Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our First Long Family Trip to Down Under

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.....

WE ARE BACK FROM WINTERY MELBOURNE! Hahahahah. I wanted to log on to update my blog since Monday but a couple of factors prevented that:

a) Too tired. The trip was as exhausting as it was fun and enjoyable so Alan and I caught up on our much-needed rest when we arrived home on 7th June at around noon.

b) Our internet is down. Due to a massive thunderstorm on 1 June, our phone line has been fried and we therefore cannot log on. Must thank my neighbour today, for 'lending' us use of his wireless internet. muahahaha. Hope the signal stays strong....

c) We headed for a massage on the evening of 7th June to relieve our sore muscles - it's not easy lunging a baby around, u know? and yesterday, Alan was still on leave and so we popped by Bill's for a hair cut as well. :D

Let me now relive the magic of our wonderful trip :)

27 May 2010 (Thursday)

Happy 3rd Year Wedding Anniversary to Alan and me! :D Uncle Raymond came over a tad late, for once, and he drove us in the Volvo to KLIA to catch our 650pm flight to Singapore. We transitted in Singapore for only an hour + and scampered to buy Alan's facial cleanser and then board our connecting flight at 9pm to Melbourne.

We sat next to a Taiwanese born JJ Lin look-alike who had been bred in Melbourne and spoke English with an Aussie drawl. He was very nice and accomodating and very interesting to talk to. Alan and him chatted most of the way whilst I struggled with Ethan, who fussed a bit and who pooped twice. Ethan, of course, refused to sleep in the bassinet and I carried him throughout the 7 hr flight. hahhaa. What a way to start the holiday!

28 May 2010 (Friday)

When we arrived at the MEL, it was only 620am. We lost 1 neck cushion of Ethan's which was attached to the stroller (which was placed in the cargo) *sigh* Strolling to get our car and in no particular hurry, we headed to Thrifty, just outside the airport. They allocated us a rather new SUV but apparently a maintenance message was flashed on the dashboard. Being Australian (read: very nuar), the guy insisted that it was OK for travel and did not offer to change the car for us. We, however, did not want to take any chances - esp since we were travelling with a 7 month old baby. So Alan insisted on a change. We were finally given another car. ;)

The GPS took us literally in circles for the start of the journey to Phillip Island. By the time we got to our hotel, we were certainly exhausted. We grabbed a wrap and a roll respectively and then popped into COLES to pick up some necessities. The avocados were HUGE and CHEAP and so I bought one for Ethan to try. I also needed purees for our baby. There were SO MANY different flavours that we were spoilt for choice. Finally, I settled on pear, pear and banana, apple, chicken noodles etc, mashed sweet veges, mashed golden veges etc...

then checked into Phillip Island All Seasons Eco Retreat. The studio was nice and lovely and all three of us proceeded to shower and catch up with lost sleep till around 430pm.
Then, we got ready for the exciting event - watching the Penguin Parade! We zoomed to the nearby Penguin Parade and collected our audio sets. We had paid around A$40/ pax to view the little furry sea creatures at close range and so we got to sit at the grandstands just next to the beach. The penguins would walk right past us on the boardwalk and head to their burrows. hahhaa.

Soon, dusk fell and the penguins appeared in herds (?) all of a sudden. It was like they were waiting 'backstage' for the lights to go off. They waddled in , wary of the peering faces but soon lost their fears. Off and on, one or two penguins would relax under the platforms where we were standing to wait for their lagging peers. haahha. Very interesting. Ethan was most amazed by the sight as well. Alan carried him very close up to view the penguins and he stared intently at them and then at Alan, as if questioning him about the birds' identities. hahahaa.
After hundreds of penguins had come in, we made our way into the warm building and browsed the Penguin Parade shop, buying a small keepsake magnet. Deciding that it was already too late (around 6+pm) to venture out to look for food, we settled dinner at the cafeteria and enjoyed our two free hot chocolate drinks and a lagsana and a delicious pumpkin salad. YUM YUM!

After we fed Ethan and all of us had our warm baths, we collasped back into the comfy bed and ZzzzzzzzzzZzzz.

