My hairdresser and I have known each other for a long time. It must have been 22 years. I always go back to the same one because the result does not vary. I like consistency when it comes to haircut. For 22 years, she delivers the same result without failed. That is why even as she moved to another location, I followed. That is why even as I have moved house, I still return to her.
I can’t tell your her name or which branch she is at right now. What I can say is that she is from Jean Yip, one of the chains in Singapore. She seldom takes leave. The only time she takes leave is when she returns to her home country during major festivals or when she takes an oversea trip with her friends. For more than two decades of working as a hairdresser, she had accumulated close to one year worth of leave.
To cash out her leave, she would need to take a 30% penalty. That is Jean Yip’s policy. She cashed out some. Because who knows. Policy changes all the time.
In the time of Covid-19, the service industry is being hit the hardest. As part of ‘circuit breaker’ phase 1 here in Singapore, basic barber service was still allowed. As someone who has leave balance, she was asked to take leave. And as ‘circuit breaker’ phase 2 kicked in, barber serviced is no longer allowed.
It must have been a stressful period for those who are in the service industry, as I can imagine. Imagine not knowing when one can resume work.
Each crisis affects different segments of people. I feel blessed that I still have a job, and working from home. I will most likely look like a caveman when life goes back to normalcy. Perhaps I shall take this opportunity to grow my hair long and have a different hairstyle for a change.
In the time of COVID-19, we seldom head out. And when I do, I hurry to the wet market nearby to buy fresh produce or pack lunch and then back. I don’t usually get out of bed early on a weekend. But these days, the line between weekdays and weekends has been blurred with the working from home arrangement. If there is one thing I look forward to these days, that would be the opportunity to walk out of my apartment, even for a simple act of buying groceries. A 5-minute walk to the wet market, through the rows of 4-story tall and old, yet well maintained public housing. There is a playground – now closed due to the outbreak. Trees along the pavement. Those who live on the ground floor naturally inherited a piece of grassland in front of their homes. Most have turned the public area into a garden with a perimeter set up to gain some level of privacy.
One of the homes on the ground floor lived a Western couple. Artists I presume as I have seen homemade furniture at their ‘garden’ decorated with lines of small light bulbs. Plants meticulously well placed, which form a perimeter. As you walk past the apartment, you can see what happens at the front porch. But you would avert your eyes even though you know you are looking into a public area for it is an extension of someone else’s home. If you were with me on that day, you would also see a shirtless young man sitting by the front porch. Shortly after, another man passed by – with a mask on of course like everyone on the streets these days – walking a dog. I don’t know the name of the breed. The dog was handsome. A bit of white, a bit of brown. Short frame with short legs. The dog would pee onto one of the trees. Upon finishing its business, giving a few forceful pushes onto the ground with its hind legs, it went on finding another spot to pee.
At that moment, I was thinking, would I be fine having dogs of others peeing at my front porch though technically speaking, it is the public area? I probably wouldn’t like it. But hey, free fertilizer I guess.
By the playground, there was someone else walking the dog. This time, I wasn’t paying attention to the dog. I was observing the girl who walked the dog. Somehow, there is a heightened mystery when a girl puts on a mask. What does she look like? It is fascinating. Because what you see may please you. But what you can’t may excite you more.
At the gate of my condo, upon finishing my daily visit to the wet market, there was a man with a white singlet walking a white poodle. I am not a big fan of poodles. But this one was special. It was playing with the grass and when it saw me, it looked deep into my eyes. I sensed a connection, between a human and a dog. That look of longing and perhaps, a sense of loneliness. Its owner was on his wireless phone all the time playing a mobile game. Beep, beep, beep at maximum volume. The dog was ignored. I was annoyed. The pet owner was there. But at the same time, not there.
And for that brief moment, through our connection, I was thinking, perhaps walking a dog also means that one should be with the dog. Not just literally walking the dog. I am not a big fan of poodles. But I wish I could walk this one instead while its owner was busy playing his mobile game.
We looked into each other’s eyes, into each other’s soul. As I entered the condo and closed the gate behind me, I hurried back to my home. It was just another day, in the time of COVID-19.
My job revolves around many weekends of work. Close to half of the weekends in 2019. During weekdays, there are numerous monthly forums and meetings that I have to attend. In short, it is rather hard to find a good day to go on leave. I am happy that both my wife and I were able to take Monday and Tuesday off. And the last five days – counting the Friday evening – have been amazing. Here is a list of random recollection.
Nov 1st (Friday) was a very significant date for the fans of Blizzard. It was Blizzcon 2019. Now, of course, due to time zone difference, it would only officially start my Nov 2nd at 2 a.m. in the morning. So let’s rewind a bit.
Nov 1st was All Saints Day. It has been a while since I have visited a Church. I was happy that my wife could join me for a lunchtime Mass at the Cathedral. Fun fact. I was trying to get my buddy Jeremy – also a fellow Catholic – to join us. The response was: which Cathedral? I was like … dude, there is only one [Catholic] Cathedral in Singapore (I didn’t feel the need to specify)! He responded, “St. Andrew”? I face-palmed. Ours is Cathedral of the Good Shepard. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church. “Does it really matter?” asked Jeremy. Long story short, eucharistic intercommunion is not possible. So yes, you may. And no, the communion doesn’t count.
Hero’s is a bar in Singapore CBD that has a lovely live band. I have been there so many times that the band knows me. Miraculously, my wife has agreed to visit Hero’s on a Friday night with me. Her first at Hero’s.
The 10 p.m. party was amazing. Way better than the one we have attended earlier on. We stayed close to the very end (past 2 a.m.).
My wife and I watched the Blizzcon 2019 opening ceremony live via YouTube on my wireless phone while we were partying at Hero’s. It was our first time tuning into the event live. The announcements and the trailers were amazing. Diablo 4 – a game we care about a lot and will buy when it eventually releases. Overwatch 2 – a game we had fun with and since O2 will have PvE content, it is a sure buy. World of Warcraft new expansion Shadowland – love the trailer but for sure we will not play that game again.
