Archive for the 'Australia OE' Category

by Angela
on Apr 14th, 2007

OExp: Australia Finale

I am home now in Christchurch. This is my last post with regards to OExp. I have never traveled on my own before. When I first decided to do this, I was quite nervous about the whole idea of spending almost 3 weeks on my own (my sis and Jim were with me for first 10 days). When I first told most of my colleagues, they were all happy for me and most thought it was a fantastic idea. I only had one person ask me if I was crazy. Funny huh?

So was this trip what I hoped it would be? The answer is yes. I find the most difficult question that I have been asked is “where are you from”. My answer is Malaysia. Even though most of my adulthood years were spent in America, the values and the character instill in me are still Malaysian. I do get a puzzled look sometimes, I think this is because of my accent that is neither American nor Malaysian.

When I was traveling through Australia, I met many people. Some were much older than me, others were my age and some were younger. They were all friendly and easy to talk to. Most of them were from the UK, and Germany.  Many families (mom and pop) thought I was a student traveling and decided that I should not eat alone. They always pull up a chair and ask me to join them. It’s quite nice really especially coming from total strangers. They were interested to know what I do, where am I heading to, and where I’ve been.

I met a young lady from Switzerland who aspires to be a radiographer. She was with me most of the time through Alice Springs to Ayers Rock. It’s so nice to meet someone young who knows what she wants to be. Too much TV got me worried about the women of tomorrow!.

I also met another lady from Germany, she just graduated and is on vacation before she starts her career as a lawyer. She speaks fluent english and was easy to talk to. We hike the base of Uluru together.

Again, I never thought that i would have enjoyed traveling on my own as much and to be honest I never really felt as though I was on my own. Jim was only a phone call away (ah.. the perks of technology).

The experience of staying at the youth hostel was unique. I have never stayed in a dorm before so sharing a room with 4 girls was quite interesting. I actually like the practicality of being able to cook while I am on vacation. I like eating out sometimes but I really do not fancy fast food at all. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner would be a real fuss to me. I like to enjoy and spent time on a good meal but not on every single meal.

Traveling around Australia was quite easy. The total of 4 weeks and 2 days went by really fast. There were no fuss in booking a tour or getting information. There are endless sights to see and things to do. If I was ever in doubt, I stop and ask somebody. I only rented a car on the last day of my trip in Cairns and I drove up to Port Douglas making stops when there is a lookout point.

It feels good to know that I can do something out of my comfort zone. I would have never dreamed of backpacking on my own around Australia. The experience had been wonderful. The sights were amazing and the people were really easy going. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

To those of you who received a post card from me, it had been a pleasure writing cards to you. I lost count who I wrote to and how many I wrote. So some may get more than one …. and others none …. Ooooops ;-).

New/Cool experience:

stayed at a hotel in King Cross (red light districts) Sydney, check into a youth hostel in Melbourne, shared a dorm room with 4 people, rode on a tram in Melbourne, attended the FINA World Swimming Championship, catch up with an old friend from Penang in Melb, had a local Penang cuisine at 12:30am with Lena (sister) and Jen (friend), met an Aussie friend and joined her to the Police and Fire Games village in Adelaide, spotting koalas in the wild in Adelaide, kissed by a blue tongue lizard in Alice Springs, rain in Alice Spring (dessert), driving through flood runs, hiking up Kata Tjuta in the rain, watching sunrise of Uluru from lookout point, seeing crocodiles for the first time, meeting aboriginal people, snorkeling at the great barrier reef, sailing on a catamaran.

I will post some of the pictures from each stop on Flickr soon. That’ll all folks.  Thanks for following the OExp: Australia blogs.

by Angela
on Apr 13th, 2007

OExp: Cairns

Cairns is my last stop before returning to Christchurch. I had planned on just relaxing and not doing much other than going to the great barrier reef. My best time in Cairns were getting on a catamaran and heading off to Michaelmas Cay for snorkeling. It was shear luck because I was suppose to go on a cheaper tour (AUD99) which includes a small boat and stops at Upolu Cay and Oyster Reef. But on the morning off the tour, the sea was too choppy. Ocean Spirit decided to upgrade me to the Michaelmas Cay tour instead (AUD 189). Whoppee!!! I have never ridden on a catamaran before. The sea was still choppy but it was still fun for me. I sat on the starboard of the ship and rode the wave on the front deck (i am probably using all the wrong terms when referring to the ship). To get to the snorkeling spot, it took us 2 hours off the wharf from Cairns CBD.

