Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Railay Beach, Thailand - Part 3

Hello Family and Friends -

Today I will wrap up the Railay Beach adventures with cuz and Elizabeth.

Tuesday began early with me and Elizabeth setting off for breakfast, then meeting our rock climbing group at 9am.  We got fitted for shoes and gear and we set off to the east side to start the climb.  It was just us 2 and 1 other Israeli guy, so a nice small group.  Elizabeth had climbed quite a bit indoors and I'd done it a few times.  I admit I was a bit nervous.

I had the advantage of going last so got to see the hand/feet placements.  Plus our guide knew every nook and cranny in the rocks so was continually shouting up tips on where to reach and put our feet.  Most helpful indeed.  There were many places I thought, there is nowhere else I can go.  We attempted 5 climbs and got through 4 of them.  The last one was an inverted start and our arms/legs were so tired and shaky, that neither of the girls could do it.  The guy managed it though.  Next time!
This rock climbing was all new to me but I loved it.  The 1st 2 climbs we did were about 13 meters, and the 3rd one was 30 meters!  That's about 90 feet!  (Right?)  That is high!!!  The views from up there of the east and west beaches were spectacular.  This was one of those "Remember this view forever" moments.  Our guide said the climbs we did were 5.9 and 5.10.  Again, these #s didn't mean much to me but Elizabeth said that was really good!  :)  It was great!

To reward ourselves we got Thai pancakes (like crepes) and a Chang.  The banana and nutella pancakes were to die for!  :)  Very well deserved!

Then later that afternoon we were back at the Princess Resort for another round of 1.5 hour massages.  This one was even better because everything was sore - arms, legs, neck.  It was heaven.  It went by WAY too fast!  When those finished the heavens had opened again and we ran back to our room in the downpour. 

After cleaning up we had our last dinner in Railay at where else, the Flametree!  We treated ourselves right with panang chicken, pad thai, some Chang and then dessert!  My new favorite of fried ice cream and bananas in honey and coconut milk.  The fried ice cream tastes like a giant doughnut filled with ice cream.  After pouring on the chocolate and condensed milk, it's to die for!  Seriously, SO good!

 We turned in about 11 for our last sleep in our Railay bungalow. 

Wednesday we caught a longtail boat and then a van into Krabi town.  We checked into our hotel and rested a bit before heading out to explore.  Honestly, there wasn't much to be seen.  We saw this temple below, took some pics and this woman came up to us.  She grabbed Megan's arm and sniffed, then did the same thing to me.  It was really creepy!  Never seen that before.  Ummm, let's skip going into the temple and go get food!

We had a nice lunch, did some souvenir shopping, walked around a bit more, did a bit more shopping and headed back to the hotel. We didn't do much other than relax, pack, watch tv and enjoy the A/C.  We felt like we were in the lap of luxury with tv and A/C again.  We thought we'd better take advantage and watched some really thought provoking shows such as Hoarders, Caesars 24/7 and Sell This House.  Also we played some cards.  It was actually a really fun night to just chill and sleep.   
There were these crazy traffic lights in Krabi Town. 
Looks like something out of an evolution textbook!
Thursday we had breakfast at the hotel and caught a cab to the airport.  Our driver was telling us about his experience in the 2004 tsunami which was heartbreaking to hear.  One of the many reasons we realized again just how blessed we are.  Flight was on time and we arrived back in Singapore about 2pm.  Today was my birthday so I was very excited for our celebration tonight.  And I think you've already heard that story so I will end it here.

Megan, Elizabeth - I am so glad you were both able to come out and visit.  It was so special to have you here for my birthday and the trip to Railay was just perfect.  Truly an unforgettable experience.  It was great spending time with my dear cousin Megan and I am so thankful for a new friend that I've made in you Elizabeth.  I look forward to catching up with you both in Charlotte in about 2 months now, and many more memories to come.  Love you guys!

* Oh, and 1 last thing to the readership.  There will be no blog until next Tuesday because Sam and I are heading to Chiang Mai tonight!  I know you all are surprised!  :)  Stay tuned...