I have finished reading The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. After returning the books at the library, I have borrowed not one but six books! All six books are from the same author called John Straley. Some Alaska bizarre private investigation. I have to finish all the books within six weeks. That means I should not spend more than a week to complete one book. Uh oh.
It was my wife and my first time trying out Mbar Mini KTV. It is a small Karaoke booth charged by 15-minute blocks. The booth comes with one TV (duh), two stools, two microphones, and two headsets. English song choice is so-so. Pretty decent recording and sound system. Clean environment. We sang for half-an-hour and we had fun.
Talking about being spontaneous, after Sunday’s dinner, I have suggested visiting a real KTV and my wife gamed for it. There was a promotion at Party World. Twenty-odd dollars per person for not one but FOUR hours of Karaoke. We sang from nine till one in the morning. Again, we had fun.
And we have finally mastered the art of not-over-ordering at a Korean restaurant. Celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary at Big Mama (in actual fact, we celebrated our anniversary throughout the entire long weekend). We had BBQ boneless beef short ribs and ginseng chicken soup. Yummy.
2019 has been a fun year. Some asked if we are doing something special for our anniversary. In our own way, we are trying to make every day special.
Imagine this. It took me 8 years to process the photographs I have taken during our family holiday in Spain back in 2011! Again, the results are always very rewarding. It is as though my wife and I get to relive a holiday day-by-day. To see the pictures, check out my photography page.
Again, I have managed to recover my travel journal. Unlike the one from Tasmania (see my previous post), this one was handwritten. So, I am trying my best to type out what I wrote, which may not make sense for sentences that I can’t read. My handwriting is notoriously horrible.
Day 1 – May 16 (Mon) – Barcelona to Gran Canaria
Direct flight [from Singapore] to Barcelona. 3 hours transit to Gran Canaria. 24 hours door-to-door [from home to our first stop]! [We rented a car from] Eurocar. Took us a while to get GPS working. [The volume of the navigation was ] very soft.
The hotel was Meliatamarindos by the beach. A nude beach! Dinner at Playa der Inglés and we had tapas. We rested for the day. The sky was still bright at 10pm! Windmills (note: huh?). I have finished reading Wild Sheep Chase [by Murakumi].
Day 2 – May 17 (Tue) – Gran Canaria
08:50 Las Pasadilla
Woke up at seven but since Gran Canaria is one hour behind Madrid so it was still dark outside. And it was too early for breakfast! No wonder the staffs were not too happy.
Roque Nublo – a volcanic rock in the island of Gran Canaria. It was quite a walk up and it took 40 minutes to come down.
10.00 Pico de las Nieves (ball ball, aloe vera car) (note: huh?!)
13:30 Artenara. We had lunch at a restaurant inside a cave!
Tapas: (1) cuera de Molino and (2) morsilla de teror (black in color!).
After lunch, we returned to our hotel and called it a day. We walked by the beach and had paella at a restaurant near our hotel. The waiter was chatty about Android phones!
Day 3 – May 18 (Wed) – Gran Canaria
Woke up at 8am because Cynthia was not feeling well. Breakfast was so full of people. And Cynthia had her tea this time around. Deliberating on where to for our camal ride, we have decided to visit the one at Maspalomas because of the dunes. At Maspalomas, we were approached by three Spanish students. A short survey on where we came from, how long we planned to stay in Gran Canaria, and what we liked about the place. The interviewer was a girl and she spoke in English. My wife replied in Spanish. Both were trying to practice a foreign language.
After our interview, the young boy showed us the way to the camel farm. The ride cost us 12 euro for 30 minutes. The camel behind ours was hallowing in pain. Perhaps because the passengers were large in size and heavy in weight. It was a pretty funny sight in a sad kind of way. Camels are docile animals. It was hard labor for them, unfortunately.
After our camel ride, I took an hour’s walk to the dunes under the sun (note: my wife must have been waiting in a bar or a restaurant avoiding the sun). The weather was lovely. Cool breeze. Some women sunbathed without tops as I got closer to the nude beach.
We had pizza and salad at Maspalomas. After lunch, we drove to Las Palmas. There were many narrow and confusing streets. I did shopping (Zara) and bought two books (boxset) by Mathias Malzieu (the version we saw in Barcelona was in Catalan). We dined at Las Palmas Pollo Kiev. I had a revelation at the diner. Perhaps my purpose in life is to take care of this woman in front of me.
Day 4 – May 19 (Thu) – Gran Canaria
Caldera de Bandama / crater / school kids.
Arucas / cathedral / Mountain de Arucas / lunch / paellas and apple tart.
Cenobio de Valerón / dig site / craters / racing blue car / staring (note: huh?!) food similar to Northern Africa not preparing women for wedding (note: what?!).
Gildar / walk the town.
Agaete / Dedo de dios / raining / lost but saw the cliff.
Back south / Puerto Rico / scenic.
Puerto de Mogán / seafood with wine / best chocolate cake with 3 layers!
Drove in the dark / slept just before midnight.
Day 5 – May 20 (Fri) – Sevilla
What a hard day! Woke up at 5.45am for the 8.45am flight to Sevilla. We miss Gran Sevilla already. Such familiarity. So tourist-friendly compared to Sevilla.
Sevilla is a big city. Roads are complicated outskirt. In town, the roads are unforgivingly narrow … so many traffic lights. Rested a bit in the afternoon. But we managed to tour the palace (7.5 euro). Things are expensive in Sevilla. Parking was 2 euro per hour or 14 euro a day in the hotel. So many cars on the street. Late at night, we walked out to buy bottled water and have resisted the temptation to dine at Burger King. We didn’t feel safe … “The Time is Now” (note: I believe I was referring to a Spanish song).
Day 6 – May 21 (Sat) – Córdoba & Camona
This silly song kept on playing on the road … or that Rihanna song.
I wanna boom bang bang with your body yo Were gonna rough it up before we take it slow Girl lemme rock you rock you like a rodeo (Its gonna be a bumpy ride)
A song by Mohombi
New hotel and no breakfast. It cost 14 euro. What a joke!
