Archive for the ‘Cocktails’ Category

On the Reef

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The next day we all got up early, packed and headed to the airport to meet our flight to Cairns. It was my last morning in Sydney and I left it on a cold and dreary day. Thankfully, when we arrived in Cairns it was bright and warm. We were picked up from the airport by a Sun Bus shuttle driven by a very talkative Australian woman. On the 45 minute drive from the Cairns airport to the Meridan hotel in Port Douglas  she talked all about the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found in that region. We heard about venomous spiders, sting rays, jelly fish, crocodiles, and snakes. It really made all of us enthusiastic to spend time outside. By the time we got to our hotel and checked in the day was winding down, and even though the temperature was in the 80′s it was still technically winter, so the sun started to set around 6pm.

Hotel in Port Douglas

Pool at the Meridian, also the view from our room

The beach in Port Douglas

After checking in we headed out to the beach, about a two minute walk from our hotel, to take in the last remaining half hour of sunlight.

Parents

tiki hut living

Having had a late lunch in the airport we weren’t terribly hungry, so mom went to the grocery store to buy some munchies and a cheese plate for us to snack on, and dad went to the bottle shop to get a bottles of liquor and a bottle of tequila. Since Julie is of legal drinking age in Australia, dad was fascinated by the idea that he could do shots with his youngest daughter, so once he got back to the hotel with his bottle shop purchases he started pestering Julie to do a shot with him.  I think he had anticipated Julie being unable to throw back a shot of tequila without wincing, but once she agreed to do a shot with him, she did so without even flinching. Clearly that side of the Lapointe family can take their alcohol, I can’t say the same for me and mom. Once the novelty of this had passed we snacked and watched some movies on TV before all turning into bed.

The next morning we were up quite early to meet a shuttle that took us to the Marina so we could meet up with Sailaway, which was the boat service we booked for the day to take us out to the reef. Sailaway is one of the smaller companies that does trips to the reef from Port Douglas. They use a small catamaran boat that takes about 30 people out each day, and they sail out so its a very green operation. The ride out was a bit chilly since it was so early in the morning and it was a bit overcast, but by the time we got out to the low isles where we would be snorkeling, the sun had come out and it had warmed up quite a bit.

Our Yatch for the day. Sailing Away!

Riding the boat out to the low isles

Low isles

shrimping boats in the distance

Ready to snorkel!

We were given wet suits, fins, and snorkel gear and then shuttled out to the islands in a small glass bottomed boat. On our way to the island we were able to see all that was below us through the window in the bottom of the boat. We saw all sorts of colorful coral in all sizes and shapes and all manner of wildlife. There is a very large sea turtle population on the reef, and as such they are a big draw for tourists, but we were cautioned not to get to close or to touch them at any point. Our tour guide said “Sea turtles can get to be hundreds of years old, and the last thing you would want if you were a hundred years old would be someone chasing after you in a funny looking mask.” Point taken.

We managed to see quite a few sea turtles and they were HUGE. We also spotted some clown fish, and they were much smaller in person than I thought they were going to be. Mom and dad set out together and looked quite comical trying to get out to the deeper water in their flippers with their pool noodles in hand. Dad was especially uncoordinated, and towards the end of the day his noodle started to get away from him, and in diving after it he got too close to the coral and impaled himself on the reef. He was ok, and just kept laughing about how of all the dangerous things in Australia that could have attacked him he ended up bleeding because he ran into a stationary object. Julie and I fared a little better, although Julie was a lot less daring than I was when it came to getting close to the reef.

Sea turtles! One of the main attractions of the day

Nemo= found.

