Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 9 - Hello, Crush and Nemo!

Coming soon.

Day 8 - 1 More Day To the Open-Water

The bunch of people I was in class with was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! They were such a fun crowd to be in class with. I spent most of the morning doing pool stuff and the rest of the day in class. I was so good not to be persuade into buying scuba equipment though I did buy a snorkle mask. I wish Vancouver weather is as warm as here just one month of the year so I can go snorkel.

Australia stuff is pricy. Everything fun cost $$. Not like in Europe that you can go really cheap to walk and tour around in the city yourself. I guess it is like everywhere. People try in whatever way they can to get $$ out of tourists (ME). There was a Aboriginal Park north of Cairns that I really want to go and was looking into joining a tour to go. Good that I was walking around town and chatting with a few bus drivers. They told me I can get a one-day bus pass that will take me to the park for $7.00 AUS and I can take as many ride as I want to between Cairns and the park. Jesus. What a rip off!!! The tours organized from YHA has FANTASTIC prices. If you are planning to join a tour, go with them! One tips. If you are travelling (wherever), go to the local transit office to ask first before you join a tour or buy expensive bus pass for tourists (like me) if you want to travel for a budget.

I ended my day finishing my disgusting pasta and a walk in the Night Market at Esplande Road, close to the water. There were all kind of souvenirs to buy, food to eat and even cheap massages.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 7 - A whole new world under the sea!

First day of training toward my PADI Open Water. I am introduced to a totally new and fascinating world. It is wicked. But...the better part is my instructor is a fit and handsome French Italian guy who looks like Beckham!

Spent the morning in class learning theory and the afternoon with confine water skills classes. The setting is much sweeter than back home in Vancouver. This condensed class allows students to finish the class components within 2 days and start on their 4 training dive at the reefs in the next day and a half. What's better than learning to dive in a tropical location at one of the 7th Wonders?

Pro-dive is a pretty good company to go diving with. With the price of $695 AUS, you can have the classes, 4 training dives, 5 other dives at the reefs on a 3-days-2-nights boat trip, and all the meals during you time on the boat. You can seat and relax to learn how to dive in a air-conditioned room with the pool where you do your confined water practice right outside of the classroom. Everything are well-organized and they even do pick-up and drop-off everyday. One down size is the Pro-Dive shop people try to up-sell you snorkelling and scuba equipments. And they are not very friendly when you are not buying much. You just have to learn how to say no. However, the instructor is totally AWESOME!!!!

You may or may not know that at the rate the reefs are being contaminated. There is estimation that, at this rate, the reefs in Australia will dispear in 30-40 years. Coral rely algae that grow on them to make food to live. However, when the temperature of the ocean raised too much, the algae starts to over-work and actually will toxicate the coral. Hence, the coral spit these algae out of their body. At the same time, the algae, which is the source of color of the coral, will leave the coral. This is a condition call, bleaching. Since the coral rely the product algae produced as food, they can't survive long after the algae is gone for a long period of time if the temperature do not return to normal. This is the negative effect of Global Warming to our lovely Reefs at Australia. If you haven't seen the reefs, I suggest you do it soon before it is too late!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 5 - Moving from big city to beautiful beaches

It was a huge difference travelling with a smaller and "budget" airline, Jetstar, compare to Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic. Everything was chaotic and not well organized despite the fact that thought I spent over $280 CAD for the flight, I have to pay for drinks, snacks and meals. I flew with Air France when I was in Europe for a flight I paid for $100 EU from PARIS to LONDON (1 hour flight). I got elegan snacks (puffs, 1/4 sandwiches and other pastries), juices, and coffee. I am not overly impressed with Jetstar though their flights are relative cheaper. The remote control button was broken. There was no TV entertainment even when my flight was flying to Japan after stopping by Cairns. The funny and the most ridiculous thing is that during departing and arriving the airport, both times, there were "problems" connecting to the landing base or electric problems (light cut on and off).

