Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lost and Found

Rediscovered these notes of our trip to Sydney in 2004. I found myself chuckling (ok, even I am guilty of laughing at my own jokes) so hey why not share them with one and all? Here they are then, our Sydney sojourn in black and white, and colour. HM's comments are in italics.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Day 0 - Getting to Know Sullivans

Getting to Sullivans was really easy. We just hopped outside the airport to the bus area and spoke to someone in a uniform. A$9 and the little van sent us right to Sullivans' doorstep, and we got a tour of Sydney's hotels to boot, courtesy of the other passengers. Ours was the best little hotel.

front entrance of Sullivans

Accommodation in Sydney is relatively expensive, so it's hard to compare dollar for dollar with where we'd stayed previously in other countries. Moreover, December is peak season for Sydney. This was listed as a three-star, although at first glance, it looked more like an upmarket motel maybe, albeit one with a gym and a pool.

not so impressive from the outside

but nice enough inside - the courtyard

with a pretty decent pool

The first thing that struck us was the size of the room - we would be hard put to swing a cat in it, that small it was. We wondered if we would end up killing ourselves or each other from the claustrophobia. But once we got past the size of the room, it was clear to us that there were many good things going for it.

The room was solidly functional. It wasn't what one would call pretty but it was not at all pokey. What it was though was thoughtfully equipped. For instance, there were lots of power points, the most I've ever encountered in a hotel room of this size - five, not inclusive of those for the tv, radio etc. Maybe they cater extra power points for electronic sex toys?

Other features included:

  • a work space (they should consider installing a thingum for cable locks though)
  • one downlight each for the work space, left and right side of the bed, with individual dimmer controls! Away with the ugly fluorescent lighting...
  • tv and coffee-making facilities, complete with little sachets of tea and coffee
  • small fridge, thankfully devoid of the usual over-priced junk hotel management hopes that you will drink or eat in desperation
  • ironing board and iron
  • safe
  • free movies on call (watched "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" for the nth time, so can now mouth bits of dialogue and lipsync...)

space for stuff

check out the wall-mounted hair dryer

The best part was the bathroom, with its wall-mounted hair dryer! And it was clean too – no stains, no hair in the corners, water drained away. And no drips! Cute little shelves above the wc meant we could put all our toiletries away and keep them dry.

Oxford Street

Last but not least, Sullivans' main advantage for us was its excellent location – at the top of Oxford Street, Paddington, in between the gay district and the upmarket shopping stretch along Oxford. The bus stop was just outside of the hotel. This meant easy access to the city, to the beaches and just about anywhere. We were ready to paint the town red, yeah!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day 1 - Downtown Sydney

Weather: Overcast then drizzly the whole day

We ate breakfast at Sullivans' breakfast café. The breakfast buffet wasn't included in the room rate and, at $12.50 per head, it seemed a little expensive (I hadn't at that point realised how expensive eating out in Sydney would be). Sullivans' regulars raved about it though, and for muesli eaters like HM, it was perfect. There was a good spread of cereals, yogurt, bread and fruit. I prefer a hot breakfast myself but that cost extra, so yogurt and cereal it would have to be. Consolation: there was vegemite and peanut butter!

After breakfast, we walked all the way down Oxford, from Sullivans to Pitt Street in Sydney's CBD. Great, everything was within walking distance. And on that short walk, it seemed that Sydney was prone to emergencies. So many ambulances and fire engines passed us by.

Fitness First seemed to be big in Sydney; many people were carrying FF haversacks. The funny thing is no one seemed to think it obiang to do so. Now, it's a different story in S'pore.

We walked through Hyde Park, to Circular Quay, and on to the Rocks. The weather did not look too good, cloudy and gray. Sadly, photo-taking would be blah...

our take on Historical Sydney, hehe



wah, national pride

To get out of the drizzle, we ducked into the Sydney Visitors' Centre and got a short history of the Rocks, Sydney's historical centre. We came away with the conclusion that women were certainly no pushovers in those days. They bought and sold whatever was on their backs, and were just as likely to use their feminine wiles to lull men into complacency before absconding with their money.

When the rain let up a little, we explored the Rocks on foot, having bought a brochure with guided tour and map. A number of remnants were still extant in situ. For a tourist trap, it retained an incredible sense of history.