We snorkeled for about three or so hours, taking breaks whenever we needed them. Around 2pm we loaded back into the glass bottomed boat which took us out to the bigger boat where we had an amazing lunch of shrimp, kebabs, fresh fruit, sandwiches, beer, wine, salad, and assorted deserts. It was such a relaxing way to end a wonderful day. We could not have asked for a better tour company or better weather. As we were finishing up lunch some of the smaller children that we hanging around the back of the boat noticed that we had attracted some friends. Three or four black finned reef sharks were circling our boat, so we began to throw them the leftover shrimp shells and heads, which of course only attracted more marine attention.

black finned reef sharks eating our leftover shrimps

beautiful blue water and a reef shark lurking below the surface

Once back in Port Douglas we headed back to the hotel to shower and change, and then walked up the main street to find somewhere to eat dinner. We landed on this rowdy bar/brick oven pizza restaurant called Rattle and Hum. Since we had a big lunch we all ordered light meals and drinks. I had to assist Julie in ordering a cocktail since she had never done it before. I started her out on a Cosmopolitan, a nice girly classic. After a long day out on the water none of us were up for too much excitement after dinner, so we all went to bed fairly early.

Sydney By Night

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

In the two weeks that Justin was here he did a fairly thorough combing through of all the city’s main attractions. I think he probably went to every site of historical significance that was accessible by foot and bus. Most days I would go to class in the mornings and he would venture out into the city and then once I was done with class I would meet him somewhere and we would do something in the afternoon and end up back at the apt around 5. We covered a lot of ground this way, but having such full days leaves you very tried and not too keen on doing much in the evenings. Yes we would cook dinner and chat with my roommates and friends on the hall, but we didn’t do much in the way of nightlife. Towards the end of his stay I mentioned this and suggested that on the Thursday night before we left for Canberra we explore Sydney after hours. Thursday night is ideal for going out since places don’t tend to be as crowded as they are on Fridays and Saturdays and most bars do not charge cover on Thursdays.

My original plan was for the two of us to bus downtown to check out The Three Monkeys and Scruffy Murphy’s, two bar/clubs with live music that are right across the street from one another. However, as we were getting ready to go out Yaella showed up and invited us to check out a jazz bar that she had been too once before in Surry Hills with Lindsay. Knowing how much Justin likes Jazz I suggested that we abandon our original plan and go with Yaella and Lindsay instead.

The first time Yaella had gone to this club she had walked there with Jill and her cousin, and this time we were going to take the bus so we figured out which stop we needed and caught the bus on Glebe Point Rd. Once we got on we asked the driver to please tell us when we had approached the stop we were looking for and he grumpily agreed to do so. We rode the bus for about 20 minutes into downtown, and at some point Yaella looked up and said “This isn’t anywhere near Surry Hills”

When we asked the bus driver about this, he told us that his route didn’t really go near Surry Hills and what we needed to do is get off and walk about 30 minutes west. So much for going to the jazz club. Being that we were already downtown we decided to see what there was to do down there. Yaella suggested The Ivy, which is an upscale cocktail bar frequented by young professionals after work. We went in and it took us all of 45 seconds to determine that this was not our scene. Next stop was a dance club that had very cheap beverages, but when we walked onto the dance floor we were literally the only people there who were not working there. We did a fairly quick u-turn out of there. Since we were working our way up towards The Three Monkeys I suggested we go through with my original plan and head there, Yaella and Lindsay agreed.

Upon walking into the Three Monkeys Justin was delighted to find a very chill bar atmosphere. Yaella and Lindsay and I had dragged him to a nightclub the first weekend he was here for Lindsay’s birthday and since he dances like a stereotypical white boy he never feels comfortable in places like that. Fearful that he was being dragged into a similar establishment he was relieved to find an actual bar with people hanging out at tables and not grinding to laser lights and club music.

Spiffed up for a night on the town

Feeling very mature in my black dress with adult beverage in hand. My first strawberry daiquiri. mmmm

I steered everyone upstairs to the third floor since I was the only one who had been there before. As we climbed the stairs a thumping club beat became louder and louder. I could feel Justin growing dreadful of what awaited us on the top floor. We emerged to a dance floor with a live band that was on break, and so club music was playing and Justin was visibly grumpy about this. I told him that the reason I thought he would like it is because there was a live band, but he wasn’t having it, he didn’t like clubs and he thought I had dragged him to one under false pretenses.

