Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back in Shanghai: Part 2

OK I'll pick up where I left off in my last entry, which is... Sunday! In the morning, we took the ferry from where Ronnie and Kristina live into the city. It was a cool way to see some of the suburbs as well as the city, and they pointed out some different areas and we talked about the ridiculously nice houses that we will all, surely, someday own....

The one thing that I really enjoyed, which everyone probably thought I was a bit crazy for, was the sky. Seriously, I don't remember it looking like that. There were seemingly hundreds of shades of blue during the day, and really varied cloud formations, not to mention the colors that appeared during the sunrises and sunsets. It really made me sad that I couldn't remember if the sky looks like that back home. The last couple of times I went home I don't remember it looking like that, but maybe each time I forget, or maybe Australia's just better. I'll have to pay more attention next time I return to the States. Oh! I saw the moon last night though!!! I don't think I had seen the moon since I got here. I guess turning off all the factories has helped a little because we're having a lot more "blue sky" days now... and I saw the moon! No stars though, that would be asking too much.

Back to Sunday... After we stepped off the ferry I got to see a bit of downtown Sydney. Unfortunately, it started raining soon after we got off, so we pretty much walked straight to a restaurant. We were all really hungry, though, so it wasn't a bad thing. Lunch was awesome, and then we continued to walk around and went to one of the local department stores, Myer, and some other shops in a search for various things. I bought some cute baby clothes for my little niece or nephew and Kristi bought a jacket because it was fucking cold outside. Then we found our way to the harbor again, where Kristi's dad had planned a harbor cruise for everyone.
The cruise was pretty much awesome. We had all just gotten in and taken a seat when this guy comes up to our table and started doing card tricks. At first, I was sort of like umm who let you on the boat? Turns out, he was extremely good, and worked on the boat. There were two, but one was noticeably better than the other and could do hypnotisms. He hypnotized three people while we were on the boat with very amusing results. I'm not sure how much I buy into all of it, but I'm less of a skeptic than I was before. I guess the key is you have to believe you're under his power... which is a bit creepy for me. I don't like the idea of doing that, especially in front of a crowd. At any rate, we all drank and were merry and enjoyed the antics of the magicians and their card tricks.

After the cruise, we decided to head to Star City Casino for a little fun. We started off not gambling but then decided to play a little bit. I decided that I would lose 20 dollars playing slots. It took me all night, but damn it I did it! I probably could have at least doubled my money if I had played a bit smarter, but since I started with so little and was playing the one cent machines there wasn't a whole lot to be won. It was a lot of fun, though, and Sophie was my good luck charm because as soon as she left I lost the twenty bucks I had been clinging to all night.

Staying out late at the casino would come back to bite me and Kristi in the ass since we were determined to go on a wine tasting tour in Hunter's Valley the next day. We had to wake up at close to 6 (Kristi let me sleep a little longer bc she's nice) to be in the city by 7:30 to catch the bus with Ronnie's family. The morning was really rough. We were exhausted, and Kristina was dizzy for some reason, and the driver wouldn't let us sleep!!! He kept getting on the microphone to tell us ridiculously random and pointless facts about our surroundings, which caused us to not be able to get much sleep on the two hour trip to our first winery. As the day went on we felt better though, and I am definitely glad that we went! I didn't fall in love with any of the wines, but there were a few I enjoyed, and I definitely liked some of the dessert wines and liqueurs. The last place we went had this awesome butterscotch schnapps ("Love in a Bottle") and this crazy chili schnapps ("Dragon's Breath") that made me turn bright red and gag.

Afterward we were pretty exhausted and it was still cold and threatening to rain, and raining intermittently so we opted out of the footy game that Ronnie and Tim went to. Instead Kristina and I went to a nice quiet dinner where we ate way too much garlic and cheese. It was awesome.
The next day we went out to Kristina's parents house which is way outside the city and close to the suburb Campbelltown. Their house is nice and on an awesome piece of land. We wandered around there for a while and were fed lots of delicious finger foods. Then we went to a lookout point in Wollongong and looked out over the ocean and the beaches. It was really pretty, and once again I was impressed by how far I could see... We then ate fish and chips at a local restaurant (my only fish and chips meal) and I was extremely full by the end of it. Yeah.. I ate way too much that day. After our late lunch we decided to drive to the Campbelltown movie theater and see the Dark Knight. This was one of my requirements of my time in Australia, so I'm really glad that I got to see it! I really liked it, and I always enjoy actually going to the movies.

