Turning 24 and celebrating Christmas in Sydney


Sydney, Australia: I turn 24 and take on the ultimate big girl challenge – cooking Christmas dinner

I have Sharon back with me now, and all is good. After two weeks of intense househunting, we move into an unfurnished apartment in Randwick with Bernie, whom we met on Gumtree. Yes, he could have been a total creep, and yes, he actually is. But in a good way. Our flat is a two bedroom apartment right by the junction, a 15 minute walk to Coogee beach and 20 minutes by bus to Bondi Junction and the CBD. We pick up a new hobby: finding free stuff on the streets and dragging it all the way home. From bar stools to heavy coffee tables, we always find ourselves hungover on a hot day, trying to carry heavy stuff home.

First night in the new apartment

First night in the new apartment

Carrying a free coffee table from Coogee to Randwick

Carrying a free coffee table from Coogee to Randwick

We do pay for some things, though. Like we buy our beds in IKEA, which turns out to be a traumatizing experience for me, as a staff member starts verbally abusing me for bringing a prepaid item through the store. We spend an entire afternoon in Maroubra, visiting people who’ve put up their TV for sale, only to have our phones die on us, no idea of how to get home, and no TV – but we find a free foosball table, so it’s all good.

Bondi to Coogee walk

Glebe Market

Darling Harbour fireworks

Darling Harbour fireworks

Work is going well, although I will always have a love/hate for hospitality. One minute I am chatting to regular customers like they’re an old friend, another minute I’ll be insulted by someone because I don’t remember their name.

My 24th birthday is spent in the apartment with Bernie, who’s throwing things at me while I dodge them with a cricket bat we found outside – I wasn’t kidding about the finding free stuff hobby. We fill up water bottles with goon and mimosas and carry them to Coogee beach, along with some music and much needed sunscreen. A bit tipsy and way too hot, I go into the water, where a series of waves continuously knock me over and pull off my bikini until I finally am able to stand up and cover myself up and walk back to safety. We get back home and have a nap, and then a few Mildura people come over for drinks.

The last day at work before Christmas break, one of my regulars surprise me with a really thoughtful present – a note, a candy cane and my favorite chocolate (how does she know!?) and my life it pretty much made. Guess I’m not too bad at this job after all. Later that day, a couple of people from work meet up for few drinks that turn into way too many, and then I dominate at a game of Laser Tag at the Arcade. We go in the bumper cars and play a 3D zombie game and then head off to Scary Canary (yes, really) where I lose the crowd and is being chatted up by a very aggressive Aussie who thinks having a membership to the Randwick races is a proper pick up line. We move on to Star Bar (I think?) and then Macca’s for a late night snack. I’m home at like 3.30, so I would definitely call that progress, since I am usually dead at midnight.

I enjoy a couple of days of beachy weather, resulting in awkward tan lines, before the weather turns into proper Northern European Christmas weather. I go to see the Christmas light projections at St. Mary’s Cathedral with Craig, and we even go inside and light some candles and don’t even go up in flames. Guess I’m alright with God after all.

By the way, I love Vegemite now.

Santa at Darling Quarter

Santa at Darling Quarter


Now, I’ve taken on the ultimate big girl task: cooking traditional Christmas dinner for my room mates. Danish Christmas dinner, that is. If having me running around all the shops in Randwick looking for red cabbage and making cherry sauce from scratch THE DAY BEFORE Christmas isn’t grown-up enough for you, then get off my lawn. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself, pretty much having nightmares about not cooking the meat right.

I get up early on the 24th, MY actual Christmas, and FaceTime my mom’s side of the family. They’re all pretty drunk and cheery, and I have just woken up and put on a Santa hat. I watch some Christmas movies with Bernie throughout the day to get in the Christmas spirit, before I start cooking. Even though I face some challenges along the way, we have our Christmas dinner at around 8 o’clock (because Sharon had to work late), and it tastes pretty much exactly like it should. We have roast pork with crackling, caramelized potates, red cabbage, gravy made from scratch(!), rice pudding and cherry sauce. Well done, Christine.

