Sunday, 29 July 2007

Week 1 with Ah Mike and family, Perth (11 - 15th July 2007)

Mum and I put up with Ah Mike and her family (husband Meng Ling, now also known as Daniel, and son, Ivan) from the 10th till the end of our trip in Perth, i.e. 22nd July. Ah Mike lives in the suburb of Southern River, which as the name implies, lies on the south side of the Swan River.


Wednesday, 11th July: We started our morning walking with Ah Mike and Ivan around her housing area. Nice and peaceful area, the gardens of the houses kept immaculate, and there were several places (ponds) you could walk to feed ducks.

Ah Mike had organised a Swan Valley Lunch Cruise with Captain Cook Cruises for us today (costs AUD84 per person). We took a bus from Livingston (another area on the south side of the river near Ah Mike's place) into the city. I found the bus system rather interesting; you could get a credit reloadable card called the SmartRider and swipe yourself on and off the bus - the same card works for the trains as well. It's rather handy in the sense it saves queuing time and the driver having to hole punch multi-trip tickets. At the main bus terminal, we changed to a CAT bus (CAT = central area transit) - this is a free bus service that goes around the main city area and you can't miss spotting one because it has a big cat logo on the bus! As we were still ahead of schedule, we decided to hop off the CAT in town and walked to the ferry terminal on Barrack Street where I got the opportunity to snap a few photos along our way.

We boarded the boat about 1.15pm heading upstream. Once on board, you can start drinking to your hearts' content. We only settled for our 1 bottle of white wine on the table - it was a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Waters Edge; nice and smooth. Our buffet lunch was served shortly after we had our drinks – a very good spread of western and eastern food, and Ah Mike just couldn't resist indulging in her plateful of prawns :)

We then stopped by Waters Edge Winery for a short tour (aha, no wonder the wine on board!). This place houses Western Australia's oldest underground wine cellar where we did the wine tasting. We (us ladies) agreed that the Rose was good too. Back on the boat we went after the passengers finished with their tasting and purchases. As we headed back to the city, afternoon tea was served with entertainment from one of the crew members - she sang the cabaret songs very well in her powerful vocals. We arrived in Perth city around 4.45pm. It was a nice and relaxing cruise for 3.5 hours - it was a sunny day and the river was calm. Photos of our day trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601076212534/detail/

In the evening, we followed Ah Mike and her husband to their church life group meeting at Pastor Chin's house where we met some of their friends and chatted over supper.


Thursday, 12th July: We had breakfast at Lorna's house (Lorna is one of Ah Mike's friends) - she made us fried beehoon and pancakes (yum)! Ivan stayed back at Lorna's to coach her son Kumon while mum and I followed Ah Mike to her workplace, Central TAFE in Northbridge in the city. Ah Mike teaches English part-time at the institute, mainly to new migrants.

Ah Mike had to do some work so mum and I did a little tour nearby ourselves. Turns out the Australian immigration office is in the area so I went to queue up to speak with an officer about my eligibility to work and live in the country. Flashbacks of my days dealing with the NZ immigration office came to mind. After queuing for about 45 minutes, I must say, I was disappointed to find out that NZ citizens do not automatically get to be Australian permanent residents on entry into the country - Kiwis will need to apply for PR just like everyone else! Kiwis can work and live there without issues but are unable sponsor someone into the country in this case. I'm not sure if I want to go through the application process again at this point in time...

We briefly visited the Art Gallery and Western Australia Museum before heading back to meet up with Ah Mike and Ivan at TAFE. The rest of the day was spent walking along Hay Street and Murray Street shopping area (again, no shopping for mum and I) and this time I got to check out London Court. It is nestled in the middle of modern buildings and gives a medieval or old England feel as you walk through the lane. Lots of small shops hidden along the short strip and you need to climb the narrow stairways to get to shops on the 2nd and 3rd levels. From the Hay Street mall entrance, you can see a clock on the wall that chimes every quarter of an hour and when that happens, the knights on horses above the clock circles in the window. You'll find people (probably tourists like myself) gathered outside watching the unique display. Photos of our day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601077770788/detail/

Dinner was a home-cooked 'yong tau foo' prepared by Ah Mike. It's a Chinese soup dish consisting of clear fish broth, a variety of fish balls, crab sticks, cuttlefish and veggies. Very nice dish to have especially when the weather is cold!


