Sunday, November 30, 2008

port douglas

"are you sure you wont need motion sickness pills tomorrow?" simon asked me for the second time.

"aaah no need! i think im getting too dependent on those drugs anyway. maybe its all in my mind." i say confidently.

we were strolling along a charming street in port douglas lined with sidewalk cafes, small shops and a couple of holiday operators. the small town is a popular base for either diving in the great barrier reef or exploring the daintree rainforest. and we just signed up for a day trip dive the following day, i was too excited to give some thought to something as trivial as me getting seasick.

"if we enjoy the dive tomorrow, and of course we will! we can dive again the day after next?" i was still pumped up from all the pictures we've seen in the dive shop operator - whales, manta rays, sharks and excellent underwater visibility.

"we will see tomorrow ok?" simon likes to dive but he has limits like me unfortunately. we realized this when we went diving for 3 straight days in sipadan. we were exhausted from all that diving while jao and sym wanted to dive some more.

around port douglas

the next day...

"if you are prone to motion sickness, i hope you took some pills before getting on this boat. if you didnt, its too late to take them now. we will pass around ice cubes you can suck to help if youre dizzy and biodegradable paperbags in case you need to throw up." the marine biologist announced when we got on the very modern haba boat.

"it cant be that bad right?" i asked simon nervously.

30 minutes later, i was throwing up in my paperbag. the boat ride was so rough that if i try to stand up, i can easily be get thrown around the boat. and it took us 1 hour 30 minutes just to reach the first dive site. i was one of the few people who got out of the cabin to get some fresh air while desperately trying to look at the horizon because they say that helps. it didnt. neither did the ice cubes.

inside the haba boat

i wasnt in the mood for diving anymore but they said it might help since its calmer underwater. it didnt. and i was stupid to believe the divemaster when he said the water was warm. i just wore board shorts and a rashguard and i was shivering underwater. the dm was cold as well as i can see his arms got goosebumps while underwater.

corals of opal reef (bashful balmy dive site)

what can i say? our guidebook said "its the only living structure on earth visible from the moon; at 348,700 sq km, its bigger than the united kingdom; its 2,000 km long, its home to 1,500 kinds of fish, 400 species of corals, etc, etc, etc". you get the drift right? honestly we were not that impressed on our first dive. maybe it has something to do with me being dizzy but simon was in a good shape and he wasnt overwhelmed either. the corals were pretty but we didnt see a lot of fish. damselfish here and there, a couple of anemone with their resident clownfish, some colorful parrotfish, some sea cucumber.

there was only a 20 minute-break between the first and second dive, and i wasnt up to it yet so i just tried to sleep in the deck instead. im not sure if simon was trying to make me feel better but he said the second dive was pretty much the same as the first one so i didnt miss much. lunch was served but i didnt dare eat, later on the boat moved to the next dive site. i felt a lot better on the last dive, i wore a shorties wetsuit to battle the cold and finally i got to appreciate the corals. still not a lot of fish, we saw one small blue spotted stingray and one moray eel and the usual fusiliers. the hard corals were healthy though, there was this big patch wherein you could not see the sandy bottom anymore because of all the corals.

a small blue spotted stingray (at two tone dive site)

nice hard corals but where are the fish? (at two tone dive site)

simon with his funny mask. its a mask with built-in ear cups to help him equalize.

needless to say, no more diving for the rest of the australia trip for us after that.

where are you? im in a meeting. hehe

boats for rent in port douglas marina

our 2-bedroom apartment unit at nimrod resort

where to stay:
nimrod apartments
we got a 1 bedroom with personal laundry, kitchenette, living room, balcony for 83 aud.

where to rent a car:
203aud for 4 days rental of a hyundai getz

dive operator:
haba great barrier reef adventure
day trip dive in the outer reef for 242 aud. includes:
- coach transfer from our accomodation to the marina and back
- coffee/tea/muffins
- lunch buffet
- 2 dives
- equipment rental
- marine biologist to identify fish
- environmental fee
simon added 20aud for 1 more dive