I had to put on a lycra suit due to the jellyfish that exist in the waters (box jelly fish and another one the size of a thumbnail). The two mentioned will cause severe pain and is also fatal. So for AUD6 dollars, I rented the suit. We had to be taken from the catamaran to a small little cay and start snorkeling from there. The reef were quite close to the surface. I just had to go in as deep as 5 feet and they were all over the bottom. It is definitely a sight to see. There were a lot of colorful fishes, and various types of corals. I am not at all comfortable swimming in the ocean so I had a life jacket on. As for the guided tour with the marine biologist, there is a floating tube that I held onto to get into the deeper waters. It was quite crowded so all of us swam over each other, sort of like sardines. I met an elderly couple from Idaho. They were doing the snorkeling tours too. We had a good time chatting.


PS: The catamaran had two CAT marine engines (diesel) but the guide I spoke to did not know the rating of the engine. Quote:”Cat is very reliable”.

by Angela
on Apr 2nd, 2007


Thought I share these pictures with you!

dscn0791.JPG dscn0802.JPGSwimming in Adelaide River,… anyone?????

Day 1:
I landed at Darwin airport and my first impression was I have returned home to Penang, Malaysia.  This is just as I exit the plane walking through the little walkway from the plane to the airport.  It was just as humid and hot.  The raining season is now just tapering off.  I hopped on an airport shuttle and I’m off to Darwin CBD.

Day 2:
I booked on AATKings again for my trip to Kakadu National Park, the biggest national park in Australia.  As in Alice Springs, the coach was at the hotel for pickup at 6:20am.  So here we go again.   The drive from CBD to Kakadu took almost 5 hours one way. I later found out that we had to take the longer route because the usual route had a bridge that was washed out by rain after withstanding two cyclones. 

At Kakadu, there were only two stops.  First stop was a boat ride on the billabong.  Again, folks a lesson that i should have learned from my past visits to National Parks.  To see animals, do not go during raining season and flood season.  There wasn’t any animals in sight other than birds.  The billabong was at least 2m higher than normal.  Not a croc in sight!!!  The mangroves were underwater and only the tops of the tree was visible.  The pandanus, river gums and other brushes were visible but most others were submerged.  I saw a couple of sea eagles and its nest, kites, a jabiru (stork), kingfisher,  cockatoos and that’s about it.

Next stop: Nourlangie Rock.  Well, the Nourlangie rocks are mountain face that has ancient aboriginal rock art drawn many thousands of years ago (no exact date was given).  I think if I recall correctly it dates back to the stoneage.  The drawings showed pictures depicting gods, rules of life, sex, and procreation laws.  It is said there are more pictures hidden in the caves but is not accesible to non aboriginal people.  I am glad that it is that way,  hopefully these will be preserved for years to come. 

My conclusion was, I should have stayed at the National Park.  I hardly scratched the surface of what the park had to offer.  Oh well, maybe next time. 

Day 3
Well, I was not at all satisfied yesterday since I did not get to see a single estuarine or saltwater crocodile.  I went over to the tour desk and book myself onto a “Jumping Crocodile” tour.  There I know I would get to see more than enough crocodiles.  Well,  the tour did not fail me.  The pictures posted above were from the tour.  All going for the tour were basically packed into a boat with a lower and upper deck. We were slowly taken to the middle of Adelaide river.  This is not a crocodile farm.  It is simply just a river with plenty of crocs (nice to know huh???).  As soon as the boat was situated in the middle, I can see crocs swimming towards the boat.  I  must say crocs just look nasty,  like a shark.  The just have this look of terror.  It is uncommon for crocs to jump and reach for food.  Anyway, the meat was the lure and there were enough crocodiles swimming towards the boat for an easy meal.  I really enjoyed this tour.  The guide again was an older gentlement who had a bagful of stories to tell.  He also stopped at the Fogg Dam on the way to Adelaide river just so we can have a look around and it was splendid. 

