Chinese New Year in Singapore

When I started vet school I made a lot of new friends. Out of all the international students in my class the majority are from Canada and then Singapore. So naturally a lot of my new friends are from Singapore. This year I managed to find cheap flights (while I was procrastinating studying during final exams) and decided to go visit some of my friends in their home country. It was a quick vacation but jam packed of activities and celebrating Chinese New Year!

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Some of the MANY Chinese New Year treats we tried 

Something I have wanted to do for years was visit the Singapore Aquarium. Its on a little island called Sentosa which is full of tourist attractions. Our first day in the country included touring the aquarium and navigating the crowds around the rest of Sentosa.

Our friends have been raving about the food in Singapore since I first met them so this trip was definitely intended to be a bit of a foodie adventure. That being said…. We ate way too much! But there was so little time! A few of my favourites included the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, fruit stalls in Geylang (jackfruit, mangosteen, jambun, and rata, and experiencing hawker food centers. Sanitation and food safety in Singapore is very important so the government inhibits street food vendors like you might see in other Asian countries. Instead, all the food vendors have been moved inside into ‘hawker centers’ where there is tables and chairs, sinks, inspections, and regular cleaning of facilities.

…I told you there was a lot of food….

We toured through both Chinatown and Little India. I really loved the murals and statues in Little India. We also walked along/through several shopping streets and districts. There is multiple shops of very high end brands everywhere! Tourism/shopping is one of Singapore’s main industries! I did not buy anything….

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Year of the rooster! Happy New Year! 

One day involved a big walk from Marina Barrage (with views across the water to Indonesia) all the way to Gardens by the Bay. At GBTB we visited the Flower Dome to see the displays. It was extremely busy inside, but very beautiful. Once the sun went down we stayed for a very impressive light show in the Supertree Grove. The tree structures are completely self sufficient as they have solar panels on them that collect sunlight energy during the day to power the night-time lights!

Another cool thing we did was a quick stop in at the Central Perk café (from Friends). It was very expensive so we didn’t order much but we hung out on the couch and watched a few episodes and took a lot of cool pictures.

I wanted to go to the zoo but we just didn’t have time. We walked all along the Singapore river and saw spectacular views of the Singa skyline and impressive buildings.

One of my favorite things we did was actually just before we left was called lou hei. It is a tradition you usually do on the first day of Chinese New Year. Everyone tosses the food into the air with chopsticks and shouts sayings of good luck for the new year. Whoever tosses the food the highest will be the best off.

Anyways, thats a few of the highlights (it barely covers everything we saw/did/ate in our week)! Thank you so much to my friends who took me into their houses, introduced me to their families, and included me in their busy CNY celebrations. I appreciate it so much and loved the experience. Thank you 🙂

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Road Trip: Melbourne to Brissy to Melb

After my parents spent a week with me in Melbourne we left on a road trip up the coast. We drove in my roommate and I’s car. Since we bought the car a few months ago, it has changed our lives in Australia—made everything so much easier and nicer! I love it.

If I tried to write about all the places we went on our trip this blog post would turn into a 3-part novel series. So, I’ll summarize:

Places we stopped:

Wilsons Promontory, VIC

We did a hike and explored Squeaky Beach—its called Squeaky Beach because the sand squeaks when you step on it. Also, its absolutely beautiful and I love it there.

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The parents taking pictures of the waves going in and out

Seaspray/Ninety Mile Beach, VIC

Perfect unspoiled brilliant white beach for as far as your eyes can possibly see in both directions. We were so disappointed when we were here because it was too cold and raining to swim and we so badly wanted to spend a lot of time enjoying the area.

Lakes Entrance, VIC

Gorgeous location, full of boats and great sunsets! We went fishing one day and pulled in a few puffer fish. Also, ate a lot of great seafood.

