Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Melbourne Menagerie IV: Market Melee

Saturday was reserved for the Queen Victoria Market. It was only mum, sis and I as my bro-in-law went to the Melbourne Zoo for their African animal exhibits. For the first time, we boarded the City Circle Tram, an old style tram that runs around the perimeter of the CBD for free. A very touristy thing with a pre-recorded guided tour of virtually every tram stop (a tram stop is usually just somewhere in the middle of a road). Walking from the stop near William Street (it's great having a street named after you), we passed by the Flagstaff Gardens and arrived at the market in no time (but we later discovered that it was faster to walk from Flinders Street). QVM is actually just like Jatujak Market in Bangkok, only less dense, less chaotic and a more pleasant place to shop due to the cool weather. Standard wares-- souveniers, Ugg boots (warm-looking, fugly boots), other sheep fur products, clothes, crafts, food, fresh produce (this is what makes food in Melbourne so delicious!), cheeses (fantastic variety), meats (mouth-watering), seafood and flowers. The wet market section is a far cry from what we see in Malaysia. The floor is actually dry, no unpleasant odour, air-conditioning and the stalls look just like something out of a hypermarket! I also noticed that the wholesalers at the produce section are usually Chinese. The pasar is in their blood?

Melbourne20090421

All things were fine and dandy until we wanted to leave the market. My sister suddenly noticed that she had left her knapsack at a stall that we stopped at earlier. She was in a state of panic as her passport was in there. Fortunately, my sense of direction was working that day and I managed to find the stall. Cold sweat in the autumn air. Quite an unforgettable experience dashing around the place like mad people. We went home quite pooped. In the evening, I went out poking around Fed Square again. Dinner was home-cooked, with more of Cole's ham, sausages, pasta and pasta sauce. Also had some churro (Spanish doughnut) dipped in caramel. Light, crispy and fragrant, but too bad it's sinfully fried and powdered with castor sugar. And you know what? Ang moh line up for doughnuts as well. **roll eyes**

Melbourne20090422

Monday, June 29, 2009

Melbourne Menagerie III: The Banksia & Gelato Galore

For some unknown reason, my bro-in-law is an animal freak. He loves the zoo. And so, we ended up a Flinders Street Station (during morning rush hour no less) to catch an hour's train (KTM Komuter!) to Lilydale and subsequently an hour on the bus to the Healesville Animal Sanctuary (the helpful people at The i gave us a perfect itinerary of connecting rides). The further one gets out from Melbourne, the more apparent the graffitti becomes. The sanctuary features 200 species of animals in a natural bushland habitat, but I don't think I even saw 50. The animals were shy? Too well camouflaged? They turned into icicles in the cold weather? Whatever it was, we were quite disappointed. But, we did get to see the kangaroos, emus, koalas, dinghos, Tasmanian Devils (endangered due to an infectious oral cancer!), platypi, raptors, etc. Lunch was a hearty meal of red wine beef stew with rice at the Sanctuary Cafe. In our suaku-ness, we also discovered the wonders of the ingenious Squeeze-On tomato sauce packaging there. In one single fold and squeeze, the sauce comes out of the built-in valve. By 4:00pm, we were on the bus back to Lilydale station. The buses and trains REALLY run on a schedule, something that I cannot imagine happening back home.

Melbourne20090420

Dinner was at Lygon Street, the Italian quarter of Melbourne. Had quite a challenging time trying to figure out which tram to take. And when we finally boarded, we worried about which stop to take. Luckily it was a small world and we were assisted by several Malaysian students who were on the same tram. The two chaps from Sitiawan pointed us in the direction of Papa Gino's. Cheap, delicious and fast service. Through the glass windows, you can see a row of sweaty working on the pizzas. Non-stop kneading and flinging the dough into the air. With the sweat glistening on their scalps they heap generous amounts of toppings on the pizzas. For four, we ordered the fettucine marinara, meat lover's pizza (heavenly sauce and fragrant pepperoni) and fritto misto (mixed fried seafood with excellent tartar sauce). Washed it all down with a cup of red wine that costs just a little more than a cup of coffee! Dessert was gelato from a shop down the road-- Gelatisimo. They make a wicked mango sorbet too. Like chilled mango puree! My bro-in-law vowed to come back to Lygon Street....

