Thursday, December 30, 2010

17 Nov 2010: I'm back in Port Stephens

17 Nov 2010, Wed:

I was excited to be back in Port Stephens once again. I felt thankful that I had taken the extra step to book for a dolphin watching cruise with the tour agent just to make sure that if I had not met any dolphin on 15 Nov 2010, I could hopefully catch sight of a wild dolphin on another day. Would I see any dolphin when I return to Port Stephens on 17 Nov 2010?

The coach brought the tour group to Port Stephens from the Australian Reptile Park. When I caught sight of d'Alboro Marinas at Nelsons Bay, I felt a positive sense of familiarity as if I was back home. Before the cruise started, we were given some time to have our lunch. Some of the members of the tour had signed up for the packages where they could have lunch onboard the cruise. For myself, I had initially wanted to have lunch at the Rock Lobster Seafood Restaurant but since it was busy with many guests, so I changed my mind and settled for a meal from Subway.

The cruise operator for our dolphin-watching cruise was Moonshadow Cruises. The cruise was a huge vessel. There was even a small bar that was serving chips and light refreshment. When it was 1.30 p.m., the cruise set sail in search for dolphins. On the cruise, I happily enjoyed the breeze onboard and the beautiful scenery.

The cruise was one-and-a-half hour in duration. When someone shouted "dolphins", everyone onboard the cruise got ourselves ready to marvel at the beauty of the dolphins. We saw several pairs of dolphins. See if you spot where the dolphins were in the photograph below.

The staff of Moonshadow Cruises were well-organised and were thoughtful. They helped to ensure that all passengers get their chance to be as close to the viewing deck as possible so that everyone could enjoy a glimpse of dolphins swimming in the wild. One pair of dolphins swam right under the cruise vessel and I had the pleasure to catch glimpses of them swimming with the cruise.

I was busy admiring the dolphins swimming so I have no good photograph to show. Here is a link to Port Stephens' Facebook page where you can catch a glimpse of how it would be to see dolphin swimming:!/video/video.php?v=449978987884

Here is a video taken from Moonshadow's website:

After a hearty viewing of the dolphins, the dolphins seemed to find themselves another place to rest. Moonshadow Cruises have its special way to delight its guests. After viewing wild dolphins, we were treated to the ambassador of Moonshadow, a dolphin mascot! Everyone who had wanted to, could get up very close to our dolphin mascot.

The Moonshadow Cruises also arranged for a special swim for the eager guests right onboard the cruise. There was a special net area where one could happily swim away as the cruise vessel moved. Did you see how much the children and guests have enjoyed themselves?

My favourite part of the cruise was to enjoy watching dolphins and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Now I could happily share that I have seen dolphins swimming in the wild. I am extremely grateful for the chance to see the dolphins onboard the cruise.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) Here I thank the thoughtful staff members from Moonshadow Cruises for organising the cruise and making it a memorable experience.
2) I am grateful for the beautifully good weather.
3) I am thankful that I have managed to see dolphins swimming in the wild. This was one of my key aims of my trip.

New things that I did:
1) I saw dolphins swimming in the wild. Yeah!

My learning points:
1) When we want to accomplish something that is dear to us, make contingency plans and allow for room to make as many attempts as possible. In order to ensure that I get to see whales and dolphins, I had planned for two separate trips to Port Stephens. This was worthwhile.
2) In the event that we have yet to achieve our desired outcome, be happy anyway. At the very least, we have tried our best.

With this post, I wish you delight in whatever you care to do.

Moonshadow Cruises

Shop 3, 35 Stockton Street
Nelson Bay, New South Wales 2315
Tel: +61 (0) 2 4984 9388
Fax: +61 (0) 2 4984 9788

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

17 Nov 2010: Mammals in the Australian Reptile Park?

17 Nov 2010, Wed:

This was yet another special day. I was to revisit Port Stephens, with a tour group. During my visit to Port Stephens on 15 Nov 2010, I did not get to see any dolphin (except those on the postcards). I kept my fingers crossed that I would be rewarded with sightings of dolphins in the wild on 17 Nov 2010.