Friday, 13th July: Uncle Meng Ling took a day off today to take us on a day trip visiting a few places north-east of Perth. Northam was the first place we stopped - it's about 100km from Perth and lies on the banks of the Avon River. Northam is also the only place in Australia where white swans have successfully bred. There are over 80 swans living on the Avon River but we only saw 2 (where are the other 78++???). One of the town's most treasured icons is the Avon River Suspension Bridge, believed by the locals to be the longest pedestrian bridge in Australia, spanning some 117 metres. It's a solid bridge - for a person like me who has slight fear of suspension bridges, I can say I felt safe, even with Ivan jumping and swinging the bridge. We didn't do much in the small town besides walking the bridge and the one main street. Pretty quiet and slow morning, and believe me, I really meant s~l~o~w...it took Ivan more than half an hour to get his cup of hot chocolate from the local coffee shop! Ponder this: WA also stands for 'Waiting Always'.

Our journey continued to York, another town near the area. York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia, settled 2 years after Perth. We first went to Mount Brown Lookout - here, you could get a panoramic view of the township and surrounding countryside.

We lunched at the local fish and chips shop, and visited the Court House and Town Hall before heading back to Perth. Photos from our day trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601209063971/detail/


Saturday, 14th July: Ivan and I decided we needed to exercise so we went out for a jog this morning. My god! After not exercising regularly for a few months, I found it difficult to keep up with Ivan! I think we did fast walking more than actual jogging - he was running and I was lagging behind. I definitely need to head back to the gym again...

Ah Mike and family decided that we should head back to Caversham Wildlife Park today since we didn't have the time to venture the park our first time there with the tour group. What really cracked us up in laughter was when mum said that she had never been to Caversham (mum, we were here last week!).

We spent about 2 hours walking around the place. I only managed to get 1 photo taken because the camera's battery was playing up (not sure why the battery drains so quickly). A photo of the flying foxes at Caversham:




Uncle Meng Ling did a BBQ dinner for us tonight. It was a really quick BBQ with Uncle Meng Ling doing most of the work, chucking meat and sausages onto the BBQ and serving them all at once when cooked. Not the usual type of BBQ I've had...oh, he's got a really nice BBQ set - those big ones that I want to get for my future home :)


Sunday, 15th July: We followed Ah Mike and Uncle Meng Ling to the 10.30am church service at their church, Perth Christian Life Centre. It didn’t look so much like a church but a large community hall filled with people from different ages and cultures. It was an interesting service with a live band playing (Ivan was the keyboardist) – it felt like going to a live concert! We met some of their friends like Lorna and those we met that night at Pastor Chin’s place and chatted after the service.

After lunch, we all went for a drive along Sunset Coast – beautiful sandy beaches along the coastal drive. It was rather windy and I was wearing sport shoes so didn’t walk down to test the water temperature (but I think it’ll still be cold, maybe not as cold as Wellington waters in winter). Didn’t see many people in the water – a few stray surfers here and there. There were several bars and backpackers along the coastal drive packed with youngsters drinking (on a Sunday??). I had forgotten to take my camera today so only got a few photos on my mobile:





























Monday, 23 July 2007

Day 4 - 6 in Perth: Last few days stay with Sylvia (8-10th July 2007)

Sunday, 8th July: Check out this rainbow over Sylvia's house this morning:


We followed Sylvia to her Sunday church service at Faith Community Centre today around 8.30am. Cynthia came along with us too - she stayed the night at Sylvia's but the poor woman didn't get much sleep due to the snore symphony by Jan and Sandra (mum got away with it as she was sleeping in my room but I couldn't sleep much from mum's snoring!). FCC is a charismatic church - a band on stage, lots of singing. We listened to an interesting sermon given by Senior Pastor Benny. Almost everyone there was Asian, mainly from Singapore – first time I’ve ever been in a church community with almost all Asians in a foreign country AND the service conducted in English.

