Category Archives: Australia

~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Brisbane, Australia – Once More In The Land Down Under

This is probably my last post in the yearningforlove Series as I intend to go for an extended hiatus from writing. Work has been stressful, but fulfilling and rewarding at the same time, especially when my efforts result in a marked improvement in standards or when I receive compliments from my clients. That said, the hours I’ve dedicated to the job has really taken a lot out of me and this “mini-vacation” (of sorts) is truly a welcome break for me.

Work is Stressful!

Work is Stressful!

This trip to Brisbane is largely unplanned, with most of my arrangements done just days before my departure. The main purpose of the trip was actually to help settle Priscilla (my sis) down in Brisbane, as her school term starts this coming August, after she was accepted into University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. Dad and Mum had done the necessary prep and the original plan was for them to fly over with Priscilla to aid her in setting up what would probably be her home for the next 4 years, whilst helping her assimilate into a new culture and environment. I was a last minute inclusion, after I had managed to make the necessary arrangements from work to squeeze out the five days where I will be able to spend with my dear sis as she embarks on a new journey in her life.

UQ - One of Australia's oldest and selective universities

UQ – One of Australia’s oldest and selective universities

If you’ve been reading my series, I am not much of a stranger to Australia, having been there four times before; Brisbane in 2000, Sydney and Melbourne in 2013 & Perth in the years 2002 and 2014. This is however the first time I’ll be staying in Brisbane City as the previous trip in 2000, we had opted to stay along Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast instead. This time round, in order to be closer to the campus grounds, we decided to forgo the fun of the sand and surf, and decided to stay within Brisbane city centre for easier access and facilitation. That’s not to say I didn’t get to have fun or enjoy myself as Brisbane also offers its own unique sights and views. Here’s a day by day account of my mini break in Brisbane as I head once more to the land down under!

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Slice Of The Past – Surfers Paradise circa. 2000

Day 1 – 8 Jul – Goodbye Singapore, Hello Australia

As my plans for the trip were quite last minute, I chose not to fly SQ with my family as the fares were almost twice of what I had budgeted for the trip. As such, the most economical and convenient option for me was to fly Scoot to OOL (Gold Coast Airport), where I will then hop onto an airport shuttle to transfer to Brisbane city. The flight departed on time at 2225hrs, and it was my first flight on a 787 Dreamliner. It is also the first time I’m flying since I began working at SATS, and it was pretty weird to be flying on a flight whereby my staff were in charge of the departure handling just minutes before. Anyways, the flight was pretty routine. With Scoot being a low cost carrier, there wasn’t much to do on board, and with my phone (mandatorily) switched off, I had one of the best undisturbed sleep ever since my days in Lost and Found.

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

The cheaper option was to fly Scoot to OOL instead of BNE

Day 2 – 9 Jul – Brisbane Awaits

I touched down at Gold Coast Airport at about 07:30am, just slightly ahead of schedule. As I had tagged my belongings on my parents’ flight on SQ, I had no checked-in baggage except for a small cabin bag and my laptop. As such, I did not have to wait for any luggage at the baggage carousel and could spare some minutes to grab a quick coffee before my pickup to Brisbane. The drive from Gold Coast to Brisbane took approximately an hour, and I got in to the city a couple of hours before the rest of the family arrived. Our residence (Evolution Apartments) was just off the city centre, along Tank Street, which provided a very stunning backdrop of the city and the Brisbane River.

Touching Down in OOL

Touching Down in OOL

The View from Evolution

The View from Evolution

After a quick shower and freshening up, we decided to go explore the Fortitude Valley area where Brisbane’s Chinatown lies. With my sister’s extended stay in Brisbane, my parents were interested in seeing the accessibility (and prices) of Chinese food and supplies over there. It was comforting to know that we could still find things like Essence of Chicken from Brands, Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, and fresh Chinese greens around, but the prices were pretty astronomical as compared to Singapore. That said, being alone in a foreign land, when you are feeling homesick or craving for something familiar from home, I’ll gladly pay the premium pricing.

Brisbane Chinatown

Brisbane Chinatown

After surveying Chinatown, we headed to Queen Street Mall, which is Brisbane’s version of Orchard Road. Australia has a culture of early closing hours, so we had to rush quite a little before the shutters of the shops came down. The first thing we had to do was to sign up for a mobile plan for my sis. I had assisted with a project when I was doing my rotation in Marketing as part of the GAP Program where we were looking into the sales of SIM cards onboard flights in and out of Australia. As such, I was a little familiar with the various offerings from the major telcos over there; mainly Telstra, Vodafone, Lebara and Optus. We settled with Optus as they were currently having a promo, with additional 1GB free data and unlimited outgoing overseas call to Singapore, which suits my sister’s needs just fine.

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The Shrine of Remembrance, ANZAC Square, which is located around Queen, Ann and Adelaide Street

The day was rounded up with a simple dinner consisting of pies paired with a bottle of watermelon flavoured wine before we all retired for the night.

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Delicious Pies from Australian Chain Pie Face

Day 3 – 10 Jul – Eat Street Markets, South Bank and Making New Friends

We headed to one of Brisbane’s many weekend markets on the morning of our 3rd day in Brisbane. Eat Street Markets, which is located at Macarthur Ave in the suburb of Hamilton, is one of the best in the city based on recommendations from my JC classmate Sharon and it did not disappoint. Billed as the ultimate foodie extravaganza, Eat Street Markets offers a selection of international cuisines and handcrafted boutique beers.

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

With Sis at Eat Street Markets

We tasted a smorgasbord of different food from all around the world; beginning with some Fresh Seafood from Phunky Dory, to Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Greek Honey Puffs, followed by Mexican Chipotle Wings and Italian Wood Fired Pizzas; all of which are washed down with Homemade Ginger Beer and freshly brewed Chai Latte. I highly recommend the Moreton Bay Bug (aka crayfish) from Phunky Dory, which are BBQ’d with a delicious garlic butter concoction and served with either Beer Battered Chips or Sweet Potato Fries. Catch them before they sell out!

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

Seafood Platter from Phunky Dory

After satisfying our taste buds, we took a bus back into the city where we explored South Bank. South Bank is Brisbane’s premier cultural and recreational destination and is home to the Queensland Cultural Centre and the Wheel of Brisbane. As the name suggests, South Bank is located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, and it regularly holds delightful events all year round celebrating the Arts and Culture. The Le Festival (Brisbane French Festival) was being held at the parkland grounds while we were there. It does cost you a little to enter the event grounds, but if the festival theme interests you, why not enjoy the sights, food and the entertainment that it offers?

The Wheel of Brisbane

The Wheel of Brisbane

The View of the CBD from South Bank

The View of the CBD from South Bank

Le Festival - Brisbane French Festival

Le Festival – Brisbane French Festival

After covering South Brisbane, we headed back to the apartment where we freshen ourselves up for dinner. We were invited to Auntie Ee Leng’s home (Dad’s acquaintance from work) whose kids were also students from UQ and my parents thought it would be good for sis to gather some advice and information for her stint over there. The Yeos were very hospitable and we quickly clicked despite not having met each other before. It wasn’t long before we natter away whilst dining on the delicious dinner spread that Auntie Ee Leng and her daughter Kat had prepared for us. We spoke about life in UQ, working at the airport (given my position at SATS and that both Dad and Auntie Ee Leng are SQ luminaries) and the differences between Australia and Singapore. It was almost midnight when we bid each other goodbye and it was very nice of the Yeos to offer to drive us back to our apartment and for Auntie Ee Leng and Kat to offer their assistance to my sis should my sis require anything during her stay in Brisbane.

