A whimsical review of Strictly Ballroom The Musical at Sydney Lyric

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived”

strictly ballroom musical

This is the Australian production of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, which is based on the classic 1992 film (you’ll know it if you were born in the early 80’s – it was the one of the most famous Australian films of all time, up there with stuff like Crocodile Dundee). The latest production is fairly new – the global premiere was at Sydney Lyric in April 2014 and we caught it a couple of days ago.

strictly ballroom tickets

I didn’t realize I’ve watched the original movie and knew most of the songs by heart so when it was described to me, I thought it sounded like a the love child of a threesome involving West Side Story, Romeo & Juliet and Dirty Dancing.

strictly ballroom merchandise

I’m a huge fan of musicals, and caught a lot of them during my 2010 backpacking trip through Europe, starting with Wicked in West End. I even watched Les Misérables in French!

I did not understand a single word. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement, maybe I understood 7 but it’s definitely something you can count with your fingers.

strictly ballroom sydney lyric

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was in for a slightly dry Australian play but I was keen to catch a musical here, especially a local one.

strictly ballroom australia

As I settled in my seat and took in the gorgeous period posters and large disco ball on the ceiling of Sydney Lyric, I started to get into the interactive elements where your section of the theater cheers for a particular ballroom dancing competition couple. I won’t spoil it for you, but don’t worry, it’s nowhere near the over-the-top madness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

strictly ballroom pose

…and then there was the pivotal scene, a familiar snippet of lyric which was done in conversational spoken word, the part where ballroom dancing movements were taught to the Latino main female lead (which arguably is the best scene in the musical)

If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re *lost*, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you WILL find me.
Time after time

The spoken word segued into a beautiful and powerful sotto song from the male lead and I thought to myself “I KNOW THIS SONG!”.

Memories flooded back and I was hooked – all the songs were familiar and I found myself tapping my feet, singing along and wanting to go on the large conga line that formed after the encore with the cast leading members of the public up to the stage.

strictly ballroom stage

It was the best musical I’ve watched in Australia. I wanted to sing, I wanted to tap my feet and I wanted to dance! It made me feel alive and loved every single moment of it!

strictly ballroom props

In that way, Strictly Ballroom lived up to “The story that inspired the world to dance”, at least for me, an a little old lady in her late 60’s, wheelchair bound and breathing oxygen, but clapping her hands happily as the musical went through songs like Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and of course, Time After Time.

strictly ballroom program

I guess if I had one negative thing to say about Strictly Ballroom The Musical, it would be the Coca-Cola advertisements / product placement, which I found to be intrusive and detracts from the entire experience.

…and with that said, let’s move on to:

(let me do the intentional irony smirk first)

smirk

Short mention:

I’m still in New South Wales, having a lot of fun taking photos and videos with my Xperia Z1. I’m staying at Ramada Resort Shoal Bay, which is about 3 hours from Sydney. It’s located in the Port Stephens area and we had a lot of water activities, sandboarding and ATV riding over sand dunes which can be really bad for regular smartphones…

…but not for the waterproof and dust resistant Z1! I did all those activities and just washed my smartphone and it was as good as new! I even took a walkthrough of my wonderful beach facing suite as soon as I got back. Check out the video above, it’s shot in 1080p Full HD. I’m looking forward to the Xperia Z2 coz that has an even higher recording mode – 4K! :)

strictly sydney

I just came back from a night of Vivid Sydney, experiencing lots of interactions, including one that’s inspired by Strictly Ballroom The Musical! It’s called MirrorBall Heart (Installation # 19 – it’s the one with the disco dance floor and a heart with “Strictly Sydney” on it) and it’s just a short walk away from the hotel. Catch up with what I’m doing on my other social media channels:

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:26 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

Dinner at Little Beach Boat House, Port Stephens

boathouse

Little Beach Boat House is a quaint little place just beside the bay at Port Stephens. You can hear the waves coming in at night and the wait staff is a duet of twins! The two Aussie girls look so much like each other that I just had to take a photo of them.

waitress aussie twins

The service is attentive and friendly and they had a special of the day, which I ordered. I actually recorded one of the twins reciting the dish in question so I can remember it, and she kindly obliged. Heh. This is one of the best restaurants in town according to Sharon, who dined with us last night.

popcorn

There was popcorn on the table – a growing trend that I’ve noticed in a lot of restaurants, who serve this in lieu of bread. I think it’s great! The dishes has a bit of a modernist twist in them too, with foams, purees and jelly sauce components on most of the dishes.

