Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 1: Brisbane to Gold Coast

1 DEC 2008, MONDAY

Our flight's departure time was delayed by 2+hrs so we reached Brisbane airport only at 9ish (QLD time) the next morning. Believe it or not, I've always hated taking the plane. There was a period of time (after a trip to Colorado) when just the thought of going on a plane will make my head spin and my stomach churn. Anyway, as what happens on most of my air trips, I threw up my entire dinner. At least this time, I made it to the loo in time. I forced myself to sleep so as to distract myself from a queasy stomach.

Only managed to catch parts of The Dark Knight and The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Thank god there were no restless crying babies this time (we specifically asked to be seated as far away as possible from the bassinet seats). I couldn't eat after that though...no matter how good breakfast had looked. I must say the service, comfort level, quality of F&B and entertainment of Qantas flight was really commendable. I have been so used to the curtness of american airline attendants that I have almost forgotten what good service is all about!

When we arrived at Brisbane international airport, we went to the RedSpot counter to pick up our rental car. We also managed to obtain some maps of Gold Coast and Brisbane from the Tourist Info Counter. The rental car was a white Nissan Tiida. We noted quite some dents at the front and back bumpers and highlighted them to the staff just in case they pin those on us when we were to return the car later. It was a decent car (definitely much better than a Getz or something) but the boot was kinda small and we had to stack up our 2 luggages + 1 handcarry. We didn't rent a GPS as we have always preferred to rely on good old traditional road maps.

It wasn't difficult getting out of the airport to go towards Gold Coast. We were both kinda tired due to the lack of sleep....I was hungry too since my dinner had ended up in the loo on the plane and I hadn't eaten anything for breakfast. We decided to make a stop at Harbourtown which was along the way to Surfers Paradise.

Harbourtown is an outlet mall and a shopping paradise for the shopaholic http://www.harbourtownshopping.com.au/. Some of the stuffs were really cheap...especially the past season wear. It's a good stopover if you want to satisfy your shopping cravings and also to stock up on t-shirts, swimwear, thongs (yeah, the ones on your feet as well as on your ass!), caftans, caps, surfer shorts etc before you head down to gold coast. Not a hardcore shopper, I of course once again ended up with empty hands....but I did manage to fill my growling stomach with a piping hot chicken kebab with chips! Then we continued our way to Gold Coast which is just another 10-15min drive away.

So, we booked our accommodation at Holiday Inn @ Surfers Paradise. We got a special rate with the Holiday Inn membership and had to pay only ~SGD290 for 2N stay with covered parking. The main reason we booked this hotel was 'cos of the location at the heart of Surfers Paradise and also of the view of the beach. The room wasn't anything to shout about but it was tastefully furnished and of a decent size with a king size bed....however, what we truly loved about the room was the view from the balcony! It was a wonderful and liberating feeling just sitting out at the balcony with a mug of hot cocoa and feeling the seabreeze on my face.

The color theme of the room was pretty bold but they managed to throw everything together quite nicely for a contemporary chic look. The mirror was great as it not only made the room appeared bigger...it also brought in light and the beautiful view from the outside. There was actually a glass panel to allow you to look out from the bathroom...and there was also a roman blind in place if you want some privacy =P

Here's the lovely view that I was talking about. We were lucky 'cos our room was the closest to the coast (most corner unit of the hotel) so we had a very good view of the Surfers Paradise beach. The views from the other units were likely to be blocked by the many tall condos. It was really windy at the balcony....but kinda cold towards the late evening.

This was the other view from the balcony. It was a huge amusement park with reverse and conventional bungee and there was this ride that could make frightening 360deg turns. Every night, we could hear screams....really fun to watch people pay to get freaked out! It also reminded me of my younger days when I used to take the thrill rides at ECP.

