Sydneysiders need to do the Spit to Manly Walk!

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Fellow Sydneysiders,

It has been a while since I’ve posted something on my blog. I apologise. I cannot say I have been so busy that I have not had one single opportunity to write. Saying that would be a lie. I have had a few moments here and there where I wanted to post something but for some strange reason I was finding it difficult to. Why? Because somehow, I could not seem to get the ball rolling and write away when I was starting a new blank document. I kept on doubting myself, feeling silly about what I was writing. I think that it may have had something to do with a commercial law assignment which I have been working on. As much as I enjoy studying law (as I love the way if frames my mind/thinking), I do find that it tends to hinder my creative flair (and because I am not naturally very creative, it can become an issue).

 

However, I recently fell upon a beautiful little post about the concept of ‘creativity’ by Hatrik – click here for the link. This post simply made me smile. It reminded me that every one has a sense of creativity delved into their souls no matter what form it may come in. Whether it be a musical talent, special skills with colours on a canvas, a good ear for lyrics, an attachment to literature, or simply a strong imagination (and the list could go on). So, instead of doubting myself as to the quality of what I wanted to write about, I just let my mind take me wherever it wanted to take me… which has lead me to writing this post.

 

Let me get back on track with the topic of this post: The Spit to Manly walk.

 

Growing up on the outskirts of Paris, I never really got a chance to go for long walks by the ocean on my weekends. Now that I have moved to Australia, the sea has become almost a drug for me! When I travel, I realise that not every city is as gifted as Sydney. Not every place on this planet allows you to get a breath of fresh air whenever you feel like it by simply walking along the beach. It is definitely something Sydney Siders should treasure because we are so lucky to have this opportunity.

 

The Spit to Manly is a particularly beautiful and entertaining walk. With a distance of 10km one way, waking down the path will allow you to observe beautiful surroundings and you might find that your mind starts to wonder. I recommend doing the walk with a friend, your dog, or your family (but doing it on your own can be very relaxing as well allowing to focus on yourself and maybe spend a bit more time looking around).

 

I have done the walk many times but recently I did it with a really good friend of mine and we talked so much I did not even feel that I was walking for such a long time. I also regularly run part of the walk with my dog (Kenzo). He loves it! There are some areas of the walk where I feel like it is just him and I and he often gets a chance to run in the sand and splash around in the water. Recently, Kenzo and I showed my siblings and my dad our little treasure and we did the full walk altogether. It was a great opportunity to talk and catch up with each other.

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Tips for the walk:

Take a small backpack with you as some items may just make the walk that little bit extra nice for you:

  • CAMERA! I guarantee you that you will stop (more than once) to capture the beautiful scenery you will be passing. The sunrise and sunset are particularly breathtaking.
  • Water bottle (if doing the walk on a warm day you will be thankful to have packed water – the walk can get a bit tough as there are many stairs in some parts of it. Note that there are also water stations along the way to fill up your bottle).
  • Picnic (there are a few areas that are very nice to stop at for a picnic, most notably Clontarf Beach, North Harbour Reserve and Esplanade Park).
  • Swimmers, goggles and a beach towel (the walk literally follows the coastline and there are plenty of different spots to go for a dip in the sea. Such a great way to refresh yourself and, if you’re lucky, you may spot beautiful fishes underwater!
  • Don’t rush it. Take a moment to observe the nature around you – it is beautiful.
  • Start from the Spit Bridge and walk towards Manly as once you will be in Manly there are many different places to go for brunch/lunch to reward yourself after a long walk. There are also many buses departing from Manly, which can bring you back to wherever you need to go.

 

Bellow are a few of my personal photos taken on the walk last week with my family:

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How to satisfy good food cravings in Cambodia and Laos

It has been less than a week since I’ve been back from my trip in South-East Asia. I cannot help to constantly reminisce on the amazing memories I have made along the way. As promised, here is a short guide to some of the best places to eat in Cambodia and Laos.

