The Filipinos are still on a high from our win in Miss Universe 2018, thanks to Catriona Gray. Being the trending personality across globe at the moment, I’m squeezing in the time to share my recent trip to a country she lived in during her younger years.
For years, one of my favorite reality shows is Masterchef Australia. The curiosity of watching it led me not only to loving the show, but it also led to a travel goal. In God’s grace and after months of DIY planning, I finally made it to the “Land Down Under”, specifically to what is tagged to be the Emerald City / Harbour City and hailed as one of the top 50 best cities in 2017 — Sydney, Australia.
Australia has been tagged as the Land Down Under as it can be found in the Southern hemisphere of the world, below many other countries. Being the 6th largest country in the world, they got a variety of land and water forms which can give you lots of options to explore and do depending on your interests (outdoor adventures, artsy feels, food source tripping, etc). They have 6 states and one of them that I visited was in the New South Wales. Sydney used to be mistaken, myself included, as the capital of Australia. What’s certain now is that it’s one of the largest cities of this nation. Before I get thru how I exactly roamed around this awesome city, here are some mini general info deets you shouldn’t miss:
Australia requires a visa upon your arrival. No need to go to the embassy, it can be done online. For a step by step guide, check the blogsite of The Poor Traveler. Personally, I browsed on the instructions there cause it made me easier to understand and follow.
It will be an 8-hr non-stop flight to Kingsford Smith International Airport from Manila via Cebu Pacific. It was my first time to travel that long via plane; thus keeping up with less cramps due to sitting long enough and surviving the boredom was something I had to anticipate and manage. There are other airlines that go to Sydney which you may also travel with.
Cut throat truth, may not be the best as Changi Airport in Singapore, but their airport provides convenience and good stuff which can still make them better compared to usual airports. Passing thru the immigration is a breeze especially when you’re already heading out of Sydney. They got passport and facial scanners that you just have to pass through. They are also connected to the trains which makes it also convenient for travelers going to and fro the city.
Timezone and Seasons
Comparing to the countries on the Northern part of the hemisphere, Australia has got a different orientation of the seasons. Months of Nov to Feb are the colder times for us, but my visit there didn’t require me gloves and thick jackets. I came in time for spring transitioning to summer. So yes, they have a summer Christmas. I still brought one jacket and a few long sleeve tops to warm me up especially at night. As for the timezone, I came during their DST (daylight savings time) wherein they are three hours advance from Manila instead of the usual two.
Sydney is very accessible via trains and buses. Similar to some Asian countries (and I’m really praying Manila will be one soon), they’ve got connecting train lines and numbered buses depending on what specific routes taken. They got a card called Opal which you can tap on and off to trains and buses. It could also be top-up; thus, it is recommended for days stay within Sydney. You can buy them already at the airport with a minimum value in it of AUD10.
The city has a mix of hostels and hotels. Apparently, I won’t be able to make a review for it as I didn’t stay in one (I was at my friend’s place). However, checking on reviews I came across one that has got good reviews and branches within the city. Better check it out for yourselves cause personally, to save and meet new folks, hostels are the way to go.
Hostel: Sydney Hostel YHA
It’s now time to share where in Sydney did I spend the whole trip.
Where To Go
I used to see a lot of reviews online and from colleagues that it’s quite expensive to travel within Australia. I won’t contest on that, but somehow planning and strategizing made me roam around on a budget.
My arrival in Sydney was welcomed with showers — rainshowers, that is. I arrived with a 12 degree Celsius breeze and on-off rainfall from AM to PM. Coming from an 8-hr flight and a weird weather, my friend and I just went to the CBD area, specifically in Darling Harbor. As the sun sets, the heavier the rain fall was so we ended up being indoors for dinner and coffee.
Chinatown and Paddy’s Market
From Central station, take the light rail train and get off to Paddy’s Market station. A few minutes walk and you will also reach Chinatown. You can find here souvenirs that you can keep and give to your family / friends back home. Take note though Paddy’s Market, which was established in 1834, is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays only.
Another one of the spots in Sydney that can give you the Asian vibe is Cabramatta. It’s actually considered the Vietnamese town, as most stalls and eating places are owned by Vietnamese. Quite far from the CBD, as I took at least a 30-40 minute train ride from Central, but was worth the ride. The moment you get out of Cabramatta station, you will be able to see the area. If you’re a fan of bahn mi, pho and other Vietnamese food, take some time to visit there.
Lavender Bay and Luna Park
Going for walks in Sydney is a good thing. This case was applicable when I made a stop to Lavender Bay. It’s overlooking the Harbour Bridge and a spot for joggers / runners. Minutes of walks away is the Luna Park which is also an amusement place. For kids and kids at heart, you can go for some rides (well similar to our Enchanted Kingdom or Star City, only more vintage feels like Coney Island). You will only be charged in Luna Park the moment you take the rides.
