    First impressions:
                    When we first drove into the city from the airport, I was quite surprised by what I saw, as there are lot of small houses built into the hills that look like slums (slums is a bit of an exaggeration, but I can't think of a better word). Then as you get further in you get to all the skyscrapers, which is what I expected to be seeing.

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                    Accommodation:
                    There is plenty of accommodation in San Francisco, so I won't list it all here. I stayed in the Holiday Inn near Fisherman's Wharf, which was a nice hotel. I would recommend staying in this area, as it is a good location for restaurants as well as various other attractions. However, it is very touristy, so might not be everyone's cup of tea.

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                    Things to do:
                    Fisherman's Wharf - as you walk down by the Wharf, there are lots of artists and street performers about. It is a very busy area with lots of shops (especially tacky touristy type ones) and restaurants. There are some great chocolate/ candy shops. This is also the place to come to get a boat to Alcatraz and for the aquarium.

                    Golden Gate Bridge - I was quite excited to see this as I am a big fan of Charmed, which heavily features the bridge. However, it is a must-do for any visitor to San Francisco (which apparently is only called 'Frisco' by tourists).

                    Alcatraz - there are other reviews on this (one that I've written myself) so I won't go into too much detail here, but I would definitely recommend a visit to Alcatraz.

                    Shopping - head on down to Union Street, where there plenty of shops, all the usuals like Macy's, American Eagle etc.

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                    Eating:
                    There is no shortage of restaurants in San Francisco. It is most famous for it's seafood. A particular speciality is clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl; you can find this at pretty much any seafood restaurant.

                    Alioto's - recommend by the driver on our tour bus. He is a local and says he eats here every year on his birthday. Of course, he could be paid by them to say that, but I ate here, and the food was lovely. I had a shrimp and crab cannelloni, which was amazing.

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                    Overall thoughts:
                    I would definitely recommend San Francisco to anybody. There is so much to do and see here that there is something for everybody. You could also spend a long time here and be constantly finding new things to do and see.

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