Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

"Mum, please cook ginseng chicken using the Korean ginseng bought from Korea. We would be back on Christmas Eve." I chimed to my mother over the phone.

Thereafter I followed up with my brothers to tell them I would be bringing log cake for dessert. The Chua's family gathering was set.

We arrived at my youngest brother's place. He is the most doted child in my family who has the great fortune of staying with our mother. This place is where we would always gravitate to for family gathering usually over the weekends but then we may not meet up for long. This time round was different. Besides the ginseng chicken and log cake, my second brother also bought some fried chicken wings and "nonghyongs". It was a potluck of sorts. We stayed and chatted while the children enjoyed each other's company.

In Christmas Day, we stayed at home and just be together. I prepared a simple and delicious meal of pasta with mushrooms and salmon. The boys enjoyed it. For the adults, we chilled out with white wine and ice cream log cake. While our Christmas celebration was simple, I feel so blessed and happy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

First day of work

Today was my first working day after my long holiday. However being a wife and mother, I have started the preparation yesterday. There have been a lot of planning on what meals to prepare for my family and also the upcoming Christmas celebration.

I adopted the same philosophy at work - planning. At the start of work day, I set out what I wanted to do - urgent stuff, followed by important but not urgent. The latter would help to reduce the incidence of urgent matters which would need taxing firefighter mode. 

It has been a non-eventful day. Yet I felt very contented and happy. I am very grateful for the gifts bestowed on me. I know I have to make full use of them and more importantly have courage to do the right thing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 14 Brisbane

Dec 20, Sat D14

In a blink of an eye, two weeks just past. Today, we needed to drive to Brisbane to catch the flight back home.

There were old happy memories 3 years back and we would want to revisit New Fish Market Cafe - just opposite the park.

942 Brunswick St, New Farm QLD 4005, Australia

We had had our first meal in Australia 3 years back. We were hungry and exhausted. The food tasted heavenly then. 

There was a little trepidation when we tried to google for the cafe. And we were thrilled that it was still around.

We first ordered 2 servings of whiting fish and 1 serving of snapper. Both sets were topped up with caramari rings and fries. The sweet sauce cost a dollar. The verdict? It was still as good.

We topped up our order with another 2 servings - salmon and snapper. R also had his vanilla ice cream. 

As a result, we spent a large portion of our time in Brisbane there. Before long, it was time to take the flight back to Singapore. It has been a very exciting and enjoyable holiday. 

Australia Adventure, Dec 2014, 13 Gold Coast

19 Dec, Friday, D14

We sort of settled down in our apartment but were at the same time, sorely aware that we would be heading back home soon. No time for wallowing in thousands of "what-if"s, it was more important to live in the moment and enjoyed the rest of our holiday.

Hmm, we had revisited most of the attractions we wanted. It was time to suss out new ones. We narrowed to David Fleay Wildlife Reserve, Thunderbird Park and Segway Safari at Wildlife Currumbin Sanctuary. The first one was rejected for being too unadventurous. We settled on the last one.

Upon arrival, we made a last minute change of plan as R did not meet the minimum weight floor to ride the Segway. We proceeded with Adventure Parc, high rope course. R and I took the green and a shorter version of the red course while my hubby pressed on for the black course - the most physically demanding one. 

We thought P went back to the base camp. We misjudged P. To our surprise, he did the Croc shock -doing flying fox over the crocodiles! Well, at least part of it, beyond the green course, the other courses required much physical endurance to complete. After flying over the the salt water crocodiles, he was too tired and desperate to get out. He removed his safety harass and hook them on the fence before climbing out of the course. He probably was oblivious of the crocodiles lying below him. One wrong step he would be their next meal.

After an exhilarating adventure, we next headed out to the beach in our swimming costumes to catch the waves. Every time, the wave came crashing in, we would time the right moment to jump with our back facing the wave. Not all waves were the same, occasionally there would be strong ones, we would lose our balance and get drenched. It was such great fun.

Once we reached our apartment, the first thing we did was to call to reserve a table for four at our new favourite, Itoshin Japanese Restaurant. We had to be seated at the Tatami room as the main tables were all fully booked. But it was a nice change to sit on the giant floor pillow barefooted with lots of privacy and surrounded with good food. Granted it was not cheap, we ordered the dinner at 46 each, but the food was really delicious. 

It was such a lovely day. We started off with only a very vague idea of what to do. While the options did not turn out viable, we were fast to change course and seize the day and the meal as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 12 Gold Coast

18 Dec, Thursday D12

As the saying goes, the early bird gets its worm. We rose early at 6.30 am to just walk on the beach just across the road from our apartment.

I had an invigorating run on the beach barefooted. The sand felt like talcum powder. It was so soft. As I ran, I could hear the soft rustle of the waves rushing in. The boys were also have a whale of a time building sandcastles, taunting the waves and frolicking on the beach.

