Craft Time: Crochet Whales

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Lately I’ve been in this vortex of crafting videos on YouTube and I have no regrets. I am not ashamed to admit, I now know how to make fancy shaker cards, felt animals (see previous crafting attempt), pretty nails (don’t even get me started on snow globe nails) and now crochet animals.

I wanted to make some adorable whales, so Doran and I went to buy some blue, grey and white yarn. We came home with our yarn and two 5mm crochet needles and started to crochet only to realize that our yarn was mean for 4mm needles. Fail. None the less, we forged ahead with our over sized needles and began the journey to adorableness.

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After 30mins of trial and error, we ended up with two lovely…

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Buttholes….

Clearly we did something wrong. Doran gave up under the guise of “needing better instructions”, but I persevered and I think I did a very good job for my very first crochet whale.

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You know this might be something I could really get into. It’s been two weeks and I’ve made more whales, stars, and a turtle!

Success!!!

Big Ol’ Family Trip

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So my mom, dad and brother came to visit in November. I was really excited to show them everything Australia had to offer, but as luck with have it, both mom and dad landed in Melbourne with a cold. >.>

Despite hacking coughs every hour, my parents were good sports and even went on a Sunset Tour with me to see the 12 Apostles. From being attacked by those darn Australian flies to almost missing the sunset on the sunset tour (blame the pizza place…), I had forgotten how hilarious it is to travel with each other.

After visiting Melbourne and Sydney, we all went to Hong Kong to attend my cousin’s wedding.

While we were there I took the opportunity to go back to Disneyland Hong Kong and show my brother how fun this Disneyland can be. I mean look at the fabulousness of it all.

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We also took a ferry to Macau. I had never been to Macau, but I heard it was basically the Vegas of China and it didn’t disappoint (sort of). From the outside it is pretty spectacular, but after you go in, you notice a big difference. The games were all exactly the same in EVERY casino, and there was definitely a lot less people gambling their life savings away. It was all just too new and too empty to be fun.

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I also found out that Macau has quite the split personality. On one hand, it has the glitz and glamour of Vegas in Cotai, but when you drive across the bridge in to actual Macau, you get hit with an old Chinese town with Portuguese influences! I also found out that my mom took a bus here from China when she was six (all by herself) to meet up with her grandma to live and go to school until her mom got her Hong Kong papers ready. It was really great to see how excited my mom was to see her old haunts. She took us to the exact spot where she met up with her grandma, the place they lived and where she went to school.

Macau, you hold a special place in my mom’s heart and now in mine as well. I would definitely come back to show my kids in the future.

 

Wet and Cold – Shanghai Part 2

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So after having two magical days in Shanghai Disneyland, Doran and I had the opportunity to spend two days in the “real” Shanghai. By real, I mean the tourist traps. We had such beautiful hot weather the days before (almost boiling) that it was a terrible surprise that our time in the city felt so cold and dreary. Here are my most memorable (not always my favourite) moments in Shanghai:

1. The Food. I had high hopes coming to Shanghai because it’s the birthplace of my favourite dumpling of all time. The Xiao Long Bao. (Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have large and soupy dumplings just a five minute walk away). I was very interested in comparing what we can get in Australia with what they are supposed to be like in the motherland. So we went to one of the top rated chains, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and immediately asked for the English menu. Sorry mom.

img-20161020-wa0005.jpgThe flavour was amazing, but I was surprised that they are supposed to be that small. The most amazing thing was that what you see in that picture above only cost three Australian dollars!!! THREE!!!!

We also tried some Tang Bao from Nanxian Mantou Dian because it was the thing to do. Basically, it’s a giant dumpling with just soup inside and you drink it through a straw. The novelty of having a dumpling through a straw was intriguing, but after having the soup, you are left with a thick skin sack. We didn’t know if we were supposed to eat it, so we left it. Sorry Shanghai.

Some of the other food things we bought while wandering Yunnan S Road included: baos stuffed with minced meat, noodles and free range chicken. We even ordered something from a cart on the street. They were good, but not great. AND!!! We survived the night; bowels intact.

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And as usual, we tried unique McDonald’s items and even found a CoCo Curry House!

2. Yu Gardens is very picturesque. Even in the rain we got some beautiful pictures. This place is by far the biggest tourist trap I have ever seen. The massive garden itself was surrounded by an even larger “market” where you can get random trinkets and souvenirs. It is also where you can find a Starbucks every 50 steps.

3. The Bund and Shanghai Skyline are iconic to the city. I mean. Look at how the mix of modern and old work so well together. Even in the rain, it’s pretty.

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So that was our trip to Shanghai, China. Even though we had to tell the Chinese visa office our life story to get into the country, it was worth the trouble. Thanks for everything Shanghai!

Especially Disneyland.

Visual Overload – Shanghai Part 1

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Mainland China…. the place where everything you own comes from. Now it even has it’s very own Disneyland! Seeing how it is on my bucket list to go to all Disney parks around the world (it was 5/5 until Shanghai came along…) I had to go. So after waiting a couple months after opening day, Doran and I made our inaugural trip to Shanghai Disneyland, China.

