Goodbye Vancouver, hello San Francisco

Posted on April 9, 2013

Landing at SFO - for good

There’s a somewhat odd coincidence that my last update (some nine months ago! Apologies!) involved a trip to SF. Because I now call the Bay Area home. A lot happened in 2012, including leaving Speedhunters, moving to another country and embarking on a new chapter in my life.

Moving into my Vancouver apartment in 2011

This photo was from a couple years ago when I first moved into my Vancouver apartment. I had spent the first three months in temp housing as I waited for my furniture to arrive from Australia.

The whole packing-relocating-unpacking process was exciting the first time around, but having to do it again so soon was painful. The allure of being on an adventure had worn off; leaving behind the stress of applying for visas, breaking leases, selling cars and starting all over again.

Whistler Blackcomb

Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the world’s best cities. The quality of life, the people, the food, the outdoor activities… the list goes on. Having fallen in love with Vancouver and Whistler I was - and still am - sad to have left. But for a few reasons it was time for a change.

View of Emirates Stadium from the Diamond Club

While I’ve loved every single minute of my career, deep down I’ve long felt an urge to explore the world beyond cars. I’ll always be ‘a car guy’ - I’ve been obsessed with everything four-wheeled since before I could walk - but my other lifelong passion has been sports. So when the opportunity arose to join EA SPORTS I didn’t hesitate, and I haven’t looked back since. The catch was that I had to relocate to the Bay Area where Electronic Arts’ HQ is based.

View of downtown Vancouver from the Westin hotel

Before I knew it, the months of planning had whittled down to my last few weeks in Vancouver. It was a terrible feeling knowing you were about to leave a city that you’re enamoured with. Like a mad man I crammed in visits to all of my favourite haunts - the sushi joints, the holes in the wall, that kitschy all-pink restaurant with epic banh mi. I gained a few kilos from all the eating but it was effing worth it.

No effin' clue where this is... I just follow the GPS!

After two amazing years, my time with Vancouver had come to an end and I found myself acclimitising to a new city. The sushi may suck here, but the seemingly never-ending mild, sunny days are a welcome change from the endless greys that Vancouver is known for.

Settling into my new home

There was no avoiding temp housing, but within a month I found an apartment in Burlingame to call home. Initially I was planning on living in downtown San Francisco, but the travel time to Redwood City (where EA is located) and the fact I saw someone pooping on the pavement was enough to make me defer to the Peninsula.

It’s been a couple months since moving into Burlingame and things are starting to fall into place. It’s a nice neighbourhood, plenty of In-N-Outs and scenic running trails just a short drive away. And although I’m starting to like life in the Bay Area, it still has some big, Vancouver-sized shoes to fill.

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A Pebble Beach wedding

Posted on June 11, 2012

Pebble Beach

Recently I headed down to California for Tim and Eva’s wedding at Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach

Flights from Vancouver to the US are rather expensive, even for the short three hour journey to California. For this trip we drove an hour across the border to Bellingham and flew from there. It worked out to be half the cost.

Pebble Beach

Arriving at Oakland, the plan was to meet up with Angie and Bobby (who flew in from Australia) at SFO before hiring a car and driving down to Monterey.

Pebble Beach

First things first though; we needed lunch and opted for some soul food.

Pebble Beach

People had told me to expect a wait at Frisco Fried as they cook to order. 15 minutes later and my order of chicken and waffles arrived. The chicken was great, the waffles… not so much.

Pebble Beach

While on the topic of food, there are many Aussie things that I can’t get in Canada. Tracy back in Sydney kindly bought some of my favourite staples, with Angie and Bobby cramming it into their luggage. The care package included Bundaberg Ginger Beer (possibly the greatest beverage on Earth), Arnott’s Shapes, Milo and Coco Pops (the US have Coco Krispies, but they’re not the same). If anyone from Aus is heading this way, all I need now are Chilli Kettle Chips and some Pure Blonde beer!

Pebble Beach

Rather than have everyone stay at a hotel, Tim and Eva booked this enormous house for the weekend.

Pebble Beach

This pad was amazing. There were at least six bedrooms (I lost count to be honest) and two enormous gardens.

Pebble Beach

View from the first floor overlooking the golf course.

Pebble Beach

There were a few worries about the weather forecast but come wedding day we were met with blue skies.

Pebble Beach

Timothy proposed to Eva at this beach, so what better place for their intimate ceremony.

Pebble Beach

After the ceremony, we headed back to the house for their afternoon reception.