Railay Beach, Thailand - Part 2

Hello Family and Friends -

Continuing with Railay Beach...Monday was another early rise as we had our Ko Phi Phi day trip today.  We got takeaway breakfast from the Flametree and were rushing to make the 9am pickup.  As we waited, we learned it was actually 9:20 for the people in Railay.  Details.
We got onboard the speedboat and thought it'd be a great idea to sit in the front.  In theory it was.  However, as the rain started and the bumps increased, we had 2nd thoughts.  It was a very rough ride through open ocean, and we have the bruises to prove it (esp Elizabeth who looked as though she'd been beaten.  Seriously, she bruises REALLY easily!)  :)
The 1st stop of the tour was Bamboo Island.  We learned this was actually a National Park and you could camp here if you wanted.  The beaches were pristine and the water SO blue and clear.  It was gorgeous!

Next up was Viking Cave which we whizzed by in the boat.  Basically it is a cave right at sea level filled with bird's nests.  Ancient color paintings resembling Viking boats are painted on the walls, hence the name Viking Cave.  
Next they brought us to Phi Phi Leh lagoon which was beautiful but filled with boats.  We didn't have a stop here to swim, just a slowdown to observe and take pics.  Maya Beach was next, where they filmed a lot of The Beach.  Again, super crowded with lots of boats.  We swam a bit next to some longtail boats.  :)  In August when I came these 2 stops were much better because they were less crowded and we got to swim in the lagoon.

Then it was onto Monkey Beach, which was actually a beach this time vs. when I came in August when the tide was in.  Kimmy, there were actually monkeys this time!  Tell Matt too because I know how he loves monkeys!  ;) 
We didn't get out, just saw them.  Then it was on to Phi Phi Don for lunch.  We had an hour here including lunch, so we scarfed down our food, did a little shopping and made our way to the other side of the island where the more beautiful beaches are for 1 photo.  Then had to run back to the boat.

On the way back to Railay we had 2 stops for snorkeling which were both really good.  Actually, the 1st stop was the best as the water was deeper and there was more coral near the surface with tons of fish.  It was much better than the snorkeling we had in August when the coral was about 30 feet below and you could almost make out the fish. 
The ride back to Railay was super rough with more storms coming.  I've never wanted to get off of a boat so badly.  Part of this was due to the fall I had earlier when I slipped on the wet deck, fell on my tailbone and banged my head hard on the seat.  Luckily it was pretty padded.  But I did manage to keep hold of the cake I was eating!  Sorry cuz and Elizabeth for the scare!
Finally back to Railay, the heavens opened on us. We'd been so lucky all day with only a bit of rain on the boat going out and coming back, and sun the rest of the time.  I was very worried coming into this trip as October is apparently the wettest month of the rainy season. And with all the flooding going on currently in Thailand, we realize just how blessed we were!
We showered and went to dinner back at Diamond Cave (can't argue with 100 bhat cocktails.)  We had a perfect day but were literally drained from the day's activities.  I believe we were all snoring by 10pm.  I've never been more excited to sleep!

Stay tuned for the Railay conclusion tomorrow...

- Jenny, Cuz Megan and Elizabeth

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Railay Beach, Thailand - Part 1

Hello Family and Friends -

It is now time for me to recount our time in Railay Beach Thailand with Cuz Megan and Elizabeth...
Saturday morning saw the girls up at 3:30am to catch our 4am taxi.  Poor Sam, as we also woke him up.  L  Megan and Elizabeth got to experience Tiger airways and the budget terminal of Changi airport.  Not much there, but luckily we did find some coffee to wake us up!  We arrived into Krabi early at about 7am, met our transfer and took a van to the pier, where we then got a longtail boat to Railay Beach.   

