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ISBNPA Conference | Hong Kong

Summary: I travelled to Hong Kong to attend the ISBNPA conference which was held at the Grand Hyatt and Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel.

Duration: 7 days

Where we stayed:

  • Glenealy (booked through TripAdvisor for 5 nights)
  • Hotel Icon (1 night)
Travel essentials

Places visited:

Where we ate:

Day 1

I travelled with Qantas and caught a morning flight from Sydney. I could feel the humidity as soon as I stepped out of the airport. I met up with a friend and we caught an urban taxi to our apartment. We had booked our apartment in Glenealy through TripAdvisor. This was our first time booking trying TripAdvisor as I have always gone with Airbnb in the past.

It took quite a bit of effort to find our apartment (without Wi-Fi) and get our luggage up through the different style of lifts (lifts are much smaller and have an extra gate). It was 8pm by the time we arrived at our apartment, so we headed straight for dinner. It was really nice to go out but I also found it challenging to walk on the streets as it was very busy (it was a Friday night). We wandered around for some time and came across a nice Thai place.  I found the weather to be very humid so opted for a cool salad. It was refreshing to have a coconut drink which kind of reminded me of Fiji. We went for a walk after dinner to get groceries. We bought a few things for breakfast from M&S and came home. It was finally time to take a much needed shower and sleep!

Opting for a salad cause I’m forever craving vegetables when I’m travelling!
Made it just before sunset and caught a glimpse of the mountains
Home for the next week

Day 2
We started off our day at Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens which was closest to us. Here, we got the chance to see Bornean Orang-utans, Buff-cheeked Gibbons, Emperor Tamarins, Golden-headed Lion Tamarin, De Brazzia’s Monkey, Red-Crowned Crane and common squirrel monkey. I still remember how sad the Orang-utan looked. While it was nice to see some of these exotic species, it sometimes makes me sad when I think about the captive state they are in. We were sweating by the end of our walk and needed to go find some shops to cool down. We spent some time in Marks and Spencer and wanted to get a drink from a café. Eventually, we came across a nice hipster café and cooled down with a vegetable juice. After this, we spontaneously visited Jamia Mosque, Man Mo Temple and local markets. We were struggling with the humidity and needed to take another break.

Brekkie in our apartment
First day exploring
Getting used to having so many tall buildings..
First stop: Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens
I’ll never forget how sad he looked 🙁
Red Flamingos
So nice to see some green in the middle of the city!

These look so interesting!
Cooling down with a carrot, apple and ginger juice
Jamia Mosque
Man Mo Temple
Local markets have never looked this exciting..
Came home with a bunch of lychees (possibly overpriced)

We headed back to our apartment with some fresh lychees from the local markets. We had plans to have lunch at Tim Ho Wan; the closest one to us was located in IFC Mall. We made multiple attempts to find the restaurant and decided to give up after a while. We were starving by then so we just settled for Pret a Manager. The rooftop garden view here was pretty amazing and made up for the time we lost looking for Tim Ho Wan. We then went on the star Ferry to the other side of the island. We explored shops, Kowloon Park and watched the sunset from Kowloon Bay. We headed back to HK Central for dinner but found it really difficult to settle down for a restaurant. We ended up going to Big Sur which to our surprise, turned out lovely. We grabbed some food from Marks and Spencer and headed home.

Pretty amazed at the way the buildings are connected which kind of helps people stay off the road

IFC Mall – view from the Apple store
The architecture of this building is pretty amazing..
View from IFC Rooftop

First touristy shot in HK
First lunch in HK
This is def one of my favs from this trip
Catching a ferry to the other side
Made it to the other side!
1881 Heritage Hong Kong
Kowloon Bay
A sunset to remember

Warm salad with grilled squid, potato, broccoli and anchovies
It was a very eventful day!

Day 3
We left home around 9:30am but I had to come back because I was feeling lightheaded. At first, I thought it would go away once I walked outside in the fresh air. But I soon started having really awful cramps and felt like I was close to passing out. Thankfully, one of my friends came to the rescue with some electrolytes. Initially I wasn’t sure why I got sick but then it all made sense once I factored in the dehydration from yesterday.  We had walked way more than usual and I didn’t hydrate myself enough at night after I returned home. The symptoms were confusing at first, the cramps hung around all day. I assumed it was food poisoning because we had eaten at a small market place yesterday (in Kowloon). However, I later realised that it was due to heat exhaustion. I spent all day in bed and tried to nap with the belief that sleeping it off will make it better. I was so cooped up in my room and didn’t even step out to eat because of the nausea. Eventually, I felt well enough to be up and managed to go out for dinner. We went to Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Soup as it was recommended to us by our host. I decided congee here for the first time and loved it (was basically like a savoury porridge). We walked around the roof top garden at IFC afterwards and watched a mini lightshow at 9pm. The view from here was just as amazing at night.

Congee with fried scallops
Back at the Rooftop Garden at IFC

When you haven’t eaten all day- dessert is a must!
Bought myself some supper and brekkie for the next day

Day 4

Today was the first day of the conference. The ISBNPA conference was held in Wan Chai which was a 25 minute walk from our apartment. I presented my PhD research which was really exciting because the audience was larger than usual presentation. My favourite session from today was on reshaping food systems for health. It presented some major challenges that our food systems are currently facing (overweight/ obesity, diabetes, food insecurity, micronutrient deficiency) and made me realise the power of food because of the economic opportunities it provides while nurturing communities. It also got me thinking about how food can be leveraged for health. In the evening, I went on an antique tram tour for a conference networking session. The tram itself lasted around two hours but we also needed to catch a shuttle bus to and from the tram shed. It was really nice to network with fellow researchers and see the different parts of the city at night. I caught a taxi back and made it home just before 10pm.

How cute are these pomegranate tarts?
Loading up on colours
Afternoon teas have never looked this bright! #everythinginmoderation
Conference networking + antique tram ride
View from the tram

Day 5

We woke up super early because we wanted to go up to see The Peak before the conference started. We realised that early morning was our best shot because we heard about how busy the lines can be during the day. The view at The Peak was absolutely breathtaking; it was definitely one of my favourites. I would have loved to hike it up here if I had more time (only takes around 45 mins). It was another great day at the conference; I presented another poster and attended some great sessions. After the conference, we went to Hong Kong Park on our way back. It was nice to take a detour and enjoy the afternoon walk. When we returned to our apartment, we learnt about the level one warning for typhoon and felt puzzled because we weren’t sure what it meant. For dinner, I met up with my old mates who now live in Hong Kong. They took me a very hipster café. It was nice to catch up and hear about how the dietetic profession is different on this side of the world. Before heading home, I had a go at one of the traditional HK desserts which was pretty interesting.

Waking up early has its perks- we had the whole carriage to ourselves!
We are going up!

Waking up early for this was so worth it!
Such a pretty concrete jungle
Brekkie with a view
Managed to get a shot before it started raining!

A very interesting smoothie made with tofu, pistachio and maple
Conference food at its best!
These carrots were the best!
Hong Kong Park- taking a detour

Came home and learnt about the typhoon
Catching up with old friends
Habitu salad with cabbage, pomegranate, snow pea, pine nuts, cheese, pumpkin and avocado- was a pretty interesting combo
Sugar coated glutinous balls in a broth

Day 6

We started off our morning at Grassroots Pantry for breakfast. I fell in love with this plant-based café the first time I saw it, and the food did not disappoint either. Unfortunately, the rain had started by then so we found it really difficult to find a taxi after we checked out of our apartment. We made it to the conference by morning tea. After the conference, we went to Goods of Desire for shopping and finally got ourselves an egg tart from Paper Stone Bakery. We caught the ferry to TST despite the bad weather and checked into Hotel Icon. Our room had a harbour view, it wasn’t the best view but still so much nicer than our apartment. It was so nice to be able to relax, so glad we decided to splurge after reading Heidi’s blog. As we were exploring the rooftop pool, we also visited the hotel restaurant on our way. To our surprise, they were able to book us in for a window table. It was fancy to be dining with a view, for change. We ordered two dishes that were of canton origin (was our most expensive dinner in HK). We were very tired by the time we returned to our room and fell asleep soon after.

