Every year my family and I pack up and go on a trip together. This year we went to Sydney.
Sydney was never on my list of places to travel (I don’t like visiting cities. They feel alike to me) but Lu See (my little sister) said we should go.
“We haven’t been to Australia!” she said, “It would be fun!”
She had no idea what Australia was like (I’m sure she thought about kangaroos and that picture of the Opera House and nothing else). But we got our tickets booked anyway.
1.30PM, February 23rd, 2015: After a long flight
… full of crying babies and uncomfortable airplane seats, we arrived at the Sydney airport. I wasn’t impressed. It was much smaller and less busy than other city airports I’d been to. But this was Australia, not China.
I looked at the options we had to get to our inn:
A: AUD17/person for a one way trip using the train (30 mins I think) or,
B: AUD80 for a mini-van that can nicely fit 5 of us (also around 30 mins).
I decided to take the bus. It was included in our MyMulti3 Pass which we paid AUD65 for. With AUD65, we got unlimited Bus, Ferry and Train (except the airport train, of course) access for a week.
Sounds great right?
To take the bus to the city we needed to make 2 (bus) stops before hopping on a train at the Central station (the station you took a train to anywhere), then to the station closest to our inn (Summer Hill station).
Sounds easy but
… we were lost for about three hours.
We had to wait 30 minutes for the bus to arrive at the airport. As an aside, my mom stepped on the toe of an injured man (who was obviously in pain because his leg was wrapped) on the bus and was shouted at. We looked at each other and wondered if this was an omen of what was worse to come.
We then took the wrong route from Central station and ended up obliviously passing the station we were supposed to drop off at (Summer Hill) a few times. When we finally got to Summer Hill, we couldn’t find our inn. Instead we circled around the same roads for almost two hours and got frustrated when none of the roads read 42 Parramatta.
My parents hated me for an hour because I made them walk for two hours lugging heavy luggages around.
‘We’re almost there!’ I tell them, but they never believe me. I say that to them all the time when we’re lost.
At 3.30pm I called the inn to tell them we would be late: ‘Please don’t cancel my booking.’
We finally reached at 4.40pm.
We should have just taken the mini-van.
Decent Bed, Location
The place we stayed at was Marco Polo Inn. It was a decent place without all the city view. Tucked quietly away in the Italian street of Parramatta, it was a strange welcome to Sydney for us. I had expected more lights, noise… all the trappings of a city. But this was Parramatta, not Sydney CBD.
The inn was relatively cheap, AUD295 a night after discount. Fits 5 people alright, though as an introvert I would have liked more space.
After we settled in, we went exploring around Parramatta Rd. There were not a lot of interesting places nearby but we found a decent Indian restaurant to have our first meal in Sydney.
The same food that cost RM4 in Malaysia cost us AUD11 in Sydney. We paid AUD49 for a meal for 5 people we could have paid RM22 for dining at an Indian kopitiam in Malaysia.
After that we dropped by a 7-Eleven nearby to grab all the things we needed. Sandwich bread, sausages, chips, cheese… all the good stuff we needed to make a filling sandwich for breakfast.
At around 8.30pm I was already tired. It must have been 11pm back home in Malaysia and way past my bedtime. I tucked myself in at the lower bed of the only double decker in the room and tried to sleep all the jetlag away.
Bus 361, First Day in Sydney
I woke up at 11am the next morning, had breakfast and got myself ready for my first stroll in Sydney.
Conveniently enough there was a bus stop just in front of our inn. It took us 20 mins to get from our inn to the CBD using the bus.
Our first day in Sydney was rather uneventful because we woke up late from the jetlag and arrived in the CBD around 2pm. However, we still had time to get a feel of what Sydney was like.
Sydney at the end of February is slightly cold, like Taipei is at the beginning of March, but drier. Maple leaves were brown and pretty when I found them on the roadside.
No matter where we go my parents liked to check out China town first. They use it as a barometer for everything else.
Chinatown in Sydney was small, but interesting. It was different from the Chinatowns I’ve been to in Singapore and Malaysia. Food was saltier and three times more expensive and twice the size. Though so, we had almost all our meals in Chinatown. My parents never got used to eating anything other than Chinese.
Paddy’s Market: Cheap, Made in China Souvenirs
I can’t remember when we first stepped foot into Paddy’s market, but it must have been Day 2 or 3 because it was closed by 6pm and we arrived at 6.30pm on Day 1.
