Michelle M. Chun-Hoon: Blog https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog en-us (C) Michelle M. Chun-Hoon (Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:57:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:57:00 GMT https://www.mchunhoon.com/img/s/v-12/u441515344-o973521035-50.jpg Michelle M. Chun-Hoon: Blog https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog 120 80 Rad Girls Collective https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/5/rad-girls-collective I've been busy in Sydney working multiple jobs, submitting my Partnership visa with Cameron, and studying for my Certificate III in fitness. While I haven't found time to create anything new for my personal blog, I have written a few pieces for an outdoor community I follow, Rad Girls Collective. This community brings together like-minded women who enjoy a good outdoor adventure. Below I have included links to the published blogs as well as an excerpt from the post. Enjoy!

Surviving the Outdoors with Your Partner

"You guys are like peanut butter and jelly, there isn’t anything you don’t know about your partner. I’d believe you if you spent a week together — outdoors.

My significant other and I had been dating for over a year and we’d been camping many weekends together already. It never occurred to me just how much closer we would get over our 9-day backpacking trip through Tasmania’s famous Overland Track. It wasn’t easy and it sure wasn’t all smelling of roses, but we survived (still to my surprise). And in the interest of keeping you and your partner together, here’s how you can survive the outdoors with your loved one."

Read more here

5 Tips for Exploring a New Place

"From one weekend in Yosemite, to another in Desolation Wilderness, Big Sur, or Mammoth Lakes, there was always something new to experience and someone to go with. My world was turned upside down when I met someone from Australia. I have since relocated to Sydney, where the ever-changing weather may resemble my San Francisco home, but suddenly I had no friend base, family, car, or clue on where to climb, hike, and adventure."

Read more here

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) adventure australia backpacking camping explore hiking outdoor women outdoors rad girls collective relationship sydney tasmania travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/5/rad-girls-collective Tue, 31 May 2016 01:55:55 GMT
Hamilton Island https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/2/hamilton-island

Hello lovely friends, family, and the other dozen dedicated readers who have thought I abandoned my blog. Nope, just been running around under the hot Australian sun. I will attempt to catch up on blogging about my trips the past few months, but with my chaotic life in Sydney I won't make any promises! To give you an idea, I have decided to attend fitness school for my certificate III, as well as take up 3 part-time jobs. But lets back up...to the beginning of December when I took Cameron to Hamilton Island to celebrate his 30th birthday.

Our hotel room was astounding. When we looked at the photos online we couldn't have imagined our room was going to look even better in person! Besides the balcony overlooking the clear waters and beach, the room itself could sleep about 8 people in it. There was a living room with fold out beds, a full kitchen, a master bedroom, a huge bathroom and an eating area large enough to practice dance routines.

But, of course, we didn't come to sit in the hotel room. So we took the 2 minute stroll to the beach where we tanned (or, if you're Cameron, burned).

It is strange to be in a country where Christmas is in the summer. Don't take that as a complaint though, it is absolutely wonderful :)

We often forget to be a tourist in our own country, or city even. Cameron has lived in Sydney for close to 12 years now and never been to Hamilton island (or Whitehaven beach, Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef). After this trip, I think he is keen to explore more of Australia! 

I know we were told not to feed the cockatoos, but they came right up to our balcony every morning and it was just so hard to resist. These guys are fearless - letting you feed them right out of your hand!

After a day on Hamilton Island we took a trip to Whitehaven beach and the famous Whitsunday islands. There is nothing quite like them - with the purest white sand and the clear warm waters. Do watch out for the jelly fish though, or just wear one of these stunning swimmers:

The following day we took a tour of the Great Barrier Reef. There was a boat that took us a few hours out to a pontoon. Here they had a submarine, snorkelling, helicopter rides and a buffet lunch.

We splurged for the helicopter ride - I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to fly over one of the wonders of the world? 

 

It was amazing! Below you can see heart reef, which is prominently featured in all tourist photos. The advertisements make you believe it's huge, but in reality the heart is so small you really have to look for it.

After our time in the sky we dove right into the water. We expected lots of fish (it is the Great Barrier Reef after all), but WOW. At times I felt like I was actually lost in a school of fish.

Nothing works up an appetite like snorkelling for hours. So we went back to Hamilton Island for a decadent meal and chilled white wine. The sunset at dinner really was the cherry on top of a perfect holiday.

 ​ 

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia beach explore great barrier reef hamilton helicopter island queensland reef travel whitehaven whitsunday https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2016/2/hamilton-island Thu, 11 Feb 2016 02:56:21 GMT
My First Love https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/11/my-first-love My first love came at that typical age of 15. My first love was that love-at-first-sight deal. My love is just so darn cute, cuddly and furry.

While some may consider their first love to be a high school sweetheart or college fling, mine is certainly my miniature dachshund. No one has consumed my time, thoughts or heart like this short and long 10 pound fur baby. 

As many of you know, Pixie has had health issues this last month. It began with a little cough and turned out to be the feared "C" word - cancer. We've lost countless hours to restless nights, worry, stress, and panic, but we didn't lose the most important thing. 

I realise that cancer or no cancer she can't be by my side or cuddled up on my lap forever, but she will always be my first love - and that kind of feeling never goes away.

And for fun, here's a timeline of our time together thus far:

Pixie and her "real" mom playing :) She's 7 weeks old here and I've already fallen for those floppy ears and little brown boots.

Pixie begins to train myself and the rest of the household to give in to her every demand. How could I say no to that face?

Pixie sticks by my side through the midriff phase...

...and the thin eyebrow phase...

...and just about all the painfully awkward phases of being a teen.

Pixie celebrates the holidays with me. She allows me to dress her for certain occasions for up to five minutes (pictures last a lifetime though!).

Pixie and I discover we have many similar interests, such as the outdoors and running. Sometimes we run laps together around the living room table.

But our ultimate common interest is each other.

Get well, my sweet soulmate xx

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) best friend dachshund dog doxie love pixie puppy puppy love https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/11/my-first-love Fri, 13 Nov 2015 04:57:40 GMT
Road Trip to Big Pine Creek (aka 2 Girls on the Open Road) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/10/2-girls-on-the-open-road-aka-road-trip-to-big-pine-creek

My Instagram feed is constantly full of mountains, lakes, and beautiful places. It inspires me and reminds me how big and full of wonder the world is, cheesy as that sounds. When I see a photo that strikes my fancy I usually screenshot it and do some research on it later - or forget about it and it floats along somewhere in the cloud along with the million photos of my dog. One of these photos I actually researched turned out to be just east of Yosemite, so I convinced my best friend to take a few days from the office and go on a road trip.

I've been to Yosemite a half dozen times, but Mono Lake always seemed out of the way. Melsa and I were driving right by it this time though so we decided to stop. I don't want to say it was disappointing, because the tufa formations were unlike anything I've seen before, but I am glad I never went out of my way to see Mono Lake during previous trips. 

There was a mile loop that walked you through the tufa and allowed for some neat photography. The whole place seemed like another planet - and was eerily quiet. 

At this point we had been driving for over five hours and needed a break. Mono was a bit too creepy and deserted so we looked on the map and saw Convict Lake, which appeared to be right off the main highway. Best. Decision. Ever.

Convict Lake is surrounded by the high Sierras and protected from gusts of wind so we thought it would be the ideal place to SUP. The whole hour we were either pinching ourselves (is this real life?!) or giggling from our excitement.

We got a little daring and tried out some yoga moves on the board. How do people do that? Needless to say, we are far away from combining those two hobbies into one.

After spending time out of the car and high from the release of endorphins we continued another hour or so to Big Pine Creek campground, our home for the next couple of days. 

I set up the hammock right away so Melsa could rest while I set up camp - trade off for driving us the whole way. 

I joke that Melsa and I are the healthiest campers. Our dinner consisted of kale and vegetable quinoa. 

Followed by more time in the hammock. (Best gift ever, Cameron!)

We tried to stay awake until dark, but we ended up sound asleep before 8pm. After 11 hours of sleep it was time to wake up and have a power breakfast: vegetables and eggs, bacon, cornbread and coffee (Michellz, the camping version of Philz). 

Then we hit the trail, hoping to complete the 15 mile loop that would take us by 6 lakes.

The path was gorgeous, taking us along the creek, up into the mountains and through trees with changing colors. Fall is here, guys!

After 5 miles we came to the first lake, which showed off it's beautiful teal water and had Temple Crag standing magnificently in the background. We didn't think it could get better than this.

Then, we arrived at lake two, where the water was even more saturated with that teal color. This was better than in the Instagram photo I had seen in my feed weeks ago.

Besides discovering new favorite lakes and trails, we also discovered our love for Mamma Chia's chia squeezes. 

We ended up seeing all 6 of the lakes, although as Melsa said, compared to lake two the others were horrid. Obviously exaggerating, they were still gorgeous!

 

Somewhere along mile 9 we lost the trail and ended up bushwhacking for a bit. The key is to keep your cool and have a sense of direction.

When we made it back to camp we happily took off our gear and indulged in some snacking.

The following day we packed up and headed to Mammoth Lakes. We put our stuff down at the campsite and headed straight for the trails, as we had a 10 mile hike planned for the day.

Here's the first lake we passed, just a little over a mile in. It's appropriately named Emerald Lake.

This trail was also alive with fall colors. I tried to capture them through the lens, but nothing beats experiencing them first hand.

And here we are on the switchbacks up Duck Pass on our way to Duck Lake. It was a rocky climb, but the views were spectacular. 

And for your entertainment, here's our selfie stick fail:

And then our selfie stick win:

Once you reach the top you can see Pika Lake and Duck Lake, and it's the perfect spot for lunch :)

 

We were back at camp in no time and still had energy left to burn, so Melsa had the idea of renting bikes. The bike paths took us along (more) beautiful lakes and offered views in almost every direction.

By the time we finished our rides we figured it was beer time. And since Mammoth lodge was near camp, we headed inside to get away from the cold.

Our 4 day getaway was more than I could have asked for and I hope to make it to Mammoth Lakes every year from now on. Of course, I'll only go if this girl comes, because who else can you get a headache with, vomit in the middle of the night with, and lose vision in your eye with and still have the time of your life with? Love you, Mels! I'll think of how excited you got about our matching Mammoth mugs every time I drink out of it.

Other things worth mentioning:

- Melsa informed me during our trip not to eat the squirrel and chipmunk feces, otherwise we might get the plague. 

- If the water tastes like metal you probably shouldn't drink it, even if the camp manager says its safe.

- There is nothing along the 395 from Yosemite to Big Pine Creek. I repeat, nothing.

- Mono Lake is actually not pronounced like mononucleosis.

- When the locals call Big Pine Creek a resort, it is not the kind of resort you are picturing in your mind.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Big Pine Creek California Mammoth Mammoth lakes Temple Crag adventure backpacking explore hiking lake mono mono lake outdoors road trip travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/10/2-girls-on-the-open-road-aka-road-trip-to-big-pine-creek Sun, 04 Oct 2015 00:46:56 GMT
Home Away From Home https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/home-away-from-home Travelling back to Sydney feels like a trip home. I have my favourite cafes and eateries, I have friends to catch up with, I have a running route and gym routine to jump into, and I've got my guy to lean on. Of course, California will be my home forever and always, but it is nice to feel at ease and relaxed all the way across the globe (except when driving, I don't know if I'll ever get used to that).
 
 
Cameron and I are excited to close the miles between us and make long distance a thing of the past, but until then we are making here-and-there trips work. At the beginning of September I flew down under for a week of long blacks and chilly spring weather.
 
The trip was kicked off by my all-time favourite café in Surry Hills, Lumiere. They had these jam donuts on display that we couldn't resist - and they were THE BEST. They were so good I couldn't stop devouring one long enough to take a picture.
 
We headed to Bondi next to get some paperwork done for my visa and then celebrated by cooking salmon and popping open some champagne. Note: it was a short day due to my jet lag and inability to stay awake much past 4pm.
 
 
How beautiful is Bondi beach? Click play above and watch the waves roll in...
 
 
The following days were full of drinking coffee, eating copious amounts of food, and simply enjoying the company. 
 
How cute is this bookstore with a cafe inside?
Of course, I loved getting back on the motorbike. Sorry, Mom.
Guess what Cam is feeding?
Eels! The Glebe pond was full of them! We even got close enough to touch a couple.
We spent one afternoon just kicking back at Centennial Park.
And another afternoon kayaking in Rose Bay.
 
 
But probably our favourite afternoon was spent learning how to make pasta. It was a unique experience, as the class was held in the Italian woman's home, which was beautiful and intimate. She led us through a 4 course meal and we switched between observing and hands-on experience. 
 
 
Cam and I were so high from our class we went out and purchased all the tools and ingredients to make pasta at home. Cue an impromptu night of cooking for friends...
 
Reflecting back on my trip, thinking about all the coffees, meals, and sunny weather, I would have to say that the thing I miss most now that I am home is being there at the end of the day to catch up with Cam. It is a small thing, but having someone to share your stories, ideas and plans with at the end of each day is so important. 
 
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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Rose Bay Sydney cafe coffee cooking food foodie kayak travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/home-away-from-home Thu, 24 Sep 2015 03:02:48 GMT
Oahu, Hawaii https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/oahu-hawaii

My dad grew up on Oahu in Hawaii and so for as long as I can remember my family and I have flown from the mainland to the islands several times each year. While the focus of each visit remains the same, to visit my 102 year old grandmother, my family and I do our best to incorporate vacation time as well.

Our first and favourite destination for this trip was Turtle Bay, a resort that sits on the most Northern Point of the island. When you tell someone you are going to Oahu, they think Waikiki: crowded beaches, high-end shopping and tourist trap tiki bars. But Turtle Bay is different, it's a part of the island that mostly remains untouched from commercial buildings and tourist attractions (exclude the large Polynesian Cultural Center) and it boasts private, quiet beaches and tropical greens instead of concrete.

The days were spent reading by the beach, snorkelling, biking to the famous Banyan tree (featured in the popular TV series Lost and the well-known movie Hunger Games) – but mostly, we just let the time pass a bit more slowly.