So, we took a stroll down Surfers Paradise beach in the late afternoon. I was here when I was a kid 20+years ago...but it was RG's first time in Gold Coast. Before we came, I kept telling RG that Gold Coast has like the BEST beaches in the whole world...where the sand is so fine and it would glistened in the sun like specks of gold dust. I didn't think he believed me then...but having seen it, I think he does now.

I couldn't help but noticed many Japanese tourists in Surfers Paradise. We even saw a Japanese couple taking their wedding photo (yah, in full wedding gown, suit+tie!) there. Above in the photograph were 3 japanese gals enjoying a dip together. The water was very cool to the touch and the waves were pretty strong.

Just look at that. Can you imagine that there are miles and miles of such beautiful beaches down the entire stretch of Gold Coast up till Coolangatta! I was totally in awe.

We also checked out Cavill Mall which is like the main shopping district at Surfers Paradise. There were quite some shops selling surf wear and also small eateries and cafes (and Hard Rock Surfers Paradise too!). It was kinda touristy but what the heck...we were tourists so we allowed ourselves to indulge a little in this paradise. All the beautiful and sexy sunshine men and women in their tight surfers shorts and skimpy bikinis....really a feast to our eyes! =P~

Hahhhhhhh....for awhile, we just wished we could live there forever. We were told that due to the economic crisis and subprime issues, it ain't going to be hard to find some nice seafront 1-2 bedroom condo units going for A$200,000+ come 2009. Tempting....but eventually I began to wonder if a lifetime of sun, sand, sea and beautiful people is really my idea of paradise....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Planning Stage: East Coast Australia, 30-10 Dec 2008

We hadn't had much time for trip planning...everything took place in a rush. Air tickets were booked before we had worked out our itinerary...by then it was too late to regret or make any changes. RG and I had booked our air tickets separately and although we were booked on the same Qantas flight to Brisbane, he had to pay more for his ticket (SGD300 more than my ticket which costed SGD1,100)....and we also ended up being allocated separate seats. It's definitely cheaper to book Qantas flights direct through the airline website http://www.qantas.com.au/regions/dyn/home/qualifier-region-AS/qualifier-country-SG

We had pre-booked our hotels and rental car via the internet. The rental car, a Nissan Tiida (hatchback), from Redspot (via http://www.brisbaneairportcarhire.net.au/
) was a steal at A$260 for 10 days! We hadn't bought the excess insurance 'cos RG's rental excess coverage amount under his travel insurance was quite high. We had collected the rental car when we arrived at the Brisbane Airport.

For accommodations, we had booked at the various locations where we had planned our stopovers - Gold Coast (2N), Coffs Harbour (1N), Sydney (3N), Port Macquarie (1N), Byron Bay (1N) & Brisbane (1N). All accommodations were sourced online and our budget were a little more generous this time round at $150-$200/per room per night. Our main criteria was - a room with a nice view! Instead of using hotel booking portals like we usually do, we realised that it was much cheaper booking direct with the hotels.

Our route was from Brisbane to Sydney and back. We had used the google map for our route planning
http://maps.google.com/ The total distance of the entire trip was slightly over 2,000km. The routes to and from Sydney were a little diferent as we didn't want to retrace our steps. We had also planned to stop over at different towns along our way to and fro so as to cover more of the sights.

The final driving route was roughly like this:

Day 1: Brisbane - Harbourtown (1h drive) - Surfers Paradise beach (15min drive)

Day 2: Set off from Holiday Inn Surfers Paradise to Springbrook (1h15min drive). On the way back from Springbrook, we covered Tweed Heads (1hr drive) – Coolangatta – Bilinga – Tugun – Currumbin – Palm Beach – Burleigh Heads – Miami – Nobby Beach – Mermaid Beach – Broadbeach – Pacific Fair

Day 3: We left Surfers Paradise – Ballina (1h45min drive) – Woolgoolga (2h30min drive)– Coffs Harbour (30min)– Coffs Harbour Jetty

Day 4: Coffs Harbour (Farmers Market)– Forster (3h30min drive)– Raymond Terrace (1h50min drive) –Milsons Point - North Sydney (2h5min drive)