Entree

Seared Scallops ($19.00)
Cauliflower puree, chorizo, salsa verde, roasted corn

seared-scallops

This is really good! I like how the seared scallops and chorizo pairs up. Wei Zhi and I ordered different entrees and mains so we could try different things on the menu and this is her order.

Beef Cheek & Potato Croquette ($18.00)
W/ pee puree, binnorie feta & black garlic mayo

beef cheek croquette

I was more interested in beef cheek – a cut which is really flavorful if done right and they do it well here. It’s generously mixed into the crispy potato croquette and a nice touch is the black garlic mayo (the fermented garlic we use to make bak kut teh back home).

turkish bread

Toasted Turkish Bread ($10)
W/ balsamic & olive oil, garlic & herb butter, hommous and olive & feta tapenade

Mains

Miso Glazed Salmon ($33.00)
W/ soy roasted sweet potato, cashews, steamed greens and sesame & rice wine dressing

miso glazed salmon

I’m not a huge fan of salmon but according to Sharon (who also watches MasterChef Australia and offered me some) they did everything right in the “checklist” – crispy skin, no bones, juicy inside.

Seared Veal Medallions ($34.00)
W/ Jerusalem artichokes, baby spinach, green beans and parmesan & sage butter

veal medallions

I’ve cooked Jerusalem artichokes before, which is totally different from the globe artichoke. I ordered a Sauvignon Blanc which goes very well with my fish dish but makes the veal tastes rather bitter.

Crispy Skin Barramundi ($39.00)
Saltwater barramundi with roast pumpkin, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, bacon and a pee puree

barramundi

This is my order, the special of the day. I didn’t know it was fried though, since I don’t particularly like grilled fish (any other cooking method is better) but I kept an open mind. I wanted to eat barramundi since Australia is one of two countries where you can find it. I asked the waitress for a wine pairing and she suggested either Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling but “personally I’ll go for the former”.

sauvignon blanc

I took her advice and it tasted great with the barramundi! The Sauvignon Blanc is very sweet and pairs well with the fish. The skin of the barramundi is crisp and it’s a classic white fish which flakes well but has a stronger taste than other popular white fish like cod and John Dory. The barramundi is excellent when eaten with the sweet and smoky roast pumpkin though!

Boathouse ‘3 Pigs’ ($36.00)
Crispy pork belly, pork schnitzel, prosciutto, parmesan, chorizo, corn cob, bacon mayo & apple jam

boathouse 3 pigs

This is probably the restaurant’s flagship dish. It came on a huge wooden platter and has 3 (three) different pork items on it, including a crispy pork belly the size of a small steak! It’s beautiful and the apple jam has been jellyfied, giving it a bit of a modernist twist.

little boat house

The dinner at Little Beach Boat House was great, and the company better – we talked late into the night about everything, and I learned a lot about the Port Stephens area too. Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Australia picked up the bill (thanks Duglass and Sharon) and we all had a bit of fun with the friendly twin waitresses who look so much alike! :)

twin waitresses

I’m still at Port Stephens, heading back to Sydney later! I’ll be here until next week and you can follow what I’m up to on my other social media channels coz I got an AUD 2 per day data plan!

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:53 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

I’m heading to Sydney to work!

australian 400 work visa

I’ve got my Temporary Work (Subclass 400) Visa from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of Australia and I’ll be there for about a week! :D

Australia has gone paperless in their visas though, I wish they still issued proper ones. It costs AUD 185 (about RM 555) to get this class of visa. I had a study/work visa when I was in uni – had to apply for it and there’s a limitation of 20 hours per week. It came just like my student visa (like a US 10 year visa or the front page of your passport) – there’s a photo and the description and it fills up the entire page. It’s awesome if you like to collect passport stamps and visa.

I’m flying to Sydney in an hour! I have Internet access so you can follow me and see what I’m up to in New South Wales for my 7 day working holiday! :)

P/S – There’ll be a lot of interesting things for those interested in MasterChef Australia!