Grassroots Pantry
Sautéed mushrooms and spinach, zucchini carrot slaw, pickled kohlrabi, cilantro, cashew browned butter (vegan)
This charcoal bread was an interesting one…
And that’s a wrap for 2018! Time to recycle these..
Post-conference exploring

Fell in love with these without even eating them!
Catching a ferry to our hotel
We made it!
Now it’s time to wind down and enjoy my first egg tart!
Too good to be true?
That view though
Dinner with a view

Hot and sour soup + vermicelli with mushrooms + stir-fried fresh yams, lily bulbs, lotus roots and celeries + braised eggplants and bean curd in chilli sauce
Last night in HK

Day 7
Today was our last day in Hong Kong. I woke up feeling confused because the time showed to be 9am. We had been waking up early every single day so this was very late. I honestly couldn’t believe that we slept so much but obviously, our bodies needed the sleep. I woke up feeling very refreshed. We took our time getting ready while sipping coffee and munching on M&Ms from our mini bar. We then stored our bags and checked out of our hotel. We still had some exploring to do on this side of the island! We went to a tiny hipster café called N1 and worked out a plan for the day as we did not have much time left. We wanted to as much sightseeing as possible, as well as try some local foods and I also needed to purchase some souvenirs. We stopped at a few bakeries where I purchased some souvenirs and tried local items (pineapple cake from Hang Heung bakery; red tea walnut bread from A1 bakery). We had also looked up a place (Hoover Cake shop) that’s supposed to have the best egg tart in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it took us a while to find it because we could not read the shop name and kept going past it. I tried a pineapple and peanut bun and the famous egg tart here. We found it difficult to communicate here because no one spoke English at this bakery. We walked through Flower city market which was a wonderful experience. We went to Kowloon City Walled Park after this. This park was like no other, it was so tranquil. We sat down and enjoyed our baked goods we had bought. We realised we had walked way too far from our hotel and decided to catch a cab back to our hotel. From there, it was another taxi ride to the airport. I ate my last egg tart and picked up some souvenirs in attempt to bring a piece of Hong Kong back with me.

Time to say goodbye!
You will be missed HK!

 

Tsim Sha Tsui
Egg and mushrooms on toast
Kowloon Walled City Park
Fav park in HK

Red tea and walnut bread
You will be missed!
Home bound

Advice for future travellers

  1. Be wary of hill and uneven surfaces – flat shoes are a must! I didn’t realise this until I landed but luckily the shoes I had packed were super comfortable. I would definitely recommend hiking- the mountain views are pretty amazing (The Peak was my fav).
  2. Carry cash when possible. Hong Kong was just as expensive as Sydney (if not more). Most places will accept card but some of the smaller/ local shops may not, so best to carry cash.
  3. Be wary if you are buying things at local markets. The prices can vary a lot depending on where you go. It is possible to bargain at some places but I didn’t even try because I am so bad at haggling!
  4. We chose to walk to most places (when possible) but the transport here was pretty convenient. Taxi is another great option and worked out to be much cheaper than Sydney.
  5. Make sure to visit the local bakeries, literally every single bakery is amazing! I would’ve loved to have tried out more foods, egg tarts were my favourite.
From Hong Kong, with love

DAA conference | Sydney, Australia

Last month, I attended the DAA conference in Sydney. This was my third DAA conference after becoming a dietitian. Previous conferences in Melbourne and Hobart presented great travel opportunities. But I had a lot going on leading up to this conference (preparing for my oral presentation and another upcoming international conference) so I was kind of relieved that I wouldn’t have to travel anywhere.

Asking the BIG questions “How can we be the change we want to see in the world?”

The theme for this year’s conference was #ThinkBig. The conference started with motivational speaker Jeremy Meltzer who spoke about business as a force for good and millennial power. This was one of my favourite sessions as it really got me thinking big picture.

“Women entrepreneurs and business leaders are the fastest-growing economic force in the world”-Muhtar Kent (CEO, Coca Cola). Women are the greatest drivers of economic growth this century.

We also learnt about new terms like ‘nutribollox’ which describes the utter rubbish we are exposed to on social media. Another interesting one was ‘nutribabble’ which is not absolute rubbish but it is information that conflicts (like a popular women’s magazine).

Why do we so readily reject expert advice? One reason: as humans, we favour information that confirms our pre-existing ideas.

My beautiful city be looking ever so fine on a cold morning

 

Taking a moment to appreciate the architecture of this building..

Did you say salmon and avo? I’m in!
Pearl couscous and barley salad – vegetarian lunches have never looked more exciting!
Woke up super early to make this breakfast seminar!

On Friday, I attended a breakfast seminar which was hosted by Australian Eggs presenting some latest research. A few people asked me about this on Instagram already, so I thought I’d put in a summary here as well:

  • Eggs are an economical, nutrient rich food and contain 11 of the essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, E and B12, as well as antioxidants, choline and lutein. The advice in Australia has been to consume up to 6 eggs per week. However, recommendations around the world have been much higher.
  • The latest Australian study (DIABEGG) looked at the of high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes. It was a randomised controlled trial. This essentially meant that people either got a high egg diet OR low egg diet. The main findings from the study was no change in cardiovascular risk factors when compared between the two groups. They looked at a range of measures which included blood pressure, pulse, body fat, weight, total body fat and waist, total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and novel markers to measure vascular and systemic inflammation.
  • So, what does this mean? This means it may be safe to include eggs in your diet more regularly (even if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes or have type two diabetes). “A healthy diet based on population guidelines and including more eggs than currently recommended by some countries may be safely consumed.”  Click here if you want to know more about the published research.
When your nail polish matches your juice!
Eggs and mushrooms make my day!
Getting my dose of nuts at Nuts For Life
Yes, dietitians do love their cake! #everythinginmoderation
We love our carbs, with veggies of course!

Food fairness everyone’s business especially if we are going to feed 9 billion people by 2042. All stakeholders need to be involved and engaged. It’s time to advocate for change! Most would not think of food security in the modern age of social media where we see so much food porn and endless brunch posts when we are scrolling

On the last day, we had workshops on food security/ hidden hunger which was quite insightful. We are so caught up in the social media world with brunch porn and decadent desserts, we often forget how common food security can be. The plenary session ended with a great debate on the weighty issue which questioned whether BMI should be regularly used to assess obese patients.

BMI is a real issue but not the only issue. But it should not be reflective as a single measure of total health. Focusing on diet quality may be better for improving health and well-being rather than talking only about weight.

These bran muffins were a hit!
Poached salmon, turmeric and coconut with bean shoots and pickled cucumbers
Mango sorbet to treat the 3pm slump
Eat the rainbow!
And it’s a wrap!

Overall reflection

#DAA2018 has been my favourite DAA conference I have been to thus far. Happy to say, it sparked some really big ideas in me. #DAA2018 has gotten me to think bigger than ever before! Now I’ve got a million dreams that are keeping me awake!  It has helped me realise that I need to work on rebranding my account and aligning my passion/ personal interests closer to my professional work.

My favourite sessions included the motivational talk by Jeremy Meltzer, workshops on engaging for success and creating your dream career. The latter workshop focused on branding and becoming an entrepreneur which was highly valuable. It all got me thinking about making changes in my personal and professional life so it aligns better with my passion.

While there is an endless amount of ‘nutribollox’ out there, it’s also an exciting time to be involved. Our profession is not headed in one direction, it’s headed in multiple directions. There is a lot going on which can be puzzling but we now have an international audience.

Here are my top 5 learnings:

  1. We as dietitians need to connect over food and look out for each other (rather than competing). We really need to support the work that other dietitians are doing.
  2. We have lost the enjoyment with food. We need to take your weight-centric glasses off! We should focus on improving diet quality and having a healthy relationship with food (rather than weight per se).
  3. Despite having the expertise in food and nutrition, we must say we “don’t have all the answers”.  We must stop saying sorry for changing diet advice. When the evidence changes, we should not be sorry and stand firm on evidence-based practice.
  4. As dietitians, we have a lot of compassion in our profession already which is great! But we need to work on empathy- we should focus on how patients want to be treated rather than how we want to treat them.
  5. Last but certainly not least, we must have courage, an evidence-based opinion and bring out our passion in everything we do!

Thanks for reading! Check out my Twitter if you’d like to see more conference updates from #DAA2018 🙂

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose”- Dr Seuss, Oh the places you’ll go

 

 

CBC Digital Health Conference | London, England

I flew over to London to attend the 4th CBC Digital Health Conference (Behaviour Change for Health: Digital and Beyond) at UCL. I was very keen on this one as I’ve heard lots of great things about this conference from other people in my research group.  I also had an oral presentation presenting a section of my PhD research which was super exciting!

