Saturday, March 29, 2014

Back to Student Life Minus Lectures & Exams

To my delight, my current routine somewhat resembles my university student life but better as there are no lectures to attend or exams to pass. How did this happen? Living within the University of Sydney's campuses probably had a major influence in this change. Regardless of my destination, all routes would require me to pass by at least one of the many University of Sydney's buildings. 

Here's an example. While walking to Broadway Shopping Centre to do grocery shopping, I chanced upon a Centre of Continuing Education banner beside a bus stop. Interest piqued, I went online to find out more. With 12 different categories of courses to choose from, you would be spoiled for choices. With the long list of courses to choose from, one's constraints would probably be

  1. Budget - If one had a money tree, this won't be a constraint.
  2. Schedule - As the target audience are working individuals, the course runs mainly weekends or weeknights after work. 

Nevertheless, the creative arts as well as business & management courses caught my interest. So did the language courses - there is even the option to learn Brazilian Portuguese! If only I could be at two or more places at one time (and have that money tree), I would sign up for all. Hahaha.

Looks like there's room for more.
Another example is, while on one of my runs which does not happen as often lately, I felt I should finally learn the butterfly stroke (swimming). From there, I found out there are 3 venues I could go to to achieve this goal. I finally decided on Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF). They not only have a swim school operating at their Sports & Aquatic Centre that is open to the public, it is also closer to where I live.  

While navigating SUSF's website, I noticed they also offer a variety of program and courses open to the community. You could also opt to skip lunch and play sports under the Lunch Time Social Sport program (this is something I don't think exists in Malaysia. If it did, I never heard about it). Looking through the programs and courses, I eventually decided there are a few of them that I would like to participate in. 

The centre also has other facilities like a weight training gym, indoor wall climbing gym, tennis courts, RPM studio, a group fitness studio and even a boxing gym if sign up as a member. You will need to pay an annual membership fee and purchase an entry pass suitable to your needs. 

With the ball in my court, I might as well make the best of it. And that is how I ended up reliving my student life. Yay!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Manly Scenic Walk

We were sitting in the middle of nowhere, tired and getting thirstier with each step. Are we lost? Not really. After 5km of walking, we are at a point when turning back would mean walking the same distance as forging ahead. Unsure of our decision, we had to make one soon - the sun is directly over our heads and my water bottle is nearly empty. I cannot wait to get home.

Sydney is heaven for those who love the great outdoors. Everything is within driving distance - the beach/sea, the mountains, the walking trails, the nature parks etc. Not far from Sydney city is Manly, a suburb known for its walking trails. One of its walking attraction is Manly Scenic Walk. This walk has two routes - Manly to Spit Bridge (10km) and Manly to North Head (9.5km). 

Wanting to take advantage of these perks (being close to nature & Manly) and also to commemorate our one year anniversary, Mr. H suggested we walk this route. "Horror" stories of the walk being 10km long or it will take a reasonably fit person 4 to 4.5 hours to complete or even potential bad weather did not deter him. He was determined to do this.

Being the supportive wife that I am,  I downloaded a map from and studied the route prior to our walk. After some deliberation, we decided to start our journey at Spit Bridge towards Manly and moving on to North Head before heading back to Manly to catch our ride back to the city. This is of course before we knew that we would be walking both routes instead of one. In fact, it is only at point of writing I realised that this walk has two routes for us to choose from. Hahaha.

On Sunday morning, we made our way to Manly. Approximately $8 worth of bus rides later (per person), we arrived at Spit Bridge. Eager to start our walk we referred to the map, saw the words "Walkway Under Bridge" and proceeded to head towards that direction. This led us promptly to Plonk!, a nice little cafe by the bridge. This must have been a sign for us to plonk ourselves there for breakfast, so we did. The prices on the menu is a bit steep for our budget tastes. As the saying goes - Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. And we did (the queen apparently does not eat). Since it was also the morning of our anniversary, we decided it was alright to splurge.

After our tasty meal (I had sauteed mushroom with bread and goat cheese spread, Mr. H had scrambled eggs and toast), we were ready to go. The waiter, noticing our map commented that the weather was a bit warm for a walk but nevertheless wished us luck.

