Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coffee Updates at Work

The first round of Melbourne life, we stayed at the west side of the city, close to two of my favourite coffee places; Brother Baba Budan and Sensory Lab. Known for one of the better coffees (won't say best, just in case I get some connoisseur telling me otherwise), I got quite fidgety when I was greeted with crap coffee in Brisbane. Luckily, the stars must have been listening because PourBoy opened somewhere along the way to work and on weekends we had Dandelion and Driftwood to go to.  


Having moved down to St Kilda Road for our second stint of Melbourne life, I must admit I was (and still am) a bit lost as to where I can get my caffeine fix. Essentially the tram stops on Flinders St / Swanston St and from there it is a 5 minute walk to Exhibition St to work. Now something tells me (if you look at the Melbourne CBD map) that it is not exactly "on the way to work" for me to venture to the other side of town for my favourite coffee. 


So having observed quite a number of places, I thought I list a few that I have tried so far.


Oliver Lane Espresso - 140 Flinders St, Melbourne -It is a small little corner, efficiently manned (or "womanned") by a lady who takes the order, makes the coffee and collects the money all at the same time. A decent regular latte but probably let down by the milk, lacked the creaminess and felt slightly flat. AUD 3.30 for a cup. 3 stars out of 5 stars. 


Bull Run - 107 Flinders Lane, Melbourne - Really friendly barista and cashier and this is probably why there is a small crowd every morning I walk past the place. I must have had the "zombie look" on a Monday because the barista asked if I wanted a strong latte after I placed an order for a regular one. Not too sure if it was a good choice because it tasted "in your face", bitter and over extracted. Good thing though, only AUD3 for my 8oz takeaway cup. 3 stars out of 5 stars, might improve if I stick to my regular latte. 


Two Fingers - 27 Russell Street, Melbourne - Another small little outlet and from what I read, offers breakfast and lunch options too. The coffee was decent, won't say great but if I remember correctly though, it was AUD 3.60 or AUD 3.80 for my 8oz takeaway cup. 3 stars out of 5 stars, can't see why I am paying the slight extra for my cup of coffee. 


Liaison Cafe - 22 Ridgway Place, Melbourne - This is slightly out of the way and situated in one of the many lanes in Melbourne CBD. The double ristretto latte (or "strong" latte as the cashier wrote on my cup) was again a cup that was in your face. By now I have realised, only order a double ristretto if they serve one and ask for a regular if they suggest strong. That being said, once the temperature mellowed down a little, this was a potent drink but I loved it. AUD 3.50 for a regular. 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.


No 8 Exhibition Cafe - 8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne - By far the most convenient since it is on the lobby of my building, the latte is pretty good but nothing special. AUD 3.30 for a regular. 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.


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Still on the look out for-that-must-have cup of coffee in the morning.


The adventure continues.


Two Fingers on Urbanspoon

Liaison Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bullrun Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sydney Fish Market @ Sydney

To those still celebrating Chinese New Year, I hope its been fun.

To those who got the day off on Australia Day, I am pretty sure you are either like me, stoning in front of your office laptop or still on holiday.

Anyways, I have been busily snapping photos of food we have been eating in Melbourne and hopefully soon enough I can actually download them onto my computer and start blogging about them.

Meanwhile, one more stop in Sydney.

We arrived in Sydney mid afternoon and with a couple of hours to burn before our host finished work, the Wife suggested we go to the Sydney Fish Market.  

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With 30 minutes before it closed, we walked in and my eyes opened wide. The amount of fresh seafood available and the cheaper prices is a far cry to what we use to get in Brisbane. For example a coral trout in an upmarket supermarket will cost you in the region of AUD50 a kg and most places charging you between AUD30-35 a kg. Guess what, its only AUD27 a kg in Sydney!

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Despite dinner being 2-3 hours away, I couldn't resist and we ordered a couple of items to snack on.

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Abalone sashimi, thats a first for us. It was sweet and crunchy, very nice to eat texturally but got a bit boring after a few bites.

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Somehow the oysters didn't taste all that fresh or either that it wasn't exactly the top grade ones that we got. Either way its been a while since we had some so we were happily popping them in our mouth with a squeeze of lemon. 

