Australia | Sydney: May 19-24, 2013

May 26, 2019 writing about our trip to Sydney from May 19-24, 2013

May 19, 2013

Christchurch to Sydney

So we arrived in Christchurch on a cold and rainy evening and checked into a tiny studio unit of a hotel downtown. It was the smallest place we have stayed at yet! All good though because we just needed to eat and then sleep. We packed up again the next morning, getting rid of some food stuffs like spices, some rice and pasta, which we'd hoped the cleaning staff could make use of. We didn't plan on cooking lunches and dinners in Sydney, so we didn't need to lug extra stuff around.

We took our car to Christchurch airport and got a shuttle ride from this really mean lady from the car rental agency who wouldn't let Kaelen take any rocks from their premises! Anyhow, we had a lot of time to kill at the airport, so we just chilled out a bit and had some lunch while Kaelen watched turboprop planes on the Tarmac, admiring their fans (propellers). We checked in and hung around their departure lounge, as poor Kaelen tried to play with some boys who just wouldn't give him the time of day! Ah well! Then Kaelen got an ouchie falling backwards from a couch and hit his head. We just wanted to catch our plane and get on our way!

We caught our flight, which seemed pretty short overall. Karthik was watching some "Man vs. Wild" with Bear Grylls, this show about a survival expert who tried to live among impossible conditions in nature; Kaelen got another ouchie when the seat tray jammed his finger while closing at the hinge. Not his day for sure!

After we arrived, Jyoti Chacha (Penny's uncle who lives in Sydney) had come to pick us up as we were spending the night and the next day with his family. We drove north of downtown, passing briefly near the Opera House where Karthik got his first glimpse of this famous landmark. Cool!

We went through several tunnels, but these didn't faze Penny as there were no massive, ominous mountains on top of them! And they were brightly lit! When we arrived at Chachaji's house, we got an awesome welcome from Gurdeep Chachiji, their boys Karan and Bikram, and Chachaji's mother. Kaelen was really looking forward to see the boys (as he met them when they came to Toronto last December). After some initial shyness, he became fast friends with them again and kept them occupied all night till it was time for his bedtime (which he was way past as we lost two hours because of the time zone change). And he got these neat bird balloons! He wasn't the only one being spoiled and pampered that night!

After he went to bed, we all just hung out and caught up and indulged ourselves in a wicked home cooked meal with a crazy number of dishes! It felt so good and we were truly grateful for it (so were our stomachs!). They had also gotten us a designer cake that had a beer bottle sticking out of bed. Karthik actually thought the bottle was real and went to grab it to see its make! Before cutting the cake Karthik bit off the bottle top which was made of really hard toffee. Luckily no teeth were hurt that evening. We enjoyed the cake after which we stayed up past midnight just yapping away over drinks (knowing full well Kaelen would wake up in five hours)! And he did!

The next day we planned on just hanging out more with family and visiting the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we get to pet Koalas and Kangaroos!

May 20, 2013

Sydney - Day 1

We woke up bright and early, thanks to losing two hours and Kaelen still waking up to New Zealand time. But we were in slow motion mode all morning, being pampered by family. We had an enormous and tasty brunch, thanks to Chachiji and Chachaji's mom and just wanted to go to sleep after. We were so full! But we still had to make the most of the day, as it was forecasted to rain later this week.

So we packed up, loaded the car and headed off to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, picking up some animal balloons for Kaelen from a supermarket near Chachaji's house. Ah Kaelen! The things that people do for you!

We arrived at the park, which was in a somewhat shady part of Sydney so we were grateful we were being driven there instead of making our way there by transit. Plus it was quite far from downtown, where our hotel was located. We walked in and got our tickets, while Kaelen had fallen asleep but we had to wake him up before we entered. He was going to pet Koalas and Kangaroos! So, the wildlife park was a large enclosed area where a lot of the animals run about, at least the harmless ones do. A sort of intimate petting zoo slash regular zoo experience.

We saw some interesting birds, especially a pair of colourful ones that were just staring at each other with a cage separating them and their pose was an exact mirror of each other. Yes, one of them was just strutting about outside the cage. Kaelen got really interested in them and tried to catch them, as he does with most birds! He kept asking for them after and still does to this day, the "two birdies" as he puts it. It's hard to describe all the sights and animals we saw before it begins to sound like a nature show. The important and most wonderful part of our experience at the park was, naturally the two animals most iconic of Australia. We first checked out the Koalas, and we have to say they are probably the cutest thing alive on Earth. They just sit there, eating their Eucalyptus leaves, sleeping, and generally trying not to get too stressed.

