Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sydney: Blitzing through food and work

The last work trip to Sydney was so full of meeting, I almost had to miss both lunches but all ended well. I barely managed to squeeze an hour of lunch on the day we landed (yes, I was travelling with the same colleague and didn't ask her for dinner. Yes, I am horrible that way.

I caught up with one of my ex-colleague over lunch on the day we landed, the 45 minutes in between meetings. She totally made an effort to catch me on my brief work trips to Sydney, and I am grateful. It needs to be a fast affair, so we just grab lunch at an Asian shop in MLC centre. Cheap, fast and happy.

Dinner was with E and S as usual but at a different Japanese eatery serving rice burger - Gojima. There is no Mos burger in Australia. E had the Kingfish Sweet Mustard while S had the classic burger. I am at my cheese phase so I opted for a cheeseburger, looks smallish but it was quite filling, though I could still fit in a matcha thick shake, a piece of fried chicken, some cakes and ice-cream... haha.

Gojima cheeseburger
I poached this photo from E
No photo of my matcha thick shake and since this is a post on Sydney, it feels not right to post the photos of the cakes as I brought them from Burch & Purchese in Melbourne for the girls. Haha.

Gojima is in The Star and round the corner from Messina, so off we had a scoop each. We asked to try the specials but just didn't like it, so we ended up with classic flavours. Haha... I got my usual pistachio. Grin.

From top left, clock wise: Lemon sorbet, passion fruit sorbet, pistachio ice-cream
The only saving grace was that we had our long dinner in The Star, so at least it was a good walk back across the bridge.

Breakfast on day 2 was a random cafe, Kafeine near work as I didn't have much time. It was ok but it was a very warm shop and everybody was happily sitting around without switching on the fan or air con. Ahem. I can't remember the exact name to the food I ordered but it was mushroom with hommus on toast. Food was decent.

I was pretty disappointed when my manager asked for a team lunch as my brilliant idea was to head to Ippudo for my ramen dose. Seriously Ippudo, when are you coming to Melbourne? I was super excited when my manager decided to call off the lunch last minute. Hahaha. :P

I am happy! *insert super excited LINE sticker*
I was back in Grace Hotel this round, my usual choice of Swissotel was fully booked. I was almost tempted to bring along my swimsuit but the rational mind won. There was no way I could fit in time to swim with my eating schedule. Lol. Anyway, here are some obligatory photos. :P

Side note: Ok, really got to make more effort to write other things.. lol

Monday, February 6, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Fiji: A quick round in Nadi

I have half a day in Nadi before heading to the airport. After breakfast, I took a taxi (fixed rate from hotel) to downtown Nadi. Sri Siva Subramaniya temple is a Hindu temple in Nadi. This temple was moved from a flood prone Nadi River to current location in 1994. The Hindu complex was created over a ten year period by craftsmen brought in from India.

The dress code for this templee was really strict but they offer complimentary cloth for cover up. I was wear long pants but I was told only dress for females. Entrance fee of FJD $5. I only did a quick round, so FJD $5 really seem a little too steep.

Thereafter I dropped by Nadi Handicraft Market, bought some postcards from the shops, stamps from the post office and check out the Municipal Market.

Yes - I'm craving for crabs!

I decided to have Fijian-Indian food for lunch, it was good.

I fly out of Fiji in the evening, with a transit in Gold Coast. I spent new year's on flight, there was a count down according to Melbourne's time.

Day 6 cost breakdown:

  • Oasis Palm dorm bed: NZD $33 per night
  • Taxi to city (fixed price): FJD $10
  • Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple entrance: FJD $5
  • Fijian-Indian lunch: FJD $20 (I thought according to the menu it was cheaper...)
  • Taxi back to Oasis Palm: FJD $8.30 (metered taxi)

Side note: Sigh...

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fiji: Sunrise mountain hike and coconut demo

Life is like hiking, there are ups and downs, some strenuous climbing up, careful navigating of gravel paths, every time is different. That pretty much summed up what I thought as I did this sunrise mountain hike.

I wasn't sure if it would go through the same path going up the hike. I thought it could be different, even if it was the same road, I don't mind checking out the sunrise in Fiji. So I got up in time to be at the dive shop at 6 am gathering time. This time it was led by a young girl, max at her early twenties. There were only 4 of us.

