Monday, July 31, 2006

Currumbin 2006 - Day 1 (130706)

I think I am soooooooooooooooo lucky to be able to travel to two different places during a short one-month holiday. Well, some of you rich people out there would be thumbing your nose at my announcement but 人比人会气死人! So long as I'm contented, that's all that matters!

After Sydney, I got back home for a week to wash some clothes, clean some room, and pack some bag to head on out for Currumbin! Before deciding on Currumbin, we just knew we want a mini road trip, for about 3 days. It was either up north to Sunshine Coast (which most of us had gone before), or down south towards New South Wales. In the end, we thought that it would make sense for us to search for nice accommodation before we confirm where we wanted to go.

After hours of searching for bed and breakfast (wanted a new experience, darling!), I found the Hanging Rock Chalets, in Currumbin. It looks gorgeous, doesn't it? Away from city life, where we can go and prop our feet up and listen to the sounds of nature. And it's very cheap too! $300 for 2 nights for the 4 of us. Each person only $32.50 per night. What a deal!

After swipping the plastic over the phone (That's rather scary right? You don't know what will happen to your details), we rented a car, waited for R to arrive in Queensland, wondered over our budget, debated about whether to have a BBQ or not, and we drove on out!

Since all of us do not own a car here, we wanted to eat lunch outside the local vicinity. Went to the much recommended Vietnamese restaurant at Sunnybanks: Hien Vuong!

We ordered a plate of raw bean sprouts, lemon, chilli, and sweet basil. Budgeting, remember? ):

To go with our beef noodles!

The noodles was quite good, although I would have preferred it to be a little less sweet. Nevertheless, good to be on the road with a full stomach. Let's get back on!

Because we had not been to the chalets before, we drove rather slowly. Even more interesting was the fact that the street directory we had did ended at Currumbin. Bah! Good luck to us! The map that was sent to us had a "98" on it. We naturally thought that would mean exit 98. But when I checked on this site earlier, it wrote to exit at Stewart Road. When we passed exit 95, it wrote there Stewart Road. So was it exit 98 or 95? We took exit 95. Luckily for us, we were on the right track. Strangely, although the chalets are supposed to be a little more than an hour's drive from Brisbane, we reached there 3 hours later, with a lunch thrown in.

The place was not visible for the main road, which was what makes it perfect for a short getaway I suppose. If you are going there, drive along Pacific Highway, exit at Stewart Road (Exit 95). Travel along Currumbin Creek Road for 8km then turn into Tomewin Mountain Road for another 6.7km. Look out for the small signboard that says "Hanging Rock Chalets" on your left. Turn in and go straight up to find the main house, which is where the reception is.

I love the place! It was even better than the pictures, because you get to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the wonderful sounds. When you walk into the chalet, you will see the dining and living area (with TV) on your right and the kitchenette on your left. The kitchenette is well-equipped with two stoves, an electric kettle, lots of cutlery and utensils, and even salt and pepper grinders. These are the small things that make you feel right at home (although we don't even have these luxuries at home). The liquid detergent they gave us are not those cheap-skate homebrands we use at home, but those that are really gentle on your hands! 100 marks! We get a decent-sized fridge too. Further in, we have the bathroom and a bedroom with a queen-sized bed facing the huge window. Imagine waking up to the lovely views! Awesome! Coming out from the bedroom, on the left, is a spiral staircase that leads down to the second bedroom, where the bunk bed is. You get loads of windows here too. Amazing views! I think this room can sleep up to 4 because there is also a pull-out bed and the lower bunk bed is a double. I like this place!

The Green Chalet! Pretty, pretty!

The evening skies. Lovely, lovely!

As you can see, we had a bit of problem. It was getting dark and we wanted to get groceries for dinner tonight and our breakfast picnic tomorrow. However, we didn't really know the way well. Earlier, I had asked the girl who received us where the nearest supermarket was. She told us that we could turn left or right at the foot of the mountain and we would be able to find it.

Sadly, we took the left turn and went all the way into the Mount Cougal section of Springbrook National Park. Haha!! D did a hasty three-point turn and by then, it was truly getting dark. We decided to head back into town, where we had come from after we took the exit. We found a petrol station and stopped to ask the petrol uncle where the nearest supermarket was. You have to understand our anxiety because shops here close at 5pm most of the time. If we didn't get groceries, we would have to survive on chips and Pods. Not very healthy!

The petrol uncle made it sound very easy.

Petrol uncle: You go straight ahead, turn left and cross the bridge. Then you should see it! There's a huge mall called Pines.