Making new friends with the Yeos

Making new friends with the Yeos

Nothing beats having a familiar face in a foreign country and it is nice making new friends and contacts.

Day 4 – 11 Jul – Moving into UQ

UQ awaits us today as we helped sis transport her belongings into her student house in Cromwell College. Founded in 1909, UQ is one of Australia’s oldest and selective universities, and is consistently ranked among the top in university rankings worldwide. Universities nowadays are not just a place for academic learning, but is also a place of interest. The University of Oxford draws thousands of visitors yearly due to its use as a filming site for the Harry Potter film series, while my alma mater NTU has also attracted some photograph enthusiasts to capture photos of the uniquely designed NTU Learning Hub (affectionately dubbed the dim-sum building due to its resemblance to stacked dim-sum steamers). UQ also has its own appeal and allure, with the Great Court being one of my favourites within the campus grounds. The Great Court is a heritage-listed site that was added into the Queensland Heritage Register in 2002. The court was built upon extensive sculptural work featuring historical artwork, coats of arms and Australian cultures and traditions. It has now transcended to a place of aesthetic significance and is an important part of UQ’s identity. I also love the fact that students can choose to study on the grassed area in the centre of the Great Court – a huge contrast to the concrete jungle that we are so used to in Singapore’s universities. The Great Court is also surrounded by beautiful sandstone buildings which are now the dominant feature of the St. Lucia landscape. Definitely worth taking some time to stroll around the beautiful campus grounds.

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

Dim-Sum Building at NTU

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

The Great Court in UQ St. Lucia

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

Sandstone Buildings at UQ

As for the student house itself, I must say I was pretty impressed with the facilities and amenities provided by the university. My sis was housed in an apartment unit shared with 3 other housemates, all of which are international students. Each student is given her own personal room, fully furnished with bedding, wardrobes, study desk and other basic needs. The apartment also comes with a kitchen, living room and a balcony, which allows for simple home cooked fares and a place to hang your laundry. It is much better than what is being offered in NTU, where most halls are simply single room units shared between two students with only basic pantry services available at the common area at each level (although we do get air conditioning here at NTU). That said, the cost of living in UQ is almost 3 times as much as what one pays for at NTU, so I guess what you pay is what you get.

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

Cromwell College, where my sis will reside

We had lunch at Burger Urge where feasted on burgers, wraps, chips and onion rings. The limited edition Mrs Clinton’s burger (named after Hillary Clinton) was my favourite item from the menu. Featuring a soft toasted wholemeal bun, a tender piece of fried chicken, maple smoked bacon, jalapeños, melted cheese and chipotle mayo dressing, my advice is to cut the burger in half, take a bite and enjoy the messy but strangely satisfying jumble of different flavours in your mouth and then do it everything all over again once more!

Mrs. Clinton - by Burger Urge

Mrs. Clinton – by Burger Urge

After lunch, we went to Toowong Village to stock up on daily essentials for my sis while I also took the opportunity to shop for (everybody’s favourite) Tim Tams to be brought back to the loved ones back in Singapore. The wide range of Tim Tam flavours were really fascinating, from conventional flavours like Chocolate and Salted Caramel to exotic flavours such as Strawberry Champagne, Pina Colada to Chocolate Banana and Pineapple. I spent a mini fortune on the Tim Tams, enough to fill up my entire hand carry with nothing except the delicious little treats.

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Spent a mini fortune on these delicious little treats

Once we were done with our shopping, we took the CityCat back into the CBD where we had dinner at Jade Buddha Bar and Kitchen, located along Eagle Street Pier. With spectacular views of the Brisbane River and stunning sights of the city lights, Jade Buddha is a great venue for a cocktail or a casual meal whilst in Brisbane. Boasting a menu of Asian fusion cuisines, we went with a Jade Buddha Platter, Barramundi served in Coconut Cream and Butter Chicken dished up in a delicious creamy Tomato Butter Gravy with crispy Pappadums. The meal was made complete with a pint of Australian cider and their signature Chocolate Buddha; a Chocolate Lava Cake served with Vanilla Ice-Cream. The food here is pretty decent, although the prices was a bit on the steep side given its location and setting. Dinner for 4 (including drinks), will easily set you back abit, with my bill coming to around 150 AUD.

Brisbane's CityCats

Brisbane’s CityCats

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

Jade Buddha offers a stunning view of the Brisbane River

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

The Signature Chocolate Buddha

With our tummies filled, it was time for me to get back to our apartment to pack up and rest as I was due to leave for the airport early next morning. From Eagle Street Pier, we took the free CityHopper ferry service to North Quay, where it is just a quick 5 minutes walk away from Evolution. It is nice of the Brisbane City Council to provide such free services, which benefits both the locals, and also provides tourists like myself an affordable and enjoyable mode of transportation as we took in the Brisbane River and city sights. If only there was a similar service in Singapore that provides complimentary river cruises along the Singapore River.

One of Brisbane's CityHopper ferries

One of Brisbane’s CityHopper ferries

Day 5 – 12 Jul – Bidding Goodbye, First Flight on Qantas and Appraising The Graduate

My pickup to the airport was due to arrive at 0840hrs in time for my 12:15pm departure on QF51 back to Singapore. My parents were staying over in BNE for a few more days until my sis starts her orientation at UQ. As the airport transfer pulled in, it was an emotional farewell as I wished my sis all the best in her endeavour at UQ; the sudden realisation that it would be sometime before we’ll meet again in person (Thank God for Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp/Email and Viber!).

Skype will probably soon be my parents' best friend

Skype will probably soon be my parents’ best friend

I arrived at the Airport with loads to spare, and I took the time to grab some breakfast before making my way through immigration. This would be the first time that I will be flying on Qantas, and I was pretty excited at checking out their cabin amenities, in-flight entertainment (IFE) and cabin services. Being in the aviation industry for almost a year now, I guess I can’t help but to “audit” the flight, especially on the arrival handling in Singapore, which I am part responsible for too.

First flight on QF

First flight on QF

The Airbus 330 was in a 2-4-2 configuration with a decent seat pitch and width in Economy. I was seated on the right-side aisle in the centre 4, and it helped that there wasn’t anyone seated beside me, giving me a little extra legroom at the sides. The IFE was also quite respectable for a full-service carrier like Qantas, with a generous range of movies, games and music (although I think SQ still has a slightly larger selection when compared) to choose from. The thing that stood out for me was their “Classics” selection, which features Academy favourites such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction and The Graduate, of which I watched the latter, reliving some of the most memorable quotes and scenes from film history (cue Benjamin Braddock: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?“).

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

Qantas boasts a pretty decent selection of movies, TV programs, music and games in their IFE library

As one of the most praised films ever, The Graduate is a coming-of-age film set around Benjamin Braddock (a very youthful looking Dustin Hoffman), an innocent and confused (and lovesick) youth who was (somewhat) exploited, mis-guided and seduced (literally and figuratively) by Mrs. Robinson (portrayed brilliantly by the stunning and beautiful Anne Bancroft). The movie was one of the ground-breaking films of the late 1960s, and set the path for Hoffman as a heavyweight in Hollywood, while making Bancroft a huge sex symbol with many boys treating her as their first sexual fantasy. The film however, had more serious undertones to it, with themes such as the shifting social and sexual mores, the alienation of the (then) younger generation and the growing dissatisfaction of the middle-class community all being featured and/or discussed in the film. For those like myself who are too young to have caught the film when it was released, do take some time to catch some of these classic movies whenever possible – they are called classics for a reason.

