Coming to a close!

It’s unbelievable to know that today is the second to the last day of the end of a wonderful journey. After such an eventful and exhilarating day yesterday at the Great Barrier Reef, many of us decided to take it slow today and relax, perhaps even sleep in a bit. Nonetheless, a small group of us, including myself, were keen on holding and taking photos with a koala bear! Off to the Cairns Wildlife Dome, located in The Reef Hotel Casino! The koala’s name is Micro, and he was absolutely adorable. Though he had a bit of an odor, he was very soft and cuddly, just as one would an imagine a koala bear to be like. It was all hugs and smiles from there on out! Micro surely wasn’t camera shy!

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Pictured above: Chandaly Sovan with Micro, the 5-year old koala bear

Not only were we amazed by Micro, but we also encountered a few more fascinating wildlife creatures, such as Snowy the rare white kookaburra, and Goliath, the magnificent, 4 metre saltwater crocodile. We also had a bit of fun with Gollum, a small bird with beautiful, vibrant feathers and piercing red eyes! Gollum was very entertained by my umbrella!

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The next thing on our minds: fooooooood. We noticed a cafe, called Bang & Grind, nearby that was bustling with people and filled the air with the lovely smell of morning coffee and cooked bacon. Why not check it out for our brekkie? Though many of us college students rarely eat breakfast at home back in the States, we’ve adjusted to incorporating breakfast into our day-to-day lives while here in Australia due to the jam-packed, entertaining schedules. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! This morning, I was in a desperate mood for buttermilk pancakes while others indulged in bacon and egg paninis and avocado toast. The presentations of the food were quite superb and made the dishes all the more scrumptious. Mmmm.

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Pictured above: Buttermilk pancakes… with banana and bacon

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Pictured above: Huevos Rancherios… served on sourdough with refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, fried eggs, avocados, tomatoes, onions, and cumin.

Cairns, a major well-known tourist destination due to its tropical climate and the Great Barrier Reef, is packed with souvenir and gift shops, along with a vast array of restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the globe. While Cairns sits along the coast, the view of the ocean is breathtaking. Even more so, the lovely lagoon located adjacent to the ocean is a popular attraction site. After today’s morning breakfast, we took a stroll to the lagoon, where many young adults were basking in the warmth of the sun or lathering on sunscreen or simply taking a snooze. Children were dipping their feet into the blue, transparent water.

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Pictured above: Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

After lounging in the glorious sun, many of us returned to the apartment hotels to begin packing, or perhaps do laundry, or to participate in life-story sharing. Life-story sharing truly enables each one of us to connect with our fellow mates on a much greater intimate, personal level. And lastly, a few of us students merely stayed inside and slept. Slept for hours. And it was totally worthwhile, given the exhausting day yesterday.

Group dinners have always been one of the activities I look forward to as each day passes because it’s the time to catch up with everyone. Ask how everyone’s day was. Ask what everyone enjoyed. Let’s not forget about the food. After a long day’s adventure, we surely recuperated well from dinner. Not to mention, we all take samples and munches of each others’ delectable dishes. It’s a miracle that we’re not all sick! I, along with several other students, prefer to order and taste the seafood that comes directly from local commercial fisheries. Everywhere we go, there is an abundance of opportunities to sample Australia’s world-famous seafood. Particular favorites are prawns, scallops, and calamari. However, for some students, seafood is an entirely new experience, and what better way to taste authentic seafood for the first time than in Australia!

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Pictured above: Prawn Nasi Goreng… with wok tossed rice, Asian greens, bacon, chili & fried egg

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Pictured above: Deep Sea Laksa… prawns, fish, & scallops in mild spiced coconut broth with egg noodles & bok choy

To top off dinner, we decided to go for… gelato! I must say, gelato in Australia is much better than the gelato I’ve tried back in the States. The numerous flavours available astonishes me, and I still have yet to taste every single flavour. Tonight, I opted for a mixed berry flavour, while my friends requested the passion fruit flavour. If you ask me, both were excellent choices.

Afterwards, feeling bloated and sluggish after finishing a delicious dinner and dessert, we decided to head off to the Night Markets,

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When visiting Cairns, the Night Markets is a must. With its collection of Australian-made jewelry, Australian chocolates and treats, souvenir T-shirts and accessories, it’s difficult to refrain from purchasing something! The prices are fairly reasonable as well; and if you’re feeling courageous, you could even test the waters and attempt to bargain to achieve the price you desire. If you’re feeling worn out from all the shopping, you could stop at one of the multiple massage kiosks available in the markets. Or even better, you could try the ice cream waffles, cream puffs, churro, or gelato at one of the shops located at the entrance of the markets. What a tasty treat to end a long day!

With the adventure coming to a fast close, we all hope to make the most of it tomorrow, our last day in Australia as a family of 25. Check in tomorrow to read about our final, farewell dinner!

Written by Athena He

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