Sunday, August 4, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 9 of 21) - Chilling at Home

     After having such an action-packed Saturday, my ninth day in Sydney was mostly spent relaxing at home and having a short trip to the nearby grocery store to buy some food, chocolates and to rent some DVDs.  The last one was more of a surprise to me because apparently in Australia, there are still plenty of people who are willing to shell out some money.  And mind you, these rentals don't come in cheap.  Unlike in the Philippines, wherein the norm is to download the movies/tv shows over the internet.

      Once we made our selection, we went back home and had some afternoon snack - Filipino style.  We ate at the terrace where we had a relaxing view of the neighborhood. As I was feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to catch up with a friend back at home over Skype. (Ahhh, the wonders of technology!)

Couldn't help but hoard some Cadbury chocolates, especially since they were on Sale!
Yummy Pancit - reminds me of home

     With my tummy full, I decided to spend the rest of the day reading a good book in my Kindle. Though I may not have gone to a special or new place that day, I still thought that it was a day that was well spent. After all, no vacation would be complete without a relaxing day at home.  Sometimes, our days could be so busy and fast-paced that we forget to appreciate the simple things in life.  A home cooked meal with the company of family, exchanging stories and laughing their hearts out, is what most people take for granted. Getting together in the family room to watch rented movies may not be much for some, but it was definitely enough for me. These kinds of bonding moments are the ones that I treasure the most and would fondly think of, many years from now.

    How about you? When was the last time you spent your day at home just bonding with your family?

More Soon - Day 10 - Back to Olympic Park

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 8 of 21) - FUN at Jamberoo Park

At Jamberoo Action Park
         What better way to escape the summer heat, but to go to Jamberoo Action Park. It was an extremely enjoyable and exciting Saturday as I was able to visit Australia's version of a water park where friends and family can have a great time.  It's the perfect place to cool down, create great bonding moments, get some adrenaline rush from the rides and bring out the kid in everybody.

         The park opens daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Children three years and below are given free admission, while children from 4-12 years and seniors aged 60 and above are charged at a rate of AUD33.  Since I didn't belong to any of those categories, (as much as my height may sometimes say otherwise), my ticket cost about AUD41.  The ticket already covered all the rides for the entire day.

         It took us about a 2-hour drive from Tita A and Tito Bru's house and we didn't even encounter any traffic on the way to the place.  The next thing I know, I could just see mountains everywhere and saw a sign welcoming us to Jamberoo.  There were plenty of parking spaces so we were able to find a spot in no time.  We arrived at the park by around 11 AM and my aunt proceeded to get us some tickets.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Australian Adventure - (Day 7 of 21) - Discovering the Beauty of Parramatta

St. John's Cathedral behind me
        For my seventh day in Sydney, Tito Bru decided to show me around Parramatta, a suburb where Tita A and Tito Bru used to live.  It was a very peaceful place and had a beautiful park, open for anyone who just wants to relax or just enjoy the surroundings. It's located quite near to the Sydney Olympic Park and around 24 km away from Sydney's CBD.
        The first famous landmark that I was able to visit was St. John's Cathedral, which could be found on Church Street.  It is known to be the oldest church in Parramatta and was built way back in 1803.  I wanted to take a look inside the church, unfortunately, it was closed for the day.  Beautiful flowers surrounded the church, so I just made myself content to take a few pictures here and there.

         Near the church, the town hall was also situated, including the centennial clock.  What I liked about the place is that once you get there, you only had to walk, as each place is located very near each other.  A number of restaurant could be found, a few steps away from the church and the town hall.  Anyone would probably have a hard time choosing which restaurant to go to as there were so many in the area.