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

The Beautiful Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson

On the food front however, I must however admit that Qantas failed to meet my standards. Having also been in catering during my GAP rotation (see A Week in August), the food served on the BNE-SIN sector really was quite disappointing. While you get to pick more choices (3 in fact) than what I normally get from flying SQ, the food really wasn’t quite appetising. The Western choice was Lamb, which I decided to give it a miss since I had red meat mostly in the last couple of days, while the Asian menu was an Indian Vegetable Curry – which I am not a fan of Chickpeas and Chutney. I ended up with the alternate choice, Chicken Salad with Vermicelli, which was really not how I had imagined it to be when I first saw the menu. For the first time ever, I did not finish my meal and left half of the dish untouched. Dessert was not any better; it was some sort of pastry/cake with some berry filling which was too sour for my liking. The best part of the meal was (surprise, surprise) the bread roll, which was served warm with a garlic butter inside. A pity no soup was served as part of the menu in coach. It would have taken my disappointment away.

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Not quite living up to their tagline of being the finest restaurant in the sky

Anyway, I touched down back in Singapore just after 6pm and was greeted by the familiar faces of my staff and colleagues. Headed straight to office to pick up some stuff, drop off the Tim Tams for the team and started clearing the snowballing number of emails that have piled up over the days. As I will be on reservist from the 13th till the end of the month, there will be more emails to clear and more work to be done off-site. So not looking forward to it.

A Familiar Sight

A Familiar Sight

In any case, just wanna end the post by wishing my little sis all the best in UQ. Go with an open mind and heart and enjoy yourself. Grow as a person and experience new adventures and cultures. Most importantly, stay safe and have fun! And also, special thanks to Amy Quek (Sharon’s sister) who I must thank for showing my family around Brisbane despite me having flown back to Singapore first. Much appreciated and hopefully I will finally get to see you the next time I visit the capital of Queensland.

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy yourself in the land down under sis!

For now, G’day and G’bye.

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Back Again In The Land Down Under

It’s been barely one month since my trip to Sydney and Melbourne, yet I find myself back again in the land down under, this time in Perth as part of a study trip with USP. Despite having just flown back from Australia, I was pretty much looking forward to the trip, especially since the previous USP study trip to Taiwan was abruptly cut short for me due to the family emergency at home (see Tribute to Aunt Pansy). Furthermore, the trip to Perth will allow me to spend some time with the fellow USP seniors while also giving me the chance to bond with the year ones.

Being seniors, we were given the role of mentors and safety ICs and were made to take charge of a group of 8 to 9 juniors. Being a study trip, we had to come up with a research paper/report at the end of the visit, with my group tasked with the research topic of Sustainable Tourism. Planning for the trip had begun months ago, but was still met with numerous hiccups. Firstly, the tour firm that we initially approached had trouble booking tickets for a large corporate group like ours, causing us to scramble for a change of agents to Dynasty Travel. Due to the ensuing change, we were unable to schedule everyone on the same flight, and were forced to fly on four separate flights there. We also were unable to secure visits to Murdoch University as well as AnaeCo’s solid waste plant, resulting in a tweak in the original proposed itinerary. Nevertheless, with the cooperation from Dynasty, the USP planning committee managed to whip something together in the last moment to ensure that the trip was still green-lighted.

We gathered at Changi’s Terminal 3 in the evening of the 6th of Jan where three of the eight groups (Bryan Sr.’s, Edwin’s and my group) were to depart on the first flight. Other than Yi Heen & Christina, whom I am acquainted with during last year’s USP FOC where I was a senior attaché, I barely knew the rest of the group. So, during the wait at the boarding gate, I thought I will introduce myself and share with them some stories of life in USP as well as the role I’ll play during the trip.

We entered Perth’s airspace at roughly around 5am, but since it was right in the middle of summer, the sun was already out and glaring right through the windscreens of the A330 as we touched down on the tarmac of Perth Airport. After passing through the (bothersome) customs, we boarded the coach for the transfer to our place of residence, The Pan Pacific Perth. As it was still only 9am when we reached the city centre, we were unable to check in as yet. Hence, we left our baggage at the hotel’s concierge and started the day’s activities. With the last of the flights not due to arrive for another 12 hours or so, Day 1 was more or less free for us to do whatever we wanted. That said, the local tour coordinator wanted us to be back at the hotel by 230pm in order to facilitate the check in process, so our original plans to head to the outskirts was abandoned. The three of us seniors then decided to take charge of our own groups and split up. Edwin’s group wandered around the Northbridge Precinct (Chinatown), Bryan Sr.’s group explored the Hay Street and Murray Street area, while I took my team to Harbour Town to hunt for bargains at the outlet mall. I was on the search for a new pair of Sperry’s, with my current pair being pretty worn out and battered already. However, those that caught my eye had only odd sizes left in stock (like always) and I ended up not able to get anything at all.Pan Pacific PerthAfter checking in, Bryan Sr. and I took our groups out for a walk in Queen’s Gardens, before heading to Aberdeen Street in Northbridge to search for Corica, for a slice of Perth’s best apple strudels. I tried the apple strudels from Corica when I visited Perth with my family previously, and it was one of the best strudels that I’ve ever tasted. The crispy pastry, topped with fine sugar complements the generous amount of custard and apple filling, making it heavenly delicious… Anyway, we purchased two boxes of the addictive pastry (20 AUD for one log; serves 5-6) for dessert, which we enjoyed “picnic-style” at the Supreme Court Gardens after a cozy dinner at an Italian diner, where we ordered pizzas, pastas and gnocchi.

Queens Gardens - From left: Kuo Xian, Li Kim, Huiqin, Rosie, Zhuojia, Christina, Yi Heen, Myself, Daniel

Queens Gardens – From left: Kuo Xian, Li Kim, Huiqin, Rosie, Zhuojia, Christina, Yi Heen, Myself, Daniel

Sunset At The Supreme Court Gardens

Sunset At The Supreme Court Gardens

The real tour began on Day 2 with the whole group having arrived in Perth. Morning saw us set off to Caversham Wildlife Park for some interaction with the Australian wildlife. Like Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney which I recently visited (See In The Land Down Under), visitors at Caversham are also allowed to hand-feed the animals while taking in the sights and sounds at the park. After learning more about the lives of the Koalas, Kangaroos etc., we proceeded to the coastal town of Cervantes, where we enjoyed a grilled lobster set lunch at The Lobster Shack and a quick tour around the lobster farm. We then visited Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles, the world famous limestone formations forming one of the world’s most stunning natural landscapes.

Bryan Sr. @ Caversham

Bryan Sr. @ Caversham

Grilled Lobster Lunch @ The Lobster Shack

Grilled Lobster Lunch @ The Lobster Shack

At The Pinnacles - From left: Bryan Sr., Myself, Jin Yang, Edwin

At The Pinnacles – From left: Bryan Sr., Myself, Jin Yang, Edwin

Slice Of The Past - At The Pinnacles In 2002

Slice Of The Past – At The Pinnacles In 2002

The last stop before we headed back to the city was perhaps the highlight for many, Sandboarding at Lancelin. I tried sandboarding once before, also at Lancelin, during the last trip to Perth and it was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. For those who don’t know what sandboarding is; it is essentially a board sport, similar to that of snowboarding, except that it takes place on sand dunes instead of snow covered mountains. Barring the mouthful of sand that one gets if your board gets stuck in the sand, sandboarding is actually pretty exhilarating if you managed to catch a good run and glide down the sand in one swift and perfect motion.

