Thursday, January 30, 2014

Melbourne - Jan '14 Pt 1


As some of you may or may not know, I spent a week or so down in Melbourne earlier this month. Generally, I do spend a few days in Melbourne every year to watch the Australian Open, catch up with friends and also see family. Will also be splitting this trip in half, so it's not such a long post with lots of text and pictures! This post will consist of the first three days.

So, on the 19th, we drove to the airport for our flight which I think was around 11:30am? So my brother who wasn't coming down to Melbourne ended up taking the car back, so we didn't need to book parking at the airport. Of course, while I was at the airport; I needed to have some Red Rooster. Shared a classic half with dad, then headed over to board on the great little Boeing 737! On the way there, ended up talking to the guy next to me; a Malaysian-Chinese man who had asked me about my Samsung Galaxy S4. Found out he worked for a company that builds props for Doctor Who; and he was on a connecting flight to London to meet with BBC. Cool stuff! I'm not a Whovian, though...

Got picked up by Aunt Dianne, on dad's side of the family; and she drove us to The Victoria Hotel, where we were staying for the next few days. We checked in, and walked about 500 metres to eat at one of my favourite budget chinese restaurants; Minh Xuong on Russell Street. They do great BBQ and roast meats! Afterwards, headed back to the hotel and watched the tennis for a bit; before I met up with Himmat at the corner of Bourke and Russell. He had just gone for a bike ride, and was ridiculously hungry. I recommended... Minh Xuong, of course; and he had lunch there while I rode his road bike around the city; before coming back and having a snack. We also agreed on trolling Daniel as much as possible on his Facebook.

Himmat enjoying his lunch at Minh Xuong

Walked to Brunetti, just off Flinder's Lane; where apparently, the blueberry cheesecake is to die for! Got lost on the way, but we weren't in a rush. Also found a piano there, which was part of an artwork, and sat down to play. A group of four girls came over and started dancing, the people in Melbourne are quite friendly, I find. Invited one to play with me, because apparently she knew the song; she declined but her friends yelled at her.

Outside Brunetti, playing the piano.

I needed to leave to go to Crowne Towers for a special dinner with my extended family; it was a $90 buffet at a very fancy place called The Conservatory. I bumped into those girls on the way and had a quick chat with them, all from Melbourne; except one girl who was from Germany. I exchanged the eight or so German words I knew in a random order; and got some laughter out of them all.

The Conservatory
Does that mean I can't use my hands here?

The dinner was delicious, with an assortment of ridiculously fresh seafood, salads, roast meats, Chinese and Indian cuisines; with an amazing table for dessert. I had a solid amount of plates, and started to hate myself. The waiters were also extremely disciplined, constantly filling up our glasses (with some Moet & Chandon Rose, I might add); taking away plates almost instantly and if you ever left the table; they would fold your cloth back nicely. Finished the night by checking out the casino, before heading back to the hotel.

Just two of the plates I had (of ten?)

On the morning of the 20th, my family and I had tickets for the Australian Open, specifically a pass into Hisense Arena (which also includes a Ground Pass). My parents went first and stayed in Hisense Arena for the majority of the day. Met up with Himmat by a cafe near my hotel (which also had a piano). We decided to go to Rebel and get some tennis balls, so we could get some autographs from tennis players! I needed to get breakfast, so on our way to the tram, we stopped by KFC so I could get a snack box with wicked wings, delicious! We caught the free tram there, and I was planning to show Himmat around; since he only had a ground pass.

For Daniel #1
For Daniel #2

Walked to the board where they show the player's practice schedules, and realised the Ana Ivanovic was practising at the time, so we tried to get a good view. Didn't manage to get to the front, but by the time David Ferrer was on court, we had managed to get right to the front at the fence. We missed out on his autograph by just two people, lame! Immediately after David Ferrer finished, Novak Djokovic had gone on court and we were not planning to leave our spots.

Ana Ivanovic
David Ferrer

At one point during his practice session, he mishit a ball, which flew into another court playing a proper tennis match; he had this 'oops' face; gold! He finished his practice session, and signed a lot of autographs for the crowd; including mine and Himmats! There was also a security guard, that Himmat pointed out, looked like Shane Warne on steroids. Met up with my parents real quick in Hisense Arena, where I got some food and then went back to the practice courts to wait for Roger Federer. We watched Sabine Ellerbrock (World Number 1 for Wheelchair Women's Singles) practice with her coach, and after their practice session; they pretty much just lobbed all their tennis balls into the crowd; that got everybody excited ! Afterwards, Roger Federer got on the court and it was awesome watching him, being that close. However, he broke my heart when he walked off without giving out any autographs; only leaving with a wave to the crowd.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer

Autograph from Novak Djokovic

Walked over to the next court and watched my cousin Brian Tran play his doubles match. It was the first round of the Australian Open Juniors; however, his team did lose to a very strong team. Went to a restaurant called 'Grass and Grain', and had some fancy steak with my parents. They tried to get Himmat to have some; but he declined, several times over.

