Melbourne – Australia
Usually I wait until I get back from my trips to blog about my MtG travels, but this time I decided it might be better to record a type of daily journal in order to save time. Usually by the time I get home I have so much work to do and so many different pictures to upload that I just end up never blogging.
Our flight to Australia ended up being pretty awesome because we got to fly Virgin Australia. I’ve always wanted to fly with Virgin, but they have such limited destinations that I never get to actually fly with them. People always talk about the cool purple lights, and the individual TV monitors. While we were in the terminal waiting for our flight there was this ad on the wall of Virgin Australia and the picture showed a desk, complete with a shelf on the wall that was full of books and even plants. I was like “no way they actually have that on the plane.” That has to be some metaphor about how cozy and awesome Virgin is that it makes you feel like you are at home. Of course when we got on the plane we had to pass by the first class section, and sure enough there were desks with bookshelves complete with books and plants. They even had a bar.
Coach, where we were, was still pretty fancy. Having your own personal tv monitor is always nice, especially when you get to choose your own movies from a selection of maybe 50 movies. I ended up watching The Adventures of Tintin, The Three Musketeers, Machinegun Preacher, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Cars 2. I must admit that I turned off Transformers and Cars 2 halfway through. Transformer movies always fail as soon as the transformers open their mouths. I liked the first Cars movie, but the second one didn’t interest me at all. Between catching some sleep and watching movies, the flight actually went by pretty fast even though it was a 16 hour flight.
Well, with just getting off a 16 hour flight and the 18 hour time difference, even though we arrived at 9:30am we didn’t do much the first day. I think we both ended up crashing shortly after arriving at the hotel. I tried to stay up so that I could get back on a normal sleep schedule, but I felt like I had taken sleeping pills or something. We were finally able to drag ourselves out of bed and go outside.
Melbourne has a very San Francisco feel to it. The public transportation is very similar to the Muni in San Fran. The other similarity is that Melbourne is extremely expensive. I think San Fran is ranked the most expensive city in the US. People always talk about how expensive Japan is too, and they are right. I never realized how expensive Melbourne was going to be. I actually think that it might be more expensive than Japan. We went to the local 7 Eleven to buy some drinks and I was shocked at the prices. A can of Coke is about 50 cents in the US. Well in Melbourne it is $3. That is an increase of 6 times! Insane. A 12 pack was $15, while you can expect to pay $3.99 in the US. You know how mini bar prices in hotel rooms are so ridiculous? Those are normal prices for things in Melbourne. I think I’m going to live in a diet of tap water while I am here. We stopped by the local GameStop and the prices there were even more ridiculous. A 3DS game which is usually $39.99 in the US was $79.99 while 360 games were $99.99+. I saw some 360 games that were $160 a pop.
Well, I was able to fall asleep at a fairly normal time, although it was incredibly early for my standards. Going to bed at 10pm might seem normal for some people, but I usually stay up until 3am. Waking up at 6am is also not normal for me, but I guess it is pretty good for an 18 hour time difference. We ended up staying in the hotel for most of the day because I had to work and my wife was feeling under the weather. It is crazy how much work you get done when you wake up at 6am. I ended up finishing a Magic card and wrote part of this blog before breakfast. I also ended up knocking out 26 alterations and worked on another Magic card.
The breakfast at the hotel was very good. I’ve actually noticed that hotel breakfasts in other countries are always extremely good…and free. In the US the only free breakfast consists of a muffin. If you want a real breakfast in the US you usually have to pay for it. The apple juice here was actually the best apple juice I have ever had. Their peaches were also incredibly good. Speaking of having to pay for stuff in the US, I’ve also noticed that the US is the only country that charges for carts at the airport. All other airports give them to you for free. Most countries also don’t tip, but in the US you are expected to tip for almost everything.
