A Penchant for Travelling

Just sharing travel experiences……


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Day Trip to Changde (常德市)

Changde (常德市) is a prefecture-level city located in the northwest of Hunan province.  It is about 3 to 4 hours’ drive from Hunan’s capital – Changsha, enroute to Fenghuang Ancient Town (凤凰古城).  Changde is the 4th largest city in Hunan province and tobacco is the most important industry in the city.

The two attractions that we visited in this city were: the famous Changde Poem Wall (常德诗墙) and Liuye Lake (柳叶湖).

Changde Poem Wall (常德诗墙) is the longest poem-engraved wall in the world listed in the Guinness Book of World Records on September 2000.  The Chinese government invested RMB 108 million in recent years to build this 3km long anti-flood wall with engraved poems to promote Chinese traditional culture and strengthen patriotism education.

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Part of the long Poem Wall

Part of the long Poem Wall

An engraved poem by Lu Xun (鲁迅) - a leading figure of modern Chinese literature

An engraved poem by Lu Xun (鲁迅) – a leading figure of modern Chinese literature

From Lu Xun (鲁迅)’s engraved writing, it seems to me that he was a very neat and organised person hehe.  We also spotted Mao Zedong’s engraved writing and it was very cursive (草书) and almost illegible, something like the poems beside Lu Xun’s in the photo above.

A short distance away from the famed Poem Wall is Liuye Lake (柳叶湖), bounded by the Taiyang Mountain (太阳山) in the north and facing the Yuan River (沅江) in the south. According to our tour guide, Liuye Lake becomes livelier as it gets dark, so when we were there at 1+pm in the day, it was like a dead town with a quiet pier and hardly any tourists in sight.

Guess the colorful sheltered boats should be busy ferrying tourists on river cruise at night? ;)

Guess the boats with colorful shades should be busy ferrying tourists on river cruise at night? ;)

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Frankly, this 4th largest city in Hunan province doesn’t excite me too much. Yes the Poem Wall is quite meaningful and beautiful with so many contemporary works of local writers.  But other than that the writings are a bit too profound for me to comprehend. :P  Guess Liuye Lake would be much better at night but we were there at the wrong time.  In fact the Yuan River scenery looked more stunning along the way from Changde to Fenghuang Ancient Town, so maybe that’s why Changde was chosen only as a stopover for us in the tour and not an overnight trip lol.


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Huawen Forest Hotel, Changsha (长沙华文森林酒店)

We didn’t manage to do much on our first day upon arrival at the capital city of Hunan Province – Changsha, as it was already evening when we touched down at Changsha Huanghua International Airport (长沙黄花国际机场). The airport looks quite modern to me, like a typical airport in Taiwan or Hong Kong, or maybe my expectations weren’t high for a China airport to begin with haha (Oops!).

After dinner, we checked in to the Huawen Forest Hotel [华文森林酒店: 雨花区湘府东路二段168号(植物园北门)] for our first night in Changsha. The hotel looks pretty decent and spacious for a local 5-star rating (for China hotels, usually we should drop 1-star for international rating), but its decor is pretty “Chinese” and old-school. :P

Our corner twin room on level 25

Our corner twin room on level 25

The bathroom

The bathroom

The location of this hotel is not in the heart of town, although a supermarket and a pharmacy are conveniently located at the ground floor of the hotel. A few temporary fruit stalls were also set up in front of the hotel on the first night. I saw hotels across the road from us so it seems like the area is a cluster for hotels?

There is free wifi in the rooms as well as at the hotel lobby. However, as we stayed at a corner twin room on the first night, the wifi connection was very unstable and my friend’s iPhone seemed to connect better than my Samsung. -_-”  Fortunately when we returned to this same hotel on the last night of the tour, we got a twin room near the lift lobby and the wifi reception became much better, more stable.