Brian Tran, my cousin!

Managed to sneak Himmat into Hisense Arena afterwards, and watched Andy Murray play against Stephane Robert, which was very exciting to watch! Murray smashed a racquet after a hawk-eye decision, costing him the third set. We watched the start of the Federer vs Tsonga match at the Heineken Garden, before trying to find a more sheltered spot from the wind. We ended up on Show Court 3, watching a mixed doubles match with Daniela Hantuchova / Laender Pas vs Elena Vesnina / Mahesh Bhupathi; before going over to Margaret Court Arena and laughing our asses off watching Mansour Bahrami play. He has got to be one of my favourite 'legends' of tennis; just watch this video! He was playing with Cedric Pioline against Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.

Andy Murray vs Stephane Robert

We left after that, Himmat taking the train home; and my family and I going to Minh Xuong for a late night feed! Another bowl of roast duck noodle soup before returning home.

Mansour Bahrami and Cedric Pioline

Waited at our hotel for Uncle Ken to pick us up on the morning of the 21st, and I had also come across a beautiful Yamaha grand piano on the mezzanine level. I played that for a while before he arrived. He is definitely one of my favourite uncles, and we get along more as friends than family really. Grabbed some coffee at the cafe by the hotel before we headed off. We first went to Grandpa's house; but he wasn't home; so he let us take his car to go to Highpoint shopping centre; where I needed to visit the Samsung Store to get a replacement battery for my phone. Some batteries were faulty and mine was one of them; however, since I bought the phone overseas, I could not get a replacement. They didn't even have any replacement warranty batteries! I could buy one though, and I planned to sort out the warranty with Kogan; since I bought it through them.

Grand Piano

 My mum met up with her long time childhood friend (since primary school in Vietnam) and we visited their house which was about half an hour away; before going to have lunch with her husband as well in St Albans. Their house was absolutely ridiculous. It was massive, and beyond beautiful. They all had Bun Bo Hue, which was the restaurant's special and I had some Crispy Skin Chicken and Tomato Rice. We went back to Grandpa's house afterwards to visit; and to watch the rest of the Ferrer vs Berdych match.

We went back to the hotel before I went to go meet up with Himmat; who spent his day at the Australian Open, with a Rod Laver Arena pass; so he got to watch Li Na annihilate; Bouchard & Ivanovic play and also Ferrer and Berdych; great match ups! We walked around China Town, walking into Minh Xuong; but they no longer had crab, and we were adamant on getting some crab to annoy Daniel. We settled with Pacific BBQ, and had snow crab instead of mud crab, it was all they had.

Dessert Story

Had it with the noodles, ginger and shallots; which was nice; but nowhere as good as the crab we had in Cabramatta. Afterwards, we went to Dessert Story, I got some Taro Milk Tea and Himmat was probably the only guy with a beard inside. Oh well, afterwards; headed over to Federation Square to watch an amazing tennis match with Novak Djokovic (who we were both going for) vs Stanislas Wawrinka. They had an amazing five-setter last year, and we were keen to watch some good tennis. We sat on the ground for the majority of the match, and had some random Asian guy high five and talk to me, when Djokovic won an important point.

Massive TV at Federation Square, and a great view!
Had some English guy then ask me if I knew him, since the asian guy started talking... a lot. Not a clue who he was, but thankfully he moved away. Typically Melbourne weather arrived, and it rained for approximately 30 seconds, and we managed to score some seats while some people went for cover. In the end, Wawrinka won; and it was absolutely heart breaking.

Headed back to the hotel afterwards for a shower, and a great sleep. Part 2 soon!

Saturday, January 25, 2014



Been in Melbourne for the past week, so I will have a separate blog post for that, but in the mean time; this post will be about the week leading up to that! Also, please do check out Thanjon's new blog, I will be stealing a lot of photos from there! Click HERE!

So, on the 11th, started off the weekend by going to the Apia International in Sydney Olympic Park to watch the Mens' Double and Singles final! Went with my parents; brother also went with his girlfriend. I invited Daniel along as a birthday present, we got a good deal on the tickets as my parents were members with Apia insurance.