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

How to cook kangaroo meat: A kangaroo roast dinner!

cooking kangaroo

This is perhaps one of my greatest culinary achievements. I did this in Melbourne during my last day there. I wanted to cook a full course dinner with kangaroo roast as the flagship for my loved one and here’s the recipe for everything!

raw macadamia nuts

I bought everything at Coles Express in Melbourne CBD.

coles receipt

The grocery shopping bill came out to AUD 70.19 (about RM 221) so that’s how much it costs.

raw kangaroo roast

There are five (5) courses to the dinner:

kangaroo roast dinner

Italian Salad with Fresh Garden Greens and Honey Balsamic Dressing
This is the starter (of sorts) – gotta have foliage in the diet.

Roasted Stuffed Chicken with Gravy
I’ll call this the appetizer since that was how we ate it.

cooking seafood

Sixthseal’s Seafood Supreme (TM) with cream, white wine and garlic – prawns, Tasmanian mussels, bacon, cheese, exotic mushrooms and macadamia nuts with traditional bread
This is the best dish I came out with, according to Ling, and I’m quite proud of myself. It tastes really great! I think it deserves that (TM) bit. ;)

Herb & Garlic Kangaroo Roast
This is the main dish – the one I slaved over for hours, coz I wanted her to try kangaroo meat.

kiwiberry cranberry fondue

Kiwiberries + Raspberries with Caramel and White Chocolate sauce
I’m quite proud of this dessert too!

That’s the menu for the night and I started out by preparing the salad.

Italian Salad with Fresh Garden Greens

coles-salad

It’s a bit of a cheat since it came in a ready made bag but I can’t cook everything from scratch. Haha! Even the sauce came in a miniature bottle that was right beside the salad. It’s “sweet, crisp leaves balanced with shredded radicchio and a hint or aromatic parsley”.

coles italian sauce

I just put the entire contents of the bag into a salad bowl and poured in the 125 ml honey balsamic dressing. It’s store brand but quite good. Ling actually ate a lot of this.

italian salad

I didn’t.

Roasted Stuffed Chicken with Gravy

roast chicken

This is her suggestion coz she thought I’ll take a long time with the kangaroo roast. She was right. We bought 1/2 a stuffed chicken. It comes in a bag and you just need to chuck the bag into the oven and heat it up.

microwave bag

The bag works to keep the moisture in. I kept the bag to use for my kangaroo roast too.

stuffed roasted chicken

It’s pretty good since you can’t very well go wrong with a pre-cooked item from Coles. The stuffing was salty, the meat was tender and it’s delicious coz we were so hungry at that point. I was still slaving over the kangaroo roast at this point.

Sixthseal’s Seafood Supreme (TM) with cream, white wine and garlic – prawns, Tasmanian mussels, bacon, cheese, exotic mushrooms and macadamia nuts with traditional bread

seafood recipe

My proudest dish! I must tell the entirety of this story.

garlic prawns

We bought garlic marinated prawns from Coles – it comes in a package so we didn’t need any other sauces. We were just there for a day and didn’t want to buy large bottles of seasoning.

bacon

I also went to the meat counter and got a rasher of bacon. It’s huge! The bacon measures 1 1/2 feet long and several inches wide – there’s a photo of me holding it later. I wanted the rinds to cook with.

macadamia

Macadamia nuts were from the raw produce section. It’s raw nuts at AUD 33.98 / kg. That makes it AUD 7.56 (RM 25) for the handful of a few nuts I grabbed! I calculated, that’s RM 1.30 per nut. :x

exotic mushrooms

The mushrooms came in a pack that that was labelled 3 gourmet mushrooms – there are two familiar ones (they aren’t “exotic” to Asians) but the orange fungi is new to me.

cheese

I went to the cheese counter and chose bocconcini – a mild mozarella type cheese that you keep submerged in liquid. It would be really hard to find this here but I ate bocconcini for fun as a snack when I was studying in Melbourne.

bocconcini

The best thing we saw was the Tasmanian mussels!

tasmanian mussels

It was marked down to just AUD 0.50! That’s a 92% discount! It was such a good bargain that I wanted it for my seafood bonanza. It’s the best buy of the trip – there’s always price cuts but this just takes the cake.

traditional bread

The traditional bread is supposed to go with this dish to wipe up the creamy gravy (and also to go with the kangaroo roast). There are no preservatives and it’s very good bread – artisan bread handmade using kibbled wheat. AUD 5.50 (RM 17). It’s not cheap, this 800 gram loaf of traditional bread.

