Finding peace and contentment in the present

The Singapore Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong, came out this past weekend to advise us not to expect to travel this side of 2020. 😦 I guess it’s no big surprise, but still a somewhat depressing to hear.

That said, we had a blast this weekend. If every weekend went down like that, we really have nothing to complain about being stuck in Singapore.

  • Kicked it off bright and early Saturday morning with a 15km paddle to Pulau Ubin and back from Pasir Ris. We went with some friends, and with the high tide, decided to venture into the mangroves for a bit of exploration. We all had wide grins on our faces as we sliced our paddles through the still waters, a reflection of the blue skies above. Around us, the sounds of crickets filled the air, and hawks and hornbills flitted from tree to tree as our kayaks glided by. Overhead, we caught glimpses of the fighter jets and choppers bearing the Singapore flag as they flew past, practicing for the upcoming National Day celebrations. Otherwise, in the middle of the verdant oasis, we felt transported into another world, a Singapore of a century past.
  • In the evening, while Jeff caught up with some coworkers for tennis and dinner, I met up with a couple of college buddies for much missed catch ups, drinks and food. So glad to be able to start socialising in small groups again outside.
  • Sunday morning, I watched the streaming of the Santa Fe Opera Gala (bit boring to be honest), and Jonas Kaufmann’s recital in Bavaria, hosted by the Metropolitan Opera (so good, I’m watching it again).
  • In the afternoon, Julia came over again for our usual Sunday routine since Phase 2: tennis, refreshing dips in the pools, dinner (bunless lamb burgers with rosti and sautéed zucchini, and freshly baked almond cake), and board games. Washed down with a deliciously smooth and potent bottle of peppercorn negroni from No Sleep Club.

Life is good.

(Featured image photo from Huey, who took of Shan’s group when they visited the mangroves a day later – I used it because I didn’t bring a camera or my phone out when we went out, but it perfectly shows the serene and beautiful conditions when we went out ourselves the day before)

Long weekend in Sydney

Our friends Garry and Linh tied the knot last weekend in Sydney. It was the perfect excuse to make the trip back for a visit. Just a long weekend, coming right off the heels from our Greenland vacation.

As always, we jumped on the chance to hit the water for a spot of kayaking. Just a quick 10k nip from Spit Bridge to Bantry Bay and back with Dani, done and dusted in time for us to clean up to get to the wedding too!

The wedding ceremony was beautiful. It was held at the Oatlands House, outdoors, on a cool spring evening. They exchanged vows under the golden glow of the setting sun. Afterwards, as the temperatures dipped, we moved indoors for the festivities – bottles of premium Japanese sake and wine. Fun times!

I managed to meet up with a few other friends too, which was always lovely, and also squeezed in a ferry ride and a walk across the Harbour Bridge. Ah Sydney. It was so good to be back. We need another excuse to make a return visit…

Natalie’s week and a bit in Singapore

Our friend Natalie from Sydney has just left. We had a wonderful time, reminiscing over old adventures together Down Under, and also creating new ones together. We kayaked, hiked, swam, cooked, and ate and drank our way around Singapore and Langkawi while she visited.

Kayaking to Pulau Ubin

It was a beautiful afternoon to be paddling to Ubin. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rain had stopped and the clouds parted, and the air was fresh and much less humid than usual. Plus – and this is a big plus – the southwest monsoons had washed the usual bits of flotsam elsewhere, leaving the channel the cleanest we’ve seen it.
We paddled up the mangrove, in search of the auntie who sold coconuts by the river bend. But we arrived late in the afternoon, and she’d already packed up for the day.

Walking the Southern Ridges

After a few false starts from West Coast Park, we finally got on the Southern Ridges trail at Kent Ridge Park, and enjoyed the next couple hours leisurely strolling the elevated walks of the Southern Ridges, reveling in the lush greenery.


Given that Natalie was also here for two weekends, we took the opportunity to go somewhere nearby for one of them. Searches on Google Flights yielded reasonable tickets to Langkawi, so off we went.

