Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sunset Over St Kilda's

We were recommended to go to Stokehouse for dinner and drinks but the sunset we got was a bonus and it compensated for the one we missed at Port Campbell . It was an unscheduled stop but we just finished shopping at the DFO (right after landing from Alice Spring) and it was the best weather we have had in Melbourne since we arrived and we thought a stroll along the beach would be nice. Driving along St Kilda Road gave us a glimpse of some lovely Victorian houses with iron-wrought latticed balconies . Along with the view of ocean, I can imagine why a friend once told me that she used to love jogging along St.Kilda’s in the evenings.

We drove all the way down but couldn’t find Stokehouse the first time round and took a turn back and finally found the much raved Stokehouse. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant as I expected but a great place to have drinks , hang out and watch the sun set. It really did compensate the loss of the sunset at Port Campbell though the food was nothing to shout about. The scaffolding and railing that was partially blocked the view didn’t spoil the evening for us. And I even manage to take a great picture of Stokehouse with the rays of the sunset washing its buildings.

The evening had to end with us silly Malaysians shivering in the cold because we took seats outside and when the sun went down, no amount of coffee was going to keep us warm. Still St Kilda’s and Stokehouse with the sunset made a great combination.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Best Lamb Dinner in Marysville

We arrived in Marysville just before 5 pm and checked into this lovely, cottage - Lyell Cottage which we booked over the internet.
We had about ten minutes to spare before the supermarket closed so we immediately drove there and picked up some groceries. It was our second day in Australia and we were still wanting a lamb meal despite the lamb shanks we had in Holiday Inn which was disappointing . So I picked up some marinated lamb cutlets.

After that express check in and mad dash to the supermarket, we then had time to soak in the town. Marysville is a lovely , picturesque town just about an hour and half away from Melbourne ( that is if you don’t make vineyard stops along Yarra Valley). The road just before Marysville is fringed with tall “beech wood” ( I think) which is really quite breath takingly beautiful and I attempted to take some pictures from the opened sunroof top of the BMW we rented.

The lovely ,colourful flowers, the creek and the solitude provided a perfect place for honeymooners , not exactly a cup of tea for the three of us but it provided the relaxing atmosphere away from the normal KL hustle and bustle .

That night , we had more wine despite the wine tasting we had on our way to Marysville and it went really well with our lamb dinner. Simple to cook and affordable lamb cutlet , readily marinated and so delicious.

After that, in order to get the dinner digested, Annie suggested a walk to Stevenson Fall . The lights on the Fall would be switched off before ten so it was just night. It was a lovely cool spring night and Ray suggested more wine drinking there. So we did something we would never do in Malaysia - Walk into a deserted pitch dark jungle at night .
Annie who has deserted me many a times in these hikes was walking very slowly behind me . Later, she told me she was afraid of tigers ( tigers in Australia??? ) so I guess , in her mind I would provide more interesting meat to the tigers, hence me the shield. The walk in the cold was what we needed after that heavy meal and Stevenson Fall with the lights on at night was quite something. But I was scared too , not of tigers but more humanly creatures , slashers, Freddy, mad serial killers – an overdose of slashers movies I think. So , no wine drinking at Stevenson Fall – just a quick dash back out and into our safe, warm cottage..

Pork Bellies and a lost sunset at Port Campbell

I am a sucker for sunsets and a picture perfect sunset of the Twelve Apostle that I saw on the internet set me off on another sunset trail but this time it was to Port Campbell.
After more than 4 hours of driving from Marysville and a stopover at Geelong, we finally arrived at Port Campbell. The sky was overcast with dark, gloomy clouds that trailed us all the way from GeeLong. It was drizzling since GeeLong and I had hoped that it would change at Port Campbell. But it didn't and when we reached the Best Western Motel at Port Campbell, I sighed and commented to the receptionist that it didn’t look like I’m getting my sunset here. He laughed out loud and cheekily told me that it will be the same tomorrow.
Well, what about penguin watching ?? Sure he said, if you don’t mind being cold and wet. As Ray and Annie haven’t been to Port Campbell, they were at first game to penguin watching until we went to the Twelve Apostle. The wind was typical of the day – strong, unforgiving and of course, more drizzle and freesing cold for a late spring day.
The Twelve Apostle was of course no longer twelve but the sight of the mighty rocks and the high waves crashing against the rocks was still worth the drive. And once all the picture taking was over ,it dawned on us that we were spending a night at a quiet and almost dead town with no penguin watching or any nice night walk because of the strong wind and cold weather condition. But we were in Australia and so far the food and wine have not failed us.