Sunblock applied, cap on head and sunnies on, we made our way across Spit Bridge to the start of the trail. It was 10:30am. The trail itself is well marked and easy to follow - chances of getting lost is hardly there unless you try really hard. You will also find that this trail is able to cater to various needs for different people - the tourists (like us), health freaks (runners, joggers, walkers etc), families & friends (catch up sessions), pet owners with their pet dogs* and even couples on dates! Having said this, it is not suitable for families with young children or strollers. You will be walking on wooden platforms, sand paths, gravel paths, steps cut out of stones, the beach, pavement and even lanes through the houses in the suburbs.

*some routes are off limits for dogs. Alternative routes are available.

After the first few kilometers, you would have thought you had seen it all and the landscape scenery to be the same throughout the whole walk. Be prepared for pleasant surprises along the way because there will be instances that will prove you wrong such as the rows of yachts docked at the marina or strong waves breaking against the rock wall.

The route has at least 20 points of interest. Out of these, we had to veer off the main path for 2 of them - Aboriginal Engraving Site and Arabanoo Lookout.

Like the name suggests, the Aboriginal Engraving Site has a collection of engraved drawings by the Aboriginal people for viewing. Sadly for me, I was not able to make out most of it except for the fish. This despite having signboards to help me out.

There's a fish in there somewhere. Can you see it?

Can you see the engravings on the stone as per the sign? Neither can I :p

I had a better experience at the Arabanoo Lookout. Thankfully, there were no engravings for me to look out for. Only scenery. To think I nearly gave this a miss due to the confusion I had minutes earlier - I was NOT expecting to be greeted by 2 teams of grown men playing football at the park. Just as I was about to make a u-turn, I spotted the location of the lookout. Phew! However, our arrival kind off ruined a couple's first date (such a nice romantic place to be on a date too). Based on their bits and pieces of conversation though, there will be more dates to come.

There were some parts I was confused but it didn't matter to me. The view alone is enough.

Some of the other attractions are more of historical information like the beach where Prince Alfred was shot and other things. I did not really bother to stop long at these spots and just continued walking. 

Fast forward to the present situation - to turn back or to carry on? According to the map (thankfully we printed one), a few picnic areas would be along the way. This is great news because from previous experiences, we know picnic areas are normally equipped with water for drinking and washing. With renewed vigor, we were back on track. Yippee! The first picnic area seemed forever to appear but we eventually got there. After quenching our thirst and refilling, we continued towards the finishing line. By this time, we had decided to end our walk at Manly Wharf. The second part of the leg (Manly to North Head and back) will have to wait for another day. 

About 1km to go, we found out that Manly is also home to the endangered Little Penguins and it is the only mainland breeding colony in New South Wales. This explains these cute little signs on the pathway. 
We didn't see any penguins :(

Unfortunately, I didn't see any penguins despite going out of my way looking for them :p Finally at the wharf, we made our way home on the next ferry.

Looking back, it was a great day. We not only completed 10km, we did it in 3.5 hours which is 1 hour faster that the estimated time. I am sure we lost some calories while at it too. Hahaha.. No doubt we shall be back for part 2.

This backdrop is one of the many that made the walk memorable.

If you're thinking of going on this walk, here's a few tips that will make the walk easier and comfortable:

  • wear walking/sport shoes or comfortable footwear
  • bring ample of water (recommended 1 liter per person)
  • don't forget to apply sunblock, bring a cap/hat and sunglasses
  • bring along light snacks
  • carry along a raincoat/poncho. Umbrella might not be suitable at certain areas.
  • don't forget your camera.
  • leave only footsteps, take only pictures.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let's Go to The Zoo

The common responses we got were either “When at the giraffes, the view of the city is amazing” or “Take the ferry. You’ll get to see the city from a different perspective.” Not quite the response I was expecting. No mention of animals, just views. Which got me thinking, is it worth the trip (and not to mention $$) to visit the zoo then or should we ditch the zoo and make other plans? By the time I got round to making the decision, it was too late to make other plans. To the zoo we are going.