Enough comment on that. The weather at Cairns was spectacular. Exact weather I am looking for. Hot but humid. The temperature was over 35 degree Celcius. I spoke with some staff at the airport. Apparently, I lucked out. They were having rain the past weeks (because it is the raining season at Cairns right not). Lovely. I felt the sun tanning my skin already when I stepped out of the airport.

Giligan's Backpacker is a brilliant hostel. Air Con, personal shower and toilet shared between the 8 people in the room (I never get that with hostel) for only $22 AU. There is an amazing pool, kitchen and common area. Guess what? They have their own pub, which is kind of like a club.

I bumped into a Canadian gal from Hamilton, ON. She ended up tagging along with me to my hostel and shared a room with me (and 3 other guys). Nicole is pretty fun. She is dropping by Australia to travel a bit before she heads to New Zealand to play hockey. Crazy isn't it.

It is awesome that Cairns, which has no beach in its main town, made a man-made "lagoon" at the edge of the ocean. You have a view of the ocean while swimming in a pool with man-made sand. Pretty sweet. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading my diving manual in the sun at the "man-made" beach eating watermelon.

Friends who know me knew that I love to cook and not a bad cook. However, you can't really do much if you are cooking onion for pasta without oil. Yeah! I cooked pasta sauce with a can of "reduced price" no-name mushroom, the cheapest pasta sauce, pasta, and onion. Bad idea. The onion was never cooked and I have to eat this pot of disgusting pasta for 3 meals.

If you are at Cairns or I guess up at Queensland, you got to try their mango. They are enormous and delicious. However, I have to say the Philipino mango are still the best. Australian mango are big but taste like Mexican mango.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 4 - Passionate Korean drunk....

I went to the Zoo early this morning to take picture with Koala and made the most out of my expensive tour bus pass. Look at my picture. Koala are no longer allow to be hold while you take picture because that put too much stress on them. A lot of them picked up disease with so much human contact and it interact to their 20 hours sleep need. Isn't the Koala cute. I also saw a few animals that I have not seen before. Some from Lion King.

I then went to Opera house, bridge and botanic garden. Botanic Garden was alright. Tourists I met totally over-rated this place. Vancouver has much nicer parks.
Opera House is totally not what I vision it to be. I always see picutres of the Opera House shot from far away and thought it is made out of canvas. However, the actual building is built out of tile like stuff. It was pretty amazing seeing it from close up. It is totally true the old Chinese saying "Study ten-thousand of books is not better than walking ten-thousand miles of road".
I met a Korean guy from the tour bus and he bought me dinner at the Sydney Tower at night. Good god. I would not have gone to the place for the buffet dinner (cost almost $70 AUS). I normally eat only sandwiches or toasts and milk for dinner. Who would have known? I end up having a nice dinner with the view of Sydney. For the first time, I had Kangaroo meat at the buffet dinner. The texture is like well-done beef though it is only medium-rare. It didn't have much taste to it, however. Beef is much better tasting than Kangaroo meat. I had a lot of delicious oysters, octopus, mussels, shrimps, lambs, beefs and honey yogurt! Semillion sauvignon blanc is a pretty good wine.

I ended up spending the rest of the night with a few people from Hong Kong I met in the morning enjoying another bottle of Australian white wine.
Right when I was about to go to my room and pack. I gave the left over chips to a bunch of Japanese. That turns out to be a 3 hours long chat. Can you believe it? Food is always a good way to bribe people or a tool to make friends. lol. I now have a few places to stay if I travel to Korea or Japan.

Day 3 at Sydney - My feet is burning.....

I started my day surfing at Bondi Beach with gorgeous weather. I picked the perfect day as the afternoon and the day before and after were windy and rainy. All the surfing classes were

cancelled. Lucky me!!! Instructor were much nicer and more professional than those I got from Tofino and Portugal. They know what they are doing. And how good is that to surf in warm water instead of freezing cold water!!!! I love it!