Melbourne2009043

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Melbourne Menagerie II: The Crown & i

The first proper day at Melbourne cannot be summed up easily. We were still trying to find our bearings as the itinerary was quite imaginary. It was very random. First thing in the morning, we fried bacon, eggs and sausages for breakfast. After filling our tummies, we headed for the nearby Federation Square to seek out the Melbourne Visitor Centre (affectionately known as "The i") for a headstart. Each town of any tourism value has one and the staff are extremely helpful. I tried to take in everything. The cool air in my face. The mess of wires that give life to the trams that share the road with the other vehicles. The orderly block style of the city with its many lanes, nooks and crannies. The uniqueness of every building. The cuteness of the guy on the street. :P. But before that, we made a quick stop at the nearby St. Paul's Cathedral, a beautifully ornate Anglican church. Everything was ostentatious, from the masonry to the pew cushions. However, I had the feeling that it was more touristy than religious. While I was there, the main altar was not occupied, but mass was celebrated at an auxiliary altar at the side, with just several people around it.

Melbourne2009042

Federation Square was quite a weird sight to behold. Geometrical mayhem. Was once called an eyesore it seems with its asymmetrical lines and multitudes of electronic signs crawling across its burnished metal facade at every possible angle. Along the square, one can also find the Australian Center for Moving Images, the Ian Potter Center, the National Design Center, Champions and several cafes. At the the Visitors Center, we managed to get what we were looking for-- information overload and a whole lot of brochures. Buskers are aplenty in the city, and apart from the usual crooners with a guitar (some were quite talented), a comedian was doing his slapstick at Fed Square. When a group of students from the audience started to leave, he shouted at them:

Hey kids! You don't need school! Just look at me! Hehehehe.

My bro-in-law was so entertained that he dropped him a twenty. Walking around Melbourne was pleasant with the pedestrian-friendly traffic and cool weather. Along the way, I purchased a Crazy John's sim card for AUD19 for AUD55 worth of credit! Fantastic coverage everywhere I went except for Port Campbell. Oh well, that's good enough. Lunch was at an al fresco cafe called Gordon's where we had warm pumpkin and rocket salad, chicken parma and seafood linguini. Heat was provided by elevated outdoor stoves. Post-lunch had us at the beautiful Royal Arcade. A very different feel with the unique "outdoor but indoor" feel. Bought chocolates at the famous chocolatier Haigh's. The night was spent at the Crown Entertainment Complex. Having no luck at the casino, we had dinner at Sante's, a buffet restaurant not unlike The Coffee House in Genting. Even otak-otak and char kuey teow were in the spread. Not bad for less than AUD20 per pax. Going home, we took the scenic route via the Sandridge Bridge across Yarra River....

Melbourne20090418

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Melbourne Menagerie I: X Doesn't Mark The Spot

My sister planned this trip to Melbourne and it was supposed to be in the warmer month of April. But as things were at work, I requested that it be postponed to May. Unfortunately, even in May, my work schedule did not go as planned. Be that as it may, with a MYR1070 Air Asia X ticket purchased, I upped and left anyway to see an autumn-y Melbourne. Air Asia X is really no frills. The seats were so bloody narrow (3 in a row). Even the more expensive XL seats (2 in a row) did not look comfortable. Each seat had its own monitor, but to access any entertainment, you must first pay MYR30. Feeling cold? Purchase a comfort kit for another MYR30. 8 hours of that. And the best part was that the seats could not be reclined. You're only given a pseudo-recline, where your cushion actually slides down and forward giving you the impression of a recline. Sad. I spent most of the time in the free chat rooms. And even that software was buggy. One had to continuously refresh the screen or exit the room to see the messages properly. >_<". Managed to chat up some locals and get some info on Melbourne. When I got sick of that, I turned to my PSP-- "God of War: Chains of Olympus". So ironic that while I was chatting with my Persian neighbour Ari (a semi-cute Iranian boy of 18 with a thick mop of hair), I was busy bashing in the skull of Persian soldiers in the game. I did not sleep a wink.

Melbourne2009041

Arriving at Melbourne Airport, one gets a very un-welcome feeling. At the immigration counter, officers herd you like cattle and they handle your passports with latex gloves. After clearing immigration, I was briefly interrogated by an officer. I had a feeling he thought I was looking for illegal employment in Melbourne. Customs was worse. Everyone had to go through the baggage check. I guess it's better to declare every little thing than to risk being found guilty of not declaring. The officer checked my mum's knapsack and just found my nephew's potty and some knickers. That made her look no further. Outside, the weather was freezing. For the first time, I could see my breath fog up in the chilly air. While waiting for a cab, I managed to spy a whole busload of cute Japanese students on a study trip. Yum! Not long after, we boarded a large cab (complete with pneumatic baggage lift) for Punt Hill Apartments at Flinders Lane. Quite a nice place for AUD250 a night in the Central Business District (CBD). The only complaint was the creaky floor boards. Upon unloading our luggage, the first order of business was grocery shopping at the nearby 24-Hour Coles for my nephew's porridge supplies and the next day's breakfast. Found that most products had a cheaper in-house brand alternative. Didn't get much of an impression of Melbourne at that ungodly hour (except for the several peep show places nearby and the majestic Flinders Street Station). Zzzzz....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saidina


AUD
Swiped from williamnyk.
I say, Australian Dollars look like play money! However, the exchange rate is no child's play. :(. I made MYR70 from my leftover dollars due to the ever increasing rate though. Hehe.