After being refreshed and rejuvenated from the Northern island lifestyle we headed into chaotic Waikiki to visit family. My grandma may live in the now-bustling Honolulu area, but she resides in a quiet room decorated with photos from another time. We went through photo albums, witnessed her comically pull out her dentures, and watched her eat ice cream(!).

To pass the time in Waikiki I looked up a nearby hike I had never done – a 1.5 mile stroll to Monoa Falls. It was such a luscious, green, tropical part of the Honolulu area I had never experienced before. The waterfall at the end was stunning, despite the crowd of people posing in/around/all over. Be warned: get up early and get your butt to the trailhead, because as we were heading down there were mobs of people on the trail.

 

Until next time Hawaii. *~Aloha~*

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Hawaii Manoa Oahu family hiking honolulu travel turtle bay waikiki https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/9/oahu-hawaii Tue, 15 Sep 2015 01:57:33 GMT
Pyramid Peak, Desolation Wilderness https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/pyramid-peak-desolation-wilderness

I first discovered Desolation Wilderness when Cam came to visit me in California. I have had it on my mind ever since. And with over 63,000 acres there's a lot of discovering to do. 

So Gracie and I headed North to check out Pyramid Peak, an 11-mile day hike. The trail started out perfectly - wildflowers blooming, majestic trees, blue sky and absolutely nobody else around.

The trail takes you right to Lake Sylvia which is the perfect spot to refuel before ascending the summit. 

It is also the perfect spot for a quick photo shoot with your best friend.

Then things got a little tricky. The trail disappeared and the directions I had printed out weren't so clear. 

We figured we would just head up. Up a pile of loose rocks to the top of the mountain ridge. 

 

The views sure paid off though.

And after about a mile of scrambling up loose rock and boulders we arrived at the summit. Yeah, Pyramid Peak sure didn't disappoint. 

I was so excited to eat lunch I spilled it all over myself. I will neither admit or deny haven eaten that blob off of my dirty leg. Gracie may or may not have trapped a giant bug in her cleavage. And we might have done some staged yoga at the peak. 

In conclusion, Pyramid Peak was an exceptional hike, but not for a beginner as some route finding and climbing was necessary. I would highly suggest a weekend trip with camping overnight at Lake Sylvia. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Desolation Wilderness El Dorado National Forest Pyramid Peak Sylvia Lake explore hiking outdoors trekking https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/pyramid-peak-desolation-wilderness Tue, 18 Aug 2015 03:03:45 GMT
Camp Richardson (aka Thank You, Dad) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/thank-you-dad

My Dad really deserves more than two days to be celebrated (Father’s Day and his birthday). Not only has he dedicated 32 years of doing everything for my brother and I - he has spent his lifetime making the people around him laugh, reflect, ponder and have a good time. If you’ve been lucky enough to have attended one of my Dad’s BBQs or sporting events you know exactly what I mean.

So for his birthday this year my family and I took a long weekend at Camp Richardson to celebrate.

We took a hike around Emerald Bay. I got out my selfie stick and embarrassed my entire family.

Then my brother and I decided to rent a paddle board and kayak. That lasted for 20 minutes before lightening struck and the beach was cleared. There may have been a moment when my parents ran across the beach yelling as we hopelessly tried to paddle and not get knocked over by the waves (yes, waves in Lake Tahoe). One of us succeeded in not getting knocked over.

We took cover from the storm at Beacon Bar and Grill and found out why everybody in the area recommends their rum runners.

The next day we rented bikes and went down memory lane, except this time I was riding my own bike and not the tandem with Dad.

Afterwards we headed downtown to window shop, enjoy bloody marys and soak up some vitamin D. A seafood buffet followed (my hands were too busy cracking the all-you-can eat crab for a photo). After we had stretched our pants tight enough we went to gamble a bit in the casinos.

All in all, a successful weekend with the family. Thank you, Dad, for being you and always knowing how to have a good time!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Camp Richardson Dad Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe Tahoe family lake outdoors travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/thank-you-dad Fri, 14 Aug 2015 02:51:00 GMT
Butano State Park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/butano-state-park I found Butano State Park by scrolling around the Google Map of California and then searching the different parks I hadn’t heard of. Not only was this park pretty much in my backyard, it is completely overlooked because of its proximity to Big Basin.

And here are few photos from on our way to the park, along the road in Half Moon Bay... because, flowers are pretty :) 

To many people’s surprise, I didn’t look up any hikes or plan a route – I just grabbed my hiking buddy and followed my GPS. We grabbed a map at the Visitor Center and decided to take a longest loop on the map.

The longest loop turned out to be somewhere around 10 miles, which flew by  quickly with Gracie and I chattering away about feminism, gun control, travel plans, career goals and relationships.

Along the trail we saw a bunch of banana slugs , big and small – but best of all, we saw very few people. It felt as though we had the whole trail to ourselves.

While Butano State Park won’t offer you an ocean view, lake view or a high summit point for you to look down from, it is a beautiful and enchanting getaway from the city, office, home life.

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Butano California active explore hiking outdoors outside parks https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/8/butano-state-park Thu, 06 Aug 2015 04:38:51 GMT
Glacier Point & Clouds Rest, Yosemite https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/glacier-point-clouds-rest-yosemite I've been to Yosemite a few times now, but always seem to hike the Half Dome trail. This time, I set out on a mission to explore what else Yosemite had to offer - and I sure am glad I did! After driving a few hundred miles and purchasing a campsite illegally from a stranger (that's another story) my friend and I began our first hike of the weekend: 10 miles roundtrip on the Glacier Point trail. 

Now, you can also access Glacier Point by driving right up to the top, but honestly - where is the fun in that?

Every twist and turn of the switchbacks led us to a more stunning view.



I'll admit it, by mile 7 or 8 we were feeling our sore feet and forming blisters. When we arrived back to the campsite the chilled Coronas in the cooler were definitely well deserved.

Melsa got to experience my go-to camping meal, cous cous and veggies (added garlic almonds this time too!)

We woke up with sore feet but light spirits, and after the bacon we set off with heavy, full stomachs. Our second day of hiking was going to be twice as long: 20 miles roundtrip on the Clouds Rest trail.

The first few miles follow the same trail as if you’re going to Half Dome – the Mist Trail to Nevada Falls. When the trail splits – that’s when things get good. The views are breathtaking – or maybe it was just the never ending switchbacks

Reaching the top was bittersweet. We were rewarded with a 360 view of Yosemite – a view far more spectacular than my images depict. Yet, at the same time, it was much more crowded than expected. The switchbacks on the way up had been empty. Turns out there are two trails that lead to Clouds Rest – and we took the much harder of the two (sorry, feet).

Fun fact: Clouds Rest actually looks down on Half Dome, as it is over 1,000ft higher in elevation.

The decent was… miserable. Melsa and I were trying our best to get back to camp before the sun went down, but blisters and sores were plentiful and kept us at a slow pace. To top it off, when we did arrive to the campground cafeteria, tired and famished, it had closed 10 minutes earlier. We bought frozen burritos and ate them by the microwave in the gift shop. To all those people in line buying postcards and tee shirts – don’t judge.

The third day we decided that there would be no hiking – or shoes – involved. We drove to check out Tenaya Lake and then headed into Groveland for a hot meal not cooked in my one dirty camping pot. It tasted glorious.

Weekend wrap up: Glacier Point and Clouds Rest were two of the best hikes I’ve completed in Yosemite and highly recommend them. I would recommend the easier route to Clouds Rest though, starting from Tioga Pass and hiking downhill for a couple miles versus the 10 mile trek of uphill switchbacks.

I have to give a special shout to Melsa, who managed to get the largest blisters I have ever seen in my life and still powered through 30 miles in 2 days with very limited complaining. Cheers to you, my strong, sometimes bossy (lol) best friend! Cheers to many more (less painful) hikes in the future!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Clouds Rest Glacier Point Half Dome california explore hiking outdoors outside travel yosemite https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/glacier-point-clouds-rest-yosemite Fri, 31 Jul 2015 01:26:03 GMT
Berry Creek Trail, Big Basin https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/berry-falls-trail-big-basin

This summer I am checking a lot of Bay Area hikes off my list, including Big Basin. Despite California being in a severe drought I decided to check out the Berry Creek Trail, known for its giant redwood trees, numerous waterfalls and the main attraction - Berry Falls.

Big Basin is home to many Banana Slugs - be mindful when around these guys and don't pick them up with your hands, the salt on our skin is deadly to them.

We came across a few smaller waterfalls before Berry Falls, which weren't impressive, but still beautiful.

Here's the majestic Berry Falls, still going despite the drought:

My review of the Berry Creek Trail is a positive one. I found it wasn't too crowded, especially compared to some other Bay Area hikes (such as Point Reyes, Tomales Bay and Mission Peak). The trail was a maintained 10 miles that winded uphill and downhill among the towering redwood trees and left you satisfied, refreshed and tired all at once.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Berry Falls Big Basin California adventure explore hiking outdoors redwoods waterfalls https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/7/berry-falls-trail-big-basin Thu, 23 Jul 2015 04:37:11 GMT
Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/sykes-hot-springs-big-sur Other titles I considered using for this blog post:

The Heaven and Hell Trail

Rise and Shine or You'll Bake and Burn

The Trail of Sweat, Pain and Almost Tears

Here I am fresh, cheerful and ready to take on the ten miles uphill in the brutal heat with a backpack that is too heavy (but someone has to carry the bacon!).

My friend and I were headed for Sykes Camp which is where you can find natural hot springs, making it a popular Big Sur destination. Luckily, the ten mile hike weeds out a lot of tourists. 

The Pine Ridge Trail is a beautiful windy trail that even I couldn't get lost on. There are only about two forks in the trail during the entire trip.

Here we are still being cheerful and full of life. Playing with the tall grass and spring flowers.

The views were plentiful and the weather was cooperating. We started the hike early enough where there were still pockets of shade now and again. Be warned, this hike should not be attempted after 10am.

This sign (above) was tempting us to set up camp at the seven mile marker, but we decided to stick with it. Let me just say, the next three miles were loooooong.

But, finally, we arrived at Sykes Camp - dirty, sweaty, exhausted, and bruised from carrying our backpacks. Did I mention dirty?

The Sykes campground is amazing and made every step worth it. Clear water flowed through shaded trees and we practically threw our shoes off to go splash around.

   

We set up the tent, changed into our bathing suits, and followed the cairns towards the hot springs. 

The springs were smaller than I expected, fitting only about four people at a time (and really, only two comfortably). Only a handful of others had survived the journey to the springs though, so we had the place mostly to ourselves.

  

We waded through the water back to camp, enjoying the cold on our feet. 

 

Dinner was next on the agenda - and you guessed it - cous cous and veggies (as always). Followed by chocolate which was devoured too quickly to even snap a photo of.

Staying awake until a decent hour was the second hardest part of the trip. Our bodies wanted to sleep at 5pm, but we knew better. We managed to stay awake until 7pm, thanks to the entertainment of my selfie stick.

Now, my favourite part - brekky! There is nothing quite like coffee, bacon and eggs after a night in the tent.

Here we are right before our ten miles back to the parking lot. We're feeling optimistic knowing that our packs are a bit lighter and its all downhill from here...

But then, this is how I looked when we finally made it to car park. Turns out going downhill isn't so easy either.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Big Sur Sykes backpacking california explore hiking hot springs outdoors pine ridge trail https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/sykes-hot-springs-big-sur Thu, 18 Jun 2015 15:59:46 GMT
Yosemite (aka Cam's California Visit Part 3) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/yosemite-aka-cams-california-visit-part-3 You can read Cam's California Visit Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Part 3 takes us to Yosemite. We drove after work on a weekday and stayed in the cutest little hotel, Hotel Charlotte, in the cutest little town of Groveland.

We had a jacuzzi in the room - pair that with some brew and you have the perfect way to end a long day and begin a great vacation.

I pulled over at the Yosemite sign so that we could take the mandatory touristy photo.

This seems like a good time to mention that I was all wrong about selfie sticks. I rolled my eyes before, but now I am a changed woman - they are the best. Can you even tell we're using one? (below) 

We scored and got a first-come-first-serve campsite at Camp 4. We really scored when we got everything set up before any rain came through.

There were squirrels everywhere, which was obviously a huge plus for Cam and I. Here we are following the rules and not feeding the squirrels...

 

 

The rest of Day 1 in Yosemite included scouting good photo spots, trying to find top rope routes to climb, viewing Yosemite Falls and hiking to Mirror Lake.

  

At the end of the day, we cooked cous cous with veggies (the go-to camping meal) and added garlic almonds from the Farmers Market. I often dream of this eating this meal, paired with a Pale Ale and a warm fire.

The start of Day 2 was a bit rough. A storm was supposed to come through so if we wanted to make it to Half Dome as planned we would have to start early- like 5am early. With heavy eyelids and empty stomachs we marched up the trail. 

Nothing like the Mist Trail to wake you up. Being mid-May the trail certainly lived up to its name.

We beat the storm and made record timing. Check out the cables from the top: (photo taken by Cam)

On the way down we took our time, enjoying the waterfalls and epic views.

And the storm did eventually hit us...

 

The last day we were lazy and the rain outside didn't help with that. Our stove ran out so we shamefully ate Funyuns and protein bars for breakfast before heading into the car in search of vista points. We made it to the lookouts, but with heavy clouds and fog there wasn't much to see. Despite the weather, our moods were cheerful and the trip was an overall success. Especially after the blackberry pie with extra whipped cream at the Iron Door Grill.

 

Sadly, Yosemite was Cam's last highlight before returning to Sydney, but I took enough photos to keep us busy on instagram for the rest of the year.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California Groveland Half Dome Yosemite camp camping nature outdoors outside tourist travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/yosemite-aka-cams-california-visit-part-3 Thu, 11 Jun 2015 22:04:01 GMT
Reno and San Francisco (aka Cam's Visit to California Part 2) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/reno-and-san-francisco-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-2 If you missed Part 1 of Cam's California Visit see here

From Desolation Wilderness, we drove to Reno, Nevada for a baseball extravaganza my Dad set up. 

When we arrived we were dirty, smelly, tired and hungry. We checked in and headed up expecting a modest hotel room, but instead we were greeted with a suite surprise (Thank you for the upgrade Dad!).