There is nothing too outstanding about this hotel, but I wouldn’t say that it is lousy too. One thing in common amongst all the hotels we stayed in during the trip was the air-conditioner temperature could not be lower than 25 or 26 degree celsius, a temperature set by the government for energy conservation. I remember waking up in the middle of the night perspiring as I was all wrapped up with the blanket. It was only on the second day that the local tour guide highlighted this to us so I made sure I didn’t cover myself fully with the blanket anymore for subsequent nights. :P

Like the other hotels we stayed during this trip, Huawen Forest Hotel provides free breakfast, but nothing to rave about, really. No toast or tea provided, only coffee, milk, juice syrup, and mainly local fare which were oily and spicy.

To be honest, I wouldn’t highly recommend this hotel as a “must-book”. Nonetheless it is reasonably priced (according to online search), relatively new (built in 2012) and provides free breakfast and wifi connection, so it may still be a worthwhile option to consider. I shall end this review with a photo of the hotel building at night. :)

Huawen Forest Hotel

Huawen Forest Hotel


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“Accidental” Hiking Holiday in Zhangjiajie (张家界) September 2014

For those who have watched James Cameron’s blockbuster movie – “Avatar” before, did you know where the “floating Hallelujah Mountains” are in real life?  The spectacular sights were inspired by the karst limestone formations in China, namely Huangshan (黄山), Guilin (桂林), and Zhangjiajie (张家界).

A glimpse of the "Avatar Hallelujah Mountain"

A glimpse of the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain”

I had been to Guilin during winter more than 2 decades ago, so I can’t remember much except that it was a picturesque district with plenty of lovely nature – mountains and lakes.  So when a friend asked if I was interested on a package tour to Zhangjiajie, I thought why not?  Afterall, travelling in China is relatively cheap compared to places like Australia or Europe, ideal for a budget-conscious holiday, and China promises plenty of beautiful scenery too.

After some research on the “best package deal” with a few travel agencies, we decided to sign up with the only travel agency that flies direct to Changsha (长沙), the capital city of Hunan Province. The direct flight definitely saves us the hassle and time, unlike other agencies that charge slightly cheaper for flying to Shenzhen and then transferring to the high-speed rail to Changsha. Below is a snapshot of our 8-day itinerary:

Day 1: Direct flight from Singapore, reaching Changsha in the evening and stay 1 night at Huawen Forest Hotel (长沙华文森林酒店).

Day 2: Drive to the west to Changde (常德) in Wuling District (武陵区), to visit its Poem Wall (常德诗墙) and Liuye Lake (柳叶湖), then drive further to the west for about 4 hours to the Fenghuang Ancient Town (凤凰古城) which is under the administration of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture (湘西土家族苗族自治州) in the evening.  Stay 1 night at Feng Tian International Hotel (凤天国际酒店) in the Fenghuang County.

Day 3: Head northwest to Zhangjiajie to visit the Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park (天门山国家森林公园), followed by a tour of the Tujia Folk Customs Park (土家风情园) in the late afternoon. Watch the famous “Tianmen Fox Fairy” musical (天门狐仙秀) with the grand valley of Zhangjiajie as the backdrop in the evening. Stay 1 night at Zhangjiajie Mellow Crystal Hotel (张家界梅洛水晶酒店) in Zhangjiajie.

Day 4: Visit Junsheng Sandstone Painting Gallery (军声画院), then continue to take a scenic boat ride at Baofeng Lake (宝峰湖), followed by sightseeing at the Ten-Mile Art Gallery (十里画廊) and a stroll along Jinbian Stream (金鞭溪). Stay 2 nights at the Qinghe Jinjiang International Hotel (青和锦江国际酒店).

Day 5: A full day conquering Tianzi Mountain (天子山) in Yuanjiajie (袁家界).

Day 6: Another day of adventure at the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon (张家界大峡谷) before going back for a night’s rest at Zhangjiajie Mellow Crystal Hotel (张家界梅洛水晶酒店).