Thereafter we went to Movie World again as we missed the Lights, Camera, Action, Hollywood stunt driver 2. There were only 3 shows each day with last show starting at 1.50 pm. It was loud. It was noisy. But the audience loved it. The applause was equally thunderous. 

Our next stop was Harbour Town outlet shopping where we literally shopped till we dropped. Thursday was the shopping day and the shops would close at 7.30 pm instead of 5.30 pm. Tourists have privileges, we collected the discount card at the designated lounge to receive additional discount. 

We picked up a couple of skecher shoes and socks. We dropped by Speedo and other sportswear outlets. With the outlets selling their wares at deeply discounted price, we had a good haul. We also had some donuts for our afternoon tea break before heading to Cav's steakhouse and butchery for our well-deserved dinner. 

At Cav's, we ordered the same dishes we did 3 years back. While the beef was slightly over cooked and voodoo chocolate too sweet for our liking, the Yahoo pork ribs were awesomely good. Before we bade goodbye to this fine restaurant, we looked around for the cow statue which used to stand in front of the entrance. It had now moved to the side with another as its company. I guessed as one matured, one would still find loads of comfort in the tried-and-tested path, including food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 11 Gold Coast

17 Dec, Wed D11

Ahoy guys! We were at Sea World, Gold Coast. This park was a children's playground designed with boys and girls in mind. It reminded me somewhat of Sentosa in Singapore. Was I homesick? I guessed we needed to venture out to realise how fortunate we were. 

Anyhow, back to Gold Coast. 

Welcome to Sea World

The friendly Dolphins welcomed us when we first stepped afoot into the park. They were so smart to be gathering near the bank as the trainers were there with their food.

We next headed to see the penguins in close encounter. As put across by Apoley Cherry-Garrard, part of the Scotts Nora Expedition in 1910s, "They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world."

Up next, we marvelled at the wonders of deep sea. I also learnt the name of a polka dot fish today - clown triggerfish.

It was a very hot and sunny day with temperature crossing 30 Degree Celsius. And we sought refuge from the blazing sun in the air-conditioned polar bears viewing area as well as the Castaway Bay. While we were well-prepared packing 3 water bottles with frozen ice made the day before, we drowned another 4 large soda to beat the heat. We had also taken the thrilling Jet Rescue - it was too fast for the excitement to sink in but the discomfort to the head persisted a little while, and the milder Viking's Revenge Flume. Something which we learnt was, we could have brought our swimwear as there was a Sea World Resort & Water Park but we were not too sure of it was open to the public.

After the obstacle challenge (proper footwear needed), we made our way back to our apartment. Thereafter we changed our corner apartment to another apartment upstairs as the door to the bathroom of the ensuite bedroom was faulty. The replacement apartment was slightly smaller, however all the rooms were facing the sea. Another plus point was the better wifi reception. On the other hand, the bigger unit boast posher deco and a larger living room with magazines and books for leisure reading. 

After a tiring day, we were famished. Dinner was at Itoshin Restaurant (2484 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach QLD 4218, Australia), with numerous positive reviews. Iust say that it was the best Japanese food I had so far. The sashimi was very fresh and sliced perfectly. We ordered fresh oysters too, which did not disappoint. Everything that we ordered was polished off the plate. The Teriyaki beef medium was absolutely tantalising and sensational on the taste buds. We loved the tempura ice cream too.

It had been a wholesome day in the sun. While it was tiring, we enjoyed the good times together and great food. This is the true meaning of holiday.

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 10 Gold Coast

16 Dec, Tuesday D10

I rubbed my eyes and did a double take when I woke up at 6.20 am. The sky had brightened considerably and the view from the living room was fantastic.

The sand was so clean and the water was crystal clear. It was such a pictureque scene to behold. The Surfers Paradise was also visible along the shoreline. Such was the justapose of nature's work and man's architecture.

This was our second visit to Gold Coast so I retrieved my previous blogposts three years back to guide me in the planning of what to do. With the children in mind, we decided to visit Wet n Wild Park today, followed by White Christmas at Movie World. The quick check of the weather forecast for the next few days sealed the deal as it would be a clear and sunny day.

Wet n Wild Park

Wet n Wild Park was quite similar to Wild, Wild Wet back home. Except that it was much bigger. The boys took some thrilling rides - Sidewinder and Jetstream to get their adrenaline fix-but were most happy with the Giant Wave Pool and Calypso Beach. R had mistaken the Kamikaze for the Super 8 Aqua Racer where we had so much fun 3 years back. He backed out when we were closer to the ride. P surprised me when he raced to take the Jetstream as he was not an action seeker.

With some time to while away before the opening of White Christmas at Movie World, we visited Movie World by the day too. We realised what we had to book our tickets for the night too. So we hooked up to Internet via our handphone using the local SIM card and the booking was made in a jiffy.

