There’s something wickedly hypnotic about the way the silver light of a strobe accentuates the sensuality of a dancing female figure.
Perhaps this is merely a product of my testosterone fuelled 22 year old male psyche and to anyone else reading this I’m simply a pervert. However, my corrupt mindedness aside, seeing someone pulse to the rhythmic beat of a heavy bass line, illuminated by the epileptic intensity of a strobe almost redefines what it is to be sexy.
Sexy is a word often forgone in favour of seediness when it comes to the city of Las Vegas, and undoubtedly the line between the two often runs dangerously thin here in sin city.
As a first time visitor in early 2012, I admit my expectations were of a Kings Cross (being from Sydney) on steroids. I was travelling with my girlfriend and another couple and we had just spent a month experiencing the rustic, traditional Mayan way of life, as we journeyed through Southern Mexico and Guatemala. Vegas was certainly a debaucherous dichotomy, that’s for sure, however in only the best of ways. (If that’s possible).
Now before the prudes amongst you begin casting your dispersions over my moral integrity, I’m a decent guy, just ask my mother, and no one else!
But seriously, there’s a lot to be said about the classier side of Vegas, away from the smoke filled casinos and endless cohort of Hispanic men handing out stripper call cards. On a side note, I decided to reminisce on my days of collecting Pokémon cards and adopted a ‘gotta catch em all’ attitude towards gathering as many of these handouts as I could.
We ate our first meal at The Sugar Factory, a restaurant and lolly shop, which the constantly playing montage of celebrities visiting gave it a celebrity of its own. The meal was enormous, as was every meal we ate in the US, however I can honestly say my steak was arguably the best of the entire six week trip. Also the lolly shop, which my girlfriend and I visited twice, had a diabetes inducing range of sugary goodness that’s a definite must-have for the kid-at-heart, candy fiends such as myself.
Our first watering hole of the trip was The Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay on the southern end of the strip and despite the $US10 drinks we were impressed with the classiness of the décor and of course the spectacular view which is the drawcard for this sophisticated lounge. The next night we went to Tao inside the Venetian and, after being rejected by Marque, when the bouncer let our group cut the line AND then let us in free of charge we were immediately impressed.
The first thing you see as you walk through the ornate orient archways for the clubs entrance is two rose petal filled hot tubs, complete with oriental beauties wearing nothing but the aforementioned rose petals. Climbing the stairs from the entrance bar, you come to two large glass rooms in which (at least when we went) there sat two gorgeous models, smiling welcomingly at the arriving guests. (Or as I like to think, smiling at me and no one else).
Once inside the club, the truly sexy side of Vegas shines in all its hedonistic glory.
Elevated platforms play host to scantily clad – however not to the point of vulgarity – dancers, all of which were not only damn good movers, but also rather attractive! Even the bar staff were good looking, and always super friendly. We were all impressed, especially myself and my male travel companion.
The third night we saw a DJ play at the Hardrock Café, and again we were impressed with the standard of the club, the price of the tickets and drinks and the performance. Especially when compared to the standards and prices back home. (Sydney is expensive FYI).
Needless to say we were pleasantly surprised with Vegas as a whole. Yes there was a seedy side to it, but that’s why they call it ‘sin city’. By looking past the seediness the sexy new Vegas, an adult playground for the young at heart, radiates, aiming to please and succeeding in abundance.
Pure, undefiled darkness envelopes your entire being. Thick and heavy, so that even your hands are obscured right in front of your eyes.
There is sound. Raw beastly grunts and growls, chirps, whirs and the chatter of unseen figures, dancing in the darkness all around.
An ethereal culmination of stillness and life surrounds you.
This is what it’s like waking up in the middle of the night, deep in the jungles of the Bokeo Province in Northern Laos.
Laos is a landlocked country in South East Asia, bordered by the more traditionally popular tourist hotspots such as Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south, Vietnam to the east and China to the northwest.
Often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Laos is truly a hidden gem in the South East Asian crown. Monks robed in burnt amber garments meander down cobbled streets and dirt roads alike. Mimicking the movement of the mighty Mekong River on which it borders with Thailand to the west. Great expanses of lush jungle envelop vast stretches of the country, untouched and ripe with unique natural wonder.