The empty, wrapped present we found outside our house and put under our plastic Christmas tree.

Trying to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas

Our free cricket bat, foosball table, Christmas cards and some books.

Christmas cooking

It doesn’t look fancy, but it tasted like it was

Wife material

Wife material

I go to bed and pass out after eating a few Skittles, still wearing my clothes and make-up. I’m exhausted from cooking all day, and actually a bit grumpy. Christmas is stressful. I wake up early the next day to FaceTime my dad’s side of the family, still exhausted, but at least wearing make-up from yesterday. After a shower, a short nap and some getting ready, Sharon and I go down to Coogee beach with 7 ciders each, and no sunscreen.

We find a nice patch of grass among all the other backpackers wearing Santa hats. Note to self: not only remember sunscreen and possibly a tent for shade next time, get a Christmas tree and a BBQ as well. We are clearly not prepared for this. We just sit in the sun for hours, drinking ciders and talking crap, before we’re joined by Craig, Malin and her friend Hannah.

After 5 hours or so, we are sunburned and tired, so we go to Macca’s, which is the only place open for Christmas, and we eat our dinner on the way home. We bump into some guys that helped us carry our heavy coffee table home the other day, and wish we weren’t so sunburned that we could go back to the beach with them. Instead, we get home, where Bernie’s mom and little brother have arrived. We take cold showers, have a chat with them, and then go to bed around 10. We’ve survived our first Christmas away from home with just a minor heat stroke and an awful sunburn.

Back in Kuta


The white blisters on my hips are getting bigger. I am constantly ripping out burnt skin from my scalp. Being back in Kuta for a few days alone, I think I am going to stay indoors and let my skin consume unheard of amounts of aloe vera.

At least that was the plan. Pete and I arrive pretty late at the hostel, Kayun Downtown. I convinced him earlier to stay with me a couple of hours and get food, instead of going straight to the airport like 6 hours before his flight. I am stressing out, but the quesadilla supreme at The Balcony and a honey lemon juice at the bubble tea place that Pete is obsessed with, is making me feel better. We sit down in the TV room at the hostel and I put on 22 Jump Street. A few people join. Halfway through the movie, Pete gets in his taxi to the airport and I am alone again.

It starts to rain heavily, so much that it’s pointless to watch a movie. The people in the TV room start talking, but we can’t hear each other very well. German Pervert, or Tom as he is actually called, the Canadian guy Kyle I was rooming with at Gili Backpackers, and one of the English guys from last time I was in Kuta are all here. By the time the rain stops, we put on Taken 3 and make commentary about how Liam Neeson’s set of skills must involve being able to call from a pay phone without any coins, and how it’s actually the bagel that he brought over to his ex-wife that’s been taken by the cop who eats it at the crime scene. We have beer and find out that the TV can play karaoke, so Sophie from England asks reception for karaoke CD’s and brings back Katy Perry, Aviicii and Deep House. Confused, we put on Katy Perry. It’s just a normal CD. So we sit there, basically just listening to Katy Perry, singing along every now and then. While the rest try to get me to go to Skygarden, I am just dying to get a shower and some sleep.

The next day, I get up to cross the street and buy a yoghurt for breakfast. I eat quietly in the TV room when Sophie appears and asks me if I want to go to one of the temples I was talking about yesterday. We end up planning on going to Uluwatu to see the sunset, when the travel guide from the hostel interferes and tries to get us to come on a day trip to see two beaches and then the temple. Tom tells us about a party that happens at a nearby bar, Single Fin, every Sunday. Canadian guy, Kyle, wants to join too. So a group of us sets out to get some lunch at Fat Chows and then ask a taxi driver if he can match the (expensive) day trip we have been offered at Kayun.