Bought pastry at a petrol station. Fuel needle not working. Car smelled like banana cake inside (note: what?!). Dented. Golf VW. Engine stopped at the junction (ps. clutch down to start engine). Rather easy to find parking space in the morning.
Misty. But a clear blue sky in the late morning. The temperature went up from 24-degree C to 35!
Next, drove to Camona. Wedding! Lots of wedding.
BK for lunch. Oxtail/fish for dinner.
Day 7 – May 22 (Sun) – Andalusia Crazy Driving!
Arcos de la Frontera / Cynthia asked the policeman where the church was and the policeman asked the local instead! Lol. Managed to park before the hill up to the church. San Pedro / Santa Maria.
Ubrique / nothing!
Zahara / lake / lunch time / a ruin up the hill but we did not go / driving in the town was tedious enough.
Ronda / city on a cliff / we didn’t park inside / had icecream and coke – 7 euro.
Gibraltar / can see Africa from here / unpaved road / Cynthia has to open the gate! (note: huh?)
Jimena de la Frontera / tried to drive […] / had dinner by the mountain / see the horse!
Took us 2 1/2 hours to return / through the mountain area / small road / pitch dark / not a soul nearby / nearly hit the cows / reached the hotel at 00:40.
Day 8 – May 23 (Mon) – Cádiz
Woke up late (10.30pm). Had coffee at the cafeteria. Cost a fortune. Didn’t take long to drive to Cádiz. 1 1/2 hours. Cynthia missed the pharmacy by 1 minute. 3 hours lunch break. I think I like working in Spain.
Plaster = tirita.
Bought sandwich and ate at the cathedral (windy!). Beer is cheaper than juice. We walked through the beautiful city. One old lady spoke to me in French. Throughout the day, people were very friendly to me. Cynthia wondered why.
Day 10 – May 25 (Wed) – Baeza & Úbeda
Bubble bath with milk?! Think of the number of calfs deprived of milk makes me fizzy (note: the young me did not make sense at all!).
Breakfast at the hotel was a bit costly. But it was a great way to start the day. I am quite excited by the trip. A UNESCO site with lots of history. Baeza is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Granada.
During lunch, we have decided to visit a UNESCO site nearby as well called Úbeda. Úbeda has more life in it.
Not sure why GPS took us back through small roads. We got lost in a town called […] Dinner at the hotel. We just wanted to take things easy.
Day 11 – May 26 (Thu) – Las Alpujarras
Lanjaron / spice town.
Orgiva / Thursday market / parking was insane / millimeter away from hitting the cars on the side.
Capileira / lunch.
Trevélez / had coffee and dessert.
Válor / met an old man in a pub and he was with a dog / quarreled with pub owner because he has a dog inside the pub / the old man offered to buy us a drink / he said Spain is not only beautiful but also marvelous.
Puerto De La Ragua / rain / condition of the road was quite poor / electronic road sign that said, “drive with extreme caution” / drove up to a mirador / saw the snow capped mountain (and a caravan).
Guadix / ruin & church / McDonald’s.
Day 12 – May 27 (Fri) – Barcelona
Woke up at 6am. Drove to the airport. If not for Cynthia asking the receptionist, we might have missed a turn. 5 hours it took to reach the hotel in Barcelona. The airport was just so far away. Headed directly to Picasso museum (had Subway lunch). Most of his work in the museum were unsigned and undated. More like work in progress. Next, we headed to Plaza Catalunya. Tons of people protested on government. We shopped and had Hard Rock Cafe for dinner.
Day 13 – May 28 (Sat) – Barcelona
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. We have been there two years ago but it was closed. This time, we got to visit the museum. Spent five hours inside. Most of the artworks are from the local Catalunya artists.
Next, we took a bus to Park Güell. We boarded the bus at the wrong direction. An old woman was kind enough to speak to the driver […]
Park Güell is huge. We took the [momument] path. “Museum” cost 5.50 euro per person. Rather expensive for a two-story house.
Next, back to Plaza Catalunya. Walked through Las Rambla. Had dinner there.
Day 14 – May 29 (Sun) – Barcelona
Woke up ridiculously late. Attended the 1pm Mass because Cynthia so wanted it. Made up of mostly old people. The Mass was in Spanish of course.
May 30 (Sun) – On an SIA plane
Hola! We are back from Spain. Spain again, you may say. Haven’t we visited Spain like 2 years ago? True. But since we have been dipping in and out of the language for three years – to me the word ‘soaking’ would have been a vast exaggeration – touring Spain thus becomes one of our favorite choices. Fortunately, there are lots to see in Spain. This year, we have visited one of the Canaria islands so far off that could well be part of Africa. But they are significant enough to be printed onto the 50 euro banknote. We have also visited the southern part of the country where the territories were lost to the Islamic Moors from Africa and were re-conquered by the Christian Spaniards. Majestic Islamic influenced architecture can still be seen in Spain today. And since we flew direct from Singapore to Barcelona, we have spent some days to cover the points of interests that we would love to see but did not manage to in our last trip. To my avid readers, after failing to visit the museum of Picasso in Barcelona with two attempts in 2009 and the museum of Picasso in Paris in 2010 (under renovation), we have it covered this time. On top of it, we have added three more UNESCO sites to our travel list.
To be totally honest, while I always look forward to a long break, I seldom look forward to the physical demand of traveling in Europe. Maybe I am a lazy traveler. A cruise would have been my ideal holiday. The planning and logistic arrangement of the itinerary and hotel and car, the rather long traveling time – traveling from Singapore to Gran Canaria took 24 hours – getting used to the left-hand driving and to drive through the narrow roads in around the city area and through the mountain (one time at night we nearly banged onto the cows and deers, hiking the mountains, and that heavy photography gear of mine … my body ached throughout the trip. Less so on the second week as my body was conditioned for the physical demand. Having said all of the above, every trip to Europe has always been a rewarding experience – both in the culture and nature departments. I hope to share the journals and the photographs soon. Preferably a faster turnaround compared to our last trip. (note to the 2011 me: it took 8 years in the end).
