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Escape Rooms in Melbourne: A Review

What are escape rooms, you ask? These are rooms where you get locked up in a (usually themed) room with a group of your mates. You and your mates then try to escape, by using clues in the room, thinking creatively, intuitively, and laterally, and solving puzzles.

It is quite a bizarre idea, but escape rooms seem to be the latest craze all over the world:

  • Escape rooms were #1 on TripAdvisor for attractions/things to do in London, at least until TripAdvisor decided to categorise items. Even after this, the top-rated escape rooms in London still had 2,000+ reviews
  • Budapest is said to be the birthplace of escape rooms in Europe; there are said to be 60+ escape rooms in Budapest alone since the inception of the first, well-known one in 2010
  • Asia is the supposed other birthplace for escape rooms; there are apparently 20+ escape rooms in Tokyo, yet another 20+ in Singapore, and too many more to count are popping up by the day

Having done a few ourselves, we think the draw comes in a few aspects:

  • The sense of accomplishment you get from being able to “escape”: It is quite the thrill to finally unlock that final code and emerge into the sunlight
  • Bonding and teamwork: It’s a great thing to do with your mates – you get to know them and bond closer with them – and have a ton of fun and a shared experience with them. We couldn’t stop talking about the rooms we do after every room
  • It’s a transporting experience: The best rooms are immersive, making you feel like you’re in a mine control room, or an old uncle’s living room, or a bank vault, and forgetting the world outside
  • It’s one of the most awesome, intellectually challenging fun that you can have within 60 minutes! (or less!)

Escape rooms in Melbourne

Melbourne is definitely not free from the craze of escape rooms; in fact, it can be argued that Melbourne is where the escape room fever started in Australia:

  • The first escape room opened in April 2014: Escape Room Melbourne, by psychologists Owen Spear and girlfriend Ali Cheetham, after they got inspired by their trip in Budapest
  • Shortly after, many others cropped up
  • There are now 30+ escape rooms in Melbourne, including 3 more by Owen and Ali; there also now 20+ in Sydney, starting from earlier this year

We tried the original Escape Room Melbourne one weekend in August 2015. From there we were so completely hooked, we practically do one (or two) almost every weekend since.

The Melbourne escape rooms are of varying themes, breadth, and quality, however; so I thought I would dedicate a post to review the Melbourne escape rooms we’ve tried thus far.

First, a summary:

  • Best for first-timers: The original Escape Room Melbourne
  • Best for advanced players (5+ escape rooms): Mine Escape Room
  • Best designed room theme: Da Vinci Code
  • Most fun we had*: Amnesia



Round-the-world trip: Nov 2014 – Jan 2015 – part 0

In November 2014, G (then fiance) and I embarked on our dream trip: a 71-day round-the-world trip.

The trip was sparked by a desire to visit my hometowns in Indonesia and Australia, and given how far we would have had to fly from Chicago (where we were) anyway, we decided to make a few stops along the way.

The timeline of the trip also nicely coincided with the Indian wedding of one of our favorite couples in the world, Jason and Amruta, so we wanted to do a stopover in India after Indonesia and Australia. We booked the tickets on Star Alliance, which worked out really well for us - it ended up being not much more expensive than a flight to Australia, Indonesia, and India would have cost us, while allowing us to make extra stops with virtually no cost.

By the end of this extensive trip, we had decided and finalised our move to Australia, making the trip an even more epic round-the-world trip, and definitely a life changing one.

This blog post is the first in a series that captures our adventures around the globe between November 2014 and Jan 2015.

First and foremost, the trip itinerary - departing and arriving back in Chicago:

  • Stop #1: Tokyo, Japan - Nov 8-16, 2014
  • Stop #2: Palau - Nov 17-Nov 23, 2014
  • Stop #3: Seoul, South Korea - Nov 24-Nov 28, 2014
  • Stop #4: Melbourne, Australia - Nov 29-Dec 11, 2014
  • Stop #5: Indonesia - Dec 12-27, 2014
  • Stop #6: Singapore - Dec 27-Jan 2, 2015
  • Stop #7:India - Jan 2-14, 2015 
  • Stop #8: London, UK - Jan 14-17, 2015

Here we go! Stay tuned for the first real post on Tokyo.  

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Scuba Diving: what, why, how, where, and when

I know it has literally been years since I published a new post (the delayed publishing of the Greece post notwithstanding). While management consulting tales could take a life of their own, I thought I would write about my newly acquired obsession hobby instead for my first post after all these years.

As I was starting out scuba diving early last year, I did a bit of research online to arm myself, and I found that most of the articles online were one of two extremes: either they were articles for people who'd never scuba dived before, or they were articles for people who'd done more dives than they could count. My goal here is to share a bit with you what I picked up throughout my journey from the former to the latter. Whether you have no idea what scuba diving involves, or you're an avid diver wondering what my take on the activity and the locations I've visited is, I hope you'll find something in this A-to-Z post of my scuba diving tales.