Paddy’s market is the pasar malam of Sydney – not in the sense that it opens at night (it doesn’t), but because you’ll more often find cheaper, Made in China souvenirs here.
For example, I found this Kangaroo Scrotum for AUD36-40 in a normal store and AUD22-25 in Paddy’s market.
(For those of you who are questioning, this is a real souvenir!)
There are lots of other things to buy in Paddy’s market. Like clothes for children and these:
There are lots of quirky, interesting gifts you can find here but they’re not Made in Australia, just Made for Australia and sold in Australia.
I bought keychains of the Opera house, kangaroos etc for AUD2, 3.50 and 4 and some other things.
Not everyone wants to buy these souvenirs but I think they’re pretty decent. If you have a deeper pocket you can look elsewhere but I think they’re about the same thing.
Made in Australia kangaroos are AUD38 a piece, by the way. The Made in China ones are AUD6.
Sydney Harbour, Opera House, Tarango Zoo, Wax Museum, Bondi Beach
When you’re in Sydney, you have to take this picture:
I used a monopod for the first time in my life to take this photo.
I think I did alright.
We didn’t go into the Opera House itself but I didn’t feel like I needed to.
What I liked about the Opera House was this neat place just beside the Opera House where people were having drinks and food. It seemed a relaxing enough way to end the day.
My parents weren’t interested in sitting by the Opera House for dinner (too hot) so we skipped eating by the Opera House and went back to Chinatown to have dinner.
The other picture you have to take in Sydney is this one:
The Harbour Bridge is a nice sight. As a nerd I think about how much engineering must have gone into this. Pamela recommended climbing it but nobody in my family wanted to go with me so I passed (I’d rather die than go climb a bridge by myself).
I took this picture on my free ferry ride to Tarango Zoo (included with my AUD65 MyMulti3). I don’t think I’ve ever seen such nice views on the ferry rides I used to take between Miri and Brunei as a kid.
Forty minutes from Circular Quay by ferry is the Tarango Zoo. It’s huge (you need to spend a day to finish exploring it) but I’m not an animal person so it was just alright for me – not fantastic. If I was 12 or 10 I might have enjoyed it more.
But I did find this interesting:
Gila means crazy in Malay and I used to call my big bro Gila Monster for years when I hated him as a teenager (obvious reasons).
The other place we went to in Sydney was Bondi Beach. Unlike people who will show you pictures of a beautiful beach full of half-naked or fully naked people tanning themselves, I have this instead:
It was raining when we got there.
Actually, it was raining the whole bus ride there from the CBD.
‘Let’s just go back. It’s not worth it,’ my dad said, frustrated.
But I insisted. I get anxious about an unchecked tourist spot.
Because of this, I don’t have a great impression of Bondi beach. But that’s not anyone’s fault. I was just unlucky.
One day before Bondi beach, we were at the wax museum. I don’t like going to places full of wax people but I did anyway because Lu See wanted to go.
So I took of a picture of myself with Queen Elizabeth.
‘Oh my gosh! It looks like she’s really looking into the camera,’ Lu See said.
I showed Lu See how to take photos with wax people like they’re really posing for pictures with her. I don’t know if I should have. Now she has a collection of selfies with wax figures.
Conclusion: The 3 Things I Liked about Sydney
I want to tell you that I enjoyed myself in Sydney. Despite having a weird start, Sydney is one of those places I can see myself living in. Specifically I like
1. The Harbour
Sydney isn’t just a city. It’s a beautiful place with a vibrant harbour life. It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that gives me that ‘I know how to have fun still’ vibe. I loved how both Darling Harbour and Circular Quay was lined with places where people can just have a drink and have fun with good music. Water, food and music are always a great combination.
2. Art and community
Sydney’s also great for exploration and art. I like places where buildings are nicely designed. There’s actually a lot of thought that goes into most of Sydney’s buildings. It feels harmonious to walk around Sydney. You know those places where it feels like some buildings are an afterthought? Sydney’s not like that.
In Sydney, no one is rushing from one place to another. People are actually walking. I like places where people are walking without running into one another. People are also more polite this way.
If you like these, you’ll like Sydney. But even if you don’t like these, I think you’ll like Sydney too. It’s one of those places that’s a city but not quite. I flew into Sydney expecting to see ‘just another city’ but coming home with so much more.
If you’re planning a trip to Sydney, I hope you enjoy yourself. Get some cheap souvenirs from Paddy’s market and take pictures with wax figures (make them look like selfies).