The beauty of the land is matched only by the nature of its people, who radiate a sense of enlightenment though their gentleness and welcoming.
Laos boasts two main cities, the capitol; Vientiane and UNESCO world heritage site; Luang Prabang, both of which encapsulate the simple riverside lifestyle that the Laotians exude down to a tee. However, crossing the mighty Mekong from Northern Thailand to the border town of Huay Xai, you’re thrust headlong into the unique blend of a raw, rustic Laotian village life infused with a vivacious backpacker vibe.
Its main street boasts a couple of hundred metres of simple yet comfortable guest houses and quaint little riverside restaurants and bars. Dining in Laos showcases the locals laid back attitude towards everything, so don’t plan on eating in a hurry. However watching the sunset over the mighty Mekong with a nice cold bottle of Beer Laos makes for a breathtaking way to wait for your meal and immerse yourself in the tranquillity of Huay Xai.
Along the main road you’ll come across a small shop, with the words The Gibbon Experience emblazoned across its glass doors. The Gibbon Experience takes tourists deep into the jungles of the Bokeo Province for a three day eco-tourism adventure. Driving three hours off road from Huay Xai in the back of an open air truck takes adventurers to a tiny Laotian village nestled in the jungle. From there, after allowing the villagers, (still becoming accustomed to strangers coming to their village) to marvel over you, a 2-3 hour trek will bring you to the epitome of the Gibbon Experience.
Zip lines, some stretching up to a kilometre in length, allow for a convenient method of traversing the deep valleys of the jungle while taking in a spectacular view along the way.
They also act as a means of transporting you to your new home for the next two nights – a custom built tree house from which one can truly marvel at the omnipotent natural world spanning as far as the eye can see.
The serenity in a place so in contrast to the citified modern-world, gives it a spirituality all of its own. A neoteric, enchanting blend of new life with ancient wonder. This unique duality really summarises what Laos is aspiring to become as a tourist destination, bringing new life to its endless ancient wonder.
The following is actually an article I wrote for my new job as a writer for the not for profit organisation – Vibewire. The original article can be found here.
We live in an incredible, dynamic, exciting and progressive time and space on this beautiful little planet called Earth.
In the last 10,000 years we’ve seen innumerable changes to the way we, the mighty human beings, survive and thrive; from creating our first useable tools, to hand-held super-computers; the horse and cart, to space stations and rockets. From killing wild animals and foraging for fruits and vegetables, to agriculture, and now the menagerie of fast food chains, providing our sustenance for ‘survival’.
In a media release last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics it was reported that one in four Australians over the age of 18 are clinically obese, and a further 37% overweight. This equates to a massive (no pun intended) total of 61.4% of Australians being classed as either overweight or obese.*
This means that, unfortunately, 61.4% of Australians have an increased risk of suffering from musculo-skeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation and pain and financial hardship as a direct result of their health issues.
The kicker, and it’s a doozey, is that all of these are somewhat PREVENTABLE diseases. Through our lifestyle choices; what we eat, how we move (and how often), how much sleep we get, drinking, smoking, stress and therefore weight gain, we have made (obesity related illnesses) the number one cause of premature death.
It gets worse. In a study carried out by financial giants KPMG, commissioned by Medibank Australia, the total costs associated with this obesity epidemic in Australia were estimated at $37.7 billion at the time of the 2007-08 study.**
In a time of economic uncertainty, not only is obesity literally killing people (an estimated 7,200 people per year according to the ABS 2007-08 national health screen) it’s also having a huge impact on our economic ‘health’ and productivity as a nation.
Since these diseases are all lifestyle related, through some simple changes to the way we live on a day to day basis, we can do something to help stop and even reverse the effects of many of them.
Mark Sisson is an ex Iron Man, author of the hugely successful book ‘The Primal Blueprint’ and creator of the blog ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’, (www.marksdailyapple.com) a wealth of amazing information on everything and anything health related.
Mark’s philosophy on health and wellbeing comes from the idea that although the world has changed dramatically over the last 10,000 years, mankind’s DNA and genetic makeup hasn’t.