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The yabbies were awesome though. Similar to the ama ebi you get in Japanese cuisine, the meat was so sweet and juicy. The problem is one prawn doesn't really have that much meat but weighs a lot since you pay by the gram. A prawn probably cost me AUD 5. 

Overall I am happy to have finally visited an "icon" in Sydney and although we must have picked up some seafood that was probably lying around for a couple of hours, it was still pretty good. 

The best part? Our friend said you can get even cheaper seafood elsewhere in Sydney! 

Fingers crossed, let me find good seafood in Melbourne!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sugarcane @ Surrey Hills, NSW

Time does fly and I believe this is our 2nd year being away from home during Chinese New Year. In some ways, both the Wife and I do miss home because of family and the overall festive mood. Luckily, being away since we have been married, we never did have to give out any red packets (ang pao). Anyways by the time you read this, it should be the first day of Chinese New Year, specifically Year of the Dragon.


To all my readers, Gong Xi Fa Cai or Gong Hei Fatt Choi. May everyone be blessed with good food and be prosperous enough to feed yourself with good food.


Back to blogging.


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After spending a night at Coffs Harbour, we were quite eager to soldier on to Sydney. Faced with a range of 1 lane and 2 lane roads (not to mention the turtle crawling speed limit), I was surprised that it was still rather easy to drive long distance compared to driving down the highways of Malaysia (maybe its the scenery).


A very old friend of the Wife played host for the night. The better fact was that her husband was also quite a big foodie and when we said we leave it to them to pick a dinner venue, they said let's go to Sugarcane.


Sugarcane, one of the growing restaurants in Sydney / Australia which serve Southeast Asian cuisine with a twist. The menu is not quite fusion as such but its more of the chef's interpretation of the cuisine. Headed by chefs from Longrain, I presume the pioneer restaurant who started this trend, we were told that the food will be good and luckily it was.


The downside of this place though is the noise level. It is an open kitchen concept and yes, there was a dinner group of 20 people at one end that night but the amount of echo was equivalent of entering into a bar. Not exactly the place for a quiet conversation.


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The battered calamari was what it was, a standard starter served with a soy based dip. 


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Whole barramundi, deep fried with two dipping sauces (if I remember correctly), a soy sauce and a chili like dip. Fried to perfection; crisp skin as you run your fork in and smooth silky flesh inside. The soy sauce was a little on the thick side, if it was slightly runnier, it would have reminded me of how we used to eat fried fish in restaurants back in KL. 

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The pork hock served with a thai mango salad. This was the bomb dish and if you ever come here and the dish is available, you got to order it. That being said if you were vegetarian, go try the mango salad, there's that perfect mix of sweet, sour and spicy (at least for the poor soul here who can't really take his chili very well).


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Not equally as good was the chicken in a tamarind / plum sauce. Again playing with the familiar sweet and sour notes, the chicken wasn't over cooked, there was crispy skin but it all seemed a bit too ordinary for me.

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I am a big fan of eggplant and lo and behold we somehow ordered a plate of this cooked in a yellow bean and basil sauce. The gravy was delicious with the addition of basil and by the end of it, the eggplant had soaked in all the flavours. 


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A rather late comer this one, the last dish arrived after a while which was a jungle chicken curry. Maybe by now we were stuffed, so it really didn't stand out for me.  


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Dessert was a pumpkin "cake" and mango with black sticky rice. There were a few "ooh" and "aah" with the pumpkin cake / flan and I must admit it was pretty good. However one must realise I was stuffing myself silly with Zumbo desserts just hours earlier and everything seemed like a shadow.

Interesting thing to note is the above dishes were a mix of fixed courses from a voucher and ala carte dishes. Can you identify which is which? I personally felt after having dishes from both sides, the quality was pretty similar although the fixed courses seemed a bit flat at times. A rather old issue but restaurants will always have a dilemma between trying to break even and making sure customers do come back. Even if the food was spectacular, people looking out for bargains won't come back when they see the prices from the ala carte menu. I wonder what say you?

Overall pretty good stuff with I guess average prices of AUD25-30 a main. 

Address and contact details: 


Sugarcane on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Got to take off marks for the incredibly loud atmosphere and some of the dishes we tried did fall a bit flat and tasted uninspired. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie @ Balmain, Sydney

Blame it on Masterchef but the first thing on our mind when we reached Sydney was Adriano Zumbo and his desserts. A quick search on the internet and a click or two on the GPS and we were headed to their original outlet in Balmain. 


