Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jalan-Jalan Sydney (Part II)

For the next couple of days, we decided to get out of the Sydney city centre. Way, way, out... First up was the world-famous Blue Mountains.

Having not made any prior arrangements, I weighed the different options, including taking a train from the central station or hiring a car for a day for a self-drive trip. But while shopping (again) at Darling Harbour, we stumbled upon a travel office that offered various Sydney packages. I sat down with the agent and told her what we wanted to experience and eventually paid for a package that came to around AUD$125 per person. It was definitely convenient, although not entirely cheap :)

The trip started with a hotel pick-up, then we were whisked to the dedicated bus terminal. The bus was nice and spiffy and the driver who was also doing the commentary was funny and friendly. And unlike the day before when rain washed out our Bondi trip, we had the best weather ever, complete with postcard-like blue skies, and spectacular sceneries.

Our first stop was to see the legendary Three Sisters. But before that, we were treated to a show and tell by a group of Aborigines performers. Pretty eye-opening, really.

Then, it was time to marvel at the sight of the Three Sisters and what they call the Grand Canyon with trees : )

We were then taken to the Scenic World attraction across the mountains. The fees for the rides were already included in the tour and we took our time to enjoy what was on offer, including the cable car, and the train, featuring the steepest incline railroad in the whole wide world.

It must be noted that the temperature was just perfect at that time and the walk around this area was nice and breezy.

Then we started our journey back down after a stop for makan at a small town.

Next up was some animal-petting action at the Featherdale Wildlife Park.

And finally, we were taken to a jetty where we took a nice boat ride back to the city. By this time, it was getting really freezing for us, but what welcomed us in Sydney really took our breath away.

As part of the annual Vivid Sydney, all iconic buildings and monuments were lit up, and we were just mesmerised by the beauty of the city at night.

But were not done with the riding of boats. Hehe. The next day, I met up with my old school friend Ikhwan, along with his fam and we went out to the sea for a spot of whale watching!

The sea was pretty choppy that day and all of us took some anti-mabuk laut pills and prepared ourselves for the unexpected, as none of us were exactly orang laut.

You must be wondering, what guarantee was there that we would bump into some of these animals? Well, there was none. But this was the season that whales would migrate and since they've been doing this for ages, we were nothing less than optimistic.

Still, it took a while before we actually spotted some. And by that time, some of the other passengers were already puking into dustbins and looking pretty sick. Our own party had some casualties, but no, I'm not naming names! (but definitely not me)

When we finally got close to two good-looking whales, they made it a trip to remember for us by doing all sorts of tricks. It was nothing less than awesome.

We did a bit of shopping after that and spent a bit more time at Darling Harbour before calling it a day. Then it was time to go home. But I can safely say, Sydney... we'll be back!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting Back Into The Game

Ramadhan was indeed a welcomed rest. But I guess I don't have to go into the details of how fulfilling it is spiritually, and the health benefits of 30 days of fasting actually brings. Overall, I didn't lose that much weight. Only 1.5 kgs, but I do feel healthier and physically rejuvenated.

Although my plan was not to completely stop any physical activities, I did, however, keep it at a minimum. I mean, it's never easy with the very early mornings and the adjusted working hours. With a significant amount of time allocated for our religious duties, I was happy with some mini workouts, usually just before buka puasa. But no, I did not go running. Not even once. Hehe.

And so, it's now time to re-look at my fitness goals and get back into the game. I've been to the gym three times since Raya and I'm slowly regaining the groove and strength. Although I have yet to visit the newly refurbished Fitness First IOI Mall. Yes, I have gone through more than a month without using my paid gym!

Yesterday morning too, I went for my first run. It was alright, but my legs were kind of aching by the time I got to the office. Haha. I think I have a couple of events coming up, but really, my running goals have been placed in the backseat for the rest of the year. 

So really, my goal now is to basically maintain my current weight and tone up, and become fitness cover model material. Hey, a man in his 40s can also dream, OK? :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Salam Aidilfitri!

Wishing everyone Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin! Stay safe on the roads and please pace yourself when it comes to enjoying the fantabulous food : )

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Jalan-Jalan Sydney (Part I)

Another year, another trip to the land Down Under. Hehe. Last August, we made our first trip ever to Melbourne, and this time around, our destination was finally the capital city of Sydney.

To be honest, what I love most about Australia is of course the abundance of nature; the endless open spaces, the blue ocean waters and all the unique animals we could get up close and personal with. So, not so much for the city life, but then again, you gotta experience Sydney at least once, right?

We actually made this trip some two months ago, so forgive me if I can't quite remember all the details. Anyway, reaching the airport in the morning, we took a cab and made our way to the hotel, the Swissotel on Market Street. And yes, talk about being right smack in the centre of things, this hotel was exactly it.

Although we got in early, the reception guy tried to get us an early check-in, but there were no rooms available. Still, he took my number and promised to call once a room was ready. Great service right at the start!

Back to the hotel's location, it's actually part of a building that houses a huge mall, which is also next door to Sydney Tower and... Westfield! Yup, the same Westfield that we love so much in London. And just around the corner too was the famous Queen Victoria Building. So, really folks, if you're looking for a great place to stay in Sydney, I HIGHLY recommend the Swissotel.

For the first time though, I decided not to hire a car. It was a relatively short trip, so the first thing we did was to look for the City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off bus. We bought 2-day tickets as well as passes for 2 city attractions. Yes, very convenient although a tad expensive.

OK, allow me to go into "Highlights" mode now and share some of the cool stuff we saw and did over the next few days...

The City Sightseeing bus took us to all the important landmarks, including the Opera House, of course. It was a rather grey day, but nothing could really take away the wow factor of this iconic structure.

And opposite the Opera House was the Harbour Bridge.

We also got down at the Darling Harbour to do some shopping.

And got into the Sea Life attraction. There are 3 different attractions here, the Sea Life, the Wild Life and Madame Tussauds.

The Sea Life was thoroughly enjoyable and educational, the main attraction being a couple of dugongs...

The next day, we took the bus on a different route to get to the world famous Bondi beach. Unfortunately, that was the day with the worst weather and our trip to Bondi went like this: Got down from the bus, heavy rain fell, hid in a shop, bought souvenirs, got back on the bus...

We stopped at Darling Harbour again later on, and this time we visited the Wild Life Sydney. Honestly though, it just didn't have the same wow factor as the Sea Life.

The weather got better after that and the bus ride back to the hotel was spectacularly scenic.

End of Part I


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