Bye Little Red Dot (and Penang and HCMC)

I will be boarding a Qantas flight 4 hours from now.

I’m heading back to Sydney to resume my tertiary education, which will start in a week from now.

Bye Little Red Dot.

Bye Penang. I’ll miss your beaches and food.

Vietnam VO DICH!

The past two months were certainly fun.

(Taken from Jeffrey Leow’s blog)

See you in 5 months time.

I’ll be back for another cousin’s wedding.


Hello Sydney.

Advertisements

Back From Penang

Back from my tropical Christmas trip.

Will blog about it some other time. Now I have to prepare for my trip to Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate New Year’s.

Will blog about that too some other time.

To piss some people off and to console some people trapped in Europe’s heavy snowfall (hey, at least you get to enjoy White Christmas!), here’s a photo of my holiday:

The beach in front of the hotel. White sand, clear sky and clear, blue water. Awesome.

A very, belated Merry Christmas to you all.

Tripping to Blue Mountains Part 3

I went for my first lecture today. It was an English course studying the relationship between film and text and something like that. We spent half hour watching Buster Keaton’s “Cops” (1922) movie before listening to the lecturer talk.

I have to say, that 3 years of not attending school has certainly been a big impact on my brain. While the rest of the lecture room (400+ students) were scribbling furiously on their notepads, me and a few others were either doodling away or just staring in space, with me doing the latter.

I realized I lost the skills of writing down notes while listening to the lecturer/teacher talk. This is bad, very bad as that’s how most lectures operate. Furthermore, to add to the confusion of first day in school is the lists “recommended and required reading”, textbooks and course readers I’ll have to buy or borrow. I tried going through all my units of study outlines this afternoon: English, English (Literary), Psychology and World Politics.

I fell asleep within 15 minutes.

Good God.

Seems like school’s going to be an uphill battle now. And I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Absolutely hate the first day first week of school. All these hustle and bustle and the rush to get the texts and reading list and the rush to classes, not knowing what is expected of you. I hate first weeks at school.

And I hate buying textbooks. I miss the days in the Ho Chi Minh where in my school, we don’t buy textbooks. We just troop down the library to borrow it for the next 12 months. Why can’t Sydney U have that? Oh, yeah, that’s because there will be 1000 first year undergraduates fighting for the same books. This is like going back to the time in Singapore where buying textbooks were the norm.

Tomorrow is Psychology 1002 lecture, which I just read from the course outline that it is a continuation from Psychology 1001 in Semester 1. FUCK. So that means 400 students (minus some who came in with me in Semester 2) will have the basic grounding in the subject and they’ll probably know what to study and what is expected from them. If Psychology is graded on a curve, I’m FUCKED! But thankfully, the university switched to a “academic system”, so no more grading curves. I feel like dropping Psychology and taking up some arts subject. But I’ll test the waters tomorrow.

Sorry for the rant above. Anyway, back to Blue Mountains and the memories of happier times.

So H and I got off from the Skyway and proceeded to the (in)famous Railway. This Railway is known as the steepest Railway in the world. I shit you not, it is the steepest Railway in the world. As H nicely said: “It’s just like a roller-coaster, except much, much slower.”

By then, I was curious and excited to see how steep the Railway was. While waiting for our little tram to come up from the bottom of the mountain, I took a picture:

The Railway

The Railway

It doesn’t look steep here. See that thing at the bottom of the picture? That’s the tram. Well, H and I wanted to seat at the front but we didn’t get too because of the queue. So we sat at the front of the second compartment. In a way, its still the front, right?

In the tram

In the tram

You see that rubber thingy in front. At first, I thought it was those safety harnesses that trap you in your seat before the ride starts. Well, I was wrong, it was not a safety harness, it just a rubber thing to give you some minimal protection. In fact, the whole ride, we were “au natural”, no safety harnesses at all. I was sitting at the side and there was only a small little metal chain protecting me. Which mean if the tram jerk, I could have flew out and down to the bottom and landed in a very, very  sorry state.