This gal from France I met at my surf class. She is amazing. 23 and already have an MBA of sport marketing under her belt. One of the nicest person I met. She said I can drop by her house and stay there any time. She is staying in Australia for a year to work and play. I wish I have done that when I graduated.

Bonid Beach was very pretty. The sand is so fine. We don't get that kind of feel in Vancouver at all. A lot of nice looking gals and guys surfing. Life as a surfer is so cool. I wish I can surf like some of the people I met.

I walked along the Costal Walk to a few other beaches (ie. Tamara and Bonte). It was a nice little walk but I felt like my feet and shoulder were cooking though I put on 50+ sunscreen.

I just wandered around the Bondi area after. Surfing took a lot out of me. I was going to hang out at the pub with a few gals at night but fell asleep on them (not just at my b-day party) and they can't wake me up as most of you know I don't wake up after I fell asleep.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day 2 - Why Blue Moutain is blue?

I originally going to join a vineyard tour but I heard so much great things about Blue Moutain that I can't resist going. Well, I guess I just have to visit the Liquour Store a few more times to try the Australian wines myself.

I seriously need to do somethign about my carelessness in my peronal life. I thought the pick up time was 7:30 AM instead of 7:20 AM. Good that I checked 10 past 7. I feel sorry for my roommates that I throw everything into my locker when I rushed out. It was like Organic Chem Lab all over again (for those took classes with me, you know how many flasks I broke. Glad the TA liked me).

When I got there, I was so confused which bus is which. There are 10 millioin tour buses (they call coach) in front of the freaking hostel. I have to run around like a mad woman asking around which is my bus. Good god that the bus was late.

I felt so out of place on the bus. Most of the touring folks were retired couples. There were 2 gals from Jap (I tried to use my long lost Japanese to converse), and a pair of couple from Mexico who are around my age.

Blue Moutain was amazing. I have never seen things like this. I guess you can see something simliar to the Grand Canyon but more green. There was a section of the area call the Three Sisters. Apparently, it was really famous among the Japanese. There was a legend that came with it. 3 sisters from a tribe fell in love with 3 young man from the opposing tribe. The father or the "wise man" turns them into stones when the 3 young man wanted to take them away with them (you can see the pic when I have it uploaded). The view was amazing.

I also to some place call the Scenic World. I rode a scary train, which traveling down the rainforest park in a at least 45 degree angle if not more. It was great fun though but I was glad I did not drop my camera down the rail. The peak of the rainforest was amazing. There were a lot of things in the nature that I have not seen I found after the 2nd day I was in Australia. There are so many special creatures and natural scenery that you can't see else where.

In the afternoon, we went to the Jenolan Cave. I wish I have time to do the caving tour. You will see from my picutre how amazing the cave is. I can't image people from the 1800s' cave into these cave with just candle light. Women even had to climb in in skirts and men had to climb fully dressed with jacket and gloves. Crazy isn't it. All the stones in the cave are coated with a layer of crystal. The cave took at least 300 millions years to form. That makes me think how insignificant human beings are. We only live on earth for no more than 100 years. Most people will be forgotten, if you are lucky, 50 years after you die. Compare it to 300 millions years. From what the tour guide told us, the cave was formed by compressing dead bodies of creatures since 300 milion years ago. They all got compressed and flipped. Acidic rain sneaked into the cracks and start eating up the rocks to form the cave after millions of years.

Amazing isn't it?

Day 1 con't - Need a Darling to go to Darling Habour

Darling harbour was like one of the small town I went to in Crete, Greece. There are lots of "Yale Town" like restaurant with amazing interior design and gorgeous view of the harbour. I wish I have my friends with me to enjoy the food and drink. Food and drink in Sydney aren't cheap at all.

I popped by the Aquarium after touring around the harbour. It has been so long since I last visit an Aquarium. Saw platypus, crocodile, sharks, "Nemo", "Dory", "Gill", "Bubble" and much more.