After the service, we went for yum cha at Emma's in Victoria Park. Ooo, they serve really nice dim sum in lots of variety. Very authentic – they even serve stir fry clam, 3-layered roast pork and of course, who can forget the egg tarts to conclude the yum cha session! Photo of us at Emma's:





































We said our goodbyes to Cynthia after brunch (Jan and Jenny leaving tomorrow, Sandra the day after) and the rest of us went to Harbour Town for some bargain shopping. Mum and I couldn't shop since our luggages were already overweight :( Half of us went back to Sylvia's place first - I tagged along to get a short nap to catch up with last night's sleep.

Dinner was at Terrazzo in Applecross – a lovely Italian restaurant where we got to try a bit of everything. An old schoolmate of the girls, Patti Chong, joined us for dinner. She's currently one of Perth's most prominent prosecutor, well-known for her spectacular hairdo. Here's the group at dinner:

No dessert, you ask? Oh no, we will NEVER have no dessert at Sylvia's place! Came home for more chit-chat, coffee and Sylvia's kuih lapis (layer cake) and tau fu fa (bean curd jelly in clear syrup). Sylvia, is there anything you can't make? You seem to know them all! :)


Monday, 9th July: Jan left for Melbourne today but ended up missing her flight! She had the wrong check-in time in mind and by the time she got to the airport, it was too late. Oh no! Not to worry, she did arrive in Melbourne safely – she just had to take a later flight.

I got up around 8am, had breakfast and went back to my room to update my blog while waiting for Angie to come pick us up. Kitty, Sylvia’s dog (and 3rd daughter), came in to get a morning pat and sat next to me for awhile. The cute little thing got its name because it looked much like a kitten when younger. Here’s a photo of her wearing a dog sweater and another with me:




































Mum, Jenny, Sandra and I went to Angie’s house and dropped Jenny off at the airport after lunch – she had flown back home to Singapore. The rest of us headed to Kings Park for a short walk. It was a nice, sunny day and the park reminds me somewhat of the Wellington Botanical Gardens, just flatter and has more bushland. From here, you could see a panoramic view of Perth city. As you drive into the park, there are huge eucalypt trees at both sides of the driveway, each holding a plaque honouring those service men who perished during action or from wounds received during war times. The trees are so smooth to the touch. I tried hugging the tree but the trunk is too big for my size...

Lily took over Angie’s tour guide shift from Kings Park and took us on a drive to see some million-dollar houses in some of the richest suburbs in Perth, Peppermint Grove and Mosman Park. Some houses are valued up to 15 million! Wow…Apparently Perth has quite a number of wealthy people living there. The most expensive mansion once there was the Prix d'Amour, formerly owned by one of the richest man in Australia, Lang Hancock (deceased) and his ex-wife Rose Porteous (re-married). Today, the mansion has been demolished and the land divided into 10 blocks, each selling at the market for 4.1 million. And there used to be tours to this area just to see the house from the road!

After ogling at so many houses, Lily took us back to Fremantle for coffee. We briefly stopped by at Cicerello’s by the harbour to see an old high school friend of the girls who works there but he was on leave. We had coffee at another shop in Fremantle and mum had her ice-cream (again!). Lily has been a fantastic guide – she knows all the nooks and places to find little treasures! Photos of our day out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601030881816/detail/

Jan and Jenny, you girls missed out on a very yummy bak kut teh (dark mixed spice with tea soup cooked with pork ribs) that Sylvia made for dinner and the apple strudel Lily bought!


