Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ski experience part 1: Where the only way out is down.

Remember sometime in the beginning of the year I said I wanted to ski?

Well, I finally got my wish.

I just got back from a 2 day skiing trip to Mount Hotham over the weekend. However, as opposed to last year, when nearly everyone who went were good friends of mine, this time, there were a lot of unknown people, due to the organiser, my friend, being the president of the Melbourne University Thai Society, there was a bunch of Thai people coming along as well (actually, the Thai group outnumbered us, due to more than half of our original group that went to Buller not coming along this time), bringing along with them unique accents and unique nicknames like Bell, View, Pui, and many others.

Anyway, this time, we left on Saturday morning 2 am (yes you read that right), took a 5 hour (yes, five) bus ride, and got there in the morning before checking into our ski lodge, Kalyna, where we were going to stay the night. This way, we saved on one night's accommodation.

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Like I said in that post about Mount Buller, last year's snow was really crap. Furthermore, Mt Hotham naturally has much more snow that Buller anyway, and we weren't disappointed this time round when we arrived at Hotham to find it actually snowing.

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Before I go on any further, for the uninitiated, let me explain a bit on how the ski thing actually works.

Firstly, to ski, you need your skis, poles, and boots. To snowboard, you need the board and boots. Most people won't have those anyway, so there's plenty of places up the mountain that rent out that kind of stuff, like Hotham Central in the picture up there. We rented our gear from the Melbourne University Ski Club before heading up the mountain actually.

Once you've got your gear, you can head up to the slopes and ski (or board) immediately. Assuming you know how to, of course. If you don't, then you can sign up for lessons, available for beginners, and other levels of expertise as well.

The basic thing to understand about the slopes is that you take the lift up, ski down, and take the lift up again, then ski down again, and you can do it however many times you want.

The interesting thing about Hotham is that they have multiple slopes, and, the slopes are arranged in such a way that you can ski down one, take the lift up, ski down a different route, to a different area where there's another lift, which leads to yet another area with multiple routes that you can choose. The only problem with most of the routes, not that they are steep or anything, is that one side is just a cliff with no barrier, and if you are not careful, or unskilled (like me), you might just end up falling down the cliff onto a black run.

What's a black run you say? There are 3 different kinds of runs: Green, Blue, and Black. Green runs are for beginners, wide open expanse of snow, no cliffs, and not so steep, perfect for practising. Blue runs are the more difficult runs, much steeper, cliffs on one side with no barriers, however, even within the Blue category, there's a range of difficulties (some of them are very very very steep, but wide, so you don't need to worry about falling off, while others are actually not steep at all, but with one open side that you could fall off into), but you won't find that out until you actually go onto the run. And then there's the Black runs, for those super pro people, very very very very steep, some in unpatrolled ares (if you die, no one's gonna know), and even if you fall, you'll end up falling down very very very far.

Here I have a trail map of Hotham (click on it to enlarge):

Red lines denote chair lifts, slopes are coloured by their difficulties, green, blue, and black respectively. You can see that there's only 2 green runs, Big D, and The Summit. On the first day, I actually went onto most of the blue runs (yeah, including the far reaches to the right), but the way back terrified me so much, that on the 2nd day, I restricted myself to The Summit, and the relatively easy blue run nearby, Sun Run.

What I wasn't able to appreciate last year in Buller, due to the horrible snow fall last year, and also due to me being absolutely useless at skiing considering that it was my first time) was that you could ski on different slopes. I thought that there was only one beginner's slope, one intermediate, and one advanced. But Hotham proved that there's multiple copies of everything, with so many different intertwining routes of various levels, that its so easy to get separated from your friends, or, if you're not careful with the signs, just to go off into a Black run.

But that's what made it so interesting. Its like taking a walk through a forest trail, only that you're on skis. Wicked.

Ok. Enough talk. On to the pictures.

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That's the same Hotham Central building on the right, and we can see the bottom of The Summit in the background, with the ski lifts.

