It’s already been 2 weeks since TK, Mark (TK’s friend) and I did the Tough Mudder in Sydney, so it is about time I posted about it.
For those that don’t know, Tough Mudder is a 20km challenge (completing is the main thing – not getting a specific time!) with obstacles along the way. We had a great time, and ended up finishing in just over 1.5 hours, coming in 6th in our group! We were super impressed with that!
Most of the obstacles were great fun – crawling through mud, climbing over walls etc – however I think the ‘electric eel’ was my least favourite. It involved crawling through mud while getting electric shocked by dangling wires … in the face!!!
Anyway, that’s all from me for now. Check out the photos below
It has been more than a month since our last post, and the fact that we haven’t posted as frequently as we have been the past few years is evidence enough that we’re back in the real world of having jobs and not traveling every week or two and hanging out with friends most days. That said, life in Sydney is going really well. My work is going well – I’m already finishing up my second project (which seems crazy!), and recently moved offices (we still have a view which I’m happy about – It was great watching the Fleet Review out on the harbour last week!). Jacs’ work has been incredibly busy with a project that finishes up on Friday, so she has been working really long hours. Hopefully that calms down on Friday, and she just has 2 more months of work to go.
Baby B is growing quickly, but is healthy and her and Jacs are both well. Here is a pic for you
Time is flying by, with Jacs already at almost 26 weeks! We’ve even been going to look at prams and everything which is kind of daunting Other than that, we’ve just been enjoying some wonderful spring weather, getting to the beach as much as possible (I’ve been doing lots of surfing) and hanging out with our friends here. It was also just TK’s 22nd birthday which he celebrated with a BBQ in mosman
Last weekend was a long weekend, and was also my cousin (from England) Andrew’s wedding to Josie down in Melbourne, so the whole family made a trip down there. In addition to the wedding, it was also a chance to celebrate that both Pasquale and Paski and Wendy and Ray got engaged since our last visit. Jacs and my weekend started with a little hiccup when our flight was cancelled until Saturday morning. We did make Virgin Australia get us a hotel room at the airport and buy us dinner because I was not impressed at missing a night in Melbourne. Saturday morning though we made it down after a bright an early start on the 7am flight. After a quick stop for breakfast with mum at the Fedele’s, we popped in to their Jewelry Store to say hi to Auntie Sheila and Uncle Frank, before going for lunch with Stuart and Mai at a cool place called Huxtable in Fitzroy where we indulged in lots of delicious tapas (a lot of which was fried!) and a beer. If that wasn’t enough, we then continued across the road to Monsieur Truffe for a hot chocolate to finish an extremely decadent meal
After lunch, we had a quick wander around the city, and by the time we got home, there was just enough time for a quick nap before getting ready for dinner with the Fedele’s and the Hocknells (including Andrew) for a massive Korean BBQ feast rehearsal dinner. We had a great evening – it was so fun catching up with all of our cousins and having a few drinks with them to celebrate everything.
Sunday morning was fairly slow after all of the Saturday night drinks, but we had a delicious bacon and egg fry up for breakfast (so much eating!) before getting all dressed up to hop on the bus to the wedding which was about an hour away at Yarra Ranges Estate. Mum was the celebrant so it was really a family wedding. It was a gorgeous ceremony, and Josie looked beautiful. After the ceremony there were delicious cookies and cake that Josie’s friend made, and a Chinese tea ceremony as a traditional wedding ritual. We had a really lovely time! Congratulations to Andrew and Josie!
After a relaxing morning monday, we had a final lunch with Wendy and Ray at Ray’s restaurant (Hooked) on Brunswick st, before heading to the airport for our flight home. It was such a fun weekend – and is also nice to just have a 4 day week this week.
Hope that you’re all well. Let us know what you’ve been up to.
Ben and Jacs
Before we get in to what we’ve been up to, we have some very exciting news to share – we’re having a baby! Baby B is due on Jan 22, 2014. We’re thrilled and can’t wait to find out at the end of this month if we’re having a boy or a girl
It has been almost a month since we got back to Sydney, and we’ve been having a great time catching up with friends, and settling in. We’ve definitely hit the ground running! Jacs got an incredible opportunity, and promotion at Burson-Marsteller and started two weeks ago, and I start back at work on the 19th. When we first got back we stayed in Mosman with mum and dad, but we’re now back in our apartment in St Leonards which has been cleaned and painted – one more trip to Ikea this weekend and we’ll be completely unpacked Although it is winter and we were bracing for cold weather, it has actually been lovely and sunny most days. I’ve been really enjoying getting in some surfing, and even convincing TK to come with me to learn.
