Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 Reflection

2016 has quickly come and gone. The year always seemed to go so slowly back in my schooling days however each year, it seems to go by faster and faster. I am not one to really set goals at the beginning of the new year and thus I cannot accurately say whether or not I have achieved what I had set out.

Looking back on 2016

Upon reflection of 2016, it has been a busy year. I travelled a fair bit; I went on one big trip to Mongolia and went on a few smaller ones throughout the year during my long weekends. I successfully completed #take12trips quite easily.

01. Ingleburn
02. Warragamba Dam 
03. Wollongong
04. Riverina Roadtrip
05. Port Stephens
06. Wollongong & Helensburgh
07. Blue Mountains
08. Capertee Valley & Hill End 
09. Mongolia
10. Ettalong 
11. Victoria Roadtrip
12. Wattamolla

I finally properly visited and photographed canola fields which is something that has been on my mind for numerous years now.

I turned 25 this year in December which was a little bit scary; I am now in the mid 20s bracket. Eck! I also realised this year that I have been in a new relationship every year for the past 4 years (....) however I think this time round, I may have found myself a keeper ;P

Professionally, I have learnt so much more about myself however in that area of my life, it has been quite draining and I am a little burnt out. I am glad that I have a two week office closure, although the forced use of 2 weeks of leave when I only have 4 weeks annually is a little painful to swallow.

I also purchased a new camera which was very exciting as I have only ever owned point and shoot cameras. Yes really!

I have successfully completed my reading challenge of reading 60 books this year, follow my Goodreads!

Onto something likely more negative, 2016 has overall been quite a tough year. It definitely has not been the best year financially for me. I had to pay a $433 fine for accidentally running through a red light; I can only blame myself, it was one of those trippy two sets of lights close to together and the first was green and second was red and I wasn't paying enough attention. On my trip to Melbourne, I ended up forking around $250 due to flight cancellation and accommodation. And only two days ago, I had to cut my Tasmania trip short because I accidentally crashed my car, no replacement cars were available and I incurred around $1500 overall for the damage, having to buy a new flight, accommodation, etc. What a way to end the year especially since I had been looking forward to this trip since March.


Looking forward to 2017

I want to take it slower in 2017. My opinion may change when the time arises, but I want to take less trips. I won't be completing #take12trips, however I am sure that I will end up taking that many as a minimum considering my nature. I did not strain myself this year to meet the goal, however I thought it became a little redundant around halfway through the year. I think I need to become more in tune with myself and to slow down when I am becoming burnt out; remembering to take some time to relax and do nothing. Doing nothing is a foreign concept to me however it is valuable. However, I am planning on going overseas on a trip to Vietnam and Thailand in August; that will be my big trip for 2017.

As a consequence of travelling less, I will invariably end up saving more. I have never been one to save to travel, but more save to save and using some of my savings to travel. That is why, despite having a budget for my trips, I can easily blow out my budget without too much of a worry. I suppose I am getting to the age where having savings is becoming increasingly more important. Luckily, I have always been a saver so the mindset is already there. It is a fickle thing; like a lot of people, I do want to get into the property market. However 2017 will not be the year. I will not lament about all those issues and hurdles that are constantly brought up in the news. Simply put, the time is not right for me.

What is one thing you are wanting to achieve in 2017?
Monday, 26 December 2016

Wattamolla Attempt #1


The trip to Wattamolla was our second attempt to reach the area; the first try was on foot. In hindsight, it was a little ambitious as it would have been a 20km hike in total. Moral of the story, drive to Wattamolla rather than completing the hike from Bundeena. And always wear insect repellent.

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Monday, 19 December 2016

Meeting Ice Pandora!


This is a very long overdue post. Back in August after my two weeks in Mongolia, I headed to Hong Kong for a few days. On one of the days, I organised to meet up with Mei from Ice Pandora! I have followed Mei for many years now and if you don't know her blog, definitely check it out! This was my first time meeting someone through my blog which was a little nerve wrecking. I have previously met up with two people online back in my LiveJournal days so it's not entirely foreign to me.

It was a bit difficult to meet up as I wasn't too clear with my directions which reminded me how difficult it is to find someone when both parties don't have working phones! Nonetheless, we finally managed to find each other and had a coffee in a very weird cafe. It also was a reminder of the shortcoming of being illiterate; I can get by with my basic knowledge Cantonese but cannot read or write at all.

