Postcards from Cairns

A beach getaway was the perfect way to mark the end of my internship, summer class, and simply to celebrate the warm weather appropriately. I had the pleasure to visit Cairns with my favorite person, and I still can’t believe it took me so long to explore this tropical paradise just 1.5 hours flight from Brisbane.

Cairns (lesson learned, pronounced ‘cans’) has it all: gorgeous beaches, beautiful waterfalls and rainforests, swimming lagoons, marine life galore, waterfront boardwalks, and natural beauty all around. And even though it was a quick four and half day trip, we had enough sunshine to make it feel longer. I believe that every place can be visited on a budget and Cairns is no exception. Here’s a glimpse of what our itinerary looked like.

Day 1: Brisbane to Cairns
We flew TigerAir (because budget) and was welcomed by one of the most beautiful sunsets overlooking the mountains and coast of Cairns, flying just hundreds of feet above the Great Barrier Reef shortly before landing. Since we arrived in the evening on Sunday, we took full advantage of the free time to unwind in the city, took a stroll and dined in the Night Market, just a short walk away from our accommodation.

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We stayed in Global Backpackers hostel, which was $30 per night. Staying in a hostel was fine, despite having to share kitchen and bathroom with about 50 other people. Perks: just a two-minute stroll from the Esplanade lagoon and Woolworths just around the corner.

Day 2: Great Barrier Reef
While there is a huge variety of cruise excursions available, considering Great Barrier Reef was going to be the highlight of the trip, we thought we’d splurge on this one. We chose the Ocean Spirit cruise, and it surely didn’t disappoint. It was an epic full day tour, and I’m already low key planning to go back with my siblings to scuba dive together.

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We boarded the catamaran early in the morning and sailed our way to the Michaelmas Cay, where we got to jump on board their semi-submersible and snorkeled straight off the beach. The cay itself is essentially a National Park and a protected sanctuary for migratory seabirds, fringed by white sandy beaches, and pristine blue waters. We saw lots of colorful fishes and giant corals (mind the stingers), which kept us entertained for hours.

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Day 3: Chasing Waterfalls
The Great Barrier Reef may be this region’s major calling card, but don’t let your adventures stop there. We went with the Waterfall Wanderers tour and traveled south of Cairns to discover North Queensland’s hidden rainforest gems.  First was sliding down a natural rockslide of Josephine Falls, and next was swimming in the iconic Milaa Milaa Falls.

GOPR2779.jpgFor lunch, they took us to a classic small-town pub where we enjoyed some good old-fashioned country cooking. As the afternoon rolled in, we were headed to the Mount Hypipamee crater and Dinner Falls, and finally to check out the Curtain Fig Tree in Yungaburra (the inspiration behind Avatar’s giant tree). Our last stop was Lake Eacham, where we could apparently swim with harmless freshwater crocodiles.

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Day 4: Palm Cove – Cairns Esplanade
This was Valentine’s Day and our day was pleasingly unscheduled. After a brief stop for coffee and froyo in the morning, we decided to get on the bus and headed for Palm Cove. The picturesque little beach town is a hub for spa resorts, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and a gorgeous beach lined with palm trees and jetties.

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After loading on the sunscreen, we laid down our beach towel and took a blissful nap under the shade. We went back to Cairns for an afternoon swim in the Esplanade, taking in the stunning view as the sun went down.

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We then had little birthday/Valentine’s Day dinner at the Salt House restaurant & bar by the pier and went for a long walk along the beach. It was the perfect way to end our last full day in town.

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Day 5: Flying Back Home
After checking out, I Googled for a local’s favorite for our last meal in Cairns. We had an exquisite brunch at Perrotta’s at The Gallery, where I wrote down postcards to be addressed to my family back home and to Canada. By then it was too humid to be outdoors, so we went inside the Contemporary Arts Gallery to enjoy a much-needed air conditioning and kill time before flying back to Brisbane.

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If you’re ever planning to visit Cairns, get some itinerary ideas here. And I would love to hear your say on your favorite destination in Australia!

 

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Beach Hopping in Byron Bay

You know those awkward days between Christmas and New Years when you’re just kinda lost and don’t know what to do? I knew better than to fool myself into thinking that I was going to be productive – we all know it was going to be spent binge watching some trashy TVs and eating junk. So a couple of friends and I decided to might as well get out of town, and here’s documenting our visit to the small cosy coastal town of Byron Bay, New South Wales.