Day 4
Visit to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls.

by Angela
on Apr 2nd, 2007

OExp: Alice Springs & Ayers Rock

Day 1: Alice Springs

visited: Royal Flying Doctor Service, School on tthe Air (Distance education for children living in cattle stations all over northern teritory, Alice Springs Telegraph Station (connecting Adelaide Telegraph station to Darwin and the over a sub to Indonesia), Reptile Center (I received a kiss on the cheek from a Blue Tongue Lizard…. eeuwwwh!).

Day 2: Alice Springs : West MacDonnell Ranges

Visited: Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Ellery’s Creek, Ormiston Gorge (hiked up to the Ghost Gum lookout and look over the waterhole. Beautiful scenery. I will post pictures. All stops for the day were just gorgeous; I hope my pictures will do it justice. It had just rained the night before and the waterhole and the streams were filled with water. This is quite rare in Alice Springs which is a semi arid dessert. Even the tour guide who lives in Alice Springs took out his camera to take some pictures. I met a Aussie/German older lady and a couple from the UK (I mentioned this because they are also with me for the next three days).

Day 3: Alice Springs to Ayers Rock (Yulara)

The coach came by and picked me up from the Alice Plaza at 7:05am and we set off to Ayers Rock (Yulara). The driving took about 5 hours because of stops. Our first stop it at Stuarts Well which is a cattle station. There is a small yard of animals there. They offer a camel ride for AUD$5. I was quite keen on having a camel ride (just to compare to my elephant ride in India). So I handed my 5 bucks to the rancher. He asked where I was from and I replied “Malaysia”. He gave me a funny look and exclaimed “A malaysian with canadian accent???”. Funny :), this guy looks completely like a cowboy and he said that in true Aussie accent. So I had a little explaination to do and after that all is clear. Well, folks the camel ride was great. Very bumpy when the camel decided to go on a fast trot. My camera almost flew off my neck and I was to afraid to let go of the handle on the saddle. I decided I’d sacrifice the camera first before I sacrifice myself falling from a camel. Alls well ends well. I got off the camel safely, the Aussie rancher took a picture of me on the camel and i will post it soon.

We continued on towards Ayers rock, stop for morning tea, and some lookout stops. We passed Atila (Mt Conner-not part of the National Park since it is under a 99 year lease still), and then started seeing Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta. We arrived at about 1:30pm.

dscn0633.JPGAt about 3pm we started off from the resort and were driven to the base of Kata Tjuta. The sky was getting cloudy. A bunch of us decided to do the hike around one of the smaller rock mount (should take 30minutes one way). We headed off, and before we knew it the sky turned dark and started to pour. Miss Smarty here decided to leave her rain coat on the coach because she decided it was too heavy to carry and thought that it would not rain in the middle of the dessert. Wrong!!!!.. I dug into my back pack to see what I could use to protect my camera. I found my light weight umbrella. Ever seen anyone hiking a mountain face with an umbrella?? Well, let me tell you that it is utterly ridiculous and probably dangerous. Well, for the sake of my pictures I decided I would use it anyway. By the time we got up to the top, the group was starring at me, the lady with the black umbrella :-). I saw them waiting for me up top to give me grief. Upon reaching the top, I smiled at them and gave them a curtsy ;-). They still gave me a little grief but all in good fun. Due to the rain the whole track turned into flowing streams. Water was flowing down from the face of the rocks. I was drench from waist down and my shoes were soaked. Still it was really quite an adventure. We did not get to see the sunset or have the barbeque out at Kata Tjuta. We stopped at a shelter and had a glass of champagne and then headed back to the hotel for our free buffet dinner (replacement to our Kata Tjuta barbecue). It was a long night but quite enjoyable.