It was a wonderful meeting and I actually hope to meet more people who I know from my blog in the coming year. If you are coming to Sydney or from Sydney and are interested, let me know!
Friday, 16 December 2016

The Local Mbassy, Ultimo

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After checking out of the hotel after a staycation in Sydney CBD, we headed 600m down the road to the reasonably rated cafe, The Local Mbassy, in Ultimo. From a quick look on Instragram and Zomato, it was easy to see that the appeal of the place boiled down to their red velvet pancakes. See screenshot below.


Although I don't mind red velvet, I am actually not a big fan of pancakes and much prefer a savoury dish for breakfast. I ordered a flat white and the open melt.

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Open Melt // thinly sliced pork belly, spinach, mozzarella cheese, fried egg, house onion pickles, melted onto freshly baked artisan bread.

One of the weirdest parts of this melt was the fact that the bread was not toasted at all which meant it ended up being quite soggy due to the pickles and the egg. The second weird thing about it was the fact that mozzarella cheese consisted of 80% of the dish. I love cheese and especially love it when it is melted, however it was the only thing I could taste. It overpowered everything and I honestly couldn't even find the pork belly hidden underneath the thick layer of cheese.

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The coffee was decent although a little on the burnt side.

Overall, not a place I would really head back unless I was in the area of Ultimo. As I was leaving, I saw a girl standing on top of her chair to take a photo of her food (including of course the red velvet pancakes).

Local Mbassy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A question to my readers, what kind of coffee do you normally order at a cafe? I used to order lattes however I slowly got tired of burning my fingers on the glass cup and have now transitioned to flat whites.
Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas Tree Hunting

There is something magical about seeing those giant Christmas trees in Europe or North America. Alas, there are Christmas trees here in Sydney but they are all fake and honestly, they don't feel as special. But here is a post dedicated to the Christmas trees in Sydney CBD.

QVB Swarovksi Christmas Tree
Every year, a giant Christmas tree adorned with Swarovksi crystals is set up in the centre of the QVB. It fits snuggly in the gap between the floors and it is not possible to take a photo of the entirety of the tree.

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George Street Christmas Tree
This identical tree popped up last year on George Street. Almost the entire street has been blocked off for over a year now for the light rail project that ... well hasn't started . Yet, the council has placed a Christmas tree up instead.

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Martin Place Christmas Tree
For the past 4 years, the same Christmas tree has been put up in Martin Place. You can text a message to a number and the message will appear on the electronic banner around the Christmas tree.

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Custom House Christmas Tree

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Jasmin 1

When people ask me what my favourite cuisine is, I am slowly gravitating towards answering middle eastern (Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian) rather than Japanese or Italian which is what I have done in the past. Over the weekend, we visited the popular Lebanese restaurant, Jasmin 1, in Auburn for dinner and it was fabulous!

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Mixed plate $17 // Combination of grilled chicken, kafta, shish kebab, falafel, fried kebbe, tabouli, served with hommus, baba ghannouje, garlic dips, pickle salad, lebanese bread

There is something amazing and very addictive about garlic sauce with lebanese bread. My favourite from the plate was probably the grilled chicken and kafta.

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Kibbeh

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Fattoush $8 // A mix of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, onion, parsley, capsicum, shallots, mint, dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil, and topped with fried crispy Lebanese bread

The salad was a nice break from all the carbs and meat from the other two dishes. As the salad was topped by something deep fried, of course it made it that extra bit special!

Too much food was ordered and I was so full by the end of it. Another highlight of the meal was the complimentary cinnamon tea which was a nice contrast to the heaviness / oiliness of the dishes.

Jasmine 1 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Lazy Sunday at Wattamolla

On Sunday (and the last day of being 24 years old), we headed south to the Royal National Park to Wattamolla Beach. There is also a small waterfall however as there hasn't been any rainfall, the waterfall was only a small trickle. There were quite a few people when we arrived at 10am and already 25 degrees.

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Some 'light' reading about the British rule in India

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Perpetual High School

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I have now been working a 9-5 ish job for 1.5 years and I have recently transitioned to another department in the company. I have come to realise that life/ work is just like highschool. This is definitely not revolutionary but it has been an interesting revelation.

I spent a lot of highschool hoping to reach the 'real world' however I have come to the realisation that high school never truly ends!

These are just from my experiences in the department I have worked in for the last 11 months and probably / possibly not reflective of all workplaces.

1) Cliques
I was never in the 'cool' crowd during highschool; in fact I was in the quiet, over achieving friendship group. Cliques are so prevalent at work and the 'cool kids' are definitely the ones who progress professionally. It is partly because they network, but also because birds of the same feather flock together. Naturally, I am not a cool kid at work either!

