Sunday, April 29, 2007

Movies & Mojitos

It's been a generally slow 2 weeks since I got back, although I have been catching up on movie-watching from the comfort of my own home! Haven't been to the theaters since, but only maybe because I'm becoming such a homebody I don't wanna go anywhere after work.

So, there was Letters From Iwo Jima, Children of Men, Attention Please SP and Crank. In an endearing effort to spend more time in front of my TV, I also managed to get a DVD boxset of Umizaru Evolution, sure to keep me entertained for hours at an end! I must say, though, Children of Men was an excellent movie. Very gritty, British-style apocalyptic storytelling that is reminicent of 28 Days Later. Not to mention shockingly violent and graphic too. It's out on DVD now, so definitely worth a rent.

I'm starting to get hooked on the PLAY! machines that are located near certain MRT stations that rent out DVDs. The collection which they carry is quite good, and there's a certain kick in seeing your rented DVD being spat out of a machine! There's one in Yishun, so I guess that's convenient enough for me.

So, let's see what we did at work for the past week. We practiced a little, sat through a VERY mundane DPG Pride Day seminar, I got hooked on Albert's Ace Combat X on PSP, had yet another meaningless eCAP (Enhanced Community Assembly Programme), sat through the artistes' 1st Quarter Vetting (go sexyback!) and ate lots of Melbourne Rock suga candies. Hey, looks like it was pretty packed after all! Not too bad, considering I was sleeping a lot.

Argh, Sleepy Sunday is on it's full-blown attack again; I'm feeling exceedingly lethargic and lazy. As of yet, I still have YET to watch Sunshine, and everybody's telling me Wild Hogs is really good. Guess I should watch that one too. On a side note, I've been craving for mojitos recently. Don't know why!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

melb. day10

Last day here! So, I almost did every single thing that I said I'd get done here, except for two more on the agenda: visit the Melbourne Zoo (to see my kookaburas, of course) and eat some Red Rooster! And do those things, we did! Trying hard not to procrastinate, we managed to get to the zoo just a little past noon. Thankfully, Melbourne Zoo is only a short 15-minute tram ride away from the CBD, so it was pretty convenient to get there.

Entrance facade of Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo looks pretty small on the map, but when you're actually there you'll find out that they've managed to cleverly segregate the zoo into different "trails" using a layout that maximizes the most of its land space. It uses a very open concept exhibit, not unlike the zoo we have back here. Animal exhibits merge seamlessly with the trails (even the sandy ground remains unchanged) and they are designed pretty cleverly such that the animals can almost always be spotted most of the time, no matter which part of the enclosure they may be hanging out.

Yeah, how these penguins thrive in a non-airconditioned
enclosure puzzles me too!

Pet the lion.

Outback section! Love the landscaping.

Roos chilling out.

Never knew wombats were that fat.

And on a very thrilling note, I finally managed to spot (quite by accident, actually) a kookabura. Funny how kooks are considered Australian mascots but they get such little publicity in zoos. Remember that cute kookabura mascot Olly they used back in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics? Heh heh.

Yeah, that's Olly on the left. Millie's an echidna, by the way. I didn't even spot an echidna in the entire zoo. Ok, I just couldn't help posting that picture. Here's a real blue-winged kookabura!

You elusive bird.

Grazing giraffes.

After all that zoo-ing around, we met headed down to Barkly Square at Brunswick to meet Wiggy for some dinner. (Yeah, I made E and Wiggy both skip their classes. I'm such a bad post-Easter influence.) Mmm hmm, and guess what we had?

Yeah, finally. My classic roast!

Following which, we dropped by Safeway to do some really, really last minute shopping. Well specifically for me it was just macadamias for Clar and pasta sauce for Fion, of which both I would ultimately leave behind in Melbourne and forget to bring it back to Singapore 'cos of my last minute rush to the airport. Blows.

Having a ball in suburbia!

Wiggy had his scholar's dinner back at IH, so we had to head back to the city before it got dark. Upon reaching the city, we dropped by Krispy Kremes at Melbourne Central one last time before heading back for the 2 dozen boxes that I would be hand-carrying back to Singapore. Talk about obsession!

Oh, and all these too.

The mad rush of packing followed (I left ALOT of stuff behind) with me trying to squeeze as much as I could into my packs. Multitudes of shopping, stuff for Eliza, my beloved Miss Saigon programme booklet (haha!) and throngs of candy just to list a few. Surprisingly we could still eat dinner (albeit later at 9-ish) after all that RR, so we headed down to the The Oriental Spoon for one more time! It was the Korean place where we had dinner the first day I got here.