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This is the view from the top. On of the problems that I encountered was that I found that once you got up, the only way out is down. There was once when we going back for the day, and I was faced with 3 choices to get back. 2 very steep Blue runs on either side of me (look on the map for Lower Imagine and Snake Gully, near the Heavenly Valley lifts), and a Black one right ahead. And I absolutely freaked out. Being the most noobish one amongst my friends, I was the last to get down to the bottom, having several wipeouts along the way, after which I decided to just pick up my skis and walk down the rest of the way.

Speaking of Heavenly Valley lift, here it is:

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And here's a view of a different lift, but looking downwards:

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Going up the lifts were an extremely cold experience. And sometimes the lifts may stop suddenly due to whatever accidents or falls that may either happen at the bottom or the top, and you have to sit there and wait. Eeee. Not good if you have a fear of heights.

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This is the bottom of Big D, the other beginner's run.

And at the top of the slopes, you get views like these:
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This is quite a good picture (not mine), but I'm sure someone with more photography skills and a dSLR camera will get a much better shot than this.

Okayy, what an extremely long post.

But I'm not done!

Haha, I'll continue tomorrow. Watch out for part 2 of my ski experience.

Other parts can be found here:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, July 30, 2007

I surprise myself. When I started this blog at the beginning of this year, I was questioning my commitment to keep going with the blog. What would I write about? I normally don't have much to say. My old blog just petered out because of lack of updates and I was worried that it would happen with this one as well.

And that's why I'm surprised.

I'm past a hundred posts already.

This last week has been the longest I haven't updated since I've started. And that's an achievement. One week without an update is nothing, compared to some of my friends (That sounds like a veiled criticism to me haha).

Anyway, I just got back from a 2 day ski trip at Mt Hotham (OMG!), but until I sort out the pictures I have, I won't mention anymore of that yet.

Until then, you can have some chicken wings as, shall we say, 'alas perut' first.

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This is my brother back home in Malaysia with a giant chicken wing somehow floating in front of him. Interesting indeed hehe.

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And this is my mum with my brother here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This morning, I braved foggy conditions to obtain my copy of Harry Potter.

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I am now going to read it.

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On a more amusing note, I took this excerpt from The Age:

"As Pottermania gripped Australia, a 21-year-old Canberra fan took the extreme action of diving into the frigid waters of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin when he dropped his pre-purchase receipt yesterday afternoon.

The receipt provides proof that he - like many fans wanting to ensure they were among the first to read the book - had pre-ordered a copy.

A security guard pulled the man from the water about 4pm (AEST) when he was found splashing around searching for his receipt.

He was stabilised by paramedics after suffering suspected mild hyperthermia and taken to Calvary Hospital in a stable condition."

I know that I shouldn't be laughing at other people's misfortune, but I can't help but think, this guy now won't get to read his copy of the book because he's in the hospital! And I wonder if he actually found his receipt.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I first heard of this place called Don Don on Swanston Street in the beginning of the year, recommended by a friend and his friend, when I was looking for something fast and filling to eat. Then, I ordered the takeaway Curry Katsu Don, and I absolutely hated it, and haven't been back since. But I must admit that they were very fast. The meal arrives before you even finish saying what you want, its that fast.

About 2 weeks ago, some other friends went to Don Don as well, and I tagged along but didn't order anything. I was wondering though, why did my friends think that Don Don was actually good?

Today, inspired by yet another Tummy Rumbles review, this time on the Sashi Don there, I trekked down to Don Don with Eileen, deciding to give Don Don one final chance, and this is what I got:

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Don't you think it looks absolutely delectable?

And it only costs 7.70. Absolutely worth it considering the amount of sashimi you get.

Anddd, its healthy.

Will I go to Don Don again? You bet, if only for the Sashi Don.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've found a new place to eat in Melbourne. The new Dessert House on Swanston Street: Dessert House Eatery.

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Its yet another one of those Hong Kong style cafes which I generally don't like, but its the first time that I've ever walked into a restaurant, and while looking at what everybody else is eating, find that I want to try everything. Usually I just go for one particular dish.

