2 week trip to Australia
  • Day13

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 12

    June 6, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 12 °C

    Today is Evan’s 14th birthday!! We were picked up from our hotel really early in the morning, started 6 and 1/2 hours tour bus ride back to Ayers Rock. The tour guide Jordan happens to be Rita’s boyfriend, and had learned about Evan’s birthday from Rita. So he suggested everyone on the bus to sing happy birthday song to Evan in everyone’s native language. There were people from at least 5 countries represented on the bus, so the song was sung in French, Chinese, English, Dutch, Swiss German. How awesome is that!!

    We arrived at our hotel before noon. The big celebration of Evan’s day has just begun.

    After a nice lunch at the town square, we joined the camel tour.

    When we arrived at the camel farm, we saw a line of camels arranged in a perfect line, sitting quietly and patiently for us. Evan and I rode a camel called Hugo, Steve’s camel is called Buddy (nick name is psycho! He is the only camel that has to wear a mouth guard). It was a bit startling when the camel first stood up, because it’s so tall. But we soon got very comfortable riding it because it walked so calmly and slowly. Our tour guide walked alongside of us, taught us a lot of fun facts alit camels. Do you know Australia has the biggest wild camel population in the world? Australia camels also maintained some good qualities through the years, that the Arab camels had lost, so the Arab countries actually import camels from Australia sometimes.

    The most exciting events are coming up!!

    Tonight, there were 4 events planned with Ayers Rock Resort - Night of Field of lights program:

    1) We had drinks (Steve had several glasses of champagne; Evan and I had soft drinks) and hors d’oeuvres with sunset over Uluru rock

    2) We had 3 course meal with fantastic Australian food. Our table mate told the event organizer about Evan’s birthday, so everyone there (about 80 people) sung happy birthday to him. Evan was so embarrassed. LOL!

    3) They turned all lights off, so we were engulfed by darkness and silence. Then an Astronomer came out, gave us a fun talk about Southern Hemisphere stars and constellations

    4) A walk through the Field of Lights! There is no words to describe how cool this art installation is, so I will just give you some facts:
    - the artwork is made up of 300,000 individual components
    - over 380 km of optical fibers is used
    - 50,000 individual handcrafted delicate lights stems covering an area of over 49,000 square meters, equivalent to over 7 football fields

    Standing in the darkness, looking up, you see thousands of brilliant stars twinkling; look down, you see a field of lights stretching to the horizon! The lights change color every 6 to 12 seconds, seems to have a life of its own.

    The time seems to be frozen as you lose yourself in the awesomeness of the perfect conversion of nature and art, and the truth of “forever and always” creates a sense connection between the ourselves and something larger than life. This is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had!

    This concludes our time at Outback, since we are leaving for Sydney tomorrow.
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  • Day12

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 11

    June 5, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    After a much warmer sleep last night while wearing 4 layers of warm clothes, I woke up super early, under a sky full of stars! We left the camp site by 6 AM, heading into King’s Canyon.

    Today, we hike the rims of the canyon. The entire hike takes about 3 hours.

    It started with a very difficult climb up a steep hill called “heart attack hill”. Evan, with his young legs and excellent health , climbed way ahead of us. The rest of us huffed and puffed our way up. We were greeted with a magnificent view of the canyon and land far beyond. Blue sky, red land and greens extended all the way to the horizon.

    We then continued on for hours, admiring the beautiful rock formations all around us, and hiked to a calm waterhole that’s surrounded by large vegetation called Garden of Eden. I have to say my daily workouts paid off here since I was able to keep up with Evan, climbing up and down on many, many rocky hills. Winter wind chilled our faces, and bright sunshine warmed our backs. We hiked fast and efficient, with no one else but our camping group behind us.

    Next leg of the trip is far more boring, we basically needed to drive 5 and 1/2 hours to Alice Springs. The vast Outback landscape stretched in front of us, on and on. However, we did stop for a bathroom break. Rita told us every tree is a loving tree, feel free to relief yourself around it. LOL! I think this is the first time I heard a tour guide encouraging us to relieve ourselves outdoors!

    We stopped at a small town on the way to have lunch. There is an Emu enclosure here. While trying to feed them, Evan’s finger was bitten! Fortunately nothing serious.

    After a long drive, we finally arrived at Alice Springs!! We will sleep in an actual bed tonight! Woohoo!