We were dropped off near our accommodation, the Railay Garden View Resort.   Now this place is at the very far end of the East beach, through the Last Bar (literally that’s the name) and then up quite a few stairs. 
We had our own bungalow overlooking the water and everything was very tastefully done.  It was very basic – no A/C (don’t worry there was a fan), mozzie nets around the beds and no hot water.  But we knew this going in, and you know what we paid per night…$27!  It was definitely worth the price and then some.  We were all very impressed by this place!
We checked in and then went over to the West side (which has the nicer beach where you can swim, the East is basically all mangroves and no swimming) to find some food.  The Flametree would become our favorite place to eat, this really cool artsy bar with paintings all over the wall and ceiling.  We had an amazing meal there to start us off right. 
It had started to rain so we thought, what a perfect time for massages!  We wandered all over trying to find availability for all 3 of us and finally found 3 at the Princess Resort in a few hours.  We killed time back in the bungalow and then had the best massage I think any of us had ever had.  We did pay a bit more than the $10/hour places ($27 for 1.5 hours) but it was so worth it!   And the view overlooking the lake was perfect!  We vowed to return to this place.  J

The rest of the day was spent exploring the west beach and later in the evening we found some caves leading to the pristine Phranang beach were we saw the remnants of sunset.  It was so gorgeous! 

Dinner was at Last Bar for some $3 tom yam soup that did not disappoint.  Given we were up at 3:30 this morning, we had an early night in and bed by 11, after a fantastic 1st day in Railay!

Sunday we were up early at 7:15 to start the day.  During breakfast we saw a local fisherman fishing with his net, and feeding the fish to his pet otter (yes very bizarre.)  We decided it was time to tackle the hike to the viewpoint.   
We had seen the “path” last night and thought there had to be some mistake.  This “path” was literally straight up and there was a rope laid out to assist.  Well, that was the marked path and it was pretty tough but definitely worth it for the views we got of the east and west beaches. 

There was also a hike to a lagoon that was meant to be beautiful, but even with the help of a local guy scouting for us, we did not make it down there. 

We found the path but it looked like a significant drop and scramble down to some rocks below.  Given I had already slipped and cut up my arm, I was ready to go down the way we came up.  So we turned back and gave up the lagoon, but I think the only one broken up over this was Elizabeth.  Sorry gal – next time!  Getting down took quite a bit longer, but we got some great pics that make us look like we’re really hard-core.  But I guess that we were.  LOL!
Next we swam a bit at Phranang beach to cool off and try to wash the red clay off of us.  We also saw some climbers and a shrine of phallic symbols to a Hindu fertility god.  Very interesting to say the least.  It was about noon and we were starving!  It felt a lot later since we’d been up so long.  We ate lunch at Last Bar (see a pattern) and got to see the 2nd half of the AUS-RSA rugby world cup match.  It was an amazing game and the final score was 11-9 Oz.  Woo-hoo!  That was a bonus!
Next on the agenda was some kayaking from the west beach.  We had amazing views of Phranang and the rugged limestone cliffs.  Such a picture perfect scene everywhere you looked!
After kayaking it was time for another massage.  This time we found a cheap $10/hour place and you could definitely tell.  Megan took 1 look at the massage mattresses lying on the floor and said “I think I’ll do a foot massage actually.”  Elizabeth and I braved the neck/back massage, but I think Megan had the right idea.  My lady was terrible and Elizabeth’s dude got up at one point to blow his nose.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth knew there was no tissue in the bathroom, so use your imagination.  He came back and picked up where he left off, massaging her neck before moving to her face!  Yeah, this wasn’t very pleasant for her at all.  We decided to stick with the Princess Resort from now on!  But it made for a good story, right girls!  J

After an amazing sunset and 100 photos later, we had dinner at a place called Diamond Cave Resort and it was fantastic! 
Next was Last Bar for a free drink for the ladies, where we met some other Americans who seemed pretty cool.  We chatted with them and then went over to Bamboo Bar to watch a fire twirler and then some Muay Thai action.  There was just one fight so it was pretty quick.  We were exhausted, so called it a night after another action-packed day in Railay!
Stay tuned for more adventures...
- Jenny, Megan & Elizabeth

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sydney Part VII - The Final Installment

Hello Family and Friends –

I rejoin you to finally wrap up Sydney.  The following 3 days is what I got into while Sam was slaving away in the office.  J
Kudos to Dom for capturing this one!
I awoke Wed about 8am which for me is super early on vacation.  However, Dommy had been up for quite some time with the kids.  After having some brekky, we loaded up the kids and headed to a walking trail around Manly harbour. 