After a hearty and rejuvenating breakfast, I headed to Holiday Inn Darling Harbour to wait for the transfer coach. The Holiday Inn Darling Harbour has an interesting history. I learnt that the northern wing of the hotel was formerly a wool store. I like the heritage looking architecture of the hotel.

The transfer coach brought the tourists to a coach terminal where we each proceeded to our respective designated coaches. The tour provider for the tour was AAT Kings. It is said to be Australia's and New Zealand'sleading escorted holiday tour operator. My coach was to take me to two key places namely the Australian Reptile Park and Port Stephens.

I realised that the coach driver doubled as the tour guide. That must have taken the tour guide a lot of amazing skills set: to drive, to be learned in heritage and the locality, and to communicate effectively.

On the way to the Australian Reptile Park and Port Stephens, coach travelled north and crossed the Harbour Bridge. My goodness, I have crossed the Harbour Bridge on another mode of transport, i.e. coach.

When we reached th Australian Reptile Park, one of the rangers greeted us together with one of the stars of the morning, a small-size alligator. I asked ranger how he had managed to tame the alligator. I learnt that because the alligator had been nurtured since young by human beings, they were hence tamed and non-aggressive.

Although I was in a reptile park, I realised I was not a favourite fan of reptiles. I was more looking forward to reach Port Stephens. Delightfully, I was nicely distracted by the fact that mammals such as a the koala bears were being raised in the Australian Reptile Park. Wow, I suppose the koala bears were there not because they were reptiles but because they were a good representation of Australian wildlife. I spent quite a bit of time at the koala enclosure. The reward for me was that I had managed to capture on digital film a photograph of myself with a koala bear that was awake. That was a blessing and fortune since a koala bear sleeps an average of 20 hours per day. Technically, they may not be sleeping, they could be digesting their food.

The Australian Reptile Park also housed spiders just that I did not take much interest in the spiders.I must admit that I was figuring out how to while my time away at the Australian Reptile Park after I have seen the koala bears. To be fair, I was told that the Australian Reptile Park does some wonderful and extensive research work on both Australian reptiles and spiders. It was just that I needed someone who's madly in love with reptiles and spiders to inspire me to know how to appreciate these animals.

Back then, I was looking forward to Port Stephens and the dolphin-watching cruise. Reptiles? I shall be grateful that I get to know a bit more about reptiles.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) The weather was surprisingly and wonderfully good.
2) The drive drove safely even though he had to wear several hats. Good job!
3) The koala bear woke up when I touched it so I had a photo taken with an awake koala bear.
4) The Australian Reptile Park was thoughtful to include an enclosure that housed koala bears. While it is a reptile park, I must say that this place has one of the most interactive koala bears enclosure that I have seen in Sydney thus far.
5) The ranger at the koala bear enclosure was very kind to share with me the names of the koala bears. She seemed to be someone who takes pride in her work. Great for the koala bears and us tourists.

New things that I did:
1) I visited the Australian Reptile Park.
2) I stepped into the enclosures for spiders even though I admittedly did not have much interest for spiders that day.
3) I touched a koala bear for the first time in my life.

My learning points:
1) First thing first. It pays to start sightseeing by going for what one loves first. I like to see koala bears so the koala bear enclosure was one of my first stops even though I was in the Australian Reptile Park. As such, when I stepped out of the Australian Reptile Park, I have seen what was most important to me, i.e. the koala bears.

AAT (Australian Accomodated Tours) Kings
AAT Kings Tours Head Office
Level 7, 35 Grafton Street
Bondi Junction, NSW 2022
Tel: +61 (2) 9028 5182
Tel: 1300 AAT KINGS (1300 228 546)

Australian Reptile Park
Pacific Highway
NSW 2250
Tel: +61 (2) 4340 1022 (International phone)
Tel: 02 4340 1022

Sunday, December 26, 2010

16 Nov 2010: The peaceful Milsons Point

16 Nov 2010, Thu:

Learning to go with the flow presents one with wonderful blessings. I let go of the obsession to visit Rose Bay and in return, I was treated to a memorable visit to the tranquil and peaceful Milsons Point with a wonderful friend. I was very happy with my choice. Many thanks to my dear friend, RL, for the extra mile that she took to walk me to Milsons Point. I felt touched by her kind and generous gesture.