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There is something incredibly interesting going on here

Raymond Island, VIC

Drove here and took a 5 minute ferry ride to the small island known for koala sightings. And we saw koalas, tons of them (and kangaroos)! No matter how many times I see these guys curled up in trees—they will always be adorable.

Buchan Caves, VIC

Took a guided tour through one of the caves and saw very sparkly rocks and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Different than other caving experiences I’ve had.

Eden, NSW

This is where my family spent new years eve. Its a small town with a huge whaling history. One day we did the ‘Killer Whale Trail’ and drove around to different locations to learn about the colorful whaling history in the area. I was way more into it than I expected and really enjoyed this stop!

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Quite the party animals these two are!

Tilba Tilba & Central Tilba, NSW

Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere. Accidentally spent too much time here cause there is great cheese and tons of fun little shops to explore.

Huskisson/Jervis Bay, NSW

A bit of a party location. The beaches are unbelievable. Still a bit rainy for enjoyable swimming but we got some snorkeling in and explored Booderee National Park (Cape St George Lighthouse/Moe’s Rock/Stoney Creek/Murray Beach/Botanical Gardens). Hyams Beach is in the Guinness World Record book for being the beach with the whitest sand. It is brilliant and so soft! But looks just as white as a lot of the other beaches we’ve stopped at?

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I don’t know if you could ask for a picnic lunch with a better view

Sydney, NSW

I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times now, but I do like going with different people and showing them some of my favorite views or exploring new areas together. I actually traveled to Sydney with my family when I was still in elementary school so it was fun to be back in the same place with them again. This time we spent an entire day at Cockatoo Island in the sun learning about convicts and industrial ship building in Australia.

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In the middle of our audio tour on Cockatoo Island

Another one of my favorites in Sydney is the fish markets. I made sure my parents stopped here before we drove on to the next place. We obviously ordered up a seafood lunch and ate it outside under the watchful eye of the seagulls. Read about my last trip to Sydney here.

Port Macquarie, NSW

We went to the Roto  house, Tacking Lighthouse and Lighthouse beach, but my favorite stop was the Koala Hospital. It is free to tour around and look at the koalas. A few of the patients are now permanent residents because they have been too sick or injured either due to bush fires, cars, or chlamydia infections (yes, surprise! All the koalas have chlamydia in Aus; look it up!)

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Just before we headed down to look at all the blue bottle jellies on the beach

Coffs Harbor, NSW

I wanted to stop and take a picture of the giant banana statue. (ask my mom why I never got the picture 😛 )

Byron Bay, NSW

I love Byron Bay, this is the Australia that everyone imagines when they think of ‘down under’. Its hot, its right on the ocean, everyone is tanned and beautiful, people wear swimsuits everywhere, no one wears shoes. Surfer dudes galore! Party town. I wished I could spend a whole summer here. We visited Main Beach, the lighthouse at night time, and The Farm.

Brisbane, QLD

We didn’t nearly have enough time in Brissy to explore it properly. But we did go to the Australia Zoo (and Wildlife Hospital)—possibly the best zoo I’ve ever been to! I loved all the exhibits and the fact that Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin are still heavily involved in promotion of wildlife and carrying on Steve Irwin’s work.

We stopped at the Glasshouse Mountains during sunset to eat fresh pineapple and watch the sun go down—absolutely breathtaking.

Lastly, we did a ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour in the CBD. My fav stop was Streets Beach—a man made beach right in the middle of the city because Brisbane is located slightly inland from the ocean and doesn’t have their own beach.

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Brisbane skyline overlooking the river

My parents left from Brisbane to fly back to Canada. We had a great trip together that I will remember forever. It was nice to be able to spend a lot of family time in my new home. Looking forward to the next trip when my brother might join us!

Then the drive home….

Tommie flew up to Brisbane that same morning to meet me and drive home to Melbourne with me!

Places we stopped:

Byron Bay, NSW

Since I loved Byron so much we decided to stop here again; we may have also bought a surfboard and spent an afternoon playing around in the waves at Main beach. We went to visit Stone & Wood Brewery for a tasting of one of Tom’s favorite beers.