Today was probably the nicest day we’d had thus far.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was probably about 72 F with the sun blazing.  It was perfect!  We had a nice walk and stopped off at a little beach with a 50 meter swimming pool fed by the ocean (lane lines and all unlike Singapore!)  This is where the photo shoot began.  I just couldn’t stop taking photos of the kids with the beautiful scenery.  We spent a bit of time here then headed back and to Dommy’s parents’ house where we put Jacob down. 

Now Charlotte just did not want her clothes on because she had seen a little naked girl down by the beach.  We turned our backs for 1 minute and when we turned around she was naked!  Well, I guess there is no harm in that, except we had to slather her with sunscreen.  She then proceeded to water the plants (and the tree trunks and porch occasionally) while I snapped away.  It felt like a staged photo shoot…just adorable! 
Jacob woke up a bit later, then we drove to Collaroy Beach which was just gorgeous.  We pretty much had the beach to ourselves and the lighting was perfect! 

It was then up to Northhead Point for some more amazing views of the harbour and city in the distance.  Everywhere you went it was just incredible scenery! 

That night we went to dinner with Dommy in Dee Why while Dean stayed with the kids.  (Sam included this in his blog along with a photo.)  All in all a perfect day hanging out with Dommy and a small taste of the busyness of having 2 kids running around.
Thursday started much the same about 8am and brekky, then we dropped Charlotte off at Kindy (what they call preschool – how cute!)  where she immediately forgot about us as soon as she saw her friends.  The weather today was a bit threatening and it looked like rain for sure.  We ran some errands then grabbed a coffee at the mall and entertained Jacob.  He started getting cranky so we got home and put him down for a nap.  Then Dom and I enjoyed our takeaway sushi  out on the porch in the sun.  2 hours for just us!  J 

Jacob awoke and we picked Charlotte up, then went to Manly to play on the playground.  Both kids were a bit cranky and our idea of heading down to the beach in the chilly wind didn’t work.  The tantrums came so we decided we’d better get them both home and start the dinner / bath routine.  That night we got a sitter and had an evening out with both Dean and Dom and no kids!  This was the wine bar and Mexican dinner that Sam included (along with pics) in his portion of the blog.  It was a great evening out with all adult conversations!

Can anyone say Baby Gap!
On Friday we went back to the Manly harbour walk we’d done Wed but went a little further along the path.  We stopped on a nice grassy spot for some mid-morning tea of cupcakes that we’d made the other day.  More photos ensued before I split from them to head into the city to meet Sam for lunch. 
Getting them both to look at the same time was downright impossible!  :)
The ferry ride in was gorgeous as always with an added bonus of dolphins in the harbour.  Now that was a 1st and a very cool treat!  I met Sam and we had a pasta lunch (carbing up) outside in Martin Place.  The weather was just perfect (again.) 

I left Sam and had about 3 hours to walk around the city and take photos.  I walked around Hyde Park and then the Botanical Gardens.  A good portion of that time was spent just sitting on a bench admiring the opera house and harbour bridge.  The view just never gets old! 

I met up with Sam after work where we headed to a pub for a drink and met Dean.  I think this is where Sam picked up last week in his blog, meaning we’ve wrapped up our Sydney adventures!

Thanks to all who have kept up with our sporadic retelling of our adventures Down Under.  J 
Dean and Dom – thank you both so much for having us amidst a very hectic time!  I hope that it wasn’t too inconvenient…sorry again for kicking Charlotte out of her room.  Haha!  We had an absolute blast and it was so great hanging out again.  It was a perfect week in quite possibly the best city in the world.  And the best part?  I’ll be seeing you again in just a few short weeks.  The worst part… Sam won’t be with me.  L  Please tell Charlotte and Jacob we said hi and we miss them very much.  And of course we miss you guys as well.  Here’s to Sydney and to seeing you again soon!