I did some minor research so that I knew just enough to get around while not spoiling some of Disney’s trademark storytelling and surprises. My biggest worry from all the research was China’s crowd behaviours and lack of personal space, however, I am happy to report that I encountered very little stereotypical Chinese idiosyncrasies and had a WONDERFUL time there. The weather was unbearably hot, but the skies were blue and wait times were all under 30 mins. Below are some of my favourite moments during my 2 days at the park:

1. My first moment in any Disney park is always a favourite and this time was no different. However, this time was especially magical because it was the first time I get to see the largest Disney castle to-date!

2. The “Running of the Guests” is a scary yet exhilarating experience. You are allowed to purchase tickets before the park opens. Once you have your tickets, you are allowed to enter the park up to a certain point. When the time has come for the park to officially open, the rope drops and the guests are released into the wild. Chaos ensues because everyone is running for their first ride of the day. Thank goodness most people are not runners and we soon passed them to go on our very first ride.

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3. TRON Lightcycle Power Run is one of the best roller coasters Disney has to offer. With it’s innovative ride vehicles (you sit like a you are riding a motorcycle!!!) to the cool queues, this was such a great first impression for us of the park.

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4. Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure is BY FAR the most advanced ride I think I have ever seen. This ride took a Disney favourite and made it EVEN BETTER! From Jack Sparrow materializing from a skeleton to really feeling like you went under water, I never knew rides could be done like this. It’s so hard to explain without spoilers, so just get yourself over to Shanghai Disneyland ASAP!!!

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5. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Look at it. Just. Look. At. It.

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This place is amazing. Well done Disney. Well done.

Singapore: A Country City?

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The only thing I knew of Singapore was that it was famous for its Merlion statue and most recently, the Marina Bay Sands and their infinity pool in the sky. As much as Doran and I would have loved to pay over $400 dollars a night to take selfies in the pool, we decided that it was best to spend our money on other things Singapore has to offer. ie. tourist traps and food. Lots of food.

I can’t believe how much good food can be found in Singapore. We were lucky enough to have a friend that knew what’s what in Singapore and gave us an awesome list of places to eat. From cheap eats to high priced crab, we are very grateful to Yilin for hooking us up!

So without further ado, the following are pictures of food for you to salivate over. Enjoy.

 

Milk tea (the best outside of Hong Kong), pork floss on toast and eggs (apparently it’s a thing to crack open soft boiled eggs and eat it like soup) from ToastBox

 

Food court food has cheap but delicious noodles and CHICKEN RICE!!!!! Western food courts need to step it up.

You can also get durian desserts at the mall. I guess no one cares that you keep burping up durian hours after you finish eating. There is also a Takashimaya Food Hall on Orchard Road to give yourself a taste of Japan.

Bak Kut Teh 肉骨茶 at Founder Bak Kut Teh. An amazing peppery herbal soup that’s usually served with pork ribs. So good, that we brought home the soup base to make ourselves.

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Pepper Crab. Expensive, but to me, it’s Singapore’s mic drop for food. We found a good place in Chinatown.

 

And just to show you that we did more than just eat, here are some pictures of us at the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios Singapore and the Night Safari. This city that is also a country is so amazing. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Too Sexy for Buddha

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So Doran and I decided it would be fun to meet up with my friends in the middle of their vacation in Thailand. Since it was our very first time going to Bangkok we thought we should share some of our experience via topics of interest like any other travel advice sites.

Accommodations

Our hotel Centre Point Silom was fantastic. The location was great: close to public transport (skytrain and ferries), in the centre of the city, close to shops, bars and other tourist attractions. The best was its breakfast buffet. It had a decent variety of hot foods (Asian and Western) and a good selection of exotic fruits; of which I made sure to stuff my face with.

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Centre Point Silom Hotel View

Food

You would think that I would have tried some authentic Thai street food during my stay in Bangkok, but you would be wrong. After witnessing the debilitating effects of eating bad street food on my friends, I was fully convinced to avoid anything bought off the streets.

Turns out that our favourite Japanese curry chain (CoCo Ichibanya) was at our new favourite mall: Siam Paragon. So how was the pad thai? I don’t know, but I can tell you how delicious CoCo Curry is!

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Experiences

This is just a fancy way travel sites call culture shock. I didn’t really have an expectation of what Bangkok would be like, but when I arrived it was certainly not what I was expecting. For such a big city, it looked so run down. The old and new clashed. It was such a stark contrast walking down the block of glass and steel that is Siam Paragon then turning the corner to see old weather worn buildings that looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for 100 years. The only thing that really pulled it all together was the air. The wall of dense, humid air sprinkled with a touch of sewage never really goes away.