Jacuzzi next to the king size bed overlooking Reno? Don't mind if I do.

From here, it just kept getting better. Did someone say buffet?

It was fun introducing Cam to family and friends. It was even more fun drinking and devouring non-camping food.

The next day was for baseball. I don't know much about sports so I don't have much to say about this afternoon.

...Except that there were lots of smiles....

... Lots of beer...

...Lots of healthy food options...

...and Cam even got a baseball for a souvenir to take home!

I can't remember if it was a close game, or who won, but it was an afternoon well spent. Look at these two winners!

A special thank you to my Dad, who so often brings us all together and takes so much time organising all the details.

It was bittersuite to say bye to our fancy hotel room, but San Francisco was waiting to be explored.

Of course, we covered the main tourist attractions like visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and walking Lands End.

 

Although we were on the go a lot, we still had time to relax at home, make Pavlovas, and - most importantly - bond with Pixie.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) baseball giants golden gate holiday lands end nevada reno san francisco tourist https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/6/reno-and-san-francisco-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-2 Fri, 05 Jun 2015 04:39:49 GMT
Desolation Wilderness (aka Cam's Visit to California Part 1) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/5/desolation-wilderness-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-1 I am still alive folks. I've just been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I'll start from the beginning - May 1st. I had been counting down the days and hours until Cam's flight would land at SFO. Of course, there were flights cancelled, rescheduled and all sorts of travel mayhem, but he finally arrived. The following day I took him on a three day backpacking excursion in Desolation Wilderness (payback for that 12 hour hiking and canyoning trip I did jet-lagged!). 

Out of all the places I have hiked and explored in California, including parks such as Yosemite, Big Sur and Muir Woods, Desolation Wilderness is my current favourite. The hike we did was not for the faint of heart though, be prepared for bear tracks, getting lost and knee-deep snow.

Getting off track the first time. (above)

Eagle lake is the first lake we encountered, still expect a handful of people around here as its the beginning of the hike, but can you blame them? Its gorgeous! (Note: the rest of the trip we saw a total of 10 people or less!)

My dad swore up and down there would be no snow. Thankfully we brought our boots just in case. 

Getting off track  again (above) and looking for cairns (below).

We chose a camping spot right below Dicks Pass and adjacent to a stream. No set campsites here, just pick a place that suits you. The first night we feasted on our favourite camping meal - cous cous and veggies. 

Dinner was followed by a nature's fabulous light show. It doesn't get much better than watching that golden light hit the peaks.

We fuelled up on bacon and eggs the next morning and then searched for some indication of a trail in the snow. We found one and Cam led, this way he fell in all the snow pits first. Such a gentleman :) 

Sometimes when hiking you'll hit a point when your feet are wet and the snow is reflecting the sunlight blindingly into your eyes and you'll wonder why you left your bed at home and embarked on this journey. When you get to that point, you just have to take a good look around. Yup, totally worth it.

We came to several partially frozen lakes after Dicks Pass, making for some neat photo opportunities and (possibly dangerous) fun. (below)

Then we came to what we thought was Dicks Lake. Which we cleverly refer to as not-dicks-lake from here on out. 

When the exploring was done for the day we cozied up in the hammock.

...and drank whiskey. Here's Cam after the first taste:

Here I am after the first taste:

The third day came too quickly and we packed up and hiked down. 

 

When we got to the car we shoved our backpacks and dirty clothes in the trunk and pulled out the rope and harnesses. Time to climb!

I wouldn't trust anyone else to set up the anchor and belay me outdoors. Thanks for putting up with my climbing fears and neurotics, Cam! 

The wall, appropriately named the 90-foot wall, was much harder than it looked. I am still convinced Cam pulled me up part of the way. 

The trip was a huge success and one of my favourite spots to daydream about from my office desk. Of course, it was made so special by my guest from overseas! Never a dull moment with this guy around...

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California backpacking climbing desolation wilderness dicks peak el dorado explore hiking lake tahoe outdoors https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/5/desolation-wilderness-aka-cams-visit-to-california-part-1 Sat, 30 May 2015 03:30:10 GMT
McNee Ranch State Park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/mcnee-ranch-state-park

I may not know who the Bachlorette picked, or which movies won what awards, or even know what sports season it is, but I can tell you all about the hiking trails in the Bay Area. 

With Spring here people are crowding the trails on the weekends, making it harder to find solitude in the great outdoors. Places like Point Reyes, Mission Peak and Tomales Bay are packed by 10am on a Saturday or Sunday.

McNee Ranch State Park is a bit of a gem. It is close to the city (about a 20 minute drive from the heart of San Francisco), offers typical California Bay Area views of coastlines and grassy hills, and while you won't be alone out on the trail, the crowds are minuscule in comparison to those mentioned above. 

Did I mention that your favourite hiking buddy can come along on the trails too? Yup, this is a dog friendly zone.

The North Peak Trail is an 8 mile route that will have your buns burning from the steep incline, but makes up for it in vista points. Thanks for coming along Yana and Dasher - hiking the trails with someone always makes the burn better :) 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) McNee Ranch Pacifica San Francisco california explore hiking nature outdoors outside https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/mcnee-ranch-state-park Sun, 19 Apr 2015 16:18:16 GMT
San Mateo Farmers Market https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/san-mateo-farmers-market

One of my favourite things to do while travelling is visit the local markets - turns out, it is also one of my favourite things to do right here at home in California. Gracie encouraged me to make a visit to the San Mateo Farmers Market last week which I have somehow never been to before. Thank you Gracie, my work week lunches will never be the same! 

Look at the rainbow swiss chard (above) - isn't is gorgeous? 

I am hooked on these beans - they have been sprouted, releasing enzymes which make them healthier and easier to digest. They are absolutely amazing in my quinoa salads at lunch. 

These colours and patterns, its hard to believe they are completely natural. 

There's my running buddy, head-lamp walking, food photographer extraordinaire!  

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) farmers market food foodie fruits local market organic photography vegetables https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/4/san-mateo-farmers-market Sat, 04 Apr 2015 02:15:30 GMT
Hannover, Germany https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/hannover-germany

I was just getting back in routine at home when my new job decided I should attend a work event - in Hannover, Germany. Two days later I had my passport in hand and was in route to Paris > Hannover. This wasn't my first time to Germany, as my brother spent a few years living there when I was in university and my family and I would make regular visits, but it was my first time to Hannover. 

The Old Town was quaint and charming, but quite small, about a three block radius in total. Of course, the city took quite a hit during WWII so it was to be expected.

If you are vegetarian, Germany is not the place for you. I generally try to intake as little meat as possible, but there was no hope in Hannover. Sausage and potatoes were the hot items on every menu. 

Cheese for breakfast? Yes please! The hotel I stayed at, Hotel Wegner, was the perfect German accommodation. Traditional breakfast spreads, friendly staff, and clean rooms.

I did get one day off during my trip to venture over to the Herrenhaussen Gardens, which were completely dead due to the freezing temperatures. I am sure in the spring this place is breathtaking. 

The famous painter Niki de Saint Phalle painted this grotto in the gardens. It was beautiful, and such a contrast to the cold, empty branches I saw all about the gardens. 

I did get to see some live plants when I visited the Orchid garden across the street. To be honest, I bought a ticket to stay warm in the greenhouse, but these flowers were a nice bonus.

All in all, Hannover was - ok. It was too cold for my liking, the food too heavy, and the city a bit too bland. But for two weeks of work, it was exciting, fun, and absolutely exhausting. 

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) europe food gardens germany hannover travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/hannover-germany Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:22:04 GMT
Pinnacles National Park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/pinnacles-national-park Having an office, behind-the-computer, 9 to 5 job makes the weekends a bit sweeter - or maybe thats all the Larabars I consume while trekking around California. This weekend my favourite running buddy and I headed to Pinnacles National Park for a spectacular 6 mile loop.

We started from Bear Gulch and headed to the caves and reservoir before continuing to High Peaks trail.

The trail starts off with stunning rocks, lush greenery and beautiful spring flowers. And the sights only get better as you go...

"This is why I do yoga" - Gracie 

A section of the trail is labeled "steep and narrow" but the steps (above) are totally worth it. The top of the pinnacles make for a perfect snack spot (below). 

Today I am back to the run/work/sleep routine, but I have the memories and photos from this weekend to tide me over until I can pick a new spot on the map to explore.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) california dirtbag darling hiking national park nature outdoors outside pinnacles trekking https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/3/pinnacles-national-park Tue, 03 Mar 2015 05:14:05 GMT
Tomales Point Trailhead https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/tomales-point-trailhead Destination? Tomales Point Trailhead.

Who? My two lovely friends and I.

Distance? 9.5 miles of maintained trail along the coast.

Weather? Heavy fog followed by clear blue skies. 

I mean... seriously heavy fog. On a good note, it made for some magical picture taking opportunities.

Yay - the fog cleared! And just in time to view the elk:

After two hours we made it to the point. Save your picnic lunch for here - tons of views to admire while refuelling for the trek back.

The entire trail is exposed so make sure to bring sunscreen. My friend Rachel, pictured above, got creative and sported two baseball caps with an extra windbreaker draped over them.

I am always happy to get outside and thankful I live in an area that offers so many options for hiking, climbing, and exploring. Also thankful for my beautiful friends who accompany me and make sitting through traffic tolerable. What's not to smile about?

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) bay area california explore hiking point reyes tomales bay trekking https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/tomales-point-trailhead Sun, 15 Feb 2015 18:26:33 GMT
Wollemi National Park (aka my first time canyoning) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/wollemi-national-park-aka-my-first-time-canyoning After spending two weeks at home in California, landing a new job, and catching up with friends I decided to take an impromptu trip back to Sydney. I arrived Friday morning and immediately started gearing up for an adventurous weekend canyoning in Wollemi National Park with Cameron. 

Trekking through the bush, twigs scratching your legs, hauling your backpack uphill, lugging your backpack down rocky slopes, searching for your location on the map, feasting on candy and granola bars - I'd take it over a day in the office any day. 

The trek to Starlight Canyon started out with a steep incline. It took us the better part of an hour before we reached the top and were rewarded with beautiful views.

After many GPS readings and searching on the map we finally found the entrance to the canyon. I let Cameron secure me in for the first few abseils down, but am proud to say by the third abseil I was tying myself in and safely getting from top to bottom. 

We all wore helmets while canyoning, which of course I thought everyone looked ridiculously dorky in - cue the picture taking.

Starlight Canyon is gorgeous. We trekked along the water, in the water, over and under trees - I had never been canyoning before so I didn't know what to expect, but I was loving it!

Then there was a snake. The poisonous tiger snake was perched on a log and we were unable to pass without risking a bite. We had to navigate back up and around the area to the next anchor. When we abseiled back down we were greeted with narrow walls and an overall dark, damp atmosphere. We trekked onwards and slowly stepped deeper and deeper in water until it reached my chest. We entered a tunnel and pretty soon the only light visible was from our headlamps - and the hundreds of glow worms that appeared like stars above us. It was a magical experience and for a few moments I even forgot about the poisonous snakes that could be lurking around. 

My fear became a reality when we exited the tunnel and encountered two more poisonous snakes, both red-bellied black snakes. Luckily, at this point we only had one last abseil before we could head back to the safety of our tent.

The final abseil was beautiful, but difficult for a beginner such as myself. I abseiled straight through a waterfall, slipping and swinging uncontrollably the whole way. Cameron, pictured below, was much more graceful.

The whole trek took us 12 hours and we ended up in the pitch black the last few hours. We were unbothered by the dark though, and walked hand in hand with our headlamps on all the way back to camp. It was a good day. 

The next morning we woke up to kangaroos thumping around our campsite. There must have been about 30 kangaroos in total! A few hours passed and we finally woke up enough to cook a delicious veggie breakfast which was followed by a low-key hike.

Wollemi was once the home to an oil mining facility and the ruins can still be found in the park. It was beautiful to see the contrast between the building remains and the wild green nature around it.

The short trek offered many great views and some less threatening animals along the way.

A shower was overdue so when we crossed the river we decided to make good use of the Wilderness Wash I brought along. I can't recommend this product enough!

In my opinion, the weekend always goes by too quickly. Before I knew it we were leaving the canyons, snakes, kangaroos and ruins behind us and heading back to Sydney. My favourite part of the trip? It wasn't the vista points, working on my abseil skills, or enjoying a freeze-dried beef teriyaki dinner after a long day of trekking. It was spending time with this goofy outdoorsman:

Missing you already, Cameron! Counting down the days till our next adventure...

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) abseil adventure australia canyoning hiking newnes outdoors travel trekking wollemi https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/2/wollemi-national-park-aka-my-first-time-canyoning Wed, 11 Feb 2015 19:29:27 GMT
Point Reyes National Seashore https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/1/point-reyes-national-seashore Guess what? I am home. I am home in the California Bay Area for an undetermined amount of time. The next few months are a bit cloudy and uncertain for me. What I do know is that my adventures will not end. Also, for the first time in years my running buddy, Gracie, and I are settled in the Bay Area at the same time! We decided there was no better way to catch up than a 9-mile hike along the California coast.

We went to Point Reyes National Seashore and followed the Coast Trail to Alamere Falls. The dirt path led us through tall trees, thick shrubs, across creeks, along two lakes, and offered beautiful coastline views. 

The waterfalls were gorgeous, but the best part of the day was chatting away with a close friend. As we left and drove away, twisting and turning our way back towards the city, Gracie and I excitedly planned our future weekend getaways and hiking adventures. 

A day spent outdoors is a day well spent, and a day spent outdoors with your best friend is everything you could ask for. Happy to be home with you Gracie! Can't wait for the next adventure :)

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) adventure california explore friends hike outside point reyes seashore trekking waterfall https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/1/point-reyes-national-seashore Wed, 21 Jan 2015 17:06:22 GMT
Budawang National Park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/1/budawang-national-park

I may have only squeezed one camping trip in 2014, but it was a memorable one. The terror of finding the first leech latched on the back of my leg, the panic of almost stepping on a yellow-backed Python, and the taste of my first freeze-dried meal are memories that won't be forgotten (although I might rather forget a few of those). Thank goodness I was with Cameron, who knew exactly how to pull off a leech, came running no matter how many snakes I screamed over, and at the end of a day's hike still liked me enough to hang in the hammock and share a dehydrated meal.

