Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum

Who would’ve thought that somewhere in the historic town of Leura, a suburb in Blue Mountains west of Sydney CBD, Australia’s largest toy collection can be found. A mixture of railways, cars, planes, action figures, Children’s books and vintage dolls, particularly, Alice in Wonderland, Barbie, Popeye, Noddy and Harry Potter.

The Federation Free Classical style of the two-storey house was built in 1910 for the wealthy yachtsman Harry Andreas and his family after the first house on the site, known as Leuralla, built in 1903, was burned down by a bushfire. The entire property including the garden is 12 acres in size. Harry’s daughter, Marjorie, married Clive Evatt, an Australian politician and barrister and took over the house. At present time, their son, Clive Evatt Jr and his family owns the property and are responsible for the current museum exhibiting their railway and toy collection including his uncle HV Evatt’s memorabillas.

Toy and Railway Museum-2The interior of the house is furnished with Queensland maple notable for its extensive paneling and carvings. As soon as you stepped inside, you’ll immediately be overwhelmed by the heritage and extensive history that will unfold before your eyes. The toy and railway collections dates back in the early 19th Century manufactured by different companies all over the world.

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It is noticeable how the owners have a special inclination towards Alice In Wonderland. You will be able to find it in every room and every corner of the house.

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The railway collection is indeed massive. I’ve never seen so many train sets in my life. It ranges from different types of locomotives, railways, trams and trains that dates back to the industrial revolution up until late 20th Century. My photos can not even justify the number of sets displayed in the museum. Here are a few of them:

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There are also a small collection of Children’s vintage hard-bound books. I was surprised to know that Noddy, a fictional character by English children’s author Enid Blyton, was created in 1949. I can still remember my little brother watching a new TV cartoon series of Noddy, back in early 2000s.

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A number of die-cast model cars can also be seen throughout the museum. Notably, the owners must have travelled to Germany to collect some of them. The presence of toys made in Germany and Nazi figures can easily be identified.

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If there are car model toys, there should also be planes and ships! Hanging in the ceiling of the staircase are two huge model biplanes.

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Another Alice In Wonderland collection from the latest franchise can be seen at the top and bottom of the glass cabinet.

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Lehmann Toys by Ernst Paul Lehmann Patenwerk, a famous German toy maker in 19th Century. Toy and Railway Museum-33Toy and Railway Museum-34Toy and Railway Museum-40

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There are tiny model houses that is run by electricity. I used to have one when I was little and just by looking at these makes me want to have my own collection too. The tiny details and the amount of work put into it are incredible.

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Of course, toy collections wouldn’t be complete without vintage board games. But this one is just a collection from Noddy.

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Surprise, surprise, the owners must have been a fan of Archie comics. They even collected cosmetics apart from dolls.

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Apart from Alice In Wonderland, it seems like the owners are huge fans of Popeye too. Their collection range from books, merchandises, figurines and toys.
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Toy soldiers are displayed neatly and organized according to its time period in history. There are medieval knights, soldiers from World Wars and warriors of ethnic tribes.

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I tried remembering the name of this castle but I couldn’t. Anyway, it’s on display too.Toy and Railway Museum-88

Part of the museum has been dedicated to HV Evatt’s memorabilla, an Australian judge, lawyer, parliamentarian and writer. There’s a collection of matches, tin cans, art materials, household products, pins, banknotes and what seems to be – coat strings.

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The doll collection is so varied in styles and time in history. The oldest one I can date back is a 19th Century ceramic doll called bisque dolls made in France and Germany wearing affluent clothing of the period. These kinds of dolls were popularized in the market until after World War I and marketed to the rich families. Some of the dolls from the collection were owned by the daughters in the family of this house. Toy and Railway Museum-76

There are also special edition dolls after the Queen and Princess of the British Monarchy.

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Fast forward to present time, Harry Potter and James Bond toy and merchandise collections are the first ones you’ll see as soon as you step into the house.  The James Bond collection has been arranged according to its franchise timeline too.

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Last but not the least, an extensive Barbie and Friends collection from the very first Barbie, Ken and Skipper dolls, designer editions, anniversary editions, movie merchandises, and limited editions to mark historical events.

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The very first edition barbie doll (1959) in its original packaging and stand wearing striped bathing suit, large white sunglasses, ring earrings, black stillettos, brushed wavy hair in pony tail. Available in two different hair colours: Blonde and Brunette. The first reproduction was released in 1994 in celebration of her 35th birthday and another was released in 2015.

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The first Ken doll was introduced in 1961, the toy displayed is still in its original packaging.Toy and Railway Museum-108

Skipper, Barbie’s younger sister, introduced by Mattel in 1964, a shorter doll standing 9.25 inches in height on its first release.

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Some designer Barbies including Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, Macys, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani.

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Barbie’s 50th Anniversary, MAC Cosmetics edition and Millennium Princess edition.