Sandboarding At Lancelin

Sandboarding At Lancelin

Slice Of The Past - Sandboarding In 2002

Slice Of The Past – Sandboarding In 2002

We left the sand dunes of Lancelin at around 6pm in order to get back to the city centre in time for our dinner appointment. For some, the day was not over as a number of us had booked an optional torchlight tour at Fremantle Prison. As the torchlight tour was slated to begin at 945pm, those participating have to catch the 830pm train to Fremantle; meaning that dinner would have been a rush. With everyone from my group (except myself) opting to go for the tour, I was left alone at the dinner table as they made their way to the train station. Not that I cared, as I had the whole plate of Har Lok (sauté prawns in sweet and savory sauce) to myself. Seeing that I was enjoying the prawns so much, Jess (one of the lovely tour leaders) nicked two more plates of the delicious crustaceans from the other tables for me to finish! Not surprising, my exploits with the shrimps became somewhat of a talking point for the rest of the trip!

Day 3 saw us embark on a city tour with a drive past the Parliament House and Barracks Arch before stopping at Barrack Street Jetty to view the Bell Tower. The Swan Bells, which takes the name from the adjacent Swan River, are one of the largest set of change ringing bells in the world. We proceeded to Lake Monger next, where black swans glide gracefully across the water, with a beautiful city view forming the backdrop. Kings Park and Botanic Gardens was next on the itinerary, where a panoramic view of the CBD and a walk through the canopy of foliage on Federation Walkway awaits.

Group Photo @ Barrack Street Jetty

Group Photo @ Barrack Street Jetty

The Professors and Staff Members - From left: Prof Daniel, Prof Low, Prof Martin, Prof Natalie, Prof Schubert, Prof Tan, Mr David, Mr Vijay

The Professors and Staff Members – From left: Prof Daniel, Prof Low, Prof Martin, Prof Natalie, Prof Schubert, Prof Tan, Mr David, Mr Vijay

At The Bell Tower

At The Bell Tower

View of Central Perth From Lake Monger

View of Central Perth From Lake Monger

The Seniors @ Kings Park - From left: Edwin, Myself, Jin Yang, Bryan Sr., Germaine, Hui Cong, Nabilah, Joash

The Seniors @ Kings Park – From left: Edwin, Myself, Jin Yang, Bryan Sr., Germaine, Hui Cong, Nabilah, Joash

View Of The CBD From Kings Park And Botanic Gardens

View Of The CBD From Kings Park And Botanic Gardens

After lunch, we had wine tasting at one of Perth’s most famed vineyards, Sandalford Winery. At the châteaux, we were given a quick lesson on the different types of wines, and sampled from their range of Classic Whites to Dessert and Fortified Wines. Sandalford was quite generous in regards to the wine tasting, opening more than 30 bottles of different types of wines for us to try. However, many of us aren’t experienced drinkers; hence by the end of the session, there were still bottles of tasters left untouched. Jess, the ever lovely tour leader, then promptly took one of the bottles and stuffed it in my arms and the booze for the night was pretty much settled. Anyway, as we prepared to leave Sandalford, it was clear that one or two of us had perhaps a little too much to drink. As soon as we boarded the coach, Christina began to sleep like a baby; in fact, she was still fast asleep when we arrived at our next stop of the day – Whistler’s Chocolate. I had bought some chocolates at Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate at Phillip Island while at Melbourne during the last trip, but had found them to be a bit on the expensive side. Whistler’s, on the other hand, was more reasonably priced without much differences in terms of quality. Their best seller and my personal favorite are the chocolate pretzels (8 AUD for 250g), which might sound unusual, but tastes amazing. One other thing that caught my eye at Whistler’s was the staff there. Like A&F and Frolick, Whistler’s seemed to be on the hunt for eye candies to man its store. Many of their female staff were young and pretty, while the males should have no problems making modelling their career path instead.

Whistler's Chocolate

Whistler’s Chocolate

Sandalford Winery

Sandalford Winery

The last stop for the day before we returned back to the city was at the historical town of Guildford, where we drove past the iconic Guildford Hotel before stopping at Taylors Cottage. The cottage, which is now part of the Swan Guildford Historical Society’s Museum, represents life for the poorer people living in the district of Guilford, and its presence tells the stories of life for the poorer classes. After dinner, and with the visit to Curtin the next day in mind, we decided to have an early night following a quick group meeting where we discussed interview topics for the dialogue/forum tomorrow.

Me, Edwin, Jin Yang & Bryan Sr. @ Taylors Cottage

Me, Edwin, Jin Yang & Bryan Sr. @ Taylors Cottage

Day 4 saw us all wake up bright and early in preparation for our trip to Curtin University. We arrived at the campus at about 9am. As it was the summer vacation in Australia, the university grounds were very quiet with hardly any activity in sight. In fact, with most of the varsity staff on holidays, Curtin had to specially arrange for guest speakers to conduct the lectures for us. The first lecture was by Prof Peter Newman, who had coincidentally taught at NUS recently as a Visiting Professor in Architecture, and was hence familiar with the Singapore context. Following Prof Newman’s lecture was a presentation on the topic of water sustainability led by members from Curtin’s collaboration with Water Corporation, before we broke for lunch.

Group Photo @ Curtin University

Group Photo @ Curtin University

We reconvened again at 1pm for a lecture by Dr. Michael Hughes of the Tourism Research Cluster. Dr. Hughes lecture focused on Tourism and its Sustainability, which was very much the heartbeat of my group’s project. His studies on Biophilia as well as Nature-based Recreation gave us many insights to the tourism industry in Australia, which allowed us to make comparisons to that of Singapore. Before we departed Curtin, we took part in an hour long open forum with other members of the faculty, which I must admit was pretty entertaining with the subtle inclusion of Australian humour by the professors in their quick-witted responses.

On the way back to the city, we stopped over at Perth Mint to view displays of Australia’s gold nuggets as well as the finished products such as gold bullions, coins, medallions and jewellery before heading to dinner at the Northbridge area. As dinner concluded, Bryan Sr.’s group and mine decided to not follow the coach back to Pan Pacific, but to head to the Twilight Market @ Forrest Place instead. The Twilight Hawkers Market is hosted by the city of Perth every Friday evening and it brings the tastiest street fare from around the globe to one single spot in the heart of Perth. Being in a large group, we had the advantage of trying more kinds of food as we shared our purchases around. We enjoyed delicious dishes from all corners of the world, tasting from a melting pot of international cultures from Moroccan Meatballs served with Couscous; Spanish Churros; Irish Guinness Lamb Shanks to local specialties such as Jam Donuts and cross cultural influences such as Kangaroo Meat Kebabs. One item that was surprisingly memorable was the Mexican Paletas (Latin American Ice Pops usually made from fresh fruit). We tried a couple of different flavours, but the zest of the pepino con chile y limón (spicy cucumber with lime) lingered the longest in my taste buds as the cucumber provided a refreshing sensation; the chili a hint of spiciness while the lime balanced the flavours just about right.

Twilight Hawkers Market

Twilight Hawkers Market

As the sun sets and night falls, we bought a couple of beers (James Boag’s is fast becoming my fav Aussie beer) and Vegemite (my brilliant idea) as we planned to play Circle of Death in the evening. Christina, who had earlier introduced us to the game, quickly found herself to be on everyone’s radar and was made to drink as a forfeit in quick succession. It wasn’t long before she became (somewhat) inebriated, with random giggles and a hilarious attempt at eating Vegemite as part of yet another forfeit. At least she could still remember her name, room number and was (fairly) able to walk in a straight line as we retired for the night.

Vegemite - An Acquired Taste

Vegemite – An Acquired Taste

The last full day in Perth saw the temperature rise to 45 Degrees Celsius. The heat wave was so intense that bottled water in ice buckets was made available to hotel guests for free at the Pan Pacific. By the time we arrived at our first pit stop of the day, MacNuts WA, I was already sweating much. At MacNuts, I bought a bag of caramel coated macadamia (9 AUD for 200g, I had an additional 1 dollar discount as I had a voucher), which was like an atas version of our peanut brittle sold in traditional confectioneries. After a tour of the macadamia processing plant, we cruised down the inland waterways of Mandurah, where we marveled at the homes of the rich and famous as we crossed our fingers for a sighting of dolphins, pelicans, seagulls or any other animals of the kind.