The view of the Harbour Bridge from Milsons Point was awesome. I later found out that "Milsons Point was named after James Milson (1785-1872), a free settler originally from Lincolnshire who settled in the then-almost uninhabited district in 1824. " (Source: wikipedia).

It was comparatively quieter at Milsons Point than at Circular Quay. I welcomed the opportunity to view the Harbour Bridge from another perspective different from that when I was looking from Circular Quay. One thing that I appreciate about Milsons Point was its general ambience of peace and tranquility. I like the greenery there too.The view of sunset was beautiful from Milsons Point. It was a very wonderful place to spend time reflecting. I think I could have fell in love with it.

My friend and I spotted an interesting looking toilet. It was not that we needed the toilet, I was simply amazed by the interesting features of the modern looking toilet in the middle of Milsons Point. I suppose that was a sign to tell me that Milsons Point was a place that was way ahead of its time? Whatever it is, I hope that decades later, Milsons Point will continue to be beautiful and tranquil.

More wonderful than the beautiful scenery at Milsons Point was the precious opportunity to catch up with one of my good friends. Beside a great chat, I fondly remember the simple joy of reading a Chinese book out aloud to my dear friend. It was something I don't usually do. I read, though I seldom read Chinese books out aloud. I did not know that simple things like reading out aloud to a friend could bring such delight and pleasure. I was glad to be reminded of the power of the simple things in our lives.

When it was time to part with my friend, I continued to spend some time at Milsons Point to sketch. I was more productive in sketching in a foreign land than in my own country. I suppose my body is urging me to slow down my pace of life and to treat myself to new experiences.

When it was late evening, I headed to the nearby wharf. I had no idea how I could get myself back to the hotel. Somehow, I had learnt to be more trusting of life. I had a trust that somehow I could figure things out. With some help, I finally figured out which would be the ferry that I could take to Circular Quay. While waiting for the ferry, I was acquainted with a lady from Malaysia. She was waiting for a ferry so as to get to Circular Quay and then to head to the Sydney Opera House to catch a dance performance. I hope she had caught the performance in time.

That night, I had dinner at Cha For Tea nearby Goulburn Street. Afterwhich, I visited Coles the supermarket to buy some light snack for the next day.

16 Nov 2010 was a good day and I have had fun with my spontaneous get-away as a tourist.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I thank my dear friend for her precious company at Milsons Point, and the extra mile that she had went to accompany me to Milsons Point.
2) I was grateful for the wonderful scenery at Milsons Point.
3) I was grateful for a chance to be of some service to a friend by delighting her with my reading of a Chinese book. That helped me practise reading in Chinese too.

New things that I did:
1) I visited Milsons Point for the very first time.
2) I learnt to take a ferry from Milsons Point to Circular Quay without any guide book to rely on.

My learning points:
1) Make time to share time with friends and family, this is precious.
2) Going with the flow and letting go have their blessings.
3) Trust the process of life to bring us where we need to be.
4) Walk the extra mile. This action in itself brings positive effects to its recipients.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

16 Nov 2010: The trees with purple flowers and the Harbour Bridge cross

16 Nov 2010 (Tue):

During my visit to Sydney, I was attracted to one particular species of tree. It has purple flowers and it blossomed in glory during the spring period. I do not remember seeing it in early spring two years ago during my last visit to Sydney. So when I met up with my dear friend, RL, I casually asked if she knew what tree that was. We happen to see a few of such trees near the Museum of Contemporary Art. Does anyone know the name of this tree with purple flowers?

I have found out the name of the tree after I returned to Singapore. Anyway, have fun figuring its name out.

So where next would the spontaneous tourist go? My friend and I decided that we would use the ladies first. So we have went to a nearby ladies recommended by my friend. It was generally clean. After our visit to the ladies, when my friend asked me where I would liek to go, I wonder if she would find me a bit fixated that my mind was still contemplating to catch one of the the last ferries to Rose Bay, and then return back.

