On my dad’s last weekend in Perth, we went to the Hillarys Boat Harbour. If you haven’t been there, the place was perfect for casual alfresco dining and hanging out in the weekend, with restaurants, cafes, and shops overlooking the ocean. We’d had our lunch before we left, so we sat at San Churro enjoying hot chocolate and of course, their famous churros! And since we were already there, of course we couldn’t leave without a visit to AQWA, the Aquarium of Western Australia. Guess who was ecstatic to see the beautiful sea creatures, the sharks, and the manta rays!
I’m very close to my family, so having my dad and sisters visit me and V in Perth was a huge treat! Too bad my sisters could only be here for a weekend. Their first day here was spent in the city: checking out the Swan Bells at the Bell Tower, strolling along Hay and Murray Street Malls, and of course, enjoying the view from Kings Park, where we sat on the (wet, as we soon found out) grass and took some threesome photos.
No touristy trip to Perth is complete without a day in Fremantle and trying its famous fish and chips! We met my cousin and his family at Cicerello’s and ordered the family meal, only to find out that it included what looked like enough fries to feed a small army! After we stuffed ourselves full of greasy, deep-fried seafood, we walked to the Fremantle Market for some souvenir-shopping. Little Dave was clearly overwhelmed by the attention he was getting from his two high-pitched aunts, so he sought refuge in my dad. Fremantle Market was bustling, as always, but there my sisters got the perfect souvenirs… boomerangs!
Dinner was hearty bowls of pasta at Ciao Italia! Perth does not impress me in terms of food, but Ciao Italia is possibly the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life. I’m not exaggerating. We then went to my cousin’s house in Booragoon for post-prandial games. My sisters busted some moves on the Wii, and we finally got to play Ellen’s hilarious Heads Up together!
We hadn’t made plans for Sunday, but decided to go to Penguin Island at the last minute, somewhere V and I ourselves hadn’t been to. To get there, we boarded a ferry from a jetty in Rockingham. The crossing only took 10 minutes, and we arrived in time to see the penguin feeding. The island and its surrounding is a natural habitat for little penguins, a wide variety of birds, and regularly visited by male sea lions when they weren’t busy mating.
There are so many other places V and I would love to take them to, but they had to fly back to Singapore the next day, so we left it at that. We made plans for them to visit again in August though! Now that the three of us are working, it gets harder to schedule family holidays, but I hope it happens!
Given the size of the state, most places in Western Australia worth visiting are, unfortunately, quite a drive away from Perth. The Pinnacles desert, for one, is a solid 2 hours’ drive north. We timed our arrival perfectly so we could catch the beautiful diffused light which you only get around sunrise or sunset, and the photos were worth the trip.
The other girl in the photos is Fransiska, an Indonesian veterinarian studying for her master’s degree at Murdoch University. Her boyfriend, V’s friend from university introduced her to us when he found out V was living in Perth. It’s not every day you meet a veterinarian friend, but when you do, you can almost be certain he or she is a lovely person. Tell me, what other type of person would you be when you care for sick or wounded animals?
We had a long weekend last week due to Labour Day, and V and I snatched the opportunity to drive down south to Albany. At 4.5 hours (if you do not count the stops), it was the longest continuous drive V ever had to do, but we made a few stops to stretch our legs and get something to eat or drink, and I dare say even V found it quite enjoyable. It was something we never got to do in Singapore or Indonesia, because a car cost an arm and a leg in the former and because traffic was horrible enough to make you regret a holiday before it even started in the latter.
We set out from Perth at about 8 am on Saturday morning and reached the small town of Albany before 1 pm. Our bed and breakfast was part of a small, charming house right off the city centre, and Christine, our host, was really nice and friendly. We were excited to have arrived, so after dropping off our stuff, we immediately went out for lunch and checked out a few places of interest.
I would highly recommend the Albany wind farm to whoever visits the southern coast of Western Australia. There’s a trail which gives you a splendid view of a bunch of wind mills facing the ocean. The air was rather misty that day, otherwise the photos would have been breathtaking. I think the wind mills look so futuristic, almost alien! Don’t you?
We also checked out the blowhole, the gap and natural bridge, and all along I was telling V how incredible it was that there was nothing between us and the Antartic!
The next day we went diving. The visibility was bad though, so bad that on the first dive, V and I lost our guide and had to ascend immediately. I also got seasick, so I ended up staying on the boat while V went down for another dive. He said the contour was interesting, but visibility only improved a little. I was just so glad when we finally got back on dry land.
We rested a while and spent the rest of the day visiting the nearby town of Denmark. We only had a few hours to spend there, so we followed the advice of the kind lady at the Denmark Visitor Centre (there is a visitor centre everywhere in Western Australia, it’s definitely helpful for impromptu travelers) and went straight to Greenspool, the best beach in Denmark. As soon as we got there, I regretted not having a swimsuit with me. The green/blue water was so inviting!
We ended the day with dinner at the Denmark Tavern, a highly recommended restaurant in the area. They were fully booked for dinner, so we had to eat at 5 pm. But it worked out perfectly for us as we managed to get back to our bed and breakfast at Albany to watch Professional Master Chef and Elementary! We had a good night’s sleep, and returned to Perth early morning the next day.
