Traveling around at least 5 countries in 42 days. Exploring the world after 3 years in law school.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Final Days "Down Unda"

On Tuesday we moved to a hotel in the center of town. We headed to the Wildlife Park in Darlington Harbor where we saw koalas, kangaroos, and even a super old crocodile. We had the false impression that it would be similar to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Very wrong. There were no open fields or expansive areas for the animals to roam unfortunately. So, while we did get a few good photos, we later found out that the actual zoo is much better. Next time.

That night we went to dinner at a unique spot called Bodega Bar where presentation was taken extremely seriously. We sat at the bar and one of the chefs literally was picking through parsley leaves searching for the best ones to carefully place on only certain pieces of meat. One of them even took the skin off of a potato by hand (without a peeler) no clue how. I had to get some photos of them "presenting" our meal.

One of Jo and Dave's friends, Matt, invited us to go to the Australian Natural History Museum for a special Tuesday night treat called "Jurassic Lounge." Now, the title does not even come close to conveying how cool this place is. They open up the museum and serve drinks and have different activities in every room. In one room there wee origami stations. In another room, jenga was set up. In yet another room there was a performance including transvestites singing rocky horror picture show (seriously!), and finally the most anticipated room was the "silent disco". The way silent disco works is you get a pair of wireless headphones before you enter the room. There is a DJ in the corner projecting music to the headphones and everyone is dancing in total silence. Very cool. Matt did a great job juggling two girls at once on our 2 on 1 date. He should be the next Bachelor (maybe a little too much of a reality show reference).

Wednesday was a day that Kirstin and I had been looking forward to since we first started planning our trip. A few months ago we had bought our tickets for La Boheme at the world famous Sydney Opera House. She and I had spent many conversations discussing outfits and hair prior to this day and it seemed so surreal that it was finally here. About a month before we left America, I had seen a living social deal for a blowout in Sydney and had snapped up two of them as a surprise treat for us. I suck at surprises and told her right away. We went and got our hair done, went back to the hotel to primp, and headed out for our night at the opera. Upon arrival we had dinner at the Opera Bar which is also a famous spot right on the water. On one side we were staring at the opera house and on the other side e could see the massive bridge all lit up at night. Again, this clearly warranted a bunch of photos.

The opera was absolutely phenomenal. It probably helped that Rent is one of my favorite musicals ever and was based on La Boheme so I quickly picked up the story line. We had great seats and enjoyed every moment of the show. Afterward we went back to opera bar down below and listened to some live music and had a glass of wine and met a few locals before heading back to our hotel for the night.

On our third consecutive day of fun activities, and my last day in Sydney, we did the bridge climb. Now, this activity is not for the faint of heart. We literally were harnessed in and climbed the entire bridge to the top. It was both exhilarating and frightening all at the same time! We ended up buying a few of the photos because they wouldn't allow us to bring a camera and the views really are phenomenal. Unfortunately I'm currently writing this post at the airport before Sydney and didn't upload the cd of images yet! You will have to check out my facebook page in a week or so to get my "best of pics" where I will make sure to include them.

As I stood at the top of the bridge overlooking all of Sydney I took a moment to think about the past six and a half weeks and all the wonderful memories and activities I have been able to experience. I was able to visit five countries, nearly a dozen cities, and really live out the dream trip we started planning over nine months ago. Standing on top of the bridge my life was put into perspective and I realized how fortunate I truly am. Fortunate that everyone I care about is happy and healthy and supports me not only on this journey, but throughout everything I choose to do in my life. Not only that, it made me excited for all the wonderful things coming up-- from moving back to Los Angeles, to hopefully passing the bar (I find out November 18th at 6pm!), and even planning my wedding. All I could think is 'life's pretty good.'

Hope you all enjoyed reading. Until the next travel adventure...

Bondi aka SoCal

A quick flight from Melbourne and we arrived at our final stop, Sydney. We took a cab from the airport to Jo and Dave's place. Jo's mom was pen pals with Brent's mom since their time in Hungary together as little girls. I had met Jo's parents a number of times in California and had heard such great things about Jo from when Brent stayed with her a few years ago I didn't hesitate to email her prior to our arrival. She and her fiancé Dave welcomed us with open arms. We ended up staying with them in Bondi for four nights in their guest room. Their apartment turned out to be the perfect location to explore the eastern part of Sydney from a true locals perspective.