There are several ways to get to the zoo – by land or sea. Not wanting to disregard one of the common advises received, we made our way to Circular Quay to catch the ferry. There are several ferry services that ply the same route (public & private owned). Just choose one that fits your timing/budget and you are on your way. Upon arrival at Circular Quay Wharf 6, we purchased the Taronga Zoo Combo Pass ($55 per person, valued at $84) from Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper. With this pass, we were entitled to
  • Entry to Taronga Zoo
  • 24 Hour Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper Pass (this allowed us to get on and off the Eco Hopper as many times as we like at the different stops).
The first ferry out was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes and the next would only leave after 1 hour. Thus we made up our minds to have breakfast on the zoo compounds instead of at the quay. Due to the “early departure”, there were not many passengers on this first trip. Most of us opted to sit on the upper deck - to soak in the view of the city (and hopefully some Vitamin D from the sunshine). 12 minutes later, we arrived at Taronga Zoo Wharf. 

Early view of the ferry ride.
Our early arrival meant  we had to make our way to the main entrance since the entrance closest to the wharf opens only later. With the option to take the Sky Safari cable car (price included in our ticket) or a free shuttle bus, we chose Sky Safari - hoping to get a bird’s eye view of Sydney city without having to hire a helicopter. And though we did get the bird’s eye view, it is probably a bird that flew below the cable lines of the ride. Somehow I do not recall the views from my other cable car rides blocked by cable lines but it’s OK, the best view is at the giraffes remember?

Walking to the gates, I remembered that zoo map I printed the day before is on my dining table at home! This did not prove to be much of a problem as free maps are available from the information counter. Children are also entitled to activity sheets – perhaps to keep them occupied in between animals. Lockers are also available for rent, although I am not sure what type of items visitors would bring along on a zoo trip only to find out that they are not needed after all. Anyways with map in hand and a sense of adventure, we are ready to begin our exploration of the zoo!

Wanting to make the most of ticket price (and also this could be our one and only trip), I declared to  Mr. H, 

"Be prepared! We will not leave until we explore all trails (all 9 of them), visit every animal enclosure (some of them are on the main path, off the trails), listen to all keeper talks and watch all shows."

Mr. H looked at me then turned to walk towards the alligators. OK good, he got the message.

Alligator does not only begin with the letter A (the first of 26 alphabets), they are also the first exhibit of the zoo from the main entrance. They are then followed by koalas, frogs and Reptile World (Trail #1). We however made our way towards Taronga Food Market – fill up our empty stomachs first and cover trails later. Walking quickly along the path, we reached the giraffe enclosure.. Lo and behold! The view that greeted us – the backdrop of the city, the harbour, the zoo surroundings etc..  words could not do justice to describe the beauty of it. Even the pictures we took with our phone cameras cannot really capture the moment - having to fight with others for the view didn't help either. I must agree though, I will be joining the long line of people recommending this not to be missed view when visiting the zoo!

Lucky owners - prime property with a view
The rumblings in our tummy not so subtly reminded us of our empty stomachs. We continued our way to the food market. Although the place open for business at 11am, there was a stall for us to buy coffee and light snacks.

We had our breakfast with a good view of the elephants (strikes that off the list). In between the munching, slurping and appreciating the baby elephant’s cuteness, we planned to do the Seal Walk (Trail #5), listen to Seal Keeper’s talk and watch the Seal Show. Alas due to timings and locations (zoo authorities should plan this better), we had to ditch the talk but caught the show and did walk instead.

The Seal show is not only entertaining, it is educational as well. Somehow, the concept and the way the show is delivered is different from what I am used to. We are not only entertained by the tricks performed by the seal, at the same time we are educated on how we can each do our part to help maintain the marine's ecosystem for future generations (humans and sea animals). After this, I definitely will keep a look out for the MSC-certified seafood logo when buying fish. 

By stroke of luck, we also caught the QBE Bird Show. Despite being late, we got good "standing seats" behind the hedges of the show area. Again, an entertaining yet educational segment. We were introduced to different types of birds, their lifestyles and how they are currently threatened in our world. The hosts also share on what each of us can do to help save the environment and make it safe to for the birds e.g. picking up litter and throwing it in the trash.

Taronga Zoo does emphasis on conservation and this can be seen clearly from both shows. I am confident that all their other shows carry the same message as well.