Jenny and (slaving away at work as always) Sam

Friday, 14 October 2011



And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  Okay, so first off - ANNOUNCEMENT:  there will be NO BLOG until Monday, 24 October.  Why, you ask?  Because Sammy the Bull and Jenny the Striker are leaving Singapura (only 36 hours after Muffin Puffin's return) to head north into Khmer country - CAMBODIA BOUND, BABY!!!  Oh yes!  Who sees some ridiculous blogs in our future...

Top of the world, Ma!  Top o' the world!
So yesterday was a big day in the life of Jennifer Elaine Tacy Taylor, as she officially joined the Larry Bird Club!  That's right, sports fans - it was Jenny's Birthday!!!  The girls arrived just before 2 PM (slightly early - well DONE, Tiger Airways) and were home by 3, so they took it easy whilst I finished the work day before heading to Raffles Place for the first of 2 featured events of the evening - a visit to 1 Altitude!  This place, billed as the "world's highest open air rooftop bar" (as I said, ALL about superlatives), is 62 stories up and is the highest point in Singapore.  The bar is literally ON TOP of the steel frame of the building, and the glass boundary around the outside was so low that I could literally rest my elbow on it.  And whilst that was a bit scary (as there is NO safety net), the low walls and glass made the views AMAZING.  Seriously - we've been to the Sands for that view (which was great as well), but this was WAY better, simply because a) it's a lot higher and b) it's more in the center of the Central Business District, and so you can truly see the entire island (and all the way to Malaysia and Indonesia).  We watched the sun set and the city come to life for about 2 hours up there, and it was DEFINITELY worth the $18 to get up (that came with a drink, so it was actually cheaper than a lot of other bars!).  I'd say Jenny and I will DEFINITELY make that a "final week blowout" spot to hit once more.

After 1 Altitude, we rolled over to Ann Sieng Hill, where we took Jenny out for her birthday dinner at P.S. Cafe.  This was the same spot that we'd had Rebecca's birthday in August, and we actually sat at the same table.  In keeping to form, I even got the same meal (vegetarian lasagna - Emma, aren't you proud?), but we threw in some Hunter Valley wine as a tribute to the Aussies and a Poutine as a tribute to the Great White North Crew whom OSC is currently looking after (so jealous you're rockin' the Reds right now, brother).  Everything started out great (as expected), but then the foot arrived, at which point things too a turn.

So my lasagna was cold.  Jenny's was warm (certainly not pipiing hot by any stretch of the imagination), but mine was almost ice.  I took another bite, considered whether or not to speak up, and then decided "I paid $28 for this - I'm going to get it heated up."  And as I'm about to beckon him over, Megan shows us her burger.  She'd requested well done, and it came out RARE.  Seriously - JT and I would have loved it, but that was NOT Megan's style.  So I call the waiter over, and here is the conversation (WORD FOR WORD - I HAVE THREE WITNESSES):

Sammy the Bull (StB):  "Excuse me, her burger's undercooked.  Can you please take this back into the kitchen and cook it some more?"

Nice but Clueless Server (NbCS):  "You want the burger cooked more, is it?"

StB:  (resists temptation to say "yes, lah")   "Yes, she asked for it Well done."

NbCS:  (looks at burger)  "Ah, this is our version of well done."

StB:  "Well, we'd like it cooked some more.  She doesn't want any pink."

NbCS:  "Yes, but we cannot cook it more.  That is well done for us.  That is how we do it."

Megan:  "Oh, well that's okay.  If that's how you do it, that's fine."  (Server nods and starts to walk away)

StB:  (fangs showing and ready to pounce)  "No.  You will take that into the kitchen now and cook it until it is gray."

NbCS:  "But then it won't taste good, sir."

StB:  "NOW.  Until it's gray.  NO PINK."

NbCS:  "So you want it gray, is it?"

StB:  "YES.  ALL THE WAY GRAY.  And take this lasagna back.  It's cold."