Day 4: Kata Tjuta & Uluru

dscn0646.JPGWell folks, it continued raining overnight. I woke up at 5am for sunrise at Uluru (formely known as Ayer’s Rock). We were driven to Uluru but there were thick clouds in the sky. We did not see the sunrise over the horizon because it was too misty and cloudy. I walked around base of Uluru. I was quite surprise that Uluru is not as smooth a surface as I expected. As a matter a fact portions of the face had deep holes and dips. Granted it is just a rock but it is still quite impressive. Walking around the base of it is 9.2km. It rain the whole day there so I have no good pictures at all but pictures would not have justified Uluru.

Day 5: Kings Canyon

Cancelled due to rain. Water over creek leading towards Kings Canyon rose 1.8m overnight. Got a call from reception at midnight to say that I did not have to wake up at 4am since the tour was cancelled. I woke up at 5:30am anyway and went to ask the receptionist if I really got the call or I dreamed of it ;-). Anyway, I walked up to a lookout and looked towards Uluru. The sunrise was magnificent, just standing up on the lookout is quite peaceful and the air in the dessert is so fresh. I stayed and watched the sunrise with just a few people.

Day 6: Alice Springs

1/2 Cultural tour of the Aborignal Heritage.

by Angela
on Mar 21st, 2007


I must have planned my trip on the busiest time of the year for Australia. When I was in Melbourne, my trip coincided with Formula 1 Grand Prix and FINA World Swimming Championship. Now in Adelaide, it is the Police and Fire Games 2007 where participants (police or firemen) from all around the world meet up for the events. One of my room mate is with the Brisbane Fire Brigade and she was in the dragon boat race and the lawn bowling event (what a combination of events 🙂 ). She told me that her team lost the lawn bowling event to a bunch of old Malaysians who apparently have played the game for the past 20 years. She and her team only started 3 months ago ;-).

Well, today I took a bus to Handorf. It is a German Settlement in the early 19 century. It’s always in the travel books and brochures. I was not too impress by the town. It’s good for a lunch stop or a cup of coffee but not a place to spend the whole day. I had a “Berliner Custard” which is pretty much a donut filled with custard and it was good. Then I walked along the main street and stopped at Handorf Inn hotel for lunch. Beef and burgundy pie was on the menu and I remember reading about it in my Taste magazine. Unfortunately, the pie was not even close to the pies that are available in Christchurch, NZ. So I walked on after that and took a bus back into town.

Next stop was Port Adelaide. I like this town. It was an old working wharf and had a lot of character. It was easy to walk towards the town center since there is a light house at the edge of the town center. As I walked along the main street, there were a number of Victorian style buildings on both sides of the streets. They are now the town hall, tourist information center, little inns and cafes. There are also a couple of museums in town but I only patronized the maritime museum. Along the wharf are old sail boats, parked by the light house. The wharf here has essentially been replaced by the one called Outer Harbour. After walking around town, I took the train back to Adelaide.

The following day I took a tour called Coorong Adventure.  It is a boat cruise that goes around Coorong National Park and takes me to the mouth of Murray River.  I was picked from my YHA (Youth Hostel) at 9am.  The tour guide was an older gentlemen name “Barry”.  He was a good guide, both entertaining and knowledgeable.  He drove me and another older couple from California (who participated in the Police and Fire 2007 Games, won silver in golf) from Adelaide to Goolwa.  We then hopped on the boat and off we go.  It was a hot sunny day and as  a result of sitting on the top deck of the boat, I (the Malaysian who never ever get sunburn) got sun burn on my back.  I saw a lot of birds  (Australian Pelican, Cape Baron Geese, Siberian something something, ducks and other birds).  They were just at the sand bar sunning themselves. 

The boat took us up to the mouth of Murray River where it meets Southern Ocean.  There is a large dredger there pumping sand out of the enclosed bay.  Each time the waves hits, it brings in a lot of sand.  At one point the water was so salty and shallow there weren’t much alive in the area.  The Australian government is trying to preserve the eco system there and was said that birds and fishes are gradually coming back to the area.