Our ancestors evolved over millions of years under certain environmental conditions. These conditions (the foods they ate, the amount of sun they got, the sort of movement that was required of them to survive, etc.) shaped their genome and thus formed how we’re now still genetically designed to live optimally.
Hence Mark’s ‘Primal Blueprint’ approach to health and wellbeing was born.
The Primal Blueprint is basically a holistic approach to our modern lifestyle, based on the way our ancestors lived millions of years ago. Through living the ‘Primal Lifestyle’, we can change our genetic makeup helping promote weight loss, strength and muscle gain, greater health and longevity and move away from disease and illness, fat storing and muscle wasting.
Mark defines ‘Primal Living’ in its most basic form in his Article ‘The Definitive Guide: Primal Blueprint’.
He outlines the following key steps for moving away from illness and disease towards better health and body composition.
1. Eat meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and plants (fruits and vegetable)
We’re made to believe (by food companies with their own financial benefits in mind) that whole grains are a necessary staple in every diet. That things like bread, pasta, rice and cereals are good for us.
But here’s the problem, grains have only been a part of the human diet for around 10,000 years (since the beginning of agriculture). Granted that’s a pretty long time, however it’s nothing compared to the millions of years we’ve been around as a species. So what does that mean?
Well, even though we’re able to tolerate grains in our diets (to a degree), our digestive systems aren’t designed (through evolution) to maximise the digestion of grains. Thus repeatedly putting this stress on our digestive system can cause some major issues over time; such as leaky gut, acid reflux and autoimmune disease to name a few.
Grains are also an incredibly rich source of carbohydrates, which as a result of excessive consumption triggers a cheeky little chain reaction of fat storing hormonal chaos.
Put simply: Carbohydrate (found in grains) drives insulin (hormone produced through digestion of carbs) which then drives fat (from the bloodstream into fat cells for storage) (Cahill 1965, and Taubes 2007). There are carbs in fruits and vegetables, however by sticking to mostly the fibrous leafy types (greens, cauliflower, berries etc.) and not going too wild on the tubers (potato, sweet potato etc.) it’s very difficult to eat more than 100 grams of carbs in a day, which is plenty for an average healthy adult to survive and thrive without insulin spikes causing excess fat storage.
2. Move around as much as possible
This is an easy one. Through our busy work schedules causing us to sit behind desks for 12+ hours a day, we’ve become more and more sedentary. Our bodies are suffering and storing all the energy we consume as body fat, rather than using it for fueling movement.
So get up and about as much as possible. Walk to work, walk on your lunch break, and make sure you’re getting up at least once an hour or get a standing desk. Just find ways to move more!
3. Lift heavy objects
Our ancient ancestors had to move rocks and trees to make shelters as they moved from place to place. We have our beautiful modern houses and apartments now, so the need for physical exertion in the form of heavy lifting is no longer essential. However our bodies are designed to be strong, to be powerful and to be able to move objects when needed, so get yourself to a gym, a park or basically anywhere you can find something to lift, carry, push, pull, throw etc. and do it!
4. Move quickly (sprint) once in a while
When our ancestors were being chased by any of their myriad of large scary beast predators, what do you think they did? They didn’t jump into their fancy sports cars and speed off, or call 000 from their mobile phones and hope help arrived ASAP. They ran. They ran very, very quickly. As with lifting heavy objects, you don’t need to head out and sprint around every day, just every once in a while. Head to the park or the beach or even jump in the pool and move, quickly. Simple!
5. Get plenty of sleep
Moving around all day made our ancient ancestors pretty darn tired, and as they didn’t have TVs, computers or artificial lights (besides fire) to keep them up after dark, they generally did what we were designed to do, rested and recovered from the day’s activities in preparation for the day to come.
6. Think, or use your mind
Our survival as a species wouldn’t have been possible without some incredible feats of innovativeness, creativity, intelligence and wonder. Make a daily habit of stimulating your mind with anything you find interesting. See, smell, taste, listen, read and absorb the world around you.
All work and no play make caveman (or woman) a dull Neanderthal. Working 40+ hours a week, stressing about money, your job, relationships etc. makes for a pretty miserable and in turn unhealthy existence. Do something you love every once in a while, something that’s just for you and just for fun.