So on that day, what I decided to try (from looking at other people's meals), was this:

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Though I only say Baked Pork Chop with cheese and mushroom, it also comes with fried rice. Its an interesting variation of the usual Baked Pork Chop with cheese on rice (which I absolutely don't like because the taste of the cheese is too strong), but the addition of the mushroom bit is genius, giving it a bit of a cream of mushroom soup taste.

This is the chicken version of the same dish:

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Dessert House Eatery is definitely a place that I would go again, to try all the other dishes that I see people eat. Good location, excellent food, and with a small, cozy, and comfortable environment to boot.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

The group of us gathered up yesterday to celebrate the birthdays of quite a number of people who have birthdays in July. Its like, killing seven birds with one stone, just that, 2 birds didn't turn up for the party.

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We met up in the afternoon in Sheik Yan's place, and played cards, whittling the time away, while eating the food that she had painstakingly prepared for us all.

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And she did it all by herself. Wow. The apple pies were amazingly astounding, exactly how you would expect apple pies to taste like.

When darkness fell, we then proceeded to have dinner in this place called Authentic Thai Taste, joining up with another two friends that weren't at Sheik Yan's place. It was so authentic that they even got us to sit on the floor on cushions.

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Trust me, though it looks nice, the seats are not comfortable.

We ordered quite a few dishes and I was planning to put pictures of them all up, but then I just found out that quite a few of them didn't turn up clear! Goodness.

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What we're missing here is one Deep Fried Pork Knuckle, just like what I get back in Malaysia, and another Soft Shell Crab dish, both of the pictures turned out blur.

To accomodate for the amount of people, we got 2 cakes as well.

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Here you can actually see Sheik Yan eyeing the green cake.

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They just couldn't wait for the cake to be cut before eating it.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Who says Melbourne does not have good food?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

To sum it up, food-wise, it was a great trip back to Malaysia. I'm glad to say that this time, I was able to eat everything that I wanted to eat before returning to Melbourne. From the Bak Kut Teh and durians in my previous post, to 1901 Hot Dogs and Dai Pao, mamak in Murni in SS2, nasi lemak at home, chicken rice in Kelana Jaya, Japanese buffet and self-made Unagi Don in Jogoya, awesome char kuay teow, a lot of other random one offs, and even takoyaki in Takashimaya in Orchard Road, Singapore, I ate them all.

And as a fitting end to the whole series, my grandma fried some noodles for the lunch on the day that I was flying off.

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Eating that just brings back all the wonderful memories from my secondary school days, back when I was still living in Subang Jaya, when my grandma would once in a while make this noodles. It is just that damn good. What's better is that I can eat as much as I want since usually she makes a lot, knowing how much we eat. ;p

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And this is something else that I haven't eaten in a long time. Its super good in porridges, but when eaten alone, its not that good. However, its like meeting a good friend whom you haven't seen in a while. And all is good again.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

So I'm finally back in Melbourne.

However, I still need to complete my Malaysian food story. Two more stories to go and it'll be complete.

On Friday, the day before I flew off, I went to have Bak Kut Teh with my brother and my grandmother. Its situated in Kelana Jaya again, in the same row of shops as the chicken rice shop that I went to last time.

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If you look hard enough to the right down the row of shops, the chicken rice is at that corner. Actually, I don't think you can see it, no matter how hard you look. Don't even bother trying haha. Just take my word for it.

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And so to the meal. Of course must eat Bak Kut Teh. Soup was good, meat was fat, and the world was at peace.

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If we dip this into the soup, we're supposed to taste something unlike anything we have ever tasted before. Unfortunately I have tasted cold yau char kuai before, and trust me, it isn't good. ;p

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Miscellaneous bits from the stomach of the pig boiled in pepper soup. Good to eat. But not good if the pepper gets to the back of your throat. You end up choking.