Site Note:  I am waiting for my flight to Alice Springs at the Qantas Club.  It is nice not to have to pay for internet for a change!.  It was AUD$4 for 30 minutes at the Y.

On Thursday night I decided to join Renee (the Aussie lady fire fighter) to the Games Village.  I was interested to see what the Games Village was about.  So we walked there from the Y, it’s only 5 minutes away.  There is a concert everynight since the games started.  Some of the police/fire fighters mentioned that “The Angels” were playing the night before.  Well,  as far as rock/pop music vocabulary goes,  i have no clue who the Angels were (i presume some old band,.. will google it soon).  Anyway the village is pretty much a socializing place for the participants of the games.  The concert was ongoing until past midnight and beer seem to be flowing everywhere.  I don’t know whether it makes a difference when a bunch of police/fire fighters gets drunk.  The aussies are really friendly and relax (with a little help from alcohol ;-)).  I had a good time chatting, felt a little out of place but still fun.  I was in the catergory of tag along room mate which is probably 1% out of the hundreds of participants there.  I stayed until a little before midnight, lost my roommate in the crowd and started looking for her.  After looking around, I decided it was impossible to pick her out of the hundreds of people and decided to leave.  I walked back to the Y and fell asleep almost instantly.  I woke up the next morning and found Renee in the other bunk bed.  We had a good laugh since neither of us could find each other among the crowd.  That was a nice experience, I have not been amoung so many fire fighters and police in my life.  One thing I notice is none of them, talked about their work……. 

Visited: Handorf, Glenelg Beach, Coorong, Goolwa, Murray River, Chinatown, Port Adelaide.

by Angela
on Mar 20th, 2007


Photos of Sydney and Melbourne posted on Flickr.

by Angela
on Mar 18th, 2007

OExp: Melbourne (2nd Stop)

Well, I haven’t had a chance to write a blog for the past two days.  Lena and I have had a marathon tour of Melbourne.  We spent most of the time walking in the city and going “oooh!!” and “aaahhh” of how fantastic the sights along Yarra river in the middle of the city looks like and the twelve apostle along the Great Ocean Road.  The view from both areas were just amazing during sun set.  I have a couple of pictures that I shall post soon.  Lena left for Sydney this morning and will head back to Penang tomorrow.  Jim will be with me for the next day or so.  I also had the opportunity to meet up with Jan Ning (childhood friend) whom I have not seen for almost 12 years.  I had the most wonderful time catching up with her.  Ooops running out of internet time again.  To be continued….

When we first arrived at Melbourne Avalon Airport,  the Sun bus dropped us of at the Southern Cross station (formerly known as spencer station).  I then had to enquire on how to get a tram or train to the Magnolia Court Boutique Hotel.  I stopped at the ticket counter for directions on how to pick up a tram.  I asked the ticket sales person how one would wait for the tram and the answer was ” Just stand in the middle of the street!!” .  Without knowing how the tram works… standing in the middle of a busy city street wasn’t my idea of getting anywhere fast.  I asked again.. are you sure… and got the same answer again.  Nevertheless, Lena and I walked along the streets and attempted to stand at a little stop sign in the middle of the road.  It was the right place to flag the tram but unfortunately with the Formula 1 Grand prix in town, some of the trams downtown were rerouted.  So… after dinking around we decided the subway was the way to go, no more standing in the middle of the street with 30C beating on us and lugging our luggage all over.  So we walked back to Southern Cross station, hopped on a train and took it to Jolimont station.  In 5 minutes we were  at our stop.  Lena gave me the classic look of “I told you so” 😉

On my final day in Melbourne, I bought a ticket to the FINA World Swimming Championship at Rod Laver Arena.  I really wanted to watch the swimming heats but it does not begin until April 25th and I would not be around until then.  Being adamant and wanting to watch a world class competition, I bought the tickets for synchronize swimming.  I only got to watch the preliminary session and as usual Russia came up on top, followed by Japan, Spain and then USA.    The Rod Laver Arena is the stadium used for Australian Open Tennis Championship.  The stadium can actually be converted into a world class swimming pool.  Sitting in the arena, I could hardly tell it was a tennis court.

