Saturday, May 16, 2009

the amazing australian adventure...

... we packed so much into 8 days, i think it best to just write it in point form. There will be many notables on food consumed because the trip was good for all the eating done but also because everything we had was just so good:

Day 1 (Fri):
- Finally arrive in Melbourne, met by Sumi, Hardeep and Chicky! Sonya, Sumi, Chicky and I will end up spending most of the time together
- First coffee at the airport
- Tub of lamb & chicken kebab on the way back to Sumi's and Hardeep's (home)

Day 2 (Sat):
- Fandango's, Errol St.: Breakfast with Sumi, Chicky
- French Quarter, Queensberry St.: Attempted to get almond croissant at but they were sold out
- Victoria Market: walkabouts
- Market Café at Vic Market facing Elizabeth St.: Coffee
- Off to Mt. Dandenong
- Ranches, Olinda: tea and an out-of-this-worldly sticky date pudding by a very pleasant wood fire in the afternoon
- Pie In The Sky, Olinda: went in for a look but no eats

- Olinda: cute toy shops all over Olinda that we couldn't resist visiting
- A Sweet Shop, Sassafras: Sonya's Double Decker bar was worth a mention
- Sky High Observation Deck, Mt Dandenong: to watch a very magnificent sunset
- DOC, Drummond St. in Carlton: mushroom and prosciutto ham pizzas
- Brunetti's in Carlton: great coffee and pretty desserts; the selection of pastries and sweets will have your head spinning from choice!

Day 3 (Sun):
- Carlton Gardens: walkabouts to view the museum and exhibition centre, and a lot of butts of sleeping possums
- Lambs, Lygon St.: take-away a tub of chicken & lamb souvlaki, debated on the net to be the best in Melbourne... we would taste a better one :)
- Tom Phat, Sydney Rd. in Brunswick: breakfast with Chicky at this excellent fusion cafe; claypot baked egg & roti omelette
- City: Bourke St. (Giant Purse), GPO, Royal Arcade
- St. Kilda: walk along the pier; black swans in the sea??
- St. Kilda Esplanade: walked the length of the weekend market
- Acland St., St Kilda: had juices for drinks (mine was tomato and celery juice) and NO PASTRIES! I was forewarned that the pastries in the windows look far better than they taste
- San Churro at Docklands: chocolate drinks and churros
- The Thai Place in Brunswick: dinner of tom yam soup, som tham, duck curry, pandan chicken
- Carlton Gardens: walk through the gardens to get home and we were greeted by possums! There were just tons of them running riot all over the gardens

Day 4 (Mon):
- Off to Mornington Peninsula
- Somewhere in Mornington Peninsula: spotted a kangaroo in the wild... well, in a vineyard... to a first-timer, it's the same thing la!
- Montalto Vineyard: walkabout, wine tasting
- The Pig & Whistle: lunch starred a lamb rack, duck rack, bangers & mash and a chicken parma
- Peninsula Hot Springs: hot springs and cold dip; it was 42 degrees celcius at the hottest
- Home: Sumi makes a simple but delicious dinner of potato & chicken soup and self-saucing chocolate pudding for dessert
- Crown Casino, Southbank: played roulette and with sheer beginner's luck, made the easiest A$72 in 5 minutes. i bought coffee after that and we watched the fire show outside the casino along the banks of the Yarra River

Day 5 (Tue):
- French Quarter, Queensberry St.: almond croissants available - SUCCESS!!!
- Di Bella, Leveson St. in North Melbourne: for great cuppas on the go
- Off to the Great Ocean Road
- Jac Juc & Bell's Beach: breathtaking vistas from the cliffs above a world-class surf beaches
- Apollo Bay: stopped for lunch at La Bimba; chorizo tapas, chicken schnitzel on focacia, gnocchi, bowl of mussels, mimosa
- Along the Great Ocean Road: koalas and a kookaburra spotted in the wild
- The Twelve Apostles: awesome
- Loch Ard Gorge: witness the power of the sea at the beach, the blow hole and Sunset Cave
- Sunset B&B, Port Campbell: checked into our cozy accommodation for the night
- 12 Rocks Café, Port Campbell: dinner; grilled fish, seafood pasta, seafood platter
- Room 6, Port Campbell: dessert; chocolate platter for two which turned out to be enough to feed 4!
- Movies: watched P.S. I Love You, Dodgeball from the DVD stash at the B&B
- Stargazing: lying on a blanket in the nippy outdoors, watching a hundred star trails and a billion stars

Day 6 (Wed):
- Breakfast at Sunset B&B and off to Ballarat we go
- BiBo Cafe, Ballarat: a cute little retro themed cafe for lunch; bacon lettuce avocado & tomato sandwich, moroccan lamb cheese on focacia
- Ballarat Wildlife Reserve: wombats, koalas, roos, joeys, quolls, quokkas, kookaburras, emus, tazzie devils, turtles...
- Saray, Sydney Rd.: Turkish dinner along with with Chicky; eggplant, spinach, kidney beans, cacik dips with bread
- Golden Monkey, Hardware La.: funky ambience of 1930's Shanghai, fabulous drinks menu... the drinks matched up to the exoticsm of the menu

Day 7 (Thu):
- Uni. Of Melbourne: coffee from Plush
- Rose Garden, Elizabeth St.: lunch; duck and salted veg fried rice, chicken rice, noodles and a side of char siew and siew yoke
- Max Brenner, Melbourne Central: Chicky joins us for Belgian waffles
- Laurent Bakery, Little Collins St.: coffee and pastries
- St Paul's Cathedral, corner of Swanston and Flinders Sts.: hmmm... all i can say is old... but not quite. don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful Anglican cathedral and is in surreally excellent condition, unlike many older churches in Europe
- Hell's Kitchen, Centre Pl.: upstairs for more coffee/mocha
- Sofitel, Collins St.: snuck into the 35th Floor washroom for a 180 degree view of Melbourne
- Sister Bella, Snider's La. off Little Bourke St: for a jug sangria