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Barbie Coca-Cola editions.Toy and Railway Museum-60

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Movie editions of Barbie dolls featuring Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, The Munsters and Wizard of Oz. Toy and Railway Museum-118Toy and Railway Museum-119Toy and Railway Museum-120Toy and Railway Museum-117Toy and Railway Museum-116Toy and Railway Museum-67

Barbie outfits throughout history:Toy and Railway Museum-121Toy and Railway Museum-122Toy and Railway Museum-43Toy and Railway Museum-44Toy and Railway Museum-86Toy and Railway Museum-81

Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum is located at 36 Olympian Parade, Leura in New South Wales, Australia. It’s included as one of the stops of Blue Mountains Explorer Bus  in Katoomba.

 

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (KL) has a variety of architecture within its area. A fusion of its cultural heritage, their dominant religion and architectural advancement in contemporary designs.

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The majestic Petronas Towers or Petronas Twin Towers stand high in the middle of the city bearing its iconic post-modern architectural design that identifies KL among any other city skylines. It also remains to be the tallest twin towers in the world!

I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the city, so here are a few snapshots from my last visit:

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Melbourne: Collins St x St Patrick’s Cathedral

In the arts and fashion capital of Australia, it is expected to see a long stretch of little Paris at the eastern side of Collins St, which is locally referred to as “Paris End”. Collins St. is major street in Central Melbourne that is notable for its history. It is still the home to all major designer and prestige brands, high-end retailers, and it used to be the centre of finance in Australia. The original architecture of every building is mostly preserved like any other streets in the city of Melbourne.

Walking along Collins St. towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I snapped a handful shots of the glamorous Collins St post-edited with creamy, vintage-looking effect as a reminiscent of its early history.

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Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei

It is such a privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a major international exhibition featuring the late pop icon Andy Warhol and political artist Ai Weiwei. Being the two of the most significant artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, I was so thrilled when I first heard the news (a year before the start of the exhibition) that the National Gallery of Victoria has teamed up with The Andy Warhol Museum, in cooperation with Ai Weiwei, to organise such event.

The major exhibition explores the influences of both artists in modern art and contemporary life, which focuses on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. Due to transportation, gallery’s area and other limitations to consider, not all iconic artworks of the artists have been exhibited at NGV for this particular event. Nevertheless, over 300 artworks of both artists’ significant contributions that delivered evocative messages were curated, which lead to my cultivation towards their remarkable life-long journeys. (National Gallery of Victoria)

I’ll start exploring the journey of Andy, who’s art I’m the least a fan of amongst the two. Ai’s extensive, massive and evocative installations beat Andy’s flat, complacent and mass-produced paintings. Ai’s works cover as far back as Ancient China up to the latest societal issues. But to be fair, Andy’s audacity and unconventional art practices have defined a new era of revolutionary artists and may have majorly contributed to Ai’s bold, dissident style.

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andyAndy Warhol carrying a Brillo Soap Pads Box photograph by Billy Name

I first heard of Andy Warhol when I got into Advertising. I wasn’t talking about the time I majored in the field in college, but the time I got really interested in the history and admired the glory days of the industry back in mid-40’s. (cue Mad Men’s theme – TV Series) One of Andy’s famous paintings is called the Campbell Soup Cans (1962) series in which he hand-painted each can of the product, arranged each variety according to its date of release, and observed uniformity through merchandising in grocery shelves.

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The Campbell Soup Cans (1962) is the epitome of Andy’s style when it comes to paintings. Detailed, commercial, low-cost, and mass-produced, similar to the popular products he took inspirations from. His silkscreen medium allow him and his assistants to instantly produce similar huge paintings in a short period of time.

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Another famous series of paintings by Andy is his tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, which he created after the iconic actress’ death. He used a single photograph from the 1953 film Niagara as reference to re-create an entire series as a form of “..memorial and as a reflection of the media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity and tragedy.” (NGV Label of The Three Marilyns 1962)

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The Marilyn Diptych (1962) contains fifty images of Marilyn Monroe. Twenty-five images on the left are brightly coloured while the other twenty-five are in black and white, that suggests the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The particular painting above is currently owned by Tate and unfortunately was not part of the NGV Exhibit.

IMG_6169Andy Warhol – Filmography 

Most people would associate Andy with the expression “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and his popular talk show “Fifteen Minutes” which aired from 1985-1987. Through my readings, I’ve seen at least three different interpretations for this famous expression:

  1. German art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh suggests that Andy’s style invalidates the hierarchies worthy to be represented, and once abolished, will be an opportunity for everyone to be famous; Or
  2. Fifteen Minutes represent the limited time a celebrity can only be famous; Or
  3. Due to the technological advancement and level of accessibility of today’s society, anyone can actually be virtually famous. (Wiki: Fifteen Minutes of Fame)

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I also came across different articles refuting the expression’s origin to be the words of Andy. The critics have suggested that the famous phrase was actually taken from the text of an exhibition brochure written by the curator rather than Andy himself. He tried to honestly confess the truth through interviews but it was too late. The society has already branded the expression as his and still continue to do so today.