I am writting this blog from Melbourne Airport,  next stop is Adelaide.

by Angela
on Mar 14th, 2007

OExp:Sydney (1st stop:Day 3,4)

Day 3

First stop on Day 3 is Sydney Fish Market.  I was keen on going to see the Fish Auction.  The website for SFM, says the auction starts at 7am.  We arrived (my sister Lena and I) at 9:30am, but the auction was over.   Nevertheless, the shops in SFM had almost all the fresh catch of the day.  I am sure the best/pricest fish probably went to top notch restaurants but all the same, I can’t tell which is really the best.  All of the fish, lobster, crabs, oysters, scallops, prawns, and etc looks really fresh.  One of the store owner shocked an oyster for us to see. 

Sydney Fish Market

Next stop, Sydney Aquarium.  It was just ok compared to the ones I’ve seen before so nothing to shout about.

Day 4

It was a rainy day, it drizzled from morning till evening.  Our first stop was the Blue Mountains at Katoomba.  We stopped at Scenic World and took the steepest rail into the valley.  We rode on a cable car back up.  The cable car took us right past the Three Sister Rock formation but we could not see it at all.  It was so misty up in the mountains we only had about 50m of visibility.  I resorted to buying a postcard of the Three sisters and then checking it off my checklist!…. “Been there, Done that, Didn’t see it!!”  So don’t expect any pictures of Three Sisters.

Next stop Jenolan Caves.  This was a brilliant stop.  About six months ago, scientist redated the Lucas Cave and found that it was formed at least 350million years ago.  So I visited the oldest cave system in the world (until another scientist says otherwise).  The cave is all above ground.  We have to walk a long series of staircases up into the Dividing Range.  We saw the usual stalactite and stalacmite,  a river flowing below the chambers,  a large cathedral (high unsupported ceiling).  The guide told us that this is not the largest cave system with the biggest unsupported ceiling.  The largest one is in Malaysia 😉 in Borneo.  Funny,  came all the way to Australia to see one of the biggest caves only to find out that the one back home is the greatest!.  Oh well, it was still very impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through each chambers. I will post a picture of it soon!

by Angela
on Mar 11th, 2007

OExp: Sydney (1st Stop)

Day 1:
I arrived at Sydney about 8am and by the time I got my luggage and subway ticket to King Cross, it was almost 9am. The metro rail as they call it in Sydney is pretty nice, not as clean as Singapore’s but still very comfortable and efficient. I popped out from the subway at KingCross station. King Cross has been known to be the more shady sort of town. True to its reputation, I appeared from the subway station standing right in front of a strip club “Striptease” (how original ;-)). There were more along the street, with names such as Ba-da-Bing, Porky’s…(why?…). I stopped at the Formula 1 hotel to check in and off I go. I spent the whole day just walking around King Cross, Woolloomooloo, and Potts Point. Had the most delicious lunch (“Hot dog on de wheels” was the name). I’ll post a picture of it later. There are only 3 mins left to the internet service (it’s 2AUD for 20mins). I’ll complete this blog later…. to be.. continued.


dscn0090.JPG King Cross suburb.

Attractions visited: Botanical Garden, New South Wales Art Gallery, Hyde Park, Woolloomoolloo wharf.

Hot Dog On De Wheels

Lunch: Hotdog $AUD4.95 from Harry’s Cafe on De Wheels.
The hot dog had chilli, grilled onions, smash peas (i know .. must be an aussie thing), hot dog, bun and hot sauce. I only had 2 bites of the hot dog before the meat fell onto the ground!. Well, the rest that’s left still tasted pretty good 😉

Day 2:
Visited: Paddington market, Chinatown Market, Sydney Aquarium, The Rocks.
Lunch: Dim Sum, Dinner: Fried Chicken and Chips.

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