On Board The Scenic Cruise. Clockwise from top left: Daniel, Kuo Xian, Yi Heen, Huiqin, Zhuojia, Li Kim, Myself

On Board The Scenic Cruise. Clockwise from top left: Daniel, Kuo Xian, Yi Heen, Huiqin, Zhuojia, Li Kim, Myself

Bryan Jr. & Bryan Sr.

Bryan Jr. & Bryan Sr.

After the cruise, we headed to Cicerello’s for a Fish & Chips Lunch. I felt somewhat cheated for lunch, as I had thought we would be having them at Fremantle, and not at Mandurah. And while the chowder was very good, I couldn’t say the same for the main course; the batter was far too thick and was greasy, soggy and bordering on inedible. I had to remove the batter and only eat the fish. And when I requested for tartare sauce, I was told that I had to pay $1.50 for it; a ridiculous fee for something which I thought should be a staple condiment for fried seafood. Jess overheard my complaints and intervened, and I got my tartare sauce for free. In fact, to my knowledge, my table was the only one that had tartare sauce provided for. Overall, it was a disappointing lunch; the meal I had, definitely did not fit the reviews I read on TripAdvisor and Yelp which mainly had excellent appraisals. The only excuse that I could think of would be that we were too large a group, hence causing the kitchen to rush out orders and thus compromise on standards.

Next on the agenda was the Fremantle Markets, where we were given time for a shopping spree where we purchased local produce such as almonds, nougats and fruits for their loved ones at home. With the temperature rising to an all-time high, Bryan Sr., Bryan Jr., Edwin & I decided to stop over at The Monk Brewery & Kitchen for a cold one at the recommendation of the local tour guide. With over 40 different types of craft beers available, we were spoilt for choice. We ordered a beer tasting paddle for a sample of 6 different beers (100cl each; 14 AUD per paddle). Of the six, my favourite was probably the Chef’s Wicked Chocolate Stout, which gave a pleasantly delightful chocolate aftertaste.

Beer Tasting Paddle From The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

Beer Tasting Paddle From The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

After we downed the cold ones, we ended our trip to Fremantle by visiting the Monument Hill War Memorial, before heading back to Perth via Cottesloe Beach, where we saw the locals frolicking in the warm waters and enjoying the sunshine. Since it was the last night at Perth, the curfew imposed on us was lifted and we were able to let loose and spend the night drinking and having fun.

The Seniors @ Monument Hill War Memorial

The Seniors @ Monument Hill War Memorial

The next morning was spent mainly preparing for our check out from Pan Pacific. In the final few hours that we had, the seniors decided to let the groups OTOT. Bryan Sr., Edwin and I had decided to make a return trip to the Swan Bells, though this time, we paid for the admission to enter the attraction. While in the building, we saw first-hand on how the bells were rung by hand. With the bells having a combined weight of about nine tonnes, considerable forces were exerted on the support structure. In fact, we could feel the building shaking whenever the larger bells were rung. After viewing the landscape of the Swan River and immersing in the chimes of the bells, we headed to the Murray & Hay Street area to grab lunch before heading back to the hotel for the transfer to the airport.

View Of The City From The Bell Tower

View Of The City From The Bell Tower

Slice Of The Past - With Sis @ The Swan Bells (2002)

Slice Of The Past – With Sis @ The Swan Bells (2002)

As we bid goodbye to Perth, on the way to the airport, we were met with a cluster of “grey clouds” in the distance. At first we thought they were Nimbus Clouds (rain clouds), but on closer look, they seemed to be appearing from the ground instead of being spread across the sky. As we got closer, it soon was pretty obvious to us. The “grey clouds” weren’t clouds, but smoke. Due to the heat wave the day before, a bushfire had begun burning in the Perth Hills area. As we waited in the departure gates for our flight, the TV was constantly updating the latest news regarding evacuations and road closures. Good thing we were already on the very last legs of our trip and on the way back home.

The Bushfire Started Just About When We Were To Depart Perth

The Bushfire Started Just About When We Were To Depart Perth

As usual, the sight of the Singapore Girl was most comforting. A friendly smile and a glass of Riesling made the flight on the B777 a tad more comfortable. The positives I get from this trip? Good Food, Great Memories, New Friendships and possibly the witnessing of the blossoming love of the first USP couple (hint: it’s not me).

School’s starting in a couple of hours…


In The Land Down Under

I’ve been to Australia twice before; Brisbane in the year 2000 & Perth in 2002. So this trip would be the third time I’m heading to the Land Down Under. As my grandma’s now pretty much immobile, we can no longer travel abroad as a family, so this marks the first time we go on holiday separately. It’s a refreshing thought, as it leaves me & my dad some father and son bonding time for about a week, with none of the ladies at home breathing down our necks. Here’s a day by day account of the Sydney-Melbourne escapade!

Day 1 – 23 Nov – Bon Voyage

Aunt Sok Eng, Mum & Sis sent us to the airport where we had dinner at Astons Specialities before our flight to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith. We arrived at Changi around 05:30pm, and since our flight was due to depart only at 08:40pm, we had lots of time to spare. Regular readers of yearningforlove will know that dad’s working for Singapore Airlines, so we were able to pull some strings and reserve the few rows of double seats on the upper deck of the A380, ensuring that dad & I had a window and aisle seat all to ourselves. And yes, if you were wondering, the flight was “on the house”.

Waiting To Board The Flight To Sydney

Waiting To Board The Flight To Sydney

Day 2 – 24 Nov – Sydney Awaits

We touched down at Kingsford-Smith at about 07:30am, which was right on schedule. The flight was pretty smooth, and I managed to watch The Wolverine and RED 2, while getting some shut eye in between. Due to the strict customs regulations in Australia, we were quickly greeted by police dogs ready to sniff out any prohibited and restricted goods. Once we cleared the customs, we then headed to Sydney Central via the Airport Link ($15.90 AUD for a one way ticket), which was the quickest and most convenient way to get to the city. We were staying at the Rendezvous Studio Hotel (two minute walk from Central Station), which was a convenient location for us to get to the major tourist attractions around the city. As the check-in time wasn’t till 02:00pm, we had no choice but to leave our baggage with the concierge while we start with our day’s activities.

Arriving At Sydney's Kingsford Smith

Arriving At Sydney’s Kingsford Smith

Our first stop was to make a detour to Sydney Coach Terminal (located within Central Station) to confirm our overnight journey to Melbourne on Day 5. This was crucial as if the coach tickets were not confirmed, we will have to search for alternative ways to get to Melbourne (either by train or domestic flight), which were much more expensive. We did manage to secure two spots on the 07:00pm coach operated by Firefly Express ($60.00 AUD for a one way ticket) which will see us arrive at Melbourne’s Southern Cross at 07:00am the next day. Whist at the coach terminal, we also booked ourselves on a day tour to the Blue Mountains ($168.00 AUD inclusive of the Scenic World Rides) for the next day. With the paperwork for the tours and coaches done and dusted, we were able to officially start the holiday proper.