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


i recently got my australian immigrant visa - that was my excuse for going there. the truth was i bought my ticket long before my visa arrived, jetstar had a good promo early this year. i was required to make an initial entry to the country(why? i still dont know), so it was a good time to do it and do some exploring at the same time.

the flight to darwin was my longest flight to date - 4.5 hours hehe. it was my first trip out of asia.

we arrived at some crazy hour in the morning - around 5am, but we can only checkin to our hotel by 11am so we grabbed some maps at a garage, and decided to checkout the nearby casuarina beach. i got excited as the first thing we saw was a sign to the nudist beach, we took one picture of the sign and then my slr camera conked out on me. simon reckoned the heavy paperweight slash camera couldnt handle the heat. october/november is the last part of the dry season and i guess the heat can drive the locals crazy as well as cameras.

nudist beach ahead

we just walked on the beach which was quite nice, darwin's beaches are a no-swim zone all year round though because of crocodiles and stingers. we didnt even attempt to go the nudist beach this early in the morning so we just stopped on cullen bay for a much needed breakfast.

breakfast at cullen bay with nice boats on the background

dragonboats at cullen bay

we drived around town but there wasnt really much happening there, most shops and cafes were still closed and the heat was no help at all so we just waited and fell asleep in the car, it was 39 degrees outside. we checked in soon enough to alatai apartments which was perfect because our rooom was airconditioned and dark and we slept some more.

later that day, we tried the local fish and chips and beer and since there wasnt much to see in the town, we spent our time in the esplanade park watching the locals jog/walk their dogs/play cricket while waiting for the sunset.

having a rest at the park

darwin's sunset

kakadu national park is australia's largest national park covering 1.7 million hectares and the most popular destination in darwin but it was too big for a day trip so we opt to see the smaller litchfield park instead. im not sure you can describe litchfield as small because its still more than twice as big as singapore!

it was a 90 minute drive to litcfield and we had yummy hot dogs for lunch at the hot dog lady along the highway

one of the first attractions we saw in the park were these huge magnetic termite mounds. We read somewhere that the entire structure is made up of termite spit and poo. haha!

Can you see the termite?

lotsa magnetic termite mounds

our next stop was the buley rockhole, a series of pools where we found people enjoying the water and having some picnic. most of the swimming holes in the park are croc-free and people already swimming was a good indication for us that there were no crocs lurking. it was very refreshing in the swimming hole especially since its already 43 degrees celsius outside the water.

buley rockhole

me looking catatonic because of the heat

from buley rockhole, its a few minutes hike down the unbelievably gorgeous florence falls - its hands down the most beautiful waterfalls ive ever seen. wow!

florence falls

simon at florence waterfalls lookout

as much as we wanted to spend the rest of the day in the florence plunge pool, we still have loads to see in the park so our next stop was the lost city. we originally rented a small car but the rental company upgraded it to an xtrail 4WD and we took advantage of this because the road to the lost city was a 4WD only.

at the lost city

the lost city was a bit of a joke for us, we drived on a very dusty and rough road for maybe 30 minutes one-way and we expected to see a lost city maybe? the park's pamphlet said "The complex freestanding sandstone block and pillar formations of the Lost City, in Litchfield National Park, suggest the ruins of a long forgotten civilisation." we saw big rocks alright but thats just about it. and a fleet of annoying flies. we got lost in the lost city - we couldnt find our car. in the meanwhile, those flies harrassed us all the way.

at the lost city

annoying flies

tree pose

we got lost in the lost city

there were still lots to see but the sun was about to set soon so for our last stop, we headed to the wangi falls. it was surrounded by a forest and you would think the plunge pool was manmade because it was almost a perfect circle. lovely! we reckoned it would be more beautiful during the wet season when the waterfalls is a lot stronger. we were the last people in the falls and i kept on imagining a crocodile would emerge from the forest but of course it was only my imagination. definitely this was our favorite place in darwin.

wangi falls

where to stay:
alatai holiday apartments in finnis street
we got a studio-type room with personal laundry, kitchenette, balcony for 99 aud.

