Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's time for action

A few years ago, someone who did not know me well commented I think too much, to the point I would feel down and depressed. You know what? He is right. I have this ability to think about something right down to all the possible consequences even without even having to go through that instance. It is similar to convincing myself I would lose the war even before signing up for a battle.

With so much thought and planning (not to mention constant re-planning and risks identification and risk management plans etc), it is no surprise nothing gets done. After all that thinking, there is no energy left to execute them and even if there was, I would have convinced myself it is not worth doing and abandon all plans for "next time".

This year, it is time to stop thinking and start doing. The results might not be what I expected but at least I made an attempt. I have nothing to loose and much experience to gain.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Park Culture: PJ/KL vs Sydney

Victoria Park, Sydney
I see runners/joggers/walkers. Also parents who watch over their children play at the playground. Couples sitting in the car at the car park while they get to know each other.

In Sydney
I not only see joggers/runners and parents with children but pets and their owners too. I see group of friends chatting. I see a young man reading a book under a tree. I see a university student tapping his foot on the grass while listening to the iPod. I see a group of people having a picnic birthday party - complete with balloons. I see a couple sitting on the grass, talking. I see two bikini clad girls sun bathing in the sun pockets. I also see a girlfriend and her boyfriend sun bathing in their swimwear. I see a young mother push the bulky stroller while her toddler toddles on the grass. I see a baby crawling away towards the tree while the father attempts to take a picture with his smartphone.

I see more in Sydney than in PJ/KL.Why is this so? Is it the weather? Is it the society? Is it the culture? I do not know. What I do know is, I like what I see here more.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

High Country Riding in Oberon

The Sydney - Oberon journey took us 2.5 hours
Easter Weekend (Apr 18-21, 2014) seem to be the longest public holiday weekend we experienced in Sydney. Since we do not celebrate Easter and for once a weekend Mr H does not have to work, we grabbed this opportunity to explore outside the city. Our chosen destination: Blue Mountains, approx 1.5 hour drive from Sydney.

Most would stay in Katoomba when visiting Blue Mountains but we found ourselves in Oberon instead (2.5 hours from Sydney). How did we end up there? Same question I asked Mr H and I never really got a straight answer. Nevertheless our 2 night stay at Titania Motel were already paid for and I was tasked to look up for activities we can do during our stay.

According to Tripadvisor, Oberon has only TWO attractions - Mayfield Gardens and High Country Trail Rides & Farm Stay. With the gardens open to visitors only six weekends a year and we were early by a weekend, the trail ride won hands down.

All set to go on a clear blue day

It was a beautiful afternoon when we arrived at the farm with horses greeting us at the entrance. Pauline, who owns and runs the farm arrived a few minutes later on a quad bike with her dogs. After filling up a form, we picked our riding gear and waited patiently to begin our ride while Pauline prepared the horses. Unfortunately, another group turned up a day early without sufficient notice (these are my words) and the wait turned to be longer than expected in order to get them sorted. Nothing to complain about tho as we were quite happy to explore the grounds and soak in the gorgeous landscape. The weather was just as beautiful -- any weather that does not require a jacket is welcomed by me.

Not your usual pillion rider.
Not your usual helper either.
"Negative" selfies

Reverse selfies of me + Polly. Photobombed
by Jo. I somehow managed to block Pauline
& Patch from view.
Once we were seated on Polly and Jo, we were given a quick briefing on how to handle and effectively communicate with them. Forty minutes later, I am leading the pack. Hahaha..  This is my very first time riding a horse without someone holding the reins or leading it. In fact prior to this, my horse/pony riding experiences are limited to circling in the paddock or being led by a handler on a straight trail. On this ride, I am handling the horse on my own which is a testimony that Pauline's horses are

  • well trained
  • calm
  • tame and most importantly
  • understand instructions even from someone as green to horse riding as me!

Our high country trail ride took us through a pine forest currently in the process of being cleared. Apparently the trees were planted with the intention to be cut down 20-30 years later. The area would then be replanted and the trees would be about horse high (I think) in two years. 

Back to our ride. We didn't get far initially as Shabu, ridden by a petrified boy kept on stopping and eating grass after every few steps. You would have thought Shabu had not eaten for days. Pauline disagreed with this thought and was apologetic about the constant stops. She also wondered why Shabu behaved in such a manner. I thought perhaps Shabu was being naughty and acted on the boy's fear. Turns out, the boy was holding on the reins too tightly - a signal to stop. Since they were not moving, Shabu thought it was a good time to snack. Once Pauline figured this out, she went over to the boy and gave him a refresher talk on horse handling. We progressed faster after that :) 

After riding a bit more, we made a u-turn and headed back to the farm safely. No dramas of me galloping away on a runaway horse. In fact none of us had any issues with anyone of the horses. Polly (and her friends) are trained well to not do this. I did not take much pictures during the ride and most of Mr H's pictures are of my back -- as you can see below.  
She (doggy) kept us company throughout the ride.
Apparently her 3rd trip for the day.