Well, it was not very easy to locate! We did as he asked but only saw a sports complex. We decided to turn around there somemore. Just as we were turning out of a wrong turn, I suddenly caught sight of the word "Pines"! Eureka!!! Found it!

What's more, we found Coles and Woolworths. It's quite rare for the two supermarket giants to be located under one roof. We divided up the workload: J and R toLenards to get chicken for dinner, while JY and I went to Coles to grab lettuce, tomatoes, bread, canned soup, eggs, ham, tuna, coke for dinner, and tomorrow's breakfast and lunch.

We went back and the two drivers got their well-deserved showers while JY and I did the cooking. It was fun! But the stupid, stupid chicken did not cook even after a long long time in the oven. Pui! And it was chicken thigh. I hate, hate, hate chicken thigh because it's so chickeny! Bah! Some of the flavours were not bad though there was one that reeked of chicken thigh taste. *shudder*

Let you see our cute toilet.

Toilet, toilet, how clean are you. 3 days later, you'll never be the same again!

The plan was to get back early and rest early because tomorrow we will go to Byron Bay to watch sunrise! That means waking up before we even sleep!

Chilling out at the dining table. I love the dining table. It's made from a solid piece of wood, and is irregularly shaped. Amazing! And it's positioned just beside the windows so you can look out into the darkness to enjoy the view. Perfect!

As the lovebirds went to bed, JY and I did not want to waste our money and miss our first night out at Hanging Rock. We went to the huge deck to sit and sip our hot water. A higly-recommended experience!

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Yesterday, we went shopping. To ease the pain of not being able to get much (me), I wanted to eat something better for dinner. JL recommended Hanachi Sushi. As JL quite chui ziam, if she recommends it, it must be not bad! Indeed, it served some interesting sushi choices. If you are looking for those food that are sold in Sakae Sushi, you will be in for a disappointment! Check out some of the things we had!

Wagyu beef. Supposedly the best beef in the world because the highest quality is 90% fats and 10% meat. Fear not! For the fats is monosaturated; the "good" fats, but I don't like it although my friend said it's the best of the night. Hmm... It's served raw by the way, not even rare wor!

Unagi roll. Eel is quite a common dish, and this was nicely done. I love fish! :P

Sea urchin. We tried this because this is something that we seldom see in Singapore. It was $5.80 a plate, same as Wagyu beef. I don't particularly like this although it's better than the beef. Friend said it tastes fishy, which she doesn't like. I thought it was quite ok. Can try but maybe not second time.

Scampi in miso soup! This was great! I love it! Absolutely delicious. Although there wasn't much meat in the scampi, the miso soup absorbed the flavour. So sweet! Please try it!

Scallops. We thought it was going to be cooked. It wasn't. There was no taste. Friend said it tastes like raw fish. I still think there's no taste.

Octopus. I adoooooooooooooooore octopus. This was so fresh and sweet that I ordered two! To be shared! Haha... While eating this, I had a minor debate with friend who said it was so hard to bite off. I told her I thought sushi was meant to be pop into the mouth as a whole, then you slowly chew. At least that was what I saw on Japan hour. Furthermore, the sushiman said dip the sushi in soy sauce then you add a bit of wasabi, instead of mixing wasabi and soy sauce and smothering the whole sushi with the vile mixture. Haha! I don't like wasabi because it covers the taste so it doesn't matter to me. But is there a right way to eat sushi?

Peking duck. I like this too! Although it was a little dry, I thought it was great because very long never eat duck, and it tasted quite nice. :)

If you stay in Brisbane area and has any nice, affordable ($15-$25) restaurants to recommend, please drop me a note! I want to try other food!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sydney 2006 - Day 6 (040706)

Last day in Sydney! We learnt an important lesson: never start your day without breakfast.

The three of us were supposed to meet JY's friend at University of Sydney. It was drizzling slightly but we braved the rain and headed for UOS on foot. Along the way, we still had to make withdrawal from ATM. Haiz...

We just had an idea that we were heading the right direction without really knowing where UOS was. Found it anyway!

Can imagine Harry Potter running out anytime!

Where's Mr Potter?

Then JY's friends arrived. Two of them were from Brisbane and the other guy had just completed his studies in Sydney. He was very mean. He told us he was going to bring us to a wonderful cafe, which was very famous in Sydney. He led us through two cafes, sniffing the wonderful scones, quiches, coffee, and tea, but those were not it. By then, we were already cold, wet, and hungry. We had walked for nearly 1.5hrs ok! Nothing in the stomach.

Finally, we were told that it was near. Like another 5 minutes walk away! That's not near at all! We were brought to a tiny cafe. Gosh! I cannot describe the wonderful aroma of the coffee. It was all worth it! Sadly, there was nothing much to eat except two microscopic pieces of white chocolate brownie and some pastry. Delicious but not nearly enough!

