Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SEA WORLD WHALE WATCH, GOLD COAST

On our second last day in Gold Coast, Hubby and I decided to take it easy by going for a cruise to witness the yearly migration (late May until November) of whales from the Antarctic to the warm Australian water to give birth before returning to the Antarctic again. There are a number of whale watching cruise operators in Gold Coast but we chose to go with the one operated by Sea World. The Sea World Whale Watch is situated right next to Seaworld itself, and I do believe that it is cheaper when you get the combo entrance fee.
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Tour departs twice daily from June to November, with the early morning cruise departing at 7 a.m. and returning at 10.00 a.m. and the mid-morning cruise from 11.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m. Booking is required. I do recommend to go for the early morning cruise not only to avoid the hot glaring sunlight but you get to maximise your day by visiting SeaWorld after the cruise. Seaworld Terminal is just right next to Seaworld itself.
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We got up very early as we were required to be present at least 30 minutes before tour departs. There is a small cafe at the terminal and of course, what could beat a warm cup of frothy latte and freshly toasted bacon and cheese sandwich? All for AUD10!
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We were really impressed with the brandnew vessel. Sparkling clean with spacious white leather seats. There are two levels, each fitted with a large LCD screen and before we reached the open sea, we were briefed on marine wildlife through their 3D animation presentations.
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There are three levels of open viewing platforms so there is ample space for all of us to move around. While I was busy taking photos, I heard some lady screaming at the front deck, turned out that they spotted some dolphins. By the time I ran down to the front deck, I couldn't see a single thing. Sniff...I just don't have such luck!
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After the dolphin incident, we kept our eyes WIDE opened!
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Once in the open sea, we were tasked to concentrate to lookout for whales. Once spotted, we have to shout out loud the exact location by using the clock system, e.g. 12 o'clock means straight in front.
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We were actually looking for this!!! Yes, the blow of a whale; a cloud of spray that appears as the air is exhaled through the blowhole.
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Whales travel in groups, hence if you spotted one, you will see more of them coming up to the surface later. The whales that we were looking for were Humpback Whales. They are the 5th largest animal on the planet, growing up to 18 metres in length and weighing as much as 45,000kg - as big as a total of 11 elephants or 500 people!
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We get so excited each time they surface but unfortunately it only lasted less than half a minute each time. The moment you see the tail flipped upwards, that means the whales is going for a long deep dive. We were clueless when and in which direction it will resurface again so we have to continuously be alert. Anyway, I don't know what is the commotion about but everyone seemed to be so anxious to get a good picture of the tail. It was difficult cos they moved really quickly but gracefully. I had my camera on and ready at all time. I was worried that I would run out of battery before end of the cruise, just like ahem, what happened to Lyrical Lemongrass. Her camera was dead during her whale watching cruise (it was a separate cruise) and so she ended up with no picture to post and drew one up instead.

picture courtesy of Lyrical Lemongrass...(sista, lurve your drawing, really!)
















And here is the real thing, a picture of the tail everyone was dying for!

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It was great fun as we spotted a few groups of Humpback whales. The male Humpback Whales sings too! The vessel engine was turned off and the underwater microphone (I have no idea what it was called) was turned on so that we can listen to it. I couldn't hear a single thing but Hubby claimed he heard something.
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It was great fun and experience but definitely needs a lot of concentration. So much so, I was concentrating too hard while swaying along with the waves, I ended up sea sick at the end of the trip. So back inside I went to rest and with such comfortable seat, I was up and running in no time.
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Pretty windy and chilling if you go in the morning, so do remember to wear something warm!

Monday, October 27, 2008

AND THE ANSWER IS....

First of all, a big thank you to those who left me a comment in my previous post "Take a Guess". I had fun reading the answers especially WorldWindows who guessed it was pinenut tree!

I will now reveal the answer...ready??? Drums rolling.......and the answer is..... ASPARAGUS!! There are a few who guessed correctly, clap clap clap! It doesn't look anything like asparagus isn't it? I am seriously doubting if they have mixed up the seedlings as it does look like herbs. Anyway, I do hope my baby asparagus will grow up well and hopefully, I can share with you on how I am going to cook it!
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I am taking the opportunity here to wish all Hindus a very Happy Deepavali!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TAKE A GUESS?

I am feeling extremely lazy this week and definitely not in the mood to do a long post. I tried but my mind is just too tired after braving through the horrendous traffic to attend a symposium in downtown KL for the first two days of this working week. I need time to recover and I vowed to never ever get myself a job in the city centre, never ever!