Half expecting that they would have at least a table or two and 2 chairs or 3, we were disappointed to see a narrow outlet which had their air con on full blast (to presumably keep the desserts cold). Walk in to the display of desserts and you forgive everything. 


With all the desserts you see on Masterchef, every item seems very complicated with different components and if I had my way (or my wallet had its way), I would have tried everything. 


Despite being as sensible as possible, we still bought half a dozen of macarons and two desserts before hopping away happily.  


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Yum yum.

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Despite the hype surrounding these babies, there were good but not exactly mind blowing. Maybe its because I was never into them or never ate them enough to like them. The flavours were all out of this world from chocolate chili, lime mojito, cola, lychee and etc.

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His individual desserts were more like our cup of tea. With funky names, so funky I can't seem to remember whether it was "nuts about something" or "crazy peanuts" (but I am pretty sure there was a nut or peanut in the name), we were drooling. the far left had 4 components with different textures and flavours, from chocolate, peanut butter and mango, this was awesome. The sphere was a choux pastry with bubble tea cream and was equally crazy in the mouth. 


If this was near my house, we would be eating desserts every other night so long as they keep changing the menu. 


Address and contact details:  

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Their individual desserts with different components and textures look and taste the bomb and definitely something that you wouldn't want to replicate at home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fiasco Ristorante @ Coffs Harbour, NSW

I originally wanted to continue blogging about food I ate in Malaysia until I realised that I had already blogged about these places before or I had pictures of the first 2 courses before I pigged out and forgot about taking pictures.


So I guess the adventure of eating in Malaysia has come to a rather abrupt ending.


Moving on, shall we?


The first of many legs to Melbourne involved stopping over at Coffs Harbour. From certain stretches of the road, you are greeted with the most amazing coastal views that you wish greets you when you wake up every morning. However it was a pity once we reached town, I was more keen to take a nap then drive to the nearest beach for a tan. 


Well I was also keen for a good meal. Urbanspoon really does wonders at this point and a quick search and a read here and there, we pinpointed Fiasco as the place to go. 


While the name doesn't sound very Italian, the people running the place were definitely Italian (either that or they must have pulled off a very good accent).


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Even the beers are italian! Not your typical Peroni but a slightly out of the blue Menabrea; crisp and light, perfect for the hot weather.

When we looked through the menu, it was obvious that we were still suffering from the "Asian" blues, half wanting to dig into anything that resembled Asian. However after seeing the dish arrive on our table, it was a whole different story.

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Home made gnocchi with a pork ragu. This was delicious. The pork ragu was hearty and well seasoned and it went so well with the pillow soft gnocchi. Eaten together with the pieces of ricotta sprinkled on top, we couldn't ask for more, especially since we were 500km away from Sydney. 


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The Al Funghi Pizza was just as scrumptious. Instead of truffle oil, they used truffle honey, combining the earthy and sweet flavours was a good choice as well. Thin crust just the way I like it too!


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The main was a duo of beef; seared tenderloin with a mushroom ragout and a braised beef cheek served with fried polenta and celeriac puree. The tenderloin was done well but the braised cheek needed some seasoning (well quite a fair bit actually). The gremolata drizzled around the dish helped flavoured the cheek but sadly it wasn't enough. I liked how refreshing the radish was but the polenta also tasted rather flat. After the first two dishes, we couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed.

Overall if you stick to their pizzas and pastas served with ice cold beer, I can't see why you should not come here if you are ever in Coffs Harbour, brilliant food. 

Address and contact details:

Fiasco Ristorante & Wine bar on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Good old pizzas and pastas done with grace. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yap Hup Kee @ Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

It seems like it was only yesterday when we got all excited about going back home to Malaysia and leaving Brisbane for good. Come to think about it, it has been exactly a month since that has happened.


Tomorrow the whole routine of waking up, dressing up and going to work will begin once again, this time in Melbourne. I just hope the first week of work is going to be induction and training because it will definitely take me a day to refresh myself!


