Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Sydney to Brisbane drive (Day 8)

Who knew that our visit to Brisbane would be this wet? It did not help that it was a public holiday, which had the city deserted with not many places to choose from to grab a bite. We parked our car at Post Office Square, which unfortunately, was badly damaged during the recent flood.

We headed to a very quiet Queen Street Mall in search of brekkie and settled with Milano.

We were served by two waitstaff, whom we both thought were really friendly and helpful.

Audrey had something light - the ham, cheese and tomato croissant.

I, on the other hand, had eggs florentine spinach (eggs, mushroom, spinach and hollandaise sauce on toasted muffin) because God knows how much I love my eggs!

Queen Street Mall (George Street end), Brisbane, QLD 4000
07 3210 0305 (Tel), 07 3003 1294 (Fax)
Sunday to Thursday 7:00am to 12:00am
Friday to Saturday 7:00am to 2:00am

We then locked into the GPS directions to the University of Queensland. It was not until we were driving in the direction of the airport that I realised something was wrong with where we were going. I checked again and oh no, we were going to the campus in Cairns! I quickly re-entered the St. Lucia campus as our destination and we were re-directed through a maze of posh homes. There were 'ooh's and 'aah's all around and one home had Audrey asking: Do they have a son our age?

UQ was beautiful! They had a lovely lake in the middle of campus with a boardwalk. They had a ferry stop in uni, as well! While we were scouting around for a toilet, we also took the chance to look for any Harry Potter-looking buildings. I mean, after all, they are the third oldest university in the country.

The search was not in vain. They had a section, which was similar to the Quadrangle in the University of Sydney.

Why am I not studying here?

Satisfied, we drove back into town to look for other places to visit, as we still had plenty of time before our flight. We decided to stop at Chinatown, as we drove past it on the way to St. Lucia.

Located in Fortitude Valley, which is a district known for its nightlife (bars, clubs and adult entertainment), it did not feel as 'Chinese' as the Chinatown in Sydney.

It was rather quiet other than the tour groups that entered and exited the Asian restaurants.

You would be able to tell that it was Chinatown because they had Chinese characters on their street signs!

Our last stop was St. John's Catheral in the middle of the city. It is funny how you fit into your itinerary places you stumble upon.

Too bad it was not open. Otherwise, we could see the interior. I would think that it would be grand inside, as the outside suggested.

St John's Cathedral
373 Ann St, Brisbane, QLD 4000
07 3835 2231 (Office Tel), 07 3835 2240 (Service Time Tel), 07 3832 3173 (Fax)

And that marked the end of our roadtrip! Next roadtrip would hopefully be around the same time next year (or perhaps slightly earlier in September or October subject to work and study schedules, as well as weather). Another week of fun to save up and look forward to!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Sydney to Brisbane drive (Day 7)

Armed with this piece of important paper...

... and this band...

... we were ready to soak in the thrills and spills.

But the sky was overcast. Extremely. But did the rain stop us from enjoying ourselves at Dreamworld?

Of course not! All we needed was an extra piece of plastic!

Heads up: No photos or videos for this trip, unlike the last trip to Movie World due to the rain, which rendered my camera safely stored in a locker. Hence, I have decided to share videos other fun-loving visitors shared on YouTube of the rides we went on.

The first ride conquered was The Giant Drop. I opted out for this one and besides it was stated very clearly that people who suffer from vertigo were not allowed on the ride. Phew... I do not think I could withstand a 120m drop at 135km/hour. Audrey, on the other hand, loved it so much she wanted to do it again!

Then, we both went over to a ride we saw was open - Mick Doohan's Motocoaster. Using replicas of 500cc race bikes, it really felt as though I was racing. Although traveling up to 72km/hour does not sound really fast (in a car, that is), it felt really fast on this ride. We had about 605km of racing fun on this one.

The Claw went up to nine storeys into the air, swinging at up to 75 km/hr! It also spun 360 degrees. So, by the time I got off, I was walking like I was drunk. Literally.

No words to describe Wipeout, other than it left me totally nauseated just by watching Audrey get flipped over and over like a pancake.

Maybe it was because of all that tossing and turning that resulted in Audrey feeling hungry. We then fueled up with the most worthy burger we have ever eaten in Australia. Seriously, enormous. I regret not taking a photo of it.

The rides that we went on after that were easy rides. I joined a Kiwi family on the Thunder River Rapids on a turbulent ride down a foamy water track past the Gold Rush Country, speeding up to 45 km/h. It was their third round on the ride, as the kids were trying to get their dad wet. I do not know why I enjoy rides like this.

Audrey then joined me on the Rocky Hollow Log Ride where we climbed the aqueduct in a hollowed-out log and plunged down the ramp at 50km/h. Anyone wants to guess why she wanted me to take the front seat?

The waiting for the rain to stop paid off for Audrey, as the Tower of Terror opened up. Again, I chickened out. I think I have lost my energy for stuff like this. I know, sad right? But hey, it reaches the speed of 171km/h in seven seconds and pushes you up 38 storeys into oblivion. Yikes, I would definitely pass, thank you very much.

I did not realise that Dreamworld had an attraction called Tiger Island, which in part ran conservation efforts to help the soon-to-be extinct majestic cats. We made it in time for the afternoon presentation. They have daily presentations at 12:00pm and at 3:30pm.

