Archive for the 'Hello, Australia!' Category

Discovering OZ! – Part 3: Extraordinary things that I did in Australia

1)      Patted, hugged and played with kangaroos and wallabies

Before I flew to Melbourne, I kept telling friends that I wanted to put my hand into the pouch of a kangaroo. When I told my friends in OZ about my plan, they frowned and said, “do you know kangaroos have really strong claws?!” Opps…

I was so glad that I had the chance to see 2 kangaroos boxing each other from the distance while I was in the moving bus. Tour guide stated that they were fighting for dominance.

ballarat wildlife park

At Ballarat Wildlife Park

she's a menaceevidence #1

she’s a menace
evidence #1

she's a menaceevidence #2

she’s a menace
evidence #2

2)      Tried rock climbing for the first time

And I fell in love with it! Louis said I was pretty good as a first-timer! 🙂 I managed to conquer the grade 14, 17 and 18 routes (oz system).

completed route 4 and 5 of this Urinal Wall (what a name!)

At You Yangs Regional Park: completed route 4 and 5 of this Urinal Wall (what a name!)

crawling my way up!

crawling my way up!

This grade 18 route is really exhausting!

This grade 18 route is really exhausting! I had almost nothing to grip/step on

I failed this...

I failed this…

what had I got myself into?

what had I got myself into?

3)      Sea kayaking for the first time at Port Melbourne

Sea kayaking is quite different from kayaking along the river.

It was a sunny morning at first. 8 of us in a group started to feel a bit bored roaming the calm sea then the “fun” set in when there’s abrupt change of bad weather. Almost everyone capsized at the same time but at different locations and we only had 1 coach/trainer with us. Worse still, strong off-shore breeze was pushing us away from the beach. At one point, I was really exhausted paddling but it still took like forever to reach the jetty by kayaking against the strong wind. In the end, we were rescued by sea patrol!

In order to be rescued, I had to jump into the sea. My lips turned blue and I was shivering non-stop before going on shore. What an experience!

The poor trainer

At Port Melbourne: The poor trainer

4)      Watched musical show for the first time

Xanadu was just fun to watch (also less flashy: we were sitting on plastic chairs, simple backdrops and props) but Love Never Dies was really mind-blowing for me! I was fascinated by the elaborate costumes, backdrops, props, stage layout – you name it! Shirely, my sister and I looked so much like bumpkins at the theater for being seriously under-dressed   Well, we were still going through the learning curve! :p

the benchmark for dress code

the benchmark for dress code

under-dressed?

under-dressed?

The Regent Theatre

The Regent Theatre

I had problem understanding the “lyrics” whenever it’s the female or male lead singing: female lead’s voice was too high-pitched while the male lead’s was too bass!

5)      Watched live comedy show for the first time

I saw wire while one of the comedians was performing magic! Haha!

the impetus to watching a comedy show :)

the impetus to watching a comedy show 🙂

6)      Patted and hugged koala bears, dolphins and seal

Koala bears smelt really good actually! Thanks to their favorite meal I think: the eucalyptus leaves.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

At Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast, Queensland

Smile one!

At Sea World, Gold Coast, Queensland: Smile one!

sea world

7)      Tried skippy’s meat for the first time

And I did not like… the texture was like beef…

kangaroo souvlaki

kangaroo souvlaki

8)      Went on a hot air balloon flight over Yarra Valley

had to do some works before being up in the air

had to do some works before being up in the air

the man in control!

the man in control!

Yarra Valley's really scenic!

Yarra Valley’s really scenic!

had to do work again post-flight

had to do work again post-flight

Tina compressed the bag; I compressed her! :D

Tina compressed the bag; I compressed her! 😀

9)      I went to Sydney, I saw the Harbour Bridge, I conquered it!

harbour bridge climb

10)   Visited a strip club

:p

Too bad, not allowed to take photos…

11)   Slept in the swag at the outback

This is definitely different from camping! Because when you lie on your back, all you see is not your tent, but a million stars! It was just …. romantic! Also, it’s freezing cold at night in the desert!