Sydney Central Station

Sydney Central Station

We headed down to the Sydney Fish Market via the Light Rail service ($6.00 AUD for a two way ticket) from Central Railway Station. The market is the world’s third largest fish market and it incorporates a fishing port, a wholesale market, seafood retail stores, a delicatessen, sushi bars, a bakery, gift shops, a fruit and vegetable outlet, a cooking school and an outdoor promenade for visitors. Since we hadn’t had a proper breakfast (breakfast was a muffin and coffee on board the flight), we decided to have an early lunch at the fish market. We ordered a platter of sashimi ($15.50 AUD for a combination of Tuna, Salmon & Kingfish) and a Medium Deluxe Platter ($70.00 AUD), which consisted of half a lobster cooked mornay style, a blue swimmer crab, 3 BBQ king prawns, 3 fresh oysters, calamari rings, a grilled salmon fillet, chips and salad. The sashimi was fresh with the fish delightfully sweet. The seafood platter was also great, with the cheese from the mornay topping blending in nicely with the lobster, and the prawns are one of the freshest I’ve ever eaten. The only thumbs downs were the soy sauce and wasabi mix, which had to purchased separately at an additional $1.00 AUD and the oysters, which the staff ruined by placing the cooked chips on top of them during the serving.

Lunch At Peters @ The Sydney Fish Market

Lunch At Peters @ The Sydney Fish Market

After the very satisfying seafood lunch, we headed to Paddy’s Market located along Haymarket. Paddy’s Market is similar to a flea market, with many of the stores specialising in cheap imported clothes, giftware and souvenirs. There were also a couple of stalls selling adult fantasy wear, such as nurses costumes, fishnet stockings and various types of lingerie; one of the shops was even selling postcards featuring topless women.

Paddy's Market @ Market City

Paddy’s Market @ Market City

The next stop for the day was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which we visited after a quick stopover at the hotel to finalize the check-in and to freshen up. Along with the Opera House and the harbour itself, they make up one of the most iconic images of Australia. Though the staff at BridgeClimb tried their best to persuade us that scaling the bridge would be “the climb of your life”, we were put off by the rather expensive rates ($235.00 AUD for a Weekday Day Climb, $318.00 AUD for a Twilight Climb during peak periods). After visiting BridgeClimb, we proceeded to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Sydney Opera House. The Opera House, which was opened in 1973, is renowned for its innovative architecture. It is constantly identified as one of 20th century’s most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world. If any of you is planning a visit to Sydney sometime in March or April next year, be sure to catch Opera Australia’s staging of Madame Butterfly, which runs from 21 Mar – 12 Apr 2014.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Carnival Spirit Docked @ The Harbour with The Opera House In The Background

The Carnival Spirit Docked @ The Harbour with The Opera House In The Background

After a quick stroll at the Royal Botanic Gardens, we headed back towards Central Station, where we would pass by Sydney’s Chinatown, a place where we would not only settle the day’s dinner but many of our remaining meals in Sydney as well. For today, we ordered a plate of Phat Thai (stir-fried rice noodles in Thai style), a plate of 姜葱牛肉饭 (stir-fry beef with rice) and a serving of 饺子(dumplings). After dinner, we bought a box of the famous Emperor’s Cream Puffs ($5.00 AUD for a box of 20) which was sold by a bakery located at the end of Dixon street. The puffs which tasted like kueh bahulu filled with custard cream would make a perfect breakfast for the day after, as we were scheduled for pickup to the Blue Mountains at 07:00am the next morning.

Dad At The Royal Botanic Gardens

Dad At The Royal Botanic Gardens

Freshly Baked Emperor's Puffs

Freshly Baked Emperor’s Puffs

Day 3 – 25 Nov – Blue Mountains

Our morning call was set at an early 05:30am as we needed to be at the hotel’s lobby before 07:00am for the pickup to the Blue Mountains. After dragging ourselves out from bed, we had a quick breakfast of earl grey and the cream puffs which we bought last night. Just when we were about to leave, we received a call from the tour agent, informing us that the pickup would be delayed by 30 minutes due to a mechanical fault with the bus. We were afraid that this delay would affect the rest of the day’s schedule, but as it turned out, our fears were unfounded.

We headed down at 07:30am and was greeted by Steve, our driver and guide for the day. After a few other pickups from other hotels within the city, we headed for our first stop of the day, Featherdale Wildlife Park. Like most wildlife parks in Australia, Featherdale gives visitors the opportunity to feed the kangaroos, wallabies and emus, as well as take photos with the cuddly koalas, all of which are Australian icons. With this trip being my third in Australia, I honestly wasn’t quite hyped about feeding the animals or having a Kodak moment with the bears, since I’ve already been there and done that. And with this only being Day 3 of the tour, I was sure that we were going to visit many more similar wildlife parks or sanctuaries in the days to come.

The Wallabies Are Allowed To Roam Freely Within The Wildlife Park

The Wallabies Are Allowed To Roam Freely Within The Wildlife Park

After spending about an hour at Featherdale, we visited the Waradah Centre for a lesson on Aboriginal culture. Upon arrival, we were given a bracelet with beads featuring the colours of the Australian Aboriginal Flag. We were then treated to a short musical recital featuring traditional instruments such as the didgeridoo, where the guests were invited to dance along. The entire showcase was a fairly short one, which lasted only around 15 minutes, so we made used of the remaining time to go to the nearby cliff lookout and take in the breathtaking view of the Jamison Valley.

The Breathtaking View Of The Jamison Valley Outside Waradah Centre

The Breathtaking View Of The Jamison Valley Outside Waradah Centre

Lunch was next on the cards, and we enjoyed a hearty two course at one of the mountains’ golf clubs. The main course was fish & chips with BBQ wings & garden veggies. Desert was a creamy chocolate cake and a nicely caramelized apple crumble. Lunch gave us the opportunity to mingle with the rest of the tour group, and I got to know this great Asian couple from San Francisco, Chuck & Elizabeth. During the short span at the lunch table, we shared our thoughts about stuff like mandatory national service in Singapore, Obamacare and life in the United States.

With our tummies filled, we were ready for the highlight of the day. The Blue Mountains. The name Blue Mountains was derived from the blue tinge the range takes on when viewed from a distance, and the region was incorporated as a World Heritage Site in 2000. As part of the tour package, we got to enjoy three thrilling rides whist at the Blue Mountains Scenic World. These rides include the spectacular Skyway heading across the mountains; the thrilling Cableway which rides into the valley; and the Railway, which is the world’s steepest railway. Taking a walk through the splendid canopy of the ancient subtropical rainforest, I could only gaze in awe at the giant rock formations, especially that of the Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

The next stop was something that was unique to Anderson’s Tours. With Anderson’s ensuring that the size of tour groups do not exceed 20, they are able to maintain a fleet of mini coaches, unlike major tour operators like Gray Line, which mainly uses 50-seaters. As such, our small coach was able to drive in deeper into the valley, to a scenic point called Lincoln’s Rock. Lincoln’s Rock provided a spectacular backdrop of the plateau, and I had a picture perfect moment where I sat at the edge of the rock, allowing my legs to dangle into the cliff. One more step forward would be a sheer drop to the bottom of the valley.

With Steve at Lincoln's Rock

With Steve at Lincoln’s Rock

Sitting At The Edge Of The Cliff

Sitting At The Edge Of The Cliff

Following the stop at Lincoln’s Rock, we drove through the township of Leura, passing by the quaint antiques and crafts shops before heading back to the city, with a detour around the Sydney Olympic site. Our tour concluded with a cruise back into the heart of the CBD, which saw us glide under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and past the Opera House, providing a good opportunity for more photos, before we docked at Circular Quay, where we bade each other goodbye.

