Tag Archives: Photos

A Very Visual Christmas

At the crack of sparrows on Christmas morning, we were up, showered and breakfasted for our early journey to the northern Chicago suburbs early to celebrate with the American’s family.

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After sledding, we returned back to the house to warm up, take a closer look at the Christmas pressies and set about making Christmas cards for the people we’d be enjoying Christmas dinner with in Oak Park.

We headed over to Oak Park and enjoyed cheese, iced tea and good conversation by an open fire. I bonded with their black lab called Pilot, playing fetch with him out in the snow until I couldn’t feel my hand.

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Aaaaand then I promptly forgot my backpack there that contained my wallet and house keys. So aside from the frantic ending (and $25 to have the building manager unlock our apartment door), it was a good day.

Happy 4th of July!

I have a confession to make: I don’t really get into most American holidays. For starters, I can never remember which one is which (Memorial Day? Labor Day?), and one that can be taken to the enth degree is Independence Day. There’s something very overt about the chest-thumping, flags waving proudly on the exterior of every home you pass. But I feel just the same way about Australia Day, too. Our American friends may not parade around with the Stars and Stripes as a cape like every second yobbo at home, but they have their own brand of overt patriotism.

I don’t begrudge anyone an opportunity to decorate their SUVs but overt patriotism is just not me.

Happy Independence Day!

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Life in Sydney

Sunrise in Perth.

Morning, Perth!

A few weeks back, I returned to Australia. My flights took me to Perth, a whole side of my vast nation I had not travelled to before. I stayed long enough to transfer to the domestic terminal, send a few emails and board the plane. A few hours later, I spied Mum waiting for me at the baggage carousel.

G'day Sydney!

G’day Sydney!

Now, I’m back in my childhood home, but in a different room. Gone are the deep turquoise walls, replaced by a soft shade of grey. It’s my favourite colour right now and makes it feel like a whole new room. The art I had collected prior to moving overseas is hanging, framed, on the walls: pictures of ballerinas, Melbourne trams, and photo of one of my favourite horses (and winner of the 2001 Golden Slipper), Ha Ha. A collection of my favourite travel books are stacked on my desk to inspire me to keep doing what I love. On my bedside table, a thunder egg and piece of pink-coloured quartz perched atop Frankie, a (new-to-me) magazine aimed at inner city female hipsters. Whilst I don’t quite fit into that category, I took a punt on it because it looked interesting.

I place an emphasis on keeping my space tidy, clean. The bed is always made, the clothes in their place. It’s livable and inviting. Such a contrast to the way my room used to be!

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The doona cover is white with navy cross-hatched polka dots. Six pillows of alternating stripes and dots. A thick, soft navy throw graces the end of the bed. The set up is luxurious, a far cry from the accommodations we had in Asia. I feel so calm, so relaxed in this room. As someone who can’t stand going to bed, having such a luxe set up has been revolutionary. I now want to slide under the covers and lay my head down. This is something I am really looking forward to recreating when I return to the Bay Area.

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Since arriving, I have not ventured too far from my family’s home in southern Sydney. Staying put usually makes me antsy, but I’ve enjoyed adjusting to the slower pace of life in the suburbs. It’s so quiet. Parts of the area haven’t changed, and others are completely different. Overall, the feeling is one of familiarity, like my favourite PJs.

I’ve been into the city only a handful of times since returning a few weeks back: to meet up with one of my best friends from SF (who was visiting her family in Sydney), for an interview, and to enroll back at Uni. I’m taking a few classes online this year, and we’ll see where it leads. Classes start next week. I look forward to learning new things and stretching my brain again.

Watching the planes land from the cafeteria at Ikea.

Watching the planes land from the cafeteria at Ikea, where I picked up a nifty little desk.

But along with getting to experience the Australian summer, I’ve been so blessed to be absorbed back into the lives of my friends and family. And it’s such an exciting time! New engagements, news of new babies to arrive this year, hens parties, weddings, new romances. Life in Sydney continues, but I feel as though it’s open wide enough to let me in for a just a little while before I head back to San Francisco.

It makes my heart sing to know they’re doing well, and that after more than six years of me not physically participating in their lives, they are still keen to include me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience the joys of life with them.

Family BBQs

Family BBQs.

A cuppa and a chat.

A cuppa and a chat.

The obligatory penis straws at the Hens Party.

The obligatory penis straws at the Hens Party.

One of the best parts about being home have been the impromptu moments: the spur-of-the-moment coffee dates and lunch plans with friends, feeling growing bellies, the shared experience of watching Louis Theroux documentaries with my sister, the honest chats with my brother as we prepare dinner, meeting the fascinating neighbours of my Dad’s aunt, chilling on the verandah with my parents after work, the invites to birthday celebrations, and time spent walking the dog.

All of these things, and more, have brought me joy since returning, spending time back home in Sydney. I’m taking it easy and appreciating the love and support I have here.

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Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Snapshot: Culinary Adventures in Chiang Mai

Here’s a quick snapshot of what our meals have looked like since we set down our packs in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand:

We wake up late here in Chiang Mai. Our main meal of the day is breakfast, and that usually happens anywhere between 2 and 4pm. For the first meal of the day, I start it with a cuppa tea, the American with coffee. We like to eat eggs on toast, or croissants with fruit, or a bowl of fruit, yoghurt and muesli.

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Dinner has tended to be something Thai or Indian, somewhere within the Old Town. I have a favourite Indian place that makes a spicy dum aloo (potato curry) with garlic naan.