seafood ingredients

The ingredients!

seafood stew recipe

I sliced up the bacon rinds and fried it for a bit before dumping in the rest of the bacon.

bacon rinds

I then added in the mussels with all the cream, garlic and white wine marinate…

mussels

…and then the prawns with it’s own garlic marinade.

prawns

Awesome stuff!

cooking seafood stew

A wonderful smell was starting to waft out and this was when I threw the raw macadamis nuts in.

seafood stew macadamias

Added the mushrooms and cheese last and let it simmer for a bit.

adding bocconcini

It’s delicious! I cooked a mess…

adding mushrooms

…but Ling plated it so nicely it could be a restaurant dish!

sixthseal seafood supreme

Ta da!

seafood bread

It tasted wonderful – sweet and salty, with lots of seafood and delicious liquids for the traditional bread to soak up.

Herb & Garlic Kangaroo Roast

kangaroo mini roast

I had a lot of trouble with this. I set the oven wrongly and the bag nearly caught on fire (which has the potential to trip the fire alarm, causing a huge fine).

kangaroo roast

Luckily, she smelled something burning and I sorted it out.

eating kangaroo

I wouldn’t want to go through the arduous process, but it was 3 am when this was finally ready.

kangaroo meat

It’s worth the time and the blood, sweat and tears I put in though – it’s cooked to perfection!

roasted kangaroo

Ling tried it and had several more pieces, she said it tasted like liver. Oh well, at least she’s tried kangaroo meat now.

me bacon

I liked it – I ate quite a fair bit of the kangaroo roast. It’s gamey and flavorful, with chewy meat. I’m glad we didn’t cop out and go for kangaroo burger patties or kangaroo steaks – a kangaroo roast is the proper way to eat kangaroo meat. Lovely stuff!

Kiwiberries + Raspberries with Caramel and White Chocolate sauce

kiwiberry

This is the dessert I made for her – kiwiberry is a small fruit that looks like mini kiwifruit and tastes like kiwifruit but it’s much sweeter. You can just pop it into your mouth to eat it without peeling anything.

kiwiberry-chocolate-dip

The raspberries are fresher too and I mixed both fruits into a glass (don’t have a parfait server).

chocolate caramel dip

I had two dips of caramel and white chocolate and I spooned each in turn into the fruit mixture to create contrasting textures.

kangaroos

It was so good we finished the fruits the next day by dipping it straight into the leftover caramel and white chocolate dip. :)

kiwiberrry cranberry

I had fun cooking for her. It’s a nice change, and it’s kind of her to rinse the plates before I loaded the dishwasher coz I was bushed by then. She got to eat kangaroo meat and it was an awesome way to spend the last night in Melbourne together. It’s a lovely end to a wonderful trip!

Our trip to Melbourne: QV Market, Eureka Skydeck 88 and more!

settlers melbourne

This is the final post about the last day of our Melbourne trip! We spent one more day in Melbourne after coming back from Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade. The Nobbies (Seal Rocks) was awesome and so was Swan Lake Guest House.

dog

Here’s a random photo Ling took of me at Phillip Island. That bitch (it’s a female dog!) belongs to the car rental company’s owner, a friendly one, wagged her tail and came up to me to be petted. :)

melbourne city

We had a iVenture Card which allows us to choose 5 different things (anything from Puffing Billy to admission to Eureka 88) and we realized that we couldn’t utilize it fully due to a lack of time. I wanted Ling to browse around Queen Victoria Market so that’s where we went after checking into Citidines on Bourke Street.

queen victoria market

Unfortunately, it had just closed! Ling had a craving for fish and chips and I wanted to bring her there for some proper ones but since that plan was scuttled we headed to Maccas instead.

mcdonalds melbourne

Maccas is the local slang for McDonald’s and I eat at different ones all over the world – from McDonald’s in Korea to McDonald’s in Germany (where they serve beer). It’s a favorite haunt of mine from back when I was studying in uni due to their ever changing menu. It was called New Tastes Menu back then and I had written quite a lot about it.

tastes of america

Salads Plus was their new initiative the last time I was in Melbourne in 2003 and this time it was Tastes of America. This is what I love about the McDonald’s in Australia. You can actually eat there every week and have something different from a limited time menu.