Back to food blogging, I blogged about fine dining the other day but my real love belongs to also chee cheong fun (or rice rolls, if you go to "yum cha"). The smooth silky thin white sheet chopped to resemble noodles is something I be happy to eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Something I didn't get back in Brisbane is the South East Asian way of eating chee cheong fun; with curry sauce, sweet sauce or chilli sauce paired with some yong tau foo.


Needless to say, I had to satisfy those cravings and where to but to Pudu, the area where my dad grew up. Yap Hup Kee does an awesome chee cheong fun but the yong tau foo bit is somewhat lacking. Apart from the sui kao (dumplings) which is a must order (either in soup or fried), the rest of the stuff like the stuffed eggplant, bitter gourd, tau foo seems a bit average. If you are feeling brave, another must order is the pork intestines, marinated in some sweet sauce and deep fried. 


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A standard size portion is really small so my best advice is order one of each or if you are a glutton like me, order three. Topped with prawn floss, it is quite hard to find a better one, so let me know where you can get one. 


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The soup dumplings does not come with your usual clear soup but has preserved vegetables that gives it a nice zing to it. 

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I found the fried stuff done very sloppily, a lot of oil that was not drained off before serving. 

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The must order pork intestines.

A pity I didn't get to eat this more than once.

Address and contact details:

45 Jalan Brunei Barat (off Jalan Pudu)
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel:  03-2148 9220

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars (4.5 stars for the chee cheong fun alone). No frills place for some chee cheong fun, nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Extravagant Lunches @ Lafite, Shangri La Hotel and Sage, Gardens Residences

The most frequent things you hear from someone who's been away from KL for a long time is how they miss the late night stalls, hawker food and the great Asian classics. However as much as I miss my bak kut teh, chee cheong fun or char siew, you got to admit fine dining in KL (especially during lunch and of course if you know where to look) is a pretty good deal when one earns Australian dollars to spend in Malaysia. 

Two of the places that I have good experiences at are Lafite at the Shangri La Hotel and Sage at the Gardens Residences. Lunch at both places are pretty affordable once you convert the meal back to Australian dollars. A 4 course lunch at Lafite was RM128++ (benefit of having a friend who has the Prestige card means a further discount of 33%) and a 3 course lunch at Sage only set me back for RM100. The Australian dollar hovers around the region of RM3 - RM3.20 to a dollar.


Furthermore if you haven't been back to Malaysia for a long while, you might want to drop by for a dose of good service before realising how unfriendly and crap the service is at the shops (or maybe it was because I kept going out in my t shirt, short pants and thongs and walking into places like Hugo Boss). 


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Sage is perfect for those who want to catch up for some shopping before or after the meal. Compared to any other restaurant in the mall, it still smells exclusive, no long queues and obviously no crazy amount of noise.

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The lunch at Sage is not exactly suitable for the bigger eaters and you can say the portions are on the smaller side. However the bread is refillable and with the basil and parsley dipping, I was happily filling myself up. 

The lunch menu is a standard 3 course meal with 2 options for entree, main and desserts unless you have specific dietary requirements. It changes every week so you can happily go back time and time and find new dishes too. 

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The first course was a quail, foie gras, truffle and mushroom dish. Everything was beautifully cooked on the plate but a tiny bit of jus would have tied everything nicely. Of course, who will complain if given a bigger piece of foie gras?

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Judging from the above piece of steak, you will know what I mean when I first said Sage is not exactly the place for big eaters. I reckon the steak could not have weighed more than 150 grams. However, beautifully cooked and the anchovy butter was the icing on the cake. Accompanied with mash so smooth that it melts in your mouth and the red wine jus, there can be no better start to the day. 

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My memory is obviously failing me at this point because apart from jelly, peach vanilla ice cream and a wafer, I can't seem to link it all up. That being said, the choice of a poached fruit means you finish the meal off without feeling like you have put on a 100 pounds and head back to office snoozing. 

Address and contact details:

Sage Restaurant
The Gardens Residences
6th Floor, The Gardens
Mid Valley City
Lingkaran Syed Putra
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel No: 03- 2268 1188
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Once upon a time, Lafite was like the grand daddy of fine dining but having been away from KL for a year, I am pretty sure Lafite is now only one of the many places around. The lunch menu here is slightly more interesting. You have a choice of having a buffet of starters, a main and a dessert or a fixed set of 3 course or 4 courses. Prices start from RM80-90++. I was starving and decided for the full monty, the four course. 


