Mar 13 2009
Sydney, 16-17 February 2009
I’ve been to Sydney countless times, but my last trip here was a distant 4 years ago. Even then I stayed in Parramatta and attended meetings at Sydney University, so I spent Sunday morning rediscovering downtown.
The iconic Queen Victoria Building (QVB), completed 1898, was initially a market, now an upmarket shopping mall, and interestingly enough, owned by a Malaysian company.
There’s the Queen herself, welcoming visitors to the building. Sydney today is very cosmopolitan with many Asian faces in the streets, which reminds me of Vancouver.
The interior is tastefully designed for the chic and trendy to patronise. Come to Sydney and this is the place to hang about.
The rotunda, or dome as it’s better known, in the middle of this rectangular-ish building is a sight to behold.
Lunchtime, and a pizzeria on the basement floor is swamped with orders. Look at those goodies!
I exit QVB, and gaze at the spire of another Sydney landmark - the Town Hall. Built in the 1880s out of sandstone, it stands out among the downtown skyscrapers.
This bit of George St is where the modernist towers are.
I’m having dinner at a friend’s place, and the best way to get there is by train. Sydney does not have a true rail mass transit system, but rather the old-fashioned train network which sometimes goes underground. And the stations are not actually great looking either, more like the subway stations in New York City - dark, characterless, confusing, forbidding and boring.
I’m in the leafy western Sydney suburb of Rhodes, on the bank of the scenic Parramatta river, next to the Sydney Olympic Park, where many successful Asian professionals own their stately homes, such as this 100-year-old heritage structure.
Which comes complete with an equally stately gum tree in the lawn.
My host shows off his cello-fiddling skill, but I think his 8-year-old boy does better.
The food soon arrives, thanks to the ma’am, but bear in mind this is not yet dinner, but rather a snack.
Sydney is famous for its fresh seafood, in particular oysters and prawns. The oyster juicy flesh tastes out of this world as it melts in your mouth, and at A$16 a dozen, these are not even the best yet.
Dinner time, and I find myself crossing the Anzac Bridge …
… for dinner at a famous seafood restaurant at Glebe, where a single piece of top-end oyster costs A$4.20. I gobble up four of them!
Long-ish dinner done, and a waterfront stroll is in order.
Facing the pristine sea water of one of the bays of Sydney, prime million-dollar-plus, avant-garde townhouses with glass walls allow strollers to peek in unimpeded. Unless the curtains are drawn.
Downtown Sydney is an interesting place to roam, and you will never get lost, because you have this 305m pole to point you back to Sydney’s centre.
Get a clear sky and you won’t miss the Sydney Tower … ‘destroyed’ by Godzilla in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.
When you spot the largest Coke in town …
… then you have arrived at Kings Cross, the famous redlight district, now much tamer than yesteryears, but the bouncers still mind the local McDonald’s.
Whenever I’m in an Oz city, my fave stop is always Dick Smith, which I reckon is better than the Radio Shack in the US. Mr Smith has been around since the 70s and he has not aged a single bit!
The place is always full of cool things, such as this burnt possum.
Look at the singed whiskers … poor fella. And his buddies too … no thanks to the Melbourne bush fires.
At the northeastern perimeter of downtown Sydney, the well-regarded Royal Botanic Garden, is well worth a stroll. Founded 1816, it has one of world’s best collection of palm trees. Birdlife in abundance too, errr … not this species …
… but rather this bloke …
… and this cockatoo. Sleeping flying foxes excluded.
Australia is a nation at pain with its past …
… which is articulated in frank displays in the park.
Passing through the garden, I emerge at the Art Gallery, where a couple of huge matchsticks greet me. A good one and a burnt one, symbolic of life and death. In front of me, there’s the inner Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo (I hope I got the spelling right).
It has been raining every day ever since I arrived Gold Coast four days ago, and as I buckle up in my seat aboard Virgin Blue early morning Flight 808 to Melbourne, it’s still wet in Sydney.
But in Melbourne, it is as dry as tinder, though the temperature is not as horrific as during last week’s bushfire inferno time.
A bit of plane-spotting at Melbourne International is in order.
Spectators gather to watch The Whale - Airbus A380 - as it prepares for a nonstop flight to Los Angeles.
At the corner of my eye, I spot my own transport back to Kuala Lumpur taxiing to Gate 5.
On schedule the AirAsia X Airbus A330 (reg. 9M-XXA) departs, and soon it climbs through the smokey muck.
Forty minutes later we are in ‘clean air’ territory, as the plane heads northwest for Kuala Lumpur.
And I tuck into my A$5 lunch, simple but tasty and filling.
40,000ft above the red Australian desert, the Winglet and the Moon.
Just 4 hours after leaving Melbourne, the plane leaves the coastline of Australia, some 130km northeast of Broome in Western Australia (see location HERE).
And 3 hours later over the polluted islands of Riau, just south of Batam, where open burning is the norm.
An hour later we are safely on the ground.
One final look at 9M-XXA, before I have to leave.
Back at good old KUL LCCT, well, at the brand new international arrival immigration hall. No more human queue overflowing onto the tarmac here.
> THE END