Documenting a holiday takes a lot of effort. It is a discipline of writing every evening during the holiday and it can be hard to find the energy to write after a long day of the tour. Then there are photographs taken whereby in their raw forms, they are quite a mess. Finding the right ones to collect and giving them the well-deserved processing takes time. Finally, publishing the journals online takes a lot of effort and cleanup as well.
I have started working on the photographs and the journal of our Tasmania holiday six years ago. Due to the sheer amount of content and I must have been distracted from my real-life activities as well, I have stopped not even halfway. Procrastination is a negative trait. Soon, more photo albums and journals are put aside waiting to be processed.
Buying a new camera setup reignites my passion for photography and journaling. I am determined to clear off my backlog. Looking back, I must say, Tasmania journal is one of the most well-preserved materials. And I wish to maintain its original form written back in 2013 in as much as possible. Even when it can be a little odd to read now (what’s up with all the OMG?).
Photo albums can be viewed in my photograph page. I have refrained from linking the albums onto a post like I have done in the past. Technology platform always changes. I try not to get myself into having to update the links all over the places when that happens.
Day 1 – Hobart (Part 1)
Omg. The plane was cold! British Airways style perhaps? I wish I had my sweater with me. The flight took eight hours from Singapore to Sydney and we only managed to sleep for an hour. I have watched The Internship and Before Midnight. My wife has watched the Owen Wilson movie and she picked Man of Steel as a second one
Then, there was a three hours transit that involved us having to collect our luggage and re-check in again. Flying through the European countries isn’t as tedious. Must be Australian style. The flight from Sydney to Tasmania took another two hours. I was asleep before the plane took off, had a neck pain by the time the snack has arrived – which is a good sign. Because at least I knew I had some sleep
Technology has changed the way we travel. Instead of bringing books to read on our holiday, we have Kindle. Instead of carrying a thick and heavy guidebook everywhere we go, we have them inside our Kindle. Getting lost on a foreign road may be a thing of the past. For A$2 a day, we have mobile data access. That means Google Maps as our companion and anything that we are unsure of – like shall we drive into Bruny Island or drink the water from the tap – Google knows.
Picked up our rental car at Hertz, we drove to Riverfront Motel, which very much resembles one of the motels we have stayed a long time ago in Melbourne. Beside the motel, there is a bay. Rather charming. Inside the motel, we had to deal with wet cloth crisis, thanks to the wet transit in Sydney. After a quick wash up, we left the motel and visit a mall nearby called Northgate. The chicken salad wrap was divine. So fresh. So much stuff inside. The size easily doubles what I used to see in Singapore.
Next stop, we headed towards Salamanca, which is near to the heart of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania (we stayed at the northern part of Hobart). We saw a lot more shops in Salamanca as compared to where we stayed. There is a wharf in Salamanca. It is beautiful. There is a seafood restaurant by the wharf and it sells seafood too, for those who prefer to cook at home.
Cynthia and I shared half a dozen oysters as an appetizer and we each have a fish and chip meal as the main course. Having only slept for at most two hours on the plane, we were too stoned to make any intelligent conversation. On top of that, we tried very hard not to fall asleep too early. But it is hard. I am falling asleep as I type this.
Day 2 – Bruny Island
Omg. The sun rises before five in Tasmania! For months, I have been trained in Singapore to wake up at five in the morning. But here in Tasmania, on my holiday, it is quite something.
One colleague of mine told me that I would experience four seasons in one day. He is quite right in saying so. In the morning and at night, the temperature drops to 10 degree Celsius, which is chilly enough for us to turn on the heater inside our motel room. During the day, the sun is so strong that I get a sunburn. Tomorrow, I will put on sunblock for sure.
Cynthia and I had debated which ferry to take to Bruny Island. She voted for the 11.30 one while I – someone who wants up early – wanted the 9.30 one. The trip to the ferry terminal takes about three-quarter of an hour. So I woke up at seven and managed to drag my wife out of the bed in time for the earliest ferry slot.
We have also debated on whether or not we should drive our rental car into the ferry and into Bruny Island. We weren’t sure if the roads are sealed there. A quick chat at the tourist information counter next the terminal and we were recommended to drive into the island. Just need to avoid the unsealed roads.
Very well. And we barely able to make it in time, among the last few lucky ones who managed to squeeze into the ferry. The unlucky one would have to wait for two hours. Gosh. How lucky we were.
The ferry was fairly large. Four lanes of traffic on the lower and upper deck. Small cars like ours were inside. So were the gigantic trucks.
The trip took 25 minutes and cost A$30 (return). The island has a vertical span of 100km. It is larger than our country Singapore! I was expecting to see some wildlife as I have brought along my telescopic lens. Sadly, all I saw were seagulls by a beach. I may need to venture deep into the jungle in order to see the real deals.
Bruny Island is beautiful. It is surrounded by gorgeous blue sea. The sky was blue. The cloud looked fluffy. We had an oyster tasting for breakfast and pancakes for lunch. The oysters were fresh and the pancakes had a generous serving of berries and ice-cream.
We made a few stops at the scenic spots and have decided to take the 3.30 ferry back to the mainland. While waiting for the ferry to arrive, I have ordered a cup of hot chocolate at a cafe nearby. The man at the counter asked if I wished to try a wallaby pie. I had no idea what that was. But since I felt adventurous, I said bring it on.
Outside the cafe, I asked my wife if she knew what wallabies are and she said small kangaroos. Omg. I had no idea! The pie tasted good though. Poor kangaroos.
Back in Hobart, our number one task was to look for a decent restaurant. And we did. We picked a Greek restaurant. Cynthia had sausage, which she has been craving for the whole day. I had Tasmania mussels cooked in chili, capsicum, onion, tomato, and white wine. It was divine.
Day 3 – Huonville
Omg. Our neighbor was so noisy last night. Such is the reality of staying in a motel.