Campos cafe, drinking cafe latte.

It's not very easy to find, so better consult the directory!

Next on our agenda was the afternoon cruise that would depart from Circular Quay. We bidded the guys goodbye and took the bus to board the 2.5hr cruise. It cost $24 and would take us out quite a bit. There were not many people on the cruise. It had a small cafe where we could purchase food. Being as hungry as we were after a cup of coffee and tiny pastries at Campos, we had to get some food. I thought there would be food included. Bah!

I like the background. Looks a bit like Greece with those houses along the shore.

I'm at the leaning island of Greece!

The cruise was so-so only. Didn't have much. We sat near a family. It was quite stuffy on the cruise so I opened the window to let some air in. But the mother of the family spoke to the others in Mandarin, thinking we were idiots.

Mother (with pissed off look): 怎么开窗啊!

Hello?! You think the cruise is yours issit? Cold don't come Australia during winter la! Somemore she paid $24 to sleep on the cruise. Super weird woman. Later, when we went out to take photos, she took our seats! So her big, big, big family of 4 or 5 took up 16 seats! Wah! Your money bigger than ours issit? See her face also irritating. Never mind, we took the next cluster of seats, and I opened the window, which invariably drew her to remark. Again.

Mother (with even more pissed off look): 怎么又开窗啊!

Too bad! The cruise is not yours. It was stufffy. You paid $24, I paid $24. I shall open all the windows if I want. She didn't just get annoyed at me; she gave anyone who opened their windows a pissed-off look. Cannot stand the cold, go and buy your own cruise to cruise around lor. Pui!

Later we discovered that the lower deck was way nicer. No stupid woman who cannot stand cold yet come to Australia during winter. There were no one around and we could do as many silly things as we wanted. Then Happy Foot wanted to join in the fun and asked me to take pictures of her on holiday.

Happy Foot: I'm so ronery...

Happy Foot: So ronery and sadry arone!

But Happy Foot wasn't very happy because she was scorned by the lousy friends I had.

P and JY: What's that!

JY: Karate chop you if you get near!

P: You're cracked and ugly!

As usual, Happy Sole turned up to save the day!

Happy Foot: I don't wanna be ronery no more!
Happy Sole: You don't have to be!

The cruise provided commentary on the places we were passing, like the Spit Bridge. But it was rather morbid because there were lots of comments on 'deaths', 'assassinations', 'murdered', 'killed', 'dead' etc... After a while we just tuned out the unhappy words and concentrated on making fools out of ourselves.

Don't poke my nose!

Wah! Amazing palm!

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky! I was trying to make my eye look in opposite directions but I think it's impossible. Can you do it?

We arrived back in Circular Quay in three pieces. On day 2, we passed by a 'funny' cafe at The Rocks and wanted to check it out. It was interesting because it was a restored old house and looked rather quaint. Nothing like the cosmopolitan cafes in Singapore. We very power ok! Our memory quite good and we located Gumnut Tea Garden in no time at all!

It's lovely right? Like a bookstore.

Guess who's taking our photo? +_+

The menu! Yes, it's not cheap to eat out here. Bacon and eggs cost $8. x: Got concession discount?

I shared Italian sausage on sweet potato mash with JY. Rating: 3.5/5. I like the caramelised onions best!

We were in one of the rooms of the old house. Lovely. Very nice ambience. It has a very, very steep staircase; almost a 60 degree incline?

No wonder people from the past used to commit murder by pushing people down the stairs. Scary!

If you get spooked by old buildings, you can go to the al fresco backyard. Imagine cooking in your own house and using it as a restaurant as well! I think that's a super concept, like what they had for a Sammi Cheng and Jerry Yen show. 梦幻厨房? But being the suspicious person I am, I scare later people come eat my food and rob my house. Must find reputable customers. All must prove their innocence to me. Muahahaha... I wonder if there are any such operate-from-home restaurants in Singapore? I saw some in Australia.

After the cafe, we made way for last minute shopping. Over all, I don't think Sydney is a place for cheap shopping. If you are looking for factory outlets and such, there's Market City and Paddy's Market. We went to both on day one. Market City has more up-scale brands such Polo Ralph and Calvin Klein. Paddy's Market is like pasar malam, with souvenirs, food and accessories. Before I went, I did some research and also found Birkenhead Point, but we didn't get to go. K, who went there (because she stayed there longer), said there was a great Puma factory outlet that had 40% off. However, it was hard to find sizes. Remember to check your shoes before carrying them to the cashier! K found shoes her size but both were for the right foot. Who on earth has two left feet?! Hmm.. Wait a minute... What do they call people who cannot dance? :P Anyway, you can get to Birkenhead Point by taking a ferry from Circular Quay, although it's not very frequent.