She suggested an alternative, and I decided to go along with the flow. It was rare to have the chance to catch up with a friend and I supposed I would be happy sacrificing my visit to Rose Bay. I was, indeed.

Sydney city along George Street was full of urban activities and I felt rather overwhelmed. My friend, RL, showed me to some quieter streets in the city of Sydney. Eventually, she walked the extra mile and accompanied me to cross the Harbour Bridge. It was to be my first time crossing the Harbour Bridge on foot. The view was amazing. It was simple yet there was something delightful about the harbour view from the Harbour Bridge.

I think it would be a special bonus if a wise person discovers my love for the harbour view and engages me to be the resident tourist of Sydney for at least a few months. Then I could do some of the things that I love to do: share with people about the beauty of places that others may not see, to write, and to sketch.

I realised my friend was feeling cold and hungry by the time when we reached the other end of the Harbour Bridge. Ooops, I figured I had went too deep into the mode of being a spontaneous tourist, I could do with a bit more sensitivity.

We walked towards Milsons Point, strongly recommended by my friend. On our way, we saw a beautiful church, Church by the Bridge. I fell in love with the evening skies of that day. It was a great blessing to enjoy such lovely sights with a good friend.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) My dear friend, RL, went the extra mile to walk with me to the other end of Harbour Bridge. She need not, and I am touched that she did.
2) I am grateful for good weather and lovely sights when I crossed the Harbour Bridge.
3) I am grateful for a loan of camera which allowed me to take all the photos in this post, and the rest to come, to share with my readers.

New things that I did:
1)  I've crossed the Harbour Bridge on foot for the first time in my life.


Monday, December 20, 2010

16 Nov 2010: After Watsons Bay

16 Nov 2010 (Tue):

With my camera that had its LCD screen damaged from a major fall, I took the following photos on my ride to Circular Quay. Thank goodness that Kodak cameras come with view-finders. That enabled me to have a fair gauge of what I was capturing using my camera. The photographs turned out alright, don't they?

There was still no ferry at that time of the day to Rose Bay. I was thinking I could get myself a new camera and if time permits, take a ferry to Rose Bay, unless my heart had decided to do otherwise. Afterall, 16 Nov was a day to be spontaneous.

My dear friend, RL, went the extra mile and offered to meet me in the city to pass me her camera. I was touched by her kind gesture.

Before meeting my friend, I did a sketch of the Sydney Opera House and started on a sketch of the Museum of Contemporary Art. RL met up with me when I was sketching part of the Museum of Contemporary Art. We had a hearty conversation and I appreciated our shared time together.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) Many thanks to my friend, RL, for the extra mile that she took to travel to the city to lend me a camera!
2) I took photos with a camera that was damaged, and the photos turned out alright.
3) A few encouraging folks came by to lend me some compliments when they saw me sketching the Sydney Opera House. 

New things that I did:
I did my first sketch of the Sydney Opera House.

My learning points:
Make time to share time with friends and family, this is a blessing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

16 Nov 2010: Once again, the beautiful Watsons Bay

16 Nov 2010 (Tue):

From Circular Quay to Watsons Bay: that was my first ferry ride during my vacation in Sydney for the year 2010. The breeze onboard the ferry was refreshing. I was enjoying every bit of the ride.

While I was on the ferry, my camera and its pouch fell more than twice. Thank goodness the pouch offered good protection to the camera.

Soon enough, the ferry reached Watsons Bay wharf. The sunlight during spring had a very welcoming quality. I was greeted by the seagulls and the tranquil waters. I walked leisurely along the beach admiring the sceneries. As I walked near a rocky part of the beach, I heard a loud sound. My camera had fell from the pouch! I picked up the camera and found that the LCD (liquid crystal display) screen had broke. I could possibly still take photographs with the camera but I could not see the images of the photographs that I had taken. I was disoriented for a split second. Interestingly and thank goodness, unlike some of the times in the past when unexpected events of loss happened, I did not feel upset or angry. I was simply shakened for a brief while. I wonder if this meant that I have advanced in my level of emotional management?

I decided that whatever happened, I shall be a happy tourist enjoying my vacation. I did a few sketches at Watsons Bay. Sketching was therapeutic in that somehow, it shifted my attention to admiring the beauty that Watsons Bay has to offer.