We walked into the Waves (I think that’s the name) early as the last shop shooed us out before I could even pick up a single souvenir. The restaurant was highly recommended in some of the internet sites and I had in mind to tuck into a nicely grilled barramundi but Annie beat me to it so I picked something else instead (should have used my seniority card.....) . Whatever I had, it was forgettable . Annie’s barramundi turned out good as expected and I’m throwing her daggers in my head. Ray’s fish didnt turned out good as well. But the treat for the day really was the pork belly. Crisply grilled with a marination to die for , it made our day. I argued with Ray, that the cook probably used Chinese soy/black sauce as Australians had adopted quite a fair bit of Chinese style cooking and dared him to check if the chef was Chinese but he chickened out as usual. Chinese, Australian, Arab or whatever - it made us happy enough for that day despite the missed sunset and penguin watching

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mr. Loh - the Master Chef of Aman Suria

Mr Loh, loves to cook but last week, he outdid himself. The rainbow garoupa - steamed, slipper lobsters grilled in his special sauce and garnished with ginger, finger-licking prawns ,grilled pork-ribs, chicken curry with the blue elephant curry powder from Bangkok.

The jewel in the crown was a ten year old limited release Constantiarood S. African wine that was so smooth and a plate of Korean strawberries that was so sweet for dessert.

A toast to you, Mr.Loh...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Kids, High Blood Pressure and Sunset Over Kuta

It was the last night in Bali and we would dine in style at Ku Deta a fancy mancy restaurant on the beach over at Seminyak. After a lazy day swimming and a massage out in the garden , we thought we would spend the afternoon shopping at Kuta, watch the sunset at Kuta Beach and head off to the restaurant.

Mistake one - don't think you can restrain children from the beach despite the hot sun. Whilst the others were shopping, Annie and myself had to escort the kids to the beach under the blistering hot sun. After 45 min, enough we said, we are going in with a promise for more beach time to the kids. Meanwhile let Mommy shop ok????

Mistake two, don't let the kids play in the beach and still think you can go straight to dinner at a fancy restaurant like Kuteda. We did. Went to Kuta beach for the sunset and again got swarmed for massage, t-shirts, souvenirs etc. Not wanting to feel guilty like the last time, I took a massage and a bangle. The kids were playing at the beach after a hundred and one reminders of dont get yourself wet because we are going for dinner after that yeah....Of course , when you have beach mad kids that doesnt seem to compute, whatever you says blows through like the breeze over the sea.
Just as the glorious sun says it goodbye for the day and throws its rays over the sea at Kuta, two drenched kids with sand all over them appeared . I heard a high pitch screech - it was Annie, for a moment, I thought she would have a stroke. As I watched the sunset, the background music was a tirade of I told you, how many times, what's wrong with you. Of course, my son was also an accomplice and he was sheepishly quiet for once .
No peaceful sunset here anyway, so I quicky searched for a shower place and we found one and we stripped the kids , bathed them and washed them and thanks to the shopping - there was a set of clean clothes. But I kept Chris shirtless, took a picture of him to remind him of this day....

Private Villa and a Lobster dinner in Paradise

You gotta watch the sunset at Kuta Beach, Annie says. You gotta stay in a private villa, Raymond says. So on one of those mad end of the year moment, we decided to book Air Asia and go.

After some surfing, we booked Villa Damai , which promised a butler, driver, cook and massage for every one - wow a weekend of heavenly paradise. It was one of my first internet booking for Bali and with money upfront - no refunds. So when Annie asked , How ??? - I said a little prayer and said go ahead.

We took the family minus the spouses as it was again one of those mad last minute dashes typical of us and all our better halves couldnt make it. Too bad.