NbCS:  (clearly rattled)  "You want this heated, is it?"  (SERIOUSLY - STOP @#$@ING SAYING "IS IT"!!!!!!!!)

StB:  "What I WANT is a new piece.  If you can't do that, then make it HOT."  (Jenny hands him her plate as well)

Jenny:  "Same with mine.  Heat it please."  (server runs off - Elizabeth looks at all of us and then at her plate)

Elizabeth:  "You guys want some Yellowfin Tuna? "

Food = hit or miss, but the guy can take a good photo...
So the food came back out later - mine was much better but still not exceptional, and so we won't be back to P.S. Cafe.  It's too bad, as that was my 4th time there.  However, that was ridiculous.  But still, we had some good laughs and a great time, so no complaints at all.  We then went home, where we poured some Bailey's and tucked into the Chocolate cake that Fraser Place had given Jenny for her Birthday!  Seriously - that girl is livin' the dream...

Classic story from today's work day - so once a quarter I host this "get to know your HR" session, and I have to come up with a crazy game for folks to play.  Last quarter we played Flip Cup (without beer - still HILARIOUS to watch these guys in action), and this quarter we kept up with the "college drinking game" theme by rolling out the other time honored collegiate tradition - BEER PONG!!!  Granted, we again had water vs. beer, but I was CONVINCED this was going to be a blast.  Ooooooh, you poor, naive, uninformed American...

So we divide it up, and there are 6 teams.  So I announce - "we're gonna have a play in - you guys sink 4 balls."  Seriously - if this had been Chuck Powell, this would have been over in THREE MINUTES.  KJ - Echo would have KILLED this - beer in one hand and ping-pong ball in the other.  But OOOOOOOOH no - NOT my colleagues.

The first game went fifteen - count 'em:  FIFTEEN - minutes, and STILL no one had sunk a ping-pong ball.  More painful was the fact that 97% of them weren't even close - 60% weren't even hitting the cups or the table.  And so I adjusted the rules:  "Just get 3 in!"  No joy.  "Just get 2 in!"  No dice.  "Okay, the first one to sink one wins!"  5 minutes later, what did I do?  I DISQUALIFIED BOTH TEAMS. 

The only thing wrong with this photo is you can't see the
"century egg" bruise on Elizabeth's arm that's the size of
Mainland China...
We had some luck with the other 4 teams, but it still took FORTY-FIVE MINUTES to play 3 rounds of Beer Pong (without the beer).  It was, arguably, the biggest gaming failure of my entire life, and you could see the look of pain and agony on the faces of both the competitors and the spectators.  As the day ended, I got the distinct impression that many a colleague was thinking:  "He goes home in 11 weeks, right?  Think he'll do something stupid and get fired sooner?  One can hope!"  Oh well, in my defense - the idea looked GREAT on paper...

Dinner was a farewell at Wine Connection, which Cuz and Elizabeth picked up - thanks so much, guys!  It as then back for some final packing before their 9:50 cab.  And so it was as it is with all our guests, an AMAZING visit ends too suddenly with a rushed good-bye beside a taxi with the meter running.  But hey, we know we'll see them both in less than 3 months, and that makes us VERY happy.

Megan and Elizabeth - it was SO GREAT having you guys here.  Jenny LOVED your time together in Thailand, and it was just great catching up and getting to meet Elizabeth.  Safe travels back to the Queen City!
REUNITED!!!!  Ah, life is perfect again...
Okay, so Muffin Puffin is doing all the Cambodia packing whilst I sit here and crunch out this post, so I'd better help her and then shuffle off to bed.  I am SO excited about Cambodia - bring on Angkor Wat!

That's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat with you in just over a week!



Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Crossing off another of life's to-do's: running across the Harbour Bridge (Sydney - Part VI)...

And a good evening to you from across the globe after another GREAT DAY in the Lion City.  MUFFIN PUFFIN COMES HOME TOMORROW!!!!  The Bull hit the gym again tonight, doing 27.5 KM on the treadmill in about 50 minutes.  Either the new machines offer more resistance or I'm growing weak in my old age, but whatever the cause I'm definitely having to scale down the resistance level when pedaling.  Price - you got an EPO I can borrow?  HGH is in short supply over here...