Although there were many animals at the Zoo, my favourite would of course have to be the koalas. Looking all fluffy and moving slowly (if they are moving at all) between the tree branches, they look adorable! Koala encounters are also available for a fee. Here, you get the chance to be up, close and personal with a koala and take home a picture for remembrance. Do sign up early if you decide to do this as tickets are limited and can sell out.

A total of 6 hours were spent walking along trails & paths, watching the animal shows and meal breaks in between. It was time well spent. The zoo is not only a place to learn about the animals, habitats and conservation efforts, it is also a great place to spend time with family and friends. There are numerous play areas for children (doubles as good photo taking opportunities), picnic areas & gardens to enjoy your meal especially when the restaurants/ cafes are full and quiet areas for you to sit and reflect. Ooo.. keep an eye out for some free-roaming animals (mainly birds) and remember, do not feed them. 

The visit to the zoo would not be complete without a quick stop at the Zoo shop and its delightful array of souveniers. Quite a number of things caught our eye and in the end, we settled on a family of owls. They were too cute to resist!

First house decor in Sydney

We boarded the 3:45pm ferry towards the Circular Quay and took the longer route because our 24 hour pass entitles us so. Again, we took the upper deck to take advantage of the views. It tends to get cold, my tip is to bring along a light jacket for a more comfortable ride. Also, if planning to wear a hat/cap, make sure it is tight enough so it would not fly off your head. 

The ferry ride took us to Watsons Bay and Manly with several stops in between. If it had been earlier in the day, we could actually disembark and explore these little towns (each had its own specialty and different activities) and take the next ferry back. 

Sail boat between Watsons Bay and Manly
However not only it was getting late, we were knackered from the zoo and had a dinner appointment to go to. Also, the storm gates were gonna break open any moment and we didn't the possibility of being late because of the weather. 

Overall, I had a great day. Taronga Zoo is not only entertaining for children, also for adults without children! Definitely worth a second (or third or more) visit.

For zoo map, tips and information on making the best of your visit to Taronga Zoo, go to

For Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper (the ferry service we used), go to

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Not So Sedap Experience

Warning: This is not a food review.

Dressed in black t-shirt and red shorts, her hair fashioned in a pony tail and face make up so thick you can barely make out her eyes. She walked over to take our orders and was quite annoyed we still did not know what we wanted. I forced myself to pay attention when she went through her recommendations - not because I couldn't understand her but because I was distracted in trying to figure out if she made her mouth extra pouty to accentuate her features.

We finally ordered. I asked for Penang char kuey teow and a hot teh tarik. The fact that I had an option to order cold teh tarik should have been a red flag that I am not home in food-heaven Malaysia.

My dish was last to arrive. Just as I was about to tuck in, I noticed the sausages. It was not the colour I was accustomed to. With a niggling feeling this could be what I think it is, I asked one of the girls working there the meat used. She said "chicken sausages". Just as I was about to breath a sigh of relief, she had her doubts and immediately asked her colleague - pony tail girl the same question.

"It is pork." pony tail girl replied.

My fears are founded. I am again reminded this is not Malaysia but a foreign country where it is necessary to ask the ingredients of each food type I am about to order. When there is a remote possibility of a certain ingredient to be present even when you least expect it.

I asked the waitress if it is possible to make the same dish without pork as I am not allowed to eat them. She agreed and took the dish away.

Pony tail girl comes to our table to check if there was a problem with the dish. 

"You FORGOT to tell me?!" she exclaimed with an incredulous look AND a sarcastic tone of voice after we briefly explained the situation. At that moment, her eyes seemed a little bit bigger (not that I thought it was impossible).

We told her we would still pay for the earlier dish just that we wanted a similar one without pork. She did not look pleased/placated and huffily made her way to the cashier/kitchen to relate the outcome. Maybe she thought we blamed her (we did not).

Although I admit the mistake is mine, this incident left a bitter taste in my mouth (and in my teh tarik). Pony tail girl single handedly influenced my decision to exclude Sedap, Regent Place from my list of preferred eateries. Okay, that's not entirely true. The teh tarik had a small influence too.


Sedap is located at 501 Regent Place (George Street Level), 501 George Street, Sydney.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11am - 9.30pm

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My First Misfortune Test

To find out if you are settled or adjusted to a new environment, I believe one has to go through the Misfortune Test (this is what I call it anyways). Unfortunately this is not a test you can plan ahead, it happens when you least expect it. If you know immediately what to do and where to go to handle/resolve that misfortune, then you are settled. If you don't, then this event will make you one step closer to settling down.

