Sydney. One of the four cities* I want to visit in my lifetime since I started daydreaming of traveling. What started out as one of my goals in 43things in 2001 has become a reality 11 years after.
After 3 days of scrambling through the numerous not-so-cheap budget fares and last minute hostel reservations, I knew I am enroute to Sydney when I made my way back to Brissy domestic airport holding the much precious Virgin Airlines boarding pass. Yay for red deals!
As the plane was touching down the Kingsford Smith runway, my mind was working double time. What is the first place that I will visit? Did Westend really reserved a space for me? How can we get to the city?
After a few minutes and more, Tin and I deposited our stuff in the storage area of Nomad Westend backpacking hostel prior to heading to Paddy’s market for a little shopping.
Paddy’s Market is situated in the Sydney’s Chinatown, specifically in Hay Street in Haymarket. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday for people like us that want a good deal. We got cheapo shirts, bags, ref magnets which all screamed Sydney or Australia. After all the searching for good finds, we went to the upper floor (food court) for some lunch. The foodcourt looks like the usual foodcourt with various foodstalls located side by side. Since Paddy’s is located in Chinatown, most of the stalls were selling what else but—-Chinese food! What did I have? I had Indian food as my first meal in Sydney (okey, I had Hungry Jacks while waiting for my flight to Canberra a few days before).
Walking along the streets in Chinatown makes one feel you’re transported to old Manila. It did feel like Manila with the old buildings, rails, signages in Chinese characters and the overall aura. The mix of people also reminded be of some place in Asia. It felt like home.
Inlove with Darling
With a map on hand, the next stop was Darling Harbour. It sounded easy but it was a good 10 to 15 minutes walk with photo-ops. We passed by Tumbalong Park and the Chinese Friendship Garden, took some photos and sat on the bench to pass time and talked about our so-called lives. Since it was summer and we were walking at 2 P.M., we stopped by the steps looking over Cockle Bay and ate our iced pops. The sun was out but it didn’t actually feel so hot. So, this is summer in Sydney.
Darling Harbour is well, a harbour and an entertainment center. It is surrounded by restaurants, hotels, stores and museums that would keep visitors busy. What I love about the Harbour, though, is the Pyrmont Bridge. A bridge that actually is like a walkway connecting Cockle Bay Wharf to the Maritime Museum. I didn’t appreciate it the first I saw it but when I came back the following day to view the magnificent harbour, my heart goes in Lilo fashion, “I love this, I can tell.” It must be the sun and benches on the bridge. I had a good time sitting on one of them and just people watch (and talking over the phone).
Opera and Bridge
Two of the iconic structures that are synonymous to Sydney are the sails and magnificent bridge in Sydney Harbour known as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, respectively. From Martin Place (one of the famous meeting places in the city), it is a long walk towards the Circular Quay. But no worries, summer rain in Sydney is a welcome treat as long as you got your umbrella.
Compared to Pyrmont, Harbour is imposing. It may not be the longest suspended bridge but it still had me at ‘gday mate!’ Now, I can say that I’ve met Brisbane’s Story bridge’s famous sister. I dunno but since I stepped in land downunder, I became so fixated with bridges.
Harbour’s well-known neighbor, which is a short walk, kept me in suspense. When I got a glimpse of one of the sails’ tip, I was raring to go. We couldn’t wait to take our photos but Dana told us the that view farther was way better.True, being on the steps of the Opera House gave justice to what is usually seen in photos and postcards.
The well known sails looked liked sliced white Japanese lanterns towering the structure. I wished it was sunny that day to have a contrasting color between the roof and the sky. Still, I got dozens of photos on the steps of the Opera House.
Beside the Opera House is the Opera Bar. An alfresco dining and drinking area for those who want to eat and drink while enjoying the view. Since we were on a budget, we just sat on the benches while soaking in the sights in Sydney Harbour. This is the best of both world! We got the Harbour Bridge on our left and the Opera House on the right!