We watched the doubles match first, where Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won; then Daniel and I headed off to the 'Interactive Area' where I had a little climb on a kids climbing wall; checked out the venue and ended up watching some wheelchair tennis; bloody impressive! Afterwards, went back to watch the finals match where Tomic got destroyed by Del Potro in the final, he kind of just... gave up.

Afterwards, drove to Canley Heights and had some late night food at Gia Hoi.

The very next day, 12th, had an extremely early start (before sun rise) to go climbing with Paul, Jenga and a lot of others! Got to Blaxland Station by 7am, and waited for Paul and Jenga (they were late, Jenga had his 30th birthday party the night before; but today was his actual 30th! Drove up the mountain and picked up Andy at Faulconbridge, before continuing onto Bell Supercrag!

Over the course of the day, there were so many people at the crag, generally that doesn't happen due to the difficult access and long walk.

Paul bolting his 45m arete

Towards the end of the day, Jenga still bolting.

Me, Thanjon, Jenga, Paul, Andy, Chris, Evan, Damion, Seann, Mike, Rick, Matt, James, Mike (another) and Tristan. A few others as well, but I didn't know who they were, but it was crowded! So much energy. Spent probably nine or so hours at the crag, and got a decent amount of climbing in. A rad 22 called Seamstress to warm up on, a not so fun 21; failure on the 'bad 23' and two laps on a short bouldery 25 called Crumple Zone. Finished the day off with a casual lap on a 19 and 21. On the walk out, sprained my right ankle pretty badly, hurt like a bitch. Taped it up and limped out the rest of the way.

Had dinner at the Mount Victoria pub, and ended up getting home just before 11pm.

Took this while walking out 

Yet again, the very next day, 13th, Benn came by my place to pick me up to go for a climb and swim at Dams Cliff with Sarmila! He had called me the night before, and said he would carry everything because of my ankle, he just really wanted to go out! Had a stop at Blaxland Maccas for some breakfast, before continuing up the mountain!

Bumped into Amanda and also Rick from yesterday, climbed some easy routes just for Sarmila and then tried my luck again on Siesta, but that didn't go. Just way too tired from yesterday, and ankle wasn't liking the crazy heel hook.

Anyway, climbing aside; swam in the main dam area and also did a few jumps! Good fun, the ankle was bad enough that swimming hurt; yikes! We wouldn't let Sarmila do the big jump because her swimming wasn't good and her landings from the smaller jumps weren't great either.

Had lunch at Blackheath Fish and Chips, mainly because Benn wanted a milkshake, it seems like he always gets one after a trip like this! Walked around the antique shop for a while and then Benn dropped me off home, stopping for 7/11 Slurpees on the way! The drive up and down was really fun, and we went through a ridiculous amount of music.

Enthusiasm is through the roof

I went to the city the day after, 14th, to return my Osprey pack to Paddy Pallin for warranty work, one of the compression buckles had already broken, and I was keen to get it fixed. They nearly gave me a new one, until they realised it was dirty and I had used it; so they had to go through the supplier for warranty instead of an in-store replacement.

Went climbing with Thanjon and Hannan the next day, on the 15th. I was meant to get off the train at Wentworth Falls and get some coffee at Il Postinos with them, however... I fell asleep on the train, but luckily I woke up in time to get off at Katoomba ! I understand why people end up at Lithgow sometimes... The thing is though, my alarm would have been going off for ten minutes in the quiet carriage, and nobody woke me up, lame. So, Thanjon got me some take-away coffee and I waited for about 5 minutes outside Todarellos.

Thanjon on Sparkle Motion

We headed down to the Dog's, Cat's and Apple's Wall at Porters Pass, and I showed the guys where I had my massive fall on Black Heathen last year. I hadn't been back to Porters Pass to climb since then. I don't think anyone was extremely motivated to climb hard today, due to the heat; and we started off our climbing by repeating Nice Vice, Baby 20. Hannan came off at the crux while I was belaying him, and that had made me slam into the wall, shin first into the undercut section. That... hurt for hours! Bloody hell.

Afterwards, Thanjon started working Sparkle Motion, but once again, the top crux from the sidepull and pinch would not go; despite numerous falls over and over trying to free those moves. Neither Thanjon or I could get it, and we mainly just took a lot of photos, a lot of ass-shot photos. Bumped into some other climbers enquiring about the other climbs on the wall, and it was great having a chat with them. The weather at this point was still quite nice, the sun had not hit the wall yet.