The last ride we went on was The Cyclone. We found the walk up to the ride a cyclone itself, let alone the ride! This rollercoaster first opened at Sydney’s Luna Park. Following complaints by neighbours of the ear-piercing screams, it took 35 separate trucks to relocate the knee-knocking coaster to Dreamworld. I like how the Dreamworld website introduces it:

The Cyclone starts out leisurely, gently hoisting riders 40 meters above the ground to the most scenic point in the themepark. To the right is the hypnotic swing of The Claw. To the left is the sparkling blue waterpark. Ahead is the centre of fury and the point of no return.

Drops I definitely do not do (I used to but not anymore) but rollercoasters, anytime! We chilled to replenish the liquid in our bodies, and I took the chance to try the recommended a small pint of strawberry cheesecake flavoured Ben & Jerry's.

Dreamworld Parkway, Coomera, QLD 4209, Australia
07 5588 1111 (Tel), 07 5588 1110 (Fax)
Dreamworld open 10:00am to 5:00pm
WhiteWater World open 10:00am to 4:00pm

And of all things to happen to me, I sort of 'left' my debit card at the theme park. And on Christmas Eve. Great. In fact, I did not realise this until I was to pay for a parking spot at Brisbane City YHA Backpackers Hostel.

We thought that of all the accommodation we had throughout the trip, this was by far the best. It was not only the cheapest, it was the cleanest and best-maintained. Heck, we paid for a bed each but ended up with the whole room to ourselves!

We took the double-decker at the window with me taking the lower bunk, which allowed me to have a view of town.

Brisbane City YHA Backpackers Hostel
392 Upper Roma Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000
07 3236 1004 (Tel), 07 3236 1947 (Fax)
Reception Hours 6:30am to 11:00pm

With the rain, not many establishments open due to the festive season and my ultra bad luck (I did not notice that the gate opened towards the car, I stopped too close and well, guess what happened next), we settled for the Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels for dinner.

The complimentary breads came with a lot of butter. A whole lot. We wondered why they provided so much butter for just two pieces of bread. Such a waste, really, because we know they will throw it out after. As Audrey did not feel like eating, it was just I who ordered a serve of seared Queensland scallops on a mushroom and wild rocket risotto with shaved parmesan. I must have been really hungry. Either that or it was just divine.

Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels
Corner Mary & Edward Streets, Brisbane, QLD 4000
07 3221 0199 (Tel), 07 3221 7811 (Fax)
Open 7 days 11:30am till late

Distance covered today: 80km

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Sydney to Brisbane drive (Day 6)

Byron Bay is famous for its sunrise because it is the most easterly point of Australia. The reason we stopped for a night at Byron was so that we could catch that infamous sunrise. BUT IT DID NOT HAPPEN!!! It rained throughout the night, through till morning. Just look at how gloomy and wet the weather was!

Disappointed, we started our drive early towards Mullumbimby, where Crystal Castle was.

We were so early, we were the first to arrive and had to wait for them to open!

After purchasing our entry tickets, we were greeted by the Sand Castle.

Then, we walked past the Water Pourer Pond to the music of croaking toads.

There was a piece of giant Sahara fossil...

... and a statue of Dewi Sri.

On the other side, there was something called the Rose Quartz Sacred Circle.

Look at those gigantic pieces of rose quartz!

There were two amethyst gateways, with one leading to the Elephant God, Ganesh.

I followed the path through the gateway onto the Buddha Walk and passed Lakshmi, Goddess of Abundance.

At the end sits Lord Buddha atop his lotus mosaic. They claim that the statues are all carved from Gunung Merapi volcanic rock.

Audrey walked the Labyrinth, which was a walk of spiritual reflection.

Inside the main building, there was a spiral staircase that led up to the Reading Tower, which was where I had a go at my very first session of tarot card reading! Quite interesting, I would have to say. Now, I would have to see if part of what she said comes true (one issue I would have to wait till the end of the year!).

We fed ourselves at Lotus Cafe.

We both had balsamic mushrooms and tomatoes on pesto paste, which I thought spruced up every taste sensation in my mouth very well.

I gave something called the LSD a go. It stood for latte with soy and dandelion. Hm, interesting combination, I thought. The taste needed some getting used to, though.

We did some shopping, too. Audrey bought herself a lovely little suncatcher while I bought two windchimes. Both made from agate, I bought one in bright pink and another in brown.

Crystal Castle
81 Monet Drive, Mullumbimby, NSW 2482
02 6684 3111 (Tel), 02 6684 1196 (Fax)
Daily 10:00am to 5:00pm
Adults $14.90
Concession $12.90
Children $10.90
Family (2 adults, 2 children) $39.00
Byron Shire residents by donation

As we spent a longer time than expected at Crystal Castle, we had to cut short our walk at Wollumbin National Park.

We were both wondering what 'fruit' this was, as it was as big as a fifty cent coin!

From the originally planned three hours, we made it half an hour. Actually, next time (if there is a next time), a day or two would be dedicated to this park.

We were, or at least, I was pretty glad to be driving in the direction of Gold Coast, finally. That would mean that we would be in a different state, a different time zone!

Raffles Royale was just like how I remembered it to be.

The only difference was that when I was here back in 2008, I shared a two-bedroom apartment with five other people.

I totally forgotten to take a picture of the pool, which Jenny, Angeline, Chee Sing and I fully utilised the last time we were here.

Raffles Royale
69 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradise, QLD 4217
07 5538 0099 (Tel), 07 5538 0688 (Fax)

One other down side was that we did not have an empty bottle for Audrey to collect some of the sand from the beach at Surfers Paradise.

Distance covered today: 163km