Wednesday was the sad day where the rest of Ronnie's family left and so did Tim. I was the only left!! We spent the morning and early afternoon in and near the airport and with his family since their flight was delayed 5 hours. After that we just ran some errands, they cooked a fabulous dinner and I packed my stuff up and found a place to stay in Melbourne. Thursday morning they dropped me off at the train station and I took a train to the airport and three hours later I was in Melbourne! (I would like to say, that the train was faster than I thought it would be, and it is infinitely easier to find your way around a country where most of the people speak the same language as you... I had almost forgotten how easy it can be to travel)

My reasoning behind going to Melbourne was that my flight on the 2nd was from Sydney to Melbourne to Shanghai, and Ronnie and Kristina had their little getaway gift planned for my last two days in Australia. So I figured what the hell?! Plus, I always like seeing somewhere new.

Melbourne is a pretty cool city. It was even colder there than in Sydney, and it was rainy there too. The day I arrived I didn't do too much other than find my hostel and wander around the area a bit. (St. Kilda) I walked to the end of the pier and looked out over the water and shivered like crazy as I marveled at the blue water and the pink sky. I took off my shoes and walked through the sand a bit just to feel it against my feet, and I went into a couple of second hand bookstores and browsed through the books and the bestsellers and gawked at how fucking expensive shit is in Australia. It was a nice afternoon, even if I didn't get to see a whole lot, and I was freezing my ass off. That night when I went back I met the girl that was sharing my dorm room at the hostel and she was really friendly. My hostel was located above a pub that hosted events every night and provided a "backpacker's meal" for 6 bucks so, naturally, I partook in that. I met some interesting people and the backpackers meal wasn't bad. There was a lot of food for six bucks.

That night there was also a texas hold em tournament at the pub... so naturally I entered. Buy in was free and the prize was $50 for first place and $25 for second. Close to 30 people played and it was a lot of fun! I lasted for a few hours, and finally lost a key hand and ended in 6th place. I was the last girl by far though so I got a free beer for being a chick and kicking ass (for a chick... you know...). I drank way too much beer and had a great time that night with a bunch of total strangers and crawled into bed at like midnight. The next morning I woke up at like 8 and showered and got dressed and hopped on a tram to Melbourne University. Their uni is really nice looking and I totally wouldn't mind going there!! The tram's last stop happened to be the uni so I just got off there and walked through it on my way to the zoo. The zoo was good, though a lot of the attractions were missing or closed (maybe because it's winter?) but I did see a wombat, koalas, kangaroos and a platypus!! Mission accomplished.

After I left the zoo it started raining so I hopped on a train back to the city and wandered through the covered arcades in the city center. I really enjoyed wandering around Melbourne. Some of the cooler aspects were the trendy shops located throughout the city and the fact that there are quite a few areas dedicated to displaying graffiti art. I always enjoy looking at good graffiti art and find it refreshing when cities allow venues for the artists to express themselves without being painted over by a boring coat of white. There are lots of outdoor cafes in the alleys around the center and some pretty cool looking buildings and sculptures. It's an eclectic place, but I like it.

For dinner I ordered a steak at one of the little cafes and it was awesome. I had to have one last good piece of meat before sending myself back to China. The next morning I woke up at 6 and made my way to the airport. My trip back was uneventful, but was made entertaining since the guy next to me got sort of drunk off of red wine and blamed me for half the bottles.... Plus when I was waiting in line for a cab I saw an Australian man walk to the driver's seat and try to get in. When he realized his mistake he chuckled, looked at me and pointed to the other side. I nodded and he waved in and got in on the right side.

Well, that about sums up my trip to Australia!!! I had a great time, and I hope to make it back there sometime soon!! I really enjoyed the country and the people and would love a chance to spend some more time there and to explore a bit more. Maybe next year...

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