We got to pet one, even though it was brief and it wasn't a full on cuddle experience. The keeper brought the little furball and dangled it onto a tree branch, where we could gently touch its fur in the back. It felt like really soft shag carpeting! Lovely! We saw plenty more, moving at a slow pace, eating, and just looking around. But the most adorable sight to behold is to see a Koala sleeping, it's just a curled up ball all scrunched up. We could've stayed there the entire day, but we had to move on to our next Outback encounter! We grabbed some grass in an ice cream cone, ideal food for a Kangaroo apparently.

And then we saw them, tons of them! Walking about, sleeping, lazing around, hopping about and generally being social with everyone. We approached a couple of them and started to feed them, when Kaelen wanted in on the fun. He had a huge smile on his face as he fed them. This kid loves animals for sure! And then an unexpected visitor joined the fray. An Emu! This big tall flightless cousin of the ostrich just wandered on over and wanted some food! And it wasn't waiting to be fed. It basically took the food right out of the kangaroo's fingers! But it wasn't all that bad a bird; it was just a big bird (ha.. pun intended!). We gave Kaelen another grass cup to feed the Emu, which he did happily. The Emu took off big chunks from the cone and every time he bit it, the cone fell down. Brave little Kaelen picked it up every time and continued to feed the greedy bird. And when the cone was down to a wee little bite, Kaelen still offered it when the Emu took a bite out of more than just the cone. Kaelen was a little shaken, having almost had his finger bit off, but he was a good sport about it. Fun times!

We then walked over to a large group of Kangaroos just lying around and mingling with the tourists. Kaelen spent a lot of time here, going up to all the little marsupials, touching them, talking to them and having a great time. We even saw a Kangaroo with a little Joey inside its pouch! That was quite the cute sight! We hung around there, walking around and on K poop and then decided to move on to the rest of the wildlife park. It was quite a struggle getting Kaelen out of there, which was totally understandable. He wanted a kangaroo and the Emu to come along.

We then saw the same Blue Penguins we had seen off the coast of Perth during our visit to the Penguin Island. These were somehow cuter! As it was a fairly huge park, it's hard to recollect everything in order, but we saw Tasmanian Devils, Flying Foxes (fruit bats), Wombats, Dingoes, more Koalas and Kangaroos (even an albino one which just looked like a rabbit), and even Peacocks strutting around freely among the tourists. We even saw an albino Peacock! It was eerily beautiful with not a single speck of colour on it. We were getting weary of animals by this point when we decided to call it a day at the park. We had a great time and were already looking forward to our day at Sydney's Taronga Zoo the next day.

We then went to have a bite and coffee at a nearby McDonald's and weren't planning on going in, when Kaelen spotted an indoor playground in the shape of a helicopter! How could we possibly say no to that! So we spent quite a bit of time, taking turns keeping Kaelen company in this really cool playground structure that looked like one of his favourite things in the world. He was then joined by another kid, who seemed harmless at first and was probably a year older than Kaelen. But he started to push Kaelen and being aggressive and even mouthed off the F word a few times! Karthik got Kaelen out of there, even though Kaelen didn't seem all that affected by it. Ah, we know we were probably being over protective and that this kid didn't mean anything. We also realize we were probably being biased because this McD's was in a "bad" part of town and that the kid probably just grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Not his fault. Anyhow, we'll take the hit for doing what we did, partly feeling bad but also feeling good that we didn't want Kaelen to be exposed to what we felt was inappropriate behaviour. So that's that! We did, however, enjoy really tasty Banana Bread (Toasted, with butter!... an Aussie specialty)

Chachaji and Chachiji then drove us through rush hour to downtown where our hotel was. We got to see a fair bit of Sydney along the way and it seemed much like any other big city. The downtown area was quite lively and busy and we felt good about our decision to stay here for the remainder of our time in Sydney and were looking forward to it.