Each course has 3-4 options including a vegetarian so you can mix and match. 

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If only I can stuff myself silly with everything but this time around I had a piece here and there but most of the breads on the plate was pretty good with the home made butter (if I recall correctly had figs in it). 

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The first course was seared scallops on a bed of passion fruit sauce that wasn't too sweet but paired well with the seafood. 

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This I remember slightly better, the beef broth was magnificent. Clear but packed with so much flavour, this is the kind of stuff I want to cook but I cannot imagine the amount of beef bones and time required to cook this. Served with another scallop which I didn't mind and a quail egg. 

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The lamb was delicious as well, cooked to a pink centre and compared to Sage, the portions are clearly more generous. I believe it came with some fried croquettes and whats there not to be like about fried items unless you are a health freak. 

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Dessert was an interpretation of something black forrest and sounded like the best option amongst the lot but it turned out to be well, normal. The sponge wasn't exactly very moist eventhough the mousse was delicious. I felt like the components was better off eaten separately and wasn't very cohesive. 

Overall another brilliant lunch, if you have the money to spare or a friend who has the Prestige card.

Address and contact details:

11 Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia 
(60 3) 2074 3900

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Toast & Roast @ SS2, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Over 4 days and 1700+ km, we finally reached Melbourne and where do I even start? 

Do I talk about the brilliant stay back in Malaysia, the journey that took us to Coffs Harbour, Sydney and Wangaratta or how my short pants look out of place in Melbourne? 

All that being said, we are now on our second day of house hunting and hopefully this doesn't take too much longer. We hope we will finally be able to settle down, our furniture to reach here in one piece, my wife will finally get the job offer that she has been waiting for since Christmas, my work starts and for life to go on. 

Meanwhile in the midst of sorting out applications and inspections, I thought before offices open and agents pick up their phones, I should do what I am meant to do best; food blogging.

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On my very last day, I met up with 2 other food bloggers to catch up over lunch (you can never say no especially when there is a promise of good food). It was a good opportunity to test out the new lens that I have been dying for in the last year or so.


When it comes to char siew (barbecued pork, as some might call it), the undisputed king in my books is Meng Kee. However with that big title , comments like cocky, expensive and inconsistent has surfaced in the year that I have been away and sadly the takeaway char siew rice I tasted straight off the plane was below par.


So where do people go for good char siew, you ask? Don't fret because they are plenty out there who serves a pretty mean version. Try Toast and Roast.
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If you want to sin, sin all the way and that means ordering the "pun fei sau" version. The cuts of meat reveals a clear half fat and meat proportion and with the sticky glaze sans all the charred bits that will sent you to bottom of the earth, this was a pretty damn good bbq pork. If I was not wearing my tight jeans, I would have ordered another portion to share.

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Char siew aside, their side dishes is not to be disregarded and I found the green pork curry to be fantastic as well. I found this packed with flavour which means either I have been eating too much watered down versions in Australia or they definitely put in that bit extra. 


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In true asian spirit, one can't eat all the above without some form of noodle or rice. Toast and Roast serves out a pretty al dente Hakka Mee with some minced pork and pork lard. Well worth the calories even if it means walking everywhere I go and eating half portions in Australia. 

If that's not enough, the fried dumplings are pretty good and wash it all off with their lemongrass drink. Awesome.

So was the lunch worth coming for? Yes! 


Address and contact details:


No.20, Jalan SS2/72
Petaling Jaya
Selangor 
016-6822249


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Definitely a place to keep in mind!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Update on the Road Trip

1500km done and 250km to go, Lots of Cravings is almost reaching Melbourne, stay tune!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heading back home or leaving home?

Hi Guys and girls


After a whirlwind holiday 17 days long, we find ourselves sitting at Starbucks, waiting for a flight to Singapore and then finally back to Australia.


It dawned upon me that I can't decide whether this trip back is one that is heading back home or leaving home. The definition of home over the last 18 months has definitely blurred into something grey and fuzzy.


I guess there's no doubt that I have missed Malaysia and the speed I transited back into KL has been almost instant. The swearing on the roads, the crazy drivers, traffic at the weirdest hours, the hot and sticky weather has bought the best out in me.


Have I missed Australia during the time away? I think I have and I guess it's time to start a new home.