Jo and Dave had prior dinner plans but recommended a bunch of cute places in the area to get dinner and a drink. We headed to SpeakEasy an amazing tapas place that reminded me a lot of the restaurants in San Francisco. After dinner, we walked up the street to a local bar.

The next morning Jo and Dave were not only amazing hosts, but amazing tour guides as well! We went to breakfast at one of their local spots where I ordered shakshuka. Yes, that was actually on the menu not once, but twice on Saturday and Sunday at two different restaurants. Yum. We had breakfast and then set off in Dave's car to explore the city. He and Jo took us all over including some beautiful cliff views as well as the Paddington market where we picked up a few handmade jewelry pieces.

That night they invited us to a friends birthday party at another local bar in Kings Cross which is a very lively and fun part of town. We met their group of friends who are equally welcoming and even made plans with one of them for the following week. Here's a photo of the four of us:

Sunday we went to the Bondi market that had tons of handmade crafts and jewelry. Kirstin and I walked around some more. On the beach we happened to come across an annual kite festival! We then did the long walk along the edge of the water. This was truly one of the highlights of our entire trip for me. Check out these amazing photos which honestly, don't even compare to the view in person!

After walking along the cliffs we ended up going to an early dinner at Icebergs, a restaurant and music lounge with views of the ocean and the cliffs. Attached to Icebergs is the famous pool that is filled by the tides of ocean water. Both Brent and my dad had sent the link to me as one of the coolest pools in the world earlier that week and I had to send them a photo of it while I was there. Kirstin had contemplated going in and swimming a few laps, but it was really cold as seen by the people wearing wetsuits in a pool.

We stayed at Icebergs for a few hours listening to the live music and eating and left for another bar where Dave's friends that we had met the night prior said they would be at to watch the world cup rugby game. The place was PACKED! People really do love their rugby and soccer everywhere but America.

Overall my impression of Bondi was that it was very similar to Southern California but with everything being within close walking distance. Had the weather been about fifteen degrees warmer we would have happily been at the beach all day. I totally understand now why it's such a popular tourist site during the summer and definitely have it on my list of "must come back to" in the future.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Another 48 Hours... This Time in Melbourne

The flight over was comfortable in BA's business class but somewhat miserable in timing. The flight was about six hours in duration and took off at 8pm Singapore time which meant we landed in Sydney at 2am. This meant we each only got about an hour of sleep. Yuck. We arrived in Sydney international and needed to grab our bags and put most of them in storage since our connecting flight was on a local carrier. After getting our new sim cards for our ipads and putting our bags in storage the airport info booth attendant let us know that we would need to pay $5.50 to get to the domestic terminal. Seriously? This is the only airport in the world I've heard of that charges passengers to go from one terminal to another.... it's the same airport for goodness sake!

After our short bus ride we connected on Jet Star to Melbourne. Our goal was to check in to our hotel room and nap right away. Our plans changed a bit however when we grabbed some lunch and then walked around looking for boots for Kirstin since she was still wearing flip flops in fifty degree weather. We walked almost the entire center of Melbourne within a few hours. After peeking into a bridal store (I seriously can't wait to go real wedding dress shopping in America!) and finding boots for Kirstin we headed back to the hotel and took a four hour nap. We got up and headed out to dinner. Surprisingly, for as big of a city as Melbourne is, nothing seemed to be open. Maybe it's because it was a wednesday night, but even our concierge couldn't recommend a place that had people or bars or anything open at around 10pm. We ended up going to a shopping center and found the only place still serving food was a place called The Pancake Parlour. We got a chicken and pancake dish to split and an indulgent sweet pancake with chocolate and ice cream and "hundreds and thousands" aka sprinkles. Delicious. We saw a fun Ed Hardy like bowling alley in the same complex and decided to return the following night since they advertised there would be a DJ and would be full of people. The woman at the bowling alley even recommended we make a reservation so we did. We headed back to the hotel around midnight and both could not fall asleep until nearly 3:30am (clearly because we took four hour naps earlier). This led to us sleeping in until 12:30pm which was all right since we had covered most of city center the day prior.