Pebble Beach

Great beach-themed cake decoration. The ’sand’ is a mix of brown and white sugar.

Pebble Beach

Table decorations.

Pebble Beach

Throwing the bouquet. It’s funny how girls leap for it while guys flee the moment the garter’s tossed.

Pebble Beach

Choose your poison. This was a sign of things to come as the drinking continued for a solid 8 hours.

Pebble Beach

Some of us were nursing hangovers the next day so we took things easy, lazing about and doing some sightseeing along 17-Mile Drive.

Pebble Beach

Finally here’s the Lone Cypress, one of Pebble Beach’s landmarks. I have a backlog of stuff to post, which I’ll try to get through during the week. Have a good one!

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Here fishy, fishy, fishy

Posted on February 7, 2012

Vancouver Aquarium

Aquariums. I used to love going to them, but that had a lot to do with being a kid and getting out of the classroom. I think it’s been 14 years since I last went to an aquarium on a Biology excursion.

Vancouver Aquarium

During one of Vancouver’s dreary weekends I headed to Stanley Park, where the Vancouver Aquarium is located.

Vancouver Aquarium

Hello there.

Vancouver Aquarium

Ribbit.

Vancouver Aquarium

Everybody loves sea lions.

Vancouver Aquarium

Seeing a Beluga whale was amazing, but I had pangs of guilt seeing them in captivity. I lost count of how many laps it did around its enclosure.

Vancouver Aquarium

Underwater life.

Vancouver Aquarium

Found Nemo.

Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium had some above water exhibits too, like the Graham Amazon Gallery.

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The unfamiliar city I call home

Posted on January 21, 2012

View of Vancouver city from the Cypress Mountain lookout

Although I’ve been here for over a year now, there are still so many parts of Vancouver and BC that I have yet to explore.

This photo is taken from the lookout on the way up to Cypress Mountain. I still can’t get over the fact that I can leave home or work and be snowboarding within half an hour. It really is a treat. Way down there you can see the Lion’s Gate Bridge connecting to downtown Vancouver. The big green mass on the other side of the Salish Sea is Stanley Park.

View of Vancouver city from the Cypress Mountain lookout

Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a break from all the clouds, rain and grey. Someone up there cranks up the saturation and gives you gorgeous days like this.

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F1 under lights

Posted on December 15, 2011

2011 Singapore Formula 1

After visiting Hong Kong and Malaysia, I hopped on a short flight to Singapore for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

This was my second Singapore GP (I attended the inaugural race as a journalist back in 08) so I knew what to expect: stinking humidity amplified by the heat from the cars and upside-down working hours. As it’s a night race, the teams, drivers and working media tend to wake up in the afternoon and then work through til sunrise.

2011 Singapore Formula 1

Held in the heart of downtown Singapore, the streets of Marina Bay provide an amazing backdrop for a Formula 1 race. The course snakes its way across the waterfront, over bridges, and beneath grandstands. All at night under lights. It’s an incredible, almost surreal, experience that should be on every car enthusiast’s bucket list.

2011 Singapore Formula 1

Those three days I spent in Singapore were truly punishing. I was working solo, which meant I’d run alongside the track each session (to have some variety in my photos), rush back to the paddock for the interviews, and then write my various reports until 5am. According to my iPhone I clocked 20 chafing kilometres around the Marina Bay circuit. I’m pretty sure that was the hardest shoot I’ve ever done. But it was also the most satisfying.

I’m hoping to have a few days off over the Xmas break, and if that materialises then I’ll be sure to post some updates to my neglected blog.
Speedhunters: Behind the Scenes - Inside the Formula 1 Paddock
Speedhunters: Desktops - 2011 Singapore Grand Prix
Speedhunters: Event Coverage - 2011 Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying
Speedhunters: Event Coverage - 2011 Singapore Grand Prix Race Report

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Langkawi, Malaysia

Posted on October 18, 2011

Langkawi, Malaysia

After spending a couple of days in Hong Kong, I hopped over to Malaysia for Phuong and Derek’s wedding on Langkawi island.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Nearly all of the travel I do is related to work, so it was awesome to take a few days off and not worry about things. I limited myself to only a couple hours of work each day and spent the rest doing sweet f*ck all.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Most of my friends and I stayed at the Westin, while the wedding was held at the Tanjung-Rhu resort. This is Westin’s private beach. Tanjhung-Rhu’s beach is truly spectacular, but the rooms were too expensive for us.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Besides the wedding, I spent most of my time by the pool or eating. Westin’s buffet breakfast was great, but the same can’t be said for the satay sticks I had for lunch. I ended up spitting out the chicken as it was completely raw inside.

