Travel: Sydney Trip 2018 – Day 3 & 4 (4 days in Sydney)

See Day 1 & 2 post

Day 3: May 2

The day of my graduation! In the morning, we took an Uber to USyd and I got robed up. I’ve only attended UniMelb graduations before, so I don’t have a lot of “experience”, but my impression was the USyd graduation organisation and logistics was chaotic and poorly executed (and it shouldn’t matter if there are multiple in one day!). Robe rental was pre-booked and you get a time slot to turn up for your robes. This didn’t appear to be in effect, as the line was long and I got in a lot later than my time slot. So everyone was basically finished later than their scheduled time. Graduands and guests entered the ceremony hall after the scheduled start time. We weren’t given instructions on what to do, and we weren’t told that we’d be returning to a different seat so I had no idea what to do with my phone as I had no pockets (I handed it to a staff, who had her arms full with people’s phones). We started and finished really late and it was just a long and confusing ordeal. Despite a specified time by which robes were meant to be returned, the ceremony finished AFTER this time. Seeing as no one else rushed off to return their robe, I also didn’t care too much so I finally took some photos. There was otherwise zero time before or after the ceremony to properly take photos. This wass incredibly disappointing! I think the ceremonies need to start and end on time so people can organise their day and have the time to take proper or professional photos! I took photos for less than ten minutes after the ceremony before running off to return the robe, and it was a stressful ten minutes. My friend (who I met with the previous night) is studying and working at USyd so she came to see me too. Of course, she had to wait around a long time since the ceremony ended late. Sigh. Overall, I remember the graduation as more of a confusing and stressful headache.

After we were all done, we took an Uber back to Bowery Lane, where we visited two days ago, to have a late lunch. I was ravenous!


After the late lunch, we basically just wandered around the city and ducked into a few shops. I had planned for the afternoon to be quite flexible since I wasn’t sure when the whole graduation thing and then lunch would finish. We went to Queen Victoria Building, which I do like to check out every time because it is so beautiful! I am disappointed my favourite overly-fancy female bathrooms appear to be just fairly normal bathrooms now. Around this point, my Dad left to fetch his bag from the hotel and catch his flight back to Melbourne.


We walked around quite aimlessly for a few hours. We checked out a few of those designer outlets that seem to be common in Sydney, and lusted over Max Mara coats (drool).

Running out of places to walk, we started making our way back towards Circular Quay to see the harbour at night before heading to my dinner reservation, which was very close to our hotel.






Mejico – This Mexican restaurant was definitely busier than I had anticipated for a Tuesday night. The service and food were great! It’s elevated, modern Mexican food and sooo yummy.

Once back at the hotel, of course I had to take photos of my graduation gifts since I couldn’t keep the flowers my friend kindly gave me beyond the next morning. T got me an adorable graduation bear (okay, I had wanted it!). It was so cute that they were able to change his robe colours to reflect my degree’s robe colours! That was a really nice touch.


Day 4: May 3

For our final half day in Sydney, we had to firstly pack up and check-out. The hotel held out luggage for us until we came back to collect them later.

In the morning, we walked around the Royal Botanical Gardens, which has a beautiful harbour backdrop. I’ve only been once before.





The absolute highlight, and something I’d never known about before, was the indoor green wall at The Calyx. The theme seems to change, and I forget the name of the theme when we were there. It was so beautiful!!!

We then trekked to The Sydney Observatory, which was supposed to be a great lookout spot. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t take any pictures but perhaps I was too hot from all the walking…! Lunch was at Bar Tapavino, which was strategically chosen to be in near the observatory and our hotel.







Tapa Vino – It may sounds weird to have Spanish tapas for lunch, but I much prefer sharing small dishes and trying more things. The restaurant was quiet for lunch and the food was delicious! The food was quite homely and comfortable.

Finally, we grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed off for our flight back home! Now I’m just dreaming of when I can justify going to Sydney for Chaco Bar…

Costs

Flights: $140 per person (carry-on only with Jetstar)
Hotel: ~$600 per room (3 nights)

Travel: Sydney Trip 2018 – Day 1 & 2 (4 days in Sydney)

In May, my Masters graduation was held at The University of Sydney. I was keen to attend even though I had studied via distance and it was in another state (I’d never even been to the university!), since I’d enjoyed the course so much more than my Bachelor. The ceremony would be on a Monday so I made plans with T and my family to make it a 4-day trip (Saturday to Tuesday). My Dad actually couldn’t make it for four days so he travelled in on Sunday morning and left on Monday evening. This was my fifth time visiting Sydney in the last decade, so I didn’t need to tick off many touristy sights anymore… but we still a lot of tourist-y things for my travel party.