My favourite restaurant is the Bam Boo Cafe on Ratvithi Road: I love the vibe, the food and the liveliness. The hostess, Thom, is a dead-set riot. She has one of those infectious personalities and loves connecting people. She’s fascinating to watch when in full-flight. I love their vegetable fried rice, and usually pair it with a mango and lime fruit shake. Occasionally, we’ll stop by one of the street vendors making rotees for dessert — banana pancakes with chocolate sauce and a touch of condensed milk on top. Yum!

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Food here is pretty cheap, but it can be a gamble — you never really know what you’re going to get. The other day, a lady forgot our order so she just made it up. True story. For those who want hard numbers, this should give you an idea:

  • Fruit shakes – 35 Baht (US$1.15)
  • Vegetable fried rice  – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Pad Thai – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Banana pancake with chocolate sauce and condensed milk – 20 Baht ($0.66)
  • Dum aloo – 60 Baht ($2)
  • Garlic naan – 40 Baht ($1.33)
  • White rice – 10 Baht ($0.33)
  • Paddle Pop ice cream – 8 Baht ($0.26)
  • Caffè latte – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Small baguette – 10 Baht ($0.33)
  • Chang beer – 40 Baht ($1.33)
  • Large pot of tea – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Small bottle of Coke Zero – 17 Baht ($0.56)

I just read a post today by Nomadic Matt called 30 coffeehouses to visit in Chiang Mai, that I stumbled upon on Twitter. Looks like I’m going to develop quite the caffeine habit as I make the rounds!

Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Buddha gets around.

Wats, wats and more wats

Wat Chiang Mun.

Wat Chiang Mun.

In Thailand, if you only have one thing on your To Do List, chances are it’ll take you a week to get around to it. The one thing on my list was to go adventuring and check out some of the temples around my guesthouse. And yesterday, I finally managed to accomplish that.

I haven’t sought out the beauty in Chiang Mai and I haven’t documented it. Wandering, looking, snapping: that’s my preferred means of distilling the essence of a city. I use my camera to capture the parts that contribute to the whole picture. But I had not even bothered to charge the battery for my digital SLR since I’d left Sydney. That’s so unlike me.

Buddha standing tall.

Buddha standing tall.

Dogs are as ubiquitous as wats here.

Dogs are as ubiquitous as wats here.

Chiang Mai is famous for being a city of temples, known locally as Wats. There are over 300 of them in the city, and as we discovered on our way to the driving range yesterday, there are wats opposite wats, beside wats. I have been in Chiang Mai for about three weeks, and today was the first time I’d stepped foot inside a wat.

For a brief moment, I flirted with the idea of spending my days visiting every single wat in Chiang Mai. It’d make for an interesting experience, but Wat Fatigue set in quickly after my half-dozen. Much like my experience with cathedrals in Europe, they all start to look the same after a while.

No post is overlooked. Everything is decorated.

No post is overlooked. Everything is decorated.

An offering to Buddha.

An offering to Buddha.

Dragons abound.

Dragons abound.

The chedi at Wat Chiang Mun.

The chedi at Wat Chiang Mun.

Minature buddha with an elephant army.

Miniature buddha with an elephant army.

Chores and tourists.

Chores and tourists.

I waited until the golden hour to go adventuring – just me and my camera – and my favourite time of day didn’t disappoint. The whitewashed walls of the wats are shaded enough to cover any signs of fatigue, the mirror mosaics that adorn the pagodas shimmer in the setting sun, the gold-leafed chedis seem lit from the love, compassion and knowledge within. Some of the junior monks were out sweeping up the leaves around the compounds, dressed in their ceremonial saffron-coloured robes. Dogs lazed about on the grass, the paths and on the cool, tiled stairs. Even they seemed to be at peace.

I’m enamoured with the quiet beauty of wats. There’s something calming about being inside these places, and as ye of little faith, I find that very, very interesting.

Wat Baan Ping.

Wat Baan Ping.

I love the decorative elements on these temples.

I love the decorative elements on these temples.

Lots of decorative dragons.

More decorative dragons.

On the temple trail.

On the temple trail.

The stunning amount of details on a simple window shutter.

The stunning amount of details on a simple window shutter.

Buddha gets around.

Buddha gets around.

Wish you were here!

Greetings from Penang

Wish you were here!

Following a few miserable days in KL, we packed our bags and headed for the northern Malaysian state of Penang. And life has been much better since setting down our packs in this place. We’re staying in a functional, but tired guesthouse in George Town, the capital. From our room’s balcony, we have a great view of the KOMTAR building, and from our rooftop, almost a complete 360 degree view of the city.

We have undertaken some spectacularly long walks in the heat and humidity, ones that have rendered wearing thongs impossible because of the blisters between my toes. But instead of focusing on the pain, I choose to see them as badges of honour.

Beautiful windows in our Guesthouse.

Colourful homes. I love having a peek at where and how other people live.

We encountered this feathered pair a few times, always pecking around the same spots.

The old…

Interesting architecture, particularly in the new high rises that are springing up.

…And the new.

Some amazing clouds over the Bay.

And we finally made it to Tesco!

And we finally made it to Tesco!

And there have been some beautiful sunsets in Penang… it’s something I’ve really appreciated.

Beautiful sunsets, as seen from our balcony.

Beautiful sunsets, as seen from our balcony.

I’m really glad we came up here.

Next stop, Thailand. Closer to my original goal of making it to The Island…