Screen Tests (1964)

Throughout his career, celebrities, poets, musicians, socialites and other personalities posed for a short film at his legendary studio in Manhattan, the Silver Factory. The films capture the actions of the subjects at natural state and let the viewers interpret whatever narrative they desire.The Silver Factory has attracted many prominent people and has become a space for Andy’s social scene. In a span of two years, Andy has shot over 500 Screen Tests, which he prolonged to imbue a dreamlike stillness. Some of these prominent people include: Cass Elliot, Ann Buchanan, Bob Dylan, Donyale Luna, Billy Linich and Jane Holzer.

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Silkscreen Paintings of Mao (1970’s)

Andy’s repetitive paintings of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong portrays media’s proliferations of the image and advertising’s promotion of consumers’ desire and identification. Andy created these paintings during the height of cultural revolution in China that has been a global media spotlight. Andy’s numerous works of Mao portray him as a pop-cultural icon during his time.

Andy’s other silkscreen paintings throughout his career that defines today’s definition of pop-culture.

The core of Andy’s career is the portrayal of American’s consumerism: Inexpensive, low-cost, mass-produced, charismatic and popular. His means and the final products of his works both satisfy his core, which are clearly seen through his inspirations and the media he utilised.

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Andy’s painting of Coca-Cola first appeared in 1961. Six years later, he coated Coca-Cola bottles with silver paint as representation of source material. Three years more,  Coca-Cola Company responded with a cease and desist letter when he expanded his project to 100 bottles and filled it with his own You’re In / Eau d’Andy’ (1970). Get it? You’re In…

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Andy did not only focus on the glamorous lifestyle of popular products and celebrities. One of his thought provoking artwork tackles the clash of American Dream and violence in America. Incorporating a tabloid style, gloomy and sombre, Andy replicated the photograph from a newspaper with a headline ‘Did a leak kill … Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Brown?’ referring to the two women killed due to expired canned tunas. In Tunafish Disaster (1963), Andy portrayed how consumer products actually failed its consumers.

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In Silver Clouds (1966) and Cow Wallpaper (1966), Andy expands his artistic style to a theatrical scale by offering an immersive experience that encourages participation through floating metalised polyester films propelled by air currents floating from the walls into space itself. This particular installation exemplifies his fascination with serial production and repetition of pop-cultural imagery. Andy’s deployment of modern manufacturing techniques served as an introduction to a whole new era of art installations.

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Ai Weiwei

A Chinese contemporary artist and activist, I first heard of Ai Weiwei during the preparation of Beijing 2008 Olympics when he collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron in designing The Birds Nest.

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However, my interest in Ai Weiwei’s life only began in 2011 when the international media caused a stir on his arrest at the Beijing International Airport. Initially reported as arrest due to incomplete presentation of documentation for travel, the media uncover his alleged tax evasion case. Ai Weiwei has been known for his online presence writing social commentary and criticising government policies aside from sticking to his autobiographies and thoughts on art and architecture. He has always been known for his bold and unapologetic nature which are then transmitted through his art.

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Personally, I believe that Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2015) is the quintessential artwork of Ai Weiwei. As one of his iconic works captured in both in video and photographs, this particular performative action of holding, dropping and smashing a cultural heritage clearly demonstrates his critical engagement with China’s violent cultural tradition. It draws attention to the continuous desecration of cultural heritage. As shown in the photograph, these images were re-created in plastic blocks representing pixelated forms for the distribution of his powerful message in the digital platform. He originally wanted to use Lego blocks for his other works as well but the company refused to participate in his political activism.

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During the dynastic changes in China in an attempt to erase the past and start over with the new regimes, much of Buddhist statues dating from the Northern Wei (386–535 CE) to Northern Qi (550–577 CE) dynasties were looted and only a few pieces survived today. In Ai’s Feet (2005)he sculpted stone feet on these remaining statues to show that the past cannot easily be erased and eventually catch up with the present.

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At some point in his life, his audacity lead to his detention for 81 days. Every morning, he placed a bunch of flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside his studio and captured it on camera as a form of protest against his restriction to travel. He has posted images of these flowers on social media which emerged a movement called Flowers of Freedom.

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Ai Weiwei created this series in another art form through Bicycle Basket with Flowers Porcelain (2015) and Blossom (2015), this time, to protest against the restrictive rights of people through speech and human-rights. He collaborated with the skilled porcelain craftsmen from Jingdezhen province, whose predecessors once produced the highest quality of porcelain in Ancient China. Through this complex project, he has provided temporary employment to hundreds of people, whose livelihood has been declining through the years.

IMG_6087Blossom (2015) Bed of flowers made of porcelain

Ai Weiwei’s projects do not only focus on his bold actions against government policies and protests against restricted human rights, but he also continuously provides livelihood to the very victims of injustice. 

