Weekend Away at Blackheath

21 Nov 2014 (Fri), Day 1

Not even a super hot, total-fire-ban weekend could stop us from our planned time away at Blackheath! We took the Friday off from work for this (you know it’s serious business) and some shopping plus driving later, we’re there!

Itinerary of the day: a quick trip to Govetts Leap Lookout before check-in at tongue ), a

The sky didn’t turn that gorgeous twilight blue, and there were all sorts of bugs flying into my face and a mosquito or two feeding on me, but I don’t regret spending the evening out there. smile

22 Nov 2014 (Sat), Day 2

After our epic breakfast buffet at the resort, we went out to brave the heat and did the Grand Canyon Track. We actually got lucky because Saturday was the coolest day of the whole weekend.

The Grand Canyon Track isn’t as long a walk as the

After a nice and comfortable shower, we ventured out to Lake Lyell for some fly fishing for Richard and some fly swatting for Vickie. There was a convenient boat ramp at the lake so there were more boats and noise around than we’d like. Dinner was the restaurant inside the golf club across the resort.

23 Nov 2014 (Sun), Day 3

Woke up with sore quads and calves! The good kind of burn. smile We checked out of the resort after our second and last breakfast buffet. It’s scorching hot again but our day wasn’t over just yet! We drove to Echo Point for a quick touristy view of the Three Sisters before heading back to Sydney — with indigestion from overeating at breakfast for me. Oh first world problems.

Didn’t think I could enjoy my time as much as I did with all that heat and flies. Where should we go for our next weekend away?

The Coast Track

It was another super pleasant and gently breezy 24°C day so there’s no excuse to stay in whatsoever! We decided to head out to the Coast Track at the Royal National Park for a bushwalk, and we certainly planned it a lot better than our last walk to Winifred Falls. tongue

We started at around noon. Richard decided that Marley Beach shall be our halfway point so that we had enough time to do a short walk and back before it gets dark. We also brought our swimmers just in case.

We walked at a very comfortable speed and reached our halfway point on schedule, in about 2 hours. Walking back felt a lot easier.

I saw all the wildlife and animal tracks on the walk!

No, I don’t think I have taken enough pictures. Why do you ask? tongue

After the walk, we took a bit of extra time to drive down to Jibbon Beach for a quick dip. The tide was a lot higher than our last visit and the water was still a little cool. The number of boats there was also far lower than what Richard expected to see for the long weekend.

Such a lovely day out! I can’t wait to explore the rest of Sydney and the world!

Hong Kong Trip July 2014

24 July 2014 (Thu) Day 1: Arrival

It was still dark when we got up for our flight from Sydney. I normally wouldn’t get ready so early, but Richard is one of those who prefer to get to the airport well ahead of time. A bit of friendly grumbling from me and some coffee from Macca’s at the airport later, we were on board a very empty and pleasant Qantas A380 for our trip to Hong Kong.

9 hours later, we met with Mum at the airport. Richard, Mum. Mum, Richard. Whew, that wasn’t too bad. Dad already prepared two Octopus cards (八達通) for us, so after I grabbed a phone card from the airport shops, we took a direct bus to our hotel.

We’re staying at Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong Sha Tin (沙田萬怡酒店) that Mum booked for us. This conversation happened as Mum was doing the online booking:

Mum: Twin beds or king size?
Me: King size, of course.

Awkward. tongue But thank you, Mum.

Dad and Jacky met us at the hotel lobby. Family, Richard. Richard, family. After we dumped our luggage in our gorgeous 17th floor hotel room (thank you so much again, Mum!) that we took a little while to admire, we headed down to the hotel restaurant, MoMo Cafe, for a dinner buffet — a thing the family always do for me each time I travel back.

There wasn’t a lot of food choices, but I didn’t have as big an appetite as usual for some reason, which led the brother to joke that I was pretending to eat very little. Oi, I’m all real me in front of my beau. tongue

The people dearest to me have finally met one another. It’s a bit strange for me to switch between languages, but I thank both parties for a pleasant night.

25 July 2014 (Fri) Day 2: The Photoshoot

Boy did we sleep last night! We couldn’t do much for today because it would be a full day of family functions from the afternoon on. After I managed to get Richard out of bed, we went down to the shops to grab a few things, had a coffee at the dangerously conveniently located Macca’s McDonald’s directly below our hotel, then went for a walk down Shing Mun River (城門河) nearby.