Lindsay and Yaella wanted to dance, so Justin and I went back downstairs to get drinks and once we got back up the band was playing. About ten minutes into their set Justin was tapping his toes and singing along and I was sporting the “I told you so” smirk across my face. Yaella got asked to dance by a guy who was drooling over her. Literally. This guy actually had a dribble of drool down his chin, and we all kept waiting for him to wipe it, but he didn’t. Yaella was very hesitant at first but somehow was coerced into dancing with him, but keept a good few inches of distance between her and the drool face. Lindsay, Justin and I were observing this and cracking up, but Yaella ending up getting a free drink out of it. The band at the Three Monkeys did an interesting selection of songs and some clever remixes but generally speaking the band wasn’t all that talented so around midnight I suggested we headed over to Scruffy Murphy’s for a bit. Yaella was happy for any excuse to get away from the drool monster so she excused herself to go to the bathroom and then we dipped out of the Three Monkeys and ran across the street to Scruffy Murphy’s.

The atmosphere there is similar to The Three Monkeys, but a bit more like a traditional bar. Although there was a live band there and they were a lot more musically talented than the first one had been. Also they had far better haircuts. Lindsay, Yaella and I went to town, dancing our little butts off and just generally having a great time. I even got Justin out onto the dance floor and he was singing along to the music and twirling me around like a pro. At one point when I was up dancing with the girls and Justin was sitting down some older guy came up to Justin and said

“Hey mate, is that your bird?” (bird is an australian colloquial term for girl, and he was pointing at me)

and Justin said

“Yeah”

and he said

“Good on ya mate!”

We all had a good chuckle about this later.

Ladies: composed, Yaella sporting the infamous leather pants

Ladies rocking out, and is that a hint of cleavage I spy? Perhaps? One can dream!

Am I really that tall? I wasn't even wearing heels.

My two favorite people to walk around Sydney with

We had only planned on staying out till around midnight, but we were having such a great time that we didn’t end up making it back to Glebe till around 2 am. Justin kept saying,”we will leave when they play a bad song” and they just never did. Finally the band took a break though, and we decided it was time to make our exit. We walked back to Glebe and promptly crawled into bed since Justin and I had a 7am bus to catch to Canberra the next morning. Even though we knew we wouldn’t get much sleep and would be exhausted the following day, it was a great night out and we had no regrets.

Cuuuuuute

Just Another Day In Paradise

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Lindsay and I awoke early for our last morning in Krabi, went to breakfast with Danielle and Anneka and then had a few hours to kill before we needed to meet the speed boats on the beach that would take us to Phi Phi. On our way to the beach the previous day we had spotted a rock climb area that led to a lookout point over the peninsula, so we decided we would conquer that before leaving. This was a climb that did not require special shoes or a harness but it was by no means an easy climb. The first part of it wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t incredible steep and there was a rope to hold onto, but it was easily a thirty five minute climb the middle part which was the most rigorous. Eventually it evened out and the last bit of it was actually a dirt path through the trees, but we were all quite literally dripping with sweat once we got to the top. O and rock climbing in flip flops, probably not one of my better wardrobe decisions, but they were the only shoes I had with me on the island and I wasn’t fearless enough to attempt it barefoot.

Climbing up to the lookout

The view from the top- the estuary is on the right and the Andaman Sea is on the left and the resort bridges the space between the two

We came, we climbed, we conquered.

Paradise: the view from above

Sweaty, but still smiling

Estuary side

After we caught our breath we began our climb down and arrived back at the bottom sweaty and mud streaked but feeling accomplished. We spent the rest of the morning lounging by the pool before having to pack up and meet the speed boats on the beach that would be taking us to our next destination: Phi Phi. On our way to our next hotel we were told that we would be stopping to have an hour long snorkel! I have never snorkeled before and I was super excited to get this opportunity.

So excited

The water is so pretty and clear

I was a little nervous to jump into the water because there were fish EVERYWHERE, but once I did and I put my face into the water I was AMAZED at the sights that met my eyes. Had I not been breathing through a tube they would have taken my breath away.  (the following pictures are not from my camera as my camera does not operate underwater, they are from another girl who was on the trip)

Fishies!

So. Many. Fishies!