This (below) was our campsite for the first night in Budawang National Park. It didn't take us long to realise we shared the site with leeches. Swaying safely above them in the hammock was the most activity we had this day, and we were ok with that.

Day two began as all fabulous days do, with bacon and eggs. Then we packed up our gear, left the leeches behind, and headed up to a spot named The Castle. A few hours into the hike and we were rewarded with views of treetops for as far as the eye could see.  

A waterfall, several rope climbs and a few tight squeezes later we arrived at our destination. The Castle offered uninterrupted views of rock and greenery in all directions.

There were also pools of water at the top - filled with tadpoles!

We made our way down from the Castle and decided to pitch the tent, hang the hammock and find a water source. 

Pictured below is the waterfall we found "near" camp. It took Cam's climbing rope and a lot of encouraging words to get me there, but we made it to the water source. It also acted as our shower for the next few days.

Day three had an exciting start. Sleepy-eyed I headed to the toilet and spotted the creature I was hoping to avoid the entire trip. The snake was a few steps in front of me so I turned around and sprinted back to camp, all while screaming in terror. Cameron snapped a few photos before it slithered off the trail. 

After I mentally recovered from my close encounter we headed out for a day hike to the Shrouded Gods. The hike was beautiful and lush - and completely overgrown. 

Even between the compass, map, bushwalking book and trail markers (tiny pieces of orange tape here and there) we lost the trail. Frustrated, we decided to head back to camp and feast on freeze-dried meals, marshmallows and whiskey. 

This view from our camp isn't too bad either :) At the end of the day, there isn't anything to complain about when you have food, water, a view and good company.

Waking up the fourth day was much more peaceful than the previous. I slept in, enjoyed sipping coffee from inside the tent and watched the sun peek through the trees. We took our time heading back to the car, I cheerfully sang Taylor Swift lyrics out loud and silently pictured the burger I was going to order when we got on the road.

Some people say experiences are better shared. I have been travelling solo a lot this year and loving it, but I will admit that the long weekend trip was made a lot more special with somebody to walk beside (or behind... so that they catch all the cobwebs). Thank you Cameron!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Budawang adventure australia backpacking camping explore hiking national park outside travel trekking https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2015/1/budawang-national-park Tue, 06 Jan 2015 04:39:27 GMT
Mamanuca Islands, Fiji (aka a celebration of friendship) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/mamanuca-islands-fiji-aka-a-celebration-of-friendship My dear friend Cinzia returned to Italy this December, but before she was due to head home we decided to go on a holiday - to celebrate our friendship. A week on a small Fijian island seemed fitting for our celebration. Here's our first sight of Fiji from the plane:

And here's our first bit of Fijian currency (taken as we were giggling uncontrollably with excitement):

The people in Fiji were all exceptionally friendly. Everywhere you went people greeted you with a big genuine grin and "Bula!"

Our first night we stayed in Nadi at Smugglers Cove, for $20 a night you got a beachfront view and clean accommodation (highly recommend this backpacker hostel).

We soon left mainland Fiji for the Mamanuca Islands. Our new home for the week would be Ratu Kini Dive Resort on Mana Island, also known as a little paradise where the views are breathtaking and time moves a little slower.

Since we wanted to be spoiled on our holiday we stayed in a private beachfront cottage. The hammock out front was my favourite place to lounge on the island.

The staff at the resort went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable and unique. We really took to one staff member in particular, Amini, who showed us around the entire island and picked coconuts for us. The walk around the island only took us about 40 minutes in total.

Fresh flowers were picked by the staff each morning and put in our hair behind our ear. Left ear represents you are single, right ear shows you are married.

This (below) is a breadfruit and they were growing all over the island. They are as big as a bowling ball and taste like a potato. 

Amini showed us how to hunt crabs on the island by sticking your arm into these holes in the sand. I don't think I will be taking up this activity anytime soon. 

Here's Amini climbing up the coconut tree to knock down our refreshing afternoon snack:

He reassured us he was safe and that he has been climbing trees since the age of ten, but Cinzia and I would still worry as we watched in awe.

At the resort everyone ate meals at the same time, so by the end of the week our fellow travellers really felt like family.

At dinner each night Amini, along with a few other staff members, played live music for the guests.

After dinner entertainment included hermit crab races, dancing, and fire shows.

My favourite meal was breakfast. Despite the weak coffee, breakfast meant freshly picked fruits and a beachfront view.

One morning we found a local resident lounging on outside our room:

After breakfast we would grab our towels, books and sunscreen and walk the ten steps from our room to the beach.

We went kayaking one day. That day we learned that a one-person kayak really is just for one person.

One afternoon we took a trip to a nearby island, you may know the island from the popular Tom Hanks movie Castaway.

 

I was wary the island may just be a crowded tourist spot due to the movie being filmed there, but we got there and were the only people on the entire island. The beach showed off beautiful shades of blue water and white sand. We hiked to a view point at the top of the island and snorkelled in the shallow waters. This was a great spot for snorkelling - Cinzia even saw a small shark!

Another afternoon we spent making coconut jewellery. Cinzia and I had also found all these perfectly round shells on the beach with natural holes in the middle, perfect for a bracelet. 

Let me tell you, coconut jewellery making is not safe. We were given the hard shell of a coconut and a flimsy, sharp saw blade. Then the staff told us to cut out a shape and sand it. I was sure one of us was going to leave the island with one less finger.

My last day on the island I asked Amini to take me up this hill where there was a 360 view of the island:

During our stay there was a "Fijian Night" where we ate traditional Fijian food for dinner and drank kava.

Kava was an interesting experience. The mixture itself tasted like muddy water and when you finished the bowl your mouth would tingle with numbness. It also is known to make you sleepy, so the Fijian's were falling asleep throughout the Fijian Night party.

Our holiday in Fiji left us relaxed, cheerful and very tan. We had met lovely people, eaten fresh food, and let our worries float out of mind. Now I am missing Fiji, my friend Cinzia, and witnessing these gorgeous sunsets together:

Wishing my friend all the best in Italy and looking forward to our next adventure! xx

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Fiji adventure beach explore friendship holiday island mamanuca mana island nadi ratu kini dive resort snorkel travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/mamanuca-islands-fiji-aka-a-celebration-of-friendship Mon, 22 Dec 2014 23:20:21 GMT
Whitsundays https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/whitsundays

My friend and I thought Fraser Island was amazing and didn't think that anyplace could get better, but it did when we headed to the Whitsunday Islands!

After a 12 hour bus ride (which wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds!) we decided to spend the day at Hamilton Island. The ferry ride there showed off teal blue waters and sneak peeks of beautiful island shores.

Of course, as soon as we exited the ferry we searched for food. We found a cafe right off the water and kicked back with a few brews. Ahhhh, holiday never felt so good.

After lunch we walked the few steps from the cafe to the beach, where the water was clear, shallow and surrounded by scenic nature.

Our trip to Hamilton Island ended with a true Aussie experience - koala cuddling! 

The following day we took another ferry to the famous Whitsunday. The views are pretty indescribable, so I hope these pictures give you some idea.

The sand on Whitehaven beach is so pure and soft that it'll cost you a $60,000 fine if you get caught trying to take some home with you.

When you go snorkelling or swimming in the water its recommended to wear one of these stylish suits to stay safe from the poisonous jellies!

What better way to end a perfect holiday than with your best friend and a beautiful sunset? Thank you Melsa for visiting and making our holiday so much fun! xx

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Whitsunday Whitsunday islands australia explore friend hamilton island queensland travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/whitsundays Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:23:48 GMT
Fraser Island https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/fraser-island My friend flew to Australia to come visit me - and some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. To kick off our island adventure in style we waited for our first flight while sipping champagne...

Once we landed in Hervey Bay we switched from champagne to fresh fruit juice and hit the beach (only a five minute walk from our hostel).

The following day we boarded the ferry to Fraser Island! Our two day tour of the island was full of surprises and excitement - from a 4WD bus carrying 40 people and driving chaotically through the sand (and, a few times, I thought surely to our death) to naturally formed swimming pools containing water so clear you could always keep an eye on your toes.

Lake McKenzie was my favourite part of the entire trip at Fraser Island. This is a fresh water lake and is a bit too acidic for many species to live in. But, with its pure silica white sand and clear blue water it sure is a beautiful sight.

There are no roads on Fraser Island so everyone drives right on the sand! There is a large stretch along the coast that is referred to as the "highway".

The bus couldn't take us everywhere on the island though. To get to this swimming hole (below) we had to trek a mile uphill in the sand. 

On the second day of our tour we saw a few of the tourist must-dos such as the shipwrecked boat, the Pinnacles, and the Red Canyon.

But the far more exciting part of the day was Indian Head. After a short five minute scramble up some rocks you get this amazing lookout. From both sides as far as the eyes can see is white sand and soft teal waves coming into shore.

After playing around a bit in the sand we drove to the Champagne Pools, naturally formed pools along the coastline. The waves come crashing in and the foam from the water is how the pools got their name.

Our Fraser Island tour ended with a short trek through a creek and a relaxing afternoon sunbathing. Come to think of it, I should have been terrified walking through the jungle creek water, as there are 19 species of snakes on Fraser Island - 15 being very poisonous and the other 4 deadly. I suppose I'll just be thankful I survived and lived to experience the next part of our trip...the Whitsundays!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Fraser Island Lake McKenzie adventure australia beach east coast explore island tourist travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/fraser-island Thu, 04 Dec 2014 01:26:46 GMT
When your best friend visits Sydney... https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/when-your-best-friend-visits-sydney ...you take a holiday from work and ignore your blog for weeks (sorry!). 

Melsa is a dear friend who I met through university and have been close with ever since. She is one of those friends who you can tell anything to, laugh at nothing in particular with, and expect to fly out of the country for the first time to visit you abroad. We had two weeks to spend together in Australia and we wanted to make every minute count. Here's the recap:

First stop - Ampersand for Melsa's first sip of delicious Aussie coffee. Second stop - the Opera House.

I made sure Melsa tried some Australian beers - and you can see here she is just as excited about the colourful $35 of AUD as she is the brew.

Breakfasts were a big part of our holiday. I took Melsa to all my favourites including Kawa (above) and Lumiere (below).

 It was a good thing we walked a lot in Sydney, including the beautiful Bondi to Coogee walk

We did our fair share of lounging on Bondi beach as well...

Single Origin Roasters is noted on Buzzfeed as one of the coffee shops in Australia you must visit. They're right. 

The coffee was spectacular (as long as you don't order the drip coffee) and the MUFFIN, well, it is simply the best muffin I've ever tasted.

Market City is home to the well-known Paddy's Market where you can literally find anything. We found our way to the fresh coconuts.

Afterwards, we splurged on Thai massages... side note: you're supposed to keep your clothes on for these massages. We learned this the uncomfortable awkward kind of way.

Watson Bay has everything you need to make a perfect afternoon: the beach, pitchers of lashes, and crab sliders.

There is also a short lighthouse trek at Watson Bay that offers skyline views of Sydney and shows off the beautiful coastline. 

Each night we unwound over some pints and a good meal. Pictured below is the Beresford Hotel, one of my go-to places for happy hour and the best bruschetta. 

Melsa also had the chance to meet a few of my friends here. It was wonderful to see them all click and get along so well!

After four busy days of sightseeing and eating our way through Sydney we took off for some island time. Fraser Island and Whitsunday! 

More detail on those trips to come soon :)

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Ampersand Kawa Melsa Single Origin Roasters Watson Bay australia coffee food friends holiday sydney tourist travel vacation https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/12/when-your-best-friend-visits-sydney Sun, 30 Nov 2014 22:27:14 GMT
The Walking Dead https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/11/the-walking-dead For Halloween this year I let my friend Cinzia take over and transform me into a zombie. Our friend Sophie joined and the three of us had just as much fun getting ready for the night as we did dancing all over Oxford Street. I was told Halloween wasn't celebrated so much in Australia, but walking the streets of Sydney later in the evening proved differently. 

Cinzia did all of our makeup (thank you chica!) and her fake blood was so good Sophie even got queasy!

Sophie wore this amazing velvet dress with shoulder pads that was perfect for the occasion and sported one of the many huntsman from her home...

My best impression of the walking dead...

Aren't my friends adorable?

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia costume halloween makeup sydney zombies https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/11/the-walking-dead Sat, 01 Nov 2014 10:30:12 GMT
Maroubra Beach https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/maroubra-beach Sunshine, hot sand, cool waves, and tan lines consume my days off from work now that summer is just around the corner. My friend and I picked up sandwiches and took a short bus ride over to Maroubra Beach. When I opened my sandwich bag I found I had been given a completely different sandwich than I had ordered, but when at the beach on a beautiful day with a close friend - not even a mishap with food can get me down.

Maroubra beach is a great place to be on a sunny day. If you're like me and don't like the crowds of Bondi Beach, but travelling the 2 hour bus ride to Palm Beach is a bit much, then Maroubra is the perfect in-between. 

I am currently reading Hide and Seek by James Patterson. His books are always exciting and entertaining, perfect for a beach day.

Have a great weekend everyone! Happy Halloween!

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Maroubra australia beach james patterson summer sydney weekend https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/maroubra-beach Thu, 30 Oct 2014 23:15:29 GMT
Sculpture by the Sea https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/sculpture-by-the-sea Sculpture by the sea is the world's largest annual free-to-the-public outdoor sculpture exhibition. Along the beautiful Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk you can view numerous pieces from several artists. Cinzia and I decided to check it out this week:

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) art australia beach bondi sculpture by the sea sculptures sydney tamarama https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/sculpture-by-the-sea Mon, 27 Oct 2014 03:53:40 GMT
Milestones https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/living-in-australia This morning, between my teeth brushing and coffee making, I screamed. There it was - the only thing I dreaded more than finding a cockroach in my studio - finding a spider. Correction, a really big spider. After I sprayed it to death from a safe distance and bothered a male stranger in the hallway to pick it up and move it to the trash, I realised that this was a milestone. People who live in Australia all have had this experience at some point or another and now I have as well. I can whole-heartedly say I have experienced living in Australia. With that, I will share with you a few other milestones I have come to encounter (in no particular order):

Language. Despite the language being English I admit to Googling many Aussie terms. "There's rocket on my sandwich?" "We are going to meet in the arvo?" Mastering the lingo and words used here takes many conversations and cafe orders. The day will come when you wont need to Google "Where's the nearest dunny?"

