Saturday, December 11, 2004

A complete change of weather, and what a scorcher! It was a beautiful day for Dreamworld. The sun was out and we finally felt the heat that makes Surfers' paradise.

We started the day badly with transport woes. Only 1 public bus to Dreamworld and thought is is very cheap -- $6 per pax return -- it is also infrequent and consequently by the time it reaches the bus stop at our end it's already too full to accept any more passengers.

After an hour of fruitless waiting, we hailed a cab. It cost us $25 but it got us there in good time; within 20 minutes of opening at 1000hrs.

We made a bee-line for the theme park's main attraction. From afar, the 1st thing we saw of Dreamworld was this great phallic symbol pointing skywards. This is the pillar that is central to the 2 most thrilling rides in the park. The Big Drop took us right to the top of the 110m tower and suspended us there for about a minute while we admired the parking lot, or contemplated our fate. Then without warning, the platform plunged into free-fall for a few seconds, making us feel like we left our insides at the top, before the brakes caught.

Next up, the Tower of Terror. The ride seats 24 of us in a car on rails. With a hiss and a bang the car rockets up the same tower vertically, then plunges us back again BACKWARDS. This is supposed to be the fastest and tallest drop for a theme park ride, but really the anticipation is much worse than the actual experience. It just happens too quickly for us to register the terror we should be feeling and then it's already over.

We took a short break on the Runaway Reptar Rollercoaster, which is thematically based on Nick Studio's Rugrats. It's a suspended steel coaster with lots of twists and turns, though on the whole, it was actually quite a mild ride.

Lunch at the CatDog Snack Shack eating (what else?) hotdogs. We're used to cats waiting at tables for scraps, but here stray heron with nasty, long, sharp, curved beaks stalked around looking for windfalls of abandoned food.

The big coaster, The Cyclone, was another steel monster with a double loop. Standard stuff, though compared to what we tried next.

Wipeout is a ride that though remains stationary, spun us around high up in the air, inverted us and swung us headfirst towards the ground a number of times. And just when we though it was over, it sprung it's nastiest surprise. Exhilarating.

The Claw -- a rotary swing is the source of another set of screams. The big swing and the rotating platform sends us up in the air to almost a full inversion, spinning us simultaneously so we either looked at the clouds or at the concrete tarmac before being swung back again with velocity. Crazy!

After this, June too a nap on my shoulder then on my lap. It was so hot we guzzled 3 600ml bottles of Mount Franklin spring water and some Coke too.

Refreshed, we sought out the last thrill -- the Eureka Mountain Mine Ride. It was dark, enclosed with one or two sights to spook, lots of abrupt turns, but again another mild ride.

We said hello to koala, Beltana, and got our pix taken with her. Took a photo with a Spongebob Squarepants statue, rode Wipeout once more, then it was time to go. Park closes at 1700hrs.

We were lucky enough to catch the public bus back and met Dawn and parents (from church)aboard. Small world.

Shopped the early evening away at downtown Surfers', KFC for dinner, then home for an early night. We need it for the early start tomorrow morning.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The late departure from Changi meant that Dreamworld was not possible this morning and will be postponed to early tomorrow instead.

We arrived in Brisbane at about 1100hrs and caught a 90 minute train ride to Narang where our limo driver collected us and our luggage and deposited us at our hotel, the Australis Sovereign. We will be staying here for the next couple of nights.

The hotel is quite a friendly place, not too formal but it looks and feels new and comfortable. It is quite a walk from the main action happening at Surfers' Paradise, but the walk is pleasant and, I suppose, healthy.

The problem is, as usual, we bring the rain. We've got our windbreakers on, hoods up, walking around Surfers' in summer. Most everyone else here is walking around heedless of the wet weather, but we are nicely bundled up, quite the anomaly, though people are too polite to mention it in our presence.

We stopped for lunch at La Porchetta, an Italian chain restaurant, for a small meat lovers' pizza with extra mushroom topping. Thin crust, plenty of meat including bits of lamb, and fresh mozza. Lovely.

In the afternoon, we hit the malls searching for the Hard Rock Cafe. HRC stuff is quite horribly expensive so we didn't buy anything, though we wanted to get a t-shirt for sis-in-law's collection.

There is supposed to be a night market along the beach every Friday night but the poor weather must have washed it out. The beach is deserted today -- not even the hardcore surfer dudes are out -- so no point opening for business, much to June's disappointment.

Returned to the hotel with my left sandal busted up at the same place I had it stiched up last time. Bah. Need to get new sandals now.

Hope Aussie TV isn't as boring as American. Hopefully, Dreamworld tomorrow!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Check it out! It's almost 9pm and I'm still here -- at home! I should have been at the airport 2 hours ago, but my flight's been delayed. QF52 is supposed to depart 2110, now estimated 0100. This effectively loses us half a day in Brisbane tomorrow, but I guess this also means we don't have to rush any more.

Ok, calm down. Everything's ready to go, everything's packed, everything's prepared for the pets to survive 2 weeks without us. Thanks to Dad-in-law who'll be pet sitting everyday until we come back. Just breathe easy, and enjoy the trip.