We were walking around downtown and decided to get some Starbucks, and again I was shocked at the price. Normally two venti PMFs are $9.90 where I live, but here it was about $18, double the price. Not to mention the venti here is actually the size of the grande in the states. I then went to a fast food place and ordered a burger, not a combo meal. Just a burger ended up being $10. It makes me wonder what minimum wage is here considering everything is extremely expensive. I dunno though, from what I heard the pay there is similar to pay in the US, and some full-time positions don’t even offer any benefits. Seems pretty crazy to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the city so far. I would actually consider moving here, but if we did I think I would have to ask my clients to pay me more money since my current pay probably wouldn’t fly here. I’m actually curious how much the rent is here, although if you have to pay $3 for a can of Coke I might not want to know what the rent is here. One thing I noticed as we were walking around downtown and going into various shops was that the clerks were very hands off. In the US you almost have to yell at them to stop bugging you, but here they completely leave you alone. Actually, I don’t think any of them even said “hi” when we went into the store. We went into one game store and they had a shelf of Warhammer stuff and it was almost like the Daarken shelf because almost every product on the shelf was one of the covers I painted. It was cool being able to see some of my covers since I haven’t actually seen most of them in print before.
I noticed that there aren’t any homeless people here. In San Fran you can’t go 30 feet without being accosted by homeless people. Last time I was there the homeless people were starting to get really aggressive if you didn’t give them money. This city is incredibly clean; it reminds me of Japan in that regard. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I remember seeing any trash on the street. I’m not sure if there is some anti-homeless law here or something, but it is refreshing not having to push through throngs of stinky homeless people in order to get to your destination.
The weather is also a lot like San Francisco. I can see why some people were telling me that Melbourne is their favorite city in the world.
There is only one more day before I gotta go to the Grand Prix. I’m not sure what we are going to do, maybe we will check out the zoo.
Instead of the zoo we ended up going to the museum. By the time we walked over there, I was already tired. I am so completely out of shape. I noticed that almost everyone there had really big calves…I guess most Americans are used to sitting around or driving everywhere. It was only a 20 minute walk, but I’m used to walking 0 minutes.
They had a pygmy blue whale skeleton near the entrance and a bunch of dinosaur skeletons on display. The dinosaurs were by far the best part of the entire museum, although they didn’t have very many. I think in terms of dinosaur museums, the best one I have been to was in DC. They also had a lot of spiders and insects, but the smell was so overpowering that I had to leave that part of the exhibit. It was crazy how strong the smell was even though they were all behind glass.
The show was great. Not as many people were at the GP when compared to some of the GPs in the US, but they still had a little over 500 people I think. The GP in Austin and DC had about 2,000. I was busy the entire time and had to turn away a lot of people, but at least it wasn’t madness like it was in DC. I think I almost died at that show. I remember trying to take one bathroom break after working for like 8 hours straight and the fans got really mad at me. Working at these shows is a lot harder than my normal workday, but they are a lot of fun. The fans in Australia were great. Everyone was very nice and friendly. I got to meet fellow Magic artist Adam Paquette. He is a great guy and has created some awesome land cards. Grrrr, how come I never get any land cards??
As usual I spent most of my time creating alterations for the fans. The types of requests I received ranged everywhere from Sesame Street to Star Wars, which is funny because most of the time I end up drawing things that I am not typically known for. For example, one girl asked me to draw Hello Kitty and Stitch. Is it bad that I had the most fun out of the entire show drawing Stitch instead of scary zombies and evil warriors? I have a reputation to maintain!
Wellington – New Zealand
Ahhhh, New Zealand. I thought Australia was awesome, but I think New Zealand wins. While we didn’t get to go on very many hiking trips or even go outside of Wellington, it was still amazing. The first couple of days we ended up just relaxing and walking around the town a bit. We had initially planned on going to see Hobbiton, but I didn’t realize that it was a 6-7 hour drive from Wellington. There goes that idea. I even tried looking into using the train to get around, but most of the locations I was interested in were still 6+ hours away in one direction. I wish we had more time, or maybe if I had planned the trip better.
I went looking around and found some tours around Wellington that visit all of the Lord of the Rings shooting locations. That seemed like a good way to get around Wellington and see some cool locations to boot. We ended up going with Rover tour. It was definitely worth the money and the tour guide was really good. I recommend them to anyone going to Wellington.