I did have a question on my mind. With the damaged camera, what would be the best thing to do? The  options I had in mind were as follow:
1) Sketch for the rest of the trip!
2) Buy a new camera.
3) Continue to use the damaged camera. While the LCD screen had broke, with the help of the view-finder, I could still take photographs with it. It was just that I can't see how the photographs turn out on the camera.

I had wanted to travel to Rose Bay. Yet with the damaged camera, I decided it would be a wiser choice to return to Circular Quay and find out where I could find a new camera. I sent my friend, RL, a text message when I reached Circular Quay. The unexpectedly good news came. My dear friend generously offered to lend me her camera. I was told that in Sydney, cameras are more expensive and there are limited choices. So I gave up on my plan to buy a new camera in Sydney. The next step was to learn to accept the gracious help from a friend. I thank RL for trusting me with her precious camera.

Here is a post of gratitude to remind myself to give thanks to the good things that come along even when some things may go wrong, and to celebrate the beauty of Watsons Bay.


People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) My friend, RL, graciously and generously gave me a loan of her camera when mine broke.
2) I am thankful for the beautiful sceneries that Watsons Bay has to offer.
3) My camera broke, yet it was still able to take photographs with the help of the view-finder.
Personally, I like Kodak cameras for its durability.

4) I am thankful that I have advanced in my management of emotions such that I remained in a balanced emotional state even when my camera broke unexpectedly.
5) I am thankful for the good weather.
6) Despite a broken camera, I am safe and alive!

New things that I did:
1) I travelled to Watsons Bay on a ferry for the first time in my life!
2) I did my first sketch of Watsons Bay on 16 Nov 2010.

My learning points:
1) Things may go wrong, we can still choose to take things at our stride and resolve the matter in positive ways.
2) The universe has a loving way to help us. There are times when the task at hand is to learn to be willing to accept help when it comes. This takes humility many of the times.
3) Pay attention. Sometimes, there are clues that give us early warning? I could be more careful with my camera when it kept falling down while I was on the ferry ride to Watsons Bay.

Sydney Ferries

Watsons Bay

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

16 Nov 2010: The spontaneous tourist

16 Nov 2010 (Tue):

The day was set to be a day when I would be a spontaneous tourist and be where my heart would ask me to. The challenge that was set was to hear clearly what my heart wanted to go. That took practice.

I set off for Central station and purchased a MyMulti Day Pass for myself. The Day Pass allowed me unlimited rides on government buses, ferries and trains for the day. Then I set off for Circular Quay station, the train station that was nearest to Sydney Opera House. My intention was to collect tickets at the Sydney Opera House. On hindsight, after knowing a bit more about the transport system in Sydney and knowing that I would be spending eight days in Sydney, I could have purchased a weekly ticket instead. Whatever it was, I was happy that I had a great time in Sydney, irregardless of the type of ticket that I chose to use.

When I got there, I saw many people at the Sydney Opera House. I might have brushed shoulders with musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra without realising. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was to perform their first concert at the Sydney Opera House that very night. Being inquisitive, I subsequently realised that there was a rehearsal of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Invited guests could attend the rehearsal.

While I had other plans for the day, I decided to ask what it would take to attend the rehearsal. Afterall, it was the rehearsal of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world! I politely asked one of the staff at the entrance of the walk-way to the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. She told me that the tickets to the rehearsal could not be purchased in any way. Admission to the rehearsal is by invitation. The invited guests were people who were in some ways associated with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I wished that I could sit in the rehearsal if I were to tell her "I am associated with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra because 'I like' it on my Facebook account!".

Anyway, I spent a much longer time at the Sydney Opera House and its vicinity than I had initially planned. My heart seemed to wish to sketch, and I spent about 30 minutes doing a sketch of the Harbour Bridge. Before doing the sketch, a gentleman from South America, I think, initiated a conversation about tertiary education in Singapore with me. I shared with him what little I knew, and was waiting for my chance to start my sketch after the conversation. Anyway, the weather was so wonderful for sketching that I did a sketch that was pretty decent considering that I took only about 30 minutes.

