Best things in life are for free (sort of)

Sometimes last year was given some gift cards for buying wine from a popular liquor store by my sister, as she got it as a promotional item somewhere, and did not want to use it. I did not use it for quite some time, as I am not much of a drinker myself, am quite stingy when I buy wine once in a while, and the shop’s website seemed to show only expensive wines. When I eventually decided to buy any item anyway, I was about to press the ‘buy now’ button, when the “coupon” field attracted me. Hmm, can I find a coupon for this site. Turns out I could, and really easily too. Seems like a lot of sites are there where people have listed the coupon codes. I ended up buying 10 bottles at less than half the price (1 coupon code) and free delivery (another coupon code). Hujjah!!

 

After that, I recently saved my friend 15% on a flight that was not listed in the airline’s website, and was more a deal emailed to subscribers of that airline. I saved on some online courses I was trying to read. So now, I frequent the coupons website like https://www.ozbargain.com.au/ whenever I go to buy something online.  I even check if there is any in-store coupon for any item I want to actually go to the shops to buy. So now I am a coupon addict. I wonder how I was living without it. I feel like not buying anything in the store if there is no coupon there…

 

I try to contribute too, but I find that other people are lot quicker than me in putting the deals I get emailed up in ozbargain 🙂 Not that I have time to update every time, but sometimes I feel like “giving back”, but am outrun. No biggie, at least people can access those deals and feel grateful. This is an excellent example of how internet has encouraged humanity, and I am humbled by it.  

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1-day trip to Canberra from Sydney – suggestions

Below is another suggestion that I created for a friend driving from Sydney to see Canberra, Australia’s capital city, and then driving back in 1 day. I personally love Canberra, as I have good memories of the place, and the city has a lot of places to visit that are free or almost free to visit, including the new and old Parliament House, quite a few museums, parks, lakes and mountains. The city area itself is nice and small, and you could include an hour or so to drive around and visit the shopping centre there if you like, but for me, I prefer to skip the city when I drive there from Sydney and back in a day, and so am there only a 6-7 hours. If you are OK to skip the city like me, I suggest you take packed lunch so you don’t have to drive back to the city to get your lunch (cheaper), or eat lunch at one of the attractions itself.
You can get more details on the suggested attractions and other details at http://www.visitcanberra.com.au
Suggestion for a 1-day trip to Canberra:
Leave early. It takes about 3.5 to 4 hours from Sydney, depending on how often/long you stop on the way of course. All the attractions below should show up in the GPS as tourist attractions in Canberra.
Canberra
  1. Suggest you make Parliament house your first stop.
    1. Address: Capital Hill, Canberra
    2. Free Entry, Open till 5pm
    3. Will take around an hour or so to go around.
  2.  National Museum of Australia
    1. Free Entry, Open till 5pm
    2. Address:  Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra ACT 2601.
    3. Interactive Attractions: Circa (rotating theatre), KSapce (lets you design your 3D house/vehicle, and then view it in a 3D theatre – fun for kids)
    4. Can also have lunch here if not taking packed lunch (see for example their weekend menu here: http://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/396881/Winter_menu_weekends_and_PH.pdf
  3. Lunch near Lake Burley Griffin. The park with the best view to the lake is Commonwealth Park. There is a nice big fountain in the middle of the lake, and is nice to sit and watch while you eat your packed lunch. If you have spare time, you can also do some paddle boat/kayak hire at the lake (see http://www.visitcanberra.com.au/Getting-here-and-around/On-the-water/Business-Details-Page.aspx?ID=9000757&Title=Lake+Burley+Griffin+Boat+Hire) Or just spend a few minutes there. If not hiring a boat, this attraction could also be done after 5pm after the War Memorial closes.
  4. Australian War Memorial
    1. Address: Treloar Crescent (top of ANZAC Parade), Campbell ACT 2612
    2. Free entry, Open till 5pm
    3. Suggest to spend as much time as you want here.
  5. Telstra tower (Black mountain tower) or Mt Ainslie Lookout (or both if you have time)

Since most of the other attractions close at 5pm, suggest you visit either Telstra tower or Mt Ainslie to view the city from a height. Both are about 10-15mins drive from the war memorial.

Telstra tower details

    1. Address:Black Mountain Drive, Acton ACT 2601
    2. Open till 10pm
    3. 360 degree view of Canberra
    4. Entry fees about $8 per adult, and about $3 concession
    5. Can relax and have some coffee at the cafe there

Mt Ainslie Lookout details

    1. Address: Mount Ainslie Drive, Ainslie ACT 2602
    2. Its a lookout, so free to visit anytime
That’s it. We have been able to do all 6 in the same one-day trip before, but then my husband knew exactly where to drive to and how, so we saved time there.  You should be able to do at least 3 or 4, depending on when you reach there, and how long the days are (the sun should set around 8pm in the middle of summer and around 5pm in the middle of winter.
Have fun!

New Zealand trip suggestion

This was an itinerary that I suggested to a friend of mine today who is planning to visit New Zealand with her parents and son from Sydney for about a week. Putting it out here in case someone else finds it useful.