It was our first Air Asia flight and we had heard about the rushing for the best seats so we sent our best scout , Christopher. Because we had mum and dad with us, we were suppose to get priority but whatever priority we had ,was lost when the gate opened and it was like a free for all. That's when you appreciate MAS. Mum and Dad cannot beat these young Air Asia frequenter as they hobbled on to the airplane. However, thanks to Chris, they did get seated together. The black, leather seats were great and though the maggi mee was way overpriced, the combination with nescafe and nasi lemak was so goood.... The kids tugged in especially when you limit the portions.

Anyway, we got in late and the access road into the villa in Jimbaran was dark and creepy. The villa was the typical Bali villa and was dimly litted but the staff was all lined up to give us the warm welcome. We ordered MacDonalds takeaway as were too tired to go out. Macs in Bali - what a meal...

The next morning, though, was glorious - breakfast in the garden , beside the pool, a beautiful scenery of the myriad colorful bouganvillas and the faraway in the horizon - Bali beach. We had bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, pancakes, fresh juices and a view to tuck in . This the private villa living that I imagine.

Our day started with a trip to Kintamani to see the volcano and on the way back was the rice terraces at Tegal Lallang. The volcano trip was a bit long and way too crowded. We lunched at a restaurant with a great view of the mountain but with swarming flies and an overpriced buffet which surprisingly was reduced when I looked like I was going to walk out. The view by itself was not enough though to make up for the downsides. And to top it all , the moment we walked out, we were swarmed again , this time by peddlers of souvenirs, t-shirts , jewellery and one particular woman was tearing when I said no even after she lowered the price of her t-shirt to a ridiculous amount. As I left the place and even days after when I think of the lady I kept kicking myself for not just taking the t-shirts.

The day ended on a happy note though because, the villa staff cooked a wonderful lobster meal - our best dinner in Bali really. After the dinner, we enjoyed the pool, drank a bottle of overpriced Chilean wine because we didn't purchase any at duty free and ate more bacon, sausages chips which the kids cleaned up despite the heavy duty dinner we had.
Villa living - more like pig living...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunset, Champagne and Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock? What if the romance of it like the Stonehenge was more the sizzle than the steak. Somehow the solitary figure of Princess Diana silhoutted against the background of Ayers Rock never left me , I guess. As I surfed the net, I realized that the best way to go was to fly. The train from Adelaide was an overnighter and though a drive would be quite an adventure, time would not permit.

Then it was a matter of flying directly there or perhaps to Alice Springs. Alice Springs , evoke my childhood memories of the Nevil Shute book which stangely connected Malaya and this faraway outback town . So, how can I give this place a miss and a decision was made in that instant . Also, thanks to the points from my Priority Club, I took my room at the Crowne Plaza where they graciously upgraded me to a suite.

It started raining immediately after I picked up the Yaris at the airport and as we drove into Alice Springs. Dang it shouldn't rain in the desert but it did. We drove into town and was surprised that it was not just two rows of shops as I had expected. We did our usual souvenir shopping, and then drove out to Stanley Chasm . Our first trip to the outback was marred by the some of the clouds and we didnt get the brilliant blue that you usually get at the desert . The hike to Stanley Chasm was great and surprisingly for me , I found the walk quite enjoyable , peaceful, quiet with just the sound of the wind and perhaps birds. It might get eerie but it was a great quiet time too with the Mighty One.

On our way back to town, we decided to stop to see the wallabies feed in the evening . Another walk but yet it wasn't as tiring as I thought it would be and to watch wild wallabies feeding was something else.That night , we took an early night as we were too tired after all the hikes and it was a long day for us . So decided to have an early dinner , followed by an amazingly wonderful, jacuzzi bath.

The next morning was a 6 am pick up by Emu Tours. Oh man , a five hour bus ride to Ayers Rock - was just wondering how that would turn out . Surprisingly it wasn't so bad because first of all , after the shower the day before, we had lovely clear sky and it was like God washed all the mountains and stones for us. So, I just soaked up the beautiful scenery of the outback - the righ brownish orange against the brilliant blue .

