Monday, September 28, 2009

A few days in Sydney before it’s off to Singapore!!

25-Sep-2009, by Jason

Well, it’s been almost 6 weeks since we’ve left the states and we’ve seen quite a bit (although really just a scratch on the surface) of both New Zealand and Australia. We leave on Tuesday for Singapore and the start of 6.5 months in Asia, the main focus of our trip. Before heading out we had a few days to relax and enjoy American, I mean Australian culture, before heading off to a whole new world. So, in all fairness to Australia, they are a great people and very warm and sweet with a beautiful continent to show off…but in the culture department there was a definite north american feel. When it comes to cuisine, other than meat pies, there is no distinct Australian cuisine (walking down the street you find American fast food, Vietnamese, Thai, Middle Eastern Kebabs, Malaysian and Italian restaurants) and on TV they have Australian Idol and “The Apprentice Australia”. Needless to say it felt a little like home for us, which was a nice intro to our trip which we both think is about to turn into much more of a culture shock as we head to Asia. That commentary aside, (and in all fairness, we only experienced the East Coast of Oz, Western Australia and the Outback would probably be much more of a culture shock for us!) this place really is very cool (the views, countryside and beach culture are amazing!) and worth a visit or four (so much to see in this place, a flight from Sydney to Perth is over 5 hours!!)

So we arrived in Sydney on Wednesday and met sweet sweet Lynne at the Britz office where we returned the camper. We really hadn’t found a hostel yet so she was more than happy (almost giddy actually) to help us find a place in Sydney. She did a quick search online and found a place just South of the CBD (still pretty CBD though, really) and we booked it (not knowing any better and not really liking the place we stayed at last time we were in Sydney) We took the train into town and checked into this place and it was the essence of large, corporate inner city hostel. We met some nice people in our room, but this place was just too big and too much of a party (ie. noise 24/7 and crap all over the hallways) for our tastes. We had pre-booked three nights but decided to find a different place for our last three nights in Sydney. Thursday morning we set off to the Apple Store to check e-mail (we’re both Apple shareholders, we’re entitled to use the facilities, right?!?!) and book a new hostel. With that work finished we set off to Darling Harbour to walk around a bit. We stopped at a cool cafe for lunch (Swiss had the Laksa salad with “sea trout”, pea pods and vermicelli noodles in a nice coconut milk sauce and I had the “sea trout” potatoes and white wine sauce pie with a side salad) then we walked through Chinatown. Chinatown in Sydney is nicer than Brisbane but still has nothing on Chinatown in NYC, Chicago or SF.

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I forgot to mention that after checking e-mail, I was desperately in need/search for a haircut…I couldn’t do it any longer! While I was getting a haircut, Swiss went in search of an iced coffee (which was unsuccessful, FYI) but instead he found a Korean grocery with a fresh shipment of Kimchi! So after spending the afternoon wandering the harbor, we trekked back to that grocery store (hidden down an alley, with a shopkeeper very confused by us buying just kimchi) and we tried our best (with very limited hostel kitchen resources) to make lettuce wraps with rice, kimchi and kangaroo meat (our Aussie take on Korean BBQ) and it turned out quite nice! I was quite stuffed after chowing down on this.


Friday was forecasted to be the warmest day of the next four, so we decided it was our best chance to make it out to the world famous Bondi Beach for some sun, surf and relaxation (you know, because this trip has been so stressful thus far ;-) And after a quick bus ride out (take the 333 bus from Circular Quay or Museum Metro Stations, prepay tickets only so buy in advance from 7-11) you’re dropped off right at Bondi Beach. We literally laid out in the sand (not a cloud in the sky!!) for 4 hours and just relaxed (both reapplying sunscreen and Jason in a goofy hat to protect ourselves from the sun!) We did the walk down south for about 2.5km then back to check out two other beaches, then headed back into the city to clean the sand off! Enjoy some Bondi pictures:

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So after a day at the beach we were both pretty lazy and decided to go out for dinner instead of cooking. The previous night we’d noticed a Mexican place in the Oxford St neighborhood (Mexican caught our eye since it’s not too common down here) and decided to head back that way. So we were presently surprised when we sat down with our burritos (and combined with the nearly identical menu) realized that we’d apparently walked into Chipotle Australia (not actually, but we think an Aussie visited the states and stole the idea!) It hit the spot, mainly because we didn’t have cook, and as I mentioned earlier we didn’t miss much since this country doesn’t have a unique cuisine.

Saturday was spent transferring to a new hostel in a quieter part of Sydney, the Newtown neighborhood/suburb. We wondered around the area and found the local farmers market @ Carriage Works (An old carriage factory where they now film, “So You Think You Can Dance? Australia” among other things) and found a few good buys. It was a great market that reminded me a lot of the Ferry Building in SF…


We ended up making dinner on Saturday night by grilling some chicken and tossing with with a cracked pepper/lemon cream and pesto sauce we bought at that market. Saturday was fairly lazy and a day of relaxation after escaping the craziness of our previous hostel.

Now Saturday night Swiss was not feeling too hot when going to bed, a little congested, a slight cough and really tired. Sunday morning he awoke to a really red right eye and even more congestion/coughing. Fearing pink eye he went to the pharmacist for advice (since the redness had subsided a bit within 2 hours of waking up and the optometrist was closed on Sunday) and they suspected allergies (explaining the sinus congestion, irritation of the eye, and cough created by the sinus congestion) and loaded him up with drugs (no kidding, he left with pills, cough syrup and eye drops) Sunday was mainly a lazy day around town and we didn’t do a whole lot (Checked out the Glebe area, just on the other side of University of Sydney)

Monday Swiss was feeling better, and it being our last day in Sydney, we had ambitious plans! First we walked up to the Sydney Fish Market where Swiss enjoyed some fresh oysters and I some soft shell crab.


Then I had really wanted to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge (not climb the bridge! let’s not confuse the two, I have a real fear of heights like that, just walk across on the sidewalk) and realizing where we were, we just walked over to the bridge and then across it. Got some great views though!

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Now we thought we could catch a ferry from Milson’s Point on the North Side of the bridge but where we thought was the ferry stop on that side of the water turned out to be a “wharf” with a sign that read “Sydney Ferries do not stop here” So we walked around to the Milson’s Point train station to take the train back across the bridge, transfer to another train to arrive at Circular Quay and hop on a Ferry to East Balmain (a small neighborhood that was a tip from some locals we met) Low and behold, upon boarding the Ferry, our first stop was…Milson’s Point!!! Apparently we were just 100 m off from finding the actual ferry stop on that side of the harbor bridge. Oh well! Of course I really wanted some pizza, had a real craving for pizza and we found the neighborhood where EVERY restaurant was closed on Mondays. We trekked back home to make a quick lunch instead and will go out tonight for pizza.

Tomorrow it is off for our 9.5 hour journey (via a stop in Darwin, northern Australia) to Singapore. And so begins our 6.5 month trek through Asia!!


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