So, on the last day, we went back to Market City because it's near our hotel. But we finished shopping there within half an hour or so and decided to head out to a nearby mall. Nothing to buy. ): Strangely, for our last dinner in Sydney, we only had sushi. Lol... Sushi is very common in Australia. One roll costs about $2 though. Expensive!

The watering tree in Chinatown. If you look hard enough, you will see two of us.

We had booked our return ride with the airport shuttle. I think it's quite affordable, though I cannot remember the exact price. $20 for a return ticket? Remember to book your return ride 24 hrs beforehand. The last ride however, is at 7pm. So it might not be suitable for people returning on a late flight.

All our bags are packed and we're ready to go. We're taking photo outside Aarons.

One of the most famous things in Sydney is the huge US doughnut store, Krispy Kreme. My friend had ta bao some for me last year when she drove to Sydney from Brisbane (12 hours!). I thought it was ok only. I was told that in the States, they would fry the doughnut in front of you and dip it in the glaze. You get to enjoy it pipping hot! Yum! They had a very good pricing strategy, at least for suckers like me. One original glazed cost $2 while a dozen cost $14?

We love our Krispy Kreme! Rating: 3.5/5.

I think Krispy Kreme doughnuts have superb dough; soft but with just the right amount of bounce. However, it was much, much, much too sweet!!! Very, very, extremely sweet. If only the sweetness is reduced by half, I think it would be awesome. We shared the assorted dozen and chose doughnuts such as glazed sour cream, strawberry and cream, glazed lemon filled, chocolate mint (recommended!), and glazed chocolate cake. My friends said Dunkin' Doughnuts are better. I can't comment since I have never tried it. Available in Singapore?

At the airport, I wondered aloud whether the duration in Sydney was too long, too short or just ok. Both P and JY said they were glad to be going home. I didn't know how I felt but now I wish I had more time to explore The Rocks, eat the deep-fried Mars bar, and go to Birkenhead Point. Ahh!!! Humans do not know how to be contented! :P

Nevertheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to study in Australia and travel around. Not everyone gets this chance. Thanks Dad! Thanks Mum!

Next up, a trip to Currumbin, Gold Coast! Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sydney 2006 - Day 5 (030706)

Girls will be girls. Day 5 saw us splitting up into groups of 3 and 2 because of horrible backstabbing and badmouthing one another. Girls are naturally bitchy!!! Muahahahahaha!!!

WRONG! Well, we did split up, only because K and JL were going to attend a church service. :D The remaining 3 of us, P, JY and I, had to entertain ourselves. The previous night, we had to move into two rooms, but we did not like one of the rooms. Just did not have a comfortable feeling in it. Went to the reception to change to another room, which was even weirder. Never mind, since it's our last night as a group of 5, we should have a big sleepover in the okay room!

I like the okay room because you can go out into the 'balcony'! Sometimes when I pass the old shophouses in Little India and Chinatown, I wonder what it would be like staying in one of those rooms; when the morning comes, can I go to the roof and look up into the sky? What would I see, will I get a sense of the history of the building? What was it like 5 decades ago? Drama, drama!

On the morning of day 5, we hit the balcony! We saw the lovelier UTS campus and had a ball of a time taking photos outside.

Shit! Gloomy skies!

Cannot spare the toilet either! Photo, photo!

After having so much oily food for the past few days, a light meal was in order! Porridge! But immediately after that, I started craving for bad, cholesterol-laden goodies! x:

This is what the hotel looks like. Like those old, old shophouses that are preserved in Singapore.

It was a slow, relaxing day. We got nothing much planned except to head back to Bondi Junction for a spot of shopping. Strangely, we found that shopping in Sydney might not be as good as in Brisbane. Here, there's at least a Harbourtown in Gold Coast. Maybe there are those expensive shops in Sydney. What to do, students don't have that kind of money. :P

As usual, we walked to Darling Harbour (again!) to take a ferry. Ferry quite expensive. Day ticket cost $12 (I think) and we only managed to take it once because it ends quite early! ):

View from the ferry! The most famous things in Sydney.

Before going to Bondi Junction, we wanted to visit the strangely attractive Luna Park.

Do not eat us!

Luna Park is one of those weird-looking amusement parks that we sometimes see in shows. I think it attracts adults more than children. Perhaps like the freak shows kind of carnivals from olden days. It is beautifully decorated and admission is free! You just have to pay for the rides you want to take.