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Another perfect example would be the Sunflower Seeds (2010) which he created for his simple yet poetic exhibition. The extensive project has been collaborated again with approximately 1,600 skilled artisans of Jingdezhen producing over 150 tons of man-made Sunflower Seeds out of porcelain. Each piece have been individually hand-painted comprising of 2-3 strokes per side by the locals of the community and the entire project lasted for two and a half years.

Ai-Weiwei-Sunflower-Seeds-Still-from-Tate-video-9Image Source: Ai Weiwei Seeds

An excerpt from Ai’s Sunflower Seed’s website – Ai Weiwei Seeds – perfectly expresses the multiple yet simple meaning behind this project:

“For Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is one piece of art that is composed of 100 million pieces of art. As a singular tiny sculpture, every seed is submerged by a hundred million ones with subtle nuances, similar yet each unique, just as 1,600 workers in Jingdezhen performing repetitive duties; as 1.3 billion Chinese, silent in the crowd; as every fragmented individual in this digital era. Through a sunflower seed, Ai Weiwei triggers a Domino effect, enlarging the lengthy, complicated and exquisite process by 100 million times. Devoting unimaginable patience, time and energy, he brings into focus the significance of individuals, and the imposing strength when they gather together.”

The video below shows the extensive and laborious process each Sunflower seed went through for this project:


Video Source: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds by Tate

 Ai retells his detention for 81 days back in 2011 through a series of dioramas entitled S.A.C.R.E.D. Maquettes (2011). The acronym stands for  Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy and Doubt, which are the six parts of this series that are all made of fibreglass. It depicts scenes at the cell where he was imprisoned without charges that serve as evidences of oppression, denial of personal freedom and loss of dignity, he and several victims went through.

IMG_6141One of the dioramas in the series. It clearly portrays his lack of privacy and dignity throughout his time at the detention cell.

Ai do not only portray his messages through sculptures, print and dioramas, but he also take in consideration the type of material used in each masterpiece to deliver his evocative messages.

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In Surveillance Camera (2010), Ai’s practice of incorporating traditional materials in addressing contemporary cultural issues is evident. By using traditional marble to portray the elevated status of a significant artefact in this particular sculpture, this piece is very personal to Ai that relates back to his confinement at his studio while all his actions were being monitored.

handcuffsHandcuffs (2015) were both sculpted in jade and in wood. Jade is considered to be the most precious stone in China. Historically speaking, jade is worn only by the members of imperial family. Ai portrays the similar cuffs he wore during his imprisonment to address contemporary issues in the government.

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If there’s one project that clearly defines Ai Weiwei’s character and controversial career, I personally believe it’s the Study of Perspective (1993-2005). As seen in every photograph, Ai is giving a finger in every iconic location around the globe to express his disdain for authority. His audacious behaviour and poetic forms of powerful communication have inspired a new generation of artists in the 21st Century.

Andy Warhol x Ai WeiWei

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Some exhibits showcase a parallel in artistic value and in speaking social context beyond the world of art. In Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo (2007), Ai portrays a pop-cultural imagery through the influence of Andy by painting a Chinese artefact and branding it with a logo that represents American capitalism.

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Myths are traditional stories explaining historical events or natural and social phenomenons. Ai and Andy both explore these myths through cultural archetypes from two different parts of the world. Circle of Animals (2010), is a reinterpretation of the twelve zodiac heads ransacked by French and British troops. It functioned as a water clock–fountain in the European-style gardens of Yuanmingyuan palace. “Ai focuses attention on the ethics of looting and repatriation, the role of the fake and the copy and power relations between China and the West.” (Source: Circle of Animals label)

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On the other hand, Andy presents the cultural archetypes in the American popular culture through a series of silkscreen paintings that run from Uncle Sam to the superstardom of Hollywood screen siren Greta Garbo and the innocent charm of Mickey Mouse. (Source:Narrative, myth and memory label)


Further Readings:

Masterchef x Australia

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The new season of Masterchef Australia starts tonight. It’s only fitting to post my snapshots inside the famous Masterchef Kitchen!

A little backstory about the show, Masterchef TV show was originally produced in the early 90’s and was re-developed in Australia way back in 2009 that propelled its international success (Ref). Having an avid fan of the show, I was delighted to have visited the Masterchef Kitchen, located in Metro Melbourne, where the show is annually shot.

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Among any other reality cooking shows, Masterchef got less drama and has more interesting challenges. Its format also allow a lot of information to be absorbed and learned from by the audience. It’s one of the best ways to subtly learn about culinary art while entertaining oneself. It basically showcases creativity of different culinary styles and innovating gastronomic skills. From then on, I’ve become more appreciative of the techniques and fusion of flavours in every dish I taste.

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For the Love of QVB Heritage

For my long forgotten trip to Sydney way back in September 2014, I’m dedicating this entire post solely to the majestic Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Primarily because of my deep passion and appreciation to anything with precious historical value.

QVB is situated in the heart of Sydney’s central business district. The entire building covers the whole block between George, Market, York and Druitt streets. Just across the other shopping districts.