Cambodia
1) Sala Bai Hotel School
I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE ENOUGH!!! I would definitely rate it 5/5 and would say it was the place I ate at during my whole trip :)
Not only does the food taste delicious, the dishes are innovative and presented in a creative manner. What is also attracting about this restaurant is the whole humanitarian project behind it. In a nutshell, Sala Bai is a Hotel and Restaurant School created by the French NGO Agir pour le Cambode which each year trains – free of charge – about 100 young disadvantaged Cambodians. So the Sala Bai school promotes the establishment and growth of the Cambodian vocational training system, the sustainable development of tourism, the reduction of poverty and the fight against human trafficking in Cambodia.
Given the nature of the restaurant (being a school), the menu is a ‘set menu’ which comprises of an entree, main and desert. The drinks menu has a wide selection of choices with yummy cocktails (and mocktails) to watch out for!
Here is an example of what you can be expected to be served:
– Deep-fried vermicelli with tofu and pork. A combination of traditional Khmer appetiser, flavoured with fresh coriander, shallots and Khmer dressing.
– Traditional Khmer chicken curry and yellow mango.
– Sweet chilled black sticky rice, fresh seasonal fruits and sweet milk.
The service is impeccable (clearly the students are well taught) and the atmosphere of the restaurant is charming as the place is stylishly decorated and has a relaxing yet sophisticated feel to it.
Here are some photos from my lunch:
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Location: 155 Phoum Tapoul, Siem Reap.
For more information about Sala Bai and it’s ongoing project head to: http://www.salabai.com/html/
2) Friends
One of Phnom Penh’s best-loved restaurant and another good-cause dining place, this venue specialises in tasty tapas bites that are a must-try! I would recommend getting a few tapas and plates to share. The traditional Khmer curry called the ‘Amok’ is particularly delicious. Prices are rather low with tapas ranging from US $2-$5 and mains from $6.
Location: 215 st 13, Phnom Penh.
Below are photos of the restaurant (note: the photos are just taken from the internet as I did not bring my camera out with me when I went there!)
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3) The Temple Club
Located in the famous ‘Pub Street’ of Siem Reap, if you don’t visit this place for lunch/dinner or by night for a drink or two, then you have to try one of its 3-hour cooking classes!
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I went to the Temple Club for dinner and I had the pleasure to watch a traditional dancing show as part of my meal for free! This place gets busy at night. It literally transforms itself from a rather family/touristy orientated restaurant to a very groovy, loud and busy dancing bar in the late hours of the evening. Great atmosphere!
The cooking classes there are really worth doing. My friend and I joined an afternoon class and we had such a great time. The classes are only US $10 which is also a bonus.
Below are photos from our cooking class (note that the quality of the dishes clearly give you a good idea of what you can expect to be served at the restaurant if you just went there for lunch or dinner!):
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Location: Pub Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Laos
I didn’t go to that many restaurants in Laos actually. I loved going to the markets and buying fresh local fruits and I also ate at some of the many street stalls. Just an advice though: if you are going to eat at the street markets be careful about what you are getting – I would recommend staying away from the meat and fish and sticking with simple rice, vegetables and stir fries! Banana chips are a yummy snack which are found everywhere in Laos and Cambodia!
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In Luang Prabang you will find the best street markets (both in terms and food and shopping). I also recommend eating by the Mekong River at night. There are plenty of cheap yet really charming restaurants by the river which offer a wide variety of food on the menu catering for all tastes!
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The one ‘Western’ cafe which I did fall for is called Joma. I have to admit that once in a while it does feel good to eat a fresh salad which you know is safe to eat as the vegetables have been cleaned in purified water (you can get very bad food poisoning if you eat raw food in Asia – I can talk from experience!). Joma amazingly provided for my western style cravings! I LOVED their ‘Taco salad’ and their sandwiches are great as take-away food which can be eaten on a day trip. For coffee and tea lovers this place will also be your new best friend. Good news is there are a few Joma cafes around in Asia!
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Location: Chao Fa Ngum Rd, on the main road near the post office, Luang Prabang.
For more information about this cafe click here.
P.S: Click here to access a good lonely planet webpage with recommendations regarding dining for a good cause in Asia.