After leisurely waking up at 12:30, we went to Max Brenner, a chocolate paradise I had heard so many great things about. We had some more sweets and hit the road to explore The Great Ocean Road.

Now, maybe I had built up this road too much in my mind. I imagined big cliffs winding around a mountain overlooking the ocean like in the fancy car commercials. Unfortunately, this famous road was nothing like that. It reminded me of PCH but even less scenic. However, we did stop by a few pretty beach towns and got some tapas for a late lunch and beautiful photos by a lighthouse as the sun was setting.

We made it back to Melbourne by about 8:30pm with Kirstin's amazing driving skills in the rental car. Driving on the other side of the road is tough!

We headed to dinner in the same main complex as the night before but this time there were a lot more people. We had burgers and then headed over to the bowling alley for our lane reservation. Turns out we were the only ones bowling. And the advertised DJ? Just pop music blasting over the speakers. Clearly we didn't need a reservation. We did have a lot of fun and got some great action shots out of it and danced around like it was a bar even if we were the only ones there. (seriously, the ONLY patrons there).

Can you believe it's been almost five weeks since we started traveling? Hope who ever is reading this has enjoyed keeping up with our adventures! Today this blog is now back on real time and we are on our way to our final stop, Sydney!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

48 Hours in Singapore

As we said good bye to the cheaper part of our trip through more rural Southeast Asia, we also took our final AirAsia flight. Instead of passing out just plain salted peanuts we got peanuts covered in rice balls. Pretty funny so I had to take a picture especially since they were delicious.

Talk about sticker shock. Singapore is the total opposite of trying to ease back into the American dollar. Everything here is really expensive. From the hotels to the simplest meal and even a mani/pedi! Upon landing we took a cab over to the Sheraton Singapore where I reluctantly made a reservation using cash and points. Usually I like to use my Starwood points for aspirational redemptions but in this case it just didn't make sense to buy a hotel room. Even plain two star hotel rooms were over $200 usd per night. Cash and points it is. After checking in we got ready and headed out to dinner. I spent about twenty minutes trying to find a place online that wasn't $100+ per person. Finally found a place but when the concierge called it was closed, boo. He recommended another spot that was supposed to be relatively inexpensive, I guess it was for Singapore but it still came out to about $120 for two entrees and two glasses of wine. The place was super casual inside, the equivalent of like a California Pizza Kitchen. Seriously? Guess we aren't in Southeast Asia anymore...

After dinner we attempted to find the marina bay sands complex to go get a drink at the rooftop bar but got lost in all of the underground malls and walkways. After 45 minutes of walking we realized we were basically where we started and decided to cab back to the hotel.

The next morning Kirstin and I parted ways to explore separate parts of the city. I headed to the Arabic Quarter to indulge in some hummus. The area was very cute and had a lot of old buildings but maybe that was just the facade on the outside of modern buildings?

After my $40 hummus lunch (seriously) I walked over to the famous Bugis street. Inside were stalls and stalls of food as well as cheap clothes and nick nacks.

I ended up buying a few pairs of earrings as presents and walked around the crowded stalls watching all the people. Locals and tourists alike were haggling away. Love it.

My favorite shop of the day had a cute girl named Kandy who didn't speak a lot of English which is surprising because our hotel concierge said that English is the national language in Singapore. The whole town is interesting in that it's a smorgasbord of languages and cultures. Even though English is the national language, many speak mandarin and other languages. Anyways, Kandy appeared to be a few years younger then me. I liked the dress she was wearing and it turns out they had it in the store. A lot of the stores in Bugis center don't allow you to try on any of the clothes even over your own but Kandy allowed me to do it. I picked out her dress in black but she insisted I try on the same color as hers and that we take a photo for Facebook. She kept saying we should be Facebook friends and I should tag her. She didn't need to twist me arm on that one. Check out the photo of us in the matching dresses.