Ballina, NSW

Picture of giant prawn statue obtained!

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What a beautiful thing

Coffs Harbor, NSW

Picture of giant banana statue (finally) obtained!

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#touristgame strong

Port Macquarie/City Beach, NSW

Tom and I had fantastic weather for our entire trip back down the coast, this meant that we could stop and swim whenever we wanted. And we loved it!

Taree, NSW

Picture of giant oyster statue obtained!

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This oyster ‘statue’ was oddly very hard to find

 

Sydney, NSW

If you’ve never been to Sydney and you’re driving past Sydney—you really need to stop! The harbor and Circular Quay is exactly like the movies and its very impressive. We did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to see 2 of the most popular beaches (and all the ones in between) before going for a quick swim and then continuing on!

Canberra, ACT

I hadn’t been to Canberra yet so I really wanted to stop here. Most people say there is nothing to see in Canberra—but I think I would come back to the capital city. It is a lot smaller and not as visually impressive as Sydney or Melbourne but there is a ton of history and museums to explore. And the area around is beautiful as well. Since we didn’t have a ton of time here, we randomly picked the Australian War Memorial Museum to take a tour at—huge!! Then we drove up to Black Mountain and went onto the viewing deck of Telstra Tower. I think this was a great option for us as it allowed us to see a lot of the important buildings and locations all around Canberra even though we didn’t have time to visit them.

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Poppies on the wall at the Australian War Memorial Museum

Melbourne, VIC

I actually loved driving inland on the way back to Melbourne. Likely because I had seen coastline for the last few weeks (And the coast is brilliant, don’t get me wrong) but the rolling hills and fields reminded me home. I like seeing the sun shining on straight roads and the open sky.

While we didn’t have many days to drive all the way home, we managed to see a lot of spots and experience a lot of cool things! We saw dolphins swimming in the ocean, goannas in our campground, learned to surf, and had a ton of fun!!

Pending: one more travel blog post before I get back to what this website is really about—vet student adventures!

My parents’ trip to Melbourne

After 2 years living down under my parents decided it was time they plan a trip down to Melbourne to visit me. Since I had previously decided I couldn’t afford a trip home for Christmas this year they decided to stay with me in my apartment over the Christmas holidays (summer break in Australia!).

After their flight out of Vancouver was cancelled and delayed several times due to snow (whats wrong yvr, can’t handle a little powder?) they landed in Melb on a sunny December 20th afternoon. Our first stop was a tour of my apartment and then I took them to Laksa King. Laksa King is my roommate and I’s favorite restaurant in Melb. It just happened to be one of the first places we stumbled upon and then was close to both places we’ve lived. Its been our tradition to stop in for laksa after we get in from the airport.

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Laksa’s new biggest fans!

On the next day, I took my parents to see a large variety of places in the city. First stop was the University of Melbourne (vet building and main campus), my job, and then into the CBD. We had lunch at Hash cafe, one of my favourite hippy cafes for amazing coffee and cool vibes. Next we wandered through Flinders, Federation Square, along the Yarra River, Collins Street, Bourke and Little Bourke Street, Swanston Street and Christmas Square, Melbourne Central, the State Library, the Shrine of Remembrance, etc. To end the night off we went to the Summer Night Market at Queen Victoria Market for some dinner and then over to Lygon street for dessert! I can’t believe I managed to show my parents so many things in one day! But when you have a limited amount of time- you do what you gotta do!

The next morning, my friend from Canada who has been living and working in Wagga Wagga for the past few months came down to Melbourne to spend Christmas with our family. All 4 of us set out on the Great Ocean Road. This was my 3rd time doing the road trip and I still love it! The sights are so beautiful!