Eye-opening trip to Cambodia

I’m sorry for my lack of posts lately! I have been very busy in the past few weeks and actually left Sydney four days ago to travel throughout parts of South-East Asia for three weeks. I promise I will make up for it though as I have many things to share about my trip already! So, let me begin by sharing my thoughts about the Cambodian culture.

Phnom Penh

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Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is an amazing city. It’s a place of extremes, chaos but one that somehow captivates you through the charming faces of its people. At first, I had trouble getting used to the chaotic atmosphere of the city – the traffic is absolutely crazy, local markets are very busy, rubbish and strong smells submerge every street corner and the look of the many beggars’ faces is impossible to escape or forget. However, I soon became much more comfortable walking throughout these busy streets as, somehow, I felt welcomed and safe.

By visiting the Tuol Sleng Geneocide Musem and the Killing Fields I was exposed to some of the hardest things I have ever seen/heard in my life. Our guide, Ly, shared some intimate life stories with us and I realised how almost every person living in Cambodia today has been affected either directly or indirectly by the horrors of the past. Even if you were not directly arrested by the Khmer Rouge, members of your family or friends were (note that you were arrested for simply being educated, for having a job or for being against the government, etc). Even if you were too young to be arrested your youth was still shattered. For example, Ly explained to us that when the Khmer Rouge took power he was only aged three years old and he was taken away from his family. He was forced to work in rice fields where he was fed once a day a tiny portion of rice (1kg of rice was served to 100 children). The conditions of work were very harsh as in summer the heat was unbearable and during the monsoon season disease were very common in the wet fields while leaches would grab on to your feet as you were harvesting. Miraculously, Ly was found by his mother at 7 years old (after the fall of the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese entered into Cambodia), thanks to a photograph of Ly which was previously kept by his mother throughout the years of separation and terror. A few years onwards, one of Ly’s brother stepped on a land mine and lost his foot – sadly, he was only one of the many victims of the mines (note: the land mines were placed to stop Cambodians from escaping to neighbouring countries).

I could go on and on about the shocking information that I learnt in Cambodia. The most depressing part of it all was that, firstly, these horrific events happened not so long ago and, secondly, most people have no idea about any of it and will never even find out because the Cambodian history is not taught in schools much. So even though there is nothing I can really do to change what happened in the past I feel that learning about it at least gives me the opportunity to treasure what I have and to support good causes which work towards building a better future for Cambodia.

Siem Reap

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I preferred the town of Siem Reap over Phnom Penh. Maybe because it was a bit less busy than the capital and the streets were very charming. One of the best areas was ‘Pub Street’ as well as the Old Markets (one of the best markets I have ever been too – cheap and clean!) But Siem Reap is mostly known for the many temples and most notably Angkot Wat which is definitely worth visiting. The sunrise is extraordinary and well worth waking up at 4:45am for!

Summary of the sights and activities I would recommend you to do if you are going to Phnon Penh and Siem Reap on a small budget:

Phnon Penh

– Tuol Sleng, Museum
– Killing Fields of Chorung Ek
– Royal Palace

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– Wat Phnom

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– Get some massages done! There are tones of cheap places around.

Siem Reap

– Angkor Wat

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– Angkor Thom City Bayon
– Elephant terrace to watch sunset (note: the sunset is not as impressive as the sunrise at Angkor Wat but the elephant terrace is one of the best places to watch the sunset)
– Jungle Temple
– Banteay Srey Temple

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– ACCB (Angkor Centre for Conservation and Biodiversity) http://www.accb-cambodia.org/en/news.php?id=2
– Cooking class at the Temple Club located on Pub Street (only costs $10 and includes starter, meal, desert, t-shirt and visit to local markets – I will discuss this more in details in my next post!)

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– Pub Street at night

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– Old and night markets

That’s it for me! I hope this post gave you a concise insight of Cambodia’s culture and the activities you can do when visiting the country’s two largest cities!