Day 7: Back to Changsha after about 6-hours’ drive from the northwestern part of Hunan, to visit the Changsha Bamboo Slips Museum (长沙简牍博物馆) and Tianxin Pavilion (天心阁). Proceed for some shopping at the popular Huangxing Road (黄兴路商业步行街). Overnight at Huawen Forest Hotel (长沙华文森林酒店) again.

Day 8: After lunch, head to Yuelu Mountain (岳麓山) and Aiwan Pavilion (爱晚亭) on the west bank of Xiang River (湘江). Thereafter, transfer to airport for the flight back to Singapore.

NB: I didn’t purchase a pre-paid data SIM card for this 8-day tour because according to the local tour guide, you need to pay a whopping RMB 2,000 (about S$405.70) non-refundable deposit! In this part of China, you can’t access Facebook and Instagram doesn’t seem to work too. :(

You may be wondering, why the title of this post is “Accidental Hiking….”? To cut a long story short, that’s because I did not expect that much of hiking in the mountains as the tour agency mentioned there would only be “some walking” throughout the tour! Even my tour mates who had been to many parts of China claimed that they hiked a lot more here than in their past tours to Yunnan, Jiuzhaigou and Silk Road.

Oh well, hiking isn’t a bad thing afterall, is it? Hehe… do follow my subsequent posts for this tour for more details ;)


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My Carefree Tasmania & Melbourne Holidays, Autumn 2014

Just thought of summarising my free & easy 11-days Tasmania and Melbourne holidays, now that I am done with the blogging. I hope the posts are useful and you enjoy reading them. :) Below is a recap of my trip and some afterthoughts that I did not write in the previous posts:

Day 1: Arrived at Launceston airport via transit at Melbourne airport. Checked in to Balmoral on York hotel for 3 nights and explore Launceston city for few hours. Joined the Low Head Penguin Tour in the late afternoon;

Day 2: Breakfast at Stillwater Restaurant & Cafe, followed by a Tamar Valley Half Day Wine Tour then a visit to the Cataract Gorge in the late afternoon;

Day 3: Joined the Cradle Mountain Day Tour which took us to the little towns enroute to Cradle Mountain in the morning, followed by hiking in the beautiful Cradle Mountain National Park in the afternoon;

Day 4: Proceeded to Hobart City by Tassielink bus from Launceston city. Checked in to Hotel Collins for the next 3 nights. Explored Hobart city and dinner by the waterfront at Fish Frenzy;

Day 5: Went for the Bruny Island Full Day Tour, which I posted in detail in Part I and Part II;

Day 6: Joined the Port Arthur Day Tour covering Richmond, Tasman National Park and Port Arthur Historic Site all in a day, which I detailed in Part I, Part II and Part III;

Day 7: Time for Salamanca Market – one of Australian’s largest and most vibrant outdoor markets open only on Saturdays. In the late afternoon it was time to say goodbye to Tasmania as I flew to Melbourne for the last leg of my holidays and checked in to Fraser Place Melbourne for the last 4 nights;

Day 8: Another day for markets. ;) Visited Queen Victoria Market – the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere followed by Arts Centre Melbourne Sunday Market;

Day 9: Enjoyed myself at Melbourne’s Little Italy – Lygon Street, before heading to the suburb St Kilda after that for the famous beach, Fitzroy Street and pier till after sunset;

Day 10: Took the awesome Great Ocean Road Tour where we focused on the beach and coastline scenery in the morning half of the tour, then proceeded inland for some rainforest walk and the Port Campbell National Park with the famous Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge sights in the afternoon half of the tour;

Day 11: After checking out of the serviced apartment, I had brunch at the nearby Flipboard Cafe, then some last minute shopping in the city as well as Harbourtown factory outlets. Bought some chips from a popular Aussie burger joint called Grill’d as I was a little hungry after all the walking :P

The Famous Grill'd Chips snack size at A$3.80 (S$4.50)

The Famous Grill’d Chips snack size at A$3.80 (S$4.50)

I liked the chips as they were thick-cut with herb mix taste. The snack size is like our regular size found in fastfood restaurants here, filling for me! They pride themselves for their “most delicious and healthy burgers with grass-fed beef”, frankly the burgers looked good too, but too big for me I guess.