What, exactly, is involved in scuba diving?

You basically float and breathe underwater through a breather (called a regulator) connected to an air (as in atmospheric, breathing air, not necessarily just oxygen) tank that is strapped on to you. All the other complicated-looking gears serve to allow you to do just that - there is a spare regulator for emergencies, weights so you can go underwater as opposed to float on the top, an inflatable vest (called a BCD) so you can counteract the weights and float underwater - as opposed to be stuck on the ocean floor.

Why would one risk one's life by engaging in such an absurdly dangerous activity?

I've always loved the water, and the ocean. The idea of being able to explore more of it than what I could see on the surface or through snorkeling was compelling to me. Since 70% of the Earth are the oceans, scuba diving opens up so much more of the world to explore. It's an adventure into the unknown.

And the explorations - they are jaw dropping, breathtaking, otherworldly, I have struggled to find words to describe it. It is truly a whole different world down there - even 10-20 meters under the surface, there are landscapes - coral valleys and mountains and plains and formations and tunnels and so on, that stretch as far as the eyes can see - towards a horizon. The wildlife at sea is gorgeous and magnificent - fish of so many different colors and shapes, sharks, turtles, rays, colorful slugs, lobsters, octopuses, the list goes on. The best part is, unlike snorkeling or visiting aquariums, diving allows you to be closer to the vista and sea life, and float any which way. This means you can swim through a colorful coral tunnel with arches of soft corals hanging over you, while graceful eagle rays fly (yes, they fly) through the water above or right next to you. The first time I watched a sea turtle float over by my side to then graze on a coral, I was mesmerized - he was inches away from me and was so happily munching away on his lunch while I hovered right next to him.




Greece: The Unabridged Version

Note: The post below was written almost five years ago, but for whatever reason I never got around to posting it. It's dated, but still relevant - and reading it was a sweet trip down the memory lane for me. This gets long, so you might consider the highlights post instead. For a day-by-day recount of the trip, read on.

A month after graduating with my Kellogg MBA (egads), I went with 6 Kellogg classmates to Greece. N, our gracious host and a fellow classmate, was Greek and classy, and thus hell-bent on showing us the best of non-touristy Greece. He succeeded spectacularly - it was the best Greece trip I could ask for. By the way - if any of you are thinking about b-school and specifically Kellogg, do that pre-school vacation trip (known at Kellogg as KWEST). I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with a bunch of people who were then strangers, but are now some of my best mates. The people I was in Greece with, N included, all went on the same trip with me to Puerto Vallarta, and - as I've mentioned previously - they made the trip.




Splash pages are extinct.

This is your splash page

This is your splash page

For most cases, they shouldn't even exist in the first place.

The exceptions are obvious:

  • When you don't really have any other content to display, and the splash page IS your website.
  • When you are legally required to confirm the user's identity, age, purpose of visit, etc., e.g. over 18 sites.
  • When you have one very important message to get across, and the rest of your website is of diminished importance, i.e. business closing notices.

You get the idea: splash pages have very specific purposes. However, for the most part, people have them for absurd reasons:

  • Some artists and creative types believe it is the best way to display their creativity - this is kind of reasonable and sort of okay.
  • Many believe splash pages are impressive, especially the Flash animated ones - this is not an okay reason to have a splash page.
  • Even more believe splash pages will make the user want to engage the website even more - this is simply not true.

You are actively stopping the user from accessing your website

Forget engaging the user - splash pages actually disengage any interested parties. An unnecessary splash page is one extra step that the user has to go through to view your main content:

  • It slows the user down by xseconds:
    • Where x = y + z
    • y is the time it takes for the user's browser to download the splash page - often lengthy, given the size of some impressive-looking, animated splash pages and the lack of speedy internet connection in the developing countries. It can get even longer for the sites that FORCE you to sit through a certain animation or movie before
    • And z is the time it takes for the user to figure out what to do after the splash page loads. If you've seen those splash pages with links that took you half a minute to locate, you'd understand that z is a pretty significant variable.
    • Oh, and don't forget the additional time that would be necessary to download the appropriate plugins before your splash page can be displayed.
  • People just don't have time to go through the above exercise to find out what exactly your site has for them. When was the last time you looked at just one website and waited patiently for it to load? Most people will switch to other websites and forget yours while it is taking its own sweet time loading.
  • Since splash pages don't have any content, search engines tend to not index them. This either means they will link directly to your content pages, making your splash page irrelevant, or, worse, if they cannot "reach" the content pages from your fancy all-Flash splash page, they will not link to you at all, making your entire website ineffective.


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