Preparing our "beds"

Preparing our “beds”

Hippo and I survived sleeping in a swag under a million stars!

Hippo and I survived sleeping in a swag under a million stars! 

12)   Rode on a camel for the first time

Danish friend, Martin raised a question about if one-humped camel is still a camel because in Danish it is named differently 🙂

one-humped or two?

one-humped or two?

13)   Tried diving a bit at Great Barrier Reef

We got to enjoy the introductory diving session at Great Barrier Reef. It was my first time wearing the wet suit and carrying an oxygen tank. Few meters down into the water, I felt the pressure in my ears was building up and sharp pain crept from inner ear. I couldn’t equalize the pressure no matter how hard I tried and the guide said he had to go on without me! 😥

When Mich’s back from the diving session, I asked, “Does that mean I am flawed and no diving for me forever?” I was relieved when she said the guide was just not patient enough and not providing longer time for me to get used to the pressure. She also took a long time before she could equalize the ear pressure when she first tried diving.

great barrier reef

14)   Graduated with master’s degree!

With sweat and tears! Of all my studying days, I was the most hardworking during the pursuit of my masters!

unimelb graduation

now a Unimelb alumna

15)   Skied for the first time

Snow, I finally got to meet you! 🙂 I scrutinized it, to see if snowflake can be seen with the naked eye! :p

Can see snowflakes or not?

At Mt. Buller: Can see snowflakes or not?

Walking in the rented ski boots was so draining! When I skied, I kept falling down, clearly not talented! I also worried that ligament on my right knee would give way if I did aggressive movement.

Skiing is fun as it is tiring!

Skiing is fun as it is tiring!

sigh... fell down again

sigh… fell down again

At the end of the skiing session, we were so exhausted but we still had to walk a long way in the boots to the assembly point trudging our skies.  Sis and I decided to slide down on our butts downhill. Passers-by all laughed at us.

Part 1 | Part 2 | tips

Discovering OZ! – Part 2: Culture shock

I went through the 4 phases of culture shock during the first semester of my masters taken at University of Melbourne. CP once said that I should have chosen a course which consists of at least 3 semesters: 1st semester=busy adapting, 2nd second=starting to acclimatize but it’s time to leave already! Cannot be any truer!

Australia is the first non-Asia country that I visited. It was also my first time living abroad (for more than 2 months), in an English speaking country. The experience was overwhelming. I got really attracted to the liberal environment. The following shock stood out:-

1)      I can’t find bolster in the departmental stores!

Some of my OZ friends did not even know what a bolster is! -__- Now can you understand why hippo became a dearer toy at the end of my stay in Australia? He’s all that I had to hug to sleep!

2)      I can’t find brush to wash my clothes in the departmental stores!

I bought a nail brush instead…

3)      G’day, mate!

I had problem understanding OZ accent initially, so much so that when I received unfair treatment from some people when I requested them to repeat their statements, I felt the urge to scream, “I can’t understand your accent does not mean I am stupid, ok?!”

On second thought, so what if I am stupid, they should not be rude to me as well right? :p

4)      Self-checkout service

Such a level of trust!

self check-out in australia

self check-out in australia

5)      Openness about sexual matters

One day, while waiting to enter the lecture hall, course mates were chatting.

Someone: Oh! He told me her gf is so good at bed!

They then went on to discuss about the juicy details. I blushed!

the kind of postcards you won't be able to find in / send to Malaysia ;)

the kind of postcards you won’t be able to find in / send to Malaysia 😉

During his visit to Kuala Lumpur, L got a shock seeing this in the train: What's wrong with your country that you can't kiss in the public?

During his visit to Kuala Lumpur, L got a shock seeing this in the train: What’s wrong with your country that you can’t kiss in the public?

6)      No chili sauce for most of the restaurants

Well, I learned to like ketchup and mustard!