See what I mean about it being somewhat freaky?

I only took two rides. One of the rides are those that turn you upside down. The ride was scary not because it was scary but because I thought I was going to die! I thought the end of me had come because I was sliding out my seat!

It's one of those rides where you do not have much of a safety harness. The only thing holding you to your seat was the black thing (see illustration below) at your tummy.

I did not have time to scream. ):

Before they secured the black thing, we were told to sit out a bit. But I think I sat out too much. So when the ride was upside down, I was sliding out of my seat and the black thing was around my pelvis, not my stomach. The good thing is, I'm alive. ALIVE!!! The ride was also fun because we sat in a row with three other younger kids. They were very excited about the ride and even taught us what to do! I like friendly people.

Little girl: Is this your first time on the ride?
P: Yep!
Little girl: Oh! It's really fun and a little bit scary later.
Little boy (probably the brother): Listen! Later when I tell you guys to look behind you do it ok! That way the ride will be better!
P and I: Alright!!!

Looked like we were being taught by experts! We also took the ferris wheel to get a better view of Sydney. I think the older you get, the more kiasi you get. Someone (I will not mention names) was quite nervous on the ride. Ferris wheel. Hmm... According to her, she took all the extreme rides when she was younger... Hmm.. Right...

We headed back to Bondi Junction by rail. It was just a mad dash for shopping, shopping, shopping! But alas! I could not get much. I don't really mind not buying things. I went into a shop that allows you to build-a-bear! I think if I'm a kid and get one of those bears, I will be super haolian. Firstly, you pick the bear/stuffed toy you want, then you go to the cotton wool machine where it will get stuffed. Before doing that, you get to choose a cotton heart to put inside the bear. It's alive! ALIVE!!! Then one of the employees will stitch it up for you. I saw a guy doing that, all the while speaking to the little customer. All together now! Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... You can dress your teddy bear by buying clothings, shoes and other accessories. I tried to look for something for Grunty, but I think he's too big for those clothes inside. I think he needs a XXXL. x:

Still managed to dig something out from FCUK. A pouch cost only $7 and a bag for $16! All three of us got the same bag! The pouch was gold so I think too blink for the others!

Need to commemorate the event!

Haiz.. Now I regret not going to Bondi Beach to get the deep fried Mars bar. ): We also realised, too late, that the last ferry was at 6.55pm when we reached the rail station at 7pm. Bah! So we alighted at Circular Quay. But what a beautiful, unyellow Opera House we saw! The night truly makes things look better! But lousy cameras we had could not take nice night photos. Anyone has any digital cameras to recommend? Would appreciate that very much. :D Thinking of a SLR but not sure what's good for an amateur. Ideas anyone?

Did I mentioned how much I love The Rocks?

When you see this, how can you not love it?

Please please go to The Rocks if you visit Sydney. It's beautiful! We wanted to have dinner at one the restaurants in the above photo. But most restaurants did not have many people and with our Singaporean and Malaysian mentality, we were not too game to try something that did not appear popular. Breaking our never-to-repeat-a-cuisine rule, we went back to Pancakes on the Rocks. Good choice!

Heng we went earlier because we got a seat after 10 minutes. When we looked out, there was a snaking queue. Wahahaha!!! Wait and watch us eat!!! :P By then, we were starving and despite that, we thought we can share a main and dessert. WRONG! We ended up ordering beef ribs(rating: 3.5/5), tandoori pizza (rating: 4/5), and dessert (rating: 4/5).

Huge, huge beef ribs!

Yummy, yummy pancakes!

Since day one, P was enamoured with the signs on the road to warn of traffic direction. Thanks to my excellent photography skills, she has this for remembrance:

This was on the way to finding King's Cross, the part of town that supposedly is the red light district.

In the end, we did not go to King's Cross because it was getting late, we didn't know the way, and it was supposed to be more dangerous, especially there were only three of us girls. Safety first!

It was late but not too late! Last night in Sydney! Had to do something! What else by K!!!

You cannot see it here, but we were gesturing at the MTV because it was shot in Singapore! The woman was looking at the MRT passing by~ I love my Singapore~

When we left, we asked a group of Vietnamese to take our photo for us. One of them took a photo of us, using her camera without our permission. It was more weird than rude. Hmm...

One more day left in Sydney, what will we do? :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sydney trip interval: Lunchbox

You know how Japanese have a knack for decorating things? Packaging seems to be everything in Japan. When it comes to lunchboxes, they have books with instructions on how to create a pretty lunchbox like these:

Hello Kitty



All look too good to be eaten right!

Being the creative person I am, I decided to make my own. Maybe someday I can write a book too!

Mine is the nicest!