May 21, 2013

Sydney - Day 2

Woke up bright and early that morning to head out on a ferry to Taronga Zoo, one of the best zoos in the world, supposedly. Instead of taking a cab, we caught the free 555 bus that runs a circuit around the major attractions of the downtown core, to drop us off at the Circular Quay. This is where all the major ferry routes depart, to Taronga, Manly beach and other major tourist spots. We got on the ferry and got to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House for the first time in daylight (at least Karthik and Kaelen did!). It was a really cool spectacle, one of the most captured in photos and postcards. It didn't disappoint! A fun ride after, we got off at the Taronga Zoo wharf and walked up to the Sky Safari, a really neat cable car that takes you to the top of the hill where the main entrance is located and goes over the zoo!

Kaelen (as in Queenstown at the Skyline Gondola) was initially afraid of the "black hole fan," which are the metal wheels that run the cables around the central pulley wheel (the "hole fan" as Kaelen puts it and likes). But he was convinced eventually and we went up in the gondola. It was really interesting to hear and see the animals beneath us (especially the elephants) as the cable car took us to the top of the hill. We then began our exploration. We'll list the highlights as a lot of animals are, well... interesting, but not "wow!" and we're not zoologists either.

The most amazing enclosure was the giraffe one!! These are truly marvelous creatures and it's quite the sight to look at, their tall elegant necks and legs, strutting about like they have the best view of the world. And they do! The enclosure itself offered us great views of the Sydney skyline in the background, so yes, they do have the best views! We spent quite a bit of time here, and several kids came and went, all standing on a bench to get a glimpse of the giraffes. We even got a giraffe stuffed animal from the Zoo shop, overriding our usual policy to only get stuffed animals that are native to the country we're visiting!

We then saw the chimps, who had an incredibly cool jungle gym built for them. But being midday, they were just sleeping and lazing about and not doing anything really interesting. But the zoo itself is built really well around kids, so they had some ropes and tunnels right outside the chimp enclosure, that led to viewing portals that directly looked into their enclosure. Neat!

We then saw some really handsome Zebras (yes, we say handsome), swatting flies with their tails and being happy there's no lions about. We then saw a Sumatran tiger on our way to the gorillas, but it too was hiding and being generally coy. Meh! The gorillas had just stepped out of their main enclosure (waterfalls and streams and all) into this separate room where they were being fed. We could see them through a glass separation, and while it was interesting, it was also sad. And they looked sad, being cooped up like that and stared at by visitors every day. But the baby gorilla was the liveliest, what with still being young and not jaded like the rest of the troup! Bleh!

We then stopped over the Taronga Zoo food court to grab some lunch and it was neat to see how it was built in a Thai style and overlooked the Asian Elephant enclosure. Apparently all the elephants at this zoo were donated by the Thai government, hence the style of the pavilions there. We were feeding Kaelen when these rowdy long-beaked birds started bugging some tourists at the table beside us and went as far as grabbing their entire chicken dinner and ran off with it! One of them even came up to Kaelen and as he would always do, he reached his hand out to them and the same stupid bird bit his finger and actually bit off a piece of skin dangling from his finger (from a previous ouchie he had, that was healing). Bastards! From then, Karthik only referred to them as "stupid birds" to Kaelen and that's what he calls them now!

Kaelen fell asleep in his stroller soon after that, and Penny and Karthik roamed about, first to look at the big cats. The Bengal Tiger was impressive (probably the most impressive big cat), but again was hiding nearly out of sight. Meh! The African Lions, however, were all sitting atop this raised platform (one male and two females), basically posing and staring at the tourists through the glass separation. That was cool! They were just sitting there, being looked at and doing their own looking back at us!

We then went off to see their neighbours in the savannah, the meerkats. Now, these little buggers are crazy cute, especially when they stand up on their hind legs, arms folded in, and look about with their curious, almost startled, eyes! That was a hoot! We then walked (a lot of walking!) over to the Australian outback section, passing by a seal show, which we declined to watch as we remembered our tour guide from the dolphin encounter cruise we took at Perth, telling us how a lot of these show animals are really just miserable and only perform as they're trained to.

The Australian outback section was a disappointment as most of the Kangaroos were just sleeping and as such, we were glad we did the Featherdale Wildlife Park the day before. We then made our way back out of the zoo to the ferry, when Kaelen woke up and was asking for his baby Pooh. But he was nowhere to be found. Now, this was a mini-crisis! Kaelen absolutely loves his baby Pooh, so Karthik backtracked our steps to go looking for him. But no such luck. We then decided (if Kaelen is OK with it and we don't have to bring out our "backup" baby Pooh) that we'll try to use this opportunity to wean him off of it.