Parks and Recreation
I noticed that the city is full of open spaces. Open green spaces, to be exact. The long walk from the Opera House to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair provided the proof for that (wide) open spaces named Royal Botanic Garden. Smack in the eastern part of the city, past the Sydney Harbour, it is the oldest scientific institution in Australia that houses native plant species from the land down under and South Pacific. I never imagined it was a scientific institution (hello, botanic nga eh!) but sure has a lot of flora.
The garden, I may say, is a perfect dating place (or breaking up place like the couple we saw in the area). Calm, cool and cozy for HHWWPSSP moments. Hey, there was even a couple getting married that summer afternoon we were there.
Aside from those lovey-dovey stuff to do, the Garden is also a venue for open cinemas. The screen and chairs were actually being set up while we were walking towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair (best view to see Harbour Bridge and the Opera House at the same time). Maybe, I should experience that the next time I am there.
Another famous park is Hyde Park, named after the park in London, near St. James Road and Liverpool Street. It is smack in the other part of downtown Sydney but feels so quiet. Why is it that parks look so quiet? It houses several war memorials aside from the blooms and the trees. I was about to stay near this place but the hostel ran out of rooms. Just imagine what it would be like doing the morning runs in the fig-line avenue of the park?
A stone throw from my place is Belmore Park. Well, a long throw, actually since I got there after walking and walking along the streets in China/Asia-town. Belmore is small in area but is surrounded by the Central Station in St. James and the church. It is a green space where one can propped anywhere when benches are not available. There were kids running around, Chinese oldies doing some meditation, couples dating and people like me who would like to pass time til rain starts pouring. Run!
Spice and Pies
For some reason, majority of my food intake in Sydney consisted of spicy Asian dishes – Indian vegetarian curry, Thai’s curry, Malaysia’s curry plate with roti and Turkish kebabs. Maybe my love of spice and curry was re-ignited because of the cold summer in the city. Never had so much Asian food in a non-Asian country. But hey, Sydney’s a melting pot.
I was told to try Porters’ but I haven’t seen one in the many streets I’ve walked in the city. Face Pies are ubiquitous that I had my last meal in Sydney eating a happy face pie and drinking hot coffee at 1 A.M. in Campbell Street. I was trying to stay awake til 5 A.M. and I was there along with some late-niters biting mushroom and cheese pie in between talks over the phone. Oh yeah, someone is actually accompanying me in my quest not to sleep.
Aside from dormlife back in college, it was my first time to stay in one room with 3 other people that I hardly know. At least, back in the dorm, you get to know them after a few weeks. I had 2 French and an American as roomies. I think we were not the friendliest of the bunch although I tried making some small talks with French #1 and vice versa. She is taking a time off from the uni and solo traveller who seems to get to tired always (I always see her sleeping). I could have joined her in the hostel’s Saturday nite party but I got other plans…aka Bondi at nite! For the other 2, it was merely a hi-hello thing until I left. 😦
I did like Phil, though. The graveyard shift guy manning the reception who I pestered when I was making my room reservations and annoyed for the late shuttle service that I requested. He sounded friendly (he should be) and actually mistaken me for a Malaysian. Hah, looks like Pinoys don’t usually check in at Westends. Truth be told, most that I have seen are Europeans with one or two Asians. I’ve never been in a place with many Euro “kids” –and I am just talking about Westends’ elevator.
I will be back
I’ve experienced the city life but I think I still have to accomplish TWO more things in Sydney : Manly and Shelly. The two beaches I really want to see after Bondi. Yes, I need to swim in those three, not just the stroll along and take a photowalk.
I think I haven’t explored the historical part of the place – the place it used to be known for. A penal colony. In just my recent reads I discovered that Hyde Park is part of a sewerage system back in the days. How could I missed that? Then, there was The Rocks and King’s Cross. And Taronga Zoo.
My stay in Sydney was too short and I should really be back. ASAP.
*The other 3 are Hanoi, Seoul and Florence. yay! 3 out of 4 na ako!