The weather in Australia is soo odd. I thought, well I heard, that the weather at this time is crazily hot. However, the first day was raining, cold and windy. I have not see the sun yet. Apparently, I bought the rain to Australia with me. From what the gals in the hostel told me, it was super hot the week before I came.

It was amazing what a variety of people is sharing the room with me. Seriously, all over the place in one room. From Korea, Jap, Taiwan, Germany, (of course) Canada, England.... Though we had a hard time communicating, it was nice to have people to talk with at night. A lot of people have a year of working visa so they travel and work at the same time. Seriously, not long after I arrived, I found out I didn't have enogh time to just travel around Sydney. Damn, I should have done the same and just take of for a year after school to do this. So jealous hearing crazy stories from people.

I met up with a friend of my cousin for Jap food. She tried to help me refund my expensive, unnecessary, tour bus pass. No luck. I am sooo glad Lisa was around to keep me company. As you know from my Fish Market experience, sharing is a good thing.

My Day 1 in Australia

Finally arrived Australia after a 7 hours flight. My jet lag absolutely messed up my biological clock. First is the 16 hours in HK and now another 3 more hours in Sydney. I had to wake up at 3AM HK time to get off the plane. It was absolutely brutal.

I, however, have to say the service of Virgin Atlantic was EXCELLENT. They are delightful and service is one of the best so far out of all the flight rides I did in the past few years. The flight attendants (guys and gals) are pretty (one of the key criteria, I think, has to be pleasant to the eyes and can squeeze pass the food cart thing to get around), great attitude and great service. I absolutely love my personal TV with video games and the functionality that I can fast-forward and rewind whatever movie I am watching. They even give you a travel package with EVERYTHING it used to be in the travel package before all the airlines cut cost.

Perhaps because of my lag of sleep, my first day in Sydney didn't start well. I went to the information booth for information and wanted to buy a bus pass. The person there put me onto a city tour bus pass that is 80 dollars too expensive. I was so choked to find out from a friend later on I met up that night. :-(

And I went to the Fish Market (well this one that is coming is more of my stupidity. Should perhpas pay more attention during Grade 3 Math or Science class) intended to have a fest on seafood. I saw this gorgeous tuna sashi calling my name so I orded 1/4 kg and 200 g salmon...and a dozen of oyster ...and some jumbo tiger pawn. WAY TOO MUCH. I have no idea how much 1/4 kg is . I ordered enough for 4 people at least and almost cried with the bill that I have to pay. However, I did enjoyed the delicious sashimi.

Run out of internet time. Got to go.

Friday, January 4, 2008

2008 Jan 10 - Feb 12 Australia & HK Trip: Diving Trip @ Cairns

Jan 18 (Sat) - Jan 23 (Thurs) - Cairns
5 days learn to dive course
Operator: PRO DIVE Cairns
Address: Cnr Shields & Abbott Street, Cairns QLD 4870, Australia
Contact No.: +61 7 40315255

Day 1: Academic and Pool Training

  • 8:00am - Complimentary hotel transfer service available from your Cairns and Northern Beaches accommodation (as far as Palm Cove)
  • 8:30am - Registration at the Pro Dive training centre - 116 Spence street
  • 8:45am - Academic training in the classroom
  • 1:00pm - Dive medical and lunch break (lunch not included)
  • 2:00pm - Pool training
  • 5:30pm - Complimentary hotel transfer service available

Day 2: Academic and Pool Training

  • 7:30am - Complimentary hotel transfer service available from your Cairns and Northern Beaches accommodation (as far as Palm Cove)
  • 8:30am - Pool training
  • 12:30pm - Visit the Pro Dive retail shop
  • 1:00pm - Lunch break (lunch not included)
  • 2:00pm - Academic training in the classroom and final exam
  • 5:45pm - Complimentary hotel transfer service available or transfer to Reef Teach Marine Biology presentation (optional). Please note transfer not available after Reef Teach.