I’ve been near this river so many times in the past, but have never looked and paid attention to it until now. I remember it being much stinkier and dirtier than it is now, but I wondered if it’s just my memory playing tricks.

Photos really don’t translate the heat. July in Hong Kong is just unpleasantly humid.

It was family photoshoot time in the afternoon. We headed to a studio in San Po Kong (新蒲崗) that looked like a dodgy factory from the outside. There, Richard met the rest of my mother’s side of the family. All at once. My cousin from Canada brought her boyfriend along as well, which hopefully made things a little more bearable for him. Dinner was a several-course seafood family event at Super Star Seafood Restaurant (鴻星海鮮酒家) in Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀).

26 July 2014 (Sat) Day 3: Shopping for Him

The family didn’t want us to visit during the day so the morning and afternoon were ours. We took the MTR to these two fishing tackle shops that Richard found online. The first shop we tried apparently moved to some mysterious place that no-one could locate, but we managed to find the second one on Hitler Hillier Street (禧利街). We also shopped for camera lenses for him, then walked down to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal (港澳碼頭) to take a few more shots, before we got the heads-up that we’re allowed to visit the family home.

Photos really, really don’t translate the heat.

The family has been out of a domestic helper for a while, so we had some idea what they were doing during the day. Despite our protest, but as expected, the parents were frantically tidying up the place so it’s more presentable to Richard. I really didn’t think he would have minded at all. They entertained him by showing them my mildly embarrassing childhood photos. We ordered pizza delivery that night and planned for the next big day out.

27 July 2014 (Sun) Day 4: Tung Ping Chau

Dad wanted to all do something together, and suggested doing a day trip to Tung Ping Chau (東坪洲). Despite growing up in Hong Kong, none of us has ever been to that little island off in the northeast corner; I never even knew it existed. In our defence, that island is probably closer to Mainland China than the central parts of Hong Kong itself.

We woke up quite early for this and took the train to University Station (大學站) for our ferry, which apparently only comes once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We were told that once we got to the island, we’d be out there for a while.

The weather continued to be hot and sunny. We slathered sunscreen on ourselves while on the thankfully air-conditioned ferry and off to the island we go!

Photos really, really, really don’t translate the heat.

There were quite a few other tourists on the island, but most stopped at the Watchman’s Tower Rock (更樓石). We continued further up the tracks. I didn’t expect to be doing any extensive walking during my Hong Kong visit so I didn’t pack proper shoes. By the end, my feet were a bit swollen and blistered; but this walk would probably have felt even harder if I hadn’t done the other bushwalks in Sydney previously.

I’m glad Richard convinced me to bring my swimmers. The waters around Tung Ping Chau wasn’t icy cool or crystal clear, but that dip we took really helped wash off some of the heat and sweat. We caught the ferry back afterwards.

After a much needed shower back at the hotel, we headed to New Tak Kee Seafood Restaurant (新德記漁村海鮮酒家) in Sai Kung (西貢) for another full family seafood dinner (my family loves their Hong Kong style seafood). Dessert was a trip to the first and original branch of the famous Honeymoon Dessert (滿記甜品) nearby.

28 July 2014 (Mon) Day 5: Sightseeing and Night Fishing

It’s Monday and everyone else was back at work, so it was a full day of just the two of us. We decided to do more sightseeing around town. We took the Star Ferry (天星小輪), went up to the 43rd floor Bank of China Tower (中銀大廈), tried some street foods, walked around, took a taxi up to the Peak (山頂) because of the epic queue at the Peak Tram (山頂纜車) station, and took pictures.

Photos really, really, really, really don’t translate the heat.

We walked by a “siu mei” (Hong Kong style roast meats) restaurant, Sun Yuen Hing Kee (新園興記燒臘飯店), and thought we should tick this off our list, too. We filled ourselves up with delicious crispy skin roast pork, barbecue pork and roast duck (roast goose was out!). Only when we were about to leave did we realise the place has apparently been in the Michelin Guide’s “Bib Gourmand” (cheap quality eats) list for years.

Richard wanted to see if he could catch anything from Shing Mun River tonight and I decided to tag along. The spot he had his eyes on was free. He taught me how to cast.

It was quite late when we went there, but our night was cut even shorter due to, cough, unforeseen circumstances. Let’s just say I probably shouldn’t have had that free soup they gave us at the siu mei place.