One of my Flickr buddies thought I had struck the Oz Lotto Jackpot!

This begins my lengthy Melbourne postings!! Late as usual la.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great Singapore Skank VI: A Walk in the Park

Note: Sorry this took A LONG TIME to end. My Pre-H1N1 Melbourne trip will be coming up soon! Stay tuned!

Early Saturday morning, POD, Nic, JJ, KH and I went to the Botanical Gardens. A whole lotta greenery! The landscaping was quite good and the foliage thick, making the surroundings quite pleasant to explore. Trees, flowers, ferns, palms-- you name it, they've probably got it. There's a ginger garden, a swan lake (got swan de!), eco garden (ECO-nomical and ECO-logical), evolution garden (a way to traverse a few hundred million years of evolution-- a definite pick for geologists) and an orchid garden. Plenty of joggers, church cell group members, tai-chi practitioners and photographers. It's all spread out across a huge area and I nearly popped a vein rushing from one end of the park to the entrance to avoid being late for our lunch appointment with Simone. Lunch was at a Thai restaurant in Shaw Tower. Don't know the name. Had green curry (watery), screwpine chicken (excellent!), tomyam, fish soup, fish salad (quite refreshing), fried vegetables and mango chicken (quite good). Overall, the execution was good, but the produce quality was regrettable. Dessert was at an ice-cream shop just opposite. Chose an interesting combination of black sesame and nut crunch (peanut butter and cookie dough). They even have wasbabi-lime, but that's too interesting even for me. Loitered at the Raffles Hotel for a bit, oogling at the luxury brands. Didn't get my Singapore Sling at the Long Bar though...

SingaporeHols200911

It was my last day in Singapore, so we had a farewell skank. I fell asleep soon after but KH did not sleep due to a headache from the morning's sun. He told me that he watched me sleep and moved me around (undoubtedly like an X-rated marionette), but I was too tired to notice. Now I wonder if there was any Eli Wong nonsense involved. KH woke me up at 5:30pm and you know what, my flight was at 7:30pm. Fortunately, I had packed earlier and the airport is just a mere ten minutes away from JJ's place. We had dinner at Dian Xiao Er, Terminal 3. Terminal 3 is really very beatiful with it's super high ceiling. Made me feel like I was in a futuristic cathedral of sorts. Attached to it is the Crown Princess Hotel, with its white, interlaced facade. An ugly thing. Something straight out of Hueco Mundo. The dinner menu was Ten Wonder Herbs Duck (doesn't make you fly), Lemon Kai-Lan and Treasure Beancurd. Quite nice, except that the vegetable had too much lemon juice in it. Service was good though. I ran off to the gate after dinner and as usual, the gate is the farthest in everytime I board late. Really had my blood flowing flying through the travelators. It was poignant waving goodbye to the guys behind the glass wall... I had fun.... :). Until next time!

The End!

Some random observations to end this long saga:
  1. Outram Park MRT Station smells of mildew
  2. I did not eat at a single food court this time round-- all restaurants! Taiwanese, Shanghainese, German, Italian, Japanase, Thai :P.
  3. I did not take many food pics, just at Fre(n)sh. My brother was VERY surprised. So gwai hor?
  4. I think I walked a combined 10km during my trip. No wonder Singaporean boys have such sexy calves.
  5. I didn't get to play the Tadaima, Okaeri conversation with KH as usually get home with him!
  6. JJ told me that KH seemed to be floating the whole time I was there... Do I really affect his gravity? :P

Monday, June 22, 2009

Benedictus Qui Venit

At the invitation of EarlGrey and Dae, SK, mum and I attended VerSeS' A Journey Through The Ages III at AMPAC, Ara Damansara. Well, it was for charity and it involved sacred music, so why not? The beneficiary was Protect and Save The Children, an NGO dealing with sexually-abused children in the areas of awareness, treatment and advocacy. With Dae's map and directions, it was quite easy to get there, but he mentioned a billboard of a HK celebrity holding a crab and it turned out to be a lobster! :P. Upon arrival, I had the chance to introduce my mum to the BFF gang. 

Mum: How come these guys always together one?

Moi: Same gang ma.