Time was running short, so we wasted no time in gorging down the plates of bulgogi, japchae and banchan generously spread out on our table. Hmm, pity I don't have a photo of it at the moment! God knows how I struggled out of the restaurant with so full a stomach, but not forgetting to pick up a name card on the way out! Good stuff!

The rest of the night was a blur; I went back, grabbed my bags, cabbed to Spencer, hopped on the 11pm airport shuttle and checked-in with only half an hour to spare. Naturally I got really shitty seats. Not helpful.

Still, I had a fabulously great Easter!! Thanks for everything!

And I hate flying. Did I already say that?

Monday, April 23, 2007

melb. day09

Pretty quiet today; I trammed to uni to meet Wiggy for a quick fix of lunch, a couple smokes (he's getting addicted!) and basically just catching up (and bitching about you, Clarence, don't you worry)!

We got some pasta/lasagna at Union House, but not before Wiggy stopped by a dozen times to say hi to people he bumped in. Either everybody knows everybody at IH, or he's getting pretty damn popular! Before leaving though, I tried to squeeze in a photo without looking like two gay guys taking a photo in the middle of campus.

Yes, he's lost weight, hasn't he? Can't really say the same about myself though, with all the KKs I have been gorging down non-stop here. After lunch, I walked him to his class before heading back to the city.

The rest of the afternoon saw me tramping around the city for the umpteenth time; I just can't get enough of the likes of QV and Melbourne Central! Befittingly, my love affair with supermarkets found me wandering aimlessly into Big W and Safeway, no less! I went back to 'The Basement' at Myers again hoping for some last-minute purchases, but I got distracted by the Virgin Megastore located just right beside.

Which was good; I finally managed to pick up Brooke Fraser's new album Albertine at last! I promised myself not to leave Australia without it, god knows Singapore doesn't carry it in stores for sure. A very soulful, talented singer notwithstanding her excellent songwriting ability, she's my No. 1 female singer/songwriter. I've uploaded her single Deciphering Me up here too, so do give it a listen.

For dinner we went to this really hip place along Swanston called THE LOUNGE, this restaurant/pub that serves really good food in generous helpings accompanied by the best sweet chili sauce. They have this really intriguing promo which runs on Mondays called Pay The Time. How it works: you simply pay the time which you order for any food item. So if you place your order at 6:10pm, you pay $6.10 for your food item. Which is a pretty damn good deal, considering how some of the prices can go up to $12 to $15 for mains!

I had some of the heavenly Chicken Parmagiana, just for the record. : )

Also, on a sweet and exciting note, I finally got to check out thehalfpipe at Hyot's! And boy, the beanbags are as every bit comfy as they look in the pictures. They even have seat numbers stitched on them! The movie was Meet The Robinsons, which was actually much more entertaining than I thought! I guess cartoons still work their magic on me after all. During the bit where the dinosaur tried in vain to "seize the boy", I cackled so loud I was actually thankful I had a big beanbag to sink into so as not to be spotted!

Sadly, the rex isn't part of the family.

Just out of curiosity, I checked: the plush beanbags are from LoveSac. Definitely a piece of furniture to throw into the addition when I move out!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

melb. day08

Sunday morning beckoned to me early today. I still am waiting for the long-anticipated trip to the zoo so I can see my kookaburas! Sunday has always been very lazy for me, so this time round it was no different. Wasn't really very inclined to do anything specific except just walk around (闹市区 as they call it, right?? Heh heh!) and have a late lunch.

The city's streets this morning was pretty much alive with buskers on every other corner. Some touristy shots:

Japanese busker George Kamikawa (check out his website here) performing on Burke St Mall. George is quite the epitome of a traveling street musician, and has also managed to churn out his first solo CD. You can read another blog post about him here.

George is also quite the expert on the slide guitar technique on his lap steel guitar, which makes it for quite a fun show to watch. Coupled with sounds of the harmonica, it does provide for quite the quintessential blues experience! And just down the road right beside by beloved purse was a Latin guitar quartet.

The rest of the afternoon just consisted of strolling past city block after city block, soaking up a little bit of Sunday buzz. Oh, we checked out 'The Basement' of Myers on Lonsdale for the first time too; it's something like edge in Bugis Junction but five times more spacious and ten times more choices of clothes and streetwear!