A good spot to rest and have a picture
Town Hall

Centennial Clock
             As we were full of energy on that day, we decided to just keep on walking until we were able to reach Parramatta river.  There were trees surrounding the area, which gave us some shade from the scorching heat of the sun.  There was also a paved path on both sides of the river wherein we encountered several people who were also having a good walk with their friends or sometimes with their pets. A few were also on their bikes, some on a jog and others like us, who were just happy to enjoy the view and the fresh breeze blowing over the area.  The park seemed to be a place where you can reflect, and just have some peace and quiet.  There were also some fun facts about the history of the place, for those who wish to know more about the place.  Tito Bru also mentioned that previously, the place was very dirty and would not be recommended as a nice place to visit.  But after some efforts from the people, they were able to clean up the place and make it inviting to both locals and tourists. The only thing that you have to worry about is when there are serious rains because the water level on the river could rise up pretty high and could result to some flooding to the nearby places.

Lennox Bridge

With their pets

Lots of paddles

Definitely peaceful
            Once we had enough of our walking, we decided to cool down in one of the shopping centers in Parramatta, which was Westfield.  I didn't get to buy much for that day since I mostly just window shopped.  To quench my thirst from all those walking, I had some cold and very delicious strawberry milkshake at McDonald's.  After walking around for about an hour or two, we met up with Tita A, who came from her work. We ate in a Vietnamese restaurant, which I discovered was one of their favorite restaurants to eat when they were there.  I was so hungry at that time that, (gasps!) I didn't get to take any picture at all, nor was I even able to get the name of the place. But I do remember that the food was good and it was a nice ending for our day.

More Soon: - Day 8 - FUN at Jamberoo Action Park

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 6 of 21) - more city adventures!

         Day six involved another fun-filled day in the city.  Our first stop was to visit St. Mary's Cathedral, located at St. Mary's Road,which was conveniently near the city centre and a few steps away from Hyde Park. It was certainly a beautiful church and I couldn't help but be mesmerized by its wonderful  facade.  Its design was gothic in nature, made from yellow-block sandstone and has high majestic arches.  The architect who was responsible for this magnificent structure was William Wilkinson Wardell, from the 19th century. The ambiance inside the church was very solemn, peaceful and inviting.  It seems to be the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city life, reflect a bit and have a one-on-one conversation with God.  For those brides-to-be, I'm sure they also wouldn't mind having to walk down its long aisle on their very special day.

In front of St. Mary's beautiful facade

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 5 of 21) - Surfing on the Australian Waves

On the road to Manly Beach
          Boxing Day or the day after Christmas is considered a holiday in Australia.  It would actually be my first time to "celebrate" it since such holiday is not observed in the Philippines.  As it was looking to be a hot day, Tita A and Tito Bru thought it may be a good idea for us to go to Manly Beach. As far as I can remember, I haven't been to any of the beaches in Australia since it was nearing winter when I first traveled to this country.  So I was more than happy to have the chance to finally visit one.
           Manly Beach was around a 30-40 minute drive from my aunt's place.  However, if you would be coming from the city, you could opt to take a ferry, which takes around 30 minutes as well, or you can also travel by bus.  It's actually pretty accessible and popular to both locals and tourists.  Its name was said to come from the "confidence and 'manly behavior' displayed by a group of local aborigines" sited by Captain Arthur Phillip way back in 1788.  There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops in the area.    In case you would want to stay overnight, there are also hotels, guesthouses, and serviced apartments available. For sure, you wouldn't get bored staying in Manly Beach because there are a lot of activities to choose from.  You can go kayaking, biking, whale watching (only if in season which is from Mid-May to November), diving, sailing, and of course, surfing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 4 of 21) - Christmas in Sydney

Can you spot what's different with our tree?
         Out of all the holidays in a year, my most favorite to celebrate is the Christmas season.  It's the time for parties, joyful reunions, gift-giving, and of course, celebrating the birth of Jesus.  As mentioned in one of my previous posts, as early as September, you can already hear Christmas carols being played over the radio and Christmas lanterns being sold along the streets in the Philippines.  We also have these dawn masses or more commonly known as "Misa de Gallo" or "Simbang Gabi" in Filipino. These masses are normally celebrated around 4-4:30 in the early morning, and start at the 16th of December and ends at the 24th.  Some say that if you complete the nine masses and make a wish, that wish would come true.  As for me, I still haven't been able to complete a "Simbang Gabi" as I have a tendency to sleep-in especially with the colder weather during December.  Filipino delicacies such as "puto-bungbong" and "bibingka" are also usually sold near the churches.  Christmas trees adorned with multi-colored Christmas lights could also be found not only in homes but also in office buildings, shopping malls, and city halls.  Calendars are also easily filled as Christmas parties and annual reunions are held once the month of December kicks in.  Fortunately for me, I was still able to attend the Christmas parties and reunions with officemates and friends before I had to leave for my trip to Australia.  However, one thing I did miss was celebrating "Noche Buena", which is a traditional Christmas feast held every Christmas Eve with one's family.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 3 of 21) - Sydney City Tour