Day 1: April 30

We (minus my Dad) took a morning flight to Sydney (I’ve learned that carry-on only is pretty difficult if you’re a guy bringing a suit!). We landed after midday and took an Uber into the city. We ended up taking Uber a lot and no public transport, which is not typical for how I travel, but with three people and my Mum who can’t walk super long, it worked out more time and cost efficient. We tended to walk throughout the city but took an Uber when going further. We booked two rooms at The Tank Stream Hotel (I would stay with my Mum on the nights my Dad wasn’t there – she’s never been able to sleep anywhere on her own in her life). It was a nice hotel with thoughtful amenities. The location itself is in the business-y district so it’s pretty quiet, but it’s pretty close to both Circular Quay and the busy areas of Pitt St and George St. The train from the airport stops nearby, but it’s a decent walk to the areas in the city with good food.

We walked across the road to eat some late lunch at Bowery Lane, which I actually visited on my previous one-day trip to Sydney to attend the introduction night for my Masters over a year ago. The space is nice, their opening hours suited us, and the menu is uncomplicated but good.




Bowery Lane – Seared scallops and blue swimmer tagliatelle were sooo good (spoiler: we went back again two days later because of it’s convenience, and my Mum ordered the tagliatelle because she liked mine so much). I like that this place does a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner Modern Australian menu. It’s in the middle of super casual and fancy, so it’s really comfortable and food is pretty good.

We took an Uber to Watson’s Bay, to visit Lady Bay Beach (there were definitely naked people here at this tiny nude beach) and Hornby Lighthouse, a great lookout point.



We spent about two hours walking through suburban streets filled with really wealthy and beautiful houses with gorgeous gardens to Nielson Bay, which was supposed to be another great lookout point, but there wasn’t really a clear view not blocked by the trees. It was dusk by now, so we got an Uber to head back into town. We looked up a chemist to stop at briefly before our dinner appointment – I had burned my arm really badly the week prior (I’m talking special bandages needed) and wanted to get a change of bandages because I ran out of the ones the doctor gave me. Luckily there was one really close to our dinner reservation. It was funny trying to explain to the Uber driver that our destination was actually chemist, haha.

Dinner was at Chaco Bar, which had been on my radar for some four years. It was supposed to be a really authentic yakitori restaurant. Expectations were high (but we tried not to get them too high)!








Chaco Bar – This restaurant is tiny and honestly looks exactly like you stepped into a Japanese yakitori bar. We sat on a long shared table and most of the seats (on the shared table or individual tables) are quite uncomfortable and cramped. But sacrifices can be made when the charcoal grill skewers are this good. It was amazing and definitely the real deal. Everything was cooked perfectly and the smokiness was strong. T is a huge fan of Japanese charcoal grill, and he said Chaco Bar was pretty much the best thing ever. I would totally fly us both to Sydney for special occasion dinners here. We also saw Australian chef, restaurateur and TV chef Neil Perry trying to get a seat. He was still loitering around outside when we left.

We decided to walk the 20-30 minutes across the city to our hotel. We stopped at a 3-storey Woolworths supermarket on the way. This blew our mind because Melbourne does not have any multi-level supermarkets! We picked up fruit and banana bread for breakfasts.

Day 2: May 1

In the morning, we walked south across the city (our hotel area, in retrospect, was pretty far from the good food areas) to Koi Dessert Bar. We walked through Hyde Park, because my Mum loves gardens.

I visited Koi the last time I was in Sydney (and carried cakes back home to Melbourne), and also purchased their desserts many times when Koi was temporarily at HWKR last year. I am definitely a huge fan of Reynold’s desserts, and not just blinded by the hype. I would argue they’re my favourite artisan desserts. We picked up three little cakes to take back to the hotel. Unfortunately there was just no other time that I could work out in our schedule other than picking up this morning.

My Dad had landed in the late morning, so he took the train into the city (the hotel is close to a train stop on the airport line) and dropped of his bag. We all met at Chat Thai (Thaitown location) where I made a lunch reservation.