29 May 2010 (Saturday)

Since we were allowed a later check-out, we checked out at noon and then drove back to the city. I suggested hitting QVM (that was around 1+pm) as I did not want to incurr extra parking charges in the hotel. We shopped a little (but it was nearing closing time) and bought Ethan a THREE DOLLAR 2-piece swim suit and some clothes. We were also thrilled to see that the fruits and veges were going for a song as all the stalls were about to close. We picked up some bananas and some grapes.

Rachel (Yeo), my ex-student, met us for a late lunch at ard 2+pm and we headed to Nando's. I didnt have a v good impression of Nando's as the ones in KL are not fabulous but the Australian ones did not disappoint. hahaha I guess there's a good reason why Singaporeans love their chicken from that restaurant.

After catching up, we checked into Causeway 353 Hotel at Lil Collins St. The hotel was very nice buttttttttttttt we had to park quite far away as there was no private parking facilities. OMG. It wasn't easy with Ethan and the two huge luggages and the stroller and etc etc... but somehow Alan managed it (admist cursing and swearing and sweating).

Dinner was downstairs at the restaurant and bar after we had fed Ethan in the room. Big mistake. We knew afterwards that it was much better to feed him whilst we were eating to keep him occupied. ahahaha. Alan had a delicious Scotch Fillet (beef) and I had a Duck Confit Salad ( during the earlier days of the trip, I was still concerned about my waistline.... :P)

30 May 2010 (Sunday)

We were supposed to meet my ex-colleage from CGS today but she cancelled last minute due to a leaking pipe in her new house. So three of us headed to the Arts Market at Southbank. The market was very small but we managed to buy Ethan 2 pairs of shoes for A$35 (discount $5) and 4 bars of soap and a beautiful wooden photo frame for A$15.

I carried Ethan on the harness as he did not enjoy sitting in his stroller ;P It was a good workout. We crossed the the bridge and walked to Flinder Stn etc then decided to walk back to the car. After parking the car again at the original car park it had been parked within walking distance to the hotel, we headed to Crumpler for Alan to splurge again. He bought a nice brown and orange camera bag which immediately housed our video camera and his GF1.

Then, we walked in search of Swanston Street to a fantastic and well-known Vietnamese 'restaurant', MeKong for our Phoa fix. We each had a big bowl of beef tendon and slices phoa and shared two huge rice paper rolls. Alan's iced coffee was delicious and my almond drink did not disappoint. After the meal, we were stuffed. Thankfully, Ethan slept throughout our indulgence, in his stroller. YaY.

We walked back to Causeway 353 after that and fed Ethan puree. Because our lunch was so heavy and late, we ate fruits for dinner hours later...

31st May 2010 (Monday)

Alan was majorly pissed off this morning. We checked out of the hotel at around 10am as we wanted to go GOR earlier. Ethan and I waited for him at the lobby whilst he went to drive the car to the hotel for us to load the luggages. He returned once, sheepish that he had forgotten to validate the car park ticket and proceeded off again.

Then, he returned again cursing and swearing because apparently the Indian lady at the concierge did not do a proper job in the validation and the ticket was still not validated! My poor husband spent the whole morning walking to and fro (from hotel to carpark and back). By the time we finally loaded the luggages onto the car and set off, it was already 1110am :P

We set off to the GOR but accidentall took the inland route which eventually got us to our destination abit faster :) Enroute to our self-contained cottage at Lavers Hill, we stopped by Apollo Bay to have lunch. There were a few cafes open but fate brought us to Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe. The decor wasn't much - but the fooooooooooood was gooooooood. Both of us had fish and chips and we added battered scallops to the sin as well. The batter was so light and the fish and scallops naturally sweet and fresh. I actually finished all my chips as well (I normally don't really eat fries) as they were made to perfection! 10/10!