      Day three was one of my earliest start in my whole stay in Australia.  By 6:30 AM, Sydney time, I was up and about, getting ready to go to the city with my aunt.  My aunt works at Commonwealth Bank, which was located very near Darling Harbour. Though it was already December 24 at that time, it was still a workday for her. And since I didn't want to waste my day, I decided to go with her and just explore the city by myself.
      Tito Bru dropped us off to the nearest train station, which was Mount Druitt at around 7:30 AM.  We purchased one-way tickets and proceeded to wait for our train.  According to my aunt, there were fast trains and slow trains.  Fast trains are those that did not have a lot of stops, thus bringing you to your destination at an earlier time, while slow trains are of course, its opposite.  I think we got to ride on a slow train but it worked perfectly for me because I was able to get some snooze time.  Our train was one of the older ones as there was no air condition yet.  But since it was still early, the weather wasn't very hot to be considered as uncomfortable.  What fascinated me with our train was that the seats could be manually arranged by the rider to face on one side to another, depending on his preference. So for those passengers who would want to be seated face to face, they would only need to turn this lever/contraption on their seats.  Similarly, if you're alone and wouldn't want to be facing any strangers, the same contraption could be used.  It was almost 9 AM when we arrived at the Town Hall Station, which was just a walking distance from my aunt's workplace.  But before going to work, my aunt went with me to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)  to treat me for some breakfast.  

      The QVB is of "romanesque architecture" and was first opened in 1898.  Over time, it has undergone plenty of renovations to restore to its original beauty.  It now houses plenty of shopping stores, restaurants, and cafes making it a must-stop for Sydney tourists.  They offer free-wifi and normally operates from 9 AM to 6 PM except for Thursdays, in which they extend till 9 PM. Shops found in the QVB range from middle to high-end.

QVB from the outside
      For breakfast, I had some waffles (with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, bananas, and chocolate syrup!! hello calories!], and of course, some very good hot chocolate with a big squishy marshmallow on top. Once I activated the local sim that I bought, my aunt left me to my own devices.

Another sinful breakfast

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 2 of 21) - Souvenirs, Tea and Christmas Lights

Welcome to Parklea Markets
     My day two agenda involved visiting the Parklea Markets.  Apparently, it was only open on the
weekends and public holidays.  It opens at 8:30 AM and closes by 4:30 PM. It has numerous stalls that offer a wide range of products such as food, clothing, toys, gardening tools, accessories, and many more.  According to my aunt, it would also be a good place to buy souvenirs for my family and friends back in the Philippines.  Plus, I could even start a bit of shopping there. Though I still had plenty of time, it would be good for me to cross out as early as possible some of the things in my "to-do-list".   This way, I would have one less thing to worry about.  But first, a good breakfast [actually it was already brunch given the time that I woke up] was definitely in order.  Mushrooms, bacon, egg, bread, and of course, some hot chocolate with marshmallows on top, comprised my meal.  Once done, we headed out immediately to get on with our day.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 1 of 21) - Hearty breakfast, seagulls and warm welcome

Better grab this one! With free discount coupons
       The Sydney Airport seemed to be jam-packed on that early Saturday morning of my arrival.  There were just so many people that even if our flight was earlier than expected, the long lines in the immigration counters still managed to cause delay.  Along the way, I spotted a Sydney travel guide, which I immediately took hold of. It was definitely useful as it even had coupons entitling you to discounts on Sydney's famous tourist spots.  So if you see them on your own travel, better grab one.  On a side note, I spotted two local celebrities - Ogie Alcacid and Regine Velasquez who were apparently on the same flight as I was.  They were travelling with their child and with no helper/bodyguard along since Ogie was the one retrieving their luggage.  I tried to snap a picture or two, but it was too blurry to keep.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 0 of 21) - Solo Travel

Travelling to another country all by myself was a definite first for me.  Normally, whenever I would go out of the country, I would usually be with my family or my friends.  But this time, I was on my own.

