Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Visit Canberra - Part 2

In Visit Canberra - Part 1, I had covered the following attractions: Malaysia House (well not exactly an attraction unless you are Malaysian), The National Arboretum Canberra, Parliament House, Museum of Australian Democracy and Australian War Memorial. Fortunately for us, the third week of January 2015 saw us in Canberra once again.

After visiting the main attractions of this city, where did we go during our second visit?

Questecon - The National Science and Technology Centre
Ever wanted to have better understanding and awareness of science and technology in your day to day life? Make your way to Questecon!

Since we did not make it here on our first trip due to time constraints, we made amends by making this our first stop upon arrival in Canberra. If you thought this place is for kids only, you thought wrong. With over 200 interactive exhibits divided into 8 galleries, Mr H and I had a great afternoon here (spent about 3 hours). We would have stayed on if not for closing time. In fact, we continued our discovery outside the building as there are exhibits located outside too.

The highlight of our visit here would definitely be Free Fall - where it allows you to experience the body's natural fear response and also a moment of weightlessness. Video of me free falling below. 

Questecon is open daily except for December 25. There is a fee to enter: $23 Adults, $17.50 Children (4-16 years). For more information, visit their official website.

Cockington Green Gardens
What I thought was a flower garden turned out to be more than that. Each display would have its own story and would consist of a garden (plants, flowers, trees etc), miniature buildings and figurines. The gardens were initially meant to complement the miniatures. However, they have succeeded into becoming an attractive themselves. 

The displays are also divided into different sections - the original area, International area and Rose Room Indoor Exhibit among others. A lot of walking and appreciation work is required, do wear comfortable shoes! With not much shade available either, it is important to not forget your sunnies and/or a hat and sunscreen.

I would recommend you to spend about an hour or more here. There is an entry fee to enter the grounds, might as well make the most of it. We took a lot of pictures and here's a few to share.
Can't recall the actual name, so I will call it Fairy Garden.
I love how figurines are arranged to narrate a story.
Closest I have ever been to Stonehenge.
Riding the miniature steam train with Imran and Arminia.
Out of the blue, we were greeted by Disney characters!

Still not convinced? Visit Cockington Green Gardens's website for more details.
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex - NASA's Deep Space Network
Located in Tidbinbilla (ACT), this communication complex is about an hour's drive from Canberra (I slept most of the way). It was about 2:30pm when we got there. At first we were not sure if this was the right place and if yes, was it open? The area was rather quiet and there were no other cars in the parking lot. Our doubts were gone when 2 other cars arrived, parked and the passengers walked through the side entrance.
With 3 active antennas, I expected guards everywhere. The entrance was unmanned. and visitors would just walk through the side gate.
Visitors can wander around and take pictures with antennas that have been retired as long as they are within the allowed perimeter.
Presumably one of the three active antennas
We then proceeded to the Visitor Centre. The centre is open from 9am to 5pm and entrance is free (yay!). Inside, visitors are able to learn more about the space program; the important role Australia plays in exploration of space as well other things you wanted to know regarding space exploration. There are movies to watch, interactive games to play, latest images from the solar system, grab a bite at Moon Rock Cafe and many more.

We spent at least an hour or so browsing through exhibits, taking our time to absorb information that did not seem boring at all (despite some being very technical). 
Space suit photo taking prop
Our visit this time was during Australia Day weekend. We were lucky enough to be able to meet Philip Clark, the author of Acquisition. Clark worked at the Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station from 1966 until its closure in 1985. Not wanting history to disappear just like that, he took it upon himself to pen down his memories and experiences while working there into a book. 

Luqman with Philip Clark, author of Acquisition.
View from Visitor Centre.
If you have the time, make your way to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve which is just a few kilometres away. Since we were driving back to Sydney that same evening, we gave the reserve a miss. Before your visit, perhaps it is a good idea to go through their official website. It will definitely help in planning your trip better.

On that note, we have come to an end of my Visit Canberra series. With at least 7 attractions to go to, there is no reason to leave out Canberra from your itinerary.

Visit Canberra - Part 1

Canberra, the capital city of Australia is about a 2 hour drive (longer according to Hajar) from Sydney. While it is not surprising for some tourists to give Canberra a miss as it is deemed "boring", we covered quite a number of places during our visits there (we did it in 2 weekends - once in autumn and the other in summer).

So where did we go? Read on to find out.

Malaysia House
Not exactly a tourist attraction unless you are Malaysian. Mr H’s early years were spent here. He does not have any recollection of it except for second hand information he gets from his parents and relatives.

Driveway up to Malaysia House.
Mr H's early years were spent here. Those days, the area was not fenced.

The National Arboretum Canberra
One of the largest tree conservation projects in the world, I did expect to see and walk through lots of trees. What I did not expect to see was the Bonsai collection on display. Located within the Village Centre, there were about 20 bonsais on display (if not more). Some were prettily done, with different colour leaves on one tree.