After many years of watching Finding Nemo and flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines in medical waiting rooms I was expecting a rainbow of colors in the coral beds, what we came across was quite different. Due to rising ocean temperatures in the last two or three years the coral in this region has been bleached, a condition in which the coral looses all of its color due to a stress-induced expulsion or death of their symbiotic protozoa or due to the loss of pigmentation within the protozoa. The corals that form the structure of reef ecosystems in tropical sea areas depend upon a symbiotic relationship with unicellular flagellate protozoa, called zooxanthellae that are photosynthetic and live within their tissues. Zoonanthellae give coral its coloring and under stress corals may expel their zooxanthellae which leads to a lightening of color or sometimes a complete loss of color leaving the coral gray or white. Once bleaching begins it tends to continue even without continuing stress. If the coral colony can survive the stress period zooxanthellae will often return within weeks to months to a normal density, but this is not always the case as some zooxanthellae and coral species are more resistant to stress than others. Increasing ocean temperature is the most common cause of this, as even a 1-2 degree change annually can trigger this phenomena. Increasing ocean acidification also can exacerbate bleaching effects due to thermal stress. (all information researched from Wikipedia)

The Coral Seekers employee who was our guide on the boat was explaining that in the last two or three years almost all the coral in this area has lost its coloring, but the fish have stuck around.

Sea Urchins- do not touch!

Bleached out coral

After an hour or so of snorkeling we were taken to check into our hotel in Phi Phi (this is pronounced ‘Pee Pee’ which I was not able to hear someone say without snickering, I’m so mature, I know) where we checked into our rooms and then headed to the hotel restaurant for lunch.

The pool at our Phi Phi hotel

I never actually swam in this pool but it was very pretty to look at

I love these flowers, they are everywhere in Australia too

Walkway to the beach

While we were eating lunch they had the Royal Wedding coverage on the big screen TV in the hotel, so even though we were in a country that is in no way affiliated with the British crown, nor do its inhabitants speak English, we could not escape the Royal Wedding. After lunch we loaded back onto the boats to do a tour of some of the other islands in the area.

There are these huge rocky outcroppings everywhere, it looks like we are on an episode of Lost

These caves are home to a rare species of bird that only nests in this one location, so there is a small tribe of people who live here to protect these birds and their nesting grounds from poachers

Island magnificence

Our main attraction for the afternoon was a stop on the island of Koh Phi Phi which is where the 2000 adventure drama film The Beach, starring Leonardio Dicaprio and Tilda Swinton was filmed.

Link for the trailer to the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EJ1T0cf-Wk

the beach from the movie "The Beach"

View from the shore

Doing more silly things with my arms. At least I'm consistent

Mountains beyond the shoreline

We spent a few hours hanging out in Ma Ya Bay, during which time the Coral Seeker employees who had been driving us around all day on two boats brought out two huge coolers of cranberry and vodka mixed drinks and jello shots, so we got to have a little early evening cocktail on the beach before dinner. A storm was moving in over the island and as it began to rain we loaded back into the boats and headed back to our hotel. Once there we changed out of our bathing suits and went out to check out the night life in Phi Phi. Unlike in Krabi, which is more of a resort town with very few local residents, Phi Phi had a bustling commercial district that was mostly filled with beach wear shops, dive bars, restaurants, massage parlors, internet cafes, souvenir shops, and island tour companies. It was a loud, cramped and crowded district filled with lots of drunk sunburned tourists and local shop owners getting up in your face about taxi rides and snorkeling trips. Lindsay, Anneka, Danielle and I pushed our way through all the madness to find a cute pirate themed restaurant where we had a light diner before heading back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed.


Chanting and Dancing

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Once we returned to the hotel after cooking all morning we were given an hour to freshen and up and then we had the option of visiting an orphanage that was a mile or two away from our hotel. While most of the kids on the trip were very eager to go, I took real issue with the idea that orphans would be used as a tourist attraction. It made me sick to my stomach that the kids on our trip would go to this orphanage to play with these kids for an hour, take pictures with them and then leave and move onto the next thing. I feel as though this makes a mockery of their whole situation, and their trivializes their lives which I am sure have been very hard. I have traveled to mexico and to various places in the United States to do mission work, and met children with whom I developed personal relationships and yes I have pictures and memories with them, but I was there to help, not just to take pictures and leave. Granted, everyone who went did make a donation of a few hundred baht which will be used to buy medications, and as a group we took up a separate collection to purchase new tricycles for the center, and these are good things to do, but I still did not think it was appropriate to use an orphanage as a tourist attraction. **steps off soap box**