Tuesday, 10th July: We stayed in today and just chatted with the remaining girls over our Teochew lunch (porridge i.e. watery rice with salted chicken egg made by Jenny and a few supposedly simple dishes turned extravagant lunch – even had pizza and salad thrown in!). See what I mean:



After almost a week here, I think Perth is beautiful but one needs a car to get around. It’s like a bigger version of Christchurch, so vast that it takes time to go from one place to another. I’m not sure if it’s the weather or just being in holiday mode - Mum nods off all the time when she gets into the car. The weather forecast has been very accurate and predictable. I’ve experienced so far temperatures sunny up to 20 degrees, lowest 4 degrees at night and some scattered showers. Missing Wellington a lot though especially friends and salsa dancing...

Ah Mike (this is what I address my aunt – she is dad’s sis) came to pick us up at 3pm from Sylvia’s place. I probably haven’t seen her and her family for over 4 years and boy has Ivan (her son) changed so much! My memory of him was still of a chubby kid – oh, he’s nothing like that now :) They live on the south side of the Swan River, which is about 25 minutes drive to the city.

Thanks to the Perth girls for everything! You ladies have made this trip for us visitors feel very much welcomed and at home. Rest assured we’ll all be back again soon for more good laughs and food :)

Friday, 20 July 2007

Day 3 in Perth: Swan Valley and Fremantle (7th July 2007)

Ah, finally a day we could sleep in…This morning, we woke up to a scrumptious Aussie breakfast of bacon and poached eggs followed by a nice stroll around Sylvia’s housing area. It was probably about 18-20 degrees outside. Nice and sunny. 2 photos taken from our morning walk:





































Today, Lily took us all out on a Swan Valley tour. Swan Valley is about 20 minutes from Perth and is one of the first wine producing regions in Australia, consisting of some 30 wineries in the area. We first headed to Guildford to visit a pottery shop and watched a lady making a bowl from a piece of clay. Doesn’t look easy to me and I believe it’s a real test of patience.

Our next stop was The Margaret River Chocolate Company where we had free chocolate tasting. Each patron was allowed 1 spoonful of dark, normal and white chocolate to taste (but I suspected the ladies went back for more helpings…). There was a viewing window to watch the chocolate products being made with a sign outside that stated one can distinguish the quality of chocolate much like wine tasting. And you thought chocolate was as simple as popping it into your mouth!

Brunch was at Duckstein Brewery (a German restaurant and brewery house), also located in Swan Valley. I would have liked to try the German beer but it was only around 11am – too early for beer for me. Ooo, but we had very yummy pork knuckle, first time I ever tasted one. It was a big chunk of pork with bone and skin, and Lily kindly did the honours of cutting through it for the table. We also got to try sauerkraut (sour salad) and German sausages but I still like the pork knuckle best :)

After brunch, we stopped by a small house in the valley and had honey tasting. Food, food and more food! We bought some Jarrah honey - we were told that it was better and cheaper than the NZ Manuka honey. We continued on our way back towards Perth to Sandalford Wines and did an AUD2.50 wine tasting courtesy of Sandra – me, mum and Sandra tried about 7-8 types of wine and my favourite was the 2007 Element Late Harvest (wine white that’s Pinot Gris-like) and the Port. Mum felt somewhat tipsy and sleepy after the tasting. How strange…Back into the car and stopped by a little antique shop where Jan picked up another frog figurine (she bought one at the pottery earlier – it turns out she’s got a collection of them at home).

Hey, if you’ve not tried liquorice ice-cream, give it a go! Lily took us to this ice-cream shop along the way where I tried liquorice ice-cream (surprisingly very nice – looks purplish with a minty taste). Photos of our day at Swan Valley: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600901006185/detail/

Lily decided to take us to Fremantle after Swan Valley. Fremantle is a living and working port city, a charming destination with rich maritime and cultural heritage. Before we arrived at Fremantle, we briefly stopped by Lily’s house - a huge house at the upper-class suburb of Dalkeith with the most beautiful sea view of Perth. Lily was a former Miss Malaysia and I got the opportunity to see her photos she took when she was crowned. One of her daughters too participated in the contest and was runner-up in 2006.