I had my misfortune test last week in the form of a stiff neck/back ache and I kind of passed the test. Back in KL, I would immediately know what to do and who to look for. Having given up on modern medicine (the doctor would just prescribe muscle relaxants and pain killers for a few days), I would seek help from

1. Terry - Dorn therapy practitioner
2. Cheah - Acupuncturist/Gwasa (not sure how this is spelt)
3. Thai Odyssey and book a back/shoulder massage (don't go to the 1MK outlet tho)

depending on the severity of my situation. This time, it wasn't that easy. One,  I am new to the area. Two, I do not know what's the medical process here, how much is it going to cost etc. Not knowing who to ask for recommendations (can we really trust the Yellow Pages?), I hoped the pain will go away after a few days. 

It didn't of course. After a week of suffering, the pain showed no signs of improving, leaving me no choice but to deal with it. I recall during my walks, there is a Chinese herbal medicine shop/clinic in the neighbourhood. The walk to The Natural Medicine Clinic - Chinese herbal medicine & acupuncture took me about 5 minutes. On arrival, there was no one there. I waited a bit and a few minutes later, an elderly Chinese woman in a sundress and sports shoes walked out from one of the consultation rooms.

"Yes?" she asked, a bit confused to see me.  I explained to her my symptoms, hoping she could help.

"Go massage first. Very near." pointing a few doors down the clinic. 

Now I am confused. Why is she sending me away? Sensing my confusion, she continued 

"Massage first. Cheaper and good. Chinese massage. If not better, come for acupuncture." 

Oooo.. ok. That make sense. Out of curiousity, I asked how much is a session of acupuncture.

"$185 for first time. $175 second time." 

I quickly headed towards the massage place she recommended. Boy, am I glad I did. The set up of the place was very basic - not impressive at all. The massage however, is one of the best I had in a long time.

Anita is from China too and spoke little English. Somehow I managed to communicate my condition to her. She pressed against the areas that hurt - neck, shoulders and back to assess the severity before she gave me a quote - $60 for 1 hour. Upon hearing the price, I agreed to the "treatment" and prayed that it will relieve my pain and not make it worse.

For the next hour, I was a dough at the hands of a pastry chef. It felt like that anyways. There was a point, I was convinced she was using a rolling pin on me! Turns out, she was using her forearm. Haha.. Anita worked on me with a vengeance, determined to un-knot my muscles bit by bit. The room would be filled with "ouches" each time she worked on a new area. With each knead, I could feel my muscles relaxing and the pain gradually going away. As soon as I got used to this nice feeling, she would move to another affected area resulting in another round of "ouches". This scene was repeated for the next hour. Time passed by slowly and I thought it would never end. It did eventually end much to my relief. What is even more a relief is I felt much much better. Yay! I would definitely come for a second session as a followup, after I let my sore muscles recover over the next few days.

As I walked out the door, I made a mental note that this is the place to come for my body ache remedies. I am one step closer to settling down.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sleepless in Sydney

I used to cry after my mother dropped me off at Villamaria (my kindergarten) and Sekolah Sri Petaling (my primary school). That's pretty normal right? Yeah.. except it is not the first day or even first week of school but the middle of the school term/year. It stumped my teachers since most kids would have grown out of the crying phase way before. For me, I was just getting started.

Fast forward 30 years later, seems like I did not outgrow this trait. No, I do not burst out into tears like I used to, I just cannot sleep. For example, most people I know have trouble sleeping the first night (some even the first few) when in a new environment. As the days go by, they settle down and sleep at bedtime. I on the other hand seem to be the opposite. The more I settle down, the more I cannot sleep.

Moving from one continent to another, I had no problems adjusting to my new place - sleep wise over the first few days. Then the sleepless-ness started. When we moved to our own place, all was well again. Five weeks after the big move, it's back. I am now getting only 3-3.5 hours of sleep daily (since the past week at least). Even though I have the luxury of sleeping in and taking naps during the day, I don't seem to be taking advantage of this.

