It’s Straya Day, Mate!

Happy Australia Day to all my Aussie (and Aussie convert) friends around the world!

Australian flagNow, I realize that Straya Day is really just an excuse for rowdy, loud Aussies to have a barbie, crush some pints, listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 and get rowdier and louder. Since I am clearly not in Australia (FYI: I am stuck in cold, grey England writing essays), I am just going to use today as an excuse to blog some more about Australia because the Internet bears witness to fact that I haven’t done enough of that already. So, in honour of today being Australia Day, sharing some photos from Down Under that didn’t make it any of the blogposts last year. Continue reading

Advertisements

Places I Called ‘Home’ in 2013

Places I Called Home in 2013

2013 was a great year for travel. When I look at my nerdy country count, I am surprised to see that I only visited five new countries this year (Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia and Singapore). But, I went back to a couple of old favourites and found myself packing and unpacking my life five times.

Truth be told: I am a little burnt out from moving around so much this year, but I wouldn’t trade my blessed 2013 for anyone else’s. (Except maybe Jennifer Lawrence’s. But how much I want her life is another story for another blogpost.)

Highlights of 2013 included snorkelling in the southern Great Barrier Reef, wearing at Dirndl at Karneval in Koln, having a picnic on top of a glacier in the French Alps, almost capsizing a boat in the canals of Amsterdam (with all my friends in it!), seeing a koala, living in the most amazing apartment on Coogee Beach in Sydney, and managing to completely fill up passport (took me less than three years).

Passports

The concept of ‘home’ changed throughout the year as I lived in five amazing cities in 2013. ‘Tis the time for the annual year-end recap of places where I received a postcard or two in the past year.  Continue reading

Top Five Things I’ll Miss About Sydney

Sydney skylineYesterday, I bid adieu to Sydney, hopped on a plane and scooted over to Singapore. I was struggling to finish all my uni assignments until the last minute (that’s something I won’t miss), so unsurprisingly I didn’t get a chance to fully reflect upon my amazing Aussie experience until now.

I was so busy over the last four months exploring the East Coast, meeting the most amazing people, sun bathing, kangaroo-spotting (but in vain) and attempting to become a better journalist, that I may have skipped on actively counting my blessings, so here we go: the Top Five Things I’ll Miss About Sydney list (in no particular order).

Access to the beach

Not that I strongly believe in the Zodiac, but being a water sign must explain my affinity for wanting to wade in open waters despite being an average (read: comical) swimmer. [PS: Remember this?] While Canadian lakes will always be my first love, it was joyous having the beach at your doorstep. I lived at Coogee Beach, which in my very biased opinion is the best beach among the Eastern suburbs, but IF one ever gets bored of Coogee, then there are so many other beaches and bays to bathe in. Read about my favourite ones hereContinue reading

The World of Whitsundays: Above & Underwater

Whitehaven beachDuring my mid-semester break, I joined my friends Fanny and Henrik on their tropical Queensland adventures. We met up in Airlie Beach, a typical Aussie backpacker haven lined with bumpin’ bars, to embark on a 3-day-2-night Whitsundays sailing adventure.

The Whitsundays are a group of 90 continental islands situated off the coast of central Queensland. As their small mountain tips peak up from the Coral Sea and happy fish live among the coral underneath, they provide an excellent opportunity for adventures both on land and underwater.

Sixty or so tour companies run day-trips and longer tours around the Whitsunday Islands, so finding something to cater your interests won’t be hard. If you have a flexible schedule, here is a tip: don’t book ahead of time. Show up at Airlie Beach and ask around if there are any discounted spots available on trips leaving in a day or so. Chances are you’ll find something easily. We found three spots on the SV Whitehaven ecotour, and we reckon we saved a good chunk of money by not booking ahead of time.

Now that the logistics are out of the way, here’s the fun part: our tour provided us three opportunities to snorkel at different reefs, a visit to the Whitehaven Beach, kayaking in the open waters, bushwalking the islands, and plenty of time to tan aboard (if the weather cooperated). That sounds like a great trip, doesn’t it?

It looks good too…

SV Whitehavan
Continue reading

Best views of the Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is the most iconic symbol of the city, gracing the Bennelong Point in the Sydney Harbour. Inaugurated in 1973, after almost 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage site valued for its “achievements in structural engineering and building technology.” Stemming out of Sydney’s CBD (short for central business district, or as us North Americans would say, “downtown”), and recognizable from miles away, the Opera House is definitely one of the most photographed sites in the city.

But, what’s the best place to photograph it?