    There is some mishaps about the hostel the tour group booked for us. So we decided just book a much nicer hotel - Doubletree hotel here for tonight instead of sharing room with strangers. Private bathroom too! What a treat after roughing it for the past 3 days!
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  • Day11

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 10

    June 4, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Well, sleeping outside on the dirt ground with just the Swag in Outback winter is not my thing. It’s so, so cold!! At first I was using my winter jacket as a pillow, but after being waken up by the cold wind too many times, never able to be warm enough to fall in sleep, I figured I could wear it instead Have you ever try to put on a winter jacket inside a sleeping bag? Not easy! I then put on my socks too. Felt some warmth after that. Finally fell in sleep. I dreamt I was Jackie Chan’s manager, had to take him to hospital after he got hurt doing stunts. Is it wired!? I guess I was really stressed.

    Woke up too many times throughout the night, hearing the snoring. Steve was snoring up a big thunder in my right, Evan was snoring up a small thunder in my left, I was raining tears in the middle. I was so jealous of them that could sleep to soundly!!

    Finally time to get up at 5:30 AM. We then headed back to Ayers Rock to see the sunrise and have breakfast. It’s truly a majestic sight! As the sun slowly risen, the sunshine slowly turned the rock into bright red. Amazing!

    Next, we climbed a mountain called Kata Tjuta. Steve and Evan chose to do a more challenging climb that’s 4 km longer distance than the rest of us, and I stayed with the rest of the group, worried abut my heart problem, and didn’t want to slow them down. They hiked the whole 4 km of rocky road in one hour!

    The best thing about this hike, besides the fact we were surrounded by red mountains and blue sky, is the fact there was no flies in the morning. Steve had a much time because of that.

    But the flies returned after noon. Fortunately we were just driving to King’s Canyon which is about 2 and half hours away. And on the way there, we stopped at a small town, bought our own flynet (a net cover your whole face to keep the flies away)! YAY! Never thought we would be this happy to buy some nets!

    Did you know billions of years ago, Australia has a huge inland sea? There are still many salt water lakes remaining in the Outback area. It’s kind of cool to see a large body of water in the middle of the desert!

    We gathered firewood for tonight’s camp fire. As soon as we arrived at Kong’s Canyon camp site, we started a big fire.

    Upon learning about Evan’s 14th birthday is just 2 days away, Rita and couple other ladies gathered some local fruits, baked an amazing birthday cake with the camp fire! The entire camp group gathered around the fire and sung happy birthday to Evan, who was completely surprised by all this. Pretty amazing birthday celebration!!

    Another night under the stars deep in the mountain! This time I am prepared! I am wearing a shirt, a sweater, a vast and a winter jacket before I get into the swag. Should have a warmer night with all this preparation.
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  • Day10

    2019 Australia Trip - Special Update

    June 3, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 14 °C

    Special update of or Australian Trip. While sleeping under the stars, I used an app called SkyView, which identifies all the constellations and presents them as images. Here are some of the cool ones in the Southern Hemisphere.Read more

  • Day10

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 9

    June 3, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 15 °C

    F*#king flies!! Pardon the language, but I’ve never seen this many of flies in my life!

    Our trip to Ayers Rock (the largest rock on earth) will forever be remembered as the place that has millions flies!

    Too bad we were not prepared for them. Some people got flynet which keep them from your face. As for us, if you stand at one place for a minute , the flies would cover you from head to toe! They invade every inch of your body and you face, in your eyes, nostrils and even ears! It’s absolutely horrific!! You have to keep your mouth closed too, because they will fly into it if you don’t.

    Steve was so miserable that he said this is one of the worst experiences he has ever had in his life!!

    However, the Ayers Rock was magnificent! The red rock towering over us against the blue sky, absolutely beautiful!

    We walked around the base of the rock, trying hard to be less annoyed by the flies. But the more you sweat, the more you attracted the flies. People told us, summer time there are even more flies!

    Our camping guide/driver/chef Rita provided some excellent introduction to the native stories and cultures. The natives were the first people ever made bread! Thousands of years ahead of the Europeans.

    We all helped out Rita with dinner preparation and washed up. Veg noodles stir fries and curry chicken. After hours of walking, we were all hungry and tired. Everyone inhaled their dinner!

    Tonight, we sleep in this thing called Swag (kind of like a bigger sleeping bag) which is placed directly on the dirt ground, with no tent, and nothing cover our head.