We bailed before the sun could start roasting us, visited Big Johns for some price checks for a crash pad and a number six Black Diamond camalot. Nope. Way too expensive! Stopped by the Alex in Leura because I was really craving steak, but the bistro was unfortunately closed; so we settled for Mountain High Pie! Not that it's a bad thing, it's always delicious; but Hannan was right, it does lose that extra bit of appeal after a while.


By now, it was so... damn... hot! Dropped Hannan off and went back to Thanjon's house; where we helped Victor cut down a tree. Played his piano for a bit, then headed down the mountain to check out the Springwood crags. Such a bad idea. We first went to Backyard Basic, got a little lost on the walk in, but eventually found our way. The bottom of the crag is utter filth and the rock looks very sandy. The sun was battering the wall, we left.

Went to IGA and got some food, drinks and a bag of ice. Yes, a bag of ice. While walking out, we had this hipster take a photo of Thanjon and I crossing the road, bag of ice over Thanjon's shoulder; odd...

Went to Birdwood Gully for some shade, and climbed the worst route I have ever climbed. It was disgusting. A waste of money, time, bolts, chalk and climbing shoe rubber. Went home right after that, after being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the gully as well.

Had a late start on the 16th, Big Top. The crag Thanjon and I were going to would have afternoon shade, at least the main wall. Stopped by the service station in Medlow Bath where we stocked up on food, powerade and ice-cream; it was already ridiculously hot. Walked uphill to get to the Big Top boulder, where Thanjon was ridiculously keen to climb the off-width on the back side of the boulder; Kubrick Crack. Initially, Thanjon tried the first few moves and broke off a hold; falling off and elbowing my right in the head; bloody hell.

Kubrick Crack

It was a bit of an epic trying to set it up, having no trad gear for this climb. He aided the face next to it and traversed across to clip a carrot bolt by the crack, before topping out and setting up a tree belay. When it was my turn to try the route, it was a bit of an epic. It was like ultimate fighting with a rock, jamming in my right knee; edging with my left foot and chicken wing jamming my right arm to get up this crack. The sun was starting to hit this side of the wall, because of where the route was on the boulder. Right at the top, I basically did a sideways dyno from the crack to a jug; it was bloody desperate!

I came down and belayed Thanjon so he could climb it cleanly, and I felt like I was done for the day. He volunteered to carry all the equipment up the rest of the hill (the worst part) to get to the main area of the crag. Absolute trooper.

Tried a 22 on second, wasn't too keen to try it on lead after seeing Thanjon's epic on it. The climb really should have ended much lower, after the cool start, which was laybacking up this corner! It then traversed out on a thin face, with fairly chossy rock. Not so great. I broke some holds off, as well...

Finished the day repeating a bolted crack, at grade 17. We also supplemented with a LOT of wires, placing 9 wires! Had some pizza at Hazelbrook, and also had some crab at home which mum had made! Delicious.

Spent the night of the 17th and the morning of the 18th a little out of my element, at Jimmy's house. He had a going away party; lots of drinks, and great music!

Post about Melbourne, coming soon. Ciao!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Hello all! First post of 2014, I've started off this year with lots of climbing, lots and lots of climbing! My skin is... kind of destroyed, but oh well!

New Year's Day, what better way to start off the new year by going rock climbing? I know right. Started a bit later than usual, and met up with Gene and Thanjon to go climb at Barden's Lookout. None of us could stay so long either, so we definitely made the most of the 3 or 4 hours we had out there. Warmed up on Lady Stardust, which Thanjon hated for some reason, I found it quite pleasant!

Then each of us threw ourselves at a 24 each in the cave, which Gene ticking Jean Genie, Thanjon ticking Chicken Skin and me failing Goosebumps, kept falling off the final dyno... Damn! This pretty much ruined my skin because I had tried it 3 times.

Gourmet Lunch! Trout, Crackers, Chocolate Milk, Gatorade

Headed back afterwards, the kebab shop was closed, but Foodworks was open, so we got lunch with a random assortment of food in there. That night, I went back to Barluck with my parents, and two cousins from Melbourne, who were visiting Sydney. I was ridiculously tired, nearly fell asleep in the food.


Day after, on the 2nd, yes, more climbing! Went to Hartley Vale road crag, which has some nice afternoon shade to do a couple of routes. Warmed up on the easy corner and did the classic 21, Something with Spiders. I didn't see any spiders, but Thanjon did! Then put ourselves on two Mike Law routes; Hitlistless, which was terrifying and hard, but we managed to send it! Then Alpaca Corner, which was dirty as anything, until we cleaned it up, we think it's a great slab now!