DAY 1

If there are two things I love doing when traveling, is going on a roadtrip, and going to the waters. Both of which I got to do during this 3-day roadtrip I will take you through. We rented a car from Brisbane and slowly made our way to Byron Bay and made it to our first stop at the Famous Yatala Pies just in time for breakfast. I treated myself to their classic steak&mushroom pie and apple turnover, and just thinking about those pies got me low-key drooling right now, so let’s get a move on.

Our second stop along the way (about 100km south of Brisbane) was Springbrook National Park, located just before the border of New South Wales. After seeing tons of pictures of the park’s Natural Bridge from Google, you would expect the view to be no less than perfect. And after about a half an hour hike through a beautiful subtropical rainforest (it was even better after the rain), it’s safe to say that no pictures could do the place justice. Definitely one of the waterfalls to see when you visit Queensland, hands down.

After about an hour drive across the border, we checked into our accommodation, Two Birds & The Aviary. While far from the usual Airbnb gig I’d normally go for (a tent with a sleeping bag, a shared bathroom, and communal kitchen), I’m proud to say that I survived my first legit camping experience! I’m also really happy about the fact that the camping ground had direct access to Tallows Beach and is an easy roll in to town.

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DAY 2

We started the day with an attempt to catch sunrise at Cape Byron (only to be greeted by rain), which is the most easterly point of mainland Australia and home to the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse. Nestled in under the Lighthouse is the Wategos Beach, surrounded by stunning cliffs and crashing waves.

After breakfast, we were headed to Whites Beach, one of Byron’s hidden gems. Take note though, it was quite a struggle for us to get there. We had to travel down a dirt road that winds through the rainforest, our car broke down (God bless the people who stopped by to help jump start our car in the middle of nowhere), almost an hour spent on waiting due to limited parking spots, and trekked along a narrow path down to the beach.

But trust me, it’s worth sweat and sunburn. From white sands, crystal clear water and secluded rock pools, I’m so happy we didn’t give up when we had a million reasons to. We continued with lunch by the beach, a little stroll around town and ended the day in Main Beach, surrounded by live music, sunset, and my loved ones.

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DAY 3

Not being much of an early riser, I’d make exception for a sunrise by the beach, because all the lack of sleep always pays off when Mother Nature puts on her finest show. The track from my camp to Tallow Beach itself is literally a path to paradise taken right out of Nicholas Sparks’ novel. While no sunrise will ever be the same, this one will forever remain one of my favorites.

We ended our trip with a short visit to The Farm, and if you know me, I’ve always had a soft spot for places like this one. From the sunflower plots, cattle-dotted fields, to their restaurant, produce store, bakery, and a florist, I couldn’t stop roaming around this rustic-themed oasis like a kid in a candy store. After grabbing some quick drinks and fish&chips, we drove back to Brisbane and shamelessly stopped at Yatala to bring some frozen pies home, again (it’s that good!).

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2017, Summed Up

Looking back at the year as a whole, 2017 feels a bit like a blur. This was one of my most challenging years, and life as a final year chemical engineering student certainly was not exactly easy peasy lemon squeezy. There were certainly some tough times – but also some really high highs. I think it’s safe to say that this year was…a lot. 

All in all, this year I’m grateful for all the new places & friends I encountered along the way, starting the year off with family back home in Indonesia before flying back to Australia, a cosy trip to Sunshine Coast and Noosa in April with friends, birthday trip to Gold Coast, camped out in breezy Milford countryside in June, winter in New Zealand, and ended the year with a roadtrip across state to Byron Bay, New South Wales.

Exploring new places has always been my biggest form of inspiration and puts me on a creative high like nothing else. And to be able to share a tiny bit of joy through my love for photography, writing, and traveling is something I look forward to do more of in 2018 and this has me even more excited about the upcoming year. Like the past year, I pulled some of my favorite moments from 2017.

I hope you have some calm and restful time with family & friends and my very best wishes for you in 2018, X. 