Things to do

One of the top things to do for any tourist going anywhere is to encroach on sacred spaces and pretend to do so purely out of respect and curiosity. For us, we decided to go to Wat Pho; the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This place is massive. We managed to find our way around the maze of walls and chedis and into the temple that housed the Reclining Buddha, but before we enter we were informed that as a sign of respect, everyone that visits must cover their shoulders and wear pants that go past the knees. Well, as a tourist traveling to a country with an average temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, we packed nothing but the shortest of shorts and the thinnest of tank tops.

 

Lucky for us, there were some robes that are available to sweat in while in the presence of Buddha. As Doran and I go to pick up a pair, the robe lady loudly proclaimed that it was ok for men and that the rule applied only to women. However, as we continued into the temple a random tour guide approached us to inform us that we should be putting on a robe. I obliged and turned around to pick up a robe, but was stopped by the robe lady again. The two began to argue in Thai and after a few awkward moments, I was allowed in robe-less, but was warned that I was too sexy for Buddha.

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Sorry Buddha, it is way too hot to be covering our shoulders.

 

“Live” Blogging: My First Degustation Experience

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So Doran made a reservation for his friend and I at Vue de Monde, one of Melbourne’s finest fine dining restaurants in the city. It was quite the experience and I shall try to blog our time there to the best of my abilities. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

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6:25pm: We are 10 mins late for our reservation. (This is important because through out the week before, Vue de Monde called to confirm that we’ll be there at least 5 times. Apparently you are charged a lot of money to cancel or no show). Luckily Doran was on time and told the concierge that we were on our way.

6:26pm: We are told to go up the elevator to the 55th floor. The elevator is black with floor-to-ceiling white lights. I feel like I’m going to a top secret dance club.

6:27pm: The doors open and a lady greets us in a poorly lit welcome room (black seems to be the colour scheme of choice here) and she takes us to our table. But first we walk through a long corridor which also happens to serve as the chilled wine room. Pretentious factor: 50%.

6:30pm: They take our jackets and seat us at our table which was wrapped in leather, and decorated with a ring of stones and some beach wood on top of flat circular slates of stone. I think we are going to have a small campfire on the table.

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– We take in the wonderful evening Melbourne skyline views. It is quite spectacular.

– Our server, which closely resembles Edna Mode, comes and places cloth napkins on our laps with mini tongs and asks us if we have any allergies. She then takes the beach wood and uses them as utensil rests. Pretentious factor: 80%

– Our complimentary “snacks” arrive. First was a small bowl of salt and vinegar chips and some dip. After we finished that, three duck tongue skewers showed up, then three oysters on the half shell, then three strips of wallaby cured on a salt rock was gingerly rolled up and placed in front of us on 3 of those rocks on the table, and finally three mini rolls of smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar. It seems that the campfire setting was our dinner place setting.

Vue de Monde salt cured wallaby

 (Salt cured wallaby)

– Edna returns to ask us how many courses would we like to have for the evening (to my surprise, our dinner hasn’t even started). We have the option to have 5 to 10 courses. I wanted all ten, but common sense (ie. Doran) suggested we should go with seven.

– Without even seeing what’s on the menu, our first course arrives.

– Not knowing what will come next is quite the experience.

Vue de Monde late breakfast

(Duck Yolk, Pear, Truffle)

 – Between courses 2 and 3, our palate cleansers came as individual bowls of flowers. But wait. Here comes the rest of it. Liquid nitrogen is pour into the bowl and we each use our own pestle to personally grind the fresh flowers into a powder. This was our base for a lovely cucumber sorbet. AMAZING! Pretentious factor: 100%

– Course 4 came as what I can only describe as an uprooted plant placed upside down in a pot. It turns out that there were three artichokes in amongst the roots that have been plucked from the earth earlier that day, cleaned and cooked for us. So fresh! Pretentious factor: 500%

– A pre-dessert of 3 strawberry sorbet lollipops was a nice surprise. Pre-desserts should be a thing for all restaurants.

– Doran went to the washroom, but got lost in the maze of glass, mirrors and darkness. Pretentious factor: 800%

8:15pm: Our seventh and final course was a cheese plate. However, by this time our table was needed for the next reservation so Edna returned to escort us to the bar to finish the meal.

– The cheese plate arrived and it was large enough to feed 5 people. So as we lay on two chaise lounge chairs slowly picking away at our cheese platter, we discuss how this evening has been quite an experience. Every moment was a gem. Full to the brim with food and satisfaction, we ask for the bill.

– But before the bill, we were given after dinner treats. An assortment of candies that included: 3 bourbon jelly marshmallows, 3 pieces of crackling pork rinds, 3 salted caramel shells and 3 cherry ice cream balls.

Vue de Monde candies

– We pay and leave, but before we get into the elevator, another lady comes up to us with a surprise take-away bag. Inside was breakfast items that we were told to enjoy in the morning. Pretentious factor: infinity. Does the food ever stop?

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So that was our evening and as we waddle home each with a full belly, Doran mentions that the water was 9 dollars per person. Pretentious factor: infinity + 999