The ground was pretty wrecked from all the back burning, and there was so much rock around, lots of potential for more routes in this area. Access is ridiculously easy, the walk in takes about one minute. Finished off the day with some kebabs!

Logan Brae

On the Saturday, 4th, we hit up Logan Brae around lunch time; it was a hot day and it has shade in the afternoon, perfect! The only problem is that the whole crag is overhanging and the easiest route is a solid 22; not the best one to warm up on. Managed to both onsight/flash it, then proceeded to get spanked an awkward 23! Tried another route afterwards, but couldn't finish it; I had hit the wall. The new Black Diamond harness I got from Climbing Anchors was great!

We called it early and went back to Wentworth Falls for some food and coffee.

Bare Essentials - Andy Richardson

A day's rest later; went out climbing on the 6th, Victor (Thanjon's dad) was going to join us today, so we decided to go to the always popular Shipley Upper and Centennial Glen, very accessible crags. Started off the day by finally ticking These People are Sandwiches! It's sort of been a nemesis for a while, and it's a grade 22 that will make you get your shit together to tick it.

These People Are Sandwiches

Afterwards, we headed down to The Glen, where we bumped into Andy! He was trucking through a monstrous amounts of route, which really didn't seem to stress him out at all. He is too strong. Thanjon set his eyes on Ernest in Africa, an arete roof, it looked like a nice line! We both sent it second shot, and the crux sequence is just too fun.

Pre-crux heel hook
Mid crux, he's not holding jugs!

Called it a day after that, and went back to Mountain High Pies to have lunch!

7th, went out with Esmeralda to go to the city; hadn't seen her in a while, so decided to catch up! Got off at Town Hall, and she was interested in a bookstore called 'Abbey's Bookshop', which she had heard was on Kent Street. Great, no need for google maps, we'll just walk along Kent Street, because I wouldn't mind having a browse in some of the outdoor stores, still kind of the sale period, so why not?

Thanjon was looking for a crash pad, this seemed alright

We had ended up pretty much finished Kent Street, and hadn't found it yet; I decided to go get some lunch in Chinatown first, before we continued our search! While eating, she pondered the idea of going to the aquarium, and hoping it wouldn't cost many Yolos.

(So, Thanjon and I came up with a new form of currency, called Yolos. One dollar, is one Yolo; PEOPLE WILL CATCH ON!)

Me: Oh man, this Osprey I want costs tooo much!
Thanjon: YOLO
Me: That's ... a lot of Yolos

That's kind of the conversation, I don't quite remember.

We didn't end up going to the aquarium, and cheated to find the book store, and spent a surprisingly long time in there. We kind of used it as a library, and the upstairs section was just hilarious. Paranormal romance section, it was the cheesiest thing you could imagine! Found a book that I forgot existed, and sat there reading it for a while with her; "Hyperbole and a Half" by Allie Brosh, I had read her blog posts in the past, and it is just the funniest thing.

Walked through the botanic gardens afterwards, and ended up watching a really cool street show. It's always in the same spot at Circular Quay, I swear.

The weirdest panorama I've taken.

Next day, 8th, more climbing! Well, specifically bouldering. Met up with Sid at Penrith (because I missed my train and the connection up the mountains). Got some sushi, and Thanjon made a detour to get us at Penrith instead. Thanjon had retrieved my crash pad from Chew's house in the morning earlier, I had forgotten it there a while back! Jimmy and Seann were also going to be coming along as well.

Taping up

It wasn't meant to be such a tiring day, but Thanjon and I ended up powering out a lot of routes, ticking Doctor V5; all the easiest ones and then working on some new ones we hadn't tried before. Skin was absolutely destroyed by the end of the day. We had Maccas at Blaxland afterwards, with Seann and Jimmy leaving earlier; Big Mac's really go down well.

Say ahhhhhh
Really nice looking wall

That night, met up with Ben Young, his brother Will, Paul and Thanjon to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It was a good movie, apparently quite different to the book; and there was just a sense of happiness throughout, a feel good movie. I enjoyed it.

9th. Underestimating how sore we were from bouldering the previous day, Thanjon and I planned to go to Sublime Point to climb. The weather was cloudy all day, and we thought it would rain, so the Binary Cave area would be perfect to climb. Most of the day, I spent repeating my favourite moderate climbs in the area; had only attempted a new 22 slab I hadn't before, but couldn't link it, just too tired. It will go easily when I'm fresh, though. However, Thanjon couldn't even do the crux moves! Got him on a few slabs during the day so he could refine his slab technique. Since he's been back, we have really only been doing vertical and steep routes. Also got to try out my new Osprey pack!