Upon the advice of my cousins — who are seasoned veterans in the field — today I headed over to Bangkok's Pantip Plaza shopping centre, and perused the extensive movie, music and computer-related wares on offer there. Three hours and several thousand Baht later, I was satiated. I've been waiting a looong time for this opportunity, and there's no way I was going to let it pass by un-seized. Should be enough DVDs to fill up every sleepy Sydney night and boring long weekend for the next year or so. Plus, enough music to make a year's worth of never-ending bus commutes and long queues fly right by. Attention all friends back in Sydney: you know I owe you, so please grab and burn at will when I return. Amazing how they keep the prices so low here in Thailand, and yet manage to sell nothing but 100% genuine, legitimate MPAA-endorsed goods :P.
I was bored this evening, so I went to one of the many cinemas in London's Leicester Square, and watched "Michael Clayton". This is a new George Clooney film, and it's based on the true story of a lawyer's battle to bring down an unethical agricultural company. I don't want to give away any more than that. This is very different from Clooney's usual style: he seems to be increasingly moving away from his traditional "action man" and "romantic thriller" genres, and chasing down roles of more serious, intellectual substance. This is a deep movie, and not one for those seeking a quick laugh or a constant blast of gunfire. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it.
The New Year has well and truly arrived, and it's now time to say goodbye to Madrid. Today I took a big but worthwhile splurge, and travelled on the special high-speed Alvia train service from Madrid to Barcelona. The trains are extremely popular, here in Spain: I purchased my Alvia ticket three days ago (as soon as I arrived in Madrid); and even then, they were already sold out of economy-class tickets, and I had to settle for business-class instead. Additionally, I've now used up my Eurail pass — and it didn't cover Spain anyway — so I had to pay for the ticket outright, and at full cost. But still, I enjoyed a fast, pleasant, and bloody luxurious ride today.
Like Madrid itself, we were feeling extremely lazy and tranquilo today: so after our paella lunch, Miguel, Emmanuelle, the Aussie Indian girl (Shomare) and myself cruised over to one of the city's many cinema complexes. We decided to see American Gangster, a new Ridley Scott film starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Very well-produced movie, although quite violent and a little disturbing. The film was dubbed: and although I've by now seen plenty of Spanish-dubbed movies, the "Spanish Spanish" took quite a while to get used to (all that lisping and rapid-fire talking, it hurts my poor Peruano ears). Miguel obviously had no problem with the dubbing; but Emmanuelle and Shomare didn't understand much of what was happening. They just came along for the ride.
Follow every strudel, don't resist the lure. When you visit Salzburg, you're visiting the home of "The Sound of Music", one of the most famous movies of all time. And whether you caper, cringe or cry out at the thought of doing anything so cheesy as the official SoM tour (I still haven't decided which I should do), the fact remains: you know you wanna do it, and you know you gotta do it. Today, Lisa and I fulfilled our solemn duty, and hopped along for the ride. It certainly was cheesy, as well as more than a little lame; but it was also a fun, colourful and song-filled day.
Following the afternoon's Stonehenge tour, my final evening in Bath was quite easy-going. Just wandered up to the chill-out room at St. Christopher's, and made good use of their extensive video library by watching a few movies. I saw one called "Sleepers", a disturbing but very well-produced film about boys in juvenile prison in the 60s. Also saw one of my old favourites, "American Pie 2", with a few crazy American kids, who wandered upstairs as well (their pick). Plus, I couldn't resist a bit more curry for dinner. Nothing like a good Sunday night in front of the telly.
I'd just finished my tour of London this evening, and I was wandering around Leicester Square, when I noticed a big throng of people near one of the cinemas. I went to investigate, and it turned out that the red carpet was rolled out, in anticipation of no lesser stars than Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush (two of the biggest Aussie names in the world): they were coming here, for the UK premiere of their new movie, Elizabeth: The Golden Age! Cate didn't come very close to the crowds; but Geoffrey came right up to where I was standing, and signed autographs — so I got some good shots of him. Check it out.
Seeing that my last big bus ride here in Argentina was so nice, I decided that I couldn't help myself: for last night's ride from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú, I went super-cama with Via Bariloche once again. I tell you, they really know how to live here in Argentina: these buses are absolute, first-class luxury! As with the last trip, last night was about as pleasant as 16 hours on a bus could possibly be: more hot roast dinner; more medialunas for breakfast; and more wine and champagne to boot. And all on those excellent, well-paved Argentinean roads. It's almost unbelievable that Argentina and Bolivia are right next to each other, because the standard of transport in these two countries is about as different as you can get.
If you're going to travel by bus in Argentina, and you're going to travel long distances (and in Argentina, all distances are long distances), then do it in style. Last night, I took the super-cama (lit: "super-bed") express bus, with Via Bariloche, from Bariloche to Buenos Aires. And by G-d, it was by far the nicest and most luxurious bus ride I've ever had in my life. A seat that reclines back 180°, and that totally pwns most hostel beds. Movies on flat-screen suspended plasma-screen TVs. Roast beef and custard for dinner. Red wine and champagne served in-trip. Hot medialunas (croissants, lit: "half-moons") for breakfast. Pillows, blankets, you name it. This bus trip may have been a bit pricey, but it was still nothing compared to a (very small and crappy economy-class) plane ticket. Furthermore, a trip like this is more than just a means of transportation — it's an attraction of Argentina in and of itself.
Today was a day of bus trips, and not much else. From Pucón, this morning I hopped on a bus, and rode the 4-hour trip to the town of Osorno, a bit further to the south (but still in the Chilean Lake District). There's really not much to see in Osorno: just another town in a very long country, and one that has very little open on a Saturday, at that. The main reason for stopping in Osorno (and the reason why I came here today), is because it's where the road begins that goes over the Andean mountains, and straight into Argentina. Anyway, I had to wait about 3 hours in Osorno, before I could grab a bus for the rest of today's trip: over the border, and to San Carlos de Bariloche.