After the snack, took the SkyBus to Melbourne airport for my flight back home that evening.

Just some comments about the airport shuttle service I experienced at 3 airports – Launceston, Hobart and Melbourne. I would say the service at Launceston and Hobart were great. Both provide door-to-door service, in fact no reservations required for the service at Launceston, I just hopped on to the mini bus outside the airport when I arrived. For the Hobart service, the hotel helped me to book my seat 1 day in advance and I only paid cash to the driver when he picked me up, very convenient. Both shuttle buses were spacious and comfortable, with the luggages stowed in a carton trailing behind the bus. I regretted buying the SkyBus return tickets when I landed at Melbourne airport, because it is like our SMRT bendy buses in Singapore, and everyone had to lug and park their own luggages up the bus luggage compartment. Furthermore, the SkyBus drops everyone off at Southern Cross Station, then you will need to transfer to their complimentary hotel shuttle service to get to the hotels, and they do not stop at all hotels. Only when I arrived at my accommodation – Fraser Place Melbourne, that I realised that they partner with StarBus to provide door-to-door service at similar pricing like SkyBus. Even the bellboys at Marriott Hotel told me that StarBus is more value-for-money, when I was waiting outside the hotel for my complimentary hotel shuttle to the airport. Too late for me! :(

Another useful tip I gathered from this trip was that it was worthwhile purchasing a Telstra Pre-paid $30 SIM card as it includes 400MB of bundled data and $30 credit for calls and SMS within Australia. Particularly helpful if you are on a free & easy trip and need some directions on the Google map or some travel advice while on-the-road.

Telstra prepaid 30 multifit sim

At first I was worried if 400MB would be sufficient for 11 days, but it seemed just nice for me as I just used slightly over 300MB for the entire trip. Maybe staying in hotels with free wifi connection helped to save my data usage too. :P The Telstra network coverage was also very strong, it only failed in a small part of the Cradle Mountain, but so did the other networks that my tour mates were using. When other networks failed, my Telstra network was still working, woohoo!

Last but not least, this was really a carefree and happy holiday with many highlights throughout the 11 days. The first highlight was the Low Head Penguin tour, the second was the Cradle Mountain, then Bruny Island, Salamanca Market and of course the Great Ocean Road, which was like the grand finale to round up my trip. :) This has become one of my best holiday so far, and I will definitely love to visit Australia, especially Tasmania again! ^-^


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Flipboard Cafe (Melbourne)

Flipboard Cafe is a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” cafe that I often walked past throughout my stay in Melbourne. In fact I did not even realise that it was a cafe till I was looking for food options nearby the serviced apartment where I stayed using the Urbanspoon app! :P

The quaint Flipboard Cafe at 141 La Trobe Street

The quaint Flipboard Cafe at 141 La Trobe Street

Before realising it was a cafe, I often wondered what does this weird-looking shop do as I kept seeing people sitting in the 3 cubby holes, sometimes drinking coffee or smoking (like the guy you see in the photo above). It is actually a niche cafe nestled in the shop-front window of Brolly Studios and Benetts Lane Jazz Club, operating across 3 levels. Since the food reviews seemed good from Urbanspoon app, I decided to check it out on my last morning in Melbourne.

Apparently, Flipboard Cafe was only opened in September 2013, after the owners decided to renovate a 20-year-old unused shop-front window, with the central staircase as an obvious feature, helping to shift the paradigm of coffee shops from the horizontal to the vertical. The design of the tiny cafe of 20 square metres is indeed quite unique as each level is narrow with only a few seats but it extends to 3 levels, as well as 3 tables outdoors next to the cyclist track and car park.

At around 11am, I was unable to get a seat in the cafe and had to sit outside after ordering a Cappuccino and a pastry stuffed with spinach and topped with a sunny side up (A$9=S$10.60).