Note, this is for someone who will be travelling the country for about a week, entirely using public transport, and do not intend to take part in any challenging sporting activities. If you can drive, and even take part in skiing or other activities like bungy jumping or balloon riding, I highly encourage you to do so. New Zealand is just beautiful so try to be there for longer trip if you can. But for someone short on time, I think my suggestions work.

South Island

 

Main highlights:

1. Helicopter flights to top of any mountains (Mt. Cook/Fox Glacier)

2. Milford sound lake cruise

3. Lots of lakes on the way

 

OPTION 1:

1. Land at Christchurch, and stay overnight.

2. Take a trip to Queenstown

http://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-zealand-tour-destinations/mount-cook-and-queenstown/christchurch-to-queenstown-via-mount-cook-bus-tours/

Take a helicopter ride to top of Mt Cook during the trip. The trip says you can organize with them for the helicopter. Otherwise, look athttp://www.viator.com/tours/Mount-Cook/Mount-Cook-Alpine-Explorer-Helicopter-Flight/d405-3434MON_HLC3

3. Stay at Queenstown for 2 nights

4. Go on a Milford Sound cruise

http://www.intercity.co.nz/bus-to-milford-sound/

There is a really nice lake, recommended to travel there and take the cruise. The tours usually include the cruise in the lake.

Intercity sometimes has $1 fares to some of the destinations if you book early  🙂

5. Fly to Auckland from Queenstown the next day.

OPTION 2:

1.  Fly to  Christchurch, and stay overnight

There isn’t anything specific to see here, just a nice small NZ town, but a good starting point

2. Travel to Fox Glacier

(all trips start really early in the morning, hence need to stay overnight for 1)

Option 1:

1.       TRANSALPINE scenic rail to travel from Christchurch to Greymonth  – nice train ride http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz/tranzalpine/   Around $200 NZ pp

2.        Greymonth to Fox Glacier – via bus http://www.intercity.co.nz

Option 2:

Go directly to Fox Glacier via bus: www.atomictravel.co.nz

3.  Stay at Fox Glacier

4. Fox glacier helicopter flight

highly recommended, starting at around $200 per person

check http://www.viator.com/franz-josef-and-fox-glacier-tours/Air-Helicopter-and-Balloon-Tours/d757-g1?pref=02&aid=g2655 or similar sites

5. Travel to Queenstown via bus

6. Stay at Queenstown for three nights

7. Queenstown to Milford sound day tour:

take bus tours like ones here: http://www.intercity.co.nz/bus-to-milford-sound/

There is a really nice lake, recommended to travel there and take the cruise. The tours usually include the cruise in the lake.

8. Fly to Auckland  the next morning

 

NORTH ISLAND

Highlights:

1.       Natural caves

2.       Natural hot water springs at Rotarua

3.       Hobbits village as was shown in Lord of the Rings

4.       Lot of nice view on the way

5.       Auckland and Wellington are nice cities, but are like any other cities in Australia, and are not really the highlight of NZ if you are mostly into nature in my opinion. You can spend a few hours going around Auckland and Wellington though.

Take some tours from Auckland:

http://www.greatsights.co.nz/filter/departs-auckland

see http://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-zealand-tour-destinations/waitomo-caves/waitomo-rotorua-experience/

or

http://www.greatsights.co.nz/new-zealand-tour-destinations/hobbiton-movie-set-tours/auckland-to-rotorua-incl-waitomo-caves-hobbiton-and-lunch/

I would personally take the tour to the caves and the hobbits place, and spend the night at Rotarua,  and enjoy some time soaking in the hot water the next day, it’s quite nice.

You could then travel back to Auckland, or travel towards Wellington, to fly back to Aus.

Again, intercity bus has a trip available for this trip http://www.intercity.co.nz

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The above image shows most of the places I mentioned, just to give you an idea and was taken from http://www.newzealandcoachtours.co.nz/mapindex.php

When I travel overseas, I usually use Expedia (http://www.expedia.com.au/) to find me the best flights and even hotels.

Life can be overwhelming sometimes. So many choices to make, so many lessons to learn, so many yearnings to yearn…

You fight for what you think is right. Or you fight because there is no other way out.

You don’t give up, because you just cannot imagine defeat. Or you give in because it just feels right.

Whatever you try to do, life always pushes you to the limit, but then always gives you the strength to pick up the pieces. Sometimes it feels like you are not going to make it, but you remember that there is always a silver lining and so you push forward.  You finally pull through and then you celebrate. You not only celebrate the victory, but celebrate life: you celebrate the good times and the bad…

Daily Prompt: Celebrate Good Times

Inspired by a few blogs about people fighting through various health complications that I came across this week. I won’t link them here, but you all will be in my thoughts…

Daily Prompt: Celebrate Good Times

Living without facebook

So I am now on a “no facebook” diet. My husband laughs each time I say “I DID NOT stop checking facebook because I did not like the social obligation it had become”. I get angry each time he laughs, because I know he is right, and I am lying with that statement. Because facebook HAS become an obligation to people like me, who hang out in facebook often. For example, here is a hypothetical scenario that I think we all can relate to, although the specifics may be different for you and me: 