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Enjoying the sunshine at Loch Ard Gorge

December 23rd we hopped in the car again and drove out to the Yarra Valley for some exploring. Our first stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery— all I can say is it lived up to its name! We all left there completely stuffed… and we may or may not have eaten a massive helping of dessert for lunch. We stopped in at a few wineries for tastings. We found it a bit odd that most wineries in the regions didn’t allow self tours or for guests to walk the vineyards; that is very common at wineries in Canada. We also stopped in at the Yarra Valley Dairy and wandered through the cute shops in Healesville before heading back to the city for an awesome dinner at one of my best friend’s house with his family. Thank you so much!!! My parents loved meeting his family and trying out new food. On the way home we stopped at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe— supposed to be one of the best places in Melbourne to see Christmas lights. While the streets were full of hoards of people, we couldn’t help but be underwhelmed… Christmas just isn’t the same without snow.

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Wine tasting at Yarrawood Estates

By Christmas Eve we needed a more chill morning, so after hanging out at home we drove in the the city to do some grocery shopping at Queen Victoria Market. Over the past 2 years, this is probably one of my most favorite places in Melb. It is almost always busy and bustling with activity. I love listening to the people yell their prices out and trying to find the cheapest fruits and veggies. In the evening we went to the Christmas Eve service at my church — Hilsong Melbourne. It was a great service and my parents and friend loved it! We had wanted to see the Christmas light show in the city, but since it was summer the sun hadn’t gone down yet. We stopped at Degraves St. for dinner and coffee until the sun dimmed. Then we wandered Fed Square and down the Yarra River to Southbank to see all the decorations, lights, musicians, and street performers.

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Christmas decorations by the Yarra River

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More Christmas decorations along the Yarra River

On Christmas morning we watched my favourite Christmas movie–Christmas with the Kranks while we prepared food for an Aussie Chrissie. We went to the park across from my apartment and had a BBQ in the blistering sun…. 36 degrees Celsius! Lunch was prawns, swordfish, steak, corn, pasta salad, fruit mince pies, and ice tea. We ended the day at Sandringham Beach in the sun!

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Family photo! Like my tree?

Boxing day was my parents’ last day in Melbourne and we had tickets to a test match (cricket!). Since none of us knew anything about cricket we watched an extremely informative YouTube video to prepare…. thank you internet! The game was at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) and we had a lot of fun watching the game and trying to figure out what was going on…. I think I might stick with hockey and football though. Since test matches can apparently go on for days and days (!!!!) we left early and headed out on our road trip….. (blog post to follow).

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Watching cricket at the ‘G!

The week was jam-packed and I didn’t even get to show my parents everything I had wanted too…I think we bit off a good chunk of it though. It was a lot of fun to introduce my parents to my second home and I can’t wait for my next visitor!

 

 

 

Weekend in Sydney!

When in Australia… must travel! My last adventure was a few months ago when I road tripped the Great Ocean Road. So I bought a plane ticket to Sydney! Last weekend, me and 2 other friends headed out for a fun weekend after a few weeks of studying/cramming. I had so much fun exploring in Sydney–its a beautiful city (don’t hate on me Melb people, I still LOVE Melbourne). After finding our hostel in Kings Cross we ventured out to find some place to eat. We ended up on this cute little lane way with lots of different shops and restaurants and made sure to peek in all the windows before settling in for some Malaysian food.

Saturday morning we rolled out of bed nice and early and caught a shuttle out to the blue mountains. Our guide was great and kept up a fantastic commentary about Sydney, surrounding area, history and the mountains. The blue mountains only have two ‘big’ towns: Katoomba and Leura; we stopped in Leura for lunch. The town is very cute and full of shops and little sightseeing bits. Next stop on the tour was Scenic World, we decided not to spend the extra money to go on the cable cars and decided to do some bush walking instead.

The cable car goes across the gap and gives riders amazing views of the Three Sisters rock formation in the background

The cable car goes across the gap and gives riders amazing views of the Three Sisters rock formation in the background

Katoomba Falls

Katoomba Falls

This was my absolute favorite part of the day! We hiked up and saw the Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters from an amazing lookout before going further down the trail for another view. Walking out of the trees and onto the edge of the falls was amazing. There were cockatoos flying over us and an amazing view out into the valley.