Langkawi, Malaysia

After that experience I bought charcoal tablets as I didn’t want to take any chances (particularly after this bout of sickness). Instead of eating at the resort again, my friends and I went for some street cuisine instead. Locals were recommending a place called Wonderland.

Langkawi, Malaysia

While I’ve never been a big fan of seafood, I really dug the food at Wonderland. Everything was caught that day except for those monster prawns, which were frozen from the day before. The restaurant’s owner was almost apologetic that they were frozen, and also showed us all of our fresh fish before they were cooked. We ordered until our entire table was full. Including a dozen beers, the bill came to around USD$70. If you’re in Langkawi, make sure you eat at Wonderland. My friends ate there every day and wanted to keep going back.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Debbie does it one handed.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Stray cats.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Family car? What for? This family of four - sleeping baby and all - make do with a scooter.

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi is more of a resort island. If you’re looking for clubbing - like Willy was - then stick with KL instead. If you want to unwind, then Langkawi is highly recommended.

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A couple days in Hong Kong

Posted on October 17, 2011

Trip to Hong Kong

Recently I did a short 10 day trip to Asia, visiting Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. It has been a few years since I last visited these countries, and I was really looking forward to going back. And the reason for that is the food!

Trip to Hong Kong

Having spent my last Hong Kong trip shopping, this time around I flew in with no particular agenda – just to explore. And to eat of course.

Trip to Hong Kong

Years ago Angus took me to an amazing wonton noodle house. It was a tiny, unassuming place but the noodles were incredible. It’s called Mak’s Noodle, and as soon as I landed I made a beeline for it.

Trip to Hong Kong

When it comes to eating out I don’t care for fancy décor and I’m willing to put up with infuriating service so long as the food is good. Indeed when it comes to decent Asian food, it seems the crappier the establishment the better the food. Here at Mak’s, the wontons were being made by hand on the table beside me. The old dude folding them could probably do it blind folded.

Trip to Hong Kong

This is what I had been waiting for. After craving to go back to this place for five years I couldn’t wait for the tiny bowl to be plonked in front of me. These wontons and noodles are cooked pretty damned close to perfection. I’m a fan of simple dishes, and seeing them done right is what food hunting is all about. Forget about this fusion crap. As a side note, this is the Hong Kong wonton restaurant that was on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

Trip to Hong Kong

With a belly full – I ate two bowls for good measure – I wandered through one of Hong Kong’s many wet markets.

Trip to Hong Kong

Supermarkets and chains have changed the way we eat. A book I read a few years ago, Not On the Label, talks about how our food has changed more in the past 50 years than it has ever.

Trip to Hong Kong

Throughout Asia there are still many outdoor wet markets, which get their name because the pathways are constantly hosed down.

Trip to Hong Kong

Something that would be an eye opener for tourists is the lack of refrigeration, although I did spot some more modern wet markets that are now indoors.

Trip to Hong Kong

Meat hangs out in the open.

Trip to Hong Kong

Along with other curious bits.

Trip to Hong Kong

Decisions, decisions.

Trip to Hong Kong

Despite what you may think, wet markets don’t stink. Sure you’re nose will know there’s fish around, but it certainly isn’t pungent.

Trip to Hong Kong

Frogs anyone? Apparently they are kept alive to ensure freshness to the customer.

Trip to Hong Kong

Tofu. Ready for delivery.

Trip to Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a neon city, with the streets coming to life at night.

Trip to Hong Kong

Spotted this on my last day in HK: an enormous Mona Lisa made out of… toast.

Next up, Singapore and Malaysia.

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Random. Main St, Vancouver.

Posted on August 30, 2011

Random. Main St, Vancouver.

‘Atta boy. Learning the FOB squat from the get go.

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Richmond Night Markets

Posted on August 21, 2011

Richmond Night Markets

Summers in Vancouver are great; once you experience one you start to understand why everyone here puts up with the endless rainy months. In summer, the sun goes down at 9:30pm and the weather is warm rather than stifling hot like in Aus. And during summer, the suburb of Richmond holds night markets.

Richmond Night Markets

Although Sydney has a high Asian population, it’s nothing compared to Vancouver. In areas like Richmond, it feels more like Hong Kong than Canada. And that means food is a big attraction of the night markets.