As you know, we landed back in Sydney on the 12th of July, just in time to celebrate Rory’s 30th birthday on the 13th with a lovely lunch at Ripples at Chowder Bay, overlooking the harbour. It was really great to get to see all of our friends as it made us happy to be home! The following Wednesday, Bonnie arrived to visit for 2 weeks – it was wonderful to see her, and we had a great time showing her around. We did abandon her for 2 days with my family for her first weekend though, as we had been invited to our friends Mel and Julian’s wedding up in the Hunter Valley. Since it is a few hours drive away, we decided to make a weekend of it and rented a house with some friends, and did some wine tasting during the day, and Jacs cooked us a big mexican feast for dinner. The wedding itself was beautiful and we had an awesome fun evening.
Back in Sydney with Bon we got up to lots of fun stuff, as well as the not-so-fun errands to get us moved in! We had a beautiful walk along Bondi beach and over to Bronte, which was gorgeous as always, but also a little windy the day we went. As we came round the corner from Bondi, the wind hit us, sending hair flying everywhere!
We also had a delicious lunch with mum, dad and TK up at Cottage Point Inn, 45 minutes drive north in to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The food was delicious and it is such a serene and beautiful spot on the water… and getting there by road is much easier than I realized since we took a ferry when I last went years ago.
Since Bon has been to Sydney quite a few times (and is even starting to know her way around like a local), we decided it would be fun to squeeze in a quick trip to Melbourne to see the city, and stay with the Fedeles – mum’s sister’s family who live there. It was wonderful to get to see them all, and hang out with Pasquale and Wendy who we haven’t seen in a few years. We had a great time wandering around Chapel St (and eating at Hooked, Wendy’s boyfriend Ray’s restaurant that serves delicious healthy fish and chips), exploring the city, looking at gorgeous jewelery in their store, Fedele Jewelworks (and maybe buying some… ), and of course eating delicious food – dinner the first night was in St Kilda at a mexican restaurant called Cantina where we all overate, and the second night was a degustation menu at Ginger Boy, a restaurant in China Town that Jacs has been wanting to go to for years!
After all of the fun, we were sad to see Bon leave, but as her visit came to an end it was also time for Jacs to get to work, and for me to move all of our stuff in to our apartment and start unpacking.
We’re looking forward to the routine of work, but it is going to be a shock to the system after the past few years! We’ll let you know how it is all going soon.
Ben and Jacs
After the amazing trip in Vietnam and Cambodia, it was lovely to finish up with a few days in Singapore to catch up with friends, eat lots of food, and reminisce about growing up. We stayed with our family friends, the Balls, who live in Alexandra Park, where we used to live, which is always beautiful and relaxing.
Our first evening we hung out at the house and had a yummy home cooked meal. The next morning, all of our activities (mostly eating) began with Dorian bringing home some Roti Prata, my favourite breakfast Next, we went out to Parkway Parade to catch up with Leny, our family Amah (maid) growing up.
It’s always great to see her. After that, it was time for more eating and seeing friends – we had laksa for lunch with Moira and Lauren at the botanic gardens, before going shopping with Lauren at Haji Lane, just off Arab st, which now has lots of cool little shops.
After all the shopping, we’d built up an appetite, so decided to squeeze in one last meal, and tick chilli crab off my list of things to eat at Jumbo Seafood (a singapore institution) at Dempsey rd – an area that has really developed and now has heaps of cool restaurants! The crab was delicious, and of course messy!
We weren’t done with our first day yet however, and after dinner headed to Marina Bay Sands (the new casino and hotel) for a drink on the amazing roof deck at Ku De Ta with our close friend Ryan and his friend Aminah. The view was absolutely stunning!
After such a busy first day, we had a slower morning the next day, and then met our friend Cheesey for lunch at Lau Pa Sat, a hawker center in the city, so Jacs could get popiah, a meal she likes, and I could have a hainaness chicken rice while we all caught up. We then went for a stroll around to Marina Bay Sands, and then caught the bus home to start prepping for the evening, since it was Deirdre’s birthday and the family was throwing a Greek themed dinner party.
The party, complete with paper mâché statues and dry ice, was great fun – the girls provided Jacs and I with material so we wore silver togas
Today, our final day in Singapore before heading back to Sydney, we started the day with a walk along the beautiful canopy walk in Kent Ridge Park, before heading to Club St (another really cool area) to see Ryan again for lunch, and then wander around China Town, and finally do some shopping on Orchard Rd.
We’re about to head to the airport now, which brings our travels to an end. Our whole trip has been so much fun, but we’re also really excited to get to Sydney tomorrow and see all of our friends and family, and get unpacked and settled in.