It’s a such a chill destination. We’d much prefer to rent kayaks or standup paddle boards to go exploring round islands, but we simply couldn’t find any operators that offered that. Rather, available activities beachside were all the motorized variety – jet skis, banana boat rides, paragliding, and island / mangrove tours via boat. Ah well – we contented with splashing in the surf and poolside, and drinking cheap cocktails ($7).

Photo credit: Nat
Hike to Seven Wells Waterfall. Photo credit: Nat

Here’s to many more such memories in years to come!

Fall weekend in Kangaroo Valley

We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather this weekend when the group of 7 of us tripped down to Kangaroo Valley for a spot of kayaking and camping. The skies were clear, the air crisp and cool, and there was not a hint of breeze. A complete opposite of our January experience really.

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As we sluiced our way down the river, we gawked at wombats, eagles, and kangaroos, and reveled in the delightful chirping of birds. The water was a perfect mirror of the stringybarks along the riverbank.

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Fall is definitely here though. By 430pm, the sun had already dipped below the line of trees up Yarrunga Creek. But we were already comfortably set up in our sheltered campsite, and the beginnings of a merry campfire going.


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In the morning, well, pre-dawn really, we clambered out of our toasty sleeping bags and eased our way into the water. The fog was thick, enveloping, mysterious. The perfect ambience for our quiet sojourn up dead tree gorge. As the sun rose and warmed up the air, the fog slowly dissipated, leaving behind a steamy film on the water surface.


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Another amazing weekend in the books. 🙂


Hiking and camping the Coastal Track in Royal National Park

For our 6th wedding anniversary, and to check off Jeff’s bucket list, we went camping with some friends along the Coastal Track down at Royal National Park. This is a super popular hiking trail – with camping reservations booked out at least 3 months in advance. This was our third – or was it fourth?! – time trying our luck at hiking it. Previously, the weather had either been too stormy or too hot for us fair-weather folks to attempt it. Heh.

While the weather forecast appeared decent this time around, a recent bush fire had resulted in a 6.5km track closure between Wattamolla and Garie Beach, which meant that we had to car pool to get around the closed section. That turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise for me actually, since I need only lug my heavy pack for a much shorter distance. 🙂 I’ve been so focused on kayaking, I’ve lost any stamina I had in the first place for hiking. Good wake up call to start cross-training!

But Saturday was a beautiful day, with a nice steady breeze, and after we’d puffed our way over Thelma Head into our beautiful valley campsite at North Era, we changed into our swimmers and plunged into the waves to cool down.

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful end to the day really. The clouds gathered and thickened overhead, initially causing me to fret about having lugged my tripod for naught (since I wanted to shoot the stars), but they soaked up all the gorgeous hues of orange and pink and sunset.


And as the moon dipped below the horizon, the clouds did clear for a bit for the stars to come out to play. It was so relaxing and mediative to lie back on the soft grass to star up into the night sky, watching the stars pop out one by one.

I toyed with the idea of actually sleeping outside, under the stars. But when Lisa and I popped down to the beach to listen to the waves and play around with more long exposure photography, we noticed a band of lightning spread across the southern horizon at ever increasing intervals. I retreated back to the tent in the end, which turned out to be a wise decision because it did rain for a half hour right before sunrise (before the skies cleared again for what turned out to be a sweltering fall day).

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Lisa and I having some fun playing with long exposure shots on the beach; notice the light pollution in the background from Wollongong

Hiking the Bouddi Coastal Walk

We scuttled our plans for backcountry hiking and camping in Splendid Rock up in the Blue Mountains this weekend, given the uncertain weather outlook. Truth be told, I was quite happy with the decision, since we have been pretty much traveling non-stop for the past two months.

Instead, we opted for a spot of indoors rock climbing on Saturday, and on Sunday, headed up the coast to Bouddi National Park to do the coastal walk.

Rather than doing a loop back, we did a car shuffle – much more fun. We started off from McMasters Beach, and even though the ambient temperatures were pretty mild, we were soon sweating under the full glare of the sun.

Love the cloud formation

So it was with much anticipation and relief when we hit Maitland Bay, and dove into the refreshing calm waters to cool off. Felt absolutely heavenly.