- Chicky's Place: dinner; coffee spare ribs, lamb salad, fish, bok choy, dessert from Laurent

Day 8 (Fri):
- Atomica Caffe, Brunswick St.: for breakfast
- Polyester Books, Brunswick St.: weird bookshop; not sure if I should worry that I own or have heard of so many book titles featured in the shop
- Factory outlets on Smith St.: shopped for shoes & shoes
- Target, Bourke St.: clothes shopping
- Big W, QV Village: chocolate shopping
- Croft Institute, Croft Alley: probably would not be able to find this place again, even with map! a sinister feel to the place where they serve drinks in beakers and test tubes. the washroom upstairs looks like a morgue, so says my sister who saw the pictures
- Shanghai Village, Chinatown: dinner; dumplings, noodles, hot & sour soup, crispy chicken spare ribs
- Dralion Cirque du Soleil
- San Churro, QV: for a nightcap of hot chocolate
- Stalactite, Lonsdale St.: tub of chicken souvlaki for supper
- Movie: Nacho Libre at home

Day 9 (Sat):
- Shark's Fin, Chinatown: yum cha (dim sum) breakfast with Andy
- Victoria Market - souvenier shopping
- Fräus, Victoria St. in North Melbourne: stopped for crepes
- Di Bella, Leveson St.: couldn't resist the coffee here, one of the best ones I had tasted in Melbourne
- Movie: Nacho Libre continued
- Craig & Elaine's: dinner; 3 types of pizza, trifle, bread & butter pudding
- Cranium along with Trung & Orlane also; winners - Hardeep, Sonya and Ju... :)

I can't wait to go back!

Friday, May 15, 2009

american dreaming, march 2009...

Highlights of my Sportel trip to San Francisco and Miami:

Location: San Francisco, en-route to Miami

My first sight of San Fran is Embarcadero, where i step off the BART, followed by a short F-Train ride to Pier 39 to see sea lions. That was a disappointment tho; they sleep a lot!

Initial plan was to rent a bike to ride the Golden Gate Bridge but late arrival of flight meant that it was a risky attempt. So, I went down to Fort Mason pier instead, where I watched a most glorious sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay area and Alcatraz.

Cousin Mike met me for a quick dinner and showed my some more sights of San Fran from the Twin Peaks and around Castro Street.

I like San Fran. I must come back for a visit that will last longer than 5 hours.

Location: Miami Beach, Miami

Front the beach in front of the hotel, I watched the US Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space from Cape Canaveral, 200 miles up beach.

On my fourth day in Miami, I decide to start off the day with a morning run along the Miami Beach-South Beach boardwalk... and it decides to rain. Nothing abnormal, except the precipitation was the first that Florida has had in 5 whole months... bringing my weather curse to new levels.

Spent time with Bin Soo and Ai Lei, without whom, I would not have had the chance to see so much more of Miami. With them, I was able to see Dademall and the Aventura area plus dinner at Hard Rock Cafe in Bayswater.

Leaving Miami for LA, the connecting flight was in a huge hurry to be ahead of schedule. We made it to LAX half an hour early, only to be made to wait 40 minutes to park... it doesn't pay, does it??

Thursday, May 14, 2009

pre-bangkok, february 2009

This is coming in kinda late... but I figured that I should put down some of my notes from my Bangkok trip before I recount my excellent Australian adventure.

So here it goes, some of the highlights, beginning with pre-trip amusement:

Location: LCCT, inside boarding hall
A short exchange that I had in the terminal pharmacy:

Me: (to someone in a uniform tunic) Dik, you kerja kat sini ke?
Penguin: Ya
Me: Saya nak tanya kalau you ada stok contact lens solution tak?
Penguin: Cuba tanya kat kaunter depan, I tak kerja bahagian tu.

Note: the pharmacy was tiny and had 4 shelves and aisles...

Location: LCCT, pre-BKK
A scene at the perfume and cosmetic duty-free shop:

In the corner of the shop is a bargain bin of nail polish with a large sign hovering above it that says: "NO TRYING PLEASE". A sales girl is seen rushing over to the bin, repeating what's written on the sign to a middle-aged Chinese lady with coifed hair, a loud floral-printed shirt and white polyester pants; "AUNTY, no trying PLEASE!". The lady coolly and carefully finished the edges of her pinky nail, capped the tiny bottle and placed it back in the bin and calmly walked away like nothing happened, leaving the poor sales girl seething in exasperation.

Location: LCCT , pre-BKK
Scene at boarding gate:

A long queue has formed by the time I arrive at the boarding gate. Just to be sure that I hadn't confused the queues in the congested hall, I walk up to a counter and asked if the queue is for Bangkok:

Exasperated Counter Girl: No, it isn't
Me: Oh, it's for Macau then...
Exasperated Counter Girl: No, it isn't either... we haven't called for ANY flight to board yet... (and she proceeds to roll her eyes)

Kiasu mentality: I must be close to the front of the queue as possible.
Herd mentality: Oh look, everyone's queueing... let's queue too

Nevermind if the queue isn't the right one.

And after re-reading the rest of my notes for Bangkok, I realised there wasn't really anything else momentous about it that I should want to recount. Except for the fact that I have never had so many massages in such a short time... total of 5 hours in as many days... blissful, it was...