california chicken

We had the California Chicken (AUD 5.95) – pretty much the only thing we can eat since she doesn’t take beef. The other two versions are Smoky Texan (Angus Beef) and New York Classic (also beef).

maccas cali chicken

The California Chicken burger is a chicken patty with sweet chilli lime and summer mayo. I never quite got what summer mayo means. smirk

It’s pretty good though – I love the crisp lettuce in Australia, it’s very different from the limp ones over here.

cuisipro decorating pen

We also browsed around cooking shops – we share a common interest here – and I bought a Cuisipro decorating pen for AUD 20. I want to use it for plating when I cook for her – you can write stuff using gravy or chocolate, and Ling promptly *stole* it coz it’s too awesome! -_-

city circle tram

Hopped on the free City Circle Tram and ended up at Crown Complex. There’s flames in the evening but it was still early so we walked around instead.

qv market

Ling + HB in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne!

the travellers

The Travellers! That’s what these wire frame art is called. It chronicles Australia’s history and the first one is called:

gayip

Gayip. It represents the Aboriginal period before the settlers came during the convict period (1788-1888). Australia used to be a penal colony e.g. a place where English prisoners were shipped to. The Prime Minister when I was studying then proudly traced his heritage to his grandmother, who was a convicted thief.

melbourne chill on

Chill On Ice Lounge & Ski Lodge is an overrated tourist trap.

ice lounge melbourne

You dress in cold weather parkas and go into a -10 Celsius room made entirely of ice. There’s a free cocktail served in a glass made entirely of ice!

chill on ice lounge

That was pretty good but there’s nothing much to see inside. You can’t take photos either, but there’s buttons to press for posed photos.

chill on melbourne

None of them turned out well though so we didn’t get the photos. Admission is AUD 30 per person (!!!) – we just wanted to use up the iVenture Card and this was one of the places which accepts it.

eureka melbourne

The next destination is the Eureka Skydeck 88. It’s located on the 88th floor – thus the name, and it’s the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere with an observation deck at 285 meters.

eureka skydeck

This was pretty nice – you get an entire 360 degree view of Melbourne from the observation deck. There are avid photographers camping with kitted out dSLRs with huge lenses to take photos of the grand view.

eureka skydeck 88

It’s quite nice, especially at sunset. :)

skydeck 88

You can see one side is still bright, while the other is getting dark.

skydeck melbourne

We spent quite a while there before going to Coles.

lord of the fries

Lord of the Fries! Haha! I love the reference (it’s a rather dark book).

coles

I had promised to cook her dinner before going back – a complete course with kangaroo roast as the main dish. We had a lot of fun in Melbourne – our first trip overseas, but definitely not the last. I’m going to write about the kangaroo meat dinner tomorrow before we head off for more lovely memories together on her birthday weekend! <3 happy

I love you dear! It’s always a pleasure being with you and I would like to spend each and every moment of my life with you in the future. *hugs*

Breakfast at POP Restaurant, Hardware Lane

hardware lane melbourne

Breakfast at Hardware Lane is one of the greatest Melbourne institutions. Hardware Lane is filled with tiny little sidewalk cafes that crowds into each other, every one vying for your attention and crammed with people eating and drinking coffee.

breakfast hardware lane

It’s more of the coffee culture and the breakfast (they also serve lunch, of course) that I go for. POP Restaurant is one of the most well known nowadays, offering modern Australian cuisine. Part of the ambiance of Hardware Lane is the people stuffed into small tables and chairs on both sides of the narrow lane.

pop restaurant melbourne

I wanted Ling to experience this so we took a tram to Elizabeth Street and walked over to Hardware Lane. I remember making this very same commute 10 years back. :)

cappucinno

POP Restaurant has their POP Breakfast from 9 am – 3 pm on weekends. It’s basically an all-day breakfast or close enough to make no difference.