Speaking about Bugis Junction, did you know that Seiyu is no longer occupying Bugis Junction anymore? It's been taken over by BHG (which stands for Beijing Huilian Group), as they have with the other two Seiyu departmental stores in Singapore. Ok, but I digress.

Imagine all the good stuff hanging on these Pilgrim hangers!

Oh, I also just found that conveyor-belt sushi is called the sushi train in Australia. Strange, hmm? And did you know that a conveyor belt speed of 8cm per second is considered most optimal for quick and safe delivery? And that the belt usually runs clockwise to make it easier to lift the plates off the belt with the left hand while the right hand holds the chopsticks? Don't we learn something new everyday?

All aboard the sushi train!

My neverending obsession with trams. (New ones only!)

I also finally had the chance to dip in the indoor swimming pool on the top floor and check out the sauna just before dinner. (Someone is a sauna noob, but I'm not saying who! Haha!) I stole someone's Sunday paper from the lobby, too. ; ) For dinner we had Chinese at this little place in this little mall on Chinatown. Terrible service, but great food. Hmm, quite a conundrum isn't it?

After that I accompanied Sonia to Loop (yay! again!) for a couple of drinks while she waited for Dean to finish up work. She even packed dinner for him. Aren't they the sweetest!

Dim lighting = Toilet photography

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

melb. day07

Eat, eat, eat. Don't we all do that when we're on holiday? It's just that insatiable appetite which you just can't seem to fight against. Your body calls you towards chic restaurants, endless buffet lines, exotic fast food...

Ok, fine. I was just trying to come up with an excuse so I could post this picture:

That's right, put that powerful little sign on your table and you have unlimited access to dim sum heaven! We had dim sum buffet lunch today at this place called Dragon Boat Palace, and trust me when we emerged from the restaurant we weren't sick because of the rough waters (ok, lame!!) but because of overeating!

Oh, I managed to capture a guidebook-looking shot today. Another one for the collection! Look at how the juxtaposition of modern and classic architecture signifies Melbourne as a one-stop cultural center of both old and new; a melting pot of diversity.. BLAH BLAH.. haha!

Oh, and finally, Miss Saigon! Finally, after missing so many of its tours I get to watch it here! Had a really great time painting the town and hitting the theater, soaking it all up. The A Res tickets were slightly pricey but completely worth it, and we had a really good view from the dress circle as well. The show was exceedingly fantastic, no doubt to associate director and friend Darren Yap (who's done it again!) and a stellar performance by RJ Rosales.

Sigh.. this really brings back all my MOL days. Those times spent in UCC's rehearsal studio workshopping and rehearsing till the very day before my enlistment. How fast one year flies! Those were really good times indeed.

Makes you think how delicious it would be to see Lea Salonga play Kim live, huh! Heh heh. In other news (and not strangely enough), on our way back we couldn't resist taking even more self-absorbed shots of the public purse on Bourke. Sitting there invitingly all by itself, it's just dying to get its photos taken!

Dee dee still unwilling to relinquish those $1,000 chips inside!

The three stooges calling it a night!

"You are sunlight and I moon

Shared by the Gods of fortune
Midnight and high noon
Sharing the sky
We have been blessed,
You and I"

- Sun and Moon, Miss Saigon

Monday, April 16, 2007

melb. day06

I finally managed to stroll through Queen Victoria Market after lunchtime! It was pretty fascinating; like your Chatuchak in Bangkok only with wider walkways, cooler climate, chilled-out atmosphere and basically a more civilized setting. Interestingly (thanks to Wikipedia again), it is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere.

Apart from your usual fresh produce and livestock (see below for chickens), they carry everything from pet food to rock candy to fashionable earrings. Don't forget American frying saucers!

Too much on my hands!

Strolling around Vic Market was more of a sightseeing experience than a shopping experience, so it was good to just chill out and take in the sights. Of course, we still couldn't resist the temptation of a small purchase here and there!

That's called buying your roast dinner way in advance!

Speaking of dinner, I was treated to a spectacular helping of fantastic Italian on Lygon Street, well-known for it's love affair with anything Italian. From gelato shops to Italian diners, this street is a bustling scene of alfresco dining nearly round the clock! We had our fill of pasta and wine at this place called Papa Gino's, where they prepare ravioli so good it'll change any skeptic's mind.

Australian-owned Gelatissimo!

After dinner, we trammed back to the city and hooked up with Anchol, Sonz and Dean and this club/pub along Queens called the Chaise Lounge. I was told they hold poker games at a corner, but there were none that night so I guess it wasn't the right night. Nevertheless, drinks were cheap and music was good so it made out to be quite an enjoyable night out!