2) Gossip
Everyone is such a gossip and the grapevine is a very well used form of communication. I have learnt things from other offices / people I've never met / people I know and it has been a little weird. A few months ago I found out the project manager who sits 3 desks away from me had sex in the stairwell at work. YES. REALLY.

3) Drinking
Why are all social outings closely linked with drinking? I have never been much of a drinker however, over the past few years I have almost entirely cut it out. I don't have a reason; it simply is just not part of my lifestyle and I don't feel compelled to have a drink. Cue awkward social situations at work. Honestly it gets a little tiring. Although some people are okay with it, there is still a large portion of people who have the same mentality as those 18 year olds, "but come on! Why don't you drink??" And more importantly, why would I want to get drunk in front of people I work with? That is the question that I would love an answer to. Honestly, if anyone could explain the rationale behind the shennanigans that happen at Christmas parties I would also be forever grateful.
Thursday, 24 November 2016

Melbourne

I had 30 hours in Melbourne however that was enough time for me. This was my fourth visit to Melbourne and there wasn't anything that I really wanted to see in the CBD that I had not seen before.

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I loved the borek from this store last time I visited Melbourne. As you can see in the photo from then and the one now, the dough is a lot thicker now. Since my trip to Turkey in 2015, I also tasted what a REAL borek should taste like and I think neither of them are very authentic. But definitely not the one I had that day, almost like a pide but not! 

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This was my eleventh trip as part of #take12trips. To see previous trips please click here.
Sunday, 20 November 2016

Victoria Roadtrip: Canola Chasing II

Wordless post

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Victoria Roadtrip: Canola Chasing

I had been wanting to find canola fields for the past few years to photograph. Canola or rapeseed results in gorgeous yellow flowers when they bloom in September - October. The canola fields in NSW are located around 4 hours [one way] away from Sydney which was why I hadn't made the journey to them. However in Victoria, they are only 2 hours away from Melbourne CBD and therefore it was a lot more convenient to visit them.

On an early Sunday morning after I woke up in my car, I headed west to the canola fields.

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Where I slept for the night. The first time I have car camped in suburbia. 

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Monday, 14 November 2016

Victoria Roadtrip: Lavandula Lavender Farm

On the way to Ballarat, I stopped at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm. The 100 acre property was once farmed by Swiss-Italians who came to Australia in the 1850s.

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Thursday, 10 November 2016

Victoria Roadtrip: Bendigo

After Heathcote, I continued my journey to Bendigo. I didn't have any particular reason to head to Bendigo, but I had thought it might be nice to see some of the larger cities in Victoria. It also gave me the opportunity to pop into the supermarket to grab some supplies.

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Bendigo Joss House Temple

I stopped first at the Joss House Temple however I probably should have done a bit more research. Rather than a proper active temple, it was more a museum about the Chinese migrants who came to Bendigo during the Gold Rush. I didn't end up paying for admission as that wasn't really up my alley and headed to the town centre instead.

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Monday, 7 November 2016

Victoria Roadtrip: Heathcote

Over the Labour long weekened back in late September, I flew down to Melbourne as a little getaway. As you may be able to guess, I like to spend my long weekends away and make the most of it. In the past I went to Riverina region, Capertee Valley and Port Stephens. I decided on Melbourne for two reasons: [1] To meet my work colleague for the first time and her new baby and [2] I was running out of ideas of places to visit near Sydney.

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Eating McDonalds at the airport is part of my airport ritual, especially for long haul flights. I have eaten at so many McDonalds at the airport over the world because its comforting. I am not the best flyer and plane food is always a bit hit and miss, but Maccas tastes virtually the same everywhere.

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On Saturday morning, I picked up my rental car and commenced my roadtrip!

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Friday, 4 November 2016

Identity Crisis

I was quite ill for most of October and spent many days in bed. Truth be told, I cannot remember the last time that I was that ill. I was out for the count for a week and it has now been 3 weeks since then and I am still on the recovery path. I had a fever one day at work, left early and then the next morning my tonsils were so inflamed and painful. I then lost my voice for a few days and subsequently endured the same coughing fits that I had in Europe. I had interrupted sleep for over a week due to my painfully inflamed tonsils, coughs, phlegm and just general discomfort.