Flight essentials

Our approach

My friend and I spent quite a bit of time planning our trip when we went to Canada last year. However, this time, I asked a few of my friends for recommendations which gave us plenty of places to cover. We basically winged it on the spot. Well, technically we planned it the night before. I think it worked well in London because the Tube is so well connected and everything was pretty close (relative to Sydney).

Where we stayed: The Academy

We chose to stay at The Academy because it was located really close to the conference venue. It was listed as one of the top 10 character hotels. The hotel is from the Georgian period and felt very British/ old school, as you would expect. The room felt pretty congested at first but I reminded myself that that this was one of the bigger rooms I had shortlisted!

Where we ate:

Places we visited

Airport snacking

Day 1
We were feeling very tired after getting out of the plane after almost 24 hours. It felt pretty awful at first but I soon recovered after I started walking. We caught the underground tube to our stop Russell Square which took almost one hour. Initially, the tube was fairly light (got a seat) but it got packed later. We found it hard to get out with luggage and almost missed our stop! The walk to our hotel was a short one and we settled down in our room which felt rather small at first. We went out for a late lunch/ early dinner to Thai Bushaba Restaurant. We went for a brief walk after dinner and settled for an early night.

Love being able to see our own journey- blessed with new technology!
First photo after landing #LondonBaby
Visiting the conference building on our way to the hotel
We made it!
Always craving veggies after a long flight

Day 2

We woke up super early and were out of the hotel by 7:30am. We looked up a breakfast place in Bloomsbury on Tripadvisor and arrived at Salt & Pepper. We were very hungry and we found their breakfast to be very satisfying. We walked to Madame Tussauds from here which took about 30 minutes. We arrived there before it opened so we decided to take a detour to Sherlock Holmes Museum. Exploring both museums took a long time; especially Madame Tussauds which involved taking a gazillion photos with the celebrities! Our phone batteries were exhausted and we needed to head home soon. We had lunch on the way at You me sushi which claimed to have the best chicken katsu in London. We headed home, rested and went to dinner at Mondello Italian restaurant. We headed for an early night again and was in bed by 10pm.

Why is it so cold and gloomy?
Matchy matchy brekkie (almost)
Toast with eggs, avocado, salmon and veggies- I could not ask for anything more!

Where shall we go first?
Bollywood be calling!

Could not go past this promising sign….

 

This berry cheesecake was so divine! #EverythingInModeration

Day 3

We were slower getting out this morning and left home around 8:30am. We caught a tube to Westminister and ate breakfast at The Red Lion. We had learnt about Big Ben undergoing scaffolding last night but we didn’t think it would be fully covered! We visited Westminster Abbey after this and took the self-guided tour. I really enjoyed learning about the tombs, monuments and seeing some of the finest architectures that goes back as early as 1200’s.

We visited London Eye after this which was a nice way to transition into the modern world. London Eye sits in the heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament on South Bank. I loved the views from here although I am sure it would have looked even better on a sunny day. We had lunch at Bao Garden which was the first Chinese restaurant in London. We visited Tower Bridge after lunch which was another walk through history. We both fell asleep around 7ish after heading back. It was supposed to be a nap but we found ourselves waking up 11:30pm and going without dinner!

Avo, poached eggs and chilli oil on sourdough
The vegetarian big brekkie

Having lunch at the oldest restaurant in London; Big Ben undergoing scaffolding in the background- we almost had a view!
Soaking up the view and wishing it was sunnier…

Seeing this made me so happy! I must be homesick or a really proud Aussie 🙂

Day 4
Today was conference day. I was very excited for this conference as I had heard a lot of great things from my research group. Thankfully, we were only two minutes away from the conference which gave us the luxury to go out for breakfast at Le Pain Quodien. The baked eggs with salmon were delicious. My day was very well spent at the conference while my partner explored British Museum. We went to a Turkish restaurant near our hotel which exceeded our expectations. It was a really nice experience as I am not very familiar with Turkish cuisine (other than pide). I didn’t have much veggies at the conference so I chose to go with a vegetarian dish (loved the spinach).

Love starting my day with sunny sides
So excited to attend my first conference at UCL
Fruit platter at the conference #EatTheRainbow
But first, let me drink my coffee..
Dinner time!
Red lentil soup = comfort food

 

This was one of the best spinach dishes I ever had!

Day 5
Today was my presentation day and also the last day of the conference. I left feeling so inspired and a little sad because it had come to an end. But it was exciting at the same time, we still had a few things we wanted to tick off before we left for Sydney. We went to Pataya Thai to catch up with a cousin who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We absolutely loved the night vibes at Oxford Circus because it was something we hadn’t quite experienced yet in London (thanks to our jet lag and falling asleep early).

Eating my breakfast and reading food labels- I just realised that bread is fortified with vitamin D here, pretty cool huh?
Conference lunch

Day 6

Today was our second last day in London. We started our day at Dishoom for breakfast as we heard great recommendations on the egg naan roll. I am not a huge fan of most Indian foods but the egg naan roll here was absolutely amazing. It was nothing like I had tasted before! We then caught a tube to Buckingham Palace. We were there quite early which left us enough time to explore Green Park. The changing of the guards happen at a certain time but you really need to arrive early to get a good spot. Unfortunately, it was very cold that day. It was between 1-3 degrees and we were both freezing. We ended up with a semi-good spot and still had around half an hour to kill. The wait was excruciating because it was too cold to take my gloves and use my phone (we had to grab coffee to warm up after this).

We visited Tower of London next. I absolutely loved because it was almost like I had a ticket to visit the past! We took our time absorbing moments from history. However, we were starving when we finally finished! It was around 3:30pm and we needed to find food ASAP. We came across Wakanama which provided much comfort food and warmth (we had ramen and udon soup). For dinner, we had plans to go to Ottolengthi as it was recommended by a friend. However, we were a little disappointed with our order and had to leave already (there was a booking after ours). We explored more of Oxford Circus and grabbed another light meal at Wasabi before heading home. We got home just before 10pm. We were exhausted as we are normally in bed by this hour.

Spotted this on our way to Dishoom
Egg naan roll *drools*
Everything in this shop is so pretty!
I got way too excited seeing Bengali on the wall. Loved reading the history in my mother tongue 😛
Soup for the soul- there is nothing else we would want on a cold day
Green Park
We made it to the palace!

Our tickets to the past awaits us..

Raven romance?
I always wonder how they stay so still..

Taking a moment to appreciate the architecture of this place..

The Shard

Steamed buns with eggplant
Seafood udon
It’s almost time to say goodbye!

Day 7
We had breakfast at Dishoom again because both of us had fallen in love with the egg naan roll. Today was our last chance to tick off some places before we hopped on the plane at night. Our list included Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Primrose Hill, Notting Hill, St Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden was a great place to hang for entertainment because there’s always someone to look at or listen to (in addition to shops). We walked around Hyde Park and decided to have lunch at Soho at Wildwood café. After lunch, we went over to the British Museum which was the last thing on my list (was recommended by many). Seeing British Museum was an eye-opening experience for me. It is the oldest museum in the world and I was amazed at their rich collection of treasures and artefacts from almost every corner of the globe. The Egyptian section was my favourite as it is one that I have loved since I was young.

WHY SO COLD!!
Chocolate chai

The famous Hyde Park

Risotto = comfort food
Eating heavy carbs to beat the cold?
Last stop- British Museum

Spent way too much time in the Egyptian history section…
En route airport

Love the bright colours!

Made it to Abu Dhabi
From London, with Love

Overall

The perks of jet lag and sleeping early helped us wake up early every single day. While it meant that we couldn’t have much of a night life, we still managed to see quite a lot in the short time. London is definitely a place I’d love to come back and visit again. To be honest, I don’t know when I will be back but here’s a list for next time, just in case I forget!

  • Within London (Primrose hill, Camden markets, Notting Hill, Kensington gardens, St James Park, Shoreditch and Sky Garden)
  • Outside of London (i.e. Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, Newcastle)
  • Other places in Europe (mainly Santorini, Switzerland, Paris and Italy)

Blue Mountains, NSW

We visited the Blue Mountains to celebrate our one year anniversary. We had planned to keep this small because we had sort of celebrated early while we were away in Fiji last month. We celebrated in advance because we knew it would’ve been hard for us to take time off around this period. But it is always nice to do something on the actual day, so we decided to go somewhere for a weekend getaway.