It is highly recognisable amidst the modern skyscrapers and flashy contemporary shopping malls. Its very presence speaks a lot of history. It was built in the late 19th century exhibiting Victorian Romanesque architecture by a Scottish architect migrant who moved in Sydney in 1884. The presence of columns, arches and great attention to details shows the influence of the American Architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the said era.

Let me introduce my next passion, timepieces!  QVB has two unique huge mechanical clocks with outstanding technicality and complexity. Australia’s history is carefully handcrafted to these masterpieces while figures circumnavigate the clocks. In addition, most of it has annual calendar features too!

Here are more photos of my visit at QVB:

The precise and uniform archeways are truly admirable. The depth seems like to portray infinity. Just like how QVB is carefully preserved throughout time. On the side, the phot may be cropped but it can be clearly seen how the spiral staircases are maintained, though most of it are off limits to anyone.

Dome ceilings are very distinguished in this building.

Arches and glass windows’ intricate designs.

Aside from columns, arches and other details engraved on every corner of this building, the tile work of the flooring is very notable too.

QVB is definitely one of those heritage sites never to miss out when visiting Sydney!

Road Trip Down to Mornington Peninsula

In the midst of Winter’s break, we drove 75km South East from Melbourne CBD to the famous Mornington Peninsula. The entire peninsula is divided into four areas: Northern, Western, Southern and the Peninsula Hinterland (Mid Land).

It’s a huge area to explore and different activities varies from season to season – From enjoying costal water activities (boating, fishing, swimming), to camping, horseback riding, trail walking, farm gating, wine tasting and fruit pickings. The land is also preserved for golfing and the natural hot springs are its best tourist attraction. So, for this particular day trip, we decided only to explore along the coastlines of Southern peninsula and visited the most visited lighthouse – The Cape Schanck.

A little trivia about this peninsula. At the tip of Point Nepean, Australia Prime Minister Harold Holt mysteriously disappeared while swimming in the coastal waters of Chevion Beach near Portsea way back in 1967. His body was never recovered up to this day. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to reach that point since it’s far off the road and takes a long time to walk to get there.

We started our trip at Dromana’s coastline to look at the historic colourful bathing houses – For they are no more than a shed, with no supply of water nor electricity, these make the peninsula famous for. It covers the long stretch of southern area’s coastline – From Mount Eliza, Dromana, Rosebud to Pointsea.

Next, we crossed the Peninsula and headed straight to Cape Schanck Lighthouse. It was built in 1859 as the second coastal lighthouse in Victoria. Built from limestone standing at 21 metres high, situated 100 metres above sea level. It is considered as one of the first buildings ever constructed in the state.

The entire ground covers the lighthouse, a museum in the old assistant’s quarters and accommodation in the old residence of the lighthouse keeper.

This trail naturally hollowed by trees is the entrance to the lighthouse’s grounds.

The view of the sea is stunning from this height. The majestic sea between the states of Victoria and Tasmania is enthralling to think that looking from this point, you are basically looking at the bottom of the earth. That only a ship ride away, you will be reaching Antartica!

Then we headed to the traveller-friendly Blue Mini Cafe! Famous for both locals and tourists, this is my favourite part of the trip! Because along the hours-long drive from the city, far away from home, is unbelievably THIS place! A cafe-restaurant with vintage items for sale; Decorated in rustic, uncoordinated sets of furniture with superb fine menu to indulge.

Upon entering the place, you’ll find this vintage fridge full of old-school kitchen tools, which are all for sale!

Their dining tables are made of vintage wood signboards which added to the homey atmosphere of the place.

There are metal scrap arts in one section made by Melbournian artists – Definitely locally made!

And for the love of stationery – This cafe offers a wide selection of different kinds of – well – STATIONERY!

Aside from vintage items, metal art scraps and stationery, there are local products for sale. And for those people with OCDs, this cafe arranged the products by colour!

This is the orange corner packed with a variety of locally-crafted items for sale.

Upon leaving the cafe, I found this interesting piece of art. A pair of boots growing organic things! Pretty, isn’t it?

Our last stop for the day was the village of Sorrento. I was not able to take photos of the heritage buildings along the area but I was able to capture a few shots of the coast! Oh, hi there little brother!

In this village you will find antique stores passed on from generation to generation and a good bargain hunting for rare treasures!

Along the coastline of the Peninsula are these century old trees preserved by local tourism! In general, everywhere you look, Mornington Peninsula is definitely a place worth visiting. Next time you decide to drop by the State of Victoria, don’t miss out this place!

Food Paradise in the Capital

If you are looking for a food adventure in Beijing, you should never miss the Wangfujing Night Market, known as Donghuamen Night Street by the locals.

The 100-meter long street food market is not hard to miss. Its eye-catching red lanterns and clean red stalls along Dong’anmen Street near Wangfujing Area is the perfect tourist destination at night. It opens at 6 in the evening everyday to delight everyone in the area. Several tourists would go a long way just to experience the market in the Capital.