While I was sketching, I took time to enjoy the beauty of the Sydney harbour and the seagulls. Perhaps it was because I do not get to see seagulls as often in Singapore, the sights of them delighted me. The seagulls also brought back fond memories of my visit to Scotland many years ago.

I walked about the vicinity of the Sydney Opera House for a while before I decided I would travel to Rose Bay and Watsons Bay. However, there was no ferry to Rose Bay after 11.00 a.m. that day, and I decided to take a ferry to Watsons Bay. I was thinking of visiting Rose Bay later that evening when ferry services to Rose Bay resumes.

Before I board the ferry to Watsons Bay, I got myself a slice of pizza for my lunch. Off I went.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) The weather was good.
2) I had the inspiration to do a sketch of Harbour Bridge. The last time when I visited Scotland, I brought my sketchbook along but none of the pages were filled when I was back from the trip. I think it was good luck and a blessing that I felt inspired to sketch in Sydney.
3) I saw beautiful seagulls.
4) A nice lady volunteered to help me take a few photo with Sydney Opera House as the background.

New things that I did:
1) I learnt to read the schedules for the ferries. It became an important part of my travel as it ensured that I could catch the ferry in time.
2) I travelled to Watsons Bay by ferry for the first time in my life.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Delightful breakfast, everyday!

During my vacation in Sydney (13 - 21 Dec 2010), I look forward to breakfast, each and every day. Breakfast at the Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour Ceezens Restaurant was consistently delightful. I love their spread of organic jams, breads and fruit juices. 

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. At the very least, I believe it is important for one to have breakfast everyday. I make it a point to ensure that I have breakfast everyday, even if it was just a very simple serving of bread. Here is a link discussing the benefits of having breakfast.

When I was staying at Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour, breakfast was so delicious, healthy and delightful, except for the 15 Nov 2010 when I had to leave the hotel at 3 a.m., I had breakfast for at least an hour every day. I wanted to savour and enjoy the time for breakfast. I figured that the staff of the Ceezens Restaurant could have easily tell that I love the breakfast. They could recognise me by the fourth day of my stay in the hotel.

One interesting item on the breakfast menu was the pancake. The Ceezens Restaurant, where breakfast is being served, has an automatic pancake-making machine that makes pancakes. I think my dear friend, Mystic, will love it and have pancakes everyday if she knows of the pancakes. At a push of a button and a short wait of two minutes, the pancake-making machine makes two pieces of pancakes. The best part is that the Ceezens Restaurant provides delightful fresh cream, organic strawberry jam, rich chocolate fudge, golden honey and organic fruit jam that complements the pancakes.

Another thing that I like about the breakfast is its spread of fresh organic breads and organic jams. I miss the Vegemite too. With Vegemite, I know I can have my healthy dose of Vitamin B everyday.

My favourite beverage for breakfast at Ceezens Restaurant was the soy milk. The fresh milk there were fresher than those we have in Singapore. I prefer soy milk because I was told that people of my blood-type will do better with a diet that has minimal dairy product. The organic fruit juices were wonderful too. I helped myself to servings of organic watermelon juices on some of the days.

The muesli were also another favourite item of mine. I like the cruncy texture of the almonds. On the side, to ensure I have my daily intake of proteins, I had eggs and baked beans every day.

My initial choice of hotel for my recent vacation in Sydney was not Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour. Being prudent budget wise, I had opted for a three-star hotel along Pitt Street. However, I must have visited Sydney during a busy period of the year. All the three-star hotel available through my tour agent were fully booked. Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour was the available choice that my tour agent recommended me. It is a four-star hotel. I think Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour distinguishes itself with its wonderful breakfast. For its wonderful spread of healthy breakfast, I am most willing to consider it as my choice hotel should I visit Sydney again, provided my financial means allow me to afford so.

Ceezens Restaurant on the top left. Courtesy of my friend, RL.

I have good memories of the breakfasts in Sydney. Thanks to Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour hotel's Ceezens Restaurant.

Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour
17 Little Pier Street
2000 Darling Harbour
Tel: (+61) 2/ 82174000
Fax: (+61) 2/82174400