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My 21st birthday bash with all of my loved ones
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An impromptu dip into the fairy pool in Noosa National Park that was worth all the hours of hike and sunburn
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Moving out of our old apartment and into our cosy new one in Carr StreetProcessed with VSCO with m3 preset
A weekend getaway camping out at a farm stay in Cannon Creek surrounded by farm animals and spent the whole night BBQ-ing and stargazing a sky full of starsProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset
First day of snow during our stay in Late Tekapo, New Zealand20170629 Hot Air Balloon, Canterbury Hororata (129)
Hot air ballooning across the ever changing landscape of Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps 
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Very fortunate to be a part of this group of great engineers and even greater friends & finishing Design Project with an unexpectedly rewarding mark

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Catching sunrise at Cape Byron, the most easterly point of the Australian Mainland

What To Do in Brisbane This Holiday Season

My first week back in Brisbane had been pretty occupied unpacking luggages, catching up with classes, attending friends’ graduation, recovering from a nasty flu, but the most fun yet, playing tourist in this Queensland’s proud capital!

One of the things that makes Brisbane so exciting is the endless possibilities of things to do in this sprawling city. Unlike the other half of the world and their whole ‘Winter Wonderland’ situation, we celebrate Christmas under Australia’s warm, summer sky. Brisbane is currently spreading festive cheer across the City and South Bank, from parades to markets, free holiday movie marathons to festive lights thrown all over King George Square. Seriously, you just cannot seem to run out of things to check out here.

A few friends and I decided to spend a day exploring some of the major holiday highlights happening in the city. From checking out exhibitions in South Bank to ending the day at a West End bar, here are some of the Brisbane’s holiday bucket list items checked from our little city detour:

  1. Turning into a tech nerd at The Lab. We started the day at the Digital Futures Lab where part of the second floor of The State Library of Queensland is currently transformed into basically a public Tech Arcade. The interactive exhibition allows you to actually walk in the timeline of the world’s technology history. From drawing with Microsoft Paintbrush on an actual Windows 95 desktop to sketching 3D dragons with a Virtual Reality gear, they’re well worth a return trip. 
  2. Taking shameless Instagram selfies at GOMA. Still in the same South Bank cultural precinct is The Queensland Gallery of Modern Arts (QAGOMA). I think GOMA is a place where one can just kick back and enjoy the calm in the madness. Aside from the Instagram worthy exhibitions, they always have fun and creative activities to do for kids and adults (or in my case, it’s always somewhere in between). They’re currently presenting the Yayoi Kusama’s and Gerhard Richter’s exhibitions but when you don’t have time to go in any major ones, check out their Calendars page because they always have free exhibitions to enjoy.
  3. Exploring West End by foot. West End is one of those unapologetically quirky  inner-city corners rich with culture and its own charming local characters. It’s a melting pot of curated designer boutiques, organic grocers, cosy bars and coffee houses. Explore West End by foot (about 20 minutes walk from South Bank) and you might just stumble across some serious vintage shopping scenes. Bag a bargain of second-hand designer clothes at Vinnies or trade yours in for cash at SWOP on Boundary Street. There are some serious retro finds to be had here.
  4. Grabbing a cider at Brisbane Brewing Co. I must admit I was a little skeptical being dragged here by my flatmate Meta as this bar was tucked away down a laneway off the Boundary Street. But take a few more steps and you’ll find yourself in this airy beer garden with hanging gardens on the bar and outdoor umbrella patio table sets. I’m temporarily taking a drinking hiatus for some health reasons, but I took a sip of the apple/ginger cider she ordered, and I’m already finding reasons to come back there again in a few weeks time.

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Hope you had a good one X.

Two Thousand and Seventeen

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It’s almost been a year since I started this blog, and while I often don’t have time to write much, I’m happy with the fact that this journal will always be a click away whenever I need a platform to channel my thoughts, travel adventures, and my love for little things in life.

Looking back, 2016 had been a remarkable year. To say that the first half of the year was tough is an understatement. I remember clearly the days where I was feeling frustrated, bitter, angry, and days where I was simply a miserable mess. But it’s okay, because it taught me to let go. I learned from the hard times, the heartbreak, the tears, from the mistakes and from my own shortcomings. It made me a little bit wiser and a little bit stronger, and as much as it sucked, I wouldn’t change a moment of it because it brought me where I am today.

If I had to pin-point one moment that changed everything it would be moving to Australia. It was one of the most challenging and exciting things that has ever happened to me, and leaving home has changed me and shifted my whole perspective on things. It taught me to survive on my own.