Not getting (too) lost. That moment when you can walk to the grocery store and post office without consulting your phone's GPS.

Running. That moment when you know the area well enough to establish your running routes.

Ordering food and coffee. There are no sugar free vanilla lattes or chocolate chip frappuccinos here. Knowing the typical Australian coffee menu is a must. Ordering food at a cafe may seem simple, but when common ingredients you're used to are named differently, ie: capsicum (red pepper), rocket (arugula), and halloumi (type of cheese) its easy to get confused.

Getting used to cockroaches. It is hard to believe, but you will get used to it - at least a little bit. You will stop screaming when you see one on the sidewalk and you won't be utterly shocked when you see one at the cafe you're eating at. 

Shopping. Coles and Woolworths are cheaper than IGA for groceries and Cotton On is more affordable than Sportsgirl for clothing. I can tell you where the best malls are, the nearest grocery stores and which ones have better produce or less designer shops. 

Riding the bus. I remember getting on the 380 bus and asking someone around me which stop was Bondi Beach. It is a common question on the 380 or 333 and it is a question I answer often for tourists riding the bus with me. I answer with a huge smile on my face, its so obvious when you get there.

 

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) abroad aussie australia local milestone spider travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/living-in-australia Thu, 09 Oct 2014 22:33:00 GMT
Palm Beach & the Future https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/palm-beach-the-future

Sydney has jumped straight into summer this week with the temperatures reaching 90 degrees. I can't think of a better time to be living here - you are always a short bus ride from the beach. Palm beach, located in Northern Sydney, is a beautiful sandy stretch with a quiet atmosphere. My friend and I took the day to write in the sand, look for seashells, catch up on reading, and converse about our futures.

Side note: I have been loving Lena Dunham for some time now and her book Not that Kind of Girl just came out. Will be reading non-stop for the next few days.

My original travel plans for this year have me leaving Sydney at the end of November, but now that it is already October the idea of leaving in two months just doesn't feel right. So I made some revisions to my plans and I will be staying in Sydney through the beginning of 2015. How odd will it be to have Christmas in the middle of summer? 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Sydney beach coast future palm beach plans travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/10/palm-beach-the-future Fri, 03 Oct 2014 00:33:21 GMT
Glebe Markets & Other Thoughts https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/glebe-markets-other-thoughts The Glebe Markets have been on my bucket list for months now and finally this Saturday I was able to cross it off. Glebe itself is charming with its secondhand bookstores, quaint restaurants and small cafes. The Markets are even better - handcrafted organic soaps, unique jewellery, decadent foods, beautiful clothing and quirky gifts. I snagged myself a pair of colourfully patterned pants and an Italian leather jacket (thanks to my friend Sophie who has a great eye and knows my style!).

On another note, I am doing exceptionally well in Sydney. I have met such wonderful people here and am so thankful to have crossed paths with them, even if just for a short amount of time. It's amazing when you find that connection with people, because really, if you think about the vastness of space or the immensity of time - what are the chances? Leaving Australia will be difficult to say the least... if I ever leave... 

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Glebe Sydney chance clothes food market photography ponder shopping thoughts https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/glebe-markets-other-thoughts Sun, 28 Sep 2014 09:06:22 GMT
Royal National Park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/royal-national-park I love packing up my backpack - it usually means an adventure is ahead. This time it was a day trip to the Royal National Park located 1.5 hours south of Sydney. We followed the sandy trail out of the town of Bundeena, through beaches and along the beautiful coast.

I noticed all these tiny holes in the sand on the trail and finally stopped to get a better look - and that is when I saw the most massive ant I have ever seen! It's hard to tell from the photo, but these guys were 10x the size of normal ants back home. My friend alerted me not to get too close, as the bite from one of these is painful.

When we got to Shelley Beach we took a break to search for seashells and admire the beautiful red cliffs.

There were also blue bottle jellyfish all washed up along shore - they pop if you step on one, but watch out for the sting!

We continued a bit further until we found a sandy cove to swim at. We were not alone though, and ended up sharing the small beach with a couple other people. From the lack of clothing worn we soon realised we had stumbled across a nude beach. 

A quick swim, lunch break and a few snail races later we headed back along the trail towards the ferry. We met with an unexpected visitor though - a red-bellied black snake, which is a poisonous snake common in eastern Australia. I may label myself as outdoorsy and love nothing more than a long exerting hike, but seeing a deadly snake on the trail made me wish I was back safe in my bed. I was terrified, and it took us 20 minutes of brainstorming and contemplating what to do before the snake slithered off into the tall grass. We tiptoed along the trail and crossed the final stretch of beach into town. We celebrated our escape of a venomous death with ice cream and waited for the ferry back to Sydney.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Bundeena Shelley Beach Sydney beach hike outdoors royal national park snake wildlife https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/royal-national-park Sun, 21 Sep 2014 06:24:37 GMT
Jenolan Caves https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/jenolan-caves The Jenolan Caves, located in the Blue Mountains, are the oldest known open caves in the world - over 340 million years old. It took my friend and I 2 hours via train and 1.5 hours along a windy road via bus to get there from Sydney (car sick people be warned), but it was worth it! The caves are absolutely beautiful:

At Jenolan Caves there are several tours to choose from, we went with the Lucas Cave Tour and the Chifley Cave Tour. On both tours we were given the history and science of the cave, but the guides also kept things light and entertaining. Many formations and parts of the caves had creative names, for example: the curtain...

The broken column...

The three little sisters... (see original three sisters here)

Slice of bacon...

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia caves chifley explore history jenolan caves limestone lucas rocks the blue mountains tourist https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/jenolan-caves Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:06:11 GMT
Melbourne, Australia https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/melbourne-australia

To celebrate my official six months of living in Sydney I decided to take a long weekend away to the second most popular city in Australia - Melbourne. Determined not to miss a thing during my short stay I had meticulously planned out every hour of the trip (that doesn't sound like me, right?). 

First thing on my itinerary was food (obviously). Just a five minute walk from my hotel and I was at the Queen Victoria Market. This was more of a festival than a market - there was so much going on and you could get lost walking around all the stalls! There was everything there: seafood, coffee, candy, pastries, underwear, suits, toys, kitchenware, souvenirs, etc.

I wasn't sure how to choose a food stall to eat at so I went with the one with a long line, hoping the other people waiting knew what they were doing. The bratwurst with sauerkraut ended up to be a solid decision, although, obscenely large (see my hand for scale).

In an attempt to walk off a fraction of my lunch I went down my list of sites to see: Degraves Street, Bourke Street Mall, Flinders Railway Station, Queen Victoria Gardens, and the Shrine of Remembrance.

My favourite parts of Melbourne were all the narrow alleys full of shops and cafes. I would be walking on this busy main street and then turn in an alleyway and be surrounded by these quaint flower shops, wine bars, and hip cafes. Check out this one, doesn't it look magical?

My second day was spent on an all-day tour of the Great Ocean Road. The 151 mile road is packed full of spectacular views and breathtaking sights.

The Great Ocean Road is probably best known for the Twelve Apostles. Fun fact: there are only eight limestone stacks left, as over time they erode and crumble under their own weight. In this picture below you can actually see where the one closest to the camera has fallen.

Did I mention this is a popular destination? It was a bit crowded to say the least.

My favourite sight on the road was Loch Ard Gorge - look how beautiful! I decided to take my shoes off here and stick my feet in the Southern Ocean for the first time (it was very cold).

More photos from the Great Ocean Road, including London Arch and Gibson Steps (I think you'll figure out which ones those are)...

On the tour I also enjoyed some time with the wildlife. This included koala spotting and bird feeding. At first there were just a few birds and everything felt under control:

Then they just kept showing up and things got a bit out of hand:

My third day was again filled with nature and animal encounters. I had decided to take a tour of Phillip Island, which is known for the Penguin Parade! But first, the tour began with wallaby and kangaroo feeding:

Spotted! I finally saw a little joey - can you see it?

Then we headed to a few beaches:

And we did a few coastal walks:

But the best part of the day was what happened after sunset... the Penguin Parade! Unfortunately, there were no cameras or phones allowed, so you will just have to fly down to Australia and see the spectacle for yourself! Once the sun had gone down and they felt safe enough the penguins, known as fairy penguins or little penguins, waddled from the ocean, across the beach, and to their burrows in the grassy hillside. They looked like this and you are this close to them! I watched about 1,000 penguins cross the beach, and in the summer about twice as many penguins make the journey!

The little guys only grow up to be 13 inches in height and they are the tiniest species of penguin - and darn cute if you ask me. The waves knock them over like bowling pins and they were quite slow crossing the beach despite their best waddling efforts. It just amazes me that these tiny guys spend all day in the vast ocean fishing and make this gruelling journey back to their burrows each night. Then again, I've been told that the little ones often have the most fight in them :)

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Ausrtalia Melbourne explore kangaroo nature penguin parade penguins phillip island the great ocean road tourism travel wallaby wildlife https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/9/melbourne-australia Thu, 11 Sep 2014 00:18:30 GMT
Brisbane, Australia https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/brisbane-australia Since landing in Australia over 5 months ago I haven't visited any places outside of Sydney. And with the rainy weather taking over the city it seemed like the perfect time to head on over to sunny Brisbane. I spent 3 nights and 3 full days exploring new streets, parks, and getting up-close with the wildlife.

Day 1

I looked up a few highly rated cafes in Brisbane to try out, but what I didn't realise was how difficult they would be to find! Instead of being on the main street a lot of the cafes would be down alleyways and hidden from the public eye. I felt like a local walking in and was secretly patting myself on the back.

Queen Street Mall is the place for shopping. Block after block there are shops and malls to get lost in. I had to use my iPhone's GPS a few times to find my way out!

One of my favourite activities is visiting local markets. I accidentally ran into this one on the way back to the hotel. It was full of food stalls, groceries, and sweet treats. I bought a seafood paella for lunch and couldn't pass up one of the extravagant juices that came with sliced pineapple and a banana (?!). 

The weather was beautiful in Brisbane, which made walking in the Botanical Gardens even more enjoyable. I am always pleasantly surprised at how well kept and groomed all the parks and public areas in Australia are. Way to go Aussies!

After walking through the gardens and along the river I headed across one of the many bridges to the South Bank.

There are public pools and man-made beaches along the South Bank that overlook the North Quay of Brisbane - so there is no need to go outside of the city for a day of soaking up rays at the beach!

Don't be surprised to find fruit, veggies and herbs growing all over the city. When walking about I found everything from pineapples to basil.

My stay in Brisbane was especially lovely due to the fact my friend Peter was there for a work trip. Not only did I get to spend time with him and see a friendly face, but I mooched and stayed in his suite - look at that view from the room! We enjoyed cocktails and watched the sunset while catching up :)

Day 2

Brisbane is home to the largest koala sanctuary in the world, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. There are over 130 koalas living there - and the best part is that you get the chance to cuddle with one!

But the koalas don't get all of the attention. You can walk about the Kangaroo Reserve and get up-close with the wallabies, kangaroos and emus. If you purchase food at the nearby general store you can feed them too!

Above: Look at those sharp nails!

Below: I found the Koalas to have rough fur, which is meant to get rid of rain water as quickly as possible. The Kangaroos, on the other hand, had surprisingly soft velvety fur. 

I chickened out and didn't get too close to the emus. They had these piercing stares that didn't look welcoming.

Day 3

It showered a bit the last day of my trip, so I almost didn't make it to the Roma Street Parklands. I am sure glad I decided to go for it anyways! It was one of the most beautiful and colourful parks I have visited.

One of the park employees stopped me to show me this flower (below). It's nickname is Cinderella's slipper.

The last thing on my Brisbane bucketlist was to the visit the XXXX Brewery. While Peter and I didn't splurge on a tour of the brewery the bar staff did give us a private little tasting. 

A very special thank you to my killer-friend Peter who made my trip to Brisbane possible (and super fun)! 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Brisbane australia explore food gardens kangaroo koalas parks roma street parklands south bank travel wildlife xxxx brewery https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/brisbane-australia Sun, 24 Aug 2014 08:39:26 GMT
Sydney in a Week https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/sydney-in-a-week This past week my brother and mom came out to Sydney for a visit. My job was to pack all the city highlights into six days. Here's how it went:

Food

Even with three meals a day you can't possibly fit all the cute cafe and fabulous restaurant meals you want in your schedule - but it sure is fun to try! For breakfast we visited all my favourites: Kawa, Brekky Art, Bruschetteria, Robocog, Lumiere, and Ampersand.

Drink

Beer, wine and cocktails - we didn't hold back! Near my studio we did a wine tasting at The Winery. It was one of the most intimate, relaxed and fun wine tastings I have ever been to. For beer tasting we went to Red Oak in downtown Sydney and The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst, just a few blocks from where I live. If you're feeling like spirits and don't mind spending $18 on a cocktail the place to do it is Icebergs, where you can do it in style!

The Beach

The beach is a 30 minute bus ride from downtown Sydney, so its easy to spend an afternoon or entire day with your feet in the sand and your eyes on the waves. I took my family on the well-known Bondi to Coogee walk, which is a four mile trail along several beautiful beaches.

The Taronga Zoo

This is not just any trip to the zoo, this is the Taronga Zoo. It allows you to get up close with the wildlife and it offers gorgeous views of Sydney that you wouldn't get elsewhere.

Other Attractions

The rest of our time was split up between the Wildlife Center, the famous Opera House, the Botanical Gardens, Paddy's Market and the largest IMAX theater in the world. Did I mention it was a busy week?