We then headed to Fremantle Markets and it was packed and bustling with small stalls and lots of people. Didn’t see anything of interest though but it was interesting to see such a sight of colour and noise. To finish off our day tour, we sat outside the market for coffee and fruit crepes before returning to Sylvia’s house for a rest prior to dinner at Jenny’s place. Photos from Perth city to Fremantle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600920148444/detail/

Dinner at Jenny’s house was a feast of western and eastern food – Aussie roast, green curry with coconut rice, keropok (fish and prawn crackers), cheese platter, vege stir-fry, salads and dessert of her famous durian fudge cake (very nice!) and Sylvia’s nonya kuih-kuih (sweet cakes). We were so full and there was still enough food for most of us to do a take-away! The cook and her feast:




































I saw some photos of Jenny’s taken when they were younger in high school. Most of them still have their look from their younger days. It’s amazing to see them getting together, sharing, laughing and reminiscing life from the past to the present. Every one of them has a story to tell of their lives. It has been 35 years since they left Convent and some haven’t seen each other for that long but yet it felt as if they had been in contact all these years (as if they were still in high school actually). I sat and watched them chat – it’s refreshing to hear their stories and experiences, especially those who came to Australia about the same age I went to NZ. There’s just so much to learn from them and they could understand how I feel at this moment, finding my calling and discovering myself. The gang also reminds me a lot of my girlfriends from Convent and I can’t stop laughing when I hear their stories and gossip mixed in English, Hokkien and Malay. So typical of us Malaysians to rojak-speak (our sentences with a mix of several different languages)!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Western Australia Day 2: Tour to Margaret River (6th July 2007)

Another early start of the day for our tour with the same bus company from Day 1 (the coach was under Gray Line Sightseeing Day Tour - guess it must be an affiliated company to the Australian Pinnacles Tour). We had another Malaysian favourite for breakfast that morning - roti canai with the previous night leftover curry. Yum!

Day 2 was a tour to Margaret River, heading south of Perth. It was another long day of sitting in the bus (and more snooze time for us, again!). I sat with a 13-year-old girl named Tuk from Vietnam who was travelling in Perth with her family.

We arrived at Xanadu winery for wine tasting around midday. Sandra and I didn’t like the wine very much as we felt it tasted somewhat diluted. The Chardonnay Merlot Semillon blend was quite nice – a rose-coloured wine with a hint of watermelon (very light taste). We then hopped back on the bus to the Eagles Heritage Wildlife Centre, which was located just across the street from Xanadu for a lightning quick tour of the property with natural bush housing (I'm not kidding - probably like 10 minutes and we only managed to see about 3 species of bird) and lunch provided by the tour (same stuff as the day before). The wildlife centre has Australia's largest presentation of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. Hey, did you know that the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet? This little birdie can dive (the stoop) down to speeds of 320 kmph. Impressive! There was a flying display after lunch - fantastic commentary by the tour guide but too lengthy and the gang didn't stay on watch the whole show. Oh yeah, this is also the only place in Australia where you have the opportunity to have a raptor sit in your arm - I wasn't too keen in case I get crapped on...hehe. Photos from Perth to Eagles Heritage: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600834480632/detail/

At 2.20pm, we arrived at Mammoth Cave for another informative guided tour. There were many interesting formations and an ancient fossil remains of an extinct animal in the cave. See photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600854351477/detail/

Back on the bus and further down Margaret River we went. We were quite lucky to see a large whale on the surface near the shore just outside of Augusta. The bus driver parked up at the side of the road for us all to whale-watch (what a bonus!). Sadly, we didn't have binoculars for a better view and the photos didn't turn out very well. We continued on to Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westernly point of Australia. The light stands at the exact point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600869766468/detail/

Dinner was at Busselton at The Equinox. I personally wouldn't recommend you the steak meal if you like your steak medium rare - it was a fillet steak, grilled nearly well done and I didn't have a choice how I liked my steak cooked :( . It was a pity we couldn't walk the jetty as it was already pitch black outside. Oh well, at least we got a nice supper back at Sylvia's house - she made pig stomach pepper soup (er, none for me, please - you girls can fight for it) and bubur cha cha (Malaysian sweet dessert made of coconut milk with sago and sweet potato). Sylvia, you are the best!!

