Thursday, January 11, 2007

Headed home!

Well, as if we didn't have enough fun coming, we are having equally as much fun returning home! It started yesterday at the airport as we were checking in our bags to China Airlines for our flight from Sydney to Taipei. We put the bags up on the counter where they have a scale and (we already know they are overweight) the lady informs us we are overweight. I tell her we know and would like to pay the difference. She proceeded to ask to see our carry-ons (something no one else was doing for other people checking in) and wanted to weigh the bigger carry-on I had and it was 14kg (the limit is 7kg). She just asked if we could split it up and I told her that we had been traveling with this carry-on on 3 flights already and have had not problems ... then the trouble starts. She proceeded to tell me that I didn't fly on any flights with that carry on because it was too heavy. OK, so are you calling me a liar?! Well, I asked to talk to a manager because I just wanted to clarify that we had this carry-on on 3 flights in the last 2 weeks already. He said no and shook his head and said we are overweight, thank you Captian Obvious! I said, yes I realize this we were on a flight yesterday (Virgin Blue airlines) and had to pay the over weight ($60 total). Well, he said we were 29kg overweight and it would be $30/kg so $870!! OK, my ears are turning a little red (Ashley's already were and was already proceeding to tell the supervisor and attendant a piece of her mind). Finally, I got Ashley calmed down and I proceeded to talk to the attendant and she explained we could send one of the suitcases via cargo and it would be cheaper than $870, DUH ... $870 is a freakin' plane ticket! So we got all checked in and went over and got our other bag checked in ... it is gonna be about $200! Lesson learned, we need to not pack so much ... and buy so much! Oh well, we got it all taken care of and Ashley will pick up my suitcase next week sometime as it basically flys on standby. I also decided that we are probably carrying on 40kg of weight so at least we can do that and no one has said anything!

So we got to Taipei and stayed at Mirimar Golf Country Club. I think it Jack Nicklaus's very new Golf Course in Taipei. Needless to say it was the biggest room I have ever stayed in and we will have some pictures on the web site as well. We basically ordered room service (which wasn't good) and went to bed. This morning we got up and just watched TV (President Bush's speech and the commentary on CNN). We caught the shuttle to the airport this morning and have since ate our final Subway for a long time, got the Taipei and Taiwan Starbucks mugs and other souvenirs and presents from Taiwan. We have about 2 hours and we will be boarding our plane to go home and we are excited to go home, but also to see David, Amy, and Mary Nell!

Monday, January 08, 2007

January 7, 8 ... animals by land and by sea.

To address one questions left on our blog. What have we been eating ... steak, meat, hamburger, lamb, steak ... does anyone see a theme? No really, we have been eating a lot of meat, but honestly lots of just normal Western food, nothing real fancy, meat, chicken, and fish.

OK, January 7th we went to Australia Zoo, home of The Crocidile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Of course, Steve Irwin tragically died this past September, but the Zoo is still alive and hoppin' with his boisterous and outgoing personality. The zoo was very nice, lots of Crocodiles of course. It was quite neat to see the many exhibits they had of Steve and Terri and their kids as their history and the history of the zoo. We actually got to see is daughter Bindi doing a performance she does with some guys called the Croc Men (a show for the children) and we say Terri during the crocodile exhibition they held in the large Animal Planet Crocosium. As with many of the other zoos we have visited in Australia they had many Australia animals, but also they have some elephants and tigers that are new additions. All in all it was a neat experience and educational to really learn about what Steve Irwin was really all about.

Today we went to Ocean World, a large aquarium about an hour north of Brisbane (same as Australia Zoo). It was actually small in overall size, but their live coral and reef exhibits and livestock were better than the Sydney Aquarium in my opinion. It didn't take too long to go through, but we had a great time and enjoyed finally seeing some nice aquarium exhibits. It makes me want to get back to the Toba Aquairum in Japan as well as the Osaka Aquarium (as it is supposedly the best in Japan)! After that we headed back to Brisbane and went and saw a movie, A Night at the Museum. It was a really good fun movie. Well, we are done packing and getting ready for bed.

So our schedule for the next couple days is tomorrow fly back to Sydney and spend the night. Then catch a 1:00 p.m. flight in Sydney the following day to Taipei where we will spend the night and finally catch at 5:00 p.m. flight to Nagoya and finally get home at 7:55 p.m., where David, Amy, and Mary Nell should be greeting us! I hope everyone enjoyed our blogs as much as we have enjoyed the experiences and also sharing with all of our friends and family everything we have been doing while on vacation in the land down under!

Also, we have not seen a traditional toilet that swirls when it flushes to see if the water does swirl counterclockwise!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January 6 ... playing with koalas.