I continued to walk around in the area and headed back to the hotel to freshen up and meet Kirstin for dinner. We ended up going to Clark Quey for dinner. It looks just like universal city walk and clearly geared towards tourists. We walked around there and took some photos by the river and head back to pack our bags.

The next morning we walked up and down the famous Orchard Road and walked through a few of the enormous malls. After a few failed attempts I was finally able to find a decently priced manicure/pedicure place and indulged in some pampering. We then grabbed our bags and headed to the airport for our red eye to Sydney to connect to Melbourne! Time to pack up those flip flops and shorts because winter here we come!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love or in My Case: Sick, Shop, Spa

Ubud is now famously known for Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Eat, Pray, Love" that was turned into a motion picture staring Julia Roberts. Prior to that, Kirstin had spent some time here before starting law school and said it was a "must-do". I couldn't agree with her fast enough.

Ubud was not only a city I was looking forward to, but our villa rental was the #1 accommodation I was excited about. About 8 months ago I had booked us a five night stay in Villa Agung Khalia set amongst the rice patties a few minutes out of town. The villa rental came with a chef and a driver who would take us into town almost any time we wanted at no additional charge. The six of us arrived after the long boat ride and shuttle from the dock, and were welcomed warmly by the staff. I wasn't expecting there to be so many people who worked there, but they all did an amazing job. The villa had 3 bedrooms so Kirstin and I took the upstairs and Jesse and Lauren took the downstairs. The views from all the windows were amazing.

Our first night there Kirstin and I ate dinner at the villa and then headed out to town and saw some live music.

By the time we reached the restaurant/bar where live music was playing, my stomach really started to bother me. We called the driver and headed back to the villa. Thankfully, each room had their own bathroom. Normally I wouldn't mind sharing but the night we arrived my stomach ache was ten times worse then earlier and I was very very grateful to have my own bathroom at 3am. Still unsure if it was something I ate or something else. Unfortunately this caused me to be out of commission for two days while in Ubud. I attempted to go into town a few times but always needed to return to the villa early.

The chef had heard that I was sick and proactively brought me this chicken soup/porridge. He told me that his mom used to make it for him whenever he got sick so now he made it for me to feel better as well. In case I didn't absolutely love the staff at the villa before, I was now smitten.

Once I started to get better I ventured out with everyone and we went to an organic farm restaurant I had read a lot about. We had to walk about twenty minutes through the rice patties in order to get to it. We passed lots of locals on the way. Women carrying stuff on their heads never gets old.

After spending the afternoon shopping in town Kirstin and I wandered into the monkey forest for about ten minutes before we needed to meet the driver to head back to the villa. We had gone in through a side entrance and figured it wasn't a big deal. Turns out it was since we didn't pay the $2 entrance fee and had security escort us to the exit. At least Kirstin got these photos on our way out!

Kirstin and I also took a cooking class with the head chef at the villa. While it wasn't professional like our cooking class in Chiang Mai, it was still nice because the chef tailored it to whatever we wanted to cook and we did it all in our villa kitchen. We ended up making Nasi Goren a traditional fried rice dish, chicken sate with peanut sauce, crispy duck, and banana fritters and black rice pudding for dessert! Everything came out so delicious and fresh!

On our last full day us ladies went for a full spa day. I had read on trip advisor about this little day spa a little out of town that turned out to be great fun for all of us. Kirstin and I even indulged in a facial as part of our treatment where they covered our faces entirely with cucumbers! We look like scary mummies and had to get a photo.

Ubud was absolutely amazing! There were so many antique shops and hand carved wood places. Kirstin even took a half day trip out of town and bought an antique hand carved wooden door that she's having shipped to America and turned into a dining room table for a fraction of what a dining room table at pottery barn would cost! Once I have a house, Bali and especially Ubud is a spot to go to get amazing unique furniture. Doesn't hurt that the surroundings are beautiful as well :)

As we part ways with Jesse and Lauren, we are off to Singapore and are four out of six weeks into our adventure! Stay tuned.