7)      Different teaching and learning environment

The learning process is a real eye-opener! Having group mates of various nationalities  for assignment could be a challenge! I must admit, Malaysian education system spoon-fed me too much! Being a rote leaner, I suffered!

Almost like a UN!

Almost like a UN!

Beer is served within the compound of the university :)

Beer is served within the compound of the university 🙂

I asked around, friends who studied in Malaysian government universities responded unanimously that attendance to lectures is compulsory. Attendance was not recorded in Unimelb. That was when I felt that Malaysian education system meddled too much. I mean my body could be at the lecture hall when my mind is totally absent. It takes own initiative and motivation to learn. Oh! And I like wearing casual wear to classes instead of business attire.

SK did warn me of the likelihood of having reverse culture shock when I am finally home but I did not expect it to be that bad for me though. I seriously had a shock of my life when I was restrained from entering the council one day, the female guard quoted, “your skirt is too short!” I was really upset over this. Besides, it took me some time to become accustomed again to the hygiene level of our public toilets. Close friends also worried for me a bit when I first came back. They thought I lack awareness and kept reminding me that I shouldn’t be putting my handbag on the passenger seat, shouldn’t be at the car park alone especially not at night and the list goes on.

dress code at government agencies: no sleeveless, no collar-less, no above knee

dress code at government agencies: no sleeveless, no collar-less, no above knee

Did I look decent in this? Skirt's too short?

Didn’t I look decent in this? Skirt’s too short?

But no worries, (I think) I am really good at adapting and re-adapting 😉 BF said, “Oh Sam! You are recovering your Malaysian accent real quick!”

Part 1 | Part 3 | tips

How to travel on a shoestring in Melbourne

I travelled like a cheapskate on tight budget during the one year when I pursued my masters in Melbourne and while backpacking around the east coast and outback of Australia in 2011. These tips are applicable mostly within Melbourne, but some of them are valid as well for Australia in general. I hope they could help you to see more and go further with your hard-earned money 🙂

1) Plan ahead

To me, failure to plan means planning to fail unless if you are both time- and funds-rich. But do not get me wrong, by planning and researching ahead, I do not mean leaving no flexibility and serendipitous surprises to your schedule.

2) Keep an eye on http://www.buyii.com.au/ before and during your trip.

Buyii compiles deals from various websites, saving your effort of visiting them one by one.

I made good use of the websites and deals to enrich my experience and broaden my horizon (tasting different cuisines, sightseeing, trying out new sports/hobbies, etc.) at discounted prices! To cite a few examples:-

At Melbourne:

–          Ocean kayaking at Port Melbourne

–          Watched musical show, Xanadu

Xanadu!

Xanadu!

–          Watched live comedy show

In the name of Melbourne International Comedy Festival...

In the name of Melbourne International Comedy Festival…

–          Tried Mexican meal

My mexican comida! :)

My mexican comida! 🙂

–          Multiple entry pass to City Bath

At Sydney:

–          Harbor cruise + buffet lunch

While sipping her champagne on the cruise,  my travel buddy found something must-snap :p

While sipping her champagne on the cruise, my travel buddy found something must-snap :p

–          Dinner at a fancy dress restaurant

At Tharen's

At Tharen’s

3) Budget meal: Crossways restaurant

AUD 5.50 (when I last visited on March 5th 2012 as student) for an all-you-can-eat vegetarian lunch at the Melbourne CBD=good value for money and it’s really hard to come by!

crossways restaurant melbourne

main + drink + dessert

main + drink + dessert

4) Budget meal: keeping a watchful eye on brochures and pamphlets!

Like what we did! :)

Like what we did! 🙂

5) Budget accommodation: Malaysian Hall

This is good news for Malaysian only 🙂 2 Halls available: 1 in Melbourne and another 1 in Sydney.