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Icebergs australia beach beer bondi brother cafe city coogee family food koala red oak sydney taphouse tourist travel wildlife winery zoo https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/sydney-in-a-week Mon, 18 Aug 2014 01:29:59 GMT
But First, Coffee https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/but-first-coffee No drip coffee from San Francisco or holiday-themed latte from Starbuck's compares to Australia's flat white. If you're a fan of the coffee caffeine fix so many of us need to wake up in the morning plan your trip to Australia now. Make it a one way ticket, because you'll probably never want to go back.

When you order a coffee here you'll be asked: which kind? To help you out, I've made a list of the different coffees offered and how they differ. 

Flat White

A shot of espresso + steamed milk + a little foam = velvety texture, similar to the cappuccino and latte, but higher proportion of coffee to milk

Served in a mug

Long Black

Hot water + two shots of espresso = similar to an Americano, but retains the crema on top and is stronger in flavor

Served in a mug

Latte

A shot of espresso + steamed milk + foam = similar to a Flat White, but more foam on top

Served in a glass

Cappuccino 

A shot of espresso + steamed milk + foam = similar to a latte, but a smaller proportion of milk to espresso than in a latte

Served in a mug

Piccolo (my favourite!)

A shot of espresso + steamed milk + foam = looks like a mini-latte, but has a higher proportion of espresso to milk than in a latte

Served in a glass

Macchiato

A shot of espresso + a dollop of foam = a smooth strong flavour

Served in a mug or glass

Mocha

A shot of espresso + chocolate syrup/powder + steamed milk + foam = a hot chocolate with caffeine! 

Served in a glass

A special thank you to my friend who made these gorgeous coffees for me to photograph! And also to Cafe 1812, where you can order all of these delicious coffees and enjoy a beautiful selection of yummies to accompany them.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) 1812 australia cafe caffeine cappuccino coffee drink espresso flat white food foodie latte long black macchiato mocha oxford paddington piccolo sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/8/but-first-coffee Mon, 11 Aug 2014 04:33:01 GMT
Kawa in Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/kawa-in-surry-hills

Another blog post on another lovely cafe. I was in search of the perfect Sunday brunch spot today- someplace quiet so I could read without feeling rushed, someplace with a cute atmosphere, and someplace with a great eggs benedict. Kawa was everything I had in mind.

I don't know whether it was the large flat white, the creamy buttery eggs benedict on Turkish toast, or getting caught up in my book A Time to Kill, but I left feeling energised, relaxed and utterly happy. Sometimes all you need is a good book and a beautiful hot meal to make everything feel right with the world.

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia breakfast brunch cafe eggs food foodie kawa surry hills sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/kawa-in-surry-hills Sun, 27 Jul 2014 01:17:22 GMT
Centennial Parklands https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/centennial-parklands

I live a mile from the Centennial Parklands and it has quickly become my favourite new running spot. Similar to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco there is always something going on and its large enough to get lost in. The differences are that there are no homeless people in the shrubs, it is very clean, and you can always find a parking spot. I think that makes it just about perfect!

Today I decided I wanted to see just how large the park is since I can never seem to run far enough to get to the other side. So, I rented a bike and took myself on a tour around. 

Note: This was my first time riding on a road bike versus a mountain bike, so I was a bit nervous at first, but all went well!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia bike biking centennial parklands explore garden nature outside paddington park parks scenery sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/centennial-parklands Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:07:35 GMT
Bruschetteria in Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/bruschetteria-102-in-surry-hills

I came across this place when I searched "Best Sydney Cafes" on Urbanspoon. Conveniently, it is located just a ten minute walk from my studio. I was out the door before you could say "bruschetta"

When I arrived at my destination I saw the Bruschetteria specialises in more than just bruschetta...

... they are also known for their nutella coffee!

While it is too sweet to have as your caffeine fix every day, it is a perfectly enjoyable treat. It tasted like a creamy mocha with a bit of nutty flavour. The detailed designs the barista creates on the top of each order is also a nice touch. 

Now, lets talk food.

I came for the bruschetta, but they had this whole section on their menu with homemade fettuccine and gnocchi options. It all sounded so good! So, I came up with a game plan: order the homemade fettuccine with pesto - then come back the next day and get the bruschetta.  

The plentiful plate of pesto pasta was perfect. Seriously, alliteration aside, it really was delightful and I would recommend it to anyone in the area. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the bruschetta I tried today, although I get the feeling I ordered wrong. I had my eye on the cheese, prosciutto, honey, walnut and pear bruschetta option, but changed my mind and ordered the sausage, cheese and mushroom one. The sausage was just OK, it tasted like it was just some store bought packaged meat - and they went skimpy on the cheese.

Never go skimpy on the cheese.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia bruschetta bruschetteria cafe coffee food foodie nutella restaurant surry hills sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/bruschetteria-102-in-surry-hills Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:11:06 GMT
The Blue Mountains: Leura https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/the-blue-mountains-leura

I had heard a lot of positive feedback about the small town of Leura, so my hopes were high as I exited the train station and headed down the popular main street, Leura Mall. My first stop was a cafe, creatively named The Red Door Cafe, recommended to me by my neighbour who is from the Blue Mountains. I didn't even read the menu because she told me what to order as well. I'll take her word from this day forward because my lunch was delightful!

Pictured above is the warm goat cheese and caramelised onion tart with rocket (arugula) and a reduced balsamic. The coffee not pictured here was also one of the best I've had yet in Australia. And what better way to end the meal than with chocolate? Conveniently located one shop down is Josophan's Fine Chocolates where I was stumped on which truffles to buy at $2 a piece. Not a good place for a budget, but a great place for your dark chocolate aphrodisiac fix. 

Next I thought I would visit Everglades gardens, which from the website states is a 20 minute walk from the station. Soon I discover though that this walk leads me through empty neighbourhood streets with a very steep hill in sight. Being by myself and not in the mood to get lost I decided to turn around and maybe check out the Leura Cascades, a short hike and beautiful vista point also about 20 minutes away. Turns out the directions there are also questionable. Disappointed by my pointless walking about I headed back to the train station. As I got close I saw a taxi and I figured, hell, I've taken a two hour train ride to get here I might as well pay this guy to drive me a mile to the Everglades gardens.

The gardens were pleasant, but nothing to make a special trip for. While I photographed some beautiful scenes and flowers, they were few and far between. I expected the grounds to be a lot more expansive as well, but I covered every inch of the place within an hour.

I left Leura a little bittersweet. The town itself is quite charming and has enough cute boutiques and cafes to entertain for an afternoon, but the attractions I most wanted to see were difficult to get to without a car, forcing me to break my budget and left me feeling jipped in the end. If you only have a day to spend in the Blue Mountains I would definitely suggest Wentworth Falls or Katoomba above Leura.

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia blue mountains chocolate everglades food gardens katoomba leura red door cafe sydney travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/the-blue-mountains-leura Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:26:25 GMT
Robocog in Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/robocog-in-surry-hills

Yesterday I spent most of the day in bed watching movies and bad Youtube webisodes. It was a mixture of being slightly hungover and the gloomy Sydney winter weather that kept me under the covers. Today I willed myself out of bed early and to my yoga class - and somewhere between the downward dogs and triangle poses I decided to make a change in my life.

I have decided to adjust how much time I spend with my electronics. Today I haven't watched any television on my computer, I ran without my music, and I took a walk through the park without my camera. It was a lovely experience. Instead of television I went on a run, during my run I discovered I love hearing myself think without loud upbeat music drowning out my own thoughts, and with no camera in hand at the park I was able to simply enjoy the views and sights without worrying about the best angle to capture them from.

But just like I don't believe in dieting I don't believe in completely unplugging, I want to make sustainable changes. So, don't worry I am not swearing off movies or picture taking, but I do hope to make better choices about how I spend my free time. 

OK, moving onto the main point of this blog post - Robocog! This cafe was suggested to me by some friends a few weeks ago and today I finally made my way over to give it a try. It is pretty clear why it is called Robocog, as the owner collects all these robot figurines that are displayed about the cafe.

The menu features all-day breakfast items, house specials, and a variety of burritos and quesadillas. I ordered one of the specials: corn cakes stacked with avocado, bacon, salsa, aioli, rocket, and a poached egg on the side.

In case you can't tell from just looking at it... I can confirm that it was absolutely delicious. And for less than $20 I was quite pleased (in Sydney a meal like this would typically be $20 or more). Just note that this cafe is cash only, so don't be like me and have to run down the street looking for the nearest ATM. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Robocog Sydney cafe electronics explore food outside productive reflection robots surry hills technology https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/robocog-in-surry-hills Mon, 21 Jul 2014 06:37:11 GMT
Short and Sweet https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/home-sweet-home Short and sweet - that describes my miniature dachshund, myself at times, and my 9-day trip home to California. I was reminded of what wonderful, fun and supportive friends and family I have. The trip went by far too quickly, but each day was well spent. Here are the highlights:

Annoying Pixie with photo shoots and too many cuddles.

Taking advantage of the fact it is summer in California.

Playing Catan with my favourite Swedes. 

Happy Hour at Iberia (be sure to order the dates wrapped in bacon).

Kubb BBQ time in the backyard.

Scoring last place at Urban Putt in San Francisco. 

Other highlights not pictured: sleeping in my queen sized bed, walks with close friends, and pancakes made with love by my mother.

Even though I am back in my itsy bitsy studio in Sydney, I have the memories of my visit home to keep me warm and fuzzy in this cold windy Aussie winter. Thank you everyone who made my visit home special!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) California australia bbq dachshund dog family friends home kubb sydney travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/home-sweet-home Fri, 18 Jul 2014 00:09:27 GMT
The Blue Mountains: Katoomba https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/the-blue-mountains-katoomba

Katoomba is the touristy part of the Blue Mountains, known for the rock formation called "The Three Sisters" (see above). The trail I took was a 2 -2.5 hour hike, starting from Echo Point and ending at the Scenic Railway. It was full of vista points, small waterfalls, and lush greenery. 

The Blue Mountains was given its name due to the blue haze that hovers above it - do you see it?

Did I mention that this trail had 1,000 stairs? The Giant Stairway is a narrow path of stairs from the Three Sisters to the valley floor.

Cockatoos are common to see in Australia. I saw them constantly flying about the national park and I have spotted several in downtown Sydney as well.

See you again soon Blue Mountains!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Blue Mountains adventure australia explore hike katoomba national park outdoors sydney three sisters travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/7/the-blue-mountains-katoomba Thu, 03 Jul 2014 23:28:19 GMT
The Blue Mountains: Wentworth Falls https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-blue-mountains-wentworth-falls DSC_0933DSC_0933

I am falling in love, with Australia that is. Between the beautiful Sydney city and the fresh coastal beaches - and now the vast Blue Mountains, who could blame me?

Friday I discovered the Blue Mountains, a large national park just about a 2 hour train ride from downtown Sydney. There are a handful of train stops for the national park, so I picked Wentworth Falls seeing on a map there was a hiking trail that started from the train station.

The Charles Darwin trail was a peaceful 2km bushwalk leading directly from the train station to the Wentworth Falls trek:

After seeing the waterfall, I continued on the Undercliff Trail (which lives up to it's name):

 

The views were breathtaking and these pictures do not do them justice. Here I tried to take a video to capture the experience a bit more:

Note: It is not raining in this video, I am standing under a small waterfall.

I wanted to continue on one of the other many trails in the area, but my growling stomach and knowing the sun sets early on these winter days convinced me to head back into town. As the sun began to disappear I was already cozied up with some hot chocolate at the cutest little bookstore cafe.

Cheers to another successful adventure!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) adventure australia blue mountains hike nature outside sydney trek wentworth falls https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-blue-mountains-wentworth-falls Sun, 29 Jun 2014 12:34:52 GMT
A Day With No Plans https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/a-day-with-no-plans This morning I woke up and had nothing scheduled on my calendar. For those who know me well, this is an unheard of occurrence. 

It started out with a run up Oxford Street and through Centennial Park. The weather was so agreeable I knew I wanted to stay outdoors, so I decided to sit outside a newly discovered cafe in Surry Hills called Boulanger. What a wonderful decision that turned out to be. I was not the only one to realise this place was a gem because once I ordered the line was out the door!

After indulging my taste buds I figured it was only natural to go on a walk. I may have overdone it because Mapmyrun.com later let me know I walked over 10 miles. Here's where I went:

I was on my way to the Sydney Harbour Bridge when I saw The Rocks was hosting a Foodies Market. I was still full from the cafe, but I did walk around and enjoy the sights and smells.

I continued to the Harbour Bridge and climbed the 200 steps up to Pylon's Lookout. Well worth the $10 entrance fee, the views are beautiful.

Then across the bridge I went. 

Once I got to the other side, I figured I was pretty close to Luna Park and I might as well visit.

My feet started to ache a bit then, but catching the ferry back was going to cost me a few dollars so I dragged my cheap butt back across the bridge. Walking across the bridge cost me to miss the last free shuttle through the city though... so I just kept walking. That is when I remembered it was Friday and Chinatown has a market every Friday evening. I decided to visit a few food stalls and plant myself on a bench to refuel.

I finally made it home and although my feet are sore, it was a beautifully spontaneous day.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) adventure australia bridge chinatown explore food foodie harbour luna park market rocks spontaneous sydney travel walk https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/a-day-with-no-plans Fri, 20 Jun 2014 09:59:19 GMT
Bootsdarling Cafe in Darlinghurst https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/bootsdarling-cafe

Bootsdarling is just another cafe in the neighbourhood. Just another cafe with charming decor. Just another cafe with a mouthwatering breakfast menu. Just another cafe serving up Australia's finest flat whites. 

Since I am in Sydney for some time I want to try as many of these cafes as possible because even though you could say "its just another cafe" each one has something different to offer. Bootsdarling offers amazing croissant sandwiches. Ampersand has the best breakfast wrap and desserts. Brekky Art is famous for their vegetarian breakfast plate. Lumiere Cafe has the ultimate eggs benedict. And lets not forget Brewtown where I ate my first cronut.