For some more detailed information about these two places visit these two useful traveling websites:

http://www.tripadvisor.com
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/cambodia

Coming soon: Guide to eating and accommodation for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap :)

The Byron Surfer – insight into the power of yoga and mediation.

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I met one of the coolest guys today. At first sight, he looked like a typical Byron Bay surfer but this person was far from ordinary. I didn’t chat to him for very long but our conversation really stuck with me. I am not too sure how we came to have a rather deep conversation about yoga and wellness but we did… and it was great.

In the past year or so, and particularly recently, I have started to place a lot more importance on looking after myself by eating right and exercising well. As part of this, I began to really enjoy doing yoga and was introduced to meditation. I realized that yoga can do so much more than merely make your body feel better through stretches and different poses. Yoga and especially mediation can make you feel good through their effect on the MIND.

Talking to the Byron Bay surfer today very much exemplified this philosophy to me (I never actually caught his name hence why I am referring to him in this way). Without going too much into details, he suffered from cancer as he had a tumor in his stomach. Surfer boy underwent two sets of chemo-therapy treatments but sadly they did not help much. He felt like chemo-therapy was not the way to cure his illness so he took the decision to travel to India for six months. As part of his trip he did a great deal of mediation and yoga and, most importantly, he fasted for 26 days. He explained that his meditation sessions went for 3 to 4 hours. What is incredible is that this combination of practicing yoga and mediation as well as fasting actually CURED HIM.

When I heard this story I was stupefied. It seems that the power of mediation and simply taking care of your body through natural remedies can overpower advanced medical treatments. For this New Year I have set myself a few resolutions. One of them is to try to incorporate yoga and meditation more often during my weekly routines. Even if sometimes I can be very busy, simply taking 15-30 minutes out of my day to stretch, meditate and relax will undoubtedly assist my body and mind. I’ve already noticed the benefits of just taking some time to just focus on my breath and center myself during my yoga classes. Even if it does not last long, the benefits are long lasting for sure. I encourage you to do the same :)

Namaste

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Most Memorable Memories from Falls

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I have just spent what I could probably describe as the best week of my life. I have honestly had such an incredible time along side of three of my best girlfriends and many other people.

Us four headed off to Byron Bay for The Falls Music Festival. When we left Manly on January 29 I had little idea about what to expect. To be frank I was not expecting to have as much fun as I did.

Here is a reflection of my trip highlighting the best memories I have made. I wanted to make sure I wrote them down so that I would never forget them!

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The drive up to Byron:

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Characterised by loud girlie music with a fabulous cd compilation made by Ellen. During the long driving hours we spent time to talk about ourselves, the things we like and dislike and share memorable memories. We laughed so much that my abs started to hurt. Getting to know my friends better and getting even closer to them was really special to me. Each of us have something to bring to one another and we balance each other out to make a perfect little group of friends that simply have fun!

‘Planto’:
We spent our first night in a hostel called ‘The Plantation’ but which is known as ‘planto’ by the Coffs Harbour locals. Joined by some of our friends who were also driving up to Falls we had a great $8.50 special dinner and enjoyed our last night in a bed for a few days.

First day at Falls:
Setting up camp was really fun! I have to admit that we probably wouldn’t have managed if it weren’t for the boys who helped us set up our tent. In the end we had a great little set up which was awesome. The walk to the camp site after having parked our car was interesting though.. I was carrying so much stuff and was sweating so much. But we made it (and so did the alcohol we snuck in hehe).

Walking around Falls Festival stalls:

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On our first night at falls we walked around the festival area and I loved looking around all the little stalls. There were some great clothes and my favourite food stalls were the coconut stall (where most mornings I drank coconut water and then ate the inside of the coconut mixed with berries and nuts) and the schnitzel stall!