Atlantic poached eggs, salmon and hollandaise (AUD 14.50)

atlantic poached eggs

There are various sides on offer – bacon, hash brown, sausage, mushroom, spinach, baked beans, ham, avocado, grilled tomato, salmon, prosciutto, parmesan and hollandaise sauce. You can add one for AUD 3 for choose a package of 2 or 3 sides for AUD 5.50 and AUD 7.50 respectively.

bacon avocado salmon

I added on bacon, avocado and ham but they forgot my ham and I didn’t want it by the time it came out. Thus, this breakfast set me back AUD 19.50 which isn’t too bad if you don’t convert. It’s almost RM 63 if you do. ;)

French Toast with rhubarb and almonds (AUD 14.50)

french toast rhubarb almonds

This is what she ordered from the Sweet Tooth menu. I thought it was pretty good – I like the rhubarb jam on top of the nicely done French Toast and the sprinkling of almonds but she thought it was the worst French Toast she ever had.

poached eggs

My bad, dear. I gave her some of my breakfast instead.

pop restaurant

It showered slightly (as weather in Melbourne tend to do) in the middle of our breakfast so we shifted slightly inside so the patio covers the worst of the rain.

pop restuarant bill

I like the service at POP Restaurant, I’ve always had positive experiences at Hardware Lane in Melbourne. Granted, I only go for breakfast, but that’s the most important meal. ;) The waitress apologized for messing up my order when I asked for the bill (they forgot the ham) and told me the other two sides I ordered are on the house. I thought that was a really nice gesture.

hardware lane breakfast

I ended up tipping her just about the same amount so the karma balances out. smirk

The Nobbies (Seal Rocks) in Phillip Island

nobbies australia

This is my favorite place on Phillip Island. The Nobbies (previously known as Seal Rocks) is located just a stone’s throw away from the Penguin Parade. It’s located on the south-western tip and admission is free!

us nobbies

If you have limited time in Phillip Island, I suggest you head here just before you go for the Penguin Parade.

nobbies

The Nobbies is a system of boardwalks that overlooks the Seal Rocks, The Nobbies and The Blowhole (which is a 1.2 km walk away). It’s home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals, which can often be found basking right on the rocks itself.

nobbies phillip island

However, you’ll need a pair of binoculars to spot them. We didn’t see any seals or SEALs but there was a seal behind the camera. Haha! Contrary to popular belief, sixthseal.com does not mean “seal” (the animal you club) or “SEAL” (the elite group small mission unit that killed UBL). It’s a passage from Revelation that means “seal” (the wax you put on an old letter).

seal rocks

Seal Rocks (as it was known back when I first visited) is now known as The Nobbies and offers stunning vistas perfect for photography. It’s like a scene from a postcard! The rays from the sun comes glistening through to hit the large rock where fur seals sun themselves

silver gulls

It’s also a place where Silver Gulls nest. These are amazing birds that we first mistook for a kite. Silver Gulls has a distinctive way of “flying” – they remain stationary! The wind coming into The Nobbies is amazingly strong – I had to fight my phone to keep it from flying away. The gulls can just stay motionless at one place, riding the draft and not even flapping their wings, unless it’s to move to another altitude. Amazing birds!

the nobbies

It’s a nice place to walk around and just relax at. It was my favorite moment in Phillip Island and I wanted this to be the last post about our trip there. You can see how strong the wind is just from the way it messes with our hair and clothes (it constantly flipped my stiff collar).

seal rocks australia

It’s a must visit if you go to Phillip Island – don’t just go for the Little Penguins, spend some time at The Nobbies and watch the seal colonies and relax by the boardwalk. It can be slightly chilly in autumn though, so bring a windbreaker (instead of borrowing mine like Ling did). ;)

Odette & Siegfried’s Room @ Swan Lake Guest House, Phillip Island

phillip island vacation

This is the honeymoon suite we stayed in on our trip to Phillip Island. Swan Lake Guest House is more beautiful than I had imagined – with 4 hectares of land and 5 luxurious suites to choose from. Odette & Siegfried’s Room is the honeymoon suite.

swan lake guest house

The room looks out to romantic sea views and beautiful sunsets. There’s also a private balcony with extensive views of Western Port Bay and Bass Strait. You can feel the gale-force winds blowing at night but it’s very serene and chill in the daylight.

private balcony

This is the only time we used the ensuite jacuzzi in Melbourne (technically Victoria). Haha!

sea view

It’s AUD 270 per night (about RM 900) but it’s well worth the price. The service from Bernie is impeccable!

odette siegfried room

I had asked for flowers in the room for my love (I was thinking of a bouquet) and when we arrived, the kind lady proprietor (Bernie) subtly told me that it wasn’t ready and she’s heading to the market to get it done.

flowers

She was thinking fresh flowers in a vase.

phillip island swan lake

Close enough, I guess. Heh! It’s the thought that matters. She wouldn’t accept a tip either, very kind of her.