Patch grabbing a bite while Pauline sorted out Shabu's
Reminds me of a scene from The Village.

All said and done, it was a great outing. Even greater to find out at the end of our ride, we (Mr H and I) had earned ourselves a free 1 hour ride the next time we are in the area due to the circumstances of the day. Yippee! We are keen to return even without the free ride. Next time, we would opt for the longer bush trail ride that allows us to view the waterfalls.

For more information on High Country Trail Rides & Farm Stay, visit

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Introduction to Coffee Culture in Sydney

I am a self-proclaimed coffee lover and if latte, long black, espresso and the likes come to mind, you are way off mark. I am more of the Nescafe (home mixed or 3-in-1 version) and kopi tarik kind of coffee person. Haha..

Not Nescafe or kopi tarik.

Before our big move, I was told Australians love their coffee and the coffee culture here is big. In fact, the coffee culture mushrooming in Malaysia *could be* a spin-off from here. Anyways it was predicted that I would be a coffee snob by the time I head back to KL, having been accustomed to the coffee culture here. 2.5 months later, my road to "coffee snob-dom" could take a while.

Despite being neighbours with Glebe (apparently plenty of coffee joints here), I have not had the chance to rub shoulders with other coffee lovers in these coffee places. In fact, my first visit to a real coffee place was only 2 weeks ago in Camperdown (another neighbouring suburb). Campos Coffee in Missenden Road came with great reviews - online and offline. I happen to be at the doorstep one day, so I thought why not find out what the hype is all about.

Walking in, the place is small and cosy. It was also nearly full with customers. I looked for a display board with a list of drinks I can order (the kind they have in Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf). No board. Maybe they have a copy of the menu on a table or somewhere. A quick scan round the room indicated there were no menu available. The 3-4 customers ahead of me were rattling off their complicated orders with ease. Perhaps they had one copy pasted on the counter top (some places do this).  First in line by now, I looked at the counter. Nothing there. The young girl stares at me expectantly for my order. I stared at her back.

"Chai latte please. To go." I mumbled finally. I don't know where that came from. I actually wanted a latte without the chai - my "safe" drink.

While waiting for them to prepare my drink, I was still thinking about my order experience.

How was it possible to have an F&B outlet with no menu?
How would I know what sort of drink is available for order? 
More importantly how would I know the price of a drink? What if I only had $5 and ordered a $6 drink? How will I pay for it?

From there, I then thought about the other customers. They were obviously not handicapped without the menu, in fact they made their orders the moment they set foot in front of the counter. Perhaps they were regulars who had going there for their coffee fix for years and years. They probably have the menu in their head, having memorised it. Or they only know of one drink by heart and ordered that day after day. Whatever the reason, I now felt like an unwelcome guest trying to be part of a members only coffee club.

"Chai latte!"

I grabbed the cup and practically ran out of the shop before stopping in mid-tracks. Walking back in, I headed for the counter, grabbed sticks of sugar and a stirrer (awkwardly crossing the path of someone there) and headed home to enjoy my cuppa. It did taste nice, nicer than the chai latte I had the day before. 

Not wanting to allow one bad experience to deter me, I invited Mr H for a cup of coffee at Campos a few days later. The place was just as busy, being a Sunday. Feeling a bit less the outsider, I scanned the shop. Still no menu in sight tho. There was a small board beside the till,  could that be the menu? Probably not as it had only 4-6 items listed. It could be their brew of coffees for the day.

There was a short queue and 5 minutes later, we were in front. I told the girl it's our first time there (technically true as the last time I was alone) and asked for recommendations (I am bit smarter than before). She asked if we wanted hot or cold. Replied "one of each." She suggested affagato (ice cream + coffee) and latte. We ordered iced latte and affagato (Belgian white chocolate flavored ice-cream).

Affagato on the left, iced latte on the right.
Uncle behind dunno. 

This must be my first affagato as I have no recollection of having one before. Although it was love at first sight, the love lessened with each spoon. The coffee was extremely bitter and the only saviour was the Belgian white chocolate flavoured ice-cream. Perhaps next time, I will just order the ice-cream. The latte was nicer tho although Mr H didn't seem too happy with it. He felt it was not sweet enough. 

On our way out, Mr H's face lighted up when he discovered soy latte is part of the invisible menu. Looks like another visit could be on the cards but not before I brush up on my coffee knowledge with help from Know Your Coffee - understanding the cafe menu at last.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's Newtown

"Eh betul ke* had bulls running in Newtown the other day?" came Ronnie's message via Whatsapp.