I dunno whether she got what it meant. But I don't think she's that oblivious. She was thoroughly amused by Adik (and his chunky Bimba and Lola rings), the master of ceremonies for the night. He was his usual flamboyant self and he managed to inject some casualness into the usually stiff setting of classical music recitals. Junior she already knows as the flogger and somehow she kept on finding JL familiar. She also met Bunny, Janvier and The Chief. There was also DanielH with his cute-sy off-center bow-tie. All of them are excellent examples of the BFF that I want my mum to meet, to dispel any stereotypes and biases. But did I get through to her? She was amicable and seemed entertained, so I guess it was OK.

AJTTA was quite an eye opener for me seeing all the professionals at work. The frenetic rendering of Bach's Suite for Unaccompanied Cello No. 6, Prelude (fancy fingerwork!), the harmony of all the singers, the strong flutist, and the other talented musicians. Not everything was familiar, but the Kryie, Ave Maria, Alleluia and Benedictus Qui Venit are quite common in Catholic High Masses. My first time seeing EarlGrey at work. So professional. It is obviously a passion for him. 

Mum: EarlGrey and Dae look like brothers leh...

Brothers in harmony indeed. Looking forward to the next show!

--
Regards,
William

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Neck Also Long

I wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait.

Am I too naive?

I always tell people not to expect others to change for you and yet I
myself am guilty of harbouring such a hope.

Baka.

--
Regards,
William

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Viewer Ratings

"That used to be my favourite TV show! Now I find it boring. What else is on?"

This parable works well in our social interactions too. Serial
friendships, you can call it. Friends du jour. The flavour of the
month. From the new arrivals they end up in the bargain bin later in
the season. Then we go shopping again. Some go for serial courtships.
The thrill is in the hunt. Out with the old, in with the new.
Consumerism at its best.

Feel free to change the channel. ;)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trim

My colleague is in dire need of a nose hair trimmer. A veritable
nostril nightmare! How do I tell HER that without making it an awkward
situation? Please help.

--
Regards,
William

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Metro My Foot

Christiano Ronaldo-- skimpy white trunks; pink cap; leg-waxing; pink
polo-t. Fine la. But I think the flower behind the ear is the deep end
of the pool. Stay away!

--
Regards,
William

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

MRT Celebrities


Yellow Phone
Swiped from williamnyk.
In conjuction with my Singapore trip, I'm publishing the Singapore version of LRT Celebrities-- MRT Celebrities! The debut episode features Uncle I'm-Too-Cheap-To-Buy-Phone-Accessories. It was kinda shocked to find the fella protecting his expensive phone from the elements, scratches and what-not using a recycled plastic sleeve normally found in the DIY hardware section. One side clear, and the other side solid yellow. Usually used to to pack some loose nails or a cheap mini screwdriver set. Oustanding. And it was oversized as well. If his phone ever accidentally fell into the toilet, I guarantee you that it will float! Luckily he did not use a plastik kuih fastened with a rubber band...

P.S.: As bonus, here's a picture of random cuteness from Raffles City Shopping Center...

Random

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Great Singapore Skank V: Brotherly Bonding

Upon waking up on Friday, we found that JJ was not out to work and that can only mean that he had a rough night with his gastric problems. And so, after KH left for work, I accompanied JJ to his regular doctor at Katong. Opposite the clinic was a small kopitiam, and we had eggs, toast and coffee there after the consultation (opsss, lupa bayar JJ!). With our tummies partially-filled, I helped JJ pick out a few work shirts at a nearby mall. So strange seeing aunties working at G2000. Post-shopping was a light lunch at Wahiro. As usual, the salmon sashimi and amaebi sushi (the ones in KL suck!) was great. We topped it off with a chawanmushi. Home beckoned and we hopped onto the bus back. I went online a while and went out again with JJ at around 5:00pm. JJ went off to have his hair cut, whereas I took off to Boat Quay to take some photos. KH managed to leave work on time and meet me near Cavanagh Bridge where we shared a tuna bun under a tree.

At around 7:00pm, we went our separate ways. KH & co. went to see a play by Wild Rice at the National Library. I, on the other hand went to meet my brother for dinner at Brotzeit, Vivo City. Luckily, I did not have to line up till the escalator to get in, like the Sushi Tei next door. Since it was his belated birthday, I treated him a nice dinner of wurst, smoked pork loin with saeurkraut and mashed potatoes, lager and pancake with plum sauce. The food was quite good and German beer is certainly smoother, but I found it a little mild. We talked a whole lot about work and stuff, something that we rarely get the chance to do. He regaled me about his tale of hunting for the polka-dot bra I asked him to buy (not for me la!). The poor guy had to scour 4 department stores. Normally I don't get the chance to be alone with him, or most of the time his face would be buried in a book or the Nintendo DS. It's definitely something I would like to do more often. At 10:00pm, I said my goodbyes to my brother at Outram Park and went down to Raffles Place to meet KH and JJ for the trip home...