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It offers a variety of authentic Chinese and exotic snacks: From the usual barbecues, noodles, “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies, local desserts, dim sums, hamburgers, pancakes and grilled seafood to insects, snakes, spiders and other surprising finger foods.

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The market is famous for its grilled exotic snacks on skewers; particularly scorpions, centipedes, crickets, seahorses, starfishes and bugs. Several stalls sell these snacks to challenge your appetite.

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I cannot imagine having a bite of these snacks though. But I can’t help admiring them all!

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These creatures are known for its rich nutrients but bland in flavour. It’s crunchy and very delicious.

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Arachnids are also served in this market. Those legs are crisp and snack-worthy. It would be a fun food adventure only if I didn’t know they’re spiders!

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The harmful toxins inside centipedes and scorpions are sucked out of them before being sold. So these food are perfectly safe! You don’t have to worry about health concerns especially that these are prepared in a clean environment.

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Have you ever dreamt of savouring snakes and eels? With the markets cheap food prices, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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A variety of grilled seafood is available to be indulged by those who cannot take to try exotic snacks. Seafood in skewers heaven! Fishes, shrimps, squids, baby lobsters and royal crabs are freshly skewed and grilled right in front of you.

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Crispy shrimps! These babies are satisfying to my hungry stomach.

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Just like any other street food areas, this market sells particular parts of chicken, pork, lamb and beef; Including intestines, kidneys and other inside parts.

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And of course, the famous steamed dim sums of Chinese cuisine! Served hot and perfect for the cold night.

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Some dim sums have dog meat stuffed in it. Be sure to carefully choose when trying out some of them.

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Once all stuffed and satisfied with all the dinner you get in one night, it’s time for desserts!

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One thing you should never miss to check out is the famous “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies. Even in other markets around the area, these sweet candies are sold on the streets at any time of the day.

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The range of food in China is as broad is its vast land. The market showcases a wide range of local desserts to satisfy a variety of sweet lovers out there!

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Buchi-looking delicacies!

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China has a lot of creativity in using flour in preparing different desserts and pastries. All are equally tasty despite the differences in flavours.

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But don’t be fooled. Some of these sweet-looking pastries are actually spicy and contains different spices on it

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The market doesn’t only appeal to the food explorers. It is also appetising to the young and the young at heart. Aside from normal skewers, fruit candies, pancakes and donuts, these fried snacks with smiley faces will surely make your little kids’ night memorable.

The Great Ocean Road Trip 2014

After moving to Melbourne for almost two years now, my family and I were able to go down further south west and drive the Great Ocean Road!

Generally, we love to visit tourist attractions to witness and admire the magnificence of natural wonders over spending hours sunbathing under the heat of the summer sun while sipping Piña Colada. We like to move around and hop from one destination to the other.

Through the service of Melbourne Costal Tours, we were able to drive all the way from Melbourne CBD and finish the 243km drive of the Great Ocean Road (GOR) Tour just in one day. How awesome is that?!

First stop, we headed to the Fairhaven Beach at Anglesea to see a glimpse of the stretch of GOR. We can’t swim though since sharks are having a feast, swimming around this area.

A few minutes later, we reached the Great Ocean Road Archway. Where the journey begins! We quickly stopped for a while to have a couple of mandatory shots with the archway. It’s a long day ahead of us.

After some mandatory travel photos, w were back on the road. Our tour guide and the entire tour itself was very flexible. We get to have a lot of quick stopovers to have quick glances and photo opportunities along the way. Perks of going in a small group tours rather than joining big companies in huge buses.

Along the Great Ocean Road, there were several lookouts on the way where you can have quick stops to have some photo opportunities with nature. The tour guide have chosen Teddy’s Lookout. From the lookout, you can see the view of the beautiful town of Lorne and the Bass Straight, the body of ocean between mainland Australia and the state of Tasmania.

Next stop, we pulled off at the carpark of Kennett River to find Wild Koalas resting on Eucalyptus Trees. We found three of them hugging thin branches on separate trees. They aren’t sociable herbivorous marsupials and sleep at least 20 hours a day. The Australian Government protects their species and touching them would cost you at least AU $10,000.00. Yikes! So better not get too close to them. A picture of them sleeping and their face tucked away from the camera is the most we could do.

Good thing, a group of wild birds were in the area and our tour guide gave us some bird seeds! These attracted the birds to come closer and be all friendly with our group.

Back on the road, we stopped by Cape Patton to look at the view. Everywhere you go at the Great Ocean Road, you will see the majestic sea and the powdery sands of the coasts! It’s so consistent.

While on our way to our next destination, our tour guide gave us the menu for lunch! Finally. Time to eat soon! We quickly chose what we want for lunch which is conveniently covered by the tour.