Day 5: We moved to North Sydney Harbourview Hotel, left the car in the hotel and took the subway for the entire day

Day 6: We took the car and drove cross Sydney Harbour Bridge – down George St – Broadway – Myrtle St – City Road (Uni of Sydney) – Paddington Market – Glebe Point – Glebe Market – Unilodge – Broadway Shopping Centre

Day 7: We left North Sydney and started driving towards – Newscastle (2h12min drive) – Bulahdelah (1h20min) – Bonny Hills – Lake Cathie – Lighthouse Beach – Tacking Point Lighthouse(2h drive)

Day 8: Left Port Macquarie – Frederickton (56min drive)– Urunga (57min drive)- Dorrigo (Dorrigo National Park) (1hr drive) – Bellingen (30min) - Byron Bay (4h drive)

Day 9: Drove to Cape Byron Lighthouse at 4.30am to catch the sunrise (8min drive) – Byron Bay main beach (6min)– Byron Bay town centre. Then we left Byron Bay for South Brisbane (2h10min drive). We left the car at the hotel and walked to the Brisbane CBD - Botanic Gardens – Queens Street – crossed Victoria Bridge – walked down South Bank Parklands

Day 10: We left the hotel and drove to airport (30min drive)

A lot of driving for 10 days but it was kinda fun and exciting.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What type of traveler am I?

Since this is a travel blog, I feel I should disclose a bit more about my travel style.

So I googled and found this short quiz @

I tried it and below are the answers that best fit me:
1. What was your last vacation? a. Road trip down Route 66 [I luuurrrveeee road trips!]

2. You’ve been invited to a wedding several states away. How will you get there? Toss-up between a. Greyhound bus & b. Amtrak, so you can bring your bike and do some exploring after the wedding

3. What is your luggage of choice? Toss-up again between b. Backpack from REI & c. Well-worn Samsonite suitcase

4. You’re planning a weekend getaway with some girlfriends. What will you have after the trip to remember it by? Yet another toss-up between b. Digital photos of the sunset & c. A handmade necklace from one of the local shops you discovered

5. Which arrangement describes your typical accommodations? c. A room at a local B and B

6. What is the one beauty product you never leave home without? a. Chapstick

7. You’ve just been given an extra $500 toward your next vacation. How will you spend it? Depending on the destination, it's either a. You won’t, because you’d rather put that money toward your savings or c. Taking a helicopter tour over the city so you can get a bird’s-eye view

8. What’s your ideal night on the town? Again, a. Half-price apps and a glass of the house wine. After all, it’s the company that really counts or c. Tapas and sangria with some friends, followed by salsa dancing with the b.f.


Anyway, I've equal numbers of A's and C's (and a few B's). So based on the quiz results, I'm a budget travel babe, Globe-trotting girl and a teeny bit of an outdoor adventurer (NOT!). But it's true the one thing that I'm not - a Luxury Lady who likes to travel in style—preferably of the five-star variety.

I'm not a fan of group tours. We actually joined a group tour for the first leg of our honeymoon trip (to Hawaii & LA) in 2001 and it was a very traumatizing experience indeed. We have not travelled on another group tour ever since.

We'll usually DIY our trips and will do all our trip planning, air ticket, accommodation & car rental bookings online. I'm quite easy with accommodations (as long as bed is clean & location is accessible) and flights (as long as fare is cheap and it's not on China Airlines). I do not consider myself a hardcore backpacker - I think I'm too old for that already (that kind of travel is reserved for those in their late teens or early 20s). I do require some basic level of creature comforts. So yes, I guess I'm a budget travel babe in that sense 'cos I'll usually pick the low/mid-range accommodations and cheapest airfares whenever possible. To me, how you get to your destination and where you sleep is not as important as what your travel experiences are going to be like.