    Billions of stars are blinking over my head. The Southern Hemisphere has different stars than northern ones. We will have the chance to learn all about them in a few days.

    I am hoping for a good night sleep, and no poison bugs visiting overnight!
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  • Day9

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 8

    June 2, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

    Woke up by the chirping of the tropical birds. Stepped out to the balcony, gazing into the mountains and the greens in front, with gentle breeze on my face, I felt at peace.

    This tree house is the best property we have ever stayed! With its open floor design, the living room and kitchen open directly to the balcony. There are no exterior doors! I was a little startled when the owner didn’t give us any keys, but since there are no doors against the nature, there is no need to lock out the everything the nature has to offer. The property is well hidden by the rainforest; since it’s opened a decade ago, no one but the guests have visited here.

    There are 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and can sleep up to 10 people (more if people willing to sleep on the huge sofas around the house). There are only 3 of us here today, so the space feels huge. It has a swimming pool, a hot tube and a BBQ. The entire house is elegantly decorated, you can tell the owner has some excellent tastes! With the principle elements of Zen and Peace, perfect combination display of Eastern and Western arts, you truly feel like you just stepped into a piece of paradise!

    Steve made sausages and eggs, I made oatmeal and tea, we had our breakfast at the dinner room which occupies a corner of the massive balcony. A couple wild turkeys and many birds busied themselves in the forest... we felt like we were part of the nature.

    Evan and I jumped into the hot tube after the breakfast. It was so nice and warm! But Steve dragged us out of tube and “forced” us to get the day started.

    Nearby our house was a beautiful waterfall called Crystal Cascades. A very nice walkway took us all the way to the top of the waterfall, about 0.8 mile stroll. Too bad the water was too cold for a swim.

    Next, we drove all the way to downtown area for a farmers market that only opens on weekends. Some tasty street food totally filled my belly. We got some ingredients so dinner can be prepared at our awesome kitchen tonight too.

    Tomorrow, we fly to the Outback for our camping trip. Not sure about the Internet connection there and if I will be able to upload my travel journals. We will see.
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  • Day8

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 7

    June 1, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Today we went to the oldest Rainforest in the world called Daintree Forest. The drive on the coastline was absolutely lovely! We crossed a river that’s full of crocodiles on a river ferry! Too bad we were not allowed to be out of the car, so we could take a closer look.

    We arrived at Daintree Discovery center, and took some nice walks in the rainforest. Went up to the canopy tower that had a nice view of the top of the forest, and learned a lot of fun facts about the plants and animals. As we were leaving the center, we drove to the wrong direction and had to make an u-turn. After the u-turn, we suddenly saw a car’s headlights! It’s driving directly at us! Steve suddenly yelped “I am driving on the wrong side!” The Australian driver politely waited until we corrected ourselves and drove on.

    Continue on to go deeper into the forest, we passed by an ice cream shop called Floravilla. Let me tell you, this is one of the best ice cream shops in the world! All ice creams were made by hand by an old lady named Betty Hinton, and all flavors were so unique! She made them with local fruits and herbs. I am pretty sure some flavors are not available anywhere else in the world except this very shop! The shop itself is also a garden, with beautiful native flowers surrounding us while enjoying some really amazing ice creams! How awesome is that!

    Next, we went to a boardwalk to a beach. Steve got lost a bit, drove in circles a couple times. Just as we were laughing about it, 2 cassowaries suddenly apparently on the side of the road! Cassowary is a native Australian bird that has some very unique lifestyles (as we just learned at the Discovery Center). The female bird usually lay 4 eggs. After she laid them, she walks away and continue enjoying her life of party. It’s the male cassowary spends 80 days sitting on the eggs until they hatched. Then the Dad will bring his kids around with him for the next a year and half! What we saw, was the rare sighting of a Dad and his chick! Poor guy has to bring his kid with him while trying to find mate. Good luck nice bird!

    Next, we headed to Jungle Surfing - zip line through the rainforest! One fun thing about this zip line is that in order to get to the first canopy, someone has to run in a giant human hamster wheel to get the line moving. Evan had a lot of fun doing it. As we zipped through the forest, the super knowledgeable guides also showed us many cool things to see. Very nice!

    We were finally heading to Cairns and plan to check into the coolest property of the world: a treetop house in the jungle. The owner waited for us to arrive, and showed us around.

