Down Under – Melbourne & the Great Ocean Road

One hour flight from Sydney and we were in Melbourne – the final city in Jeff’s student life I had yet to visit!

We strolled around town visiting the landmarks of Jeff’s year in the city. The college where he studied, the State library, Chinatown….

We went to St Kilda pier to see the famous little penguins return to their nests after weeks at sea. Even though a wooden walkway has been built to keep tourists off the beach, people (stupidly) dangle their feet while sitting on the ledge, leaving no space for the penguins to exit the water.

After waiting in the freezing cold at sunset, we saw a penguin stick his head out of the water, take a look at the mass of humans on the beach and swim off. And then another. And another.

I lost it at that point and shouted quite loudly that if people lifted their legs, the penguins would have the space they needed to access their nests – common sense really. Half the people saw the light and stood up.

By then we realised we could distinctively hear the penguins chirping and calling… from the other side of a fence. The smart little things had moved their nests to a side of the breakwater inaccessible to humans!

After a while we did see a handful of penguins waddling around the breakwater, hoping from stone to stone. They are SO tiny, SO cute.

 

The next day we joined a tour bus and drove down the Great Ocean Road – in miserable weather.

The view is beautiful and I imagine it would be spectacular on a good day. We stopped by the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge and even saw a double rainbow!

PS: excuse any typos, at time of writing I am in the midst of packing boxes and going crazy.

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Down Under – Bondi Beach & Blue Mountain

While in Sydney, we obviously stopped by Bondi Beach. Unfortunately, not that many lifeguards are around in winter, so we didn’t witness a live episode of Bondi Rescue.

There were quite a few surfers hitting the waves, even in the cold and rain. I loved seeing the waves crash on Bondi Icebergs Swimming Pool. I can’t believe people actually swim there!

I would have loved to take a stroll along the beach in summer to feel the Bondi vibe…

We continued our promenade with a stroll to Watson’s Bay light house where we, by mistake, tried to enter a restricted army base – and got shouted at by the security guard (typical Jeff stuff).

On the next day we visited Blue Mountain. We took a cable car and the steepest funicular railway in the world!

All passengers were sitting there looking real relaxed while I had the impression I was about the slip off my seat and crash into the front of the carriage…

The railway isn’t scary at all, it just makes you want to grab onto something to make sure you’re not gonna fall off your seat.

Blue Mountain reminded me of the Grand Canyon (not that I’ve ever been). The air was so crisp, we filled up our lungs knowing we wouldn’t get anything like that in the Kong!

 

 

PS: by the time this post is on the blog we will have moved back to the UK….

Down Under – Port Stephens

On our second day in Australia we joined a bus tour to Port Stephens, 200km north of Sydney.
The first thing we did was hop into a 4×4 mini bus, bobbed up and down for 5 minutes until we reached the sand dune surfing spot.
I was incredibly fun and I kinda felt like Calvin and Hobbs going down the dune at top speed.

 

We next went on a 2 hour dolphin watching cruise. I’m not good with boats, but since we were staying in the harbour I thought I would be fine.
We managed to see a handful of dolphins swimming along next to the boat, but I didn’t snap any pictures. The boat was stable most of the time and I felt okay, except for the 5 minutes were we sailed past the mouth of the harbour – I was not feeling good at all!

Once the cruise was over (much to my relief) we drove to a vineyard for a small tasting session. We found plenty of locals enjoying a glass in the sun with the live band strumming away. What a nice Saturday they spent!

Down Under – Sydney

Visiting Australia has always been on my bucket list, but I never thought I’d make it.

It’s so far from Europe and quite expensive too. Obviously, it’s much closer to Hong Kong but it’s still far – 9 hours flight!

Since we are returning to England at the end of July we wanted to go on a last holiday and decided to go all out and chose Australia.

It was the perfect pick: it was on my bucket list and I’d get to see where Jeff studied in Melbourne.

 

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Sydney from the plane

Jeff is not one for wasting time and as soon as we had dropped off our suitcases, he started showing us Sydney – even though we’d just stepped off a red eye flight!

 

We first walked around the Queen Victoria Building, a 19th century marketplace now used as a shopping centre. It has two big clocks with moving figures and scenes, as well as beautiful stained glass windows.

Apparently there’s even a sealed letter written by Elizabeth II in 1986 that nobody has read and is due to be opened by the Mayor of Sydney in 2085!