I'm carrying my girl to the Winner's Circle!
Moving back to Sydney, Saturday was a GORGEOUS day all around, and so Dean drove Jenny, Charlotte, and I over to Watson's Bay for some of Doyle's famous fish n' chips.  They were DELISH, but at bloody $18.50 (PLUS CHARGING FOR EACH SAUCE) the better have been! I'd originally planned to buy the barramundi, but that was something like $65,000 plus your first 3 children and a pair of business class flights to Tahiti, so I went with the skate instead.  Joking aside, the food was excellent (probably not the ideal pre-race meal, but who was NOT complaining?  THIS GUY...), and the views from around that area were just superb.  We walked along a rise called the Gap, and Jenny and I were mesmerized by the water coming in and out.  I definitely had that "this is as close as I'm gonna get to the 12 Apostles for awhile," but that was fine by me, as the view was just stunning. 

It was then over to Bondi, the most famous and iconic beach in Sydney and, more notoriously, the place where I almost bought the farm back in 2003.  As some of you might have heard, I went to Oz with T-Bone in 2003, and Bondi was a Day 1 stop on our tour.  Well, it's a MASSIVE beach with rocks on either side, and we went for a wander to the point where the rocks meet the sea at a cliff.  Wanting a cool photo, I told Tait to wait until the waves crashed good and sprayed some water, and so we stood there patiently, waiting for the perfect shot.  Well, when the wave did come, it was a TSUNAMI.  Seriously - it blasted over the wall like a Sherman tank, knocking me down and dragging me across rocks and barnacles for about 10 feet.  When I finally stopped, I was right on a ledge with rocks below - it would NOT have been pretty if I'd gone another couple of feet.  I finished that day walking SIX MILES HOME in socks covered with blood.  Needless to say I needed to go back to slay my personal dragons.

The day was turning chilly by the time we made Bondi, and the water was FREEZING!  I got in to my ankles (yes, Pappas - that makes me a risk taker...), but it was too cold after that.  There were SO MANY PEOPLE swimming - craziness!  But the trip was nice, as I met D & D's friends Melissa and Nathan (who, incidentally, is the SPITTING IMAGE of Hugh Jackman - accent and all), and we all chatted for an hour or two before shuffling back up to the Northern Beaches.

Dinner that night was at Dom's parents house, which is a six bedroom MANSION in Manly.  Seriously - it was like being in a house from Gone with the Wind or something.  We packed in some last minute carbs (this is the point where Miller makes the joke about carb loading vs. "carb overloading") before shuffling back over to D & D's place, where it was an early night (as I had a 3:15 AM wake up call!).

Sunday was it - D-Day:  The Blackmores Half Marathon, part of the annual Sydney Running Festival.  I went into this feeling really good.  I'd trained hard, setting a schedule in mid-June and sticking to all but 1 run (so finishing just 3.1 miles shy of total planned mileage).  I'd mixed speed work on the treadmill with long runs outside, counting on the humidity to balance out the hills that are nonexistent in Singapore but prevalent along the harbour in Sydney.  I'd eaten right, limited the beer on vacation, and had even managed a good night's sleep.  All in all, I felt very confident.

The cab ride over was easy, and I arrived at the race start at 5 AM, in time to stretch whilst watching the sunrise on the harbour.  As I watched the light climb the pylons of the bridge and the sails of the Opera House, I kept telling myself:  "remember this moment - you may never pass this way again."  And then, sunscreen on and in the runner's corrale, we were off at 6:20 AM.  And it was at THAT point, ladies and gentlemen, that the wheels fell off.

Simply put - it was NOT a good race day for me.  I was laboring by the 1K mark, and every step of that race hurt.  I knew that the hills would be a factor, but you don't realize how flat Singapore is until you hit rolling hills.  Charlotte would have been a DREAM training area for this - very similar topography.  Throw in the fact that it was 88 degrees AT THE START OF THE RUN without a drop of shade, and you've got a long day in front of you.