The Sydney Opera House has a bit of an advantage in that case: it looks amazing no matter where you take a picture from. But, some spots are better than others. Here are my top 7 favourite spots to snap a shot of the Opera House (in no particular order):

East End of Circular Quay 

Sydney Opera House
When you get off a bus to go to Circular Quay, and walk towards the Opera House, this is the first view you are likely to see of this landmark. Chances are you’ll reach for your camera instinctively and snap a shot. This is one of the first photos I ever took in Australia, and it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Taronga Zoo 

Sydney Opera House
Continue reading

A glimpse of MONA

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. It houses art and antiques from the private collection of David Walsh, a Tasmanian who has made a fortune by being a professional gambler. Walsh has described the museum as a “subversive adult Disneyland,” and rightly so. MONA is attracting an unprecedented number of tourists to Hobart, like myself.

But if you want to fully enjoy everything MONA has to offer, here’s a tip: go there with an open mind and an empty stomach.

Enjoy this short video I made, using the beat of my favourite installation, a water fountain spitting out words, and I think it represents the flood of information we are exposed to in our every days lives.

Continue reading

Fraser Island Tour

Fraser Island-ShipwreckEven though I am a pro-guidebook girl and I preach independent travel, there are some places you need to visit with a tour company. Fraser Island, world’s largest sand island, is one of them. Unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a Telstra cell phone (for Googling the history of the place; Optus and Vodaphone don’t get reception on the island), and training on how to deal with dingoes, just take a tour.

My Danish friend, Annemiek, and I went for the two-day Fraser Explorer Tour and we totally recommend it! Here are some of our highlights:

Lake McKenzie is arguably the most popular of over 100 freshwater lakes found on Fraser Island. The white sands around the lake are made of pure silica, and from personal experience I can attest that they are an excellent natural scrub. The water of Lake McKenzie is also supposed to leave your hair feeling baby soft, but that one didn’t quite happen. However, just swimming in this fresh water, lukewarm (by Canadian standards) lake, is what draws so many tourists.

Fraser Island-Lake Mackenzie

Continue reading

Melbourne’s Graffiti Walls

Before I went to Melbourne, many of my Aussie friends told me, “Roop, you’ll love Melbourne – it’s so artsy!”

I have seen cities and neighbourhoods drown in an overdose of forced artsy-ness, so I was slightly skeptical as I started exploring Melbourne’s CBD. But, my worries were misplaced. Melbourne is the right kind of artsy: the buskers are in love with their music, the street art is organic, and the thriving alleyways are rich cultural communities.

During a short free walking tour of Melbourne, graffiti walls grabbed my attention. After the orientation, I grabbed a map indicating the city’s most impressive graffiti walls, and set out on an afternoon of exploration with another Canadian.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

Continue reading

Hobart: what the locals love

Two weekends ago I started working on my Aussie Bucket List and flew (even more) south to Tasmania. My home base for the next four days was Hobart, a cute city at the base of Mount Wellington and a good launch pad for many Tassie activities such as Port Arthur and MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). I travelled around the Huon Valley and checked MONA with my gracious hosts over the weekend, but on Monday, they all went to work so I was left with the ever-exciting challenge of exploring Hobart on my own.

My trusted Lonely Planet guidebook has less than two pages on things to do in Hobart, but after visiting over 20 countries in the last five years if there is one thing that I have learned it’s this: the best kept secrets never make it to guidebooks.

I started Hobart’s cultural exploration on Salamanca Place. I’d visited this restaurant-packed esplanade with my friends on an earlier evening and thought it would be a good idea to check it out during the day.

Hobart: Salamanca Place

Continue reading

Sydney’s best beaches

While my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are probably rolling their eyes at the title of this post, I am going to go ahead and gloat that today marks one month anniversary in with Sydney. I thought it would be a short, summer fling, but this relationship is getting quite serious. And how could I not fall in love? Sunshine, beaches and buzzing cities are three of my favourite things, and Sydney offers it all.

Since winter is coming (PS: who is stoked for Game Of Thrones season 3?!), I made it a point to explore as many beaches as possible in my first month here. While there are many popular spots and hidden gems in the greater Sydney area that I am yet to discover, here are my favourite beaches so far:

1) Coogee Beach

Surprise! My neighbourhood beach is number one on my list. While I may be biased because the beach is a 5-minute walk from my apartment, it is the coolest kid on the Eastern suburbs. It’s bigger than Bronte, but not as busy as Bondi. You can snorkel on the North end, surf on a good day, play volleyball at one of the four available spots, picnic on the park, and swim in the playful waves.

Coogee

Continue reading