I have a good reason for not having posted anything here recently. Until today, I have no internet connection in my apartment. It was a bit of a hassle, signing up for a home broadband internet plan, only to discover that my new apartment does not have any phone socket. Seriously, how old is this building?!
It took me a while, but I finally got an internet service provider which offered me a good plan without a contract. No phone socket required, no limit on data usage. I’m greedy, I know, but since the company pays for my utilities, why choose anything less?
Because starting tonight I won’t have to rely on the pathetic data limit on my mobile plan, I think I could go wild and post a picture. This is me and Laurie at Kings Park. Pretty view, no? Perth, let’s see how I feel about you after 10 months.
In case you’re wondering, we did not go to Vietnam again recently. Our trip to Hanoi back in July included a visit to Ha Long Bay, I just had not found the time to post the pictures yet.
Can you believe I lost my white hat on the trip? I didn’t even know where exactly, I just couldn’t find it back home. My mom used to say I would lose my head if it weren’t screwed in.
In the afternoon, we went to visit a naturally-formed cave on one of the rocks. The cave had 3 chambers, each bigger than the previous one, and the final one was breathtakingly huge! If you think it looks huge on the picture, wait till you stand inside it!
The tour guide then took us to the only man-made beach in Ha Long Bay. It was rather sad, very small, and the water wasn’t clean. It didn’t stop people from getting into the water and having fun though. I opted to stay on the shallow end, but Luis did take a quick swim.
Then we took a boat ride back to a junk named Cristina Deluxe and stayed overnight. Ha Long Bay is definitely a must at least once in your life. You wouldn’t see such karst formation anywhere else. But that concludes Vietnam for me, and I don’t see much reason for coming back.
As usual, I’m terribly late in posting vacation photos, but better late than never! V and I took a trip to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay early last month. It was Ylsa and Ligia’s last weekend in Asia, so the whole Rincones family came along. Here is us at the airport gate, with Ylsa proudly displaying her colorful accessories and bag from Bangkok!
We arrived in Hanoi at lunchtime. The hotel was nice enough to pick us up at the airport. Because V and I never see the point of paying too much for our accommodation (after all, we’re only there to sleep after full days of exploring and both of us are good sleepers), and at the time not knowing that the Rinconeses would join us, we chose a 2/3-star hotel at the heart of the Hong Kiem district. As it turned out, the hotel is located on a really narrow, chaotic alley! Ylsa even made a few jokes about the amazing and exotic Marigold hotel (Have you seen the movie? It’s awesome! If you haven’t, all you need to know now is that it is about an old, abandoned hotel which is neither exotic nor amazing).
It’s not so bad, by the way. Our rooms are small but clean. Through the recommendation of the really perky receptionist at our hotel (we now get why so many reviews of the hotel cited the friendly staff), we had lunch at Bun Cha. Just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, Bun Cha is a street-side eatery serving authentic Vietnamese pork noodles. That’s all they have on the menu, by the way, so we didn’t have to order! The foods were all laid out before us the moment we sat down.
I was initially happy to see so much greens, but the leaves left an unpleasant aftertaste, so after a while I stopped eating it. The noodles, the pork, and the broth tasted light and fresh, but I didn’t think they were that special. I guess Vietnamese food is not up my narrow alley. And call me crazy, but I am quite certain we were cheated here. When we finished eating, we were asked to pay 500,000 Vietnamese Dong! Granted, it’s 30 Singapore dollars, but in a street-side eatery in Vietnam, that is hugely expensive! So remember guys, be not as stupid. Knowing the price before you sit down and eat is always a good idea.
Our bellies full, we then took to the streets. We passed by an old cathedral bearing a resemblance to Notre Dame, walked along the French quarter (and wondered what was French about it), spotted a vintage car parked in front of an equally vintage (and luxurious!) hotel, and arrived at the city square. What the photos may not show you is HOW MANY, COUNTLESS motorcycles on the street, and the streetlights and traffic rules in general did not seem to apply to them. To cross the street, you need to throw your common sense and self-preservation out the window and trust the complete strangers on their motorcycles not to hit you. Perfect therapy for control freaks.
We also passed by Hoan Kiem Lake, where, legend has it, a man retrieved a magical sword, promised to return it once he became king of the land, and made good on his promise. Perhaps that’s why there’s a temple in the middle of the lake?
It was a hot, hot day, and Lygia was sweating buckets! The cacophony around us didn’t help. I got a little stressed just looking around, but the locals were very nonchalant and they seemed to enjoy a relatively slow-paced life. At one point in our walk, a fruitseller approached us and let Ylsa try the weight of her wares. She even passed her her wooden hat!
In the evening, it cooled down a little and I took the chance to wear my blue maxi dress out. We made friends with a German girl named Katrin (She went backpacking around the world by herself!) and ended up having Vietnamese beef noodles for dinner, stopping at a cafe for ice cream, and closing the night with a few cups of coffee.
I am quite proud that I tried the local weasel coffee. The coffee beans used in the making were secreted by weasels, and apparently the digestive juices of the weasels enhanced their aroma and flavor. I’m no coffee connoiseur, but the coffee did smell really good. It tasted too strong for my liking though. Ever the sweet tooth, I love my coffee sweet and creamy.
And of course, the caffeine didn’t get in the way of me and my good night sleep. They never do.