Then we headed to Apollo Bay Hotel at the town of Apollo Bay to have our lunch. All the meals were pre-ordered and were ready as soon as we got there. Cool isn’t it?! I never exerpienced having pre-ordered meals before. Not even in other tours around Asia! The Melbourne Costal Tours did a pretty good job on that one! How convenient! I ordered roast beef with roasted vegetables over Nasi Goreng and Fish & Chips to feel the ultimate Australian experience for the trip and it did not disappoint.

At this town, McDonald’s and other modern fast food chains weren’t allowed to operate including the big supermarkets in Australia – Coles and Woolworth’s – in order to support the local businesses of the town.

We had a few minutes left to move around and got ourselves local ice cream treats! Our tour guide recommended this little ice cream shop just near the hotel where we tried the famous Vegemite Ice Cream – a definitely must try!. Vegemite is an Australian product, food paste, a part of the Australian culture. It’s like butter or peanut butter used to be spread on bread or biscuits.

After lunch, we went to Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk. As part of the tour, a temperate rainforest walk is necessary after all the heavy lunch we dug in.

Australia used to be part of the the supercontinent Gondwana before all the seven continents drifted apart. This rainforest still has plant species that are common in other parts of Asia. But in recent decades, Eucalyptus trees are taking over these plant species making the rainforest dry and prone to bush fire during summer.

The walking was just beginning. Our next destination is The Great Ocean Walk. We parked beside the road and started walking on the pathway all the way up to the cliffs in order to see the first few of 12 Apostles.

Our tour guide asked us if we want to do the 10-minute helicopter tour hovering the Great Ocean. A lot of tourists are doing it at that time. We can see several helicopters flying by the area.

For some time, we felt like Bilbo Baggins exploring the lands in The Hobbit with all the hills and grassy fields that surround me. It’s like standing on a cliff in the middle of nowhere! Amazing experience!

Not all tours pass by this area though so we felt extremely lucky to have the best tour guide in the area! Our itinerary was carefully and creatively planned.

Finally, we reached one end of the walk – The Gibsons Beach.

After reaching the edge of the cliff, we climbed down the 100-metre staircase to reach the powdery beach. Here we got a lot of photo opportunities with the few Apostles. *Hooray!*

The rest of 12 Apostles can be seen once you continue the Great Ocean Walk.

A few more sets of walks and we reached the Salt and Pepper Shakers. The two stacks in the middle were naturally formed by erosion over hundreds of years. Isn’t it amazing?!

Other natural formations include The Razorback – the big stack of land out in the sea.

The trip wouldn’t be complete without seeing Loch and Gorge. This area is known as the shipwreck area with hundreds of ships failed to set on land in 19th Century.

A family nearby is known to have acquired all the treasures from the ships carrying them from the coast up to the cliffs. Imagine how they managed to climbed the cliffs in 19th Century!

There used to be a heroic shipwreck in 1878 where an English man and an Irish woman survived.

Today there is a manmade staircase that allows tourists to go down to the sea almost enclosed by 60m high limestone walls. It is a natural pool tourists enjoy especially during the summer

Last stop was the famous London Bridge. It acquired its name after its similarity with the real London Bridge without knowing it will fall down too! In 1990, a couple was trapped in that stack in the sea after crossing the 15-metre wide bridge that used to connect the mainland to that stack.

It wasn’t 000 (Au emergency hotline) that came to the rescue. It was actually the Channel 7 (media) that went here to cover the collapse of the bridge and made a huge dramatic story out of it.

Though the couple refused to be interviewed for personal reasons. Some say the guy actually called in sick for work that day and went on to the GOR with the lover. It’s such an embarrassment to be interviewed on national TV knowing his boss would see his face after calling in sick. *Yikes*

And some say he was actually having an affair on that day and the woman with him was his mistress. *Insert ooooh expression here*

After spending our entire day out on the road, we had to leave and go back to the city. It was a wonderful experience getting in tough with nature again. ^^ Especially when our cardio were tested with all the walking uphill and downhill that we did.

And of course, the trip wouldn’t be this amazing without the awesome planning of Melbourne Costal Tours. I’ve always liked those companies that offer quality service rather than big companies that can’t consistently provide the service they promise to do.

Thanks Melbourne Costal Tours for the fun day! The tour guide, Campbell, was very informative and entertaining all throughout the day.  Non-stop chatting and telling us stories about absolutely everything we passed by while on the road. And most importantly, we managed to see a lot of places just in one day! ^^

Beijing Tea Ceremony

As a half-blood Chinese decent, =^_~=  it’s a satisfying experience to walk on the very land where our family’s first men walked centuries ago. This will be my first blog post regarding my recent trip to Beijing focusing on my favourite thing and the second most consumed liquid in the world – TEA! ❤

To give you a bit of my background regarding my love of tea, I used to be an obsessed coffee-drinker. Hot or iced, espresso or latte, taking a minimum of five cups a day. Then my obsession suddenly stopped for half a year. Then when I had coffee again after hiatus, my body started rejecting it. It’s not the caffeine that my body starts to reject, probably some other substance that coffee has.