It’s safe. Don’t worry. It will be a fun experience. One tip? Put your feet up on the carpeted board like what H did in the photo. Do it. I mean, really, really do it. You’ll know why.

H and I in the tram

H and I in the tram

Looking pretty excited. Ride about to start. See, no protection barrier beside me. Then, off we went.

In the cave at an almost 90 degrees angle

In the cave at an almost 90 degrees angle

At the start of the ride, we went through a cave or tunnel at an incline of almost 90 degrees. It was like a roller-coaster. See our feet on the board? That’s why you want to do that. I couldn’t really shoot anything cause the tunnel was too dark.

Views from the tram

Views from the tram

Look at the bottom of the picture. See the people’s head below my feet in the next compartment? That’s how steep it was.


A view from the tram

A view from the tram

Another clearer example. The ride lasted for about 5 minutes and after many random photos that I’m not going to post here, we reached the base of the mountain.


The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters make their entrance again.


Railway Fun Facts

Railway Fun Facts

Railway History

Railway History

H and I on the prototype

H and I on the prototype

After the Railway, we proceeded to ‘bushwalk’ around the National Park. On the way, we saw a mountain stream. The source of the stream is from Katoomba Falls:


Clear mountain stream

Clear mountain stream

Clear Mountain Stream

Clear Mountain Stream

You can drink the water from the stream. It has a very mineral-ty taste to it. Very cold and refreshing. After that, we continued with our ‘bush walk’ and H broke out into a SAF marching song. Damn guy, as if I needed an SAF army song to motivate me. Below are the random pictures I took during our walk.


Katoomba Mines

Katoomba Mines

Knotted tree branch

Knotted tree branch

Sign explaining why tree is knotted

Sign explaining why tree is knotted

The Cableway

The Cableway

Journey to the top. We met the same tour guide from the Skyway on the Cableway. He was hilarious, he saw a group of Asian tourists in the Cableway and proceeded to say hello to them in every conceivable Asian language from Thai to Malay until he got it right. The tourists were from Taiwan.

Another shot of nature

Another shot of nature

After the Cableway, we hanged around Scenic World waiting for taxis before deciding to call one (H paid cab fare). From there, H brought me to this secret place:

The Secret House

The Secret House

Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, allow me to introduce you The Secret House or better known as Willy Wonka’s Holiday Residence and Experimental Factory. The genius of the confectionary world, or rather, the whole world resides here during the cold, winter months with his Oompa-Loompas and experiment with different types of cocoas, in the process, producing and refining one of the world’s finest art , that is, chocolate.

In the first part of the tour, I will saw you the chocolate factory:

Melted chocolate

Melted chocolate

If you were hoping for the chocolate waterfall, you’d had to go to Willy Wonka’s other factory. This is his holiday residence, so no stressful work.


Shots of the kitchen

Shots of the kitchen

A shot of the kitchen

A shot of the kitchen

There are Oompa-Loompas around but they’re too short to take photos. Beside, it was an order from Mr. Wonka not to take any photos of his Oompa-Loompas as he did not want them to be hunted by scientists and anthropologists (sorry guys, no offence).


Chocolate moulds loving carved by Willy Wonka

Chocolate moulds loving carved by Willy Wonka

Chocolate moulds

Chocolate moulds

Chocolate products

Chocolate products

H and I finally settled down and order two mugs of real hot chocolate. I ordered a slice of mud forest cake.

Mud Forest Cake

Mud Forest Cake

The scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth Mud Forest Cake served with Willy Wonka’s special jam and marmalade sauce.


Real Hot Chocolate

Real Hot Chocolate

Its called Real Hot Chocolate for two reasons. First, it’s constantly kept hot by a candle below. The cup is actually in two parts. The metal container is where your hot chocolate is and a tea light (candle) below gives out heat. Second, it’s called Real Hot Chocolate because it is really REAL chocolate, not some powdered stuff. You see those chocolate bits? That’s where we put it in the container to melt it. Finally, the small little cup at the side contains the milk. So after combining both in the metal container and stirring and grinding them, you get delicious, REAL HOT chocolate.