The Opera House Viewed During The Cruise. We Were Just About Gliding Beneath The Harbour Bridge When I Snapped This Photo

The Opera House Viewed During The Cruise. We Were Just About Gliding Beneath The Harbour Bridge When I Snapped This Photo

It was approximately 06:00pm when we returned to Circular Quay, so dad & I went in search for some dinner. I had read somewhere before about a place called Hurricane’s Grill along Darling Harbour which serves good BBQ ribs. With no other alternatives on our minds, we decided to check the place out. Located at Harbourside Shopping Centre, Hurricane’s Grill is a steakhouse with a modern and chic decor, and was a hot favourite with the Sydney locals. We started with Garlic Mushrooms prepared with olive oil and butter, while dad ordered half a rack of Pork Ribs and I had a New York Strip done medium-rare. Both the main course were served with a baked potato with sour cream and chives. Rounding up the meal were Australian beers from Tooheys & Boag’s. The food was good, not great (the ribs could do with a little more charring, but that’s only my opinion), but the thing I like best about Hurricane’s Grill was that as long as your table had ribs on order, a server will come and put on a disposable bib for you. Hence, it’s a bonus if you managed to get a hot Aussie chick (or dude) to do you the honours.

Tooheys & Boag's @ Hurricane's Grill. (Sorry, No Photos Of Us In Bibs)

Tooheys & Boag’s @ Hurricane’s Grill. (Sorry, No Photos Of Us In Bibs)

Day 4 – 26 Nov – Swimming Between The Flags & Walking 268 Metres Above Sydney!

We headed to the world famous Bondi Beach on the morning of Day 4 after a quick breakfast of Hungry Jack’s & Krispy Kreme at Central Station. (A return ticket from Central Station to Bondi Beach costs $9.20 AUD) Ever since I got my lifeguard licence and started watching Bondi Rescue, I’ve always wanted to go down to Bondi Beach one day and see the lifeguards at work. Lifeguarding may look easy, but it is a tough job as it drains you out both mentally and physically. I’ve seen my fair share of drama during my stints at Temasek Club & NDU, but Bondi poses a whole new different challenge, with the strong rips and tides dragging even the most experienced swimmers into deeper waters and away from the beach.

Bondi Pavilion

Bondi Pavilion

It was about 11:00am when we arrived at Bondi Pavilion. As it was a weekday and with the skies looking overcast, there wasn’t much of a crowd at the beach, bar a group of local surfers and the odd tourist. Nonetheless, two of the Rhinos were dispatched to patrol the beachfront, but with the skies starting to drizzle, the lifeguards were wrapped in their tracksuits and hoodies and not their usual bright blue shirts. Undeterred by the rain, I decided to strip to my shorts and took a dive into the waters, but gave up after a short while as the water was too cold and the chilly winds not providing me with any reprieve.

Getting A Full Sand & Water "Massage"

Getting A Full Sand & Water “Massage”

Waves Crashing On The Rocks

Waves Crashing On The Rocks

As the skies began to clear up, we took a slow stroll along the beach, passing by the surf clubs, Bondi Pavilion and Bondi Park, before ending at the “Icebergs”. The Icebergs is one of Bondi’s most iconic spots with its saltwater pool. At high tides, the waves will crash into the swimmers at the outermost lanes of the pool, making this one of the most difficult places to swim in. After watching a couple of surfers navigating their way back to shore, we headed back towards the changing rooms, but not before a quick photo call at the lifeguard tower and with a friendly lifeguard patrolling on the Rhino.

The Famous Icebergs Of Bondi

The Famous Icebergs Of Bondi

Do I Have What It Takes To Work At The Tower?

Do I Have What It Takes To Work At The Tower?

Posing With The Rhino And The Boys In Blue

Posing With The Rhino And The Boys In Blue

Back at the city, we headed to the Sydney Tower, where we purchased a pass ($99.00 AUD) which allowed us to see five of Sydney’s most famous attractions; The Sydney Tower Eye, Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Wildlife Sydney Zoo and The Skywalk at Sydney Tower. We planned to cover both the attractions at the Sydney Tower today and cover the other three on Day 5 before our overnight coach to Melbourne.

The Sydney Tower At Night

The Sydney Tower At Night

The Sydney Tower is Sydney’s tallest free-standing structure and boasts the highest observation deck in the southern hemisphere. With the observation deck at 260 metres high, The Eye provides beautiful views of Darling Harbour, George Street, Hyde Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But, the highlight of the day has got to be The Skywalk at Sydney Tower. Located a further 8 metres higher than the main observation deck, The Skywalk is Sydney’s highest outdoor viewing platform. Looking down on the city at 268 metres above sea level was a breathtaking experience. It was an unforgettable sight, even more for a French couple who were with us at the Skywalk, who decided on a spontaneous kiss while at the platform.

Walking 268 Metres Above Sydney

Walking 268 Metres Above Sydney

Doing My Best Mark Webber Impersonation (Silverstone 2012)

Doing My Best Mark Webber Impersonation (Silverstone 2012)

After the dizzying highs at the Skywalk, we concluded the day with dinner at Chinatown before heading back to the hotel to have an early night.

The View From Skywalk

The View From Skywalk

Day 5 – 27 Nov – Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman & The Wolverine!

As we were leaving Sydney on the 07:00pm coach to Melbourne, we decided to check out early from Rendezvous before heading out for the day’s activities. After depositing our luggage at the hotel’s reception, we took a short stroll towards Darling Harbour, where Madame Tussauds awaits.

Madame Tussauds - A Must-See Attraction

Madame Tussauds – A Must-See Attraction

Madame Tussauds have somewhat become a must-see for me whenever I visit cities with the attraction. Including Sydney, I’ve been to the one in Hong Kong & Amsterdam, but the one I really want to visit is the main branch in London. The star attractions at the Sydney’s outlet has got to be their home-grown stars such as Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue & Mark Webber. I also managed to pose with Hollywood icons that includes personalities such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe & Olivia Newton-John.

Aussie Beauty - Nicole Kidman

Aussie Beauty – Nicole Kidman

Aussie Supermodel - Miranda Kerr

Aussie Supermodel – Miranda Kerr

With Olivia Newton-John

With Olivia Newton-John

Lunch was next on the agenda. With the many alfresco restaurants and bistros located along Cockle Bay, we were spoilt for choice. We ended up at I’m Angus, a steakhouse which was offering set lunches at $18.00 AUD. I had a Angus Rump Steak (medium-rare as always), while dad had the Catch of the Day and we washed down the meal with a glass of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice and Boag’s.

I'm Angus Steak House

I’m Angus Steak House

We proceeded to the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium & the Wildlife Sydney Zoo after lunch where we spent some time with the various marine and wildlife. On display were an array of animals such as Stingrays, Dugongs, Wombats, the Tasmanian Devil and of course the Koalas & Kangaroos. It was an adventure to the Australian Aquatic life and the Outback all within the heart of the city.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Wildlife Sydney Zoo

Wildlife Sydney Zoo

With evening fast approaching, we grabbed dinner (roast duck & braised assorted vegetables) at Chinatown (again) after dropping by George Street to pick up chocolates at Bon Bon & Haigh’s for the family, before heading to the Coach Terminal for our overnight coach to Melbourne.

Chocolates at Haigh's

Chocolates at Haigh’s

Day 6 – 28 Nov – Goodbye Sydney, Hello Melbourne!

We arrived in Melbourne’s Southern Cross just before 07:00am, a full 12 hour journey with stops at Liverpool and Wagga Wagga in between. While there was on-board entertainment (Tony, our driver had put in the DVD for The Bucket List on the coach’s media player), I slept in for the most part of the journey.

Melbourne's Southern Cross

Melbourne’s Southern Cross

Upon arrival at Melbourne, we checked in at our Hotel (the Rendezvous Grand) before heading out for the day’s activities. We were booked on a Grand Penguins Tour (@ Phillip Island) which was due to depart from Federation Square at 10:00am. The first stop of the tour was the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park on the Mornington Peninsula. Like Featherdale and the Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Moonlit Sanctuary also houses Aussie animals such as dingoes, emus and wallabies.