    Let me just say this: there is no word to describe how cool this massive tree house is. When we first lay our eyes on it, our mouths didn’t close for at least 10 minutes!! I will try to describe it in details tomorrow, since it’s late now, and we have all day tomorrow to fully utilize everything in here.

    Dinner was 15 minutes drive away at a place called Red Beret Hotel. A very interesting place that’s a hotel, a sports bar, a casino, a kid’s playground, and a fantastic restaurant! Saturday night, many locals were here.

    Evan ordered a 18’ hotdog, and didn’t quite finish it. LOL!

    Finally! After a full day of activities, time for bed!
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  • Day7

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 6

    May 31, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We boarded the Quicksilver cruise ship in the morning, after an hour and half, we arrived at the renowned Agincourt Reef, which is at the very edge of Great Barrier Reef. A step away from where Nemo separated from his Dad by grabbing a boat, and brought back to Sydney (for the few people who haven’t seen the movie, this is a scene from “Finding Nemo”).

    The Quicksilver Cruise actually has a pontoon in the middle of the ocean, which is perfect for me since it’s far more stable than a boat, less likely more me to get motion sickness. And since it’s off season, only less than 100 people are on the boat instead of 400 of its capacity.

    Steve and Evan were scheduled with 2 dives, and they started one soon after we arrived at the pontoon. Steve later told me, they saw a lot of fish hiding in and around the corals; countless species and many different sizes. Both of them have Go Pro attached on their wrists, so they took a lot of videos! Can’t wait to see them!

    By myself, I took the submarine ride twice, and had a full lunch (poor Steve and Evan didn’t have much lunch, because by the time they finished they dives, most food was gone!).

    Dinner was at an excellent Vietnamese restaurant. A nice big bowl of pho was exactly what I needed!
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  • Day6

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 5

    May 30, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Today is a travel day. We got up early for our flight to Cairns, didn’t realize how fast and efficient Sydney security line was. By the time we reached our gate, we had an hour to spare!

    As soon as we landed at Cairns, we could feel the warm breeze on our faces. It sure was nice to leave Sydney’s 40 degrees weather behind.

    Show time!! Steve was going to drive on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time! It felt wrong when we got into our rental. Everything was backwards! Even the seatbelts were buckled on the wrong side. Steve kept mistaking windshield handles for turn signals handles, so every time we needed to turn, the windshield started swiping. I think the locals could tell the tourists apart simply by the frequent windshield actions. LOL!

    The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas was absolutely gorgeous!! The coast line was dotted with white sandy beaches. The hour drive was like driving in a paradise.

    Once we arrived at Port Douglas, Steve felt a lot more comfortable driving on the wrong side.

    Our apartment has 2 bedrooms with their own bathrooms, a nice kitchen and a balcony. The beach is just a 2 minute walk away. Everything is absolutely perfect!

    Steve and Evan spent the afternoon swimming while I was chilling on the beach. A relaxing and calm day today.

    Big day tomorrow! Steve and Evan are going to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!
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  • Day5

    2019 Australia Trip - Day 4

    May 29, 2019 in Australia ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    We finally got our luggage now! Steve was tired to wait around and went to airport himself instead waiting for them to deliver them. He was shown to a room that had about a hundred misplaced luggage. He immediately found ours, and brought them home. So glad he did that because with so many bags that needed to be delivered, who knows how long we would’ve waited.

    This is the last day in Sydney for us, and we had a lot of activities planned.

    The first thing we did was climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge! This activity allows us to climb to the top of the bridge, scale about 1,400 steps. What made this experience even more memorable is the fact it’s super windy today. At the top of the bridge, the wind reached more than 55 miles per hour!! I don’t think I ever experienced a more windy situation in my life. Our guide said this is the most windy day for him as well.

    Fortunately we were all well prepared. The company gave us jumpsuits, beanies, gloves, fleece and of course, safety harnesses. Even though the wind was threatening to blow us off the bridge, we actually felt very safe.

    We then walked to the Sydney Opera House, joined a guided tour to see the back stages and all theaters. Our tour guide absolutely loves this building! His enthusiasm was fantastic! We had the chance to learn all the history behind this amazing architecture marvel, saw the inner works at the back stages.

    We actually ate at the fancy restaurant instead of the opera house. The food was among the best we’ve ever had! Check out the desert! Shaped like the opera house!

    Sadly we are leaving this wonderful city tomorrow.
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