Today, Ashley and I visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the oldest and largest koala sanctuary in the world (per Guiness Book of World Records). There average 130 koalas at the sanctuary as well as other native to Australia animals. It is quite amazing that before Japan, I can't really recall seeing a koala in person (maybe once at the Louisville Zoo). Since Japan we have seen them at 2 zoos in Japan and of course a ton in Australia. So the main attraction or whatever you want to call it at Lone Pine is you can have the opportunity to hold a koala and have your picture taken with it ... for an additional fee of course (but the money goes back to the sanctuary). We paid for 1 picture with Ashley holding the koala and me standing behind them with my hand on the koala. We purchased their picture and calender combo (basically, the cost is for a picture) and used a coupon for a free picture as well! While Ashley was holding the koala, and before their photographer came over, I took a few pictures with Ashley and the koala. After that we got our picture taken and then the handler said that I could hold her (the koala, not the handler) so I did and Ashley took a few pictures of me with the koala. After that we went into the kangaroo zone and hand fed several kangaroos and took pictures of each other feeding the kangaroos, it was very fun. After that we went back to the area where the mommy and baby koalas were and took pictures of them. One mom and baby were very active and we got some great shots of the baby eating with mom, baby on mom's back, and both of them on the ground as mom was running in circles for a little bit! Overall a very enjoyable day.

After that we headed back to Brisbane and went to Brisbane's 15 square blocks of shopping center downtown! It was crazy there were so many shops (most of it was more than 3 floors). BUT, the wierd thing is that in Australia most stores close at 5:00 p.m. and it is Saturday night! Very wierd, but that is just the way they do it!?!? We walked around for a bit, ate at one of the 5 food courts and then went and saw a movie! It was very nice to see a movie, although the price was $15.00 per person that is still better than the $18.00 per person in Japan and there wasn't any assigned seating (there is in Japan)! After that we came back to the hotel and are not getting ready to call it a day.

Friday, January 05, 2007

January 5 ... swimming with sharks in the wild ...

Today was a fun and tiring day. We had a day cruise to Morton Island off the coast of Brisbane. We went up to Redcliff and caught our boat and guides for the day. It started to rain and the sea was still pretty choppy from the storms lately, but we got to the island about 50 minutes later. The first thing we did was snorkle through some wreckage off the coast of Morton Island, Australia's largest sand island! We got in the water and took off letting the current take us from on end of the wreckage to the other to meet up with our boat. We were in the wate for probably a good 45 minutes or so. Since there had been storms lately, the water wasn't super clear and there weren't lots of fish, but it was still nice. Basically, there was a guy on the boat that said that visibility and the fish population was about 30% of a really good clear day and we still saw lots! We even saw to wobbegong sharks, only the head of one sitting in the wreckage and the entire body of the other (about 5 feet long)! We got withing 6 feet of both of them, it was awesome. Do a search for these sharks and you can see that we aren't talking about super dangerous sharks (Debby, you can calm down now, Ashley was in NO danger)! We did purchase a disposable camera yesterday and took pictures so we are planning on getting them developed before we leave, if anything turns out we will scan them and put them on the web page when we return!

After that we had a great lunch on board the boat: salads, shrimp, lobster, chicken, bread, etc. Then they ran the boat onto the beach so people could get off and have a walk or swim if they like. Ashley and I climbed one of the sand dunes, I made it to the top, Ashley did not ... it was hard, but I took some pictures of the wreckage in the water, it was a very nice view. After our free time was up, we got back on the boat and had a little bit of fun. They put a large net off the back of the boat and poeple would hold on behind it as the boat would move through the water. The first group were the smaller kids on the boat and they had a blast. The next group were young adults and then we were in the 3rd group and went on with an older gentleman and 2 young girls. We are convinced they went the fastest for us and let me just tell you that firest, it was fun ... but it was all about hanging on for dear life! It was very rough, I will be honest I let go and they had to come around and get me! Ashley also let go later for another reason also, but I can't discuss that here.

After that we did a little eco-watch as they call it and saw lots of dolphins, we were also looking for some dungongs (far east manitees), sea turtles, and whatever else. They said that they saw a 3 meter hammerhead shark! After that we headed back to the dock. We drove back to Brisbane, took showers and just finished with dinner, we are gonna try and watch a movie in our room if we can stay awake! Tomorrow we are going to Australia's largest Koala sanctuary.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

January 4, all caught up!

Well, I guess I should explain how we have been able to get caught up on our Blog. Our hotel in Brisbane as computers in the lobby and for $2.00 per 15 minutes we can use the internet! Anyway, we are now in Brisbane, at our hotel and already ate dinner for the night. There is a restaurant in the hotel and it was very good, we both had filets tonight!