As we were walking back to the car after the meal, we noticed a man selling durians and my grandma asked whether I wanted any or not. Seeing that I haven't had durians for about 2 years already, I agreed.

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I'm not sure why the picture is divided into a light side and a dark side. I would like to think its cool, but then again, something is telling me its not cool. Regardless, those mini durians there are definitely cool.

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They look and are thorny, but within them, lies hidden treasures.

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Providing you can get past the smell first haha. Its like it has different layers of defenses to protect itself from being eaten, but then that's just me being lame.

Friday, July 6, 2007

My last 2 or 3 days in KL before heading back to Melbourne for semester 6 has been about eating stuff I haven't eaten in ages (probably about 2 years).

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The 1901 hot dogs were, and still are, my favourite hot dogs. I used to bemoan the fact that Malaysia only has 1901, Viking, and a couple of other independent stalls selling hot dogs. I love watching food programs on television, and there was once a one hour feature on all the different hot dogs in the US, and knowing that I couldn't have that in Malaysia, goodness, it was torture.

I thought that I could get those cool hot dogs in Melbourne, but so far, I haven't seen anything like that. The only hot dogs in Melbourne are those you can make yourself at home. Buy a hot dog bun, steam or fry a sausage, throw it into the bun, and put ketchup on it.

Now I'm able to appreciate how good the 1901 hot dog really is.

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They actually take time to steam the bun, so it comes out hot and soft, unlike those dry and stale buns you get elsewhere. And the pickled relish. Excellent complement to the ketchup and the mayonnaise and a more than adequate replacement for onions.

Another thing that I haven't eaten in a long while is the 'dai pao', meaning Big Bun, literally.

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Its not just a bigger version of the Char Siew Pao, the meat inside is actually different.

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However, this proved to be a disappointment. When I used to eat it a couple of years back, it used to have more meat and less 'bun volume'. Now there's more bun, less meat, and even the egg that used to be in there has disappeared.

Ho Hum.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

This was then:

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Even the camera quality is really bad. Haha. Yufoong, me, Weishen, Ivan. Best friends from 5 Alpha. Oops. Sorry. I forgot. 5 Azam.

And this is now:

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We met up yesterday night and I'm glad to say that 3 years on, we are still able to laugh at each other like we did before.

Unfortunately, we only get to meet once (or maybe twice) before going our separate ways again. The different vacation periods are hard on friends studying all over the globe. What to do..

Monday, July 2, 2007

Last Monday I finally got the chance to go to Murni in SS2. For some obscure reason, its a mamak store, but more famous for its wide variety of food that you don't normally get in your usual mamak stalls.

And the place is so good that it hasn't bothered repairing its signboard for 2 years already - the lights are not working, so if you're looking for a sign saying 'Murni' at night, you would not find it.

People don't come here for your usual teh tarik. They come for the drink 'Specials'.

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Serving the drinks in jars is a masterstroke by the restaurant. Shows that the drinks are, indeed, 'special'. Chock-full with goodness, its lychees, pieces of watermelon (regardless of whatever flavour you order, you'd still get watermelon pieces), and nata de cocos, plus the sheer quantity of the drink, is sure to make your trip worthwhile even if its the only thing you order.

And then we come to the food. Like I said, it has a wide variety of food, from your usual mamak fare of rotis and nasi lemak, to stuff you won't normally get in these kind of restaurants, e.g. western fare like steak, chops, and pasta.

But then again, they even have the usual mamak fare, but with twists.

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This is filled with stuff like sausages and pineapples and minced meat, in accordance to the Hawaiian theme I guess.

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If this costs the same amount in Melbourne as it does in Malaysia (after converting), I'd eat it everyday. Not because its very good, but because it fills me up. And I'd be very satisfied. Haha.

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This is usual. But eating the naan with condensed milk gives it an added dimension that you wouldn't get with your normal curries.

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And the bomb. Usually a chinese dish, but they serve it here as well. And I love the idea of the egg in the middle.

Unfortunately, once I return to Melbourne, I'd not get to eat this anymore.