At two o’clock, Sophie, Tom, Kyle and I get in a taxi that we have for the rest of the day for 400.000 IDR. First, we go to Padang Padang beach. It’s small, neat, and very crowded. I worry about my sunburn, but luckily I am not in too much pain. We stay there an hour, then we head off to the temple.


Besides the view from the cliff full of aggressive monkeys, the temple is nothing special. We go to Single Fin and get slightly drunk and chat with some Aussie girls and enjoy the sunset. Then at 7-ish, we go back.


On our way back to Kuta, Sophie and I are feeling drunk while Kyle aka. DJ Tough puts on some music for us to fist pump and sing along to. It’s pretty hilarious for us, but the guys are probably hating us so much right now.

The next day, Sophie and I go to the beach. Despite my sunburn. We listen to music on her speaker, chat to local surfing instructors and check out ridiculously pale women on the beach. Then we go for lunch and meet Sam for England on the way, who’s looking for a hostel. Obviously we lead him to Kayun Downtown. We hang out in their pool, I go pack my stuff and then we head to the beach for sunset with Kyle,Sam and a Swiss girl called Sophie. The local guys from the surf school the others have been at all day are super nice, and one has Popeye tattooed on his belly, his navel being Popeye’s butthole. He lets me put my finger in there. I go for dinner with Sam as I realise the dynamic of our group just isn’t working because of one certain person. Even though you can hardly call me a solo traveler, it’s a very important lesson that these past days have taught me: just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you have to hang out with people you don’t like.

I watch a movie and Skype friends, then I go to bed; I’m getting up at 4 AM tomorrow.


A night at Ludu’s Guest house is like sleeping on the beach. Our room, or should I say hut, is located right on a giant rock, that’s attached to several others going out in the water. As we are slowly snoozing off, we can hear the waves from the ocean hitting the rocks, and we feel the cold air streaming through the windows – they aren’t completely sealed, as one could imagine. Definitely an experience.

By 11.00 we are all packed and ready to go, except we need to find that guy who showed up out of nowhere last time we needed him. Whaddaya know, he’s right there! It’s amazing! Truly magical! We pay him 600 rupees and head off with our heavy backpacks once again. Sara sneakily picked up an old edition of Lonely Planet at The Jungle Hostel that had recommended the Relax Inn restaurant, so we go there for breakfast (err, pancakes), which is nice. We still have a lot of time to kill before going to Mapusa though, so we go to a café close to the bazaar and the beach, and just abuse the Wi-Fi for travel planning (and Facebook, who are we kidding?)


When we are super bored of that, we grab a shady-looking cab, but I negotiate a very low price, and there are no better options around. 30-60 minutes later we are in Mapusa and meet up with Selina and Angi at Ashkor restaurant. In the heat, eating this super spicy food with nothing but water to drink, our eyes are watering and the sweat is running, not dripping, from our faces.

The next couple of hours we all sit pretty much in silence by the bus station, waiting impatiently for our busses – theirs to Mumbai, ours to Hampi, which Angi recommended for us back at The Jungle Hostel. The sunburn is slowly turning into a painful scab on my face, and the Nivea cream Tal gave me helps, although the perfume stings a bit. I feel miserable and ugly. Lucky, our bus has a nice double sleeper bed in the front waiting for us, but calling it a bumpy ride to Hampi would be an understatement. Really.


At one point, the bus stops to let the passengers empty their bladders. 10 rupees each, and you got this luxurious stall:


Now, I don’t mind paying to sit on a porcelain throne, use silk to wipe my ass and water to flush with. Paying to squat in harem pants is just wrong. I can happily announce it went well though. Back to the sleeper for a ride that has me singing Mohombi – Bumpy Ride all night long.