I could barely wake up this morning. But since my wife yearned for some good breakfast in town, I dragged myself out of bed at eight.
The bakery is recommended by the guidebook. And we were lucky enough to have found a 2P parking lot nearby (means 2 hours free parking) instead of 1/4P parking outside the bakery. I eat fast. But I would like to take more than 15 minutes to enjoy my breakfast.
I had a pie and Cynthia had half of a baguette. After our breakfast, we headed to Huonville. Huonville has a majestic river, so pleasant to look at. Beyond Huonville and in Arve, there is a forest with a treetop walk and swing bridges called Tahune AirWalk.
We drove a lot today and we walked for more than two hours. There weren’t many people in the forest. And the only wildlife we have seen was a porcupine crossing the road. The forest has a special scent. Cynthia reckons the scent comes from the trees. The hiking today reminds me of our visit to Melbourne years ago. Perhaps nature is a core part of Australia’s beauty.
By the time we returned to our motel, it was after seven. Most shops were closed and we bought some fish and chip as a takeaway.
By the river, next to our motel, we had our dinner. The view was beautiful. All of a sudden, birds and ducks came towards us like my wife was Snow White and I was Prince Charming. We knew what they were after. The moment we left our table, the table was attacked by birds and ducks. Too bad. Cynthia and I are not messy eaters.
Day 4 – Mount Field National Park
Omg. Cynthia and I have encountered a living and breathing wallaby today inside a national park! Had I not known such a species exists, I would have thought that it was a giant black rat. And I had it for snack a couple of days ago. Oh gross.
We have encountered a platypus too, in broad daylight swimming in a stream. The western elderly couple who have discovered it told us that it is extremely rare to see a nocturnal animal such as platypus during the day. Shortly after we have arrived at the scene, it swam away. In our over-enthusiasm, Cynthia and I must have talked too loud and scared away the little cute animal.
Rewind to this morning, we had breakfast in a mall nearby. I picked a meal that gave me half a day worth of energy. In retrospect, that was the best decision made because we were going to miss our lunch later today. The Australians don’t serve food beyond mealtime. Lesson learned.
Finally, we got to check out of the motel. The accommodation was relatively more affordable. But motel being motel, it can get really noisy. The B&B in Queenstown – our next accommodation – is, in fact, a mansion. The bedroom is as big as our apartment in Singapore. The carpet is thick. The indoor environment is clean and well maintained. I don’t know what breakfast will be like. I would come back here for another holiday in a heartbeat.
The main attraction of today’s itinerary was Mount Field National Park. We have purchased an A$60 package that allows us to visit all the parks in Tasmania. It is a great value because Mount Field would have cost us A$24 to get in.
The wonderful thing about visiting a national park is that there is plenty of hiking opportunity in a relatively remote area. We hardly saw a soul inside the forest. There aren’t many photo opportunity though. Because everywhere we see, it is the same kind of trees; some are standing, some are not.
Mount Field National Park has three waterfalls. And we have seen them all. My favorite is the Horseshoe Falls. It does look like a horseshoe and is the most unique waterfall I have seen so far.
Queenstown reminds us of Storybroke in Once Upon a Time. The town is small and quiet. There are a clock tower and an antique store. Perhaps this town is run by a mayor who resembles the evil queen?
Day 5 – Queenstown
Omg. It was foggy outside when I look out from the window moments after I woke up. It is hard to believe. Yesterday was really warm, like summer should be. Today felt like winter in Tasmania.
Over breakfast, the innkeeper shared with us the story of Queenstown. How it was one of the world’s most important mining town – for gold, silver, and copper. How mining has destroyed the environment. How the Indian bought over the mine. Even local news on two miners fell to their death a few days ago.
After breakfast, we drove to a town nearby called Strahan. Maybe the weather wasn’t nice. Strahan was not as pretty as we thought. So we moved onto another town nearby called Zeehan. The town is very quiet and like most towns we have seen in Tasmania, the town center only occupies one stretch of road that can be covered within walking distance. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a traffic light after we have left Hobart.
West Coast Heritage Centre comes highly recommended by the guidebooks as well as the innkeeper. We had a peep from the outside and were not convinced that it worths A$15 per person to get in. So we headed back to Queenstown after lunch.
We got into the so-called highway and while I was negotiating with the endless bends, I said to Cynthia that if we don’t visit the heritage center, we would feel like we haven’t done much today. She agreed and I made a U-turn on this so-called highway and returned to Zeehan.
The heritage center turns out to be much bigger than we thought. It has a large outdoor section that houses all sorts of locomotive engines and related. There is even a small vintage motor show too. The heritage center is also connected to a theater next door as part of the exhibition. There are countless galleries that explain the history of the region and more. We have spent more than two hours at the heritage center all the way until it closed. Needless to say, we are pleasantly surprised by the visit.
On our way back to Queenstown – this time is for real – Cynthia had an idea. The Paragon Theatre has just been renovated and is showing the Immortal Instrument over the weekend. Why not catch a movie since our evenings are often open?
We had pies and nachos for dinner. Having nowhere to go, we dropped by the theatre again to see if it was opened (only one show on Friday). Upon reading the doorstep, I saw a young man walking out from a car together with his little daughter. I asked if he was a local and if he knew when the theatre would be open. He said usually earlier than this but today he was running late.
OK. Turns out that he is the owner of the theatre! Once we were inside, he took us for a quick tour. Although he was born in Tasmania, his parents were Spain and his wife is a Brazilian. No wonder he is so friendly. We chatted a bit after the show. Turns out that he has moved into Queenstown for about a year and his full-time job is being a geologist at a mine. Wow. So running a theatre is more of a hobby, something to give back to the community. Such a cool story.
Back to the theatre, it was a unique experience. The theatre is rather large. If it was in Singapore, it would have been able to accommodate hundreds of people. Here, there were sofas that can accommodate 60 people. In fact, throughout the movie, there were only two of us and two young girls. No wonder it is a hobby for the owner.
Immortal Instrument is better than we thought. In fact, today was way better than we thought.