You see heaps of your friends wishing a common friend on her birthday in FB, and you join the herd, even though you forget about her the second you press ‘Post’. This is because she is someone you haven’t talked to (or about) for more than a decade. You have moved to a new country in that decade, but you have found out (through facebook of course) that she now is in your city.  You even know exactly where she lives (not too far away from someplace you visit often), but you never feel like dropping by or contacting to say hi. But you know exactly what this person has done in the last year or two. She’s landed a job (looks like a nice big salary boost, as she now flaunts those snazzy handbags and dresses that turns you green), has a (very!) handsome husband, and has just completed her family with a chubby kid, while you struggled to find a job or a guy that kept you happy (and financially stable). Of course, all this info was thanks to facebook. You also know that she knows you are in the same city too (you post your photos in front of Vivid Sydney in front of the Opera house every year anyway!), but she hasn’t tried to contact you either. So you feel its OK to not want to contact her. But when everyone wishes her on her birthday, you feel obliged to post. Few words are not going to hurt you. But in reality, it does. It makes you fake. You actually felt more sincere about wishing the old couple in your morning jog with a ” Have a very nice day”, than when you posted this ‘wish’ for this friend. You felt more connected to those oldies. But never obliged.

Facebook is great actually. It lets me tell my mom, who is not very computer savvy, that I went to the beach last weekend and had loads of fun. It lets me know that my mom has grown a nice garden again this year (someone has to post the photos for her when they visit my parents), and I can see my sister’s son’s really cute dance (he has grown up so fast!) from miles away. I get updates about who I am close to, and also about what is happening back home (someone always posts that there was an earthquake, or a major celebration before I had a chance to talk to any of my family or friends there). But I found that I also spent a LOT of time looking at what ‘the rest’ are doing in their lives, how they are digging up their garden (or digging their cars out of snow, when we here in Sydney are dying in the sweltering heat), what they wore to their friend’s wedding or what they cooked for dinner. If that made me inspired to dig up my own garden, or get a fashion tip for myself, or gave me any positive motivation, then it was all great. But besides wasting my time (which I would have perhaps spent doing nothing anyway), more often than not, it gave me reasons to feel inadequate about what I have achieved so far, because others always seemed to do it better. Perhaps just the grass is greener on the other side syndrome, but unfortunately I haven’t made to the other side to compare. So now I was green about 100+ friends who didn’t matter in my world pre-facebook. Lets face it, most of them are not in my life (real life, not FB) now, because I chose them not to be. But now that I chose them to be in my virtual life, I still feel obliged to maintain the friendship? 

So, I decided to see how I go without FB. I have been clean two weeks so far. Don’t get me wrong. I go to facebook often when there are commercial facebook pages, or pages for specific purpose, like my local community’s facebook webpage to see what the current progress is. But I am getting some space for myself from what my ‘friend’ ate for their 10th anniversary dinner or what they decided to name the pup they have just adopted. I sound selfish, but at least I am not faking that I care by liking their post, or posting a well meaning message, when I know deep inside, I don’t really care, and have no reason to feel obliged. 

 

PS. They have predicted that FB will probably stop to exist soon anyway, so I am happy that I am already on the mend with my life without it…

Website inspirations #1

In the last couple of days, I have tried to dust off my rusty web design techniques, and tried to create a website for someone I know. The website is not complete yet (mostly the actual text contents, and SEO remaining mostly), but I wanted to list my inspirations here.

First of all, in the past, I always changed my design quite a few times after seeing other websites. It took me quite a while to decide on what the website would look like. This time, I searched for templates instead.  I finally settled for a template I found at Web Designer Depot. The template was actually a photoshop template, but I did not use the actual template, just the idea. I achieved a similar look and feel by just using css. The actual template and the ‘final’ product are at the end of the blog (you will still see some dummy text and images).  

Rest are a few good tips I used:

  • JQuery slideshow from here. I actually just used the slideshow, just replacing with my images, and required sizes
  • I tried the JQuery Menu from here, but finally decided against using it, as the template I was using was more simplistic than what this menu did.  Instead, I just used css to generate hover effects
  • CSS triangle for a submenu from here
  • Achieved rounded corners for div by using background color, and borders like so: .rounded {background:#555555; border: 2px solid #555555; border-radius: 5px; }
  • Aligned div side by side by using “overflow: hidden” in parent, and float in the child divs to be aligned, as suggested here. I found later that using “display:table-cell” in the parent div also achieves the same result, but did not quite work for me in a quick try, so I left to using float. 

Still under progress

  •  host the website in google while the acutal domain is being sorted out. A guide is present here. Currently I have the web uploaded, but there is still some google settings that is preventing the website from being shown, so working on that.  I installed Python 2.7, although a much later version was available. Also, I had to change the Preferences in the Google App Engine Launcher in order for it to recognize that Python was installed in the system!
  • make sure when I add the contents that the SEO tips are followed. Any good tips on that anyone? 

 

Actual template:

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Final Product:

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