tea time

There was tea service the moment we arrived, with a wide variety of choices and chocolate biscuits.

tea

We had the entire place to ourselves since it wasn’t the peak season and the privacy and views are to die for! The main living room is immaculately decorated with a real fire place!

swan lake phillip island

Swan Lake Guest House is a mixture of a guest house and a B&B (Bed & Breakfast) – albeit a premium one with all the privacy you need. The breakfast spread was nothing short of lavish!

croissants

Our kind host brought out warm croissants and had coffee and tea brewing.

juices milk

Fresh juices and three (3) different types of milk were produced.

bread

BREAD!!! There’s a lot of local Phillip Island produced bread – country, multi-grain and multi-cereal and also this fruit packed loaf that we both liked.

cereal

There’s also a big bowl of single serve cereal boxes to choose from…

ham

…as well as ham, cheese and other cold cuts. I remember asking Ling how she knew we weren’t Muslim or had other specific dietary requirements that forbids pork. ;)

breakfast

I had my eye on something that’s *not commercial* when I planned for our stay at Phillip Island. I told Ling that I’ll take care of it coz I wanted her to have a nice stay without worrying about the cost. This place fits the bill perfectly.

ham cheese

I’ll highly recommend Swan Lake Guest House if you want to stay at Ventnor in Phillip Island. It’s very close to the Penguin Parade. The service is second to none – the owner is friendly and goes out of her way to accommodate your whims. The place is nestled in a huge farmland and you can see the sea from the private balcony.

sunrise

There’s a lot of rooms but only one is the largest (and most expensive) meant for honeymooners and that’s Odette & Siegfried’s Room. You won’t be disappointed. I think we only went to bed at around 4 am coz we stayed in the jacuzzi till late. She loved it, and so did I. <3 ling sleeping

We were both so tired when we took the V/Line coach back to Melbourne that Ling slept most of the way through. Thanks for making the stay memorable for us. :)

Penguin Parade @ Phillip Island

phillip island trip

This is undoubtedly the most famous thing Phillip Island is known for. Little Penguins come back to nest every evening on the shores of Phillip Island after a day out hunting and doing whatever penguins do. smirk

penguin parade

These are not the Emperor Penguins of the Antarctica but a different species of penguin called Fairy Penguins. They’re quite small and furry creatures – about the size of a particularly tall roti tissue (35 cm tall).

penguin parade sign

We drove down to the Penguin Parade after visiting the Nobbies. It was a particularly cold day as the sign shows – you need cold weather gear. Unfortunately, Ling didn’t bring a wind breaker so I gave her mine and went through the night with just a button up shirt with a cardigan underneath.

penguin parade weather

I half froze to death, but the layered clothing helped a bit. Haha!

penguin parade trip

She was still cold even after wearing 3 layers (including my wind breaker) and I even offered her my shirt (could do with just the cardigan), which she thankfully declined.

The things you do for love. ;)

penguin parade entrance

There’s no photography allowed these days, primarily for commercial reasons and coz of a few bad apples using flash to take pictures. However, 12 years earlier when I visited Phillip Island, photography is permitted, you just can’t use flash.

fish chips

Anyway, we had a fish and chip dinner while waiting for the penguin parade countdown to start. You’re advised to come at least 1 hour earlier. The time of the penguin parade changes according to the season – you need to check out the schedule. It’s usually sunset and since it was autumn, our session begin at around 8 pm.

penguin parade countdown

The “no photography” rule is enforced quite strictly – saw a girl being hauled off by the rangers after she attempted to video the first few penguins making landfall.

penguin burrows

There are a lot of rangers around and one kind lady told us the best spot to sit to spot penguins returning to their burrows. She was right – only that rock formation on the beach had incoming penguins!

little penguins

It was fun to watch the cute little penguins waddle up from the surf and into their nests (burrows). People started leaving soon after though and we found out why – it’s better to go and watch from the board walk coz you can get up close and personal with the penguins!

penguin parade view

You can hear their mating calls and see their social structure (one penguin was waiting for his/her mate for ages).

penguin parade phillip island

There were lots of people taking photos since the rangers couldn’t manage everyone on the board walk and I saw this Caucasian guy surreptitiously videoing the penguins near the public toilet. I decided to take one photo too – it’s using Ling’s iPhone (my digicam ran out of battery at the Nobbies) and taken by me while she went to the wash room so this is the first HuaiLing Productions photo. ;)

penguins phillip island

I present to you: A very dark and grainy photo of the Phillip Island penguins!