Lifestyle diseases are just that – a result of a diseased lifestyle. By moving towards a more primal way of living we can help fight the obesity epidemic we’re now facing as a nation and in turn lower the rates of these often fatal diseases.
It seems Ghandi got it right when he said, “it is our health that is our real wealth, not pieces of silver or gold”. With money being what it is today (a driving force in most of our lives unfortunately), we can see how important our health is for both our longevity and financial stability, individually and as a nation.
Being healthy has never been so important!
*These statistics come from the 2007-08 National Health Screen carried out by the ABS, in which height, weight and hip and waist measurements were recorded in all Australians over the age of 5, however recent studies (Colagiuri et al. 2010) suggest things may only be getting worse.
**NB: These costs do not include government subsidies and welfare payments. The direct cost of obesity (outlined above) is perhaps a conservative estimate due to the selected methodology of this research. A recent Australian study that carried out long-term observation of an overweight and obese population (Colagiuri et al. 2010) showed considerably higher health care costs for obese individuals.
Quick preface: After finishing this article and re reading and editing it, I realised it may seem a little essay like, and is somewhat different to the usual stuff I’ve been posting. However being the frother that I am, when reading this article for uni got me all excited I did what I do best… frothed, and wrote my own article about it. Hope it’s not too boring for you normal people out there. But hey, I had fun writing it… Enjoy and maybe even learn something (hopefully).
We often fail to realise that our decisions in the heat of excitement, may have lifelong repercussions.
<Shamelessly and permanently embracing who and what I am. I was intoxicated, bleeding profusely from the mouth and in Bangkok when this picture was taken, none of which I am particularly proud of>
I choose to ignore thinking like this on occasion, creatively shown through my assortment of permanent, arguably unintelligent, forms of body art.
From ‘Dude Where’s My Car’ quotes, to easily misinterpreted attempts at showcasing my spirituality, my body has become adorned with (what I like to call) a quirky collection of questionable decisions, made in moments of froth fuelled excitement in its purest form.
However my latest addition to the ink family was a great piece I had designed and done in Antigua, Guatemala.
After an encounter with some dodgy ex-cons from the US in a squalid, back alley tattoo pallor in Mexico, left us scurrying out of a forgotten appointment bare skinned. My travel companion and I became increasingly selective of where and what we were going to get etched onto our bodies as a form of memorabilia from this Central American adventure.
So on the advice of our tour guide, we waited until we got to Guatemala’s old capitol (prior to being destroyed by an earthquake… twice) Antigua.
Antigua is a Colonial European-esque town with a thriving university/backpacker vibe, combined with a unique blend of history and modern restaurant and cafe culture. At first glance the cobble streets, lined with various pastel coloured but sparsely decorated single level brick slabs, appear bare and uninviting. However you need only glance through one of the grandiose wooden doors, often set a few paces back from the street, to see that there’s much more to this little town then meets the eye. Secret garden-like, open air courtyards sporting a range of floral and other horticultural arrangements, alive with colour and often live music lie hidden behind thick brick exteriors and expats and locals alike flock to these picturesque cafes and boutiques.
Antigua also has one of the best universities in Central America and therefore lots of young international students choose to inhabit the city on exchange. Hence there’s no shortage of vibrant, quirky pubs and bars to drown a cerveca (beer) or two after dark.
And should you indulge in one cerveca too many and feel the urge to commemorate your time in quaint little Antigua with something more than just the colourful textiles touted at the local markets, I can highly recommend ‘Speeds Tattoo Parlour’ at 17 Calle Poniente or 17 West Street.
Located inside an exceptionally lavish hidden courtyard, all the tattoo artists have been trained in the US and speak very good English, so getting the design drawn up and priced isn’t an issue. Plus there are ample Buddhist texts and statues inside the studio, so one can deduce that the artist is at least partially savvy to the ways of the enlightened, and as such is aware that giving people aids is not a step on the eightfold path to nirvana.
My mate and I had our designs drawn up and booked in to have our pieces done the second morning we were in Antigua. A welcome change from my usual stumbling into a tattoo parlour, deciding on what seems like a good idea for a piece at the time and then getting said piece done all within the space of 20 minutes.