I had heard a lot great things about staying in the Blue Mountains. Both of us hadn’t been there for almost a decade so thought it would be nice and close. We stayed at Hotel Mountain Heritage in Blue Mountains. We chose to stay here because of the view and spa. Unfortunately, the traffic on our way was horrendous. We had to stop at The Bunker Cafe Bar Restraurant in Springwood because we were getting too hungry. The wait was pretty long but the food here made up for it.

We went for our anniversary dinner to Pins on Lurline. Their presentation was very beautiful, and it was so great to be able to see it properly (their restaurant was well lit compared to other fine dining places I have been to). It may sound silly, but I want to be able to see my food clearly; because to me, we eat with our eyes. There’s no point in giving someone a beautifully presented dish if you can’t see what’s on your plate properly!

The next day, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Red Door Café. Someone recommended this to me a while ago, and it has been on my list for about a year (I rarely go out that west). After breakfast, we headed out to see The Three Sisters and Blue Mountains. I hadn’t been here for over a decade, so it felt like I was almost seeing it for the first time again. We went for a long walk, found it to be pretty crowded (I had no idea so many tourists came out so far to see the mountains).

We went to Zen-Sai Japanese Restaurant for lunch. We didn’t have anything in mind and randomly came across it on TripAdvisor as it was rated as #2 for Japanese in the area. In general, I am very biased towards Japanese food but this was delicious.

Overall, it was a wonderful getaway. It obviously felt too short but it was still nice to be able to celebrate 🙂

Breakfast bowl with kale, asparagus, quinoa, poached eggs, spinach, avocado and za-atar
We finally made it to Hotel Mountain Heritage.
Scallops with a Lemon gel, Radish, Spiced Mayo and an Orange & Ginger sauce
Textures of Salmon: seared Salmon, Gravlax, Mousse & Salmon Caviar, served on a bed of Fennel & Orange salad, with  a Lemon cream sauce
Corn fed chicken breast with a Roast capsicum & Goats cheese filling, served with a warm Sicilian Salsa, Mushroom duxelle, Taro Rosti,& a Sundried Tomato & Avocado cream sauce
Rocky Road Mudcake drizzled with hot fudge sauce and a deconstructed pie. Desserts are a must when celebrating special occasions! #everythinginmoderation
Deconstructed Apple & Rhubarb Pie: Apple & Camomile mousse, Rhubarb puree & Sweet paste crumb, served with Ice cream & Cream Anglaise
Sunday morning views from our hotel doesn’t get any better!
Soaking up the view
Pesto sauteed mushrooms with grilled polenta and shaved parmesan
I almost forgot how beautiful it looked!

Is it just me or can you see the head of a dragon in the shadows?
I swear I can see a dragon with their teeth open in that shadow!
Teriyaki Salmon and rice
Is this too stripy? I have no fashion sense lol

 

 

Fa-BULA-ous Fiji

 

Why we chose Fiji?

This was our first time travelling to Fiji for an end of year holiday. We decided to pick Fiji because my partner had initially suggested it for our honeymoon. However, we ended up going to Queenstown as that period happened to be the monsoon period in Fiji and I was advised not to go by a close friend. So, we decided to make Fiji our second honeymoon destination instead!

Travel

We travelled to Nadi with Virgin Australia which took around 4.5 hours. We stayed in Lautoka for the first two nights (an hour from Nadi airport). We caught a taxi for all of our travels. I had read some blogs earlier and learnt that tourists are often asked to pay much higher rates (both travel and activities).  So, we asked our hotel to provide us with a quote and tried to put our haggling skills to use when getting a taxi (I say ‘tried’ because both of us are very bad at haggling). The remaining taxi fares were reasonable or were fixed rates.

Island life and adventure

During our time at Lautoka, we walked around our nearest streets but did not go out into town. We stayed in Yanuca Island at Shangri La Resort. We had initially thought about taking a day trip out somewhere. But we just fell in love with the resort as the whole island was one resort with lots of activities. I’m not a snorkelling person but I would highly recommend it if you are visiting Coral Coast as it is one of the best places to snorkel in Fiji. I tried kayaking there for the first time and I absolutely loved it!

Accommodation

We stayed at Tanau hotel for the first two nights and travelled to Shangri La resort for the remaining four nights at Yanuca Island. We booked our accommodation on hotels.com. Funnily enough, these weren’t our first choice as we had initially intended to stay at Denarau Island which is the main touristy hub. Back in hindsight, I’m really glad things worked out the way it did because we both found Yanuca Island perfect for relaxation and Lautoka enjoyable for a little exploration. I’d definitely recommend Shangri-La to anyone who is travelling to Fiji for a relaxation holiday and doesn’t wish to move around too much.

Food

Food was probably my second favourite thing about Fiji (island views topped as the first). We ate some really amazing, wonderful food. However, we did not get to experience authentic Fijian cuisine as the menu served at hotels and resorts was very diverse (we ate noodles, rice, sushi, Vietnamese rolls, pizza, pasta, pancakes, wraps, salads etc.). Two of my favourite dishes were trying a traditional rourou (taro) and an okra and potato curry. Taro was definitely my favourite because I used to eat it as a child and have not had it for a long time. Okra, on the other hand remains one of my favourite veggies. Both of our accommodation included breakfast buffets which was great (breakfast is my favourite meal of the day). The breakfast options at Shangri La were pretty amazing; the mushrooms, waffles and pancakes usually made my day. Last but certainly not least, the fruits that topped my list pineapple, coconut water and pawpaw. The pineapple was incredibly sweet there so I’d highly recommend everyone to load up on it.

Our experience

Everyone speaks English really well so we had no struggles communicating at all. We left knowing the same Fijian words we had started with (‘bula’ is for saying hi and ‘vinaka’ is thank you). As I previously mentioned, the purpose of our trip was relaxation (not exploration), so we left feeling very content. Having said that, I know lots of people who have taken part in adventurous activities including snorkelling, jet skiing, hikes to waterfalls, island cruises, village tours etc. The Fijian people were every so friendly and welcoming, especially at Yanuca Island (they would always wave ‘bula’ to us from far distances and sang us a romantic and a farewell song during our anniversary dinner).

Final verdict

Fiji was absolutely amazing and just the relaxation holiday we needed. But if you’d like to do something more exploratory, Fiji has just as much to offer. Here are 3 tips for any future travellers:

  1. Make sure to plan your trip in advance if you are intending on doing lots of exploring. Fiji has 333 islands, so travelling to some islands can be quite a day trip!
  2. Use cash, if possible. Some places may not take card or charge a transaction fee. We drew out Fijian dollars before we left Sydney.
  3. Fiji is not particularly cheap. Most meals at the resorts will cost around the same price as Australia. Fijian water may also seem to be ridiculously expensive (we paid around $9.50 for a 1L bottle at the resort). But we told ourselves it’s okay, you’re on holidays. Don’t expect all gains; because you lose some, you gain some!

Thanks for reading. Keep scrolling down to see the full journey 🙂

Our travel essentials
Waiting to land…
We have arrived in Lautoka!
Grilled market fish, served with herb-fried potatoes and local beans.
Tanoa curry with tamarind rice, roti and condiments
Our first breakfast in Lautoka. The curried chickpeas were delicious on toast.

 

Getting my hands on Fijian yoghurt #supportlocalproduce
Exploring Lautoka
Not a bad view!
Grilled Mahimahi fillet, served with traditional rourou on a bed of mashed potatoes
Seafood salad
Getting a prawn salad cause you gotta eat your veggies #dietitianproblems
An extra large seafood pizza that did not go down so well :/
Day 3: can you tell I get excited by breakfast? 😛
Arriving at Yanuca Island
Yes to swaying palm trees! #wemadeit
Our room at Shangri-La
First lunch at Yanuca Island, came with a view, of course!
Nicoise salad: yellow fin tuna flakes, anchovy, green beans, potatoes, tomato and a boiled egg
Took a walk after lunch and we are in love with the view already!
Could this be any prettier?
Literally everything looks amazing!
Sipping on our first coconut in Fiji. We drank many more after this but this was my favourite.
Dinner with a view
Starting off with Vietnamese paper rolls….they look so much better cut up
Fried rice tastes so much better when it arrives in a pineapple shell!

 

 

Watching our first sunset at Yanuca Island.
It was breathtaking.
And it continues to look pretty even after the sun has set!
Day 4: pancakes, waffles and a beautiful view! What more can you ask for?
Yes, I’m a sucker for pancakes and pretty views.
Loading up on fruit and pancakes! The pineapple was the best.
Found this secluded spot while walking around on the island….
That’s when we realised that maybe we should celebrate our anniversary here?
Is this for real? Still pinching myself.