At 7 or so in the morning, the roads get even bumpier, and nature outside is looking greener and more lush. We are finally in Hampi. As we haven’t booked a hostel, we get our backpacks and go straight on the hunt for a hostel, as do all the backpackers. It is like a race to see who gets the last room in a hostel first, so we are all taking big steps. We first go to Mowgli’s Guest House, but it is a bit too expensive and too long until check-in. We move on, and a few minutes later, as all hope leaves my body, we find Hema Guest House, which consists of a cozy restaurant and turquoise houses with bright hammocks. We immediatley check in and demand a hammock. A monkey is jumping around on the thin roof of our house, which gives off loud, thundering noises, so we name him Lars Ulrich.

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We drop off our stuff and head to the river and buy a ticket for a tiny boat to take us to the other side, where Hampi Bazaar is. The elephant Lakshimi of the main temple is getting a bath in the river as we arrive, so people are gathered around the drop-off.

Hampi bazar from our part of the town


We are surrounded by drivers that offer to take us around to see the sights for the day. We get into a tuk tuk and start our day of sightseeing. It takes most people at least 5 hours, if not several days to see it all, but we are done in about two hours – we didn’t bother to get a guide book, so all of these pretty ruins are just that: pretty ruins. I took a 1000 pictures of them, though. Prepare to be visually bombed.

Lotus Mahal, the Queen’s palace, in Vijayanagara

The elephant stables in Vijayanagara

Rice field across the street from our hostel

A place to wash your feet at one of the temples

The Queen’s bath

We go back home to nap, and then head to The Laughing Buddha for dinner. It has the best atmosphere yet, with candles, Bob Marley posters on the wall, chill music and pillows on the floor instead of chairs. The walk there through small paths seems a bit sketchy though.

The next day we wake up early to go see the main temple, Virupaksha, and the elephant. Absolutely amazing. For 10 rupees, Lakshimi will smooch (bless) you, which feels, uhm, funny. Sara takes the most unfocused picture ever, so I try going back to do it again, but an elephant never forgets, so it refuses to accept my money.

The kid is obviously excited about this elephant. At home, we pay to see them. It’s called a zoo.  SONY DSC
There are so many monkeys around the temple, it’s (pea)nuts.


Groups of young local people approach us and ask for pictures with us. It’s pretty common for tourists in India to experience this, but this is our first time! I feel like a celebrity! Actually, thank God I am not a celebrity back home, this will get old really fast.

As we are walking out of the temple, two men dressed up in God-know-what approach us and ask for a picture, too. We get the feeling that they want us to pay afterwards, just like the gladiators do at the Colosseum in Rome, so we politely decline. They don’t back down and we explain to them that we do not have any money on us, which they say they’re fine with. I take a picture of them with Sara, the one of me is too blurry to make out.



After the pictures have been taken, SURPRISE SURPRISE, they want money from us. We just tell them the same thing we did before, and they let us go with the promise that we will pay them next time we see them. Yeah right.

For lunch we go to The Mango Tree, that unfortunately is not the same as in Vagator. It’s still very cute though. We also look around the bazaar and buy some stuff, and I meet a couple of kids and have a “sword fight” with them. So adorable. At this point, we are just a nose ring away from looking like every other tourist around here in our tank tops, harem pants, messy hair in a bun and colorful anklets and toerings. I swear I also have a Ganesh T-shirt now.

For post-lunch snack and dinner we go to Sai Plaza, which is close to our hostel and has terrible service and just alright food, but at night they show The Wolf of Wall Street, so we decide to come back for some entertainment. Although a sign in the restaurant specifically says “no drugs allowed”, a couple decides to pass a joint around, and the guy sitting next to us holds on to it long enough to finish it. It’s kinda off-putting when you’re eating, really.


Goan at it in Goa – part II

I think The Jungle Hostel the Goan equivalent of The Pink Palace, Greece. Every morning we wake up, even more lazy than the day before, making it a habit to get several King Fisher beers from the fridge before joining the circle of people in hammocks. The dilemma of the day is which dish and cocktail to order from the huge menu at The Mango Tree, the restaurant right next to us.