Beautiful coffee art

Beautiful coffee art

There is good reason why the cafe is popular with Melbournians, I like the coffee art on my aromatic and flavourful cappuccino! However I didn’t think my pastry was worth spending on though. It was not warm at all, so I thought the pastry was a bit hard and the sunny side up also felt tough, although the filling was quite tasty. Guess that’s the result of not having any oven in the cafe, they have no way to heat up the food…

Overall, this cool niche cafe is worth checking out for a cup of good coffee if you are in Melbourne city, but perhaps you can skip the food given its limited and only-room-temperature options. Or maybe I ordered the “wrong food”… *shrug*


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Great Ocean Road Tour Part II

After a heavy lunch at Apollo Bay Hotel, it was time to walk off those calories at Maits Rest Rainforest Trail, located 15 min west of Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. It is an easy self-guided circuit walk about 800m through the ancient and cool temperate rainforest, part of the Great Otway National Park. A wooden boardwalk has been built over the tree-fern gullies and moss covered roots, providing a unique view of the forest.

Doug (left) giving us info on the gigantic trees here

Doug (left) giving us info on the gigantic trees here

The ancient Myrtle Beech trees here can live over 300 years

The ancient Myrtle Beech trees here can live over 300 years

It was gloomy weather the whole day, but we were fortunate that the rain only became heavier towards the end of our walk, else it would have been slippery on the boardwalk. There was also a gigantic tree in which we all took photos with it, where its roots were much taller than me and I could walk right in!

Next up on the itinerary was going down the Gibson steps onto the beach to get a close-up view of the 2 offshore stacks. The name Gibson Steps refers to the staircase leading down to a long stretch of beach. It is believed the steps were first carved into the cliff possibly by the original Kirrae Whurrong inhabitants and later maintained by a local settler, Hugh Gibson. The many steps on the staircase can prove to be a challenge on the climb back up but the view on the beach is really breathtaking, so it was worth climbing! :)

I counted the total number of steps to get to the beach and I got 83. Lucky I was not too far off from the actual number of 86 steps as indicated online hehe. Apparently the 2 offshore stacks seen here are not part of the 12 Apostles, they are known locally as Gog and Magog.

Spotting the 1st rock stack while climbing down Gibson Steps

Spotting the 1st rock stack while climbing down Gibson Steps

Midway down the Gibson Steps to the beach

Midway down the Gibson Steps to the beach

Wonderful view on the beach

Wonderful view of Gog & Magog on the beach

A short distance away from Gibson Steps is Port Campbell National Park – world famous for its extraordinary collection of wave-sculpted rock formations and the Twelve Apostles. Loch Ard Gorge, site of a 19th century shipwreck ‘Loch Ard’, as well as the Island Archway and London Bridge are other highlights. The Island Archway collapsed in 2009, highlighting the fragile and ever-changing nature of Victoria’s coastline.

Actually no matter how you count, you won’t get to see 12 apostles here at Port Campbell National Park, because there are only 7 rock stacks that comprise the Twelve Apostles – 6 are on display in the classic view enjoyed by millions of people over the years, with the 7th located several metres away from the corner of the main viewing platform. Originally there were 8 rock stacks when the Twelve Apostles were named, however, 1 of the stacks collapsed dramatically in July 2005. The remains can be seen from the main viewing platform, not sure if I can account for all 7 correctly or not. :P Let me know if you are confident of your count of the 7 famed rock stacks. ;)

Fish-eye view of the Twelve Apostles

Fish-eye view of the Twelve Apostles

12 Apostles 2

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12 Apostles 3

The Loch Ard Gorge, about 3 min drive west of the Twelve Apostles, is a visible example of the erosion process in action. It is steeped with history from the night of 31 May 1878. This location saw the dramatic survival of only two young people, Eva Carmichael as a passenger and Tom Pearce as crew. They were on a 90-day-journey ship from England to Melbourne when it struck an outer reef. Sadly over 47 perished in The Wreck of the Loch Ard with only 4 bodies being retrieved and buried.