Come to think of it, we've inspected all the toilet stops in both the day trips (we were warned not to use the bus's toilet)...we've visited more toilets than places in Western Australia in 2 days!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Western Australia Day 1: Tour to Pinnacles (5th July 2007)

We started our day early at 6am, cracking up in laughter to Jan's findings that her maid didn’t pack her panties in her luggage – she had her clothes and matching underwear sets laid out for her maid to pack back home so we couldn't quite make out why her maid decided not to include the panties. She ended up borrowing one from Sylvia (I should have taken a photo!) and had to buy some for the rest of her stay.

5 of us – mum, me, Sandra, Jan and Jenny went on a tour with Australian Pinnacle Tours booked by Peter (Cynthia’s brother) who works for Valentino Holidays - he got us a deal of AUD280 per person for a 2-day tour.

Day 1 was the Pinnacles Desert 4WD Adventure tour. Sylvia dropped us off in the city at the corner of Hay and Pier St by 7.30am where we hopped on the coach and headed north. The ladies sat with each other while I sat with a German school teacher who was currently working in Melbourne (Alisa??), a lone traveller in Perth.

Our first stop was at Caversham Wildlife Park, arriving at 8.30am and did a ½-hour tour of vicinity – took photos of us feeding the kangaroos (ops, somebody’s excited - see photo of mum and the male kangaroo), a large wombat and some koalas. I kind of felt the tour was rather hurried - would have been nicer if we could spend more time at the park. Photos taken from Sylvia's house to the park: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600739221283/detail/

We stopped for lunch at Cervantes Pinnacles Motel – simple buffet lunch of bread, rice, salads, meats for sandwiches brought there by the tour bus as part of package. It was a 15-minute ride to see the Pinnacles at Nambung National Park and we walked around for 30-45 minutes to see the different limestone formations. These shells were broken down into lime rich sands which were carried inland to form high mobile dunes. The Pinnacles were formed from lime leaching from the sand and by rain cementing the lower levels of the dune into a soft limestone. Vegetation forms an acidic layer of soil and humus. A hard cap of calcrete develops above the softer limestone. Cracks in the calcrete are exploited by plant roots. The softer limestone continues to dissolve. Quartz sand fills the channels that form. Vegetation dies and winds blow away the sand covering the eroded limestone. The Pinnacles appear. Photos from the Pinnacles: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600741472920/detail

The weather had been generally warm the whole day (about 18 degrees) but started to shower at the Pinnacles. We were quite lucky to escape the pouring rain and after 2 hours on the bus (my god, the bus rides were tiring - our legs were short for the seats causing leg and bum sore!), we arrived in Lancelin at 4.30pm to do the 4WD ride over the sand dunes (reminds me of a less exciting Haglund ride at the Christchurch Antarctic Centre - another story for another posting). The sand in the dunes are so white and fine! Hmm, I think it'll be fun to drive one of those 4x4 quad bikes there though it can be dangerous if you don't know the dunes well. The dunes changes as the winds blow; what you see today may not be what you saw yesterday or see tomorrow. The highlight of the day had to be sand boarding, sleighing downhill on the dunes. The board is like a snowboard with a small foot rest in the front. We had to first use a candle to wax the sides and the bottom, then carry the board uphill (it was difficult to walk up the fine dune - the trick is to step into other people's footprints). To manoeuvre the board, sit on it with your legs bent and feet on the rest (don't let your legs fall outside - not a wise move), lean forward a little to push off and use your hands to slow yourself down. And weeeeeeeeeeeeeee...down you go! Heaps of fun, just tiring to drag yourself up for your next ride (hmm, they should have a pulley like at the ski fields...). More photos to view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600741982780/detail/

Despite the long bus ride, the commentary was pretty good. Lots of Singaporeans/Malaysians on board. It gets dark around here about 5.30pm in winter.