Then the weather turned from bad to worse. It started drizzling again. Refusing to be deterred, we trudged on, armed with our trusty umbrellas, under and past the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Affectionately termed the "coathanger" by Sydneysiders, it seemed that much more impressive when we got up close.

the underbelly of the coathanger

ye olde pub

social history preserved


When the rain got even heavier, we sloshed into the Sydney Observatory. Not HM's kind of place, but there was an interesting little exhibition on the history of astronomy.

Eventually, our stomachs rumbled and we found ourselves back at the Rocks. Most of the food joints in the Rocks area seemed a bit wanna-be and touristy, but what choice did we have? We mostly wanted to sit down and warm up. We chose Mokambo, a quiet place serving Australian cuisine. HM had a mildly spiced tandoori chicken wrap which she liked. I had an Aussie omelette (how boring, I know). The food was surprisingly decent and not salty at all.

When the rain let up, we headed towards Chinatown, although not before detouring to do a bit of shopping in the CBD.

Queen Vicky

the old meets the new in the CBD

HM finally managed to locate some face flannels from Body Shop, yay, something we hadn't been able to find back home in Singapore for a while. But then she decided afterwards that she didn't like them that much after all. The hunt is still on. Beware, face flannels. Darn it...

We finally made it to Chinatown, with communication on our minds. Our mission was to buy an Optus phonecard each so that we could avoid paying roaming charges. It was a surprisingly easy and hassle-free experience, no problem at all.

Of course we had to pop into Market City in Chinatown. Pooped, we sat down for a drink at the food court and a piss in the loo. Must all Asian loos be so gross? Bought stuff at the Asian-run cheapie supermarket (ok so we Asians are good for one thing) - xiaxiangju tea, muesli, plastic bowls and spoons. HM pointed out that this would be a good place to come back to for souvenirs and prezzies eventually. Can buy wasabi peas and macadamias!

Then we circled around Chinatown two and a half times, determined to find Pho Pasteur. I had never seen HM so determined where food was concerned. She had apparently eaten pho from this shop every Sunday after buying groceries at Hay Market on her previous stay in Sydney. And the search was worth it - wah liao, cheap by Sydney standards, and really good! We both had a pho special each, tendons and all, and shared prawn rice paper wraps. Someone was greedy and had the large bowl of noodles. And believe it or not, there appeared to be none or very little msg.

Footnote: Had problems getting new Optus prepaid SIM cards to work. Turned out the problem was non-existent – Optus activation was just very slow!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Day 2 - A Walk in a Park and More

Weather: Drizzly at first, then sunny mid-day, then drizzly again in the evening

We decided to give the Sullivans' breakfast spread a miss. We had done a little shopping in a supermarket nearby the night before, so we were well-stocked. (I love grocery shopping in other countries!) HM had yoghurt and muesli in the room while I had a banana to keep me going till something hot came my way.

We made a beeline for a Starbucks so that we could take advantage of free wireless access, thinking that my Starhub wireless broadband account would entitle me to use the Telstra network. I was disappointed. “Authentication failed?” – what did that mean? (I found out later that the Starhub/Telstra partnership only meant free wireless access at very selective places such as Sydney Airport and Rydges.)

I was not disappointed with the food. I had a mozzarella, sundried tomato and olive panini which was not bad at all. HM had a café misto, and I, a skinny latte.

Having spent a day and a morning in Sydney, I felt qualified to reach the following conclusions about Sydneysiders. They do a lot of...

  • Coffee drinking, even on the run. Spotted people drinking coffee while walking to work, driving to work, cycling, skating, AND talking on their mobiles at the same time.
  • Jogging. There were people jogging up and down Oxford Street, at the Royal Botanic Garden, in Hyde Park, at all times of day.
  • Smoking. We seemed to be breathing in more second-hand smoke than back home in Singapore.
  • Make-up. Sydney's women were invariably made up.

HM was under the weather so no gym for her. The weather had cleared up a little which was just as well.

a sunny day in Hyde Park

We took advantage of the sun and went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I took lots of photos of flowers (and some non-flowers) for my dear mother.


storks, I think

bats that left us all a-gawk

bees at work

arachnaphobia, ahhh....

The Gardens were quite pleasant indeed, and the Succulent Garden was particularly good.


like something from another planet...

extraterrestial cabbage?