Mr. H thinks I am not exhausting myself enough. Perhaps he has a point. A typical day for me would start at 6:00am. After morning prayers and sending Mr. H off to work, it is always part of my plan to go back to bed by 6:45 and be up when the body wakes up. Alas, this is not the case as by 7:00am I am wide awake. I'll get an early start with my chores and whatever activities planned for the day. Sometimes I create more activities to do just because I can.. Haha.  Although I expect to be exhausted by midnight, I am not. My guess is I would normally fall asleep by 2:30am-3:00am since I cannot recall from then on :p

So why is it the more settled I am, the more not adjusted I become? I dunno.

When my sister-in-law Maryam read on my Facebook status update I was having trouble sleeping, she introduced Bach Rescue Sleep to me. Four drops and two sprays on the tongue, half an hour later I am in dreamland. Mr H even approves of this since he recently suggested I get my doses so I can go to sleep. It could also be he just wanted me to stop disrupting his own sleep with my tossing and turning.

Here's the range of the items I have. So far, I have used Rescue Sleep more than once. Rescue Stress? Have not felt stress enough to try it.

Rescue Sleep & Rescue Stress range

What remedies do you use if you're in the same situation? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Goals & KPIs: Goals #7 and #8 Updated

Sometime throughout the week, I successfully formalised another 2 more goals for 2014.

Goal #7: Health & Fitness
They take their sports seriously here and why not? The weather here is good (too cold for me) and their facilities are excellent. I am lucky too as I reside within the vicinity of University of Sydney. Their sports program (open to local residents) are impressive too.

Taking advantage of this, I have decided to:

  1. run a total of 100km in 3 months
  2. learn how to swim the butterfly stroke
  3. sign up for gym membership and attend the group fitness sessions or swimming at least 3 times a week.
This goal could be a tough one, will require a lot of discipline and motivation as I would probably feel like the picture below most of the time. Hahaha

Hiding under the covers - from the cold.

Goal #8: The learning never stops
I also discovered that University of Sydney offer short courses that are open to residents too. The courses offered are interesting enough and this could be a sneak peak to another new category of knowledge.

With 8 of the 12 goals defined, this should keep me occupied until the end of the year. Once I have defined the remaining 4, this blog will be updated. To find out what goals #1 to #6 are, read it here.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Modern Day Maps

Every explorer has a map. With the birth of the internet and smart phones, maps have gone high-tech in the form of apps. Not only they are virtual, you can almost download any map from any location you are (whether it is accurate or not, that's a different story) and have several suggested routes for you to choose from. 

Since moving to Sydney, I find myself wearing the hat of an explorer. Irregardless of me finding my way to tourist attractions or the grocery store, I find myself relying on 6  different apps to get from Point A to Point B (in Malaysia, it was only 2). I do not use all of them together as they do not necessarily agree with each other but more to complement one another. 

Google Maps

I relied heavily on this app when we were house hunting. Unlike in Malaysia, the full address of a property is listed in the advertisement. 
With Google Maps, I am able to "calculate" the walking/driving/cycling distance from a potential home to Mr. H's workplace for example. We short listed our options using this app. 

Nowadays, I use this app when other apps confuses me.

We used this only after arriving in Sydney. Apparently the app is much more reliable here (as compared to Malaysia) since the maps are maintained locally. 

Nevertheless, we only use this when Waze is not available or when we don't feel like exploring the nooks and crannies as recommended by Waze :p

My first public transport application I downloaded even before landing in Sydney. It was useful initially but I never got the hang of it. I found it more confusing than not. 

The good of this app is you are linked to the bus/ferry schedule in real time. You will know

- if the next bus is on time or delayed
- how many stops to go to your stop

For this app to work well, knowing the address (your location/destination) is not good enough, you need to know the location of the bus stop/train station etc. If you don't know this, be prepared for frustration.

Sydney PT
Sydney's Public Transport application. I downloaded this app out of frustration (with TripView) and it hasn't let me down ever since. 

By keying in Point A (where you are) and Point B (where you want to go), this app lists the various routes you can opt to take involving the various forms of public transport available. It also provides the estimated duration to get there.

The benefits of this app is, I don't need to know my exact location and the destination address. Sometimes I just enter the landmark and routes are displayed.

Note: Estimated duration is calculated based on travel time. Wait time not included.