I can’t stress how badly I realized that I love home and the people I call so. There are days where I wanted nothing more than to wake up at home and sneak into my parents’ room and turn on their TV to watch Sunday morning cartoons.These are the things you learn to appreciate more and more as you return home.

I admit, my school itself is a whole different level there than it was in Indonesia. I had to upped my study game to merely pass (I’m glad that all those late nights in the library had successfully paid off). In the weeks leading up to my departure, I remember being absolutely terrified about not being able to “click” with the new place. But never had I been so wrong. It seems like I’ve made more new friends in the past 6 months than I did in 20 years. It may sound crazy, but these improbable friendships often seem destined. It’s when the cliche sayings of “You cross paths for a reason” make absolute sense. Coming from different parts of the world and despite all of our differences, we were there for each other. I’m eternally grateful for the moments I got to share with them, big or small, from pulling up all-nighters in the library cramming our final Unit Ops reports to all the parties we went to with a little bit of liver functionality that we have left.

2016 gave me a lifetime supply of stories to tell and moments to look back to. I’m thankful for the times I spent laughing my face off, the times I stayed up talking to someone I loved, and the times it made me feel invincible. Unlike all other years, it left an impact. As for 2017, it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. Happy New Year from yours truly.

x,
Amanda.

Some of my favorite moments from 2016.

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Summer Bliss

This week has already been a series of bad luck; starting from a major accident that I got into on Monday morning (which I’d rather not talk about), an ugly allergy reaction and the nasty flu that caught me after. All of this only leads to my organized plans falling apart including work and a medical check-up appointment for a student visa that had to be rescheduled until after I fully recover. I usually get stir crazy after being in bed for more than a day, but I made the right call and opted to get the rest I needed.

Since the days pretty much forced me to stay in my pajamas and bed all day, I decided to try my best to stay positive and reminisce about a picture perfect weekend spent on an island getaway last week. I posted some pictures and videos up on my Instagram and Snapchat, which surprisingly led to so many people commenting and personally messaging me to ask where I went (half actually guessed Bali in the first try). One wouldn’t guess that only two short hours by speedboat from the bustling city of Jakarta, you’d find such a gorgeous and pristine place. Tiger Island, or Pulau Macan as they call it, is a true hidden gem and even that is an understatement.

The accommodation (we were in the Island hut) was the most romantic I ever stayed in with a deck and stairs over the sea. At night we laid down on the deck stargazing for hours and in the morning we got out of bed, stood by the sea and watched the sunrise. One of highlights of the trip I must say was the little island hopping adventure I had with my siblings the next day. At the crack of dawn, we took a little paddle boat out and rowed our way to a nearby island. There were no people occupying it and it was just the three of us snorkeling and swimming on the beach where warm sands meets crystal clear turquoise water. It was so calming and serene that we simply didn’t wanna leave. There were plenty to do – and not to do – involving a lot of soaking in the sun, listening to my Spotify summer playlists (mostly by Kings of Convenience), and taking lots of naps.

While this may or may not be my last official family vacation before I’m leaving for Australia in just the count of days, I’m glad that it was such a bliss and filled with beautiful memories to look back on. Looking forward to sunnier days and recovering real soon. Have a great week.

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Processed with VSCO with a6 presetOur eco-friendly hut with no air-con. But who needs one when you have the sea breeze?

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetA private deck to our own side of the beach

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Because if you’re not barefoot then you’re overdressed

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What every morning should be like if I had my way

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Paddled our way across to this breathtaking (unoccupied) paradise and was worth all the sunburn

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My absolute beach essentials (minus my SPF 50 sunscreen) 

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Irresistible naps after mornings spent lazing in the sun, swimming, and snorkeling

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Then waking up to this, I could really get used to.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetTo say I fell in love with this place is an understatement because no words or pictures could really do the place justice

A Day in Bandung

A few weeks ago I went for a little getaway to Bandung with 2 of my girlfriends, which I wrote about in this earlier post. So this video pretty much summed up our trip including all the foods and sight-seeings we managed to squeeze in a day in Bandung. Now that we’re officially on break, it just reminds me of how much I miss their silly company and what a lovely day it was to look back on. Desperately need to have something planned out real soon. I hope you check it out and give it a thumb up.