I normally get quite anxious when I am around people who are sick because I genuinely get scared of having the same fits. This time around, I was impacted greater than the time in Europe which I didn't think was possible. I don't believe I blogged about it but my persistent coughs resulted in a strain near the bottom of my right ribs which was incredibly painful. It took a month for the pain to subside fully and the experience has scared me a little. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot more chest pain / strains due to persistent coughing for over 2 weeks. I suppose my body was being 'kind' and the pain points rotated every morning. Some days it was the entire front area of my chest, sometimes it was the back, sometimes the sides and it rotated again. Irrespective of the area, it felt like something was stabbing me. The pain is currently around my shoulder blades and it has been for a while. Thankfully it is no longer a sharp pain but a dull and annoying ache when I cough  / breathe / move. For a while, my mere existence was painful, quite literally.

As you may gather from my blog, I find it hard to sit still. I am always planning what to do on weekends and things that I want to see and do. It was quite hard for me mentally to cope with being that sick. I had no energy and was literally in bed or on the couch all day. I honestly felt as though I had lost my identity which sounds like such a silly thing. I knew that I would get better, but it did make me wonder 'what if' I didn't, then who was I really? Then I couldn't answer that question which scared me a little. I have created my identity that is so intertwined with going on adventures and experiencing life that I don't know what I would be without them. I know that life is short and that is why I try to do as much as I can, when I can. However, it has sometimes crossed my mind that I sometimes - ironically - create stress by thinking that I am not living life to the fullest even though I know I generally do.

The funny thing is that after my trip to Mongolia, I had the feeling that I was over exerting myself and needed to have some downtime. For the past few months I have been bouncing from one thing to another and perhaps it was my body signalling that it wanted things to slow down a little.

I still have a cough but it is largely a non event now. I still have pain and I know that it will take a while to subside. This will mean that I will be taking it relatively easy for the rest of the year. I suppose it is also easy to meet that goal considering we are only 2 months away from the end of the year - madness! Well that is until my week long trip to Tasmania over Christmas which I am super excited about!
Friday, 28 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Day 11 & 12 - Thursday 18th & Friday 19th August 2016

The end was near!

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This was going to be one of the last times I was going to repack my bag; I must admit, I was soon becoming quite proficient at it.

We headed back to Ulanbaataar to drop off one of the tour members before heading to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which is located not too far from the city.

Mongolia 2016
Monday, 24 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Karakorum & Ankle Bones

Day 10 - Wednesday 17th August 2016

The end of our tour was nearing and it was a little bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited at the prospects of not being with the same people 24/7 and heading back to civilisation. Hello Western style toilets, or any toilets. Heck, I would have been excited about proper squat toilets. I was getting sick of peeing anywhere / at squat toilets which were literally two planks of wood and usually a trillion flies. And the smell .. oh boy the smell. On the other hand, I was sad that I would be leaving the beauty of Mongolian countryside and I knew that I would not be returning any time soon.

But first - we got into a situation. Due to the rain, the ground was super super muddy and our van actually got stuck. We all climbed out and started to gather branches etc to help the wheels get traction. The van moved a little however we were still stuck. Eventually we had another tourist group in a 4WD pull us out of the mud. The funniest thing was that my tour group were all muddy and when the tourists in the other car got out, the contrast was hilarious. This Korean girl got out in her white jeans and her super white sneakers, saw the mud and then immediately got back into the car. Who wears white sneakers to visit countryside Mongolia?!?!

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Tsenkher Hot Springs

Day 9 - Tuesday 16th August 2016

The pace of the tour gradually slowed down and today was the long awaited 'spa day' at the hot springs! It was also the second opportunity for a shower which was very exciting.

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Waking up to this. Incredible.

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Sticking my hand and camera out the window!
Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Mongolia Trip: Lost at Tövkhön Monastery

Day 8 - Monday 15th August 2016

The first half of the tour was quite hectic and it involved many hours in the van. The second half of the tour was considerably slower. Although I had googled the tour back in April, I hadn't looked at the exact details since and wasn't sure what was on the agenda. Therefore each day was a surprise!

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We were allowed a sleep in as we were only heading back out at lunch time. First we walked over to the Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall. Two of my tour members actually jumped into the water which was crazy as it was pretty chilly!

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Saturday, 8 October 2016

Central Coast Getaway


A few weekends ago, S and I went on a little getaway to the Central Coast. We really didn't go that far up as we stayed at Ettalong. I had been there before briefly and it feels very similar to the Northern Beaches.

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Friday night traffic! It took at least 40 mins to travel 2km. It was painful.