Panoramic view of the Loch Ard Gorge

Panoramic view of the Loch Ard Gorge

The treacherous 'Shipwreck Coast'

The treacherous ‘Shipwreck Coast’

A short walk away from the main viewing platform of the Loch Ard Gorge is the remains of the Island Arch. In June 2009, a large section of the iconic rock formation on Victoria’s west coast, had succumbed to the elements and crumbled into the sea. All that remains following the collapse are the 2 rocks that previously supported the arch, as seen in my photo below. It is sad that the Island Arch collapsed, but in a way it is also amazing that’s the way nature works…

The remains of Island Arch after the collapse in 2009

The remains of Island Arch in the centre after the collapse in 2009

I must have missed taking photos of the stunning Razorback rock formation at Loch Ard Gorge, probably due to the frequent showers throughout the day. What a pity! Probably a good excuse to visit Great Ocean Road again in the future hahaha… Anyway the last amazing rock formation for the day was the London Bridge. On the evening of 15 January 1990, the main arch connecting London Bridge to the mainland cracked and fell into the sea. Fortunately no one was injured, but according to Doug, the 2 people – 1 guy 1 lady rescued on the new island rescued hours later by helicopter hit the headlines. Why? Because they were married, but not to each other, yet they were found together on that arch. ;)

The London Bridge

The London Bridge

It was almost 5pm by the time we finished all the sights at Great Ocean Road. A bit too early for dinner but no choice, our dinner was at a little restaurant at Port Campbell before we headed back to Melbourne city. Thus I followed Doug’s suggestion to order a cheese pie with salad for dinner as it sounded light compared to the other main courses like burger and steak, since I was still full from the heavy lunch earlier on. The pie was quite small, but too cheesy for my liking. Fortunately the hot chocolate saved the meal. Nonetheless it was a good time to get to know my tour mates better as Doug gave us more time to relax in the restaurant, since we were ahead of time. We left the restaurant around 6pm and arrived in Melbourne city 8+pm. A long day of more than 12 hours!

Overall, I would recommend joining this Great Ocean Road tour by ATWAD as it is really value for money with inclusion of 2 full meals and having a smaller tour group allowed us to keep to the time better. Most other tour operators only provide lunch, or worse, just water and biscuits for the long day at similar price. It was also more flexible with a smaller group and we could also move around easier in a small tour bus. If the pre-tour service could be improved, it would definitely be a perfect tour!

Great Ocean Road is really an attraction not to be missed should you visit Victoria, Australia. It is an amazing road journey to witness and marvel at the way nature works to create all the breathtaking views we get to see!


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Great Ocean Road Tour Part I

The Great Ocean Road is an important tourist attraction in Victoria, Australia. It is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 km stretch of road along the southeastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world’s largest war memorial.

There are many tour operators running the Great Ocean Road tour from Melbourne daily, so after doing some research online and checking with friends, I decided to sign up for the tour with “A Tour With A Difference” (ATWAD), for it seemed to be more value for money at A$130 (S$153.35), promising small tour groups of maximum 10 passengers with more meals provided and more stops than other tour operators.

As they did not reply to my email queries before my Australia tour, I called them up when I was in Tasmania to check if they have a suitable tour date that I could join. Frankly, the pre-tour service, or rather lack-of, was quite bad. I requested for a Monday tour date but they only had a confirmed tour on Tuesday, so the staff Grace told me that she would register me for Tuesday tour first and to indicate my preference for Monday tour, so she would call me on Sunday to confirm whether there would be enough passengers for Monday tour or I would have to join on Tuesday. By Sunday afternoon, no one from ATWAD called me so I called them back, only to get a reply “oh yes you are booked for Tuesday”. I then asked about the pick-up point and time, and was again told to wait till Monday for them to call me to confirm as they had to sort out the route. I guess you know what happened next, they still did not call me back by Monday evening and I had to make the call again. :( This pre-tour service really made me wonder if I actually made the right choice in joining them. So I could only keep my fingers crossed that it would be a good tour eventually.

