Sydney Stroll

I was anxious and excited at the same time. It's my first time to go out of my comfort zone—Asia. As we emerged from the jet bridge, the ground staff cheerfully welcomed us and directed us to the immigration counter. The young officer greeted me and tinkered on his computer then handed back my passport, he's casually smiling all those time. Our driver on our shared shuttle to downtown Sydney was courteous and helpful. From what I usually hear, Australians are discriminatory in nature. Apparently, they’re not. During the course of our two-week adventure in the Land Down Under, there was only this one guy who was hostile. Just one. So safe to say, Australians in general are friendly. 

It was during our preparation on our laid back backyard wedding in Zambales when we thought of having a honeymoon celebratory trip after the shindig. Originally, we planned on having a winter trip to Japan but then, we received a sponsored deal on a Manila to Sydney flight from Scoot. So Australia it is!

Check out Scoot's year-round fares to key cities in Australia from Manila via Singapore
After consulting with One Vine Migration and successfully getting our one-year multiple-entry tourist visa in just 22 hours (check my guide on how to get an Australian Tourist Visa in the Philippines), we plotted our route to some key destinations in Australia—Sydney, Byron Bay, Gold Coast and Brisbane. Our two-week Australian adventure felt fleeting but we hope to come back really soon (we plan on exploring Cairns and Melbourne next time). 

Our Manila to Singapore flight had a 16-hour layover in Singapore which we totally loved. We had one full day of rediscovering one of our most frequented cities in Southeast Asia and devoured on great Malay dishes. Our Singapore to Sydney Scoot flight onboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was an adventure in itself. The almost eight-hour flight was comfy and stress-free.

First thing I noticed when we safely arrived at Sydney was how cool and cheery the people were. From the ground staff to the immigration officials, we never felt intimidated. A far cry from what others would normally say about Australians. 

What To Do In Sydney Blog
New South Wales' Mounted Unit
During the course of our five-day stay in Sydney, we visited the nearby town of Katoomba for a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blue Mountains, we also had a lovely cruise along Sydney Harbour, and a once-in-a-lifetime Mardi Gras parade experience. When it’s time to leave the city, it felt as if we haven't explored Sydney yet (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Sydney). 

What To Do In Sydney Blog
There are numerous parks in Sydney's Central Business District
On our first two nights, we found an inn that was the cheapest accommodation in the Sydney CBD while on the next two nights, we got to stay in Rydges World Square (a wedding gift from a dear friend). Hotels, or even hostels, in Sydney are quite expensive compared to hotels in Asia. One night on a private fan room in an inn equates to a one-bedroom villa in Bali, seriously.

What To Do In Sydney Blog
Cape Bowling Green lighthouse at Darling Harbour
Food prices are also steep, as expected. A decent meal, like fish and chips would set you back at AUD10 to AUD15 (USD7.70 to USD11.50), you can actually feed a family of five in Asia for that price (I will dedicate a separate post on our Australian food trip). So for almost two weeks, we needed to stretch our budget like what we did in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea

Sydney Central Business District
The old and the new
We spent our first day just hanging around our hip neighborhood. It felt like I was in a movie set as I scanned the good mix of old and new buildings. There were pubs and bars that are named after a hotel, I reckoned these were the former name of the establishments and they didn’t change it at all. But from what I read, just today, it is due to the not-so-strict policies of liquor selling for hotels. So those establishments who want to sell liquor would rent out one room and call it a ‘hotel’ so as to not be fined. Clever, eh?

What To Do In Sydney Blog
Circular Quay
The weather was colder than I expected it to be. I packed for summer dresses because I constantly checked the weather update beforehand but autumn was officially declared on the day we arrived. And it felt as if we were on a mountainous region well in fact, we were in downtown Sydney. I could imagine how cold it gets during winter, even without snowfall (the last accounts of snowfall in the city was in 1836).

Darling Harbour Sydney
Darling Harbour
The next day was challenging. With the three-hour difference of Sydney to Manila (the extra one hour is due to DST), me and my buddy struggled with waking up at four in the morning to prep up for our day trip to one of the best national parks in Australia

As the Blue Mountains are best explored through bushwalking, we accidentally followed a trail that led us to the deeper parts of the forest. It was funny because hiking and trekking are some of the things we usually detest. But with the cool weather and self-guided maps around, we conquered it nevertheless. 

What To Do In Sydney Blog
Australia is my first trip outside Asia :)
The next day was as pleasant as we got to explore the famed icons of Sydney onboard a cruise ship. Cruising along Sydney Harbour, we finally got to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sydney Opera House and the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge alongside with a recorded commentary regarding the onset of Sydney’s modern history.

Sydney Opera House
UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sydney Opera House
After the cruise, we went to the Sydney Opera House to get a closer look. My buddy, who’s into architectural stuff, was in awe of this great marvel as he inspected every corner of it. I, on the other hand, sat on one of the steps and watched as the sin dipped lower into the horizon. 

What To Do In Sydney Blog
Sunset-watching at the opera house
One of our best friends decided to crash our honeymoon trip and treated us for dinner, in style. With no prior reservations, we checked out Sydney Tower Revolving Restaurant and luckily got in for the last shift. 

Kangaroo Meat Steak Sydney
Kangaroo meat
We only got one and a half hours to enjoy the buffet offering of 360 Bar and Dining, we fully utilized our dining hours 305 meters above Sydney. The food though was so-so and we got kinda dizzy on the revolving thing. 

Sydney Tower Revolving Restaurant Review
The view from Sydney Tower's Revolving Restaurant
The next day, our last full day, we walked around the city and spotted St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Sydney Town Hall. We then headed to Paddy’s Market at Haymarket and bought Australian knick-knacks for souvenirs. This is where ‘cheap’ really means cheap. 

What To Do In Sydney Blog
Cheap Australian knick-knacks at Paddy's Market
Our trip coincided with the 40th celebration of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The parade this year was the grandest so far as it’s the first one after the law on same-sex marriage was approved last December 2017. Almost 300,000 spectators watched the grand fiasco and celebrated with the LGBTQI community. Cher also joined the parade. 

Sydney Mardi Gras Parade
40th Sydney Mardi Gras parade
On our last night in Sydney, right after the Mardi Gras parade, we checked out the pubs and bars to have our long overdue Australian beer sesh. It was two days ago when we were denied of entering a pub ‘coz my buddies were wearing flip-flops and we didn’t have our passports with us. Apparently, laws on selling and serving liquors in Australia are very strict that only licensed shops and establishments could serve it. We were prepared that night and got in on one of the pubs in Sydney but got too bored on the loud music so we bounced after our third pint of Tooheys Beer, we’re really getting old. 

Sydney Pubs
We had to queue for a drink
It felt nostalgic as we hopped on our shuttle ride to the airport the next morning. We were off to our next destination and it seemed like we missed so much stuff in Sydney. We didn’t have enough time to just wander around the city with no plans at all like what we usually do on our trips. We’re crossing our fingers on a comeback this year. And if we do, we’ll surely dedicate one full day of our ‘getting lost’ stint in Sydney. Hoping. Wishing. 

Next stop, Gold Coast! 

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