This would be the last post of the week. A photo of a healty plant currently growing very well in my garden. I never thought it would grow in our tropical climate. Of course, I must acknowledge Hubby's effort cos he is the official gardener of our home sweet home. "Bravo Hubby, I promise I will let you have the honour to harvest the first plant!"

So, anyone want to guess what this plant is?
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I hope it will grow well so that I can take a picture of this plant when it matures!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PEA's 6 TREASURES PUMPKIN RICE

How can I not participate in the Weekend Wokking when I was given the priviledge to choose the secret ingredient for this month? I was torn between choosing SnowPea and Pumpkin, yes yes, both are the name of my two precious Princes, but finally I chose Pumpkin because it is more versatile and you can create savoury and sweet dishes from it. I seriously do not think one can make dessert out of Snow Peas!

My mum never cook Pumpkin cos she didn't like the sweet taste of it. I had my first taste of Pumpkin at the age of 19 when my bro-in-law roasted it together with some lamb shanks, and from then on, I do the same too!

Anyway, without any recipe to follow, I did something really brave. I came up with this 6-Treasure Pumpkin Rice based on my imagination. Why 6 and not 8-treasure? Well, I could only think of 6 key ingredients to make this dish, and simply adding in 2 more in which Hubby suggested salted fish and abalone (!!!!) would kill the taste.

The ingredients are:
(serves approximately 5 rice bowls)
1 1/2 cup rice (wash and drain)
150 gram Pumpkin (cut into small cubes)
2 tbs Dried Shrimp (soak, drain and coarsely chopped)
1 pcs of Chinese sausage (cut into small cubes)
6 slices of Roast Duck meat (sliced finely with skin intact)
1 tbs Garlic and Shallots (finely chopped)
3 pieces Dried Shitake Mushroom (soften and cut into cubes)

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Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Put in the mushrooms, pumpkin and the chopped garlic and shallots and stir-fry it using medium fire.
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When the wonderful aroma fills the air, put in the washed rice and give it a good stir. Add in 1 teaspoon of salt and a few dash of fish sauce (optional). Becareful not to add in too much salt as the dried shrimp and chinese sausage are salty.
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Transfer the rice into your rice cooker. The amount of water would be the same as the amount you cook your white rice. For me, I used about 2 cup of water.
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For the dried shrimp and chinese sausage, I did not add it into the rice to cook it together. Simply because I don't like my chinese sausage soft and tasteless, and same goes for the dried shrimp too. I want the flavour to remain as I bite into it, hence I sauteed it using a little bit of oil and put it aside. When you see bubbles forming, off the fire and wait for the rice to be cooked.
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Once the rice is cooked and you hear the switch turn off from 'cook' to 'warm', immediately put in the sliced roast duck, chinese sausage and dried shrimp into the rice cooker. Close the lid, off the switch and wait for 5 minutes for the flavour of the ingredients to release into the rice.
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Give it a good stir but gently! I was too rough and some of the pumpkin cubes ended up mashed! Best eaten warm and I sprinkled it with extra fragrant spring onions. Why extra fragrant? Cos it was homegrown using shallots.
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The colour was enough to appease the eyes. The flavour of each ingredients blended so well too. I know self-praise is no praise at all, but I was really proud of myself. Hubby and Dad loved it so much and polished off everything in the rice cooker. 9

Do try out my recipe as it is so easy to cook. You can play around with the mixing and matching of ingredients and do tell me if you discover any nice combo!

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If you wish to participate in the Weekend Wokking, do send your yummy Pumpkin dish to the host for November, Ning of
Heart and Hearth. Round-up is on Wednesday, November 5. So, please send your entry by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, November 2 to heartandhearth_blog (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

AIRASIA X - Low Cost Long Haul Airlines

I promised in one of my earlier Gold Coast post that I would do a separate post to share on my experience with AirAsia X as well as some tips to save money. I almost forgotten about it when friends and a colleague asked me what happened to the post. So here I am, searching and digging for the photos I took during my first flight with AirAsia X. For those who are not familiar, AirAsia X is an extension of AirAsia that serves the long haul segment; places more than 4 hours flying time from departing city.

When you purchase your tickets, the price indicated is only based on the value of your ticket as
well as the airport taxes and fuel surcharge. But once you fill up your details, you will be given an option to pre-book your meals, check-in baggage and pre-assigned seat.