Talk about a nerd filled day! It was funny because almost everything the tour guide mentioned was straight from the LoTR extras, so I already knew most of it. It was still awesome seeing all of the locations. What is really crazy is that you will be in a dense forest that looks like it hasn’t been touched by man, but then you walk 50 feet away and you are in the middle of Wellington. It was really strange having that kind of juxtaposition. It was almost like playing WoW. You know how you can go from a desert zone and then the zone next door is a jungle and then the next one is covered in snow. New Zealand is kind of like that. I heard that there is a 7 day hike you can go on and you basically travel through every climate type there is.
The first image was where Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built and filmed. They were built in an active rock quarry, so they had to basically ask the city to stop working for the entire time they were building and filming the shots.
Next we went to where the “Get off the Road” scene was filmed in Mount Victoria. This location was right in the middle of town, so it was weird going into a dense forest and then popping out in the middle of downtown. The square image is the scene where the hobbits rolled down the hill and fell onto some mushrooms. The part where they jumped behind a tree to hide from the Black Rider didn’t look the same at all because the tree in the film wasn’t real, so the actual location doesn’t look anything like the movie. I passed on the photo opportunity since there wasn’t really anything to show.
A few other shots were filmed here too. One was when they were going to the Buckleberry ferry and then there was another shot of Dunharrow when Aragorn and Theoden were looking out over their troops in the valley below.
Some of the other locations included The Great River Anduin, Rivendell, and Isengard.
On Friday we met up with fellow concept artist Ben Mauro at the Weta Cave. Ben was gracious enough to show us around town since we were total Wellington noobs. We had some Dim Sum and then walked around town. Wellington is actually a lot smaller than I thought it was. You can probably walk to just about anywhere in town. You know how there is a Starbucks on every corner in the US? Well it seems like there is a Subway on every corner in Wellington.
Gotta love where Gollum is sticking that fish…that was completely unintentional, I swear!
You can’t see it in the picture, but the price for the large version of the gun was $5,500!! I must say though, it was freaking awesome looking. I wonder what customs would have thought about that if I tried to bring it through?
Oh man, the exosuit from District 9 was soooo cool. If it didn’t have an $800 price tag I would have definitely considered buying it. We almost bought a T-Rex skull, but I don’t think we would have had room to carry it on the plane.
Te Papa Museum
The next to last day we decided to go to the Te Papa Museum because the guide book said it was amazing and that everyone should visit the museum before they leave. Initially we were going to take a cab, but we found out from previous days that Wellington is fairly small, so we made the 20 minute walk to the museum. The actual design of the museum is really cool. I think the guide book said they spent something like 180 million on the museum, and it shows.
I think the layout of the museum was better than the one in Melbourne, but it lacked dinosaurs! They did have a pygmy blue whale skeleton like the Melbourne museum though, and a giant squid. I did find that I am more interested in dinosaurs and ancient civilizations as opposed to more recent civilizations. If they had dinosaurs and knights I would have been all over it. It was still a fun experience, but we ended up breezing through most of the exhibits.
Here are a few more random pictures that I took from around town and around our hotel. People always ask me what camera I use, which is funny because I just use my iPhone. I have the older iPhone 4, so I don’t even have the fancy 4S camera.
Back to Australia??
Well, we had to fly back to Australia from New Zealand before we could fly back to the US. I didn’t really want to fly to two different countries in the same day (especially if one flight was delayed or canceled), so we spent one more day in Australia before flying back to the US.
We ended up just staying at the hotel at the airport. It was nice not having to wake up super early to catch a shuttle to the airport. The burger there was freaking awesome. I mean it had an egg on it, how can you beat that??
I love flying from West to East because the flight time is always shorter due to the rotation of the Earth. The flight back was around 13.5 hours instead of 16. Several movies later and an hour or two of sleep and we were back home. I had an amazing time and I am very thankful for having a job that allows me to travel around the world. Thank you to all of the fans that showed up to the show, I hope everyone had a good time!