 

We then walked around The Rocks, a touristy area full of restaurants from which one can see both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera house. We saw the sun set behind the bridge, got up close with the Opera House and even witnessed a big P&O cruise ship set off from the harbour.

 

We headed to Darling Harbour for dinner and had some yummy grilled meat – though nobody tried the kangaroo steak on offer.

By that point our feet were starting to ache so we went back the hotel for a well-deserved shower and good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

Hong Kong: the last 2 months

I knew it would happen, I wanted it to happen, but it happened much faster than I thought it would.

We are leaving Hong Kong at the end of July to return to the UK.

I love Hong Kong to bits, it’s such an amazing city full of contrasts and adventures, yet there are a few issues that mean it may not be the place where we settle.

These issues are:

  • The job market: simply put, I currently do not fit in.

I am a New Product Development Project Manager, but food companies with manufacturing operations in Hong Kong can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The few times I did see an offer, they regarded Chinese food, which I have no knowledge of…  Additionally, I do not speak, read or write Cantonese AND Mandarin fluently.

Mastering both Chinese languages is becoming increasingly mandatory and only a few sectors are exempt (banking being one of them).

 

  • Housing: renting a small apartment at high price doesn’t bother me too much. However, we want to eventually buy property, yet buying anything in Hong Kong seems unachievable. Not only is the price very high, the flats are tiny and the deposit is hefty. It simply isn’t achievable for us in the short/medium term.

 

  • Work culture: this one concerns Jeff rather than me. People at work are extremely competitive and do not hesitate to backstab colleagues and shoe-shine managers in order to get promoted. I’ve been told this behaviour is very common in certain industries/teams with local staff as it is instilled in people since kindergarten.

You see, there are only a handful of universities in Hong Kong, so parents put extreme pressure on their children to stand out from their classmates. This starts at a very young age with kids being enrolled in music, sport, arts & language classes, the only goal being to enter a prestigious primary school, then a prestigious high school and finally university. Children compete with one another on all aspects and this behaviour is carried over into their working lives.

 Hong Kong has so many good points: it’s safe, has easily reachable countryside, varied landscapes and no end of activities to try. Let’s not forget the food, central location for Asian holidays and warm weather.

 

I’ve learnt in the past seven years that no place is perfect and that it’s not about finding the place that ticks all the boxes, but the one that ticks the most important boxes…

I don’t know if England will tick the most important boxes (I’ll be honest and say I am concerned about safety)…but we thought we had to try, so when the opportunity came, we grabbed it.

 

We will try our best, but I would not be surprised if we eventually return to Hong Kong or try another country.

 

 

P.S: I do not plan on stopping the blog for now, even after I return to the UK

 

 

Discovering Tokyo – Ueno Park, Asakusa, Meiji Shrine & Calico cat café

Sake barrels - Meiji Shrine

After 6 days in Japan it was finally time to visit Tokyo! It’s such a big city with tons to see, I was really looking forward to it.

We took a stroll through Ueno Park, famous for cherry blossoms, but the trees hadn’t entered full bloom and only a handful of individual trees had flowers.

When evening fell we visited Asakusa Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The gate at the entrance has a humongous lantern and it’s a very popular spot with tourists. We had a blast taking photos of the lanterns and architecture.


The next day we visited the Meiji shrine in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. The shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and is surrounded by a forest. The shrine displays big sake barrels that are donated by brewers around the country as offerings to the shrine.
I had read that Shinto weddings sometimes take place at the shrine and being able to see one is very rare. I was stunned when I suddenly saw a bride, groom and their parents in wedding kimonos walk to the temple!
It was such a sight, my jaw dropped: the bride had a white kimono with a paper hat covering most of her head, the groom had a black jacket with a stripy robe, the mothers had the most elegant black kimonos with golden patterns and the priest carried a big red parasol.
After posing for their photographer (and dozens of tourists) they vanished into the temple for their ceremony.
These details are proof of a rich culture that makes japan a very interesting and exotic country to visit!

Since our feet were very achy we took a rest in a cat café.
The concept is simple: it’s a café with cats. This quite common in Japan and they now have cafés with bunnies, owls and even goats! We paid our entry fee, got a drink and a box of chicken breast to feed the kitties.
They are no fools, they know who has food, who hasn’t and when fed up with us humans, climb up the cat tree to sleep!

We had dinner in Omoide Yokochō, a small alley lined with Japanese grill (yakitori) restaurants. This once again could have been a scene from a movie: dozens of open front restaurants with lanterns and the smell of grilled meat filling the air.