 So, naturally I have started a list. To date I have tried 18 cafes nearby of the 26 on my ever-growing list. Wish me luck guys - I am going to be eating my way through Sydney :)

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia bootsdarling breakfast cafe coffee darlinghurst food foodie paddington https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/bootsdarling-cafe Thu, 19 Jun 2014 23:42:48 GMT
Is 20 the new 30? https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/is-20-the-new-30

This year I am missing out on four weddings by living abroad. And while love is love, it seems to be happening so quickly I can't help but wonder - is 20 the new 30?

I still remember entering my teen years wishing my leg hair would grow faster so I could start to shave like the other cool girls. It seemed so grown up and mature. Looking back on it now it seems silly. I don't mean to compare one's marriage to my insignificant leg hairs, but they may have more in common than you think. Are we trying to rush things too much instead of enjoying the hairless pre-teen legs we were meant to have? 

We're the same as we were 10 years ago, different handbags and trendy clothing, but the same desire to grow up too quickly. 

Marriage is not the only thing making our 20s feel a bit more like our 30s. We have this pressure to be successful - and fast. We want six figures, we want to move into our own place in the city, we want the senior title at the big tech company, and we want it all overnight. What happened to our 20s being for eating spaghetti-os, working a second job at the coffee shop to make ends meet and driving around in your mom's used Toyota?

To my peers: It's okay to be single, working long hours to earn your way up and living in a studio you can hardly turn around in. Relax! Enjoy your 20s for what they are right now. We have our 30s yet to come...

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) 20s adults growing up marriage success https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/is-20-the-new-30 Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:10:11 GMT
Sydney Surprises https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/sydney-surprises Sydney has been full of surprises lately. 

Surprise #1

I currently work at Icebergs Dining Room on Bondi Beach and the view is spectacular no matter the season. Every day Sydney gives me a different sunset to look forward to. Just look at this one from a few days ago:

Surprise #2

I was running errands the other day when someone stopped me on the street. He asked me if I recognised him so I took a hard look... turns out we studied at Santa Clara University together and we worked the same job in the SCU library throughout our time there. He just moved to Sydney a week or two ago and is out job hunting. Who would have guessed I was was going to run into a fellow alumni half way across the world! 

Surprise #3

My friend who I traveled in Thailand with happen to be in Sydney for a few days. We decided to spend time together hiking at Manly beach. We meant to take the well known scenic trail, but the signage was terrible and paths abruptly ended or split off in different directions every few 100 meters. So, we just walked and walked and walked with no real direction. We walked on a dirt trail through greenery, we walked on a metal path through burnt dead trees, we walked on a paved road that led to a swamp, we walked through a gun artillery school - we walked so far we ended up on a cliff edge with a beautiful skyline of Sydney's downtown. It was a beautiful random adventure.

Surprise #4

Sydney is also surprising me with a change in jobs soon. Stay tuned!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Sydney alumni beach bondi city hike icebergs manly scu sunset surprise tourist travel world https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/sydney-surprises Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:30:53 GMT
Thank You Mom https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/thank-you-mom Nobody will care more about your day, the style of your hair, or the state of your cuticles than your mom. Talking about one of these things might bore another, but your mom could talk about them with you for hours. There's nothing like your mom is there?

My mom came and visited me for over a week here in Sydney and it was such a treat. We explored the neighbourhoods, ate at as many cafes as our pants would allow, walked along beaches, and just caught up on the little things we've been missing out on. She left this morning and it is the first time since leaving the US in four months that I felt a pang of homesickness. 

Thank you for everything Mom!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia family homesick mom sydney tourist travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/thank-you-mom Wed, 11 Jun 2014 09:11:39 GMT
The Weather in Sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-weather-in-sydney Lets talk about the weather.

I come from the San Francisco Bay Area, so I am quite used to the weather going from foggy cold mornings to sunny afternoons - the motto always being wear a jacket or sweatshirt that you can take off later. In Sydney the motto is always carry an umbrella. For example, I went on a beach stroll today and the weather was back and forth between blue clear skies and a downpour of rain.

All these photos were taken today between 11am and 1pm:

I did get to see the most lovely rainbow today (two of them actually):

On an unrelated note, my mom is visiting this week and she has been taking videos on her iPhone. Here are a few for your enjoyment:

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia beach bondi bronte coogee double rainbow rain rainbow storm sun sydney walk weather https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-weather-in-sydney Mon, 09 Jun 2014 11:07:31 GMT
Ampersand Cafe in Paddington https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/ampersand-cafe-in-paddington

Ampersand is my go-to cafe. Located right on Oxford and across the street from my studio apartment this cafe is the home to thousands of second hand books and some of the best coffees Sydney can offer.

But its not the breakfast wrap with side of hollandaise sauce or large flat whites that make me a repeat customer (although those are both solid reasons). Its the atmosphere- room after room with books tucked away in every corner, fresh air coming in through the windows and the beautiful succulents found about the cafe. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Ampersand australia books bookstore cafe explore food foodie paddington read sydney travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/ampersand-cafe-in-paddington Thu, 05 Jun 2014 01:57:50 GMT
The Botanical Gardens https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-botanical-gardens

The Botanical Gardens of Sydney are perfect for a stroll, a jog, a picnic, or for finding something new. I walk through the gardens about once a week and am always discovering new things - today it was the succulent garden! I have never seen so many cacti or succulents all in one place:

I also came across the vegetable garden, complete with scarecrows:

Of course, even following the same path week after week there are always small changes to be found, you just need to take the time to notice them.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia botanical gardens cactus flowers gardens nature park succulents sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/the-botanical-gardens Mon, 02 Jun 2014 11:07:13 GMT
Lumière Cafe in Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/lumi-re-cafe

Today needed to have a fabulous beginning, as my mom has flown to Sydney for the week and I had the day off work to spend it with her. So we headed to one of my many favourite cafes, Lumiere. I think these pictures say it all:

The top image shows off my eggs benedict with asparagus and prosciutto on a flaky croissant. The other image is of french toast with caramelised banana, bacon and drizzled with maple syrup. Enough said.

After our delightful meals we walked around the Circular Quay and played tourists for the afternoon. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia breakfast cafe circular quay foodie harbour lumiere opera house surry hills sydney tourist https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/6/lumi-re-cafe Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:40:37 GMT
The Cronut (and my trip to Newtown) https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/the-cronut-and-my-trip-to-newtown

The cronut has been the latest food craze and it's officially worldwide. It was trademarked by a baker in New York City and by the end of 2013 it was titled one of the best 25 inventions of the year by TIME magazine. I waited for the cronut trend to hit the west coast, but even by the time it arrived in San Francisco there was a long wait to get your hands on one. Literally. The bakery lines were reported to be out the door before opening hours and sold out within the first hour.

So, you can imagine my excitement when learning that there was a bakery a short train ride away from me here in Australia that served up three flavours of cronuts fresh daily!

And that is the story of how I ended up at Brewtown Cafe in Newtown. Biting into a flakey, doughy, pastry that is a hybrid between croissant and doughnut. I went for the classic glaze cronut, but lets just say I will be trying the other flavours in the near future.

After indulging myself with probably a week's worth of sugar I thought I would walk off some calories and explore the neighbourhood. Newtown is full of cafes, pubs, restaurants, bookstores, gift shops and plenty of street art. Here are some snaps I took while strolling up and down the main street: 

How neat is this blind date with a book idea? With just a few keywords as hints you can't judge the book by its cover!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Brewtown Newtown Sydney books croissant cronut donut doughnut food foodie pastry read sugar https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/the-cronut-and-my-trip-to-newtown Tue, 27 May 2014 10:23:18 GMT
Vivid Sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/vivid-sydney

Tonight was the launch of Vivid Sydney, a light, music and idea festival held from May 23rd to June 9th. There are sites throughout the city with light displays, food stalls, music, and more. So this evening I went by Circular Quay and checked out all there was to offer. Look at the beautiful Opera House:

It was so crowded at Circular Quay it was hard to walk around or find a good spot to take photos. But I was able to sneak in a few snaps of other structures I walked by:

I loved this tree projection shown below: the tree went through a life cycle, from growing tall to surviving the seasons and all the different creatures it was a home for.

This building below was more like a club setting - the music was loud, there were dancers (not pictured), and the lights projected changed to the beats. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Opera House Sydney Vivid Sydney festival light show lights https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/vivid-sydney Fri, 23 May 2014 12:30:52 GMT
Brekky Art in Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/brekky-art-in-surry-hills

When walking about Surry Hills the other day I noted an adorable corner cafe. I could just picture myself sitting at one of the outside tables enjoying a flat white out of a mug the size of my head. Today I did just that.

I ordered the Vego Breakfast and it was as tasty as it was beautiful. The service was lovely, as I ate the morning sun came through the trees, and people from the neighbourhood were walking about (great for people watching). It was a perfectly pleasant beginning to my day.

I can still remember at the beginning of my travels feeling very conscious of being alone while eating out, scarfing food down and trying to look busy. Now I quite enjoy ordering a large coffee or a glass of wine and just being, sitting, thinking and observing. I don't think we get enough time alone with our thoughts these days, we either look to our phones, friends, or television for company. I am grateful for having the time to be present and get lost in my own head. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Surry Hills Sydney alone breakfast brekky cafe coffee explore food travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/brekky-art-in-surry-hills Tue, 20 May 2014 23:23:33 GMT
Exploring Surry Hills https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/exploring-surry-hills

This afternoon I decided to go for a stroll through the neighbourhood next door, Surry Hills. The small streets, iron gated homes, and beautiful colors couldn't have made for a more scenic walk.

There is something about travelling solo that I have come to really love. Being alone you become acutely aware of the cracks between buildings, the paint chips on walls, the way the sun peeps through the tree branches, and the melody of chatter at a nearby cafe. I believe there is a layer of charm to every place that can be discovered only when alone. 

 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Surry Hills Sydney alone charm discover home travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/exploring-surry-hills Mon, 19 May 2014 12:19:28 GMT
Why You Should Travel in Your 20s https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/why-you-should-travel-in-your-20s

Recently, I have come across a few articles on why it is so great to travel while you are young. Being a young traveler myself I've come to note a few things of my own. 

Realise how small you are. There will come a time when your bubble bursts, when you realise the universe does not revolve around you. The sooner you come to terms with this the better I say. Be humbled by the fact that you are small and that the world is filled with so much more beauty and wonder than you are possibly capable of seeing in a lifetime. 

Eat like you are in your 20s - because you are. As you grow older you will most likely have to watch your diet a bit more. You wont be able to eat and drink without thinking of the consequences such as your cholesterol intake or how many grams of sugar on that plate. Go out and taste what the world has to offer. Enjoy it without second thoughts.

Find out you are capable. You will come across challenges while traveling and you will overcome them. You will find out that you are capable and you will become a more confident person because of it.

The future is not guaranteed. Many people will work their entire lives hoping to buy the time to do what they want in the future. Many figure they can travel when retired, after having children, a house, and a solid career. But old age is never guaranteed. 

Appreciate what you have. Traveling will teach you how much you take for granted. You will witness people living in complete poverty and unfathomable conditions. You will meet people who didn't grow up with the same standard of living as yourself. 

World experience is just as, if not more, valuable as work experience. Just like you can't learn everything from a book, you can't learn everything from behind a desk either. While some will argue you should spend your 20s putting in long hours and climbing up the corporate ladder, I believe that traveling and gaining world experience can be more valuable. You'll learn from people of different cultures and backgrounds, you'll encounter new perspectives, and you'll gain knowledge that can benefit you for the rest of your lifetime.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) abroad adventure learn live perspective travel traveling young https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/why-you-should-travel-in-your-20s Thu, 15 May 2014 00:45:56 GMT
Watsons Bay: Part 2 https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/watsons-bay-part-2

Watsons Bay charmed me with its beautiful sunset and delicious food a few days ago, but I felt there was more to explore. Today my shift at work was cancelled so I suddenly had a free day. Within 15 minutes of the call about work, I was out the door.

I had noticed on my previous visit numerous trails, so today I was excited to see where they led. I did three trails in total and they all offered gorgeous views and scenes.

There was one trail that took me on a loop around the iconic Hornby Lighthouse. Around the lighthouse there were dozens of sailboats - it was such a sight to see.

I attempted to take a photo of myself with one of the gorgeous views in the background. Instead I just felt silly and each picture turned out to be close up of my face. I'll have to get the self timer feature worked out for next time. Until then, here's me at the Watsons Bay National Park Trailhead:

After all the walking around I decided to grab another yummy meal. I figured I would try a different place than last time so I went to Doyle's for some fish and chips. I was disappointed as soon as they handed me my meal in a cardboard box on a tray. Nothing like the presentation at the last place I ate at in Watsons Bay. Then I tried it - the chips were "meh" and the fish was nothing to rave about either. I went to the front to ask for ketchup to liven up the meal - they said it would cost me $2.00! In what world does ketchup cost an extra $2.00?  Well, you win some you lose some. Overall, the day was still a win in my book.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Doyle's Sydney Watsons Bay adventure explore hiking sailboats trail travel trek https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/watsons-bay-part-2 Wed, 14 May 2014 09:43:50 GMT
The Chinese Garden of Friendship https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/the-chinese-garden-of-friendship

I have been living in Sydney for about two months now and I am still discovering gems like this one. I have walked by this garden several times while exploring Darling Harbour and Chinatown. The entire garden is walled in from the city and the entrance can be overlooked easily, but be sure to make a stop here at the Chinese Garden of Friendship

Allow at least 30 to 45 minutes to stroll through the park and take it all in. What a great way to spend some time in nature when you don't have time to leave the city itself. 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Chinese Chinese Garden of Friendship Sydney city garden nature park https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/the-chinese-garden-of-friendship Tue, 13 May 2014 23:39:35 GMT
Sydney's Fish Market https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydneys-fish-market

Today I made the mistake of deciding to walk to Sydney's well known Fish Market. I mean, the GPS said it was 2.2 miles from my studio - piece of cake! Several hills, dead end streets, and what felt like an hour later I finally arrived. The Fish Market appeared as a large warehouse along the water that reeked of seafood. I don't mean to make that sound like a bad thing, it smelled delicious - and fresh!

Even for a Tuesday afternoon the place was bustling with people. In fact, I couldn't even get close to the Fish Market Grill I wanted to try. 