We caught the ferry back and again got to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge on our way to Circular Quay. We were walking towards the Opera House, when we saw these really cool Aboriginal musicians playing the didgeridoo to some wicked electronic music beats! Now Penny remembers musicians like these playing at this exact same spot during here visit to Australia in 2005, so she was happy Karthik got to see them too. It was a wicked sound, but Kaelen again got upset and wanted to have the stroller turned away from them. We think it's something to do with seeing tribal people wearing their unconventional clothing and markings and expressions. We don't know what else could be the problem! Karthik went and talked to one of them to ask what's a good place to buy a didigeridoo and was directed to a Spirit Gallery in the Rocks area of Sydney (and to ask for Reno). We will keep that in mind for sure!

We walked over to the Opera House, which just looked stunning in the setting sun (as did the Harbour Bridge)! Kaelen really likes the Opera House and was going crazy, climbing the many steps up and down. We eventually got right up and close to the main building when you realize the Opera House is actually three distinct and separate buildings, but you could never tell that from any angle, except from the main entrance. Really cool structure! We went inside to enquire about tours, but it was going to be an hour long and we weren't really up to it. But Kaelen gave Karthik a good impromptu tour, when he walked past a security barrier and up the steps to the main foyer! Karthik chased after him and took his sweet time getting Kaelen back! 

We hung around the Opera house area, taking tons of pictures and then decided to grab some drinks at the Opera bar overlooking Circular Quay. It was chill just drinking our ales, but not as chill as we would've liked as Kaelen kept asking to drink our ales and was generally fidgety and wanted to swim in the water and all that jazz. Ah! We finished our drinks and walked back, taking another bus back home. We were beat!

Now we didn't have a clue about what to do the next couple of days as the weather was going to be just rainy. So we just decided to play it by ear.

May 22, 2013

Sydney - Day 3

A cold and generally gloomy day in Sydney today! Not raining yet, which is good. But, we still wanted to take it easy as we're now finally feeling the effects of having travelled around for a month, with not so much as a full day's break anywhere. We didn't want to do all that much and Kaelen was being a real brat this morning so our moods weren't all that high either. Meh! We still decided to head out and walked in the direction of Darling Harbour, a great spot for locals and tourists alike.

We were entering this park area near the Darling Quarter shopping/dining area overlooking Cockle Bay (just south of Darling Harbour), And what an insanely fantastic and amazing kids' park we saw! This was probably one of the most unique and inventive kids play areas we had ever seen in our lives and were really envious that we didn't have anything like this back home in Toronto. Kaelen went crazy, exploring away. There were water wheels being fed by water streams that went through other barriers with all these cool designs that kids could hop and skip over. There were these cool slides that had these mounds with steps carved in (like a really gentle rock climbing incline) that led to the slide itself, instead of generic stairs or ladders. Another massive slide behind that could fit maybe four to five people side-by-side that had a true rock climbing type wall with ropes to get to it (for older kids). This amazing jungle gym made out of ropes with an intricate web-like structure (and pretty tall too!). And a cool zipline for kids! Wow wow wow!

Kaelen had a blast with the zipline (Karthik too) and he went on it quite a few times, with Karthik holding his seat both ways. He had a blast on the big slide (with Karthik taking him up the rock wall with the rope), although he hesitated here and there to actually do the sliding down, preferring instead to just stand and jump about at the top and watch other kids and their parents slide down! We had a real blast at the park, and then grabbed a quick bite for lunch, before it started raining. Had it been a sunny day, we would have definitely spent more time at that park!

We walked by the Darling Harbour bars/cafes/restaurants and really marveled at the cool designs and architecture and the general locale. Surrounding the bay were places to eat, shop and mingle, and in the backdrop was the Sydney downtown skyline, and a really neat pedestrian bridge (the Pyrmont Bridge) that had a monorail running right along it! We walked the length of the bridge and were really impressed by the whole setting and the urban planning. If only we had something this neat back home! We crossed the bridge to take the monorail to another station where we'd walk over to the Powerhouse Museum, a really cool museum of art, design, and science (kind of like our Science Centre on Steroids and with a Ph.D in Design)! But the monorail had been stopped due to some fire alarm somewhere else, so we walked along the opposite of the bay we had walked just before crossing the bridge.