Came back home to another home-cooked meal of shark-fin soup, pineapple rice and chicken curry (we are so pampered by Sylvia!). Jan and I wanted to go salsa dancing so we all headed out to Burswood Casino thinking that being the usual Thursday night, they will have salsa dancing but turns out to be loud thumping music. Sandra went to the casino while the rest went to the nearby hotel lobby to get a drink. Because it was about 10.30pm, they wouldn’t serve us any drinks (bar closed) and then took away the candles and starting turning off the lights! What a bummer – no dancing, no drink and now, no place to hang out!! Went home feeling rather disappointed... :(

Monday, 9 July 2007

Arrival in Perth (4th July 2007)

The journey to Perth was long. 5 hours on a plane that didn't have a screen in front of your seat for movies made the time passed by even more slowly (thankfully I had my ipod with me). Worse, I had an older Kiwi woman sitting next to me who started to drink a bit too much and got loud and rowdy with the neighbouring passengers!

Got to the airport and there was no one to meet me. Apparently, mum thought I was arriving via international flight from NZ where she and her friends were at (mum, I already told you I was stopping over in Sydney!). After several phone calls to mum and 2 tries paging Sandra (her friend who was picking me up) through the Qantas terminal PA system (and getting no response), I saw this lady walked in from the main entrance who looked very much like Sandra (remembered seeing her in a photo mum showed me previously) - yes, finally!

I caught up with mum and the rest of her gang at Sylvia's house where the guests were all putting up during our stay here. Here's a photo of Jan (KL), mum, Angie (Perth), Jenny (Singapore) and Sandra (Canberra):

Also met the others from Perth - Cynthia, Lily, Mary and another Jenny. Some other photos taken while we helped set up the table (top: Mum, Mary and Sylvia; bottom: Cynthia in photo):






































Sylvia whipped up a wonderful feast of chillied crab, stuffed chicken, vege curry etc. – yum! Haven’t had home-cooked meal for so long!!! There was also dessert - Sylvia's tiramisu, Jenny's triffle and a cake brought by Angie. Don't think we have to eat for the next few days. We ate too much!

Sylvia was really nice to give me a room to myself knowing well that the girls will chat and laugh till late. The ladies were a good laugh, behaving like teenage girls, chatting non-stop, giggling and laughing together about their days in Batu Pahat Convent Girls' Highschool. I really envy them and hope when I get to their age, my girlfriends and I too will have a gathering like theirs. It's amazing to see their special bond despite not seeing each other for many years and living in different parts of the world. Reminds me a lot of the gang of girlfriends from my days in Convent...

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

At Sydney airport (4th July 2007)

Yawn...sleepy and tired is exactly what I feel at the moment. Note to self - book a night flight next time. I practically didn't sleep last night!! Got up at 3am to check out from Base Backpackers and got to Sydney 4.5 hours later. Just crossed my first time zone (it's 9.11am in Sydney - dejavu that I'm going back in time!). Read in the in-flight entertainment guide that it takes a day for one to recover per time zone crossed. I'll be crossing 2 today - does that mean I've to stay home and rest up for the next 2 days? No way!!

Thank god for the creation of wireless internet! At least something to keep me occupied for the next 3 hours till I board the next flight to Perth. Chatting away with Ramnish and Sharon at the moment while typing up this blog post. Is that the sound of my tummy? Perhaps I should grab a bite (and yet another coffee to wake up)...

It's a strange feeling listening to Aussie-speak - sounds rather peculiar to me...

There's this young chap who's sitting a couple of seats away from where I am (I'm in the waiting lounge of the domestic terminal, by the way) asleep and drooling (eww!). Hey you, better close your mouth or a fly might just accidentally zip in! In front of me sits a group of Australian aboriginal women speaking in some indigenous language I couldn't associate with. I could only describe to you that they look between a cross of Indian and African - very dark-skinned.