So, instead I picked one of the many oyster bars that shucked on the spot. I ordered two of each oyster they had available and sat myself down by the water. It was all worth the walk in the end.

Random thought: Does anyone else find seafood stalls and shacks absolutely adorable? Take this one for example:

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Sydney Sydney Fish Market fish market oysters seafood https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydneys-fish-market Tue, 13 May 2014 08:23:43 GMT
Watsons Bay https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/watsons-bay

When my friend told me we were going to grab some drinks at Watsons Bay I didn't expect much, but I was charmed from my first few steps off the bus. Immediately you are greeted with views of the bay and in the distance you can see the skyline of downtown Sydney.

On the other side of the road there is a trail alongside the water and beautiful vistas such as these:

We made our way to the bay and sat right along the water at the Watsons Bay Hotel. Surrounded by hungry seagulls and pelicans we ate fresh avocado and crab bruschetta and ordered a round of beers.

We ended the evening by sipping on our beers and watching the sunset over the water. Not too bad, eh?

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Sydney Watson Watsons Bay bay boats food sunset https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/watsons-bay Mon, 12 May 2014 22:16:47 GMT
Sydney Markets https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydney-markets

Feel like a local and visit one of Sydney's many markets. I made an effort to check out as many as I could - and I have still got ones on my to-do list!

The Paddington Markets takes place every Saturday starting at 10am and is a short walk from my studio. It has a large variety of handmade jewellery, vintage clothing, unique gift ideas, and freshly prepared food.

The Sydney Sustainable Market is a small market right in Taylor Square with lots of fresh produce, organic snacks and juices. 

The Rocks Markets is a popular Sydney attraction. On Fridays they have a Foodie Market and Saturday thru Sunday they have a large market with food, clothing, artwork, and much more. Allow lots of time to get through this one - and expect crowds!

You can find almost anything at Paddy's Market - towels, plates, clothing, costumes, wigs, watches, electronics, fruit, nuts - you name it and Paddy's has got it. Open from Wednesday to Sunday at the bottom floor of Market City in Chinatown.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) australia farmer's market market organic produce shopping sydney https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydney-markets Thu, 08 May 2014 04:28:56 GMT
Bondi to Coogee https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/bondi-to-coogee There is a popular costal walk here that goes from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. The 3.7 mile path takes you along small and large beaches, rocky cliff edges and grassy fields. Stormy clouds or a sunny cloudless day the views are always spectacular. 

Note: If you're going out for a stroll, be sure to stop at Bronte Beach for lunch. There is a place called Pure Bronte Pistachio that serves up some amazing burgers!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Bondi Bronte Coogee Pure Bronte Pistachio beach coast explore ocean run views walk https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/bondi-to-coogee Wed, 07 May 2014 00:02:23 GMT
Sydney, Australia https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydney-australia

Touching down in Sydney after spending three weeks in Thailand was like waking up from a dream. All of a sudden people were dressed in jeans and closed toed shoes, hair and makeup done, and...wait...the toilets flush?! I felt completely out of place, overly tanned, and ridiculously dressed in my elephant pants.

Good thing for good friends. My friend, who moved to Sydney just a month prior to my arrival, had no troubles spotting me in the crowd. He took me back to his place, let me shower, helped me with my laundry (TMI side note: I hadn't used a washing machine for about a month!), and fed me. Thank you Byron :)

Fast forward a few days - and a few new clothing purchases - and I looked like I fit in a bit more. By that time I had another tour lined up, similar to the Gap360 one I participated in Thailand. UltimateOZ was to take care of me, along with about 20 other travellers, for one week. It was a busy, fun-filled week including sand boarding, dolphin watching, a walking tour of Sydney, a trip to Bondi Beach, and much more. 

After my introductory week in Sydney I was left on my own - jobless, homeless, and still living out of my backpack.

Thank goodness for moms. My mom flew out from the United States with my pre-packed suitcase full of extra clothes and toiletries and put us up at a hotel near downtown while I looked for a place to live. Thank you mom!

Only a few days after my mom's arrival I scored a studio right in Paddington, a ten minute walk from downtown and an overflow of quaint, cute, delicious cafes just a few strides from my doorstep. My favourite cafe thus far is Ampersand, a three level bookstore cafe.

With the Ikea furniture put together and the first two week's rent paid I was ready to explore my new home!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Australia Sydney abroad home moving tour tourist travel https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/5/sydney-australia Fri, 02 May 2014 11:52:09 GMT
Lessons Learned from Living Alone https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/lessons-learned-from-living-alone

This is the first time I am truly living on my own. When I studied abroad in Spain I was placed with a Spanish family. When I went away to college I moved in with hundreds of other students. When I was offered my first full-time position I moved back home with family. And now that I am in Australia living in a studio apartment with only me and myself I've come to learn a few things:

1. Pants are optional. Once I shut the door to my studio apartment I wear, or don't wear, whatever I choose. With no family bustling around and no friends to walk in accidentally I feel a bit more... free (pun intended).

2. The real troubles are the ones that never crossed your worried mind. I thought living on your own meant worrying about how to keep track of the bills and dealing with how to kill a spider on the wall without screaming for help. Turns out bills aren't so bad now-a-days with automatic deposits and withdrawals. And those spiders, which in my case are cockroaches- well, as the Aussie's will tell you, you get used to them.

The real troubles? They're the ones you didn't conjure up in your head. For me, that was realising I have carpet and no vacuum - and then realising I have no storage or money for an actual vacuum. I settled for a hand vac...which makes cleaning my studio an "on-all-fours" type of workout. Or trying to cook everything in the one sauté pan I own so that I don't have to waste money on kitchenware I will throw away in a year.

3. You - and your plants - depend on you. You are the only one stocking the fridge, you are the only one doing laundry, and you are the only one who is going to water the plants on the balcony. I often forget that last one. 

When living with roommates or family you forget how much you depend on other's snack food. Now that I do all the shopping, and since I am on a budget, I often find myself later in my studio searching for those chips dad always got from Trader Joe's, or the trail mix my friend kept on her side of the cupboard...

4. You are weirder than you thought. You thought you were weird before? Live in a room by yourself for a few weeks and then see what you turn into. Replay that song 10x and practice dance moves - nobody is around! Try all the free scientific 7-minute youtube workout videos in the nude (refer back to #1). Take as many photo booth distorted images that you want featuring your double, or triple, chins.

5. Find out how clean you are (or not). Maybe it wasn't just your roommate leaving their dishes in the sink? Maybe it wasn't your brother who left their bath towel around? Living on your own takes away all the doubt. It's you. 

Or, you may find out that you are freakishly clean and organised. And you may realise you have a compulsive need to wash the dishes immediately. It probably doesn't come as a big surprise to many, but in case there were any doubts, this is definitely me. 

6. You can live with a lot less. Wants and needs become a lot clearer (ie: furniture shopping in Ikea and wanting everything I saw, but leaving with only a mattress, chair, table and microwave). 

7. Wine is not just for social events. Wine is for after a day at work. Wine is for movie watching. Wine is for kindle reading. Wine is for cheese nibbling. Wine is for when you're cooking. Living on my own has gotten me to appreciate the luxury of a glass of wine by yourself.

Cheers!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) abroad alone learn lessons life https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/lessons-learned-from-living-alone Sun, 27 Apr 2014 11:57:40 GMT
The Thailand Travelers https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/the-thailand-travelers I've blogged about the food, beaches and places in Thailand, but the sites and tastes are only a part of the travel experience. Since I was traveling from the United States alone I signed up for a group tour around Thailand with a company called Gap360. The group consisted of two tour guides, local women who had grown up in Thailand, and 13 other travellers, mainly from England.

Despite the age differences every person in the group has things in common - for one, we all love to travel! It is so inspiring to be around other travellers, especially others who have also made the journey solo. Of my friends from home, I am "that girl" who threw in the towel on the corporate ladder and decided to fly across the globe on a one-way ticket. But here, with this group, I find out there are others like me (!) and soon enough we begin to feel like family.

I've learned a lot about the English language from my English friends. And for your enjoyment and entertainment I have made a list:

Bobble = a hair tie. I learned this one when my roommate asked me if she could borrow a bobble from me. 

Peckish = desiring a snack, but not quite yet a full meal. This is one of my favorite new words, as I am always peckish.

Did you pull last night? = Did you hook up last night? This one really confused me. I kept asking what people were pulling around.

What's the crack? = What's up?

Bird = a girl. For example, John was with his bird last night.

Safe = wicked. So instead of saying, "that is wicked as f*ck" you could say "that is safe as f*ck"

Bits and bobs = stuff. 

I'm going to spend a penny = I am going to go pee.

Taking the piss = joking around. This one was the most difficult and confusing for me to learn. When someone jokes with you, don't be like me and ask if they are pissing on you, instead say "You're taking the piss!"

Proper = real. For example, instead of saying, "I want a real meal," or "I want real Uggs," you would say "I want a proper meal" or "I want some proper Uggs."

Fancy = want. Do you fancy a cup of tea? 

Besides making some new Facebook friends and people to follow on Instagram, I really hope to stay in touch with people from my group and I can't wait to see where we all end up next!

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) England English Thailand abroad friends translation travel travelers https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/the-thailand-travelers Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:51:06 GMT
Koh Tao, Thailand https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/koh-tao-thailand Koh Tao was another beautiful island experience.

Besides lying on the beach soaking up the views there were a lot of activities on the island. I kayaked, rock climbed, snorkeled, and rode on the long-tailed boats. Riding on the boats was exciting, but lost its charm a bit after getting drenched during transport. They make for some gorgeous scenes though:

I was determined to rock climb while in Thailand so I searched out Goodtime Adventures and signed up for a one-on-one lesson. My instructor was great and slightly insane. He would show me a climb and certain moves on the climb - while barefoot and not strapped in. I'd be nervous just watching him! As for me, would it be cheesy to say I rocked it?

I also made a day trip to Koh Nangyuan, a much smaller island near Koh Tao. There was a short hike up and at the top you would be breathless, but not from the trek. From this view:

I spent the day walking around the small island and relaxing under the umbrellas.

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Thailand beach boats climbing island koh nangyuan koh tao rock climbing sunset https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/koh-tao-thailand Sat, 19 Apr 2014 11:46:21 GMT
Thai Food https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/thai-food I consider myself a foodie which makes this blog post an absolute must. In Thailand, whether you are eating from a cart off the street or having a sit down meal you are going to walk away wondering how the next meal could get any better.

Don't shy away from the street food carts! They are an experience that must be had in Thailand - and an easy one to fulfill. From fresh fruit, pad thai, coconut ice cream and kebabs there is something for everyone. For the first week I was afraid to eat off the street, especially after hearing about traveller's diarrhea and other sicknesses caused from unsanitary food preparation. Be smart about it, make sure they peel the fruit in front of you and make sure the meat is being cooked on the spot.

My favorite was the fresh juice! A large glass full would be a dollar or less and they'd peel and juice it right on the spot. Mmmmm :)

Let's talk rice. Because it is a common thing to eat with. every. single. meal. For breakfast it is common to have rice in your porridge, at lunch you eat it with your curry, and for dinner you have it with your fish, veggies or meat. I personally limited my rice intake to once or twice a day (eating rice for breakfast never really grew on me - I am more of an egg and pancakes person). 

Of course, you are all waiting to hear about the Pad Thai, right? I was anxious to compare it to the Pad Thai I love to eat at home so much. Surprisingly, out of all the dishes to eat in Thailand it didn't make my top five. It varied a lot on where you got it, as if each restaurant or food cart had their own recipe. It was delicious still, but probably just as delicious as my favorite Thai restaurant at home. 

Although the meals consisted of rice or noodles and were served in large portions, I would feel full after every meal, but not excessive or bloated. At home after I eat a large meal I feel the need to sit and relax, I might feel oily or bloated. The food prepared in Thailand seemed so fresh and simple that even though I cleaned my plate I felt great afterwards.

In conclusion, I will share my favorite Thai dishes: vegetable fried rice with cashews (served everywhere in Thailand and cashews are the most wonderful addition to fried rice!) and coconut cream with banana (I think this one speaks for itself). 

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(Michelle M. Chun-Hoon) Pad Thai Thailand food fruit meals rice https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/thai-food Sat, 19 Apr 2014 10:23:19 GMT
Koh Samui, Thailand https://www.mchunhoon.com/blog/2014/4/koh-samui-thailand I am excited to finally be blogging about Koh Samui, as it was my favorite part of my trip. 

Our hostel was located just a ten minute walk from the beach, where I spent at least half of my time while on the island. The water is so clear that you can see the sand floor and fish swimming around your feet. 

I am the type of person who has to tiptoe slowly into the pool, but the water here is perfect for jumping right in! Its like bath water that is just cool enough to be refreshing.

The best part about the beaches: they're not crowded! 

Did I mention you can get a massage right on the beach too? Yup, one hour will cost you about $8 - $10. (See the hut below? I got a few massages right there!)

You still here? You shouldn't be, you should be booking your flight and emailing the boss your vacation dates. 

Well, maybe you need more convincing. Let me tell you about the food market. Imagine a large parking lot with stall after stall of different foods - fresh fruits, kebabs on the grill, noodles ready to be stirred up, egg rolls, steaming dumplings, crepes, freshly squeezed juices, etc. Also, there's this cocktail bar at the market that we discovered serves up strong drinks for a few dollars. We sure got our mojitos on here!

Note: Since Koh Samui is an island everything is a bit more expensive (but, still budget friendly). For example, beer was $2 in Bangkok, but in Koh Samui will cost you $4. Massages were $6 in Bangkok and will cost you $9 here.

The last part of the Koh Samui experience that I did not mention yet were the three days we spent volunteering. We had two tasks to complete: build a dam for a local village and to paint a wall at a local nursery school. While both tasks completely ruined my shoes and clothes they were both wonderfully fulfilling. 

Building the dam was quite a process: first we had to shovel up sand into bags, carry the bags to wheelbarrows, mix the correct proportions of sand with cement, add water, mix with a shovel then pour and lay stones gathered on top. Here is the cement mixer (me!) and the final product group shot:

The two photos directly above are not mine, but pulled from the