Established in 1916, Taronga Zoo houses animals ranging from the usuals you see in a typical zoo to the ones you can only find in Australia like koala bears and kangaroos. There are various ways to reach this place, but I guess the most convenient will be via ferry on Circular Quay. My visit was slight of a bad timing as some of the spots in the zoo were closed due to renovation, but if it was operating in full swing, the entrance fee of AUD42.30 would just be fine (given it goes for a good cause of maintaining the animals and the zoo).
One of the things I love about Sydney is how Aussies spend their time in local parks. Sadly here in Manila, I wouldn’t opt to stay in parks cause it’s messy and crowded. I would say this is one of my fave spots from this trip. Located in the CBD (when you exit St James station to be exact), this oldest park in Sydney has the St Mary’s Cathedral and the ANZAC memorial among others.
I love how they maintain the structures in the park and also the landscaping around it. Instead of being in a coffee shop and spending a few bucks, staying here and reading a good book for a few hours really made me relaxed — priceless!
Artsy and Quaint
This wasn’t supposed to be part of my itinerary, until my friend’s colleague popped this place out as a suggestion (the advantages of traveling solo, you can change routes…). Without much hesitations, I went to this place the next day and glad I effin did.
Aside from the fact this location was used in a very famous music video (clue: one of my fave bands who got heads full of dreams), I really got attracted with the vibe of this place — arts and vintage stores, organic stores, cafes and art murals. I was able to stay here for hours until I just realized it was time to go.
Art Gallery of NSW
If you want to get to know a place’s culture (aside from food), try to check their museums. One of those I visited is the Art Gallery of New South Wales. From Martin Place station, take few minutes walk as it is tucked within the Royal National Park. It houses various forms of art, from Australian contemporary and modern artworks to Asian works. They are open from 10am to 5pm everyday, except on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Ok, I really get inspirations for my arts / crafts stuff and writing thru various art forms (aside from my travels). If you are in Circular Quay area, you better stop by this museum which displays works from living and current artists in Australia. Compared to Art Gallery of NSW, you may find here more of works that are less on paintings — photography, still art, sculptures. They are also open from 10am to 5pm, except on Wednesdays when they close at 9pm.
If you are into fashion boutiques and cafes (which I’m more of the latter), Surry Hills is the place to be. It ain’t as hip and noisy like other places in Sydney, so if you are more into quaint and quiet, better be here. Just go for a 10-minute walk after you exit in Central Station.
Grounds of Alexandria
One of the Instagrammable places in Sydney, it’s worth a bus ride or a longggg walk from Green Square Station. It’s an eating place — whether you’re in for drinks, coffee, light meals or events. I will post more about this and my foodie experiences in Sydney soon.
An Australian trip wouldn’t be complete if you won’t bask on the sun, sea and sand that they offer. Aussies love going outdoors and being at the beach is one of them. From Bondi station, you need to ride a bus to get to the beach area itself. All the while I thought the whole stretch of the beach is called Bondi. Named after a word meaning water breaking over rocks, you may find rock formations via walking the Bondi to Coogee walk trail. It’s a 6km walk (which personally, I felt it was beyond 6km…ang layo kaya?! haha) that could lead you from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach.
I came in time that the spring season is about to close, so unfortunately, no swimming mode for me. For those not used to very cold waters, I’m sure you’re gonna be like me, frozen even if the toes just took a dip on the waves. One thing certain, my friend and I went sunburnt despite that we only spent less that 4 hours under the sun.
Another famous beach is the one that you need to cross via ferry in Circular Quay. Again, glad I made that change of decision. Every 30 minutes, a ferry goes back and forth to Manly Wharf. From there, a cross from the intersection and a 5-10 minute lava walk will lead you to Manly Beach. Similar to Bondi, there are shops and eating places you can find here. The difference is there are familiar brands of swimwear / surf wear you can find here…and yes, a Starbucks cafe.
Heading to Sydney first time, I guess, won’t be complete without paying a visit or having that obligatory photo opt at the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Even if they are the most visited spots in Sydney and you are slightly frazzled with being in crowded places like me, just give it a try. Despite my fear of heights, I succeeded in trying the least thing I could do at the Harbour Bridge — walk on the pedestrian walkway overlooking the Sydney Opera House (from Milsons Point to The Rocks District).
I know this may be long, but I don’t want to close this up without saying my personal thoughts. This trip awakened me in various ways and aspects of my life. It will be an influence and inspiration as I head towards 2019…Hopefully, this renaissance will be the start of better things in my life and eventually channel it towards others.
This Sydney post won’t be the last, no need to bet on that. A few more tips of roaming in Sydney and foodtrippin in my next posts.
To my good friend Danica and to all the people I met on this trip, a gazillion thanks and hope to see you again soon. 🙂
2019 here we go,