Diamonds in the sky.
Sigh, I doubt I could ever get tired of this city…
The places we visited in Sydney were mostly in and around the city itself, each place a mere few minutes apart and never too far away from each other – as compared to when we were in Melbourne, where we would be spending hours on the road, zipping by tranquil countrysides and scouting for snoozing koalas on treetops.
Sydney, 23-25 November 2008
The itinerary for the day was switched for the day after’s, so we ended up at the Blue Mountains on a drizzling Sunday. I thought this was a bit of a waste as Monday eventually turned out bright and sunny – which, perhaps, would have resulted in some more decent shots of the Three Sisters.
“The modern day tourism industry has created a legend that says that three sisters fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is falsely claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.” (Wikipedia: Three Sisters (Australia))
At Echo Point in Katoomba, the wind blew about us so strongly – my ears hurt, and every time I whipped out my camera to take pictures of the rocks and the famed blue-ish mountains at the background, my fingers would go all numb and froze on me.
We got on three rides here in Scenic World, one of the tourist attractions here in the mountains – Railway (a very short but steep descent down a mountain that had us all went, “What, this is it?”), Cableway (said to be the steepest aerial cable car ride in Australia) and Skyway (another cable car ride, but the carriage has glass floor panels, thus enabling its passengers to look at the sprawling ravines and plunging waterfalls underneath).
This visit took up more than half a day, as the mountains were about two to three hours away from the city.
Later in the day, we killed a bit of time at Paddy’s Market shopping for souvenirs, before heading off to the Sydney Wildlife World near Darling Harbour. The children in our tour group got particularly excited as that meant coming face to face with koalas and kangaroos. For many of us though, it was the first time we heard of the usually dormant koalas doing mating calls…
After that, we went to Star City for a dinner buffet – what an awesome array and glorious variety of food, food, and more food! Most importantly, however, there was no corn soup to be had… so there!
The next day saw clear blue skies as a permanent feature throughout the day. It was such lovely weather, it being both cool and warm at the same time. We visited the so-called important tourist spots – after all, a trip to Sydney would not be complete without pictures of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge (also fondly known as “The Coathanger”).
“Please do not get over-excited at the thought of seeing the famed Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair,” warned our tour guide. “Once you see it, you’ll know what it is.”
(It was essentially a rock carved into the shape of a bench, where Governor Macquarie’s wife would spend her days sitting there, watching ships sailing into the harbour.)
Lunch was at the Sydney Fish Market – there were succulent prawns, large lobsters, fried golden calamari and the like, all fresh and cooked in every which way possible to cater to the whims and wants of its customers. It was truly every seafood lover’s heaven.
Then we went to Bondi Beach, passing by Rosebay and Doublebay – both of which are suburbs mainly for the rich and famous, with its many beachfront houses giving a grand view of the sea. Despite it being a weekday, I was surprised at the number of people on the beach. “Wow,” I mused, “It’s so cool that these people can afford to be at the beach on a Monday.” (Then again, I have never been a big fan of beaches.)
We spent only about twenty minutes at the beach at best, as we had to hurry back to the city for a “sailing highlights cruise”. Here, we had tea while on a slow sailing cruise with commentary that covered the famous sights of the city within one hour, departing from Circular Quay and sailing past the Sydney Opera House, round Fort Denison, and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Later that night, we took the monorail to get to the Sydney Tower. “Okay now, everyone, get off at the City Centre station when it stops there for the second time. THE SECOND TIME!” the tour guide reminded us. “We’re so kiasu, we’re going to make full use of the monorail ride to see the city!”
One round trip took hardly thirty minutes – the stations were conveniently built and integrated into buildings for easy accessibility and the service was clean, prompt and efficient.
Our tour guide kindly arranged for us to visit the Sydney Tower at night, as we had previously went up Melbourne’s Eureka Skydeck 88 during the day. Here at the Sydney Tower, we were first treated with the Oztrek – a virtual reality, motion stimulator ride – before actually making our way to the observation deck. Getting up and down the tower was a bit of a horror, though – there were always long snaking lines of anxious people by the elevators. It was also a relatively difficult photo-taking experience being up at the tower at night, as we were bound to inadvertently capture our own reflections and everything else behind us – the counter, the souvenir shop, the green exit sign, fellow unsuspecting tourists – in the shots as well. The only consolation was that the night view was pretty, though.
Tuesday was the only day we had some time at leisure for ourselves, before we were to leave for the airport by noon. While my mother did some quick shopping near our hotel on Pitt Street, I had to zip in and out of the office (a courtesy visit) in two hours or risk missing the flight home.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip to Down Under – though I wish there was more time for, er, more shopping (our days were always packed with touristy activities and being on the road; other times, we were herded by our tour guide quickly from one place to another) and that we didn’t always have to go to Chinese restaurants for dinner (we had Chinese four times out of the five nights while we were there).
I have my sights now set for New Zealand…
Previously: Melbourne, 20-22 November 2008