Real Hot Chocolate

Real Hot Chocolate

Real Hot Chocolate

Real Hot Chocolate

The spoon doubles as a straw. Cool, eh?


H posting with his hot chocolate

H posting with his hot chocolate

Me eating my Mud Forest Cake

Me eating my Mud Forest Cake

Pure, pure bliss…..

Zuii came and joined us later. She ordered a hot chocolate and a cheesecake (darn, should have taken a photo). It was then the fiasco happened. She asked to see the pictures I took while H and I were at Scenic World and while passing her my camera….

I spilled my hot chocolate.

Thank goodness I blew out the candle earlier and it was only the last bit of hot chocolate left. Else I would have burnt, sticky pubes. Not pleasant. Still, my leather bag and jeans were splashed with hot chocolate. My scarf and jacket had some spots too. Thankfully, my leather bag bore the brunt of the spill so I was not covered in hot chocolate.

Willy Wonka offered to help but I politely declined and went to the toilet to clean up as much as I can. It was a futile effort, hot chocolate coated my jeans and bag.

Aftermath of the fiasco

Aftermath of the fiasco

Aftermath of the fiasco

Aftermath of the fiasco

Aftermath of the fiasco

Aftermath of the fiasco

H and Zuii

H and Zuii

I have to point out, Zuii’s cup matches her dress. As usual, Willy Wonka is very thoughtful. After having a wonderful time there, we bid Willy Wonka goodbye and took a cab (I paid) back to H’s apartment. After grabbing my duffel bag, we headed to Leura station to wait for the train back to Sydney. Sigh……

By the way, guys, there is no Willy Wonka, Oompa-Loompas, Willy Wonka’s Holiday Residence whatsoever. I took creative license in describing my chocolate feast. Please do not tell the cab driver that you want to go to Willy Wonka’s Holiday Residence and Experimental Factory. You would most likely be kicked out of the cab and be left alone in the cold, dark mountains.

If you want to go there, just tell any cab driver that you want to go to Katoomba Chocolate Factory. S/He’ll know where it is and s/he’ll bring you there.

The train

The train

Not my train by the way. Its the train heading towards another part of Blue Mountains far, far away. I just took it because I’ve never took a picture of an inter-city train before. It got three levels, a lower deck, middle deck and upper deck. I like to sit on the upper deck.


The train

The train

H and I on the platform

H and I on the platform

Zuii said our previous poses were too boring and deleted the pictures. So we had to pose this way. It was fucking freezing and H and I were cold. So there’s a limit to how much our body could move anyway.


The Station Master

The Station Master

Zuii and I

Zuii and I

Zuii and I

Zuii and I

My train came a few minutes later and I bid goodbye to H, Zuii and Katoomba and Leura.

One day, I’ll be back in Katoomba. I LOVE that place.

Tripping to Blue Mountains Part 2

I said that that I would follow up with a post on part 2 of “Tripping to Blue Mountains”. Well, I’ve been busy the past few days with orientation, the student party (which was completely rad) and a BBQ lunch.

With all these activities going on, I was either busy or too damn tired to write anything.

Classes starts on tomorrow. Its something I’m not looking forward too. I do look forward to making friends but not the hassles of buying textbooks, trying to settle down in lectures and just trying to find what the hell is expected from me during my courses.

I was talking to one of my friend last night and I told him that after 3 years out of the academia, I prefer working. Why? First, you just do your job and get paid. Not so with being a student. Second, you don’t have to bring back any ‘homework’ unless you’re a workaholic. Of course, having a degree improved your chances of getting a job in the market but with the economy like this, well….

Ah, screw it.

Back to the Blue Mountains trip. Before H and I turned in for the night, we promised that we would wake up at 9:30am so that H can bring me to a popular cafe for breakfast. Well, after all the shenanigans that took place last night, we were completely tired. Furthermore, we all slept at 3am.

So it was not surprising that we both overslept. H shook me awake from my comfortable cocoon that I wrapped around myself. After groggily grumbling and rolling around in bed, I got up and enquired H about the time.

It was 11am.