The next morning, I realised I was the first passenger to be picked up at about 7.15am. It was a small but comfortable 11-seater green bus. My tour guide was Doug, who suggested we made a simple introduction to one another after all 10 of us were on-board. After the short introduction, he gave us an idea of our itinerary for the day:

  • Pass through Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city
  • Stop for morning tea along the way near the beach
  • Visit Bells Beach, famous for its international surfing competition and its feature in the movie, Point Break
  • Stop for photo-taking at the Memorial Arch
  • Travel along the Great Ocean Road and see the impressive coastal scenery
  • Find wildlife koalas and colourful local birds at Kennett River
  • Lunch at Apollo Bay
  • Temperate rainforest walk at Maits Rest
  • Go down the Gibson Steps onto the beach and get a close-up view of the apostles-lookalike
  • Marvel at the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park
  • Explore Loch Ard Gorge and view the remains of London Bridge, Island Arch and the Razorback
  • Dinner in a restaurant at Port Campbell before returning to Melbourne

Without further delay, below are photos and description of the great journey that morning for your viewing pleasure. :)

Panoramic view of Bells Beach (stitched 2 photos up)

Panoramic view of Bells Beach (photo-stitch)

Bells Beach is a famous surf beach, on the Great Ocean Road near the towns of Torquay and Jan Juc. The beach is the home of the world’s longest-running surfing competition – the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival, held since January 1961 annually during Easter.

As soon as our Aussie style morning tea with Vegemite, Crackers and traditional Lamington Cakes was set up in a sheltered area near the beach, it started to drizzle. Lamington cakes are actually squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of chocolate sauce, then in desiccated coconut, a sweet Australian dessert. The Vegemite is a dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives, tasted just like the Marmite Singapore kids ate when young. Not too bad when spread on the crackers. It was an experience to be sipping hot tea and eating traditional Australian food in beautiful nature. :)

On our way to the Memorial Arch, we stopped by a vast green field where there were a lot of wild kangaroos, finally I saw them!

Wild kangaroos feeding on the grass

Wild kangaroos feeding on the grass

The Memorial Arch & coastline

The Memorial Arch & coastline

The Memorial Arch was built as a tribute to the soldiers from the First World War who were engaged in the construction of the Great Ocean Road, started as a project to create work for WWI returned servicemen.

Lorne - a very popular beach tourist resort town

Lorne – a very popular beach tourist resort town

Koala & colourful local birds spotted by the Kennett River

Koala & colourful local birds spotted by the Kennett River

Cape Patton lookout - spectacular views of the coastline stretching to Apollo Bay

Cape Patton lookout – 1 of the highest lookouts of the coastline stretching to Apollo Bay

I was definitely wow-ed over by the picturesque coastline scenery of the Great Ocean Road the whole morning. Good times really flew by quickly and it was time for lunch at the Apollo Bay Hotel. Doug had already passed us the menu for our selection of our main courses and called the restaurant to prepare before we reached the hotel. Thus shortly after we arrived, our food was served.

Sumptuous Beer Battered Fish & Chips lunch @Apollo Bay Hotel Restaurant

Sumptuous Beer Battered Fish & Chips lunch @Apollo Bay Hotel Bistro

Doug’s recommendation for lunch was great – the beer batter was crispy and tasty while still maintaining the freshness of the fish. I was surprised I managed to finish the huge portion of fish, only some chips were left over as I was really so full. The thick and fat chips were also quite well done. Oh, almost forgot to mention that complimentary cold drink and hot tea or coffee were included in the lunch too. There was a special cold drink being served here, can’t remember the exact name but it tasted a bit like bitter lemon, I loved it!

Up till this point, this tour by ATWAD had not disappointed me as I enjoyed myself very much, and so I looked forward to the second half of the tour after lunch. Watch out for my next post on the rest of the tour! :)

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