Chat Thai (various locations) – Chat Thai appears, from the Internet, to be the most popular Thai restaurant(s) in Sydney. I went to their main location in Haymarket even though there was one location much closer to our hotel. It’s a narrow restaurant with a half second level. We ordered five dishes between four. The food was really good across the board. The boat noodles, one of T’s favourite Thai dishes, was weak though. Overall we are not sure Chai Thai is actually better than Melbourne’s best Thai restaurant, so T feels like “we’re not missing out”, haha. That said, the latter has been noticeably decreasing their portion sizes in the last two years, but Chat Thai’s prices and portions were really good.

After lunch, we walked north through the city again, dropped off the cakes in our hotel’s fridge (the reason why there’s no good photos to show of our desserts is that they got squished in the fridge!), and continued on to Circular Quay to view the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve been so many times in recent years, but half of my travel team (T and my Dad) had not seen these in decades.



We walked to Darling Harbour, which has always been my Mum’s favourite part of Sydney.

We were meeting my friend to go on a cocktail cruise around the harbour a bit later, and had some time to kill (plus we were a little tired), so we stopped at a tourist trap bar in Darling Harbour to have some drinks and a snack.

I booked the five of us the Sydney Harbour Cocktail Cruise by Captain Cook Cruises. It was enjoyable but mostly I was catching up with my friend who is studying and working in Sydney for a few years.

After the cruise, it was pitch black, and we walked across to The Star for our dinner reservation at Sokyo. I’d never visited The Star before.








Sokyo – Sokyo is a fine dining Japanese restaurant, and reminds me of Koko and Nobu which are also housed in Melbourne’s casino area. I’m generally pretty sceptical of Japanese fine dining, but we all agreed that Sokyo was really excellent. I couldn’t fault any dish at all and I’ve probably never seen such a photogenic souffle before. It was a great dinner!

We walked back to our hotel and ate our slightly squished desserts from Koi – still delicious!

See day 3 & 4 post

Travel: Hong Kong Trip 2012 (Photo diary)

Travel: Hong Kong Trip 2012 (Photo diary)

Following on from the Japan leg of our holiday, we went to visit Hong Kong for four days. We met up with our some relatives who came from mainland China to see us in Hong Kong. We visited the typical places in Hong Kong, such as the Hong Kong skyline, Victoria Harbour, Lantau Island and Victoria Peak. We also visited Macau for a day trip.





































Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 16 & 17 – Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 16 & 17 – Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 16: December 11

This was our last official day in Japan. Our first stop would be Tokyo Sky Tree, which was completed in earlier in the year (2012), becoming the new tallest building in Tokyo (and Japan) and the new hot spot to visit. I knew it would be busy.


Tokyo Sky Tree is not as central as Tokyo Tower (which I didn’t visit the observatory level of this trip, but did go to the top for the previous trip. I’ll touch on a comparison later), but is built with a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex called Tokyo Solamachi. There’s also an aquarium. We were lucky that it was such a beautiful day. It’s really cool to walk up towards the tower and look up! To me it always feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, as surrounding buildings are fairly short and residential compared to the dense skyscraper suburbs.

Because Japan loves new attractions, the waiting queue was monstrous! I think if we had gone a few months earlier it would have been impossible to visit. We lined for close to an hour before getting tickets. There are actually reservations tickets (from two months in advance) and fast-pass tickets for foreigners, so during very busy times, purchasing tickets on the day may not be available if everyone’s purchased ahead.

We purchased tickets for the first and second observatory. These tickets are some of the most expensive admission tickets I’ve purchased in Japan. I would recommend not going beyond the first observatory if it’s not an exceptionally clear day, as you will probably not see much more. They have signs on the first observatory level every day that will let you know which iconic attractions are visible on the day (importantly, Mt Fuji).

As you can see, Mt Fuji was visible on this day (this was taken from the first observatory level)!



On the first observatory level, you can get your photo taken in a specially decorated area. It’s a bit cliche, but the staff will also take one on your own camera as a free service. It’s pretty difficult to get a good photo with a person and the background yourself. The staff have a decent spot set up, and they will use flash. If you don’t give them your camera on the wrong setting (whoops my fat thumb), you’ll probably get a really decent photo for free. We liked the photo they took on their professional camera, so we purchased it as a memento. On the second observatory level, there’s a glass floor to stand on and look down. One other reason why I don’t think visiting the second observatory level appreciably better is that it is ridiculously hot. This was a warm winter day, and being that high up and surrounded by nothing but glass in a confined space with hundreds of people… it was really hot and stifling. I can’t imagine how bad it would be during autumn, spring or summer!