That life changing event made me switch to my next obsession – TEA! Yay!

To make the most out of my trip, I made sure that I never miss the opportunity to experience the famous “Chayi” or “Art of Tea”, commonly known as the tea ceremony, in the very capital of China.

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I went to the little teashop within the grounds of Temple of Heaven. It is not hard to miss. It can be found before you leave the grounds, just beside the entrance/exit gate. It’s also easy to recognise because of the round arch popular in Chinese homes and the entrance is filled with tea mugs, teapots and anything about tea!

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Tea has been part of the Chinese culture as long as history could trace back. Tea is not just a beverage or a hot drink to warm up on a winter season. The ceremony is practiced in every possible reason you could think of. May it be to pay respect, to show gratitude, to ask for an apology or to celebrate an occasion. Aside from this, tea is consumed for health purposes. Its medicinal effect is probably the secret of Asians for being slim, youthful looking skin, having long life and less health complications as they grow old.

I’m going to share with you the steps of the tea ceremony I experienced during my trip. =^_~=image

Small teapots made of clay and glass are used in a tea ceremony. They say that this is one of the secrets of a good tea because of the environment it provides when brewing.

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Since Fruit Tea is the most flavourful, tasty and very enjoyable among the teas I tried during the ceremony, I’ll be using it as the example to show you the process. Fruit tea, made of mixed dried berries and other fruits, is passed on by the tea master to be appreciated by the guests.

Fruit Tea‘s medicinal properties greatly helps in digestion and bowel movement without the painful feeling you get from readily packed and bagged diet teas in the market. After steeping this particular type of tea for 4 to 5 times (without losing its flavor), you can even eat it for snack or mix it with your cereals.

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To start the ceremony, the tea master warms up the clay teapot, teapot pitcher (glass) and tea cups by pouring boiling water inside and out, then rinsing it afterwards. This process is done on top of the tea washing tray to cure or cleanse the tools.

Once ready, loose leaf is strained in the clay teapot, covered with a lid and brewed in a specific time depending on the type of tea. While brewing, boiling water is poured over the teapot to allow it to be hot and helps in the brewing process.

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Tea is then poured on the teapot pitcher (made of glass), which is then poured on the tall and narrow cup, one of the two cups used in the tea ceremony. The guests then sniff the aroma and appreciate the quality of tea as part of the process. The other cup is then placed upside down on top of the filled cup and guests quickly flip the cups so the tea is now on the second cup. This step is believed to bring prosperity, happiness and luck to the guests.

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Finally, after a long preparation, tea can now be indulged and seconds are welcome. Teas during the ceremony are sipped slowly and its aroma is enjoyed for almost an hour before the first sip.

Sipping is also traditionally done in steps and each signifies good health for the teeth, heart and stomach. I don’t really remember all the sips though.

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Another kind of tea is the Blooming or Flowering Tea. From the name itself, this flower bud blooms when immersed in water. It’s not as medicinal as the other teas, but it is very good decoration at home.

imageThe flower comes out when the flower bud blooms underwater.

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My next favourite is the Lychee Tea or the Litchi Black Tea .It is good for the stomach and anemia and a teaspoon can be reused for 3 to 4 times.

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 Lychee Tea can be mixed with rose petals to further enhance its flavor.

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It tastes a bit sweet and exactly like Lychee! I bought a can of it that is good for months of consumption!

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The next tea is the most medicianl tea I have ever encountered in my life. The Pu-ehr Tea (others spell it as Pu-re / Pu-re / Pu’er / Pu-reh) or Sexy Tea.  This type of tea is dried, condensed, shaped in tablets and wrapped in paper. It is a gradually fermented and matured chinese dark tea (different from Western’s black tea) for a number of years, and just like red wine, the longer it is stored and sealed in tin cans, the greater its taste would be developed. Hence, the more medicinal it would get.

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Pu-ehr or Sexy Tea is the best tea for losing weight. That’s why it is called the Sexy Tea! It is also the best tea for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, controlling sugar levels of those suffering diabetes.  This tea can be brewed 7 to 8 times. Unlike the fruit teas I mentioned, this tea is bland in flavour. But because of its great medicinal effects, I think it cancels it out.

imageThe last but not the least kind of tea and is very popular worldwide is the Ginseng Oolong Tea. Popularised by Korean dramas, we all know the Ginseng is famous for treating various illnesses. Considering this fact combined with Oolong, it is easy to conclude that Ginseng Oolong Tea’s beneficial effects are doubled!

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Ginseng Oolong Tea is good for the memory, energy and kidney health. This can be brewed 5 to 6 times.

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The tea master also showed us the Pee Pee Boy. It is made of clay that is used to test if the water is hot enough for the tea ceremony. When the Pee Pee Boy pees when you pour boiling water on top of it, then it means you are ready to start. It doesn’t pee at all if you pour cold water. Amazing, isn’t it?

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