                Looking back, I believe it was a good experience for me and I think everyone should try it at least once in their lives.  It was actually more of a trial for me, since when I got to Sydney, my aunt was there to welcome me. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to try visiting another country by myself, with no relatives or friends that I know of.

View from my seat in the waiting area
                So anyway, since my flight was on a Friday night, I was actually coming from the office.  Luckily, my client meeting ended up just on time so I didn't have to worry about the traffic and being late.  My cousin was the one who drove me to NAIA Terminal 2 and we arrived there at around 5:30 PM.  We actually took a bit of a detour first because I had to pick up my newest "toy" so I could take it with me in my vacation.  Given that I had enough time,  I was able to remove some of my clothes from my luggage as I might have over packed a bit.  I had a free baggage allowance of 23 kg, and since I would definitely be bringing more when I return, I though it would be better to be on the safe side.

                The airport wasn't very crowded when I arrived, so I didn't encounter any problems checking in.  I also got a cart for my luggage since I also had my work laptop with me. There were no queues yet so I was able to check in easily.  However, one problem I encountered was that when I had to go to the restroom, I had to bring all my stuff with me since I couldn't leave it with some stranger.  Fortunately, the cubicles were big enough to bring in the trolley while I do my business.  

                The next difficulty I faced was filling up the immigration form.  Not that I didn't know what to put, but it’s just that I couldn't seem to find my pen.  I've tried taking out all my stuff from my bag, but I still couldn't find it.  There were no pens available in the counters so I had to borrow from one of the attendants.  Since I was able to finish early the pre-boarding procedures, I had some time to relax and even charge my gadgets at the airport.  There was also free wifi so I managed to facetime with my aunt in Sydney.  The next thing I know, we were already being called for boarding. 

               The ticket I paid for allowed me to choose the seat beforehand.  Since I was travelling alone, I chose to sit on an aisle seat instead of the window seat so I can have easier access to the restroom whenever I need to. However, before getting to my seat, I had a hard time getting through, since my luggage was a bit wider than the width of the aisle.  After a bit of pulling and some maneuvering on my part, I was able to finally reach my seat.  The people around were kind enough to help me with my hand-carry luggage.  Lucky for me, I was seated next to an elderly woman with her grandson. So I was at least assured that I wouldn't be bothered during the flight.  Anyway, after ensuring that my luggage were properly stored, I began to mentally prepare myself for our take-off.  Because, yes, I do admit that though I love to travel, I particularly don't like take-offs and encountering heavy turbulence during any flight.  I actually envy those people who instantly fall asleep and would just awaken when the plane has already landed.  

Managed to finish three movies
               Well, maybe it just comes with age.  Because I remember that when I was travelling as a child with my parents, I was worry-free and actually excited to ride on a plane. Now that I'm older, I guess I'm more aware of my mortality and of the things that can go wrong. To help lessen my anxiety during take-offs, I just normally pray the rosary.  Only when the seat belt sign has been removed, am I able to truly relax.  I guess it also helped when I performed a basic research beforehand on turbulence.  This gave me some comfort and a sense of safety after knowing more about it.  To take my mind off any remaining worry, I decided to just watch some movies.  I think I was able to finish around three movies and I even managed to catch some much needed shut-eye in between.  It was also a blessing that the flight was smooth overall.  Though we still experienced some turbulence, it was minimal and didn't last very long.  