For a twin share room charging at AUD 12/day/pax (last check at the time of writing), it’s really a deal. Do apply early to avoid disappointment. Please also take the following into consideration before placing your booking or making decision:-

a) The hall only allows stay up to a maximum of 5 days under normal circumstances.

b) The hall requires one-off service charge of AUD 15/pax. So if you are only staying for a day or two, it is probably not so much of a deal anymore. Remember to do your calculation.

c) You have to share bathrooms with others.

d) No cooking is allowed.

e) The Hall in Melbourne is some distances away from CBD. Do factor in your transport fee.

6) Budget day tours

a) Half-tix Melbourne: Although selling show tickets mainly, Half-tix also has collaboration with leading tour providers such as Gray Line and Great Sights. When I last booked my tours from them in August 2011, I got to enjoy up to 50% off for day tours in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. It was 20% off for tours held in other cities. Just remember to book at least 1 day in advance.

Half-tix Melbourne

Half-tix Melbourne

b) The University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association: No, you need not be a postgraduate student to join the day trips 🙂 I did comparison of the prices before: trips organized by GSA are cheaper compared to the commercial tours by up to 40%. The bad news is that the trips do not depart every day. But if your travel dates coincide with the trips’, give it a try!

7) Cheaper movie tickets

Feel like squeezing in a movie session to your schedule? If you do not mind visiting the beautiful Parkville campus of University of Melbourne (so that you do not have to pay for postage), you could pre-purchase the movie vouchers from the Uni Store which is located at the basement level of Union House. 

*Updates*

8) The cheapest flight ticket
You wouldn’t know if the airfare you are paying is the cheapest for your travel date, unless you do the comparison 🙂 Do make use of webjet to compare and book all major airlines.

Enjoy OZ, mate! 😉

Discovering OZ! – Part 1

Living in a new country can be as stressful as it is exciting. My current stress-excitement ratio is 2:1…

 

I find the following interesting:-

The Australian coins do reflect the ageing (and bloating!) process of Queen Elizabeth II!

Clockwise from top left: 1971, 1986, 1998, 2000.

Part 2 | Part 3 | tips


I spot you, creativity!

Series #9 Light bulb reuse!

Reflection of the day

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Inside the glass bottle…

“I want to walk tall, believe in myself, have the courage to ask for what I want and need, and live a life that mattered. I want to wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and know that I am loved and that I belonged. I am desperate to feel worthy and I am hungry for the opportunity to live my fullest potential.” - modified from "The Dark Side of the Light Chasers" - Debbie Ford

Under the apple tree…

"If you are not spending all of your waking life in discontent, worry, anxiety, depression, despair, or consumed by other negative states; if you are able to enjoy simple things like listening to the sound of the rain or the wind; if you can see the beauty of clouds moving across the sky or be alone at times without feeling lonely or needing the mental stimulus of entertainment; if you find yourself treating a complete stranger with heartfelt kindness without wanting anything from him or her... it means that a space has opened up, no matter how briefly, in the otherwise incessant stream of thinking that is the human mind." - A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle

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Ich lese….

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The time keeper by Mitch Albom

The art of thinking clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The first phone call from heaven by Mitch Albom

Inferno by Dan Brown

For one more day by Mitch Albom

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

A study in scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom

Have a little faith by Mitch Albom

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

A Fresh Start by John Chapman

Inspiring quotes!

If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other? (God in "Evan Almighthy")
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
Aggie: "But what about the people who hurt you? Don't you ever want to make them suffer?" Norman Babcock: "Well, yeah, but what good would that do? You think just because there's bad people that there's no good ones either? I thought the same thing for a while. But there's always someone out there for you. Somewhere." - Paranorman
"机遇总是偏爱有准备的人"
“You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” by Walter Hagen
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, body totally worn out and screaming "WOOOHOOOO what a ride!" - by anonymous
When you travel, it’s not like you take a part of each place away with you; rather, it’s as if you leave a part of yourself there, like a part of you forever belongs to that place – the time, the people, and the things you saw; and over time, it gets burned deeper into your soul - by anonymous