Hubs getting into Fijian spirits after a visit to the local souvenir shop
The view is obviously not the best in the middle of the day. But I think it’s still quite pretty!
Stir-fry noodles
Getting a vegetable wrap cause vegetable = priorities 😛
Walked over to the chapel on the island. I can definitely see why a lot of people come to Fiji to get married.
The water is so clear!
Exploring the island..
Soaking up the view..

All shades of blue…

 

 

Getting ready for our anniversary dinner
The view was absolutely breathtaking.

 

Starting off with sushi and paper rolls
Bae adding to my view, as always.
Celebrating 11 months of togetherness
Quiet moments of reflection…
More seafood…
More drinks…
The mains are here!
It was our first time trying a lobster.

Day 6: exploring more of the island…
Cause you gotta eat the rainbow!
Buffet dinner on our final night.
Loading up on pineapples, papaya and watermelon!
In love with these red trees
Watching the last sunset in Fiji. It was absolutely breathtaking.

 

Isn’t it almost like the famous infinity pool?

Our last breakfast in Fiji..
Going to miss the view!
Grabbing a light meal at the airport before we hop on the plane..
Goodbye Fiji

 

 

Q Station, Sydney

We travelled to Q station for a quick weekend getaway. It was only for one night but it was nice to get away and also learn about the history of this place. I’m going to share a bit of the Q Station story below which is also known as “Sydney’s best kept secret”.

We stayed for a night at Q station which included breakfast. Other places we ate at included Jellyfish and Fishbowl.

This was a side of Sydney we hadn’t explored before and it was only on arrival when we realised just how big the place was. We had to leave our car at the reception and were dropped off to our room by a hotel minibus.

Q Station is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Like many beautiful places, this place also has a dark history. It used to be a quarantine station from the mid-1800s. People were often brought here straight from the ship if they were sick or suspected to have an infectious disease. People were very much segregated back in the old days. There was obviously a clear division between the healthy and the sick, but people were divided based on their class (first, second and third class). The medical staff were divided depending on if you were a doctor or a nurse.

As you can imagine, the treatment wasn’t so great back then. Many were able to return to their normal environment after recovery but many died from virulent strains of influenza, smallpox etc. Some of the residents made carvings on the rocks to pass their time, few of which remain today. Some of the original furnitures have also been kept in the facilities.

While I really enjoyed this trip, a part of me felt sad for the people who were suffering/dying in the same space less than a century ago. Our world has changed so much in the last 100 years, we now have better treatments, infrastructure, technology and better of almost everything! Most of us take this stuff for granted but coming here made me realise just how grateful we should be for the life we all have now.

Love places with high ceilings and a fireplace!
From the tasting selection
Smashed avocado, smoked salmon & prawns, baby herbs & flying fish roe
The mains
Crispy salmon with balsamic vinegar salad
Gelato, creme brûlée snd berry pannacotta. Shared desserts are the best!
Brekkie time

Soaking up the sunshine
When bae adds to your view!
All shades of blue!

This photo was taken from the Former Second Class Precinct. These building were planned when the plague hit Sydney in the late 1800’s but by the time it was built, the plague had already passed. The difference between first and second class is that the walls here were lined with rippled iron (rather than timber). The irony is that second class has a better view!

Salmon + glass noodles + red onion + shallots + golden beetroot + seaweed salad + toasted sesame + tobiko

On our way back, we stopped to have lunch at Fishbowl. It was nice to try their famous poke bowls. I really like how veggie packed they can be!

Overall, we had so fun exploring a different part of Sydney. It was intriguing to learn why this place has been called #sydneysbestkeptsecret 😉

Newcastle, Australia

We visited Newcastle during the Easter long weekend in April. We chose Newcastle because we hadn’t really planned anything properly to be travelling far distances. Also, two of my close friends grew up in Newcastle which has always made me want to visit this place after hearing stories from them 🙂

Since Newcastle is just over two hours over from Sydney, it was a trip we were able to wing without much planning. All we needed to do was find a hotel to book and drive off.

Trip duration: 2 days

Where we stayed: Noah’s On the Beach

Places visited:

Highlights:

The Brazilian BBQ at Meet was definitely my favourite food memory. I’m not a huge fan of BBQ places as they tend to lack in other options, particularly vegetables. But this place was absolutely wonderful, they are ever so vegetarian friendly and I was spoilt with so many choices! These pictures barely even show half of what we ate as most of it was brought to us gradually. They are equally as good with their meat. If you live anywhere near Newcastle, I highly recommend you check this out. But make sure you go there on an empty stomach as they only have a set menu to choose from and serviced buffet- you keep your cards up and stay in the game until you are full!

Quad biking at the Sand Dunes was another great experience as it was my first time quad biking. One of the challenges we faced was finding places that were open on an Easter Sunday. We eventually started calling up restaurants before driving over to them. I would highly recommend future travellers to take this into consideration. Other than that, nothing else can really go wrong with a trip down to Newcastle because it has beautiful beaches and pretty good food 🙂 what more do you really need?

Smoked salmon fettuccine and steak

Brazilian feast at Meet

Brekkies are better with a flatlay 🙂

Roasted mushroom bruschetta
Fish Tacos
The naughty Ferrero Rocher shake

Queenstown, New Zealand

Why we chose Queenstown?

Initially, we had thought of far locations like Hawaii and Santorini for our honeymoon. But both of us had leave constraints at the time and going to the other side of the world just wasn’t practical. We wanted to keep it close to save ourselves from the jet lag and long flying times. We were down to two options, Fiji or New Zealand. We ruled Fiji out after learning about the cyclone season in Fiji during summer, and decided we would visit Fiji another time.

 

A bit about our trip

Where we stayed:

Day 1-6: Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa

Day 7: Peppers Bluewater Resort, Lake Tekapo

Day 8: Rydges Lakeland Resort, Queenstown

 

Places visited- highlights

  • Shotover Jet
  • Queenstown Gardens
  • Queenstown Hills
  • Walters Peak
  • Heli Tours
  • Skyline Gondola
  • Milford Sound
  • Lake Pukaki
  • Lake Tekapo

Where we ate:

  • Stacks Pub (Part of Hilton)
  • Mee Chinese (Part of Hilton)
  • Wakatipu Grill (Part of Hilton)
  • Toro Bar
  • The Ballarat Trading Co
  • Minus 5 Ice Bar
  • Heineken Bar
  • The Grill
  • The Lake Island Café (Part of Hilton)
  • Minamei Jujisei Japanese Restaurant
  • Walter Peak gourmet BBQ dinner
  • Skyline Gondola buffet dinner
  • Poppies Cafe, Twizel
  • Kohan restaurant, Lake Tekapo
  • Pier 19
  • Finz Seafood and Grill
  • Saigon Kingdom Vietnamese Restaurant
  • Patagonia Chocolates

 

Day 1

We were super excited as we landed at Queenstown airport. I will never forget how thrilled we were seeing the beautiful view of mountains as our plane descended! The airport was small and I loved how it just opened up to nature, I really appreciated the beauty of this airport coming from a busy, chaotic city airport like Sydney.

We had organised a car and drove our way to the Hilton Queenstown Resort. On our way, we could not stop appreciating how beautiful everything was looking. It was pretty as a picture! We got to our hotel room and we were even more amazed at the fabulous views our room had from both sides.  We had lunch at Stacks Pub and dine outside and enjoy the view, but it was starting to get a little chilly. We started to realise that maybe Queenstown wasn’t going to be that warm after all.

Fell in love with the mountains even before we landed!
Our first meal

Later that afternoon, we explored our way around the Hilton and walked around trying not to get lost! We were still in awe at how beautiful our surroundings were. The heavy pasta lunch was overly satisfying and carb-loaded so I wasn’t very hungry for dinner.

Day 2

We had to be up super early for our Shotover Jetboat ride which was located outside of the city. We had a very quick breakfast at Wakatipu Grill and left early to allow ourselves plenty of time to get there. Shotover jet was freezing with the cold morning wind but it was absolutely the most incredible thrilling ride ever! I highly recommend this one- there are other jet boating places but Shotover Jet is said to be ‘New Zealand’s most thrilling boat ride’.

Early morning view

 

We made it!

And off we go!