At Movie World, we took mostly the same thrill rides as we did three years back. The memories which were buried in the deep recesses of the mind came back slowly and surely. We loved the spooky Scooby Doo ride. The theatre was however showing a new 4-D movie.

All in all, it had been a day of reminising of the past with new memories infusing in it. Not to mention that it was a great family bonding time.

By the day

By the night

Monday, December 15, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 9 Gold Coast

15 Dec, D09

The time was 5 minutes to nine in the morning. It was the first day of our road trip that we could sleep past 7.30 am. With less than 6 hours to go before hitting Gold Coast, we could take it a little easier taking a more relaxing pace. This was great as I was eager and ready to explore this serene and lovely place.

That was not before we settled done adminstrative matters such as paying for the road tolls incurred in Sydney. Australia is such a friendly country to explore for solo travellers. A few calls and checking the websites and we were all set to check out Port Macquarie!

Our first stop was the Tacking Point Lighthouse, built in 1878. Just below the lighthouse on the northern side, was a tiny beach, suitable for walking.

After a lazy leisurely stroll, it was time for lunch. We headed to the much touted Pancake Place by 'Getaway'and 'Sydney Weekender'. The place served very delicious and innovative, well... pancakes.

Another of the Port's 'Best Tourist Attraction' 4 years running was Ricardson Tomatoes. That was our next stop. The star attraction was being able to hand pick out strawberries. It was so much fun and the berries tasted especially  sweet as they were our fruits of labour.

We gained an hour when we arrived at Gold Coast due to the time difference. I thought I would be able to receive my room key from the reception as it was around 6 pm. Alas, luck was not with me. No worries, the management had it all thought out. In fact, they called me two days beforehand, giving me exacting instructions of how to get into my apartment. This was similar 3 years ago when we booked our accommodation at Gemini Court Holiday Apartment. 

Once we stepped into our apartment (Burleigh Beach Tower-1098)  we were wowed by the decor and even more so by the million dollar view. Just look at the white puffy clouds and the soothing gentle waves lapping up on the silky golden beach.

Burleigh Heads was a well-planned and self-contained neighbourhood. Dinner was at the nearby Sushi on James. Thereafter we bought some groceries from a convenience store which was also within a stone's throw away. 

Welcome to Burleigh Heads! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 8 Port Macquarie

Dec 14 D08
"Rise and shine time." I gently woke R from his slumber. It was to be another day on the road but not before we paid the Blue Mountains National Park a visit.

Located in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, the national park was about 80km west of Sydney.

The national park is one of the eight protected area. In 2000, it clinched a place in the UNESCOWorld Heritage.

We went to the Echo Point. At the same time, we also took some easy walking routes to get different vantage points of the park.

Thereafter, we continued our drive with Gold Coast as our end in mind.

The route along the coastline was our preference as we could also take in the tranquil ocean view. As time passed, we made a quick mental calculation and decided to make Port Macquarie as our next port of call. With the local SIM card at hand, we made a phone booking for a night's stay.

After we checked into the motor lodge, Aston Hill Motor Lodge (Golden Chain Group, 185) -an ensuite 1-bedroom unit- we ventured around Port Macquarie. I fell in love with this beautiful place.

Dinner was at the lovely Whalebone Wharf Seafood Restaurant. It was a multi-award winning restaurant that specialised in the freshest local seafood. The views across the sparkling waters of the Hastings River was simply mind blowing. It was the best dinner we had this far. We returned to our motor lodge each with our own lovely memory of this beautiful place.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 7 Sydney

Dec 13, Sat D07 - We had arrived at the 1-week mark of our holiday.

Today we braced ourselves for the longest stretch drive we would take. The distance from Melbourne to Sydney was about 850 km. This meant a 8-9 hour drive without break at a speed of 100 km an hour.

We managed to reach Sydney before 7 pm. Lodging was at Marco Polo Motorlodge at Summer Hill, which I had phoned in to book a family room in the afternoon after having greater clarity of our pace. (180).

With better planning this time round, we drove down to visit the world acclaimed Opera House, had our dinner at Hokkaido, a nearby Japanese restaurant and walked around the vincity. We also strolled around The Rocks to soak in the vibrancy of Sydney.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Australia Adventure Dec 2014, 6 Melbourne

Dec 12 D06 - the three great natural attractions of Australia were often said to be 'the road, the Rock and the reef '. The road is the Great Ocean Road, which ran west from Anglesea, round the treacherous Cape Otway, to Warrnambool. 

Today, we drove from Mount Gambier to arrive at Melbourne via the famous Great Ocean Road. The ocean views were spectacular and we took many pit stops to marvel in awe of nature's work.

"London Bridge" which had fallen due to erosion

12 Apostles

Great works of nature

We checked into Fawkner Hume Villa Motor Inn (180). Thereafter we headed for Matsumoto Restaurant for Japanese cuisine before charting out the route for tomorrow to Sydney.