Today, we finally decide to go to see the beach – in daylight, that is. Our new German friends and Katherine from Canada join us. The beach isn’t quite the lonely tropical paradise one might assume, although it is rather empty. Still, we head toward the end of the beach to avoid onlookers. It is very common to get stared at and have your picture taken when you’re a tourist in India, but if you’re a tourist in India wearing a BIKINI, all hell breaks loose, and the video cameras are out. It’s not exactly pleasant to have your fat, milky white thighs on a strange Indian man’s cellphone forever… or until he breaks it and gets a new one.


A very nice old lady with a big bucket on her head stops by and offers us various fruits, like mangos, papayas and coconuts. I have always wanted to drink out of a coconut, so she hands me one with a long red straw, along with a smaller coconut to eat. This is just amazing, soaking up the sun and overdosing on coconuts!

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After a few hours of tanning, throwing sand at each other and crashing into the huge waves, we go back for a shower and some lunch at The Mango Tree. Being out in the sun always gets me so light headed and tired, so we take a short nap before going back to the common room. We’re leaving tomorrow, so we need to figure out our next step. After that and a meeting with a travel agent on the other side of the road, we grab dinner at – drum roll – The Mango Tree (surprise, surprise) with Selina and a guy named Tal. We have a pretty amazing feast of fried rice with eggs and a thai dish of vegetables, walnuts and almonds. So much yum. With full stomachs we join the circle of people on pillows at the hostel, where drinks, beers and joints were passed around – we thanked no to one of these, but we wont tell you which one it was ;-)

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Will you look at this trippy panorama I took!?

It’s around 1.00 and it’s time for bed. I am exhausted.

Several hours later, I wake up with the worst sunburn. I am one huge sensitive lobster – but the worst part is my back. At this point, I could just go to The Pink Palace and stand with my face to the wall and no one would notice me.


We pack our stuff and meet with a travel agent across the street to get some bus tickets for our next three destinations. In India, a travel agent is just really the way to go. But always go to more than one before booking anything, as one might tell you there are no available busses or trains to your desired destination, or they could overcharge you. a lot. We end up going back there three times before actually getting our tickets, due to whatever reason there could possibly be. It’s not too much trouble though, as we can spend more time in the common room with our friends. One guy from New Zealand is sitting in a hammock and playing the ukulele – or, at least trying to. Tal is offering me his jar of Nivea creme for men for my sunburn. There is just a good vibe and nice people, and it’s hard to leave.

In the taxi from the airport to Vagator, we met two American girls who were going to Arambol. They let us take a few pictures of their Lonely Planet, and painted a lovely picture of the place they were going to, so we decided to give it a try.

At 1.30 we get in a taxi and head to Arambol – it’s only 600 rupees. We are dropped off at the end of a looong bazar, and at the end of that, there is an even longer walk with our backpacks through the beach, another bazar and then a few huts. It has been the worst hike of my life – so far. We arrive at Ludu’s Guest House, and a man shows up out of nowhere and shows us a room and that’s it – no reception, no money, no check-in. It’s a bit shady, but whatever. We just lock our bags to the windows to be extra safe, and we head out to explore the shops – of course, we spend way too many rupees. This place has so many shops full of everything that a hippie could ever want, so of course Arambol is filled with white people with dreadlocks, stretches and wifebeaters with Ganesh printed on them. They’re all probably into yoga, too.


We’re about to go find some dinner. It’s funny, but we almost have to force down our three meals a day. It might be the heat, it might be the food, or it might be the fact that we are too busy, but we only feel hunger in small waves, and quickly get over it. We rarely finish our food, unless it’s something familiar and bland, like a vegetarian burger or pizza. Indian food is just not for us, I guess.

Well, off to find something edible we go. Right now, I’m blogging from our balcony at Ludu’s Guest House, watching the waves hit the cliffs underneath us while the sun sets. This is life.



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