Not exactly sure which "other day" he was referring to, I mentally played back the events from a week before. I did recall a group of school children covered in multi-coloured powder boarding the bus but that was in the city, not in Newtown. Sharing that information with him, he insisted that there were bulls running loose along King Street. 

One hour later, I was still thinking about bulls. I mean, why would bulls be running loose in my area? It's not that I live in a village. Far from it actually. Not wanting to look like someone who doesn't know what's going on in the neighbourhood, a quick search on the internet revealed the headline - Water buffalo on the loose in Newtown. And I laughed and laughed and could not stop laughing. 

In a nutshell, two water buffaloes escaped from their make-shift enclosure , headed for Newtown and were chased by a filming buggy, a police car and a fire truck. The part that cracked me up though has to be this statement below. 

“It was kind of bizarre but it was Newtown so I didn't think it was that unusual,” she said. 

Prior to living in here (even after), we get comments like 
  • Newtown is quirky
  • Newtown is different
  • Newtown is eccentric
  • Newtown is Newtown
  • Newtown is full of characters
  • Newtown is this or that etc. 
I never really understood these comments until this incident. Now when I walk down King Street, I keep an eye out for weird happenings. Who knows, I might be lucky to witness it this time.

*betul ke = is it true

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Your Ticket to Travel in Sydney

We do not own a car yet we are mobile due to the efficiency of the public transport system here. In Malaysia, this would be close to impossible as the public transport system is something to be desired. Over here, taxis are the more expensive option but reliable and will take you to your destination without much fuss. Other forms of transportation - bus, ferry, light train and train are not only a cheaper option but reliable and convenient too. 

Each mode of transport has its own ticket types - MyBus, TravelTen, MyFerryMyTrain. Then you have the MyMulti that allow you to travel on all modes of transport with a single ticket. All tickets are for a single journey except for the MyMulti (unlimited trips on various mode of transport) and TravelTen (allows up to 10 separate trips but with substantial savings as oppose to buying a single trip x 10).

With all the different options, how do we choose the type of ticket to suit our travel needs without bursting the wallet? Just continue reading and hopefully you'll get a better idea at the end of the article. Please note that these recommendations are based on my experiences, lifestyle and should be used a guide only.

MyMulti tickets are good if you are a short term visitor to the city. As you will be maximising your stay and visiting as many places as you can, the unlimited trips allowed on the four different transport systems mean you won't be spending an arm and a leg just to get around.

When we first arrived, we purchased the MyMulti weekly pass ($46) - a good option as we had to make multiple trips back and forth in order to settle down (traveling to house inspections, setting up bank accounts, signing up for whatever that is needed for a new home etc).

The MyMulti is also good if you are a working resident or someone that travels on a daily basis. Besides the weekly pass, they also have monthly, quarterly and yearly passes. For more information on MyMulti, click on this link.

Once we moved to Newtown, I realised that MyMulti weekly pass is turning out to be an expensive option. Not only we do not have to travel as much as we used to, our main mode of transport is either the bus or to walk. Despite having 3 train stations within walking distance, we are very lucky to be on quite a number of bus routes. Thus Sydney's Public Transport application keep recommending routes that do not require any train rides. Therefore having a transport pass that allows me to get unlimited access rides to various means of public transport is no longer required.

Since my main mode of transport is the bus, I would stock up on MyBus1 and MyBus2 TravelTens. Unfortunately, there are no monthly passes for MyBus. In the event I need to take the train or the ferry, I will then purchase a single or return trip MyFerry/MyTrain ticket. In the long run, this method is more economical for me.

If you are a non-working resident/long time visitor like me, you might not be going out on a daily basis or as often. Even if you do, your destination is not that far away allowing you to walk there (like going to the grocer's, the shops etc). You may want to opt for the MyBus or MyFerry TravelTen. Light Rail tickets are available in daily/weekly passes and MyTrain are available in 7 or 14 day passes.

Another option is to use the Opal card, currently available on trains and ferries only. Buses are expected to use this system by the end of the year. Go to Opal for more info.

What about moments when you really need a car e.g. purchasing bulky items or need to cover a few places within a short span of time? Well, we would make our way there by bus/train/ferry and take a taxi back. As a last resort, we would rent a car using either one of these services - GoGet Carshare or Hertz. This does not happen often, in fact we have only done this twice in the months we have been here.

Hope this write up has helped you plan your travels within your budget. For more information on Sydney Transport, do visit their website at 

Note: For phone apps that can help you get from point to point, do read My Modern Day Maps.