I realised we were actually doing the same trek as the mountain hike. It was an easy hike for me the other day but of course Pete was hiking in his slippers. I got cocky but this time we were rushing up the mountain to be in time for the sunrise. At the first look out area, I told the other 3 in the party to move ahead of me so I don't hold anyone up. A gentleman told me he would stay behind me, probably worried I fall off the cliff.

I made up it before sunrise but no sunrise due to clouds. We waited for a short while then started on our descend. It's like life isn't it, no matter how hard you tried, it doesn't mean you will reap the reward at the top.

After a short descend, we saw the sun rising up from behind the mountains. :) So don't lose hope, all is not lost.

I thought I've finally got the hang of navigating down the gravel path, so yes, I got cocky again and fell. It was the most gentle fall ever though. Overall, it was another good hike, especially with a breakfast treat at the end of it.

Another Fijian pancake - babakau.

Aside from the usual continental breakfast spread, we can also order crepes, eggs or pancakes from the station. I ordered the day's special of tomato egg.

There was also a coconut demo at about lunch time by Pete. He opened a young coconut and an old one, letting us try the water and flesh. Old coconut water tasted better (sweeter and less sour) but young coconut flesh tasted better. Then Pete brought some coconut flesh to the kitchen for deep fried. This was the first time I tried deep fried coconut. It was yum!

Lunch on check out day was not included in the meal plan but we could pay for lunch and given the option of sit down lunch or takeaway BBQ chicken wrap. I opted for the takeaway wrap and it was handed to me before we got on the ferry transfer.

I fell asleep on the Yasawa Flyer again on our way back to Port Denarau. Haha. Upon reaching Port Denarau, we picked up our luggage near the coach car park. This was where there were some discrepancy. Upon making my accommodation and ferry shuttle booking, I was told that I would get a complimentary transfer to my accommodation in Nadi but I was told otherwise upon check out. I was told that I was to get the complimentary coach to Mercure Hotel (not where I booked to stay) and get a taxi to Oasis Palm Hotel (where I would be staying). Anyway, we were sent to another hotel and Oasis Palm Hotel sent a taxi to collect us for a fee of FJD $5 per person.

Dinner was at Oasis Palm Hotel's restaurant, Mamasake. I had drinks with my dorm mate, M thereafter. There were only two of us out of the 4 beds available in the room. I had an enjoyable conversation with M.

Day 5 cost breakdown:

  • BLBR dorm bed: NZD $100 for 4N (NZD $25 per night)
  • Compulsory meals plan (B/L/D): NZD $300 for 4N (NZD $75 pp/day)
  • Port Denarau boat transfer: NZD $252 for round trip (NZD $126 single trip)
  • BBQ chicken wrap: FJD $10
  • Shuttle to Oasis Palm Hotel: FJD $5
  • Dinner at Mamasake: FJD $19

Side note: Why is waiting so hard...?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fiji: Voivoi weaving

Sea plane!
I was slowly getting my appetite back following a very long sleep. I ate very little of my lunch and dinner yesterday despite really wanting to eat them. Breakfast as usual, buffet style but I found a Fijian food.

These little doughnuts looking things are.... Fijian pancakes and taste like one too. Haha.

Day 4's little activity was voivoi weaving. Voivoi is actually pandanus and they are traditionally used for weaving mats. The staffs set themselves up in front of the restaurant. When I joined them, there were already 2 different groups working on their voivoi weaving. Group 1 was a mother with her daughter working on a bookmark and bracelet respectively. The other one was a couple, both weaving bracelets.

I didn't know there was an option of bookmark but then again, I don't have the habit of using thick bookmark in my books. It would look better against a white towel eh but this was a beach towel.

The voivoi bracelet I weaved
I was contemplating of joining the trip for line fishing but wasn't sure how motivated or patient I would be so decided against it. So it was swimming in the beach and lazing around.

Lunch was BBQ lunch with some salads. No tummy issues after eating this round of bbq lunch though.

From the first photo, that was the worse of the weather actually but only a few drops of rain. Otherwise I am glad with superb weather.

Sky with clotted clouds
I generally have meals by myself as most people are travelling as a couple or with family, so it was much easier that I sit around by myself. I don't have an issue though. I have learnt how to have a meal by myself.

Bruschetta as appetizer

Entree of prawn dish

Passion fruit sorbet


Hazelnut cake with ice cream
As opposed to the day before where I only finished the sorbet and appetizer, I finished everything on the plate today.