This morning we got up super early, got to the airport, got checked in, caught our flight and landed in Brisbane. We rented a car in Brisbane as many of the things to do in this area are further away than local city transportation can provide. We picked up our car and headed an hour South of Brisbane to Gold Coast and went to Sea World! It was nice, but rained off and on through the day. We caught the Dolphin show and the water skiing show, and walked around, but after that we were pretty much done. We decided we weren't real sure that it was the best amusement park (or whatever Sea World is considered), but we had a good day none the less. I guess it has been so long since I had been to Sea World in Florida that I forgot what it was like!

After that we headed a little further South (10 minutes) to Surfers Paradise. This is an area that is very much Florida-esque. The main reason was to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and get our shirts, magnets, pins, etc. We also walked around for about 2 hours and saw several very interesting shops as well as people! After that we headed into Brisbane and checked into our hotel, ate dinner, and now am finishing our blogs to update everyone of our vacation.

January 3

On January 3rd we took another all day tour, this one was called Sydney in a Day. We went through several suburbs of Sydney as well as through the Central Business District, across the Harbour bridge and around the Opera House. The tour also went out to the opening of Sydney Bay and saw two of the famous beaches in the area. The tour was very interesting, but packed with lots of information. We took pictures where we could and saw several different angles and view of downtown Sydney and the surrounding areas.

After the tour were were dropped off downtown in the area known as The Rocks, near Circular Quay. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and for the 3rd night Ashley chose the better meal than me! We walked around downtown Sydney as it would be our last day and night in Sydney and took pictures of the many of the old buildings that are still standing next to the very modern buildings in Sydney. We caught a bus after walking around for about and hour, went back to our B&B, packed up, and called it a night as we would have to get up at 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning to get picked up by the airport shuttle for our 7:00 a.m. flight to Brisbane.

January 2

Today we headed took an all-day tour of the Blue Mountains National Park west of Sydney. This mountain range is the mountain range that the first settlers in Sydney had to cross to go any further west of Sydney than 50km. It was very difficult for them as much of the range has box canyons where the walls are completely vertical! We saw several famous sites. One is called the Three Sisters, basically 3 very large rock formations that represent 3 sisters according to legend. At another location we took an old modified coal mining train down the side of the mountain, the steepest section was 52 degrees, let me tell you that 52 doesn't sound like much, but it was quite the ride! We then walked through a trail on the floor and then took a ropeway back up to the top of the mountain. The tour was an organized tour with a professional bus driver and big coach bus. The tour guide and driver was very knowledgeable about the area and everything which made it much more enjoyable than just being driven around in a bus!

When we got back into the outskirts of Sydney we went to a "zoo" that started as a privately owned bird collection in a neighborhood and has since been transformed into a little more than a privately owned bird collection. There were tons of birds, all native to Australia, but also many other animals ... all native to Australia. There were dingos, wallabees, kangaroos, tasmanian devils, wombats, emus, all kinds of animals ... needless to say we took plenty of pictures! Oh yeah, how could I forget, there were lots of koalas as well as one area where kangaroos were just running around in the open with the visitors and you could hand feed them as well as whatever other animal came strolling past. It was a very unique zoo a very enjoyable experience. After the tour we went back to Darling Harbour (again) to eat then called it a night.

January 1

On January 1st we headed off to Taronga Zoo, the zoo in Sydney. We took a ferry over to the zoo and had a nice boat ride over. We stayed for about 5 hours. The views from the zoo were simply spectacular. The zoo is on the North side of Sydney so you could easily see the Sydney skyline, Harbour Bridge, and Opera House very easily. I think the giraffes have the best view of the city, I'm sure they even enjoyed the New Year's Eve fireworks! Besides the view the zoo was one of the best zoos that Ashley and I have been to. The exhibits were very natural and spacious, unlike many zoos that seem like the animals are boxed in more or less and don't have lots of room to really even stretch their legs. When we were done at the zoo we took the zoo's ropeway, skyway, gondola (whatever you want to call it) down to the bottom (the zoo is on a hill) of the zoo to catch the ferry.

After we got back into Sydney we headed to the Opera House, but the tours were sold out for the day. We walked around it for a little bit and decided to head back over to Darling Harbour to eat and do a little shopping. We decided to take the ferry and as different mode of transportation. (Sidenote: we took every mode of transportation possible in Sydney besides driving: taxi, bus, light rail train, train (subway), and ferry ... oh yeah, lots of walking!) While we were eating it starting raining pretty good and when we were finished we headed to the other side of the Darling Harbour to the shops. Because it was later, we didn't get a lot of time to do any shopping as many of the shops were closing or were closed for the holiday. Finally we took the light rail home and called it a day.