Chinese new year is just an excuse to eat

This year I was away from my family for Chinese new year.  It’s one of the best holidays of the year in my opinion, just because it’s an excuse to eat seafood and receive red packets from my parents!

red packet chinese new year

My dad cooked up some of my favourite dishes, including sin qua with king prawns, scallops and squid, roasted duck, and Chinese broccoli (gai lan) with abalone.

sin qua king prawns squid scallops

Chinese roast duck

Chinese broccoli gai lan abalone

I hope the Year of the Snake brings all of you good health, fortune and prosperity!

Birthday lunch at Jonah’s, Whale Beach

I recently turned 33, spending my birthday camping in the northern beaches of Sydney.  Besides an incident with a tent pole flying out of the ground and hitting me in the forehead (massive lump ensued – thank god for beer eskies close at hand full of ice!), it was a memorable event with the White Russian taking me out for a birthday lunch at Jonah’s at Whale Beach.

We had their Sunday 3-course set menu, starting off with cocktails to celebrate the occasion, all overlooking the stunning Pacific Ocean coastline on a blue bird day.

Jonah's Whale Beach appetiser

Jonah's Whale Beach lychee and raspberry cocktail

Jonah's Whale Beach North Atlantic scallops

Jonah's Whale Beach Redgate Farm partridge

Jonah's birthday lunch

Jonah's Whale Beach Blue Eyed trevalla

Jonah's Whale Beach

Jonah's Whale Beach vanilla mille-feuille

Jonah's Whale Beach cheese platter

Jonah's Whale Beach happy birthday petit fours

My Redgate Farm partridge in particular was delicious, with deep and rich earthy flavours, and the light-as-air, flaky vanilla mille-feuille was a satisfying finish to the meal.

Jonah's on Urbanspoon

Autumn delights

There is a definite chill in the air – winter is definitely knocking on the door here.  The disturbing thing is that the temperature has already dropped to what is a pretty bloody freezing temperature for me already, and it is only going to get worse!  It’s only October!!!  Scary.

It hasn’t helped the I have just spent a week diving in the Red Sea in gorgeous blue sky days and temperatures of around 32-35C every day.  We had some amazing conditions and saw hammerheads, oceanic white tips and even a dugong.

I also had a couple of trips to Germany during September – a trip to Berlin and then my first Oktoberfest!  I went to Berlin with my mate Rob to visit Simone.  We all volunteered together at ARCAS in Guatemala, and both Rob and I lost our respective World Cup bets with Simone (Germany trounced both England Australia…boo) so we flew to Berlin to buy her beers.

Simone was a great host and tour guide, and took us around the sites of Potsdam, Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery, the Brandenburg Gate and the Bundestag.

Oktoberfest was a fun few days of excessive volumes of beer and pork.  The beer tents were enormous, the beer was free flowing, the music was fun (albeit a bit repetitive!), although after a few days I was so blocked up from the diet of meat and potatoes and I went hunting for a Chinese restaurant where I could be guaranteed a serving of vegetables!

I’ve just started a new job with a wine company, so it’s nice to be earning money again.  I even get free wine!

Now to work out what to do and where to go for Christmas holidays!

Spanish inquisition

Before I arrived in Xela, I was trying to keep a “healthy” travelling lifestyle of two meals a day and no alcohol.  Of course, that all went out the window when I arrived in Xela – a great place to call home for a few weeks while I was studying Spanish and tear it up!

  • I kissed a very hot 22 year old Guatemalan chico, which was perfectly legit because he neatly satisfied the minimum age requirement of half your age plus seven
  • My host mum came out clubbing with me on quite a few occasions and was able to show me a thing or two about picking up younger men – she kissed one of my fellow students that was well below half her age plus seven!
  • I organised an Australia Day party, complete with Vegemite sandwiches and fairy bread, streamed Triple J’s Hottest 100, and even managed to get some random Aussies to show up too

  • I went to a cross dressing party on Lake Atitlan and had many people comment that a moustache looked great on me
  • I went to my first ever live football match – quite shameful considering that I’ve been living in the UK for the last two years
  • I think I may have even learnt some Spanish too!

I was speaking to my dad on my phone this week and telling him about how much I loved Xela.  He asked me what it was about the place that made it special and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  It isn’t particularly picturesque, although there is a huge volcano that overlooks the city.  There are mangy stray dogs roaming the city, there is a lot of rubbish lining the streets, and I saw a guy wanking on the street at around 9pm at night.

But having said all that, it’s a great city with a fun vibe – not too many tourists, enough foreign students to have a good bars, cafes and restaurants, friendly locals, and a vibrant salsa scene.  Also, my Spanish has improved out of sight.  I would love to find a job or any sort of excuse to come back to Xela to live for another 6 months or so, but preferably during the summer – this Aussie bird can’t hack the highland cold!

I am now chilling out again on Lake Atitlan for a few days before my favourite ginger, Ed, arrives from Australia to travel with me for 6 weeks through Central America.  Keep an eye here for our travel shenanigans!

It’s the Year of the Rat

Chinese new year is just not the same without family around. Not only did I miss out on lucrative red packets from my parents and aunts, I didn’t get to partake in the usual extravagant feasting that goes hand in hand with welcoming in a new year.

London’s Chinatown comes alive over the new year period, and red lanterns are everywhere – gorgeous illuminated ones are currently strung up over Oxford Circus. Unfortunately, the massive crowds prevented me and Steve from seeing any of the lion dancers. Every Chinese restaurant in the precinct was also packed out, which killed the idea of a gluttonous Chinese feast, so we went to have Thai instead.