Oh, and did I mention that it's 19 degrees here? It's warm and sunny - mmm, enjoying the weather already :) Now that's one thing I don't miss about Wellington. Perth's apparently raining though.

Alright, going to find something to eat to stop my tummy grumbling. Later!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Last 2 days in Wellington (3rd July 2007)

Here I am sitting in Espressoholic (located on Courtenay Place, famous for their mega-sized bowl of hot chocolate) at 8.15am having a Kiwi big breakfast (hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, sausages and toast) with a flat white (Kiwi favourite, well, my regular coffee too – 1 part coffee with 2 parts milk). Um, feeling a bit bloated right now after downing the large meal…definitely a meal to share since I can’t finish it on my own. Still, I can’t help doing one more Kiwi thing before I take off for Perth tomorrow :P Quite quiet on a Tuesday morning since most people are at work and just a few stray travellers in here (me included).

The past few days had been quite a whirlwind. The weather hasn't been kind either; cold and raining endlessly. Even so, my social calendar was absolutely packed! I found myself running from one end of town to another, sorting out my stuff and catching up with friends in between. Lots of dinners, coffee sessions, and drinks. It was nice though sad at the same time because I won’t be seeing my friends in Wellington for some time. And I’ll miss you all heaps…hey, we must catch up again when I come back in December! I’ve got a return ticket coming back then but the date’s not fixed yet. Will keep you posted nearer to that time.

*burp* Ops, excuse me! Just my stomach digesting the brekkie…hehe…

Anyway, I moved out from Taranaki 217 hostel (my home for the last year - more details on the hostel in another upcoming posting) on Sunday evening into Base Backpackers at Cambridge Terrace. Not too bad a place to stay. I booked myself into the all-female dorm called the Sanctuary – nice large showers and toilets, plump and fluffy pillow with linen included and a shower pack plus a free champagne voucher on arrival. And it’s swipe card access everywhere plus you get a large lockable storage drawer in the room. Girls, if you’re looking for a hip backpackers to stay, consider booking yourself here (sorry boys, you’ll have to sleep in the mixed dorms – this is a no-boys floor). Photos from my stay at Base: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157600610192929/detail/

Living in the backpackers just affirms that I am starting my new adventure as a traveller. No more stable life or regular income. It's both exciting yet daunting; I feel a bit like a fish out of the water. As I walked the streets of Wellington these last 2 days like a tourist, flashbacks of events that happened in the past 6 years ran through my mind. It was like "yeah, I did this here" and "had coffee here with so and so" etc. Yesterday (2nd of July) was the day marking my 6 years living in Wellington. Wow...it's been a long time...and high time that I get away and explore other places for awhile.

Will be catching up with a few more friends today and will be on the 6am flight to Perth tomorrow morning. Highly doubt I'll get much sleep tonight (already sleepy now - need another coffee) by the time I get back to the backpackers later. It's a 8.5-hour flight from Wellington to Perth but I'm stopping over in Sydney for about 5 hours to get through customs and re-check my bags in the domestic terminal. Mum's on her way to Singapore now where she'll stay the night at my uncle's and we'll meet in Perth airport tomorrow afternoon. By the way, if you didn't know, Wellington airport is only open from 4am - 11pm. Mum and I learnt our lesson to always check the airport opening hours - on our travel to Melbourne in 2002, our bags were a bit overweight so decided to go to the airport early to get our bags checked through. We went there at 1am, and the taxi driver also didn't bother to tell us and dropped us off, only for us to find out that we were locked outside. What could we do? Just sat outside till the doors open pretty much. What was funnier was about 2am, the airport lights got turned off (and so goes the Christmas carols) - yep, it was pitch black outside and 2 of us there. It still amazes us that an international airport doesn't open 24 hours...

To all my dear friends in Wellington - keep in touch and see you all in December!