Pretty bonsais on display.
We then took a slow walk towards Dairy Farmers Hill. Here, there is a lookout that gives you a 360 degree view of Canberra (and beyond) as well as a outdoor sculpture, Nest III.
We walked down a green "oval". Perfect spot for a picnic or just to roll yourselves downhill.
Our approximately 40 minute walk brought us through replanted vegetation and uphill. It was only later we found out we could have actually driven up to the lookout point. Hahaha
Nest III. Sculpture was created by Richard Moffatt in 2007 from abandoned farm machinery.

Parliament House (New)
A visit to Parliament house is a must if you are in Canberra, since it is the capital city of Australia. You are welcomed to wander around public areas on your own or you may opt for a guided tour. Depending on your interest, you may view the proceedings from the public galleries when the Houses are in session. You may also book yourself a ticket for Question Time (booking required only for House of Representatives). 

Mandatory pose on Parliament rooftop
Senate Chamber
House of Representatives Chamber
Not keen on politics? Spend time viewing the art collection instead. Parliament House Art Collection, a significant heritage value is divided to sub-collections which include Rotational Collection, Gifts Collection, Historic Memorial Collections and Outdoor Sculptures among others. 

One of the arts on display
Open to the public every day except on Christmas day, visitors are able to wander around the public areas on your own or take the guided tour. For more information, go to Visit Parliament.

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
Until 1988, this building was Parliament House. Today, it is the Museum of Australian Democracy. It is open to public daily except on Christmas Day. There is a small entry fee - 
$2 adults, $1 children and concessions, and $5 family.

Similar to the present Parliament House, visitors are able to visit both chambers and take photos. You may also browse through the permanent exhibitions (I believe there are 4, my favourite is Designing Democracy) as well other non permanent exhibitions.

Part of Designing Democracy - The Illuminations by Wendy Fairclough (2011)
For more information and to plan your visit, go to Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Australian War Memorial
Another must visit attraction when in Canberra. Again, you can opt to join in the various guided tours available or wander at your own leisure. There is so much to see and absorb here if you are interested in history. I am not very into history but I did admire the pretty architectural designs and exhibits available.

When I was there, it was during Anzac Day weekend. Bouquets of flowers were left behind with messages of gratitude, hope and peace at strategic locations within the memorial. 
The Roll of Honour
Lovely stain glass feature inside the Hall of Memory
Lovely stain glass feature inside the Hall of Memory
I think this is called the Commemorative Courtyard which leads up to Hall of Memory. Inside is the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

Go to Australian War Memorial's website to plan your visit better.

Other than Malaysia House, I would recommend spending at least 2 hours at each location as there are really lots to see, read and experience. You will not be able to see much in an hour unless you limit yourself to the main attractions.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Moving Back

Five weeks ago, we made our move back to Malaysia for good. The move was not as simple as when we moved to Sydney in 2014. Then, all we had to do was pack our bags - two large suitcases weighing 30 kg each with our clothes and some books. We need not worry about our unit since we were "renting" it from my parents. All we had to do was lock it up and we were on our way.

Things work differently in Sydney. Once we notified the agent that we were moving out, a checklist of things to do would arrive in the mail. To get back your security bond in full, our rented unit has to be exactly as to how we received it (basically checking off everything on the list). 
Our unit before the moving process. Since we rented an unfurnished apartment, everything had to go.
It did not make sense to bring back all our stuff to Malaysia as we already have a furnished unit in PJ. Fortunately for us, we managed to dispose our stuff within our last 2 months by:
  1. selling most of our furniture and appliances (made about $800). We advertised on eBay, Gumtree and also Facebook.
  2. identifying the items we want to bring back to Malaysia. We ended up shipping back 4 boxes plus 140kg of stuff came with us on the plane.
    4 hours before returning the keys, we still had this much of stuff! We then spent 40min loading everything into our rented van followed by another 40min unloading them at Maryam's (who was probably shocked when she walked into her home upon seeing this).
  3. leaving items by the road side for neighbours and passers-by to adopt should they require something similar. Items left are in good and workable condition.
    It is common to leave unwanted items that are still in good condition by the roadside. There will be takers. For items that did not make the cut, we would take them in for the night and bring them out again tomorrow.
  4. offering to family/friends.
  5. donating to charitable organisations (e.g. Vinnies).
After completing steps 1 - 5, whatever left ended in the bin. 
Tadaa!! Everything gone.. We also had the carpet professionally cleaned the day before. If cleaning the apartment is not your thing, you can outsource this task to cleaning companies. Ask for their "end-of-lease" package.
I hope to not relive this moving out experience soon. Hopefully we will stay in our current place for at least another 5 more years before thinking about moving.. hahaha.

p.s. I still think about Sydney - I miss my friends, the lifestyle, the public transport and even the walking :p