We then spotted this really cool fountain (if you could even call it that!), where it was basically a set of concentric circles spiraling downward to a centre with a large dome of a rock placed there. And water was flowing down the circles! And there were these two boys running along the spiraling circles, up and down and generally looking like they were having a blast! So we looked at each other and said, Yep! Kaelen is trying that for sure! The other two boys were running around in their diaper/underwear but Kaelen wouldn't want to take his pants off, so just the shoes/socks came off. He had a great time chasing after the boys, jumping and splashing the water and of course, getting wet! Ah! No change of clothes! Anyhow, the older boy had given Kaelen this long stick with a Shark head that had a trigger to open its jaw. Kaelen kept it and wouldn't give it back until after much convincing, and as it had started to rain and we were making him leave, he went off on one of his worst crying tantrums ever. We were in no mood to go to the Powerhouse Museum and we were already tired walking around, so we just decided to head back to the hotel.

We just chilled at our hotel the rest of the day and felt better for it and so did Kaelen. It had really started to pour and we were good with just being in our hotel, instead of forcing ourselves to do more stuff. We also think Kaelen is just done with traveling and moving from place to place for almost a month, and these tantrums are just his way of expressing that. We're OK with doing nothing the next day, especially if it's going to be a rainy one.

We ordered some takeout Thai food from the most popular Sydney Thai restaurant chain, Chat Thai. We ordered Pad Thai, Green Curry Chicken, Papaya salad, and some Spring rolls. Karthik took a stroll to Thai Town to pick it up as it wasn't far from our hotel. While he wasn't as impressed by the Thai Town or the Chinatown in terms of "wow" factor, it was cleaner than toronto's Chinatown. More importantly, the food was great! Kaelen really loved the Pad Thai and kept asking for more of the longest noodles. We both thought this was the second best Pad Thai after the one we had by the river at street vendor in Bangkok. We will be definitely ordering from these guys again the next day!

May 23, 2013

Sydney - Day 4

A rainy day with no end in sight. The only thing we had in mind to do was go to the Rocks Centre (a shopping/dining area near the Circular Quay that's in the old historic part of Sydney) and get Karthik his didgeridoo from the Spirit Gallery. Kaelen was again acting up as we were leaving and we just decided to get there and back, even though our hearts were not in going out anymore. We were just about done with everything and so was Kaelen!

We took a cab and as we got out, the rain had let up and so we walked about the Rocks district. Old historic buildings and art galleries/shops and restaurants made for a nice ambience and the clouds had parted and the sun came out! And we felt better for being out. We stopped to grab a bite for lunch at a cafe and some multi-coloured parrots joined us, flying around and generally looking pretty! That helped our moods too!  It then began to pour torrents and we were glad to not be caught in it, being protected by the awning at the cafe's outdoor patio.

After the rain stopped, we then went to look for the Spirit Gallery, one of the main places in Sydney for Aboriginal art directly from the artists. There were tons of didgeridoos and Karthik went to look for Reno (having been referred to by the guy he met playing at the Circular Quay a couple of days back). We were shown some real insight about didgeridoos, this very basic instrument that was a wooden log carved out from the inside by termites, that plays an amazing, distinctive sound. There are a range of didgeridoos that play a distinct note, from low to higher ones (B to C to D to E and even F). Reno suggested to stay away from the really low ones (B) or the the higher ones and suggested C or D didgeridoos. He played a lot of them to show how they should sound and man, what a musician he was! It was amazing how he could play them without pausing for breath, all these crazy sounds coming out of the didj. Karthik was wowed and started trying out different ones, finally selecting a D-note didgeridoo that was a plain-looking one without any fancy Aboriginal designs/art on it. He just wanted the instrument for its musical quality and not the art. It was a really cool, educational experience and Kaelen warmed up to the didgeridoo eventually, having run in and out of the store several times as he probably remembered the time at the Circular Quay when the "scary-looking" Aboriginals were playing.

We did some souvenir shopping, where Kaelen got himself an Australian flag umbrella, and then walked over to the Circular Quay again to get one last glimpse of the Opera House. We took a cab back and called it a day, leaving the rest of the day to recuperate and pack for our long flight back home. And we ordered Chat Thai for dinner again and Kaelen had a balloon party in his Pack n Play!

We're finally leaving Sydney and Australia and heading back home after a month of being away! What an experience it has been. We're glad to have shared it with everyone and happy we went on this adventure! Kaelen was really amazing throughout, except for the times he wasn't!  But on the whole, we admire how this two and a half year old has been cool with being dragged around from place to place. He'll hopefully grow up to love traveling like his parents do!

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