Monday, July 18, 2016

Come For The Run, Stay For The Fun: Days 1-3

The Gold Coast is a place my wife and me simply love since our first visit in 2014. There is something about the place that I simply cannot explain that draws us back year after year. Which is why the moment I got confirmation of the marathon dates, plans for another trip this year were put into motion.

Dinner before the long flight
Our flight tickets and accommodation were booked way in advance, which got us a good deal. We decided to stay at the Sun Tower Holiday apartments again since we had a pleasant stay there last year. We made some changes to our arrival and departure times this year as opposed to last year. This year, we flew in a day before the race (which in hindsight may have been a bad call) and kept the holiday aspect of things for after the race. I wanted to get the race out of the way so that I could really enjoy the holiday after that.

I left the entire holiday planning to my wife. She's a whiz at researching and planning for holidays. She managed to dig up some interesting places for us to visit and planned it out nicely over the 5 full days we had for sightseeing. Me on the other hand was more interested in planning the kind of vain shots I would be taking at all these locations ... hahaha!

Can't wait to get started


Day One 

Our flight to the Gold Coast was pushed back by two hours from 9.00pm 11.55pm, which was damn annoying but no big deal seeing as how we'd arrive a little later than expected unlike last year where I lost an entire day due to the flight rescheduling. I'm watching you, Air Asia! We met up with Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby, Monica for a quick dinner, some team photo taking and then made our way for departure.

The flight was a difficult flight for me as I found it really hard to fall asleep in the small confines of my seats. It was toss here and there, doze on and off, all the while trying to find some form of a comfortable position. I swear, one of these days I'll fly premium! 

We arrived in Gold Coast around 10.30am, local time. Made our way quite fast through immigration and I went off to get my rental car. This year, both my wife and me weighed the option of renting a car for the duration of our stay against having to take an airport transfer to the apartment and also having to take a tour to the places we wanted to go. In the end we found it more economical and gave us a better handle of our time than having to be rushed around by a tour company. 

My cute little Getz for the duration of my stay

I was a little skeptical of the car rental cos I've read both good and bad reviews about this particular car rental company, Cut Price Car Rentals. Furthermore, their 'office' was located in a van in the secondary car park. I kept my fingers' crossed that my booking would have no issues and as fate would have it, everything was in order and I was in and out with my car in a matter of 10 minutes. The guy manning the office was warm and friendly and I got a nice, cute little yellow Hyundai Getz for my stay.

Just before leaving, I gave Choon Yuen a call to tell him that he could put both his and Yan Leng's luggage in my car since they were heading to the race expo and I wasn't. At least they wouldn't have to lug their bags all over the expo. I've been to the expo before and didn't intend to go this year to stop me from buying more stuff that I really didn't need over there. Jamie so kindly helped me with my race kit pick up.

An unplanned stop

My first experience driving in a foreign country was a little unnerving. I read up all the rules and regulations about driving in Australia and armed with some tips from Yvonne, I was as ready as I could be for my first drive in a foreign land. Remember, I'm from Malaysia and over here half the people don't follow any road rules whatsoever. My first agenda of the day was to look for a Petrol station, which is called a 'Service Station or Servo' in Australia. 

Even then, I was clueless as to how to fill up petrol at these servos. Were they serviced? Or were they self serviced? In the end, my wife and me ended up looking for the emptiest station and sheepishly tried figuring out how to fill up our tank. It turned out to be easy peasy. You just need to fill up, then walk in and pay in cash or card. Simple as that. You can't really blame me, I'm a clueless foreigner over there :P

I have no idea what I'm pointing at

Our first place of interest wasn't in our initial list but decided to do a detour since we had a lot of time to spare. It was this place called the Beree Badalla Boardwalk, a wetland reserve for mangrove trees, just a 10 minute drive from Coolangatta airport. The boardwalk is just beyond the Tarrabora Reserve right under the Currumbin bridge. It's about 2.4km out and back along the Currumbin Creek Estuary. You're given a stunning view through the mangroves and out over Currumbin Creek. Apparently when it's high tide, some sections of the boardwalk gives you the sensation of walking over water. Unfortunately it wasn't high tide when we were there but it did produce lots of vain shot opportunities for me!

The beautiful view, too bad it was low tide
The sun was a little biting this time around, it wasn't as cold as we expected it to be. Either that or we're getting used to the conditions here and becoming Aussies ... LOL! We spent quite a bit of time here since check-in was still a ways off. Once we were satisfied with our walk, we headed straight for Surfer's Paradise towards the apartment. By this time, I was settling down to driving in Gold Coast and things got a little less stressful, driving wise. It was a nice slow easy drive as we took in the view. Hunger was also slowly creeping up on us by this time. 

We reached Sun Tower Apartments an hour before check-in time. We parked our car at the outdoor carpark after speaking with the friendly manager who gave us permission to park there until it was check-in time where we could move the car inside the apartment. We headed to Woolworths, our favourite shopping place, to get some stuff for dinner and also find some food to eat. All I had in my mind was anything to do with bacon, I would be fine with it!

The spacious living area of our apartment 

Soon after, we headed back to check-in and settle ourselves into the apartment. We booked a beach front unit this time around and were treated to a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The apartment was as we expected it to be. Though it had slightly aged furniture, everything was clean and it was fully equipped with a kitchen, utensils and laundry and drying facilities. No complaints from us. Loved the place, especially the location which was just a short 5 minute walk to all the food places in Surfer's Paradise.

Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby dropped by to get their luggage and I drove them back to their respective accommodations before heading back for a short rest before the shakedown. I was seriously feeling lethargic due to the long flight and though excited about the shakedown, I wasn't really up to any running. Come 4.30pm, I joined the rest of the Malaysian contingent who were there for the run and after some photo taking sessions, we made our way for a short and easy run. Choon Yuen, Yan Leng, Jeanie, Yeehoo and me decided we'd just walk/run the shakedown cos most of us were still fatigued by the flight.

The very weird looking carvings on our bed ...

After the shakedown run, we all headed our own way and I was back at the apartment to start getting my gear laid out for the race the next day. I was being difficult with the wife about the race and even contemplated not turning up for it. I kept spewing out excuses after excuses to justify not turning up. But she knows me and my nonsense well enough and took the time to ease my mind about the race and soon enough the fire in me started up again. Yes, I was being and acting like a child! With that out of the way, it was a quick dinner of prepacked pasta with bacon (what else) and soon after it was lights off.

Sun Tower Apartments in the background

Day Two

With the wife not running the half this year, I didn't have to wake up as early as the previous years. I don't normally take breakfast before a run for fear of upsetting my stomach halfway through the race but this time I did. A first for me. My wife made me a nice ham sandwich and a mug of coffee cos it was a chilly and cold morning. Took my time eating it, and by 5.40 am I was out the door walking to the tram station nearby with a host of other runners. The tram arrived within minutes and after a short 10 minute ride, I was making my way towards the race venue. Caught up with the gang who were buying some hot coffee and we all headed to the pre-arrange meet up point. You can read how my race went over here.

Just before heading out in the cold to the tram station ...
Right after the race where everyone came in with incredible timing, I headed back home to meet the wife for lunch. I was famished and I'm guessing, so was she. But I was too tired to go out for lunch and wife was also too lazy to walk out. So we ate some of the stuff we bought yesterday and decided to wait for the potluck dinner later.

Jamie buzzed me and said we'd be meeting up with Mui Khim for coffee before our potluck dinner a little later at Yan Leng's apartment. I was happy cos I finally get the opportunity to meet Mui Khim in person seeing as how all the interactions we've had were mainly through Facebook. My wife said she'd meet up with me after the coffee meet at Woolworths so we could get some things later for the potluck. The gang were already at the Coffee Place in Surfer's Paradise by the time I got there and a little while later Mui Khim arrived. After a fun-filled coffee session talking about the race and what our plans for the rest of the week were, we parted ways and I went to meet my wife to get our share of the potluck which was ice-cream and headed off to Yan Leng's apartment for dinner.

Before race start

Dinner was a pot-luck affair between the gang. The food was great with Richi, Selin and Jeanie whipping up instant dishes of their own for us. Amidst mouthfuls of food and drinks, we traded war stories, starting plans for #GCAM17 and soon made our way back to our apartments not before planning for a short morning recovery run the next day. I was already feeling the fatigue of the long day.

Day Three

My chance at feeling like a millionaire for a little while

The day started with a short recovery run, well it was more of a recovery walk since everyone was basically walking in pain. A quick stop for coffee and we headed back. The wife and me decided to stay in as we had a complimentary cruise with the gang courtesy of Tourism Queensland in the early evening.

I could get used to this ...
Since Jamie was staying in the same apartment building as the wife and me, the three of us drove to Runaway Bay, the start location of the cruise. We met up with Choon Yuen, Yan Leng and hubby and Jeanie, hubby and son. It was my first time going for a boat cruise and I was a little apprehensive of the cruise. I'm afraid of water (since I can't swim) and being on a little boat in the middle of open waters was not my ideal setting for fun. But surprisingly the cruise ended up being an awesome experience.

Preparing the cheese and biscuits for the cruise

Darryl, the Captain of the boat was a very friendly chap and kept us all entertained throughout the cruise. I eventually got over my fear of being in open waters and started to really enjoy the ride. Darryl provided us with a variety of cheese selections and biscuits as snacks for the cruise and we brought along drinks and fruits for the cruise.

The cruise was expected to be approximately 2 hours out and back. It was a surreal experience and gave me a short taste of living life like a millionaire. The view was spectacular with the setting sun as we sailed along the many magnificent millionaire mansions lining the banks of the waters. As always, with the gang around clowning around was always on the menu. Let's not even start on the amount of vain shots we took during the entire cruise.

My 5 minute stint at being a Captain!

The cruise ended all too soon. I could stay out in the waters forever! We made our way out of the marina and went our own ways since we all had our own plans. I was craving for some home soupy kinda food and told the wife that we'd be having Vietnamese food for dinner. There was a nice little Vietnamese restaurant just a 5 minute walk away from the apartment which we ate in last year and after parking the car for the night, we headed there. Jamie said he might pop by too and went off to his family while the wife and me headed there.

The hot food was really a welcome after having the richer western food for the past few days. Jamie turned up and joined us before we all decided to call it a night. It's been a long day and there was an even longer day planned the next day. The past three days has been exceptional and made me long to just retire here in the Gold Coast!

The cruise was like a a scene right out of a holiday TV advertisement!

Days 4, 5 and 6 coming up as soon as I can find the time to write them ...

Some pictures courtesy of Jamie and Choon Yeun

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