Richmond Night Markets

The Richmond Night Markets are split into two areas: one has a variety of different stalls - although most seemed to be selling iPhone accessories - and the other area focuses solely on food. It’s no surprise which one I spent my time in!

Richmond Night Markets

Problem was, what to eat?

Richmond Night Markets

Pancakes?

Richmond Night Markets

Perhaps some skewers? The queue for this stand was crazy.

Richmond Night Markets

While the variety of foods available made it difficult to choose, the endless crowds made it impossible. Often there were so many people crowding around that you couldn’t actually see what each stall was cooking.

Richmond Night Markets

Want sum?

Richmond Night Markets

Every colour of the rainbow.

Richmond Night Markets

Vietnamese che ba mau.

Richmond Night Markets

Because I’m not a fan of huge crowds, I didn’t hang around for too long. I sampled a few dishes, drank from a coconut shell and then headed home. The food prices were quite dear; I think my pre-dinner snacking here ended up costing around $20.

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Living on a plane

Posted on July 14, 2011

Arizona sunrise

Monday: 4AM cab to the airport. Tuesday: 3:45AM call time for a video shoot. Today: 3:45AM call time again. Tomorrow: 6:30AM drive back to the airport, a three hour flight then straight back to the studio. I am well and truly wrecked.

This month is going to be exhausting as I’ll also be covering a lot of miles in the air. I’m currently in the sweltering heat of Surprise, Arizona before flying back to Vancouver. Friday I’m off to Vegas via Seattle. Next week I’ll be heading south again to Seattle for Formula DRIFT, before hopping on the 15 hour flight back to Sydney, Australia.

Although I’ll be spending 50 hours on a plane this month, there are moments when all of the stress and tiredness is forgotten. Moments like this morning’s sunrise, when you can’t help but stop, stare and soak it all in. It almost looks Photoshopped don’t you think?

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The view from above

Posted on July 4, 2011

Whistler in Summer

Canada Day? One of the weird things you encounter when living in a foreign country is that you have no idea when the public holidays are. Were it not for my colleague who sits next to me, I would’ve come in on Friday not knowing that it was a long weekend. So when I heard I had three days off, I decided to go out and do some long overdue exploring.

Whistler in Summer

Things have been pretty full on for me since I arrived in Canada, so I haven’t really seen what’s around Vancouver. And although it’s summer, Whistler seemed like a good destination.

From downtown it takes a bit over an hour to get there via the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s a great stretch of road with some good viewing points, and in some ways it reminds me of the Great Ocean Road. It’s super smooth, but the 80/90km/h speed limits and countless highway patrols made it a bit of a procession.

Whistler in Summer

Hotels were fairly cheap considering as it wasn’t peak season. I stayed at the Nita Lake Lodge.

Whistler in Summer

After a rather stressful week, I was tempted to just sleep all weekend. But that would’ve been a waste.

Whistler in Summer

This was the view from the room. Totally serene. I could’ve sat out here for hours.

Whistler in Summer

Initially I wanted to go fishing, but from my balcony I could see a guy fishing - and he hadn’t caught a thing all day. So instead I borrowed one of the hotel’s mountain bikes and went pedalling through some trails.

Whistler in Summer

Saturday morning I caught a lift up Blackcomb as a few people had told me to check out 7th Heaven, which sits at the top of the mountain. To get there, I had to take two chair lifts, a bus, and then another lift.

Whistler in Summer

This has been a weird summer. Most of the time the weather in Vancouver hovers around 15deg C, which is hardly warm! At the base of Whistler it was 21deg C, but as I progressed up the mountain the temperature dropped steadily.

Whistler in Summer

Almost at the top! A word of warning to anyone who is planning to go up 7th Heaven: the wind is rather icy on the chair lifts, so wear warm clothes. It wasn’t a nice experience being battered by huge gusts of freezing winds and not being able to escape it!

Whistler in Summer

Finally at the top, some 7000ft (2.1km) up in the air. This is the view from 7th Heaven. As there’s plenty of powder at the top of Whistler Blackcomb, quite a few people were still skiing and ‘boarding in spite of it being ’summer’. If you look closely you can see the lakes at the base of the mountains.

Afterwards I took a chair lift down and hopped onto the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which holds world records for having the longest unsupported span (3+km) and being the highest lift of its kind. Sadly, compared to the views at 7th Heaven the P2P gondola was a bit underwhelming.

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