Tips #1 DO PREBOOK YOUR MEALS
A pr
ebook meal costs RM20 and you can choose either Malaysian, International, Vegetarian or Kid's meal. If you purchase it onboard, it would cost you RM25. But this is only applicable to the 4 types of meal I mentioned earlier. They still have the usual stuff like cup noodle, cup porridge, sandwiches and etc but I noted that for the same items they sell in AirAsia flight, the price in AirAsia X is more expensive.
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Hubby and I ordered the Malaysian meal; Nasi Lemak and it came with a bottle of mineral water. The Pak Nasser Nasi Lemak that we had from our flight departing Kuala Lumpur was not too bad. Portion was huge and it came with fluffy piping hot coconut rice, sambal, chicken satay cubes, rendang chicken, cucumber, boiled egg and acar (Malay pickled salad). Peanuts and ikan bilis (anchovies) were served in a different container. Good move as when the rice is heated up, the peanut and ikan bilis would not lose its crispiness and crunchiness as compared to dumping it into the rice together. Now perhaps they should separate the cucumbers too as I find eating hot cucumber odd.
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On my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I was looking forward to my nasi lemak breakfast as we didn't have a chance to have any at the airport. However, I was so upset and disappointed with the nasi lemak, so upset until I forgot to take a picture. Anyway, it was unforgettable cos it was the worse nasi lemak I ever had in my life. Rice was soggy and the sambal tasted like Capsicum+Tomato+Onion Salsa. It was sour and bland, I wonder if the chef forgot to put any salt in it. And the chicken rendang, of well, I won't dwell further cos I knew definitely that was supplied from the caterer in Gold Coast. I had a few spoonful and ended up ordering MSG-laden Cup Porridge to warm my tummy. Same goes for Hubby too. I came back and made a complain to AirAsia and true enough, the nasi lemak was supplied by Aussie caterers. Gosh, I thought that was not a good excuse cos at least they have to ensure some quality in the food. Anyway, the staff advised me to try the western meal as the roast chicken and pasta are pretty good. I will let you know if that is true after my trip to Melbourne next year.

Tips #2 DO NOT PRE-ASSIGNED YOUR SEAT
I admit it was my fault for not reading the prints correctly when I booked. The only thing I don't like about AirAsia is their 'free-seating' concept which resulted in
many people cutting queue during boarding. I thought AirAsia X was the same and so I ended up choosing the pre-assigned seat option by paying extra RM20 per person per way. So in total, we paid RM80 for having our seats pre-assigned. I only found out from Lyrical Lemongrass, who were on the same flight as I was, that she have been allocated a seat although she didn't pay for it. Later I found out that all seats are allocated upon checking-in. Unless you really have a seat that you are particularly fond of or you have preference for window seat (I do believe you can request when you check-in), then go ahead and pre-book it. Otherwise, save your RM20 to have a hearty meal when you reach your destination.

Tips # 3 DO PRE-BOOK YOUR CHECKED BAGGAGE ONLINE
You pay for what you carry: 15kg for RM20, 20 kg at RM50 or 25 kg at RM100. Not sure how much to choose? Choose the lowest as you can always top up later!

In-Flight Entertainment
As for inflight entertainment, sadly, the answer is none. They don't have movies or games to entertain througout the 8 hours flight. Luckily I was fully equipped with MP3, GameBoy and 2 issues of Reader's Digest. Hubby had an even more brilliant idea. He brought along his laptop to watch DVDs but only found out later that his battery could not last 8 hours! LOL! Actually need not worry, they do have in-flight ePlayer for rental. It is a portable player with latest Hollywood movies and series. For RM35, I guess pretty reasonable price to pay to kill time.
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Good news is that coming November 2008, AirAsiaX will be getting 25 new aircrafts and guess what?? It will be equipped with in-flight entertainment powered by Thales where we can watch and control a movie. Does it mean we can pause the movie for toilet break just like those in Malaysia's national carrier???? I do hope we will get personal screen in front of our seat as illustrated in their brochure.
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During our dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Gold Coast, the Italian owner came over to have a chat with us. When he learnt that we were holidaying Malaysians, he grew all excited and the first word he uttered was "AirAsia"! He was excited cos he told us it was advertised in their local paper that the airticket from GoldCoast to London via KL would only costs AUD1,000 when the route commence in 2009. He said at the current rate of AUD3,000 per ticket, it is rather difficult for him to visit his home country. So I guess it is true that AirAsia X is as "CHEAP AS CHOPSTICKS"!! The billboard below is taken outside Gold Coast airport.
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If you ask me for one brand that do Malaysians proud, I would say definitely AIRASIA!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

KUAI LOK HIAN RESTAURANT @ Pulau Ketam (Part II)

Continuing from Part I of my Pulau Ketam excursion, the second part is entirely a review on our seafood lunch. Before the trip, I did a bit of research among food blogs but sadly, I only found a few of not-so-good reviews. Finally I found one place that is worth trying, Kuai Lok Hian Restaurant which is located right in front of the jetty; the best-looking, airest and cleanest restaurant I find in the island.
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The only two reviews I found on this restaurant was pretty good; cheap, reasonable and tasty. Another bonus point would be their 8-Treasure Crab which was featured in a local food program "Ho Chak". Of course, I was very interested with their 8-Treasure Crab. Pre-order is required but even when I called two days earlier, upon seated I was told that they couldn't find any nice crabs that day, so no 8-Treasure Crab for us.
Sniff! I thought Pulau Ketam is full of crabs??!!