As much as I loved the experience, but I was freezing from the cold-water splashes and wind. We decided it was time to hit the shops for lunch and clothes-hunting. We made our way to the Queenstown CBD, we were expecting a huge mall coming from a big city like Sydney. I had a very interesting dish for lunch which was salmon ceviche. It was great, but I just wish I had something warm because I was still freezing inside from the Shotover Jet.

Off to explore the city
Queenstown Gardens
Salmon ceviche

We explored Queenstown Gardens in the afternoon which was located very much in the heart of the CBD. It was pretty scenic and we both enjoyed the walk. After having a very satisfying dinner at Ballarat Co. We went to Minus Five Degrees Ice Bar. Thankfully, they had hoodies and gloves for us to wear before we enter the ice. It was fascinating to hear that all furniture (tables, chairs) were made from ice, even the glasses cocktail/ mocktails were served in! It was nice to be able to experience a cold temperature I had never been in previously, we lasted about 25 mins.

Our drinks in came in disposable ice glasses

Day 3

We took our time getting out of bed this morning as there was no booking to rush to. We started our day with a very big breakfast in the city (to fuel our hike at Queenstown Hills).

Pre-hike brekkie
About to start our hike

Neither of us expected it to be as intensive as it was because we are both pretty good when it comes to walking flat surfaces. The hike itself was not a long duration so we did not expect it to be super intensive. However, what we didn’t realise was that it demanded medium to high level fitness due to steep and uphill surfaces, as we discovered. It was incredibly challenging but overly rewarding because the views got better and better as we hiked up. I do like to call myself as being ‘pretty fit’ so I wasn’t going to give up so easily. We were determined to push our way up and made it to the top! We had each other and the view that kept us going and we loved the stunning view once we got to the top, we felt it was worth it. Luckily, the descend was much easier, we were able to do it in 35 mins (going up took over thrice the time). On our way back, I convinced the hubby that we would hike more this year and work on improving our fitness.

Breathtaking view, almost near the top
Soaking up the view 🙂
We did it!

By the time we got back, most restaurants were starting to close or had closed. We were able to find one which was still open and it served perfect as a post-hike meal. We were pretty exhausted so we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the night. We had dinner at Hilton’s Wakatipu Grill which was pretty fancy, as you would expect.

Post-hike lunch

 

Day 4

We started our day late as our heli tour wasn’t until about 11am. The heli tour had spectacular views, and also came with a surprise (snow landing). We didn’t think there was going be a snow landing so we were absolutely freezing in those few minutes. But the view was probably worth the cold.

About to step out into the snow!

View from the heli tour

We headed to the CBD afterwards for lunch. Unfortunately, it had started to rain so we didn’t get to walk around to explore a lunch place. We settled for what was closest to us which happened to be Japanese. The only Japanese food I have eaten a million times is sushi so I was excited to try other varieties in this cuisine. I absolutely loved the sashimi salmon don.

For the afternoon, we had booked for Walter’s Peak cruise and BBQ dinner after someone local had recommended it to us. It was still raining so it wasn’t very much cruise mood. They took us a to a lovely countryside place for buffet dinner which was pretty nice and we watched an hour of lamb shearing after dinner. It was a great to learn about how it’s done but we both felt the duration could have been shorter. The cruise itself was pretty uneventful, but we made some special memories that night so it’s going to be a cruise we will remember and cherish.

Walter’s Peak Cruise
Walter’s Peak
Loading up on seafood

Day 5

Today was Valentine’s Day. Hubs had planned a Skyline dinner for us ages ago; he made sure he booked well in advance and secured us a spot. We had nothing on until the afternoon so we took our time getting out of bed. We did not want to drive all the way into the city for brekkie so we went for the buffet breakfast at Wakatipu grill again. In our attempt to burn it off, we went for a short hike following the Queenstown trail to increase our capacity for the buffet.  We also opted for a light soup lunch because we wanted to save space for our big buffet Skyline dinner.

Saving space for dinner

We took the Gondola up to get to the restaurant. The view from up there was absolutely breathtaking. It was however very cold and windy, so we found it hard to be outdoors for long. The buffet dinner itself was outstanding; I don’t think I can think of a time in my life where I had eaten so much! They had a huge variety and covered many cuisines, I tried to make sure I covered most of them. We were absolutely stuffed by the end  and in food coma #thestrugglewasreal.

 

View from Skyline Restaurant

Day 6

We had an early start this morning because today was our Milford Sound tour. We were very much excited to be seeing the 8th wonder of the world, but did not like the idea of spending 12 hours on the bus. I had planned on staying awake to watch the scenery but we both fell asleep multiple times. The driver made sure to stop at the scenic spots and gave us time to hop off and take photos.

We were told the water seeps through as there’s no topsoil here!
Isn’t it pretty amazing how it just continues to flow?

Can you spot the seal?
And then we saw a few more!

Milford Sound was very beautiful; the photos I took honestly don’t do justice to how it looks in real life. The ferry ride was very chilly, I tried to spend some of it indoors and be out for some time to take photos. It was a very exhaustive ride back. We got dropped off at a far location from our hotel, we just decided to walk there instead (probably was about 3km). We got back to our hotel just before 9:30pm and packed our bags as our stay at Hilton had come to an end.

Day 7

We started our journey to Lake Tekapo which is located 250 km from Queenstown. Unfortunately, our navigator decided to take us on a detour and took us to a private road which is sometimes closed off (we realised something was fishy when it landed us at a salmon fishery!) But at least we were able to enjoy the lookout stops on the way and had lunch in a little town called Twizel.

En route to Lake Tekapo, stopped at Roaring Meg lookout
Lunch at Twizel

My favourite stop was Lake Pukaki, the colour of the water was absolutely breathtaking. I was expecting to see some beautiful scenary but I had no idea it was going to be in my favourite colour teal, which made it even better.

Lake Pukaki
Taking sneaky shots of bae
Accidentally matching in my favourite colour 😉

We checked into our resort in the afternoon which ended up being a two-bedroom townhouse with multiple living areas. I found it quite hard to adjust despite having a much bigger space, perhaps because we had the Hilton Standard in our minds. Since we did not have long here, we wanted to make sure we have dinner at a well rated restaurant. We ended up going to Kohan restaurant which is rated #1 in the region on TripAdvisor. There was a bit of a wait to get a table, but the food was so worth it. The teriyaki salmon I had was very flavoursome. I wasn’t feeling too well (possibly fatigue and adjusting from the luxury at Hilton), so we headed home for an early night.

Lake Tekapo
One of the best Jap I ever had

Day 8

We started our day with buffet breakfast at the Bluewater Resort. Again, we thought the variety of food choices weren’t enough, but they had pancakes on the menu which kept us pretty happy (both of love pancakes). After fuelling ourselves with brekkie, it was time to hit the road to Queenstown again. We made an effort to stop at the lookouts again, this time Lindis Pass being my favourite.

Lindis Pass

After reaching Queenstown, we looked around to find a relatively fancy place that was still open for lunch. I decided to be little adventurous than usual and tried Paua shell which is a native food. We checked in to our last hotel at Rydges and took a long nap to recover from the drive- this was one of the best naps I’ve ever had.

Back at Queenstown

For dinner, we explored options on TripAdvisor for a well-rated seafood restaurant. I decided to try something a little different and went for pan-seared tuna which was delicious. To celebrate our last night, we went to a very popular patisserie that we had been eyeing for some time now. The passionfruit cheesecake we had was deeply satisfying and it nice to end our last night on a sweet note.

Pan seared tuna and veggies
Cheesecake from Patagonia

Day 9

There was one place on our list where we really wanted to have breakfast. We tried coming here twice before but at the wrong hour. Unfortunately, the brekkie was quite pricey and did not end up tasting as good as I had hoped for. After breakfast, we had a quick look for souvenirs and headed back to our hotel and checked out for the final time. We wanted to leave us enough time to fuel up and return the car.

Last brekkie

We got to the airport and had plenty of time so we decided to have lunch before we board. We treated ourselves with burger and pancakes. The compote was very sweet but both of us love pancakes so we didn’t mind. We had a final stop at the airport souvenir shop and caught our plane back to Sydney thinking about when the next getaway would be.

Leaving Queenstown on a sweet note
Goodbye!
Hello again, Sydney!

Final thoughts

Queenstown is such a beautiful place and I will never forget how I felt when I first the majestic mountains. While our honeymoon ended up being more exploratory than the usual kind, we absolutely loved every bit of it. Also, glad to see our destination made it to top 10 honeymoon locations on Bruised Passport’s blog who happen to be one of my favourite travel bloggers. I’d definitely recommended travelling during summer months (November-February), unless you want to experience the freezing cold 😛

From Queenstown, with love.