We drove to the Fauna Wildlife Sanctuary and checked into our Wombat Cottage with Kirsten to welcome us. After poor Alan lugged the luggages from the car into the cottage using a not-so-well-oiled trolley, we took a short strol outside our cottage.
Just directly outside, we found two Southern Long nosed Wombats. They looked like pigs and not your typical wombat you find in the tourist shops as toy souvenirs.They gnawed at the carrots we offered them with surprisingly sharp and huge teeth. As we strolled around, we noticed some shy small kangaroo-like creatures (which Kirsten later told us were called Penny Melons or something like that). These were not as exciting and tame and bold as the creatures we had encountered at Yelverton in Perth a year ago and did not dare come up close (except for one who tapped on Alan's boot) to get our carrot-feeds.

We retired early that night in the small but cosy Wombat Cottage.

1st June 2010 (Tuesday)

We met Kirsten at around 10am (check out time) and she took us to meet the family of koalas residing in the sanctuary. I hadn't seen koalas for a long , long time and not this close anyway! We knocked ourselves out petting them as they fed on the eucalyptus plants (which hit poor Ethan in the head a couple of times). The little one did not complain as he was too busy surveying the koalas and petting them on the head. After petting one, he promptly put his finger in the mouth to my horror - thankfully nothing untoward happened after that.

We left the sanctuary and drove down to Port Campbell. Lunch was a delicious and decadent affair at Room Six, manned by a sweet couple. Alan had a yummy yum yum steak burger with salad and wedges and I had a big bowl of mushroom and leek and pepper soup with turkish bread on the side. Our compliments to the chef!

After an approximately half and hour drive, we arrived near our next stopover (Macka's Farm along GOR). We had to go into Timbon (a small town) to pick up some groceries (for our meals for the next few days and nights) and I needed puree for Ethan as well. We purchased $102 worth of groceries and then checked into Macka's Farm.

What a warm welcome we were given by their two farm dogs - Andy and Jack (two Jack Russells). Macka, himself, came to greet us at the door and show us to our lodge. We were allocated Lodge One and that, in our opinion was the best and it had the platform outside to bbq and to view the farm. It was also the one nearest to the barn but thankfully the smell did not permeate. ;P

We were taken for a quick tour of the barn and it was an amazing feeling - like stepping into the movie set of Babe. We saw chickens and roosters running around, small calves, as many as 7 cats (all soft and velverty), two HUGE pigs and many piglets and many, many cows.

Macka came to start up the fire for us in our lodge and then we went to see the cows come home (literally) to be milked. Macka's wife and farm help, Trudi, gave us a jug of freshly squeezed milk (still warm) as a welcome gift. hahaha. I didn't drink it as I am breastfeeding but it smelt of our milk powder.

Alan was so sweet and he cooked dinner for us (delicious beef steaks) on the verenda. I did my part by cooking the spicy tomato soup (read : open can and dump contents into a big bowl, add water and milk and microwave) and feeding our starving son. Ethan was introduced to a yummy Yoplait Vanilla yogurt this evening too. Everything was perfect - the sheets were Laura Ashley and very comfy but the nextdoor neighbours were very inconsiderate and made lotsa noise at 11+pm, when we were trying to get our rest. :P

2 June 2010 (Wednesday)

We slept in this morning and got up only at around 10am. After the usual routine, we left the lodge at around 1230pm and headed to the Gorge Chocolate Factory (a smallish place owned by a young couple). They were both very friendly.. hahaha The fella even greeted us with a huge smear of chocolate on his cheek, close to his lips.

Again to Timbon we headed , but this time to check out a widely recommended eatery - Timbon Railway Shed Distillery. We were still very full from brekkie so we ordered a piece of Lemon Meringue Cheesecake and two scoops of icecream (vanilla as usual and a delicious Turkish Delight which tasted like Bandung).

We arrived at the Arch and the London Bridge at approximately 4+pm and then left for the lodge to cook sphagetti for dinner.

3rd June 2010 (Thursday)

Again, we woke up around 10am and then left for brunch at the Distillery. I was very impressed when the nice and sweet lady owner actually greeted Ethan by his name. Alan had Fish & Chips which did not hold a candle to Room Six's and I had a Chicken Maryland which had a weird Indian spices taste.

After lunch, we headed to the Loch Arg Gorge. I harnessed Ethan again whilst Alan took his shots. Good workout to burn those calories. We arrived at the 12 Apostles a while later but it was too bright to take any nice shots- according to the professional of a photographer, Alan. Thus, we headed back to the farm after a while to cook our pre-marinated pork chops and sausages and soup for dinner.