Upon the waitress recommendations, we ordered locally made fish balls (RM10) served in salty water, oppss, I mean salted veggie soup. I like the fish balls, sweet with the presence of real fish meat taste. It was slightly on the softer side, which is good. It means no preservative to make it bounce. As for the soup, the chef should be reminded to soak the salted veggie before served. Very very salty and sour! Nevertheless I still finished off the soup and drown myself with lots of Chinese tea later.
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When you are at a fishing village in which the population consists of mainly Hokkiens and Teochews, and you are told at a CHINESE seafood restaurant that their signature dish is Sizzling Prawns (RM20)...what do you think of? Definitely not Indian curry right? Well...tada...4 of us were shocked when this dish was laid on our table. The prawns were so fresh and sweet, why on earth did they spoil it that way? The gravy was not at all fantastic. Very thick, overpowering Indian curry powdery taste.

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Crabs! This dish was ordered to appease me cos I was the only one in the Gang that whack crabs like no tomorrow. I chose Kam Heong style (RM 28) but it was a very big mistake. I always said steamed crab is the best but since I can do it at home, when dining out I chose the style which is more complicated to make. Their Kam Heong style is very different. Lots of dried chillies, finely minced garlic and curry leaves were used. I suspect they stirfry the dried chillies to extract the oil. It was fiery hot and the minced garlic were burnt! So it was spicy, bitter and savourish. The crab itself was good; meaty and sweet. Ahh...I felt sad for the crab. P9280877

The meal was saved by this beauty! Steamed White Pomfret Teochew (RM24) style. I don't like Pomfret because of its fishy taste but this fish was so fresh, no fishy taste at all. Steamed to perfection and the gravy was good till the last drop! Yummy!
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When my Makan Gang ordered clams (RM 13), the lady boss recommended their special family recipe. Of course hearing that, we await with anticipation. We should be laughing at ourself for not learning from our mistake with the 'signature' prawns as the 'special family recipe' turned out to be dark soy gravy with dried chilies. I wouldn't even call it Kung Po with the non-existence of vinegar. Now I wonder who in their family passed this recipe down to them. Only credit was the cooked-to-perfection clams!

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Last dish saved the day too. Braised Fish Maws (RM38) with prawns and veggies. This was the most expensive dish we had that day, we were stressed on the price upon order. The fish maws were tasty especially when it absorbed the sweetness of the gravy. I was told by my Makan Gang that the fish maw we had were of good quality.
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Total bill including tea and fresh coconut for 4 came up to RM154.40. I expected the meal to be cheaper, well cos for 2/3 of that price, we can get much tastier seafood in Kuala Selangor.

Anyway, don't think there is a need to post up the address here as one would never miss this restaurant at the jetty unless you are airflown to Pulau Ketam. If you are interested to try the 8-Treasure Crab, do try your luck by calling 03-3110 4885 and ask for the price first!

Friday, October 10, 2008

CHARIS SEAFOOD @ Labrador, Gold Coast

Initially, I planned to post the second part of my Pulau Ketam trip today. However, Food Cookies told me that she will be flying off to Gold Coast on Monday (lucky you, AUD dropped so much, hope you managed to change at a good rate) and I did promise her that there are few places that I would like to recommend to her. Since I would not be able to post all now, there is one that I would highly recommend especially to seafood lovers.

Charis Seafood is the biggest seafood outlet in Gold Coast located at Harley Park, Labrador and this place is far much larger than the Peter's Fish Market that I posted earlier. Do note that Labrador is a very nice suburb and there are few other good eateries here too, yet to try though.
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Apparently, Charis was the winner of the Best Fish & Chips in Queensland Award in year 2001. No wonder there was such a long queue at the counter.
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I was more interested in their fresh seafood being displayed. So much more variety than Peter's. I get very excited each time I visit seafood market and how I wish I have a big wok to steam them.
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As usual, most of the shellfish such as lobsters, prawns and Moreton Bay bugs were already pre-boiled. Good thing is that you can order and eat on the spot. Bad thing is, most likely you will be disappointed with the taste. Not cheap too so we decided not to take any chances. I was eyeing the scallops and wonder if they could cook it for us. Sadly, we were told that it's only for take-away. Ahh..if only our apartment equipped with big wok, then I cook steam it with garlic!
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A huge variety of fishes too, most I have not seen or heard before like Sweetlip (like nickname for your sweetheart hor?), Bonito (related to bonito flake?), Flake..just to name a few. Good news is that, fresh fish are the only item that they could cook on the spot for you, either grilled or deep-fried. I am not a fish fan, so I decided to go for something which I have tried before, Flounder! At times I do wonder why the cute colourful character in The Mermaid was named Flounder as the real thing is so ugly, greyish, flat with one sided face. 4