 

DAA conference | Hobart, Australia

Day 1 

I got very sick two days before my flight so I was feeling rather cynical during the flight. Part of me was wishing I didn’t have to go; I just wanted to be in my bed. But seeing this amazing view as we descend made me pretty excited again. I told myself I will do everything I can to speed up my recovery and enjoy my time here.

Let the #TasteTassie adventures begin!

We dropped off our luggage at our accommodation (Airbnb). We were feeling very hungry as it was almost 3pm. We ate at Brook St Pier and absolutely loved our lunch with a view. I loved the abundance of mushrooms in my dish!

We walked around the harbour to soak up more views; we all know that first day views are always the best!

We bought some groceries to make dinner and headed home early as it was getting very cold. Luckily, our cute cottage had a fireplace and one of my friends knew how to light a fire. While I tried to rest and keep warm, my girls made the most delicious pumpkin, red lentil and soup. It was one of the best I ever had and just what I needed for my throat!

Soup for the soul!

Day 2

Initially, we had planned to go to Wineglass Bay which is a long drive from Hobart. However, we decided not go as it would be too hectic to drive for 6 hours on the same day. Our plan B was to catch a cruise but we realised it would be super windy and might make our health worse. This also did not work out as none of us were feeling very well this morning so started our day quite late which left us enough time to have lunch and only see one place. We only had time for brunch and see either Richmond or mount Wellington.

Buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and whipped vanilla cream

I’m so glad we chose to go with Mount Wellington. The view was absolutely spectacular, so breathtaking! We were freezing- it was about to 6 degrees but the chill felt like 2 degrees (according to our phones).

I had my presentation the next day so I decided I needed to rest my body and stayed indoors that night. I drank lots of soup and tea with lemon and ginger and hoped for an overnight miracle recovery!

Day 3

Let the conference fun begin!

Today was the first day of conference and I presented my first ever oral at DAA. To be honest, it wasn’t quite how I imagined it to be. I would’ve liked to have a healthier voice to speak, but at the same time, we can only control so much, right?
On a brighter note, I managed to get through 15 mins without having a cough attack 😛

We felt very tired after a long day at the conference. We went home and had soup + roast chicken. One of my girls had her 25th birthday today. Unfortunately, all of us in the house had a rough start to our day so wasn’t able to do anything during the day. But as we all know that birthdays must end with cake, one of my other friends was able to find this beautiful Belgian chocolate and salted caramel roulade from one of the top patisseries in Hobart. It was very rich but deeply satisfying!

Day 4 

Since my sickness didn’t improve yesterday, I had almost given up. We had our workshop today in the afternoon and I feel like I could have done a better job. I was feeling a bit disappointed with myself but I realised, I should stop beating myself up over it. This is not the end of presentations, there will be many more to come. So it is completely okay if one does not go as planned. We finished a little early and hit the shops. We were walking into town to find a place for dinner and came across the cutest welcome message!

We looked hard to find a nice place for dinner- this was supposed to be our big celebratory night so we wanted it to be something all of us would enjoy. I had planned to eat some Tasmanian salmon tonight but the sicker me ended up going with risotto when I saw it on the menu. I’m so obsessed with risotto, especially when I am sick. I must find it easy to go down. I’m so glad I did though because it was one of the best I’ve ever had, filled with a decent amount of eggplant, spinach and mushrooms (my favourite).

We came home and had some leftover cake from the previous night. Ending our last night with chocolate made it even more perfect 😉

Day 5 

Our checkout time was around midday so we needed to pack before we left. I always underestimate how long packing takes me. I thought there wouldn’t be much to pack as we had not purchased anything to take home at this point.

The weather was pretty spectacular today, didn’t have to wear my beanie and gloves for the first time!

After the conference was over, we went straight to Salamanca Markets. I had heard about this market from a few people, so was very excited to see an open-style market. Unfortunately, I could not purchase my souvenirs here as there were too many stalls, I found it hard to pick! Also, because some shops did not take card (tip for future self would be to carry cash to places like this!)

#FromWhereIStand

For lunch, we decided to try our luck at the famous café we had planned to come two days ago. Luckily, it was a short walk from the markets. Their menu was outstanding- I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. In the end, I decided to go with a dish that had salmon so I can get it off my list. This was one of the places on my bucket list and having salmon here just made it even better. I felt very satisfied after finally getting some Tasmanian salmon in my belly. For anyone who’s in Hobart, I highly recommend you visit this place- they have awesome savoury and sweets! You will not be disappointed 🙂

Nori and sesame crusted salmon fillet on black rice pickled ginger cake with buttered leeks

Calm before the storm!
Goodbye to our yellow door!
En route to airport

To make up for my lack of souvenirs, I shopped at the airport before I hopped on to the plane.

Home bound

Reflection

Overall, the last couple of days have been so incredible and has gone by so quick! I’m honestly so grateful for all the wonderful experiences I’m getting from my PhD journey. I always find conferences to be so great because it opens my mind and helps me put my work in perspective. Now it’s time to go back to work and THINK BIG for Sydney. I’ve always been and will be a Sydney girl, so can’t wait to showcase our city to the rest of the dietitians around the country 🙂
As for Tassie, I know my adventures here aren’t over yet, in fact this is just the beginning! I’d love to come back someday and explore more because this trip has made me realise how much there is to see in this beautiful land.

Summary

Travel month: May

Where we stayed: with Airbnb on Barrack Street (historical workers’ cottage)

Places visited:

  • Brook St Pier
  • Constitution Dock
  • Mount Wellington
  • Pilgrim Coffee
  • Rockwall Bar and Grill
  • Salamanca Market
  • Jackman and McRoss

 

International Congress of Behavioural Medicine | Melbourne

 
My flight faced major delays due to severe thunderstorms in Sydney. We had to wait for over two hours, most of which were on the plane so it was incredibly exhausting. Thankfully, the weather in Melbourne was much better. It was pretty cold and windy, it felt nice to get out of the scorching heat 🙂
Leaving behind a stormy Sydney
After reuniting with the bestie, we went out for dinner to a local Malaysian restaurant close to our home.
Sweet and sour prawns with rice 
Nasi Lemak

Pineapple fried rice and seafood stir-fry
I had one whole day to myself before the conference began on Wednesday, and we wanted to make the most out of this. 
 
Oh, hello there, new friend!

We had breakfast at Myuna Farm which was a few mins from our house. I loved their veggie focacia. 
Brekkie at Myuna Farm 

 

Veggie focacia ($9)

 

 
Sweet treats at Myuna Farm
Next stop was archery, my bestie has been an archer for sometime now, and we have been wanting to go for a long time. But majority of the archery clubs don’t offer try outs. I loved my first experience of archery, it was initially challenging to get my arrow to go in the right direction. It did not look like a much of a physically demanding sport to me, but it does get quite exhausting after sometime. 

Archery time 🙂
We had lunch at Dosa Bite, it was nice to try proper dosa for the first time but did not like it that much.

Dosa Bite
Last stop for the night was go karting. It was a thrilling experience! Initially, I did not like it because I’m not really into speeding or car racing of any sort. But part of the reason was the freezing wind, my fingers were freezing! The second ride however, was much more enjoyable. Perhaps, I had gotten used to the wind by now and had a better control of what I was doing. 

 

Go Karting in Dandenong

 

Always there to greet us at night
The next day was conference day. I was living near Dandenong so it was a long commute from home. I caught a bus, train and tram to get to the conference at Albert Park. Last time, I was reluctant to catch the public transport alone, but this time, I felt more comfortable travelling on my own.
 
First day of conference, with a rainbow!

 

View from the conference hotel
This conference was quite different to the last one. It was a much bigger conference. There were people from all over the world (every continent except Antartica). They were from a range of professions, including psychologists, medical doctors and nurses. The presentation topics were very broad so it was often difficult to find a session that was fully relevant.
 
Albert Park and Lake
During my lunch break, I went out to explore Albert Park and Lake which was just across the road.
Albert Park
Albert Park and Lake
 
 

 

 

My bestie and I stayed home that night and cooked together for the first time! 
Grilled salmon and egg salad + ricotta and spinach agnolotti with creamy mushroom sauce 

 

“Can you stop taking photos of me and give me food?”

Melbourne showed its true form the next day, it was pouring in the morning.  We went for dinner after the conference in St Kilda, and was very close to getting drenched! 
 