At The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park

At The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park

Churchill Island was the next feature, where we explored a heritage farm and tried our hands at milking a cow and learn the art of sheep shearing. Lunch (included in the tour) was also settled at Churchill Island, where we enjoyed a country style Gippsland lunch of fish & chips and beef schnitzel burgers.

The Heritage Farm Was Filled With Flora and Fauna

The Heritage Farm Was Filled With Flora and Fauna

A stopover at Phillip Island’s Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate gave us the opportunity to create our own chocolate flavours and we bought more of the addictive truffles and chocolate delicacies for friends and family. After sampling the delectable chocolates at Panny’s, we were whisked away by our guide and driver to The Nobbies. The Nobbies is an ecotourism destination located on the western tip of the island, with a network of boardwalks overlooking Seal Rocks. As the sun began to set, we had dinner at the Nobbies Centre (Beer Battered Fish & Salt and Pepper Calamari) before the undisputable highlight of the day – The Penguin Parade.

Sunset @ Philip Island (The Nobbies)

Sunset @ Philip Island (The Nobbies)

The Penguin Parade is a natural occurrence where Little Penguins come ashore at dusk. Seeing the world’s smallest breed of penguins arriving home and waddling across the beach to their sand dune burrows is a magical and surreal experience. As the moonlight shines on the beach at Summerland and with the cute seabirds up close, it is a loving place for couples to be at. A passionate kiss at the Penguin Parade couldn’t be more romantic.

The Little Penguins Coming Ashore At Dusk

The Little Penguins Coming Ashore At Dusk

Leaving Phillip Island just before 10:00pm, we arrived back into the city just before midnight struck. It was a tiring day, given that we had only arrived in Melbourne after a long distance coach ride in the morning, but the world phenomenon of the Penguin Parade; one of Australia’s most unique natural experiences was well worth it.

Day 7 -29 Nov – The Great Ocean Road Adventure

After a long and tiring day at Phillip Island, you would have thought that we might choose to sleep in a little late the next day. However, as we were heading to Great Ocean Road today (a two and a half hour drive away), we were up and ready to go by 08:00am. After a quick breakfast at Rendezvous’ Straits Cafe, we took a short walk along Flinders Street to Federation Square for our scheduled pickup from Gray Line. Midway through the journey to the coastline, we stopped for tea, where we enjoyed an Aussie style Bush Billy Tea with Lamingtons (a sponge cake of Australian origin), Vegemite and Crackers. We then continued with the journey, driving through the beach resort of Lorne, and looking over the precipitous coastal cliffs, long sandy beaches and rolling surf along the way.

Stopping For Tea

Stopping For Tea

We arrived at the picturesque Apollo Bay, where we had a lunch (included in the Gray Line package) of Soup of the Day, Chicken Schnitzel, Thai Beef Curry and Dessert. After the satisfying meal, we hopped back on to the coach for Port Campbell’s National Park; famous for the stone monoliths of the Twelve Apostles. Dad and I opted to go for the optional helicopter ride over shipwreck coast, and I was given a free upgrade to the 25 minutes Bay of Islands Tour (usual price $235.00 AUD) instead of the 10 minute Scenic Flight ($95.00 AUD). Flying beyond the cliffs, the view of the Twelve Apostles and The Island Arch was simply breathtaking.

The 12 Apostles At 750ft Above Sea Level

The 12 Apostles At 750ft Above Sea Level

Stunning Images Of The Great Ocean Road

Stunning Images Of The Great Ocean Road

Posing With The Chopper After Landing At The Airfield

Posing With The Chopper After Landing At The Airfield

Following the thrill on the helicopter, we drove to Loch Ard Gorge, the site of the tragic shipwreck of the “Loch Ard”. According to memorials at the site, there were only two survivors from the tragedy which occurred in June 1878. After being washed ashore, Tom Pearce (one of the survivors) climbed out of the gorge to raise the alarm with the local pastoralists. The Great Ocean Road Tour then concluded with a drive thru along Port Campbell, before we bid goodbye to the powerful coastline which provided the scope for amazing photography.Loch Ard Gorge (1)Loch Ard Gorge (2)Loch Ard Gorge (3)

The Many Views Of The Loch Ard Gorge

The Many Views Of The Loch Ard Gorge

Returning to the city at approximately 07:30 in the evening, we headed to the Chinatown Precinct in search for dinner, where we had a sumptuous meal of 燒臘 (siu laap/Cantonese styled roasted cuisines), after which we walked along Swanston Street and Collins Street admiring the Christmas lightings before heading back to the hotel to retire for the night.

Day 8 – 30 Nov – Queen Victoria Market & The Hot Jam Donuts

Sleeping in for the day, we checked out from the Rendezvous Grand only at 11:00am. After placing our bags at the concierge for caretaking, we took the City Circle Tram (free of charge) to the Queen Victoria Market. At over seven hectares, the Queen Vic is one of the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The market offers a variety of fresh produce as well as deli foods and speciality delicacies. It also has a large non-food related section, selling a diverse range of wares from clothing, shoes, antiques and artwork. Dad picked up a couple of packets of locally produced nuts (almonds & macadamia), while I bought nougats for the boys at Dynamo. While the market has a diverse collection of goods, the one recommendation that I suggest you must try is the Jam Donuts. Serving Victoria Market for over 50 years, the donut kitchen has become part of the local tradition and is instantly recognizable as it takes the shape of a van (if you still can’t find it, just look for the winding queue). Priced at $5.50 AUD for 5 donuts, it is excellent value with the hot, sugary jam filled goodness making me scream out for more. Some have said that a trip to Victoria Market without having the donuts is a wasted trip altogether.

The Crowd At The Donut Kitchen

The Crowd At The Donut Kitchen

We had a couple of hours left to spare before having to head to the airport for our flight home, so we decided to head to South Wharf along the Yarra River. There was a Direct Factory Outlet Mall there, so we were hoping to do some last minute shopping. However, like most outlet shops, the stash they hold are normally out-of-fashioned or stocks that are left with odd sizes. I eyed a pair of Sperry’s which was going at a 75% discount but there was no sizes left that fit me. Leaving South Wharf empty handed, we returned to the city centre where we had dinner at Little Bourke Street before we headed to Tullamarine (via SkyBus $17.00 AUD for a one way ticket) for our flight home.

Day 9 – 1 Nov – Home Sweet Home

Our flight back home was due to depart at 01:05am. However, due to a fault with the air conditioning, boarding was delayed by around half an hour. Despite the hiccup, Singapore Airlines remains my top choice when it comes to flying. It’s not due to the free perks that my family enjoys, but rather, it’s the sight of the Singapore Girl on your travels home which is comforting.

The Singapore Girl, A Welcoming & Comforting Sight

The Singapore Girl, A Welcoming & Comforting Sight

Anyway, I will on most occasions, make use of the in-flight entertainment to catch up on movies that I’ve missed, but the past eight days really took the toll on me. Once we left the tarmac, I slept like a pig, only waking up during meal times. Not one movie I finished watching on the flight back, which should be a first for me, and before I knew it, I’m back in Singapore at home, in my bed writing this post and documenting the trip. Overall, it was an enjoyable holiday, allowing me to momentarily forget all about the Accounting Finals and Ethics Essays. The two regrets though, was missing out on visiting Canberra and Whale/Dolphin watching in Sydney due to the time constraints and the changing season respectively.

Just as well, this leaves me an excuse to return to Sydney again sometime in the future.