Secondly, we had interesting stops, and the Emu tours guide, especially Shorty kept us entertained with his stories , jokes and information on the wildlife. We took a quick lunch break at the Ayers Rock Resort before heading off to the Park with a stop at the Abroginal Cultural Centre. There were two short hikes at the foot of Ayers Rock before we headed off to prepare for the barbeque and watch the sunset .Finally, the hilight of the trip. We were early at the camp site , so we had the choiciest location and got to enjoy the Rock before the busloads of tourist started arriving. We had time to get the best seats, take pictures and watch the sky turn in its different colours while the sun was setting.

Sipping champagne, watching the sunset , though we were on a tourbus packed with people, we hardly spoke to each other except to just watch every single moment's of God's wonderful creation. Once the sun was gone, we had to head back and that was another five hours, so we had to pack quickly and leave. As the sky turned dark into complete black, the stars packed up. We've never had such clear skies back home with its numerous stars . However, I could only enjoy it from the bus. When , we again made the coffee and pee-break stop , I immediately jumped out to see the stars under the tropics of Capricorn I realised I have to come again perhaps this time with the kids and camp overnight to watch the night sky and its brilliant stars.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh Chien anyone????

Nowadays in Kuala Lumpur, we can get the best of Penang. The Prawn Mee, Char Kway Teow, Asam Laksa but Oh chien ( Fried oysters ) now that somehow I miss. Since my last trip was 5 years ago, this I must have before I head back home. And yummy, it was so good - we found Lorong Selamat by chance ????(yes, I have not heard about Lorong Selamat) . We were actually trying to get to Burmah road from Macallister and chanced upon it.

The lady didnt skimped on the eggs and the oysters were fresh and succulent. With lots of fresh parsely on top , the oh chien texture was just nice , enough sauce to give it that slightly gravy feel and the scrambled added the crunchiness to the dish. Overall, SCRUMPTIOUS....

Pasir Salak - Where Modern Malaysian history started

Pasir Salak has always been intriguing to me , a history buff. Since , my daughter, Clarissa's literature assignment was Pahlawan Pasir Salak we decided to visit Pasir Salak on our way to Penang to allow the book to come alive for her. We stopped by Pasir Salak Riverine Resort which had such a pretty view of Sungai Perak but alas, was quite run down and the staff didnt look interested with any guests that drop by.
The place was actually quite difficult to locate because the signages weren't very good either. Nevertheless, we got there and after that decided to look for Kompleks Sejarah Pasir Salak but the sign boards kinda disappeared after we crossed the bridge. We didn't realised the Resort and Kompleks Sejarah was next to each other so we went out to the main road and took a big circle to get to the main entrance .

Kompleks Sejarah Pasir Salak was a pleasant surprise though esp the Time Tunnel which recreated the famous scene of Birch being speared while bathing. Walk through the tunnel and see how Malayan Union was formed, pre- independance etc. The place has so much potential especially with 2007 being our 50 years of celebration - reenactment of famous historical events, river activities, Perak culture - so much can be done . Sad really but I must say that this holiday has certainly provided us with some pleasant surprises.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Marzuki, the enterprising fisherman

Just went to Penang recently with the kids. The last time we were there, it was nearly 5 years ago and the kids were excited. We stayed at the Holiday Inn (being a loyal priority card member) and at the beach front met Marzuki. He was trying to sell us buggy rides, paragliding but we said no.

Then, he shared his experience during the Tsunami when he was out on a fishing trip and how he went against the big wave and survived. Today, he wants to "cari makan" from the tourists that flocks Batu Feringghi. There and then, he suggested a fishing trip but using his "pukat" to catch fish. (Yup, beats waiting for the fish to be caught with the rod). No guarantees on the barbequed "lunch" at Monkey Beach but with the pukat - chances with be good. So, we agreed, and the kids enjoyed Monkey Beach and yes, fish was plentiful. And barbequed fish caught fresh from the sea was certainly an experience for us - thanks to Marzuki.
I promised to put him up on the internet and help promote his new found business - 0174244706 or home - 048852598. It was also there and then that I decided to start this blog ....