Having been up both Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower, I think they are both unique experiences. Tokyo Sky Tree is less central and a lot taller, so you see more of the greater city of Tokyo, but less of the iconic details that you can see from the more central Tokyo Tower. If you’re not interested in ascending either, Tokyo Tower will always be the most iconic structure, and I think it’s absolutely worth wandering around in the nearby region to get those shots of the red tower against the city. Personally, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (see day 13 post) is actually my favourite building for city views of Tokyo, because the rooftop offers views undisturbed by a glass window, and you’re really in the heart of central Tokyo with great views of Tokyo Tower itself.

Following that, we had a quick lunch at a simple restaurant in Tokyo Solamachi.


The rest of the day was for us to just wander around Tokyo some more. We walked around Omotesando and Shibuya. It really was such a nice day.



By dinner time, we were in central Shibuya and found an okonomiyaki restaurant in Center-gai. Despite it being such a busy location, it was actually really great.



Every table had it’s own grill plate, and the okonomiyaki was divine!!! There’s nothing like it here.

After dinner, we walked around a bit more, enjoying the (crazy) hustle and bustle and city lights.



We returned to our hotel for our last sleep in Japan.

Day 17: December 12

We had a morning flight from Narita to Hong Kong. We took the JR Narita Express (NEX) from Shinjuku station (purchased the tickets the previous day, just to be on the safe side so there would be less to worry about), which was really convenient and so comfortable. It is, however, quite expensive and still takes 90 minutes.

At the airport, we had a farewell meal of ramen!


And that concludes the two-week trip in Japan! I was pleased with how it turned out and what we were able to fit in. It was my first time really travelling through multiple cities and using the JR pass. I was so glad to check a lot of things off my Japan bucket list. It was well worth doing it all myself after many, many hours of research. Though I realise I’m at a distinct advantage as it’s my third trip and can speak Japanese. Soon I will get started on posting about my 3-week Japan 2016 trip!

But maybe Hong Kong first…

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 15 – Tokyo Disney Sea)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 15 – Tokyo Disney Sea)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 15: December 10

The only other Disney theme park I’ve been to is Tokyo Disneyland back in 2006 during my first trip to Japan. This time I wanted to visit Tokyo Disney Sea, which is unique to Japan. I had heard amazing things about it. From Shinjuku, we took two trains to Tokyo Disney Resort (which is where both Disneyland and Disney Sea are located) near JR Maihama Station. From there, the Disney Resort Line, which circles the resort, will stop at both parks.

Even the special Disney Resort Line monorail is aptly in the Disney spirit.



We visited on a Tuesday in winter, so it would have been a fairly low crowd day. It wasn’t terrible but there were still lots of people. I definitely would not want to visit during holidays or weekends. It was a cold day, but also super sunny.

We were there all day, from just after opening to after the big show at night, Fantasmic. We didn’t go on any rides, as we weren’t interested in that kind of thing. The whole place was incredibly beautiful with unbelievable attention to detail. It was also so clean! It was honestly so much fun, just to wander around and experience everything. My mum really enjoyed the day too, so I definitely think it’s a great place for people of all ages. There’s just a lot of walking, standing and people.






I was really tempted by a lot of adorable souvenirs, like these hilarious hats. How cool are there? I talked myself out of one, but I did buy some really flashy Disney sunglasses which I wore all day, haha. In my defence it was really sunny so kind of useful (for one day). The great thing is almost everyone in Japan is a little dressed up in Disney attire or accessories when they’re at Disneyland or Disney Sea. There’s not much you can wear that will make you stand out.


Arabian Coast was one of my favourite themed ports. It was so well made and there were so many hilarious Genie details everywhere!









The main “finale” of the night (the time changes throughout the seasons, but around 6/6:30pm in winter I think) is held at the Mediterranean Harbor. To get a good viewing spot, it’s best to get there early.




Most people leave after the show, so the exits and transportation will be really crowded.


After we left, we headed back to Shinjuku, and went into an izakaya for dinner. The drinks and food were great, but we hadn’t anticipated all the smoking, which was a total downer. I often still forget to check the smoking status of restaurants in Japan.