I'm not exactly a sun-sand-sea traveler as well. I do not really enjoy luxury spas, massages or just lazing at the beach. You'll never find me hanging out at the beach resort for days (which I know many do)...it'll bore me to death. I prefer to be on the go (but at a relax pace) and doing a little of everything...experiencing new culture, meeting new people, tasting new food, seeing new sights etc.

I haven't done much traveling with my friends ever since I got married. So my regular travel partner has been my spouse (RG) for the past years. I won't say our travel styles differ greatly but he's definitely not the sort who'd travel with a backpack or stay in a backpackers' inn or B&B. He requires a slightly higher level of creature comfort than I do so we have to compromise. We've kinda reached a middle-ground after all these years and our choices of accommodation actually reflect that. Instead of the cheapo backpackers' and budget inns that I had tended to gravitate towards while he the fancier hotels/resorts, we've now settled on the mid-range (3-4*) and the occasional splurge at something fancier when we feel like it.

We both love road trips and had done countless in US, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. We particularly enjoy coastal drives. Our dream is to do a long road trip from Singapore to Europe (we need sponsors!). Oh, just to let you know that I can't drive for nuts so he's the one doing all the driving. It's definitely a huge drawback! But hopefully, come next year, I'll be able to drive - at least that's my new year resolution to learn driving.

I love to take photos whenever I travel. I'm currently using a Lumix FZ50 with some 3rd party add-on lens (a tad too heavy for my liking but hey, there are always sacrifices to be made). I also carry along with me my Holga whenever I feel inspired for some lomo shots.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

From the beginning...

This blog is started for the main purpose of sharing my travel experiences. All these while, I have been penning down my travel experiences in a small black journal that I've been carrying around with me on my trips. Afterwhich, I often find myself having to replicate some of my thoughts and travel tips in various online travel forums or emails (whenever friends/relatives ask for travel advice)...and I find that it's just too time-consuming to type (& retype) the stuffs that I had handwritten in my journal.

So I figured it'll be much easier if I were to put everything in a blog and whenever people ask....I need only to tell them to refer to my blog. Of course, having a blog will also allow me to post alongside my stories, vivid photos which probably can tell a thousand more words than what I'm capable of writing.

And although this blog is meant for my travel escapades...I obviously do not travel enough to fill pages after pages of it...hence, it's very likely that I'll also use this platform to express my often absurd and random thoughts every now and then.

So why the strange blog title you may ask? Actually, I'm not even sure if "lostlessness" is a proper English word (well at least I couldn't find it in the dictionary). But just imagine for a second that there's such a word and my personal definition for it would be - "lost-lessness - the feeling of not being lost". And this, I think, is the true essence of travel.

In my earlier travel days, I used to get very flustered whenever I couldn't find my way to where I had planned to go. And if I'm allowed to dwell on it, eventually fear and self-loathe would creep in and I would end up being so miserable that I'd be totally shut off from even the most beautiful sights along the path wrongly taken.

As I grew older (and wiser, I hope) and having taken endless "wrong paths" (all thanks to my sucky map reading skills!), I have realised that "being lost" is perhaps just a state of mind. We are/feel lost only if we allow ourselves to and there's really no fun in being lost. So why not just take the deviation from the original planned route as an opportunity to uncover something new...something exciting perhaps?

It's weird as I think back on all my previous trips, that many of my best and most memorable travel experiences had been the result of such "deviations" from the paths much travelled. I can only attribute it to the thrill and excitement of discovering the unknown. And it would've been most unfortunate to miss out on all these fun if I had allowed myself to feel lost and miserable...wouldn't it?

I suppose this sense of lostlessness should also extend to life in general. No matter how much we've planned for our lives ahead, sometimes life will still throw us a curved ball. Do we get totally disoriented, defeated and lost or do we accept it as a challenge and opportunity to grow and experience something new and to make the best of whatever situations that present themselves?

With my first post, I sincerely wish that everyone out there who's reading my blog will achieve lostlessness.