                Nevertheless, I couldn't contain my excitement when our pilot announced that we have safely landed in Sydney Airport.  With my bags in tow, I was eager to finally start my three-week Australian adventure.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Land Down Under - Planning Stage

     For as long as I can remember, my aunt, who lives in Australia, has always been inviting me to visit her and at the same time to take a nice long vacation in Sydney.  But due to conflicting schedules, other commitments,  and money matters, I always seem to find a reason to say no.  
    But last 2012, I decided to finally take her offer to come and visit the land down under.  Besides, I figured it was high time to reward myself for all those years of studying very hard, surviving such a busy year at work, passing the level I of CFA and getting promoted.

    It would actually be my second time to visit Australia.  The first time I had the chance to go there was way back in year 2000, with my parents.  I think I was just about to start grade 7 and my mom decided for us to have a family vacation in Sydney.  Back then, I had my mom to do all the preparations for our trip: applying for our visa, booking the tickets, scheduling our trip, and so on.  All I had to before was to just help in the packing of my clothes.  My mom was always prepared for anything and she was such a good planner that I no longer had to worry about a single thing.  But this time, I'm all on my own... So let me share with you the things I've had to do so that I could actualize my plans of going back to Sydney:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Surf, Sand and Sun - (3 of 3)

Beautiful morning
   There's just something in Baler that no matter how tired you are the previous day, you would be excited to rise and start early the next day.  I guess that aptly applied for us, because by 7 in the morning, we were already up and getting ready for our surfing lessons.
      Once we got out of our rooms, we headed straight to Bay's Inn Restaurant and ordered for our breakfast.  After placing our orders, I was distracted by the view that greeted us.  The sun had risen quite beautifully over the horizon that I couldn't help but take quite  a number of pictures to capture the moment.   
My fave breakfast

        Afterwards, I went back to our table and eagerly awaited my all-time favorite breakfast in Bay's Inn, which was the tapa flakes with egg, garlic rice and hot chocolate.  Just thinking about it makes me crave for it again.  I used the breakfast stub this time so there was no need for me to bring out any cash.

An hour after, we immediately changed to our rash guards and did some stretching, as our muscles would definitely be taking a pounding once we are out on the water. We then headed to Mahdox Surf, the surf school partner of Istokewa Surf Tours. The walking distance from Bay's Inn was less than five minutes.  We also discovered that Mahdox moved just a little bit farther because apparently, the owner of the land in which they were previously located, decided to open up his own surf school.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Surf, Sand and Sun - (2 of 3)

Teaser falls
        After getting some much needed rest, I was eager to finally start our adventure.  Since we wanted to do something new, we took the option of going to the Ditumabo Falls, or more commonly known as "Mother Falls", to the locals.  They call it as such since according to Bart, the surf tour organizer, it is the highest falls in Baler.  It would take us around 30-minutes from Bay's Inn and another 45 minutes to an hour hike to the falls itself.   
        One option to get to the falls is through a tricycle, which may cost around PhP500 per trike.  Since all of us were planning to go to the falls, Bart offered the use of the van for just an additional cost of PhP800.  This also already covered the payment to the driver.  Since our driver has made numerous trips to the falls, he also served as our guide in our trek to the falls.
        To make sure that we have all the energy for our hike to the falls, we ate a good lunch at Bay's Inn.  We made use of the coupons in our surf package and got our lunch meals.  Afterwards, we all headed to the van to finally leave for our destination. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Surf, Sand and Sun - (1 of 3)

Surf's Up: Ready to be stoked
          Back in 2011, my college friends and I were looking for something new to try.  After all, as cliche as it may sound, life is indeed too short for us to waste the moments that we have been given.  With this in mind, one of my friends suggested that we go and try surfing.  All of us were pretty excited by the idea.  So, it was no surprise that coming up with a plan didn't take very long.  We were all looking forward to cross out surfing from our bucket list.

         Thanks to Suzee, who was very diligent in her research of finding the cheapest (only for Php3000 with 2 hours surfing lessons, accommodation, food and transportation) and most accessible surf tour in the Philippines (Istokewa Surf Tours), we found ourselves heading to Baler, Aurora.  The trip was such a success that I couldn't help but go back again and again.  Just this January 25 to 27, 2013, I was back for the fourth time to do what I have come to love.

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