Ben and Jacs
First stop: Phnom Penh
After a seven hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City, we arrived in Phnom Penh – the capital of Cambodia. We checked into our lovely little boutique hotel, Hotel Nine, and cleaned up for dinner. Since we’d already arranged with our tuk tuk driver to pick us up the next morning for the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum, or S-21 as it was referred to during the Khmer Rouge rule, we had the evening to relax and check out the nightlife. We were both pleasantly surprised by the city – the architecture, the gorgeous Wats that glitter the city, and the river front walk and city parks. After a slightly average dinner, we strolled home along the water and the glowing Royal Palace.
The next morning we headed to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. It was a very sad and difficult morning to say the least, but two important places to see nonetheless. The Genocide Museum, or S-21, is actually an old high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a prison and torture center. The small classrooms were cells, and the larger classrooms they converted to even smaller cells by constructing brick walls. Horrific things happened to the prisoners held here. The Khmer Rouge kept meticulous records of their prisoners, so the caretakers have used a few of the buildings to display the photographs of all the inmates. Other buildings have remained nearly untouched – the blood stains on the tiles a disturbing reminder of the atrocities committed by Cambodians to Cambodians. When the Khmer Rouge fled, they left 14 prisoners in one of the buildings chained to their cots and decaying. When S-21 was discovered, the bodies were unidentifiable, but given proper burial in the garden/courtyard.
In a bizarre way, the Killing Fields were almost ‘easier’ to see than S-21. We say that lightly, and let me explain. Because S-21 has been preserved nearly the way they found it, you can vividly imagine what happened – who, how, where and even see the blood stains on the tiles. They killing fields now look peaceful with trees and flowers lining the pathways. That’s all only the surface. Of course, once you tour the grounds and imagine the slaughtering that occurred you’re nearly sick to your stomach and reduced to tears. Towards the end of the Khmer Rouge rule, they were slaughtering 300 people here a week. Because bullets were expensive, men, women, and children were beaten to death using typical farming tools, sharp plants, or brute force. It was devastating to see all the divets around that were the site of ‘mass gaves’. Holes about 5 meters deep were filled to the brim with dead bodies. One grave we visited held 450 people piled one on top of the other. During the rainy season (now), the caretakers quite often find new bones that are washed up. Ben was examining a plot and found a tooth that had been washed up earlier by the rain. It was horrifying. A very difficult morning to say the least, but so important to learn from history so not to repeat it.
After an intensely sad morning, we had some downtime at the hotel by the pool before strolling to the Roryal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. Not unlike the palace in Bangkok, the Cambodian palace glistened gold and was surrounded by beautiful gardens. The Silver Pagoda houses the Emerald Buddha, as well as a Buddha ardoned with thousands of diamonds. We were caught in a heavy downpour during our visit, so ended up pretty soaked! But thats ok, it was nice to cool off plus its lucky we have the waterproof camera That night we went to The Laughing Fat Man for dinner which was fun.
Our last day in Phnom Penh was a bit more relaxed. We did a morning workout dvd, and then walked all the way to Wat Phnom on the opposite end of town. It was great to get in a solid workout, but boy was it hot! After checking out the temple on the hill, we headed to the central market, the local mall (where Ben tried this ridiculously funny creation called ’Col-Pop Chicken’ which apparently is some popcorn chicken served over a coke!), and the Russian Market. We headed home to chill by the pool all afternoon which was awesome. We walked to dinner along the river, and headed home for an early night (not unlike most nights this trip! since we had an early bus ride to Siem Reap the next day.
Second Stop: Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples
After a 6 hour bus ride, we arrived in Siem Reap and were taken to our hotel by Tuk Tuk. We had 3 nights to explore Siem Reap, although the main reason for being there was, of course, to visit Angkor Wat and the other Angkor Temples that make up the whole ancient city from the Khmer empire! Siem Reap itself was a fun little backpacker town, centered around the aptly named ‘pub st’. Our first evening, we had massages (which were awesome and just $6/hour) and then just grabbed a quick bite on pub st, before heading to explore the night market.
The next day, we spent the morning wandering around town and the markets a little more, although it isn’t a big town, so didn’t take too long to check it out, leaving us plenty of time to hang out by the pool.
In the evening it was time to go and check Angkor Wat for sunset which is about 15 minutes from town by Tuk Tuk. After 5pm, your one day ticket covers the next day so we figured it was a good opportunity to see Angkor Wat and get the ticket sorted before having to get up super early in the morning. It was an awesome sight, and made us super excited for the next day. You can read all about the history here.
After seeing sunset, we were back in town in time for a delicious dinner at a restaurant called ‘haven’ that was right by our hotel and had been recommended to us for delicious food but also supporting a good cause since it trained local orphans to get in to the industry. It was then time for an early night before our 4.30am start to head to the temples for sunrise.
Since we got there early enough, we had an unobstructed view of Angkor Wat across the water as the sun lit its silhouette from behind which was cool. As the sun came up it was then time to really explore the temple, and to our delight, it wasn’t crowded at all – I guess since it was low season and still very early.