4th June 2010 (Friday)

Alan woke up early (6+am) to shiver in the cold (possibly 0 deg C) at the 12 Apostles to take sunrise shots there. We left Macka's farm at around 11am n then Alan drove us to the 12 Apostles again to get some photographs.

We travelled inland towards Colac and there was a sudden dip in temp to 10DegC and a weird fog outside the car. *shiver* We drove and drove and finally got back to Melbourne city and embraced a lap of luxury at the Crown Plaza. (isn't that a great way to end the holiday?) We valet parked our car for $60 for three days and two nights - multiple entries and exits. YaY.

Our big room overlooked the Yarra River and beautiful architecture of the Southbank but we did not have time to enjoy it yet. We wanted to SHOP at the DFO (South Wharf) since it was Friday and Late Night Shopping was available. hee hee. Good planning , eh?

We arrived at the DFO easily (it was a stone's throw away) and tried to shop. Pumpkin Patch was a hit and we picked up quite a few items for Ethan of course. He's outgrowing all his clothing we had bought for him in Perth July '09. Alan savoured his FCUK deals and picked up Iron Man tees and a pair of berms and fell in love with a jacket which we would pick up from another outlet the day after. There was of course nothing for me, again. hahaha. It's oK. I'm happy when my boys are happy!!! :D

We savoured a delicious hot chocolate and latte and then decided to head again to MeKong for dinner. The chargrill pork and phoa (again) did not disappoint, obviously. Their slogan read: "President Bill Clinton had two bowls. How many can you have?"

After the filling meal, during which Ethan was an angel and entertained himself with the mirrors next to us, we headed back to the Crown PLaza to watch the fireball shows from our hotel window in Room 409. :D

5th June 2010 (Saturday)

The breakfast spread in the hotel was much better than the ones we had been offered in Causeway 353 and Alan and I had freshly squeezed juices, eggs, sausages etc etc. After sinning at the table, we headed to the Crown Casino (not to sin at another table but) to pick up Alan's FCUK jacket. I finally found myself a top for $80 and our total FCUK bill combined with the previous day's purchases chalked up to around $400 - enough to claim VAT 10%!

Another trip was made to Queen Victoria Market and it was surprisingly quiet and not crowded at all. Perhaps it was because of the gloomy weather and the slight drizzle. We bought many t-shirts for little Ethan and ourselves and soaps and creams and nuggets and nuts and raisins. Then, it was closing time again at 2pm at the fruits and vegetables section and we picked up another bunch of grapes for ourselves to feast on.

It was 3pm when we sat down to lunch at Nando's again. Sad to say, it started to POUR when we had just finished our lunch and Alan braved the rain to get to the car park whilst Ethan and I waited in the restaurant. We headed back to the hotel reluctantly as it was difficult to walk on the streets whilst it was storming and with Baby Ethan.

We realised only in the hotel that my friend Hidayati had messaged us a couple of hours again. Yati is my secondary three and four classmate and we had been rather close. However, due to the lack of mobile phones then, we had lost touch 17 years ago! Recently, we 'reunited' through Facebook and arranged to meet in Melbourne for a rendezvous and reunion. ahahhaha.

Happily, our two families (she was travelling with hubby and two young 'uns on 3 and 5 years of age) met at the bustling Crown Casino and we walked to Southgate which was much quieter and settled for a foodcourt dinner. I was still very full from the Nando's and had my Boost juice as dinner whilst my hungry husband wolfed down half a wrap and half a slice of glorious cheesecake.

6 June 2010 (Sunday)

All of us woke up at around 830am and had breakfast at the hotel's restaurant again. Alan was adamant about making strawberry juice and clogged up the juicer. hahhaa. It was delicious, by the way!

We parked at QV and walked around the streets aimlessly trying very hard to shop. There was nothing much to offer in the boutiques though. In the end, we walked into David Jones and picked up two jackets for Ethan (for his planned trip to Taiwan in Dec haha).