Relax. We're on VACATION!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Still holed up at home nursing my head cold. The weather has turned chilly and that's not helping. Hope the sun and heat down-under will clear my head or it's going to be one heck of a trip.

While I was at home, the Diamond water filter guy dropped by to repo the filter system we ordered on trial. It's a mid-size plastic box that sits on the kitchen counter connecting the water supply with the tap. The water that comes through the filter is supposed to be cleaner and healthier somehow than normal PUB water, and it was convenient to just fill up our drinking water bottles without having to boil the water first. After 2 weeks of trial though, it didn't really make much difference to our lives and so to remove one more piece of clutter from our kitchen we decided to discontinue the service. We're not likely to be using it over the next couple of weeks anyway.

Other things keeping me occupied today are NFS:UG2 (completed, all parts and rewards unlocked), Neopets (advent calendar is giving out free stuff, in case you've forgotten), Rave: Groove Adventure on AXN (a major soap opera of an anime involving more talk and backstory exposition than action, and a pretty girl-with-a-forgotten-past), and The Amazing Race also on AXN. So much media. Can feel my social life petrifying as I blog.

Cargo bag stands ready to be filled with our stuff. Clothing, electronics, stuff that friends in Sydney have requested us to get for them, toileteries; hope I can squeeze all this stuff in and still travel light. Amongst the clothing will be my new Nautica windbreaker, a Christmas present from sis-in-law. It's a convertible jacket that can double as a parka when you wear it with it's inner lining. It even has a compass on a 'bina attached to the zip. Cool!

I'll try to make one more entry tomorrow before leaving for the airport. After that, who knows? Else, see y'all in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Lousy start to the week with nasal congestion, ear blockage and sore throat. Been feeling this way since last Friday, though I haven't yet been totally incapacitated. Didn't want to think about it before but I hope it clears up before I leave for Oz on Thursday.

Still managed to get myself and June to the D&D last night. Everyone was polished and well-groomed, in a way that I've never seen before in NY students. Scruffy ol' me took the trouble to shop for a blazer for myself, and a gown for my date. I even used what was left in June's ancient jar of hair gel, though I panicked a bit when I applied it to my head and my hands got stuck to my hair like they were glued on. That jar was way past its expiry date and had dried into paste. Fortunately it obliged to wash off with a liberal amout of water and I didn't dare use any more.

My table was an all-girl table, with me the odd exception. Usually in these situations, I would feel like the rose among the thorns, but last night it felt quite the opposite. Kareen, Mindy, Farisa, Mei, Pris, 'nette, Yan, Rach, and June were all beautifully decked out, leaving me feeling a bit ah pek compared to them. Old insecurities arose, those I thought I'd long since buried. I can't show how gorgeous they were 'cos my camera suddenly turned shy and stayed in its pouch all night (er... no, that's not a euphemism for anything). Their hair and faces were sparkling and shimmery, their material flowed and curved around them, their cosmetic makeovers made them hard to recognise as the schoolgirls I used to teach, and indeed, I had to look at a few of them before I could recognise who they were. I was probably the oldest man in the hall (apart from the P, who isn't a man) and I felt my age. Sigh.

The food... well, who was really paying attenion to the food? The MC kept the attention on the stage with his silly games and low-brow humour. The choice of Prom King and Queen was um... expedient and arbitrary to say the least. Wonder when it became compulsory for D&Ds to insist on hiring game-show hosts to liven up the proceedings? Perhaps on occasions when guests aren't likely to know each other that's when MCs come in useful, but here when we are more likely to have fun entertaining ourselves he was just distracting.

Left as soon as dinner was over. I guess a combination of factors made me opt for an early exit. Physical infirmity, chronological disparity, social incongruity, whatever. I should have toughed it out and stayed longer; been more thick-skinned and inserted myself into more group photos; and whipped out my cam at every inappropriate opportunity; that would have made the event more memorable, but I didn't. Overwhelmed, I raised the white flag, committed social suicide and headed for the safety of home. Now I'm sorry I missed the post-dinner festivities.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

This weekend was like a training session for our upcoming Aussie adventure. Our mall walking took us to PS (at last), then on the MRT to Chinatown, then back on the MRT going west-north to Causeway Point where we finally picked up some supplies and a Christmas essential, our turkey.

How is all this relevant to Aussie? It's what we intend to do once we get to Sydney. Hop on board public transport and hoof it all over town, seeing everything possible. We have to build our walking stamina back up, seeing as how lazy we've gotten over the last few years. Long past are the days when we walked from Tanglin road to Suntec City and back to Scotts Road just for the fun of it. We did this quite a few times a week too because it was the only way we could spend time together alone back then. Now, we just go straight home from wherever we are and we're already alone together. Pets don't count.

Anyway, we got almost everything we wanted from our shopping list except for the kitty litter deodorant and the vacuum cleaner hose to replace our current one which has sprung a leak. We did get our turkey -- a 4.45kg li'l fella -- who's going to be chilling out in our freezer till we come back from our vacation. Also saw some new Rollerblade models which are now about a third to half the price of when they first came out. In-lines are back on my wish list. Now if only I had somewhere to use them...

We leave in a couple of days. Better start packin'.