Our hiking crew


Finished off the walk right at sunset near Putty Beach campground, where we scuffed down some pizza and guzzled down beer while planning our next adventures. Good times.


Weekend up near Hunter Valley

star gazing

This weekend, we escaped from the city with a group of friends to a pad up near Hunter Valley. The location was quite remote, but the dark and clear night skies afforded us with gorgeous views of the milky way. We spent hours both nights just lying by the pool, oohing and aahing at the stars shooting across the sky.

Good times.




Sunsets in Taveuni, Fiji

We got lucky with the weather. It had been raining steadily the few days before we arrived, and was pretty wet the Saturday afternoon we landed. But the clouds steadily cleared up such that by Sunday evening, patches of blue sky could be seen overhead.

Spearfishermen at night
Spearfishermen at night

Our little haven for the week, Nakia Resort & Dive

Taveuni sunset

Taveuni sunset 1
Sunsets over the Somosomo Strait

Taveuni sunset 2

Taveuni sunset 3


Jeff reviewing his dive videos from the day
Jeff reviewing his dive videos from the day


Nakia Resort
The moon was waxing the week we arrived. It set at midnight Sunday, then at a later hour each night. The half moon meant we enjoyed slighter currents though. I’m not sure we could have handled 4-6 knots of current!


Lavena Coastal Walk, Fiji

We’ve just come back from a phenomenal week in Taveuni, Fiji with a couple old friends. What a trip!

Inter-island travel
We took a 12-seater propellor plane from Fiji’s international airport in Nadi to Taveuni

I’d picked Taveuni, out of the 300 Fijian islands, because of its fame as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ (Jacques Cousteau). What we didn’t realize – and reveled in – is that Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a quiet slice of haven still quite set back in time and away from the bustle and smog of city life. The island is 42km long and 10km wide, and has only 18,000 or so inhabitants who mostly stay in small villages dotted around the lush land. There are two small towns with grocery stalls, but most of the villagers grow their own crops, rear their own animals, and catch their own fish. There isn’t much to do in town, and there are only a couple restaurants that the locals frequent.

We spent most of our time on land lounging around our resort anyway. Nakia Resort & Dive, a small eco resort with 4 bures (Fijian word for wooden and straw huts) and a maximum of 12 guests. The week we were there, there were just 6 of us, and our routine was that we’d wake up at sunrise for an early breakfast before going diving. In the afternoon, we’d come back to a late but hearty lunch, then lounge around by the pool or the hammock with a book in hand. In the evenings, we’d gather for more food and drink, spend a couple of hours comfortably chatting or playing some board or card games, then retire to bed by the moonlight. Rinse and repeat.

We did spend a day poking around the north-eastern part of the island though, on the Lavena Coastal Walk:

Lavena Coastal Walk
Visitors can choose to do a roundtrip walk (13km) to the waterfalls and back. We took a boat one way – the lazier, but infinitely more fun option

The villagers typically keep a vegetarian diet, but rear animals for meat for special occasions

Lavena Coastal Walk waterfall
Wainibau Falls, the highlight of our walk. To get to the falls, we actually have to wade / swim our way through strong current. But the water was most refreshing


Wendy and Chris Lavena Coastal Walk
Along the trek back, we passed by little villages and tons of banana, kava, cassava trees / plants


Weekend in the Blue Mountains

Three Sisters Evans Lookout Stars Blue Mountains (1 of 1)

This past weekend, I did a girls’ trip with two old friends to the Blue Mountains for a spot of hiking and just plain old good times together. We hiked the gorgeous Grand Canyon route and the crowded Three Sisters lookout.

In the evening, they indulged me in some astro photography, and patiently posed for over an hour as I struggled to get the composition just so. 😀

Evans Lookout Stars Blue Mountains (1 of 1)

River Walk Blue Mountains (1 of 1)

On Sunday, we also made the drive out to Jenolan Caves where we did a 1.5 hour tour of the Orient system, and then a stroll along the river where we chanced by a wallaby and its joey calming munching on grass by the banks.

I loved every bit of the trip. Thank you for all the memories.