Day 6 – Cradle Mountain National Park (Part 1)
Omg. We have waited one hour in the cold from four-thirty in the afternoon for the shuttle to take us from Lake Dove back to the entrance of Cradle Mountain National Park. Had we known that it would take such a long time due to overwhelming demand, we would have driven into the park, even as we are advised not to.
This morning, reluctantly, we left our luxurious B&B in Queenstown and headed to Cradle Mountain. Fully expected that part of the road may be unsealed – and hence not covered by the insurance should there be an incident (touch wood). We were delighted that the road is sealed all the way to the national park. Yippee! The drive didn’t take long either. We stopped by the Penguin Cradle Trail, which is the highest point of the development road just under 1,000m. That was also the last place my Optus prepaid SIM card worked. I am totally cut off from the Internet at the moment.
After checking into the Cradle Mountain Chateau – a very nice hotel with a king-size bed split unit overlooking the forest – knowing that we only have less than two hours to walk and that wombats are nocturnal in nature, we headed directly to the trail that rumors to have wombats.
We got off the shuttle and immediately, we saw a few wombats roaming around. Following the trail – an elevated walkway as the ground is muddy and wet and perhaps unsafe to walk, we stopped from time to time and took pictures of this beautiful wildlife. We thought we would see more wombats as we walked deeper into the trail. But that was the last place we saw wombats.
Feeling totally exhausted from the wait for the shuttle in our return trip, we have abandoned our initial plan to dine at the nearest town Tullah. Instead, we paid A$38 per person for a hotel buffet.
Man. Australia is an expensive place to live.
Day 7 – Cradle Mountain National Park (Part 2)
Omg. We returned to the same spot we have visited yesterday and spent half an hour in the rain photographing quite possibly the same wombat we have seen yesterday.
People say that wombats are nocturnal. To see a wombat wandering in the wilderness before noon could either mean that this particular wombat is an early riser. As traditional wisdom says, the birds that wake up early get the worms. Except there seems to be plenty of food in this national park. Or, this particular wombat is having insomnia.
After yesterday’s terrible experience with the park’s shuttle, we have decided to drive into the park. Even though the road is narrow and windy. The rain was pretty bad this morning. We parked at Lake Dove, did a very short walk to see what possibly be the Glacier Rock, and we turned back. So glad that we did a hike yesterday late afternoon when the weather was still OK.
On our way back, Cynthia has spotted a wombat at the very same spot we saw one yesterday. Hence the omg opening in this journal entry.
Enough of Cradle Mountain National Park, we drove out to one of the nearest towns called Sheffield. It is a town full of wall murals. The only shops that were open at four in the afternoon were a supermarket and a cafe. So we stopped for an hour having some hot drink and sharing a delicious mint fudge. Still too early for dinner, we drove further north and into Devonport.
Devonport is a rather big town. We have finally seen traffic light after days of not seeing one. The town is next to the sea and is facing the Bass Strait and the Australia mainland. We had dinner in an Irish pub before heading back to Cradle Mountain.
The return drive was rather exciting. First, it was desirable to reach the hotel before sunset at nine. Because the road could be dark and the speed limit drops to 65 at night. Second, part of the road was foggy. Third, we began to see animals like wallabies dashing across the road. Killing one would leave a scar in my soul.
And we made it to the national park before sunset. We stopped along the road several times to observe the wallabies and the wombats. We love nature in Australia.
Day 8 – Launceston (Part 1)
Omg. We are running out of cash very soon unless we implement some sort of money-saving measures. We just had Chinese food for dinner. A$12.90 per person is considered as a standard meal in Australia. Guess what we have? 2 dishes and rice. Back in Singapore, that would have cost no more than S$3.50.
This morning, we departed fun Cradle Mountain and headed towards Deloraine. Instead of driving via Sheffield as recommended by Google Maps, we took a small road cutting through the Mole Creek Karst National Park instead. That drive was easily one of the most scenic routes we have taken thus far. It was like going through a giant forest. The landscape of a massive greenfield, trees that are tall and gigantic. I love it.
Deloraine is charming. There are rural farmlands surrounding the town and the town itself is lovely, buzzing with people. Deloraine has a park sandwiched between a river and a railway track. We had lunch in Deloraine, took a slow walk along the river admiring a duck and her ducklings swimming on the water before heading to out today’s destination – Launceston.
Some say Launceston and Tasmania’s capital Hobart rival each other. Personally, I prefer Launceston for her architecture and a seemingly larger shopping area. But Hobart has a beautiful wharf. Taking in all, I would say that it is a tie.
Because our inn is rather close to the city center, we have decided to leave our car behind and walk the city instead. I think to really tour a city is best on foot.
At least we get to save some money on parking and petrol.
Day 9 – Narawntapu National Park
Omg. Narawntapu National Park is beautiful! Uniquely so, this park has access to a beach. We stopped by various parts of the beach. Each is beautiful in its own way. We drove along the gravel road and at one end of the beach, there was a campsite. We took out our Subway packed lunch and enjoyed the scenery as we had our lunch.
After our meal, we started our hike into the park and into the wilderness. We have encountered quite a number of wallabies mostly under the shade. They are awfully shy animals. Cynthia and I have to move in slowly and I would attempt to take some pictures from a distance. One time, I saw a wallaby hopping towards me in the middle of the road and I stopped dead. The wallaby saw me and it stopped dead too. We looked at each other for a couple of seconds and it hopped away, oblivious of my existence.
We hike for four hours, desperate to find wombats. But we found none. According to the ranger, wombats often come out during overcast weather. Unfortunately, today was bright and sunny. Just when we have given up hope, near the visitor car park, we saw a wombat wandering in a giant green field kept on eating whatever it was eating.
It is a real pity that the wombats in Narawntapu National Park are suffering from a disease that causes hair loss and loss of sight. The wombats we saw did not look healthy at all. But they still went about their routine and kept eating. I hope they will be cured soon.