where to rent a car:
93aud for 2 days rental of a hyundai getz

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

singapore formula one

i didnt know anything about car racing. i watched the asian festival of speed in sepang before and i got sleepy from watching the same noisy cars go round and round the track for what felt to me like 100 times.

this time, simon and his dad wanted to watch the singapore grand prix and i decided to tag along. its the first ever f1 night race and it was going be staged at the marina bay street circuit so i thought it would be interesting. and it was with all the drama - most of the audience were ferrari fans and with the raikkonen crash and massa pit stop accident, the race became anything but boring at least for me since i wasnt rooting for any team.

we were seated at the padang grandstand and we had a great view of the circuit plus the magnificent buildings like the old and new supreme court, city hall, parliament house and swissotel the stamford.

a lewis hamilton fan

while walking around, a police officer asked for my ticket which was crazy because i had it around my neck all along. he insisted on having a closer look at it and i was this close to getting angry because i was singled out among all the people there until i realized it was benson, an LTA officer I coordinate with at work. I just didnt recognize him with the uniform hehe.

it was a 3-day event and we usually arrive early to just walk and have a drink first. we ecountered these cute cowgirls after our first round of beer.

my turn with the cowgirls

padang grandstand

me talking to a weird creature

my dad and my brother-in-law are both ferrari fanatics and they asked me to get them ferrari shirts

a blurry maclaren

the bloody hell trip

i tried kangaroo meat and i hated it. we went diving in the great barrier reef but i got seasick on the way and threw up in the ocean. the motel room next to ours in melbourne was broken into and the police came. my trusty and bloody heavy slr camera died on me on my first trip outside of asia. other than that, australia was lovely!

15 days exploring the land down under while catching up with good old friends was just my idea of an almost perfect holiday.

beng and chel monkeying about while simon looks embarrased (along the yarra riverbank in melbourne)

more stories soon...

Monday, November 10, 2008

cameron highlands with augs

since i came to singapore in 2005, augs would make it a point to visit us every year. this year, we've decided to bring him to malaysia for a change. the plan was a roadtrip from singapore to cameron highlands and kuala lumpur.

we chose the highlands because of the nice cool weather, picturesque tea plantations, a chance to do some mountain treks, and of course strawberries!

the drive to cameron highlands usually takes around 6 hours or less but it took us more than that to reach our guesthouse - we got distracted by the lovely scenery along the way.

bharat tea plantation

having tea and scones while admiring the view

we booked a night in bala's holiday chalet and we were very charmed with the english style inn. it is one of the oldest buildings in the area and used to be a boarding school for expatriate children. it was also nice just to stay in the patio where you can have a view of the mountains or just admire their lovely garden while having breakfast.

bala's holiday chalet

for dinner, we decided to check out the famous ye olde smokehouse. which turned out to be a very nice meal -warm fireplace, authentic english food, pretty garden with a red phone booth, and good friends for company. pretty expensive too but what the heck.

while looking at the menu at ye ole smokehouse

dinner at ye ole smokehouse

it was also mooncake festival (in singapore) that night so cath was on the hunt for a mooncake. we found one at starbucks, she said you can make a wish while staring at the moon and having a piece of mooncake.

wish upon a moon while eating mooncake on mid-autumn's night

the next day, we decided to do a little trekking and followed some jungle trek routes. it was a lovely trek - we got lost for a bit but we found the small summit even with the crappy map. if we had more time, we could have covered more area and made it to the tea plantation or strawberry farm on foot. ah next time i hope.

reaching the summit


after buying fresh strawberries, strawberry jams, and strawberry ice candies in the strawberry farm, our last stop was the boh tea plantation. we had another round of tea and scones on the ummph tea shop overlooking the plantation before climbing a small hill to get a 360 degree view of the tea estate.

anet, augs and cath surrounded by tea shrubs

my good friend jao wanted to come with us to cameron highlands but she couldnt due to some corny reason so i just brought a magazine featuring her instead.

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