Saturday, 24 September 2016

Wedding

You may have heard that Sarah and I got married! Which means we have just had the distinct pleasure of organizing a wedding! Since no one gives you advice when planning a wedding we thought we'd add our tips. Our big day was centered around a relaxed garden wedding at Sarah's parents riverside location.

Chilling on the lawn before the ceremony. Even the decision to serve champagne before the wedding was somewhat questioned. 
Our biggest hurdle was the house, it was being renovated and no one was sure it would be camera ready in time. The wedding was a big looming deadline for about 6 months of continuous work on the house.






In case you think I'm exaggerating the day before the wedding there was a birds nest of live electrical wires sprawled out across the kitchen floor. I was installing LED lights on the morning of the wedding - talk about last minute! Sarah made the smarter decision of leaving a full day before the wedding and just letting things take care of themselves.

Somehow everything came together just in time. Some early guests started arriving just as I sat down to write my speech for the evening!

Sarah did some spontaneous planning too - she secretly arranged with her brother to arrive by float plane! Pro tip: remember the gumboots!

Don't let people push you into getting or doing things you don't want. If you don't think it adds to the day, don't bother! There is so much going on already, for many this will be the biggest (not to mention most expensive) day of their lives. It is very easy to get caught up in the hype and agree to things that won't really make a difference - just relax and focus on what is important.

You don't want to be on point during the event so appoint a problem solver. They need contact numbers for all vendors, and you need to trust their decisions completely.

The best advice we got was to take some time after the ceremony to just enjoy the moment. Douglas still managed to snap a photo but we were just having five minutes sitting alone on a nearby wharf.




Family friends Gill and Peter helped us on a short photography trip immediately after the ceremony for sunset. It was important for us not to be gone for too long so we had already a good idea of the few spots we would visit. My brother took the photos and we were very happy with them. The contrast between an old run down tug boat and the shiny wedding party worked particularly well.



Organisation


We got a lot of mileage out of Trello. So many things to do, and of course you can't remember them all. We added tips and business recommendations to one board, had one for the planning the wedding and another for planning the honeymoon.

Catering is one of the biggest items and we found a gem in Lolita Catering. Definitely try the food and make sure you get along with who ever will be at the event. We found it really fun choosing the menu and trying some of the options!

Lolita Catering chef Guy came to our apartment to cook sample dishes for us.

Invites and dealing with guest's rsvps is another challenge. We are lucky to have such talented friends, we used Justin Soong's Invite Spring service for sending out "save the date" notifications. Giselle designed and printed our invites and we tracked responses via a google doc spreadsheet. Sarah and I set up a very basic static website with event information, and we had a dedicated email address for rsvps.

Honeymoon

Initially we thought a long Europe trip was what we wanted - however we were both in relatively new positions at work and didn't want too much time off work for a long honeymoon right after the wedding. It didn't make any sense going so far for a shorter time - we both don't like the impact of flying. Instead we opted to spend two weeks in Australia having a sun, sand, and sailing holiday.

As we had friends and family visiting from such a long way away we stayed in Sydney for a few days after the wedding to spend more time catching up with them. This made it feel like the party just kept going for a few more days and was great.

We chartered a yacht in the Whitsunday's and invited a couple of close friends and family to spend a few nights on board with us. It worked out extremely well for us inviting world class sailors to crew for us for a few days!

A couple of top Australian sailors provided to be a decent crew

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Singapore

It is our last day in Singapore and Brian and I are sitting in a cafe called Forty Hands, enjoying the air conditioning and (finally) our first really good coffee since leaving Australia. Every day has been around 34 degrees, has included lots of walking in the hot sun and then getting caught out in a sudden onset of torrential rain!


Brian arrived in Singapore a week ago to attend a conference on big data, called Strata. The same conference that he attended in New York in 2014. Man he gets some good perks!! He and three colleagues were exhibiting their work on machine learning and privacy. I arrived in time to catch him in his nice hotel, with spectacular views. I meant to arrive a day earlier but I stuffed up my flights a little, allow me to explain... 