Well, to be fair, H washed up and was already dressed, so it means he woke up half hour earlier. It was cold when I got out of bed, so I shivered all the way to the toilet in H’s bedroom. After taking a hot shower, changing and packing up my duffel bag, H and I were on our way to the cafe.

The cafe was on Leura’s main street, just walking distance from H’s apartment. It’s called “The Red Door Cafe”, so-called because it does has a bright fire-engine red front door. It was a very quaint little cafe, like those you find in England. Sadly, I did not take any photos.

It was crowded when we got there, so in the end, we sat by the bay windows near the front door. I didn’t mind as we could do people-watching. I was at lost at what to order when looking through the menu. Not that the menu had a lot of choices (there was only a page) but it was that all the food descriptions sounded so good. So when the friendly waitress came to take our order, I just followed H’s order.

Here’s what we order:

1) Two slices of baked baguettes.

2) Sauteed mushrooms

3) Roasted tomatoes

4) 2 sunny sunny side ups.

5) Ham

6) Slices of pink bacon.

We didn’t order drinks  cause H was going to bring me to another cafe for mocha. When the food came, it came in BIG portions. I didn’t mind cause I was starving and it was the first time in a very long time that I had a full, oily, proper sinful western breakfast.

Gosh… the mushrooms was fantastic. It had a slight buttery taste and was crunchy and kind of melted in your mouth. The baguettes were excellent too. It was not those large sized loaves. It was slightly larger than medium size and it was damn fluffy, fresh and buttery. Same goes for the tomatoes, perfectly wrinkled skin, not too dry and not too ‘wet’. Just right, nice, warm and juicy. But top marks goes to the pink bacon. Most of the bacons I tried before at hotels during ‘western’ breakfast were either too oily or too dry. But this was the best. The bacon was soft, not too oily or crunchy, and was extremely chewy and tasty. Sure, there were fats on the bacon, but who gives a damn when you’re eating such good food?

Between scoffing food in our mouths and drinking the water provided to us, H and I just stare out at the windows, taking note of the people and just enjoying the quiet chatter in the restaurant and the bustle around Main Street. I noticed there were a lot of dogs around and H mentioned that most people keep dogs because it could get really, really boring up here.

So after demolishing our breakfast (we both didn’t manage to finish the bread), H went off to the bank to settle some stuff while I stayed behind to enjoy the view and to pay up. H gave me explicit warning not to disappear like I did last night. The story was that at the pub last night, I went to the toilet without telling H. So when H noticed that I disappeared and he spent the next 3 minutes searching the pub for me, only to realized that I was in the toilet.

While waiting for the bill, H’s housemates walked past the cafe. They saw me and mouthed out the question asking where was H. I mouthed back telling them that H was at the bank. Its a bit random, I know, this mouthing back and forth. The bill came and the price for breakfast was 44 dollars altogether. Damn….. anyway I paid up and by then H was crossing the road and walking back to the cafe.

We met up with both H’s housemates and proceeded to this shop called “The Christmas Shop”. On the way, H asked me how much was breakfast and when he learned of the price, his eyes, well, widened.

“The Christmas Shop” was a very small shop and it was very, very cosy. Every nook and cranny was filled with the most exquisite toys. I don’t mean toys as in those you see in “Toys R Us” or in departmental stores. I mean toys as in those old school and centuries ago toys. Furthermore, Christmas decorations dangled down from the ceiling. It was certainly a sight that it’s not available in Singapore.

As the shop was small and the walls were filled with selves, we could only walk and stand in single file. After H and his housemates signed some contract with the owner (a very homely woman), we left the shop and stood outside on the street while H and his two housemates started discussing about housing stuff.

H mentioned to me earlier in the morning that he was moving to a bigger place next month. So that whole discussion taking place was just that. Furthermore, it turned out that the owner of the Christmas shop was also the owner of the current apartment where H and his two housemates were staying and the other house where they were moving too. No wonder they signed a contract. I thought they were going to work there.

After the discussion, we split up and H and I proceeded to another cafe to have mocha. It was similar to the other cafe we came from previously but slightly bigger. It was filled with customers but not PACKED with people as it is so often seen in Singapore. After ordering our mochas (H’s treat!), we got a table in a corner near the window, where the sun was shining brightly (to keep us warm) and proceeded to wait.