We left the park at five forty, rushing back to Launceston. Because we wouldn’t want to miss dinner. Today was Christmas Eve so we have decided to give ourselves a treat. We had our dinner at Cataract on Paterson. They ran out of oysters so we had scallops as a starter instead. Delicious. The main course was steak. We had desserts too. And a bottle of Tasmania sparkling wine. All for A$128.
Day 10 – Launceston (Part 2)
Omg. All the shops and most restaurants are closed on Christmas day! We were searching high and low for food. In the end, I took the executive decision to buy some sandwiches from a petrol station for lunch. I added in a bottle of chocolate milk and Cynthia has requested for a packet of chips. We ate our meal at our inn, alfresco style. This worked out better than we thought.
Dinner time, we drove around town. I wanted Steakhouse but we would need to wait for two hours to be seated. I was starving. So we picked a Thai restaurant that turns out pretty good. The spice is lacking though, an Australian version of Thai cuisine I suppose. But it wasn’t that expensive. It was still expensive, as more than double of what would have cost in Singapore.
Cynthia wanted to attend a Christmas Mass in Launceston. I suspect she picked an inn right next to the Church so that we could attend Mass, even on foot.
It was a cozy environment. As though people know each other within the community. There were no altar boys at all, which is a rather depressing scene to see. The two priests took turns to help out each other. The crowd was pretty mature. A lack of young Catholic generation is also depressing to see.
The choir was great. During the homily, the priest deliberately stood closer to the crowd. Like in Hong Kong and unlike say Singapore and Indonesia, the Mass was wrapped up in an hour sharp. I felt the tradition. But did not quite feel the passion.
After Mass, Cynthia did laundry. We had lunch and headed to Cataract Gorge Reserve nearby. Unlike the gorges, we have visited in Europe, this one we could walk along the water. We saw wildlife too such as porcupine, wallaby, peacock, and duck. And we saw some swimming in the gorge alongside the ducks. Being one with nature cannot be more appropriate than that.
Next on our agenda was George Town, which was less than an hour’s drive from Launceston. Due to public holiday, the entire town was closed. We took a walk along the pier, watching people fishing, and played some Ingress. It was a relaxing day.
Day 11 – Freycinet National Park
Omg. We were attacked by hordes and hordes of mosquitoes at Freycinet National Park. We must have killed several dozens during our four hours hike. These are not Asian size mosquitoes. These are of Australian size, huge and capable to penetrate through T-shirts, socks, even jeans! Lesson learned. Always bring along insect repellent when going for a hike.
This morning, I should have woken up early. Because we have a long drive ahead of us. But I just couldn’t. It is so unlike me. Guess I was tired. Or pleased that after not having much sleep in the majority of 2013, I can finally have some sleep.
By the time we checked out of our inn, it was close to ten. First stop was the supermarket as we ran out of drinking water. Hooray! The supermarket was open on Boxing Day. Next was breakfast. We had no idea how to turn back to tje town center. On the left was a highway. On the right was another highway. Cynthia asked me to turn right. But I spotted a signpost saying Southern Launceston so I turned left. Bam! We saw McDonald’s. I have been thinking of McDonald’s breakfast since the day before. That must be some kind of divine intervention.
The drive to Freycinet National Park was long. Knowing that if we were to miss the lunch hours, we would have nothing to eat till evening. So we made a stop at Swansea, barely an hour from our breakfast, we had lunch. Swansea is a fishing town. The crayfish at the counter looked delicious. Unfortunately, we did not have time to enjoy crayfish. So we had fresh oysters, green salad, and fish and chips instead.
The park is famous for Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay. The hike to the lookouts was pretty OK. But the one-hour return hike to Wineglass Bay was rather tough, classified as grade 4 difficulty in Australian standard. It reminds us of our Mount Kinabalu climb.
After our hike to the bay, we took another short hike to Cape Tourville, which has a lighthouse overlooking the ocean. It was a magnificent sight.
Our resort is at Triabunna. By the time we left the park, it would be too late to have dinner at our resort. So we stopped by Swansea again. No more fish and chips for dinner! I had a steak and boy, that was such a delicious meal. To say that I was starving was an understatement.
Day 12 – Waubes Bay Etc.
Omg. I managed to answer one of the quiz questions on the ABC radio correctly! Actually I got a few right, which is a much better improvement on yesterday’s quiz on science and planets. Today, it was on old tech gadgets. Which year the first iPod was released? I don’t own any Apple products in my life. Having said that, I did bring an iPod for my wife in the early year of our marriage. We got married in 2000. I must have bought her one in 2001 when I had to travel often. And I guessed right. Woohoo!
I overslept, again. We got out of the resort at ten and took a few minutes to drive to Triabunna town center for breakfast. Cynthia had a muffin while I a bowl of porridge, the Western-style. It was delicious.
Eleven o’clock, we started the trip to Bicheno, one and a half hour’s drive from Triabunna. Cynthia thinks that it is far. Come to think of it, it is about the same drive from Oxford to London, when I was a student. Not that far at all.
Lunch at Blue Edge Bicheno was equally delicious. The bread and pies are award-winning. We think so too. Bought a bottle of insect repellent from a pharmacy next door, we started our beach visit.
Looking back, we have only visited Waubes Bay, Redbill Beach, Denison Beach along the eastern coastal drive. But it felt more than that. Rock hopping at Redbill Beach was the highlight of the day. We wanted to get to the far edge so as to get a better vantage point. And we did it. It was beautiful up there. Seagulls were resting on the rocks. Some flew. Because the wind was so strong, the seagulls were momentarily suspended gracefully in midair. The sea and the sky were so blue that it hurt my eyes. What beautiful scenery.
We drove as far as a remote town called Seymore, which doesn’t even have sealed roads. There is a campsite by the beach but it was closed. It was getting late so we halted our northern expedition and turned back.
Got the last table from an Italian restaurant in Bicheno. The woodfired Kilpatrick oysters and the spicy Red Devil pizza were delicious. What a delightful day for our stomachs!
Day 13 – Maria Island
Omg. Wombats are so cute!