After Angkor Wat, we went to explore the Angkor Thom complex, which consists of a number of cool sites including the Bayon (with hundreds of carved faces), the Baphuon, the terrace of the elephants, and the terrace of the leper king.
Our final stop was Ta Prohm, which was actually our favourite. It is the temple from Tomb Raider, and is really interesting since it is partly taken over by trees so you can wander through it and see some cool combinations of the structure surrounded by tree roots. It hasn’t been completely restored so you really get the feel that you’ve just discovered this amazing temple in amongst the trees and underneath the rubble!
After four hours of exploring the amazing sites, we headed back to town for a couple of hours rest, before a quiet afternoon consisting of a little shopping and some more massages, followed by an amazing Indian Dinner at a restaurant called Dakshin. After dinner, Ben finally decided to try a fish foot massage, which they offer all over town where you put your feet in a tank of fish that swarm over your feet and supposedly clean them by eating dead skin. It was quite the experience – when he first put his feet in, it was so ticklish that He couldn’t stand it, however got used to it after a few minutes although it still felt pretty funny. Not sure he’d do it again though
We’re now in Singapore, where we have 3 nights before heading back to Sydney. We’ll write more about what we get up to here soon
Love Jacs (and Ben)
We were sad to leave Hoi An after all of the relaxation there, but were also looking forward to seeing Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city. It was a slightly more exciting flight than usual with some bad turbulence – one guy bounced out of his seat – but we made it, and our friend from Sydney, Chris, kindly met us at the airport. He’s in Vietnam working with Adidas, and has been here since November. It was great to get a chance to catchup with him!
By the time we got to our hotel, we turned around fairly quickly to head out to dinner with Chris and 2 colleagues of his at a cool restaurant called the Refinery, which was an old opium factory set right by the Park Hyatt which is a cool old hotel. It was the first ‘western’ meal Jacs and I had had since arriving, so we went for it and shared a burger and a pasta It was delicious, and we had a great evening hanging out and catching up!
After a quick morning organizing busses and tours for the next few days, we started walking from our area (the backpacker area) over towards downtown district 1 for brunch with Chris at a place called L’Usine. On the way over we had a quick stroll through the main market and down to the opera house, before reaching the relief of the aircon at brunch. It was a funky little restaurant set above the busy streets with yummy iced coffee, and I even had a lamb sausage roll
After brunch, we made a quick detour to check out Chris’ apartment, before heading to the Notre Dame cathedral, and then the reunification palace which we had fun exploring – the sixties architecture grew on us… Next stop was the war museum which was quite an experience – there was a lot of propaganda about the world support for the Vietnam communist party against the US aggressors, but the main thing was just all of the photos of the brutality of the war, and the aftermath which was all quite shocking.
Although it hadn’t been too long since brunch, it was then time for an afternoon snack at a street food restaurant called Nha Hang Ngon which was delicious, and a beautiful place to hang out in a colonial building as the afternoon rain started to fall! It was then time for us to swing by our hotel to change for the evening before going to hang out and have a beer at Chris’ apartment (and check out all his cool shoes from working at Adidas), and then head to dinner at a restaurant called Temple Club. The highlight was a delicious tamarind fish dish. Yum yum
Day 3: Cu Chi Tunnels
After the war museum the day before, we were excited to find our guide for Cu Chi had worked with the American Navy/Seals as a translator during the war and gave a different side to the story. He was extremely interesting to listen to as he filled the drive to Cu Chi with stories of the history of the war and his experiences, and how these days the young Vietnamese are not taught about it much – it is essentially forgiven and forgotten. He was a translator for the Seals during the war and fought for the South.
The tunnel complex at Cu Chi is pretty incredible. Over 200 km of tunnels in 3 levels, where 18,000 people lived for years – they were actually built from back when the Vietnamese were fighting for independence from the French. The tunnels are tiny – I barely fitted in! They also have some enlarged ones that are cleaner for tourists to “walk” through but it was amazing to see the original ones.
While looking around the complex we also saw the vicious booby traps used to catch and kill unsuspecting soldiers, and, slightly ironically, a shooting range to try firing all of the guns from the era.
After a quick rest back at the hotel, we headed out to Go2 Bar round the corner from us to meet 2 friends from Berkeley, Clement (who will be working with me at BCG Sydney) and Manny. It was fun that we happened to cross paths here. They ended up joining us for another dinner with Chris, and after dinner we went up to the bar at the top of Bitexco tower – the highest bar around on level 52! Drinks are a little pricey, but funnily enough, still cheaper than paying to see the view from the sky deck which is 2 levels down, so we were happy to have a beer there to look out over the city After a beer up there though, we were happy to finish the night back down at street level with some cheaper drinks!