29 July 2014 (Tue) Day 6: Cheung Chau

Another weekday. We went out to the pier originally undecided whether to go to Lamma Island (南丫島) or Cheung Chau (長洲), but given our schedule, Cheung Chau was probably the better idea. We got there in the afternoon, walked around for a bit and headed for a swim. Most people stayed within the fenced and lifeguarded water, but we swam outside, away from the crowd. Unlike Tung Ping Chau, the water there at Cheung Chau was murky and gross, but it sure beat staying in the heat.

Photos really, really, really, really, really don’t translate the heat.

As a semi-farewell dinner, the maternal grandparents, paternal aunt and my family took us to Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) for dinner. Dumplings is one of my favourite foods so I really ordered and ate up. We discovered from the printed paper placemat that they had branches in Sydney. Richard said he knew where we should go for our 6-month anniversary dinner.

30 July 2014 (Wed) Day 7: Last Day

It’s our last day. We had breakfast, Sausage McMuffin with Egg (豬柳蛋漢堡) served all day at promotional price HK$9 (~A$1.25), at the McDonald’s downstairs for the last time. We didn’t want to be stinky and sweaty for our longish flight back to Sydney and work immediately after, so after we checked out of the hotel, we just hang out in the lobby and used the free wifi until it was time to head to the airport. The whole family left work early to see us off.

We had a lot more planned for this trip. We wanted to visit Lamma Island. We wanted to visit various other touristy spots. We wanted to spend a bit more time fishing. We wanted to go to Macau for one day. I guess this will all have to be done in our next trip.

I never thought travelling back to Hong Kong could possibly be a pleasant experience. It feels really silly of me to spend so much time stressing over this trip now.

Day 7: Selfie at Hong Kong Airport Boarding Gate
Last low-quality selfie of the trip at the Hong Kong airport boarding gate for our flight

Thank you, family. Thank you, Richard.

Impromptu Winifred Falls Walk

It’s ANZAC Day and another long weekend! It’s been wet so we stayed in for the morning and did a “The Wire” marathon (Season 4 now), but as soon as the weather cleared up, we headed out for another walk. This time, Richard armed me with a walking stick and took me to the Winifred Falls track at the Royal National Park, but I was still in horrible shoes not made for walking on slippery terrains.

We didn’t actually get there until 3:30 pm, and given how much of a beginner I am, paired with sunset at 5:20 pm, we probably should have started just a little bit earlier. What worried me more was the fact that I didn’t even notice the track, or any track for that matter, when Richard told me we’d arrived. Things did get slightly easier for me once we got over the initial harder climbing part, where he had to pretty much tell me where to place my foot in each step.

We eventually made it to Winifred Falls. The waterfall wasn’t at its best and looked even crappier in my pictures, but it was a pretty sight nonetheless.

I stayed up on the rocks while Richard went down to get a better angle for his pictures. We sat and rested for a bit, chatted and had a snack. When the weather warms up, we plan to revisit and have a dip in the water.

And then it was the way back, doing everything in reverse, half of it in the dark and only one torch between the two of us. He let me wear the torch and walked ahead in the dark, warning me of puddles I wouldn’t otherwise see even with the light. Yep. We definitely should have started earlier.

It would have been quite a daunting experience and he thought it would scar me for life, but with the ridiculously patient and encouraging Richard there, I felt safe. I really enjoyed the experience.

Another fun walk. smile

Spit Bridge to Manly Walk

It’s the Easter long weekend. I joined Richard and his friends in the Spit Bridge to Manly walk — my first ever bushwalk! Or I guess more accurately, my first hike where I use the term “bushwalk”, because this is only my first in Australia despite having been here for almost 8 years. Actually, no, this is quite possibly the first proper hiking I’ve ever done in my life. Anyway.

Spit Bridge to Manly was meant to be a short and comfortable walk. Even though the weather wasn’t particularly hot today and I thought I was pretty fit, I still sweat buckets and ended up being the slowest in the group. I lagged far, far behind, and being the slowest, never got to rest. The scenery was nice when we stopped and I finally had time to look — most of the time I was just staring at my feet trying to find my path. I have much bushwalking training to do!

Spit Bridge to Manly
Spit Bridge to Manly: the only picture I took of the view, a lizard and our shadows

We watched the Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC game over pizza at the friend’s place at night. I was quite desperate for a shower, but who could say no to football plus pizza?

Now, rest!