Australia was definitely in the plan during our year of travel. I mean, after all, it was Australia that inspired me to want to leave home to live in another country. While living in Australia never materialized, visiting Sydney during month seven of our year of travels was still attainable.
Our next stop during our year of travel was Sydney after spending nearly half a year in Thailand. We were prepared for the reverse culture shock, after having spent so much time in Southeast Asia.
No more budget airlines!
The check-in process was smooth in Chiang Mai as we were flying with a non-budget airline for once. We flew with so many budget airlines that I forgot how nice it was to not have to worry about luggage restriction (remember when we forgot to check carry-on weight restrictions?). While we had 30kg each, our heaviest bag was 22kg.
Flying to Sydney would be a journey since we had to stay overnight at the airport.
We managed to find a 24hr Starbucks and drank Frappuccinos and ate cake all night to keep us awake.
Before we knew it, it was time to board the plane to Sydney!
A few unexpected things happened while boarding to Sydney. First, I forgot to put my 118 ml of insect repellent in my checked baggage and had that confiscated. Boo. Then, right when security scanned my passport right before boarding, an alarm went off. It was scary to see two guys rush to us, take our passports to inspect it for minutes under a microscope. They looked at every detail of our passport pages and questioned us before allowing us on the plane. That was terrifying. I wonder if it’s because we haven’t been back to Canada for almost six months at this point.
Uncomfortable seats and super crowded airline
The double-decker plane was old and packed full of people. Sadly, I sat next to someone who didn’t respect airplane seat boundaries. He kept hogging the armrest and elbowed me throughout the WHOLE flight! Nothing makes me crankier than having elbow jabbed while trying to sleep! I was so annoyed that I took a pillow and used it as a divider, making a clear line that he’s not allowed to cross.
Another odd thing that happened was that we weren’t allowed to stand up once the plane landed. The plane needed quarantine inspectors to come on board before passengers could leave the plane.
Experiencing our first culture shock in Sydney
Once we made it through immigration (they didn’t stamp my passport!), it was time to buy train tickets to get to the city center. $20 AUD for a 20-minute train ride. Nuts. Another option was to take the shared airport transfer but since our hotel was next to the subway line, we figured we’d stick to the train.
The same distance would have cost less than $2 CAD in Thailand. Reverse culture shock is going to hit us hard when we come back to Canada.
After not sleeping for 40+ hours, we arrived at our hotel where we passed out like a baby.
First day in Sydney
I desperately needed sleep and struggled to wake up. But our hotel room came with free breakfast so we needed to go before it ended.
Because I am a platinum member with the SPG family (that was intentional), we had access to the club lounge. The view is supposed to be the best part of this lounge so we made sure to sit next to the window.
I peeked out the window to check out the fantastic view from the lounge.
My heart sank.
I miss Chiang Mai.
At that moment, I realized how much I love Asia.
I reflected on my dream to live in Australia for a year. In reality, I only picked Australia because I wanted to be close to Asia. At the time, I didn’t know that living in Asia was possible.
We spent our first day exploring Hyde Park and walking towards the Sydney Opera House. The parks are well maintained with lots of trees and flowers. You know, kind of like what you see in North America.
We walked all along the seawall, which was a longer trek than expected. The hike would have been nice, except that it was SUPER hot and I was burning.
I got lazy with sunscreen and learned the hard way about the strength of the sun in Australia. DO NOT MESS WITH IT! Wear a lot of sunscreen!
Anyway, after melting in the sun, we looked for a bottle of water. We found a convenience store that charged $8 AUD for 1.5L of water. Time to feel broke. The same bottle of water would have cost only $0.50 CAD in Chiang Mai.
Not wanting to pay a kidney and an arm for water, we opted to pay $8 AUD for 1L of coconut water instead. We then used the bottle to refill at water fountains in the park. The water tasted like seaweed, but at least it wasn’t $8 AUD.
After recovering from the sticker shock, we wandered around the waterfront.
After some aimless wander, we went to the pier to buy a hop on hop off boat ticket that included the entry price for the Taronga Zoo. I wanted to see kangaroos, so we went to Taronga Zoo.
We arrived at the Zoo in the blazing heat and walked around the zoo
The tickets were pricey, but I can see why considering the amount of effort they put into the customer experience. For example, the tiger experience mimicked a flight simulation to land in Sumatra. The only downside is that there is a lot of walking and the African walk was closed for renovation. The animals were also very hot so they were hiding in the shade.
It was cool to see birds, kangaroos, and wallabies walking freely and close to visitors. There weren’t any rails or fence separating the animals from humans.
Suffering from jetlag…or lack of sleep
Not sleeping for over 40 hours left me very tired while we were in Sydney. I was so tired that I passed out while reading a pamphlet while waiting for the ferry! I continued to pass out three times afterward.
Once we arrived back to the ferry, we bought an Aussie meat pie and fries to share for $8 AUD.
As we sat on the ferry and watched couples exchanging gifts, we realized that it was Valentine’s Day!
We watched a guy read aloud a card from his girlfriend while she took out long stem roses packed in a huge gift box. How romantic.
I then decided to offer my gift to G♥ for Valentine’s Day – all the meat in the Aussie meat pie. Only because I don’t like meat. HAHA
After our romantic dinner at the harbourfront, we headed home so that we can get up early the next day.
Second day in Sydney
The intention was there, but the reality is that we didn’t leave the hotel until 11 am. We planned to make use of our two-day unlimited ferry hopping tickets so it was back to the docks.
Sadly, the ferry left right as we arrived, so we killed time by walking towards the bridge. I’m glad we did because we caught some incredible photos. We also had the chance to see all the Chinese New Year festivities around the harbourfront. That was cool. Why doesn’t Canada celebrate Chinese New Year at this level?
We first went to Watson’s Bay
We found out that homes at the bay cost anywhere from 30-100 million AUD! Crazy!
Watsons Bay has a nice little coastal town vibe, with lots of restaurants along and by the jetty.
We then went to Manly beach
Once we arrived at the beach, we decided to walk 20 minutes inland. I wanted to do a hike near the area, but G♥ was tired, and we didn’t have enough time to go through the trek.
Manly beach was very touristy. One street was full of shops while the other had a big beach with people swimming and surfing.
We managed to find some great views of the beach by climbing on an old water pipe.
Some little teenage punks passed us and yelled out “I live here, I go first” when they passed by them. So weird. It felt like they thought we couldn’t speak English. In fact, when other European tourists approached us so we could take a photo for them, they always asked: “do you speak English?” I had to really bite my tongue and not respond with “No, not at all. My English is terrible. Why do you ask?”
Once we were back on the mainland, it was time to pack and get ready for our flight to Melbourne.
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