This is my new toy and I still find this much better than TripView. Similar to Sydney PT, this app allows me to enter my start and end point and will provide me with the various routes available.

The part that gets me all excited is, the app also calculates the estimated cost of each suggested route!

For example, my search result to Ikea resulted in the following:

  • Self drive - 9min, $2
  • Bus #422 - 15min, $4
  • Taxi - 11min, $15

Cool right? Not only that, the app also provides the carbon dioxide emission for each trip. 
Last but not least, another one of my favourite is...


Before you go "Foursquare is not a navigation app", let me clarify that I am the only person I know that uses the app the way I use it. 

This app is useful when I am within the vicinity of my destination but not quite there.

For example, the cafe I would like to go is located on Missenden Road. I am at the road yet the cafe is nowhere in sight.  I will then 

  1. whip out my phone
  2. Go to Foursquare 
  3. Press Check In
  4. Perform Search for the name of the cafe/outlet 
  5. The search results will state the distance of the outlet from where I am.
This is of course a rough guide as the accuracy of the distance is dependent on the BTS you are connected to (might not be the closest) and where exactly was the "check in" point created.

So there you have it, my list  of modern day must have maps that gets me around without getting lost.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Exploring Sydney on a Budget

Yesterday marks one month since we arrived in Sydney. Time passed quickly yet slowly depending on I-don't-really-know-what factors. Even though we are living abroad as a long term visitor (for me at least while Mr. H is hard at work), it would not be right to not make time or effort to explore the city. As we aim to balance budget & experience, we managed to find and complete five activities without costing us an arm and/or a leg.

1. Free walking tours Sydney
This is a great "short cut" way to learn more about Sydney city. While the tour is free, tipping your guide is expected at the end of the tour (that is how they earn their $$). The tour runs three times a day (rain or shine) at the following times - 10:30am, 2:30pm and 6pm. The first two sessions would cover the same sights while the 6pm tour is a different one.

If you do decide to join the tour, my advice would be:

  • wear comfortable shoes/sandals/footwear - it's a lot of walking and you need to keep up with the group.
  • bring a raincoat or umbrella (in case it rains).
  • sunscreen and sunglasses
  • cash (for tips).
For more information on this tour, go to

2. Scenic walk from Bondi to Bronte

View from Bondi to Bronte

You are not limited to walking, you can also jog along the route. We noticed quite a number of joggers/runners covering this route. The view is also awesome and perhaps does help motivate the runner to complete the distance.

If you're not exercising, taking this walk is still worth while - the views are amazing and there are ample of opportunities for picture taking. Along the way, there are also boards with information regarding the history of the place, local conservation efforts, flora & fauna etc.

It was a sunny day (don't forget your sunscreen, sunglasses and also a cap/hat) yet it was breezy. It reminded me of my walk on my way up to Gunung Tahan in 2003. Felt like I was walking in an air-conditioned outdoor room.

In the event you are tired or short of time, you don't have to complete the whole distance. Just take one of the many exits and you are free to head back home (via public transport) or head to the shops nearby for a cuppa.

3. BBQ Picnic at Palm Beach
Bring your own BBQ set or use the grills provided for public use (it is free). The BBQ area itself is opposite the beach, closer to the golf course. This is probably a calculated move as the winds are strong by the beach - making it harder to maintain a fire right? 

Once the picnic is over, feel free to head to the beach for a swim or for some sand play.

Palm Beach

4. Mrs Macquaries Chair
Mrs Macquarie loves to watch the ships enter the harbour. Her husband asked his men to carve a chair from stone so she can sit and continue watching the ships comfortably (this is my version as I remember). 

The chair is close to the Botanical Gardens. In fact, we made a small detour into the gardens on our way to the chair (we were gifted with the magnificent view of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and a huge liner in return). In order to kill two (or more birds) with one stone, you can coincide this visit with a picnic or a jog or a run etc.

5. Sydney Fish Market
This is a popular stop, not only among the tourists but also locals for fresh (and perhaps cheap?) seafood. You can choose your seafood and get them to cook it just the way you like it and enjoy your freshly cooked food outside overlooking the harbour. We have not experienced this exactly but did get the chance to yamcha at a restaurant on the 2nd floor :p

Not bad for the first month eh?