Sonz & me feeling chaise on the reclining couches.

But, undoubtedly, the highlight of the evening was that I -finally- managed to get a picture with the huge Public Purse that lies there oh-so-invitingly on Bourke Street. Previous attempts resulted in me slinking away from any sort of photo op due to too many people lulling around that street in the day. Ta daa!

Money under your lovely bum!

Dee dee is still trying to figure out how to get that purse open and claim all her $1,000 Crown chips inside. If you find out how, let me know!! Melbourne CBD is really a great place to explore on foot at night; the night scene here is absolutely vibrant and lively. And all this is just a stone's throw away if you live in ABSOLUTE CBD!! ;)

Scooter-riding by night.

Friday, April 13, 2007

melb. day05

To start off, here's your 101 Idiot's Guide to Visiting A Strawberry Farm. Watch closely:

Step 1
Find your way to the strawberry farm itself.

Step 2
Pay them money to do their strawberry picking labour yourself.

Step 3
Pose with your bounty.

Step 4
Compare with others on how you fared.

Step 5
Eat their yummy farm-made strawberry ice cream.
(Ok, I know I can hear some of you groan, "Not another ice cream picture!)

This was just some of the stuff we did the entire day we were at Mornington Peninsula, a boot-shaped peninsula which is a little over an hour's drive from the city. This place here is dotted with countless of beautiful beaches, cliff-top lookouts, quaint towns, rustic wineries and grand historic gardens. Not forgetting the stunning coastal tracks, rolling hills and green pastures which all are accessible at your own leisurely pace. And, uh, you also get to see dogs hiding under cars.

As mentioned, dog hiding under car.

We started the day off early with a morning drive past Cheltenham and Frankston towards Mt. Eliza, the starting point of the peninsula. We made numerous stops to hit the gorgeous beaches and see the beach houses, although it was still rather cold and cloudy in the morning. Some photos:

Beach houses lined along the many beaches on Mornington.

Endless stretches of sun, sand and sea.

Driving along the coastline, we also managed to unknowingly stumble upon this cliff lookout point with absolutely stunning views. Alas, I just can't seem to remember what the place was called. Damn frustrating! Here's a few views from the top of the world.

Horizon merges with the end of the ocean.

Everyone started taking jumping photos for some reason. This is mine.

Following that, we hard lunch which consisted of some good 'ol Aussie fish & chips on the seaside. Very therapeutic. Oh, guess what Robbie Williams has been up to these days. We found his name card on the counter in the fish & chip shop.

Yeah, pretty lame huh. Haha! Just couldn't resist, though. After lunch we drove to this place called the Ashcombe Maze & Water Gardens. Here, you can blaze through the oldest hedge maze in the southern hemisphere, which is, actually quite challenging and provides for some good crazy fun! After getting ourselves lost, we ambled through the lush gardens and perfectly manicured lawns. A rose maze, hidden garden gnomes, picturesque lake... You name it, they've got it!

Perfect setting for your afternoon tea picnic!

Fields of lavender.

We also managed to pass by a couple vineyards; and we stopped by one. We didn't manage to visit it thoroughly though, due to insufficient time. There goes our grand plan to get sloshed on wine by lunchtime!

Also, as mentioned earlier, we dropped by Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm for abit of strawberry picking and tea scones (with strawberry jam, of course!) By then it was already approaching late afternoon, so we decided to hit the southern coast to catch the sunset. It was about a half-hour's drive away, but it was completely worth it! Here's why.

That's Cape Schanck by sunset, set against the Cape Schanck lighthouse. (Notice how this picture is in the exact same frame as in the picture in the Wikipedia article. Cool!) This lighthouse was built in 1859 and is the second lighthouse built in entire Victoria. For more pictures of the sunset click here and here.

There's also a board walk which extends all the way down to the very tip of the cape. Thankfully the sky wasn't too dark yet so we managed to head on to it. Photos below.

Boardwalk leading down to the southernmost tip, Pulpit Rock

Freezing my butt off on a fence. No jumper, can you believe it?

Finally reaching the bottom!

Following that, we trekked back to the car in semi-darkness for the 2 hour-plus drive home. For dinner we stopped by this Chinese-Viet restaurant in Richmond. As expected, we were pretty tired-out by then, but we still managed to head down to Loop to meet Sonz, Dean & Anchol, where I picked up some last-minute yoga poses (albeit really terribly) under the tutelage of Anchol. That's right, we did yoga in a bar.

Tripped out!