Brian and I have been married for about three months; during that time I thought it would be a wonderful idea to change my passport to reflect my new name - Sarah Thorne. My passport arrived a week before I was due to leave and I booked my flight the night before - using Mum’s staff travel, lucky me!


So I'm in the car with my bags packed, a brand new passport and my recently purchased ticket when the penny dropped. The name on my ticket did not match the name on my passport! 16 hours later, after filling out forms and sending off marriage certificates to Qantas Staff Travel I was finally on my way to Singapore, travelling under my new name, Sarah Thorne.

Under way - and business class!

Four movies and four wines later, I was in a cab and on my way to reunite with Brian - the thorne in my side. After showing off my new outfit we ventured out into the Singaporean heat in search of some food. We visited a night market where we ate satay chicken skewers and tufu curry, yum yum.


The next morning we made an early start - attempting to avoid the sweltering heat in the middle of the day. Our plan was to walk around the Marina Bay and find a nice spot for breakfast. Most shops were closed so we made good progress through the malls around the bay. About two thirds of the way around we stumbled across a food court with plenty of breakfast options. I was very keen to rest my legs so gave Brian the task of ordering. This is where things got interesting.





After  our “breakfast” we sought higher ground to reorient. Level 57 on the floating ship building. As expected, the view was spectacular:










Back at our hotel, we went for a dip in the pool to cool off before checking out of our hotel and heading to our AirBnB place near Orchid Road. Unfortunately we were 35 minutes late, so there was no one to meet us to give us a key. Luckily a friendly neighbour let us in to the air conditioned lobby. While I waited in the lobby, Brian was sent to find an internet connection in order to contact our hosts. One hour later and we were finally in our new apartment. Much to my disappointment, the apartment reminded me of a small cave, with absolutely no windows to the outside world!


We spent the next days trying to fit in as many tourist activities as we could. We got to experience the monsoon season rain - it would start instantly at full force. Walking across a single road was enough to get drenched to the bone! Quite out of character Brian really seemed to enjoy visiting the many Malls around Singapore - although the air conditioning seemed to be the main attraction.

The stand out activity had to be eating - Singapore is a food lovers delight. We enjoyed everything from tapas, pizza and tiramsu in a jar to the incredible night markets. It is well worth going to the Tekka market - really good indian food at very affordable prices. Try the white carrot cake - more like an omelette. We found this really yummy fish thing made out of chocolate and something strange...



We went to the hawker market in china town where we had deep fried sweet potato palls, sugar cane drink (which is not recommended if you don’t have a sweet tooth) and coconut water. We easily spent a night exploring the market in China town - this is highly recommended! Wandering through the many street stalls we found a $30 travel suitcase - we were almost going to pay $300 in the mall. Win!

We visited the Zoo on our last day, both really enjoyed spending the whole afternoon there. Only downside was we stood in a taxi queue for just over an hour trying to leave the zoo. Omg saw a sloth, and it moved!!!



One day was spent at the Gardens by the sea - got very hot walking there! Pedestrian access isn't that great. You often have to walk long stretches of road before you can find an underpass or crossing. Ate at the Pollen cafe on level two, which is inside the flower dome. Eating here will get you free entry into the flower dome.

Getting home was yet again a struggle. Qantas didn't bother to tell us that the plane from Australia had never left so we got to the airport and along with another few hundred people had to queue up and get processed one by one. After about six hours we booked a last minute hotel and had a bonus day enjoying an amazing pool. We spent our bonus day on Sentosa Island which was touristy but cool.





General observations
  • Locals have said that you have to pay around $60,000 for a certificate to own a car!
  • I didn’t see many bikes using the road, but motorised scooters on the footpath seems to be a great way to get around.
  • Price of taxis is pretty good.
  • Food in cafes and restaurants is more expensive than Sydney prices.
  • Alcohol is much more expensive than Sydney.