I told H that back at our air base, we could get mocha at the canteen. H was incredulous and wondered how was that possible. It was possible, I told him, first you add half cup of milo, then you add half cup of coffee and ta-da, you get mocha! I told him that Sergeant Fong, a air force technician usually treated me to this drink.

Anyway, our mochas came and after regretting of not taking any photos of the Red-Door Cafe and the Christmas Shop, I started snapping away like crazy:

The Mocha

The Mocha

The Mocha again

The Mocha again

Mocha

Mocha

FYI, the cup is not brown, its covered in melted chocolate. So we have to scrap the chocolate off and mix it with the coffee. And look at all the bubbles at the top! It was very enjoyable slurping the mocha with H. H explained that he would come here sometimes and just have a mocha and enjoy/daydream his time here. That’s why, H said, he doesn’t really go down to Sydney because Blue Mountains is just too peaceful.

After our mocha, we made a detour to H’s apartment before taking a cab to Scenic World and the national parks. On the way there, I asked H if there was any public transport around here to which H replied not much. The only way to get around was by cab or car. We got to Scenic World in doubly quick time because the cab driver speeded his way there. (H paid for cab fare).

We headed in to pay for the entrance tickets and our ride tickets which came up to 56 dollars total. Both of us paid our share. It’s not that expensive. For 56 dollars, we can take all the rides (cableway, skyway and railway) and explore half the national park. Here’s a picture:

Scenic Work ticket

Scenic Work ticket

Not sure what the word “spawn” means.

As I was visibly excited by then, we decided to take the first route. Taking an elevator, we headed up two floors and queued in line to take the skyway. The skyway is something like a mini-bus on cable. After boarding the skyway and listening to the very hilarious tour guide: “Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls….” and his humourous description of the parks in his loud, booming voice, we all went to the busy of snapping photos. Luckily, it was not crowded so that were enough space.

The valley and blue mountains behind

The valley and blue mountains behind

Valley and mountains

Valley and mountains

H on the Skyway

H on the Skyway

H looks constipated here. He’s afraid of heights and this is his first time on the Skyway even though he been to Scenic World 5 times. I’m assuming he hasn’t been on the Cableway yet.


Me on the Skyway

Me on the Skyway

I blame H for taking such a horrible picture. And the epic of the day is…………



The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Yep, the famous rock formation called the Three Sisters.


Katoomba Falls

Katoomba Falls

We got off the Skyway after a 5 minutes ride. On the way, I asked H why the Blue Mountains were called Blue Mountains. With theatrical flair, H bought me to a look-out point and told me to look ahead and asked me why I saw.

I saw blue Blue Mountains.

Mountains from the observation point

Mountains from the observation point

Mountains from the observation point

Mountains from the observation point

Mountains from the observation point

Mountains from the observation point

Sign at the observation point

Sign at the observation point

H went on to explain that the mountains appear blue because of the light reflecting off from the vapours of the eucalypt (gum tree) leaves. Well, I think he was wrong cause I went to wiki to research it and apparently this is what wiki explained:

“… is derived from the blue tinge the range takes on when viewed from a distance. The tinge is caused by mie scattering which occurs when incoming ultraviolet radiation is scattered by particles within the atmosphere creating a blue-greyish colour to any distant objects, including mountains and clouds.”

I catch no ball. I think the explanation H provided was easier to understand, though not correct.

After walking around and taking some random pictures of gum trees like these:

random gum tree

random gum tree

There was really nothing much except for following the trail to the Katoomba Falls. Since H and I (mostly me) didn’t fancy getting our shoes wet (to have wet sock in winter is like freezing your feet), we decided to head back to the Skyway to take a ride back to the main centre.


On the glass floor

On the glass floor

On the glass floor on the Skyway. We’re about 230 metres above the ground. It took a bit of coaxing for H to come up and stand there. My feet is the black shoes while H is the brown shoes.


The Three Sisters again

The Three Sisters again

Part 3 coming up tomorrow.