Lunch was delicious and at Yoyogi along Swanston, a stone's throw away from MeKong. I chose the easy to eat beef don and Alan had a bowl of ramen. Both portions were HUGE! We also shared a side dish of sotong.

It started to drizzle a tad and after Alan visited a few camera shops in the vicinity, we made a beeline for QV and popped into Big W (Elaine's recommedation) and was wowed by the baby clothes. Of course, I did not waste any time in selecting quite a few rompers and shirts and pants for Ah Boy! :)))))

We had extended our stay in the Crown Plaza for the day and so we headed back at around 430pm to shower and feed ET before checking out at 6pm. A mistake we made however was to purchase the latest timing plane tickets for the day (0005hrs on 7/7) to maximise our stay. We were bored to bits after checking out as all the shops had closed for the day.

We took a drive around St. Kilda's and saw the Luna Park in the dusk. Then, I suggested heading to Chinatown, for the lacking of something better to do. We parked and walked there and bought (wrongly) a small bag of green tea nuggets for Zesa. ;p Then, we decided to do dinner at Crown Bakery along Swanston.

Alan had a delicious Lamb Shank and I could only stomach a fruit tart as my lunch had not been entirely digested. Then, we topped up petrol at a station in town and commenced our journey to the airport.

Along the way, our trusty garmin GPS screwed up and constantly 'recalculated' the route. Alan was cursing and swearing whilst I silently prayed in the backseat. Thankfully, after a while, it finally decided to show us the way to MEL.

Upon reaching MEL, we dumped the car at Thrifty and shivered in the rain (it was FINALLY cold enough to make us shiver) before checking in our baggage. Alan was impressed by how neatly and thoroughly wrapped our car seat was for A$10 and I missed an 'interesting show' whilst in the loo - a lady ( woman more like it) had missed her flight and was kicking up a big fuss in the airport, alternating between fucking e'one and kneeling down at the reception to beg to be allowed on the plane. ahahha. Ethan also tried to entertain a surly Chinese lady next to him, bearing the hopes of being offered a slice of the apple she was munching (to no avail, of course).

We got on the plane and horrors of horrors the bassinet seats were DIRECTLY next to each other. Poor Alan slept in between Ethan and a very irritating 9 month-old Indian baby who spent the 7 hours (a) kicking Alan, (b) blowing saliva at Alan or (c) kicking AND blowing saliva at Alan. He also fussed throughout the whole journey incessantly and our poor Ethan, who was all knocked out from the 12 day trip and who was sleeping soundly in my arms for most part of the flight, woke up a couple of times because of the bugger to sigh and then close his eyes and go back to slumber. Poor thing!

This was (I think) my 4th trip to Melbourne and 3rd to the GOR but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and so did Alan. This trip did Ethan a whole lot of good and our lil' one has come out of his shell and is a much friendlier baby than previously :) Hurray!

Learning Points:

1) GPS can screw up, so do get road maps ready - just in case!

2) Australians are SO MUCH friendlier than Asians and Ethan enjoyed interaction with them probably because of their bright and sincere smiles and also their high-pitched singsong voices when talking to him.

3) There are so many more choices of baby purees and yoghurts etc in Australia than in Spore / KL.

4) Go to Queen Victoria market when it's closing time to pick up super good bargains of fresh produce. E.g. (and I still can't get over it) one BIG CARTON of avocados (the size of my palm each) for A$2 at 2pm. The hawkers will slash their prices and compete to finish selling their wares.

5) Fresh milk from the cow's udders smells strong and of our tinned full cream milk powder.

6) Fresh farm eggs have such BIG yolks and are of a bigger size than the normal ones you purchase in the cartons.

7) Cows do come home, after all!

8) Don't have to overbring diapers - I brought a total of 57 and used miraculously 56! *clap clap* Talk about the powers of estimation.

9) Invest in good seats for the penguin parade. The A$80 we paid in total was worth it when we saw Ethan staring face-to-face at the little feathered creatures who came home at dusk.

10) Family trips like this are exceptionally good for bonding - especially betw Father and Son! :) Alan is much more affectionate and patient towards ET now and the latter is also more accomodating towards him. hahahaha. YaY

Now, to look forward towards Taiwan December 2010! *Beams*