Trip to Byron Bay Town:
The first official day of the festival didn’t have too much music that we wanted to see so we decided to go into town. The weather was incredible that day. Swimming in the sea felt amazing. The sea was surprisingly very still (not so characteristic of Byron). For a glimpse of time I felt like I was in Thailand. A big group of us were swimming together and I felt incredible happy that day! We then had outside showers by the beach where we shampooed our hair. We were getting funny looks from people but the feeling of being clean was overriding!

NYE

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Unfortunately, NYE wasn’t actually my favourite night because I drank too much and so went back to my tent quite early in the evening. HOWEVER, two of my beautiful friends came to get me just before 12am and we ran to see ‘The Roots’ and enjoyed a three way kiss to celebrate the start of 2014! I felt very lucky to have such caring friends :)

Perched on a tree

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This was one of my favourite days! Some of the highlights include watching Chet Faker from the top of a hill in the shade. Some people climbed up a tree to watch him from high up. It was such a chilled out and really cool atmosphere.

Sitting on top of the world!

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Rufus was another highlight. Two friends and I managed to do a three person shoulder pyramid and I was at the top and felt absolutely incredible! Later on that night we watched Flight Facilities and my friend Kelsey and I stood on our friends’ shoulders which, again, was an incredible experience! One of the great things about Falls was the way everyone was incredibly friendly. For example I found the mosh pits pretty chilled out and not violent at all. Everyone was smiling and when we did our three way shoulder ‘pyramid’ everyone clapped which was so cute!

Playing games under our gazebo
Every day and night we all played games together like Kings or ‘What famous person am I’. We laughed very hard and got to know each other better. It also always put me in a great mood. After playing Kings I was ready to party.

Can I get an Amen?

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Out of nowhere a few of us created a huge circle in the middle of a busy mosh pit. Everyone was in such a good mood and so many cool tricks were displayed. The best part was that I filmed it all. Such a cool experience! ‘Can I get an Amen?’ became a catch phrase during Falls!

Emu hands

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I loved how we managed to stick together as a very big group. Our secret was to stick our hands up in the air and do ’emu talking hands’ to find each other. We always waited for each other which was very very cute I thought.

The Wombats in the rain
On the last night I watched the Wombats and it started to rain. I would stare up in the sky and watch some of the people who were sitting on shoulders and couldn’t help but smile. It was amazing!

Private DJ party outside our tent
Near our tent there was a big generator attached to a large light. Every night someone would play music very loud there and about 50 people (if not more) were dancing out there. It was so much fun! On the last night the generator suddenly let go so the music died. I started to sing ‘Bring It All Back’ by S Club 7 and then everyone joined and it became an ‘a capella’ party!

I’m like a bird I like to fly away

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After having left Falls and spent the day in Byron we stumbled upon a really lovely beach and ran around on the sand in the wind and took photos. I felt so refreshed, free and happy!

Buddha bar
We spent our first night out of the festival at a really cool bar which we found by chance! We talked about the highs and lows of the trip (there were many more highs then were were lows). The food was really yummy and the bar brewed its own beer from Byron which was cool. One of the best things from this trip was the way my friends and I did some casual reflections at times which were very nice to do.

Four girls and one car

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Yep the four of us actually slept in the boot of one car. It was probably one of the most uncomfortable sleeps of my life but somehow I will remember it as a fun experience. We were all very hot in the car and finally decided to open the windows. So Jen got out and turned on the car but at the same moment someone started to drive towards us so she literally commando rolled back into the car and closed the boot so fast (it is illegal to sleep in a car so we had to be subtle about it). We then could not stop laughing. We did end up getting the windows open later on (thankfully)! I just remember how Jen would randomly start laughing – I think that we were so tired and uncomfortable that we stared going a bit crazy.

Brunswick Heads
– After having walked around some really nice shops in Byron (especially a shop called ‘Spell’ and getting matching bracelets – a bit childish but still so cute and memorable) we headed to Brunswick Heads. It was a really cool beach as there were large pools of water along the sand which were so nice to lie in as it was so hot out there!

There it is! The list could continue on for a while but I figured I should stop now. Bottom line is: Falls I love you and I miss you already!