Ahhh...my favourite crabs!!! There were live and boiled mud crabs selling at the same price AUD44.90 per kg. If only I could put a ruler next to the crab. So huge, the shell itself is bigger than my face. No kidding!! Sadly, the photo that I took didn't justify the actual size of the crab. For once, I was not keen to try cos I am 100% sure I will swear throughout the meal.
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For those who are dining in, there are plenty of seats beside the shop. Al-fresco facing a beautiful lagoon behind called Ian Dipple Lagoon. It was a weekday and everyone was so relax, enjoying the breeze while enjoying their lunch. Bliss!
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Now, let's see what I had for lunch and please learn from my mistake okay? I ordered the Fisherman's Basket which came with a big piece of fish fillet, 2 prawn cutlets, 2 seafood 'crap' stick, 6 calamari rings and plenty of fries. Apart from the fish fillet which was thinly battered, sweet and juicy, the rest were forgettable. Fries turned soggy pretty fast too. And if you look closely at the calamari rings, the batter was soft and falling off. Not good. Again, no sauce given. A small container (smaller than KFC mashed potato round container) costs AUD1.70 (~RM5.00)!!! I noticed a group of elderly ladies at the next table, they brought their own bottle of ketchup! Learn from them, bring your own sauce!
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The grilled flounder saved the day. It was lightly seasoned with salt and grilled to perfection. Very fresh and the lemon brought out the sweetness of the fish! I ended up chewing all its bones. Can't remember the price as Hubby bought it while I was busy ordering salmon. But one thing for sure, this fish is cheaper than the Fish and Chips above. Unless you really love chips, do order fresh fish to be grilled or deepfried.
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Ahhh...beautiful oysters...if this was my last meal, I die with no regrets. We chose Tasmanian Oysters over the Sydney Rock Oysters. It was heavenly good especially when the sweet oyster essence slither down my throat. I am going to have two dozens myself on my next trip here. Strictly all for myself!!
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Sis and I were eyeing on the salmon after we spotted a Japanese guy having it while we walked in. Choose your preferred slice of fillet and you can ask them to cut it up at additional AUD5 per kg. This plate doesn't cost more than AUD10! Oh, they do have Japanese soy sauce and wasabi for sale but one problem, no plate or bowl was given for it.
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I quickly swallowed an oyster with the excuse of using the shell as a bowl, smart thinking eh? Salmon sashimi was really good! Fully packed with omega 3, it was buttery rich in flavour. Regret ordering the Fish and Chips. Should have used the money for this instead. So good so good so good!
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I wonder what got into our mind. The prawns at Peter's was a disappointment and again, we ordered the boiled tiger prawns here. Icy cold as expected and tough meat due to overcooked as expected, yet we still bought it. What were we thinking???? Anyway, lunch was wonderful despite the forgettable prawns and fish & chips.
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After the yummy seafood lunch, we went to the lagoon behind Charis to take a walk. The view was amazing. Crystal clear blue sea with clean super-fine sand against clear blue sky. My nephew couldn't control himself and luckily my sis brought along his bathing suit. And so, we ended up spending close to 2 hours here.
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Where else could you swim with pelicans? Don't worry, they mind their own business.
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Pelicans are everywhere even resting on a lamp post. Hubby and I spotted people fishing. I was so excited till I forget to take photos of it. People there are very friendly. A guy who were fishing with his girlfriend told us that there are not much to fish here, but he just fish for the sake of enjoying the view and passing time. Ahhh..my kind of lifestyle, I so wanna live here.
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I am totally in love with this place and my nephew agreed too!
"Psst, Nathan, are you willing to relocate to Gold Coast to be with Yiyeh and ShukShuk?"
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Do drop by Charis Seafood for great yummy seafood and superb views. Ohh..bring along your bathing suit ok? Very clean and dry toilet and shower area is available.

Charis Seafood is located at:
371 Marine Parade
Harley Park, Labrador
Gold Coast, Queensland,Australia
Opens everyday except Monday
For map, click HERE.


 

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