Reef Teach: Optional 2.5hr marine biology presentation where you'll learn about the reef and the fish you'll meet. (Additional cost)

Day 3: Diving The Outer Great Barrier Reef

  • 5:45am - Complimentary hotel transfer - available from Cairns city and Northern Beaches accommodation
  • 6:15am - Check in at Pro Dive retail shop - corner Shields and Abbott Streets
  • 7:00am - Depart Cairns for 3 days and 2 nights of fantastic diving/snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. A light breakfast is served onboard
  • 11:30am - Your first training dive in the ocean
  • 12:45pm - Lunch is served - hearty soup with an array of fresh salads, cold meats and bread rolls
  • 2:30pm - Your second training dive
  • 6:00pm - Dinner - the menu changes each trip however it will be wholesome, hot and of course lots of it! Then - time to relax!

Day 4: More Great Diving

  • 7:00am - Third training dive before breakfast - this will be the deepest training dive of your certification
  • 8:00am - Enjoy a hearty breakfast of cereal, fresh fruit, bacon and eggs as well as toast and spreads
  • 10:30am - Fourth and final training dive
  • 12:00pm - Lunch on the second day is hot pasta with a variety of fresh salads
  • 3:00pm - You are now a certified diver!!! First pleasure dive!!
  • 6:00pm - Dinner - again, the menu changes each trip however it will be wholesome, hot and of course lots of it!
  • 7:00pm - A guided night dive after dinner - another great experience!

Day 5: More Diving And Return To Cairns

  • 6:30am - Your first dive of the day
  • 7:30am - A hot breakfast accompanied with fresh fruit salad, cereals and toast
  • 9:00am - After breakfast, the vessel makes its last site of the trip, where you will do your second dive of the day
  • 11:00am - Your last dive! When you surface freshly made sandwiches are served as the vessel heads home
  • 4:00pm - Complimentary accommodation transfers - Cairns city and Northern Beaches
  • 7:30pm - Join fellow passengers and crew at a local restaurant for a farewell dinner if you wish

2008 Jan 10 - Feb 12 Australia & HK Trip: Where do I stay in Oz?

Jan 14 - 17 & 25 - Sydney
Hostel Name: YHA - Sydney - Railway Square
Address: 8-10 Lee Street (crn Upper Carriage Lane & Lee St or entry via the Henry Deane Plaza)

Sydney, NSW, 2000
Tel: (02) 9281 9666
Manager: Helen Vine

Jan 18 - 21 - Cairns
Hotel: Gilligan's Backpackers Hotel & Resort
Hotel Address: 57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns,
Tel: +61 7 4041 6566

Jan 22 - 23 - Cairns
Cnr Shields & Abbott Street
Cairns QLD 4870
Contact No.: +61 7 40315255

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Jan 10 - Feb 12 Australia & HK Trip: Flight Details

Jan 10 (Thurs) - Vancouver to Hong Kong
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight #: 835
Departure time: 00:30 AM
Arrival time: 06:30 AM (Jan 11)

Jan 13 (Sun) - Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Flight #: VS200
Departure time: 19:20 PM
Arrival time: 07:10 AM (Jan 14)

Jan 18 (Fri) - Sydney to Cairns
Airline: Jetstar
Flight #: JQ63
Departure time: 10:00 AM
Arrival time: 12:00 PM (Jan 18)

Jan 25 (Fri) - Sydney to Cairns
Airline: Jetstar
Flight #: JQ955
Departure time: 10:00 AM
Arrival time: 13:50 PM (Jan 25)

Jan 26 (Sun) - Sydney, Australia to Hong Kong
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Flight #: VS201
Departure time: 15:50PM
Arrival time: 22:05 PM (Jan 26)

Feb 12 (Tue) - Hong Kong to Vancouver
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Flight #: 838
Departure time: 16:45 PM
Arrival time: 12:30 PM (Feb 12)