The end result; a quirky day of the dead inspired skull wearing a sombrero, with a couple of roses thrown in underneath for good measure. It’s probably my favourite piece so far and hopefully the first of many (or at least a couple) more, pre-planned international artist’s exhibitions to be showcased on my body…
That is so long as my girlfriend approves of them!
This little number was a quick snap of the Harbour, out near Leichardt the other day.
I love a good sky. I love a good sky almost a little too much, and dramatic clouds (‘sexual/hungry growl’) get me on that!
I’ve literally come close to crashing when driving as a result of spotting some decent colour at sunset or a good storm cloud. There in lies but one of the potential hazards that come with enjoying the simple things in life.
Probably why so many people are stressed and depressed: nonchalant enthusiasm is a dangerous pursuit!!!
We sit, silently, lost in the entwining ebbs and flows, between conscious and unconscious.
This is how most of my posts, uni articles and pretty much any piece of writing I come up with starts. Something I’m doing or thinking about (being bored in the case of the above intro) sparks an idea for an article in my head. If I come up with what I think is a clever introductory sentence or tag line within say 60 seconds or so I write it down in my phone. If I don’t, chances are something else I’ve thought of has distracted me, and being the easily excitable young man I am it is quickly forgotten.
Of those remembered and noted ideas I probably use about half as starting points for articles, assessments and posts etc. Of those I start I probably finish only about a quarter. If I sit down to continue the idea and my writing doesn’t flow or I find myself going nowhere or getting bored, I stop, save the article and then rarely come back to it (I have a folder full of half written pieces).
The end products of my creative flows are on this blog, university assessments and scattered amongst a variety of pseudo-artistically named folders on my laptop.
Writing, to me, is about the idea, not necessarily the words on the page. Hence why I opt for quality rather than quantity when posting. I’ll wait until I find something that excites me (more so than usual at least) and then run with it if I can. If I can’t I discard or file away and move on.
24 hours in Guatemala: Panajachel and Lake Atitlan
Guatemala: a country with a tainted past of civil wars and political instability, described on Wikipedia as one of the most violent countries in the world and a dangerous place for tourists in general.
However, for those who dare to challenge the hype, there lies a country of breathtaking natural beauty, incredibly rich history, colourful and welcoming locals and a true sense of adventure.
The driver of the van sped through the winding roads up into the mountainous western region of Guatemala, overtaking around blind corners and even stopping in the middle of the road to change a break pad on a blind corner himself. I made sure I watched this from the safety of the other side of the road.
John took us to his boat moored at a wharf just across from our hotel. On the way, the soft glow of the morning sun had just begun to kiss the incredibly calm waters of the lake and I couldn’t help holding up the group by taking some photographs in this amazing light.
Our day was filled with visiting the traditional Mayan villages surrounding the lake. Tasting and smelling the robust and rich scent of freshly roasted Guatemalan coffee in San Pedro. Paying our respects to the drinking, smoking, party loving deity ‘Maximon’ (pronounced musheemon), worshiped as a medicine man by the people of Santiago de Atitlan. We also ventured to San Juan where we were able to visit both an artist and a weaver’s workshop, complete with demonstrations and gentle encouragement to purchase something as a means of thanks.
On the boat ride back that afternoon, as the sun began to dip behind the volcanoes, casting rays of pink and gold over the glassy lake surface, there was a quietness to the group as the cool spray from the lake gently kissed our skin through the open sides of the old wooden boat. Everyone seemed at peace and lost in thought. For me, my world seemed suddenly artificial, empty compared to that of these Mayan villagers, deemed to be living in poverty by western standards but so content with what they have and their way of life. We could all learn something from these incredible decedents of the ancient Maya people, who have fought the influence of the western world through devastating civil wars, to keep their culture alive today.
When we arrived back to Panajachel we were left with this incredible sunset as we walked back to our hotel.
It was an understatement to say that today had been a day that would resonate with me on so many levels and Guatemala had cemented its place, as somewhere truly unique, in my heart.
Froth (Verb): To show extreme displays of enthusiasm and genuine excitement.
Frother (Noun): 1) A person prone to extreme displays of enthusiasm and genuine excitement. Often with little to no regard for others deeming the subject of said enthusiasm as mundane.
2) Someone who froths