Calamari salad at Bistro Bakini
On Friday, we went to Dex2rose and did some late night shopping. 
Dex2rose at Little Bourke Street

 

 
Salted caramel and mango sorbet
Obligatory cone shot
 
Charcoal Chocolate Chip Belgian Wafflles ($17.95)
We ordered a Belgian waffle and an ice cream. Sad to say, we were very disapointed with the waffle. I had not seen a waffle before that looked so dark. I was wondering why it looked like a ‘tyre’, the flavour of the waffle just wasn’t right. The matcha brought further disappointment because it tasted worse once the matcha was poured. I had seen a lot of matcha being used on Instagram so I was curious to try it. The rainbow meringues were done well. The only thing that made this dish somewhat okay were the ice cream, but there wasn’t enough of it. So we ended up wasting most of the waffle. The waffle was a huge letdown because we travelled for a long time to get there and faced city traffic. 

 

Little Bourke Street

 

Tasmanian salmon + brown rice + Greek salad (~$18)

Saturday was the last day of the conference and headed home back to Sydney after that.

Goodbye furry friend!

 

En route to airport
Highlights
1)      Although we planned a lot of outdoor plans for us to do, my favourite moments were made in the home. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my bestie rambling about anything and everything!
2) Motivational interviewing workshop at the conference- it made me realise the importance on the collaboration between a patient and counsellor.  
3)  Salmon and brown rice at Costi’s- this was definitely my kind of takeaway I could eat everyday. It was my bestie’s favourite too, so we ended up eating it twice!
 
Trip summary
 
Food
  • Local Malaysian Restaurant near Doveton
  • Vietnamese Restaurant in Springvale
  • Myuna Farm, Doveton
  • Dosa Bite, Point Cook
  • Dex2rose, Little Bourke St, CBD
  • Steve Costi’s Famous Fish, Fountain Gate
  • Bistro Bakini, Mantra, St Kilda
 
Other places
  • Pullman Melbourne Albert Park
  • Albert Park and Lake, St Kilda
  • Le Mans Go Karts, Dandeong South
  • Liverpool City Archers, Moorebank
  • Westfield Fountain Gate

DAA conference | Melbourne

Being a tourist 🙂
Day 1:
Reunited with the bestie at the airport.
*Incessant chattering*
Next stop was food.  
First sunset photo


We chose an Italian restaurant called ‘Vapiano’, based on another friend’s recommendation. It was quite busy; we had to wait to get a table. We decided to order both pizza and pasta.
Ordering pizza was pretty straightforward. However, the pasta line took forever. It took so long that we received our pizzas but still hadn’t been able to order the pasta.


We tried garlic and one zucchini and eggplant pizza. I liked the latter but the garlic one was a bit hard, it got a bit cold by the time we started eating.
The pasta was quite nice and flavoursome but nothing extraordinary and not worth an hour wait!
Vapiano
Spotted a cute florist, on our way to dessert
For dessert, we wanted to go Om Nom but unfortunately they had no space so ended up going to Pancake Parlour Lovely. It’s meant to be a Melbourne version of Pancake on the Rocks. We ordered plain vanilla pancakes and chocolate pancakes to get a combination of both, along with milkshake and coffee. However, we were quite disappointed with the pancakes. Vanilla ones weren’t too bad, but the chocolate one wasn’t done right. Chocolate is one of those things that tastes great with almost everything, but the flavours weren’t balanced for this one. The presence of the chocolate chips made it worse, in this case.
The Pancake Parlour Lovely
Vanilla pancakes stacks + chocolate and strawberries (~$45)
Looks can be deceiving sometimes!
Nightlife
Day 2:
I did not sleep well at all. I kept waking up few times during the night and stayed awake after 5 am. We left the hotel just after 7 am and we were starving! We wanted to go to Hardware Lane but it was in the opposite direction to the conference, and we knew we wouldn’t make it back in time for registration.
7:30AM: ready to go!


We decided to go somewhere else but had a hard time picking and finally went to Five66 Cafe. To be honest, we were reluctant to order here as the inside atmosphere didn’t look very inviting. However, the food wasn’t that bad (don’t judge a book by its cover!)
Big brekkie ($20)
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre


After the conference, we walked along Yarra River and went to DFO (retail therapy), then caught a metro from Southern Cross station to Melbourne Central Mall (found nothing to buy here). We kept dinner relatively simple went for sushi.
Yarra River – afternoon walk
It rained!
Melbourne Central: first time on a Metro!


Day 3:
I slept much better than I expected. Maybe I’m getting used to the hard pillow after all. We also turned on the air con so it was cooler to sleep. We had a fairly relaxing morning and had plans to brekkie at a famous crumpet place (Cumulus Inc.)
Beautiful morning!


It took us nearly 30 mins to walk there, and there was a line. We had a workshop to get to so we decided to go elsewhere. On our walk back, we picked Café Kinetic. We all ordered the same dish: smoked salmon and poached eggs with creamy hollandaise.
Kinetic Atlantic: soft poached eggs, smoked salmon, creamy hollandaise on wood fired Turkish bread ($14)


It was really yum. I haven’t had smoked salmon and eggs together in a while so I loved it. Their service was relatively quick; we had spare time to take a long walk along Yarra River. We went to St Paul’s Cathedral and accidentally discovered Graffiti Lane. Unfortunately, there was no good graffiti to take photos with so we left after taking one picture.
Beautiful interior detailing at St Paul’s Cathedral
Hosier Lane Graffiti Art
Other side of Yarra River


After the conference, we went to Greek restaurant for dinner called ‘Tsindos’. We had originally booked elsewhere but changed our mind because we realised the other place would be too loud to make conversation. 

This Greek place turned out to be pretty amazing; we started with a big entrée and got full without even starting our mains. We didn’t realise how big their portions would be, or we would’ve ordered less between us. We did not want to waste a whole plate of food; we sat there for a long time and tried to eat as much we could!

Eggplant dip ($7.50) – one of their famous dishes


Saganaki ($10)
Mix platter
What we ate- minus the mix platter and Moussaka mains (~$190)


Overall, their food was delicious and good value for the amount we paid.  We left feeling super full and definitely exceeded our sodium levels (mostly from the cheese dishes- saganaki and haloumi).
Close up view 🙂
Moussaka ($26)


Day 4:
We had plans to catch the tram and go to Hardware Lane for brekkie. However, our plan failed once again. We ended up picking a place closer to our hotel which was recommended by a friend.
This morning was chilly, about 7 degrees. I did not take a coat, so I was freezing and liked the idea of not walking far.
Drooling over this..


We ordered a sourdough and poached eggs, but we wanted something extra (something naughty). We went for chocolate pancakes.
Having dessert at brekkie was a good feeling as we don’t do this often. We devoured the pancakes and the poached pears.

Chocolate pancakes: poached honey pear, jaffa mascarpone, strawberry meringue ($18)

Two free range eggs with sourdough and tomato relish ($11)

Coconut semolina porridge and brulee banana with rhubarb and pistachio ($15)

Happy brekkie at The Grain Store


The brekkie made my day, but I did not realise there would be something else later today that would make my month. We were walking to our last conference lunch, and I happened to walk next to my poster. And I noticed something had been pinned next to it. It was the ‘Best Novice Researcher Poster Award’. I honestly couldn’t believe my luck because there were so many great posters! It almost felt like a dream!!


After the conference, we went to Bourke Street Mall and treated ourselves to more retail therapy. We went for dinner afterwards at Dumpling Plus. We got two plates of dumplings; they were so delicious. They served us a special sauce (caramelised brown sugar, chilli and soy sauce). We were too full to eat our main dinner so packed us a take away instead.
Pork and vegetarian dumplings (~$18)
Overall, this trip was beyond amazing, and I enjoyed every bit of it. It’s something I’ll always remember as it was my first ever conference, and for the award which will always be special to me! 🙂

Trip summary:

Food:

  • Vapiano: 334 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
  • The Pancake Parlour Lovely: Centrepoint Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne
  • Five66 Cafe: 566 Flinders Street, Melbourne
  • Cafe Kinetics: 103 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
  • Tsindos: 197 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
  • The Grain Store: 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
  • Dumpling Plus: 269 Swanson Street, Melbourne

Other places:

  • Melbourne Exhibition Centre
  • Southbank
  • DFO, South Wharf
  • Melbourne Central Mall
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Hosier Graffiti Lane
  • Bourke Street Mall