Then we wandered over to the iconic Sydney Opera House where we were duly impressed... by the toilets. Very avant garde indeed. There was no sink per se. How would one describe it? There was a long thin strip of specially designed undulating porcelain sink underneath the taps to drain away the water like miniature waterfalls. How clever.

a design as controversial as our durian

some light entertainment at Circular Wharf

From there, it was a hop, skip and jump to Circular Wharf where we could indulge in some gelato. We had two scoops, an excellent pistachio with lots of little bits embedded, and, get this, profiterole flavour! (The same gelato is now available in Singapore downstairs from Lido Cinema.) HM ate most of my mine before introducing me to the transport system.

We took the train across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to Kirribili in North Sydney, where we "visited" the apartment that she had stayed in while visiting a friend. It was a steep climb up the hill but what a view of Sydney Harbour! After that, we took the ferry back across the harbour. I could get real used to riding the ferry...

Once we got back at the hotel for a rest, I discovered I was sunburnt. Ha ha! Ha, like she didn't! Minimal damage compared to someone.

Then I succumbed and paid the x-one network for wireless internet access. In the end, it came up to A$10 for an hour, not as cheap as it sounded originally.

In the evening, we explored Glenmore Road in the rain, and found The Dish That Ran Away With The Spoon, a deli with a reputation for cheap and good food. I had chicken tortellini and a spinach salad, while HM a grilled chicken breast burger. It was all good. Decided to return for more, maybe some chicken the next time...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Day 3 - Bondi, Yes!

Weather: A little uncertain for about two hours, then glorious sunshine the whole day

We decided to make a break for the beach since the weather suddenly turned fine, but first, a little brekkie at Anastasia's (the place with "The Cheapest Dinner!") across the road from Sullivans. For A$6.90, I had two poached eggs and some bacon on Turkish bread – not bad lah, the price. HM had a cup of lemon and ginger tea.

To HM's annoyance, I insisted on checking out the Paddington Market before heading for Bondi. She wanted to hit the beach bright and early, before it got too hot, but I was loath to miss the market since it was only held once a week.

shoppers browsing at Paddington Market

haggling at markets is de rigeur everywhere

Sydney in a snapshot

something for everyone

The bus ride to Bondi Junction took only about 15 minutes. From there, we walked to Bondi Beach.

yeap, Bondi here we come

backpacker digs at Bondi

We weren't the only ones. The Sydneysiders were out in droves too. Couldn't blame them – sunshine after two days of gloom, it was the weekend, and the beaches were beautiful. No wonder Australians don't watch a lot of movies. Who would want to be indoors with such bounty available outdoors?

never too old to enjoy Bondi

shouldn't lifeguards be buffer?

not exactly beach art, eh?

those are surfers, not gulls

Something happened at Bondi when we were there. There were ambulances, fire engines and a helicopter. Overheard: someone fell off a cliff. (Confirmed in the next day's Sydney Morning Herald – some woman from Redfern fell 5 m off a cliff. Apparently, she was lucky to have been found at all by two divers who happened to surface near the rocks.)

Had lunch at Bondi Beach - wraps and juice from a stand. I thought my chicken caesar wrap was less successful than HM's grilled vegetable wrap. Her drink made from carrot, ginger and orange was foul though, yuck, not that she minded. Got even more sun-burnt sitting out in the sun while munching. Ouch!

Then it was time for the 10 km Bondi to Coogee walk.

not the yellow brick road but close enough

Nature, the artist at work

such a great idea, these rockpools

Walked to Tamarama and Bronte. Passed by the cemetery with the best view in the world, Waverley Cemetery. The views from up there were stunning. Did whales ever swim pass?

perfect peace indeed

what a view

so sweet...

Walked to Clovelly and Coogee. Clovelly Beach looked very swimmable. HM said that people snorkelled there - tempting! Coogee Beach was having some sort of family day which meant it was crowded. It might have been nicer on a weekday.

the end of the road - Coogee Beach

Had a snack from one of the concession stands - some kind of pseudo Thai/Vietnamese rice paper wrap with avocado. Very pleasant indeed, especially since there was no cheese in it! The cheese was getting to me, especially the generic cheddar that was ubiquitous.

From Coogee, we took a bus to Taylor Square, just two blocks away from Sullivans. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get around Sydney. Maybe the bus routes were planned for tourists like us.

HM was too tired to face a sit-down dinner so I trotted out and across the road to pack dinner from Indian Home Diner. I had vegetable korma, lamb with spinach and dahl - very strangely sweet and mild - and bought chicken tikka for HM. I had a bite of that - seemed nicer than my korma. Was there some kind of pattern here?!