So I didn’t go. I instead took a nap at the hotel, payed about three dollars to use the hotel internet for thirty minutes and changed into a long dress and shirt for the temple visit that we would be doing later. There were about eight of us who did not go to the orphanage, but everyone else just wanted time to get a massage (VERY cheap to do in Thailand, and massage places are EVERYWHERE) or take a nap. After an hour at the orphanage the eight of us who had stayed behind boarded a big tour bus and picked up the kids who went to the orphanage and proceeded to drive about 15km outside of the city up a huge mountain to wat Phra That Doi Suthep or the Temple on the Mountain. To enter the temple everyone had to wear modest clothing that did not expose shoulders or anything above the knee. When the bus dropped us off we had to climb 308 very steep steps up the mountain to reach the temple.

The legend of how the temple came to be as copy and pasted from Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge:

“According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothaihad a dream; in this dream god told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and is said to have found a bone, which many claim was Buddah’s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move itself and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dharmmaria who ruled the Sukhothai.

The eager Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic’s authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

However, King Nu Naone of the  Lanna Kingdom heard of the relic and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The relic apparently split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the relic was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.”

Gold statue near the steps going up to the temple

The 308 steps up to the temple

White Elephant shrine

View of the valley from atop the mountain

Sacred building that only the monks can enter

Prayer shrine

Monk going up to pay tribute

Chinese style dragon. This temple was buddhist, but in Thailand their religion has been influenced by India and by China so the architecture of their religious spaces borrows heavily from those two cultures.

Indian deity Ganesha

Inside the temple

While inside this room you were not allowed to stand. Within the temple you could not wear shoes.

Monks chanting during their daily prayer ritual

Chanting monks. When a monk decides to dedicate himself to a life of religious observance he is no longer permitted to handle money or touch women.

This is a jackfruit tree. There is one outside of every temple because the internal bark of this tree is orange, and it is from this bark that the monks get the dye that they use to color their robes.

Entrance to the temple grounds

inside the temple

Whose mom is this I wonder

We spent over an hour at the temple before putting our shoes back on to climb back down the 308 steps to the busses. We were then taken to a thai dance dinner show.

Ladies sitting outside of the restaurant

This restaurant specialized in northern thai food, which is traditionally eaten while sitting on the floor, but we were totally able to cheat because there was a pit under the table for our feet. BUt we did have to take our shoes off before entering the restaurant

Northern thai food, served family style

Northern Thailand dancing

Thai drumming/dancing

My first and only cocktail in Thailand- a grasshopper. Mint and coconut, YUM.

Anneka, Lindsay, Me and Danielle enjoying our veg northern thai food.

After dinner we were driven back to the hotel and left with an evening to do as we wished. Lindsay was exhausted and went to bed, but Anneka, Danielle and I went back out to the night markets in Chiang Mai in search of some great bargains. We all ended up buying a bunch of postcards, because at 10 baht a piece (roughly 30 cents) they were a STEAL, because in Sydney you can rarely buy one for under a $2.00 and it costs another $1.50 to send it. Danielle proved herself to be quite a bargain shark. She wanted to purcahse a scarf and the stall owner’s original asking price was 450 baht but Danielle told her that she refused to pay any more than 200. They went back and forth haggling over price until the owner finally said that 220 was her final offer. For that price I decided I would buy one and I walked away with a gorgeous purple silk scarf for around seven dollars. Shortly after we walked away the stall owner chased after us and told Danielle that she would sell it to her for 200, and I gave the lady the dirtiest look I could muster for swindling me out of 20 baht. I guess I must have inherited my mothers ability for steely eyed soul piercing stares because when Danielle came away from the stall she did so with her 200 baht scarf in hand and a 20 baht refund for me from the stall owner who had apparently said “you friend hates me, here is her money back.”

After we had shopped for an hour or two we headed back to the hotel and turned in for a pleasant sleep, our last night in Chiang Mai.