There was also a souvenir shop and we both wrote our own addresses on two stamped Phillip Island Penguin Parade postcards and gave it to the other to write. It was agreed that we won’t see what the other wrote until we received it in the mail. <3 penguin parade  postcards

We also bought each other souvenir tees to commemorate our Australia trip and wore it the next day!

australia tees

The best part of the trip was when we saw a penguin that was less than 1/2 meter in front of us! The penguin could definitely see and smell us but it wasn’t afraid at all. That was a very nice experience indeed – worth the entry fee in itself. :)

Driving to Phillip Island, Victoria

phillip island driving

This is where we headed on our second day in Melbourne, Victoria. We headed out of the city to see penguins!

vline cowes

It’s essential to have a car when you go to Phillip Island. The attractions are all spread out and the famed Melbourne public transport system does not extend that far. The V/Line bus will drop you at Cowes – it’s the main in Phillip Island.

koala

A lot of people think Phillip Island is all about penguins. That’s the most famous attraction but there are other things to see too.

phillip island 3 parks

Ling got an iVenture card which allows us to choose 5 different attractions for AUD 130. One if them is a 3 parks pass in Phillip Island (includes Penguin Parade).

driving phillip island

I recommend you drive down from Melbourne though – it only takes about 90 minutes by car but the V/Line coach takes 3-5 hours, depending on whether the bus is direct or stops at stations along the way. The direct route starts from Dandenong and stops at Anderson and Koo Wee Rup.

vehicle rental agreement

The car was only registered under my name as the driver though. You only need a valid credit card and driver’s licence. There also might be restrictions to where you can drive – check out the name of the excluded areas. Haha!

rented car

We rented a car for AUD 88 (about RM 300) per day. You can use your Malaysian driving licence over there. I drove most of the time and got Ling to drive too so she could say that she has driven in Melbourne (albeit at a car park in quiet Nobbies).

kangaroo

She wanted to see kangaroos so we drove to Wildlife Park. It’s a open range in Phillip Island and has wallabies and kangaroos which runs hops around you!

feed kangaroo

The wallaby and kangaroo population is very friendly. They’re used to humans around them and expect to be fed. The latter can be slightly aggressive when they see you and come hopping over to get fed while wallabies need a bit of coaxing.

feeding wallaby

I reckon wallabies are shy by nature – I tried to get close to a wild wallaby in 2002 when I was studying in Melbourne but was unsuccessful. I got to feed a wallaby two years ago in 2011 though, but that was in a park as well.

emu

There’s also a scary looking emu there. Huge bird. Slightly intimidating. :x

I took a video of me feeding it the cassowary.

koala conservation center

The Koala Conservation Center in Phillip Island isn’t anything to shout about. There are koalas in trees but most of them are sleeping. I think Ling expected to see more koalas but it’s actually quite hard to see large populations nowadays and you can’t pet them unless it’s in a zoo.

cone

She was also apprehensive coz we passed a sign that said: Beware of Hidden Snakes!

sleeping koala

It’s probably the lowland copperhead (which is common in Phillip Island) instead of the eastern brown snake (3rd most venomous snake in the world – gotta look out for it in Melbourne). The latter is a highly aggressive snake while the lowland copperhead is pretty much harmless (most snakes avoid confrontation with humans) even though it’s also venomous.

phillip island roads

It doesn’t help that the trees are brown in color too and could easily hide an invisible snake. smirk

driving

We spent a while at the koala park in Phillip Island, strolled through the new koala treetop walk, took a couple of photos and headed down to the Nobbies. I love that place so much, I’ll write about it in the next post, coz my camera battery ran out of juice and I had to use Ling’s phone to take photos.

bed breakfast

This is the view out of our honeymoon suite at a guest house there. Phillip Island is more than just the Penguin Parade. There’s a lot of things to do there, we stayed at a nice place and had a lot of fun. Most people just come for day trips so the population is predominantly island folks but if you stay, the hospitality is amazing!

phillip island couple

Just remember that you need a car to get around for food and attractions coz everything is far away and there are only a couple of taxis operating…on the entire island! :)

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