The activity of the night was supposed to be bonfire but for some reason it couldn't be arranged.

Day 4 cost breakdown:

  • BLBR dorm bed: NZD $100 for 4N (NZD $25 per night)
  • Compulsory meals plan (B/L/D): NZD $300 for 4N (NZD $75 pp/day)
  • Voivoi weaving: Free

Side note: Can't wait to get started on paint brushing :D

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fiji: Sawa-i-Lau

Sawa-i-Lau island is made of limestone caves, they are off the north coast of Nacula. We were also told that  this famed limestone cave was where the movie "The Blue Lagoon" was shot. At the time of my visit, the water was a mixture of rain water and seawater due to heavy rain from the week before.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a very poor swimmer and still attending swimming lessons, which unfortunately the lessons don't give me much joy lately (another story, another time).

I could swim but hopeless at treading water so having to keep up at treading water the whole time make me uneasy. I put up my hand when Pete asked if anyone wants a life jacket. Yes, the same Pete who led the mountain hike the day before. I was the only one in the whole group who took a life jacket.

I didn't bring my camera as it isn't waterproof though I brought along my phone, I thought it is small enough to hide it in the bag and honestly, nobody is going to steal my ancient iPhone4.

The water was cold, likely shaded from the sun. Entrance to the cave was descending via a staircase into water. There is a sky lit opening in the middle of the cave. I'm referring this as cave 1. I was glad that I had a life jacket on me as I am pretty mobile with the life jacket. In fact the rest of the group was holding on to the wall to avoid treading water the whole time.

My biggest fear of visiting this cave was the getting from cave 1 to the next cave, cave 2. To get from cave 1 to cave 2, we need to swim underwater to avoid hitting our heads on a solid stone roof. I was told it was just a second (it felt much longer to me) though it wasn't long. Pete had a big torch and showed us the tunnel that we need to swim through. If anyone not keen on going through to cave 2 could stay in cave 1.

In my case, I had to take off my life jacket, handed it to the other staff who was with us, and swim through. I could feel my head being pushed down so my head won't hit the stone roof. Once reached cave 2, Pete who was there waiting will tap on our heads to indicate that it was safe to resurface.

Cave 2 was dark, the only source of light was Pete's (pronounced Pe-te, 2 syllabus) torch. He told us about presence of water eels, made us shout "Bula" and conveniently asked us if we remember his name. Haha. I wonder if he would left us in the cave if we don't remember his name. Grin. I was the last one to get to cave 2, I was also the last to leave. Pete swam with me out to cave 1.

I found a blog post on Sawa-i-Lau that is very informative.

Once we were done with the cave, we were free to free outside or check out a few tables of vendors selling trinkets by the beach. If you don't have cash on you, just quote your room or bed number and pay the boatman upon return at the resort.

By this time my stomach cramp was getting a little more frequent so I was glad when we departed for the resort. We reached back at around 11 am. In fact, the cramp actually started even before going for the cave trip but I was quite stubborn to go to Sawa-i-Lau on this Wednesday. BLBR organises trip to Sawa-i-Lau on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As I reached BLBR on Mondays afternoon, and departing on Friday afternoon, I would prefer to go on Wednesday and want it to be a very relaxing Friday morning.

After landed back at the resort, it was almost like I was drugged and I slept the whole time till the next morning, aside from setting up alarms to get up for lunch and dinner (haha, yes, glutton). I skipped breakfast to avoid aggravating my stomach before my cave trip.

Yes, I still carry my camera to the restaurant in my drowsiness state. I didn't expect the seafood was cooked with cream, I had some but not a lot as it didn't sit with the cramping.

Chef special of seafood mornay served with crispy tart, lemon rice and side salad. 
There was a kokoda cooking lesson that I wanted to join and set an alarm for it as well, but couldn't lose the sleepiness so I continued sleeping. = ="

More of the soft pillowy buns

Entree... I can't remember the name

Soup of the day - borscht soup

Sorbet after entree

Steak with mashed and vegetables

Meringue ice cream
Day 3 cost breakdown:

  • BLBR dorm bed: NZD $100 for 4N (NZD $25 per night)
  • Compulsory meals plan (B/L/D): NZD $300 for 4N (NZD $75 pp/day)
  • Cave trip: FJD $79

Side note: Happy lunar new year!