We woke up early, had our homemade breakfast (ahem cereal with milk and hot tea), and we made sandwiches for our lunch at Maria Island as there are no shop or restaurant inside the national park.
At the wharf, Cynthia and I have contemplated if we should rent a bike. The island is rather large. Impossible to cover on foot in one day. Having a bike may allow us to get to places faster. But we were told that some terrains can be challenging and since Cynthia has no experience with mountain biking, we have decided not to rent one. Now that we have been to a part of Maria Island, there are trails that are not accessible to bikes, like along the beach. We are happy to walk, for five and a half hours.
The boat ride from Triabunna to Maria Island only took 45 minutes. But the sea was rough. At one point, both of us thought we might have to throw up. The boat traveled rather fast, at around 30 to 35 knots. Once we reached the national park, we proceeded to register our walk at an old jailhouse. Our first destination was the Painted Cliff as recommended by the boat captain. Because the tide is low, it is easier to go round the cliff.
The cliff by any standard is not huge. However, it is special because of the corrosion over the years, the face of the cliff forms a layered pattern. We hopped around the rocks near the coastline in order to traverse the cliff. There were some scary moments because the face of the cliff is sloped downwards, and it is sandy. Straight down is the sea.
After our visit to the cliff, we had our lunch nearby and returned to Darlington the town center. We met a ranger and I asked what the large birds were that are commonly seen on the island. It turns out they are Australian geese that at one time were endangered. So the Australian moved some of them here for conservation purpose. This reminds me. According to the boat captain, Tasmanian Devils are introduced into Maria Island too for the same purpose.
Before we bid the ranger farewell, she recommended that we shall visit the reservoir – her favorite track in the park. We took up her suggestion. Hiking to the reservoir felt like hiking in Narawntapu National Park. According to the pamphlet, the reservoir was built by the convicts a long time ago. Tasmania is so full of history.
After we have reached the reservoir, we wanted to see how far we could go without missing the boat. We pushed into Fossil Cliff. During our hike, we lost the trail. Lucky I have downloaded the map while we were in Darlington. We followed the compass and direction from Google Maps, trekked through miles and miles of animal poops, we have reached Fossil Cliff.
Fossil Cliff is magnificent. It was windy. Looking down from the edge, I felt vertigo. We couldn’t stay long and we made haste to return to the pier.
In the end, we were early for the boat. So far, we have seen a black snake, an iguana, geese, some birds that look like black chicken, even tadpoles. But we have not seen the wombats, though we have seen their unique cube-shaped droppings. Just when we have given up hope, Cynthia has spotted one in the open. Then other. I took plenty of pictures of these cute animals before one went away and one returned to its burrow.
The boat ride back was not as bad as this morning. For dinner, we popped by a town nearby called Orford. I had a pizza. It was a wallaby salami. Surely I am not going to eat something that can be commonly found in Singapore, am I?
Day 14 – Hobart (Part 2)
Omg. Old Woolstore Apartment is so luxurious. Thanks to the boat race that took place from Sydney to Hobart, almost all the accommodations in around Hobart were fully booked one month ago. It cost us close to A$300 a night. But we love the room. It is spacious, clean and modern. It has a kitchen and a dishwasher. The bathroom has a ceiling heater and a washing machine that comes with a dryer. Even the beers in the refrigerator cost lesser than the restaurants outside!
This morning, we checked out of that resort rated zero at ten and contemplating if we should head straight to Bonorong Wildlife Park. Because the next day tour world is at 2.30pm, we still had time to stop by another destination and have time. So we picked Richmond.
Richmond is a beautiful town. There are flowers of all kinds everywhere. The buildings are colorful. We tried the pie and savory pancake at Ashmore as recommended by the guidebook. The meal was delicious.
We reached Bonorong Wildlife Park after one and it rained. Thankfully, by the time we toured the park, the rain has stopped. According to the staffs, this park is solely funded by visitors and donations. Its main function is to take care of the orphaned or injured animals due to roadkill incidents.
We saw a baby wombat that is utterly cute (and we were told that its cuteness would vanish when he becomes two years old). We saw quite a few Tasmanian Devils, finally. There were kangaroos everywhere. Cynthia had a fun time feeding the kangaroos and shall I say terrorizing the baby wombat. We stayed until four-thirty. Three hours we have spent in the park and we love it.
After our visit to the park, we headed to Hobart where we would stay for two nights. At the wharf, a different restaurant this time, we had seafood dinner. In this particular restaurant called Fish Frenzy, they served oysters with wasabi and sweet soy sauce. We have not tried that combo before. I must say, it was wonderful. It is like having oyster sashimi. Except, I don’t recall seeing oysters being served in a sashimi style in any Japanese restaurant before.
Day 15 – Mount Wellington
Omg. It is freezing cold at the Mount Wellington Pinnacle. A half an hour drive and 1,270m above sea level, the wind is exceptionally strong up at the peak. With the air (and the cloud I suppose) traveling at such fast speed, no wonder the weather changes so rapidly in Tasmania.
This entire trip is the longest we have planned so far. And we are getting tired, all ready to go home. Woke up late this morning, we had breakfast at the hotel/apartment. Dropped by Woolworth to pick up some bottled water, inside the car and at the car park, we were contemplating how to spend the rest of the day.
The weather was so so. Museum visit could be a good idea. Just that we aren’t interested in any around Hobart. Since our plan was to use the tripod and take some couple photos – as part of our family tradition, we always dedicate one day for couple photos – we headed to Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
It is a charming garden. Rather small. But we saw many interesting plants and flowers. Unique to this garden are the sculptures in around the garden. Some are built using natural materials such as wood and mud.
Four hours we have spent in the Botanical Gardens having fun photographing ourselves. Challenging though because the light condition changes so fast. By the time we were done, we have decided to visit Mount Wellington.
After our visit to the peak, we returned to Salamanca area for dinner, just like what we did when we first landed on Tasmania. We picked a different restaurant. Or rather a pub. We had burgers on the second floor of the pub all by ourselves. While the food was so so, the music was great. We managed to tag the music while we were there.