My, doesn't Dean look refreshed despite all that exertion?
Oh, wait...cheeky...
Despite all that, it was an amazing experience.  I ran across the bridge, saw the Opera House from many different vantage points, ran through the Rocks, by Hyde Park, through the Botanic Gardens, along Darling Harbour, and through Circular Quay, finishing at the Opera House.  I must give the organizer's credit - minus the volunteer who was totally worthless at the expo (and a lousy expo itself), it was a GREAT run that I would recommend to ANYONE.  I finished in 1:55:45, my slowest half marathon ever (excluding the 2 in Singapore) - about 8:40-45 a mile.  And if you think that's slow, let me tell you - it's REALLY slow when compared to Australians.  I was passed NON-STOP during this race, no matter how hard I tried to push.  Consider this stat:  In Singapore, I finished in the top 4% overall.  In Sydney I shaved 11 minutes off my SG time and finished in the back third.  Yeah, those kids can run.
The girls triumphant!  Dommy - next year it's the full
marathon or bust!!!

The picture of civility...and body odor.  Lots and lots
of body odor...
After the race, however, life was grand.  The weather, a bummer for the race, was GREAT for spectators, and I just sat in the shade and slept for a bit before Muffin and Dommy came through on the Bridge Run.  I saw Jenny roll through (she did GREAT) - she was looking strong!  It was Dom's first race EVER, and she did fantastic, coming in well under an hour (as did Muffin) - way to go, ladies!  We then hung out with some friends in the Botanic Garden before rolling over to Nespresso, where Dean DAZZLED us with his cultivated, sophisticated pallet.  Seriously - not sure if any of you cats have ever been in a Nespresso store, but it's like something out of Gattaca - I was blown AWAY.  Picture rows and rows of colored capsules surrounding all these sophisticated coffee making gadgets ranging in price from $400-$1100!!!!  As Dean and Dom are members, we were "allowed" in (reeking, I might add, post race - who needs a shower?) and treated to a stellar coffee.  So guuuuuuuuuuuuuuud...peppy cheekies.

It was then over to lunch, where I had a burger the size of my head whilst Jenny took down a falafel wrap fit for a king.  We then headed back to Manly via the Ferry, where Jenny and I watched the sunset at "Four Pines," the Manly Microbrewery overlooking the Wharf.  We saw a table open just as we picked up our Pale Ales, and you should have SEEN Jenny blast through time and space to snatch that spot from enemy clutches.  I was REALLY impressed.

And so we sat there, waiting for our rides and for the last meal before a final sleep and then our flight - and everything was perfect.  Granted, I was (more than) a little disappointed in my run, but minus that life was perfection.  Soul mate beside me, drinking a nice schooner, watching the sun set over the pines and the water on our final night, a farewell chill in the air before returning to the Equator - who can really ask for anything more than that?

Dean and Dom - thank you guys SO MUCH for having us and hosting us.  I know that it was dreadfully inconvenient with everything that you've got on at the moment, but thank you so much for making us feel so welcome and showing us such a GREAT time.  You guys are absolutely two of mine and Jenny's favorite people on EARTH, and we can now add Charlotte and Jacob to the list of "reasons to return soon for another visit Down Under."  You're the best - thanks again so much for being part of our lives and for letting us share yours.

Well, that's Sydney wrapped, minus the missing "Muffin Chronicles."  However, she'll have to handle that, as all I've got are the photos, which I don't think will do the tales justice.  But if you'll excuse me now, I'm off to watch my newest selection from the Fitness First library -  "Red Riding Hood."  Yes, that's right - the one from the dudes who made "Twilight" and with the chick from "Mama Mia" in it.  CLEARLY I am comfortable with my manhood...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat tomorrow (to celebrate the triumphant return of Perfect Pumpkin)!


 Sam and (now back to Krabi Town, no doubt knocking back a few last minute Changs and a bowl of Tom Yum) Jenny