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Next stop was an aboriginal carving of a dead male kangaroo. Our guide explained that aboriginals had probably carved the image into the sandstone as a teaching tool for younger hunters in the tribe. The image shows a kangaroo lying down with a spear through the center of it; the kangaroo is also missing his feet. Usually carvings are found in groups, so there is likely more carvings hidden in the trees that haven’t been discovered yet!

Carving of a dead male kangaroo, head is on right side and tail on left

Carving of a dead male kangaroo, head is on right side and tail on left

A quick drive through Olympic park brought us to the dock where we hopped on the FantaSea ferry to take us across the harbor. This was a fantastic end to the tour as we got to see the sun set over the water and then the lights of the harbor turn on.  On a friend’s suggestion we headed out to Surrey Hills to look for some food!

The next morning, food was on the mind again… On our way to grab Pancakes on The Rocks we ran into a photographer who traveled to the mountains with us the day before. The 4 of grabbed some delicious chocolate fuel for the day ahead….

Tastes like heaven

Tastes like heaven

The Rocks Market captured our attention for a few hours. We wandered through all the stalls sampling foods, smelling essential oils/lotions/scrubs, looking at souvenirs, etc.  I ended up talking to a man who had a boomerang stall for quite a while. He explained that not all boomerangs are returning ones-it depends on the way they are made. He told us about the different types of boomerangs and how to throw and catch them properly. A few stalls over a lady detailed the benefits of emu oil to us. UGG stores are everywhere in Australia (obviously), I like looking at all the different styles…. they are oddly becoming more attractive to me.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market

Boomerang stall

Boomerang stall

I will take one of each please.

I will take one of each please.

The Rocks Market

The Rocks Market

I wanted to see the Sydney Fish Markets, so that was our next adventure! It was quite busy and full of different produce and fried fish platters. We ordered one platter for 2 people–and couldn’t finish it between the 3 of us!  We had a ton of fun throwing the leftovers to the seagulls and pelicans in the water.

Loading zone for fishermen to drop off their catch

Loading zone for fishermen to drop off their catch

Large variety of fish

Large variety of fish

I am a bird whisperer

I am a bird whisperer

The University of Sydney also has a veterinary school, we wandered on campus until we found the buildings and the vet hospital. A huge and beautiful uni campus!! After a long day of walking a chill evening catching a movie in Broadway Shopping Center was required!

On our last day we conducted our own walking tour down the Butler Stairs, past the marina, and over to a great view of the bridge and opera house. While taking photos we asked a tourist to take our picture, through broken English she insisted we use her selfie stick.

Amazing view and beautiful day!

Amazing view and beautiful day!

Our selfie stick picture

Our selfie stick picture

We kept walking and stumbled on the Royal Botanical Gardens and decided to have a picnic lunch. The weather was so nice and sunny that we abandoned our other plans and caught the bus to Bondi Beach. The water is so blue! And full of surfers waiting for the next wave.

Royal Botanical Gardens

Royal Botanical Gardens

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

This trip to Sydney was a bit of a wake up call– I am really lucky to have to opportunity to live in Australia, if only for a short time. I want to take advantage of it and get to know Melbourne really well and travel the rest of the country. My biggest fear is becoming complacent and not exploring and learning about this country while I am here. I already have a list started of everything I need to see in Sydney next time I’m in town:

-Museums

-Library

-Galleries

-Manly Beach

-Different suburbs

-Walking Tours

Anyone have any suggestions of places to go or things to see and do next time I’m in Sydney?

P.S: The photographer we met on our blue mountains tour and went to breakfast with takes amazing photos!! She has an album of pictures from that weekend in Sydney that are definitely worth checking out!! Here is a link to her Facebook album.